Wednesday, April 16th, 2014
1

Where Am I? And What Time Is It?

In the modern world we’re never more than a glance away from a digital display of today’s date or the time to the nearest second. The use of GPS devices in cars or even in our own pockets with smartphones has all but eroded the art of map-reading and navigation. This is all exceedingly convenient, of course, but I think that many of us in developed nations are feeling increasingly disconnected from the fundamental principles and processes that support our lives, sensing that our basic skills are atrophying and perhaps feeling anxious of being a little too reliant on the magic of modern technology.

The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch, by Lewis Dartnell, is published this week. You can order it from wherever you choose to prepare for the coming apocalypse:

Barnes & Noble

McNally Jackson

Amazon

Powell's

So let’s try a thought experiment—one that I’ve been thinking a lot about for the past two years as I’ve researched and written a new book The Knowledge: How to Rebuild our World from Scratch. How much would you know how to achieve for yourself if the life-support system of modern civilization were suddenly stripped away? The hypothetical scenario I consider is surviving the apocalypse and needing to rebuild civilization from scratch, but you could just as easily ask yourself what you’d do if you fell through a time-warp to 10,000 BC, or awoke from a cryogenic stasis pod disorientated and alone in the indeterminate future, or even simply washed up on a deserted island.

Let’s look at just a few aspects here. If you’re forced back to the absolute basics, how could you use simple observations to tell the time, reconstruct the calendar and work out your location anywhere on planet Earth? Whilst the phrasing of the start-point for this thought experiment may seem frivolous, the fundamental capability for tracking your place in both time and space certainly is not. Being able to tell the time enables a society to regulate and synchronize its civic activities—marketplace trade or congregation (perhaps for religious purposes) are all choreographed to the beat of the hour. The reason the calendar was devised in the first place was to ensure successful agricultural practices, and thus sufficient food for the population, and accurate navigation is crucial to prevent getting yourself lost in the wilderness.

We’ll start with the slightly easier task of working out the time of day. (To keep the explanations uncluttered, the descriptions below are for the northern hemisphere—but exactly the same principles work for the southern hemisphere, vice versa.)

Time

If you really are knocked back to the very basics, such as shipwrecked on a deserted island, you can track the passage of time by the swiveling of shadows. Plant a straight twig into the sand, and the rotation of the shadow around its base will express the progress of the day. Note the position of the shadow at sunrise and sunset with notches in the sand and you’ll have a visual way of assessing the amount of daylight remaining during the following day. The moment when the shadow is shortest (and points due north) is the time of local noon—should you have a functioning watch you can set it to this time. This is of course the essence of the sun dial, and you can maximize the accuracy by angling the gnomon (the shadow-casting stick) towards the celestial pole (that's Polaris, see below) and, rather than projecting the shadow onto the flat ground, carve a semi-circular arc around the gnomon, as this reflects the domed geometry of the heavens. READ MORE

---
0

New York City, April 15, 2014

★ There had been, at bedtime, one bright planet or star in the sky, but when the alarm went off before 3 a.m., all there was to be seen in the west was the quotidian rust-red glow of city lights off the cloud cover. Little lighter-orange bits of cloud blew along under the main mass. Could the moon, entering its eclipse, still possibly be discernible, maybe off behind a building? It was not worth going out into the dark to see. Certainly by dawn, the clouds were not even admitting a glimpse of the sun. Light rain dampened the dull scenery; people bothered with umbrellas, out of something less than necessity. The humidity was stifling. The office toilet tank was sweating up to the fill line. Outside was stuffy and chilly at the same time. Night fell and it rained harder, splatting against building. Then there were rumors, confirmed by sticking a hand out the window into the darkness: something cold and fluffy was falling. Gray snowfall or sleetfall blurred the view. Here was a phenomenon, after all.

---
0

"Distinguishing between unconscious, and a little bit conscious, is very important." [Via]

---
0

Sailing Around the World And Getting By Without Cash

Sixty-five mangos, 12 coconuts, and three rubber-banded baggies of coffee slide across the deck in two large plastic bins. There’s a broad-built man in a little boat called COUNTRY staring at me. I have no money and it’s 600 miles to the nearest ATM.

For four years, I've been traveling the high seas, alone aboard my sailboat BOBBIE long enough to know that being cashless doesn’t have to be a problem. For centuries, explorers have ploughed all corners of our watery world, armed with little more than improvised currencies. From the Portuguese pursuits of exotic spices in the Moluccas, to the movement of molasses across the West Indies, the sea has always remained the most flexible of marketplaces.

And so, in much the same way, today on this tiny island in the middle of the Java Sea, we shall improvise. I duck inside, grab a half-full bottle of rum and toss it to Romy, my new bounty-bearing friend. It’s a solid deal: I don’t drink at sea, and he hasn’t seen commercial grade liquor in the better part of a decade.

READ MORE

---
---
2

"When people say, 'I hate Facebook,' what I think they’re really saying is, 'I wish my real friends would post more stuff so my feed wasn’t full of randos.'"

