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Entries for February 2024 (Archives)

The seafloor animals who live in Antarctica’s Southern Ocean are generally “squishy” — they lack armor “because there’s nothing around to crush them”. Climate change is bringing king crabs into the area, which could disrupt the unique ecosystem.

All of U.S. History Has Taken Place in One Plutonian Year

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 27, 2024

Back in 2015, as the New Horizons probe was approaching Pluto, NASA posted an illustration of the dwarf planet’s orbital timeline:

an orbital timeline of Pluto's orbit around the Sun

A short piece on Vox then noted:

The entire history of the United States has unfolded in the time it’s taken Pluto to orbit the Sun once.

And that’s still true! But just barely. Pluto takes 247.94 Earth years to orbit the Sun. According to my calculations, the Plutonian year that started on July 4, 1776 will end this year on June 12, 2024 (give or take a few hours).

Denis Villeneuve: “Frankly, I hate dialogue. Dialogue is for theatre and television. I don’t remember movies because of a good line, I remember movies because of a strong image. … Movies have been corrupted by television.”

All the Ways Mt. Everest Can Kill You

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 27, 2024

A doctor trained in wilderness emergencies (and who has summited Everest three times) explains all the different ways Mt. Everest can kill you — in a refreshingly no-nonsense way.

Mt. Everest is a famously inhospitable environment for humans — if someone from sea level was dropped at the very top they’d be unconscious within minutes. Many dangers await those brave enough to make an attempt at the summit, and Dr. Emily Johnston visits WIRED to break down each and every way Mt. Everest can prove fatal.

Avalanches, ice axes on the loose, high-altitude edemas, “this is what people call ‘the death zone’” — sounds fun, let’s go! 🫠 (via @thenoodleator)

With online ordering now, people have a lot of options when it comes to Girl Scout Cookies, but it’s particularly worth supporting Troop 6000 with your order — “the troop serves families living in temporary housing in the NYC shelter system”.
I dropped the ball on not featuring this gorgeous letterpress version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island sooner — the Kickstarter campaign only has 70 minutes to go!

Join or Die

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 26, 2024

Join or Die is a documentary about the life, work, and ideas of Robert Putnam, popularizer of the concept of social capital and author of the prescient Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.

How many times last year did you go to church? How many times did you go to a dinner party? How many times last year did you go to club meeting? In barely a couple of decades, half of all the civic infrastructure in America has simply vanished. It’s equivalent to say half of all the roads in America just disappeared.

(via colossal)

I remember watching this scene in Se7en, where the sun shines brightly through car windows in the pouring rain, and it jolted me out of the movie — fake rain! Fincher called the take “priceless”, a happy accident.
Michael Sippey made an absolutely unhinged “electoral college” version of Pong Wars. This is somehow worse than the NY Times’ twitchy election needle.

The Tricycle Haiku Contest

posted by Edith Zimmerman Feb 26, 2024

In every issue, the quarterly Buddhist magazine Tricycle publishes a winning haiku from its ongoing monthly haiku contest. The poem appears alongside a column written by the contest’s judge, poet and author Clark Strand. This season’s haiku-adjacent column includes the following bit, about one theory on the nature of haiku:

The Japanese haiku critic Kenkichi Yamamoto (1907–1988) believed that the best haiku strike a balance between humor and existential isolation. “Loneliness in life and the comical elements of life are two sides of the same coin,” he wrote. As a genre of literature, haiku thrives on the flip of that coin — the small element of uncertainty that challenges our ordinary understanding of the world.

I hadn’t realized there were such things as haiku critics (!). I also like the idea of loneliness and humor being related somehow.

Read the Spring 2024 winning haiku here. And enter the monthly contest here. (The next round must include the word “turnip.”)

coinsflipping1.png

I laughed: Gilbert & Sullivan’s Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, by Mitch Benn.

The Problem With Loving the Unborn

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 26, 2024

This Facebook post from June 2018 by Dave Barnhart, a Methodist pastor, is worth quoting in full:

“The unborn” are a convenient group of people to advocate for. They never make demands of you; they are morally uncomplicated, unlike the incarcerated, addicted, or the chronically poor; they don’t resent your condescension or complain that you are not politically correct; unlike widows, they don’t ask you to question patriarchy; unlike orphans, they don’t need money, education, or childcare; unlike aliens, they don’t bring all that racial, cultural, and religious baggage that you dislike; they allow you to feel good about yourself without any work at creating or maintaining relationships; and when they are born, you can forget about them, because they cease to be unborn. It’s almost as if, by being born, they have died to you. You can love the unborn and advocate for them without substantially challenging your own wealth, power, or privilege, without re-imagining social structures, apologizing, or making reparations to anyone. They are, in short, the perfect people to love if you want to claim you love Jesus but actually dislike people who breathe.

Prisoners? Immigrants? The sick? The poor? Widows? Orphans? All the groups that are specifically mentioned in the Bible? They all get thrown under the bus for the unborn.

(thx, caroline)

If a “helen” is an amount of beauty, then “1 millihelen is the amount of beauty needed to launch a single ship”. See also the list of humorous units of measurement (e.g. “1 kilowarhol – famous for 15,000 minutes, or 10.42 days”).
via robinsloan.com

The new MLB uniforms make players look as if they’re wearing diapers. Although the uniforms are supposed to help keep players cool and enable mobility, “everyone hates them,” per Phillies shortstop Trea Turner.

Spain takes climate action: “Flights with a rail alternative that takes less than two and a half hours will no longer be allowed, ‘except in cases of connection with hub airports that link with international routes.’”
via bsky.app

“How First Contact With Whale Civilization Could Unfold”

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 26, 2024

Ross Andersen for the Atlantic on the effort to talk to sperm whales using AI tech:

Their codas could be orders of magnitude more ancient than Sanskrit. We don’t know how much meaning they convey, but we do know that they’ll be very difficult to decode. Project CETI’s scientists will need to observe the whales for years and achieve fundamental breakthroughs in AI. But if they’re successful, humans could be able to initiate a conversation with whales.

This would be a first-contact scenario involving two species that have lived side by side for ages. I wanted to imagine how it could unfold. I reached out to marine biologists, field scientists who specialize in whales, paleontologists, professors of animal-rights law, linguists, and philosophers. Assume that Project CETI works, I told them. Assume that we are able to communicate something of substance to the sperm whale civilization. What should we say?

One of the worries about whale/human communication is the potential harm a conversation might cause.

Cesar Rodriguez-Garavito, a law professor at NYU who is advising Project CETI, told me that whatever we say, we must avoid harming the whales, and that we shouldn’t be too confident about our ability to predict the harms that a conversation could cause.

The sperm whales may not want to talk. They, like us, can be standoffish even toward members of their own species-and we are much more distant relations. Epochs have passed since our last common ancestor roamed the Earth. In the interim, we have pursued radically different, even alien, lifeways.

Really interesting article.

Middlemarch Madness: a schedule for finishing George Eliot’s masterpiece by April 14 by reading a few chapters at a time. Starts Fri! I read Middlemarch for the first time 2 years ago and loved it — one of my all-time faves.
via bsky.app

Knitting Anything?

posted by Edith Zimmerman Feb 23, 2024

knittinghands1.jpeg

I know there are some knitters around here, and I’m curious what people are making, if anyone cares to share. I’ve been knitting a Nine Note Seed Stitch Wrap for the past couple months. Next I’d like to finally try making a Junko Okamoto sweater, or maybe a James Watts sweater. And I’d really love to make this sweet guernsey kids’ sweater by Susie Haumann, but so far the pattern is only in Danish. And if I’m being honest I’ll probably just make something mindless (but no less pleasing).

Now that I have kids, I can more fully appreciate The Kid Should See This, a repository of “smart videos for curious minds” (and Kottke favorite). “Drawing Sharks With Pancake Batter” blew my mind.

Wesley Morris awards “Best Theft of a Movie” to Ryan Gosling in his “Awards for Acting Categories That Don’t Exist at the Oscars.” Worth it for the GIFs alone.

‘Visible Mending,’ on Love, Death, and Knitting

posted by Edith Zimmerman Feb 23, 2024

Beautiful stop-frame animated documentary about why people knit and mend. “When your life is sort of falling apart, you need to create a purpose in it for yourself, and if that purpose is quite small, it doesn’t matter.” Directed by Samantha Moore.

I’ve also been enjoying Arounna Khounnoraj’s visible mending and other handmade projects, on Instagram at bookhou.

I’ve been thinking a lot about alternate families/relationships/friendships lately and this Modern Love piece — about a man with a wife who doesn’t remember him (Alzheimer’s) and a girlfriend who is now part of the family — was unexpectedly moving.
A huge study of more than 99 million people confirms the safety of Covid vaccines and that their benefits “vastly outweigh the risks”.
New Law Requires SNAP Recipients To Balance Food On Nose Until Receiving Command To Eat It. “‘There’s no reason why working-age, able-bodied food stamp recipients can’t show us that they’re very good boys,’ said House Speaker Mike Johnson.” Pitch perfect.
The new Apple Sports app for iPhone is pretty good but isn’t great for keeping up with football — MLS & the European leagues are there, but no Champions/Europa Leagues, national teams, etc. Hopefully that’ll change.

