Best of the Web: Tooth Phones, Mid-life Crises and Toilet Issues…

Here’s my latest batch of articles from around the web.

In land of Facebook and Google

The New Yorker has an excellent interview with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. It comes in the New Yorker’s usual long-form essay of 15,000 words! It’s worth a worth a read, though. Some of it is funny  – Zuckerberg cannot handle losing to a child at scrabble, other parts are worrying like his apparent lack of urgency around limiting the use of Facebook or WhatsApp by groups oppressing minorities from Myanmar to India. I still can’t believe he is only 34 years old and is in charge of a platform that affects billions in the world. On a related note, look at what rights Facebook’s Instagram has over your photos (hint: total and complete).  Europe is pushing back with another piece of legislation that tries to give content creators some rights with a new link tax (i.e. Facebook will have to pay the publisher for scraping and reposting the publisher’s content).

Google has just launched “Dataset Search”, which finds online datasets for you. I’ve tried it and it looks promising. Here’s some background. Google searches find that Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are most concerned about climate change. Google maps can also calculate a city’s carbon footprint based on building size and it estimated energy use.

New tech toys


3D printers can now “print” metal (and HP’s version)

A new lunch-box that can keep contents hot and cold.

Cutlery that keeps dirty spoons off clean tables.

The latest slate of vertical-lift off cars.

Military has mics that go in a tooth to allow hands-free radio calls!

New I-Phone reviews here and here

Latest Apple Watch has ECG monitor! Reviews here and here


Forget buying a sports car and having relationships with much younger people, it seems the new outlet for midlife crises is extreme athleticism. Almost one third of all triathlon participants are aged between 40 and 49. Triathlons, marathons and iron man competitions apparently give people a sense of meaning (often spiritual), and keep them feeling young.

Interesting new framework on decision-making which looks at tightness of culture – i.e. how much are you allowed to deviate from the social norm. Less deviation equates to a tight culture, which have more order, while loose cultures, which deviate more from norms, have more openness to new ideas. These can be applied to countries and companies. Japan, Germany, Singapore have tight cultures while Netherlands, Brazil and New Zealand have loose cultures.

On a more morbid note, a journalist asks 12 mass killers “What would have stopped you?” There wasn’t one simple answer though mental health treatment, drug use management, community and less access to guns were common answers.

Free money for everyone!

Universal Basic Income (UBI), where everyone gets a flat payment every month to keep them above the poverty line,  is a popular solution to the winner-takes-all economy that we seem to be in. Here’s a good survey of all the pilots currently underway around the world. One more detailed study of  actual UBI has just come out. It was an experiment of giving cash grants to Ugandans – it apparently did accelerate a move out of poverty, but the effects levelled off after a number of years. A Swiss village recently voted for UBI, but hasn’t worked out how to pay for it yet!

One of the latest iterations is to set up a sovereign wealth fund that pays out dividends to all citizens. This article summarises the various responses to this idea. Doesn’t look very practical – you need over $60 trillion for it to reach a UBI level of $1000 a month for citizens. That would be tough to raise and it would have all sorts of governance issues.

Another way of sharing the fruits of new technologies is to give workers a four-day work-week. The British Trade Union Congress (TUC) is calling for its implementation. It argues it would be in the tradition of introducing the two-day weekend in the early 20th century.

How millennials and Gen X invest


Looks like young adults who started investing after the 2008 crisis have barely any allocations to equities compared to those that started just before. And here’s a nice chart comparing what investment choices millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers would make with a $10,000 gift. Ever wanted to join the FIRE movement? FIRE = financial independence, retire early. Click here to find out how (hint find somewhere cheap to live, save lots, live frugally).

Bowel movements. Yuk.

Look away if you are shy about bowel movements. Five experts answered the question we have but were afraid to ask: How often should we poop a day?! The answer is…anything from 3 times a day to 3 times a week. What’s important is whether you are deviating from your normal pattern. Another thing to keep an eye on is stool consistency. Experts use  the Bristol Stool Form Scale which uses a seven-point scale ranging from Type 1 “separate hard lumps, like nuts” to Type 7 “watery no solid pieces.”.  Type 4 (“Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft”) is the Nirvana of all bowel actions, but 50% of normal patients report some variation from this. While we’re on this subject, another article runs through the mechanics of what happens when you hold on to your flatus (wind). And in case this is not enough information, you can also learn the benefits of a fecal transplant.

Books, Music and TV

One of my favourite authors, Japan’s Haruki Murakami, writes about the history of Japanese short fiction. As usual, he’s very frank, writing “To tell you the truth, I’m reading most of the stories included here for the first time in my life”. For less honest readers, here’s a list of books that people lie about having reading (Harry Potter!). Here’s another list of upcoming non-fiction books worth reading, which includes “How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic”!

If you want to listen to something – why not listen to 1980s music. Here’s a list of the 200 best albums from that decade according to Pitchfork. Artists include Kate Bush, NWA, Madonna and Bruce Springsteen. Before you say that’s too dated, judging by concert shows and awards, ageing rockers are still popular, so at least listen to the rock albums. For some reason, popular rock acts are much older than their pop or hip hop peers. Apparently, it is to do with them indulging in our nostalgia. Go Rolling Stones and Foo Fighters!

On how the excellent new BBC drama, The Bodyguard, is providing an antidote to Netflix binges.

Stunning pictures…


…of trees from around the world, an 8-hour walk around New York City, well not quite pictures but illustrations of the world’s most striking libraries




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