Clay Carson

February 2023

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

Boxed In

You Don’t Know How Bad the Pizza Box Is(Original)

A pizza box has one job—keeping a pie warm and crispy during its trip from the shop to your house—and it can’t really do it. The fancier the pizza, the worse the results: A slab of overbaked Domino’s will probably be at least semi-close to whatever its version of perfect is by the time it reaches your door, but a pizza with fresh mozzarella cooked at upwards of 900 degrees? Forget it. Sliding a $40 pie into a pizza box is the packaging equivalent of parking a Lamborghini in a wooden shed before a hurricane.

And yet, the pizza box hasn’t changed much, if at all, since it was invented in 1966. Then, boxes were shallow cardboard squares with flaps to lock them into place. Today, boxes are shallow cardboard squares with flaps to lock them into place. You’ll see the same design both in dinky spots for drunken college students and in the country’s most sought-after Neopolitan joints. Since the introduction of this corrugated vessel, humanity has landed on the moon, rolled out the internet, created cellphones, and invented combination air fryer–instant pots. But none of that matters: Ye olde pizza box refuses to die.

Not Too Shabby, Cabby

The Cab Ride I’ll Never Forget

I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. “What route would you like me to go?” I asked. For the next two hours we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they had first been married. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she would have me slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

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Clay

January 2023

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

pr_AI_se be

I simply cannot be cynical about a technology that can accomplish this.

Q: Write a biblical verse in the style of the king james bible explaining how to remove a peanut butter jelly sandwich from a VCR.

A: …Verily I say unto thee, seek not to put thy peanut butter sandwiches in thy VCR, for it is not a suitable place for such things. Rather, keep thy sandwiches in thy refrigerator or on thy plate, where they belong.

chat.openai.com

“You play espionage like a girl!”

The secret lives of MI6’s top female spies

Curiosity about people is what drew Rebecca into spying in the first place. She is not at all brave. She “can’t do heights” and is “not mad keen on aeroplanes”. Given her vertigo, she does not even particularly like bridges. “I would not walk towards danger,” she says. “That is not me. I’m the one who, if the little rowing boat gets rocky, says, ‘Everyone out of here. This thing is going to sink.’ But I’ve realised there is physical bravery and there’s courage. And they’re quite different things.”

When Rebecca was pulled out of the Foreign Office application process in her early twenties and asked whether she wanted to be a spy, she was wary. In a large regency townhouse in Carlton Gardens, where she was invited for tea, a genial gentleman described what the job would involve. “I thought . . . the thing this chap is describing sounds quite exciting. And not in a James Bond derring-do, exciting way. I remember thinking, the psychology of this thing sounds really interesting,” she says. “The major premise of the office was to go out and bridge a cultural divide with somebody, to get that foreign person to tell us things that they wouldn’t tell a diplomat.” She asked him why potential sources would do that, noting she wouldn’t do the same. “He said, ‘They do it because it’s the right thing to do and it aligns with who they are, and you’re the person who’s found that out.’” The pitch was irresistible, and she joined in a “heady rush”.

Time Out

Researchers say time is an illusion. So why are we all obsessed with it?

“A lot of us grow up being fed this idea of time as absolute,” says Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, a theoretical physicist at the University of New Hampshire. But Prescod-Weinstein says the time we’re experiencing is a social construct. Real time is actually something quite different. In some of the odder corners of the Universe, space and time can stretch and slow — and sometimes even break down completely.

For many people, this unruly version of time is “radical,” she says. But as technology to better count the time grows ever more sophisticated, our everyday understanding of time itself may need to start changing.

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Clay

December 2022

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

Key Change

The Death of the Key Change

As hip-hop grew in popularity, the use of computers in recording also exploded too. Whereas the guitar and piano lend themselves to certain keys, the computer is key-agnostic. If I record a song in the key of C major into digital recording software, like Logic or ProTools, and then decide I don’t like that key, I don’t have to play it again in that new key. I can just use my software to shift it into that different key. I’m no longer constrained by my instrument.

Ive-y League

Jony Ive on Life After Apple(Archived)

One surprising thing about Ive’s approach is that conversation, rather than sketches, is how he often begins a project. Thinking—and then speaking about that thinking—is the raw material he works with. “Language is so powerful,” Ive says. “If I say I’m going to design a chair, think how dangerous that is. Because you’ve just said chair, you’ve just said no to a thousand ideas.
[…]
“This is where it gets exciting,” he says. “You have an idea—which is unproven and isn’t resolved, since a resolved idea is a product—and the only tangible thing about the idea are the problems. When someone says it’s not possible, and all you are being shown is why it’s not possible, you have to think and behave in a different way. You have to say, from a place of courage, I believe it is possible.

Pie and Goodbye

Love, Marriage, Loss, and Apple Pie

And, I can now say, losing both parents feels like losing your footing altogether, as you must move on without any tangible human proof—beyond yourself, of course—of how you came to be. To lose them is to lose the gods of your universe, if not that universe itself, and this stark eventuality will cleave your life in half, with one part encapsulating them and the other grappling with their absence: being of them but without them. You will become a strange, new person, unfamiliar with your former self.

