----- 4 stars -----

The Last Patrol / California Sunday Magazine
In July, I shared this excellent article about "The Cursed Platoon," led by Clint Lorance. This piece, which goes further by including Lorance's (and his defenders') perspectives, is even better. It's long but worthwhile:

In 2019, President Trump pardoned Army Lieutenant Clint Lorance, who was serving a 20-year sentence for ordering the murder of two Afghan civilians. To Lorance’s defenders, the act was long overdue. To members of his platoon, it was a gross miscarriage of justice. [...] The media still seemed to be litigating his court-martial seven years later, I wrote in my email. Fox News welcomed him home as a war hero. The New York Times editorial pages decried him as a war criminal. I knew that United American Patriots (UAP), the organization that had campaigned for his release, was arguing that Lorance’s rights had been violated at his trial — specifically, that the government had withheld evidence proving that the people he’d ordered his men to shoot were Taliban bomb-makers, not civilians. I hoped to find out where he stood with his own conscience. I asked if he’d be amenable to a phone conversation. He wrote me back less than an hour later: “Hey brother” — the salutation he would use in almost all of his emails — “I have been advised not to speak with any media with liberal slants…. I only do interviews with conservative media [because] they don’t try to attack President Trump via my tragedy.” We kept up our correspondence. He told me he’d recently moved to Florida because “it is paradise” and that he was applying to law school, because he wanted to help other unjustly accused people. After a while, I asked if he would reconsider speaking with me. He replied with one sentence: “Let me think about this and pray about this.” Seven weeks later, on a May morning, he appeared on the screen of my laptop. He was wearing a blue blazer and an American flag pin, as he had done for his homecoming interview on Fox & Friends. He was courteous but impassive at first, the image of a professional soldier. He answered my questions in a soft drawl, without nervousness or inhibition.

----- 3 stars -----

Xu Jilin, et. al., "Black Lives Matter" / Reading the China Dream
This is an unusual link, but I found it fascinating. My perception is that American academics / intellectuals are far less capable of having this sort of discussion about Chinese society -- and that in general, the elite in China understand America far better than the American elite understand China. As for how much that ultimately matters...who knows, but it doesn't seem ideal.

The text translated below is a transcription of remarks delivered in the context of an “online dialogue” organized by East China Normal University in Shanghai and diffused on June 22, 2020. The subject addressed is the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States in the wake of the death of George Floyd. [...] First, I was once again struck by how knowledgeable these Chinese intellectuals are about the United States. Again, none of them focuses on the US in their research, none of them is attached to a research center that works on the US. Their level of interest and mastery of detail are testimony to how important the US remains to Chinese intellectual life (especially but not exclusively liberal intellectuals). My second reflection is more complex. There is something more than a little off-putting about Han Chinese intellectuals warning Black Lives Matter activists about identity politics because they are putting the Anglo-Saxon heritage of the United States in peril. The same Han Chinese intellectuals who, to my knowledge, say little about cultural politics and the politics of culture in China, at least in ways that engage Han Chinese racism or government “minority policy.” Of course, it is not the intellectuals’ fault that they can engage in sophisticated discussions about American society pretty much at will, but that remarks about Xinjiang or Tibet will be immediately censored. But could they not make a subtle nod to signal that they realize the irony of the situation? Perhaps Liu Qing’s and Bai Tongdong’s suggestions that a little political correctness might do China good are in fact just such nods. [...] Liu Qing: In my view, there are two different ideas here—universalism and particularism. Protests against racism can appeal to universalist principles in terms of rights, but they can also appeal to the particular identities and experiences of particular ethnic groups and fight on the basis of the principles of particularism. This latter case is that of identity politics. In America, there is a black conservatism, with its own politics, intellectual circles, and traditions, a representative figure of which is the Stanford economist Thomas Sowell (b. 1930). He has often criticized the contemporary left, arguing that they are betraying the tradition of Martin Luther King. In Sowell’s view, the movement King led was based on the position of universal rights, and its aim was to arrive at a society where no one would be judged on the color of his skin. Two years ago, Sowell published a tweet in which he said that “If you believe that everyone should respect the same principles and be judged according to the same standards, then the label that would have been attached to you sixty years ago was ‘radical,’ thirty years ago it was ‘liberal,’ and now it’s ‘racist,’” suggesting that if Martin Luther King were alive today he might be branded a racist. We can argue about whether Sowell is right or not, but he has put his finger on genuine changes in ideas over time.

