Hola amigos! Can't believe we're almost at the end of the year. I've just come back from working in person with my remote colleagues, and it's been super refreshing and exciting.
Here's a few things I looked at this month:
Wikipedia is the best website
- A list of chairs.
- The Marshall Islands stick charts were one of the first maps to represent ocean swells. They are “an indication that ancient maps may have looked very different, and encoded different features from the earth, than the maps we use today”, and were memorised by heart before voyages rather than being brought onboard.
- Lopadotemachoselachogaleokranioleipsanodrimhypotrimmatosilphioparaomelitokatakechymenokichlepikossyphophattoperisteralektryonoptekephalliokigklopeleiolagoiosiraiobaphetraganopterygon is a Greek dish, and the longest word to appear in literature.
- The barometer question is a badly designed exam question, which reveals that a question with only one “academically correct” answer may in fact be answered with a lot of other creative ways that are still technically correct, but do not demonstrate understanding of the expected subject.
- An octobass is a string instrument 3.5 metres high. Only seven octobasses currently exist; mostly in museums, and only one is used in a symphonic orchestra. Because it is much taller than a standard double bass, players need to control it with levers and pedals.
- The common ink cap is a mushroom which is edible, but becomes poisonous if you drink alcohol around the same time you eat it.
- Nocturne in Black and Gold – The Falling Rocket is a 1875 painting by James Whistler. It is notable for sparking a libel lawsuit by the artist onto art critic John Ruskin, whose scathing review of his painting destroyed his reputation and put him into deep financial difficulties.
- In Catalonian cultures, el Caganer (“the crapper”) is a figurine of a peasant defecating added to the traditional Nativity scenes since the 18th century. Merry Christmas!
- Steve is an atmospheric optical phenomenon caused by a large ribbon of hot plasma.
- A paper examining the lost property regime of Japan, which has one of the best reputations for returning lost items. “These recognised, centuries-old rules mesh with norms, institutional structures, and economic incentives to reinforce mutually the message that each sends and yield more lost-property recovery than altruism alone.”
- How the /r/relationships subreddit is moderated ruthlessly, to create a better, healthier community overall. As summarised here, it may be more productive to “not agonise over what your users should or shouldn't be allowed to say, but simply taking down anything your users can't be trusted to productively discuss.”
- Venture capital is finally hitting the newsletters market. It has great insights that resonate with me about the value of newsletters, and how their format highly influence the content and their audiences: “writers—particularly female writers— said, O.K., I’m going to make an Internet on which my essays go out in pneumatic tubes to just who I want them to go to, and no one else.".
- The new tactic of the fossil fuel lobby: capitalise on “doomism”, and shift the narrative of the climate change work to individual behaviour efforts (change your diet or travel choices) while deflecting away from policy changes that can have the most impact.
- Russia has slowly started to disconnect from the wider Internet, which may give them more theoretical protection in the event of a cyberwar.
- You may have missed it, but last year Swaziland was renamed to eSwatini by its king, with the primary goal of avoiding confusion with Switzerland.
- The way it's written seems like a PR move to appear “digital” like some e-country, but it's just how “land of the Swazis” is written in the Swazi language (whose endonym is spelled siSwati).
- The myth that eating carrots improves your nighttime vision originated after the Second World War. The rumour went that the British Royal Air Force claimed the night vision of their soldiers was improved by eating carrots, to avoid revealing the existence of their airborne radars.
Between 2011 and 2017 I kept a collection of aesthetically pleasing / interesting / funny / arty / bizarre / occasionally naked images found on the web (mostly Tumblr), and put them into albums on Facebook, like some weird scrapbook. I've now moved them to my website and you can (re)explore these albums which now contain a total of 12,600 pictures.
I'm sad to say there are no sources attached, they were generally found uncredited and I just created that archive over the year with a lot of Right Click → Save As™. There is no theme or category; a lot of the images there feel dated and I don't think they would still “inspire” me today, so consider it an archive and a reflection of previous years' visual culture, and just something fun to dig into for a bit.
Good to look at
- If you let computers calculate the most optimal way to design something, you may end up with something significantly less pleasant to the eye than what humans would design. When we start tidying up to make complex things easier to grasp and maintain, you sometimes lose out on efficiency.
- (This doesn't mean complex messiness is always a good thing: as we know, opaque algorithms may output something efficiently, but that output is only as good as the input and the parameters chosen by the humans creating it.)
- Why are rich people assholes? Because they're more likely to reside in unequal areas: “The rich are less generous when inequality is extreme, a finding that challenges the idea that higher-income individuals are just more selfish. If the person who needs help doesn’t seem that different from us, we’ll probably help them out. But if they seem too far away (culturally, economically) we’re less likely to lend a hand.”
- Never underestimate the intelligence of trees: a fascinating look at communication and collaboration in the forest.
- Video: why Toy Story 4 emulates aspects of traditional film lenses and cameras for some scenes.
- The people who eat the same lunch every day. A surprising read, with a good observation: “When accounting for the totality of human experience, it is the variety-seekers—not the same-lunchers—who are the unusual ones.” (via notoriousbigre)
- Some passages reminded me a bit of this article about the men who eat like boys: lifelong picky eaters who see french fries, nuggets and no vegetable as the pinnacle of quality food, and refuse to try foods made for the “grown-ups” palate. One point made: “If anything, we need more people like me. Sushi is trash even though it looks cool. Instead, I’m lowkey trying to get a taste of every burger in Illinois. Yung burger enthusiast.”
- Matthew Carter photographes the inside of veterans' cars (also via notoriousbigre).
- Investing in colleges of the trade has a net positive impact on people's lives when you stop selling it as a last-resort, debt-creating, bottom-of-the-gutter option to high school dropouts.
- A great review of the often forgotten socialist and pro-disability rights activism of Helen Keller.
- Scientists have made progress in understanding how our brain clear toxins during sleep.
In my ears
Due to popular request I've also added a better image viewer for the memes folder I've shared before, and I've also updated it with new images.
Work! Design! Tech!
Have a great December!