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Quick site notes: 1. you can now edit comments for 10 min after posting, 2. there’s a new comment posting interface that’s hopefully less confusing, 3. the front page comment widget shows threads you’ve posted in. Come try it out!

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Quick site notes: 1. you can now edit comments for 10 min after posting, 2. there's a new comment posting interface that's hopefully less...
16 comments      Latest:

The re-release of Interstellar in 70mm IMAX on my birthday? Don't mind if I do! "Interstellar will fly back into theaters on Sept. 27,...
2 comments      Latest:

A bar chart race visualization of the most popular desktop operating systems from 1985 to the present . Just overwhelming dominance by...
1 comment      Latest:

Beowulf, translated into Gen Z English . "A smol bean to start with, he would glow up hard later on / As his powers got fire af and his...
5 comments      Latest:

The hidden potential of bicycles . "Bicycles have been used for so long as children's toys and exercise equipment that we forget what...
8 comments      Latest:

The Fruitluck
2 comments      Latest:

"my therapist just told me that the NYT word games app is becoming a problem for many of her patients, including me ... she asked me how...
3 comments      Latest:

I Just Wasn't Very Good
15 comments      Latest:

Feathers Are One of Evolution's Best Inventions
1 comment      Latest:

Diary Comics, Dec. 11-13
2 comments      Latest:

Black Twitter: A People's History is a three-part Hulu documentary series directed by Prentice Penny (Insecure) premiering in May....
1 comment      Latest:

"Onboard the Nautilus, Things Were Not as They Seemed..."
1 comment      Latest:


Green’s Dictionary of Slang is “is the largest historical dictionary of English slang” that contains “nearly 100,000 entries supported by over 400,000 citations from c. ad 1000 to the present day”.

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Writ Small: A Newsletter Recommending Kids’ Media

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My daughter is home sick from daycare, and I’m letting her watch my phone unlimitedly. She’s absorbed in it but made an exception to look up and point at the above picture, from an entry in Chadwick Matlin’s newsletter Writ Small, about the book Today, by Julie Morstad. The newsletter highlights kids’ media — “think Bluey, but stuff that isn’t Bluey” — and so far the worst part is that I want to buy everything it recommends.

I also learned a lot from this installment on a song from the 2021 My Little Pony movie. (thx, Gillian!)

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From Kevin Kelly on the occasion of his 73rd birthday, 101 bits of additional life advice. “Most arguments are not really about the argument, so most arguments can’t be won by arguing.”

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“my therapist just told me that the NYT word games app is becoming a problem for many of her patients, including me … she asked me how long i spent every day doing them and i LIED

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The re-release of Interstellar in 70mm IMAX on my birthday? Don’t mind if I do! “Interstellar will fly back into theaters on Sept. 27, 2024. It will be shown in 70mm Imax prints (Nolan’s preferred format), as well as on digital screens.”

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“R men ok?????” Boy Room is a new video series that features tours of the “squalid” bedrooms of young men.

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Black Twitter: A People’s History is a three-part Hulu documentary series directed by Prentice Penny (Insecure) premiering in May. It’s based on Jason Parham’s Wired article of the same name.

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Feathers Are One of Evolution’s Best Inventions

Really fascinating piece by Michael Habib in Scientific American about how amazing feathers are: they come in so many different shapes and sizes and do so many things (insulate, keep dry, flying, noise dampening, etc. etc. etc.) And I loved the opening anecdote:

In October 2022 a bird with the code name B6 set a new world record that few people outside the field of ornithology noticed. Over the course of 11 days, B6, a young Bar-tailed Godwit, flew from its hatching ground in Alaska to its wintering ground in Tasmania, covering 8,425 miles without taking a single break. For comparison, there is only one commercial aircraft that can fly that far nonstop, a Boeing 777 with a 213-foot wingspan and one of the most powerful jet engines in the world. During its journey, B6-an animal that could perch comfortably on your shoulder-did not land, did not eat, did not drink and did not stop flapping, sustaining an average ground speed of 30 miles per hour 24 hours a day as it winged its way to the other end of the world.

