Insane In The Membrane

Hello, folks. We missed last month thanks to myriad deadline crunches, but I’ll try to make it up to you here. This is February’s Zaleski Minute. As always, if it takes you longer than 60 seconds, complain to management.

What I Was Writing:

  1. For OneZeroTanner Collins was 6 years old when 1/6 of his brain was removed. Doctors didn’t know if he would ever recognize his parents again. And then the miraculous happened — he turned out to be fine. His is the brain that literally remade itself.

  2. For Medium: Meet the internet punks of NoSurf, a group who started logging off of social media before it was trendy.

  3. For Outside: The merits of eating beef is in the news, but in an exploration of (supposed) benefits of the all-meat Carnivore Diet, I ate nothing but animal protein* — a lot of steak — for the entire month of September. (*There’s information about my bowel movements. There’s your trigger warning.)

  4. For The Washington Post Magazine: Take a tour of Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District, one of the most gerrymandered in the United States.

Go Out And Buy:

A copy of the spring 2019 issue of Popular Science, where you can read my feature about the coming age of future transportation. Hyperloop! Self-driving cars! Flying cars! And…jetpacks?

Parting Shot:

Fuck Facebook.

This Is The End

Welcome to the last Zaleski Minute of 2018. (Enjoy responsibly, folks.) As always, if it takes you longer than 60 seconds, complain to management.

What I Was Writing:

  1. For MediumCraigslist made Craig Newmark a rich man — and a pariah among journalists for siphoning off some $5 billion of newspapers’ classifieds advertising revenue. But over the last decade, the man viewed as reporting’s grim reaper has donated more than $70 million to the news business.

So Long, 2018:

  1. I wrote 44 articles this year, for publications including Popular Science, Bloomberg Businessweek, Fortune, The Washington Post Magazine, and elsewhere. On Twitter, I’ve compiled some of my favorite pieces from the last 12 months.

Thanks for reading. Here’s to wishing us all a healthy and prosperous 2019. See you next month.

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:

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.”

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