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Guerilla Grazing and Ingenious Off-Grid Living

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 17, 2021

In this engaging video we meet Aaron Fletcher, a traveling shepherd who has been “guerrilla grazing” and living off the land for 12 years.

He lets his sheep graze — with permission — public parks and side lots. Homeless by choice, he offers his services to small farms in exchange for food or a place to stay (though half his calories come from his sheeps’ milk).

With a tiny metal cart home pulled by his sheep, he has a bed, a refrigerator/evaporative cooler, a shower (he uses a pesticide sprayer to pump up the water pressure), power (solar panel), sun oven, a mailbox stove for heat, bicycle tire wheels and a corrugated plastic roof.

Fletcher makes cheese and butter from his sheep milk and forages for seeds, fruits, vegetables and herbs.

I heard about this from @hova414, who teases it better than I can:

An “anti-consumer” gives one of the most impressive product demos I’ve ever seen; a nonstop highlights reel of ingenious off-grid inventions. Come for the wearable teepee, stay for the solar banana bread.

My jaw legit dropped open at the solar bread part — that solar oven! It’s absolutely fascinating to listen to him explain how he efficiently uses space, public resources, and a limited amount of tightly curated technology products to live a happy and healthy life, an outcome many of us have been told by capitalism is impossible. I also enjoyed his distinction between being a selfish prepper and a community prepper:

By the way I’m a prepper, but I’m not like a normal prepper as in… I call it selfish prepping. I’m a community prepper. I’m not so interested in trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic situation if everyone around me is suffering. So I’m trying to figure out how to bring up the community so that they can all thrive.

You can learn more about Fletcher’s life and how he lives it on his website and check out his YouTube videos for more clever DIY tips.

This piece by @tressiemcphd (feat. @shrinkthinks) about Covid denial, empathy, and grief is really interesting. "I am afraid that the onslaught of Covid denial stories is robbing me of [my humility] by undermining my empathy for others."

Movie posters generated by an AI program based on brief text descriptions of the films.

Before Food Trucks, Americans Ate 'Night Lunch' From Beautiful Wagons. (Working on my night lunch!)

Mirroring most of Europe (where recycling rates are high), Maine has passed a law that makes manufacturers (and not consumers) cover the costs of recycling. Fantastic...companies should be responsible for this.

1 out of every 500 Americans has died from Covid-19. Greatest country in the world, etc.

Colson Whitehead's latest book is Harlem Shuffle, a crime novel. Love authors who range widely over format and genre.

Rolling Stone's list of the best 500 songs of all time, updated for the first time since 2004. Lots to argue about here but also lots to enjoy. #1 is Aretha Franklin's Respect.

China Has Fully Vaccinated More Than 1 Billion People, over 70% of its total population.

Quick Links Archive

The Astronomy Photographer of the Year for 2021

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 17, 2021

360-degree view of the Milky Way galaxy

the crescent moon rising over the desert

The Royal Museum Greenwich has announced the winners of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year for 2021. Zhong Wu won the galaxies category with a 360-degree view of the Milky Way (above, top), a mosaic which took two years to create — the northern hemisphere portion of the galaxy was photographed in China and the southern part in New Zealand. Jeffrey Lovelace’s photo of the crescent moon over Death Valley sand dunes (above, bottom) took the prize in the skyscapes category.

The Avocado Test

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 17, 2021

the avocado test

That’s Meredith Southard’s cartoon for the New Yorker, a play on the marshmallow test. It’s funny because it’s true. I have an avocado in the fridge that I’m planning on using for lunch — but maybe it’s all brown inside?! So excited to find out if I’m actually eating lunch or not in a few minutes.

  listen to the latest episode of kottke ride home  

Watch Flamingos Eat Underwater

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 17, 2021

As we learned from reading about the pink salt ponds of Camargue, France, flamingos get their distinctive pink coloring from the food that they eat — halophile algae and tiny animals like shrimp that feed on the algae. In this video from the San Diego Zoo, we get to see an underwater view of a flock of flamingos, at once graceful and gawky, feasting on the tiny critters. What a neat view! (via colossal)

