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What Do I Need to Do to Get You Into a Membership Today?

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 30, 2020

Always Be Closing

Hey look, I’m not going to give you the hard sell this year. (Ok, I never do — it’s just not in my nature.) Four years ago I introduced the kottke.org membership program so that folks reading the site could directly support my efforts here, and it’s been wonderfully successful. Or to put it another way, without that member support, this site would not exist.

Why wouldn’t it exist? The online advertising market for small sites like this sucks (especially for non-vertical sites) and I’ve nearly stopped linking to Amazon, losing the corresponding affiliate revenue that comprised 15-20% of my total annual revenue. As much as I like linking to Bookshop.org instead, the revenue from their affiliate program has only filled a tiny bit of that absence.1 Member support is far and away the thing that’s keeping me going here.

I know these are աɛɨʀɖ ȶɨʍɛֆ and that can make it tough to support things like non-essential websites. If you can’t swing it right now, please don’t! And don’t worry about it. If you’re currently a member worried about your finances and a refund of this year’s membership amount would help out, send me an email and let’s make that happen. But if you find value in this site and can manage it, I’d appreciate you supporting the site with a membership, especially if you’re someone who values the switch to Bookshop.org and that the advertising on the site is both minimal and relevant. And if you’re already a member and want to remain so (or even to bump up your membership level), maybe log in to check your status — it’s easy for a credit card to expire and you miss the email…

Ok, that was maybe a bit of a hard sell. But it’s over now. Thanks for hearing me out, I’ll follow up next week with a brochure about that Playa del Carmen timeshare, and you have yourself a lovely weekend. *big gold-toothed Joe Pesci from Home Alone smile*

  1. Bookshop’s affiliate percentage is much more generous than Amazon’s is, but their prices are higher, popular books are often out of stock, shipping is slower than Amazon’s, and their site search is not great. I support their mission, but they have some work to do to make this a viable shopping experience for people who aren’t 100% into their goal of helping small bookstores.

The fifteen weirdest works of classical music.

A list of 53 reasons to vote this year. "46. Because many thousands of Americans have died needlessly from Covid-19." (That should actually have been #1.)

I don't know who needs to hear this but... Colorado is not a rectangle. And not just because the Earth is round. Surveying errors mean that the seemingly 4-sided state actually has 697 sides.

Cool experiment/quiz that demonstrates how photos affect our view of history.

The Impeach Mint, a collection of commemorative coins that celebrate some of the many failures of the Trump administration.

Taiwan has gone 200 days without a single locally transmitted case of Covid-19.

Vanity Fair's cover story profile of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Reading this, I really worry about how much weight we're placing onto this one person, supporters and detractors alike.

A study indicates that, alongside self-reported symptoms, "wearable devices like Fitbit are capable of identifying cases of COVID-19 by evaluating changes in heart rate, sleep and activity levels".

Quick Links Archive

What Do Foreign Media Correspondents Think of the US?

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 30, 2020

Media correspondents from all over the world spend months and years in the United States, reporting on our current events, politics, and culture. In this illuminating video from the New Yorker, several of them talk about what they think of our country. As outsiders, they’re able to see things that Americans don’t and can talk to people who may not otherwise feel comfortable talking to (what they perceive as) biased or corrupt American media. They’ve also observed an unprecedented level of division and are aware of the disconnect between America’s rhetoric about freedom and the sense that they’re reporting from a failed state.

  listen to the latest episode of kottke ride home  

An Archive of Pandemic and Anti-Racist Street Art

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 30, 2020

Pandemic & anti-racist street art

Pandemic & anti-racist street art

Pandemic & anti-racist street art

Pandemic & anti-racist street art

The Urban Art Mapping Research Project has been collecting photos of street art created over the past several months related to the Covid-19 pandemic and the anti-racist protests.

Artists and writers producing work in the streets — including tags, graffiti, murals, stickers, and other installations on walls, pavement, and signs — are in a unique position to respond quickly and effectively in a moment of crisis. Street art’s ephemeral nature serves to reveal very immediate and sometimes fleeting responses, often in a manner that can be raw and direct. At the same time, in the context of a crisis, street art also has the potential to transform urban space and foster a sustained political dialogue, reaching a wide audience, particularly when museums and galleries are shuttered.

(via open culture)

Five Nice Things

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 30, 2020

After Siobhan O’Connor wrote about a game she plays with a friend called Five Nice Things — which she called “a less-corny name for a gratitude exercise” — my friend Michael Sippey shared his five nice things. And since I need a reminder about some of the good things in my life right now, I’ll share mine with you.

