The Curious About Everything Newsletter #24
The best things I read in February 2023.
Welcome back to the Curious About Everything Newsletter. CAE 23, last month’s newsletter, is here if you missed it.
Last month I said I would likely need a hiatus in order to get the newsletter out, because I can’t use my laptop when my spinal CSF leak is this this bad. Substack doesn’t have an app for editing (only for reading), and their mobile browser version doesn’t let you add hyperlinks easily. A problem for a link-filled newsletter like mine.
But! A few people offered to help so we can keep CAE going, including my friend Mike, who has a great newsletter himself. I’m still reading things and putting them in a note file as I do. So he offered to take my copypasta of links and pull quotes, and format them into hyperlinked form.
Thanks Mike! Check out his recent post about “impossible colours”, here.
One change: until I am back on my feet again, links below will not be divided by subject. I’ve divided them into two categories to make it easier for Mike: quick links, and the longer form pieces.
Over on Patreon, I shared a post called Gratitude For The Little Luxuries, about how travel helped keep life in perspective, and then that perspective came in handy when I lost my mobility. In gaining some of my independence back, I remained grateful for the small. But I lost functionality again in January. How do you get grateful when life’s path takes even the little luxuries away?
And leak-wise, since I slid on the winter slush and reopened my spinal csf leak, I’m still bed-bound most of the day. I stand up to eat, and for a shower every few days, but it’s back to bed again after. Hoping things get a little better soon.
The Best Things I Read This Month
📚 The mysterious doodles hidden in a 1,300-year-old book. Centuries-old books, manuscripts and printing plates often contain invisible etchings, mysterious letters – and even doodles. A new technology that maps the surface of these objects is bringing them to light. BBC Future
💉A New Drug Switched Off My Appetite, What's Left? Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) agonists are more and more popular; they promise reprieve from a lifelong battle with food for many. I’ve seen many news pieces, or hit pieces, but this was most thoughtful read of all, from Paul Ford. WIRED.
🤡 Conspiracies are the price of freedom. “Conspiracy theories are the insecure person's defense against a confusing world with too many competing narratives”, says Robert Cottrell of The Browser, summarizing this piece. They allow people who believe in them to lord them over “others”, and imbue people with a smug sense of superiority—only they know “the truth”. (And if you’ve noticed that truth they believe in is always evil), not because conspiracy theorists need more to fear, but because they need an explanation for the fear in which they already live. UnHerd
US woman has walked around with untreated TB for over a year, now faces jail. X-rays of her lungs were so bad, doctors thought she had cancer. Holy crap. Ars Technica
🏈 Joe Montana Was Here. A long, engaging profile of one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time, and how he feels watching football today. ESPN
💕 The Road To Becoming Enough. "Here my body began to transcend into what it could do, not what it looked like, rinsing away what Los Angeles had taught me about image and self-worth and the dubious merit of a thin pair of thighs." Beautiful read about self-acceptance and the "scenic route" to finding love. Longreads
🍗 How a shipping error 100 years ago launched the $30 billion chicken industry. Homemaker and farmer Cecile Steele like many others in 1923, kept a small flock of chickens that she raised for eggs and waited to slaughter them for meat once their productivity waned. After the local hatchery mistakenly delivered 500 birds to her in Delaware, instead of the 50 she’d ordered, she created a business that turned into a behemoth. Vox
🌱 What Does Wellness Mean When You're Living With An Incurable Disease? “No matter how much I optimize, how much I exercise, regardless of the foods I eat or the supplements I take, I can’t escape this diagnosis. What does being healthy mean when you know you can’t improve?” Health writer Andrew Zaleski's very thoughtful piece about adjusting to disability and its accompanying life changes. GQ
💰Trolls were one of the hottest toys of the 20th century. I even had troll earrings as a kid! But the original inventor only made a sliver of the proceeds: How the inventor of the troll doll missed out on a fortune. The Hustle
🤥 How Dominion Voting System filing proves Fox News was 'deliberately lying'. Dominion Voting Systems’ brief requesting summary judgment against Fox News for defamation—and $1.6bn—is “likely to succeed and likely to be a landmark” in the history of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. “Fox and its producers and performers were lying as part of their business model.” The Guardian
