Tag: long reads

Steve Francis: I Got a Story to Tell

Steve Francis writing for The Players’ Tribune:

I still live in Houston to this day, and I can walk around this city and no matter what, people got my back. Even when I was going through some dark times the past few years, and I got locked up, everybody in Houston still had my back. How many guys who only played in a city for five years, and only made the playoffs once, get that much love?

I think it’s because of the energy in the city when me and Yao were together. That was my guy. When he came to Houston, we were some Odd Couple motherfuckers, man. A dude from China and a dude from D.C., and it wasn’t even language that was the problem. That was just a part of it. I’m partially deaf in my left ear, and Yao is partially deaf in his right ear, and we’re trying to speak to one another in basic English.

He’s turning his head, Huh?

I’m turning my head, What? Huh?

A genuinely entertaining and well written short-form memoir by Steve Francis covering what amounts to his whole life – from the death of his mother and step father, dealing drugs and visiting prisons to Hakeem, Yao, Gary Payton and Shawn Marion.

A must read for any NBA fan.

Torching the Modern-Day Library of Alexandria

James Somers writing for The Atlantic:

Google’s secret effort to scan every book in the world, codenamed “Project Ocean,” began in earnest in 2002 when Larry Page and Marissa Mayer sat down in the office together with a 300-page book and a metronome. Page wanted to know how long it would take to scan more than a hundred-million books, so he started with one that was lying around. Using the metronome to keep a steady pace, he and Mayer paged through the book cover-to-cover. It took them 40 minutes.

With that 40-minute number in mind, Page approached the University of Michigan, his alma mater and a world leader in book scanning, to find out what the state of the art in mass digitization looked like. Michigan told him that at the current pace, digitizing their entire collection—7 million volumes—was going to take about a thousand years. Page, who’d by now given the problem some thought, replied that he thought Google could do it in six.

An absolutely fascinating dive into the history of Project Ocean, covering how it started at Google, how Google scanned the books (camera arrays, clever algorithms and human page turners), and the years-long legal wrangle between Google, the Authors Guild and the DOJ.

It’s there. The books are there. People have been trying to build a library like this for ages—to do so, they’ve said, would be to erect one of the great humanitarian artifacts of all time—and here we’ve done the work to make it real and we were about to give it to the world and now, instead, it’s 50 or 60 petabytes on disk, and the only people who can see it are half a dozen engineers on the project who happen to have access because they’re the ones responsible for locking it up.

Interestingly Page later opined during a Q&A that maybe it would be a good idea to “set aside a part of the world” to try out some “exciting things you could do that are illegal or not allowed by regulation.” He was roundly criticised for being an annoying, out-of-touch billionaire at the time, but perhaps he was just being wistful.

Reading List

A collection of #longreads from the last week.


New York Above 800 Feet

We are currently in the midst of another clambering epoch. The city has 21 buildings with roof heights above 800 feet; seven of them have been completed in the past 15 years (and three of those the past 36 months). In this special New York Issue, we explore the high-altitude archipelago that spreads among the top floors of these 21 giants.


A New Origin Story for Dogs

Some say wolves were domesticated around 10,000 years ago, while others say 30,000. Some claim it happened in Europe, others in the Middle East, or East Asia. Some think early human hunter-gatherers actively tamed and bred wolves. Others say wolves domesticated themselves, by scavenging the carcasses left by human hunters, or loitering around campfires, growing tamer with each generation until they became permanent companions.

It still blows my mind that all breeds of modern domesticated dogs came from wolves.


Iceland’s Ghost Fleet

Ironically, the same Icelandic search team that was dispatched more than four decades ago to try and rescue the crew at the crash site is now being dispatched every single day to rescue tourists trying to find the crash site.

But even as viral images and music videos are luring crowds to come find this dead plane, the story behind its final descent has remained a mystery. No one seems to know why this thing crashed, why it was abandoned, and why it’s still lying on the beach.