----- 3 stars -----

The Trouble With Johnny Depp / Rolling Stone

"So are you here to hear the truth?" asks Depp as Russell brings him a glass of vintage red wine. "It's full of betrayal." We move to the dining room for a three-course meal of pad thai, duck and gingerbread with berries. Depp sits at the head of the table and motions toward some rolling papers and two equal piles of tobacco and hash, and asks if I mind. I don't. He pauses for a second. "Well, let's drink some wine first." This goes on for 72 hours. It had taken a month and almost 200 e-mails for the message to become clear: Come to London; Johnny Depp wants to bare his soul about his empty bank accounts. It's estimated that Depp has made $650 million on films that netted $3.6 billion. Almost all of it is gone. He's suing The Management Group, run by his longtime business manager, Joel Mandel, and his brother Robert for negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and fraud. [...] The Mandels categorically deny all wrongdoing and are countersuing, alleging that Depp breached his oral contract with the company. The suit suggests that Depp has a $2-million-a-month compulsory-spending disorder, offering bons mots like "Wine is not an investment if you drink it as soon as you buy it." [...] Over the past 18 months, there has been little but bad news for Depp. In addition to the financial woes, there were reports he couldn't remember his lines and had to have them fed to him through an earpiece. He had split from his longtime lawyer and agent. And he was alone.

The Art Of Making Noodles By Hand / YouTube (Tasty)
This video is wonderfully crafted

----- 2 stars -----

How Fortnite Captured Teens’ Hearts and Minds / New Yorker

Fortnite, for anyone not a teen-ager or a parent or educator of teens, is the third-person shooter game that has taken over the hearts and minds—and the time, both discretionary and otherwise—of adolescent and collegiate America. Released last September, it is right now by many measures the most popular video game in the world. At times, there have been more than three million people playing it at once. It has been downloaded an estimated sixty million times. (The game, available on PC, Mac, Xbox, PS4, and mobile devices, is—crucially—free, but many players pay for additional, cosmetic features, including costumes known as “skins.”) In terms of fervor, compulsive behavior, and parental noncomprehension, the Fortnite craze has elements of Beatlemania, the opioid crisis, and the ingestion of Tide Pods. Parents speak of it as an addiction and swap tales of plunging grades and brazen screen-time abuse: under the desk at school, at a memorial service, in the bathroom at 4 a.m. They beg one another for solutions. A friend sent me a video he’d taken one afternoon while trying to stop his son from playing; there was a time when repeatedly calling one’s father a fucking asshole would have led to big trouble in Tomato Town. In our household, the big threat is gamer rehab in South Korea.

Intel and the Danger of Integration / Stratechery
Brilliant analysis and a fascinating look into the history of microchip production:

It is perhaps simpler to say that Intel, like Microsoft, has been disrupted. The company’s integrated model resulted in incredible margins for years, and every time there was the possibility of a change in approach Intel’s executives chose to keep those margins. In fact, Intel has followed the script of the disrupted even more than Microsoft: while the decline of the PC finally led to The End of Windows, Intel has spent the last several years propping up its earnings by focusing more and more on the high-end, selling Xeon processors to cloud providers. That approach was certainly good for quarterly earnings, but it meant the company was only deepening the hole it was in with regards to basically everything else. And now, most distressingly of all, the company looks to be on the verge of losing its performance advantage even in high-end applications.

