in: Odds & Ends

Odds & Ends: November 3, 2023

End by Explosions in the Sky. I first discovered the instrumental rock band Explosions in the Sky from my favorite television show of all time: Friday Night Lights. I love the way their moody and atmospheric songs contain what the band calls “cathartic mini-symphonies.” Great music to work to. I hadn’t really kept up with them since their most famous album, 2003’s The Earth Is Not a Dead Cold Place, but recently saw they released a new album, End, in September, and have been digging it.

County Highway — America’s Only Newspaper. I recently subscribed to County Highway, “a magazine about America that takes the form of a 19th-century newspaper.” I’m really enjoying it. First, the articles are top-notch and interesting. In the most recent edition, you’ll find an interview with a UFO whistleblower, an opinion piece on why GPS is ruining driving, and a deep dive into the cultural ramifications of Taylor Swift fandom. The second reason I love County Highway is that it’s really nice to read a physical newspaper again.  It’s a refreshing, tactile change to consuming the endless scroll of online content.

The People Who Ruined the Internet. There’s been a lot of chatter in recent years about how Google search results have been getting worse and less helpful. The top link for search queries often goes to sites with generic answers written by what seems like a robot. People have been resorting to adding “Reddit” at the end of a search query so they can get to a Reddit thread with answers written by humans. What’s behind this seeming decrease in the quality of Google results? This article argues that it’s a result of a decades-long cat-and-mouse game played between Google and people in the search engine optimization (SEO) biz. As someone who makes his living online and has seen search traffic go up and down over the years due to the changes Google periodically makes to its search algorithm, this article was pretty fascinating (and highly entertaining). For the regular internet user, it may provide some insight into the dynamics of your web experience that you haven’t thought about. 

Grant by Ron Chernow. I read this epic 1,000-page biography of General Ulysses S. Grant several years ago for my podcast with its author, Ron Chernow, and I still think about insights I got from the book today. Chernow does a masterful job of exploring Grant’s psychology, how this quiet, unassuming guy became the mastermind behind the Union’s victory in the Civil War, and how the same qualities that made him a good military leader didn’t translate to the world of politics. 

Quote of the Week

By annihilating the desires, you annihilate the mind. Every man without passions has within him no principle of action, nor motive to act.


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