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Thursday’s Tidbits

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Morning reading – Thursday, December 17, 2020

How Savannah Guthrie and Kristen Welker Won the 2020 Election Coverage | Vogue

In a season of political tumult, amid an increasingly polarized and partisan media landscape, Guthrie and Welker have emerged as pillars of the fourth estate—two roundly tough-but-fair network newswomen determined to hold leaders of both parties to account.

Thank the Supreme Court, for Now – The New York Times

Texas v. Pennsylvania had the form of a Supreme Court case. But it was a Potemkin village of a case, with the proper Gothic typeface on the front cover but nothing inside that resembled sound legal argument. It’s as if someone filed a case asking the court to exercise its original jurisdiction and declare the moon to be made of green cheese.

Wait Until March – The Atlantic

Keep your fingers crossed, knock on wood, sprinkle evil eyes in every nook and cranny, and offer a thought and a prayer and more coffee to the millions who will be working hard to pull this off. The future—even the near future—looks hopeful, even as the current moment looks particularly grim.

Germany’s Winning Covid Strategy Has Stopped Working – WSJ

Scientists, politicians and psychologists say many Germans, including some in the government, made a fatal error of judgment after Germany emerged comparatively unscathed last summer: They thought they were safe.

Pfizer vaccine: Trump administration pushing for more doses this spring – The Washington Post

That means the supply of remaining vaccine could be up to 40 percent greater, though the drugmaker cautions that it’s uncertain how many extra doses are available.

I Was the Homeland Security Adviser to Trump. We’re Being Hacked. – The New York Times

The actual and perceived control of so many important networks could easily be used to undermine public and consumer trust in data, written communications and services.

Dianne Feinstein is the least of our problems – The Washington Post

Biden’s team of top advisers is so stuffed full of friends of the family that the only place to stick spring-chicken outsider Pete Buttigieg, 38, was at the Transportation Department, which shows you how sensitive the incoming administration is to the optics of the age imbalance — and how insensitive to the substance.

This Is Not the Way New Yorkers Normally Greet a Major Snowstorm – The New York Times

The snow day began nine months ago. And in the sort of reversal that could only happen in this pandemic era, a heavy snowstorm is, to many, a most welcome change, something new to look at from the windows that New Yorkers have lived behind since March.

Inside the font factory: meet the man who shapes the world’s letters | Financial Times

Everywhere you look, even if you don’t notice it, there’s a Dalton Maag font.

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Mid-Month

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Morning Reading – Wednesday, December 16, 2020

The Vaccine Arrived in a 63-Pound Box, Packed in Dry Ice – The New York Times

“Hospital workers, Cuomo’s people. Every one of us realized at that minute, just how profound that was going to be. We were putting a woman on the moon. It was a lunar landing.”

FT People of the Year: BioNTech’s Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci | Financial Times

The mere fact that a safe and effective inoculation is available less than a year after the genetic sequence for a new, pneumonia-like pathogen was released puts the achievement by Dr Sahin and Dr Tureci, who are the FT’s People of the Year for 2020, alongside the greatest medical breakthroughs of our time.

Giving Trump credit for the vaccine is the best way for Biden to unite the country – The Washington Post

The genius of Operation Warp Speed was the decision to run the vaccine development process in parallel rather than sequentially.

Three-quarters of states will elect governors in the next 2 years. Here’s a field guide. – POLITICO

Thirty-eight of 50 states — accounting for nearly 85 percent of the U.S. population — will hold gubernatorial elections between 2021 and 2022. A dozen states are likely in play, if not more, raising the potential for one party to expand its influence across the nation.

Glennon Doyle and Biden Campaign Manager Jen O’Malley Dillon on Politics, Motherhood, and Doing Hard Things | Glamour

She is the first woman to manage a successful Democratic presidential campaign, the first woman to run a campaign that ousted an incumbent president, and of course the first person to spearhead a winning ticket in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic.

A wake-up for the world on cyber security | Financial Times

Any IT system, moreover, is only as secure as its weakest link. A central feature of this attack is that it utilised the supply chain, gaining access via software from a commercial supplier.

