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.
Grab the entire list as a Readlist.
Paul Ford considers a recent Darpa initiative asking if open, publicly-available data could weaponized.
Businessweek: Paul Ford - Darpa Wants to Save Us From Our Own Dangerous Data
This is also the lifeblood of modern marketing. Take one pile of personal data, combine it with some other database of purchasing patterns, and voilà—you extrapolate who’s pregnant. As a culture we have been basically comfortable with this information being used for boilerplate commercial (targeted marketing) and political ends (redlining and gerrymandering). But the NSA leaks have made clear it goes much deeper. We are constantly generating a signal, and it is constantly being ingested by various digital leviathans.
Clive Thompson investigates the growth and promise of community mesh networks.
Mother Jones: Clive Thompson - How to Keep the NSA Out of Your Computer
The Athenians aren't alone. Scores of communities worldwide have been building these roll-your-own networks—often because a mesh can also be used as a cheap way to access the regular internet. But along the way people are discovering an intriguing upside: Their new digital spaces are autonomous and relatively safe from outside meddling.
On Neil Gaiman
With the imminent launch of the prequel to The Sandman, Tatiana Craine follows author Neil Gaiman on the book trail.
Minneapolis City Pages: Tatiana Craine - The dark night returns for Neil Gaiman
Since the early 1990s, Gaiman has made his home in a self-described Addams Family-style house about an hour outside of Minneapolis. In recent years, the property has garnered attention for his honeybees, his writing shed, and the giant snow creatures his friends build in the yard. While Gaiman now spends a fair amount of time on the road and in Cambridge with Palmer, he still considers the place a home base of sorts.
For good reason, too, since the Midwest has crept into Gaiman's stories little by little over the years.
Phil de Semlyen talks to visual effects masters about their all-time favorite Hollywood special effects.
Empire: Phil de Semlyen - Cinema's Greatest Effects Shots Picked By Hollywood's Top VFX Specialists
The moment Sam Neill first sees that Brachiosaurus in Jurassic Park was my inspiration for wanting to get into visual effects. I was 20 at the time – bizarrely, I’d taken my parents to see it – and I couldn’t compute how that had been done. You only saw the Sam Neill reaction shot and the T-Rex eye in the trailer, so it was like, "Oh... my... god!’ Although there are bits of it that don’t quite stand up 20 years on, my heart skipped a beat.
Anna Gunn, the actress who plays Skyler White in Breaking Bad, digs into why the internet hates the character so much.
The New York Times: Anna Gunn - I Have a Character Issue
But I was unprepared for the vitriolic response she inspired. Thousands of people have "liked" the Facebook page "I Hate Skyler White." Tens of thousands have "liked" a similar Facebook page with a name that cannot be printed here. When people started telling me about the "hate boards" for Skyler on the Web site for AMC, the network that broadcasts the show, I knew it was probably best not to look, but I wanted to understand what was happening.
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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.