Good advice in general!
Well this is fascinating/terrifying
We just posted our newest story about cruise ships on our site. Read the full story here:
The Navigator of the Seas, seen here, was the largest cruise ship in the world upon its commissioning voyage in 2002, and it remained so until 2005. It is now only the thirtieth largest ship as the industry continues to build larger-capacity models to keep up with growing customer demands. With accommodations for 4,000 passengers and 1,200 crew members, the ship contains a surfing simulator, a basketball court, multiple pools, and an outdoor movie screen. Over a single day, cruise ships like the Navigator emit as much carbon dioxide as a million cars, while dumping hundreds of gallons of untreated sewage into the ocean.
Source imagery Nearmap
A cartoon I drew in about 2003.
p.s. stay safe, and if you’re ordering lockdown reading, consider ordering it from your local comic shop or bookshop if you can.
p.p.s. I have a new book out soon: https://www.tomgauld.com/comic-books-v2
Yes, all retail outlets are in trouble. For now, because this is the website of a publishing company, we’re going to focus on what we all can do for bookstores.
It’s more than you think.
Amazon is so backed up that they are not guaranteeing book delivery for upwards of 6 weeks.
Now more than ever, it helps bookstores, communities, and all humanity to buy books through your independent retailer.
It will be faster, and you will stave off a mass-extinction event for independent bookselling.
Things you can do:
1. Order books through your local store. In some states they are delivering directly. In other states you can actually pick up books from their location. Otherwise, all stores can deliver books to you through their distributors. In most cases it will be faster than Amazon. Many, many stores are offering free or reduced-price shipping to customers.
2. Buy gift cards. If you normally buy 10 books a year anyway, pre-paying now helps your store immeasurably. If 100 people spend $200 each, that’s $20,000. That matters a lot. That’s the difference between survival and your local store becoming a Jamba Juice or vape shop.
3. If you like audiobooks, buy them through libro.fm. They’re sending 100% of proceeds to the bookstore of your choice. That is a big deal. Use the code SHOPBOOKSTORESNOW and you’ll also get two audiobooks for the price of one.
4. Consider giving to the Bookseller Industry Charitable Fund. They provide grants to cover rent and food and healthcare for laid-off and furloughed bookstore staffers.
5. Bookshop.org just launched about a month ago as a new way for bookstores to sell directly to people online, via the store of their choice. In the wake of Covid-19 stores have really ramped things up, and many stores are using it to show off their staff picks, local bestsellers, and other features people love about an in-person bookstore experience.
6. A number of stores offer special subscriptions or patronage offers. This is a fun way to give stores some much needed cash, and you’ll reap the benefits for a long time. Examples include Books Are Magic’s Monthly Book Subscription, Green Apple’s Apple-a-Month Club, and EM Wolfman’s various support levels.
7. Many stores have also launched specific GoFundMe or other crowdfunding efforts to help get through this time. Our friends at Dog Eared Books have one going, for example.
8. Take part in virtual book events to support authors and stores.
9. Watch McSweeney’s email newsletter for regular, specific actions you can take in your communities to help independent stores in this time of need.
Date: March 20, 2020
Today’s Doodle follows the official recommendation on how to properly wash your hands from the World Health Organization. Learn more handwashing tips here, or check out the video below:
See up-to-date information from the WHO on the COVID-19 outbreak and ways to protect yourself here.
Today’s Doodle recognizes Hungarian physician Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, widely attributed as the first person to discover the medical benefits of handwashing. On this day in 1847, Semmelweis was appointed Chief Resident in the maternity clinic of the Vienna General Hospital, where he deduced and demonstrated that requiring doctors to disinfect their hands vastly reduced the transmission of disease.
Born in Buda (now Budapest), Hungary on July 1st, 1818, Ignaz Semmelweis went on to obtain a doctorate from the University of Vienna and master’s degree in midwifery. When he began his tenure at the Vienna General Hospital in the mid 19th century, a mysterious and poorly understood infection known as “childbed fever” was leading to high mortality rates in new mothers in maternity wards across Europe.
