2020-05-04 6 min read


Notes, 2020-05-04.

It may come as no surprise that my research trip to the high arctic I mentioned in my last edit has been canceled. Like billions of other people around the world, my daily life has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and I am in the process of making alternative plans for everything from how I buy groceries to what my life might look like in the coming months and years.

The hyper accelerated news cycle of 2020 has become saturated with coronavirus pandemic news and opinions; I am having trouble trying to figure out what is healthy news consumption and what is masochistic in the age of endless scrolling newsfeeds. I oscillate between focusing on the pandemic, indulging in escapism, and imagining what might come next. Whether you have been forced to stay home or have to work on the front lines, stay safe.

The most clicked link from last week's issue (~9% of opens) was a really fantastic Twitter thread on all the hacks in the human vision system.

Objects of my isolation.

  • The Atlas of Everyday Objects is a project archiving our societal lockdown by collecting photos of objects that have taken on new meaning in isolation. I am fixated on my houseplants and the garden snails I’m keeping in a terrarium, along with some of the following things.
  • The Ashley Book of Knots calls knotting “an adventure in unlimited space” which I’ve found to be an adventure well suited to the quite limited space of my apartment. This truly comprehensive guide, a favorite from The Prepared's Tool Guide, largely consists of knots collected from sailors who spent months of isolation honing their craft. I sit and try to work through the complicated diagrams with lengths of old climbing rope, and find comfort in the fact that knots cannot be partially right. You either have tied it correctly, or the whole thing fails; the lack of ambiguity is satisfying. You can access the full text from the Internet Archive or try your hand at an ocean plait mat through an animated tutorial.
  • Wearing a mask to limit the spread of COVID-19 is now accepted as best practice but getting access to safe face coverings has challenges beyond getting a hold of one. Demand for Sharp’s face masks crashed their website and, subsequently, also IoT devices that appear to share the same server.
  • The CDC released a video on making DIY masks that is more dystopian than informative (the naloxone t-shirt as a mask just serves as a reminder that public health emergencies are stacking on top of one another). I have spent a lot of time sewing and distributing cloth masks in Toronto, using a more informative resource for DIY masks.
  • Establishing credibility from a distance can be challenging, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is nailing it through his exhaustive PowerPoint presentations. Not everyone is doing as well, I am obsessed with this Twitter account that rates the credibility of talking head types by their bookcases.

Creative Destruction.

Slouching toward a green economy.

Imaginary Road Trip.

In my isolation, I dream about the places I might one day travel to. I dream of crisscrossing the deserts of America searching for megaprojects that represent the ambition (and folly) of the built world with my friends. Join me on an imaginary trip.

In Memoriam.

Remembering the dead is an important part of moving through this pandemic, and today I am including a note on a couple of people who’ve lost their lives to COVID-19, and the fascinating work they contributed to this world.


Organizational Chart of Erie Railroad, 1855.

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