Inside the NBA Bubble

How Black Players Performed Better without Fans

In the NBA, predominantly Black players play in front of predominantly non-Black fans. Using the ‘NBA bubble’, a natural experiment induced by COVID-19, we show that the performance of Black players improved significantly with the absence of fans vis-`a-vis White players. This is consistent with Black athletes being negatively affected by racial pressure from mostly non-Black audiences. We control for player, team, and game fixed-effects, and dispel alternative mechanisms. Beyond hurting individual players, racial pressure causes significant economic damage to NBA teams by lowering the performance of top athletes and the quality of the game.

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Clay

November 2022

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

Leave Some Space

William Shatner: My Trip to Space Filled Me With ‘Overwhelming Sadness’

I continued my self-guided tour and turned my head to face the other direction, to stare into space. I love the mystery of the universe. I love all the questions that have come to us over thousands of years of exploration and hypotheses. Stars exploding years ago, their light traveling to us years later; black holes absorbing energy; satellites showing us entire galaxies in areas thought to be devoid of matter entirely… all of that has thrilled me for years… but when I looked in the opposite direction, into space, there was no mystery, no majestic awe to behold …all I saw was death.

I saw a cold, dark, black emptiness. It was unlike any blackness you can see or feel on Earth. It was deep, enveloping, all-encompassing. I turned back toward the light of home. I could see the curvature of Earth, the beige of the desert, the white of the clouds and the blue of the sky. It was life. Nurturing, sustaining, life. Mother Earth. Gaia. And I was leaving her.

Everything I had thought was wrong. Everything I had expected to see was wrong.

[…]

It was among the strongest feelings of grief I have ever encountered. The contrast between the vicious coldness of space and the warm nurturing of Earth below filled me with overwhelming sadness. Every day, we are confronted with the knowledge of further destruction of Earth at our hands: the extinction of animal species, of flora and fauna… things that took five billion years to evolve, and suddenly we will never see them again because of the interference of mankind. It filled me with dread. My trip to space was supposed to be a celebration; instead, it felt like a funeral.

Father Time, Online

The Thorny Problem of Keeping the Internet’s Time

To solve the problem of time synchronization on the arpanet, Mills built what programmers call a protocol—a collection of rules and procedures that creates a lingua franca for disparate devices. The arpanet was experimental and capricious: electronics failed regularly, and technological misbehavior was common. His protocol sought to detect and correct for those misdeeds, creating a consensus about the time through an ingenious system of suspicion. Mills prided himself on puckish nomenclature, and so his clock-synchronizing system distinguished reliable “truechimers” from misleading “falsetickers.” An operating system named Fuzzball, which he designed, facilitated the early work. Mills called his creation the Network Time Protocol, and N.T.P. soon became a key component of the nascent Internet. Programmers followed its instructions when they wrote timekeeping code for their computers. By 1988, Mills had refined N.T.P. to the point where it could synchronize the clocks of connected computers that had been telling vastly differing times to within tens of milliseconds—a fraction of a blink of an eye. “I always thought that was sort of black magic,” Vint Cerf, a pioneer of Internet infrastructure, told me.

[…]

N.T.P. works by telling computers to send tiny, time-stamped messages to time-checking devices superior to them in a hierarchy. The hierarchy’s uppermost layer consists of servers that are closely connected to highly accurate clocks kept in tight synchronization with Coördinated Universal Time. The time then trickles, from strata to strata, to the machines at the bottom of the hierarchy, such as ordinary laptops. The protocol tracks the instants that elapse as a time-checking message is sent, received, returned, and received again by its original sender. All the while, a collection of algorithms—the “popcorn spike suppressor,” the “huff-n’-puff filter”—sifts through the data, singling out falsetickers and truechimers and instructing the clocks on how to adjust their times based on what the time-stamped messages tell them.

Just Be-Cause

The Art of Naming Military Operations

Churchill’s Rules:
1. Operations in which large numbers of men may lose their lives ought not to be described by code words which imply a boastful or overconfident sentiment,… or, conversely, which are calculated to invest the plan with an air of despondency… They ought not to be names of a frivolous character… They should not be ordinary words often used in other connections… . Names of living people–Ministers and Commanders–should be avoided…
2. After all, the world is wide, and intelligent thought will readily supply an unlimited number of well-sounding names which do not suggest the character of the operation or disparage it in any way and do not enable some widow or mother to say that her son was killed in an operation called “Bunnyhug” or “Ballyhoo.
3. Proper names are good in this field. The heroes of antiquity, figures from Greek and Roman mythology, the constellations and stars, famous racehorses, names of British and American war heroes, could be used, provided they fall within the rules above.

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Clay

October 2022

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

Marching down, down, down, down

Scientists have calculated how many ants are on Earth. The number is so big it’s ‘unimaginable.’

If you have not killed the 2.5 million ants that you are responsible for, please get started.