Christmas Trees Are the Hot New Pandemic Item – The Atlantic

There appears to be a run on Christmas trees. Over the past two weeks, the media have started to pick up on the apparent frenzy, but putting numbers to these observations is a little tricky because the industry is almost charmingly low on data.

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Tuesday Reading

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Morning Reading – Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Electoral college affirms Biden’s victory on a relatively calm day of a chaotic election – The Washington Post

Biden surpassed the 270-vote threshold for winning the presidency when California cast its 55 electoral votes after 5 p.m. Eastern time.

Note From Asha: Rethinking States’ Rights – CAFE

Fortunately for us, we’ve discovered that there is one feature of our government that the President can’t easily override. It turned out that our “savior” wasn’t our institutions, or Mueller, or Congress – it was the division of power between the states and the federal government, which we call federalism.

A look back: Essays: CyberInsecurity: The Cost of Monopoly – Schneier on Security

The security situation is deteriorating, and that deterioration compounds when nearly all computers in the hands of end users rely on a single operating system subject to the same vulnerabilities the world over.

‘Massively disruptive’ cyber crisis engulfs multiple agencies – POLITICO

“This is probably going to be one of the most consequential cyberattacks in U.S. history,” one U.S. official said, after the National Security Council held its second meeting in three days about the attacks…

Scope of Russian Hack Becomes Clear: Multiple U.S. Agencies Were Hit – The New York Times

About 18,000 private and government users downloaded a Russian tainted software update — a Trojan horse of sorts — that gave its hackers a foothold into victims’ systems, according to SolarWinds, the company whose software was compromised.a

Opinion | Pound for Pound, Taiwan Is the Most Important Place in the World – The New York Times

t is a small island of just 24 million people, but it is at the center of the battle for global technological supremacy. Pound for pound, it is the most important place in the world. … Taiwan has become a critical link in the global tech supply chain, adding economic weight to the geopolitical calculations. And that weight is likely to increase as the battle for global tech supremacy heats up.

COVID-19 Changed Science Forever – The Atlantic

The scientific community spent the pre-pandemic years designing faster ways of doing experiments, sharing data, and developing vaccines, allowing it to mobilize quickly when COVID‑19 emerged. Its goal now should be to address its many lingering weaknesses.

Mervyn King on Governments’ Biggest Covid Mistake – Bloomberg

From the start, under relentless pressure from the media, governments expressed unwarranted certainty about the merits of their policies. Then, when circumstances suggested a change of course, they explained the new direction with equal certainty. After a few such reversals, trust declines.

How Do We Get to Herd Immunity for Fake News? – The New York Times

“Unlike ordinary lies and propaganda, which try to make you believe something, disinformation tries to make you disbelieve everything.” Understandably disoriented, many people conclude they might as well believe what they prefer to believe.

The risks that investors should prepare for in 2021 | Financial Times

There are two risks, and not just for markets. First, what is desirable may not be politically feasible, and second, what has proven feasible is no longer sustainable.

What Comes After Smartphones? | Seeking Alpha (Benedict Evans)

The innovation in cars became everything around the car. One could suggest the same today about smartphones – now the innovation comes from everything else that happens around them.

The Rise Of Everywhere – AVC

So let’s stop worrying about Silicon Valley, it will be fine, and start celebrating the rise of tech entrepreneurship everywhere. That is a profound thing for the world and something to be incredibly happy about.

Our sadness is really selfishness – Om Malik

The mortality of these towering figures, who created whole worlds through which we could discover our reality, is a reminder of loves lost, dreams unfulfilled, destinations that one time defined the future.

A Car That Connects Father, Son and Land-Speed Racing History – WSJ

He built the “City of Salt Lake” racing car out of the frame of a diesel truck, with an Allison V-12 airplane engine from a World War II P-38 Lightning. It’s a 1,710-cubic-inch engine, and if you know the slightest thing about cars, you know that this thing is a beast.

