The Curious About Everything Newsletter #13
Your holiday reading: rounding up the end-of-year awards and Best Of lists.
Hello friends, it’s somehow mid-December and with Omicron on the rise, I thought I would provide some interesting things to read during the holidays—of the non-virus variety. These include my favourite, end of year Best Of lists that provide rabbit holes of learning.
Odds and Ends
Before I jump into the end-of-year reading….
Yes, I promised a virus-free round up. But first, I did want to share a few scientists and epidemiologists I follow. Trusted sources are not easy to come by in the firehose of information on the Internet, so here are a few I trust that I shared previously on Patreon:
A COVID-19 Twitter list I made with the scientists, journalists, and epidemiologists I found were accurate and not screaming about things before the science backed it up.
Your Local Epidemiologist (link is to her latest newsletter, from December 17th), by Katelyn Jetelina who is a PhD in epidemiology and biostatistics.
And for those who prefer audio to text, infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm's weekly report on the pandemic includes deep dives into questions many of you have asked me via Instagram.
Speaking of Patreon…
The Patreon is up to 277 Patrons right now, and has become a really interesting place to learn from each other and answer questions from my community. I’m also thrilled to report that I am applying for rental apartments in Ottawa right now to move closer to my brother who lives there, and my income from the Patreon is sufficient to clear me for rentals.
It may not seem like a big deal, but when my spinal leak reopened I truly did not know how I would be able to earn a living or get back on my figurative feet with a degree of autonomy.
The Patreon has given me that autonomy, and so much more. It feels great that the income is sufficient to be approved for an apartment without needing more help. But also, the suggestions and feedback from the community there have also helped me see how I can provide more value, via resources that help people in stress or pain.
(My most recent video is about a “4-Lung” breathing technique I came up with that quickly reduces stress—useful for the holidays!)
Thank you for the support, both there and here. I look forward to creating more, although I wish I were healthy enough to do so regularly! The good news is that I am currently getting about 6 hours of “uptime” day-to-day, and seem to have mostly bounced back from that July setback I mentioned in CAE #9.
New Podcast Interview
I recently sat down (ok, I stood) with Esme Benjamin as a guest for her The Trip That Changed Me podcast. We ended up talking about two trips: my first ever solo trip to Annecy, France in 2001, and the house-sitting trip in Brooklyn that ended with a life-changing lumbar puncture.
You can listen:
Quote of the Month
“All of humanity's problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
— Blaise Pascal, Pensées (published in 1670).
What to Read During the Holidays
I’ve included more links so I have not provided longer excerpts per section like I usually do. I’ll revert back to the normal format for next month.
🏆 End of Year Lists for 2021 🏆
I focused a lot on photography in this “best of” section, as a balm for our tired eyes and a reminder of the wide wonder that is out there—something so easy to forget when we are stressed.
📰 Reads, 🎧 Audio, and 🎥 Film
Longreads, the OG curators of long form writing on the web, have put together their annual “best of” series. The landing page is here, with categories Personal Essays, Investigative Reporting, and more. Want their entire list on one page? It’s here.
The bookmarking app Pocket (I have used it for many years) put together a list of articles about the year’s most “intriguing ideas and indispensable advice”, plus their most-read stories from different categories like tech, sports, culture, and more. It’s all available here.
NPR rounds up the 100 best songs of 2021, here.
Businessweek’s annual Jealousy List is among the best end-of-year roundups. It features articles that the staff of the magazine wish they wrote.
CBC’s Best Canadian Fiction of 2021, here. (Niche, I know, but I’m Canadian!)
Time Magazine’s 100 Best Inventions of 2021, here. These include technology that led to a hands-free shoe by Nike. “The human experience is vast and broad—why aren’t we providing solutions that help people dress themselves independently?” asked Sarah Reinertsen, who worked on a prototype of the shoe. Nike also invested in a company called Kizik, whose shoes I wear. They too are hands-free, and honestly I can’t see myself wearing anything else now. I’m grateful that there’s already something on the market people like me (or pregnant people who can’t tie their shoes for a time, or anyone else with mobility constraints) can use. I am not an ambassador for this company, I just love them. You can pick up your own Kizik’s, if interested, with a $20 discount code with this link.
The most-mentioned books from r/all on Reddit in 2021.
Colossal’s list of Top Short Films of 2021, here. Videos embedded in their round up.
