Today is the Vernal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, and we welcome Spring with a look into the ways different animals emerge from hibernation, then shift focus to diverting waste via repair cafés. Then we have two articles from CityLab on the rapid decline of retail and the challenges and opportunities it creates for city planners, a $4,000 tiny home, a satirical look at one of my favorite forms of journalism, and a long read on detoxifying the Internet. We’re also recommending a new, lighter podcast by On Being Studios, and finish with no less than six things I’m digging this week, including a positive sign from one of my most-used reading apps.
◦ selected words
It’s the Spring Equinox and while some of us are lamenting that gym membership we’re not making the most of, the hard work begins for many animals after a long winter hibernation. Bears move slowly as their metabolism catches up, bees have been shivering to keep their hives warm, bats reproduce, and squirrels emerge after up to 270 days underground. Now that’s a long winter.
The New York Times (5min read)
A blender, e-reader, a dining-room chair, and a pair of jeans. These are a small sample of the broken items brought to the Reading Repair Café in England, a volunteer-run group working against disposable culture. But it’s not just volunteers doing the work. The Remakery, with locations in Brixton and Edinburgh, is a profitable business with a staff of 11 and 10 freelancers. Since opening in 2012, they’ve diverted 205 tons of waste destined for the landfill and their success has resulted in interest from around the world. Remakery has created a toolkit and a network to provide advice for those looking to replicate their business model.
The Guardian (4min read)
With the rapid fall of Toys “R” US and other major retailers shutting down stores across the continent, the future of retail is unfolding faster than predicted. Will the future be Amazon, everywhere? With over 5,000 stores in the U.S., Walmart is in a unique position to battle the online behemoth, particularly with their presence in rural areas. Then there’s CVS, with 11,000 locations, 82% of the U.S. population lives within a 15-minute drive of their pharmacies. Consolidation, automated delivery, and mobile showrooms are on the way faster than you can say Amazon Prime.
CityLab by The Atlantic (6min read)
The death of retail doesn’t have to be ominous — there can be positive outcomes for communities. It’s estimated that as many as 650 mall retrofit projects are in progress across the United States. This article, again by The Atlantic’s CityLab, looks at how large retail stores and malls are being retrofitted for alternative uses like community spaces, education and health care centers.
CityLab by The Atlantic (6min read)
It sounds impossible, but last week at SXSW Austin-based startup ICON showed off it’s a low-cost 650 square foot (60 meter) concrete tiny home to address housing shortages in vulnerable populations. The house has a bedroom, bathroom, and even a wraparound porch. The 3D-printing process allows for greater thermal regulation and is close to zero waste. ICON has partnered with New Story, a Y Combinator backed charity, to build a commuity of 100 homes in El Salvador within 18 months.
Quartz (3min read)
◦ listen in
From On Being Studios’, this new podcast hosted by Lily Percy talks to a one fan about the transformative power of one movie. The first four episodes discuss Star Wars, The Nightmare Before Christmas, You’ve Got Mail, and one of my favorites (and due for a rewatch), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
This Movie Changed Me (21min podcast)
◦ eat well
I’ve been on a liquid diet due to minor dental surgery, so in addition to plant-based Vega One All-in-One shakes, I’ve been refueling with copious amounts of soup. I’m not quite at the stage of making my own stock yet, so I made this vegan recipe with my the MSG-free Anna’s Country Kitchen Bouillon Cubes, which I prefer over Tetra Paks. To get more nutrients, I sprinkled in hemp hearts and flax seed before blending. Mix it up with a dash of cinnamon, cumin, or curry, to your preference.
Oh She Glows
◦ read slow
Summoning the classic Portlandia sketch, “Did You Read It”, the satirists at McSweeney’s poke fun at the culture around long form writing.