Transitions / Ryan Caldbeck

On October 13th 2020 I stepped down as CEO of CircleUp, the company I started in 2011 with my co-founder, Rory Eakin. Leaving the best job I ever had — at the company I helped to create — was difficult and confusing. I wish I had found other stories about how the transition actually went and what it felt like. But I found surprisingly few first-hand accounts from founders or CEOs transitioning from their initial role, and even fewer that shared their full, authentic story of what really happened when they left and how they truly felt about the process. With limited precedent to guide me, I found the process extremely hard to manage, both logistically and emotionally. That’s why I’m writing this blog. I’m sure I didn’t do everything right in executing my transition, but that isn’t the point. I’m not here to share a playbook — I don’t think one exists. I want to share my experiences and vulnerabilities with full candor in the hope that other founders can have a resource that I lacked; that they can learn from my experience and feel less lonely than I have through this process. I also hope this piece can help build greater empathy and understanding among the investors, teams and families that have backed, supported and lived with founders whose struggles might at first seem opaque or impenetrable but are, in essence, deeply human. [...] I’ve eventually realized that for far too long, I wasn’t clear — with myself or others — about what I wanted or needed. At times I thought I was sending up big red flares that I couldn’t sustain my pace, but others were just seeing the normal ups and downs of a founder. I believe hundreds of founders have their own version of this story, but it is rarely told. I hope that my candor helps others to feel more comfortable than I did asking for help and more willing than I was to confront feelings of loneliness and weakening stamina before they reach a breaking point. For me, that happened in the fall of 2019. There was no final straw at work; frankly the company was doing better than it ever had and my job was actually easier than it ever had been. It didn’t matter: I could only feel pain. Finally, my daughter looked at me and said, “Daddy, you always look so sad”. She was five. It was the push I needed to change.

United States v. Google / Stratechery

So it finally happened: the U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Google, alleging anticompetitive behavior under Section 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act. And, as far as I can tell, everyone is disappointed in the DOJ’s case. [...] I think the conventional wisdom about the specifics of this lawsuit are mistaken: I believe the particulars of the Justice Department’s complaint have been foreshadowed for a long time, and make for a case stronger than most of Europe’s; if the lawsuit fails in court — as it very well may — it also points to where Congress should act to restrain the largest companies in the world. [...] If I had to bet on an outcome, I would bet on Google winning. Apple and everyone else are free to enter into whatever contracts they wish, and consumers are free to undo the defaults that flow from those contracts. Where is the harm? Google, of course, wants the conversation to stop there: as long as the argument is a legal one, or even an economic one, Aggregators have powerful justifications for their dominance. That, though, is why the real question is a political one: are we as a society comfortable with a few big companies having such an outsized role in our lives? If the answer is no, the ultimate answer will not be through the courts, but through new laws for a new era. Anti-aggregation, not antitrust.

Liberalism and Its Discontents / American Purpose
Francis Fukuyama:

Today, there is a broad consensus that democracy is under attack or in retreat in many parts of the world. It is being contested not just by authoritarian states like China and Russia, but by populists who have been elected in many democracies that seemed secure. The “democracy” under attack today is a shorthand for liberal democracy, and what is really under greatest threat is the liberal component of this pair. The democracy part refers to the accountability of those who hold political power through mechanisms like free and fair multiparty elections under universal adult franchise. The liberal part, by contrast, refers primarily to a rule of law that constrains the power of government and requires that even the most powerful actors in the system operate under the same general rules as ordinary citizens. Liberal democracies, in other words, have a constitutional system of checks and balances that limits the power of elected leaders. [...] Liberalism has been a broadly successful ideology, and one that is responsible for much of the peace and prosperity of the modern world. But it also has a number of shortcomings, some of which were triggered by external circumstances, and others of which are intrinsic to the doctrine. The first lies in the realm of economics, the second in the realm of culture. The economic shortcomings have to do with the tendency of economic liberalism to evolve into what has come to be called “neoliberalism.” [...] But valid insights about the efficiency of markets evolved into something of a religion, in which state intervention was opposed not based on empirical observation but as a matter of principle. Deregulation produced lower airline ticket prices and shipping costs for trucks, but also laid the ground for the great financial crisis of 2008 when it was applied to the financial sector. Privatization was pushed even in cases of natural monopolies like municipal water or telecom systems, leading to travesties like the privatization of Mexico’s TelMex, where a public monopoly was transformed into a private one. Perhaps most important, the fundamental insight of trade theory, that free trade leads to higher wealth for all parties concerned, neglected the further insight that this was true only in the aggregate, and that many individuals would be hurt by trade liberalization. [...] The result was the world that emerged by the 2010s in which aggregate incomes were higher than ever but inequality within countries had also grown enormously. [...] The second discontent with liberalism as it evolved over the decades was rooted in its very premises. Liberalism deliberately lowered the horizon of politics: A liberal state will not tell you how to live your life, or what a good life entails; how you pursue happiness is up to you. This produces a vacuum at the core of liberal societies, one that often gets filled by consumerism or pop culture or other random activities that do not necessarily lead to human flourishing. This has been the critique of a group of (mostly) Catholic intellectuals including Patrick Deneen, Sohrab Ahmari, Adrian Vermeule, and others, who feel that liberalism offers “thin gruel” for anyone with deeper moral commitments.

