Adam Mastroianni

Slime Mold Time Mold, "The Scientific Virtues"

This piece by a pseudonymous collective of mad scientists is required reading for anyone who wants to discover truths about the world. "The scientific virtues are: Stupidity, Arrogance, Laziness, Carefreeness, Beauty, Rebellion, Humor."

"Three Kingdoms"

I used to be a little confused when people said that they learned how to be a better person from watching movies and reading books. I only understood after I accidentally got addicted to this 95-episode TV adaptation of a 14th-century novel called Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which is itself a dramatization of the Three Kingdoms Era of Chinese history (220-280 AD). About every 15 minutes, somebody has to make a life-altering decision: do I follow my evil king into battle, or do I break my oath of loyalty? Do I invite my defeated enemies to join me, or do I wipe them out to avoid future threats? Do I listen to my trusted advisors, or do I follow my gut? Even though the context and the stakes are different from our own (I don't often lead 100,000 soldiers), it's a remarkably relevant tutorial on living virtuously during tumultuous times.

Ada Palmer, "On Progress and Historical Change"

Where is history going and how does it get there? Palmer shows that, although the great forces of history are indeed impossible to overcome, the outcomes are never set, and the choices of individuals––however small they may be!––make all the difference. I get something new every time I re-read this essay, though it still brings me to tears every time.

Visakan Veerasamy, "Are You Serious?"

Visa is the sage of the internet era. His best work is usually in tweets, but this is a rare essay that succeeds at distilling some of his thinking. What does it look like to be serious about something? One answer: when your wife dies because it took too long to get her to the hospital, you spend the rest of your life hewing a path through the mountains by hand.

Reply All, "The Case of the Missing Hit"

Sadly now defunct, Reply All was once a cross between This American Life and Radiolab, but less ambient and plodding than its hoity-toity older siblings. This was their best work, a caper about a guy who has a perfect memory of a song he heard in the 90s but now can't find it anywhere.

Idle Words, "No Evidence of Disease"

I write blog posts for a living, so it's a thrill to see someone reach the peak of the art form. This story, a haunting, personal tale with a sick twist at the end, could not exist in any other format.


A deadpan Canadian tries to help people resolve something from their past, usually causing the listener (me) to get teary-eyed in the process. It's hard to pick just one episode, but highlights are: "Gregor," where a guy accuses Moby of stealing his CDs, "Bobby," where the show's sound engineer explains how he helped create the most reviled commercial of all time, and "Marchel," about a guy who ruined a movie.

3 Idiots

Something's rotten in higher education, and this Bollywood movie is the best example of what it is and how to fix it.

The Agency Sequence: The Most Precious Resource Is Agency, How To Be More Agentic, Things You're Allowed to Do

The internet has made many more types of life possible, trapping us in a paradox of choice: when you can do anything, how do you, uh, do anything? These answers were all written by different people at different times, but they hang together weirdly well.