  1. Friends. Like many of you, I’ve had to tighten my circle of friends during the pandemic just out of the necessity of not enough time/energy. That’s been hard, but the few friends that have pulled closer…those connections have been essential in navigating all of this. I’m especially grateful for rebuilding a meaningful friendship and forming a co-parenting partnership with Meg. ♥
  2. Every year in the fall, I go apple picking with the kids and make apple pies. I’ve been tinkering with the recipe — different crusts, different fillings — and I think I’ve settled on something I’m happy with. Maybe I’ll make another one this weekend…
  3. There’s a ramen place in the tiny town I live in that’s better than it has any right to be. I order takeout from them almost every week and it’s such a treat every time.
  4. Since I won’t be traveling anywhere anytime soon, Instagram has been essential for keeping a passive connection to friends all over the world. Liking each other’s photos, the occasional DM, comments on Stories/posts — it’s the same kind of lightweight asynchronous interaction that’s connected folks online since Usenet & CompuServe. I wish we could figure out a way to do this outside the context of massive user-indifferent companies, but going without is not an option for me right now.
  5. I’ve picked up playing Rocket League on the Switch over the past few weeks. It’s footie with the lads but with cars and the lads are anonymous 10-year-olds from New Jersey who are way better than I am. Good fun.

Beloved Children’s Book Covers Reimagined In a Modernist Style

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 30, 2020

Modernist cover for The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Modernist cover for Goodnight Moon

Over on his Instagram, Raj Haldar is making modernist versions of book covers for children’s books. So far there’s Goodnight Moon, The Snowy Day, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Haldar’s own P Is For Pterodactyl, and a few others. Here’s what he says about Goodnight Moon:

Today, I’ve reduced ‘Goodnight Moon’ to nothing more than a few circles, rectangles, and triangles. What’s amazing, and a testament to how deeply this classic picture book is embedded in our collective consciousness is that even as a collection of the most simple forms, the cover is thoroughly recognizable.

(via print)

How the Instagram Influencer Aesthetic Is Being Used to Sell QAnon

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 29, 2020

Over the summer, members of the QAnon cult started to take over the “Save the Children” movement on Instagram & Facebook, eventually luring lifestyle influencers into spreading the cult’s message. From the NY Times:

But new research suggests that the biggest jolt to QAnon came from the so-called “Save the Children” movement. It started out as a fund-raising campaign for a legitimate anti-trafficking charity, but was then hijacked by QAnon believers, who used the movement to spread false and exaggerated claims about a global child-trafficking conspiracy led by top Democrats and Hollywood elites. This hijacking began in July, around the same time that Twitter and Facebook began cracking down on QAnon accounts.

What happened is QAnon folks started mass-faving posts about Save the Children and trafficking, so influencers began posting more content related to those topics, using bogus statistics and QAnon talking points. As the video from Vox above explains, child sex trafficking is a legitimate issue but QAnon’s claims about it — and the Instagram-aesthetic memes it has spawned — do not reflect reality. From Michael Hobbes at Huffington Post:

First of all, decades of social science research has found that the vast majority of children are abused by someone they know, usually their parents but sometimes other children or figures of authority they trust. “Stranger danger” kidnappings, on the other hand, are extremely rare — the latest estimate is 115 per year in the entire United States.

Second, the summer-long panic about missing children is almost entirely based on faulty statistics. Though it’s true that more than 400,000 children are reported missing each year, that is not even close to the number who disappear. The vast majority of these reports are misunderstandings or runaways. Roughly 10% are kidnapped by a parent as part of a custody dispute. Over 99% return home, most within a few days.

Trailer for Season Four of The Crown

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 29, 2020

For the fourth season of Netflix’s drama on Queen Elizabeth and the British monarchy, The Crown moves into the 1980s. The first full trailer features two women who largely defined Britain in that decade: Margaret Thatcher (played by Gillian Anderson) and Lady Diana Spencer, later Princess Diana (played by Emma Corrin). As a fan of the first three seasons of the show and You’re Wrong About’s multi-part series on Princess Diana, I am very much looking forward to this.

The World’s Best Tree Felling Tutorial

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 29, 2020

Oh, I already know what you’re thinking. Who cares about how to cut a tree down? Who cares about 8 different ways to cut a tree down? Who cares about watching 45 minutes of 8 different ways to cut a tree down? I hear you. But this tree felling tutorial is actually really informative & entertaining and watching people who are good at their work, are good at explaining their work, and genuinely have a passion for what they do is always worthwhile. The top comments on the video are almost uniformly positive; here’s a representative remark:

I live off-grid in the forest (same mtn range as these guys) and for 30+ years I have been felling trees for fire-prevention, firewood, and home-milled lumber. I have fortunately never had an accident, but after watching this video I realized that was only dumb luck. After carefully studying this video (3 times through), as well as others on this channel, this year I have placed every tree exactly where I wanted (even the leaders) and I’ve done this in a much safer manner than before.

Did you know, for example, the extent to which tree fellers can accurately place a falling tree? I did not and their precision is impressive — I actually cheered when the tree fell during the sizwill cut demo.

Karen O and Willie Nelson Cover Under Pressure

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 29, 2020

Under Pressure, the classic tune from David Bowie and Queen, seems like one of those songs you don’t want to mess with — we’re looking at you here, Vanilla Ice. But if someone is going to cover it, it might as well be Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Willie Nelson.