----- 2 stars -----

Health Care: The Best and the Rest / New York Review of Books

In 1945 President Harry Truman had delivered a special message to Congress laying out a plan for national health insurance—an idea the pragmatic and immensely popular FDR had carefully skirted. As an artillery officer in World War I, Truman had been troubled by the poor health of his recruits, and as chairman of a select Senate committee to investigate the defense program during World War II, his worries had grown. [...] The facts seemed to bear him out. Close to half the counties in the United States lacked a general hospital. Government estimates showed that about $11 million was spent annually on “new treatments and cures for disease,” as opposed to $275 million for “industrial research.” Though the nation claimed to have approximately one physician per 1,500 people, the ratio in poor and rural counties regularly dipped below one per 3,000, the so-called danger line. On average, studies showed, two thirds of the population lacked the means to meet a sustained health crisis. [...] It did him no good. At the first Senate hearing on the proposal, Ohio’s Robert A. Taft, a perennial presidential candidate known to his admirers as “Mr. Republican,” denounced it as “the most socialistic measure that this Congress has ever had before it.” [...] In the years after Truman’s plan died in Congress, the government filled some of the egregious gaps in the private insurance system with expensive programs for the poor, the elderly, and others in high-risk categories, thereby cementing America’s outlier status as the world’s only advanced industrial nation without universal health care. [...] The UK and the US are the bookends of the eleven health care systems that Emanuel has studied—not so much to determine which one is “best” or “worst,” as which one most closely resembles a socialized system. (The others are Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, and Taiwan.) The UK excels in universal coverage, simplicity of payment, and protection of low-income groups. While the NHS remains quite popular, it also is seriously underfunded: the UK ranks dead last in both health care spending per capita ($3,900) and health care spending as a percentage of gross domestic product (9.6) among the six European nations under examination. [...] So who are the winners and losers? The 2017 Commonwealth study ranks the UK first, followed closely by Australia and the Netherlands. In last place, hands down, is the United States, which fails in almost every category. Emanuel ranks the United States next to last—but only because his study includes China. [...] And first place? The answer is…blank. There are too many variables and too few precise measurements to pick an overall winner, Emanuel confesses to the reader on page 351. The best that he can do is to lump the eleven nations into tiers, with Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and Taiwan at the top.

How A Bootleg Prep School Profited By Ripping Off Teens With NBA Dreams / Deadspin

During his first few days in jail, Mumin Tunc folded the limbs of his 7-foot-tall teenage frame as best he could and sat on his cell mattress with his back glued to the wall. He barely slept. Accused criminals filled the cells around him at the York County detention facility in York, S.C. Some were there for petty crimes such as credit-card fraud and shoplifting. Others faced harsher charges: Domestic violence. Carjacking. Armed robbery. Attempted murder. There were two of those. Tunc, meanwhile, all 195 pounds of him, was no threat to anyone, save for opponents on the basketball court trying to shoot over him. People around him loved him—“the nicest kid you’ll ever meet,” says his former coach John Carey. Tunc, 19, had come to the U.S. from his native Turkey more than two years earlier, but he still struggled with English. Even in Turkish, he stuttered. He suffered from debilitating shyness at times, and his height made fading into the background impossible. His height was also the chief reason he was in the States. Like thousands of other young athletes from the U.S. and overseas, he was attending an American prep school, in his case 22ft Academy in Anderson, S.C., in hopes of showing his potential to college-basketball scouts. Since 2013, when a burly, fast-talking Euro-league basketball agent from England named Mike Rawson launched 22ft Academy in the U.S., well over 100 players had paid as much as $26,000 a year for the chance to practice and play for one of 22ft’s three teams. [...] Tunc’s experience, and the story of 22ft Academy, shows just how much can go wrong in America’s newest venue for athlete exploitation—the bootleg prep school. A year-long Fusion investigation into prep-school basketball reveals this mini-industry, which feeds increasing numbers of striving athletes to the hungry maw of big-time college and professional sports, is far too often a con game. Mumin Tunc came here for an education, and thanks to 22ft Academy, he certainly got one—just not the one he expected.