I’m Makin’ Waffles

Waffle House

Waffle House does not care how much you are worth, what you look like, where you are from, what your political beliefs are, or where you’ve been so long as you respect the unwritten rules of Waffle House: Be kind, be respectful, and don’t overstay when others are waiting for a table. Besides, everyone who has ever stepped foot in a Waffle House has a story to tell: Perhaps it involves a late-night study session in college or a joyous pit stop on the way home from a concert or sporting event. Maybe it was a bad breakup over waffles or an early morning breakfast with your bridal party before your wedding. For me, it is the first time my son tried a chocolate chip waffle. The look on his face when he realized that chocolate and syrup taste great together was one of pure delight and discovery. Or the first time my father took me to a Waffle House around the age of 12. I sat at the counter mesmerized, watching the cooks sling hash browns and respond to shouted orders in what seemed like a secret language. These photographs require that personal relationship. I don’t set the stage for where these photographs are made so much as I witness the greater context of the interaction. Instead, the circumstances are gleaned from the viewer’s past experiences and personal relationship with Waffle House.

Flippy Floppy

We Spoke With the Last Person Standing in the Floppy Disk Business

The customers that are the easiest to provide for are the hobbyists – people who want to buy ten, 20, or maybe 50 floppy disks. However, my biggest customers — and the place where most of the money comes from — are the industrial users. These are people who use floppy disks as a way to get information in and out of a machine. Imagine it’s 1990, and you’re building a big industrial machine of one kind or another. You design it to last 50 years and you’d want to use the best technology available. At the time this was a 3.5-inch floppy disk. Take the airline industry for example. Probably half of the air fleet in the world today is more than 20 years old and still uses floppy disks in some of the avionics. That’s a huge consumer. There’s also medical equipment, which requires floppy disks to get the information in and out of medical devices. The biggest customer of all is probably the embroidery business though. Thousands and thousands of machines that use floppy disks were made for this, and they still use these. There are even some industrial companies that still use Sony Mavica cameras to take photographs. The vast majority of what I sell is for these industrial uses, but there is a significant hobbyist element to it as well.

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Clay

September 2022

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

Tsundoku

All Those Books You’ve Bought but Haven’t Read? There’s a Word for That

A person’s library is often a symbolic representation of his or her mind. A man who has quit expanding his personal library may have reached the point where he thinks he knows all he needs to and that what he doesn’t know can’t hurt him. He has no desire to keep growing intellectually. The man with an ever-expanding library understands the importance of remaining curious, open to new ideas and voices.

Fajita People

The Fajita Effect

The restaurant chain didn’t do fajitas first or best, but it did them loudest. It even put the sizzling sound in its first TV ad. While other restaurants tried to make fajitas that tasted better or looked fancier than the competition’s, Chili’s kept the recipe simple and relied primarily on the sizzle to not only turn heads but also trigger a barrage of senses: you hear them, then you notice the smoke and smell the aroma. Add up all of that, and you don’t just taste or see a neat-looking dish with Chili’s sizzling fajitas. You experience it.

Chit Chat

Good conversations have lots of doorknobs

Givers think that conversations unfold as a series of invitations; takers think conversations unfold as a series of declarations. When giver meets giver or taker meets taker, all is well. When giver meets taker, however, giver gives, taker takes, and giver gets resentful (“Why won’t he ask me a single question?”) while taker has a lovely time (“She must really think I’m interesting!”) or gets annoyed (“My job is so boring, why does she keep asking me about it?”).
[…]
Neither givers nor takers have it 100% correct, and their conflicts often come from both sides’ insistence that the other side must convert or die. Rather than mounting a Inquisition on our interlocutors, we ought to focus on perfecting our own technique. And the way to do that, I think, is by adding a bunch of doorknobs.

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Clay

August 2022

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

Over the Line!

‘You can’t be the player’s friend’: inside the secret world of tennis umpires

Using a network of six or more high-speed video cameras positioned around the court, the system generates an image of the ball’s path and the spot where it lands. To keep matches fast-flowing, human line judges usually continue to call when a ball is out. However, up to three times per set (plus one more if it goes to a tie-break), players can request a review if they don’t agree with the human call. In 2020, more tournaments began using Hawk-Eye Live, a newer version of the technology that makes automated line calls in real time. Not only does it remove the need for players to make a challenge, it has removed the need for line judges altogether. With Hawk-Eye Live, the only official on court is the chair umpire. However, the technology is expensive, and at present it is only used at the top-tier events, and only on hard courts.

Where does this leave the umpire? Earlier this year, in one of his scathing post-match appraisals of Bernardes in Miami, Kyrgios expressed a view that is gaining ground: “By the way, it’s all electronically done now. So you’re actually doing nothing apart from calling the score, which any tennis fan could do. Sit in the chair and just say ‘15-love’, ‘Game Kyrgios’, ‘Game Sinner’. That’s all he has to do.”

But that, it turns out, isn’t quite right.

