Long but good one this week. Also unintentionally heavy on sports (and, to a lesser extent, space).

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

"The Clock Is Ticking": Inside the Worst U.S. Maritime Disaster in Decades / Vanity Fair
The always-excellent William Langewiesche with a piece that was recommended to me several times in the last couple weeks:

In the darkness before dawn on Thursday, October 1, 2015, an American merchant captain named Michael Davidson sailed a 790-foot U.S.-flagged cargo ship, El Faro, into the eye wall of a Category 3 hurricane on the exposed windward side of the Bahama Islands. El Faro means “the lighthouse” in Spanish. The hurricane, named Joaquin, was one of the heaviest ever to hit the Bahamas. It overwhelmed and sank the ship. Davidson and the 32 others aboard drowned. They had been headed from Jacksonville, Florida, on a weekly run to San Juan, Puerto Rico, carrying 391 containers and 294 trailers and cars. The ship was 430 miles southeast of Miami in deep water when it went down. Davidson was 53 and known as a stickler for safety. He came from Windham, Maine, and left behind a wife and two college-age daughters. Neither his remains nor those of his shipmates were ever recovered. Disasters at sea do not get the public attention that aviation accidents do, in part because the sea swallows the evidence. It has been reported that a major merchant ship goes down somewhere in the world every two or three days; most are ships sailing under flags of convenience, with underpaid crews and poor safety records. The El Faro tragedy attracted immediate attention for several reasons. El Faro was a U.S.-flagged ship with a respected captain—and it should have been able to avoid the hurricane. Why didn’t it? Add to that mystery this simple fact: the sinking of El Faro was the worst U.S. maritime disaster in three decades. [...] The recorder—a circuit board barely 2.5 inches long—was eventually retrieved. It contained the final 26 hours of conversations among nine doomed people on the bridge. The audio quality was poor, but a technical team was able to extract most of the spoken words and produce a 496-page transcript, by far the longest in the N.T.S.B.’s history. The transcript is a remarkable document—an unadorned record of nothing more than the sounds on the bridge. The people involved are identified in the transcript only by their shipboard ranks, but the names of the officers are part of the public record, and in the time since the tragedy other names have been revealed. It is now possible to know with reasonable certainty what occurred.

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

How Far Can Becky Hammon Go in the N.B.A.? / New Yorker

It was August, 2012, and Becky Hammon, the point guard of the Silver Stars, San Antonio’s franchise in the W.N.B.A., was on her way home from the London Olympics. While waiting to board a connecting flight in Atlanta, she spotted the craggy face of Gregg Popovich, the head coach of the N.B.A.’s San Antonio Spurs. Popovich is widely considered one of the greatest coaches of all time, and is known for a capacity to inspire selfless team play even among players of colossal ego. One of his many fans, Barack Obama, has said that if he were a free agent in the N.B.A. he’d sign with Popovich. Hammon was far less famous, but Popovich was an admirer, and he recognized her, too. He had been watching her play since 2007, the year before she led the Silver Stars to the W.N.B.A. Finals. From time to time during the next few seasons, Popovich would call or text Dan Hughes, the Silver Stars’ coach, with comments about her performance. Though only five feet six, Hammon was a commanding presence on the court: gum-snapping, energetic, her quick cuts and jab steps to the basket punctuated by a swishing ponytail. She could slip through a narrow space between two defenders and drive to the hoop, scooping a shot that would skim the rim and slide through the net. Like Magic Johnson, she flipped no-look passes over her shoulder, and, like Stephen Curry, she hit shots from half-court. But Popovich was most struck by her prowess as a court general: she had an uncanny ability to direct her teammates around the floor. “I’d watch the game, and the only thing I could see—it’s an exaggeration, I mean, but—was Becky’s aura, her leadership, her effect on teammates, her effect on the crowd, the way she handled herself,” Popovich told me. “She was, like, the ultimate leader. Energy, juice, vitality. At the same time, she was doing intelligent things on the court, making decisions that mattered.” In the N.B.A., a woman in charge was almost unthinkable, but he was considering hiring her. Hammon and Popovich managed to sit together on the flight to San Antonio. They talked until the plane touched down, but not about basketball. He wasn’t interested in whether she could diagram a play. Popovich has a more character-driven view of coaching—and of coaches. “I wanted to find out who she was,” he said. “What did she think? How intelligent is she? How worldly? What goes through her mind? My ulterior motive, if that’s the way to put it, was that I wanted to find out whether she had the interest and the tools to be a leader, to run a team.”