Siblings Step Dancing and Roller Skating

posted by Edith Zimmerman Feb 22, 2024

“Brothers dancing in sync” (above and below) is turning out to be my favorite video genre of 2024 so far. (Thanks, Instagram algorithms.) Both these duos — the Irish Gardiner Brothers and the Delaware-based Griffin Brothers — have been around for years, so they may be old news to many readers, but they only came to my attention recently. I played a bunch of Gardiner Brothers videos (and beyond; Riverdance still rules) for my family a few weeks ago, hoping to plant seeds of Irish dance-interest in my daughters’ hearts and brains. There’s also a roller skating rink not too far away from where we live…

Speaking of forcing encouraging my family to participate in group performance, it’s probably too late for us to meaningfully emulate Natalie MacMaster and her dancing/fiddling family, but I can still watch this one particular video every few years.

‘The Examined Run’ and Virtue in Athletics

posted by Edith Zimmerman Feb 22, 2024

It’s a little painful to me that a woman my own age is not only a philosophy professor and mother to two small children but also a long-distance runner who writes a thoughtful and affecting online column about all of the above. She — Sabrina Little — has a new book out about virtue in athletics, and while I am dying to hate the whole thing, I found her interview with the running newsletter The Half Marathoner to be inviting enough that I ordered the book. Here’s one bit from the interview (I can’t tell if it sounds preachy out of context, but maybe I’ve just drunk too much of the Kool Aid):

I … found a special kinship between the work that I do in virtue ethics and in running. Virtues are acquired by practice. For example, we act courageously to develop courage, honestly to become honest, and so forth. In athletics, we have this same logic of ‘practice.’ We set out everyday in our sneakers to improve in certain respects — becoming faster, more courageous, more perseverant.

However, where character is concerned, if we are not intentional in our training, we may be developing the wrong things — imprudence, poor stewardship, intemperance, or impatience. These traits can impact our training, but also our lives outside of it. So, there is value in examining running as a formative practice. We should ask whether we are practicing being the kinds of people we want to be outside of the sport.

The interview reminded me that my main goal in running is to continue to be able to run. It also reminded me, of course, of “You Should Try Running, According to Me, Your Friend Who Won’t Shut Up About Running,” which is also a thoughtful and affecting read.

The viral advice column of the week: “I Think My Husband Is Trashing My Novel on Goodreads!

Diary Comics, Nov. 18-23

posted by Edith Zimmerman Feb 22, 2024

Welcome to Thursday Afternoons With Edith™! This is when Jason leaves the blog to me while he works on longer-term projects for the site. I’m thinking I’ll share some of my day-in-the-life comics here at these times, unless/until it starts to seem like a bad idea. I shared some back in November when I was guest-editing, and I’m basically picking up where those left off. I still wish I could hide most of them behind a “read more” button, though!

Nov18a
Nov22a
Nov23

What did Neanderthals look like? An overview of “the evolution of Neanderthal portraits” since the 1800s. “Interpretations sometimes say more about their makers than their subjects.”

via thebrowser.com

How’s It Going Today?

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 22, 2024

I’m feeling a little retrospective and nostalgic today, so if you’ll indulge me, I’m going to acknowledge a couple of personal milestones.

1. Today marks 19 years of me doing kottke.org as a full-time job. What. The. Actual. F? I kinda can’t believe it. Before this, the longest I’d ever stayed at a job was about two years…and the average was closer to 9-12 months. Aside from dropping out of grad school to bet my life on the World Wide Web, choosing to turn this website into my job is the best decision I’ve ever made.

Some of you may not know this, but when I went full-time, I ran a three-week “pledge drive” to fund my activities on the site. In 2005, this was an almost unheard-of thing to do — people did not send money to strangers over the internet for their personal websites. But it worked: that initial boost sustained me that first year and allowed me to build this career sharing the best of the internet with you. Those brave folks got a pretty good return on their risky investment, I’d say.

Several years ago, I circled back to the idea of a reader-funded site and since then, the membership program has completely transformed the site and my engagement with the work I do here. Incredibly, some of the folks who supported me back in 2005 are still supporting me today — a huge thank you to them and to everyone else who has supported the site along the way.

2. This is a less-obvious milestone with diffuse edges but one that came to mind this morning as I looked back at some photos from a couple of years ago. When I announced I was taking a sabbatical in May 2022, I wrote about my fiddle leaf fig and the metaphorical connection I seem to have with it:

I’d brought this glorious living thing into my house only to kill it! Not cool. With the stress of the separation, my new living situation, and not seeing my kids every day, I felt a little like I was dying too.

One day, I decided I was not going to let my fiddle leaf fig tree die…and if I could do that, I wasn’t going to fall apart either. It’s a little corny, but my mantra became “if my tree is ok, I am ok”. I learned how to water & feed it and figured out the best place to put it for the right amount of light. It stopped shedding leaves.

I went on to explain that my tree was not doing that well…and its condition was telling me that I needed a break. Well, what a difference the last two years have made. On the left is a photo I took two years ago today of my fig and on the right is from this morning:

side-by-side comparison of a fiddle leaf fig tree, two years apart

Oh, there are a couple of janky leaves in today’s photo (the product of some inattentive watering earlier this winter as I failed to adjust to the winter dryness), but the plant is happy in a bigger pot and there are several new leaves just from the past two weeks (as the amount of daylight increases). There are also two other fiddles in the house that are descended from cuttings I took from this one — they’re also thriving and both have new leaves coming in right now.

I still have not written a whole lot about what I did (or didn’t do) during the seven months I was off, but after more than a year back, it seems pretty clear that the sabbatical did what I wanted it to. I feel like I’m thriving as much as my tree is. In recent months, I’ve launched a couple of new features (including the comments, which I’ve been really pleased with) and added another voice to the site. There’s a new thing launching soon (*fingers crossed*) and I have plans for more new features, including improvements to the comments.

More importantly, the site feels vital and fun in a way that it hasn’t for quite awhile. It’s not all sunshine and lollipops (nothing is — I’m looking at you, tax season), but I’m having a blast, am engaged with the work, and am feeling pretty fulfilled lately. So another huge thanks to everyone for hanging in there while I sorted my shit out — I appreciate you.

A Kickstarter campaign for a book on the art of band logos. “The Stones ‘Lick’ logo wasn’t inspired by Mick Jagger’s lips, but the Hindu deity Kali.”

Crowded Table

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 22, 2024

an colorful illustration with all kinds of foods and products on it

I love this print from Anastasia Inciardi at 20x200 — lots of familiar foods and comfortably delicious products.

Inciardi is known for her mini print vending machines and also sells prints and other things online. You can check out her work on Instagram.

My Mother Got on a Bike. It Changed Her Life. “I rode my bike with my mother once; believe me, there is nothing more disheartening than being trash-talked by one’s mom as she huffs by you on a hill.”
A list of tautological place names, including Mississippi River (Big River River), Lake Tahoe (Lake Lake), Gobi Desert (Desert Desert), The La Brea Tar Pits (The The Tar Tar Pits), and Milky Way Galaxy (Milky Way Milky).
via nytimes.com

Finnish Bluegrass Band Covers AC/DC’s Thunderstruck

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 21, 2024

This video is 9 years old and has 169 million views so I’m possibly the last person on Earth to see it,1 but I ran across a clip of it on Instagram the other day and just had to share. Steve ‘n’ Seagulls is a country band from Finland that went viral for their covers of classic rock tunes, including AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck”:

I love the way this starts off — and it seems to have become somewhat of a bit in subsequent videos. Open Culture has more in a post from August 2014. Kottke.org: only the freshest viral content for you!

See also AC/DC’s Thunderstruck on the bagpipes, ukelele cover of Thunderstruck, and Thunderstruck accompanied by a washing machine. (Does the internet get any better than this?)

  1. The Earth’s present population being, of course, 169,000,001.

The Fledgling Movement to Rewild Golf Courses

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 21, 2024

an old golf course that's being reclaimed and rewilded

Mark Twain once said: “golf is a good walk spoiled.”1 Some American communities are realizing that a golf course is a good outdoor space spoiled.

A small number of shuttered golf courses around the country have been bought by land trusts, municipalities and nonprofit groups and transformed into nature preserves, parks and wetlands. Among them are sites in Detroit, Pennsylvania, Colorado, the Finger Lakes of upstate New York, and at least four in California.

“We quickly recognized the high restoration value, the conservation value, and the public access recreational value,” said Guillermo Rodriguez, California state director with the nonprofit Trust for Public Land, which bought the San Geronimo course, in Marin County, for $8.9 million in 2018 and renamed it San Geronimo Commons.

The article also shares this startling fact: “The United States has more golf courses than McDonald’s locations.” WAT.

