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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 15 July, 2020

Sitdown Sunday: 7 deadly reads

The very best of the week’s writing from around the web.

IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair.

We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour.

1. The Knowledge

Traffic stock Source: Jonathan Brady

The London cabbie’s ability to pick routes through traffic is legendary. Wannabe drivers study for years to take on The Knowledge, the test that decides whether or not they get a licence.

With GPS, that knowledge is under threat. This New York Times piece tracks a cabbie preparing to take the test.

At first I thought I’d go for London Bridge,” McCabe said later. “Go straight up Brixton Road to Kennington Park Road and then work my line over. I knew that I could make my life a lot easier, to not have to waste brainpower thinking about little roads — doing left-rights, left-rights. And then once I’d get over London Bridge, it’d be a quick trip: I’d work it up to Bethnal Green Road, Old Ford Road, and boom-boom-boom, I’m there. It’s a no-brainer. But no. I was thinking about the traffic, about everyone going to the City at that hour of the morning. I thought, ‘What can I do to skirt central London?’ That was my key decision point. I didn’t want to sit in the traffic lights. So I decided to take Coldharbour Lane and head for the pipe.

(Estimated reading time: 46 minutes, 16 seconds. Contains 9,256 words)

2. He’s a digital prophet

In this relatively short piece, The New Yorker profiles Shingy. He’s AOL’s “digital prophet”. Read this piece, be enlightened (or more confused).

AOL pays him a six-figure salary for—for doing what, exactly? “Watching the future take shape across the vast online landscape,” Shingy says. “I fly all around the world and go to conferences.” Last month, he was in Singapore, Brazil, and Germany. “I listen to where media is headed and figure out how our brands can win in that environment.”

(Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 55 seconds. Contains 784 words)

3. Playing American football in your underwear


The Lingerie Football League employs women who are strong, athletic and talented. But is the league a sexist creation? Tessa Barrera was one of the captains for the LA Temptation team. She quit after three years and has told Vice her story.

“Yes, things get bloody,” she says. “But when I played I was out for blood. I would bust my lips, jam fingers, and strain muscles in every game, but I loved it! You have to have a couple of screws loose to play football.”

(Estimated reading time: 6 minutes, 43 seconds. Contains 1,345 words)

4. Should Mexico and America merge?

In a world where independent states are being demanded and declared frequently, is there an argument for a little bit of consolidation? Freakanomics looks at the arguments for and against a merger.

I see that [as] close to impossible. It’s not the wish either of the United States and its wonderful people, nor is [it] the desire of Mexicans and our great culture.

(Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 40 seconds. Contains 1,136 words)

5. Solve for X

Candybox Stock Image Source: Press Association Images

If, like this writer, you dreaded being called on in maths so much that you developed an aversion to the letter x, you may have found yourself wondering “why x?”

Why is it when we need an unknown, we go to x? Why no f? Or g?

This Gizmodo piece explains.

It has been speculated that the prominence of x being used more than y and z for unknowns in this work had to do with typesetting; one story goes that it was Descartes’ printer who suggested x be the principle unknown in La Géométrie because it was the letter least used and so the one he had more letter blocks available to use.

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(Estimated reading time: 10 minutes, 6 seconds. Contains 2,022 words)

6. The Great Paper Caper

When Frank Bourassa had enough of stealing cars and running drugs for money, he came up with a much better plan: make his own money.

Here, he tells GQ how, and why, he printed $250 million in fake cash.

When I asked him where he found the lunatic gumption not only to enter into the risky business of counterfeiting but to do so at the unheard-of scale of hundreds of millions of dollars, Frank replied with a shrug: “I can do anything I want. I can go to the moon. I’m good at figuring out stuff. I could do a heart transplant if I wanted to.”

(Estimated reading time: 36 minutes, 23 seconds. Contains 7,279 words)

And a classic from the archives…

7. What made a good cop go bad?

James Dormer was described as a good cop, an upstanding citizen. Why, then, did he rampage across Southern California for nine days killing members of the police force and their families? This 2013 BBC Magazine piece examines what made him go rogue.

What terrified those leading the hunt for Dorner was the lethal potential of a heavily-armed, 6ft (183cm) 19st (122kg) man, schooled in combat techniques, who had pledged to bring “unconventional and asymmetrical warfare those in the LAPD uniform”.

(Estimated reading time: 15 minutes, 19 seconds. Contains 3,066 words)

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday >

The Sports Pages – the best sports writing collected every week by >

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