‘Tinker, Tailor’: The Greatest Spy Story Ever Told

From NPR:

When I was 12, I was hooked on James Bond, both Ian Fleming’s elegantly pulpy novels and the cartoonish movies they spawned. One day, my friend’s older brother, who went to Harvard, tossed a paperback onto my lap and said, “Here’s the real thing, kid.”

The book was The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, the 1963 thriller by John le Carre. I opened it expecting a racier version of what I found in 007 — you know, Asian thugs with steel-rimmed bowlers, gorgeous women as sweetly pliable as taffy. What I got was a dankly bitter tale of betrayal ending at the Berlin Wall. I hated it. It was just too sophisticated for the adolescent me.

You see, le Carre wasn’t merely a better writer than Fleming, but a reaction against him. Where 007 fought amusingly acronymed groups like SPECTRE, le Carre conjured a Cold War hall of mirrors in which spy craft wasn’t about knife fights and hot sex, but about gambits and machinations in which it was hard to tell the good guys from the bad.

Bank of America Abandons Plan to Charge $5 Debit Card Fee

From the LA Times:

Bowing to a national flood of protests, Bank of America Corp. is calling off its plan to charge customers $5 a month for using its debit cards to make purchases — a strategy that proved a public relations disaster for what once was America’s biggest bank.

Analysts had believed the rest of the banking industry would follow BofA in imposing similar fees to make up for new rules restricting the fees banks charge merchants for accepting debit cards.

But instead, the Charlotte, N.C., banking giant finds itself following the lead of a host of rivals who decided last week not to incur the wrath of the American public with debit-card fees.

Bank of America lost its No. 1 ranking in asset size to JPMorgan Chase & Co. at the end of September, though it still has the most total deposits. It announced its decision on the debit fee Tuesday morning in a two-paragraph statement citing “customer concerns and the changing competitive marketplace.”

Google Reader Rant From Reader’s former Project Manager

Couldn’t agree more. And especially about how stark the new design is. I use Google Reader constantly throughout the day and the old color scheme was very easy on the eyes.

In the name of visual consistency, Google has updated the visual style to match Gmail, Calendar and Docs. I have nothing against visual consistency (and in fact, this something that Google should be doing), but it’s as if whoever made the update did so without ever actually using the product to, you know, read something.

When you log into Reader, what the hell do you think your primary objective is? Did you answer “stare at a giant header bar with no real estate saved for actual reading”?

Reader is a product built to consume information, quickly. We designed it to be very good at that one thing. G+ is an experience built around browsing (similar to Facebook) and socializing. Taking the UI paradigm for G+ and mashing it onto Reader without any apparent regard for the underlying function is awful and it shows.

The second and more obvious change, is that someone took the magic color-removing wand and drenched the whole page in grey. It’s so unbelievably stark, it’s hard to imagine a more desolate experience. Even G+ has blue links for post titles. Blue titles are good enough for Google search. Reader, which is built entirely around posts with titles, does away with this in the name of the almighty grey god.