Barnes & Noble's surprising turnaround

According to the always-interesting Ted Gioia, the recent turnaround of Barnes & Noble is to be attributed to the company’s new CEO and his love of books. Quite astonishingly James Daunt, who took the helm of B&N in late 2019, refused to take promotional money from publishers: Daunt refused to play this game. He wanted to put the best books in the window. He wanted to display the most exciting books by the front door. »

This is Water by David Foster Wallace

Slow Sunday morning, while surfing the YouTube ocean, I stumbled upon the audio recording of David Foster Wallace’s This is Water speech. Any DFW fan knows about the commencement speech he famously gave at Kenyon College in 2005, and I’m probably one of the few who hadn’t yet listened to it. So this morning, I hit the play button and was blown away by it. Unsurprisingly, I guess, as the speech was met with universal acclaim. »

Why give up drinking in your early twenties

On New Years Day of 2022, I stumbled out of bed and immediately lost my vision, fell to the floor, and had to get my then-partner to help me back into bed. This wasn’t the first time this had happened, and I knew what it was straight away - I was having a migraine. In the previous decade I’d had countless migraines, and they always followed the same pattern. I’d wake up after a night out, attempt to get to the bathroom, lose my vision, and most likely end up on the floor vomiting from the pain that I can only describe as feeling like someone trying to hammer a nail into my skull. »


And we must remind ourselves that growth occurs in intervals: there are times of growth, and there are times of non-growth. The latter isn’t a failure so much as a necessary period of rest. Dormancy isn’t stagnant; it’s potentiating. It’s patient. If you’ve grown a lot in the past however many months or years and now feel that growth coming to a close, don’t fret right away. Wait. Reflect on what you’ve learned. »

Author image Nicola Iarocci on #links,

What was Dracula really like?

It’s mind-blowing that today scientists can “extract genetic material from the letters written [in 1475] by Vlad Dracula […] and, from that, build up a picture of not only the physical makeup of the Wallachian warlord who became known as Vlad the Impaler but also the environmental conditions in which he lived.” Also, I’m not surprised that similar investigations revealed that Mikhail Bulgakov was under morphine when he wrote his masterpiece, The Master and Margarita (one of my all-time favorite books). »

Writing is Magic

I find, more often than not, that I understand something much less well when I sit down to write about it than when I’m thinking about it in the shower. In fact, I find that I change my own mind on things a lot when I try write them down. It really is a powerful tool for finding clarity in your own mind. Once you have clarity in your own mind, you’re much more able to explain it to others. »

JetBrains has left Russia

While it has been a very challenging and difficult time for the company, it cannot even remotely be compared with the horrendous situation that the people of Ukraine are facing on a daily basis, caused by the war. Once again, we condemn this aggression, and have and will continue to stand by the people of Ukraine, including our colleagues and their families.  More here. I’m using JetBrains products when I’m not in (neo)vim. »

The Making of Dune II

Despite its name suggesting otherwise, Dune II was a first – a real-time strategy game that sprang out of the box with almost every gameplay attribute and control system seen in every RTS since. In direct lineage, it was the father of the globally successful Command & Conquer franchise, in that its code was used as a basis of the first game of the series. Yet in terms of wider influence, the battles first fought out on the vibrant sands of Arrakis continue to echo through modern videogaming. »

I am on Mastodon and I love it

Marcus Hutchins on Mastodon: What I missed about Mastodon was its very different culture. Ad-driven social media platforms are willing to tolerate monumental volumes of abusive users. They’ve discovered the same thing the Mainstream Media did: negative emotions grip people’s attention harder than positive ones. Hate and fear drives engagement, and engagement drives ad impressions. More here. I have been on Mastodon for a few weeks now, and wow, what a breath of fresh air. »

The Origins of Python

Yesterday the creator of the Python language, Guido van Rossum, tweeted about The Origins of Python, an essay by his mentor, Lambert Meertens. “On Sunday, June 21, 1970, in an office building on Great Portland Street in London, a teletype sprang to life. Under the heading “HAPPY FAMILIES,” the machine rattled out a sequence of English sentences, such as “THE DOG SITS ON THE BABY” and “UNCLE TED PLAYS WITH SISTER. »