Many factors contributed to this astonishing feat of athleticism-muscle power, a high metabolic rate and a physiological tolerance for elevated cortisol levels, among other things. B6’s odyssey is also a triumph of the remarkable mechanical properties of some of the most easily recognized yet enigmatic structures in the biological world: feathers. Feathers kept B6 warm overnight while it flew above the Pacific Ocean. Feathers repelled rain along the way. Feathers formed the flight surfaces of the wings that kept B6 aloft and drove the bird forward for nearly 250 hours without failing.

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A bar chart race visualization of the most popular desktop operating systems from 1985 to the present. Just overwhelming dominance by Microsoft — but an impressive comeback from Apple in the 2010s.

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The hidden potential of bicycles. “Bicycles have been used for so long as children’s toys and exercise equipment that we forget what useful technology they represent. They multiply our bodies’ speed and efficiency many times over.”

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The Fruitluck

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I’m really interested in fruit, especially ones I’ve never tried, and I’ve loved following Florida Fruit Geek, aka Craig Hepworth, on Instagram, where he posts photos and info about the unusual fruits he grows (in Gainesville). Hepworth recently hosted a “fruitluck,” where gatherers shared…

…half a dozen varieties of loquat, four kinds of mulberry, carambola/starfruit, sweet oranges, Seville oranges, grapefruit, jackfruit, guava, grapes, apples, sweet tamarind, dried jujube, strawberries, blueberries, Mysore bananas, Rajapuri bananas, Cavendish bananas, green coconuts, homegrown pineapple, dried carambola, tangerine, dried sweet cherries, pomelo and more.

I’d love to have a fruitluck! Maybe I need to make a trip to Florida.

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“Onboard the Nautilus, Things Were Not as They Seemed…”

[Voiceover]: The Nautilus had no heat or insulation — nothing but bare metal separated them from the frigid Arctic waters. The crew were constantly sickened with food poisoning and dosed with lead from the soldering in the submarine’s pipes. Attempting the pole this late in the season would be extremely dangerous, and without exception everyone wanted to turn around and head home. Everyone except Wilkins.

I “enjoyed” this stressful mini-documentary, from the Mustard Channel, about the ill-fated (but — spoiler? — not THAT ill-fated) 1931 attempt to reach the North Pole by submarine. [via The Browser]

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If you’re looking for more newsletters to read, here’s One Newsletter I Always Make Time to Read from Inbox Collective. OTOH, what I really want is a list along the lines of One Newsletter I’m Glad I No Longer Read.

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I Just Wasn’t Very Good

I’ve been thinking about something I posted last week — in an excerpt from his new book The Work of Art, former New York magazine editor Adam Moss described the art he makes as bad: “When I left my job, I began to paint more seriously,” he wrote. “That was the beginning of my torment: I just wasn’t very good.” Or as he put it to The New Yorker: “I kind of just wasn’t any good.” Or to Vanity Fair: “I really wanted to be a good painter. What a fucking idiot I was.” Or on NPR, “I really wanted to be good, and it made the act of making art so frustrating for me.”

The book is mostly about how other artists make their work, but I’m currently more interested in what Moss has to say about himself and his art.

Later in the VF and NPR interviews, Moss says that the main lesson he learned from making the book is that with art, it’s the journey not the destination — or, “the making, not the made” (“It’s the most banal observation”) — but of course I still went looking for his paintings online. I want to see them! I didn’t find anything (per the VF article, he hasn’t shared anything publicly yet), but to Moss I say: Show them! Maybe it doesn’t matter if they’re not good. Maybe the worse, the better.

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TFW you find a Neanderthal jaw in your parents’ new travertine tile…

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Diary Comics, Dec. 11-13

Here are some more journal comics from this past December when I was guest-editing the site.
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This Beaver Dam is So Huge, You Can See It from Space

A family of beavers in Canada has built a dam that’s twice as wide as the Hoover Dam. This huge dam is kind of a click-baity promotion (it worked!) but the essence of the video is how beavers can help make landscapes more resilient to effects of climate change.

It’s so big it can be seen from outer space. But that’s not the only reason NASA is interested in this architecturally minded species… Increasing diversity and resilience, not to mention creating wetlands, are just some of the impacts beavers can have on their surroundings. What does this mean for the wider environment? And how can we humans learn from it?

See also Unleashing Beaver to Restore Ecosystems and Combat the Climate Crisis.

