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Simple Advice for Personal Finance

Index Card

The Index Card is a new book by Helaine Olen and Harold Pollack about simple advice for personal finance. The idea for the book came about when Pollack jotted down financial advice that works for almost everyone on a 4x6 index card.

Now, Pollack teams up with Olen to explain why the ten simple rules of the index card outperform more complicated financial strategies. Inside is an easy-to-follow action plan that works in good times and bad, giving you the tools, knowledge, and confidence to seize control of your financial life.

I learned about their book from a piece by Oliver Burkeman on why complex questions can have simple answers.

But there’s a powerful truth here, which is that people dispensing financial advice are even less neutral than we realise. We’re good at spotting the obvious conflicts of interest: of course mortgage providers always think it’s a great time to buy a house; of course the sharp-suited guys from SpeedyMoola.co.uk think their payday loans are good value. But it’s more difficult to see that everyone offering advice has a deeper vested interest: they need you to believe things are complex enough to make their assistance worthwhile. It’s hard to make a living as a financial adviser by handing clients an index card and telling them never to return; and those stock-tipping columns in newspapers would be dull if all they ever said was “ignore stock tips”. Yes, the world of finance is complex, but it doesn’t follow that you need a complex strategy to navigate it.

There’s no reason to assume this situation only occurs with money, either. The human body is another staggeringly complex system, but based on current science, Michael Pollan’s seven-word guidance — “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants” — is probably wiser than all other diets.

Burkeman wrote one of my favorite books from the past year, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking.


How Sci-Fi Movies Have Changed Since the 50s
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A study of the world's most, and least, walkable cities (and those that rely most on public transport). Shocking but not shocking: "The...
1 comment      Latest:

All About U.S. — A Look at the Lives of 50 Real Kids from Across the United States
1 comment      Latest:

Martin Pollack writes about his Gestapo father and his family, who remained Nazis in spirit after the war. "My father did terrible things...
2 comments      Latest:

13-Year-Old Daredevil Jumps Trash Cans in Alley on "Junker Special" Bike
5 comments      Latest:

Livestream of a blooming corpse flower (you know, the big stinky one) from Milk Barn Farm. "It's an unusual thing to find in a greenhouse...
1 comment      Latest:

Flint, MI is giving pregnant residents a "cash prescription" of $1500 during pregnancy and $500/mo for the 1st year of the baby's life....
3 comments      Latest:

An Online Database of Marimekko Patterns
1 comment      Latest:

"Dark oxygen" source discovered on ocean floor. "The metal nodules are able to make oxygen precisely because they act like batteries",...
2 comments      Latest:

A generic version of a drug that's "as close as we've ever been to an HIV vaccine" could be made for $40 a year per patient (with a 30%...
2 comments      Latest:

News Happening Faster Than Man Can Generate Uninformed Opinions. "It's getting harder and harder to come up with enough incoherent...
1 comment      Latest:

Excellent news: according to David Simon, Homicide: Life on the Street will finally be available on streaming soon. I loved this show as...
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“In supposedly affluent Western nations, the dire state or absence of public toilets has become a universal nightmare, impacting the health and quality of life of all of us, but particularly for marginalised groups.”

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A study of the world’s most, and least, walkable cities (and those that rely most on public transport). Shocking but not shocking: “The 100 least active cities in the study are all found in North America.”

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Some good climate news: the pace of decarbonization in the US is increasing (due in part to Biden policies); we’re on track to “reduce GHG emissions by 38-56% below 2005 levels in 2035”, which is 2-4X the pace from 2005 to 2023.

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All About U.S. — A Look at the Lives of 50 Real Kids from Across the United States

a layout from the book 'All About U.S.'

Matt Lamothe and Jenny Volvovski wrote an illustrated a new book called All About U.S. (Bookshop), which features a look into the lives of 50 kids from the US, one from each state. From the website:

All About U.S. is a non-fiction children’s book, featuring 50 real kids from each state in the United States. The goal of this book is to create an authentic portrait of the country, showcasing the diversity of its people and the vastness of its natural landscapes.

We conducted over 100 hours of interviews, received 20 hours of home tour footage and hundreds of photographs, to create the illustrations and short stories about each family.