The Winners of the 2021 Drone Photo Awards

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 16, 2021

Drone Award 2021 01

Drone Award 2021 02

Drone Award 2021 03

Drone Award 2021 04

Drone Award 2021 05

Drones have been around for awhile now, but I have yet to tire of the bird’s-eye images captured from above this remarkable planet of ours. The gallery of the winning images in the 2021 Drone Photo Awards is full of tiny doses of the overview effect. I’ve chosen a few of my favorites above. Photo credits, from top to bottom: Ran Tian, Terje Kolaas, Yoel Robert Assiag, Oleg Rest, and Md Tanveer Hassan Rohan.

See also this drone photo of Cao Bang, Vietnam that I shared recently. (thx, caroline)

How to Cut & Serve Every Different Kind of Cheese

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 16, 2021

Join cheesemonger Anne Saxelby as she shows us how to cut, serve, store, and accompany more than two dozen cheeses that cover the entire spectrum of cheese-dom, from Parmigiano-Reggiano to Cheddar to Roquefort to Burrata. This video is like a private cooking class with a very thoughtful & knowledgable host — and it made me incredibly hungry. A good pairing might be Saxelby’s recent book, The New Rules of Cheese.

But….. at the first mention of the word “fridge”, I could not help but think of this classic interview with French marketing consultant Clotaire Rapaille: In America, the Cheese Is Dead.

For example, if I know that in America the cheese is dead, which means is pasteurized, which means legally dead and scientifically dead, and we don’t want any cheese that is alive, then I have to put that up front. I have to say this cheese is safe, is pasteurized, is wrapped up in plastic. I know that plastic is a body bag. You can put it in the fridge. I know the fridge is the morgue; that’s where you put the dead bodies. And so once you know that, this is the way you market cheese in America.

Watch A Cook’s Tour, Bourdain’s First Travel/Food TV Show, for Free Online

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 16, 2021

After Anthony Bourdain died in 2018, I listened to the audiobook version of his fantastic Kitchen Confidential (read by Bourdain himself) and in retrospect, the trip he took to Tokyo documented in one of the final chapters was a clear indication that his career was headed away from the kitchen and out into the world. His long-time producer Lydia Tenaglia saw this too…she cold-called him after reading the book and pitched him on doing a TV show called A Cook’s Tour, where the intrepid Bourdain would travel to different locations around the world to experience the food culture there.

I met him at a point in his life where he had never really traveled before. He had written a book, Kitchen Confidential, and I had read somewhere that he was going to try to write a follow-up book called A Cook’s Tour. I approached him — I kind of cold-called him — and I said, “Listen, I work in television.” And at that point I was freelancing for other companies as a producer and a shooter and an editor. I called Tony, and he was still working in a kitchen at the time, and I said, “Would you mind if me and my husband, Chris, came and shot a short demo and we try to sort of pitch the idea of A Cook’s Tour — meaning you traveling the world, kind of exploring the way other people eat — as a television series?” And he was like, “Yeah, sure. Whatever.” I don’t think he had any expectations at that point. Again, he hadn’t really traveled.

A Cook’s Tour intrigued the folks at the Food Network and the show ended up running for 35 episodes over two seasons. And they are now all available to watch for free on YouTube. I’ve embedded the first episode above, where he goes (back) to Tokyo, but he also visits Vietnam, San Sebastian, Oaxaca, Scotland, Singapore, and Brazil during the show’s run. More from Tenaglia on how the show came about:

So that was the start of our relationship and our time together. We, fortunately, were able to pitch and sell that idea, A Cook’s Tour, to the Food Network. Me and Chris, my husband, and Tony, just the three of us, all went out on the road together for that first year, and we shot 23 episodes of A Cook’s Tour, and we kind of figured out the format of the show on the road. It was really Tony tapping into the references he did have — you know, films and books and things he had seen and knew about only through film and reading.

