Hello! It's Victor! Happy new year!
This newsletter is one year old! Thanks everyone for following it. I hope there's always at least one link every month to keep you curious, interested, surprised, touched, obsessed, or excited about new things.
- I haven't really gotten personal since the first issue, so here's an update from my 2019 resolutions:
- I've not kept up with any effort to work out after five months
- I've not rejoined Instagram or Facebook but I've relapsed into a covert Twitter account
- I've not done any other Marie Kondo-inspired clear-up.
- My Duolingo streak is about to reach 365 days, so there's that. Also I've gained an addiction to the NYT crosswords.
- In conclusion, I've not even tried to make resolutions for 2020.
- Despite that, last year was such a good year to me, on a personal level. I'm an easily pleased person, but I've got a home I love with a boyfriend I love, into a job I love with people I love, got to see many friends I love, and I got to pet a lot of cats. If the world around me wasn't burning down (metaphorically and literally), I'd be completely happy. Happy January!
Wikipedia is the best website
- Vomit fraud is a type of fraud where minicabs or Uber/Lyft drivers file false reports of (often drunk) passengers having "incidents requiring cleanup", and charge them with a hefty cleanup fee later on.
- Capitol Hill has a mystery soda machine that looks straight out of the 70s. It only has "? Mystery ?" buttons, which dispenses cans of rare, foreign or discontinued sodas. It is unknown who owns, or stocked the machine; after being there since the mid-90s, the machine disappeared in July 2018, never to be seen again.
- Shiranui (“unknown fire”) is an atmospheric ghost light seen in some Japanese seas. It has been determined to be an optical phenomenon, but nobody's quite sure of the cause, ranging from jellyfish, boat lights or starlight reflections. Nevertheless, it's become more difficult to see it in modern days due to ocean pollution and city lights.
- Time sink alert: this very extensive list of reportedly haunted locations. (Scotland has its own page).
- Less grim, this list of missing treasures (including a legend/reported/confirmed column). Some fascinating cases:
- The national Romanian treasures were sent to Russia during WW1 to be hidden, and were never recovered. They would be worth $1.25 billion today.
- The Honjō Masamune sword was made in the 14th century, passed down through generations, and disappeared after the US occupation of Japan in 1946.
- The Antwerp Diamond heist is a film-worthy theft of $100 million worth of diamonds, gold and jewellery. It was almost perfect, except for not disposing of evidence correctly: “[the police] were eventually able to identify Notarbartolo from security footage from a nearby grocery store where he had purchased a sandwich (a receipt for the sandwich was amongst the rubbish).” Despite this, not all the diamonds have been recovered.
- Skrillex's influential dubstep album Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites has, I shit you not, a section called "As a mosquito repellent". A very real study found that repetitive tones, a signature of the album, delays the mating and attacks of Aedes aegypti, a dengue vector.
- Sewer gas destructor lamp were street lighting that used the biogas formed in sewers to produce light (and, tangentially, remove the explosive hazard from said biogas hanging out in the sewer system.) They are no longer in use, although twenty remain in Sheffield.
- Relatedly, rivers can catch fire when they're used for human and industrial sewage. The Cuyahoga River went on fire upwards of 13 times since 1860, due to layers of pollution that went on it.
- Somewhat relatedly, the brown note is an hypothetical infrasonic low-frequency note hat would cause humans to lose control of their bowels if it was generated.
when yer pal says 'be there or be square' and ye didny go
- Almost 109 years ago to the day was the death of Queen Victoria. Her funeral was an absolute nightmare: she'd been reigning for so long that nobody alive could remember how to bury a monarch; the undertaker, who had one job, forgot to bring the coffin; they uncovered an assassination plot by three anarchists; the Pope refused to come or be represented; and the horses that were supposed to carry her body kicked, broke loose and “almost toppled the coffin to the ground”. Couldn't have gone better.
- An elegy for cash, a disappearing technology that's going to be hard to replace. As we keep using the convenience of contactless and debit cards, it's important to remember the value of exchanging money without surveillance in a free society.
- Mathematicians and engineers have developed new mathematical model of knots that's based on a fibre that changes colour when it's being stretched, and hope to understand more on how to make stable knots.
- How to Fall in Love with Modern Classical Music is a rad list of works and some history to get introduced to, well, modern classical music.
- A short history of how spices have made and unmade empires. “In the first century A.D., pepper was ‘bought by weight like gold or silver,’ as recorded by the Roman historian Pliny the Elder, who worried that the empire would squander its wealth on such spices. […] throughout the Middle Ages, landlords accepted peppercorns as rent.”
- Dear [love column], I ignored warnings from friends and family not to marry my husband. Was I making a big mistake?
- The NYT analyses how textbooks, from the same original publishers, can have incredibly different content and focuses depending on the state in which they're published. No such thing as neutrality, and that's a reason Texans are less progressive than Californians.
- I'm really enjoying WIRED's Masterminds series on YouTube. In the episode How Real-Time Translation Works, one learns that it's not unheard of for interpreters to say “The person has made a joke, it’s untranslatable, please laugh now.”
- Austin Kleon invites us to rethink about time as a completely circular, not linear process. And then make us fall into the rabbit hole of calendar synaesthetes, people who visualise time. I'm obsessed with these diagrams from 1893 (which, obviously, I'm only seeing six years after I wrote an undergrad dissertation on the topic of time visualisation).
In my ears
Work! Design! Tech!
- Christina Wodtke, one of my favourite design theorists, writes about Design’s Unsexy Middle Bits and finally nails the missing nebulous parts that should have gone into design thinking diagrams.
- Basecamp have published their Guide to Internal Communication, which is full of brilliant tips and reminders to communicate effectively at work. The guide itself is super well written and efficient, which tells you something about its success.
- The unreasonable effectiveness of one-on-ones. I've never had particularly useful one-on-ones throughout university or my work life, possibly due to having detached managers, but I like the idea of them being successful. That said, I think the true gist is that you need spaces for true honesty, feedback and dedicating time to bouncing off ideas and reflection: this works, even in groups or with people who aren't formally managers.
- Neat trick for playing with CSV files: there's a tool called
xsv which lets you do SQL-like joins between "tables" and other operations much faster than playing with Excel.
- degoogle is a huge list of alternative to Google tools and ecosystems, and some reasons why you'd want to do that.
- Don't roll the dice (pdf), a free short ebook that helps you how to price your software.
Con mucho amor,