Numb numbers

+ Friendship, Waste Age, Levels of Hype (#377)

Hello, it's me again, David, your diligent curator, with a new selection of things to tickle and delight your curious minds. Glad you're here.

Last week's call for help with great novels for someone who usually prefers non-fiction worked almost too well. Thanks for the dozens of recommendations I will never be able to get through 🙂 Anyway, if you'd like to follow along, I've started tracking my reading for 2022 here.

In case you've missed it last week: For all of January, you get to read the extended version of the Weekly Filet, as if you were a Premium member. If you like what you're getting, please consider supporting me with a membership.

1. Does Not Compute

«The ones who thrive long term are those who understand the real world is a neverending chain of absurdity, confusions, messy relationships, and imperfect people.» An essay on numbers and stories, and why numbers alone can't be counted on.

Does Not Compute
A lot of things don’t make any sense. The numbers don’t add up, the explanations are full of holes. And yet they keep happening – people making crazy decisions, reacting in bizarre ways. Over and over. Historian Will Durant once said, “logic is an invention of man and may be ignored by the universe.…

2. The Lingering of Loss

«She’d found out she had leukemia right about when I started trying to get pregnant. Her cells divided. My cells divided. Our selves divided.» A gem from pre-pandemic times. Jill Lepore's beautiful, slow-paced reflections on friendship, on life, and death.

The Lingering of Loss
My best friend left her laptop to me in her will. Twenty years later, I turned it on and began my inquest.
Everything below is usually reserved for Premium members. Enjoy!

3. ​​Worst. Year. Ever.

If I asked you to name the worst year in your life, you'd probably be able to come up with a shortlist fairly quickly. But what about...the worst year ever to be a human on this planet? How do you even define that? In absolute terms? Relative to what could reasonably be expected at the time? Radiolab has answers — they make 2020 and 2021 look a bit better in comparison.

Worst. Year. Ever. | Radiolab | WNYC Studios
If you thought the last few years were bad …

4. Why I’ll Keep Saying ‘Pregnant Women’

A really thoughtful case for sticking with using «pregnant women» instead of the more inclusive «pregnant people» (not everyone who is pregnant identifies as a woman). It is not your usual rant against inclusive language — quite the opposite. It manages to show the complexities of inclusive language and undesired side-effects it might have, while accepting the premise that inclusive language is, of course, desirable.

Why I’ll Keep Saying ‘Pregnant Women’
Being inclusive is important. But it’s not everything.

5. The Waste Age

An essay by the London Design Museum's chief curator. Waste is not an unfortunate byproduct, but central to everything we design — «deliberately generated as the very metabolism behind economic growth». Recognising this, he argues, is key to transforming the future.

Ours is the Waste Age: that’s the key to tranforming the future | Aeon Essays
Recognising that waste is central, not peripheral, to everything we design, make and do is key to transforming the future

What else?

  • Five Levels of Hype. A bit like the famous five stages of grief, but for willing something into existence.
  • 🎧 on repeat this week: Breathe, by The Slow Show.
  • This is some serious card trick sorcery.
  • This guy ran 100 miles in less than 11 hours. That's a pace of 6:31 per mile, or 4:03 per kilometre.
  • Stop asking: Are you sure? Instead, ask: How sure are you? (via)
  • The past 7 years have been the warmest 7 in recorded history (and also some of the cooler ones of the near future).
Warming Stripes, 1850-2021, by Ed Hawkins

Thanks for reading. Have a nice weekend, stay safe, and take good care of each other.

I'll see you next Friday!
— David 👋

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