One Winner

The Secret Art of the Family Photo

Let’s say a family of four is going on a weeklong vacation to Hawaii. One of the adults is taking a good-quality dedicated camera, and everyone else will be snapping away with their smartphones. How many pictures should the family aim to end up with?

Consider the possibility that a reasonable number is eight. Why so few? Because life is full, and pictures accrue. The events of life come tumbling along, and the photos pile up, like the days and the hours do. The more family pictures you amass over time without editing or “organizing” them—without keywording, without making the hard decisions about which are the best and most essential—the more chaotic, dispiriting, disorganized, unlabelled, unsearchable, and jumbled the great mass will be, and the less well any given one of them will function for its purpose. Surfeit adds up to failure; selectivity leads to success.

This isn’t to say that you should take only a few pictures. On the contrary, an open secret of photography is that good photographers shoot more and show less. You might have to take five hundred pictures in Hawaii to get eight truly good ones—and, even then, getting those eight good ones won’t be easy. You can’t just shoot indiscriminately—pursuing the strategy photographers call “spray and pray”—and get what you want. You’ll have to be purposeful as you collect the raw material for your later edit. This requires being alert to opportunities and sensitive to what family members will really want to remember. You also have to be perceptive about what makes your experience distinctive. Mindless snapping of “the sights” isn’t going to hack it. Dozens of images of marine life beneath a glass-bottomed boat won’t make up for missing the zip line that was the highlight of your ten-year-old’s trip.

The same principle applies when you’re not on vacation. It’s tempting to take—and keep—many photos of birthday parties, picnics, athletic competitions, and so on. But numerous events can be commemorated with a single picture. It just has to be a good one, and to tell enough of the story.

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Clay

July 2022

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

“The majority thereby substitutes a rule by judges for the rule of law.”

We Dissent

As an initial matter, note a mistake in the just preceding sentence. We referred there to the “people” who ratified the Fourteenth Amendment: What rights did those “people” have in their heads at the time? But, of course, “people” did not ratify the Fourteenth Amendment. Men did. So it is perhaps not so surprising that the ratifiers were not perfectly attuned to the importance of reproductive rights for women’s liberty, or for their capacity to participate as equal members of our Nation. Indeed, the ratifiers — both in 1868 and when the original Constitution was approved in 1788 — did not understand women as full members of the community embraced by the phrase “We the People.” In 1868, the first wave of American feminists were explicitly told — of course by men — that it was not their time to seek constitutional protections. (Women would not get even the vote for another half-century.) To be sure, most women in 1868 also had a foreshortened view of their rights: If most men could not then imagine giving women control over their bodies, most women could not imagine having that kind of autonomy. But that takes away nothing from the core point. Those responsible for the original Constitution, including the Fourteenth Amendment, did not perceive women as equals, and did not recognize women’s rights. When the majority says that we must read our foundational charter as viewed at the time of ratification (except that we may also check it against the Dark Ages), it consigns women to second-class citizenship.

The High Five

30 for 30 Shorts: The High Five

When Dusty Baker hit his 30th home run for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1977, the first man to greet him at home plate was his friend and teammate, rookie Glenn Burke. Overcome with happiness, Burke did the first thing that came to mind — he put his hand straight in the air and had Baker slap it. Welcome to the birth of the high five. From there, our short follows Burke’s story as he became a victim of bigotry and then a local hero for social change.

Freeze Your Credit Scores

Quick and easy to do and to undo.

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Clay

June 2022

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

Gig Economy

The Real Yacht Rock: Inside the Lavish, Top-Secret World of Private Gigs

But alongside the world of corporate parties and retreats, a far more shadowy parallel world has been flourishing: the super-private gig. In that universe, stars in classic rock, hip-hop, and pop have been pulling in sizable fees for playing at weddings, birthday parties, anniversaries, and other personal-life milestones, all for those wealthy enough to afford it. The festivities allow performers to walk away with yacht-loads of cash and make one-percenter hosts feel like insiders and stars themselves. But along with the sizable paydays come sometimes dicey political issues that the artists have to navigate (or, sometimes, ignore).

Cowboy rides into town on Friday, stays 3 days, leaves on Friday. How did he do it?

An oral history of ‘Little Big League’

Tony Todd (Mickey Scales, 2B): I crashed the audition. I never acted before. I was coming home with a friend of mine, and we passed by a park where we used to play. There were easily 250 people out there on that field. I got out of the car and I went over there to see what was going on, and they said they were casting movies. I said, by the looks of things, and I’m not tooting my horn, I’m probably better than anyone you got out there. And they said, “Yeah, we’ve been hearing that all day.” I said, alright, well, give me a shot and I’ll show you.

Scheinman: The casting director goes, “What’s your name again?” Todd goes, “Mickey Scales.” He just walks up and says “Mickey Scales.” He knew exactly what he was doing. We just didn’t know about him.

Todd: They put the L-screen up. They gave guys 10 swings; they gave me five. Four of them go to the fence and the last one I hit off the wall. They told me to run to first base. And, you know, brothers can run. So, I didn’t stop at first and decided to run all the way around and do a little slide at home.

