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Things I learned this week #11

  • This thing about how we sleep: In Western Europe, about 35% of young adults sleep with a soft toy every night, and about 44% of people keep hold of their childhood soft toy. It can be especially helpful for people with low self-esteem, or higher anxiety to sleep with a soft toy, apparently. As someone who's kept firm tabs on their childhood bear (though I'd say we sleep adjacent, not together), it shocks me that over half of people would throw their teddybear away. (source).
  • This older-than-expected coffee machine: The Nespresso capsule, those little pods of coffee grounds that you put in the coffee machines to get a single serving of espresso-based coffee, was initially invented 40 years ago by a rocket scientist. Eric Favre came up with the idea in the 1970s while in Rome, when he saw how one cafe in particular (Caffe Sant'Eustachio, if you're curious) was more popular than all the others around it. He noticed that the baristas would aerate the coffee, and extract it for longer under higher pressures - to give it a stronger flavour, and more crema. In 1986 Nestle released the first version of the Nespresso machine and capsules to the public, but it took a while to take off, because the public didn't want it - they were happy with their instant coffee (can you imagine being happy with instant coffee?). It took 30 years, but the brand is now worth over $4 billion.
  • This children's book author: In the late 20th Century, a 13 year-old Walter Crane was apprenticed to a master woodcarver-cum-political-activist (us millennials think we own the "slash" in occupations and side hustles). Crane got involved in the Arts and Crafts movement, which held that art has the power to educate and inform tastes, and also that "art" doesn't just mean paintings - rather it means anything crafted. Arts and Crafts' most recognisable output is probably William Morris' floral patterns. Crane took a special interest in Toy Books - i.e. those made for young children learning to read. In 1899, in his 20s, Crane illustrated Steps to Reading, which was written by Nellie Dale. Dale was a teacher who pioneered a new (at the time) method of teaching children to read: pairing of words with pictures to convey the same meaning. When you write "Jack plays cricket" - you pair it with a nice illustration of a young boy (probably called Jack) playing cricket. At the time, most other books took a phonetic approach: showing each letter and having children say the letters out loud. Crane's illustrations, and understanding of the required manufacturing process (wood engraving apprenticeship, remember?), produced delightful and detailed illustrations for Dane's book, which caused them to remain popular long after more refined teaching methods were discovered. I would highly recommend checking out the images in the source.

What I've had on Rotation

  • Something New: Zephyrus by The Old Hellos (Folk). I've mentioned this band before, and for good reason. I love their riotous folk vibes, which they've still managed to create during 2020. True, a year full of actual riots, but also a year full of not gathering in groups. (links)
  • Something Old: Animal Magic by Bonobo (Instrumental/House). Bonobo's come a long way in the production of his music - his newer music feels so clean and refined, but I've enjoyed rediscovering the simple/rawer sound of his older stuff this week. It's still beat-centric, makes you want to move, and doesn't quite fit in any genre. (links)

Cool Articles

  • Everything I know about a good death, I learned from my cat by Elizabeth Lopatto for The Verge. For a while now I've been thinking about dignity in dying, and this article is a really great exploration of some of those ideas, but in the context of Dorothy Parker, a cat with cancer. It's a touching article, with some well written points.
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