Robert Caro: ‘The more facts you collect, the closer you come to the truth’ / The Guardian

He always wanted to be a writer. To this day, he still has regular dinners with the guys who worked with him on the Horace Mann Record (Horace Mann is the private school he attended in Riverdale, the Bronx). At Princeton, he neglected his studies, preferring to devote his time to its daily newspaper. He began his career as a reporter at the New Brunswick Daily Home News, eventually graduating to Newsday on Long Island. “I loved being a journalist,” he says. “I miss it.” It isn’t lost on him that while he once had a reputation for speed, he’s now notorious for his refusal ever to be hurried: “It’s sort of opposites. In newspapers, you’re always on a deadline. I was really fast. I was maybe the fastest rewrite man. Newsday had all these editions: East End, Riverhead, Mid Suffolk, East Nassau, Central Nassau, Queens. You would have to write six leads for the same story. I could do that. I liked doing that. But you never had a chance to think things through.” [...] He doesn’t worry about the future of biography, though it seems clear that he is the last of the last in terms of producing multiple volume lives. His main concern is that people do not forget that the quality of the prose in the writing of history and biography is as important as it is in fiction. “I have no trouble in understanding why [Edward] Gibbon endures,” he says. “Look at the writing! He is great.” Caro’s own prose makes me think of waves: in the paragraphs roll, grandiose as anything, crashing against the shore as he winds them up with a last, very short sentence. “Well, that’s from Paradise, um…” He shakes his head. “I don’t compare myself with Milton, but great works can be models. He [Milton] has these long lines about Satan falling and falling and then, suddenly, the rhythm changes. I try to do things with rhythm. In the second volume, Johnson is campaigning in Texas in a helicopter, and he’s so desperate. I wrote on an index card: is there desperation on this page? I meant in the rhythm. I want to reinforce the reader’s understanding with that rhythm.”

Twitter, Responsibility, and Accountability / Stratechery

What is notable about this episode is that it was in many respects the pinnacle of how the Internet could make traditional media better: CBS got duped, both because it wanted to be first and also, one suspects, because of confirmation bias (Rather continued to argue that the story was true even if the documents were false), but in this case, there were many more outlets than the big three news networks, and those outlets, in a classic example of “more speech” leading to the truth, corrected the misinformation. And CBS, to its credit, corrected the record. [...] It may seem odd to be re-litigating the 2016 election two weeks before the 2020 one, but last week’s decision by Facebook and Twitter to slow and ban respectively a sketchy story about Vice-President Joe Biden’s son Hunter cannot be understood without looking back to 2016. [...] Twitter’s actions became even more extreme over the next few days, including banning follow-up stories from the New York Post and locking the newspaper’s Twitter account, even as the company’s explanation for its actions continued to shift; eventually the company unblocked the article, claiming that the story was now widely spread on the Internet. The story, to be clear, appears to be fabricated, and comically so. [...] This, to be very clear, does not exculpate Twitter’s actions: quite the opposite in fact. After all, as Twitter itself acknowledged, banning the link did not stop the news of the story from spreading. If anything Twitter’s actions had the opposite effect: it made the story spread far more widely than it would have otherwise, now with the additional suspicion that the powers-that-be must want to hide something. What was overshadowed were all of the stories making the case that the story may have been fabricated. [...] Thus the look back to 2016: the reason why I believe that the New York Times was more responsible than Facebook for the election outcome is rooted in a belief that making stories matter is far more important and impactful than making up stories. Unfortunately, the way in which the generally accepted narrative about the election shifted to blaming Facebook led to a crisis of accountability.