Scheinman: He got people’s attention because his personality is larger than life. Boy, he was an athlete. He just jumped out when he was at the tryout.

Todd: Later, I show up at the studio for a reading. I get halfway done and they tell me to stop. They asked me if I’d ever been to Minnesota. I said, nope, but I know Kirby Puckett’s there! They said, “Well, that’s great because you’re going to Minnesota and you’re going to play the part of Mickey Scales.” I went berserk. I started high-fiving everyone.

The horse’s name is Friday.

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Clay

May 2022

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

Bop it, Pull it, Twist it

MIT engineers introduce the Oreometer

Curiously, when they mapped each cookie’s result to its original position in the box, they noticed the cream tended to stick to the inward-facing wafer: Cookies on the left side of the box twisted such that the cream ended up on the right wafer, whereas cookies on the right side separated with cream mostly on the left wafer. They suspect this box distribution may be a result of post-manufacturing environmental effects, such as heating or jostling that may cause cream to peel slightly away from the outer wafers, even before twisting.

Bless you, Dylan

Meet The Guy Who Spends Just $150 A Year To Eat All His Meals At Six Flags

It all started on the first day of his internship in 2014, when Dylan noticed the rollicking coasters of Six Flags Magic Mountain from the windows of his new office. Fresh out of college and something of a coaster-fanatic already, Dylan was perusing the options for Six Flags’ annual pass when he stumbled upon what might be the deal of his lifetime — for a one-time fee of $150, he could eat two meals a day, every day at the park for an entire year. Since his office was just a five-minute drive away, it was a no-brainer.

Smells Like

I would like to be paid like a plumber

In November of 1992, shortly before they formally agreed on his involvement, Albini wrote to Nirvana and laid bare his philosophy in a pitch letter that is fascinating from start to finish.

Fiks/Fish, Maks/Mask, Ask/Aks

The ‘ax’ versus ‘ask’ question

The first thing to understand is that, for black people, “ax” has a different meaning than “ask.” Words are more than sequences of letters, and “ax” is drunk in from childhood. “Ax” is a word indelibly associated not just with asking but with black people asking. That sentiment alone is powerful enough to cut across conscious decisions about what is standard or proper.

“Ax,” then, is as integral a part of being a black American as are subtle aspects of carriage, demeanor, humor and religious practice. “Ax” is a gospel chord in the form of a word, a facet of black being — which is precisely why black people can both make fun of and also regularly use “ax,” even as college graduates.

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Clay

April 2022

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

The Third Man

The forgotten Black Power hero

Smith and Carlos had already decided to make a statement on the podium. They were to wear black gloves. But Carlos left his at the Olympic village. It was Norman who suggested they should wear one each on alternate hands. Yet Norman had no means of making a protest of his own. So he asked a member of the U.S. rowing team for his “Olympic Project for Human Rights” badge, so that he could show solidarity.

“He came up to me and said, ‘Have you got one of those buttons, mate,’ ” said U.S. rower Paul Hoffman. “If a white Australian is going to ask me for an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge, then by God he would have one. I only had one, which was mine, so I took it off and gave it to him.”

The three men walked towards their destiny. The medals were handed out before the three turned towards the flags and the start of the Star Spangled Banner.

Lots of Lines

‘Bizarro World’

“It’s funny,” I told Flewin. “We have an old Nintendo Game Boy floating around the house, and Tetris is the only game we own. My wife will sometimes dig it out to play on airplanes and long car rides. She’s weirdly good at it. She can get 500 or 600 lines, no problem.”

What Flewin said next I will never forget.

“Oh, my!”

After I hung up the phone, I went to the bedroom and woke my wife, Lori.

“Honey,” I said. “You’re not going to believe this, but I just got off the phone with a guy who’s in charge of video game world records, and he said the world record for Game Boy Tetris is 327 lines, and he wants us to go to New Hampshire this spring so you can try to break the world record live in front of the judges at the world’s largest classic video game tournament.

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March 2022

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

OB$E$$IVE

The moral calculations of a billionaire

His choice: 12 more hours anchored to the chair in his office, monitoring the market and calling in to his trading desk again and again as the sun reflected off the swimming pool outside his window. The market fell. The market rose. He bought $3 million in distressed bonds. He gave another $5 million away to charity. He was $18 million up for the day. He was $6 million down. He was beating the market again by mid-morning, losing at lunch, winning an hour later, and then losing again. “Does it make any sense?” he asked himself, watching the numbers change on his screen. “To sit inside all day in front of a machine, making money I don’t need so I can give it to someone I don’t know?”

AL-most Famous

The Weirdly Enduring Appeal of Weird Al Yankovic

The connection is so deep that it is more like a merging, and after a while it struck me that Weird Al has spent basically his whole life making his music for exactly these people, which is to say for his childhood self. For many decades, he has been trying to delight Alfred Yankovic, the bright, painfully shy kid who grew up alone in his tiny bedroom. For the benefit of that lonely boy, he reshaped the whole world of pop culture. His ridiculous music sent out a pulse, a signal, and these were the people it drew: the odd, the left out. A crowd of friends for that lonely kid. As I watched him with his fans, sometimes I felt as if Weird Al was multiplying all around me, multiplying inside of me. We were one crowd, united in isolation, together in a great collective loneliness that — once you recognized it, once you accepted it — felt right on the brink of being healed.