  1. Yeah, he probably didn’t.

“Was my only option to sweat myself awake every night & hope sweet menopause would release me?” I’m not going to buy this $500 Jetsons-looking anti-sweat bed machine (YET?), however I did enjoy the accompanying short essay about the misery of night sweats.

Man in Backyard Talks to Orbiting Astronaut Using Homemade Antenna

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 21, 2024

A Michigan ham radio operator used a homemade setup with a handheld antenna to talk to an astronaut orbiting the Earth on the International Space Station. I didn’t know this was a thing! The astronaut even sent him a QSL card acknowledging the conversation (included at the end of the video). There’s more info on Reddit about the radio, antenna, and conversation.

The ISS even has an unofficial program that allows students to talk to astronauts on the station via ham radio.

An almost-all-volunteer organization called Amateur Radio on the International Space Station, or ARISS, now helps arrange contact between students and astronauts on the space station. Students prepare to ask questions rapid-fire, one after another, into the ham radio microphone for the brief 10-minute window before the space station flies out of range.

“We try to think of ourselves as planting seeds and hoping that we get some mighty oaks to grow,” said Kenneth G. Ransom, the ISS Ham project coordinator at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

That this is even possible with low-powered communication devices underscores just how close the ISS is to Earth: 200-250 miles above the surface. That’s the distance between Dallas & Houston or NYC to Boston.

How NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts became a viral phenomenon. “People strategize and plot things out. Sometimes it’s just straight inspiration that makes something great, and not a lot of planning.” (I love a Tiny Desk Concert.)

I thought this short, propulsive essay about drinking was going to end with the author quitting booze, but it doesn’t exactly.

The Bias of Perceived Independence

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 21, 2024

This is an interesting point by Chris Hayes about the difference between institutions (the NY Times, the Dept. of Justice, Facebook) trying to be independent and trying to be perceived as independent:

But here’s the rub, if your goal is to be perceived as independent, then you are wholly *dependent* on the perceptions of some group of people (in both cases conservatives/Republicans). And now, if you’re just courting their perceptions, then you’re no longer independent! In fact you’re the opposite; you’re entirely dependent on how they perceive you. You’ve just traded one form of audience or partisan capture for another!

Could we have had mRNA vaccines earlier? The quick success of Operation Warp Speed “suggests that the primary limitation to achieving mRNA vaccines was resourcing, rather than fundamental barriers of understanding or technology.”
You don’t have to be an expert to get a lot out of art. “There are no right or wrong ways of reading a piece — only ideas that can be expanded.”

Mr. Bean, to the Tune of Bush’s Glycerine

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 20, 2024

Ok, this video is targeted at a pretty small audience and is super goofy, but it hit me square in the forehead and so I can’t help but post it here: it’s footage from Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean with Bush’s 1994 alternative rock hit Glycerine playing over it. And yes, there is a change of lyrics at a critical point. 100/100, no notes. (via @jamesjm)

Huh, the US Census Bureau purposely fudges the location data in the census to protect people’s privacy.

Carved Wooden Art Cars With Chunky Headlights

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 20, 2024

a carved wooden car with wooden headlights coming out of it with an image of a person chasing a ball in the beams

a pair of carved wooden cars with wooden headlights coming out of them with images landscapes in the beams

a fleet of carved wooden cars with wooden headlights coming out of them

Holy crap, how cool are these carved wooden cars by Kiko Miyares! The style is just incredible. Is light a wave or a particle? Neither: light is wood. (via @scottmccloud)

Even though I don’t live there anymore, I enjoyed Scott Lynch’s review of the best movie theaters in NYC (and where to sit once you get there). I miss seeing movies in good theaters.
Craig Mod recaps 5 years of running a membership program. “I am absolutely more patient, more rigorous, kinder, and healthier. I am who I wished I could have been when I was in my 20s and floundering.” Five more years!

Cool New Music: Waxahatchee, “Right Back to It” and “Bored”

posted by Edith Zimmerman Feb 20, 2024

I’ve probably listened to “Right Back to It,” the first single from indie folk-rock musician Waxahatchee’s forthcoming album Tigers Blood, at least 40 times since it came out a few weeks ago. The album’s second single, “Bored” (also good), came out last week, and the album itself is due out March 22. I haven’t been this excited for new music in as long as I can remember. I even ordered a t-shirt from the website (two, actually) — the first time I’ve ever done that in my life!

Birds have been lying about being related to dinosaurs! “For decades, birds literally looked us in the eye and claimed they descended from theropods — and it was all a stupid lie!”

Pretty good little crossword joke

Blackened Vesuvius Scroll Read for First Time in 2000 Years

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 20, 2024

A team of three students were able to virtually “unroll” a 2000-year-old papyrus scroll that was carbonized during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in Herculaneum, thereby winning the grand prize in the Vesuvius Challenge. These scrolls (there are hundreds of them) are little more than “lumps of carbonized ash”; this Wikipedia entry helpfully summarizes their fate:

Due to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, bundles of scrolls were carbonized by the intense heat of the pyroclastic flows. This intense parching took place over an extremely short period of time, in a room deprived of oxygen, resulting in the scrolls’ carbonization into compact and highly fragile blocks. They were then preserved by the layers of cement-like rock.

Using high-resolution CT scans of the scrolls, machine learning, and computer vision techniques, the team was able to read the text inside one of the scrolls without actually unrolling it. I am stunned by how much text they were able to recover from these blackened documents — take a look at this image:

Vesuvius Challenge Scroll Text

There was one submission that stood out clearly from the rest. Working independently, each member of our team of papyrologists recovered more text from this submission than any other. Remarkably, the entry achieved the criteria we set when announcing the Vesuvius Challenge in March: 4 passages of 140 characters each, with at least 85% of characters recoverable. This was not a given: most of us on the organizing team assigned a less than 30% probability of success when we announced these criteria! And in addition, the submission includes another 11 (!) columns of text - more than 2000 characters total.

If you’re interested, it’s fascinating to read through the whole thing to see just how little they were working with compared to how much they were able to recover. And the best part is, all the contest submissions are open source, so researchers will be able to build each other’s successes. (via waxy.org)

John Oliver has offered Clarence Thomas a $2 million tour bus & $1 million per year if he retires from the Supreme Court immediately. “And all you have to do…is sign the contract and get the fuck off the Supreme Court.”
The global cost of cars: “We find that, since their invention, cars and automobility have killed 60–80 million people and injured at least 2 billion. Currently, 1 in 34 deaths are caused by automobility.”
via @davidzipper

Stories on Sex, God, Marriage, and Older-Motherhood

posted by Edith Zimmerman Feb 19, 2024

Here are a few stories I enjoyed this past weekend:

Fun analysis by The Pudding of the “diva score” of dozens of renditions of the Star Spangled Banner by stars like Whitney Houston, Chaka Khan, Beyoncé, T-Pain, Gladys Knight, and Mariah Carey.

Things Unexpectedly Named After People

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 19, 2024

Oh man, I really enjoyed this “infuriating” list of things that don’t seem like they are named after people, including:

It reminds me of trademarked names that have become generic words, including:

Minimalism Is Neat, but Clutter Makes a Home. “I don’t necessarily love the look of mismatched junk congesting the nooks and crannies of my home, but the clutter satisfies a deeper emotional need.”
Muppets make everything better, right? Here’s a list of every Best Picture Oscar winner ranked by how good a Muppets version would be. “Rocky: THE underdog story. The Muppets boxing. Kermit screaming MISS PIGGY as half his face swells shut.”
Apparently Delta Airlines has a secret trading card program? Pilots will apparently give a trading card of the plane you’re flying on to anyone who asks.
via threads.net

Another Tetris World Record Completely Demolished! What Is Going On?!

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 19, 2024

Tetris was created by Alexey Pajitnov 40 years ago. The NES version has been out since 1989. You’d think that people would have “solved” the game long ago. But humans, properly motivated, are relentlessly inventive, and the past few months have seen a flurry of record-setting activity that is remarkable for a 35-year-old game.

It’s only been a little more than a month since a 13-year-old player named Blue Scuti reached the kill screen for the first time in history, a feat only performed previously by an AI. Now it’s been done twice more and the world record for points changed hands three times in three days.

And then just three weeks later, in mid-January, a player named PixelAndy absolutely destroyed the highest score world record. Here’s the engaging story about how he did it, including a surprising family rivalry and a clever strategic innovation:

I’ve written before about how great these video game analysis videos are at communicating how innovation works:

This is a great illustration of innovation in action. There’s a clearly new invention, based on prior effort (standing on the shoulders of giants), that allows for greater capabilities and, though it’s still too early to tell in this case, seems likely to shift power to people who utilize it. And it all takes place inside a small and contained world where we can easily observe the effects.

Kinda random, but I really love this animated GIF of tree shadows on a house, by artist Corey Corcoran. (It was “inspired by the novel North Woods by Daniel Mason,” he writes.)
“The following tips will help you feel like you belong in the Ivory Tower, even when that little voice in your head says […] ‘I’m actually half a dozen raccoons nestled inside an abandoned upscale Swedish jacket.’”

Welcome Back to the Site, Edith!