The 10 most important things I’ve learned about trust over my 100 years – The Washington Post (George Shultz)

Trust is the coin of the realm. When trust was in the room, whatever room that was — the family room, the schoolroom, the locker room, the office room, the government room or the military room — good things happened. When trust was not in the room, good things did not happen. Everything else is details.

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Second Monday

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Morning Reading – Monday, December 14, 2020

Highly Evasive Attacker Leverages SolarWinds Supply Chain to Compromise Multiple Global Victims With SUNBURST Backdoor | FireEye

The actors behind this campaign gained access to numerous public and private organizations around the world.

Russian hacker group ‘Cozy Bear’ behind Treasury and Commerce breaches – The Washington Post

All of the organizations were breached through the update server of a network management system made by the firm SolarWinds, FireEye said in a blog post Sunday.

Amazon subsidiary Zoox reveals first look at autonomous robotaxi

Zoox created the first vehicle with bi-directional driving capabilities and four-wheel steering, allowing the vehicle to maneuver through compact spaces and change directions without the need to reverse.

Autonomous Vehicles Take Another Big Leap – The New York Times (Kara Swisher)

Like a lot of other self-driving efforts, Zoox’s robo-taxis will not yet be widely available for commercial operations, but will continue to be tested on private roads starting next year at Stanford University’s Linear Accelerator Laboratory.

Electoral College Voter: Long an Honor, and Now Also a Headache – The New York Times

This year, the Electoral College is another piece of routine election mechanics thrown into the cross hairs of President Trump’s sustained assault on voting integrity.

Ted Lasso, a Model for the Nurturing Modern Man

As I’ve grown more conscious over the past decade about the type of person I want to be in the world and the type of example I want to set for my kids, Rogers has been a guiding light and I’m happy to add Ted Lasso to the list as well.

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The Weekender

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Morning Reading, Sat-Sun, December 12, 2020

64 Reasons To Celebrate Paul McCartney – The Ruffian

If I do see Paul McCartney in the street, I think I know what I will say to him, actually, presuming I can get the words out. I will say thank you. I might even tell him that I love him.

An Iconic Beacon Shines Anew – WSJ

Walking into the open air of the 86th-floor observation deck, the city seems to breathe together. Up in the rarefied aerie of the 102nd floor observatory, new floor-to-ceiling windows reveal the panorama of the possibilities below.

How Pfizer Delivered a Covid Vaccine in Record Time: Crazy Deadlines, a Pushy CEO – WSJ

“I’m a true believer that people, they don’t really know their limits,” Mr. Bourla said in an interview. “And usually, they have the tendency to underestimate what they can produce.”

American Elites Still Don’t Understand COVID-19 – The Atlantic

Imagine if the U.S. announced a new war against automobile casualties, and we watched California ban all transmission technology, leading to millions of confused and angry homebound residents, while North Dakota took out all its traffic lights, leading to a redoubled epidemic of car deaths. That’s essentially what we have today—a clueless seesaw between overly restrictive and overly accommodating policies. The laboratories of democracy have become specialists in reactive ad-hocracy, as hospitalizations spike to an all-time high.

‘An Indelible Stain’: How the G.O.P. Tried to Topple a Pillar of Democracy – The New York Times

The Supreme Court repudiation of President Trump’s desperate bid for a second term not only shredded his effort to overturn the will of voters: It also was a blunt rebuke to Republican leaders in Congress and the states who were willing to damage American democracy by embracing a partisan power grab over a free and fair election.

Trump’s effort to retain power is powered by inaccurate and nonsensical jargon – The Washington Post

Trump’s effort to convince people that the results of the election should be tossed appears to be crystallizing around the idea that so many people believing there was fraud is reason enough. And to get them to believe that, he and his allies are feeding them a steady diet of garbage wrapped in terminology cribbed from the glossaries of college textbooks.

Best visual art of 2020 – The Washington Post

Through all of this, museums staged some incredible exhibitions. Many were cut short, in some cases just days after opening, but they deserve to be remembered. Years of work, lifetimes of expertise and incredible feats of teamwork and logistics go into organizing great art exhibitions. Here were some — though by no means all — of the shows that stood out.