(via open culture)

Visualizing How Covid-19 Spreads Indoors

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 29, 2020

Visualization of how Covid-19 spreads in a bar via aerosols

From El Pais, this is an excellent visualization of how Covid-19 spreads indoors via aerosols and what can be done to limit that spread. They go through simulations of three different indoor scenarios that are based on actual events — in a home with friends, in a bar at 50% capacity, and in a classroom — and see what happens when differing levels of precautions are applied: masks, ventilation, and limiting exposure time.

Six people get together in a private home, one of whom is infected. Some 31% of coronavirus outbreaks recorded in Spain are caused by this kind of gathering, mainly between family and friends.

Irrespective of whether safe distances are maintained, if the six people spend four hours together talking loudly, without wearing a face mask in a room with no ventilation, five will become infected, according to the scientific model explained in the methodology.

If face masks are worn, four people are at risk of infection. Masks alone will not prevent infection if the exposure is prolonged.

The risk of infection drops to below one when the group uses face masks, shortens the length of the gathering by half and ventilates the space used.

In all three scenarios, note that distancing is largely irrelevant when people gather indoors for longer periods in poorly ventilated areas. From the school example:

In real outbreaks, it has been noted that any of the students could become infected irrespective of their proximity to the teacher as the aerosols are distributed randomly around the unventilated room.

The only thing that’s disappointing about this piece is that it does not stress enough that finding alternatives to indoor activities with lots of people is the much safer course of action than just cracking a window or masking up. Safety step #1 is still being smart about non-essential activities — masks and ventilation are not magically going to protect you during risky activities. Educating our children is important and difficult (though not impossible) to do outside in many places, so yeah, let’s mask up and ventilate those classrooms. But your indoor birthday party with 10 friends or Thanksgiving dinner with the cousins and grandparents? Or dining out in a room full of strangers at a restaurant? Even with masks and ventilation, it’s not a great idea. Scale it down, move it to Zoom/FT, hold it outdoors (distanced, masked), or just skip it.

Here’s What 10 Million Stars Look Like

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 28, 2020

10 Million Stars

Using the Dark Energy Camera at the Cerro Tololo observatory in Chile, astronomers took an image of the stars clustered around the center of our Milky Way galaxy that shows about 10 million stars. Check out the zoomable version for the full experience.

Looking at an image like this is always a bit of a brain-bender because a) 10 million is a huge number and b) the stars are so tightly packed into that image and yet c) that image shows just one tiny bit of our galactic center, d) our entire galaxy contains so many more stars than this (100-400 billion), and e) the Universe perhaps contains as many as 2 trillion galaxies. And if I’m remembering my college math correctly, 400 billion × 2 trillion = a metric crapload of stars. (via bad astronomy)

The Game of the Year: the 3D Virtual Walkthrough of 8800 Blue Lick Road

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 28, 2020

This week’s fun internet plaything has been the 3D virtual house tour of this three-bedroom house at 8800 Blue Lick Rd. in Louisville, KY. If you take the tour, you’ll quickly see why: from the standpoint of physics, the house doesn’t seem to make any sense. You think you’re in the basement and then head up some stairs to find yourself…still in the basement? It’s all very Inception crossed with the Winchester Mystery House with a side of How Buildings Learn.

So of course people turned it into a game: find the oddly located bathtub. They even started speedrunning it.

Resident internet meme sleuth Andy Baio called the owner of the house and got the scoop on the puzzling residence.

A larger question remained: what’s the deal with this place? Whoever owned it, they were too organized to be hoarders. The home appeared to double as the office and warehouse for an internet reseller business, but who sells a house crammed floor-to-ceiling with retail goods?

Internet sleuths unearthed several news articles from 2014, outlining how police discovered thousands of stolen items being sold online during a raid at the address, the result of a four-year investigation resulting in criminal charges for four family members living and working at the house.

But it didn’t add up. If they were convicted for organized crime, why was there still so much inventory in the house, with products released as recently as last year? Why is it still packed full while they’re trying to sell it? And what’s with the bathtub!?

I had questions, so I picked up the phone.

He also explains why the bathtub is no longer viewable in the 3D walkthrough.

The Earthshot Prize

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 28, 2020

Earlier this month, Prince William (British royal) & David Attenborough (British royalty) announced The Earthshot Prize. Inspired by the moonshot effort of the 1960s, the initiative will award five £1 million (~$1.3 million) prizes each year over the next 10 years for projects that provide global solutions to pressing environmental problems in five different categories: fixing the climate, cleaning the air, protecting & restoring nature, reviving the oceans, and building a waste-free world.

The Earthshot Prize is centred around five ‘Earthshots’ — simple but ambitious goals for our planet which if achieved by 2030 will improve life for us all, for generations to come. Each Earthshot is underpinned by scientifically agreed targets including the UN Sustainable Development Goals and other internationally recognised measures to help repair our planet.

Together, they form a unique set of challenges rooted in science, which aim to generate new ways of thinking, as well as new technologies, systems, policies and solutions. By bringing these five critical issues together, The Earthshot Prize recognises the interconnectivity between environmental challenges and the urgent need to tackle them together.

(via moss & fog)