So he was able to bring all of those cultural references to the table, and the three of us together were able to kind of play with the format of what those visuals would look like, so that it wasn’t just about him eating food at a restaurant. It was really about everything that was happening around him — or the thoughts he was having internally as he had these experiences or the references that he had seen through film that he loved and books that he had read, like The Quiet American, and how those things related to what he was experiencing.

So it became this kind of sort of moving, evolving format that was very much based on, predicated on the location that we were in and those references that he could call up. The show just kind of began to take shape. I mean, really there was no format of the show going into it. We just said, “Hey, we’re going to travel around the world, and this guy … he’s a chef, and he’s written this great book, and he’s going to try food in other countries.” And that’s what sold the project to the Food Network at the time. Then, as we went and actually made the show, we really started to play with the format and turned it into something else.

I would say that 17 years later the show has gone through various iterations. We did the two seasons of A Cook’s Tour on the Food Network, and then we did eight seasons of No Reservations on the Travel Channel, and now we’re on Parts Unknown. And the show has evolved as Tony has evolved, as the crew has evolved, as the technology has evolved. The show has sort of turned into this kind of, you know, one man’s initial foray into the world, and I think today, 17 years later, he’s really kind of evolved into more of a cultural anthropologist.

The show’s very sociopolitical — it’s about people and characters. The food and the people are just the entry point. It’s really about all the context around it. The more you can bring story to that and the more you can bring references to that — film references … character references — the more you can introduce interesting, unique characters into the equation, I think that’s what keeps the show very fresh and why it’s continuing to evolve all these years later. Each show is very different from the one before it.

It’s fun to watch the prototype of what eventually became a very beloved and different show. (via open culture)

Fiat’s Rooftop Racetrack

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 16, 2021

a photo of the racetrack on top of the Fiat factory in Turin, Italy

a photo of the racetrack on top of the Fiat factory in Turin, Italy

When it was built in the 1920s in Turin, Italy, the Fiat factory was designed with a racetrack on the top of the building, both for car testing purposes and for racing.

The factory’s best-known symbol is the test track, which is a superb piece of design modeling, and construction that occupies the whole roof surface of the workshops. Two 443 meters straights, joined by parabolic bends, form a continuous track for testing the cars.

Originally, as soon as the cars left the assembly lines they could flow directly upward to the test track through the snail-shaped ramps completing the whole processing cycle inside the factory. Moreover, these spiraling ramps inside the building allowed the cars to be driven back down and into showrooms.

The track was a little over 1/2 mile long. Many more views at Rare Historical Photos. (via @laxgani)

The Winners of the 2021 Small World Photomicrography Competition

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 15, 2021

Trichome (white appendages) and stomata (purple pores) on a southern live oak leaf

Eye of a horsefly

Table salt crystal

Filamentous strands of Nostoc cyanobacteria captured inside a gelatinous matrix

Sensory neuron from an embryonic rat

Epithelial cells covering the intestine villi

This is always a favorite of mine… Nikon has announced the winners of the Small World Photomicrography Competition for 2021. As always, I’ve shared a few of my favorites above. Photo credits from top to bottom: Jason Kirk, Oliver Dum, Saulius Gugis, Martin Kaae Kristiansen, Paula Diaz, and Caleb Dawson.

Every Sport a Bowling Ball

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 15, 2021

What if you substituted a bowling ball for the ball in sports like ping pong, golf, cricket, tennis, and soccer — but also in darts and skeet shooting? This very funny video imagines just that.

Surrealist Architecture

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 15, 2021

a tall building with surreal addiitons coming out the top

a tall building with surreal shapes

an apartment building that's bent at a 90 degree angle

For his City Portraits series, Victor Enrich digitally modified photos to create absurdist and surrealist buildings that look like a lot of fun to live in.

See also 13 Jaw-Dropping Examples of Photoshopped Architecture.

The Topography of Tears

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 14, 2021

microscopic image of dried tears

microscopic image of dried tears

microscopic image of dried tears

For her project Topography of Tears, Rose-Lynn Fisher used a microscope to photograph the crystalized patterns of dried human tears. Part of why the images all look different is because tears are made up of varying chemicals depending on why they’re made.

