Weekly Newsletter

May 3, 2015

Warning: These next few paragraphs are about the origins and goals of the newsletter. If you don’t care about these things skip to here.

As I mentioned last week, I’ve decided to mark this week as the 6 month anniversary of this newsletter. To honor this, I’m going to quickly describe why I circulate this newsletter and what criteria I use to determine which articles I include in it. The circulation of the newsletter began on a whim. Sometime this past Summer, I realized that I read a lot of articles and didn’t remember many of them, and that I spent a lot of time telling my friends about “an article I read,” to which they usually respond with (I’m paraphrasing): “Yeah, sure. Please just shut up. I wish you weren’t so weird”. This dual realization led me to try formalizing my forcible information sharing process by sending a weekly rundown of my favorite articles that I initially titled “Ste-ekly”. I thought that circulating this newsletter might get rid of my impulse for compulsive info-dumping. Unfortunately for those of you who interact with me on a daily basis, this expectation has proven false over the past six months. Regardless, such are the circumstances and vague notions that have led to me thinking things I read are important enough that you should read them too.

Hopefully, by now, most people who read the newsletter have realized that my article selection process is intuitive and subject to volatility based on my mood at the time. Despite this, there is a method to the madness. Typically, throughout the week I glance at a few publications and news aggregators. I tend to shy away from shorter articles as I find that long form journalists generally write higher quality, more nuanced articles. This seems particularly true for two of the areas I’m most interested in, foreign policy and science. From past newsletters, you can extrapolate the other areas I enjoy reading about. However, beyond specific areas of interest, I tend to seek out articles that do one of a few things: take a contrarian viewpoint, explore an area most people tend to ignore, take something perceived as boring and make it interesting, or generate optimism in an area where little exists. And while I try to avoid confirmation bias as much as possible, there’s undoubtedly an element of this as well. A central theme that runs through all these criteria is the paradox of questioning and strengthening individuals’ beliefs. My goal is for the newsletter to inspire people to trust their beliefs but also question them in the face of opposition. I’m more interested in helping people grow and understand their values fully than attacking their value systems with the intent of replacing them.

Finally, here comes my hokey plea. While I strive to do all of the things I mentioned above, I’m confident I’m a long way from doing so. That’s why I’m so adamant that people send in articles, argue with the ones I include, and argue with the opinions I state or imply.

History

The Rule of History
Discusses the revisionist history of the Magna Carta. I enjoyed the article but thought the author glossed over or maybe just missed an opportunity to discuss the more interesting aspects of how historical artifacts become symbols for themes. While I understand his perspective of dismantling revisionist narratives, acknowledging that the political use of the Magna Carta has occurred with a common theme of individual liberty and opposition to oppression would have added to this piece.

Internet Consumption

Binge Reading Disorder
Questions whether increased online reading results in decreased retention. Although I was worried the article would be unnecessarily alarmist when I first started it, the author’s ultimate conclusion is balanced. And while I’m sympathetic to this author’s views, I wish she had focused a bit more on minor improvements that can lead to better recall of articles, such as taking notes (the one solution she suggested). Finally, if you liked the idea of reading articles as pages rather than in continuous scroll mode, Pocket, the “read-later” extension I use to catalogue and read the newsletter’s articles, has a paginated mode.

Cancer

Thoughts Can Fuel Some Deadly Brain Cancers
Argues that brain cancer growth is tied to neural activity. This article is short but, if correct, has profound implications for this field.

Whistleblowers

The Whistleblower’s Tale: How An Accountant Took on Haliburton
Tells the story of Tony Menendez, who battled with judges in order to vindicate his claim that Haliburton retaliated against him after he alerted the SEC their questionable business actions. This author clearly sympathizes with Menendez, but I thought he didn’t let that cloud his narrative.

The Microbiome

The Scientists who want to Fix America’s Guts
Profiles two married microbiome researchers’ strange but endearing lifestyle, guided by their research on gut health. This may sounds strange, but something about the way this family lives made me feel optimistic, as if they represent the ideal future, using technology and science to craft a better, quirkier life. Reading this back, I’m realizing this sounds really weird, but so be it.

Copyright Policy

We Can’t Let John Deere Destroy the Very Idea of Ownership
Argues that John Deere and other vehicle corporations’ attempts to prevent repair of their vehicles and modification of their vehicles’ software hurts innovation and farmers.

Other Contributions

David Simon Talks About Where the Baltimore Police Went Wrong (David Wylie)
Anyone who’s watched The Wire will be pretty familiar with the major themes of this article. Nonetheless, in light of recent events this interview with David Simon (co-writer of The Wire and longtime journalist) who’s been on the ground with the Baltimore Police Department is a piece worth reading to get a sense for the recent history of Baltimore policing and some of the roots of the current troubles.

Discussion, links, and tweets

I'm a software developer currently working at UberEats. I keep a low social media presence, but, if you enjoy what I have to say or want to rant at me, you should email me at stephenmalina@gmail.com. If you're interested in what I'm currently programming, check out my Github. I occasionally rant on Twitter as well.