Things I learned this week #21

Happy New Year 🎊🥳🍾 It’s been one hell of a ride, 2020, and I hope that I never know another year like you. This has been quite enough. We’re at least six months from being slightly out of the woods, but we’ve made it through nine-to-twelve (depending on where you live) months of surprise pandemic. We can make it through another six. I don’t care that 365 days or a rotation around the sun is arbitrary. Money is arbitrary and so is language and art - let it be arbitrary but celebrate. I hope your festivities were socially responsible, and served you. I hope your 2021 is better, and I hope we see in 2022 surrounded by people, live music, fireworks, champagne, and a general hustle and bustle.

  • These good boys: Across the world, several dog trainers and medical researchers have been trying to train sniffer dogs to identify people who are positive for Covid-19. One of the big problems with this disease is asymptomatic carriers who may unwillingly infect others without knowing. Having dogs who can sniff-out people who may be positive, especially in high-touch areas like airports or event venues, is a great tool. It’s also pretty cool that a) there’s a reliable Covid-19 smell, and b) dogs can identify it. This research is still in the early stages, but it’s arguably looking promising, even if we’re not quite sure what the dogs are sniffing out, exactly. (source)
  • This version of the English Language: E Prime is a version of language without the verb to be. Proposed by D. David Bourland, Jr. in 1965, Bourland believed that people rely too much on to be in English writing and that it weakens the impact or strength of a statement, or distracts the reader from the subject. The infamous non-apology “mistakes were made”, for example, would simply not do. It was also an attempt to stop us comparing things that aren’t comparable - for example can a candle be burning, or does the candle burn? Look, it’s wild idea that would never take off, but it’s a nice smell to look for in your writing. Try and be more conscious when you’re writing things (source)
  • This Railway Dog: In late 1800s, Bob the Railway Dog, was adopted by the South Australian railway community at large. Conductors would let him hop up into the front of a train, where he would travel thousands of miles around the country. This lifestyle was a little dangerous for a small dog (as it would be for any human) and during this time he fell off trains, had his coat catch fire, and almost got caught under several moving carriages. (source)
  • These letters from Santa: For twenty three years, up until 1943, JRR Tolkien wrote Letters from Father Christmas to his children. The letters feature a broad cast of characters, including his elf (naturally) secretary, and Polar Bear, a polar bear (naturally), who just keeps getting into mischief. The letters have Father Christmas chronicling some of his (mis)adventures around the North Pole. (source)

What I’ve had on rotation

  • Something New: Be Slow by Harrison Storm (EP, acoustic singer-songwriter). The last week of a year always feels like a little bit of a blur. In 2020, the preceding nine months have also felt a little slippery. Storm’s five song EP contains the right mix of chilled and comforting songs for this time of year. (links)
  • Something Old: Sign No More by Mumford and Sons (Folk). This album is very good, though maybe a little overplayed in the early 2010s. Some distance has done it wonders, as has nine months apart from rowdy crowds. The lovely harmonies and chaotic instrumentals are delightfully timeless. Would recommend a re-listen. (links)

Cool reads

Fun things

  • 2020 Ipsum. You’ve heard of Lorem Ipsum, the placeholder Latin-looking text that you use as dummy text in design? This is that, but instead of Latin-esque words, it’s 2020 buzzwords that are kind of like a stream of consciousness from a… year.