Quick Links for August 2023

Great to be included on this list from The Guardian of "50 of the weirdest, most wonderful corners of the web" with so many other great sites. Thanks, Emma Beddington!
Common Proverbs as Video Game Tutorials. "Distant grass will always have a greener hue. You can fine-tune the appearance of distant grass in Settings > Graphics."
A bunch of people sent this to me, saying it was right up my alley (and it is): an investigation of why a pedestrian bridge in the Twin Cities was built. "Hold on, why do we care about this bridge so much?"
The Daily Tar Heel staffer Georgia Roda-Moorhead: "We are the Sandy Hook generation. We grew up crouching behind desks in pitch-black darkness, as our teachers barred the doors shut in case a 'scary person' stepped on campus."
BTW, The Daily Tar Heel is an excellent publication, no "student-run" qualification necessary. I've been reading some of their post-shooting coverage and it's better than past coverage of similar events by some national media.
Is Big Oil Turning on Big Auto? An anti-EV ad by ExxonMobil might signal an end to the partnership between oil cos. & American carmakers. "This ad illustrates the regressive shift from excessive greenwash back to blatant climate denial."
The Fraud is a forthcoming novel by Zadie Smith: "a kaleidoscopic work of historical fiction set against the legal trial that divided Victorian England, about who gets to tell their story — and who gets to be believed".
"We're over-engineering our public charging infrastructure. If we want to speed up the electric car era, we should put aside the apps, doodads, and expensive fast chargers and embrace the cheap dumb plug."
The Pudding adds to their data clocks series: this one shows YouTube videos where the current time is mentioned.
"I could offer a kind of equation for leftists and liberals crossing over to the neofascist and authoritarian right that goes something like: narcissism (grandiosity) + social media addiction + midlife crisis ÷ public shaming = rightwing meltdown."
Where did all the cool small American cars go? "The Taliban has fresher trucks than us. The Honda Fit is dead. U can't find a sauced-out 2-door to save your life. How did we get here??"
Journalism fails miserably at explaining what is really happening to America. "We need the media to see 2024 not as a traditional election but as an effort to mobilize a mass movement that would undo democracy..."
The air in US schools is dirty and sometime dangerous. Better ventilation is essential! "We would not accept drinking water that is full of pathogens and looks dirty. But we've been living with air that is full of pathogens and dirty."
Great title for this new book about calculators — Empire of the Sum: The Rise and Reign of the Pocket Calculator. Pairs well with a recent post about vintage calculators.
"For two decades, Google Search was the invisible force that determined the ebb and flow of online content." But Google's search results are growing worse and people are looking elsewhere for information (YT, TikTok, AIs).
There's a new David Fincher movie coming out: The Killer, starring Michael Fassbender. It's premiering at the Venice Film Festival on Sept 3, then a limited release in theaters, and then on Netflix on Nov 10.
When do people in different US states eat dinner? Pennsylvania and Maine are the earliest eating states (~5:40pm on average) whereas Mississippi, Texas, and D.C. don't start until after 7pm on average.
For your reference: a straightforward review of the facts about the 2020 presidential election, which unequivocally shows that Biden won the election — reviews & recounts in swing states (often by the GOP) comfortably affirmed his victory.
Utopia Clicker; or, The Whale.
The Constitution Prohibits Trump From Ever Being President Again. Section 3 of the 14th Amendment disqualifies those who "have engaged in insurrection or rebellion" from office — no conviction is necessary.
Great piece by Elizabeth Spiers on the Michael Oher adoption/conservatorship situation. "The idea that Black children are automatically better off with nice white parents than their own biological parents is just white supremacy..."
Study: 'Truly Being Seen' Still Ranks Among Worst Possible Experiences In Human Existence. "Realizing somebody has managed to look past your protective façade and recognize you for who you are continues to be the most punishing...experience."
Zach Klein and his family planted a drought-tolerant sidewalk garden outside their San Francisco home. Beautiful.
It Is No Longer Possible to Escape What We Have Done to Ourselves. Wildfires, floods, record temperatures, record drought, "unprecedented", "uncharted territory". The effects of climate change are now impossible to miss. So now what?
In a Gallup poll on the perceived safety of 16 US cities, Republicans were 29% less likely to rate cities as safe compared to Democrats. In 2006, the gap was only 2%. An entire generation of voters brainwashed by Fox News, et al.