How Genetics Is Changing Our Understanding of ‘Race’ / New York Times
Denying Genetics Isn’t Shutting Down Racism, It’s Fueling It / New York Magazine
The Bell Curve is about policy. And it’s wrong. / Vox
Last month, David Reich, a Harvard genetics professor, published a piece on the concept of race and biological differences among races (the first article linked below). This has (predictably) led to a firestorm of activity, much of it frustrating -- at least to me -- but nevertheless worth engaging with. I've read more pieces on this than I probably should have (and listened to an also-frustrating podcast where Ezra Klein and Sam Harris argued and talked past each other for two hours), and I've decided to link to both Andrew Sullivan and Matt Yglesias, who argue differing viewpoints on the controversy with a certain level of reasonableness. But first, David Reich:

In 1942, the anthropologist Ashley Montagu published “Man’s Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race,” an influential book that argued that race is a social concept with no genetic basis. [...] Beginning in 1972, genetic findings began to be incorporated into this argument. [...] In this way, a consensus was established that among human populations there are no differences large enough to support the concept of “biological race.” Instead, it was argued, race is a “social construct,” a way of categorizing people that changes over time and across countries. It is true that race is a social construct. It is also true, as Dr. Lewontin wrote, that human populations “are remarkably similar to each other” from a genetic point of view. But over the years this consensus has morphed, seemingly without questioning, into an orthodoxy. The orthodoxy maintains that the average genetic differences among people grouped according to today’s racial terms are so trivial when it comes to any meaningful biological traits that those differences can be ignored. [...] Recent genetic studies have demonstrated differences across populations not just in the genetic determinants of simple traits such as skin color, but also in more complex traits like bodily dimensions and susceptibility to diseases. [...] I am worried that well-meaning people who deny the possibility of substantial biological differences among human populations are digging themselves into an indefensible position, one that will not survive the onslaught of science. [...] This is why it is important, even urgent, that we develop a candid and scientifically up-to-date way of discussing any such differences, instead of sticking our heads in the sand and being caught unprepared when they are found. [...] What makes Dr. Watson’s and Mr. Wade’s statements so insidious is that they start with the accurate observation that many academics are implausibly denying the possibility of average genetic differences among human populations, and then end with a claim — backed by no evidence — that they know what those differences are and that they correspond to racist stereotypes. They use the reluctance of the academic community to openly discuss these fraught issues to provide rhetorical cover for hateful ideas and old racist canards.

Next, Andrew Sullivan, who jumps in feet-first on race and intelligence:

I felt a genuine relief reading the [Reich] op-ed because it was so nuanced and so low-temperature; it reflects precisely my own thoughts on the subject; and it’s hard to smear a Harvard geneticist for being a white supremacist (the usual gambit). Reich’s point about the importance of reasonably discussing these questions so as to avoid irresponsible abuse of the information is precisely the reason I remain proud of having published well over a dozen reasoned, eloquent rebuttals to Charles Murray’s core (The Bell Curve) argument on race and IQ in The New Republic. And so I waited eagerly for a response to Reich from “blank slate” left-liberals. They were quiet for a while, flummoxed perhaps, until Ezra Klein delivered an encyclical, rallying the faithful, in Vox. What was Klein’s response to the actual scientific argument that genetics have a significant part to play (heritability ranges from 0.4 to 0.8) in explaining different racial outcomes in intelligence tests? I’ve read his essay several times and I’m afraid I can’t find a satisfying one. [...] In fact, Klein seems to back a truly extreme position: that only the environment affects IQ scores, and genes play no part in group differences in human intelligence. [...] Which is to say Klein doesn’t refute Reich’s argument at all. In an email exchange with me, in which I sought clarification, Klein stopped short of denying genetic influences altogether, but argued that, given rising levels of IQ, and given how brutal the history of racism against African-Americans has been, we should nonetheless assume “right now” that genes are irrelevant. [...] I can see why Klein takes this position. He is worried that raising genetics in this context will lead to too much fatalism, will sap the energy and focus needed to change what we can indeed change, and there is so much to do on that score that it’s better to insist that genes play no part. It’s a perfectly legitimate worry, especially considering the uniquely foul history of slavery and segregation in the U.S. and how these debates have fueled real evil over the centuries. And there is indeed no reason to believe we have done enough to ensure equality of opportunity for African-Americans (au contraire), and anything that could stymie that effort is troubling. I’m with Klein on this. At the same time, if we assume genetics play no role, and base our policy prescriptions on something untrue, we are likely to overshoot and over-promise in social policy, and see our rhetoric on race become ever more extreme and divisive. We may even embrace racial discrimination, as in affirmative action, that fuels deeper divides. All of which, it seems to me, is happening — and actively hampering racial progress, as the left defines the most multiracial and multicultural society in human history as simply “white supremacy” unchanged since slavery; and as the right viscerally responds by embracing increasingly racist white identity politics. A more nuanced understanding of race, genetics, and environment would temper this polarization, and allow for more unifying, practical efforts to improve equality of opportunity, while never guaranteeing or expecting equality of outcomes.