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You still don’t see the link? It’s right there on the bottom of the Slack thread from yesterday about which shared drive folders link to Dropbox folders that contain all the shared PDFs.” (This is why I work, primarily, alone.)

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The strange and turbulent global world of ant geopolitics. “There are roughly 200,000 times more ants on our planet than the 100 billion stars in the Milky Way.” And they are amazingly talented at spreading.

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Helsinki Bus Station Theory of Creativity

Several years ago in the Guardian, Oliver Burkeman wrote a piece called This column will change your life: Helsinki Bus Station Theory. It’s about how difficult it can be as a creative person to find your way to making work that feels like it’s uniquely yours.

There are two dozen platforms, Minkkinen explains, from each of which several different bus lines depart. Thereafter, for a kilometre or more, all the lines leaving from any one platform take the same route out of the city, making identical stops. “Each bus stop represents one year in the life of a photographer,” Minkkinen says. You pick a career direction — maybe you focus on making platinum prints of nudes — and set off. Three stops later, you’ve got a nascent body of work. “You take those three years of work on the nude to [a gallery], and the curator asks if you are familiar with the nudes of Irving Penn.” Penn’s bus, it turns out, was on the same route. Annoyed to have been following someone else’s path, “you hop off the bus, grab a cab… and head straight back to the bus station, looking for another platform”. Three years later, something similar happens. “This goes on all your creative life: always showing new work, always being compared to others.” What’s the answer? “It’s simple. Stay on the bus. Stay on the fucking bus.”

(via phil gyford)

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Wired’s Steven Levy on how 8 Google Employees Invented Modern AI. (They developed the pivotal “transformer” idea…you know, the “T” in “GPT”.)

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Letter from the editors of Scientific American: We Need to Make Cities Less Car-Dependent. “We can design or redesign streets to make people drive more slowly or to discourage driving altogether. We can invest in better public transit…”

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CCTV Footage Cross-Stitch

cross-stitch embroidery of a CCTV camera image

cross-stitch embroidery of a CCTV camera image

Oh man, I don’t think this could be any more in my wheelhouse: cross-stitch embroideries of CCTV camera images by Francine LeClercq. I’ve always had a soft spot for cross-stitch — it’s the ur-pixel art — and to see low-res, compressed, B&W security camera footage done in embroidery is just a real treat. There’s not much on LeClercq’s site about the work, but check out these posts at Colossal and designboom for more information and photos.

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PodcastAP allows you to follow podcasts and music feeds in the fediverse. (So when Ezra Klein or On Being drops a new episode, you’ll get it right in your Mastodon feed.)

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I don’t really know how to describe this but here goes: Tavi Gevinson wrote a 76-page zine called Fan Fiction: A Satire about her relationship with & to Taylor Swift and her work.

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This sounds really good: astrophysicist Katie Mack and curious person John Green collaborate on A Podcast About The Entire History Of The Universe.

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Drawing Media, an Interview With Nick Catucci

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Edith here. For the next installment of my newish illustrated column here on Kottke dot org, I talked to my friend Nick Catucci. Nick edits the excellent newsletter Embedded, which partially inspired me to start this column. (Specifically, Embedded has an interview series called My Internet that I’ve always loved.) Nick is also site director at GQ. And about 13 years ago the two of us worked at Vulture together.

Hey Nick! Have you read (watched, listened to, or otherwise experienced) anything good recently?
I think I speak for my demographic when I say that the new Waxahatchee album, Tigers Blood, is a dream. My friends at Pitchfork published a great profile of Katie by Andy Cush where she’s really insightful about how, being sober, she’s drawing from a different well than heroes of hers like Townes Van Zandt and Jason Molina. (One of the neat things about the album is that the harmonies with MJ Lenderman, her new collaborator, sort of dramatize this tension.)

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There’s one other thing that gives me serenity the way that Waxahatchee does right now, and that is this couple on TikTok who are renovating a hoarder house in Washington state. I have never watched HGTV and the concept of house-flipping nauseates me, but I’ve grown so attached to the process of these two people (who do flip houses, but plan to move into this one) racing to make this once-grand place livable before their six-month loan runs out that I’m dreading the day that they’re able to refinance.