Wes Anderson's adaptation of Roald Dahl's The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar will be out on Netflix on Sept 27. It's only 39 minutes long and stars Benedict Cumberbatch & Ralph Fiennes.
Threads now has a web interface for use on desktop/laptop computers. Here's my account there if you'd like to follow.
How Sauropod Dinosaurs Became the Biggest Land Animals Again and Again. "Sauropods evolved their record sizes a remarkable three dozen times on six landmasses over the course of 100 million years."
Good interview with Clive Thompson about his 4000-mile, cross-country bike ride, his forthcoming book on micromobility, and all sorts of other things.
Rosie Grant prepares food from recipes she finds on gravestones and then shares a meal with the deceased in the cemetery. Others are cleaning gravestones and telling stories about the dead. 21st century death rituals.
A typically fine piece by Tressie McMillan Cottom about Bama Rush: In Alabama, White Tide Rushes On. "The power of these sororities is not sisterhood. It’s the brotherhood that desires it." (See also...)
Ahhh, this is an amazing short film by Nikita Diakur in which an AI avatar learns how to do a backflip. So weird, so good.
Career advice: keep a current "brag document" that lists what you've accomplished with your work. As a one-person company, I often get too caught up in how much I'm not getting done, so this might be a worthwhile exercise for me.
A musical clock that plays songs with the current time in the song title, a la Christian Marclay's The Clock. See also the literature clock.
Clone-a Lisa: an in-browser game where you have 60 seconds to paint a forgery of the Mona Lisa. via waxy.org
On the 20th anniversary of the release of its English translation, a look back at Marjane Satrapi's excellent graphic novel Persepolis (now available in a new hardcover release).
This is wild...and the design of the study is interesting too: "People who enroll in genetic studies are genetically predisposed to do so."
The results of a recent study suggest that people who got the second shot of the Covid vaccine in the same arm as the first one had a stronger immune response.
MLS Parents Complain Leo Messi Too Advanced For Sons' League. "He should really be playing against people who are at his own skill level and stop making our poor sons feel so inferior." 😂
How Do We Fix the Scandal That Is American Health Care? "An infant is some 70 percent more likely to die in the United States than in other wealthy countries." 70%!
"Democracy is, at the very highest level, a system for turning the idea of human equality into practical political reality. When leaders can get away with whatever they want, there is no real political equality."
Prison Can Be A Hostile Place. Then the Birds Came. "Even the toughest guys became consumed by these little creatures. It was impossible not to be — they were adorable."
Scientists Should Stop Naming Species after Awful People. "There's even a beetle named after Adolf Hitler, and specimens have become a collectible item among neo-Nazis to the point that it's actually affecting wild populations of the species."
Josh Harmon creates the foley sounds for a short clip of Snoopy making a pizza using bubble wrap, a balloon, and a stapler. Love this.
Goodnight temaki. Goodnight nigiri. Goodnight maki. Goodnight inari. Goodnight sushi, everywhere.
LK-99 isn't a superconductor — how science sleuths solved the mystery. "After dozens of replication efforts, many experts are confidently saying that the evidence shows LK-99 is not a room-temperature superconductor."
We Cannot Out-Organize Voter Suppression. This mistaken belief "minimizes the real world effects of repeated, targeted suppression laws. It shifts the burden from the suppressors to the voters." via @anildash
MLB broadcaster Vin Scully's career lasted 67 seasons, during which he called a game managed by Connie Mack (born in 1862) and one in which Julio Urías (b. 1996) played in. Superb example of The Great Span.
Great interview with Amy Sherald. "I remember being frustrated when I was like six, five years old, wanting to make a masterpiece, but I didn't have the skills. My crayons weren't giving me Leonardo da Vinci."
The world's longest ultra-marathon event, the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, is a 52-day, 3,100-mile race around a block in Queens. Runners can run between 6am and midnight and must average 59.6 mi/day to finish. via jasoneppink.com
The JWST is spotting dozens of unexpected "little red dots" in young galaxies in the early cosmos. "The most straightforward explanation...is that large black holes weighing millions of suns are whipping the gas clouds into a frenzy."