🪞Cleaner fish recognises self in a mirror via self-face recognition like humans. Fish may be smarter than we think! Smart enough to recognize themselves in a mirror, anyhow. In this experiment, fish did not attack photos with their own faces but did attack those with the faces of unfamiliar fish. PNAS
🇲🇩 Russia plans "coup d'etat" in Moldova. A worrisome read about Moldova's Russian threat. Worth paying attention to as things escalate in the region. Moldova Matters
🧫 Creatures that don't conform. What a read! So lovely. All about slime mold as building blocks for everything, and how there’s a “growing appetite for transcendence and awe” in our wonder-depleted world of bad news. Emergence
🤑 The NYT Op-Ed I Just Took A Kill Fee For. “One didn’t have to dance like a trained monkey on TikTok to get ahead in the real world, before.” On the current crop of influencers, and how things have changed. Cintra Wilson
📖 On Roget’s thesaurus, which is not just a book of words, but rather a library of words. Or, as Ted Gioia commented on this post, “Roget's Thesaurus is an oddball philosophy of language masquerading as a reference book.” A library of words. (LOVE THIS.) Austin Kleon
🥩 Lion burger? Tiger tacos? Meet the cell cultured start-up working in exotic meats. Tiger burgers, grown in a lab? Expensive, but can see people wanting to try them for the 'thrill'. Food Navigator
🧬 New mouse study shows genes aren't only way to pass obesity to next generation. These findings provide support for the fast-growing field of transgenerational epigenetics, the study of traits that pass from one generation to the next without being inscribed into our genetic code. Interesting read. STAT; Cell journal
🍜 Lost in the Stock. An entertaining and very insider baseball investigation into what exactly goes into chicken stock and bone broth, and yet despite a simple question, a lot of corporate runaround happens to get to an answer. (Are we surprised?) Eater
🤖 How Scientists Are Using AI To Talk To Animals. Digital listening + deep listening = “we are at the brink of interspecies communication.” Scientific American
🦌Giving Bambi The Boot: “We created this problem by reordering the world in ways that encourage deer to become hyper-abundant within much more constrained landscapes.” Deer are pests now, overgrazing and harming the environment and leading to endangered status for some endemic animals. This article argues that if we don’t want to kill them, then we need to sterilize them. Hakai Magazine
✍️ The Defiance Of Salman Rushdie. David Remnick’s Rushdie profile. “I’ve always thought that my books are more interesting than my life,” Rushdie says. “The world appears to disagree.” New Yorker
⚠️ Climate ripples and the rise of the right: When the seas rise in Senegal, so do the fortunes of far-right political parties in Europe. This interactive pieces is the story of how those seemingly unrelated things are connected. NPR
📑 The Cloud In Sally Rooney's Room. Really interesting interview with a translator for bestselling writer Sally Rooney, and the nuances of translating her popular book into Simplified Chinese. Chaoyang Trap
💀 Huge chunk of animals, plants in U.S. at risk of extinction. 40% of animals and 34% of plants in the United States are at risk of extinction, while 41% of ecosystems are facing collapse. Everything from crayfish and cacti to freshwater mussels, and the Venus flytrap are in danger of disappearing, a report released early February found. Reuters
🥸 Why Everyone Feels Like They're Faking It. A long read on the Imposter Syndrome, how the inventors think it shouldn't be a syndrome at all, and some of the societal blind spots in how that nagging sense of self-doubt and inadequacy are applied in popular culture. New Yorker
🙏🏻 Another lovely, introspective read: How Do I Make Up For My Lost Years? “Despite the ways we’re shaped by trauma, we are more just what trauma leaves behind. […] Stop looking for yourself in the past, you don’t live there anymore.” This hit home for my own life circumstances, too. When we transform, for better or worse, we must grieve the people we once were to move beyond them—but we shouldn’t dwell. Ayesha A. Siddiqi
👩🏻💻 We’ve always been distracted. Are you worried that technology is breaking your brain? Fears about attention spans and focus are as old as writing itself. Aeon
📍The Strangely Beautiful Experience Of Google Reviews. Finding glimpses of humanity in the unlikeliest corners of the internet: in Google Maps reviews. Longreads; this is by a long-time LN reader Will, yay!
🦠 HIV patient cured after bone marrow transplant in rare case, research shows. “Björn-Erik Jensen, the virologist who led the study at Düsseldorf University, said in a statement to Nature Medicine that the research “shows it’s not impossible — it’s just very difficult — to remove HIV from the body.” Washington Post
🥬 California is a great place to find rare 'diet weed,' but consume with caution. Comes with an energy boost and “reverse munchies”. SFGATE.