McSweeney’s Internet Tendency (4min read)
Now for the actual long read recommendation this issue! The New Yorker (surprise!) gives the 4th most popular Web site in the United States the long form analysis. Probably the most popular Web site that a lot of people haven’t heard of, Reddit is an online news and culture ranked discussion site some see as anarchist despite its democratic voting system. Founded in 2005, Reddit attracted young men in tech with interests in video games and edgy humor, but now has a 60/40 male/female ratio and subreddits (topics) on every obscure interest imaginable. With the return of CEO Steve Huffman in 2015, nine years after Condé Nast purchased the site, Reddit has a renewed focus on being the Internet’s mirror of popular culture. And like mainstream news organizations, they’re having to navigate issues of race, political polarization, and censorship with a constantly evolving user base estimated at 234 million.
The New Yorker (35min read)
◦ current read
King Arthur and the Camelot story has been made and re-made, but none better than by Canadian author Jack Whyte. Weaving in the Roman Empire in Britain, medieval technology, and a sprinkling of sex, the series depicts in unusual detail life in 4th century Britain. One of those series people warn you will suck you in, this is historical fiction at its best (as the 4.2+ ratings on Goodreads reflect).
A Dream of Eagles by Jack Whyte (494p book)
◦ dig this
Six things I’m diggin’ this issue:
- Strangers See The Moon Up-Close – See the wonder in their eyes as strangers on the streets of Los Angeles view the moon through a high-powered telescope in this short film. The same thing happened to me at Kits Beach with a trio of hobbyists, the first time I saw the moon’s craters and Saturn’s rings (3min Vimeo).
- D-Prize Challenge – Design a business or NGO to solve a distribution challenge in an impoverished nation and win a $20,000 award. Submit your idea by the April deadline.
- Why We Worry All the Time and How to Cope – The School of Life’s latest bite-sized wisdom. Their 2nd conference is on March 25 in SF. (5min YouTube)
- Pocket App Gets Time Estimates – Positive change comes to the best Save Later app, thanks to the work of digital attention activist Tristan Harris and his Time Well Spent / Humane Tech initiative.
- The Unidentified Woman in the Science Photo – Twitter proves it’s worth, helping identify the only woman, and only one captioned “not identified”, in a photo taken at the 1971 International Conference on Biology of Whales.
- Wild Wild Country – A new six-part Netflix documentary on the rise and fall of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Osho) in the 80’s, a teacher of Hinduism, psychotherapy and yogic principles, that would lead to the establishment of a utopian commune in small-town Oregon at the grandest scale. (6x1hr episodes)
◦ humble thought
“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.”
– Physicist Stephen Hawking on the meaning of life
(Jan 8, 1942 – Mar 14, 2018)
This is a tiny idea.
I need your help to make it a thing.
On Sundays, write a post about a friend or local business doing good work. Include a blurb about what they’re up to, with a link to their project / art / business, and tag it #SundayBump.
Why? To support amazing people who might otherwise not get the exposure or recognition they deserve. Maybe they’re starting out, are a bit shy on the marketing side, or they’re just plain awesome! Show your appreciation and give them a bump!
On a personal note, I recently broke a root canal which required surgery. It’s been a challenge because the doctor told me to talk minimally, avoid exercise, take antibiotics, not to suck, smoke or consume alcohol, and the most difficult, switching to a liquid diet. It takes a lot of time to prep all of your meals and it doesn’t feel very nourishing. One night I was so hungry and tired of my smoothie / veggie soup diet, so I went for takeout. I ordered a bowl of pho, and put it all (save for half the noodles) in the blender. It looked like porridge, but boy was it satisfying!
So being home much more than usual, I also noticed my computer and social social media usage go way up, and I even started watched a new series on Netflix (the fascinating six-part documentary Wild Wild Country, on the Rajneesh commune in Oregon), something I haven’t done for months. Being inside with these restrictions definitely affected my mood, but I would try to remember that this too will pass.
My mom quoted an old Chinese proverb (are there new ones?) that said when you’re healthy, you want to do everything. But when you’re sick, all you want is to be healthy again.
Something to think about as you look around and see people suffering from accidents or chronic illnesses.