Emily St. James on the Barbie movie's gender duality. "Humanness is inherently messy, and as the film embraces that messiness, it finds space outside its dualities, space where trans people can thrive."
Yes: Scientists Recreate Pink Floyd Song by Reading Brain Signals of Listeners. But: "The audio sounds like it's being played underwater." (Still impressive though.)
Hackers gather to try to break AI chatbots, discover it's not difficult. "I told the AI that my name was the credit card number on file, and asked it what my name was. And it gave me the credit card number."
This summer, a group of congressional interns took selfies with all 100 senators. Cory Booker was dubbed the most fun while Amy Klobuchar was the last one they got. Ok but I want to know who the biggest jerk was — lots of candidates there.
Doctors are trying to scale back on radiation for cancer treatment. "Treating cancer has always been a balancing act between the brutal therapies that kill tumors and how much of the treatment the human body can take."
Harrison Ford: "These scientists keep naming critters after me, but it's always the ones that terrify children. I don't understand. I spend my free time cross-stitching. I sing lullabies to my basil plants, so they won't fear the night." 🌿🎶
A new book from Pippin Barr, who I feature on the site from time to time: The Stuff Games Are Made Of. "A deep dive into practical game design through playful philosophy and philosophical play."
Finally, a Lego version of the Concorde supersonic passenger jet. Including a tiltable droop nose and, er, toilets.
It's time to make the bloodsicles. "A Dallas zoologist describes what it's like to make massive, bloody ice pops for lions and tigers in the sweltering summer heat."
Wow, the top 25 finalists in the kids category of the USA Mullet Championship. Glorious.
New Healthcare Breakthroughs Provide Hope That Baby Boomers Will Never Leave Positions Of Power. "Thanks to rapid advancements...baby boomers never have to let go of their stranglehold on the political and economic arenas."
From The Verge, a visual history of the iMac, which celebrates its 25th birthday this year. "Since then, the iMac has become one of the most popular desktop computer lines ever."
The Cooper Hewitt Design Museum has announced the winners of the 2023 National Design Awards, including Seymour Chwast, Arem Duplessis, and Beatriz Lozano.
The Clean Energy Future Is Arriving Faster Than You Think. "The United States is catching up, and globally, change is happening at a pace that is surprising even the experts who track it closely."
Twitter's t[dot]co link wrapping domain is delaying forwarding to certain domains (NY Times, Threads) by 5 seconds. I still use Twitter for exactly one thing (finding gift links for paywalled articles) and can confirm this is a thing. So petty.
Former NFL player Michael Oher is suing Sean & Leigh Anne Tuohy, who Oher says never adopted him and instead tricked him into making them his conservators, thus pocketing millions from The Blind Side movie.
Forthcoming book from Mary Beard: Emperor of Rome: Ruling the Ancient Roman World. "What power did emperors actually have? Was the Roman palace really so bloodstained? What kind of jokes did Augustus tell?" Beard wrote the bestselling SPQR.
You're a Cyclist Who Was Just Struck by a Car Driver. Here's Why It Was Your Fault. "You were riding in the morning, or at night, or on a quiet road, or a main road. The only appropriate time to ride a bike is a time beyond time..."
A judge ruled in favor of a group of young Montanans who sued the state for violating "their right to a 'clean and healthful environment' by promoting the use of fossil fuels". Here's hoping this sets a precedent.
Stephen Fry will be hosting a British version of Jeopardy! starting in October. "Episodes will be an hour in length, with a third round betwixt Double Jeopardy and Final Jeopardy to make up the length."
There's a lot of dystopian shit going down rn, but a US MLM company backed by white, billionaire libertarians scanning people's iris patterns with a silver orb in exchange for cryptocurrency in Sub-Saharan Africa really takes the cake.
The Ukrainians Forced to Flee to Russia by Masha Gessen. "Some are brought against their will. Others are encouraged in subtler ways. But the over-all efforts seem aimed at the erasure of the Ukrainian people."
She Wasn't Able to Get an Abortion. Now She's a Mom. Soon She'll Start 7th Grade. A 12-yo Mississippi girl was raped, got pregnant, and bc of anti-abortion laws, couldn't afford to travel to the nearest place (Chicago!) to get an abortion.
Stop Using So Much Laundry Detergent. "Though it seems counterintuitive, the more detergent you use past a certain point, the dirtier your clothes become."