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 19, 2024

Hey, everyone. I’m really excited to announce that Edith Zimmerman is joining kottke.org as a regular contributor! Edith guest edited the site back in December and sent me an email a few weeks ago saying how much fun she’d had and that if I needed any help around the place, she’d be down for that. I hadn’t really been planning to add anyone to the site, but we talked on the phone and the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. So, we’re gonna give it a shot.

Edith starts this week and will sprinkle in posts and Quick Links during the week and then handle Thursday afternoons (for now). She’s also working on a series for the site that I think you’re going to like. I asked her if she wanted to comment and she sent this along:

a two-panel comic. 1. a woman sits typing at her computer. 2. A thought bubble above her head reads, 'I am delighted to be here!'

As for me, I will be drinking piña coladas by the pool working on some new features for the site, including something that I’m hoping to finish up & launch in the next couple of weeks. 🤞 As always, thanks to all you contributing members out there, past and present, who make this stuff possible.

Republicans are planning “sweeping abortion restrictions” if Trump returns to office. They would go “far beyond proposals for a national ban or the laws enacted in conservative states across the country”. Draconian, punitive, Handmaid’s Tale shit.
Cool & trippy slitscan video animation by Francois Vogel.
NYC plans 6 new waterfront shipping hubs to replace truck freight with barges. E-bikes and small delivery vehicles will handle last-mile delivery. Good idea!
I am normally a Pepsi drinker (I know, don’t start), but IMO the best tasting soda you can get is Coke at McDonald’s. This article outlines why it’s so tasty: better syrup, filtered water, colder, more CO2, wider straws.

The Pixel Painter

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 16, 2024

This is an image created by Hal Lasko in Microsoft Paint:

a pixelated illustration of a roller coaster

Lasko was a retired graphic designer & typographer who found a new passion when he received a computer for his 85th birthday, which came preloaded with Microsoft Paint. This short film tells the story of The Pixel Painter:

That all changed for Hal when his family gave him a computer as an 85th birthday present. His new PC came loaded with Microsoft Paint software, a program developed in the 1980’s. The program is more kitsch than cutting edge, but it’s easy interface and pixel precision allowed Hal to journey down a new artistic path with a style many consider “retro cool”.

In his last year of life, he had his first solo gallery show, spoke at a conference and was featured in a Super Bowl commercial. He passed away just shy of his 99th birthday in 2014, leaving us with a legacy that passion knows no age, and for Hal, the proof of that is surely in the pixels.

You can still buy prints of Lasko’s work on his website.

Fun fact: the short film uses my Silkscreen font in it. It’s fun to see it still popping up in places. (via @bw/111894669094307194)

Matt Webb wrote an iOS app that’s a compass that always points to the center of the Milky Way. “I don’t know how to write apps. EXCEPT. Now there is ChatGPT.”
Some common programming terms were derived from physical attributes of early computers, including patch (covering holes in the data tape) and loop (actual loops of paper tape w/ code to run repeatedly).
via clivethompson.net
John Graham-Cumming tries to restore the original version of the proposal for the World Wide Web, typed up by Tim Berners-Lee in Microsoft Word for Macintosh 4.0. Emulators to the rescue!
“Alexei Navalny, galvanizing opposition leader and Putin’s fiercest foe, died in prison, Russia says.” No doubt murdered by Putin, just like he’s done to other opposition leaders and journalists. Navalny was 47.

The Age of Realistic AI-Generated Video Is Here

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 16, 2024

OpenAI unveiled their prototype video generator called Sora. It does text-to-video and a ton more. Just check out the videos here and here — I literally cannot believe what I’m seeing.

For reference, this is what AI-generated video looked like a year ago. For more context and analysis, check out Marques Brownlee video about Sora:

(via waxy)

Crowdsourced Time Lapses That Help Monitor the Environment

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 15, 2024

This is a cool thing I had not seen before: Chronolog. Since 2017, they’ve been helping organizations document environments over time by compiling photos taken by visitors, who then get sent information about the area they’ve visited. Here’s how it works:

Changes in our environment are difficult to see and understand because they happen gradually, but long term monitoring projects are expensive and complex. Chronolog solves this problem by connecting communities with land stewards to create crowd-sourced time lapses of important natural areas.

Chronolog’s mission is twofold: First, to engage people with nature in an interactive new way. Second, to keep a record of phenological change for scientific use. By making environmental conservation a collaborative activity, people become interested in participating and compelled by the findings.

Rebecca Solnit writes for the London Review of Books about what’s happened to San Francisco since it’s been “fully annexed” by Silicon Valley.
For the first few decades of the web, the tacit agreement was that web crawlers could take data from sites in exchange for traffic back. But now, are AI crawlers (incl. Google) taking too much and offering too little in return?
Anyone who sends a SASE to a particular Colorado address can get a teaspoon of sourdough starter that has been kept going continuously since 1847. Bonus: a website design that hasn’t changed since 1996.
via buttondown.email

Chasing Impossible Dreams

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 15, 2024

YouTuber Casey Neistat has achieved a lot in life, including several “impossible goals” he set for himself. But one of his longest-running goals seemed to be slipping out of his reach and, well, I don’t want to spoil what happens.

I will say however that I think it’s good and healthy to let go of your goals and dreams if they do not serve the person you have become since setting them. I’ve never been much of a goal person, but I’ve definitely had thoughts about directions I’ve wanted to head or things I’d like to have had happen that just aren’t relevant for what’s important to me right now. If it’s not working for you, chalk it up to sunk cost and let it go.

I got this link via Andy, who said, “I allow myself one link to a Casey Neistat video every ten years, and this is that video.” Lol.

Parisian police were going to close the bouquinistes (booksellers) along the Seine for the Olympics but Macron nixed that plan. In their defense, the booksellers quoted Camus: “Everything that degrades culture shortens the paths that lead to servitude.”
The 13 Worst Bike Lanes in the World. Includes examples of “paint as bike lane” and “car charging cables stretching across bike lane” and my fave: “trees in the middle of the bike lane”.
I am a relative NYT crossword n00b, so I just found out about XWord Info and the wealth of statistics available there — it’s like sabermetrics for crosswords. Word nerds, I’m sure there are other CW resources like this out there…share your faves?

Love Stamps? Love Stamps!

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 15, 2024

Love Stamps

A day late, but there’s room for love every day here at kottke.org: from the Portland Stamp Company, a history of LOVE stamps issued by the US Postal Service from 1973 to the present.

There are some heavy hitters amongst the designers of these stamps, including Robert Indiana, Sister Corita Kent, Jessica Hische, and Louise Fili. In looking at the designs over the years, it seems like things got noticeably pinker and redder over the past 10-12 years…I wonder what that’s about?

Also, “Chief Perforation Officer”. 😂

I love the cover of Stephen & Evie Colbert’s new cookbook, Does This Taste Funny? “I love cocktail hour. It feels like a reward for having gone so long without a cocktail.”
Cabel Sasser bought some acetate records recorded by a jazz band loosely affiliated with Disney and found a long lost recording from Cinderella. “Take a moment to let it sink in that you’re one of the first people to hear this music in nearly 75 years.”
Andy Weir’s The Martian was released in bookstores ten years ago. To celebrate, he wrote a new “lost” chapter of the book. “So now, my bed was a pressurized space car on Mars.”
The founder of Bob’s Red Mill grain company sounds like an interesting dude. Having retreated to a seminary to learn how to read the Bible in Hebrew & Greek, he stumbled across a mill for sale. “I bought the thing and it changed my entire life.”

Vintage Typologies

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 14, 2024

Lost Found Art is a design company that “specializes in sculptural installations and assemblages using antique and vintage pieces”. Their collections are fun to browse through and remind me of the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher.

a collection vintage mirrors

a collection of vintage cook stove grates

a collection of vintage shooting gallery targets

a collection of vintage bike gears

a collection of vintage cook stove grates

a collection of vintage baseball mitts

(via present & correct)

Kids playing football are doing the “Brexit tackle”, which means taking out the player without getting the ball while yelling “Brexit means Brexit”. “You have to admit, there’s something very funny about one child barking ‘Brexit means Brexit!’ to another in a muddy park.”
The CDC is considering changing its recommendation about how long to isolate after testing positive for Covid from 5 days (itself insufficient) to “fever free for at least 24 hours without medication”. *sigh* This is what we get instead of guaranteed paid leave.
B.J. Novak considers Caps for Sale & other kid’s books. “The best children’s books […] aren’t advertisements for anything — not even the important things. They’re an advertisement for reading itself; for the entertainment value of the world itself.”

Virtual Stickers to Manage Replies By

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 14, 2024

a virtual sticker that reads 'Do not reply to tell me you don't have this problem'

a virtual sticker that reads 'Do not reply unless you have direct experience'

a virtual sticker that reads 'Do not reply, I'm just complaining, not asking for help'

a virtual sticker that reads 'This is an observation. Do not attempt to help. No reply necessary.'

Dan Hon: “Over on Mastodon, which has a Kind of Person, I made these images to attach to help people manage replies.” These are aces — I’ve included my personal favorites above. You can find the whole set here on Flickr or here with alt text.

