Archive for November, 2023

9 Ways to Imagine Jeff Bezos' Wealth

Great visual essay from The New York Times by Mona Chilabi.

The average full-time Amazon employee made $37,930 in 2020. In order to accumulate as much money as Bezos ($172 billion) … an employee would have had to start working in the Pliocene Epoch (4.5 million years ago, when hominids had just started standing on two feet!).

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Why 'Random Access Memories' is a Masterpiece

YouTube channel Digging the Greats has a very good breakdown of how Daft Punk’s farewell album was made. See also his recent breakdown of the creation of their previous album Discovery.

Book: Gathering Moss

A couple of years after reading Robin Wall Kimmerer‘s Braiding Sweetgrass, I returned back to her 2003 debut non-fiction book Gathering Moss. Kimmerer is a Bryologist, or someone who studies moss. This short book gives an overview of these under appreciated organisms. Mosses don’t tend to get the sort of love or attention larger plants get. Kimmerer writes:

We carefully catalog the positions of all the moss species, calling out their names. Dicranum scoparium. Plagiothecium denticulatum. The student struggling to record all this begs for shorter names. But mosses don’t usually have common names, for no one has bothered with them. They have only scientific names, conferred with legalistic formality according to protocol set up by Carolus Linnaeus, the great plant taxonomist. Even his own name, Carl Linne, the name his Swedish mother had given him, was Latinized in the interest of science.

Her book explores many, many facets of mosses, from how they reproduce, to how peat bogs are formed. As in Braiding Sweetgrass, she also brings a perspective that blends science with an indigenous point of view. For example, this section where she describes her experience trying to figure out why a certain moss reproduces in a counterintuitive way:

But if there’s anything that I’ve learned from the woods, it’s that there is no pattern without a meaning. To find it, I needed to try and see like a moss and not like a human.

In traditional indigenous communities, learning takes a form very different from that in the American public education system. Children learn by watching, by listening, and by experience. They are expected to learn from all members of the community, human and non. To ask a direct question is often considered rude. Knowledge cannot be taken; it must instead be given. Knowledge is bestowed by a teacher only when the student is ready to receive it. Much learning takes place by patient observation, discerning pattern and its meaning by experience. It is understood that there are many versions of truth, and that each reality may be true for each teller. It’s important to understand the perspective of each source of knowledge. The scientific method I was taught in school is like asking a direct question, disrespectfully demanding knowledge rather than waiting for it to be revealed.


Game: Undergrowth

Elizabeth Hargrave, designer of the wonderful tabletop game Wingspan, has just launched a kickstarter for a brand new game about mushrooms, along with fellow game designer and former park ranger Mark Wootten.

A couple years ago I went through a series of non-fiction books which went into depth about how fungi work, starting with Braiding Sweetgrass, then onto Entangled Life, and finally Finding the Mother Tree. This trio of books were easily the most important non-fiction books I’ve read in the last 5 or so years. At the same time I was reading those books, the game I played by far the most was Wingspan.

I could not back this Kickstarter fast enough.

Visit the Kickstarter →

Israel and Gaza Breaking News Consumer Handbook

Excellent media/news criticism podcast (radio show?) On the Media has posted their Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook for the conflict in Israel and Gaza. This conflict has brought about a lot of misinformation and disinformation, and OTN is trying to help people try to navigate it.

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