The Curious About Everything Newsletter #22
Lots of year-end reading.
Welcome back to the Curious About Everything Newsletter. CAE21, last month’s newsletter, is here if you missed it.
I hope everyone celebrating this month had a lovely holiday (Christmas, Channukah, Kwanzaa — whatever your family abides by), and is in as good health as possible.
Call for translator
I’ve got no additional work/personal updates since last month’s edition, but I did want to put out a call for a Danish translator. I am expanding my celiac translation cards, though I have limited work time with a spinal CSF leak. I have several cards in beta that are out in the wild being tested, but only one translator lined up for Danish. Cards go through two sets of translation for accuracy. If you can help translate to Danish, you can fill out my form here. I currently have 130 translators who have filled out the form, but only one for Danish.
(For new subscribers, these are gluten free translation cards to help fellow celiacs travel safely. I found existing ones were insufficient to prevent me from getting sick, so in 2014 I decided to make my own that were more detailed. I have over a dozen languages now, with more in the works).
The Best Things I Read This Month
As time goes on, the glut of year end lists continues to balloon exponentially in an unstoppable curatory orgy. I’ve waded through a lot of them and here are ones I found interesting. (Yes, I took the liberty of including my own EOY books list; it’s my first one!)
One of my favourite lists every year: Bloomberg Business’ Jealousy List, which they’ve been putting together since 2015. The list honours their peers for committing “such annoyingly great journalism”.
Political journalistswitches topics temporarily for this 2022 in music review post.
I started reading Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings (now The Marginalian) many years ago, and always love how she weaves together art, philosophy, and science in each of her unique pieces. Her favourite books of 2022 is no exception, full of illustration and thoughtful quotes.
One of the best-of lists I always read is New Yorker’s best books of the year. Here are their choices for 2022.
My Best Books of 2022 list, which focuses on disability and chronic illness and also highlights cookbooks and other non-fiction.
Now in its 11th year, the Best of Longreads collects their favorite reads across personal and reported essays, features, investigative reporting, and profiles.
The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson pulled together what he considers the top breakthroughs of the year in his newsletter.
- shared its top 10 most-clicked links from the year.
Always an interesting year end review: Google Trends for 2022. The most search term for 2022 around the world? Wordle. You can check out the global year in search, then use the dropdown menu to see trends for your country.
PopSci’s 35th (!) annual 100 greatest innovations list, with the James Webb Space Telescope by NASA taking the ‘top innovation’ spot as a game-changing new instrument to see the cosmos.
Widely-used “read this piece later” app Pocket has themed end-of-year lists, which I find interesting because like Google Trends they reflect what people are reading, not one person’s editorial view. Some of their year end roundups: most read articles, best advice of the year, food reads, and my favourite category, what we learned in 2022.
And finally, Tom Whitwell’s annual ‘52 things I learned’ list is something I look for as the year closes. He always teaches me new things. This year’s list includes: in 1739, there were 3x more coffee shops per person in London than there are today; data centres will consume 29% of Ireland’s electricity by 2028; some Xerox photocopiers had a bug that could silently change numbers in copies (!), and more.
Reads about sports
🏈 Seth Wickersham’s outstanding, nuanced piece on Andrew Luck, who stunned the sports world when he walked away from American football at the top of his game. “To play quarterback, you're not allowed to worry about anything except the task at hand,” Luck says. “And that seeps into other areas of life. It's not the healthiest way to live.” ESPN
🌊 “I’ve been training my whole life towards this moment, even if I didn’t know it.” Matt Formston, who lost 95% of his vision at age 5, surfs the world’s biggest wave at Nazaré, Portugal. He is the first blind surfer to do so. The Guardian
⚽ World Cup ⚽
World Cup final, in pictures. The Guardian
A wonderful piece that goes far beyond the game itself, by Rosecrans Baldwin. “My Dutch friend Lars taught me to appreciate the most radical team in World Cup history—and how their tactics could be meaningful far beyond the pitch.” GQ
Brian Phillips on the Argentina-France World Cup finale game, what he calls “one of the most thrilling spectacles in sports, period”. The Ringer
“Every game is a story. And when you consider the stakes, the performances, the history in the balance, the refusal of either side to lose, the moments of astonishing play, the sudden reversals and wild swings of momentum, the knife's-edge uncertainty of the outcome, and the epochal significance of a result that brought the career of the world's best player to an almost magically perfect climax, it is hard to imagine a story more overwhelming or more satisfying than this one.”