‘What Becomes a Legend Most’ Review: Avedon’s Vision – WSJ

All photographers want to get a great shot, but Avedon went a step beyond: he wanted to get the definitive shot, and he often did. Think of his Marilyn Monroe, looking off-camera and lost, as if her dog had just died.

Cast-iron pans spark a debate that’s as enduring as the cookware itself – The Washington Post

Don’t expect the faithful to give up trying. One of the biggest selling points for cast-iron pans is that they last forever. The debate over them will, too.

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Friday Favorites

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Morning Reading – Friday, December 11, 2020

The Man Who Found Forrest Fenn’s Treasure | Outside Online

With the chest located, one part of the treasure hunt is finished now—the chase, the part that obsessed all of us and pushed us to places we maybe shouldn’t have been. But the story has not ended. So many people have a stake in this hunt, it means so much to so many, that the tale didn’t, and doesn’t, end with a man finding a treasure chest. 

Airbnb Reflections | Greylock (Reid Hoffman)

Literally two minutes into the pitch, I told them, “Look, I’m going to make you an offer to invest. Let’s make the rest of the session a working session.” … What happened in those two minutes to convince me? Part of the entrepreneurship game is deciding what league to play in. There’s the junior league, the varsity league, and then there’s the big leagues. Generally speaking, as investors and entrepreneurs, you want to go after ideas where, if you succeed, it transforms an industry or even the world. Those two minutes showed me that Airbnb’s founders wanted to play in the big leagues.

The best travel podcasts to listen to right now – The Washington Post

In the past week, I have driven nearly 11,000 miles from London to Mongolia, walked the Amazon from top to bottom and sat under a baobab tree in Senegal, listening to chirping birds. My travel was completely safe: I simply slipped on headphones.

Saying Goodbye to the Trips of a Lifetime – The New York Times

But they gave me something far more precious: a final few hours with my father. I just didn’t know it at the time.

Covid News: Pandemic Creates New Kind of Financial Midlife Crisis – Bloomberg

She stopped focusing on making money and began concentrating on her emotional wellbeing. As part of her healing process, she began baking cookies.

How ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ Is Inspiring Women to Take Up Chess – The New York Times

“It wakes up my brain in the morning,” she said. “I don’t think there are many things that I could do in the morning that gives me that thinking pattern.”

From Bob Dylan to Blondie — why investors are buying up hit songs | Financial Times

“Great, proven songs have predictable, reliable income. It is better than gold or oil,” he argues, comparing the steady rise in the value of music with assets whose value can swing wildly depending on world events.

The Republican Party Is Abandoning Democracy – The Atlantic

When Donald Trump was granted a coat of arms for his Scottish golf courses in 2012 (after a lengthy court battle, of course), he chose as its motto “Numquam concedere”: Never concede. He has not…

Hydrogen-powered flight – Is the time now ripe for planes to run on hydrogen? | Science & technology | The Economist

The allure is great. Hydrogen packs three times as much energy per kilogram as kerosene, the current standard aviation fuel, and lightness is at a premium aloft.

French Onion Soup | Ruhlman

What I love about traditional French onion soup is that no stock is necessary for this soup. It’s just onions, water, seasonings and patience. You’re basically making onion stock, flavoring it with salt vinegar and a splash of wine.

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Thursday Morning

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Morning Reading – Thursday, December 10, 2020

It’s Human Rights Day today.

To reduce the wear and tear of flying, I buy 2 seats in coach, window and middle, so there is always an empty seat next to me. This provides enough space to use my laptop, place things on the empty middle seat, avoid unwanted intimacy.

Edward Tufte, Seeing with Fresh Eyes

Creativity Bootcamp and the Long Walk — Roden Explorers Archive

Overall, I found the day-after-day grind of the walk-and-write caused me to be a much closer observer throughout the day. I noticed better and with more intention — how the hulking, violent highways and bypasses affected the tenor of the villages through which I walked, the subtle language changes as I crossed a mountain range from Mie to Shiga Prefecture, the rough vocal tone of a certain mochi maker or the distressed vibe of a third or forth generation barber at the end of his line.

