7 things I would've shared if I hadn't stayed off the internet last week (more than usual)

Monday, June 6, 2016
I wasn't as good at unplugging as I'd hoped, but I managed to bite my digital tongue a lot more than usual over the last week. Had I not, here's some of what probably would have spilled out, on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn:
  1. Muhammad Ali. So much great writing about him, it's tough to recommend any one piece. But Dave Zirin's essay for The Nation was among the first and most inspiring I read after hearing the news of Ali's death. (Unlike many in the Chicago news biz, I never met Ali. But I interviewed Zirin on WBEZ in 2013, and I own the original edition of this 1978 comic.)

  2. The new media landscape. The debut of Tronc notwithstanding, reasons to be cheerful include some great and effective reporting by organizations well outside the mainstream media sphere. One case in point: Mic's reporting on a hateful web browser plugin that one white supremacist hailed as "closed captioning for the Jew-blind."

  3. The iPhone SE. Four years after my last smartphone purchase -- the 4s that had come to draw sniggers from my tech-savvy colleagues -- I sprung for a new one. The SE, Apple's cheapest iPhone ever, isn't a revolutionary upgrade; if you're satisfied with what you have, no need to rush out to get it. Its single most compelling feature: Much-improved battery life. This phone gets through a day of my high-demand use (compulsive email checking, web browsing and audio playback) and still has 20 percent of its power to spare at bedtime.

  4. Indiana's (media) economy. What aspect of it explains the dominance on highway billboards of ads for lawyers, law firms and lawsuits? Noted on a getaway during which my dominant form of entertainment was ...

  5. Library books downloaded directly to an ebook reader. If you're not doing it, you're missing one of the joys of the modern era. It's this simple: Visit your local library's website, find the electronic version of a book and tap "Download." For Amazon's Kindle, you get taken to the company's website, where you log in to indicate which device should get the download. For instance ...

  6. J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion. At best, it's a challenging read. If you're not a fan of linguistics, this sequel/prequel adds little to the thrills of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. But if you're gonna tackle it, the ebook version's absolutely the way to go. Tolkien -- ever the philologist -- delights in using multiple names, so the Kindle's single-tap X-Ray and Wikipedia look-up features make light work of keeping up with who's who and what's what. And if you have little stomach for creation myths that don't tie directly to the narratives you've come to know and love, just skip to the final chapter, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age" -- Tolkien's SparkNotes-style rendering of events leading up to the adventures of Gandalf, Aragorn, Bilbo and Frodo. And then I read ...

  7. A book of chess strategy. I've been playing for about 54 years, but I'd never read one. Until I downloaded the electronic version of a paperback that'd been on my shelf for a couple of decades. It's shed new light on strategies and positions I'd long rejected. Look out, Meyerson sons and other random opponents.

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