Semmelweis was dedicated to finding the cause. After a thorough investigation, he deduced that the doctors were transmitting infectious material from earlier operations and autopsies to susceptible mothers through their hands. He immediately instituted a requirement that all medical staff wash their hands in between patient examinations, and as a result, infection rates in his division began to plummet.
Unfortunately, many of Semmelweis’ peers initially viewed his ideas with skepticism. Decades later, his hygienic recommendations were validated by the widespread acceptance of the “germ theory of disease.”
Today, Semmelweis is widely remembered as “the father of infection control,” credited with revolutionizing not just obstetrics, but the medical field itself, informing generations beyond his own that handwashing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of diseases.
As COVID-19 continues to impact communities around the world, we’re taking action to help people find the information they need. Learn more here about the latest ways we’re responding, and how our products can help people stay connected during this time.
Say, "Hey Google, help me wash my hands" to your smart display, smart speaker, or phone (Android and iOS) in the U.S., and the Google Assistant will sing you a tune for the WHO-recommend handwashing time frame.
Print out the poster below to remind yourself and those living with you of proper handwashing technique:
Using a combination of estimates based on cell phone movements and outbreak size, The New York Times shows how the coronavirus started with a few cases and then spread around the world.
The particle flows to represent travel volume from city to city is something else. NYT used a scrollytelling format that starts on a geographic map. You see a few points at first, the virus spreads, and then there’s a transition to an abstract view that looks like a subway map. You end up in the United States with a view of the current estimates.
Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan, China was built over a 10 day period between January 23 and February 2. With more than 7,000 people working around the clock, the facility was a major step in the Chinese government’s response to slow the spread of COVID-19. The facility has 1,000 beds with 30 intensive care units, medical equipment rooms, and quarantine wards. Field hospitals like this one are one of the ways China has slowed the spread of the virus. As of today, China has reported a second consecutive day of no new confirmed cases in Hubei province, the epicenter of the pandemic.
Source imagery: Maxar
I need a theory of semantics that accounts for this
[Photo of a menu at a Fish & Chip shop offering all items “with chips” or “without chips”, including…an order of chips]
-Joshua Raclaw on twitter
In the most recent issue of the prestigious American Economic Review, a group of well-known economists published a paper titled “The Welfare Effects of Social Media.” It presents the results of one of the largest randomized trials ever conducted to directly measure the personal impact of deactivating Facebook.
The experimental design is straightforward. Using Facebook ads, the researchers recruited 2,743 users who were willing to leave Facebook for one month in exchange for a cash reward. They then randomly divided these users into a Treatment group, that followed through with the deactivation, and a Control group, that was asked to keep using the platform.
The researchers deployed surveys, emails, text messages, and monitoring software to measure both the subjective well-being and behavior of both groups, both during and after the experiment.
Here are some highlights of what they found:
- “Deactivating Facebook freed up 60 minutes per day for the average person in our Treatment group.” Much of this time was reinvested in offline activities, including, notably, socializing with friends and family.
- “Deactivation caused small but significant improvements in well-being, and in particular in self-reported happiness, life satisfaction, depression, and anxiety.” The researchers report this effect to be around 25-40% of the effect typically attributed to participating in therapy.
- “As the experiment ended, participants reported planning to use Facebook much less in the future.” Five percent of the Treatment group went even farther and declined to reactivate their account after the experiment ended.
- “The Treatment group was less likely to say they follow news about politics or the President, and less able to correctly answer factual questions about recent news events.” This was not surprising given that this group spent 15% less time reading any type of online news during the experiment.
- “Deactivation significantly reduced polarization of views on policy issues and a measure of exposure to polarizing news.” On the other hand, it didn’t significantly reduce negative feelings about the other political party.
This study validates many of the ideas from Digital Minimalism (indeed, the paper even cites the book in its introduction). People spend more time on social media than they realize, and stepping away frees up time for more rewarding offline activities, leading, in turn, to an increase in self-reported happiness and a decrease in self-reported anxiety.