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Clay

February 2022

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

“I would like to go on the roof”

The Banality of Genius: Notes on Peter Jackson’s Get Back

A good song or album – or novel or painting – seems authoritative and inevitable, as if it just had to be that way, but it rarely feels like that to the people making it. Art involves a kind of conjuring trick in which the artist conceals her false starts, her procrastination, her self-doubts, her confusion, behind the finished article. The Beatles did so well at effacing their efforts that we are suspicious they actually had to make any, which is why the words “magic” and “genius” get used so much around them. A work of genius inspires awe in a lesser artist, but it’s not necessarily inspiring. In Get Back, we are allowed into The Beatles’ process. We see the mess; we live the boredom. We watch them struggle, and somehow it doesn’t diminish the magic at all. In a sense, Paul has finally got his wish: Let It Be is not just an album anymore. Joined up with Get Back, it is an exploration of the artistic journey – that long and winding road. It is about how hard it is to create something from nothing, and why we do it, despite everything.

Drive to Thrive

Learning About Work Ethic From My High School Driving Instructor

Bob notices things that I suppose only a long-time driving instructor could notice, like how you could tell that a driver was from Hoboken by the way the screws framing their license plates are scratched and worn from having parked so many times in the city’s tight, unmarked spaces. He has an uncanny memory for driving situations. He is constantly telling these insanely detailed and tedious stories, like the one about a student who back in 2006 took the curve too fast on Summit Avenue just north of Hillcrest — Bob said the student had a tendency to accelerate into turns — and nearly skidded off the road, but managed to stick it out because the town council had recently repaved the street with an expensive grippy top-coating. There are no climaxes in these stories. In fact they’re not so much stories as nerdy shoptalk, the thinking-out-loud of an intensely interested man.
[…]
One incident stands out in particular. We were about an hour into the lesson and had just graduated from the backroads of the student’s hometown to a two-lane street with steady traffic. The car in front of us had slowed down, signaled, pulled over toward the shoulder, and made a smooth right turn into a shopping complex. Bob was impressed. “See how nicely he positioned that car?” He explained to the girl that that was exactly how it was done. And then a while later, long after the moment had passed, he said quietly, more to himself than to either of us, “I really liked the way he did that.” It had the ring of nostalgia to it.

Dookie

Dogs are sensitive to small variations of the Earth’s magnetic field

Dogs preferred to excrete with the body being aligned along the North–South axis under calm magnetic field conditions. This directional behavior was abolished under unstable magnetic field. The best predictor of the behavioral switch was the rate of change in declination, i.e., polar orientation of the magnetic field.

Wordle

These may spoil your fun:

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Clay

January 2022

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

My Media Stats from 2021

  • 406 podcast episodes totaling over 457 hours
  • 58 movies totaling over 112 hours
  • 21 books
  • 18 television seasons

About a Roy

On “Succession,” Jeremy Strong Doesn’t Get the Joke

Kendall is the show’s dark prince, a would-be mogul puffed up with false bravado. He is often ridiculous in his self-seriousness, especially when he’s trying to dominate his indomitable father. Strong was perfectly cast: a background player who had spent his life aspiring, and often maneuvering, to fill the shoes of his acting gods. “Kendall desperately wants it to be his turn,” Strong said. Last year, he won an Emmy Award for the role.

Strong, who is now forty-two, has the hangdog face of someone who wasn’t destined for stardom. But his mild appearance belies a relentless, sometimes preening intensity. He speaks with a slow, deliberate cadence, especially when talking about acting, which he does with a monk-like solemnity. “To me, the stakes are life and death,” he told me, about playing Kendall. “I take him as seriously as I take my own life.” He does not find the character funny, which is probably why he’s so funny in the role.

Mall Rats

Everything Must Go: Why we’ll never stop mourning the American mall

For most of my life, the shopping mall was the symbol of the capitalist experiment. Everything about it celebrated consumerism and the illusion of plenty, and fueled the suburbanite’s need for a real-world simulacrum—one that could replace scary diverse downtowns with “safe,” artificial Disneyland-ish approximations that substituted commerce for community. The choices in a mall were simultaneously endless and extremely constrained: You could try on every shoe in the world. Eat six different kinds of foods at the food court. Watch one of five movies. Maybe there was a fountain or a carousel. The actual activities you could do were limited, but there were so many products to choose from that it felt—to lame teenage me, certainly, covered in zits and longing to belong—like a place where rehearsals of glamour and independence and self-fashioning were possible (even if I never quite managed to access them myself). And yet, they’re dying. A 2017 report by Credit Suisse predicted that 1 in 4 malls would close by 2022. That was before the pandemic. How are these castles to consumerism crumbling while the system they so ably represented lives on?

