Happy summer, beautiful readers, it’s Victor. I hope you’ve found the nice cold spot in your homes. These newsletters have been few and far between this year — but rarity means it’s a nice treat when you get one, right?
Here’s some HTML documents I gazed over this summer and wanted to share with you:
Wikipedia is the best website
- Modern British food safety laws come to us from that time a market stall selling sweets accidentally replaced sugar with arsenic to save costs, killing 21 people and poisoning 200.
- The Wicked Bible is a 1631 edition of the Bible with an unfortunate typo, telling its readers “thou shalt commit adultery”.
- Cyclists of the 19th century had a problem: dogs loved to chase and attack bikes, which was a very perilous risk to take in a time before the rabies vaccine. In what now seems like a very 19th-century way of fixing the problem, gunsmiths started producing pocket pistols such as the Velo-Dog, that were designed to scare off or defend against these rabid canids.
- In a shipwreck, the custom of the sea defines the preferred order for cannibalism.
- The mean world syndrome is the common delusion of thinking the world is much more violent than it factually is, as a result of exposure to media that say otherwise.
- A comprehensive list of Barbie’s careers. (Over 200 and counting!)
- A Jesus nut is engineer’s jargon for the piece connecting the rotor to the helicopter blades, so called because “if the Jesus nut were to fail in flight, the only thing left for the crew to do would be to pray to Jesus”. It has become by extension the name of mechanical pieces that are considered single points of failure.
- In computing, an embarrassingly parallel problem is one that can be safely turned into multiple tasks running at the same time.
- The article on placeholder names is rich, not least for mentioning the placeholder name for placeholder names (a cadigan).
Everything is depressing
- The US is not just going back to a time of unsafe abortions like before Roe vs Wade, they’re heading somewhere worse. This truly highlights how much more terrifying the rise of technology and surveillance have made it for human rights.
- Why energy bills in the UK are hitting record highs.
- An excellent way to reframe some problems, in life or in work: start wondering if, maybe, it’s much worse than you think.
- Human attention has become a Marxist commodity. This article articulates really well how I’ve felt about the whole problem of the ‘attention economy’ and how to analyse it to work against it.
- New studies shows that as cars get bigger and emissions are reduced, car tyres now produce almost 2,000x more particle pollution than exhausts. One more point for electric and self-driving cars, eh.
- An incredibly detailed and understandable story to understand how we got to family separations at the border in the US, and how exactly ‘checks and balances’ happen to fail in a democracy.
- Fair warning, it’s a solid 2 hour read; I recommend reading it in chapters.
- For many, COVID has had a tragic and under-discussed side effect: it caused stillbirths. The lack of data on whether vaccination was safe for pregnant people (combined with the antivax movement in general) has led to a staggering number of stillbirths that could have been avoided.
- How to stop being “terminally online”.
Good to look at
- Brickit is perhaps the wholesomest use of machine learning that I’ve ever seen. This is the tech I want!
- There’s a wood database that catalogues woods from all over the world for fabrication and finishes.
- Water and time do wonderful things together.
- A wiki of memory techniques to become better at remembering things and train your brain.
- “Pretending to be someone you are not is not a problem; it’s essential.”
- It’s from The Economist so your mileage (and mine) might vary hugely; I’m lucky to be in a workplace where many people unapologetically “bring their whole self” to work, and it’s part of what makes working there a joy. But the argument of the article stands, particularly when it comes to hiring (and by extension, against an HR catchphrase that requests that people bring their whole selves, rather than having a culture that implicitly permits it).
- Sisters With Transistors is a documentary about the women pioneering electronic music, from technique to composition. (I’ve yet to watch it but I’ve heard great things about it!)
- Figure is a daily puzzle games with blocks (if you got tired of word games). It’s hard, and I hate it, so I’ve been playing it for a few days.
- There’s a website that compiles the fantastic hacks used by disabled people and their caregivers to adapt homes and make them safer or more pleasant. There’s so much ingenuity hidden in the intimacy of people’s homes. (And the fact that it’s all DIY is once again an indictment of medical engineering designing for disabled people, not with them.)
- It reminded me of a bit in Stella Young’s excellent talk on inspiration porn: amongst the best things she learned from other disabled people “is that it’s a genius idea to use a pair of barbecue tongs to pick up a thing that you dropped.”
- Somewhat related to inspiration porn: I liked the term “misplaced presumption of misery”, for those who imagine that a life with paralysis is not worth living. (The article details how this presumption affects the quality of clinical care received when doctors and nurses project their own fears).
- The site Webb Compare lets you visualise the difference between the images of the Hubble and the new Webb telescopes. 🔭
Work! Design! Tech!
Sending clouds your way,