Scientifically, tears are divided into three different types, based on their origin. Both tears of grief and joy are psychic tears, triggered by extreme emotions, whether positive or negative. Basal tears are released continuously in tiny quantities (on average, 0.75 to 1.1 grams over a 24-hour period) to keep the cornea lubricated. Reflex tears are secreted in response to an irritant, like dust, onion vapors or tear gas.

All tears contain a variety of biological substances (including oils, antibodies and enzymes) suspended in salt water, but as Fisher saw, tears from each of the different categories include distinct molecules as well. Emotional tears, for instance, have been found to contain protein-based hormones including the neurotransmitter leucine enkephalin, a natural painkiller that is released when the body is under stress.

This project is also available in book form. (via austin kleon)

Update: Per an email from the photographer, I’ve corrected the post above to note that these images were taken with a normal optical microscope, not a scanning electron microscope. Thx, Rose-Lynn!

Where Did You Grow Up?

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 14, 2021

My friend Joanna Goddard runs a website called Cup of Jo. She started it as a personal blog and has turned it into a site for women with a diverse and interesting group of contributors. However, the truly marvelous thing about Cup of Jo is the comments. That’s right, the comments. They are always good, often great, and occasionally sublime. Years and even decades after most websites have removed their comment sections for being toxic and unwieldy, Cup of Jo readers are in there delivering on the original promise of the web as a way to connect humans with one another by providing advice, reflections, stories, and support to each other.

One of the site’s best uses of the comments section are on posts that ask a simple question, like Where Did You Grow Up? (See also What Unexpected Relationships Have You Formed During the Pandemic?) I pulled out a few of my favorite comments from this post and shared them below.

My dad is a physicist and biomedical researcher, so we made a few big moves when I was growing up. From Long Island, to Chicago, and then to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (central Canada). I went to tiny town Oklahoma for college before coming back to Sask. It is wild up here, where winter days are often -40 degrees Fahrenheit. In my youth I was torn in half between my longing for city excitement and the call of the wild. These days, I am proud to be raising a 4 year old that knows the rules of camping, and how to act around critters like bears and moose. His first concert was an Inuit band who throat sang in Inuk. We danced as a storm opened up and poured rain on us, the natural light show illuminating the fractal jack pine tree tops. All three of us slept like babies that night in our tent with the storm pounding the forest in the background. The city was fun, but I wouldn’t trade my quality of life for anything. I know how to thank the Great Spirit for the grandfather trees of the forest, and how to step lightly where wood frogs lie. I know the feeling of the air changing to autumn or spring on my cheeks, before a single leaf falls or prairie crocus blooms. The knowledge of this place is etched into the fabric of my body, as it will be for my stepson.

I grew up in a North Dallas trailer park backed up to a state highway and a freeway with my older brother and young widowed mom. We lived off social security and hotdogs. I thought anyone whose mobile home vinyl siding wasn’t peppered with holes from a weed whacker was fancy.

After hours, I played in the construction materials depot next door with my brother and our little band of trailer park buddies. We got a lot of shit for being “trailer trash kids” but we all grew up to become hella cool and kindhearted: amazing parents, teachers, nurses, artists, writers, musicians, therapists, political shit-stirrers, philosophers, world travelers.

We used to catch opossums with rusty cat traps and sneak them into our bathtubs where we would feed them scraps and get hissed at. I recall chasing an armadillo down a hill with a BB gun in the blazing Texas sunshine and thinking no funner game had ever been invented.

We would dismantle the breaks from our second-hand banana-seat bikes and then race each other down the “big hill” and jump into the grass kamikaze-style at the screaming last minute where we would lay in a banged-up heap laughing hysterically in the face of death.

My brother once shot a dove off a telephone wire from our front porch and proceeded to cook it for my first-day-of-high-school breakfast, ironically, because he wanted me to be able to tell that trailer-trash story to my kids someday. I do, and they don’t believe me. I’ve raised my two kiddos in Toronto, The Netherlands, and now Colorado. They think trailers are something you take into the mountains for a glamping vacation. They are also hella cool and kindhearted. I marvel at them.