And finally, Yglesias, writing in Klein's Vox:

Charles Murray and his decades-old work on IQ and race, published in his 1994 book The Bell Curve, is back in the news because of a mini feud between “new atheist” author and podcaster Sam Harris and Vox’s own Ezra Klein. Andrew Sullivan, the punditocracy’s original champion of Murray’s thinking on genetics, decided to jump in as well. [...] Much of the rhetorical purpose of The Bell Curve seems to be devoted to muddying the waters between the claim that there are limits to how much reasonable policy interventions can do to equalize everyone’s abilities and social outcomes, and the claim that there is virtually nothing useful we can do with activist policy to help people. But while the former idea is well-grounded (so well-grounded that I’m not sure anyone denies it, including people who misguidedly, root and branch, reject the whole idea of general intelligence), the latter idea is completely wrong. [...] This relates in important ways to intelligence. A growing body of academic research — which includes DNA testing to control for potential genetic factors — indicates that the stress of growing up in poverty does concrete neurological damage to children’s brains over and above the issues with exposure to toxic chemicals. Murrayism traps poor children in a cycle where they have worse opportunities for intellectual development and then that underdevelopment is used as evidence that little can or should be done to improve their economic status. [...] To put it bluntly, insisting that we pay more attention to ambiguous evidence about the role of IQ heritability in driving group differences is not a disinterested gesture of scientific inquiry, but a political move initiated by political polemicists who aim to heighten racial salience where it’s counterproductive and diminish it where it could be constructive. [...] Scientific exploration of human genetics, of course, ought to continue, and we ought to be open-minded about what it may discover. From what we know so far, it really is clear that smart parents tend to have smart kids, but it is also very clear that a wide range of policy interventions, ranging from environmental cleanup to social welfare provision to improving schools, raise kids’ cognitive abilities and improve their labor market outcomes. It is also very clear that race is significant as a social phenomenon in the United States in ways that create meaningful disadvantages for members of minority groups and that attention to racial issues can lead to better outcomes.

The one baseball's been waiting for / ESPN
Shohei Ohtani’s Splitter Is What Makes Him Truly Great / FiveThirtyEight
Shohei Ohtani leaves Angels teammates saying one thing: 'We haven't seen that before' / USA Today
And now, on a happier note... I'm not really into baseball anymore, but like much of the (American) sports fan world, I'm captivated by Shohei Ohtani's historic start to his MLB career. Only the first of these really merits three stars, but I might as well throw them all in together:

Through it all, Ohtani was so contained, so unerringly regulated that it became easy to forget the enormity of his quest. He has come here to hit three days a week and pitch once a week, at a level he has yet to experience, in front of a vast, impatient audience. The task is fascinating, difficult and so rare, the last person to do it was Babe Ruth 99 years ago. Even as spring training gives way to the start of the season, there is no indication that Ohtani feels the burdens of pressure or expectation or -- honestly -- much of anything else. And so, dutifully, day after day, we stand and watch as he stands and watches. His mannerisms become a fascination: the way he touches the tip of his cap and bows slightly every time the umpire tosses him a new baseball; the way he flicks away whatever minor clods of dirt might have congealed in the batter's box; the way he responds to giving up a home run by dropping his glove and aggressively retying his already-tied shoelaces; the way that, in his pitching debut in Oakland, he repeatedly thanks a teammate who makes a good play behind him until he is sure the teammate knows he is being thanked. We search for an external sign of the unease that must be -- that simply has to be -- hiding deep inside. And day after day, there is none. [...] It is a world of structure and obedience, camaraderie and respect. Much of what takes place in Japan is bound to the centuries-old code that built that hulking castle. You can see it in the dark-suited businessmen weaving their bicycles through Tokyo sidewalks late at night, their ties still smartly knotted. You can see it in the schools, where lunchtime is not a break from education but an extension of it. Students grow their own vegetables, serve one another and are responsible for everything from preparation to cleanup. And you can see it on the baseball field, where the remnants of the Bushido way have taken hold in the minds and bodies of teenage boys and the men who coach them.

