Morning Coffee, issue #5

July 04, 2015

It’s been a turbulent week in Europe. Pretty much every country in the EU is looking at Greece with increasing concern these days, after it became the first developed country to default on its I.M.F. loans.

Greece’s default means it won’t get a third bailout from the Eurogroup, which it desperately needs. All through the week we saw movement from both sides hinting at a possible last-minute deal before the troika’s1 offer expired on Thursday. First Greece said they’d accept the troika’s conditions if they were granted some debt relief, to which the Eurogroup promptly said no. Then the I.M.F., which is actually part of the troika, said no further help would be given to Greece unless it’s also accompanied by debt relief. This appeared to bring both sides closer than ever to an agreement. But then, both German chancellor Angela Merkel and Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras appeared on their respective national televisions saying an agreement was impossible. Merkel wants to wait until Sunday’s referendum before deciding on anything, and Tsipras is campaigning as hard as he can for a no vote that would render all past negotiations irrelevant.

The entire situation feels like watching a fascinating game of cat and mouse between Greece and its creditors in the Eurogroup. And if that is indeed the case, then Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis would be the man who’s pulling the strings. This is not particularly surprising, considering he actually wrote several academic papers on game theory itself. I strongly suspect he’s putting his knowledge to good use here, but only time will tell if it will be enough.

In the meantime, the Greek people are suffering one of their worst weeks in recent memory, with banks closed and food and medicine supplies running dangerously low. In the streets, general chaos is overwhelming, and this comes on top of an already precarious situation that has lasted far too long. Tomorrow, Greeks will be granted an opportunity — maybe the only one they’ll ever get — to speak up and be heard.

Greece’s creditors seem bent on pushing the idea that a no vote in tomorrow’s referendum would be tantamount to Greece leaving the Euro and maybe even the complete disintegration of the Eurozone itself. In reality, however, the situation is much more nuanced. Tsipras has stated repeatedly that Greece remains committed to the Euro and to Europe and so far, nothing that’s happened during this crisis gives us reason to doubt him.

If Greeks say no tomorrow, they may give their government the strength it needs to negotiate on more equal terms with the troika. If they vote yes, it’ll probably be the end of Alexis Tsipras’s government. Whatever happens, we’ll find out soon enough.

Now, let’s go for something a bit more relaxing. There were plenty of great pieces to read this week, so grab your favorite hot beverage and let’s get on with it.

Issue #5: on immigration, Pete Sampras, the voice of Siri, and flirting at a nude beach

This issue includes several very interesting pieces indeed. From a deeply personal letter from Pete Sampras to his younger self, to a great piece on how to make friends at a nude beach, and everything Apple-related in between, there’s enough variety here to keep you entertained all weekend. Enjoy.

You’re better than this, Europe | Nils Muiznieks →

Great piece for The New York Times on how recent immigration policy amendments made by several European countries are threatening refugees’ right to asylum. Immigration is a very real problem in Europe, and the current situation is unsustainable. Sadly, in dealing with that problem, some governments appear to have forgotten the very principles of equality and solidarity the Union was founded upon.

Life is easier when you take the stairs | David Cain →

Another week, another winner by David Cain. I don’t know how he keeps doing it, but he does:

I think what most of us really want is an easier life, not necessarily a more wholesome one. We want less trouble and more enjoyment, probably more so than we want achievement and virtue. But what we often overlook is that embracing difficulty in certain places nets us a lot more ease than our usual “easy” ways. Putting in three hours a week at the gym is easier than being out of shape 24 hours a day. Studying is easier than sitting in an exam room not having studied. Doing a good job at work is easier than wondering when they’ll finally fire you.

I’m used to thinking of ease and difficulty as a pretty straightforward dichotomy: we want more of one and less of the other. And maybe in a sense that’s true, but they are often found in the same place and come together as a package. A small amount of difficulty often serves as the gatekeeper to a large amount of ease.

Spot on, as usual. Beyond the quoted excerpt above, this particular phrase stands out: “Fears tend to stay down once you walk over them once”.