And finally, less of a “best of” and more of a “best to come”: Nature’s list of 11 clinical trials that will shape medicine in 2022, here.
I’ve followed Alan Taylor from when he was at the Boston Globe’s “Big Picture” to his move over to The Atlantic. His curation of photographs always adds perspective and a thoughtful message. Here are his photo essays for the year that was: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
National Geographic’s best travel photos of 2021, 16 of them in all, from their contributors around the world.
Also fun, the annual Comedy Pet Photography Awards.
The more serious, and absolutely beautiful, Wildlife Photographer of the Year gallery, from the UK’s Natural History Museum. They’re currently deciding on the People’s Choice award for 2021, gallery here.
Also from the UK, the Royal Museums Greenwich has their Astronomy Photographer of the Year winners up now, and they inspire such awe. Scroll down on this page to see them (past the in-person exhibition info).
All About Photo has many different competitions throughout the year, but their Colours contest is one of my favourites as the entries are always incredibly vibrant. Among the pictures I enjoyed, unsurprisingly, is the picture by Pham Huy Trung from Long Hai, Vietnam below. Winners and merit gallery: here.
The Natural Landscape Photography Awards for 2021 are as beautiful as always. Each winner has a small gallery of their photos, with lots of honourable mentions on the page too. Check it out here.
The Close-Up Photography awards for this year are as wondrous as always, with nature, funghi, and underwater, and more as categories. Lots of scrolling ahead! One of my faves is Bruno Militelli’s piece, Delusion, below. The full galleries are here. (Via Kottke)
Another “close up” favourite: Nikon’s Small World Photomicrography Competition. The winners for 2021 are here.
Drones are becoming more and more common, and sometimes causing havoc. There’s no question that their ‘bird’s eye’ viewpoint helps us put the world in perspective. The winners in a variety of categories for the 2021 Drone Photo Awards can be found here. (The nature category winners are especially wow.)
🔗 Other Pieces Worth Reading 🔗
A few other links to end the month.
🚗 The American obsession with speeding: how we became obsessed with driving fast, no matter the cost—and what we can do to fix it.
🪦 Morbid, but important: how to arrange your digital legacy.
🍴My friend Geraldine’s review of Bros., in Lecce, Italy, went very, very viral. I’m including it on the off chance you haven’t seen it; it’s worth a read. And so is her excellent follow up, written once the chef replied. “[I]t’s a baffling sort of gatekeeping, to tell someone that the reason they didn’t enjoy a meal is that they didn’t understand art.”
🌊 The ups and downs of the “great vertical migration”, the many animals in the water—from plankton to large fish—that commute daily from ocean its depths to its surface. It is the largest synchronous migration on earth, and it happens in “continual flux” all around the world. “Every evening, after twilight gives way to dark, hordes of marine creatures — from tiny zooplankton to hulking sharks — rise from the deep to spend the night near the surface. They revel in the upper waters, feeding and mating, before retreating back down before dawn.”
🪶After reading The Economist’s What’s it like to be a bird?, I immediately bought Tim Flach’s book, Birds. Incredible photography. “By giving the animal a human portrait you start to see its personality and character. We have to feel and be touched by these things to care about them.” Below, his picture of a Kite Jacobin pigeon:
🎮 “Somewhere along the way, I confused marriage with a trauma bond.” How video games helped one woman recall, release, and heal from a marriage that fell apart.
🇨🇦 Contrary to popular belief, Eastern Canada is more at risk of earthquakes than we think. Oh.
🍣 The untold story of sushi in America (interactive piece).
🍁 Quebec taps into its maple syrup reserves (yes, we have a global maple syrup reserve) after a poor harvest season of ‘liquid gold’. Quebec produces about 73% of the world’s maple syrup. Can’t mention maple syrup without linking out to this Great Maple Syrup Heist piece from a massive theft of syrup in 2016.
🥘 Paella was given protected status across the pond.
🚆 I used The Man in Seat 61 many times during my travels, so I enjoyed this interview with the man himself, Mark Smith, over on The Browser.
🧼 Queen of Clean, a rare perspective but an important one to read for those of us who travel: that of the hotel cleaning person, in this case Vida Afram—who has cleaned around 60,000 rooms in her two decades of work.
That’s it for December!
Wishing everyone a safe, happy, and healthy holiday season.