How World Cup match balls contained a sensor that collected spatial positioning data in real time, a first, and what it will do for referee reviews. FiveThirtyEight
Reads about society and politics
🎭 Absolutely beautiful animation and watercolour illustrations to help you get in touch with your emotions. It’s interactive, with audio, and best tried from your laptop when you’ve got a quiet moment. Excellent for anyone having big feels but not able to put them into words. Pudding.Cool
❄️ A brief history of the snow globe, and the family who invented it. Atlas Obscurawho has reviewed thousands of manuscripts over the years. Writing in the Dark
🇵🇹 Excellent read by Susana Ferreira about a digital nomad village on Madeira, weaving in the troubled history of the island—which rarely gets included in shiny digital nomad stories—and the impact of itinerant workers on both Portugal and Madeira as a whole. I spent 3 months living in Funchal in 2015, and it sounds like it has changed a lot, but not necessarily in the ways that seemed promising when projects like this were first announced. WIRED Mag
🇹🇩 US diplomats organized a plan to help smuggle Chad’s pro-democracy opposition leader out of the country, while Chad’s transitional president sent his security forces to hunt him down. Crazy read from Robbie Gramer. Foreign Policy
🎻 A new study claims the secret to a Stradivari violin’s sound is a protein-based layer at the interface of the wood and the varnish, which may influence the wood's natural resonance. Ars Technica
🇷🇺 Leaked emails show how Russia’s biggest state broadcaster, the All-Russia State Television and Radio Company (known as VGTRK) worked security services, mined right-wing American news and Chinese media, and crafted narratives that claimed Moscow was winning. New York Times
🎨 The art world’s “Catholic problem”, i.e. the outsized influence of the Vatican in classic art. “Who is willing to go off script and speak truth to power? Isn’t that what real art criticism is about?” Hyperallergic
💰Once considered the best way to safely store your jewelry and other valuables, safe deposit boxes are being phased out by many banks and there are long wait times if you want one in many cities. Goes into the history of the safe deposit box as well. Hustle Magazine
📉 It’s a myth that holiday time leads to more suicides, but one that still persists. Depression and suicide rates do not peak at the end of the year. Annenberg Public Policy Center
📺 7 months ago, Jason Kottke took a sabbatical from his site, which he’s been curating on for many, many years. He stopped reading, unsubscribed from most newsletters, and ignored social media other than the occasional Instagram. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t consuming. Here’s what he was up to: My Sabbatical Media Diet. He’s got other ‘media diet posts’ on the site too, if this is up your alley. Kottke
🧮 How many yottabytes in a quettabyte? New ways of describing things very big and very small, like the earth weighing “one ronnagram”. Via The Morning News. Nature.
Reads about the natural world
🐝 Honeybees exhibit sophisticated forms of democratic decision-making, and honeybee dance language has dialects, just like human language. Noema
🐍 Scientists have finally found the clitoris in snakes. Previously misidentified, their clitoris is called a hemiclitoris, and researchers hope that this information will help them better understand courtship and mating in snakes. (Insert all the obvious jokes here.) CNET
🐻 A bear, presumably pissed that it had been forcibly relocated, walked 1000 miles back to the same campsite it was taken from. Outside Magazine
🦣 An ancient ecosystem in Greenland has been uncovered by environmental DNA in the permafrost at the country’s northern borders. This marks the oldest known DNA fragments ever found. (The mammoth DNA scientists found in Siberia prior is half as old.) The samples come from over a hundred different species, and the researches sketched out an environment not far from the North Pole that used to be inhabited by caribou, arctic hares, mastodons, and—surprisingly—the horseshoe crab, which is usually found far more south than this. (Sidebar: did you know mastodons were like mammoths, but shorter and stockier and with straighter tusks? Yeah, me neither. Mastodons were wood browsers and their molars have pointed cones specially adapted for eating woody browse. Mammoths were grazers, their molars have flat surfaces for eating grass. TIL. Also, find me on Mastodon.)