Run to the Devil: The Ghosts and the Grace of Nina Simone | Brian Phillips →

Brian Phillips has been on fire lately. Just days before penning one of the best articles on Roger Federer in recent memory, he published this incredible piece on the troubled life of Eunice Waymon, the incredibly talented girl who would grow up to become one of the most influential musicians of all time: Miss Nina Simone.

Letter to my younger self | Pete Sampras →

Pete Sampras, who was widely regarded as the best male tennis player of all time until a fella named Roger Federer started winning majors left, right and center, writes a letter to his 16-year-old self, when he was about to join the professional ATP circuit. Amazing.

At the heart of the Wimbledon tennis championships lies the IBM bunker | Sebastian Anthony →

I really enjoyed Anthony’s peek into the brains of Wimbledon for Ars Technica. Organizing a Grand Slam event, like any major sports tournament in the world, takes a huge amount of effort, coordination, and technological prowess. This is how the magic happens.

Seven years on, a MacBook Pro prepares for El Capitan | Chip Sudderth →

Apple hasn’t increased the basic requirements for running new OS X versions for a few years now, which is great news for those of us who still own and use old Macs every day. Basically, if your Mac is 64-bit capable, you’re good to go. And since El Capitan is ostensibly optimized to increase performance and battery life on older Macs, upgrading this time around really does seem like a no-brainer.

Losing weight with Apple Watch | Matt Gemmell →

This is a fantastic, in-depth analysis on how it’s entirely possible to lose weight without making huge sacrifices, or changes to your life. A little effort every day, coupled with a bit of intelligent planning and a sound strategy goes a long way. And as as Matt notes, a tech gadget like the Apple Watch can be useful to track your progress and give you an extra bit of motivation, but it’s very much not required.

Love | Brent Simmons →

Brent Simmons, the former lead developer of Vesper, shares his thoughts on the current state of the indie app development industry:

Yes, there are strategies for making a living, and nobody’s entitled to anything. But it’s also true that the economics of a thing may be generally favorable or generally unfavorable — and the iOS App Store is, to understate the case, generally unfavorable. Indies don’t have a fighting chance.

Brent’s piece has been shared to death over the past few days, so you may have seen it already. The explanation for that is very simple: He’s absolutely right. As much as it pains me to say it, the App Store’s promise of a sustainable ecosystem for indie developers to thrive in remains largely unfulfilled. There was a brief period in the beginning when things really were awesome. Then, after the initial gold rush subsided, things were still good. Now they just are what they are. There are people like Marco Arment who still manage to find success, but by and large, the expectations for aspiring indies in today’s App Store are pretty bleak.

Clearly Apple has some of the responsibility here. Their actions as steward of the platform haven’t been focused on protecting indies and encouraging they can create sustainable businesses, and that’s unfortunate.

Disconnect | Dave Wiskus →

Dave takes a look at some of the things that are broken in Apple’s new Connect feature for Apple Music. Connect was designed to bring artists together with their listeners, but the current implementation apparently leaves much to be desired. Dave’s piece ends on a positive note, though:

These are early days, and there’s hope. I don’t like complain-y posts where designers pick something apart and either offer no meaningful ideas or, worse, presumptuously redesign someone else’s work. So instead I’m going to break the fourth wall and make a simple suggestion to Apple: consult with independent musicians. Talk to bands who have succeeded on social media and see what worked for them. Talk to bands who have made great YouTube videos and find out how they get their audience to share stuff. Talk to bands who haven’t made it yet and ask what tools they might need to get there.

Airbnb and the Internet revolution | Ben Thompson →

Great piece by Ben Thompson, as usual. Businesses like Uber and Airbnb are great examples of the endless possibilities for disruption enabled by the sharing economy, but they’re also shady enterprises at their best, with many gray areas in the way they operate:

I increasingly believe that it is the sharing economy that is beginning to reveal the answer: a world of commodified trust has significantly less need for much of the infrastructure of modern society, including inefficient sectors like hotels whose primary differentiator is trust, along with the regulatory state dedicated to enforcing that trust. On the other hand, this brave new world has brand new holes through which people can fall: those who have lost trust, or do not have the means to build it.

