Nerd Corner #74

Hi Friends!

The best time of the year is upon us!

I spent the weekend cooking Olive all'ascolana and tortellini with the leftover meat. Can't wait for Christmas eve to eat them all!

Cool Finds 🤯

  • I recently learned about The Complexity paradox and Tog's Law of Commuting:

    "The time of a commute is fixed. Only the distance is variable." Translation? People will strive to experience an equal or increasing level of complexity in their lives no matter what is done to reduce it. Make the roads faster, and people will invariably move further away.

  • While reading Sacred Cow I came across a mind-blowing 2012 article on the state of obesity in the UK and how the obesity epidemic can be traced back to the 1970s when the USA started industrial-scale production of corn.

  • For the most technical read of the week, this article on how HTTP3 works and why a new protocol (QUIC) had to be created instead of using plain-old TCP is well worth the time.


Sacred Cow 📚

I just finished reading Sacred Cow. Although obviously biased towards eating meat (the authors are big proponents of Paleo diets) the book is very well research and doesn't shy away from the difficult task of discussing the pros and cons of diets that include or prohibit any animal foods.

The most interesting part of the book is how they take down myths that raising cattle is more energy-consuming and polluting than producing plant-based foods. Moreover from what they explain about regenerative agriculture practices, it seems that the planet would benefit from including more grazing animals in our systems rather than removing them, something that reminded me of Deep Simplicity and Lovelock's Gaia Theory.


Beware what you install

A while ago during a zoom call, someone recommended the Chrome Extension Wikiwand in order to have a better "Wikipedia experience."

I checked it out and started using it at once because it really enhanced the experience of reading and navigating Wikipedia pages by changing their layout and making them more "mobile-friendly".

After weeks of using though I noticed that the extension doesn't perform cosmetic changes to the Wikipedia page, you're visiting. In reality, the extension redirects you to a "Wikiwand" page.

This triggered my alarms so I decided to do some research.

I started by looking at their website but it is very plain, they just claim to "Upgrade your Wikipedia experience" but don't give details into how personal data is handled, why they need to redirect you to a Wikiwand site nor how they make money—or at least keep the servers up and running.

As far back as 2015 the people behind the app were considering showing relevant ads or offering a paid subscription.

But none of that happened.

Instead, the extension seems to install an unusual amount of trackers to collect your data and feeds off Wikipedia's free content. As one Reddit user put it, despite the nice interface, it is "a parasitic browser add-on that makes money off of Wikipedia's content.".

This is yet another cautionary tale of the Internet. If you value your privacy you should be careful and understand if by using a service you are the product that the company is selling.

Needless to say, I removed the extension.


Before you go 😎

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Merry Christmas!

Alberto