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Anything bad?
Basically everything that goes super viral on Twitter now, like The Willy Wonka Experience and “flush ponytail.” The recycled jokes, race for interviews with random people involved, “imagine explaining this to someone who isn’t chronically online”—the whole cycle seems more childish and desperate than ever. It’s as if everyone is doing their own Millennial meme marketing of themselves.

What’s something you’ve read or seen that changed your life?
My wife published a memoir, Down City, in 2017, and reading the transcript for the first time completely opened up my perspective—on this woman that I cherish, this sometimes corrupt place where we both grew up, and love within families.

nickdowncity.jpg

Bonus answer: Two editors I was talking to about a staff writer job early in my career asked me what music changed my life, and the answer that popped into my head was Ice-T’s metal band, Body Count, which I would play at eardrum-damaging volume on big headphones when my mother would drive me to middle school. One of my older brothers owned an early cassette version of their first album, when it still included “Cop Killer.” The editors found that response really funny.

Do you subscribe to anything you don’t read? (Or otherwise consume?)
I’m sure that there are nice little communities in the Discords that some newsletters host for subscribers, but I can’t imagine ever logging on to any of them. Separately, I resent that my costly subscription to The New York Times is justified in part by games that I don’t play.

Read anything you don’t subscribe to?
Technically I have access to everything I read in Apple News and the publishers see some revenue for that, but clicking on “The truth about weed and your brain” and “She’s a sociopath. Here’s what she wishes people knew” is not the same as subscribing to National Geographic or The Wall Street Journal.

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What’s something you’ve lied about reading or watching? Or felt tempted to lie about?
I don’t lie. I just allow my friends to think that I must have read their books or listened to their podcasts (which of course I sometimes do, so they can never be sure).

Does anything make you laugh online?
All the time. The For You page was a tremendous innovation for people like me who are powerless not to engage with stupid content. TikTok serves me lots of very funny videos, and I agreed, as I usually do, with my worldly and straight-shooting columnist Chris Black when he wrote in July 2023 that the introduction of Twitter’s For You feed “polarized my timeline but has consistently exposed me to some of the most hilarious stuff I have seen on the app in years.”

Are there any cultural moments you currently think about unusually often? Like are you haunted by a moment from a TV show, or anything like that?
I may be taking “haunted” too literally, but I do think about the Richard Ford protagonist Frank Bascombe, who, in my view, makes a valiant effort to truly live after the death of his young son. I wonder if his life is tragic, or a triumph. (Please don’t email me if you wrote a graduate thesis about this and know the answer.)

What were you really into when you were 12?
I turned 12 in 1991, and at that time, my older brother owned an 18-plus dance club in Providence, RI. He booked DJs like Kid Capri and live shows with painfully early-‘90s rap acts like Das EFX and Fu-Schnickens, and I would sometimes serve sodas at the bar. I witnessed 800 kids pogoing to “The Choice Is Yours (Revisited)” when Black Sheep came through around the height of that song’s popularity, and remember that on the night that Del the Funky Homosapien rolled in, the buzz was that his cousin Ice Cube was on the bus and might jump on stage with him (he was not on the bus). I got to meet most of these guys, and they were impossibly cool, floating through the club’s back rooms on clouds of blunt smoke, but also pretty nice to this nerdy kid asking for their autographs.

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Obviously this all left a massive imprint on my soft adolescent brain. To this day, one of my greatest style inspirations remains Grand Puba. The press photo he signed for me shows him, as I remember, immaculately turned out in a baggy striped polo shirt (Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hilfiger, presumably), dark Girbaud denim shorts, and those Timberland boat shoes with the lug soles.

nickgrandpuba.jpg

Is there a book/movie/whatever you wish you could experience again for the first time?
Inception in the theater. I saw Fugazi play in Providence as a high schooler and would like to do that again, if possible.

Please tell me something silly that you love.
Speaking in my dog’s voice (breathless young female resistance Democrat) to threaten myself in the meanest, most violent terms possible when I do something mildly annoying around my wife.

nickdog.jpg

Has anyone ever described you in a way you felt was really accurate?
When I’m with my almost-five-year-old daughter and her friends at the playground or waiting for the bus, she’s sometimes tells them, “That’s my dad—he’s so funny.” And in those moments, I know that I am funny, to her.

