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 celebrity

John Herrman explores how former NBA aspirant David Johnson uses read receipts to track the hundreds of emails that he's sent to Jay-Z. The crazy part? Jay-Z appears to be reading the emails, often more than once.

FWD: John Herrman - Tracking The Biggest Star In The World

Believing you have a direct, one-way line to someone like Jay-Z also inevitably forces you to confront some questions. What is he getting out of this? What does he think of me? And the one that you can only ignore for so long: If he's reading, why isn't he responding to me?

On immortality

Evan R. Goldstein profiles NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory veteran Ken Hayworth and his search for a cure for death.

The Chronicle of Higher Education: Evan R. Goldstein - The Strange Neuroscience of Immortality

Hayworth has spent much of the past few years in a windowless room carving brains into very thin slices. He is by all accounts a curious man, known for casually saying things like, "The human race is on a beeline to mind uploading: We will preserve a brain, slice it up, simulate it on a computer, and hook it up to a robot body." He wants that brain to be his brain. He wants his 100 billion neurons and more than 100 trillion synapses to be encased in a block of transparent, amber-colored resin—before he dies of natural causes.

On pinning

Carina Chocano riffs on what all this pinning and tumbling is driven by.

The New York Times Magazine: Carina Chocano - Pinterest, Tumblr and the Trouble With ‘Curation’

There’s a German word for it, of course: Sehnsucht, which translates as "addictive yearning." This is, I think, what these sites evoke: the feeling of being addicted to longing for something; specifically being addicted to the feeling that something is missing or incomplete. The point is not the thing that is being longed for, but the feeling of longing for the thing. And that feeling is necessarily ambivalent, combining both positive and negative emotions.

On brevity

It's no surprise that the internet is changing etiquette, and Erik Spiegelman shows how the new rules of email expose a generation gap.

Bus your own tray: Erik Spiegelman - On the Virtue of Brevity in Email

This conflicts with an older style of correspondence that associated pleasantries with tact. Tactful emails now are efficient, and pleasantries are a waste. People accustomed to pleasantries see their absence as rude, or a sign of being cross. They infer a tone that isn’t there, while people accustomed to brevity know how difficult it can be to ascertain tone from an email.

On Coursera

This week a dozen universities, including Princeton, Duke, Georgia Tech, and more announced they were joining Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng's Coursera online higher education startup. This fall the colleges will offer more than 100 MOOCs ("massive open online courses"), and Jordan Weissmann considers what it means for the future of online education.

Professor Mark Edmundson takes a different view on online education over at The New York Times Opinion Pages.

The Atlantic: Jordan Weissmann - The Single Most Important Experiment in Higher Education

And therein lies Coursera's promise. The company does not consider itself an alternative to a traditional university. Rather, it's more of a market for learning. Schools that design classes for Coursera retain the rights to their work, meaning it's a risk-free way for schools to dip themselves into online education without building the technology infrastructure from scratch. In turn, professors can incorporate the web material into their traditional courses, for instance by turning their 9 a.m. lectures into homework. In time, the process could breed more familiarity, less contempt, and much more efficient classrooms.

On Comic-Con

Embrace the all caps as FILMCRITHULK recaps his time at Comic-Con 2012.

Entertainment Weekly: FILMCRITHULK - HULK VS. THE COMIC-CON FLOOR!

BUT AS HULK GOES THROUGH THERE IS SOMETHING DISTRESSING ABOUT THE NATURE OF THE INTERACTIONS AT LARGE HERE. IT’S ALMOST AS IF THERE’S A GAP BETWEEN THE PRESUMED SMARTNESS OF "THE NERD" AND THE ACTUAL SMARTNESS BEING PUT FORTH IN THESE INTERACTIONS.

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.