If It’s Brown…

Why Does Coffee Make Me Poop?

This communication between the stomach, brain and colon, called the gastrocolic reflex, is a normal response to eating. But coffee seems to have an outsize effect; one study published in 1998 found that eight ounces of coffee stimulated colonic contractions similar to those induced by a 1,000-calorie meal. Researchers have hypothesized that coffee’s gut-brain messaging is likely caused by one or more of coffee’s many chemicals, and perhaps mediated by some of our own hormones that play important roles in the digestive process, like gastrin or cholecystokinin — both of which can spike after coffee drinking.

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Clay

December 2021

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

‘But, like, what is money, man?’

How Credit Cards Make Money

Payments are deceptively complicated—everyone has used them and thinks they have good intuitions for how they work. However, payments require coordination of a dance between different parties who have extremely different incentives, both on a transaction-by-transaction basis and what they get out of participating at all.

Taking a Step Back

Underrated Reasons To Be Thankful

That humans didn’t evolve under strong alpha selection, meaning that 99% of us don’t get eaten by birds in our first moments of life as we crawl down the beach towards the ocean, which is nice.

Rich Uncle Pennybags

Monopoly’s Origin and The Landlord’s Game

Today, the “real story” behind the invention of Monopoly, America’s most iconic board game, is well-known. But, as the game’s popularity began to intensify, executives at Parker Brothers wanted to keep the origin of Monopoly a secret. LeRoy Howard, a game designer and developer at Parker Brothers, advised George S. Parker about purchasing Monopoly from Charles Darrow in 1935. During the acquisition, Parker Brothers learned that Darrow’s commercially-produced version of the board game was based on Elizabeth M. Phillips’s previously-patented creation, The Landlord’s Game. In the end, Parker Brothers purchased the original patent from Phillips for $500. The document, titled “The Origin of the Game of Monopoly,” includes a handwritten annotation that reads “Not for Publication, L.H.” and was originally marked “Confidential.”

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Clay

November 2021

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

The Big Rick

IoT Hacking and Rickrolling My High School District

On April 30th, 2021, I rickrolled my high school district. Not just my school but the entirety of Township High School District 214. It’s the second-largest high school district in Illinois, consisting of 6 different schools with over 11,000 enrolled students.

This story isn’t one of those typical rickrolls where students sneak Rick Astley into presentations, talent shows, or Zoom calls. I did it by hijacking every networked display in every school to broadcast “Never Gonna Give You Up” in perfect synchronization. Whether it was a TV in a hall, a projector in a classroom, or a jumbotron displaying the lunch menu, as long as it was networked, I hacked it!

No Time to Die

An in-depth analysis of James Bond’s exposure to infectious agents

Global travelers, whether tourists or secret agents, are exposed to a smörgåsbord of infectious agents. We hypothesized that agents pre-occupied with espionage and counterterrorism may, at their peril, fail to correctly prioritize travel medicine. To examine our hypothesis, we examined adherence to international travel advice during the 86 international journeys that James Bond was observed to undertake in feature films spanning 1962–2021. Scrutinizing these missions involved ∼3113 min of evening hours per author that could easily have been spent on more pressing societal issues. We uncovered above-average sexual activity, often without sufficient time for an exchange of sexual history, with a remarkably high mortality among Bond’s sexual partners (27.1; 95% confidence interval 16.4–40.3). Given how inopportune a bout of diarrhea would be in the midst of world-saving action, it is striking that Bond is seen washing his hands on only two occasions, despite numerous exposures to foodborne pathogens. We hypothesize that his foolhardy courage, sometimes purposefully eliciting life-threatening situations, might even be a consequence of Toxoplasmosis. Bond’s approach to vector-borne diseases and neglected tropical diseases is erratic, sometimes following travel advice to the letter, but more often dwelling on the side of complete ignorance. Given the limited time Bond receives to prepare for missions, we urgently ask his employer MI6 to take its responsibility seriously. We only live once.

Drowning in Genres

Every Noise

Every Noise at Once is an ongoing attempt at an algorithmically-generated, readability-adjusted scatter-plot of the musical genre-space, based on data tracked and analyzed for 5,676 genre-shaped distinctions by Spotify as of 2021-10-26. The calibration is fuzzy, but in general down is more organic, up is more mechanical and electric; left is denser and more atmospheric, right is spikier and bouncier.

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Clay

October 2021

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

Nuclear Octagon

Rebranding Chernobyl

Chernobyl is just a two-hour drive north of the Banda design agency’s offices in Kyiv, Ukraine. When it came time to organize a company picnic in the summer of 2019, 20 graphic designers from the agency decided to pile into a bus and head straight for the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident. The HBO historical drama about the disaster had just been released, piquing curiosity around the world, including locally. The tour of the site was the first time many of Banda’s young designers had thought much about the radioactive legacy all around them and the gravity of what transpired at the former nuclear power plant.

