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Here you’ll find an archive of Nathanael’s weekly email. In it, he features an essay and curated reading on technology + marketing + simplicity.

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Skiers make the winter ascent to Mt Washington's Tuckerman Ravine in New Hampshire

New Hampshire - #365

In John Updike's autobiography, he describes winters in Ipswich as dark and lonely unless you made your own fun. His set of middle class bohemians had their cocktail parties and poetry readings and volunteer choruses, all of which make excellent appearances in his short stories. But the biographic detail from his autobiography that struck me is the weekday trips to New Hampshire to go skiing.

Golfer in mixed reality competition hitting from a fake sand trap

What tech does to us - #364

Twice a week, I ride the train to Boston. My commute starts with a quick walk to the suburban station near my house, after forty minutes on the commuter rail, I either walk a mile or jump on the trolley to East Cambridge. The people watching is varied: sometimes it's townies heading to the big city for a day, there are some high school kids heading to school, and you get quite a few tourists. On the train, though, it's mostly commuters. We're a quiet bunch. Unless you sit with your friends, you're usually reading, sleeping, or staring off into space.


On optimism - #362

A few weeks ago, a friend replied to my email about monoculture wondering why that essay (and the person who selected it) focuses so much on perceived shortcomings, flatness, and sameness, when there's so much diversity, creativity, and newness all around us? For ever example of few people wanting interesting degrees from their college, you can find experiments in higher education providing exactly that. For every corporate-inspired global aesthetic, you can find someone doing it entirely differently. My friend was right: Brink Lindsey sees a glass half-full, or perhaps sees things through his own funhouse mirror.


RIP Jim Toole - Issue #361

Between 2010 and 2015, on the second Saturday of the month in the late afternoon, you'd find me at Capital Hill Books. Second Saturday's free solo cup of wine and its nibbles of cheese would often motivate me to leave with at least a few books. But on more than one occasion our time in the bookstore was mostly sitting on the floor and talking with neighborhood friends and thus getting yelled at by Jim Toole.


Monoculture - #360

The top link in my first weekly email was a classic from the Verge, "Welcome to the Airspace." Kyle Chayka, writing in those heady years of zero interest rates and venture capital, showed us how Silicon Valley helped foster a global atheistic. The gif at the top of the piece said it all: the foreground was modern living room furniture, the mid showed a modified industrial space, maybe it was a condo or an office, or AirBNB, or coffee shop, and through the windows flash the skyline of New York, Paris, and Dubai. The living room could be anywhere: everything looks the same.


New vs. old right - #359

To make this little email, I read the internet opportunistically, on the hunt for good writing about interesting things. My trusty sources reflect the distinct eras of my interests: politics, tech, marketing, and culture. The stack of stuff is often like this morning's Spotify release radar: a J. S. Bach prelude followed by Pearl Jam covering Tom Petty. It's either a delightful potpourri or the omnivore's dilemma, and my opinion of the stack of stuff depends on my mood.


What does it take to be good on the internet? - Issue #358

It didn't take long for the jury to find erstwhile crypto king Bankman-Fried guilty on of fraud. This was a nice bookend to the speed at which the business-internet culture anointed him hero and king. For every business page's "we knew it was a fraud all along" takedown, the same page published breathless profiles and trend-pieces, "here's what the crypto future looks like."


Finding real strategic insight in business - #357

Like many business schools, mine used Harvard's case studies. My early favorites were Benihana and Southwest Airlines. They showed the stunning and difficult simplicity of operational innovation. You'd expect an airline to make money when people buy tickets or a restaurant to make money when people pay for a meal. And in a transactional sense, they do. But these case studies showed the power of deeply understanding how a business operates: airlines make money when the planes take off; restaurants make money they seat another table of guests. To make more money, Southwest needed to make their planes take off more frequently; the whole airline focused on the time between touchdown and takeoff. Benihana's theatre of table-side grilling ensured that when the chef left, the patrons did, too. Faster turnover meant more seatings during lunch and dinner and thus more revenue.


Nathanael's Reading

More than a hundred and fifty  people read the weekly email “Nathanael’s Reading,” which he’s sent every Friday since 2016. Nathanael includes original thoughts and curated reading on technology + marketing + simplicity. Subscribe by entering your email here