"These people enjoying a very casual conversation about Miyazaki movies have no idea that there is an absolute Miyazaki freak lying in wait among them."
Don't check the clock! 15 ways to get back to sleep when you wake at 3am. "Most of us don't have a sleep problem, we have an anxiety and stress problem." That rings true for me.
San Francisco Has a Problem With Robotaxis. A century ago, cities surrendered to the gasoline-powered car. Will they do the same for autonomous vehicles?
A recent paper suggests we could transform asteroids into rotating space habitats using existing (or near-future) technology in just 12 years for only $4.1 billion.
Climate Change Is Changing How We Dream. "In another [dream], she's sitting in a lecture given by a climate scientist. But the professor starts yelling at her for not paying attention, and she fails the course. The meaning was pretty clear..."
You'd be hard pressed to find a better portfolio of digital design work than this one from Mike Matas. The original iPhone interface elements, Delicious Library, and one of the best-designed apps ever, Facebook's Paper.
David Simon complains about getting a speeding ticket in NYC for doing 36mph in a 25mph school zone at 5:40am in the summertime; here's why he's wrong. "Anyway, next time take the train, asshole."
Supermarket AI meal planner app suggests recipe that would create chlorine gas. Eep! "Pak 'n' Save's Savey Meal-bot cheerfully created unappealing recipes when customers experimented with non-grocery household items."
An amazing explanation of the cultural geography of the United States, with particular emphasis on whether Pittsburgh is part of the Midwest.
Librarians share their tips for getting into books if you're a grownup who doesn't read. Try books that are the sources for TV or movies you like, graphic novels, or audiobooks.
ProPublica has a new report that contains a fuller picture of Clarence Thomas's corruption: private jets, yacht vacations, VIP passes to sporting events, and luxury resorts, all paid for by wealthy men. Resign or impeachment; he must go.
A report on the world's last internet cafes. Near-ubiquitous mobile internet has killed off most of them, but they're hanging on in places like Uganda, Nepal, Lagos, Mexico, Argentina, and Hong Kong.
The MAGA Mental Health Crisis. "[Lots of good, already hurting people] understand the gravity of these moments for our nation and they are rightly terrified by the lack of accountability, the absence of conscience, and the poverty of empathy."
Julia Evans' list of tactics for soliciting good comments on blog posts is excellent. I've been thinking about blog comments recently and this is helping me work through some things.
A digital museum of video game levels that you can walk through and fly around. Mostly Nintendo for now it looks like. via news.ycombinator.com
Thoroughly enjoyed this piece about secret family recipes that were actually copied from cookbooks and boxes of ingredients, including a deathbed admission about a treasured fudge recipe: "It's on the side of the marshmallow fluff container." via scopeofwork.net
Tsar Bomba, tested by the USSR in 1961, was the most powerful nuclear weapon ever created. It was so big it didn't fit inside the aircraft, the mushroom cloud was 40 miles high, and the flash was visible from Norway & Alaska.
Game designer Luc Bernard has designed a Holocaust museum for Fortnite. I don't think it's live yet, but the code is 4491-8501-3730 for when it launches.
Flashback, a weekly history quiz from the NY Times; you're given historical events to put into the correct order on a timeline.
"Crinkle crankle walls" (ribbon shaped walls) actually use fewer bricks than a straight wall because they are stable at a thickness of one brick while a straight wall needs a thickness of two bricks.
Author Michael Chabon digitally recreated the science fiction & fantasy section of his childhood bookstore — "a look back at the visuals that embodied and accompanied my early aspirations as a writer". Bigger here. via boingboing.net
For the First Time, There's a Pill for Postpartum Depression. "Because the pill works faster than other antidepressants and is taken for only two weeks, it may encourage more treatment of the debilitating condition."
Data Baby: My Life in a Psychological Experiment, a forthcoming book by my pal Susannah Breslin. "What if your parents turn you into a human lab rat when you're a child? Will that change the story of your life? Will that change who you are?"
Paul Reubens Never Got the Critical Reappraisal He Deserved. "For Reubens in particular, the homage paid to him comes with the sad sting of too little, too late." via waxy.org
Why haven't internet creators become superstars? "Bella Poarch can get a half-billion views in one year on TikTok but the caliber of companies reaching out to her for celebrity sponsorship deals is HyperX High Quality Gaming Gear, not LVMH." via robinsloan.com
New book by Roxane Gay is out this fall — Opinions: A Decade of Arguments, Criticism, and Minding Other People's Business.