It sounds like they worked hard at finding kids from all kinds of different backgrounds (especially with just 50 slots to fill):

- Families who live in a variety of dwellings, from houseboats and yurts to farms, Native reservations, and Air Force bases

- Children with adoptive families, stepfamilies, single-parent families, two moms or dads, and those who live with their grandparents

- Children living with health conditions such as leukemia and muscular dystrophy

- Families from a range of social, religious, and economic backgrounds

This looks like a fantastic book — you can read more about it on the website or pre-order from Amazon or Bookshop.

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If you’re feeling nostalgic, here’s a version of MS Paint that works in the browser.

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The Gods of Logic: Benjamín Labatut (When We Cease to Understand the World) on artificial intelligence. “It is never safe to call on the gods, or even come close to them.”

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Books to Read to Understand Where Project 2025 Came From

book covers for Shadow Network and White Evangelical Racism

Dr. Mara Einstein is an author and media studies professor with a special interest in religion & cults and she recently shared a list of books to read and movies to watch “in order to get up to speed on Project2025 and where it came from” (specifically the evangelical aspects). Her first two book picks:

Shadow Network is the best book I’ve read that explains the Republicans’ strategy over the last 50 years. You will come to hate Paul Weyrich, and rightfully so.

Anthea Butler is the chair of religion at University of Pennsylvania. [White Evangelical Racism] ties together the connection among Rs, evangelicals and the racism it tries to hide.

And her top documentary pick:

[Bad Faith] is *the* best documentary on the topic and if you don’t do anything else, watch this. It’s free on Tubi and 99 cents on other outlets.

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In the latest data release, the UN’s global population peak projection was revised downward to 10.3 billion people in 2084. “The global fertility rate has more than halved since the 1960s, from over 5 children per woman to 2.3.”

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Martin Pollack writes about his Gestapo father and his family, who remained Nazis in spirit after the war. “My father did terrible things during the second world war, and my other relatives were equally unrepentant.”

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13-Year-Old Daredevil Jumps Trash Cans in Alley on “Junker Special” Bike

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything that encapsulates the feeling of America in the 1970s more than this local news report about 13-year-old Terry “Evel Knievel” Bolinger and his attempt to jump over 10 trash cans on his bike “made from the parts of several other bikes”.

At the beginning of the segment, the reporter on the scene says of Bolinger, “There are some youngsters that know what they want to do in life from the time they can talk and walk.” And so it appears that his daredevil ways never left him:

Terry Michael “Spike” Bolinger 42, of Indianapolis, lived, loved and died riding his Harley. “Spike” passed away Tuesday, September 6, 2005 in Wishard Hospital. He was born October 7, 1962 in Indianapolis, IN.

(via the dice)

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Chronic Pain is Psychedelic. “In moments of extreme pain, physical or psychological, we become stitched to the present moment. It becomes impossible not to be radically present.” See also Experiencing Grief Can Feel Like Tripping on Hallucinogens.

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Flint, MI is giving pregnant residents a “cash prescription” of $1500 during pregnancy and $500/mo for the 1st year of the baby’s life. “In Flint, the poorest city in [Michigan], we are on track to eliminating infant poverty.”

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How Sci-Fi Movies Have Changed Since the 50s

In this visual essay (and video embedded above), Alvin Chang shows how science fiction movies have gotten darker and more complex since the 1950s, when many movies were set in the present with a clear existential threat that was then overcome.

But these days, it’s much more likely that protagonists also have to overcome societal forces — political movements, systemic inequality, rampant capitalism. These are basically things that seem too big to fix.

It’s also far more likely that the narrative explores inner conflicts — moral dilemmas, identity crises, and wrestling with our understanding of what it means to be human. We don’t just face outside threats; we also face threats within ourselves.

Ultimately, today’s sci-fi stories are far more likely to be a commentary on current social issues. These might be critiques of political ideologies, runaway capitalism, irresponsible innovation, human apathy, or eroding mental health.

(via studio d)

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Livestream of a blooming corpse flower (you know, the big stinky one) from Milk Barn Farm. “It’s an unusual thing to find in a greenhouse in Oregon. In fact, it may be the first time one has flowered here.”

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“Trump’s Massive Deportation Plan Echoes Concentration Camp History”

Andrea Pitzer, who wrote about about the history of concentration camps in her 2017 book One Long Night, has a piece in Scientific American about the historical parallels between Trump’s desire to expel as many as 20 million people from the country and previous concentration camps.

Trump’s plan to launch a massive deportation project nationwide — the first plank in the platform approved at his party’s convention — draws on the same flawed historical rationales and pseudoscience that built support for concentration camps worldwide in the 20th century. Early architects of these camps veiled their efforts in scientific terms while using terror and punishment to seize more power.

