New writing from journalist Andrew Zaleski — in one minute or less.

The Most Wonderful Time

I cannot wait for Christmas — and Christmas booze. Welcome to the November Zaleski Minute. As always, if it takes you longer than 60 seconds, complain to management.

What I Was Writing:

  1. For CityLab: People think Millennials are simpering, immune-to-difficulty know-nothings. As The Zaleski Minute’s resident 29-year-old, card-carrying Millennial, I went to adulting class to see how hopeless I am.

  2. For MediumDefense Distributed, the company that made the 3D-printed gun, sued the State Department for the rights to publish its gun files online. They argued that computer code, even code that produces a working firearm, is speech. Over the summer, they won.

  3. For FortuneRemember all that talk several years ago about mining asteroids? Yeah, well, turns out it was a bunch of crap (at least for now).

What I Closed:

Another feature for the online magazine Medium about the creator of Craigslist — and what he’s now doing to fund new journalism. Online next week.

What I’m Reading:

  1. This monster murder-mystery just published by The Atavist. Author Sean Patrick Cooper has been working on this thing, off and on, for almost five years.

Kill All Lanternflies

Listen up, people. The October Zaleski Minute is as much a PSA as anything else. (Thanks for being here, and this one will take you longer than 60 seconds, so complain to management.)

What I Was Writing:

My first feature for Bloomberg Businessweek is a tale about the arrestingly creepy spotted lanternfly. What’s a spotted lanternfly? Have a look:

That’s a grape vine at Beekman Orchards, a fourth-generation farm run by Calvin Beekman in Berks County, Pennsylvania. In the past two years alone, Beekman has lost $390,000 to these bugs, which feast on grape vines, fruit trees, and timber trees and then disgorge a glutinous substance called honeydew. It’s not shit, technically, since lanternflies don’t urinate or defecate. But it is sticky — it’s undigested tree sap, basically — and they spray it away from their bodies. When it lands on plants and trees, it disrupts photosynthesis and leads to plant death. Oh, and: It’s also capable of covering everything else, including your decks, patios, dogs, and hair.

So what’s the deal with these bugs?

  • It’s an invasive species, native to southeast Asia, that popped up in the U.S. in Pennsylvania in 2014.

  • Since then, these bugs have spread to Virginia, New Jersey, and New York. In Pennsylvania, 13 counties, including Philadelphia, are under a quarantine. (More about that in the Bloomberg Businessweek story.) As of this summer, three counties in New Jersey were placed under quarantine. Maryland and Delaware are bracing for their own infestations.

  • Lanternflies are poised to do more damage to farmers than even the brown marmorated stinkbug. “It has this really broad feeding behavior, and that’s unusual for an insect. And it threatens so many of our high-value commodities,” says Emelie Swackhamer, a horticulturalist with Penn State.

  • The bugs pose a huge danger to the hardwood industry of Pennsylvania, a $19 billion business that employs 66,000 people. (The commonwealth, in fact, is the number one exporter of hardwood in the U.S.)

  • Entomologists at Penn State believe the lanternfly “could be the most destructive species in 150 years.”

As Calvin Beekman says in the story: “The bugs aren’t good. They’re moving. You’re going to see the spread of this is farther than anyone projected.”

I share all of this because these bugs are a serious problem, and have already left some farmers in desperate straits.

What can we do? A couple things:

  • If you see these bugs, immediately call your state’s department of agriculture. If you can, note how many are there and the time of day. And then stomp on them. Lanternflies are gross, but they don’t sting or bite, and they’re remarkably fragile. Just kill the damn things.

  • From now through the first week of December, female lanternflies will lay eggs. Sometimes they resemble splotches of mud from far away. (Below, find a photo of what the egg masses look like.) If you spot an egg mass, carefully scrape it into a plastic bag, and then fill the bag with water and dish soap or hand sanitizer. That’ll kill the bugs inside.

    Andrew Zaleski@ajzaleskiSo, what do we do? Well, if you see an egg mass — something that looks like what's in the photo here — scrape it into a bag and fill it with hand sanitizer. Then call your state's agriculture department.

On a Different Note:

For those of you with Spotify, here’s a tiny window into my world: a playlist of songs I usually listen to when I’m trying to type thousands of words, but the only thing moving is a blinking cursor in a blank Microsoft Word document.

Better Late Than Never

A late edition of the September Zaleski Minute; such is life in the final days of finishing a magazine feature (one that will be in the October newsletter, coming right around the corner). As always, thanks for being here, and if it takes you longer than 60 seconds, complain to management.

What I Was Writing:

  1. For Medium: Dogs, it turns out, have more to give humans other than unwavering loyalty. They might just be our best hope at learning to live healthier, longer lives free of disease.

If You Missed It:

Thomas Lin@7homaslin

A nuanced and accurate analysis explaining why local/regional newspaper chain websites are so godawfully bad. By @ajzaleski in @CityLab: https://t.co/EykHaM78KB

September 10, 2018
TL;DR: The websites of local newspapers are almost universally awful.

Don’t Learn to Code:

“Unless you are 80 years old or something, you will have to repeatedly reinvent yourself in the coming decades,” Yuval Noah Harari tells GQ. “The most important investment that people can make is not to learn a particular skill … No, the most important investment is really in building this more flexible mind or personality.”

The Dog Days

There are perks to working from home when the temperature is 95 degrees Fahrenheit — namely, working in shorts and eating popsicles all day.

Thanks for being here for the August Zaleski Minute. As always, if it takes you longer than 60 seconds, complain to management.

What I Was Writing:

  1. For Medium: Virtual reality is poised to change many things in many ways: exposure therapy for PTSD sufferers; gaming for folks used to interacting with 2D images; and, yes, porn. But what is it like for the people who make the virtual environments propagating the mainstream? Bouts of dizziness, nausea, headaches, and dissociative experiences

  2. For MIT Technology ReviewTim Hwang is a 26-year-old wunderkind shaking the foundations of policymaking in Washington, D.C. He’s the founder of FiscalNote, a digital platform revolutionizing the lobbying industry with data. Smarter lobbyists! Wait a minute…

  3. For CNBC: What Unity Biotechnology is currently doing to fight osteoarthritis is evidently so attractive, it’s managed to secure the attention of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, who are both big investors in the California-based company.

If You Missed It:

The self-styled Darth Vader of shark hunting trolls the waters of the Atlantic Ocean off Florida’s southern coast, hoisting tiger sharks and hammerheads out by the hundreds. For Popular Science, I went fishing with Mark Quartiano, otherwise known as Mark the Shark. He creates epic fishing experiences for people like Clint Eastwood and Jacksonville Jaguars cheerleaders. But the conservation community has a bit of problem with that.

#SharkWeek

A shorter Zaleski Minute installment for July, so it’s half-price. (That was an attempt at internet humor.) Reading time should be less than half a minute, but, as always, if it takes you longer than 60 seconds, complain to management.

What I Was Writing:

  1. For Popular Science: Meet Mark Quartiano, better known as Mark the Shark. He’s America’s most notorious shark hunter, having killed around 50,000 sharks over his lifetime. I went fishing with him. I caught a hammerhead. No, the shark is not dead. Yes, it is still swimming in the ocean. Also: IT’S SHARK WEEK.

What I’m Reading:

  1. This article about the nature of rumors online, and how one person nearly ruined another’s life by spreading false tales about an alleged adultery. (Welcome to social media, a land of fake news and noxious, assumed familiarity.)

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