These pair well with Rebecca Solnit’s recent piece on How to Comment on Social Media. (Dan, could I get one that says something about reading the link before replying?)

The death of the world’s best marathon runner is part of a troubling global trend. “Car crashes are killing too many young Africans like Kelvin Kiptum.”
The happiest kids in the world have social safety nets. “In a country like the Netherlands where parents like my sister receive ample parental leave, childcare stipends, a four-day work week, and universal healthcare, the low-level anxiety that many American parents feel isn’t as common.”

Winners of the 59th Annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year Contest

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 13, 2024

two ibex clash on top of a hill

fireflies light up a jungle at night

a dragonfly perches on a turtle's open mouth

What a treat: the winning entries in the 59th annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest, organized by London’s Natural History Museum. I’ve selected a few of my favorites above.

Amit Eshel took the photo of the ibex:

After hiking to a clifftop vantage point, Amit slowly crept closer. Using a wide-angle lens, he set the action of two clashing Nubian ibex against the dramatic backdrop. The battle lasted for about 15 minutes before one male surrendered and the pair parted without serious injury.

Sriram Murali captured the jungle lit up by fireflies:

Sriram combined 50 individual 19-second exposures to show the firefly flashes produced over 16 minutes in the forests of the Anamalai Tiger Reserve near his hometown. He watched as pinpoint flashes appeared in the treetops increasing in number as they spread down along the branches until something remarkable happened. Synchronising, they pulsated through the canopy like a wave — the pattern punctuated with sequences of abrupt on-off bursts in unison.

The happy turtle photo is by Tzahi Finkelstein:

This dragonfly unexpectedly landed on the turtle’s nose but instead of the turtle snapping up the insect, it appeared to be experiencing pleasure from the interaction as they shared a moment of peaceful coexistence amid a swamp’s murky waters.

(via colossal & in focus)

A list of directors’ impressive first movies, including Citizen Kane (Orson Welles), Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig), 12 Angry Men (Sidney Lumet), Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard), The 400 Blows (François Truffaut), and The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola).

Brian Eno’s Glowing Turntable

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 13, 2024

Brian Eno holding his glowing turntable in a dark room

a turntable glowing in a dark room

Electronic music pioneer Brian Eno has designed a glowing turntable that shifts colors as plays records.

Brian Eno’s Turntable II is made up of a platter and base, which change colours independently, seamlessly phasing through combinations of generative ‘colourscapes’. The pattern of lights, the speed at which they change and how they change are programmed, but programmed to change randomly and slowly. It plays both 33 and 45rpm vinyl.

Only 150 will be sold and they’re £20,000 so hopefully you’ll see one in a museum someday. (via kevin kelly)

The unsettling scourge of obituary spam. “In the wake of death, AI-generated obituaries litter search results, turning even private individuals into clickbait.” Thanks, Google!
Great to hear that 404 Media is profitable 6 months in. “Owning our own work, and being beholden to no one but our readers and colleagues — as opposed to say, investors, venture capitalists, or out-of-touch executives — feels like the future.”
His Best Friend Was a 250-Pound Warthog. One Day, It Decided to Kill Him. “It wasn’t just an attack, as far as Austin was concerned, but a murderous act of betrayal, one that shattered everything he thought he knew about the deep bond between man and pig.”

USPS Underground Railroad Stamps

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 13, 2024

a sheet of USPS stamps honoring people who ran the Underground Railroad

The USPS is coming out with a collection of stamps honoring the efforts of 10 Americans who were part of the Underground Railroad.

The U.S. Postal Service is honoring 10 courageous men and women who helped guide enslaved people to freedom via the Underground Railroad, network of secret routes and safehouses in use before the Civil War.

Love the design. The stamps honor Catherine Coffin, Frederick Douglass, Thomas Garrett, Laura Haviland, Lewis Hayden, Harriet Jacobs, William Lambert, the Rev. Jermain Loguen, William Still, and Harriet Tubman. They go on sale March 9th and if you want, you can attend the first first-day-of-issue event at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center in Church Creek, MD.

LeVar Burton hosts an episode of Banned Book Rainbow, “where we talk about books that have been banned by adults who don’t want kids to learn or grow or change, and have totally lost their sense of wonder”.
via bookriot.com
Brilliant Labs is selling a pair of fully open-source AI glasses called Frame. Image recognition & manipulation, written & speech translation, etc. And they don’t look terrible either. “What if your glasses gave you AI superpowers?”
Superb Owl Sunday VIII. A day late perhaps, but it’s always a good day to look at cool photos of owls.
The Super Mario Bros. theme song played on a bunch of different instruments, including xylophone, glockenspiel, stylophone, and something called the slapophone.
2024 Begins With More Record Heat Worldwide. The daily sea temperatures graph is breaking my brain a little bit.
Beyonce is releasing a new album on March 29 called Act II. From the sound of the first two tracks, it sounds like a country album.
Kelvin Kiptum, the marathon world record holder, has died at the age of 24.

The Superb Owl Trailers

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 11, 2024

Here are all the cool new movie trailers that they played during The Big Game™. Or, the ones that I give a shit about anyway. First up, Deadpool and Wolverine:

Did I even see the second Deadpool movie? Does it matter? I’ll see this one. Next: Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes.

Apes in charge, running down the humans? I’m in. There’s also Despicable Me 4 (a franchise I like more than I care to admit), The Fall Guy (based on the 80s TV show I very much didn’t watch; starring, somehow, Ryan Gosling & Emily Blunt — I hope this is a pleasant surprise), and Twisters (the Twister sequel no one asked for).

Stinge Watching Is the Opposite of Binge Watching

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 09, 2024

a screencap of the cast of Schitt's Creek walking with a pause symbol over it

Last weekend, my daughter and I watched all 8 episodes of Percy Jackson and the Olympians on Disney+. We binged it. That’s how people watch TV shows now: streaming services have entire shows available at the click of the “next episode” button. Many shows are uploaded a whole season at a time for maximum bingeability — no need to wait more than the time it takes to skip the credits to continue the story. It’s an all-you-can-eat media buffet. The mechanics and economics of streaming media have changed how we watch TV and movies — the binge watch reigns supreme.

But recently, I’ve found myself watching some shows in a much different way. When I find a new show I really like or I’m digging into the newest season of a favorite series, instead of getting hooked and then blasting through all the available episodes, I’ll slow down or even stop watching so as to prolong the pleasure…or to delay the end. I feel like a squirrel, hoarding nuts for the winter. It’s stinge watching instead of binge watching.

Schitt’s Creek was the first show I recall stinge watching. I just didn’t want to stop spending time with those people and so I went from watching 1-2 episodes per day to a few a week. The final season’s 14 episodes probably took me longer to watch than the first three seasons put together. I’ve also done this with The Great British Bake-off, The Expanse, and Silo. And it’s gotten worse — right now, I’m in the middle of four different shows that I am loving but cannot bring myself to actually watch: Reservation Dogs (love those shitasses), For All Mankind (haven’t watched the last episode of the most recent season), Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (stalled out on the second-to-last episode of s01), and The Great (I stopped in the middle of an episode where something Very Dramatic happens and I just can’t seem to continue).

Wondering if anyone else has been stinge watching and curious about what their motivations might be, I asked about it on Instagram and found that dozens of others swim against the fierce current of binge watching…and even stinge read books.1 The Sopranos, Ted Lasso, The Wire, Firefly, Escape at Dannemora, Fleishman Is in Trouble, The Bear, Griselda, and Brooklyn 99 were all cited as shows too good to keep watching. One reader told me she still hasn’t watched the end of Schitt’s Creek “because those characters all grew so much and I knew the last episode would be really emotional and I wanted to avoid crying”.

This was a common theme amongst the stinge watchers, particularly with series finales. Digital media producer Micaela Mielniczenko didn’t want to finish Gilmore Girls “because I loved the characters so much and I didn’t want the story and world to end”. I felt the same way about The Expanse — I wanted to live in that world and with those characters forever, a testament to the world building and character development by the writers, directors, showrunners, and actors.

My friend Adriana X. Jacobs, a professor of modern Hebrew literature, poet, game designer, and long-time stinge watcher, says she has trouble with denouements. She told me:

They put me in a melancholy mood. I prefer the build-up, that long stretch when a character is tunneling (literally or figuratively) their way into or out of a problem. But the story interests me a lot less once the issues start to resolve. This is why it took me YEARS to finish Oldboy (dir. Park Chan-wook), a movie I kept pausing and abandoning when the protagonist was still trapped in that unholy hotel room.

I knew that the story would take him out of the room but I wanted to remain in the mess and confinement. It’s the same thing with Normal People. Even though I’ve read the book and know that the ending is (thank god) open-ended, by not finishing the series, I leave these chaotic characters even further suspended in that beautiful, very human state of uncertainty and possibility.

Wow, yes, exactly.

Andreas, who normally hoards shows to watch in the “dark days of winter” in Berlin, said that he had trouble finishing Wednesday on Netflix: “God I loved that so, so much, I could not bear the thought of it ending so soon.” He rewatched the entire first season immediately after finishing the show and even “did a whole keynote speech only with [Wednesday’s] quotes as slides”.2

Courtney Walsh, who is holding off on finishing Brooklyn 99, told me:

Delaying the finale keeps the characters in stasis and delays me feeling sad when it’s over. By keeping it in the queue, I’ll be happy when I watch, not sad.

Several other people told me they hold off on watching certain shows until they need them. When I asked her when she was going to watch the rest of Brooklyn 99, Walsh said:

When I need a guaranteed, bittersweet day. When I’m thinking about the past and I know that these 8-10 episodes will fit the bill. Probably in the next year or two. Bittersweet is a hard emotion to plan for and keep for later. When I can, I do!

Ryan N said that he keeps a stash of Queer Eye episodes because they’re “like soothing medicine in dark times”. Mielniczenko keeps the last episode or two (or sometimes a whole season) of a show in her queue because she likes “the idea that I can finish these shows at any point”. I definitely held back on the final episodes of Schitt’s Creek until I was emotionally ready and on GBBO episodes until I needed a guaranteed pick-me-up on a particularly gloomy day.

Josh Puetz is portioning Firefly out in drips and drabs — he last watched an episode in Dec 2022 as a treat to himself for being sick — and I asked how he was going to decide when to finish the rest of it:

I think…when I’m ready to let go of the characters and story on my terms. So many endings and changes in life are out of our control, but this one little thing (ending a series, saying goodbye) happens when I need it.

Puetz said he’s not a binge watcher at all (one-in-a-row is the most he can muster), but I both binge and stinge. Several of the shows I mentioned above (like Reservation Dogs & ST: Strange New Worlds), I binged several episodes at a stretch before slowing down when I realized, oh god, I’m going to run out! I loved Succession and could not wait to watch the series finale last May. The second season of the Gilded Age aired over two months last fall and I gobbled up each episode as it aired on Sunday nights.

Mielniczenko said she doesn’t horde every book or show; her stinge watch candidates “usually have a world that is unique/exciting or comforting/wholesome”. Like I said above, for me it usually comes down to the characters and the world and whether they overcome my need to find out how the plot wraps up. When something is soapy or sensational, like The Gilded Age or The White Lotus, I have to watch to find out what happens. But if my desire for the company of beloved characters and the comfort of a familiar place outweighs my desire for plot closure, I slow down and bank those shows for later.3

Streaming services are definitely geared towards binge watching, but the creators of particular shows have worked their magic so well, creating realities that feel unusually real, that some of us want to stay in them for as long as we can. My Brilliant Friend, one of my favorite shows of the last few years, is returning this year for a fourth and final season on HBO, and I am at once deliriously excited to meet those characters again but am also already bracing myself to have to say goodbye to them. At least I’ll have fellow stinge watchers to commiserate with.

Are you a stinge watcher? Let us know which shows you’re stuck on and why in the comments.

  1. I hoard books too, but it’s more difficult to do with audiobooks and ebooks. Sometimes I’ll get to the end of an audiobook without realizing it and the “Audible hopes you have enjoyed this program” trods on my spirit a bit.
  2. I don’t know about you, but I would love to see that keynote deck! (This reminds me of the time I suggested to my daughter that she do a school project about the philosophy of The Good Place because she’s seen that show seven times. She did not take my advice.)
  3. Several people said that they don’t hoard shows, they just rewatch them, sometimes just after they’ve finished. I do that too, but rewatching doesn’t feel the same. Knowing what happens is comforting in a different way, but the novelty is important to me in terms of spending time in worlds with characters.
Here’s why chicken over rice from a lower Manhattan cart costs $10 now. “Mr. Mousa’s red sauce of choice, a spicy sambal, costs $23 a gallon, up from $11.”
via @990000

Incredible Satellite Images of the Latest Volcanic Eruption in Iceland

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 09, 2024

Archaeologist and satellite expert Marco Langbroek posted a satellite image of the latest volcanic eruption on Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula, near the city of Grindavik.

satellite image of a volcanic eruption on Iceland's Reykjanes Peninsula

Wow. It’s worth clicking through to see it larger (mirrored here). You can see the Keflavik airport to the northwest of the fissure and Reykjavík is the darker area in the upper part of the image, just right of center. This image really underscores the extent to which volcanoes are fiery, slashing cuts to the Earth’s skin. It’s bleeding! Bleeding lava!

This image was taken by the European Union’s Copernicus Sentinel 2A satellite and processed by Langbroek. The Copernicus project posted their own view of the volcano today as well:

satellite image of a volcanic eruption on Iceland's Reykjanes Peninsula

Again, worth seeing larger. And here’s a closeup view of the fissure.

closeup of a satellite image of a volcanic eruption on Iceland's Reykjanes Peninsula

The famed Blue Lagoon spa, circled in blue, is very close (less than a mile) to the lava flow and is currently closed.

If you want to check out the satellite imagery for yourself, you can find it on Copernicus Browser. I tried for a few minutes to duplicate Langbroek’s view (“combined natural colour + SWIR”) but couldn’t quite manage it.

The LightSound device was designed and developed in 2017 as a tool for the Blind and Low Vision (BLV) community to experience a solar eclipse with sound.”
TIL that Slack is an acronym: “Searchable Log of All Communication and Knowledge”.
via wired.com

Our Missed Head Start on the Climate Crisis

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 08, 2024

a timeline showing the passage of 120 years between the invention of the Watt steam engine to the discovery of the greenhouse effect and 128 years between the greenhouse discovery and today

In 1896, scientists determined that industrialization was adding CO2 to the atmosphere and quantified how much it would warm the Earth. That date is closer to the start of the Industrial Revolution than to the present day.

If you’re wondering, like I did, about that 1896 date — what about Fourier and Pouillet and Tyndall and Eunice Foote? — the Wikipedia pages on the history of the discovery of the greenhouse effect and the history of climate change science are worth a read.

The warming effect of sunlight on different gases was examined in 1856 by Eunice Newton Foote, who described her experiments using glass tubes exposed to sunlight. The warming effect of the sun was greater for compressed air than for an evacuated tube and greater for moist air than dry air. “Thirdly, the highest effect of the sun’s rays I have found to be in carbonic acid gas.” (carbon dioxide) She continued: “An atmosphere of that gas would give to our earth a high temperature; and if, as some suppose, at one period of its history, the air had mixed with it a larger proportion than at present, an increased temperature from its action, as well as from an increased weight, must have necessarily resulted.”

Foote’s paper went largely unnoticed until it was rediscovered in the last decade. If you’re interested, the best thing I’ve read on the history of climate change is the 7th chapter of Charles Mann’s The Wizard and the Prophet.

The New Vocabulary of Cocktails, including “snaquiri” (a small daiquiri shot), “Bro-Nar” (shot of bourbon + Cynar), “dirty dump” (pouring a shaken cocktail w/o straining), and “Peyshawty” (Peychaud’s bitters).
T-Pain has written a lot of country songs but doesn’t want to be listed in the credits anymore because “the racism that comes after it is just like…I’ll just take the check.”

Meet Venus’s Newly Named Quasi-Moon: Zoozve

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 08, 2024

a portion of a solar system map showing an object called Zoozve orbiting Venus

A couple of weeks ago, Radiolab aired an episode about a puzzling object on a children’s poster of the solar system: a Venusian moon called Zoozve. Venus doesn’t have any moons and “Zoozve” didn’t show up on Google at all, so co-host Latif Nasser went on a bit of a mission to find out what the heck this object was. He talked to someone at NASA, the poster’s designer, and various astronomers and physicists, including the person who had discovered Zoozve (aka 2002 VE68).

So begins a tiny mystery that leads to a newly discovered kind of object in our solar system, one that is simultaneously a moon, but also not a moon, and one that waltzes its way into asking one of the most profound questions about our universe: How predictable is it, really? And what does that mean for our place in it?

It’s an entertaining listen and you’ll want to catch the follow-up as well, which I won’t spoil for you. And if you’re a reader rather than a listener, this piece at space.com recaps the whole thing.

On the Bulletpointization of Books. “A wide swath of the ruling class sees books as data-intake vehicles for optimizing knowledge rather than, you know, things to intellectually engage with.”

Social Media Sites Are Metaphorical Aquariums

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 08, 2024

I loved reading Elizabeth Lopatto’s stab at a “unified taxonomy of text-based social media”.

The successful social media network is an aquarium. The influencers and posters are the denizens — jellyfish, filter feeders, sharks, octopuses, rays, squid, clownfish, and so on. The lurkers are the visitors, marveling at the shape and color of the aquarium’s denizens.

Lopatto was spurred to post because she feels that Threads is too much gift shop:

Threads is also unbalanced as an ecosystem, skewed toward Brands, a particularly noxious infraclass of influencer that is nonetheless profitable for the network. But for Threads to be valuable to Brands — more valuable than, say, TikTok — there needs to be a strong base of lurkers. Most lurkers will tolerate Brands, but Brands themselves aren’t a draw. They’re just the gift shop at the aquarium.

Yay, Disney+ renewed Percy Jackson and the Olympians for a second season. My daughter and I watched it this weekend and really liked it. My only complaint: it felt a bit rushed.
Ryan Gosling finally summited the iconic WB water tower. “For whatever reason, right now, at this stage in my life and career, they’re letting me climb the water tower. So climb it while you can, because I don’t know if I’ll be able to climb it tomorrow.”
Wow, this drone footage of an erupting Icelandic volcano. It gets right in there.
via noahkalina.com

“The Unspoken Racial Politics of ‘Fast Car’ at the Grammys”

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 07, 2024

Ooh, I’d been waiting for this — Tressie McMillan Cottom’s take on the Grammy performance of Fast Car by Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs.

The cover is popular in a genre that has long been roiled by racial conflict. Over the past five years, artists and activists have tried to get mainstream Big Country to get with the multiracial program, but they have won little more than nominal, marginal inclusion rather than a reckoning with the industry’s soul. However lovely, Chapman’s and Combs’s performance ties too neat a bow on years of conflict within country music over who gets to play with the genre’s big boys.

Contrast that with articles like this one: A Rare Moment Americans Could All Share.

People across an angry and divided nation were given a magical, unifying moment on Sunday. We needed it.

“Ties too neat a bow” indeed. Maybe it’s the beginning of something but it sure doesn’t seem like the end of anything.

Update: If you’re on Bluesky, I recommend reading Cottom’s thread that answers a few questions that readers had.

John Cage’s composition Organ^2/ASLSP will play continuously in a German church until 2640. The last tone change was on Feb 5, 2024. “Usually, the change in sound is followed by a respectful five-minute silence and a round of applause.”

Black History in Two Minutes (or so)

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 07, 2024

This video series written and narrated by Henry Louis Gates Jr. presents short 2-4 minute lessons about how Black people shaped American history. Here are a few videos to get you started:

There are almost 100 videos in all — what a treasure trove. I found this via The Kid Should See This, which has a great collection of entertaining and educational videos related to Black History Month.

“The basic problem with the conservative discourse around ‘parents’ rights’ is that it frames children as chattel — that is, as parents’ property.” This is about Canadian politics but rhymes with what’s going on in the US around the rights of trans kids.
Rubble From Bone by Tom Stevenson for the London Review of Books. “The war on Gaza is at its core retributive: an act of collective punishment.”

How to Comment on Social Media

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 07, 2024

Rebecca Solnit with a cheeky & hilarious piece on How to Comment on Social Media.

1) Do not read the whole original post or what it links to, which will dilute the purity of your response and reduce your chances of rebuking the poster for not mentioning anything they might’ve mentioned/written a book on/devoted their life to. Listening/reading delays your reaction time, and as with other sports, speed is of the essence.

7) If you’re a man and that O.P. is a woman, her facts are feelings and your feelings are facts, and those forty-seven increasingly lengthy responses you fired off were clearly a rational reaction. If she reacted negatively to them, do not forget to rebuke her for being emotional.

I hate to say it, but the reason I am not enjoying Mastodon so much these days is because I see stuff like this on there regularly:

9) Which is why the person who said, or rather typed, offhandedly “people should bike more” really means all people need to bike everywhere under all circumstances and is callously indifferent to people who: live in Siberia and can’t bike through -40 blizzards; are physically unable to cycle; can’t afford bikes; and let us not forget those who have bicycle-related trauma. Which is why anyone who could say “people should bike more” is a fascist who needs crushing.

🎯

“Wherever you get your podcasts” is a radical statement. Podcasting is “not owned by any one company, that can’t be controlled by any one company, and that allows people to have ownership over their work and their relationship with their audience.”
An extensive collection of vintage Japanese hotel and ryokan luggage tags. You can see a curated selection at Present & Correct.

“What Relationships Would You Want if You Believed They Were Possible?”

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 07, 2024

I listened to the latest episode of the Ezra Klein Show while driving last night then spent the second half of the drive thinking about it. So I guess I’d better tell you to go and listen to it. Klein interviews Rhaina Cohen, who is the author of the forthcoming book The Other Significant Others: Reimagining Life with Friendship at the Center (out Feb 13). They talked about loneliness, the changing definition of friendship (and family) throughout history, polyamory, co-parenting, and lots more.

How do we imagine many other possibilities for parenting, for aging, for intimacy, for friendship, for romance than what we have right now? Because the idea that what we have right now is a working norm and everything else should be understood as some deviation is wrong. It is factually untrue.

It is not a norm. It is a wild experiment in the history of human existence. We have never done this before for any period of time. It’s not how we raised children. It is not how we have met each other. It is not how we have lived together.

And it’s not working for a lot of people. So this is an experiment, and we should be trying more. And what Cohen’s book is about is these experiments, is looking at things people are already doing, and, in a sense, making clear that there are more relationships happening right now in the world around you, more forms of relationship, than you could possibly imagine.

A unified theory of fucks. “Give a fuck about yourself, about your own wild and tender spirit, about your peace and especially about your art. Give every last fuck you have to living things with beating hearts and breathing lungs and open eyes…”
via swiss-miss.com
Bluesky is opening up to the public this week. Hot take: I like Bluesky better than both Threads and Mastodon (currently a distant 3rd, I’m afraid). I’m on there as @kottke.org.

Spectacular JWST Photos Adorn New USPS Stamps

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 06, 2024

USPS stamp of the Pillars of Creation astronomy image

USPS stamp of the Cosmic Cliffs astronomy image

The USPS has released two new Priority Post stamps featuring imagery captured by the JWST: Pillars of Creation (NASA original) and Cosmic Cliffs (NASA original). From the USPS press release:

Captured by the James Webb Space Telescope, this extremely high-definition infrared image shows the magnificent Pillars of Creation formation within the Eagle Nebula. By assigning color to various wavelengths, the digitized image allows us to see a landscape otherwise invisible to the human eye. Red areas toward the end of the pillars show burgeoning stars ejecting raw materials as they form, while the relatively small red orbs scattered throughout the image show newly born stars.

This remarkable image from the James Webb Space Telescope is a digitally colored depiction of the invisible bands of mid-infrared light emitted by the Cosmic Cliffs of the Carina Nebula. Red and yellow flares scattered throughout the cliffs show developing and newly born stars. The orange-and-brown clouds in the lower third of the image are swirls of dust and gas. Additional stars, in our Milky Way and in distant galaxies, appear in the blue and black regions above and beyond the nebula.

Hurricanes Are Too Fast for Category 5. Climate change might necessitate a 6th category of hurricanes to warn against the much higher risks of wind speeds above 192 mph. “Adding a category better describes these rather unprecedented storms.”
I could watch Pong Wars allllllll daaaaaaaay. Here’s the source code if you want to make your own.
There’s a new translation of the first volume of Karl Marx’s Capital coming out this fall. “This magnificent new edition of Capital is a translation of Marx for the twenty-first century.” Filing this under foundational texts that I should probably read.

This Artist Used Microsoft Paint to Create Art Into Her 90s

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 06, 2024

Up until her death last year at the age of 93, Concha García Zaera wielded the relatively simple graphics editor Microsoft Paint like few others have.

two digital paintings: the one on the left depicts two deer in a forest and the one on the right is of a small town square, probably in Spain

a digital painting of a small town nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains

two digital paintings: th one on the left is of a woman hearding geese and the one on the right is of a blonde haired girl sitting by a tree, looking a little sad

See also The Excel Spreadsheet Artist.

How Quora Died. “The once-beloved forum is now home to a never-ending avalanche of meaningless, repetitive sludge, filled with bizarre, nonsensical, straight-up hateful, and A.I.-generated entries along with a slurry of all-caps non-questions…”
via waxy.org

Kooky Little Ceramic Aliens

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 05, 2024

a yellow ceramic alien shaped like a question mark

a white ceramic alien with a crackly exterior

an orange ceramic alien shaped like a triangle

a yellow & green ceramic alien

a wide yellow ceramic alien

Ceramic artist Monsieur Cailloux makes these cute little ceramic creatures that are members of the Cailloux tribe “straight from the stone planet MRCX”. I like these little creatures, but whatever you think of them, you gotta admire this guy’s commitment to the bit. (via colossal)

Cory Doctorow talks about how he got scammed into giving someone his credit card number. If Cory can get scammed, anyone can — all it takes is getting caught at a moment when your guard is down…a “miracle of timing”.

What Would a Magnitude 15 Earthquake Be Like?

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 05, 2024

I’d missed that Randall Munroe has been doing videos based on his What If? website and books. The one I ran across the other day is about earthquakes:

Since we usually hear about earthquakes with ratings somewhere between 3 and 9, a lot of people probably think of 10 as the top of the scale and 0 as the bottom. In fact, there is no top or bottom to the scale!

There are three more short videos on the channel so far: What if Earth suddenly stopped spinning?, What if NASCAR had no rules?, and What if we aimed the Hubble Telescope at Earth? Good stuff.