The main negative impact experienced by the Treatment group was that they were less up to date on the news. Some might argue that this isn’t really negative, but even for those who prioritize current events knowledge, there are, obviously, many better ways to keep up with news than Facebook.
Perhaps most interesting was the disconnect between the subjects’ experience with deactivating Facebook and their prediction about how other people would react. “About 80 percent of the Treatment group agreed that deactivation was good for them,” reports the researchers. But this same group was likely to believe that others wouldn’t experience similar positive effects, as they would likely “miss out” more. The specter of FOMO, in other words, is hard to shake, even after you’ve learned through direct experience that in your own case this “fear” was largely hype.
This final result tells me that perhaps an early important step in freeing our culture from indentured servitude in social media’s attention mines is convincing people that abstention is an option in the first place.
lewisandquark: Smells like the future “What would a candle inspired by your book smell like?” This...
Smells like the future
“What would a candle inspired by your book smell like?”
This was a question that was going around the other day, and most authors got to answer with something nice. My book, however… let’s just say it features a neural net-generated recipe called “Basic Clam Frosting”.
But what kind of candles would a neural net invent? asked Janet Laible, who with SnoringFrog then proceeded to collect a list of almost 1000 (mostly from Yankee Candle). Training a neural net to generate candles was a good (and rather frightening) suggestion.
I gave the existing list to a large neural net called GPT-2, which had previously trained on a huge chunk of text from the internet. Its task was to learn how to predict new candle scents. But compared to All of the Internet, 1000 candles is a pitifully small dataset, and the neural net immediately learned to memorize it. After all, that’s technically a perfect solution to the task “predict new candle scents” - if it innovated, it might be wrong sometimes.
But just as I was getting discouraged, I began to notice that it WAS innovating. In among all the copied scents, some of its candles definitely weren’t in the original training data.
I went back to the neural net’s generated list and used a program to filter out the duplicates, revealing that the neural net was inventing new scents after all, candles that had blended in with the ones that already existed.
Vanilla Pumpkin Cake
Christmasly Spiced Apple
New Zealand Stars
Rich Berry Frost
Snowy Alberta Night
Spicy Butterscotch On Toast
But if you let the neural net run your candle factory unattended, these scents might be in your lineup:
The neural net was drawing on its prior internet training for its innovations (“decay” wasn’t anywhere in its candle training data). And sometimes it uses that prior training to do weird things. In among its candle ideas, the neural net also wrote this little story:
Imagine you’re sleeping in your room, surrounded by night. You forget you’re awake for at least 45 minutes, waiting for 100 percent of the sun to set. At night, you wake up to find yourself inside the matching sweatshirt and sweatshirt combo. Smell the warmth, feel it pour through your hair, smell the fragrant caffees — before warm fuzzies drop by the window. Air bubbles swirl your bedroom doors and make satisfying noise. Whoop!!
Candle images made via the personalized candle interface of Yankee Candle Company, from whom I am expecting a call any day.
Bonus content: More candles from the future
I do not understand but I am a fan
We just published our first feature story on the Australia Bushfires. Check it out here:
This bushfire season was always predicted to be ferocious, but with months of hot weather to go, it has already left a scar on the nation.
Oh my god
I love this step by step guide how to achieve Inbox Zero in Gmail to start the year out fresh.
In 2007, Noah Kalina posted a time-lapse video showing a picture of himself every day for six years. Pop culture swallowed it up. There was even a Simpsons parody with Homer. After another six years, it was a video for twelve years’ worth of photos. Kalina has kept his everyday project going, and the above is the new time-lapse for two decades.
This brings back graduate school memories for me as I argued for personal data collection as a diary instead of just for quantified self. I often led with Kalina’s project as a primary example. He ages, his background changes, and his camera improves, but the angle stays the same.
It’s a very tiny window into his life, played out over time, but I bet for Kalina it means a bit more. [via kottke]
Visitors to Parliament House were forced to wear face masks after smoke from bushfires blankets Canberra in a haze on January 5.