🐝 Hooboy: some insects I found inside dried Turkish figs from Trader Joe's. Warning: close up bug pics. Colin Purrington
☢️ An obituary for the man who saved North Carolina from nuclear disaster. (I had no idea!) North Carolina Rabbit Hole
🕵️ Data Free Disney. One dad's extreme lengths to avoid giving any data to Disney when he visits with his family. Public Books.
🚮 The Junkification of Amazon. Is making us wade through junk listings part of Amazon’s plan? A piece on why “29 of those 81 spatula options are functionally ads”. Intelligencer
😮💨 When I went to a mast cell specialist for diagnosis, one of the questions on the intake form was whether I lived in a place with gas heating or a gas stove. I had no idea that having a gas stove could impact my immune system, but it can and does. A summary of the issue, which as (of course) become political in the USA. Gas stoves: Is there a public health component worth discussing? Your Local Epidemiologist
🛢️ The Oil Thieves Of Nigeria. Very long, but interesting and important read from a country of many millions of people about “oil bunkering” in Nigeria. This piece estimates that around 200,000 to 700,000 barrels a day are lost to theft. New Lines Magazine
☠️ When values kill: How the Russian Ministry of Health triggered an HIV epidemic. Russia ranks first in Europe for new HIV infections, and in 2021, 1.5mm new cases were recorded worldwide—of which 3.9% were in Russia. Why? A failed policy of conservative values, stigmatized same-sex relationships, and more. Sounds familiar? The Insider
⚰ The Montreal Mafia Murders: Blood, Gore, Cannolis, and Hockey Bags. A long, but really interesting piece on the Montreal mafia and some of its current leaders. Related: Mafia hitman found working as pizza chef in France after 16 years on the run. Vanity Fair; NBC News
🚶♀️And last but NOT least, my favourite link this month: Adults could achieve physical activity targets by walking “Teabag style” for a few minutes each day. Ministry of Silly Walks in a study?! Yes please. “The inefficient walking styles of Mr Teabag and Mr Putey, acted by John Cleese and Michael Palin in the 1971 Monty Python Ministry of Silly Walks sketch, have been shown to be more variable than usual walking, but their energy expenditure has never been measured.” Aaamazing. The full study: Quantifying the benefits of inefficient walking: Monty Python inspired laboratory based experimental data. News-Medical; BMJ
🔗 Quick links 🔗
Eggspensive, a website that tracks the price of "12 Great Value Large White Eggs" at Walmart locations across the USA. As H5N1 continues to expand in the USA and worldwide, the cost of eggs and poultry will likely only rise.
Fodor's “No List” for 2023, a round up of where not to travel this year.
'Loud, dirty and simple': Leicester's punk collective for older women. Love, love, love.
American Cars Are Getting Too Big For Parking Spaces. What a change to Europe where price of fuel and space has kept cards quite small. If you opt for a tiny car in North America these days, you can also be at risk of getting flattened by one of these behemoth vehicles. We are at odds with the way the rest of the world is heading.
Lost Texas Dog Finds Her Way To Former Shelter And Rings Rescue's Doorbell For Help. Feel good, sweet story.
Not a great omen for this February. Canadian groundhog Fred la Marmotte found dead before planned prediction. (For more about the ‘holiday’, see: How Groundhog Day came to the U.S. - and why we still celebrate it 137 years later.)
A guided tour of all of Vermeer’s paintings, narrated by Stephen Fry.
Bear goes selfie-crazy by snapping 400 pictures on Colorado wildlife camera. Cocaine Bear has nothing on this guy.
Now entering the golden age of nonalcoholic beer. See also, another piece on the same topic: A golden age for nonalcoholic beers, wines and spirits.
“What should my kids and I take to reduce chances of severe illness and Long COVID?” Excellent overview of the supplements and enzymes that people find helpful, from a pharmacist who has polled a lot of long haulers.
Apple's Noninvasive Blood Glucose Technology for Future Apple Watch Reaches 'Proof-of-Concept' Stage. Pretty amazing if it pans out as accurate!
Can a penguin be a cougar? A penguin love story: At 43, she's the world's oldest African penguin. Her mate is 13.
This month’s featured image is by artist of the month Isip Xin. She drew it for a piece on pain in the Washington Post.
That’s it for February. Hope to see you (with Mike’s help) in March.