Things I've been thinking about
Ahoy. This inaugural newsletter is only about two years behind schedule, so if you signed up ages ago and can’t remember why, a belated welcome! 
Music and cities. I wrote for Planning, the magazine of the American Planning Association, about how city officials are seeking to encourage music scenes in order to generate economic growth and retain young people. The takeaway for me is that we often have a romantic idea about how creative scenes get up and running, which is about a spontaneous flowering of talent and artistic energy. And yes, that can be true, but often there's a helping hand from people in power, which doesn't fit the starry-eyed narrative.
Friday Night Lights. I lost most of January to watching this decade-old show. I’m now in a haze of instant nostalgia, fed by listening to the FNL podcast Texas Forever, whose episodes are longer than the actual TV episodes. Why am I so fixated on this show? It’s soapy and emotionally manipulative and has issues with race, but I still find it hypnotically compelling.
Pixelated image of Andrew Yang smiling in front of a microphone
Basic income. This isn’t the messianic panacea so many people seem to think it is, but I do believe that a universal social safety net is a good thing. I’ve talked to people who argue that guaranteed (small) income would make people lazy. But 1) that’s not true for everyone; 2) it discounts the unpaid labor that so many people already do; and 3) so what? Idleness of a few, as a byproduct of a system trying to avoid crushing poverty, doesn’t sound so terrible. Anyway, all this is to say that I profiled Andrew Yang, a Democratic candidate for the 2020 US presidential elections, for VICE. He’s running on a basic income platform, and one of the things he said that didn’t make it into the article is that “maybe it’s just guilt” motivating technologists’ and elites’ embrace of basic income. Hm.
Wiki page of the month: List of people who have declined a British honour. Apparently Roald Dahl is one of the few who said no not on ethical grounds, but because he was gunning for a knighthood, and spurned the OBE. 
A man demonstrates cervical models
The intersection of international development and science. I’ve got a new blog at Forbes where I’ll be churning out several posts most months on this topic. Is it possible to write about development and science for a high-capitalism publication in a thoughtful, non-imperialistic, non-novelty-centric way? Hell if I know, but if you have any ideas I’d love to hear them. You can also sign up to any Forbes contributor's posts from their main site. (Photo from Rice University)
Topic's money issue. The entire issue is worth a read. I especially appreciated the article on state lotteries, which exposes the irony of a practice that's meant to contribute to the social good but is actually doing social harm, by feeding problem gambling. I'd never before viewed lotteries as a kind of regressive tax on the poor, but this article makes a good argument for that.
Agatha Christie. I wrote a fluff post about Agatha Christie bingo for Book Riot. (I’ve previously written about Christie and Englishness, and Christie and class.) She’s an enduring obsession for me, which can withstand even the increasingly execrable BBC adaptations that I somehow feel compelled to watch, even though they’re over-stylised exercises in excessive grimness. (Did you see the Christmas series of The ABC Murders, with John Malkovich doing a hilariously inconsistent Belgian accent? I wouldn’t recommend it...)
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Christine Ro
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