I grew up in a small town in South Alabama. I am from the land of yes ma’ams, covered dish suppers at church, and pulling over for funeral processions. I was raised on a steady diet of collard greens, pimento cheese, grits, pear salad (google it), boiled peanuts, and fried hand pies. To this day there is nothing more delicious - figuratively and literally - than the memory of homemade vanilla ice cream in an old ice cream maker with my dad cutting and dropping slices of peaches picked from our tree. I didn’t know enough to be concerned that he was cutting them with his pocket knife. I miss living somewhere that included mac n cheese on a salad bar. I have vivid memories of hearing my grandmother tell stories involving her childhood friend, Nell Lee (known to most of us as Harper Lee). One summer, I rode my horse into town almost every day and got an ice cream cone at the shop owned by my friend’s family. My dad was the high school principal and my mother was the deputy sheriff. I was the high school mascot and to this day, I highly recommend any job where the dumber you act, the more successful you are. High school adventures included bonfires in someone’s field, hot days at the creek, and constantly driving around the town square. There was one restaurant in town and it opened up late each Friday night to serve a full fried chicken meal to the returning high school football team, band, and cheerleaders after every away game. There was a wrong and a right side of the tracks. It was simultaneously both the most loving community I have known and the most discriminatory.

I grew up in Houston on a street full of kids. Houston was playing kickball on a dead-end street and “hide from cars” on summer nights when we were allowed to stay out after dark. Everyone lived in their front yards and garages. A dad only had to prop up the hood of his car, and every man on the block came over and started consulting. This led to impromptu pizza or burger parties. Every Halloween, my dad and our preacher staged a spookhouse in our garage that ALL the kids visited. Our neighborhood was swarmed with kids trick or treating and our group, ranging from 3 years old to 10, roamed for blocks, completely safe, until the year The Candyman ruined trick or treating forever. Every Christmas Eve, we girlfriends swam in Sam’s pool, then went caroling on our street with bare feet and wet hair. We thought that was very funny. We rode our banana-seat bikes to stores near us until we graduated to 10-speeds. We went to glossy, over-air-conditioned shopping malls. We had a lot of freedom because things were so accessible.

I grew up in Encinitas, CA (north of San Diego) when it was a sleepy, little beach town. I miss all “my” beach spots, friends, and that coastal air. It was one of those places where even if we didn’t know everyone, everyone was treated with consideration. It wasn’t always idyllic but it was a pretty lucky place to be raised. You could count on anyone being willing to help you. One time my dad’s Oldsmobile broke down on a random street. He had no problem walking up to a door, knocking on it and asking to use the phone (hello 1989!). The surfers were still zonked on the couches, but one let my dad in and let him call a friend. He told my dad to leave the car and come back for it whenever he could get a tow truck for the car. No one was mad at being woken up at 7am, they just rolled with it.

You can read the post and the rest of the comments here. I grew up in northern Wisconsin on a farm and then in a small nearby town. We rode our bikes everywhere as kids and our parents had no idea where we were most of the time. The music options were country or heavy metal — I didn’t care for either. The nearest movie theater was in a town 10 miles away and I still remember the excitement of standing in line for Ghostbusters on a sweltering June evening. As a teen, I would go around to all of the vending machines in town (there were only three or four of them) and check the coin returns for money — any quarters I found would go right into the Ms. Pac-Man machine at Erickson’s grocery store. A few people I knew had a vacation house on the lake but we couldn’t afford one. School was terrible and cliquey and I never felt like I belonged. I left after high school and aside from summers and a short stint after dropping out of grad school, I never went back. I haven’t been for a visit in nearly 20 years and only recently have I been curious about seeing it through adult eyes and revisiting old haunts.

See also this classic NY Times dialect quiz (which I took the other day and it nailed my childhood location within 90 miles) and using only food, where did you grow up? (my answer: hotdish, fried smelt, colby cheese, and summer sausage).