🥶 A category of foods for the extra busy (who I guess can’t just use all the existing quick eats out there) called the “thaw and eat” category. Nestle is calling them “Smeals” for small meals, and Smuckers has added new thaw and eat options to their Uncrustables line. Other companies are referring to the category as the “handheld space” (seriously?). Axios
🐳 The Mystery of the Blue Whale Songs. Earth’s largest animals are singing in ever-lower tones, and nobody truly knows why. Theories people shared when I tweeted this piece include that it’s to cut through the human sonic high-frequency noises cluttering the oceans. Very short read. Nautilus
📸 The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards are out, yay! Comedy Wildlife Photo
Reads about health
🏥 I previously wrote about how my diagnosis with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome helps explain why my spinal CSF leak is so hard to fix. I have been heartened to see this condition covered in the media of late, especially as the conclusions include that the condition is just not as rare as we have been told. Two pieces of note: Revenge of the gaslit patients: Now, as scientists, they’re tackling Ehlers-Danlos syndromes, and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome affects millions. Why isn't the medical profession paying more attention? STAT News; CNN
⚕ The answer, of course, to the question posed by the CNN piece’s title is that it’s a condition that primarily affects women. As the article says, it takes an average of four years to diagnose a man with EDS, but an average of 16 for a woman. The gender bias extends to many other areas, too, as this piece about dismissive doctors and women in pain notes. One woman was told she was being “dramatic” when she pleaded for a brain scan after suffering months of headaches and pounding in her ears. It turned out she had a brain tumor. Can’t say I’m surprised. Washington Post
🩺 And on the same theme: I'm a Neurologist, Hear Me Roar by Dr. Ilene S. Ruhoy, who rightfully asks, “when did we stop listening to and believing the patient?” Even Ruhoy, herself a neurologist as the title notes, was not exempt from the psychosomatic illness label just because her genuine cause wasn’t immediately clear. Is there any hope for the rest of us? MedPage Today
🦠 Solid synthesis of what is being largely ignored in the press these days: 10 Covid Facts Health Officials Dangerously Downplay. Among them, that Covid can alter and age brain function for up to two years after an infection, and that having Covid is associated with a 66% higher risk of developing new onset diabetes. Also worth reading their follow up, about the theory of “immunity theft” (which is the opposite of immunity debt): that Covid is wearing our immune system down and that’s why hospitalizations/infections are running rampant. Tyee
😷 As viral infections skyrocket, including Covid but also the flu, RSV, and more, people seem to have forgotten that masks can reduce the risks of contracting them all, especially KN95 or N95 masks that fit well. The Conversation
🔬 Close to 50% of pregnant women use a simple blood test to screen for fetal abnormalities. What they don’t realize is that the prenatal testing industry has been plagued by scandals from the get go—and is still unregulated by the FDA. ProPublica
🍆 How Dobbs, the abortion decision recently handed down by the US Supreme Court, triggered a vasectomy revolution. Politico
🔗 Quick links 🔗
25 years later, no one knows who spiked the chower on the Titanic movie set, leaving the cast intoxicated. Vulture
“Everthing sucks. Good luck to you” is the message from media these days, says M. Mitra Kalita. It’s no wonder news consumption is plummeting, and many of us feel like crap when we read it. Nieman Lab
Graphic design trends for 2023. (It’s updated annually at the same link, so that’s why the comments are older.) 99 Designs
A search engine and open-source database of all hospital prices in the United States. Payless Health
Neal Agarwal, who built Absurd Trolley Problems (that I shared previously), has launched an asteroid simulator. The results are based on research papers and some serious math and coding, and it allows you to pick an asteroid (choosing things like location, size, and speed), then trace its destruction.
As of June 2023, Koreans will all be one year younger. BBC
Hawaii Island mayor asks people to stop throwing marshmallows into Mauna Loa eruption. SF Gate
London tattoo artist offers to remove Kanye West tattoos from people for free. NME
Merriam-Webster's word of the year is “gaslighting”, with a 1740% increase in lookups for the term, maintaining high interest throughout the year. Merriam-Webster
Woman kidnapped as a child is reunited with her family 51 years later. Fort Star Worth Telegram
‘Zombie’ virus revived after 50,000 years trapped in Siberian permafrost. What could go wrong? CTV News
CAE22’s artist of the month is Chilean artist Paloma Valdivia. The image below is from her illustrations of Pablo Neruda’s Book of Questions, found via The Marginalian.
Thank you, as always, for reading!