Dianne Feinstein’s Missteps Raise a Painful Age Question Among Senate Democrats | The New Yorker

“It was like Groundhog Day, but with the pain fresh each time.”

What Really Saved the Republic From Trump? – The New York Times

You might call these values our “unwritten constitution.” Whatever you call them, they were the decisive factor.

Berthe Morisot’s ‘Young Woman Watering a Shrub’ is a modest masterpiece at Virginia’s Museum of Fine Arts – Washington Post

There’s something about it — a tenderness, a modesty, a matter-of-factness — that, like a good martini, crosses my blood-brain barrier as soon as I see it.

It May Feel Like Winter, but It’s Time to Shop for Seeds – The New York Times

I don’t advocate hoarding seed, but when it comes to seed catalogs, I say more is better (whether in print or online). Each has its specialties. Plus, they make for good reading.

Citi-Revlon Lawsuit Tests Two Competing Legal Principles – Bloomberg

The $900 million Citi-Revlon lawsuit that started on Wednesday is a law professor’s dream. The case, which is being heard by Judge Jesse Furman in federal district court in New York, pits two entirely logical and reasonable principles against one another.

Hello, World! It Is ‘I,’ the Internet | WIRED

Remember when we used to write out “the Internet” with a capital “I”? Now it’s all in lower case, as if the Internet could be any old “internet” at all. When did this change happen, and why didn’t I notice it at the time?

Watch Elon Musk’s Starship Rocket Go Out With A Boom Wile E. Coyote Style

The test was by some measures a success, as the craft was able to reach high altitude and terminate its flight at a particular location, although the landing resulted in a fireball seemingly ripped straight from Looney Tunes. 

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Wednesday Reading

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Morning Reading – Wednesday, December 09, 2020

American history is about outcomes. Will we pass the covid-19 test? – The Washington Post

The vaccine is coming, but the crisis is already here. History’s account of Americans in this pandemic will focus on what we do starting now. Our lack of leadership has been depressing

The Vaccine as Fire Hose – The New York Times

A vaccine is like a fire hose. A vaccine that’s 95 percent effective, as Moderna’s and Pfizer’s versions appear to be, is a powerful fire hose. But the size of a fire is still a bigger determinant of how much destruction occurs.

Experts Debate How To Prepare For the Next Pandemic – The New York Times

The vaccine is not the end of the pandemic recovery period, but the beginning. Once the virus is under control, the nation faces disarray: millions of people unemployed, communities shattered by the loss of businesses, a generation with a disrupted education and deepened systemic inequalities.

One Man’s Rolodex Helps Operation Warp Speed Live Up to Its Name – Bloomberg

Operation Warp Speed is betting that CD24Fc will become the new standard. Merck aiming to ramp up its manufacturing of the intravenous therapy in the first half of 2021, and Slaoui said the U.S. is in talks to buy that production.  

US to shift burden from banks in overhaul of money laundering laws | Financial Times

The US Congress is expected this week to approve the first overhaul of the country’s anti-money laundering laws in decades…

Donald Trump’s Legacy of Lies – The Atlantic

America under Trump became less free, less equal, more divided, more alone, deeper in debt, swampier, dirtier, meaner, sicker, and deader. It also became more delusional. No number from Trump’s years in power will be more lastingly destructive than his 25,000 false or misleading statements.

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Tuesday Morning

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Morning Reading – Tuesday, December 08, 2020

In COVID-19 milestone for West, Britain starts mass vaccination | Reuters

A 90-year-old grandmother became the world’s first person to receive a fully-tested COVID-19 shot on Tuesday, as Britain began mass-vaccinating its people…

December 7, 2020 Health Officer Statement – San Mateo County Health

Just because one has the legal authority to do something, doesn’t mean one has to use it, or that using it is the best course of action. What I believed back in May, and what I believe now, is the power and authority to control this pandemic lies primarily in your hands, not mine. 

