The Curious About Everything Newsletter #21
Best of the web for November 2022, including a photography award roundup.
Welcome back to Curious About Everything. CAE 20, last month’s newsletter, is here if you missed it.
I’ve put together a 2022 gift guide, focusing on artisans and makers from my new home of Ottawa—including my Canada food map, which is now in my shop. I’ll be doing a second guide in December with my selections for the best books for 2022.
A few days prior, I also published a 2022 year in review. For newer subscribers here, it’s an overview of moving to independent living after years of being bedbound and in the constant care of family, as well as some of the other big changes that happened since January.
My Patreon is up to 303 members, and my next post for that community will be about how to sleep better. I’ve shared that I struggled with sleep for most of my life, and I get so many messages asking for help with sleep issues as a result. I will put together all the tricks and changes that finally got me sleeping after so many years.
The Best Things I Read This Month
Society and Politics
👪 Instagram shares rely on the illusion that parents are doing everything wrong, and that the right answer seems like it is just around the corner, maybe even in the next story you watch. In reality, writes Elisabeth Sherman, social media–based parenting advice is designed to offer no resolution. Catapult
😡 Speaking of no resolution, on the food front see Jessica Lucas’ piece about “rage-bait” recipes on TikTok, and how the engagement-chasing is the end goal. The Verge
⚽ The world of soccer has been dripping in excess, dirty money, and inequality for years. These days, however, the consequences of consolidation and unchecked money are clearer (and more alarming) than ever before. Mother Jones
⛔ Sam Parker on how to set boundaries and “stop letting anxiety and guilt get in the way of life.” The idea of setting boundaries has been “fodder for self-help books” for years, but it’s seen a resurgence in 2022.
And, on the same topic from Yung Pueblo:
"Boundaries are not about being overly strict or mean, they are about using your self-awareness of what is genuinely good for you and allowing these things to become the new pillars of your life. In a world where there is a constant battle for our attention and a potentially overwhelming amount of information, we need proper digital and in person boundaries to support our mental health."
🧠 Why do narcissists find conspiracy theories so appealing? A study published in October tries to answer that question. The paper defines narcissism as “a conviction about one's superiority and entitlement to special treatment”. The study finds the three components of narcissism—antagonism, agentic extraversion, and neuroticism—each predispose people to endorse conspiracy theories due to different psychological processes. Namely, via each of: the need for uniqueness, paranoia, the need for control/dominance, and gullibility. Not that a narcissist would ever admit any of these things!
🎭 When GQ last interviewed him four years ago, Brendan Fraser talked about his disappearance from Hollywood. Now, he’s an Oscar favorite—and a man reckoning in real life with the kind of comeback you only see in the movies. GQ Magazine
🚲 Cairo to Cape Town by bicycle. “I navigated a maze of fragmented moments that turned my world upside down and back again.” Beautiful photos, writing, and video. And, for those asking themselves, why are bicycles getting so complicated!? It’s because they’ve taken the ability to fix them yourself out of your hands. The Radavist; Outside Magazine
🍽️ When the Crockpot was brought to market, its “this is a shortcut to eating well” message was in opposition to the rising popularity of Julia Child, Alice Waters, and others who shared how to cook from scratch, with the freshest of foods. Instead, writes Olivia Potts, “for Crockpot evangelists, every shortcut was fair game.” How the slow cooker changed the world. Longreads
⚰️ Apparently Victorians were wrong about why Egyptians mummified the dead: it wasn’t to preserve the body after death, it was to steer the body toward divinity. I love when we learn a historical assumption is bunk; just goes to show that some of what we stridently believe to be true now may be turned on its head in the future. (Also, apparently there is no mummy emoji. What?!) The Guardian
🇨🇦 There are dozens of Indigenous communities across Canada dealing with heavy industrial pollution. And Canada's laws are making it easier for heavy industry to poison Indigenous communities across the country. Can new legislation change that? Rover
💣 A political scientist on why he thinks the United States is one step closer to a war with China over Taiwan. Chris Blattman’s Blog
🧠 We are often less productive not only due to interruptions, but also because our brains are “frazzled by today’s frantic workplaces”, and have become distractions unto themselves. To control your life, control what you pay attention to. Harvard Business Review.
🇺🇸 Read this from the always-thorough Marcy Wheeler and you’ll have a pretty good idea about which January 6 defendants are in the pipeline for charges as the United States DOJ starts to close in on bigger names. "On Trump, the Anti-Semites, and the Coup Attempt”. Emptywheel
Photography awards round up
📸 My annual end of year photography award roundup!
Winner of this year’s 2022 Natural Landscape Awards.
Lens Culture’s 2022 Art Photography Awards.
49 images from the 2022 Mangrove Photography Awards (niche, but interesting! Thanks to TravelBloggerBuzz for this one)
World Photography Organization’s winners and shortlist gallery homepage for 2022, which includes professional, youth, student, and other winner galleries.
The Big Picture 2022 Award Winners, for natural world photography.
The Nature Conservatory’s 2022 Photography Award Winners.
The Minimalist Photography Awards’ 2022 winners.
International Photography Awards’ 2022 One Shot Colour Award Winners.
Time Magazine’s Top 100 Photos of 2022
And my fave, which I look forward to each year: the Nikon Small World 2022 Photomicrography Competition. This month’s cover photo for CAE#21 is also from this competition. It’s a picture of slime mold (lamproderma) by Alison Pollack, that won 5th place.
And, finally: No announcement yet for the Architectural Photography Awards, but The Guardian has a roundup of their shortlist, to tide you over.