Harvard Is Wrong That Asians Have Terrible Personalities / New York Times
Given the unsavoury characters behind the Students for Fair Admission, if there's any merit to their lawsuit against Harvard, the situation strikes me as a lose-lose. But while I'm ideologically opposed to the SFA and what they're trying to foist onto America, what I've read of Harvard's defence doesn't seem particularly strong. Here's a (somewhat biased) take on the situation:

At the time that she was deposed, Ms. Pedrick did not know that the Harvard admissions office consistently gave Asian-American applicants low personality ratings — the lowest assigned collectively to any racial group. She did not know that Harvard’s own Office of Institutional Research had found that if the university selected its students on academic criteria alone, the Asian share of the Harvard student body would leap from 19 percent to 43 percent. She did not know that though Asians were consistently the highest academically performing group among Harvard applicants, they earned admission at a rate lower than any other racial group between 2000 and 2019. [...] Earlier this month, we learned that a review of more than 160,000 individual student files contained in six years of Harvard’s admissions data found that Asians outperformed all other racial groups on every measure of academic achievement: grades, SAT scores and the most AP exams passed. They had more extracurricular activities than their white counterparts. They were rated by interviewers who had met them as virtually on par with their white counterparts in their personal qualities. Yet Harvard admissions officers, many of whom had never met these applicants, scored them collectively as the worst of all groups in the one area — personality — that was subjective enough to be readily manipulable to serve Harvard’s institutional interests.

Why Little Vehicles Will Conquer the City / CityLab

Call them Little Vehicles—not just bikes and scooters, but e-bikes, velomobiles, motorized skateboards, unicycles, “hoverboards,” and other small, battery-powered low-speed not-a-cars. Nearly all of them look silly, but if cities take them seriously, they could be a really, really big deal. Little Vehicles could significantly erode private car and ride-hail use, and play a key role in helping cities achieve their as of now unattainable environmental and road safety goals.

A Theory of Animals / Jezebel

I’ve spent the past couple of years writing a book about undocumented immigrants around the United States. I tell the stories of undocumented second-responders after 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy, day laborers on street corners and worker centers, South American housekeepers who came to feminism in middle age. I write about immigration because I think almost everyone who writes about immigrants gets it wrong. I’d know. My family is undocumented. I came to the United States when I was five years old and was undocumented until recently, when I became a permanent resident. When I heard Donald Trump compare undocumented immigrants to animals, I felt gutted. I took to bed and licked my wounds, a beastly thing to do. But there is not a lot of time to swim around in your own wounds when you’re an immigrant who works around the clock to help your family survive, to help so many families survive. So I cried the predetermined number of tears I had allowed myself then began to work on this, my theory of the animal.

We Timed Every Game. World Cup Stoppage Time Is Wildly Inaccurate. / FiveThirtyEight

Our findings confirmed what avid fans already know: Actual stoppage time is a wildly inaccurate measure of how long the game was actually stopped. The average added time flashed on the board for these 32 games was 6:59, which includes both halves. By our calculations — which adhered to FIFA’s rules on the matter — the time that should have been added to each game was 13:10. This means stoppage time was roughly half of what it should have been for most games.

Why Sexism and Racism Never Diminish–Even When Everyone Becomes Less Sexist and Racist / Marginal Revolution

Many organizations and institutions are dedicated to identifying and reducing the prevalence of social problems, from unethical research to unwarranted aggressions. But our studies suggest that even well-meaning agents may sometimes fail to recognize the success of their own efforts, simply because they view each new instance in the decreasingly problematic context that they themselves have brought about. Although modern societies have made extraordinary progress in solving a wide range of social problems, from poverty and illiteracy to violence and infant mortality, the majority of people believe that the world is getting worse. The fact that concepts grow larger when their instances grow smaller may be one source of that pessimism. [...] The paper also gives us a way of thinking more clearly about shifts in the Overton window. When strong sexism declines, for example, the Overton window shrinks on one end and expands on the other so that what was once not considered sexism at all (e.g. "men and women have different preferences which might explain job choice") now becomes violently sexist.

Could Multiple Personality Disorder Explain Life, the Universe and Everything? / Scientific American

There is also compelling clinical data showing that different alters can be concurrently conscious and see themselves as distinct identities. One of us has written an extensive treatment of evidence for this distinctness of identity and the complex forms of interactive memory that accompany it, particularly in those extreme cases of DID that are usually referred to as multiple personality disorder. [...] Now, a newly published paper by one of us posits that dissociation can offer a solution to a critical problem in our current understanding of the nature of reality. This requires some background, so bear with us.