The Psychedelic Election / The Weekly Dish

We’ve long known that human knowledge of psychedelic aspects of nature goes back into pre-history; and use of them just as far. But perhaps the most surprising find in this new area of research is that sacred tripping was not simply a function of prehistoric religious rituals and shamanism, but an integral, even central part, of the world of the ancient Greeks. The society that remains the basis for so much of Western civilization seems to have held psychedelics as critical to its vision of human flourishing. And that vision may have a role to play in bringing Western civilization back into balance. [...] The Greeks appear to have mastered the formula, and a tiny chalice discovered in Spain suggests a small, careful dosage, amid a welter of other finely tuned ingredients. Another re-examined excavation in Pompeii found the preserved remains at the bottom of large barrels jars dated to 79 CE: chemical analysis found it included seeds of cannabis, opium, and hallucinogenic nightshades. The recipe for the psychedelic brew and the preparation of it was restricted to women, who passed on the secret recipes from mother to daughter, and was the particular preserve of older women. The effect, we’re told in the sources, was transformative: you saw past life and death, you became unafraid of your own mortality, you gained perspective and inner peace. It’s hard not to be struck by the parallels among the patients interviewed by Michael Pollan. [...] Now also recall that in the current Johns Hopkins psilocybin trials, around 75 percent of the research volunteers consistently rated their sole dose of psilocybin as either the single most meaningful experience of their lives, or among the top five. Psilocybin is also now being used in hospices, where the dying often report a new calm and serenity as they approach the end of their physical lives, and in addiction programs, where success rates have leapt, and in prisons, where recidivism has sharply declined among those treated. It’s entirely plausible that these moderns are simply repeating the profound experience the ancients spoke so glowingly about, and ritualized in life-altering ceremonies. By the third and fourth centuries, the more established Christian authorities began to crack down on the women who seemed to be keeping this psychedelic tradition alive (they were later demonized as witches), and not long after Rome’s formal conversion to Christianity, the Temple of Eleusis was destroyed in order to end one of the most long-running religious ceremonies in human history.

Turbulent era sparked leap in human behavior, adaptability 320,000 years ago / PhysOrg

For hundreds of thousands of years, early humans in the East African Rift Valley could expect certain things of their environment. Freshwater lakes in the region ensured a reliable source of water, and large grazing herbivores roamed the grasslands. Then, around 400,000 years ago, things changed. The environment became less predictable, and human ancestors faced new sources of instability and uncertainty that challenged their previous long-standing way of life. [...] Decades of study at Olorgesailie by Potts' team and collaborators at the National Museums of Kenya have determined that early humans at Olorgesailie relied on the same tools, stone handaxes, for 700,000 years. Their way of life during this period was remarkably stable, with no major changes in their behaviors and strategies for survival. Then, beginning around 320,000 years ago, people living there entered the Middle Stone Age, crafting smaller, more sophisticated weapons, including projectiles. At the same time, they began to trade resources with distant groups and to use coloring materials, suggesting symbolic communication. All these changes were a significant departure from their previous lifestyle, likely helping early humans cope with their newly variable landscape, Potts said.

Meet the Excel warriors saving the world from spreadsheet disaster / Wired

David Lyford-Smith is an expert at solving spreadsheet mysteries. Once, in a previous job, he was sent a payroll form to look over for a new starter. It had the number 40,335 in a random box, and payroll wasn’t clear why it was there. “So they assumed it was a joining bonus for the employee and drew up a draft pay slip with a £40,335 bonus,” he says. But, when it comes to spreadsheets, assumptions can be costly. Lyford-Smith isn’t just a spreadsheet enthusiast. He’s the technical manager for the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), running its Excel community group — and as such has always been suspicious of numbers in that range. “That’s how Excel stores dates, as serial numbers,” he says. He was right: that wasn’t a generous signing bonus, but the new hire’s starting date. Lyford-Smith is part of a community of accountants, auditors and Excel power users who have joined forces in a quiet battle against illogical formulas, copy-and-paste errors, and structural chaos that cause data carnage.

----- 1 star -----

Dad's genius Zoom Halloween costume for his daughter is scary good / Mashable

The homemade Zoom costume depicts a virtual meeting with nine people (er, people and monsters) on the call. But here's the catch: Eight of the Zoom "attendees" are actually Dietzenbach's daughter. The center square, which is the hole for her head, shows her wearing the costume in real-time, but the really Halloween-y characters — the Invisible Man, Creature (Black Lagoon), Wolf Man, "Frank," Drac, Mummy, and Blair — are her as well. Dietzenbach took some photos of his daughter and edited them to make the Zoom squares. [...] You'll notice that top middle Zoom square, labeled "Next Victim", isn't Ada. That's the space where anyone admiring the impressive Zoom costume will see an image of themselves. To make that illusion happen, Dietzenbach taped an iPad with a front-facing camera to the back of the board and enabled a mirror app to achieve "a clean display of the victim."