C.D.C. Call for Data on Vaccine Recipients Raises Alarm Over Privacy – The New York Times

The Trump administration is requiring states to submit personal information of people vaccinated against Covid-19 — including names, birth dates, ethnicities and addresses — raising alarms among state officials who fear that a federal vaccine registry could be misused.

On the Front Lines of Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine Program

Moderna’s technology was unique because its “platform,” as Smith calls it, could swap out genetic sequences so that it could be used to vaccinate against all manner of ailments, like a miracle gadget you might buy on QVC.

Is Trump Trying to Stage a Coup? – The Atlantic

The incoherence and incompetence of the attempt do not change its nature, however, nor do those traits allow us to dismiss it or ignore it until it finally fails on account of that incompetence.

Why we returned to reading | Financial Times

Against the backdrop of a deadly virus that saw many of us banished to our homes, the pandemic has been a boon to books.

Big Push Into Helium Could Have the World on Russia’s String – The New York Times

A huge production facility in Siberia is nearing completion, one that some analysts say could disrupt the global market for the lighter-than-air gas, which plays an increasingly critical role in industries like medical technology, space exploration and national security.

Chuck Yeager, Legendary Test Pilot, Face of “The Right Stuff”, Dies at 97. – The Aviationist

On October 12, 1944 Yeager became the central character in one of the most remarkable pages in the history of aerial combat. He shot down five German airplanes in one day, including two without firing a shot.

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Monday Reading

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Morning Reading – Monday, December 07, 2020

It’s National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Today is the 79th anniversary of the attack. This country lost 2,403 people at Pearl Harbor. We will lose more people to COVID today

How Moderna’s Vaccine Works – The New York Times

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is studded with proteins that it uses to enter human cells. These so-called spike proteins make a tempting target for potential vaccines and treatments.

How Iowa Mishandled the Coronavirus Pandemic – The Atlantic

The story of the coronavirus in this state is one of government inaction in the name of freedom and personal responsibility. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has followed President Donald Trump’s lead in downplaying the virus’s seriousness. She never imposed a full stay-at-home order for the state and allowed bars and restaurants to open much earlier than in other places.

As Balthazar Reopens, Keith McNally Writes Its Personal History | Vanity Fair

My stroke paralyzed my right side. The pandemic paralyzed Balthazar. Donald Trump paralyzed the will of half the American people. Each of these dreadful incidents convinced me not to succumb to adversity, but to remember Dylan Thomas’s lines, “…Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Rage, rage.

AI lab DeepMind cracked the protein folding problem, changing biology with AlphaFold – Vox

AlphaFold has implications for everything from Alzheimer’s disease to future pandemics. It can help us understand diseases, since many (like Alzheimer’s) are caused by misfolded proteins.

Yamiche Alcindor Wants America to See Its Flaws | Glamour

To be a good journalist, according to Alcindor, is to level with the audience: “Here are the issues. This is how to understand what’s going on in the world.”

Apple Preps Next Mac Chips With Aim to Outclass Highest-End PCs – Bloomberg

For its next generation chip targeting MacBook Pro and iMac models, Apple is working on designs with as many as 16 power cores and four efficiency cores, the people said.

A Race Car Crash From Hell—and the Science That Saved Its Driver | WIRED

The spin proved too much. The car tore in half, clean open, rupturing the full gas tank and spraying gasoline everywhere.

The Man Who Walked Across Japan for Pizza Toast – Gastro Obscura

Made of inch and a half thick slices of white bread topped with tomato sauce or ketchup, processed cheese, and whatever toppings the chef has on hand, this gooey, crunchy comfort food is what American writer, photographer, and designer Craig Mod calls “a hug produced in a toaster oven.”

In memoriam: Professor Emeritus, ALOHAnet co-founder Norman Abramson | University of Hawaiʻi

Debuted in 1971, ALOHAnet was the first system to transmit data between computers using radio waves. The novel approaches developed led to the development of Ethernet and wireless communication technologies used to this day.