The case for invading America / MacLean's
Can't trust those Canadians...

The case for military action is obvious, but nonetheless it deserves reviewing. First, America has become a failed state. [...] Corruption has reached third world levels. Congressmen and Senators spend so much time and effort collecting bribes (referred to as “campaign donations” in their local dialect) that they no longer have time to debate policy or legislation. Even the president has left himself wide open to allegations he is on the take, negotiating lucrative real estate deals for himself while he appoints family members to positions of power and influence. As with other failed states, the United States is no longer able to control its own borders. Drugs and guns flow over their southern frontier and asylum seekers flee over their northern frontier. Due to an unchecked arms trade there are now more firearms in the United States than in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen and Syria combined. This has led to unbridled violence which has made many areas of the country “no go zones.” (The murder rate is twice Europe’s.) The President himself has declared Afghanistan is safer than Chicago. Sadly, this also means the American government is not even able to protect schools, which now endure mass shootings on a nearly weekly basis. We must also agree the international community is obligated to intervene in order to protect vulnerable groups. Most notable of these are African Americans. This minority is systematically repressed, jailed at five times the rate of whites, with a life expectancy three years shorter, and an infant mortality rate twice as high.

----- 1 star -----

The Uncomfortable
Very creative:

The Uncomfortable is a collection of deliberately inconvenient everyday objects by Athens-based architect Katerina Kamprani

Which cities have people-watching street cafes? / Marginal Revolution
A ten-point list; here are the first few:

1. The weather should be reasonable. This militates in favor of Mediterranean climates, with Paris eking through nonetheless. It hurts much of Asia. 2. The broad highways and thoroughfares should be removed from where the cafes might go. This factor harms Los Angeles, which otherwise has excellent weather, and helps La Jolla. Note that BA and some of the larger Moroccan cities were designed and built up around the same time, based on broadly European models, and to fit early 20th century technologies. 3. Street crime must be acceptably low. Bye bye Brazil.

The beauty of constraints in engineering / Kottke

The design of the automatic-drip coffee maker is super simple and clever. By using a one-way value to pump the water to the top of the maker to drip through the grounds, you can get away with using only one heating element at the bottom that both heats the water and keeps the brewed coffee hot.

Witness the exact moment a river forms a new channel to the ocean / Kottke

A couple of years ago, Wayne Easton witnessed the Mahlongwa River cutting a new channel into the Indian Ocean. As the video above begins, you can see water from the river just starting to trickle down the sand into the sea. Sand being sandy, the process happens pretty quickly. As you can see in this second video, the trickle becomes a rushing torrent in a matter of just minutes.

Wall Street’s Newest Hot Commodity: The $185 Wagyu Steak Sandwich / Bloomberg

Following are my Don Wagyu sando tasting notes—and a case for why it just might be worth it to buy a sandwich that costs as much as a good bottle of whiskey or pair of noise-canceling headphones.

The unlikely home of the world's smallest desert / BBC

This was my introduction to one of North America’s most bizarre geological phenomena, the Carcross Desert in Canada’s Yukon). At first glance, it admittedly didn’t look like much. Hardly recognisable as a desert and only 600m wide, best measured end to end by bootprints, it was blanketed in snow, the sand only apparent between cracks in the melted crust. But the details sharpened over time. Closer inspection revealed a miniature kingdom of fine-grain sands, a rare habitat for plants, ungulates and insect species that may be new to science.

Why One Island Grows 80% of the World’s Vanilla / Atlas Obscura

But how did one island come to dominate the vanilla industry? And why is one kilogram of “plain vanilla” now more valuable than one kilogram of silver? After all, vanilla isn’t even native to Madagascar.

Click here to subscribe and to see previous issues.