The best writing of the week, January 19

Your Sunday reading


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.


Maureen O'Connor writes about the joys of blocking and unfollowing people online.

New York Magazine: Maureen O'Connor - The Joy of Unfollowing

If you follow someone on Twitter and you find that her tweets are too much for you, then you may unfollow her. If you continually recoil at TMI, it’s because you lack the willpower to stop consuming (or foresight to avoid) the information in question. That’s your fault.

On the Sony SRF-39FP

Joshua Hunt considers Sony's portable SRF-39FP radio, which is a classic in American prisons.

The New Yorker: Joshua Hunt - The iPod of Prison

Federal inmates are particularly attuned to battery life because they are allowed to spend just three hundred and twenty dollars each month on commissary goods; more cash spent on batteries means less for snacks, stationery, clothing, and toiletries.

On online bullying

Emily Bazelon reports on the dark side of the online vigilantes fighting online harassment.

The New York Times: Emily Bazelon - The Online Avengers

Anons tend to see the cases in which they intervene in polarized terms, parables with an innocent victim, evil perpetrators and ineffectual (or corrupt) law enforcement. There have been notable instances in which the pressure they created from a distance brought needed scrutiny to a case that had otherwise been ignored or buried.

On Hwang Woo Suk

David Cyranoski profiles the return of Woo Suk Hwang nearly a decade after fraudulent cloning practices were revealed.

Nature: David Cyranoski - Cloning comeback

There had been gross ethical lapses in the way Hwang had collected the human eggs for his experiments, and the papers were found to contain fabricated data. They were eventually retracted. It was one of the most widely reported and universally disappointing cases of scientific fraud in history. In January 2006, Un-chan Chung, then president of Seoul National University (SNU), where Hwang had done the work, called the episode “an unwashable blemish on the whole scientific community as well as our country”.

On amputation

Now available for free in full, Anil Ananthaswamy writes about Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID) and a man who wanted to have his healthy leg amputated.

Medium: Anil Ananthaswamy - This is what it’s like to be at war with your body

This wasn't the first time that David had tried to amputate his leg. When he was just out of college, he’d tried to do it using a tourniquet fashioned out of an old sock and strong baling twine.

David locked himself in his bedroom at his parents’ house, his bound leg propped up against the wall to prevent blood from flowing into it. After two hours the pain was unbearable, and fear sapped his will.

For more great longreads, visit our friends at Longreads.

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.

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