World’s Fastest Production Car Reaches a Ludicrous 331 MPH on a Public Road / Kottke

The SSC Tuatara has snatched the title of the world’s fastest production car away from its rivals by an absurd margin — and it wasn’t even going as fast as it could have. [...] The cockpit video above is incredible. Just watch how smoothly and effortlessly the car accelerates right up to 331.15 mph before the driver lets off the gas — there was clearly plenty left. Indeed, the driver hadn’t even shifted into the car’s final gear.

Karaoke, trivia and frat parties: Tales of Aaron Rodgers' inner weirdness / ESPN

One day, Rodgers tells Harrell he thinks they are basically fraternity brothers. This becomes a running joke. The pair bro-talk constantly, and very quickly Harrell becomes amazed at the depth of Rodgers' investment in this (completely imaginary) universe. The Packers' other quarterback, Matt Flynn, is now in an "enemy fraternity," Rodgers tells Harrell, and whenever Harrell does well in a drill, Rodgers compliments him by saying, "It's about time you did something for the brothers." Likewise, if Flynn is better than Harrell on a particular day, Rodgers laughs and tell Harrell, "Bro, you're getting paddled when we get back to the house." Rodgers even names their fraternity: Tau Kappa Epsilon, or TKE. All of this is going along fine until one afternoon at Packers training camp, which is held on the campus of nearby St. Norbert College. During drills, one of the ball boys overhears the banter between Harrell and Rodgers. "Hey, what fraternity are you guys in?" the ball boy asks Harrell after practice ends. After weighing whether to come clean about how he and the Packers' franchise player have created an elaborate fictitious scenario involving two 20-something men being in a fraternity, Harrell simply says, "Oh, uh ... we're TKEs?" He hopes that will end the conversation. It does not end the conversation. "No way, I'm a TKE!" the ball boy erupts. Harrell is stunned. "Yeah, uh ... TKEs, man," he says weakly, looking around helplessly. Rodgers is giddy. The ball boy's smile is ripping his own face apart. The ball boy invites Harrell and Rodgers to a mixer that the St. Norbert chapter of TKE is hosting that fall. The mixer is known as the "Carnation Crush," because it also involves the women of Delta Phi Epsilon, one of the college's sororities. Harrell is certain this is where they will draw the line and explain that they're not, you know, actually TKEs, but Rodgers is defiant. "There is no way in the world we're missing this," he tells Harrell.

The 25 most spectacular branding fails of the last 25 years / Fast Company

Advertising and marketing have always been ripe for missteps and pop-culture absurdity, but the emergence of the internet, followed by the rise of social platforms, created seismic changes in how we consume and enjoy media, products, and even communicate with each other. That has made for some historically fertile ground for brand failure, and here’s our tour through the most notable failures since Fast Company‘s birth in 1995—with lessons that endure for those wise enough to heed them.

Fantastic 3-D Animation of How Medieval Bridges Were Built / Kottke

The animation above shows how bridges were built in medieval times, well before the advent of backhoes, cranes, and bulldozers powered by steam and gasoline. I could explain what you’re about to see, but you should just watch the video. The bridge constructed in the video is the real-life Charles Bridge in Prague, which was built over several decades in the 14th and 15th centuries.

A Surreal New Bookstore Has Just Opened in China / Architectural Digest

For a book lover, stepping into a bookstore is always exciting, but a new bookstore in China makes the experience absolutely spellbinding. Dujiangyan Zhongshuge, located in Chengdu, was designed by Shanghai-based architecture firm X+Living, which has created several locations for Zhongshuge. The two-story space appears cathedral-like, thanks to the mirrored ceilings and gleaming black tile floors which reflect the bookcases, creating a visual effect that feels akin to an M.C. Escher drawing.

Tilt & Turn: Ingenious Three-in-One Window for Security, Breezes & Egress / 99% Invisible

Living in Germany, you notice a lot of small engineering innovations that make life easier, like omnidirectional wheels on shopping carts that actually work. One of these innovations in particular stands out, entirely ordinary to Germans, but extraordinary to visitors and newcomers discovering it for the first time: the tilt-and-turn window.

Surprise! There's a Secret Organ in Your Head / Popular Mechanics

Scientists have found a previously undiscovered organ deep inside the human head, where the nasal passages meet the back of the throat. Yes, the news is an extraordinary-sounding surprise, but the researchers say the discovery is likely a fourth pair of salivary glands—not a second brain or transistor radio. If the findings are confirmed, this will be the first discovery of a new human organ in around 300 years.

Eight Persistent COVID-19 Myths and Why People Believe Them / Scientific American

From a human-made virus to vaccine conspiracy theories, we rounded up the most insidious false claims about the pandemic

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