Just a little more than a week into his major league career, Los Angeles Angels phenom Shohei Ohtani has been so impressive as both a pitcher and hitter that it’s difficult to decide which aspect of his play stands out most. At the plate, he belted home runs in three consecutive games, crushing one pitch Friday for the seventh-longest homer of the young 2018 season. As a pitcher, he carried a perfect game into the seventh inning of his start Sunday, finishing the game with 12 strikeouts — tied for the most of any starter in a game so far this year. [...] According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he is the first MLB player since the dead-ball era to get two wins as a pitcher and hit three home runs in his team’s first 10 games of a season — meaning few baseball fans were alive the last time a two-way player did what Ohtani has done. [...] And at a minimum of 50 total pitches in a season, the 6.4 runs added per 100 pitches by Ohtani’s splitter makes it the third-most effective pitch in FanGraphs’ entire database (which goes back to 2002)

Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia says there was a plan to Shohei Ohtani’s spring, and now we’re seeing the end result of it. That plan was clearly to lull the rest of baseball into a false sense of security. After arriving from Japan amid enormous hype, the two-way star promptly deflated expectations by taking a spectacular pratfall in the Cactus League. He batted .125. His ERA was a laughable 27.00. Questions arose about whether he would make the team or start the season in the minors. It was just a show, hey. The real Ohtani seems to have materialized in the first 11 days of the season, and he has been a sight to behold. [...] At one point, Ohtani retired 33 of 34 Athletics between the two starts. He has struck out 18 and walked two while yielding four hits. [...] Oh yes, there’s that other part of the game at which Ohtani has been pretty good so far this season. In becoming the only Angels rookie ever to homer in his first three home games last week, he took over the team lead in batting average (.389) and on-base plus slugging percentage (1.310) while sharing top honors for home runs (three).

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

Aging Ghosts in the Skincare Machine / Medium

Let me start with my skin in the game. In the four months between November 2017 and February 2018, I spent about $520 on skincare products. This number does not include makeup. It does not include shampoo or conditioner. It does not include body lotion. And it is, in all likelihood, a little low. If I pored through every receipt and every debit card transaction, the actual, shameful tally of skincare spending during these four months would hover above $600. Average it out, and that’s $125 a month, more than my $90 Con Edison or Verizon bills, and a little less than a third of my monthly college loan payment, which, at age 55, I’m still paying. It’s a lot of money, but it’s a lot of skincare. More than a mere routine, my skincare is a baroque dance of cleansers, exfoliators, toners, essences, serums, oils, hydrators, moisturizers, sheet masks, sleeping masks, lip masks, and sunscreen. I perform it — often with the sullenness of a teen — every morning and every evening, and when I don’t, I feel a sense of guilt that I can imagine only as Catholic. My skincare practice is what New Yorker writer Jia Tolentino terms a “regime posing as a regimen.” My skincare is an army of products I’ve marshaled with a single intent: to keep aging at bay. [...] Skincare articles by young writers may effectively silence the voice of the middle-aged woman, yet they fail to silence the writers’ fear of that woman. Let me point to the wrinkled elephant in the room, and that is me and younger women’s white-knuckled terror of becoming a woman like me. Female anxiety about aging is a complex rat-queen of identity, beauty standards, patriarchy, and learned beliefs. The upshot is that, no matter what they do, women are doomed to become what they fear: visibly aged. At 55, I am old, and I am getting older. Why, I wonder, am I so frightening? Why am I so frightened? And what, exactly, am I afraid of?