---
2

Content Honored

“Using Sidenotes, publishers and readers can generate thoughtful reactions to any type of online content from articles to lyrics to live updates and more. Whether inspired or curious for more information, a reader can Sidenote any part of an article—a paragraph, a sentence, a quote, or an image.” Comments on these individual "social objects" will be placed right alongside stories instead of way down below them (congratulations), but will be hidden by default (oh, hahaha). Of course nobody asked for this, or else it wouldn't be an innovation. READ MORE

---
0

"A Chinese takeaway in London is offering its customers a rather unique take on Cadbury's Creme Egg in the form of a deep fried wonton."

---
0

Parquet Courts, "Sunbathing Animal"


Because of the Internet—because of cats, which is more and more frequently the exact same thing—the clip will work even if you don't know what The Replacements' "Bastards of Young" video looked like. (But you probably should.) I am still "eh, either way" on Parquet Courts but my foot did find itself tapping a bit to this one.

---
---
0

"The more beards there are, the less attractive they become—giving clean-shaven men a competitive advantage, say scientists in Sydney, Australia. When 'peak beard' frequency is reached, the pendulum swings back toward lesser-bristled chins—a trend we may be witnessing now, the scientists say."

---
18

Ask Polly: How Do I Make My Boyfriend Listen?

Dear Polly,

I want to know how I can make my boyfriend a better listener.

It has happened several times that when I want to talk about something serious (the future, exes, fears, hopes, etc.) my boyfriend often gets distracted. It's not like he means to hurt me—I think it's just his nature, and possibly mild ADD—but it does hurt me.

I'm 24 and he will be 30 next year. We both see each other as potential life partners. But how can I be with someone who gets distracted by a squirrel when I'm telling him about my father's funeral?

That's the other thing: I have some serious things to tell him. My father was murdered when I was 14. It's a story I haven't shared with many people, but if this is the right guy (and by all other accounts, he is) then I want him to know.

My fear is that he will hurt me by not listening correctly. Basically, that he won't listen well, or that he will be scared off, or will avoid the subject or get distracted or whatever. It has happened many times before and even though I've told him this hurts me, not much has changed.

Sometimes I feel like the mom when a serious subject gets brought up: If he gets distracted, I admonish him. Usually I say: Look, right now I just don't care about buttering my bread roll/wiping crumbs out of my shirt/that castle that we're about to pass because I'm in the middle of telling you something very important. Or I just say, never mind, you're not listening. I'll tell you some other time. He instantly apologizes and promises to change but then the same thing happens again and again. Recently I've felt like he's trying so hard to listen that he's almost playing a role.

Sometimes I even feel like I'm dragging him down when I keep trying to tell him these dark stories from my past. He's a very positive, happy-go-lucky guy who comes from a balanced family. I'm a pretty strong, driven and balanced person as well (despise all the fucked up stories) but I need to talk and be heard, damn it. I think that a lot of the time he gets scared of these topics and makes distractions. But I can feel that he cares and wants to support me—just doesn't know how.

So Polly: am I crazy for trying to change my boyfriend? Are you going to tell me to get a therapist? I realize I will want to get one some day, but I also want to figure out a way to share myself fully with the person I love without getting mad at him every time.

Van Gogh's Girlfriend

Dear VGG,

I should warn you, this is one of those subjects that lights up every dark corner of my brain, causing me to spin out in a million directions. The hope of getting some small slice of concrete advice from whatever follows here is admittedly very dim, but I will try my best to bring it home. I WILL BRING THIS HOME.

Here we go. Most humans need a good listener in their lives. People want to be heard. Not distractedly half-heard and then interrupted, but heard. The desire to be heard is easily observed in small children, who magically turn into house-destructing demons the second you get on the phone, play Candy Crush, flip through a fucking magazine, etc. Kids who aren't heard are like dogs who don't get enough exercise. They will fucking shred the carpet to bits, if you let them. READ MORE

---
0

Guess What's On Those Shiny Screens?


You know what else is covered in doody? Yes, everything. But especially whatever device you happen to be reading this on right now. Here are some tips for cleaning it, but be honest, ten seconds from now you are going to eat your lunch over it and then the cycle will start anew. Why bother? My theory is if you leave the dirt there eventually you will develop some kind of symbiotic affinity with it. Yes, that is how I justify grime and indolence. What, you think you're better than me? I've seen you blow your nose in your hands and then continue to type after a cursory wipe on your jeans. Let's not kid ourselves here.

---
0

Talking to Dave Attell About His New Comedy Central Standup Show and Special


You said dirty comics are sort of a rare breed these days. Do you feel like that’s made comedy worse? Do you ever find yourself hesitating on stage, like ‘if I say something, there might be someone recording it and they might put it on a blog?’ Or do you not even give a shit?

