We all know the feeling. You're sleepless in the sad hours of the night or stumbling around early on a hazy weekend morning in need of something to read, and that pile of unread books just isn't cutting it. Why not take a break from the fire hose of Twitter and RSS and check out our weekly roundup of essential writing from around the web about technology, culture, media, and the future? Sure, it's one more thing you can feel guilty about sitting in your Instapaper queue, but it's better than pulling in vain on your Twitter list again.
On the jump
Brian Phillips considers Felix Baumgartner's jump last week, and looks back at a long history of long jumps and big stunts.
Grantland: Brian Phillips - One Small Step
Close to the camera, he looked larger than life, and artificially safe in his high-tech space suit — the sort of costume, after all, that you associate with zero-g and Strauss waltzes and astronauts floating upside down, the whole silly routine of weightlessness. Now suddenly he's plunging helplessly away from you and you realize that gravity is indeed in effect. Two seconds into the fall, he's a white dot against the planet. Six seconds in, he's invisible. Again, Baumgartner fell with no parachute for four minutes and 20 seconds.
Jeopardy contestant — and winner — Glenn Fleishman explains what it's like to be on the world's most popular quiz show.
Boing Boing: Glenn Fleishman - What it's like to be on Jeopardy
The actual game play goes by faster than you can remember it happening. Clues come up an average of one every 12 seconds. If played well, you enter a sort of fugue state in which the board and Alex's voice and the signaling button in your hand are all that you hear, see, and feel.
On Jack Dorsey
Eric Savitz profiles Twitter and Square co-founder Jack Dorsey and his San Francisco wanderings.
Forbes: Eric Savitz - Jack Dorsey: Leadership Secrets Of Twitter And Square
Before he cocreated two of the five hottest pre-IPO tech companies on the planet, Dorsey gave little sign of brilliant focus. He wrote dispatch software for ambulances and cop cars, dropped out of college (twice), took up botanical drawing, became a certified masseur and, later, dabbled in fashion design.
On the Moon
NPR's Robert Krulwich recommends we stop hounding the Moon.
krulwich wonders: Robert Krulwich - Be Nice To The Moon. Stop Writing On It
All over the world, ham radio operators and Morse code enthusiasts beam dot, dash messages straight at the moon, then wait 2.7 seconds for the signal to bounce back. They call these "E.M.E." transmissions, which stands for "Earth-Moon-Earth" or — more popularly — "moonbouncing." I suppose it's fun to smack little beeps against a sleepy rock 239,000 miles away and have those beeps come flying back at you. Plus, it's easy.
Matt Buchanan digs into why Surface could be Microsoft's make or break product.
FWD: Matt Buchanan - Why Microsoft’s Tablet Can’t Fail
And Surface may indeed have some priceless magic in it. But the question, ultimately, is whether Microsoft can get people to pay a price for that magic. There’s a giant shadow looming over the launch of Surface and Windows 8: Windows Phone.
On 'L.A. Noire'
Chris Donlan introduces his grandfather to L.A. Noire, surfacing memories of his life as an officer in '40s L.A.
Eurogamer.net: Chris Donlan - Night and the City
On the drive, dad kept up a low-level muttering trail of recollections and fiercely specific critiques: the lamps on this bridge were right, but the large dumpsters in alleyways weren’t like anything he remembered seeing; a gas station’s Coke machine was just perfect, but little skirtings of exposed brickwork around the low walls of vacant lots ‘didn’t seem very Californian’; this was meant to be 1947? Why was that a 1950 Chevy, then? When we finally turned onto 6th, though, he suddenly stopped talking.
Reeves Wiedman takes the opening of New York's new Barclay's Center as a moment to consider the new ways that smartphones are forcing sporting venues to rethink design.
The New Yorker: Reeves Wiedeman - The Nets arrive
The glowing smartphones are a symbol of what the Barclays Center, and all sporting venues, are fighting against: the increasing difficulty of keeping people actually focussed on the court. Given what it costs to attend, fewer people want to go to games. As a result, venue design has adapted to the fact that going to a sporting event is decreasingly about the act of watching the actual event in question.
Have any favorites that you'd like to see included in next week's edition? Send them along to @thomashouston or share in the comments below.