For Sam Hinkie’s Next Act ... / The Ringer

The Philadelphia 76ers are one of the feel-good stories of the NBA season, but the man who began the Process won’t be there to witness its fruition. Instead, Sam Hinkie is biding his time, watching ‘The Bachelor,’ attending the Sloan Conference, and considering whether to get back into a league that struggled to understand his team-building philosophies. [...] If Daryl Morey—Hinkie’s friend, former boss, general manager of the Houston Rockets, and cofounder of SSAC—is Dork Elvis, then Hinkie is something approaching Nerd Timberlake, and that place is the analytics community’s Super Bowl, with all sorts of people as desperate to sidle up to Hinkie and shake his hand as that kid in Minneapolis was to snap a selfie with JT. [...] He is a former NBA executive who executed a radical plan, pissed off a lot people, quit his high-profile gig in the midst of a palace coup orchestrated by internal and external forces, dropped an infamous 13-page manifesto that was one of the biggest, most singular exit statements in recent memory, and then lit out for the California coast. He is also a man who, despite being one of the most talked-about and debated figures in modern NBA history, has somehow managed to remain a mystery. And all this while the Sixers are finally starting to bring his once-hazy vision into focus.

What Did Ancient Romans Do Without Toilet Paper? / Real Clear Science

In the same way that we use an American-style toilet, a Roman user would sit down, take care of business, and watch number two float blissfully away down the sewer system. But instead of reaching for a roll of toilet paper, an ancient Roman would often grab a tersorium (or, in my technical terms, a “toilet brush for your butt”). A tersorium is an ingenious little device made by attaching a natural sponge (from the Mediterranean Sea, of course) to the end of a stick. Our ancient Roman would simply wipe him- or herself, rinse the tersorium in whatever was available (running water and/or a bucket of vinegar or salt water), and leave it for the next person to use. That’s right, it was a shared butt cleaner. (And of course, there were other means of wiping as well, such as the use of abrasive ceramic discs called pessoi.)

The rise and demise of the AAirpass, American Airlines’ $250k lifetime ticket / The Hustle

In the 1980s, American Airlines sold an unlimited, first-class ticket for life. But they didn't account for super-travelers like Jacques Vroom and Steve Rothstein. [...] For a total of $383k, Rothstein purchased both the AAirpass and companion pass — and over the next 25 years, he proceeded to book more than 10k flights. He took hundreds of trips to NYC, LA, and SF. He went to London — sometimes a dozen times per month. He flew up to Ontario just for a sandwich. On occasion, he’d offer his companion pass to a complete stranger at the airport. “The contract was truly unlimited,” he says. “So why not use it as intended?” [...] He used his pass to catch all of his son’s football games on the East Coast. He popped over to France or London just to have lunch with a friend. When his daughter had a middle school project on South American culture, he took her to Buenos Aires to see a rodeo and flew back the next day.

Was There a Civilization On Earth Before Humans? / The Atlantic
For years, one of my fun pet arguments has been that pre-human civilisation is less unlikely than you'd think. (Though still, of course, incredibly unlikely.) I wouldn't think of this as a complete argument, but it does cover a few interesting points:

It only took five minutes for Gavin Schmidt to out-speculate me. Schmidt is the director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (a.k.a. GISS) a world-class climate-science facility. [...] “Wait a second,” he said. “How do you know we’re the only time there’s been a civilization on our own planet?” It took me a few seconds to pick my jaw off the floor. I had certainly come into Gavin’s office prepared for eye rolls at the mention of “exo-civilizations.” But the civilizations he was asking about would have existed many millions of years ago. Sitting there, seeing Earth’s vast evolutionary past telescope before my mind’s eye, I felt a kind of temporal vertigo. “Yeah,” I stammered, “Could we tell if there’d been an industrial civilization that deep in time?” We never got back to aliens. Instead, that first conversation launched a new study we’ve recently published in the International Journal of Astrobiology. [...] Looking at the isotopic record from the PETM, scientists see both carbon and oxygen isotope ratios spiking in exactly the way we expect to see in the Anthropocene record. There are also other events like the PETM in the Earth’s history that show traces like our hypothetical Anthropocene signal. These include an event a few million years after the PETM dubbed the Eocene Layers of Mysterious Origin, and massive events in the Cretaceous that left the ocean without oxygen for many millennia (or even longer). Are these events indications of previous nonhuman industrial civilizations? Almost certainly not. [...] But there is a conundrum here. If an earlier species’s industrial activity is short-lived, we might not be able to easily see it.