Moved by what they saw, Banda representatives reached out to the Ukrainian government agency responsible for managing the 19-mile-radius Exclusion Zone around Chernobyl with an unusual proposal: a visual brand for Chernobyl and its legacy. At a time when Ukraine’s government has struggled to gain the world’s attention amid a seven-year war with Russia, an unresolved refugee crisis, a suppressed economy, an embarrassing supporting role in the first impeachment of Donald Trump, Carpathian mudslides, and forest fires near Chernobyl, authorities jumped on the opportunity for a free rebranding.

Don’t O-Zzzzz

Melatonin: Much More Than You Wanted to Know

0.3mg.

“But my local drugstore sells 10 mg pills! When I asked if they had anything lower, they looked through their stockroom and were eventually able to find 3 mg pills! And you’re saying the correct dose is a third of a milligram?!”

Yes. Most existing melatonin tablets are around ten to thirty times the correct dose.

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Clay

September 2021

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

Clock Wise

Why Clocks Run Clockwise

The first thing most of us notice about clocks and watches when we learn to tell time, is that the hands turn clockwise – the habit of perceiving clockwise motion as a representation of the forward movement of time is deeply ingrained; so much so that once having learned it, most of us cease to notice it at all. Imagine you are standing on the center of a watch: in any direction you face, the hands will appear to pass from left to right. Theoretically, we could just as easily tell time if they went from right to left, so why do clock and watch hands overwhelmingly have rightward, or clockwise, motion? Why is there no period in history where anticlockwise and clockwise rotation competed for supremacy?

Click Here

Why are hyperlinks blue?

The internet has ingrained itself into every aspect of our lives, but there’s one aspect of the digital world that I bet you take for granted. Did you ever notice that many links, specifically hyperlinks, are blue? When a co-worker casually asked me why links are blue, I was stumped. As a user experience designer who has created websites since 2001, I’ve always made my links blue. I have advocated for the specific shade of blue, and for the consistent application of blue, yes, but I’ve never stopped and wondered, why are links blue? It was just a fact of life. Grass is green and hyperlinks are blue. Culturally, we associate links with the color blue so much that in 2016, when Google changed its links to black, it created quite a disruption.

But now, I find myself all consumed by the question, WHY are links blue? WHO decided to make them blue? WHEN was this decision made, and HOW has this decision made such a lasting impact?

I turned to my co-workers to help me research, and we started to find the answer. Mosaic, an early browser released by Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina on January 23, 1993, had blue hyperlinks. To truly understand the origin and evolution of hyperlinks though, I took a journey through technology history and interfaces to explore how links were handled before color monitors, and how interfaces and hyperlinks rapidly evolved once color became an option.

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Clay

August 2021

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

His Name Was Emmett Till

His Name Was Emmett Till

In 1955 an all-white, all-male jury, encouraged by the defense to do their duty as “Anglo-Saxons,” acquitted J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant. Because the defendants couldn’t be tried again, they got paid to make a confession to a national magazine—a heavily fictionalized account stage-managed by their lawyers—and Leslie Milam and his barn were written out of the story. Ask most people where Till died and they’ll say Money, Mississippi, the town where Till whistled at Bryant’s wife outside the family’s store. An Equal Justice Initiative monument in Montgomery says Money. Wikipedia does too. The Library of Congress website skips over the barn, which is just outside the town of Drew, about 45 minutes from the store.

I learned about the barn last year and have since made repeated visits, alone and with groups, once with members of Till’s family. Over and over, I drove from my home in the Mississippi hill country back into the gothic flatland where I was born. The barn’s existence conjures a complex set of reactions: It is a mourning bench for Black Americans, an unwelcome mirror for white Americans. It both repels and demands attention.

Wright Thompson’s story-telling is enviable.

Kim + Im

Two South Korean golfers will play these Olympics with everything to lose

In the pyramid of professional golf, these two 20-somethings enjoy the view from tip-top. Their careers are the envy of countless grinders out there clawing for a breakthrough. And yet, in the eyes of the South Korean government, Im and Kim are but two able-bodied men with an unpaid debt to their country.

This week, both Im and Kim will be reunited with avoidance pressure of the highest order. In anticipation of perhaps the most important tournament of their lives, both men took the extraordinary step of skipping the Open Championship to devote their entire focus to the Olympics. Can you blame them? A medal would exempt them from mandatory military service. A fourth-place finish or worse—well, they’d prefer not to think about that.

“I don’t know how…”

A Round with Tiger: Celebrity Playing Lessons – Jada Pinkett Smith

This is some weird cross between a date, an interview, a golf lesson, and motherly wisdom. Tiger’s discomfort and Jada’s conviction in explaining what his story means is freaking awesome.

Tiger leaning forward and saying, “I don’t know how…” to see that people find his journey inspiring.

Don’t miss:
– 2:23-3:20
– 9:52-11:00
– 17:57-19:35

Penniless

Why a Victoria man has gone two decades without money

His last purchases — beer, cigarettes, pot — occurred 18 years ago, he says, on his 31st birthday. He claims he hasn’t spent any money since. It’s true, his friends have told me. No money at all.

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Clay