For example, Trump has claimed repeatedly that undocumented immigrants are “poisoning the blood” of the U.S. “Blood poisoning” is a medical condition; saying that foreigners are poisoning a nation’s blood is simply a slur. But perverting scientific or medical language to violate human rights and permit atrocities comes from a familiar playbook.

Again, this stuff is all right out in the open — no reading between the lines required.


A generic version of a drug that’s “as close as we’ve ever been to an HIV vaccine” could be made for $40 a year per patient (with a 30% profit). Current pricing by Gilead: $42,250 per year.

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Kamala Harris is to the left of Joe Biden on health care issues, particularly when it comes to reproductive freedom, support for Medicare for All, drug pricing, and health care antitrust.


From Scientific American: What to Know about Project 2025’s Dangers to Science. Project 2025 “would sabotage science-based policies that address climate change, the environment, abortion, health care access, technology and education.”

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“Dark oxygen” source discovered on ocean floor. “The metal nodules are able to make oxygen precisely because they act like batteries”, splitting seawater into hydrogen and oxygen.

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A Less Rigorous Version of Friendship

I read Kathryn Jezer-Morton’s newsletter about “a more lateral approach to Mother’s Day” back when it came out in May, and while I’m not the target audience, I keep thinking about this bit on friendship:

After my mother died in 2021, my family returned home from the memorial service to find a lovely array of treats laid out on our kitchen counter: cake, flowers, rotisserie chicken, a nice bottle of wine, and a copy of the newspaper, which somehow felt like the most tender thing of all. The fridge had been stocked too. It turned out my friends Amy and Ariel had asked my neighbor for the spare key, let themselves in, and taken care of us.

This is elite-tier friendship, and at this level, we can see how much friendship at its best overlaps with mothering. There has been an emphasis over the past few years on friendship as a site of self-improvement: radical honesty, callouts, the naming of slights and hurt feelings in the service of some kind of purified, scrubbed-clean higher self. All of this is fine, but I’m less interested in this rigorous version of friendship than I am in a softer, more accepting friendship that has more in common with caregiving. I am all too aware of my flaws; I don’t really need my friends to remind me of them. Rather than demand I be better, I would rather my friends accept me as I am. Isn’t that the kind of mother we all wish we had, too? And no, you don’t need to be a mother to treat your friends to the mothering they all need. Mothering transcends the biological — every chosen family knows this.

This is also advice that can be directed inward towards a “more accepting friendship” with ourselves; e.g. “I am all too aware of my flaws; I don’t really need to remind myself of them. Rather than demand I be better, I would rather accept me as I am.”

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Bodycam footage of Aston Villa midfielder Youri Tielemans shows how quick and demanding Premier League football is, even in the preseason.

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An explainer and organizational toolkit from Red Wine & Blue about Project 2025. “It is frighteningly anti-democratic and goes against what the vast majority of Americans want for our country.”


Kamala Harris and her views on the climate crisis. “Harris has made clear throughout her career that she views climate change as a significant threat.”


News Happening Faster Than Man Can Generate Uninformed Opinions. “It’s getting harder and harder to come up with enough incoherent perspectives to meet the moment.”

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Watch 1969’s Apollo 11 Moon Landing “Live!”

Apollo 11 TV Coverage

55 years ago today, on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong & Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon and went for a little walk. For the 16th year in a row, you can watch the original CBS News coverage of Walter Cronkite reporting on the Moon landing and the first Moon walk on a small B&W television, synced to the present-day time. Just open this page in your browser today, July 20th, and the coverage will start playing at the proper time. Here’s the schedule (all times EDT):

4:10:30 pm: Moon landing broadcast starts
4:17:40 pm: Lunar module lands on the Moon

4:20:15 pm - 10:51:26 pm: Break in coverage

10:51:27 pm: Moon walk broadcast starts
10:56:15 pm: First step on Moon
11:51:30 pm: Nixon speaks to the Eagle crew
12:00:30 am: Broadcast end (on July 21)

Set an alarm on your phone or calendar! Also, this works best on an actual computer but I think it functions ok on phones and tablets if necessary.