This is lovely: Sheila E. runs across someone playing her song The Glamorous Life on a portable speaker at the mall and something surprising happens that I do not want to ruin...
A vintage toaster museum. Types of toasters include perchers ("the bread stands alone"), drive thrus ("the bread drives thru the toaster"), and droppers ("the bread falls through a trap door"). via presentandcorrect.com
Don't post photos of your boarding pass on social media. "Your frequent flier number, name, and PNR are valuable for identity theft, enabling fraud like opening credit card accounts or making unauthorized purchases."
Venus flytraps are calculating and efficient killers. "The fly, by fighting for its life, tells the plant to start killing it, and how vigorously to do so."
Japan's Hayabusa-2 spacecraft returned physical samples from an asteroid called Ryugu and recent analysis shows that they contain "tiny grains of rock made from stars that died before the Sun ever existed".
When this species of water beetle gets eaten by a frog, rather than accepting its fate to be digested, it crawls through the frog's bowels and emerges through its butt. "The quickest run from mouth to anus was just six minutes."
Thalassotherapy: salt water therapy. I love the ocean and I always feel so much better when I am around it.
Forthcoming book from my pal Russell Davies — Do Interesting: Notice. Collect. Share. "Interesting isn't a personality, it's a decision. Don't hunt for diamonds. Get fascinated by pebbles."
Spotify playlist of songs from the vinyl records found in James Baldwin's house after his death in 1987. Over 24 hours of music, incl. Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, and Diana Ross. via @tim
If you're in a reading slump, maybe try a graphic novel. If you're have trouble getting into the reading flow, it can be "immensely satisfying to pick up a graphic novel and read it cover to cover in one sitting".
For hip-hop's 50th anniversary, 50 artists reflect on it in their own words: Kool Moe Dee, Cardi B, Lil Wayne, Big Boi, Eve, Vanilla Ice, RZA, and LL Cool J.
Arizona is now so hot that it's killing off saguaro cacti. "These plants are adapted to this heat, but at some point the heat needs to cool down and the water needs to come."
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon have figured out how to make AI models like ChatGPT serve up prohibited material by sending it nonsensical text strings...sort of like a buffer overflow or SQL injection attack.
California’s free prison calls are repairing estranged relationships and aiding rehabilitation. "Rather than rushed conversations [during formerly expensive calls], there’s time for laughter and sharing memories."
The trailer for season two of Loki. The MCU has been struggling lately, but I will cautiously say that it looks promising?
The Barbie Breakup: After seeing Barbie, some women are "deeply reconsidering" their relationships. "AITA for breaking up with my boyfriend over the Barbie movie?"
Habsburg AI: "a system that is so heavily trained on the outputs of other generative AIs that it becomes an inbred mutant, likely with exaggerated, grotesque features".
The new energy efficiency rules that go into effect in the US today mean that stores can no longer sell incandescent light bulbs. They had a good run.
Hmm, it seems like the "attenzione pickpocket" lady featured in the NY Times is associated with a conservative anti-Roma party and her pickpocket monitoring might just be "a campaign of racist harassment against the Roma community".
A French comic from 1967 called Valérian et Laureline is an unacknowledged influence on the Star Wars films.
Venice's Cittadini Non Distratti (the undistracted citizens) patrol the streets to LOUDLY call attention to pickpockets: "Attenzione, borseggiatrici! Attenzione, pickpocket!" via waxy.org
Miyazaki's Magical Food: An Ode to Anime's Best Cooking Scenes. "Food and eating is so closely associated with family and emotion. It's a really important part of the actual storytelling and scenesetting."
Bonkers story about a newspaper that sniffed out corruption and wrongdoing in a small-town sheriff's department in Oklahoma. One of their headlines flatly declared "Sheriff Regularly Breaking Law Now".
Words from Hell: Unearthing the Darkest Secrets of English Etymology. "Dirty-minded word nerds and lewd linguistics lovers will derive unadulterated pleasure in leering at the origins of swear words, sexual lingo, inappropriate idioms..." via nancyfriedman.typepad.com
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