Every comic gives a shit. Everything they say in the clubs could offend someone or somebody could take it the wrong way. The days of the late night show of just winging it and having a good time, they’re coming to an end. The crowds are pretty PC. A lot of them are coming in after seeing comedy on TV, or on the internet, or maybe there’s one name they follow and then there’s a whole bunch of other comics. I would say that audience now is the one that has to really step up a little bit. The comics are always going to be doing what they’re doing. Some of them are better than others, some of them, you know, are dirtier than others. It’s up to the audience to kind of roll with it, and let it happen. People want to have a good time. They’re really not into the experimental comedy that we all think is so important. They want a finished product. To me that’s sad. My most favorite shows were the ones where I come up with stuff, you try and push your material, something happens in the crowd, and you turn it a gem – that’s what makes it fun. I’m towards the end of the road, so I’m fine with it. It’s sad though because the audience is such an important part of it. My crowds are great. I love my people. Audiences just have to realize they are as important in the development as anybody else. Just showing up isn’t enough. READ MORE

---
1

Oh thank God: "For those who didn't get to sample the meaty menu item, KFC is offering one more chance: Starting April 21, the Double Down will return to the fast-food chain." In case you have forgotten, the definitive review of that, uh, foodstuff, appeared here four years ago.

---
1

Dave Pirner Is 50


Everyone will tell you Soul Asylum was much better before they got big, but that is what everyone says about everything they love that they knew prior to its becoming popular, so a lot of times it is just wrong. I mean, no one is defending "Runaway Train"—no one could—but the back half of their career had as much underappreciated stuff as the beginning. Anyway, happy birthday, Dave Pirner. Those of us who dream of disappearing completely will always love you for this song.

---
0

Would your apartment pass the city's restaurant inspection test? Of course not. You live in filth and even if you make an effort at tidying up every now and again the fact remains that here in New York City a thin layer of doody covers all, even the actual doody you do your best to step over as you move around town. Your surfaces play host to an orgy of bacteria, where the grossest of germs satiate their sick desires in a frenzy of deviant pathogenic passion. At night when you sleep the rats and roaches come out and dance a dervish of delight on your countertops as the vermin version of 'In the Hall of the Mountain King' plays in the background. The only saving grace is that you never prepare any food for yourself at home, so you can pretend that whatever has been delivered is coming from a kitchen where they actually make do an effort to keep things clean (although deep down you are pretty sure that they do not). Anyway, this guy's didn't either, so don't feel so bad about how disgusting you are. You're pretty disgusting though.

---
0

Mobile Love Stories

"All I could do was make phone calls and play Snake."

The love for your mobile device may not have been the first, but it is definitely one of the greatest. Your phone evolves along with everything else in your life, an unconditional love in its own right, but without all of the baggage. Check out the video above to watch millennials wax nostalgic about their very first phones.

This interview series is the latest in The Mobile Movement campaign, in which AT&T travels the country documenting the life and times of millennials. In each case, they aim to capture a different angle on the "networked existence."

Follow the movement at www.youtube.com/themobilemovement.

---
0

"The study revealed when it came to picking a playmate, the babies seemed more tolerant of unfairness when the white recipient benefited from it. They picked the fair experimenter less often when the unfair experimenter gave more toys to the white recipient rather than the Asian one. The researchers say this implies that babies can take into account both race and social history when deciding which person would make a better playmate."

---
1

Pesach In Williamsburg

Sundown Monday marked the beginning of Passover, the festival that celebrates the liberation of the Jewish people from the Egyptian Pharaohs 3300 years ago, give or take. The story of Exodus tells of the 10th and final plague—the death of the first-born, cast down upon the Egyptians for failing to heed God’s command to free the Children of Israel. To avoid the scourge, the Israelites were instructed by Moses to mark their doors with the blood of a slaughtered lamb as code: "Pass over" this home.

A 73-year-old white supremacist killed three people over the weekend in a targeted attack on Jewish community centers in Kansas City. The New York City Police Department has amped up security at Jewish facilities across the city. The response of the NYPD, like the biblical smearing of blood on entryways, represents a stand against hatred, and the right of all individuals and groups to freedom and security.

Despite yesterday's dreariness, the Hasidic Jewish community of Williamsburg was abuzz on this second day of Passover. Prayers echoed from tenement windows, Second Seder preparations were in the air, and families hurried through the rain, their hats protected by plastic bags.

Natalie McMullen is a street photographer, culture critic and food writer. She is an archivist of the resonant, a nerdy polisher of words, and a lifelong scholar on love and relationships. She is currently resident photographer at The Awl.

---
2

"With old media getting savvier and BuzzFeed on the rise, Denton has seen his digital media empire threatened once again by powerful adversaries."
Oh my God the new Star Wars is gonna suck so bad.

---
10

Coffee Merely Good

"Whatever happened to good?" asks the white man with graying hair, dad khakis and an alarmingly large face as he fills his mug with coffee brewed from beans which were picked by poor farmers who make less than a few dollars a day for working the vast plantations that produce the beans, which are shipped to large industrial facilities to be toasted, pulverized into a dry, soil-like mass and eventually dumped into large blue tubs bearing the logo of Maxwell House, a billion-dollar brand of Kraft Foods, mega-purveyor of chemically ingenious foodstuffs, which is keen to regain its status as the biggest coffee seller in the United States, not by producing the best commodity coffee product, but by promoting the virtues of the merely good with a twenty to twenty-five million dollar advertising campaign. Indeed, what did happen to good?

---