Back in 2018, I wrote a bit about what to look out for when you’re watching the landing:

The radio voices you hear are mostly Mission Control in Houston (specifically Apollo astronaut Charlie Duke, who acted as the spacecraft communicator for this mission) and Buzz Aldrin, whose job during the landing was to keep an eye on the LM’s altitude and speed — you can hear him calling it out, “3 1/2 down, 220 feet, 13 forward.” Armstrong doesn’t say a whole lot…he’s busy flying and furiously searching for a suitable landing site. But it’s Armstrong that says after they land, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”. Note the change in call sign from “Eagle” to “Tranquility Base”. :)

Two things to listen for on the broadcast: the 1201/1202 program alarms I mentioned above and two quick callouts by Charlie Duke about the remaining fuel towards the end: “60 seconds” and “30 seconds”. Armstrong is taking all this information in through his earpiece — the 1202s, the altitude and speed from Aldrin, and the remaining fuel — and using it to figure out where to land.

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If elected, will Trump end democracy? He Will Try. “How high do his odds of success have to be before you treat this as a genuine emergency? Is a 20 percent chance of losing our democracy too low? Is 30?”


The FCC has voted to more closely regulate prison telecom services, a move that will significantly cut the exorbitant fees that families pay to communicate with incarcerated people.

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Christina’s World, the Windows XP Wallpaper Version

a version of Christina's World by Andrew Wyeth done in MS Paint

Cat Graffam combined their love of art and old technology to create a mashup of Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World and the Windows XP wallpaper, using MS Paint and a mouse. You can watch how they did it in this video:

Prints of the finished product are available. (via waxy)

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I had forgotten that Donald Glover got the name Childish Gambino from a Wu-Tang name generator.

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No one knows exactly when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the Moon — and we’ll likely never know for sure. “It wasn’t like an Olympic swim race where touching the wall stops the timer.”

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Diary Comics, March 30 & April 1

Here are a couple from this past Eastertime. (Previously.)

march30intro.jpg
march30a.jpg
april1a.jpg

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The editors of The Lancet Microbe on the origins of Covid-19. “SARS-CoV-2 is a natural virus that found its way into humans through mundane contact with infected wildlife that went on to cause the most consequential pandemic for over a century.”


Who Goes Nazi?

In 1934, Dorothy Thompson became the first American journalist to be expelled from Nazi Germany for writing critically & unfavorably about the regime and its leader, Adolf Hitler:

He is formless, almost faceless, a man whose countenance is a caricature, a man whose framework seems cartilaginous, without bones. He is inconsequent and voluble, ill-poised, insecure. He is the very prototype of the Little Man.

Back in America as one of the most famous journalists and women of her time, she spent the rest of the 30s and early 40s trying to warn the nation of fascism both here and abroad. In 1941, she wrote a piece for Harper’s Magazine called Who Goes Nazi?, in which she muses about which guests at a party would become Nazis.

The saturnine man over there talking with a lovely French emigree is already a Nazi. Mr. C is a brilliant and embittered intellectual. He was a poor white-trash Southern boy, a scholarship student at two universities where he took all the scholastic honors but was never invited to join a fraternity. His brilliant gifts won for him successively government positions, partnership in a prominent law firm, and eventually a highly paid job as a Wall Street adviser. He has always moved among important people and always been socially on the periphery. His colleagues have admired his brains and exploited them, but they have seldom invited him — or his wife — to dinner.

He is a snob, loathing his own snobbery. He despises the men about him — he despises, for instance, Mr. B — because he knows that what he has had to achieve by relentless work men like B have won by knowing the right people. But his contempt is inextricably mingled with envy. Even more than he hates the class into which he has insecurely risen, does he hate the people from whom he came. He hates his mother and his father for being his parents. He loathes everything that reminds him of his origins and his humiliations. He is bitterly anti-Semitic because the social insecurity of the Jews reminds him of his own psychological insecurity.

Pity he has utterly erased from his nature, and joy he has never known. He has an ambition, bitter and burning. It is to rise to such an eminence that no one can ever again humiliate him. Not to rule but to be the secret ruler, pulling the strings of puppets created by his brains. Already some of them are talking his language — though they have never met him.

There he sits: he talks awkwardly rather than glibly; he is courteous. He commands a distant and cold respect. But he is a very dangerous man. Were he primitive and brutal he would be a criminal — a murderer. But he is subtle and cruel. He would rise high in a Nazi regime. It would need men just like him — intellectual and ruthless. But Mr. C is not a born Nazi. He is the product of a democracy hypocritically preaching social equality and practicing a carelessly brutal snobbery. He is a sensitive, gifted man who has been humiliated into nihilism. He would laugh to see heads roll.