The real voice of Siri explains the art of voiceover | Phil Edwards →

I love these behind-the-scenes stories. Voice acting is a pretty well-established industry in Spain, where people have been watching mostly dubbed movies and TV shows for decades. The situation is starting to change over the past few years, as many people — especially younger people — start consuming more and more of their content through the Internet in its original form. Who would have thought that it’d take massively successful TV shows like Lost and Game of Thrones for people to get serious about their English?

Anyway, this piece is a great look at some of the intricacies of voice acting, and who better to guide us through the process than Susan Bennett, the actress behind Siri’s original voice. A very entertaining read indeed.

Switzerland on film | Bijan Sabet →

Fantastic collection of pictures taken on medium format film. Switzerland is a beautiful country, and I love how the rich colors of its landscapes are captured by films such as Kodak Portra. There are plenty of good reasons in this post to go buy a plane ticket.

How to flirt and make friends at a nude beach | Maureen O’Connor →

This was a very interesting piece to read. Apparently, nude beaches feel like stepping into a parallel world, where society is governed by a different set of rules:

Paradoxically enough, every nudist I spoke to said that socializing in the buff is less sexual than socializing in clothes. Complete nudity, Jones points out, prevents a person from emphasizing any one part. Or as her fiancé puts it: “Everything just flops into place. There’s nothing to hold this up or accentuate that — you’re just you.” Meanwhile, pickup lines and overtly sexual come-ons feel unacceptably aggressive (and even more cringe-worthy) when both parties are nude.

This makes so much sense. I’ve never been to a nude beach, but I did spend a year living in Finland, where sauna is one of the most extended traditions. It feels incredibly weird when, soon after you first arrive in the country, you’re invited to stand fully naked among strangers in a tight, confined space that is heated upwards of 100°C. And yet, it’s amazing how quickly it becomes normal, and the naked part starts to feel shockingly natural.

When everyone is naked in a non-sexualized environment, things have a way of working out that is more relaxed, and more civilized. Sauna soon became one of my preferred activities in Finland, and still today I miss it dearly.

The Lamy 2000 fountain pen | Josh Ginter →

I love fountain pens, but I must confess I had no idea this one even existed. I guess it goes to show just how deep certain rabbit holes go. Apparently the Lamy 2000 is a legendary pen that enjoys cult status among pen enthusiasts everywhere. Indeed, going by Josh’s amazing photography alone, it’s easy to see why. It doesn’t exactly come cheap — although there are definitely much more expensive pens around — but it looks to be worth every penny. If you love pens or simply appreciate nice things, take a good look at Josh’s fantastic review.


It’s July Fourth today, one of the most important holidays of the year in the United States. I’d like to take a moment to wish a very happy day to all my American friends, I hope you have a fantastic time with your loved ones. Make the most of it, and celebrate to your heart’s content.

As it happens, tomorrow is another highly celebrated day of the year: my birthday. I’m turning 32 in a few hours, and I’m spending the weekend in my hometown with my parents to celebrate. Last night we had dinner at a new restaurant that a friend of mine opened three days ago, and we had a wonderful time. I really enjoy these quiet moments together, and in my mind it’s the perfect way to get slightly older.

I’m not one to dwell much on my birthdays, but this time around it feels slightly different than past years. I’ve been working for myself full-time for close to a year now, and it’s been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I still have a ways to go to make it sustainable, and I may have to make some hard choices about my life in the near future but for now, things are good. I love doing what I do, and I feel incredibly fortunate for the opportunity to pursue this life. I’m well aware of the privilege it entails, and I’m committed to doing the very best work I can. Hopefully you’ll stick around to see it.

That said, it’s now time for a break. I’m taking a couple of days off in order to enjoy some time with my family and relax for a little bit. I have a great article in the pipeline for next week that I can’t wait to show you, but everything in due time. For now, enjoy these great reads, have a fantastic weekend and, of course, thank you for reading.

  1. The troika refers to the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission.