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June 01, 2020

Research on How to Stop Police Violence

From Samuel Sinyangwe, a thread about research-based solutions to stop police violence. Body cams & police training programs don’t reduce police violence, but demilitarization, stricter use-of-force policies, and better police union contracts do (among other things).

More restrictive state and local policies governing police use of force are associated with significantly lower rates of police shootings/killings by police. This is backed by 30+ years of research.

Demilitarization. Police depts that get more military weapons from the federal govt kill more people. You can stop that from happening through local and state policy. Montana (Red state) has gone the furthest on this.

Police Union Contracts. Every 4-6 years your police dept’s accountability system is re-negotiated. Purging misconduct records, reinstating fired officers, dept funding- it’s in the contract. Cities with worse contracts have higher police violence rates.

You can learn more about this research at Campaign Zero.

Tags: crime   Samuel Sinyangwe   science

by Jason Kottke at June 01, 2020 05:45 PM

Two Quick Links for Monday Noonish

Letters for Black Lives is a collection of multilingual resources geared towards explaining the Black Lives Matter movement to members of immigrant communities. Basically: "Dear beloved elders, we want to explain BLM to you and why it's important..." []

A list of anti-racism resources, including books to read, movies to watch, resources for parents, etc. []


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by Jason Kottke at June 01, 2020 04:52 PM

Run the Jewels’ Killer Mike Delivers an Emotional Plea

If you haven’t had a chance to watch this, it’s really worth your time. Rapper and activist Michael Render, aka Killer Mike of Run the Jewels, spoke at a press conference in Atlanta about the protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the history of policing in the city, and his outrage, delivering a plea for the city’s residents to not “burn your own house down for anger with an enemy”.

I’m. Mad. As Hell. I woke up wanting to see the world burn down yesterday, because I’m tired of seeing black men die. He casually put his knee on a human being’s neck for nine minutes as he died, like a zebra in the clutch of a lion’s jaw. And we watch like murder porn, over and over again.

So that’s why children are burning it to the ground. They don’t know what else to do. And it is the responsibility of us to make this better — right now. We don’t want to see one officer charged, we want to see four officers prosecuted and sentenced. We don’t want to see Targets burning, we want to see the system that sets up for systemic racism burnt to the ground.

Tags: 2020 protests   Michael Render   Run the Jewels   video

by Jason Kottke at June 01, 2020 03:21 PM

Are They Police? Or an Army?

Nick Baumann on the militarization of the American police:

“You create this world where you’re not just militarizing the police — you equip the police like soldiers, you train the police like soldiers. Why are you surprised when they act like soldiers?” Rizer, a former police officer and soldier, said. “The mission of the police is to protect and serve. But the premise of the soldier is to engage the enemy in close combat and destroy them. When you blur those lines together with statements like that … It’s an absolute breakdown of civil society.”

American police officers generally believe that carrying military equipment and wearing military gear makes them feel like they can do more, and that it makes them scarier, Rizer’s research has found. Officers even acknowledge that acting and dressing like soldiers could change how the public feels about them. But “they don’t care,” he said.

In 2015, after the militarized police response to the protests in Ferguson, Mo., President Obama restricted the sales of military equipment by the Pentagon to police departments.

Mr. Obama ordered a review of the Pentagon program in late 2014 after the police responded to protests with armored vehicles, snipers and riot gear. The images of police officers with military gear squaring off against protesters around the country angered community activists who said law enforcement agencies were reacting disproportionately.

In addition to the prohibitions on certain military surplus gear, he added restrictions on transferring some weapons and devices, including explosives, battering rams, riot helmets and shields.

The Pentagon said 126 tracked armored vehicles, 138 grenade launchers and 1,623 bayonets had been returned since Mr. Obama prohibited their transfer.

In 2017, Donald Trump fully restored the practice of transferring military goods to police, grenade launchers and all.

Update: Would just like to note that the 1033 Program was signed into law by Bill Clinton, has historically enjoyed bipartisan support, and was greatly expanded under Obama.

A recent study show that, under the Pentagon’s 1033 program, enacted in 1997, the value of military weapons, gear and equipment transferred to local cops did not exceed $34 million annually until 2010, the second year of the Obama administration, when it nearly tripled to more than $91 million. By 2014, the year that Michael Brown was shot down — and when the full Congress, including 32 members of the Congressional Black Caucus, rejected a bill that would have shut down the 1033 program — Obama was sending three quarters of a billion dollars, more than $787 million a year, in battlefield weaponry to local police departments. In other words, President Obama oversaw a 24-fold (2,400%) increase in the militarization of local police between 2008 and 2014. Even with the scale-back announced in 2015, Obama still managed to transfer a $459 million arsenal to the cops — 14 times as much weapons of terror and death than President Bush gifted to the local police at his high point year of 2008.

(thx, chuck)

Tags: Barack Obama   crime   Donald Trump   Nick Baumann   politics   USA   war

by Jason Kottke at June 01, 2020 01:32 PM

Two Quick Links for Sunday Evening

Artist Christo died today at age 84. The Gates in Central Park is one of my favorite public artworks I've ever experienced in person. []

Police Erupt in Violence Nationwide. "Here are some of the ways law enforcement officers escalated the national unrest." []


Note: Quick Links are pushed to this RSS feed twice a day. For more immediate service, check out the front page of, the Quick Links archive, or the @kottke Twitter feed.

by Jason Kottke at June 01, 2020 12:52 AM

May 31, 2020

Spacing Toronto: understanding the urban landscape

PODCAST: Spacing Radio 046, Toronto City Council is buffering

There have been two full, virtual City Council meetings since the COVID-19 outbreak in Toronto. Those meeting saw near-unanimous votes about building affordable and social housing, expanding the active transportation network across the city, and preparing for a post-lockdown Toronto.

In this episode, we speak to city councillors Gord Perks (Parkdale-High Park) and Kristyn Wong-Tam (Toronto Centre) about these crucial issues.

And Spacing Senior Editor Todd Harrison brings us an audio exploration of what the city sounds like in a pandemic.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Play, or SoundCloud, or follow our RSS feed.

Spacing Radio · Episode 046: Toronto City Council is buffering

The post PODCAST: Spacing Radio 046, Toronto City Council is buffering appeared first on Spacing Toronto.

by Spacing Radio at May 31, 2020 01:00 PM

May 29, 2020

Listening to Black Voices Amid Murder, Violence, Protest, and Pandemic

Hi. I wanted to take today to compile a sampling of what black people (along with a few immigrant and other PoC voices) are saying about the recent murders by police of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, the threatening of Christian Cooper with police violence by a white woman, the protests in Minneapolis & other places, and the unequal impact of the pandemic on communities of color, as well as what black voices have said in the past about similar incidents & situations. This is not an exhaustive list of reaction & commentary — it’s just a sample. I’m not going to add anything to these voices, but I will share a few resources at the end of the post.

Please put your urge to judge on the shelf for a minute and just listen to your fellow human beings in all of their raw, righteous, and furious anger. I am trying to listen. Is America finally ready to listen? Are you ready?

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Of Course There Are Protests. The State Is Failing Black People.

This simultaneous collapse of politics and governance has forced people to take to the streets — to the detriment of their health and the health of others — to demand the most basic necessities of life, including the right to be free of police harassment or murder.

What are the alternatives to protest when the state cannot perform its basic tasks and when lawless police officers rarely get even a slap on the wrist for crimes that would result in years of prison for regular citizens? If you cannot attain justice by engaging the system, then you must seek other means of changing it. That’s not a wish; it’s a premonition.

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor again reacting to “American billionaires got $434 billion richer during the pandemic”:

This looting by billionaires is what sets fires and burns down stores. You do not get one without the other.

Jillian Sloane:

I wish America loved black people the way they love black culture.

Martin Luther King, Jr., The Other America (via Paul Octavious):

I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.

Bakari Sellers (click through to watch the video):

It’s just so much pain. You get so tired. We have black children. I have a 15-year-old daughter. What do I tell her? I’m raising a son. I have no idea what to tell him. It’s just, it’s hard being black in this country when your life is not valued.

Black parents talk to their children about how to deal with the police:

Ruhel Islam, a Bangladeshi immigrant and owner of Gandhi Mahal Restaurant, which burned in Minneapolis:

Let my building burn, Justice needs to be served, put those officers in jail.

DiDi Delgado:

In the time between Eric Garner’s “I can’t breathe” and George Floyd’s “I can’t breathe” police in the United States killed at least (AT LEAST) 5,947 people. #WeCantBreathe

Ella Baker:

Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a white mother’s son, we who believe in freedom cannot rest.

Peter Daou:

America, where it’s okay to kneel on a black man’s neck and murder him, but it’s “unpatriotic” to kneel in protest of that murder.

#BlackLivesMatter #TakeAKnee

Luvvie Ajay, About the Weary Weaponizing of White Women Tears:

White people will never have to deal with the fact that their skin is considered a weapon but they use their skins as ammunition by using all the privileges that come with it to terrorize the world. White women use their tears as pity me bombs all the time and it often instigates Black people being punished.

Ajay again:

I’ve traveled all over the world. And have never felt as unsafe as I do at home, in the United States.



Can we stop calling it “police brutality” it’s murder, M-U-R-D-E-R

Nikole Hannah-Jones, Yes, Black America Fears the Police. Here’s Why.:

For those of you reading this who may not be black, or perhaps Latino, this is my chance to tell you that a substantial portion of your fellow citizens in the United States of America have little expectation of being treated fairly by the law or receiving justice. It’s possible this will come as a surprise to you. But to a very real extent, you have grown up in a different country than I have.

As Khalil Gibran Muhammad, author of The Condemnation of Blackness, puts it, “White people, by and large, do not know what it is like to be occupied by a police force. They don’t understand it because it is not the type of policing they experience. Because they are treated like individuals, they believe that if ‘I am not breaking the law, I will never be abused.’”

We are not criminals because we are black. Nor are we somehow the only people in America who don’t want to live in safe neighborhoods. Yet many of us cannot fundamentally trust the people who are charged with keeping us and our communities safe.

Jemele Hill:

Trump to the white people with AR-15s throwing a temper tantrum over a haircut — “Liberate”

Trump to those protesting the lack of justice in Minneapolis — “THUGS”

A whole, racist clown.

Tarana Burke:

A few years ago me and dude are out and come back to his car to find it vandalized. He parked by a driveway and partially blocked it and we concluded that the owners had vandalized the car. I get pissed and go knock on the door. They don’t answer so I’m yelling!

He’s telling me to calm down and forget it but I’m pissed! A few minutes later cop car rolls by and they stop and get out. I start to tell them what happened and they walk up on him and immediately start questioning him. I interrupt and say “excuse me HIS car was vandalized!”

The cops tell me to ‘be quiet’ and just as I’m about to turn all the way up on them he turns to me and says “Baby, please…” firmly. Then he calmly answers the cops questions even though they are rude and invasive. They take his license and keep asking ridiculous questions…

“What are you all doing here?”
“Did you get into an altercation earlier tonight?”
“If I knock on these people’s door what are they going to say?”

I was fuming. Now I’m nervous.

Damon Young, Thoughts on Forgiving Amy Cooper (aka ‘Darth Karen’), Who Got Fired, Banned From Central Park, and Lost Her Dog:


Ibram X. Kendi (via Nicole Parker):

The greatest white privilege is life itself. People of color are being deprived of life.

Dr. Kendi again:

They say they can’t be racist because they are northerners. They say they can’t be racist because they are progressives. They say they can’t be racist because they are Democrats.

Why are they saying they can’t be racist? Because they are racist.

Dr. Kendi for a third time (he wrote a whole book about moments like these):

It feels like Black people were running for their lives from racist terror only to run into the murderous face of COVID-19, only to start running for their lives from COVID-19 only to run into the murderous face of racist terror.

Maurice Moe Mitchell:

If you have trouble imagining the concept of “police abolition,” look no further than the many live experiments being played out in upper middle class white suburbs across the country where people carry on their lives with little to no interaction with law enforcement.

Ernest Owens, I Have Not Missed the Amy Coopers of the World:

I’m doing better these days because staying home alone and practicing social distancing has meant I’m avoiding many of the racist encounters that used to plague my daily life.

The video that circulated this weekend of a white woman calling the police with a false report about threats by a black man who simply asked her to leash her dog in Central Park illustrates exactly why I’m so happy to be spending more time inside.

Blair Imani:

Murder is worse than property destruction. Every single time. Don’t let capitalism fool you.

Ruby Hamad, A White Damsel Leveraged Racial Power and Failed:

The damsel-in-distress archetype probably conjures up images of delicate maidens and chivalrous gentlemen. That is precisely what it is designed to do — for white people. To people of color, and especially African-Americans who have borne the brunt of her power in the United States, the image is very different. The damsel in distress is an illusion of innocence that deflects and denies the racial crimes of white society.

J. Drew Lanham, Birding While Black:

Up until now the going has been fun and easy, more leisurely than almost any “work” anyone could imagine. But here I am, on stop number thirty-two of the Laurel Falls Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) route: a large black man in one of the whitest places in the state, sitting on the side of the road with binoculars pointed toward a house with the Confederate flag proudly displayed. Rumbling trucks passing by, a honking horn or two, and curious double takes are infrequent but still distract me from the task at hand. Maybe there’s some special posthumous award given for dying in the line of duty on a BBS route-perhaps a roadside plaque honoring my bird-censusing skills.

Tyler Merritt, Before You Call the Cops:

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

I’ll just say it: a lot of politicians are scared of the political power of the police, and that’s why changes to hold them accountable for flagrant killings don’t happen. That in itself is a scary problem.

We shouldn’t be intimidated out of holding people accountable for murder.

Ernest Owens:

BEFORE Y’ALL KEEP GOING: Christian Cooper could have had tattoos on his face, hated birds, been smoking a blunt and listening to Future, and #CentralParkAmy WOULD HAVE STILL BEEN AS GUILTY AND RACIST AND WRONG AF FOR TERRORIZING HIM.

Enough with the respectability politics.

Alicia Crosby:

I really can’t shake how profoundly evil it is to tear gas folks protesting the suffocation of a man by the police during a pandemic driven by a respiratory disease.

Shenequa Golding, Maintaining Professionalism In The Age of Black Death Is….A Lot:

Your black employees are exhausted.

Your black employees are scared.

Your black employees are crying in between meetings.

Your black employees have mentally checked out.

Your black employees are putting on a performance.

Charles Blow, How White Women Use Themselves as Instruments of Terror:

At a time of so much death and suffering in this country and around the world from the Covid-19 pandemic, it can be easy, I suppose, to take any incidents that don’t result in death as minor occurrences.

But they aren’t. The continued public assault on black people, particularly black men, by the white public and by the police predates the pandemic and will outlast it. This racial street theater against black people is an endemic, primal feature of the Republic.

Specifically, I am enraged by white women weaponizing racial anxiety, using their white femininity to activate systems of white terror against black men. This has long been a power white women realized they had and that they exerted.

Michael Harriot (from this thread):

There has NEVER been a successful protest movement in modern history that succeeded without violence.

Not Christianity. Not democracy. Not civil rights.

The choice is, which side is going to do the donate their blood?

We’re damn near out of blood to give.

So, if you want to change the system, history has repeatedly told us how to do it.


And amen, motherfuckers.

James Baldwin (see also How to Cool It and, like, everything else Baldwin has ever written or said):

The reason that black people are in the streets has to do with the lives they’re forced to lead in this country. And they’re forced to lead these lives by the indifference and the apathy and a certain kind of ignorance — a very willful ignorance — on the part of their co-citizens.

Several people on social media have pointed to this list of 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice, including several organizations you can donate to. Ibram X. Kendi compiled an antiracist reading list. I am not any sort of expert, but I personally have found much understanding in listening to the Seeing White podcast, reading Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, and watching Eyes on the Prize, I Am Not Your Negro, & OJ: Made in America among other things. Thanks to everyone listed here for sharing their words and works with us.

Tags: 2020 protests   Ahmaud Arbery   Breonna Taylor   Christian Cooper   crime   George Floyd   murder   racism   USA

by Jason Kottke at May 29, 2020 04:30 PM

Spacing Toronto: understanding the urban landscape

888 Dupont: Conversations with an old building

I went over to see 888 Dupont Street earlier this month. “I hope you haven’t come to criticize me,” said the old building, aware of the rough face it presents a gentrifying neighbourhood.

“Don’t be embarrassed,” I replied, as you do with old friends. The area is not fully chic yet, and we’re family here, at Spacing. There is love. “How are you doing?”

“I’m tired,” said 888. “Look at my green cladding, dented and faded.” I see red dust, even, from spalling brick, falling from under the tin.

The building’s concrete bones have always been visible, but there’s more now. “See my cracks? Are some of my rebars showing?”

“Yes.” I comfort the 1921 building with an adage from my father, who at 97 is barely younger. He says about aging: “It’s for the lucky.”

“I’m still standing,” 888 says.

Much is said without words at 888’s corner, a messy junction with Ossington.

As late as the 1990s, trolley-bus lines criss-crossed under a spider web of overhead wires. The rusty poles that carried the infrastructure remain.

Dupont Street, “so flat, long and gritty” I once wrote in Taddle Creek, makes a jog here before straightening out again. The zig-zag is a legacy of traffic engineers who spliced east-west streets that didn’t quite meet into cross-town Dupont. They wanted to speed traffic. Dupont is wretchedly busy, only a little less so during a pandemic.

I cut to the chase with 888. “In a century, you’ve had a few jobs. What was your most interesting one?”

The building’s eyes and eyebrows are wizened, expressive openings. Its large industrial windows are made of narrow steel to hold small glass panes. The sash can never have been very airtight.

Old 888 grumbles. When Dupont was lined with foundries, coal yards, bakeries, and a gear-cutting plant, when Ford Model Ts were assembled at Christie Street, in a factory designed by master industrial architect Albert Kahn, and the Toronto Telegram was printed across the street, “you wanted heat to get out, not stay in.”

Memories of industrial might here bring to mind the district of “South Zenith” of Sinclair Lewis’s 1922 novel Babbitt, “a high-colored, banging exciting region: new factories of hollow tile with gigantic wire-glass windows, surly old red-brick factories stained with tar, high perched water tanks, big red trucks like locomotives, and, on a score of hectic side-tracks, far-wandering freight cars — ”

“I was there,” says 888, feeling a bit chuffed, as if it starred in a movie.

The boxcar thought brought to mind one Jack Colyer.

Long ago, Colyer and his crew manufactured brooms at 888. It was no mean operation.

In 1955, The Toronto Star reported, “If a Canadian soldier near the Arctic Circle cleans his snow boots, a sailor swabs the deck of a merchant vessel in the Suez Canal, or a housewife in Nassau begins her spring cleaning today. There is an excellent chance that the brushes, mops and brooms involved were manufactured by the 100 blind men and women who guide themselves around the Dupont St. Blindcraft Industries building by means of overhead wires which they grasp with their hands, trolley fashion.”

Colyer was the sighted manager who, wrote Samuel Campbell in The Toronto Star, “can take a glance at several railway carloads of broom corn and tell you which came from Italy or Oklahoma.”

The broom, brush, and mop-making business was created many years earlier by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, established after World War I to help soldiers lost their sight in combat and which became the nation’s leading advocate for blind citizens.

A move to 888 Dupont from quarters on Queen St. E. took place in the fall of 1952. At the first Christmas party held at the plant, “shop members provided a carol singing after dinner,” The Globe and Mail reported. A retiring broom maker Tom Murray, 76, “played the violin.”

By the mid-1950s, the factory was producing a quarter million pieces a year, a “beehive of industry,” Campbell wrote, where the blind operated such equipment as a “broom winder, a motor-driven machine that wires the corn to the handle.”

Some tasks were dangerous, though everything is relative.

A veteran “whose sight was blown away at Dieppe . . . runs a machine which staples horse hair into circular brushes.”

“In another corner another young man, who lost his sight and three fingers in an explosion when he was a boy, operates a metal-shearing machine which could take both hands off with one false move.”

Yet danger was not the reason processing corn and horsehair into brooms and brushes came to be seen as a harvest of mixed blessings.

The problem was more existential. You can pick it out in an historic fact Colyer alluded to, that broom shops “were the first industry of the blind.”

An Internet search turns up organizations still helping the blind via employment to make brooms and brushes, and caning chairs, and also to references to the blind doing so ever since antiquity.

But the age-old leg up had, in the opinion of the blind themselves, elements of a leg-iron, into which they were being snared.

Charitable organizations were exempt from Ontario’s minimum wage. In the 1960s, by which time broom-making had moved north to the CNIB’s new headquarters on Bayview Avenue, the CNIB’s broom-makers said they’d supplied enough cheap labour. Although non-union, they went on strike.

And so the “broom questions,” as blind Ruth Biron said in the 1970s, became an emblem of frustration. “She’s tired of explaining to people that she can type, file, answer the phone and run an office just as well as any other secretary,” The Globe and Mail reported 1979. (To which I add now, “what’s a secretary? And, “what about the blind who do almost everything?”)

“Well, you asked for interesting,” old 888 mused, and we go easy on the benevolents and benefactors of other ages.




“What have you been doing lately?” I asked, a bit rhetorically. Everyone knows the answer, because the location of 888 is inherently revealing.

Walking, pedalling, or speeding east in a car you suddenly see, at the jog in Dupont, the entire west façade. Are the flower pots in the windows, the incandescent lamps at night, and other signs domesticity in the relic, supposed to be a secret?

An open one. At the corner with Dupont, while standing on the sidewalk, I scratch grime from some glass and look in. I see, on the floor in the half-basement, giant bowling pins of lashed-together coloured plastic bags. At the next set of windows, I peer into a room with abstract canvases on a paint-specked floor, leaning against the walls.

What was it Jane Jacobs wrote in her bible? “Cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and district to grow without them.” Why? Lower rent, from decrepitude.

Just by standing there now, 888 quotes the book: “the unformalized feeders of the arts — studios, galleries, stores for musical instruments and art supplies . . . these go into old buildings.”

The lady sums up, rather aggressively, “Real ideas of any kind . . . must use old buildings.”

Old 888 rhymes off other former tasks. Well, an old picture does: it shows employees, mostly women, posed for group photo on the Ossington sidewalk. A sign over the single storey (the second and third were added later) reads “Aked worsted spinners.”

“In 1917, Thomas Oswald Aked, a general manager of the Monarch Knitting Mills in St. Thomas, Ontario, moved to Toronto to found his own wool spinning firm,” an historic report on the building, by Toronto’s ERA architects, confirms. “He commissioned William George Hunt to design a ‘modern yarn spinning plant’ at the northeast corner of Dupont Street and Ossington Avenue, at what is today 888 Dupont Street.”

Which explains a “ghost sign” — the painted, now faded word “YARN” on the brick smokestack in the back. And was it the same William George Hunt who designed Frederick Banting’s new house on Bedford Rd., after he won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering insulin.

I glanced around at the old ’hood.

Change is in the air, literally. Sets of cranes, two to a site, portend to the condominiumizing of Dupont. Even its shopping mall and McDonald’s era at Dufferin St., which succeeded an industrial age there, is over.

We suppose COVID-19 could change things. But so far, because space is running out in Toronto, grimy Dupont St. has been repackaged by developers who quote my own stories about the district’s old glories to sell new projects.

“Live, where Canada was made.” Well that’s the idea, and on Dupont there’s something to it.

Old 888 Dupont asked me, “Is my story over?”

“What do you mean?,” I answered.

“Am I doomed?”

“In the Toronto of 2020, yes.”

Toronto journalist Alfred Holden is a former Toronto Star editor and resident essayist at Taddle Creek Magazine

The post 888 Dupont: Conversations with an old building appeared first on Spacing Toronto.

by Alfred Holden at May 29, 2020 11:00 AM

May 28, 2020

Iran’s Qajar Dynasty, Modernized

Qajar, Shadi Ghadirian

Qajar, Shadi Ghadirian

For her photo series Qajar, Iranian photographer Shadi Ghadirian styled her subjects and their backgrounds as they would have appeared in portraits taken during Iran’s Qajar Dynasty in the 19th century. But each subject is also posed with a contemporary object like a boombox, bicycle, soda can, or vacuum cleaner. Ghadirian says of her work: “My pictures became a mirror reflecting how I felt: we are stuck between tradition and modernity.”

Tags: Iran   photography   remix   Shadi Ghadirian

by Jason Kottke at May 28, 2020 10:13 PM

Four Quick Links for Thursday Afternoon

30 Movies That Are Unlike Anything You've Seen Before, incl. The Act of Killing, Just Another Girl on the I.R.T., Morvern Callar, and The Portrait of a Lady. []

More Than 100,000 People Have Died Of The Coronavirus In The US. "Public health experts say the real number of infections and deaths from COVID-19 is likely much higher than the official count." []

Adobe is offering their entire 99U Conference online this year for free (it's regularly ~$1000). Talks, classes, and workshops from folks like Kelli Anderson, Taeyoon Choi, Yancey Strickler, and Michelle Rial. []

Protestors Criticized For Looting Businesses Without Forming Private Equity Firm First. "It's disgusting to put workers at risk by looting. You do it by chipping away at their health benefits and eventually laying them off." []


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by Jason Kottke at May 28, 2020 09:52 PM

Black Photo Booth

Black Photo Booth

Mariame Kaba has been collecting photo booth portraits of black people for years and built a website that displays a selection of them.

I’ve been collecting found images of Black people for many years. Some of my favorites are photo booth portraits. They often show Black people of different ages, genders, classes in serious and also playful poses. Usually, there are no names listed so these anonymous people invite the viewer to use their imagination in crafting a story about their lives.

Tags: Mariame Kaba   photography

by Jason Kottke at May 28, 2020 08:21 PM

zen habits

The Joy of Bone-Exhausting Work

By Leo Babauta

Over the last week, my family and I moved to a new home, away from San Diego and into the suburbs east of Los Angeles (to be near family). As usual, we did all the moving ourselves, and it was exhausting!

We don’t have a crazy amount of stuff for a family our size, but all of our furniture seems to be made of incredibly dense, heavy wood. Even with three strong sons helping me move, we were all wiped out after one day of loading a huge moving truck, and another day of unloading.

Sore and tired, to the bone.

I’m still recovering. But I have to say, this deeply tiring physical work was a time of joy for me. It was stressful, my body suffered, it wasn’t easy or comfortable. But some of the best experiences can have all of that, mixed in with satisfaction, appreciation, and joy.

You pour yourself into something, and are completely present. It demands all of your focus, and you aren’t running to distractions and comforts. You have to take on difficulty, overwhelm, and stress — so you just accept it, and do it without complaint or looking for the exits.

How can we create that in our daily lives, without needing to take on hard physical labor?

You collapse afterward, lying on the floor panting, your muscles screaming for rest. You look back on the day with satisfaction of accomplishment, knowing that you did your best and achieved a big chunk of work for the day.

How do we create that satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment in our daily lives?

You spend a few days taking it easy, resting and recovering. Nourishing your body. Taking naps when needed. Deep rest, deep sleep. Full appreciation for your body. Healing. Taking care of yourself. Knowing that this recovery is so important to growth. Knowing that you deserve some delicious rest.

How do we create this sense of self-care and nourishing and true rest, in our daily lives?

There is deep joy in bone-wearying physical work. But this can be an awakening lesson for our daily lives. Let’s create the same deep joy, every damn day.

by zenhabits at May 28, 2020 07:30 PM

Three Quick Links for Thursday Noonish

Birding While Black. "I've seen a shit-ton of birds from sea level to alpine tundra. But as a black man in America I've grown up with a profile." []

75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice. "40. Don't be silent about that racist joke. Silence is support." []

NVIDIA trained an AI to not only play Pac-Man but to generate a fully functional version of the game. "We were blown away when we saw the results, in disbelief that AI could recreate the iconic PAC-MAN experience without a game engine." []


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by Jason Kottke at May 28, 2020 04:52 PM

Tonight’s Classic Radiohead Concert Is From 1994

Since early April, Radiohead has been putting video of one classic concert a week up on YouTube (playlist here). Tonight’s show, which starts streaming at 5pm ET, is from a really interesting point in the band’s evolution. In May 1994, Radiohead had released only one album (Pablo Honey) and no one knew whether they were going to be anything more than a one-hit wonder. At the time, the group was in the midst of recording The Bends and the setlist contains several songs from that album, including Fake Plastic Trees, The Bends, My Iron Lungs, and Just.

The release of The Bends and the reception to it established Radiohead as a group to be taken seriously and set the stage for OK Computer launching them into the critical stratosphere. As Jonny Greenwood later recounted: “That’s when it started to feel like we made the right choice about being a band”. Really excited to watch this one.

Tags: music   Radiohead   video

by Jason Kottke at May 28, 2020 03:56 PM

Welcome to American Capitalism

From an April 17th Facebook post by Paul Field, a succinct summary of how the pandemic exposes American deficiencies. It’s tough to not just quote the whole thing, so here’s the beginning:

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but you need to know how silly you look if you post some variation of, “Welcome to Socialism…”

You are not seeing Socialism. What you are seeing is one of the wealthiest, geographically advantaged, productive capitalist societies in the world flounder and fail at its most basic test. Taking care of its people.

This crisis is not about the virus.

This crisis is about the massive failure of our, “Booming economy,” to survive even modest challenges. It is about the market dissonance of shortages in stores, even as farmers/producers destroy unused crops and products. This crisis is about huge corporations needing an emergency bailout within days of the longest Bull Market in our history ending and despite the ability to borrow with zero percent interest rates.

The pandemic has revealed that American democracy and our economic system is extremely fragile. Ok, unless you’re wealthy, in which case you’re going to be fine, all part of the plan, etc.

Tags: COVID-19   economics   politics   USA

by Jason Kottke at May 28, 2020 01:43 PM

May 27, 2020

Postmastectomy Tattooing Helps Women with Breast Cancer Heal

Postmastectomy Tattoos

Postmastectomy Tattoos

David Allen is a tattoo artist who does postmastectomy tattooing. He works with women who survive breast cancer to design and implement tattoos that cover scarring from mastectomies, transforming what might be seen as a destructive disfigurement into something creative and beautiful. Here’s Allen writing for The Journal of the American Medical Association (abstract):

I am a tattoo artist who works with women after they’ve had mastectomies to transform their sense of disfigurement and loss of control into feelings of beauty and agency. On a good day, I can heal with my art.

The women with breast cancer with whom I work share a feeling that they’ve been acted upon — by cancer, the health industrial complex and its agents, the sequelae of their treatments. Their physical and psychological points of reference are destabilized, having changed so quickly. A successful tattooing experience establishes a new point of reference, a marker that’s intimately theirs that replaces their sense of rupture and damage with an act of creation and, in my work, images of natural life.

Allen even does “solidarity tattoos” for his clients’ partners and friends. You can see more of his postmastectomy work on Instagram.

Tags: art   cancer   David Allen   tattoos

by Jason Kottke at May 27, 2020 08:21 PM

NASA & SpaceX Scheduled to Launch Astronauts Into Orbit From US Soil for First Time in 9 Years

NASA and SpaceX are scheduled to launch two astronauts into orbit this afternoon from the United States for the first time in nine years. The launch is scheduled to take place at 4:33 p.m. EDT. We’ll be watching for sure!

SpaceX is targeting Wednesday, May 27 for Falcon 9’s launch of Crew Dragon’s second demonstration (Demo-2) mission from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This test flight with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board the Dragon spacecraft will return human spaceflight to the United States.

The mission is also the first time a private company will carry humans into orbit. You can watch the launch in the stream above with commentary (the coverage has already started — the astronauts just suited up and are on their way to launchpad 39A and now Kelly Clarkson is singing the National Anthem from her house) or with just the audio feed from Mission Control. And you can read more about the mission here.

Update: The launch got scrubbed for today — poor weather conditions. The next launch window is Saturday, May 30 at 3:22pm ET.

Tags: NASA   space   SpaceX   video

by Jason Kottke at May 27, 2020 05:27 PM

Four Quick Links for Wednesday Noonish

A lovely collection of photos by @tara_wray of her older neighbors in Vermont and how they are coping with the pandemic. []

Holy crap, they still make Hypercolor shirts?! "A heat activated unisex color changing tshirt for men that changes color when you touch it or by your surrounding heat." []

Great compilation by Open Culture: The 135 Best Podcasts to Enrich Your Mind. []

Designer Sara Little Turnbull pioneered non-woven fabrics at 3M, which eventually led to the development of the N95 mask. []


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by Jason Kottke at May 27, 2020 04:52 PM

Rands In Repose

Small Things, Done Well

The promotional site for Managing Humans still makes me smile. The photos were from a part of the property we call the Fairy Meadow. It’s a horse chestnut tree surrounded by a stream that only runs during the rainy season.

We return to the Fairy Meadow for the third book.

Thanks to my good friend Paul Campbell, we’re doing an online launch of the book Monday, June 8th at 11am Pacific. This is a live virtual event where we’ll be talking about the book as well as doing a moderated online Q&A. This is also done via the magic of Vito, a new live-streaming and community platform that Paul has been working on for the last few months. You can sign-up for the event here.

Yes, you can pre-order the book right now. Some folks have already received their pre-orders and more copies are arriving imminently. I’ll be writing more about the book here and elsewhere in the time leading up the launch.

My preference would’ve been cracking open a bottle with y’all, but… reasons.

Be safe.

by rands at May 27, 2020 04:05 PM

Full-Day Rotation of the Earth Around a Stationary Sky

Last year I posted a pair of videos showing a sky-stabilized rotation of the Earth around the starry sky. Because the Earth is our vantage point, we’re not used to seeing this view and it’s pretty trippy.

Now Bartosz Wojczyński has created a video showing full-day rotation of the Earth with footage shot in Namibia. The rotation is sped up to take only 24 seconds and is repeated 60 times to simulate about 2 months of rotation. I find this very relaxing to watch, like I’m riding in a very slow clothes dryer.

See also The Entire Plane of the Milky Way Captured in a Single Photo.

Tags: Bartosz Wojczynski   Earth   space   time lapse   video

by Jason Kottke at May 27, 2020 02:48 PM

DevOps New Zealand

Agile Conversations

… once they got done counting their money, marketing the spinoffs, soaking up the adulation of others in the hacker community, they all came to the realization that what made this place a success was not the collision-avoidance algorithms or the bouncer daemons or any of that other stuff. It was Juanita’s faces.

Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash (1994)

Snow Crash is possibly my favourite Sci-Fi book ever. A team working on virtual reality are focussed on the physics of the virtual space. Juanita’s insight that faces and their expressions matter is what makes their VR venture a success. There are many (amazing) technical feats performed by the engineers, but the killer app is accurate faces.

I can’t help of think about that innovation when I read Agile Conversations, by Douglas Squirrel and Jeffrey Fredrick. They argue that simply getting better at implementing features using techniques transforms your project into a feature factory. The technical and process improvement that we’re drawn to isn’t going to help unless you’ve had the right conversations.

But what are the right conversations to have? Anyone familiar with the Five Dysfunctions of a Team will find these soothingly familiar: trust, fear, why, commitment, and accountability. The great innovation of the book is not the insights into team dynamics, it’s the insight that we’re bad at talking about them.

They go on to give you some tools for having those conversations, with examples of how these conversations might (or might not) work. They’re all simple techniques that you can do on paper, and not Jira.

The book feels very sincere. I’ve spent a lot of time at work and conferences and pubs with both authors in the 16 years that I’ve known them, and their voices come through loud and clear. 2020’s book of the year for me.

by Julian Simpson at May 27, 2020 04:04 AM

May 26, 2020

Errol Morris’s Next Documentary Is About Psychedelic Guru Timothy Leary

The next documentary film from Errol Morris is about LSD advocate Timothy Leary and will debut on Showtime later in the year. The film is still untitled but is based on a memoir by Joanna Harcourt-Smith called Tripping the Bardo with Timothy Leary: My Psychedelic Love Story.

A FILM BY ERROL MORRIS (w/t) asks the question why Leary, the High Priest of LSD, became a narc in 1974 and seemingly abandoned the millions he urged to turn on, tune in and drop out. Was his “perfect love” Joanna Harcourt-Smith a government pawn, as suggested by Allen Ginsberg? Or was she simply a rich, beautiful, young woman out for the adventure of a lifetime? Morris and Harcourt-Smith will reexamine this chaotic period of her life and explore the mystery of the Leary saga: his period of exile, reimprisonment and subsequent cooperation with the authorities. Devotion or selfishness? Perfect love or outright betrayal? Destiny or manipulation?

This is Morris’s second foray into the topic of LSD — his 2017 Netflix series Wormwood explored the use of the drug by the CIA.

Tags: drugs   Errol Morris   Joanna Harcourt-Smith   movies   Timothy Leary   trailers   video

by Jason Kottke at May 26, 2020 10:22 PM

Two Quick Links for Tuesday Afternoon

A short summary of the current research: what we know and don't yet know about Covid-19. "We don't yet know how long immunity lasts. Once you get it once, will you be immune for a month? A year? A lifetime?" []

Tomorrow NASA is launching astronauts into orbit from the US for the first time since 2011. They'll ride in a spacecraft built by SpaceX, which will become the first private company to launch humans into space. []


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by Jason Kottke at May 26, 2020 09:52 PM

“New” Philip Glass Music, Rediscovered After 50 Years

Philip Glass: Music In Eight Parts

In 1970, right in the middle of his minimalist period, Philip Glass composed a work called Music in Eight Parts. It was performed a few times and then lost to the sands of time.

It’s theorized that after Glass’s 1975 opera Einstein on the Beach landed the composer in a fair amount of debt, Glass was forced to sell a number of scores. In Glass’s archive, only fragmentary sketches of MUSIC IN EIGHT PARTS remained as evidence of the piece’s existence. Glass “never intended this early music to last” and yet these pieces have ended up being some of his most appreciated. MUSIC IN EIGHT PARTS is immediately recognizable as being of Glass’s minimalist musical language in full stride and it is played with absolute mastery by the specialists of this repertoire.

The manuscript was rediscovered in 2017 and plans were made to perform the work in a series of European concerts. The pandemic intervened, so several members of the Philip Glass Ensemble each recorded their parts at home and they’ve released a recording online (Spotify, Apple Music).

You can see some of the individual recordings in the middle part of this video:

The cover art is by Sol LeWitt, who used to send Glass random $1000 checks. See also a writeup of the music in the NY Times, listen to a snippet of an archival performance of the piece from the 70s, and the manuscript itself, which sold at auction in 2017 for $43,750.

Philip Glass: Music In Eight Parts score

Tags: music   Philip Glass   video

by Jason Kottke at May 26, 2020 09:15 PM

Knight Rider for 8 Cellos

This is a video of the Knight Rider theme song arranged for 8 cellos by Samara Ginsberg. You’re either the type of person who can’t wait to click on a link that says “Knight Rider for 8 cellos” or you are not. When I was in college, a friend who DJ’d campus parties used to throw the Knight Rider theme on and people always went nuts for it. Because it BANGS.

Tags: Knight Rider   music   remix   Samara Ginsberg   video

by Jason Kottke at May 26, 2020 06:35 PM

Four Quick Links for Tuesday Noonish

Japan has had success against Covid-19 so far without a national lockdown or mass testing. How did they do it? Early, agressive, and competent contact tracing & "an expert-led approach" are two reasons. []

A low dispersion factor of SARS-CoV-2 may indicate that most people don't spread the disease. "We are certainly seeing a lot of concentrated clusters where a small proportion of people are responsible for a large proportion of infections." []

J.K. Rowling has posted online the first two chapters of a new fairy tale called The Ickabog (unrelated to the Wizarding World btw). A book version will be published in November w/ all royalties going to Covid-19 relief. []

What happens if Trump tries to cancel the election, shuts down urban polling places, contests the election results, or refuses to leave the White House? He was always going to attempt this stuff – the pandemic just makes it waaaay easier. []


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by Jason Kottke at May 26, 2020 04:52 PM

The Country with the Best Covid-19 Response? Mongolia.

Mongolia Covid-19 response

Several countries have had solid responses to the Covid-19 pandemic: Taiwan, South Korea, New Zealand, and Hong Kong. But Indi Samarajiva thinks we should be paying much more attention to Mongolia, a country of 3.17 million people where no one has died and no locally transmitted cases have been reported.1 Let’s have that again: 3.17 million people, 0 local cases, 0 deaths. How did they do it? They saw what was happening in Wuhan, coordinated with the WHO, and acted swiftly & decisively in January.

Imagine that you could go back in time to January 23rd with the horse race results and, I dunno, the new iPhone. People believe you. China has just shut down Hubei Province, the largest cordon sanitaire in human history. What would you scream to your leaders? What would you tell them to do?

You’d tell them that this was serious and that it’s coming for sure. You’d tell them to restrict the borders now, to socially distance now, and to get medical supplies ready, also now. You’d tell them to react right now, in January itself. That’s 20/20 hindsight.

That’s exactly what Mongolia did, and they don’t have a time machine. They just saw what was happening in Hubei, they coordinated with China and the WHO, and they got their shit together fast. That’s their secret, not the elevation. They just weren’t dumb.

When you go to World In Data’s Coronavirus Data Explorer and click on “Mongolia” to add their data to the graph, nothing happens because they have zero reported cases and zero deaths. They looked at the paradox of preparation — the idea that “when the best way to save lives is to prevent a disease rather than treat it, success often looks like an overreaction” — and said “sign us up for the overreacting!”

Throughout February, Mongolia was furiously getting ready - procuring face masks, test kits, and PPE; examining hospitals, food markets, and cleaning up the city. Still no reported cases. Still no let-up in readiness. No one was like “it’s not real!” or “burn the 5G towers!”

The country also suspended their New Year celebrations, which are a big deal in Asia. They deployed hundreds of people and restricted intercity travel to make sure, though the public seemed to broadly support the move.

Again — and I’ll keep saying this until March — there were still NO CASES. If you want to know how Mongolia ended up with no local cases, it’s because they reacted when there were no local cases. And they kept acting.

For example, when they heard of a case across the border (ie, not in Mongolia) South Gobi declared an emergency and put everyone in masks. The center also shut down coal exports — a huge economic hit, which they took proactively.

As you can see, at every turn they’re reacting like other countries only did when it was too late. This looked like an over-reaction, but in fact, Mongolia was always on time.

I have to tell you true: I got really upset reading this. Like crying and furious. The United States could have done this. Italy could have done this. Brazil could have done this. Sweden could have done this. England could have done this. Spain could have done this. Mongolia listened to the experts, acted quickly, and kept their people safe. Much of the rest of the world, especially the western world — the so-called first-world countries — failed to act quickly enough and hundreds of thousands of people have needlessly died and countless others have been left with chronic health issues, grief, and economic chaos.

  1. If you look at the list of cases at the bottom of this article (translated by Google), you can see that every reported case is from people coming into the country who were tested and quarantined.

Tags: COVID-19   Indi Samarajiva   medicine   Mongolia   politics   science

by Jason Kottke at May 26, 2020 03:24 PM

Squirt Gun Baptisms

Water Gun Baptism

Water Gun Baptism

Social distancing priests are performing baptisms with water guns. This is definitely a metaphor for something but I don’t know what. Or like something out of a Tarantino screwball comedy — “And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my Super Soaker CPS 2000 upon thee…” Love the social distancing though. More here.

Tags: guns   religion   this is a metaphor for something

by Jason Kottke at May 26, 2020 01:13 PM

May 24, 2020

US Covid-19 Death Toll Nears 100,000

NY Times Covid-19 Front Page

That’s the front page of the NY Times today, listing the names of hundreds of the nearly 100,000 Americans who have died from Covid-19 (the full listing is of ~1000 names and continues inside the paper).

NY Times Covid-19 Obituaries Detail

Here’s a more readable PDF version and an online version that scrolls and scrolls and scrolls. They compiled the list by going through obituaries from local newspapers from around the countries.

Putting 100,000 dots or stick figures on a page “doesn’t really tell you very much about who these people were, the lives that they lived, what it means for us as a country,” Ms. Landon said. So, she came up with the idea of compiling obituaries and death notices of Covid-19 victims from newspapers large and small across the country, and culling vivid passages from them.

Alain Delaquérière, a researcher, combed through various sources online for obituaries and death notices with Covid-19 written as the cause of death. He compiled a list of nearly a thousand names from hundreds of newspapers. A team of editors from across the newsroom, in addition to three graduate student journalists, read them and gleaned phrases that depicted the uniqueness of each life lost:

“Alan Lund, 81, Washington, conductor with ‘the most amazing ear’ … “

“Theresa Elloie, 63, New Orleans, renowned for her business making detailed pins and corsages … “

“Florencio Almazo Morán, 65, New York City, one-man army … “

“Coby Adolph, 44, Chicago, entrepreneur and adventurer … “

Every one of these names was a person with a whole life behind them and so much more to come. Each has a family and friends who are mourning them. Here are a few more of their names and short stories:

Romi Cohn, 91, New York City, saved 56 Jewish families from the Gestapo.

Jermaine Ferro, 77, Lee County, Fla., wife with little time to enjoy a new marriage.

Julian Anguiano-Maya, 51, Chicago, life of the party.

Alan Merrill, 69, New York City, songwriter of “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

Lakisha Willis White, 45, Orlando, Fla., was helping to raise some of her dozen grandchildren.

In the past five months, more Americans have died from Covid-19 than in the decade-plus of the Vietnam War and the death toll is a third of the number of Americans who died in World War II. When this is over (whatever that means), the one thing we cannot do is forget all of these people. And we owe to them to make this mean something.

Tags: COVID-19   NY Times   obituaries   USA

by Jason Kottke at May 24, 2020 12:42 PM

May 22, 2020

Five Quick Links for Friday Afternoon

Wearing masks is a public health issue. "No shoes, no shirt, no mask, no service." []

"SARS-CoV-2 blocks one virus-fighting set of genes but allows another set to launch, a pattern never seen with other viruses", which allows it to easily spread in the lungs. But, this may also point the way towards a preventative treament. []

The 2020 Minnesota State Fair has been cancelled "for only the sixth time in a history that predates the US Civil War." The last time it was cancelled was in 1946 because of the polio epidemic. []

Results of a large study about the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine & chloroquine for Covid-19 treatment: "People treated with either drug had a higher mortality rate, as well as an increased risk of developing ventricular arrhythmia." []

This is weird: John Krasinski sold Some Good News to ViacomCBS "following a massive bidding war" and will no longer host the show. All good things, etc. []


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by Jason Kottke at May 22, 2020 09:52 PM

zen habits

Moving Through the Day with More Ease

By Leo Babauta

I recently did dozens of video calls for applicants for my new Fearless Mastery mastermind … and at first, it really exhausted me.

I shared that with my Zen teacher, and we had a discussion about leaning into the calls (which feels very tense for me) vs. leaning back and allowing some space. The latter approach helps me feel more at ease.

This practice helped a lot, and I shifted what I’ve been doing lately to moving through the day with much more ease.

Basically, the idea is this: instead of having a grasping, tense attitude about whatever you’re doing … you can lean back a little, and be more relaxed.

You can try it now: see where you are holding tension, take a few breaths, and release the tension. Come to a place of ease, peace, openness. It might take a bit of practice, but most of us are holding tension in what we do, much of the time.

If we can get to a place of ease, of not grasping or leaning into everything we’re doing … the things we’re doing all day can be more restful and we can finish the day feeling more refreshed.

Talking to someone on an hour-long video call? No worries, it’s a lovey, relaxing time with a beautiful soul.

Have a bunch of messages and tasks to take on? Not a problem – take each one on with deliberate care, giving it your full attention, while having a restful attitude toward the message or task.

One thing at a time. Full attention and devotion to that task, conversation, message. An easeful, peaceful attitude as you move through it.

One more thing that helps me: letting myself feel nourished by everything around me. As I walk outside, I can be caught up in my thoughts of everything I have to do … or I can open to the nature around me, and feel nourished by it all. I can let myself soak in the beauty of the person in front of me, or think of the people I’m doing a task for and feel care for those people. Feeling nourished by everything around us, by the mundane and the sublime alike … helps us to not feel so drained by everything we have to do.

Feeling grateful to be alive helps as well.

How would you like to move through the day with more ease? Try it today, and bring curiosity for what that might be like.

by zenhabits at May 22, 2020 05:28 PM

May 21, 2020

Four Quick Links for Thursday Afternoon

A profile of LearnedLeague, the invite-only online trivia tournament, and its founder. "Twelve people have walked on the Moon; only three have won the Commissioner T.A. Integrity Scarf as LearnedLeague Champion." []

I am a simple potato guardian who needs my Second Amendment rights. "I can't believe the governor would come for our Second Amendment rights. No potato will be safe then. It's monstrous." []

Taking advantage of the empty roads of the pandemic lockdown, the record for the fastest car trip across the US has been broken several times. The current record is less than 26 hours (which means they averaged 107mph across the entire US). []

Advice for getting children & their grandparents back together again. "Once you're confident in your family's quarantine vigilance for 14 days, it's less risky to visit an older family member. But go with a plan." []


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by Jason Kottke at May 21, 2020 09:52 PM

Bill Gates’ Pandemic Summer Reading List

As he does every year, Bill Gates has shared his reading list for this summer. This time around, he’s included more than his usual five picks and many of the recommendations have a connection to the ongoing pandemic.

Of The Choice by Edith Eva Eger, he says:

This book is partly a memoir and partly a guide to processing trauma. Eger was only sixteen years old when she and her family got sent to Auschwitz. After surviving unbelievable horrors, she moved to the United States and became a therapist. Her unique background gives her amazing insight, and I think many people will find comfort right now from her suggestions on how to handle difficult situations.

He also recommends The Great Influenza by John Barry, Good Economics for Hard Times by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, and The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness by Andy Puddicombe.

For years, I was a skeptic about meditation. Now I do it as often as I can — three times a week, if time allows. Andy’s book and the app he created, Headspace, are what made me a convert. Andy, a former Buddhist monk, offers lots of helpful metaphors to explain potentially tricky concepts in meditation. At a time when we all could use a few minutes to de-stress and re-focus each day, this is a great place to start.

Gates also recommended some TV shows and movies — Netflix’s Pandemic but also Ozark. He read Cloud Atlas recently — I wonder if he’s seen the movie by the Wachowskis (which is underrated IMO)?

Tags: Bill Gates   books   lists   video

by Jason Kottke at May 21, 2020 07:02 PM

Six Quick Links for Thursday Noonish

After The Empire Strikes Back opened in 1980 in a few theaters in 70mm, George Lucas *changed the end of the movie* before its wider 35mm release 3 weeks later. "I don't wanna tell you this. We need some more shots for Empire." []

A new photograph (a self-portrait, no less) of blues legend Robert Johnson has surfaced. []

Despite what you may see on TV news media, polls say a majority of Americans believe wearing masks is a matter of public health and is a sign of respectfulness (69%) not weakness (8%). []

The Young Vic is streaming their 2014 production of A Streetcar Named Desire with Gillian Anderson as Blanche DuBois for free on YouTube for the next week. []

A barber training video from 1950 shows trainees practicing shaving with straight razors on balloons. []

Scientists are releasing a recalibration of radiocarbon dating techniques that increases their accuracy, extends the useful range by 5,000 years, and may "shift the age of some prehistoric samples hundreds of years". []


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by Jason Kottke at May 21, 2020 04:52 PM

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back Into the Water…

As summer ramps up in North America, people are looking to get out to enjoy the weather while also trying to keep safe from Covid-19 infection. Here in Vermont, I am very much looking forward to swim hole season and have been wondering if swimming is a safe activity during the pandemic. The Atlantic’s Olga Khazan wrote about the difficulty of opening pools back up this summer:

The coronavirus can’t remain infectious in pool water, multiple experts assured me, but people who come to pools do not stay in the water the entire time. They get out, sit under the sun, and, if they’re like my neighbors, form a circle and drink a few illicit White Claws. Social-distancing guidelines are quickly forgotten.

“If someone is swimming laps, that would be pretty safe as long as they’re not spitting water everywhere,” says Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University. “But a Las Vegas-type pool party, that would be less safe, because people are just hanging out and breathing on each other.”

This story by Christopher Reynolds in the LA Times focuses more on transmission via water (pool water, salt water, river/lake water).

“There is no data that somebody got infected this way [with coronavirus],” said professor Karin B. Michels, chair of UCLA’s Department of Epidemiology, in a recent interview.

“I can’t say it’s absolutely 100% zero risk, but I can tell you that it would never cross my mind to get COVID-19 from a swimming pool or the ocean,” said Paula Cannon, a professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. “It’s just extraordinarily unlikely that this would happen.”

As long as you keep your distance of course:

Rather than worry about coronavirus in water, UCLA’s Michels and USC’s Cannon said, swimmers should stay well separated and take care before and after entering the pool, lake, river or sea.

“I would be more concerned about touching the same lockers or surfaces in the changing room or on the benches outside the pool. Those are higher risk than the water itself,” Michels said. “The other thing is you have to maintain distance. … More distance is always better.”

Sorta related but not really: ten meters is definitely more distance.

Tags: Christopher Reynolds   COVID-19   medicine   Olga Khazan   science   sports   swimming

by Jason Kottke at May 21, 2020 04:19 PM

Carly Rae Jepsen Uses My Silkscreen Font in a Promo Video

This morning, Carly Rae Jepsen released a new album called Dedicated Side B (stream here). Amidst rumors of fresh music, the pop star had been teasing fans with its release all week, including this video of a simulated chat posted to Twitter and Instagram yesterday.

Long-time readers will recognize that the chat text is displayed with typeface called Silkscreen, which I designed back in 1999, an era of small monitors and even smaller fonts.

Carly Rae Jepsen, Silkscreen Font

Back in the day, Britney Spears used Silkscreen on her website, and now it’s come (sorta) full circle with Jepsen. Silkscreen pops up here and there every few months, and I’m glad to see people are still getting some use out of it. It was retro when I made it and now its retro-ness is retro. Culture is fun! (thx to @desdakon for spotting this)

Tags: Carly Rae Jepsen   design   Jason Kottke   music   Silkscreen   typography   video

by Jason Kottke at May 21, 2020 01:27 PM

May 20, 2020

The Top 50 Sports Documentaries

On the occasion of ESPN’s hit documentary The Last Dance finishing up, Axios’ Kendall Baker shared his list of the top 50 sports documentaries of all time.

It’s unsurprising that Hoop Dreams comes out on top — I need to make some time to watch that again. OJ: Made in America comes in at #2 and is indeed excellent, one of the best things I’ve seen on TV in recent years. But is it actually a sports documentary? It’s about a guy who used to play sports… The Last Dance finishes in third place; I haven’t seen it yet1 but my guess is that’s too high, especially considering Jordan had a lot of control over the finished product.

Loved seeing some of my other favorites on there too: Senna, When We Were Kings, Pumping Iron, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, Dogtown and Z-Boys, and Minding the Gap (which should have been way higher on the list). (via @mikeindustries)

  1. I don’t know if this is happening to you during all of this, but I have limited energy at the end of the day for any form of televisual entertainment that’s supposed to be “good”. So even though I was a massive Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls fan in the 90s, I haven’t worked up the energy to tackle this yet. I guess part of me is also anxious about how invested I was in that story back then and what it might dredge up for me, feelings-wise.

Tags: best of   Kendall Baker   lists   movies   sports

by Jason Kottke at May 20, 2020 08:43 PM

Dad, How Do I…?

When he was a kid, Rob Kenney had a rough family life and grew up without stable parents around to teach him how to do common household chores. He and his wife successfully raised two children and Kenney decided to use his parenting experience to help those who may be lacking parental guidance. He’s started a YouTube channel called “Dad, how do I?” that offers “practical ‘dadvice’ for every day tasks” like how to fix a running toilet, how to check the oil in your car, and how to shave your face.

My god, the dad joke he tells at the beginning of the running toilet video is just *chef’s kiss* perfect.

Tags: how to   parenting   Rob Kenney   video

by Jason Kottke at May 20, 2020 06:30 PM

Four Quick Links for Wednesday Noonish

When developing new typefaces, pangrams like "the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" are bad for testing out real-world letter combinations & letter frequency. So Jonathan Hoefler wrote some new text that includes dozens of useful common combos. []

Ed Yong on America's Patchwork Pandemic. "In a pandemic, the actions of 50 uncoordinated states will be less than the sum of their parts. Only the federal government has pockets deep enough to fund the extraordinary public-health effort now needed." []

In less than a week, a grad student casually solved a famous math problem that had gone unsolved for decades. When she told her advisor: "He started yelling, 'Why aren't you more excited?'" []

A Succession insult generator. "FitBit moron whatever people." "He looks waxy, like an unshaven candle." []


Note: Quick Links are pushed to this RSS feed twice a day. For more immediate service, check out the front page of, the Quick Links archive, or the @kottke Twitter feed.

by Jason Kottke at May 20, 2020 04:52 PM

Inside the Epicenter of the Pandemic Baking Boom at King Arthur Flour

King Arthur Flour

Marker’s David Freedman has a great look at how Vermont’s own King Arthur Flour has dealt with a massive increase in demand for their best-in-class flour and other challenges during the pandemic. The piece is a textbook example of what Tim Carmody calls the systemic sublime.

The company knew something weird was going on when they noticed a 600% sales jump almost overnight and started seeing different kinds of questions coming into their consumer call center.

So tricky and specific are some of the bread-baking questions that even though Ely is one of the bread specialists working the hotline, she sometimes puts callers on hold and yells over the cubicle walls to colleagues for second opinions.

But in early March, Ely noticed a change in the questions. Partly it was an increase in the sheer number of calls, a jump that seemed more sudden and pronounced than the normal mild pre-Easter build-up. But even stranger was how many of the callers seemed, well, clueless. How do you tell if bread is done? Do I really need yeast? And strangest of all: What can I use instead of flour?

In a matter of weeks, the employee-owned company transformed several aspects of their business and tripled their flour output in order to keep up with the demand.

As a first step to ramping up the flow of flour to consumers, King Arthur added one to two shifts at all its facilities and contracted with an additional fulfillment center. It shifted most of its long-distance product transportation from rail to trucks, which are more expensive per bag but add speed and flexibility. It stopped international sales to divert all incoming inventory to U.S. customers. To make shipping operations more efficient and get orders out the door faster, the company switched to all “ship-complete” shipping — that is, if one item in a multi-item order was temporarily out of stock, the entire order was held until the item was back in stock.

The company also managed to find a new partner that could mill and bag more flour. The wrinkle was that the partner was only set up to fill three-pound plastic bags, not King Arthur’s five- and 10-pound paper bags. So King Arthur quickly whipped up a new three-pound plastic bag and threw it up on the website as a new product. That move alone would add up to a half-million new units a month to the company’s shipments.

The company has also done right by their employee-owners:

Altogether, three-quarters of the company’s employees were sent home. In many cases, the work went with them, as was the case with the Baker’s Hotline, and with most managers. Many of those whose jobs couldn’t be performed at home were trained to help out with tasks that could. So far, not a single employee has been furloughed; everyone is being paid — including 12 employees who stay busy sewing masks for other employees.

They’ve helped out companies they supply as well:

While home baking was taking off, bakeries were being closed down, sharply reducing demand for the big bags of flour. (To help keep some of them afloat, the company has spent $30,000 so far during the pandemic paying some of its bakery customers around the country — including Empire Baking — to bake bread and donate it to local good causes. Its own bakers have been doing the same for essential workers and those in need in Norwich.)

And I love the photos that accompany the article by Stephanie Gonot — that must have been a fun & messy photoshoot to do at home. (via @robinsloan)

Tags: business   David Freedman   King Arthur Flour   Stephanie Gonot   systemic sublime   Tim Carmody

by Jason Kottke at May 20, 2020 04:27 PM

Nature By Numbers

This lovely short film by Cristóbal Vila shows how the simple Fibonacci sequence manifests itself in natural forms like sunflowers, nautilus shells, and dragonfly wings.

See also Arthur Benjamin’s TED Talk on the Fibonacci numbers and the golden ratio and the Fibonacci Shelf. (via @stevenstrogatz)

Tags: Arthur Benjamin   Cristobal Vila   Fibonacci sequence   mathematics   video

by Jason Kottke at May 20, 2020 02:22 PM

Penelope Trunk Careers

Asking for advice is hard because accepting reality is hard

Recently someone in my writing class hired a lawyer to tell me she wants a refund for the class. The lawyer sent an email to me requesting $25,000 in damages for his client. I sent this email in response:

Dear Sir.

I don’t give refunds for the class. I do not say anywhere that I give refunds.

It’s not against the law for me to have a student who didn’t like the class. This is a 12-month class. There is no law that says Lucy has to receive everything in the first two months. I have not broken any laws.

There are 85 people in the course and Lucy is the only person complaining. I wonder why that is? Do you have any ideas?

It’s hard to imagine that everyone else is in the course is a total idiot and Lucy is the sole genius who sees the true evils of my course. Actually, if you believe Lucy is whining about something more than her hurt feelings, maybe you should petition to make this a class-action lawsuit. Then you could sue me for $25 million.

I suggest an alternative interpretation: Lucy only feels powerful when she has a lawyer write a letter. I know the type. My dad was a lawyer. Although he would never have dealt with someone who was bothering to sue for a $1700 course.

One thing I can tell you is that while Lucy’s writing is terrible and unpublishable, the letter from you is a masterpiece. I can see the headline now: Student sues teacher for $25,000 because a teacher said her writing was awful!!!


Penelope Trunk

John Oliver had a great episode on SLAPP lawsuits, which are lawsuits intended to stifle criticism. I have wide experience with the type of lawsuit where someone who has a lot of money threatens to sue me to teach me a lesson. The lesson is usually that you can work with a complete asshole or you can work with someone who is really rich, but if you work with a complete asshole who is rich they will sue you.

I think the real reason for suing me over the writing course is that writing is really difficult. To be a good writer you have to read a lot and write a lot. Every good writer has spent a lot of time writing terribly. That’s how you get better. I know a lot about this because I have a stack of 50 journals that I wrote when I was a kid, and the only people who can stand reading them are me and my brother.

I didn’t get good at writing until I had an editor who told me what was interesting, and I have relied on editors for most of my life. For example, this is a blog post I was going to throw out. My editor found it in my This Is Terrible folder, and he told me to publish it. The post did so well that McDonald’s sent me a reply.

Writing saved me so many times. But that’s a complicated statement because good writing promotes good health and bad writing reinforces confusion. For kids, good writing is writing that expresses their feelings because kids constantly feel like people don’t listen to them. If kids express themselves accurately in their writing, they have a stronger belief that people care about their wellbeing and their ideas.

For adults, good writing has to reach a higher bar to make a difference. For example, writing stories makes us more empathetic, but only if we portray realistic characters with identifiable motives. (Writing this way is a gift to the reader because reading stories also improves the reader’s empathy.) And writing about trauma promotes healing, but the story you write has to make a clear, linear sense; it’s the process of turning the traumatic memory into a coherent story that helps us heal.

Writing well is something that probably benefits us as much as exercising well does. But we talk a lot more about exercising because even exercising poorly is good for us. Like, even just walking a few times a week will improve your physical and mental health. Whereas writing poorly is frustrating and demoralizing to the point that you might even want to hire a lawyer to take down your writing teacher.

Anything you want to be really good at, you’ll have a better chance to succeed if you have help. I learned that when one of my investors taught me to write a demand for a jury trial. He said, “No one would risk a courtroom spectacle with a wild card like you.” That was hard to hear. But I have definitely gotten better at writing to lawyers about frivolous accusations; after all, the key to getting better at any type of writing is to read a lot and write a lot.

Asking for help is hard because it means having to hear the truth: that you’re a whiner, or a wild card, or the only person who will read your writing is your brother. I love my writing course because it’s inspiring to be around people doing something difficult. But also, it’s inspiring to be around people who can receive tough feedback and keep going.

The post Asking for advice is hard because accepting reality is hard appeared first on Penelope Trunk Careers.

by Penelope Trunk at May 20, 2020 10:36 AM

May 19, 2020

Map of Pangaea with Modern-Day Borders

Pangaea Country Map

Pangaea is a supercontinent that formed on Earth about 335 million years ago and began to break up about 175 million years ago, eventually forming the familiar continents of today. Massimo Pietrobon made a map that shows where our modern country borders would appear on Pangaea. Check out the full-size version here.

See also Locate Modern Addresses on Earth 240 Million Years Ago. (via @owacle)

Tags: maps   Massimo Pietrobon   Pangaea   remix

by Jason Kottke at May 19, 2020 10:32 PM

How to Think About Freedom and Liberty During a Pandemic

After 2+ months of lockdown in most areas, a small minority of Americans want our country to go back to “normal” despite evidence and expert advice to the contrary. They want to get haircuts, not wear masks in public, go to crowded beaches, and generally go about their lives. These folks couch their desires in terms of freedom & liberty: the government has no right to infringe on the individual freedoms of its citizens.

But governments routinely do just that for all kinds of good reasons — e.g. you can’t murder someone just because you feel like it — and as Johns Hopkins’ public health historian Graham Mooney points out, there’s a precedent for a different way of thinking about freedom in the context of public health.

In response to these vehement appeals to individual freedom, public-health leaders in London, Liverpool, Manchester and elsewhere developed a powerful counterargument. They too framed their argument in terms of freedom — freedom from disease. To protect citizens’ right to be free from disease, in their view, governments and officials needed the authority to isolate those who were sick, vaccinate people, and take other steps to reduce the risk of infectious disease.

One of the most important reformers was George Buchanan, the chief medical officer for England from 1879 to 1892. He argued that cities and towns had the authority to take necessary steps to ensure the communal “sanitary welfare.” He and other reformers based their arguments on an idea developed by the 19th-century English philosopher John Stuart Mill, who is, ironically, remembered largely as a staunch defender of individual liberty. Mill articulated what he called the “harm principle,” which asserts that while individual liberty is sacrosanct, it should be limited when it will harm others: “The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty and action of any of their number, is self-protection,” Mill wrote in On Liberty in 1859. Public-health reformers argued that the harm principle gave them the authority to pursue their aims.

An essay published in The Lancet in 1883 sums up this view nicely: “We cannot see that there is any undue violation of personal liberty in the sanitary authority acting for the whole community, requiring to be informed of the existence of diseases dangerous to others. A man’s liberty is not to involve risk to others,” the author wrote. “A man with smallpox has the natural liberty to travel in a cab or an omnibus; but society has a right that overrides his natural liberty, and says he shall not.”

Tags: COVID-19   Graham Mooney   medicine   politics

by Jason Kottke at May 19, 2020 08:16 PM

Dr. Seuss Reimagined for the Pandemic

Dr Seuss Covid

Dr Seuss Covid

Dr Seuss Covid

Dr Seuss Covid

Designer Jim Malloy has reimagined the books of Dr. Seuss for the coronavirus age by altering the titles & cover illustrations and changing the author to “Dr. Fauci”. You can check out the results on Instagram and in this Instagram Story. (via print)

Tags: Anthony Fauci   books   Dr. Seuss   Jim Malloy   remix

by Jason Kottke at May 19, 2020 06:25 PM

Two Quick Links for Tuesday Noonish

"If at least 60% of the population wore masks that were just 60% effective in blocking viral transmission – which a well-fitting, two-layer cotton mask is – the epidemic could be stopped." STOPPED. []

This set of photos is a lovely reminder that my home state of Wisconsin is more than a political garbage fire. []


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by Jason Kottke at May 19, 2020 04:52 PM

Beastie Boys Videos Remastered in HD

In celebration of the documentary Beastie Boys Story coming out, the Beastie Boys and their record label have remastered dozens of the group’s music videos in HD and uploaded them to YouTube. The videos include heavy-hitters like Sabotage and (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!) but also some more obscure stuff as well. Check out the entire remastered playlist here.

Tags: Beastie Boys   music   video

by Jason Kottke at May 19, 2020 04:33 PM

May 17, 2020


fierce attachments: a memoir, by vivian gornick

She had spoken such words often but, always before, the harshness had been cut by an exasperation in her voice that betrayed affection. Now the tone, like the words, was only hard.

That failure of the sympathetic imagination, when it occurs between two people who have been intimate, is like natural disaster to me. It fills me with dread and amazement.

We thought because we were always talking we were connecting.

by rachel at May 17, 2020 02:47 AM

May 09, 2020

Penelope Trunk Careers

Emails my mom sent from her NYC co-op

I stopped talking with my mom a few years ago. She might not have noticed at first. My brothers have all cut her off at times as well. But my mom is pragmatic. She knows she and my dad were terrible parents. She apologizes and by all accounts, she is a much more enjoyable person to be around when she is not raising kids.

In January I decided I’m too old to not talk to my mom. I am 52. She had me when she was 21. I decided to trust that she always means well when she talks to me. I know she tries hard even when she triggers me.

I agreed to meet her. She took the four-hour train from NYC to Boston to meet me. Waiting for her at the train station, I worried what if we didn’t have a fight and it still didn’t feel good to see her. Then what?

We had lunch. She listened and I listened. And I felt happy to see her.

Then we made plans for her to come back again. She took the train again. I forgot to meet her. I told her I forget so much in my life and it’s not just her. I forget almost everything. She told me she traveled the whole day and she is so disappointed I wasn’t there. It was one of the most real conversations we’ve ever had. And for the first time in my life, we had a conflict and I wasn’t scared of her.

Then coronavirus. Suddenly the internet was flooded with photos of inside life and my mom sent me pictures of NYC locked down.

March 18 –– This is a picture from my window. People social distancing in rooftop gardens.

I was surprised to see that instead of fearing her, I feared for her. I wanted her to be safe. I didn’t want her to be lonely. I dealt with these feelings by calling her, which felt awkward at first. I have never called her to make sure she’s okay.

She dealt with the fear of her kids dying by sending group emails to me and my brothers about social distancing. The group emails are not new. I always figured she sends them to all of us because she never knows who is or isn’t talking to her at any given time.

Then she started sending emails that were just for me:

March 24 –– Another complaint about Trump. He refers to (male) as Dr. Fauci and (female Dr. Brix) as Deborah.

By the end of March, I was calling more often with the latest news and we were quoting Governor Cuomo back to each other. We watched him and his brother, a CNN commentator, argue over who is their mom’s favorite.

March 27 –– A love song of sorts, to Cuomo. Help, I think I’m in love with Andrew Cuomo.

She emailed me each morning. I called her each evening.

She did jigsaw puzzles, but not after sundown because her eyes aren’t good enough. So she did crossword puzzles at night. She said she has a stack of about forty New York Times Sunday magazines where she hadn’t done the puzzle.

I worried for her. I knew she’d be done with those in two weeks.

March 28 –– The word quarantine has Italian roots: in an effort to protect coastal cities from the Black Death ravaging 14th-Century Europe, ships arriving in Venice from infected ports were required to sit at anchor for 40 days (quaranta giorni) before landing, a practice that eventually became known as quarantine – derived from quarantino, the Italian word for a 40-day period. So now you know! love, mom

I walked through nearby college campuses talking with my mom. I told her how weird it is to see no students.

She told me she hadn’t been outside in five days.

I told her I really think you need to go outside for a short time each day. For your mental health.

March 30 –– I’m about to head out for 20 minutes of dodging anyone else on the streets of NYC and I stopped to put on sunscreen. How’s that for hope for the future!

I told Mom I was getting nervous that colleges will not open and admissions will change. I made my older son write a bunch of different college application essays in case he needs to turn on a dime during the application process.

She said she worried about what if she never travels again. But she heard a psychologist on a Zoomcast say we should change what if to at least. My mom started saying at least she lives in a city she loves.

April 5 –– A sign outside Lincoln Center: “There will be a short intermission. We will return soon.”

We had a Zoom seder. We had never been all together for a seder. We talked until a minute after midnight so we could sing happy birthday to my mom. I don’t think we’ve ever all sang happy birthday to her.

April 10 –– New Jersey’s unemployment system is stuck and needs COBOL programmers. At this point, I might be the only COBOL programmer still alive. So I sent an email and said if they let me work from home I’d be happy to do the programming for free.

We didn’t talk about how scary it was that Chris Cuomo was knocked out from COVID-19. But I sent Mom a video where he is well enough to fight with his brother about a photo. I have her watch the video while I’m on speaker so I can listen to her laugh.

April 26 –– Corona additional sad state of affairs. You know how Google anticipates the site you want based on the first letter or two that you input on the search bar? For at least 10 years the letter “n” has brought up the NYTimes. This morning my letter “n” brought up Netflix.

She told me she watched The Squid and the Whale. Three times.

I wasn’t surprised. She’s read The Little Drummer Girl twelve times.

She told me The Squid and the Whale is about terrible parenting. The parents are still alive, she said.

I didn’t really know what that meant. I’ve been writing about her terrible parenting my whole life.

She had so much empathy for the kids in the movie.

I got a lump in my throat.

April 27 –– This is a really good article, I think, about the extra burden women bear in dual-income relationships, particularly during the pandemic: A Newsletter about How Hard It Was To Write This Newsletter

I had a fight with my son about how disorganized he was with his essays. I was so annoyed that I forgot to call my mom. And I missed her. I missed talking to her.

May 1 –– Look what the New York Public Library did! Scroll down a bit to listen. I am a happy camper Missing Sounds of New York City.

A few days later I got an email from my son, who uses email only to deal with college applications. He sent me his answer to the question: Describe an experience that caused you to change your perspective and/or opinion. (200 words)

My son wrote: The stories about my mother’s childhood abuse horrify me. I thought it would be better for her to cut her parents out of her life. I didn’t think happiness could ever come from those relationships. But she’s always said that no one benefits from holding on to anger. During the COVID-19 outbreak, my mom and grandma talked on the phone every day. When I listened to them talk, I could tell from the tone of their voices that they were happy and there was no animosity. I was so surprised that they were able to enjoy talking after decades of tension. It made me realize that when we refuse to forgive, we close ourselves off to valuable relationships.

The post Emails my mom sent from her NYC co-op appeared first on Penelope Trunk Careers.

by Penelope Trunk at May 09, 2020 07:33 AM

May 06, 2020


adventure time: landscaping crew

Because this is San Francisco, a person can rent goats from her local non-profit to clear out her overgrown back garden.

Meet Bic, aka White Lightning, a gentle and friendly fellow.

Bic’s eyeliner game is strong.

His daughter Precious has but a single, dire nemesis: the goat glaring at back her from her reflection.

To all others she is the smilingest of goats.

Mama goat Emma was slow to warm up, but now leans against me and demands scritches.

Emma is topologically unfeasible.

I love them with every particle of my being.

by rachel at May 06, 2020 08:44 PM

April 25, 2020

Paul Buchheit

A Possible Third Solution to End the Pandemic

This is my thinking on the pandemic situation, and a possible solution.

First of all, it’s not “just the flu”. It is something much more dangerous. Catching this virus is a bit like playing a round of Russian roulette. You’ll probably be fine, but you could end up dead. For those of us less at risk, the danger is still present, but it’s as though the gun is pointed towards someone else, someone more vulnerable, because we can easily pass the virus along to them without even realizing that we have it.

There’s also the issue of long-term effects. This disease is new, so we really have no idea. It’s likely that more severe cases, those requiring hospitalization, present serious risk of permanent damage to the heart, lungs, and other organs. It’s even possible to lose a leg. We also don’t know how long immunity lasts or what will happen if people catch it a second time next year. We hope that it will be milder the second time, but it could be worse.

It is my belief that the best cure for any disease is to avoid the disease.

As such, I want to avoid ever catching this virus. I’m optimistic that we will eventually have a good vaccine, but until then I need to avoid those who are contagious.

The great challenge with avoiding this virus is that people with minimal symptoms are responsible for much, if not most, of the disease transmission. If everyone had a light on their forehead that turned from green to red when they were shedding virus, it would be easy to stop the spread.

But for now, we need to behave as though anyone could be spreading this virus. It appears that the virus travels through the air, so whenever possible, it’s important to avoid crowds of people or indoor spaces with shared air. The virus is about the same size as the particles in cigarette smoke (though it would usually be part of a larger droplet), so I find it helpful to imagine a smoker exhaling smoke, and what it would take to avoid inhaling too much of that second-hand smoke.

Disease severity seems to be determined in part by the degree of exposure. Even if we don’t avoid the virus 100%, reducing it by 80% could be the difference between something mild and something life-threatening. This could be a reason why so many otherwise young and healthy doctors and nurses have been killed by this virus.

This is also the reason why it’s important that everyone wears a mask or other face covering when they are in a shared space. Unfortunately, I’m still seeing people at the supermarket with their mouths uncovered, potentially spreading the virus everywhere. Masks are such a simple, low cost intervention that can be implemented immediately using something as basic as a t-shirt or scarf. It’s not a perfect solution, but covering your mouth reduces both the radius of spread, and quantity of droplets emerging from your mouth. Again, even if we are only stopping 80% of the viral particles, that could be enough to save someone’s life. It’s confusing to me that we’ve implemented harsh and expensive lockdown measures, but have been slow to implement a basic mask mandate.

Again, the best cure for any disease is to avoid the disease. But the second best cure for any disease is early detection and treatment.

With early detection, we can get the best known treatments (which could be as simple as rest and hydration) and hopefully prevent the disease from progressing to the more serious and more dangerous stages. With time, we will know more and have better treatment options, which is another reason to avoid catching the virus for as long as possible.

Early detection also means that extra steps can be taken to avoid spreading the disease to anyone else. I’m not elderly or overweight, I don’t have diabetes or high blood pressure, and I don’t work in a hospital or other high risk environment. For me the odds favor a milder experience, though as always there are no guarantees. However, there are other people in my life who are more vulnerable. If I’ve become infected, I would like to know as soon as possible so that I can avoid putting anyone else’s life at risk.

Unfortunately, testing has been very limited, and the thinking around testing has been limited by a mindset of scarcity and rationing. This is why the disease spread throughout our communities largely undetected in the early months of 2020. We had no evidence of community transmission because we specifically prohibited testing for community transmission!

Our thinking around testing should be the opposite of scarcity and rationing. We need an abundance of testing, made available to all.

I want a test that is fast and easy so that I can use it every day and detect the disease at the earliest possible stage, before I begin transmitting it to others. In this way, I can ensure that I’ll get the best possible early treatment, minimize the risk of serious complications, and avoid unknowingly spreading it to my family, friends, and co-workers, some of whom could literally die. These two things taken together would make the virus much less frightening and harmful.

Again though, early detection is only the second best cure. My first choice is to never catch the virus.

Therefore, I want a test that is fast, easy, and abundant, so that it can be made available to everyone, every day. In this way, everyone gets the same advantages that I’m seeking. Even better, thanks to early detection, those people who do catch it can avoid transmitting the virus to others, including me.

A Third Solution

The current consensus is that only a vaccine or highly effective treatment will end the threat posed by COVID-19. Unfortunately, developing a drug or vaccine and then proving that it is safe for widespread use is likely to take many months, if not years.

However, there is a third solution that could be implemented this year: Ubiquitous daily screening.

The virus only persists because we are unable to stop it from spreading. If we were able to identify and quarantine everyone who is contagious, including those who are asymptomatic, then we could let everyone else out of lockdown and resume ordinary social and economic activity.

Even with imperfect screening, if we are able to prevent 90% of disease transmission, then the virus’s reproductive number, or R0, will drop below one and the pandemic will quickly fade. There is no risk of reintroduction from the outside because any new outbreaks will quickly be caught and contained. If used consistently, there will be no second wave, ever.

This approach is generally considered impractical because the current medical testing technology, based on RT-PCR, is slow, expensive, unpleasant, and in short supply.

Therefore, we require a better technology, one capable of providing a test that is fast, easy, and abundant. There are a number of technologies that could be used to create such a test, but until one is proven at scale, we won’t know which approach is best. Therefore, I’ve backed teams working on three different solutions (and am open to supporting more).

The one that is most proven and ready to scale is based on a technology called LSPR. The team building it originally developed the device to monitor the status of the immune system, but it is easily adapted to detect the proteins on the surface of the virus instead of the proteins used for immune signaling. It’s able to detect even a very small number of viral particles, which is very important because we want to detect everyone who is contagious. Waiting for symptoms such as a fever or antibodies is too slow to stop the spread. What's exciting is that they are creating a very sensitive test that can be mass produced at low cost (less than $1/test).

This test gives results in ten minutes using a small amount of saliva which is taken into a disposable tube and then run through a scanner. If no virus is detected, then you’re not contagious. If the virus is detected, or the results are ambiguous, then you can take steps to avoid spreading the virus (such as wearing a mask and staying home) and will be referred to a doctor to receive appropriate care.

With this test, we can screen for the virus at the entrances to buildings and other areas, much like we currently use metal detectors to screen for weapons. Many places are already using thermometers to screen for infection, but unfortunately that is not good enough because not everyone who is contagious has a fever. I expect the virus screen will initially be deployed at essential locations such as hospitals, warehouses, and factories. Longer term, it can be used to safely reopen more crowded areas such as festivals, sporting events, and even Disneyland.

We’re planning to start operating the first scanner within a month. It's a fully automated system, similar to a kiosk or turnstile. If all goes well, there will be millions of scanners deployed by this fall, ensuring that every school and essential business can reopen while remaining safe and virus-free. Without regular virus screening, there is a significant risk of children catching the disease at school and then bringing it home to more vulnerable family members. Kids shouldn’t have to fear that by going to school they are going to accidentally kill grandma, or put a parent in the hospital.

My goal for the year 2020 is to wipe out COVID-19. That sounds unrealistic, but once we have demonstrated that viral screening is possible and effective, I believe that the benefits of this approach will become overwhelmingly obvious and institutions around the world will rush to embrace this solution.

This is a startup effort, so our success is far from guaranteed. This is why I want to raise awareness of this strategy, of this third solution to ending the pandemic. I want more people thinking about, working on, and demanding that this happen. I’m very optimistic about our effort, but it should not be the only effort. The stakes are too high to gamble our future on any one team or strategy. I’m personally supporting teams working on three different virus screening technologies (in addition to better antivirals and better vaccines). In a pandemic, it’s better to have too many solutions than not enough.

As bad as this virus is, it could be much worse. Our world is far too interconnected and too vulnerable to continue operating without any kind of virus screening. We must never again allow a pandemic to threaten our health and disrupt our society. With the ability to screen for multiple viruses, we can not only end this pandemic, but also prevent the next. We could potentially even eliminate the cold and flu (both of which have a lower R0, and are therefore more easily stopped). This will save millions of lives and trillions of dollars.

It’s easy to fall into dystopian visions of the future — a world shut down by one virus after another, where people are afraid to gather together, afraid to travel, afraid to be physically close even to those they love.

It doesn’t have to be that way. We can emerge from this pandemic better and stronger and healthier than ever. We can forever put an end to lockdowns and social distancing. Ubiquitous screening is the key.

by Paul Buchheit ( at April 25, 2020 12:53 PM

April 22, 2020

Rands In Repose

The One About Writing a Book, Pt. 2

In our 41st episode, we continue the discussion regarding how to write a book. Start with a clever name, find a publisher… and then write a lot. That’s about it. Ok, it’s harder than that. (Recorded on February 24th, 2020)

Enjoy it now or download for later. Here’s a handy feed or subscribe via Overcast or iTunes.

by rands at April 22, 2020 03:31 AM

April 21, 2020

DevOps New Zealand

My problem with WSL

In retrospect, I should have asked for a MacBook Pro when I joined my last employer. In fact, I ended up with a Windows 10 machine. This isn’t the worst thing in the world; one of my roles is to do some governance on our IT contractors, so I have an appetite for a certain amount of dogfood. Where that falls over is when I want to use WSL for non-trivial things.

I’ve used Microsoft products for a large chunk of my career. I used to own a copy of Xenix, the UNIX distribution from uh, Microsoft. I’ve used the Linux award-winning Services For Unix, from Microsoft. It’s great to see that they’ve embraced different operating systems and stopped throwing the word “viral” around. But WSL drives me nuts.

If you just want a decent SSH client and the ability to run BASH scripts, great. WSL works. If you want to run Vagrant or Docker, things get more annoying. I’ve spent more time attempting to get Vagrant working than I’ve spent installing Linux on my work computers. But you can make it work, and I’m sure the ecosystem is better than it was 18 months ago.

The end came when I started using Terraform in earnest. I wanted to run IDEA with the HashiCorp plugin. I had reasons to run Terraform in WSL. As Windows processes can’t see the WSL sandbox, then it’s easy to fall into a cycle of editing changes, pushing those to git, pulling them in the sandbox, and validating them in the WSL sandbox. That’s no way to be productive.

As far as I can see, there are 3 ways to fix this:

I chose the “Install Linux” option. My only complaint is that I still need to reboot into Windows, so context switches can be hard. I’ll be angling for a MacBook at work.

by Julian Simpson at April 21, 2020 10:54 PM

April 19, 2020

Coding Horror

Building a PC, Part IX: Downsizing

Hard to believe that I've had the same PC case since 2011, and my last serious upgrade was in 2015. I guess that's yet another sign that the PC is over, because PC upgrades have gotten really boring. It took 5 years for me to muster up the initiative to get my system fully upgraded! 🥱

I've been slogging away at this for quite some time now. My PC build blog entry series spans 13 glorious years:

The future of PCs may not necessarily be more speed (though there is some of that, if you read on), but in smaller builds. For this iteration, my go-to cases are the Dan A4 SFX ...

And the Streacom DA2 ...

The attraction here is maximum power in minimum size. Note that each of these cases are just large enough to fit ...

... though the DA2 offers substantially more room for cooling the CPU and adding fans.

I'm not sure you can physically build a smaller standard mini-ITX system than the DAN A4 SFX, at least not without custom parts!

200mm × 115mm × 317mm = 7.3 liters

Silverstone RVZ02 / ML08
380mm × 87mm × 370mm = 12.2 liters

nCase M1
240mm × 160mm × 328 mm = 12.6 liters

Streacom DA2
180mm × 286mm × 340mm = 17.5 liters

(For comparison with The Golden Age of x86 Gaming Consoles, a PS4 Pro occupies 5.3 liters and an Xbox One S 4.3 liters. About 50% more volume for considerably more than 2× the power isn't a bad deal!)

I chose the Streacom DA2 as my personal build, because after experimenting heavily with the DAN A4 SFX, I realized you need more room to deal with extremely powerful CPUs and GPUs in this form factor, and I wanted a truly powerful system:

Compared to my old 2015-2017 system, a slightly overclocked i7-7700k, that at least gives me 2× the cores (and faster cores, both in clock rate and IPC), 2× the memory, and 2× the M.2 slots (two versus one).

The DA2 is a clever case though less perfect than the A4-SFX. What's neat about it is the hybrid open-air design (on the top and bottom) plus the versatile horizontal and vertical bracket system interior. Per the manual (pdf):

Check out all the bracket mounting options. Incredibly versatile, and easy to manipulate with the captured nut and bolt design:

Note that you can (and really should) pop out the top and bottom acrylic pieces with the mesh dust net.

I had dramatically better temperatures after I did this, and it also made the build easier since the case can fully "breathe" through the top and bottom. You'll note that the front of the DA2 is totally solid, no air holes, so you do need that extra airflow.

I only have a few criticisms of this Streacom DA2 case:

Here's the configuration I recommend, open on both the top and bottom for maximum airflow, with three fans total:

If you are a water cooling kind of person – I am definitely not, I experienced one too many traumatic cooling fluid leaks in the early 2000s – then you will use that 140mm space for the radiator.

I have definitely burn-in tested this machine, as I do all systems I build, and it passed with flying colors. But to be honest, if you expect to be under full CPU and GPU loads for extended periods of time you might need to switch to water cooling due to the space constraints. (Or pick slightly less powerful components.)

If you haven't built a PC system recently, it's easier than it has ever been. Heck by the time you install the M.2 drives, memory, CPU, and cooler on the motherboard you're almost done, these days!

There are a lot of interesting compact mini-itx builds out there. Perhaps that's the primary innovation in PC building for 2020 and beyond – packing all that power into less than 20 liters of space!

by Jeff Atwood at April 19, 2020 11:56 PM

April 15, 2020

DevOps New Zealand

The Application is You

In the dark times (when businesses had offices, LANs and lunchrooms) it was quite common to see MS Access applications. Or FileMaker for the posh businesses. They’d be shared via SMB on the local network. Some of these networks didn’t run TCP/IP.

The hallmark of these Access apps was forms. Forms for everything. The warehouse staff didn’t need to know about the scheme of your Stock table. Bob in Sales didn’t need to know about the date format in the Products table.

These standalone Database apps have mostly had their day (though I worked with an IT contractor in London who insisted that it was the company standard to use Access to join SQL Server tables).

I’ve noticed that the rise of Google Apps and Office 365 has given us a new approach: staff create spreadsheets for their needs, and then use no forms at all: just a spreadsheet shared over Google Docs or SharePoint, with no validation or triggers. Input is totally free-form because it’s just a spreadsheet. Attempting to put an app on front of these data stores would fail because the data is terrible. Ask me how I know.

Have we regressed past Access?

In theory, no: Microsoft provide Power Apps, and Google provide App Maker. But the big challenge here is to make it easy to replace millions of small business spreadsheets with apps that integrate with a more connected world (“Bob just joined the company, send him the AUP”) and in such a way that a small business team can maintain it. Most people can manage tabular data in a spreadsheet, badly.

Until we solve that problem, the application is you.

by Julian Simpson at April 15, 2020 12:57 AM

April 11, 2020


revelations of divine love, by julian of norwich

He shewed me a little thing, the quantity of an hazel-nut, in the palm of my hand; and it was as round as a ball. I looked thereupon with eye of my understanding, and thought: What may this be? And it was answered generally thus: It is all that is made.

by rachel at April 11, 2020 02:45 AM

March 30, 2020


adventure time: neighborhood walks

Everyone’s adventures are appropriately downscaled right now, but our neighborhood is a half mile south-east of where it used to be, and we’re exploring fresh walks. We are now only a couple of blocks away from the beautiful Alemany Farm, with its orchards and running brook and frog pond:

Just up the hill to the west of us are the Harry Street Stairs:

Which lead through fairy meadows:

To the Miguel Street Mural.

Grocery shopping right now feels stressful and unhappy, but walking around the neighborhood at Golden Hour feels like a treat. Everyone is respectful and keeps their distance. We smile and nod at one another, and say: “Stay safe.”

by rachel at March 30, 2020 02:38 AM

March 23, 2020

Everything Sysadmin

Come work with me at Stack Overflow!

We're hiring!

Come join my team at Stack Overflow, Inc. and help maintain one of the most visited websites on the internet!

Apply at the links!

by Tom Limoncelli at March 23, 2020 10:41 PM

March 19, 2020


in the dream house, by carmen maria machado

Afterward, I would mourn her as if she’d died, because something had: someone we had created together

How to read her coldness: She is preoccupied. She is unhappy. She is unhappy with you. You did something and now she’s unhappy, and you need to find out what it is so she will stop being unhappy. You talk to her. You are clear. You think you are clear. You say what you are thinking and you say it after thinking a lot, and yet when she repeats what you’ve said back to you nothing makes sense. Did you say that? Really? You can’t remember saying that or even thinking it, and yet she is letting you know that it was said, and you definitely meant it that way.

Your body is brilliant, even when you are not. It doesn’t just heal—it learns. It remembers. (All of this, of course, if the virus doesn’t kill you first.)

by rachel at March 19, 2020 02:42 AM

March 13, 2020


well, that escalated quickly

Last Thursday, Jeremy asked what it would take for us to decide to cancel or postpone our planned trip to Australia. On Monday, we rescheduled our flights. Yesterday, the public schools and our kids’ school all closed. In grocery stores, people are calm and brave, Londoners during the blitz. Online, we take turns being scared and comforting one another.

I’m sitting on my back deck drinking coffee with Jeremy. The gardens are full of birdsong. Hummingbirds are having fierce air battles over the shrubbery. And now I know why the pair of crows I’ve been trying to befriend have been so preoccupied. They’re building a nest.

by rachel at March 13, 2020 04:50 PM

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