I Lived Exclusively Off Doomsday Prepper Food for a Week / Vice

Still, these extraterrestrial-looking foodstuffs seem to be having something of a moment: For the past four years, Costco has been selling pallets of shriveled vegetables, fruits, grains, and meats that promise to feed a single family for up to a year—and if you’re not a member, you can purchase similar survival kits, many of which boast a 20- to 30-year shelf life, at Walmart and Target. One top seller, Wise Company, saw its sales nearly double over the past four years, reaching around $75 million, according to a Bloomberg Businessweek cover story last November. The company’s CEO, Jack Shields, told me he estimates the industry as a whole generates between $400 and $450 million annually in retail. Over the phone from the company’s headquarters in Salt Lake City, Shields attributed the spike to the onslaught of natural disasters that left thousands of Americans without food in 2017, and rattled many more. [...] That’s what intrigued me about freeze-dried food: You can wait up to a quarter-century to use it, but in an ideal world, you wouldn’t have to eat it at all. Because I couldn’t stop wondering what it would be like to actually live off the stuff, I placed an order for Wise’s Seven Day Emergency Food and Drink Supply, a shoebox-size assortment of breakfast foods, entrées, and dehydrated whey milk substitute, in addition to a few other options I’d discovered online. I wanted to know what an insurance policy tasted like.

Is it better to live on the moon or on Mars? A scientific investigation / Quartz

In case you were wondering why Elon Musk and others are aiming for Mars: In the long term, Mars wins. The moon is too harsh to be anything but a stepping stone toward life in space. Because of the possibility for life and the very interesting geology that took place a long time ago, Mars provides a much better opportunity for scientific exploration. And if something horrific happened on Earth and it could no longer sustain life, Mars would be a much better place to live because of the possibility of finding water, its higher gravity, and its atmosphere. That said, the moon is a much more economically feasible location for a colony. A Mars colony will continue to be far off in the future until the funding and political winds shift.

Why Is Jupiter's Great Red Spot Shrinking? / The Atlantic

The most recognizable storm in the solar system used to be so big that it could fit three whole Earths. Now, it has room for only one. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is shrinking, and has been for decades. [...] Computer models show that changes to Jupiter’s jet streams, either in their speed or location, would result in changes to the inlets and outlets, and consequently to how the Great Red Spot absorbs and releases small storms. This, in turn, would lead to changes in its size and shape. Scientists don’t know for sure, but these jet streams likely play a role in the storm’s gradual shrinking. The jet streams, of course, are among the properties of Jupiter they’re still trying to really understand. Simon’s analysis of the Great Red Spot over the years also revealed that the storm’s shades of orange and red are becoming deeper, particularly since 2014. The cause is—yep, you guessed it—another mystery. In fact, scientists don’t know why the Great Red Spot is red in the first place.

Why It's Almost Impossible for Fastballs to Get Any Faster / Wired

When the arm flings back, the shoulder ligaments experience about 100 Newton meters of torque. When it flings forward, the elbow ligaments suffer the same. “It’s the equivalent, at each point, of holding five 12-pound bowling balls,” Fleisig says. “So imagine I hang 60 pounds from your hand. That’s what it would feel like on your elbow or shoulder.” At those forces, he says, pitchers are effectively throwing their arms off. The odds of them throwing much faster seem pretty slim. Which may actually be a good thing, as fastballs are already right at the limit of what batters can reliably hit.

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

Watching This User Interface Guru Vastly Improve A Bad Design Is Very Satisfying / Digg

A high-resolution tour of the Moon from NASA / Kottke

Using imagery and data that the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft has collected since 2009, NASA made this video tour of the Moon in 4K resolution. This looked incredible on my iMac screen.

Watch This Image Disappear Before Your Very Eyes / Gizmodo

Take a good look at this image. In fact, stare at it, dead center. There's no trick to it; just look straight ahead, relax, and watch as something you know is there vanishes into nothingness. Got it? Good. Here's how it works.

The Tall Tales of Six Men Too Big for Basketball / The Ringer

Is it possible to be too tall in a sport that’s designed for tall people? Just take the experiences of Sun Mingming, Neil Fingleton, Paul Sturgess, and more.

An animated “music video” of similar satellite imagery / Kottke

Arena is a video created by Páraic & Pearse McGloughlin constructed from different structural forms (roads, stadiums, center-pivot irrigation circles) in satellite images of the Earth animated together into a kind of music video. (It’s hard to describe it. Just watch and you’ll see what I mean.) The first part of the video, with the roads, reminded me of the screensaver on a computer or DVD player where a ball or logo bounces around the screen.

Click here to subscribe and to see previous issues.