Previously: Jason Kottke, Jim Behrle

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Matthew Haughey: Embrace the Weird. “Who cares? Just make weird shit.” I often fail or am unengaged when I start with goals — picking an interesting direction has always been more fulfilling for me.

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An appreciation of Calvin and Hobbes and its creator Bill Watterson by Colin Marshall at Open Culture: “It took no time at all to master Garfield, but when I started getting Calvin and Hobbes, I knew I was making progress…”

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Are the Kids Alright When They Grow Up?

This is a teenager is an interactive data visualization by Alvin Chang about a group of American teenagers that have been tracked in a longitudinal study since 1997 (they are around 40 years old now). The video version of the visualization is embedded above.

A year from now, in 1998, a researcher named Vincent Felitti will publish a paper that drastically changes the way we think about these kids — and their childhood.

The research will show that these childhood stressors and traumas — called Adverse Childhood Experiences — have a lifelong effect on our health, relationships, happiness, financial security, and pretty much everything else that we value. It will kickstart decades of research that shows that our childhood experiences shape our adulthood far more than we ever thought.

This is a good companion to a recent post, End-Stage Poverty Is Killing People in Safety Net-Free America.

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The Flooding Will Come “No Matter What”, an excerpt from Abrahm Lustgarten’s book about climate migration in the US. People have already begun to move due to floods, fires, and heat — and that number will continue to grow.

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🎵 “We get ‘em from the earth, and they’re our friends.” Someone at the American Museum of Natural History’s Instagram account is getting weird, and I’m here for it, as they say!!! 🕶️

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The homicide rate continues to plummet in major American cities. “The nation is on track to see one of the lowest levels of violent crimes and homicides since President Obama was in office.”

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How Candles Are Made

From Factory Monster (great name), a video of how candles are made in a South Korean candle factory. I like that there’s no music or voiceover, so you can hear the sounds of the production. I also enjoyed the charmingly janky English subtitles:

Blah blah powder for hardness. Yellow powder for pure white color. Irony, huh?!

Can someone who knows something about making candles tell me why that hole is made in each of the candles with the metal rods? It was unclear from the video what its purpose is.

If you’d like to ruin/enhance the rest of your day, Factory Monster has a trove of making-of videos shot in Korean factories and workshops: retreading old tires, distressed jeans, chain link fences, customized Vans sneakers, and making a knife from an old motorcycle chain. (via the kid should see this)

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Apparently you can teach rats to drive tiny cars? Chef Gusteau: “Anyone can drive!

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E-bike subsidies should be more widespread, following the lead of Colorado ($450 back on a bike purchase). “More than half of all trips taken by Americans are less than three miles. E-bikes open up these kinds of trips to a greater diversity of cyclists.”

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Eric Topol interviews Jennifer Doudna on the bright future of genome editing therapy in curing disease (Apple Podcasts). There’s an FDA-approved CRISPR therapy for sickle cell disease out now with others to come.

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The Longest Total Solar Eclipse Ever (73 Minutes!)

Ok, I said no more eclipse posts (maybe) and then posted like two or three more, but really this is the last one — maybe! In 1973, a group of scientists witnessed the longest ever total solar eclipse by flying in the shadow (umbra) of the moon in a Concorde prototype for 74 minutes over the Sahara desert. From the abstract of a paper in Nature about the flight:

On June 30, 1973, Concorde 001 intercepted the path of a solar eclipse over North Africa, Flying at Mach 2.05 the aircraft provided seven observers from France, Britain and the United States with 74 min of totality bounded by extended second (7 min) and third (12 min) contacts. The former permitted searches for time variations of much longer period than previously possible and the latter provided an opportunity for chromospheric observations of improved height resolution. The altitude, which varied between 16,200 and 17,700 m, freed the observations from the usual weather problems and greatly reduced atmospheric absorption and sky noise in regions of the infrared.

Mach 2.05 = 1573 mph = 2531 km/h. 17,700 m = 58,000 ft. They added portholes to the roof of the plane for better viewing and data gathering. This page on Xavier Jubier’s site contains lots of amazing details about the flight, including a map of the flight’s path compared to the umbra, photos of the retrofitted plane, and a graph of the umbra’s velocity across the surface of the Earth (which shows that for at least part of the eclipse, the Concorde was actually outrunning the moon’s shadow).

