52 things I learned this year
One thing a week. Turns out, it was harder to whittle down than I thought.
This was a fun exercise.
I know I’m two weeks early, but honestly it’s just because I was so excited to do it at all. I dug through my Evernotes, Goodreads highlights, camera rolls, Trello boards, and a smattering of other sources for a high level review of the things I learned throughout the year. While I didn’t have exact dates for everything, the months are accurate. Pretty amazing how much I’ve already forgotten. This is why I pay for the world’s worst note taking app.
- “Studies show that audiences disproportionately remember the first 5 percent, the last 5 percent, and a climactic moment of a talk.” From The Art of Gathering. This is not good news for this post.
- The US lost 140,000 jobs in December, of which 156,000 were lost by women. That right, male employment actually rose by 16,000.
- From Borges’ Ficciones: “My father and he had cemented … one of those English friendships which begin by avoiding intimacies and eventually eliminate speech altogether.” What did I learn? That Borges is an incredible writer.
- “There’s a saying in Russia I am fond of: ‘The more souped-up your truck, the farther you’ll have to go for a tractor when you get it stuck.’” From Owls of the Eastern Ice.
- Jeremiad: ‘a long, mournful complaint or lamentation; a list of woes.” I haven’t had the chance to use it yet.
- I learned I agree with Wendell Berry: “some of the best things I have ever thought of I have thought of during bad sermons” (also, holy crap can this man write).
- Aristotle thought birds changed into different species throughout the year.
- Our family loves playing Minecraft Dungeons together (however, the inventory screen should PAUSE THE STUPID GAME).
- While reading Dante’s Inferno (I’m extremely cultured), who should appear but the much beloved main character from The Office: Michael Scot. [Update: just last night, mere hours after writing this bullet point, I was reading an English book about gardening and it referenced the same Michael Scot! Baader–Meinhof is real.]
- “Watermelon, like too many other gorgeous things in life, is much too fleeting.” From Hurston’s Barracoon. How did this go unpublished for a century?
- In 1990, a number 1 Billboard Hot 100 song had an average of 2.1 writers. In 2020, it took 5.5 writers.
- “As a general rule, it’s those with greater power who need to do more of the rethinking, both because they’re more likely to privilege their own perspectives and because their perspectives are more likely to go unquestioned.” From Think Again. Oof. Tough truth for white, heterosexual, cisgendered tech leaders like myself.
- Cryptographic padding is not as complicated as I thought. It’s “basically just” adding nonsense to your plaintext so that side-channel information is not leaked.
- I learned three of these fatty beats — and I can still play them!
- Don’t mess with Scarecrow from the original The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: “The King Crow flew at the Scarecrow, who caught it by the head and twisted its neck until it died. And then another crow flew at him, and the Scarecrow twisted its neck also. There were forty crows, and forty times the Scarecrow twisted a neck, until at last all were lying dead beside him.”
- Microsoft will build 120,000 AR headsets for the Pentagon — a $22 billion contract (I didn’t learn about this until April). This is totally fine.
- Included in the drum manufacturer recipe is the incline of the “bearing edge”, where the drum shell meets the head. Apparently I’m a sucker for the Gretsch USA Custom’s 30 degree bearing edge (that satin natural finish is drool-worthy).
- Snap has been quietly moving all their video transcoding to the GPU, which lowers the cost and time requirements.
- Proof of Stake was proposed as a replacement for Proof of Work before Ethereum even existed. Get with the times, Eth 2.0.
- The basics of using a LaunchKey Mini with Ableton.
- How to tie a hook onto a fishing line… without looking it up! What a fisher-person I am.
- Coca-Cola lost $4 billion in market value after Cristiano Ronaldo endorsed… water.
- You can catch a loooooot of crawdads with a hotdog.
- St Louis has the best baseball in the world. I said it.
- My grandmother-in-law was once on the front page of her local paper, dressed head to foot in striped prison garb, leisurely laying across a cot in a jail cell. I snapped a picture of this forgotten newspaper clipping while rummaging through old documents this summer.
- When you need fireworks in central Illinois (where fireworks are illegal), Indiana is… real close.
- From my own hard-won retrospective notes: “Acknowledging feedback and growth items in the interview process (“I think this role could be a good fit for you if you’re open to working on X”) would go a long way in answering questions about candidate growth potential and ability to accept feedback…” That… seems pretty smart actually.
