Scrabble, Suds, Mood, Mentors, Memories

Three Shifts At The Scrabble Factory

Ben Heintz | VT Digger | 26th December 2019

Definitive history of the factory in Fairfax, Vermont, where all wooden pieces for all American Scrabble sets were manufactured well into the 1990s. An unemployed architect called Alfred Butts invented Scrabble during the Depression, but sold off the rights. A hockey-stick manufacturer in Burlington was recruited to produce the pieces, employing 150 people to produce a million tiles a day. Scrabble tiles are now made in China, and the Fairfax factory now makes artisanal maple syrup (6,054 words)

Ghastly Dishwashers

Jeffrey Tucker | AIER | 20th December 2019

Dishwashers used to run for an hour and your stuff would come out sparkling. Now they take three hours and your stuff comes out foggy. This is because modern dishwashers use far less water and far fewer phosphates thanks to thirty years of increasingly stringent environmental regulations. The author considers this trend to be an outrage; Americans may soon be reduced to washing their dishes by hand. Recommended as a datapoint on the American worldview, not as a defence of dishwashers (725 words)

Self-Knowledge By Looking At Others

Eric Schwitzgebel | 5th December 2019

Is noticing our reactions to the outside world, especially other people, a “better mood thermometer” than trying to introspect about our feelings directly? “When I come home from work, stepping through the front door, I usually feel (I think) neutral to positive. Then I see my wife and daughter — and how I evaluate them reveals whether in fact I came through that door grumpy”. Similarly, the morning radio can sound trite or satisfying, and the difference is not the selection of songs but the listener’s inner state (928 words)

The Problem With Letters Of Recommendation

Agnes Callard | The Point | 26th December 2019

At heart, a piece about the hazards of seeking affirmation from a mentor. Students can care too much what their mentors think, wanting “to become the person they think they can see reflected in my eyes”. This can lead to personal transformation but “is also dangerous, because I actually know so much less than I seem to my students to know. I do not know who they should become”. The mentor is limited by “the narrowness of my own mind. They are capable of so much more than I can conceive of” (1,504 words)

A / Appendix / Archive

Agri Ismaïl | 27th December 2019

Discursive essay about the power of photographs to shape history and memory. We associate Abu Ghraib prison with uniquely American atrocities, thanks to the photographs of hooded and naked prisoners taken by an American military guard; the fact that Iraqis were being imprisoned and tortured in Abu Ghraib for decades under Saddam is all but forgotten. “We do not get to choose our icons. What photos do is tell something, and completely extinguish the possibility of truly saying anything else” (3,830 words)

Video: Jupiter Is Not A Planet | Space Mog. Forget Pluto; Jupiter also fails the IAU’s definition of a planet (6m 30s)

Audio: Gallows Humor | The Q Word. Emergency nurses talk about how they find the funny side of their work while maintaining respect for patients, with many excellent examples (45m 16s)

“There’s no sense in being precise when you don’t even know what you’re talking about”
— John Von Neumann

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