By flying inside the umbral shadow cone of the Moon at the same speed, the Concorde was going to stay in the darkness for nearly 74 minutes, the time for astronomers and physicists on board to do all the experiences they could imagine to complete during this incredible period of black Sun. They were able to achieve in one hour and fifteen minutes what would have taken decades by observing fifteen total solar eclipses from places that would have not necessarily gotten clear skies.

And finally, here’s a 30-minute French documentary from 1973 about the eclipse flight.

So. Cool!

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A brief history of the LAN party. In the 90s, if you wanted to play computer games with your friends, you all had to haul your huge computers and bulky monitors over to their house to all be on the same network.

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So, I saw Civil War last night and while it’s well-made with good performances, I don’t quite know what to think of it. Have you seen any good reviews that might help me make sense of what, if anything, the movie was trying to say?

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Today’s Work Music: Philip Glass Solo

I’d missed that Philip Glass Solo (previously) came out in January, but I’ve been listening to it while I work this morning and it’s just lovely. He recorded the album in his home on his piano. Here’s a short video of Glass playing on that very piano:

This is my piano, the instrument on which most of the music was written. It’s also the same room where I have worked for decades in the middle of the energy which New York City itself has brought to me. The listener may hear the quiet hum of New York in the background or feel the influence of time and memory that this space affords. To the degree possible, I made this record to invite the listener in.

And here’s a video of him playing the album’s opening piece on his 87th birthday:

You can stream the album on Spotify, Apple Music, or Bandcamp.

You can buy the album at Bandcamp or on vinyl at Amazon.

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I do not think people should keep octopuses as pets, but I did enjoy the phrase “it’s expensive, wet chaos”.

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Lessons from a First Time EV Owner. This jibes with my experience. Home charging is key, cold weather is tough to deal with, and long-range trips can be challenging. But you get used to it and I don’t ever want to own an ICE car again.

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90 Women Photographers Celebrate Jane Goodall’s 90th Birthday

a tiny sea turtle swimming

Jane Goodall looks out over the jungle

a pack of sled dogs lounge on the snow

women in traditional Bolivian dress pose with a skatebaord

In honor of Jane Goodall’s 90th birthday, Vital Impacts organized a fundraiser selling 90 prints from 90 women photographers. The collection includes some of Goodall’s own work and 60% of the proceeds to the Jane Goodall Institute.

I’ve selected a few of my favorites above — photos by (from top to bottom) Hannah Le Leu, Jane Goodall, Tiina Itkonen, and Luisa Dörr (see also Female Bolivian Skateboarders Shred in Traditional Dress). (via colossal)

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New favorite vocabulary word: wankpanzer (basically, “tank for jerks”). “A pointlessly large and overpowered 4x4 vehicle, usually purchased as a boost to driver’s ego who is likely to have some kind of inferiority complex.” Like the Cybertruck.

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“May thy knife chop and shatter.” A quick update on Choppke’s (my chopped sandwich restaurant chain): a new ad that features one of our snazzy looking hoodies.

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High-Diving Penguin Chicks

When emperor penguin chicks go for their first swim, they usually jump a few feet into the sea. The group of chicks in the video National Geographic video above decided to leap off of a 50-foot ice cliff for their first trip out.

It’s not unusual for emperor penguin chicks to march toward the ocean at a young age, even when they’re just 6 months old. They jump just 2 feet off the ice to take their first swim, according to National Geographic.

Others have jumped from a much a higher altitude, heading to “sheer ice cliffs” knowingly to make the first jump. Satellites have recorded the death-defying jumps since 2009, but what happens next has remained a mystery until now.

Having watched the video, “leap” and “jump” are charitable descriptions of what the penguins are doing here. “Flop”, “plop”, and “fall” might be better…penguins are all kinds of cool, but no one has ever accused them of being graceful out of the water.

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Love this Letterboxd movie list title: “Definitely there was love, oh but the circumstances”. Films include Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Past Lives, Normal People, Brokeback Mountain, Titanic, and Lost in Translation.

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US courts & legislatures are giving women the curse of time travel into the past. “Can you hear ragtime music? Can you see the stars without satellite interference? / No, everything is the same, except, for some reason, the laws governing my body.”

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