The action in Octavia Butler’s novel The Parable of the Sower begins on July 20, 2024 — that’s tomorrow. “Beginning in 2024, when society in the United States has grown unstable due to climate change, growing wealth inequality, and corporate greed…”

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Deadpan comic icon Bob Newhart has died at age 94. I was a weekly viewer of Newhart in the 80s and, I’m just now realizing, followed in the footsteps of the titular character in being an NYC writer who moves to VT. 🫠

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Peregrine Falcon Killing a Duck in Mid-Air

The Peregrine Falcon is the world’s fastest animal;1 it can reach speeds of more than 240 mph during dives. It uses that speed to kill other birds in mid-air. Here’s a video of a Peregrine diving and killing a duck, shot with a camera mounted on the falcon’s back.

It’s cool watching her fly around, but the exciting part starts right around 2:45. The acceleration is incredible. The same bird does a longer and faster dive in this video (at ~0:55):

Here’s what the Peregrine’s dive looks like from an observer’s point-of-view:

Our family had a lively discussion about Peregrine Falcons around the dinner table a couple of weeks ago…I can’t wait to show the kids these videos when I get home tonight. (via @DavidGrann)

  1. Although Joseph Kittinger and Felix Baumgartner might quibble with that.


Heartbreaking: This Guy Has No Idea That He’s So Strange And Memorable-Looking That Everyone From His Flight Is Using Him As A Landmark To Figure Out Which Baggage Claim Area Is Theirs. “Ah, there’s that guy.”


Keanu Reeves & China Miéville have written a novel called The Book of Elsewhere, centered on an 80,000-year-old warrior who cannot die.

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Moving Posters for Studio Ghibli Films

Ghibli Motion Posters

British designer Hayden Wills has created some cool moving posters for Studio Ghibli films like Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away, and The Wind Rises.

You can see more of Wills’ posters on Behance, download the collection on Steam, or learn how to make your own moving posters in Photoshop.

See also Moving Film Posters. (via @0xjessel)

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California has strengthened its electrical grid significantly in recent years: no rolling blackouts or grid emergencies during heatwaves because of solar energy and battery storage (“now equivalent to 5 very large nuclear power plants”).

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Interactive map from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science: What will my city’s climate feel like in 60 years? “Many cities could experience a future climate unlike anything present on Earth today.”

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Inside the Trump Plan for 2025

In a well-researched piece for the New Yorker, Jonathan Blitzer writes about the “network of well-funded far-right activists” who are making plans for Trump’s second term. It’s more than just Project 2025 and the Heritage Foundation — and as his first term showed, it’s not necessarily about what Trump himself wants, it’s that the chaos that surrounds him creates opportunities for these ultra-conservatives to wreck havoc on the freedoms enjoyed by Americans.

I can’t decide which of the plans in these three excerpts is most terrifying:

Stephen Miller, at America First Legal, has been devising plans to enact a nationwide crackdown on immigration, just as he had hoped to carry out on a vast scale in the first Trump term. The impediment then was operational: a lack of personnel to make arrests, a shortage of space to detain people, resistance from Democratic officials at the state and local levels. Miller has since vowed to increase deportations by a factor of ten, to a million people a year, according to the Times. The President would have to deputize federal troops to carry out the job, because there wouldn’t be enough agents at the Department of Homeland Security to do it. The government would need to build large internment camps, and, in the event that Congress refused to appropriate the money required, the President would have to divert funds from the military.

The person close to C.P.I. considered himself a denizen of the far-right wing of the Republican Party, yet some of the ideas under discussion among those working on Project 2025 genuinely scared him. One of them was what he described to me as “all this talk, still, about bombing Mexico and taking military action in Mexico.” This had apparently come up before, during the first Trump term, in conversations about curbing the country’s drug cartels. The President had been mollified but never dissuaded. According to Mike Pompeo, his former Secretary of State, Trump once asked, “How would we do if we went to war with Mexico?”

Those close to Trump are also anticipating large protests if he wins in November. His first term was essentially bookended by demonstrations, from the Women’s March and rallies against the Muslim ban to the mass movement that took to the streets after the murder of George Floyd, in the summer of 2020. Jeffrey Clark and others have been working on plans to impose a version of the Insurrection Act that would allow the President to dispatch troops to serve as a national police force. Invoking the act would allow Trump to arrest protesters, the person told me. Trump came close to doing this in the final months of his term, in response to the Black Lives Matter protests, but he was blocked by his Secretary of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

You don’t even need to be a scholar of authoritarianism to recognize where this is going — it’s not like they are being secretive about it.

a sea of white people, mostly women, holding signs at the 2024 RNC that say 'mass deportations now!'