How AI tools are helping people write “high-speed semi-automated genre fiction”. Finally, the assembly line has entered indie publishing! “It starts to make you wonder, do I even have any talent if a computer can just mimic me?”

FAA Aviation Maps

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 05, 2024

FAA map of Chicago O'Hare airport

FAA map of an airport in Alaska

FAA map of the Houston airport

On Beautiful Public Data, Jon Keegan highlights the extremely information-rich flight maps produced by the Federal Aviation Administration that pilots use to find their way around the skies.

Among all of the visual information published by the U.S. government, there may be no product with a higher information density than the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) aviation maps. Intended for pilots, the FAA publishes free detailed maps of the entire U.S. airspace, and detailed maps of airports and their surroundings and updates them frequently. The density of the critical information layered on these maps is staggering, and it is a miracle that pilots can easily decipher these maps’ at a glance.

Oh wow, this takes me back. My dad was a pilot when I was a kid and he had a bunch of FAA maps in the house, in his planes, and even on the walls of his office. I remember finding these maps both oddly beautiful and almost completely inscrutable. What a treat to be able to finally figure out how to read them, at least a little bit. And the waypoint names are fun too:

Orlando, FL has many Disney themed waypoints such as JAFAR, PIGLT, JAZMN, TTIGR, MINEE, HKUNA and MTATA. Flying into Orlando, your plane might use the SNFLD arrival path, taking you past NOOMN, FORYU, SNFLD, JRRYY and GTOUT.

Based on the waypoints near Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International, this airport must be home to some of the nerdiest air traffic controllers. There’s a crazy number of Lord of the Rings waypoints: HOBTT, SHYRE, FRDDO, BLLBO, BGGNS, NZGUL, RAETH, ORRKK, GOLLM, ROHUN, GONDR, GIMLY, STRDR, SMAWG and GNDLF.

I made this white bolognese over the weekend and it was so delicious. Subbed in fettuccine for the rigatoni, added more vegetables, put in some white miso paste for extra umami & depth, and finished on the plate with some truffle butter. YUM.
Precipice of fear: the freerider who took skiing to its limits. “Jérémie Heitz has pushed freeriding to breathtaking, beautiful new extremes. But as the risks get bigger, the questions do, too.”
The best way to start your morning is by watching Tracy Chapman sing Fast Car at the Grammys last night. Her voice…it’s only gotten better.
Completely jealous of these butter tshirts…really wish I’d thought of that.

Mars in 4K

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 02, 2024

This is a video slideshow of some of the best images from the Mars missions — Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity, and Perseverance — presented in 4K resolution at 60fps. These look amazing on the biggest hi-res screen you can find. (via open culture)

How to eat now: 16 rules of modern dining. A panel of critics, chefs, and writers weigh in on questions like “Dogs allowed in the dining room?”, “Should restaurants turn the music down?”, and asking for substitutions in dishes. (Me: no, yes, sometimes.)
Gastro Obscura’s list of 50 Places to Eat and Drink Before You Die, including a pizzeria w/ a volcano oven, a Bangkok bistro serving 45-year-old stew, a BBQ vending machine, and a farm serving moose milk cheese.

Ayo Edebiri Draws a New Yorker Cartoon

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 02, 2024

In June 2021 (pre The Bear), New Yorker cartoonist Zoe Si coached Ayo Edebiri through the process of drawing a New Yorker cartoon. The catch: neither of them could see the other’s work in progress. Super entertaining.

I don’t know about you, but Si’s initial description of the cartoon reminded me of an LLM prompt:

So the cartoon is two people in their apartment. One person has dug a hole in the floor, and he is standing in the hole and his head’s poking out. And the other person is kneeling on the floor beside the hole, kind of like looking at him in a concerned manner. There’ll be like a couch in the background just to signify that they’re in a house.

Just for funsies, I asked ChatGPT to generate a New Yorker-style cartoon using that prompt. Here’s what it came up with:

A New Yorker style cartoon depicting a man standing in a hole in the floor of an apartment, holding a shovel with only his head and shoulders visible. A woman floats beside him, with a concerned expression.

Oh boy. And then I asked it for a funny caption and it hit me with: “I said I wanted more ‘open space’ in the living room, not an ‘open pit’!” Oof. ChatGPT, don’t quit your day job!

Internet legend holds that the biggest possible PDF is roughly half the size of Germany. But this person made a “monstrously big” PDF that’s larger than the entire universe. “Admittedly it’s mostly empty space, but so is the universe.”
Kim Stanley Robinson, Green Mars (1993): “Especially since most minimalists want to keep exactly the economic and police system that keeps them privileged. That’s libertarians for you - anarchists who want police protection from their slaves.”
via petafloptimism.com

What’s Your Favorite Airport Amenity?

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 02, 2024

The NY Times asked a bunch of their readers what their favorite airport amenities were. Their answers included libraries, pools, and vending machines for things like cupcakes and canned cheese.

I love an airport with an outdoor area and areas for napping and free showers (like at Incheon). But my favorite airport thing by far is the bonkers indoor waterfall and garden/forest at Singapore’s Jewel Changi Airport:

The waterfall at Singapore's Changi airport

What about you? What are your favorite airport shops, facilities, and conveniences when you travel? (Let’s not do “faster security” and such — that’s a given.)

A study about online identity (using HuffPo comments) found that people using “‘stable pseudonyms’ created a more civil environment than real user names”. This jibes with my personal experience and is in line with the comment guidelines for the site.
Maybe they found Amelia Earhart’s long-lost plane? “The shape of the object in the sonar images closely resembles Earhart’s aircraft, a Lockheed Electra, both in size and tail.”
“The majority of Oregon’s Republican state senators are prohibited from running for re-election as a result of their repeated boycotts of legislative sessions last year.” Good. Legislators are elected to legislate, not obstruct.

Doom Runs on E. Coli Bacteria Now

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 01, 2024

Yeah, you heard me: the 1993 video game Doom, which has been ported to every platform imaginable (an Apple Pippin, a jailbroken John Deere tractor, a Peloton), can now run on a display made of phosphorescent E. coli bacteria.

Ramlan’s paper doesn’t go to the enormous trouble of actually encoding all of Doom to run in bacterial DNA, which the author describes as “a behemoth feat that I cannot even imagine approaching.” Instead, the game runs on a standard computer, with isolated E. coli cells in a standard 32x48 microwell grid serving as a crude low-res display.

After shrinking each game frame down to a 32x48 black-and-white bitmap, Ramlan describes a system whereby a display controller uses a well-known chemical repressor-operator pair to induce each individual cell in the grid to either express a fluorescent protein or not. The resulting grid of glowing bacteria (which is only simulated in Ramlan’s project) can technically be considered a display of Doom gameplay, though the lack of even grayscale shading makes the resulting image pretty indecipherable, to be honest.

Technicalities aside, that’s still pretty cool.

I turned this blog comments thread into a job board and it’s full of people looking for work (and a few companies that are hiring). If your company is hiring, get in there and make some life-altering connections!
Infinite Craft, another fun, whimsical web game from creative coder Neal Agarwal. I made a unicorn!
via waxy.org

What Would a Car-Optimized Hellscape Look Like in the UK?

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 01, 2024

Kyle Branchesi has created some fanciful “urban oddities” that imagine different locales in the UK being fully optimized for cars. For instance, here are Buckingham Palace and Westminster:

Buckingham Palace in the midst of a huge parking lot

The Palace of Westminster with massive expressways running through it

Writes Branchesi:

Amidst a political landscape where the ‘war on motorists’ is wielded as a populist tool, this series captures a future where this rhetoric has prevailed. The transformation of UK landmarks like Stonehenge into vast vehicular realms underscores the absurdity and danger of prioritizing short-term political gains over sustainable urban planning. These images mirror the contentious debates in the UK, challenging the narrative that prioritizes car ownership at the expense of public health and environmental sustainability.

Of course, in an America engineered by Robert Moses and his acolytes, many of those images don’t even look that far-fetched.

Man who leaked Trump’s tax returns sentenced to 5 years in prison. “Littlejohn had applied to work at the contactor to get Trump’s tax returns and carefully figured out how to search and extract tax data to avoid triggering suspicions…” O captain, my captain!
John Gruber on the Apple Vision Pro: “The virtual movie screens look immense, as though you’re really in a movie theater, all by yourself, looking at a 100-foot screen.” This is exactly why I would buy this: IMAX experience at home.

Groundhog Day, But With Potato Chips

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 01, 2024

I don’t know exactly what this is, but it appears to be an ad for Lay’s potato chips made by Jimmy Kimmel Live? But whatever, it’s great: a Groundhog Day-inspired clip starring Ned Ryerson (Stephen Tobolowsky) himself that’s perfect for hawking a bajillion different flavors of potato chips. (via @ironicsans)

“If you are a webdev type person and lately the web has felt kinda dry and not fun anymore […] sit down in front of a code editor and hand code some HTML, CSS, and JS on your own.” I’ve been doing this recently and it has been fun!

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