Health and Wellness
🧘 “The study tested a widely used mindfulness program that includes 2.5 hours of classes weekly and 45 minutes of daily practice at home. Participants were randomly assigned to the program or daily use of a generic drug sold under the brand name Lexapro for depression and anxiety.” Mindfulness meditation worked just as well as Lexapro in a new study. (But the mindfulness takes work, and for many, internal resistance is high.) Current Opinion in Psychology
💤 Funny, thorough, and interesting piece from insomniac Rachel Handler about the latest in sleep research, including all of her attempts to follow what the research says. This includes a new study published in the Journal of Sleep Research that runs contrary to popular belief: it suggests that being on your devices before bed may aid sleep instead of hampering it. New York Magazine
🧓🏻 The Village Landais, in southwestern France, is part of a movement to make memory-care units less like hospitals, and more like small neighborhoods where “life remains full of choices and that autonomy enriches life.” A French village is reimagining care for patients with dementia. The New Yorker
Its residents can come and go from their homes as they please, whether through the unlocked door or through a window. They can wake and shower at their leisure; they can shout, pilfer sweets, make tea at 2 a.m., sweep with the broom upside down, and handle sharp knives in the kitchen. Advocates for this kind of care argue that, for people with Alzheimer’s, the risks of institutional dehumanization are just as profound as the physical dangers of cutting one’s hand, or falling and breaking a bone.
🦠 In the USA, the NIH launched the country’s first national website to self-report RAT / lateral flow Covid test results, called Make My Test Count. This already exists in the UK, and in a smattering of US States and Provinces. Canada also has no national reporting mechanism. Also relevant: “On Reinfections and Long Covid.” Make My Test Count; Ground Truths
🍄 After becoming paralyzed from the chest down, Jim Harris, then a mountain athlete, found an unlikely ally in recovery: psychedelics. His doses of psilocybin reawakened the dormant neural pathway from his hamstring to his brain, helping him walk again. Fascinating read. Outside Magazine
😺 The hedonic adaptation theory posits that once you’re moderately happy, it’s really hard to get happier. But why? A new paper fromand Ludwin Peerye suggests that it's because we're too busy thinking, "but what if things were BETTER?!", instead of staying grateful for what we've attained/obtained. Experimental History
👄 We still don’t know what causes painful white ulcers inside the mouth, called canker sores, but it’s probably the immune system’s fault. I get them when glutened, but also when I eat something high in histamine. (Archive link) The Atlantic
🧬 A fascinating write up from Jessica Hamzelou, who attended an exclusive conference for ultra-rich investors who want to extend their lives past 100. With billions in investor funding pouring in, longevity research continues, something I definitely find fascinating. Though what came to mind is that asking strangers to give you money so you avoid death is kind of how cults get started, no? MIT Technology Review
⚡ An overview of new data about spinal cord stimulators by Dr. Jeremy Faust: the stimulators did not help patients with lower back pain or sciatica that had also failed other treatment approaches, and in his opinion should be offered "far less often, if ever." I see SCS often in the adhesive arachnoiditis community, and it rarely seems successful. In some cases, patients get a spinal CSF leak when the device is removed, one that is large enough to require surgery. Inside Medicine
🧾 Long before Excel, accountants of the Inka Empire used knotted strings called khipu, or quipu, to record taxes and stock. Each khipu is a “sheet” with each string a “cell” (in Excel terms!). Only 1,400 khipus or so have survived today. ReThink Quarterly (via The Browser)
🆕 A fun tool that combines the word “very” with another adjective, to give you a better (more concise) adjective to use. Eg. very + tired = spent, instead of saying ‘very tired’. Ishaan Garg
🥫 Inside Campbell Soup’s overhaul to innovation. From agile design, to artificial intelligence, maker culture, and more, the 153-year-old company is ditching its old way of doing things and replacing them with procedures that bring creative new products to market faster. And it seems to be paying off. Food Dive
💀 Best of Dying Twiter (not a typo) is a Twitter account shares the memes and jaw-droppingly bad Elon replies, alongside the real threat of hate speech and its effects on vulnerable communities. What started as just parody has also become information, much like many other accounts out there. (For disabled people, Twitter has been a vital tool that amplifies our voices and creates community. I just hope a successor comes into play with similar access to scientists, journalists, and more.) Twitter
🤖 Time Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2022, including a smart slate for Braille learners, an eldercare robot, all-day-headphones, and happily the James Webb Telescope is also in there. 200 inventions in all. Time Magazine
📱 A long review of the new iPhone 14 camera, replete with travel photos that test it against the 13 Pro. Very thorough piece that highlights the big changes in the iPhone’s camera over the years. Lux
Quick links 🔗
Behold Carrot, the 67-pound goldfish, caught in France. Washington Post
Are you a parent of a toddler or an assistant to a male CEO of a tech startup? McSweeneys
All the memes you’ve seen on Twitter, from 2019 to today, on one sprawling page. Google Docs
How it feels to surf the world’s biggest wave. Nautilus
McDonald’s built a “grease-proof” gaming chair called the McCrispy Ultimate Gaming Chair, with built in spots for their food. Gizmodo
A list of writing tools a prolific writer uses all the time. A helpful short post for people who are looking for new ways of streamlining their writing process. Clive Thompson
Interesting, multifaceted interview with artist Laurie Simmons, including her advice for aspiring artists, how she felt ‘othered’ as a creative young child, and how she works. (Her husband’s comments about her work made me wince though). Passerby
46 ways to use leftover cheese. The Guardian
Apparently the SweeTango apple, a hybrid between the Honeycrisp and the Zestar, is the world’s highest ranked—at least according to this site. Apple Rankings
A site that lets you colourize old pictures online, for free. Palette
The sweet and sticky history of the date. The fruit, not the outing. Smithsonian Magazine
NEW (super cute) OWL ALERT.
Thanks for reading Curious About Everything! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.