The reintroduction of beavers in southwest England has resulted in a marked increase in resilience against flooding and droughts and the formation of habitats for endangered wildlife.

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An Online Database of Marimekko Patterns

blocks of 6 Marimekko print patterns

Maripedia is an online database of hundreds of print patterns that Marimekko has used in their products since the 1940s. You can browse by decade, designer, or style…or you can search by image. That’s right, just upload an image of the pattern on your pillowcase or dress and it’ll tell you who designed it and when.

Also, just take a look at these patterns:

Marimekko print patterns with uneven color stripes

Marimekko print patterns with various flowers

Marimekko print patterns with melty boxes

Marimekko print patterns vertical stripes

Marimekko print patterns with melty vertical stripes

Endless design and color palette inspiration. (via @presentcorrect.bsky.social)

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A Guide to Miyazaki’s Weird Little Guys: warawara, susuwatari (soot sprites), kodama, Ponyo’s sisters. “Their designs are quite simple, but their meaning frequently is not.”

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A useful tool for students & researchers (“educational purposes only”): Bypass Paywalls Clean extension for Chrome.

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Lessons from the recent French elections. “You have to vote! You have to. You can’t do anything without voting. The freaking French, who’ll protest for anything, are showing up to vote.”


Project 2025: The Minority Rule by Extremists

I’ve been waiting, sitting at my desk with hands tented, for historian Heather Cox Richardson to write about Project 2025 and just now I found out that she did so back in March, because of course.

In almost 1,000 pages, the document explains what these policies mean for ordinary Americans. Restoring the family and protecting children means making “family authority, formation, and cohesion” a top priority and using “government power…to restore the American family.” That, the document says, means eliminating any words associated with sexual orientation or gender identity, gender, abortion, reproductive health, or reproductive rights from any government rule, regulation, or law. Any reference to transgenderism is “pornography” and must be banned.

The overturning of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision recognizing the right to abortion must be gratefully celebrated, the document says, but the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision accomplishing that end “is just the beginning.”

Dismantling the administrative state in this document starts from the premise that “people are policy.” Frustrated because nonpartisan civil employees thwarted much of Trump’s agenda in his first term, the authors of Project 2025 call for firing much of the current government workforce-about 2 million people work for the U.S. government-and replacing it with loyalists who will carry out a right-wing president’s demands.

On Friday, journalist Daniel Miller noted that purging the civil service is a hallmark of dictators, whose loyalists then take over media, education, courts, and the military. In a powerful essay today, scholar of authoritarianism Timothy Snyder explained that with the government firmly in the hands of a dictator’s loyalists, “things like water or schools or Social Security checks” depend on your declaration of loyalty, and there is no recourse. “You cannot escape to the bar or the bowling alley, since everything you say is monitored,” and “[e]ven courageous people restrain themselves to protect their children.”

It’s worth reading in full. I wish Richardson did better at citing her sources than an unordered list of links at the end of each article (and also, I wish she weren’t on Substack), so here’s the Daniel Miller note from the excerpt above:

You know who else purged the civil service: Orbán, Erdoğan, Chávez, Milosevic, Ayatollah Khomeini, Pinochet… There was also this guy in Germany in 1933 who purged the civil service months after taking power.

And here’s Timothy Snyder on dictators and declarations of loyalty:

The new bureaucrats will have no sense of accountability. Basic government functions will break down. Citizens who want access will learn to pay bribes. Bureaucrats in office thanks to patronage will be corrupt, and citizens will be desperate. Quickly the corruption becomes normal, even unquestioned.

As the fantasy of strongman rule fades into everyday dictatorship, people realize that they need things like water or schools or Social Security checks. Insofar as such goods are available under a dictatorship, they come with a moral as well as a financial price. When you go to a government office, you will be expected to declare your personal loyalty to the strongman.

If you have a complaint about these practices, too bad. Americans are litigious people, and many of us assume that we can go to the police or sue. But when you vote a strong man in, you vote out the rule of law. In court, only loyalism and wealth will matter. Americans who do not fear the police will learn to do so. Those who wear the uniform must either resign or become the enforcers of the whims of one man.


The best Prime Day deal is Apple’s AirPods Pro (2nd gen) on sale for $169 (32% off) — I think that’s the lowest price I’ve ever seen.