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Always Interesting: “52 Things I Learned in 2023”

At the end of each year, I look forward to Tom Whitwell’s annual list of what he learned over the past 12 months. Here are some of my favorites from 2023’s installment:

6. The US Defense Department earns $100m/year operating slot machines used by soldiers on their bases. [Gabby Means]

8. A specialness spiral is when you wait for the perfect time to use something, then end up never using it at all. “An item that started out very ordinary, through repeated lack of use eventually becomes … seen more as a treasure” [Jonah Berger & Jacqueline Rifkin]

13. Humans are now roughly as tall as we were 12,000 years ago. 4,000 years ago, the average man was 5’4”. [Michael Hermanussen]

22. Hookworm infestation might be a cure for hay fever. [Helen Thompson]

31. Washboard sales went up 57% during the pandemic, inspired by “fears of societal collapse and limited laundry service”, although 40% are sold as percussion instruments. [Kris Maher]

I’ve got my own list that I’ll publish in the next week or two, so look out for that.

Discussion  3 comments

Matt G

On the specialness spiral: I play games like Diablo this way. A potion that isn't rare is saved because maybe I won't find another one in the game even though it could help me beat this part right now. I keep saving it until suddenly the game is over and I never used any of the items to help.

Broccoli of Doom

Great list, This:

The UK government recently changed the law to ban company names containing computer code, after Michael Tandy of Hatfield registered a company called “; DROP TABLE “COMPANIES”; — LTD,” which could theoretically erase the companies house database. [Alison Thewliss MP]

Reminds me of Little Bobby Droptables.

Kim D.

Specialness Spiral? Yes. about 15-17 years ago I was in the Niagara falls area - visited the Inniskillin winery as I had fallen madly in love with their ice wines several years before. Whelp, I'm still waiting for that oh-so-special occasion to drink one or both of those delicious dessert wines. Over the years, I've gotten out of a bad marriage, remarried and celebrated 10 years, I've survived cancer (7 years next month!!) and yet, those bottles are saved for something greater? I really don't know what that might be... but now I know it's a specialness spiral.

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