Castle Rock Climb in Antarctica

There’s regular hiking, and then there’s Antarctica hiking. Check out brr’s report of a Sunday’s hike from McMurdo’s base up to the tip of Castle Rock, with spectacular views of Mount Erebus and the surroundings. brr’s Antarticta blog is a recent addition to my RSS feed collection. It’s always interesting to follow people living and working in the most remote parts of the world. Subscribe to the newsletter, the RSS feed, or follow @nicolaiarocci on Twitter »

Welcome to hell, Elon

As someone who’s been on board with Twitter since 2009, I have to admit that I’m very concerned with recent developments. I admire and respect Elon Musk for his companies’ achievements, especially in space and electric movement industries, but the man himself, holy cow, what a drag. On The Verge, Nilay Patel’s brutal piece on the recent Twitter acquisition is chock-full of brilliant insights on what it takes to run a modern commercial social service. »

A lot of what is known about pirates is not true

In 1701, in Middletown, New Jersey, Moses Butterworth languished in a jail, accused of piracy. Like many young men based in England or her colonies, he had joined a crew that sailed the Indian Ocean intent on plundering ships of the Muslim Mughal Empire. Throughout the 1690s, these pirates marauded vessels laden with gold, jewels, silk, and calico on pilgrimage toward Mecca. After achieving great success, many of these men sailed back into the Atlantic via Madagascar to the North American seaboard, where they quietly disembarked in Charleston, Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York City, Newport, and Boston, and made themselves at home. »

The high cost of living your life online

Studies have found that high levels of social media use are connected with an increased risk of symptoms of anxiety and depression. There appears to be substantial evidence connecting people’s mental health and their online habits. Furthermore, many psychologists believe people may be dealing with psychological effects that are pervasive but not always obvious. More here. Subscribe to the newsletter, the RSS feed, or follow @nicolaiarocci on Twitter »


Ben Werdmuller has a terrific post up on his website. His “tortured” analogy of the web and governments as platforms for people to build upon is fascinating. I believe strongly in the indieweb principles of distributed ownership, control, and independence. For me, the important thing is that this is how we get to a diverse web. A web where everyone can define not just what they write but how they present is by definition far more expressive, diverse, and interesting than one where most online content and identities must be squished into templates created by a handful of companies based on their financial needs. »

The Tripitaka Koreana

The Tripitaka Koreana - carved on 81258 woodblocks in the 13th century - is the most successful large data transfer over time yet achieved by humankind. 52 million characters of information, transmitted over nearly 8 centuries with zero data loss - an unequalled achievement. The full story is available here (via). Subscribe to the newsletter, the RSS feed, or follow @nicolaiarocci on Twitter »

The Man Who Explains Italy

The New Yorker, in The Man Who Explains Italy: The Italian podcaster Francesco Costa thinks that the foreign press’s fixation on creeping Fascism in the country is overblown and unhelpful. If the center-right coalition wins, “Will Italy be a police state? No,” he said. “Will it be very badly run? Yes.” Full article is available here. I’ve been following Francesco Costa for a few years. He’s talented, conscientious, brilliant, and gifted with good humor. »

Software quality is systemic

Jacob Kaplan-Moss’s hot take on software quality: Software quality is more the result of a system designed to produce quality, and not so much the result of individual performance. That is: a group of mediocre programmers working with a structure designed to produce quality will produce better software than a group of fantastic programmers working in a system designed with other goals. This leads to the insightful conclusion: »

The Women Who Built Grunge

This week the “Sunday Morning Reading Award” goes to Lisa Whittington-Hill, for her The Women Who Built Grunge on Longreads: Bands like L7 and Heavens to Betsy were instrumental to the birth of the grunge scene, but for decades were treated like novelties and sex objects. Thirty years later, it’s time to reassess their legacy. More here. Subscribe to the newsletter, the RSS feed, or follow @nicolaiarocci on Twitter »

G.K. Chesterton on fairy tales, actually

Robin Rendle quoting Neil Gaiman, who is quoting G.K. Chesterton: Fairy tales, as G.K. Chesterton once said, are more than true. Not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be defeated. I read somewhere that he based the Gilbert character from The Sandman on Chesterton, so it’s no surprise to find Gaiman quoting Chesterton in Smoke and Mirrors. Wanting to find the work in which the quote first appeared, I did a little research only to discover that G. »