- Thurgood Marshall and Malcom X hated each other: “The Black radicals of his day the Judge dismissed as a sideshow. ‘Tell me one thing he ever did for anybody,’ he’d say of Malcolm X — and in various interviews said worse. But we can understand Marshall’s fury. After all, Malcolm X had called him a ‘handkerchief-head’ who did as his white masters told him. Particularly rankling was the fact that Malcolm had on one occasion given an angry crowd Marshall’s home address.” (One other amazing quip from Marshall: “There’s only three things I have to do: stay black, pay taxes and die.”)
- It’s a lot harder to build a chicken coop than I thought it would be.
- Tolstoy’s “A Letter to a Hindu” was inspirational to the non-violent movements of both Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. What.
- When the Syriac Christians translated the New Testament from Greek and Aramaic, the formerly neuter word for “spirit” or “wind” was translated into a feminine noun. This caused the early Syriac Christians (which is not the same as Syrian Christians) to associate the Holy Spirit with motherhood.
- The go generics drafts weren’t a cruel joke: they actually released that garbage. I can’t even
- I’m apparently a big Zelazny fan now: “While I had often said that I wanted to die in bed, what I really meant was that in my old age I wanted to be stepped on by an elephant while making love.” That’s… just incredible.
- “There are more than 400 miles of interlinking caves running under Kentucky, and that is just what has been ‘officially’ mapped. The total depth is still unknown.” Read this while spelunking at Mammoth Cave.
- Primus is hilarious in concert, though they apparently don’t know about SSL certificates.
- Transcoding to HLS via ffmpeg is hard to scale right. It’s horribly slow on virtualized hardware.
- Public keys are not actually public — they are considered Personal Identifiable Information.
- Apparently, you have register camper trailers with the state.
- A full five years after the Heartbleed SSL bug was found, over 200,000 devices remain unpatched.
- While probably not his final words, Oscar Wilde, while laying on his deathbed, reportedly said, “either this wallpaper goes or I do.”
- “We have heard that in Lincolnshire, to test whether the soil was in the right condition for sowing barley, farmers used to take off their trousers and sit on the ground: if it was comfortable for them it would be comfortable for the barley.”
- GitHub Copilot will change the world, whether I like it or not.
- Using a panfish rod at the ocean is a fool’s errand. Fisher-people know this.
- “On wet nights, eels are known to cross over land from a pond to a river, or over an obstruction, by the thousands, using each other’s moist bodies as a bridge. Young eels can climb moss-covered vertical walls, forming a braid with their bodies. Farmers in Normandy say that eels will leave rivers on spring nights and find their way to vegetable patches to feed on peas.” From Eels: An Exploration, from New Zealand to the Sargasso, of the World’s Most Mysterious Fish.
- Crazy Horse’s father gave his son his own name: Crazy Horse. This does not mean that the Crazy Horse we know was actually Crazy Horse Jr. No, Crazy Horse’s father relinquished the name to his son to honor him, and took upon himself the name “Worm”.
- When he was 14, my grandfather tied a needle to a matchstick, dipped it in India ink (he talked his mother into buying the ink for “drawing”), and gave himself a tattoo he still has 65 years later. His mother, upon seeing the crude form, said, “I hope your arm rots off.” This is the kind of story that only comes up around a Thanksgiving table.
- Fennel is incredible on turkey. Make sure to cook breast side down.
- Three men were found guilty of murdering Ahmaud Arbery. Heart-rending thoughts from Charles M. Blow: “I dare not say that this one case teaches us much about the American justice system. I dare not say that it demonstrates a trend or a shift. There is simply too much evidence to the contrary. I will only say that a shooting star that streaks across the night sky, that disrupts the darkness, is worthy of being noticed and appreciated. It doesn’t alter the night. It doesn’t convert it into day. It comes without warning, a phenomenon unto itself, not a herald for others to follow. That is how I will view the verdict in this case: I will simply appreciate it.”
- The Stochastic Parrots problem exists and is interesting. I have no further thoughts at the moment.
- I’m starting to like React Query, now that I’m sitting down to learn it.
- I am not a fan of the phrase “hell yeah or no”.
- The Cyrillic alphabet has a different ‘O’ characters, depending on how many eyes the subject has: “MONOCULAR O Ꙩꙩ, BINOCULAR O Ꙫꙫ, DOUBLE MONOCULAR Ꙭꙭ, and MULTIOCULAR O ꙮ are used in words which are based on the root for ‘eye’. The first is used when the wordform is singular, as ꙩкꙩ; the second and third are used in the root for ‘eye’ when the wordform is dual, as Ꙫчи, ꙭчи; and the last in the epithet ‘many-eyed’ as in серафими многоꙮчитїи ‘many-eyed seraphim’.” WHAT.
That’s it for me for this year. Brain is full. See you next.