The Great Pyramid Looked Really Great

Back in the day it probably looked absolutely amazing in it’s polished limestone facing:

” The current outer surface of the Great Pyramid at Giza is made of rough limestone blocks, colored a dark sandy brown from hundreds of years of pollution and weathering. But when it was first built, there was a smooth layer of fine white limestone on the outside of the structure, all cut to the same angle and polished to a shine so bright it almost glowed. “


Places to Stay: Amazing circular house in Spain

Holiday home of the week - Solo House II Spanish villa

This place looks amazing:

“Solo House II is built on top of a plateau, surrounded by trees, with views all the way to the sea. Its glass exterior walls offer panoramic views of the landscape from inside the circular house, while a sliding metal mesh façade can be moved to create dappled shade inside the villa – and privacy when closed.”

Designed by Belgian architects Kersten Geers and David Van Severen. Added to Delilah and my dream places to stay.

Dead Air

Air quality in New Delhi is now so bad that the basic advice is just to stay indoors and don’t ever go out. It’s catastrophic, a smoking, smog covered totem of what awaits the world as we continue merrily along our current path:

Year after year, the economic effects of the world’s current environmental path are bearing out in New Delhi. Flights are canceled and schools closed. Car owners are limited to driving only on certain days. Construction is stalled, and hospitals are flooded with disease, as they will be flooded with chronic effects in coming decades. People miss work, become disabled, and exit the workforce. They consume more medical care and rely on safety nets.

This is the economic future that the status quo invites. Even for the world’s wealthiest people, who may be able to guarantee their personal air and food supply, their stability will be contingent on the billions of people around the world who still have to go outside.

Interstellar Space

This is fascinating:

IN THE BLACKNESS of space billions of miles from home, NASA’s Voyager 2 marked a milestone of exploration, becoming just the second spacecraft ever to enter interstellar space in November 2018. Now, a day before the anniversary of that celestial exit, scientists have revealed what Voyager 2 saw as it crossed the threshold—and it’s giving humans new insight into some of the big mysteries of our solar system.

Amazing, over 40 years on the go and still working.

Modern Food

Industrial production of food has substantially changed what we eat. Our food has become higher quality, but in doing so it has also lost some of it’s benefits. Delilah recently sent me on a newsletter from pointing out that dirty is better – carrots covered in dirt last longer and are probably better for you (especially if they’re organic). The benefits of not being too clean are reasonably well known, but almost all food you get in a shop these days is well cleaned. I’m guessing because it lets you see what you’re buying, bruises and damaged veg can’t be hidden by mud. And I’d also say it’s to prevent short changing when goods are sold by weight – a 10Kg bag of spuds could become 8Kg of potato and 2Kg of mud and how can you tell?

So there are reasons for the cleanliness I guess, but it doesn’t detract from the benefits of the dirt, or what we’re losing through the standardisation and industrialisation of food making. So much has been changed to make food look better, last longer and be easier to prepare. Not that it’s all bad, the convenience is amazing, but it’s good to realise what we’re missing, and perhaps how we can improve things a little.

We bake our own bread when we get the time to do it, and this article (“Flour power: meet the bread heads baking a better loaf“) in the Guardian gave me some, well, food for thought, on where exactly our flour comes from and how good it is (not very).

The best thing since sliced bread turns out not to be sliced bread. Our supermarket loaf, which accounts for 80% of all the bread bought in the UK, is sweetish, soft and pappy. The ingredients listed on the plastic sleeve include added E-numbers, enzyme “improvers”, extra gluten, protein powders, fats, emulsifiers and preservatives. It is baked according to the Chorleywood process (named after the location of the lab where it was invented) developed in the 1960s for speed, from grain that has been milled between steel rollers, removing the germ where the oils and nutrients reside, and the bran husk where the fibre is, leaving only the endosperm, a pure starch so nutritionally void that by UK law vitamins must be added back into white flour.

Mechanised food factories demand ingredients that are standard, stable and easy to transport, and make products that are standard, stable and easy to transport. New wheats have been bred for high yields and high protein content that require inputs of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. To increase efficiency, hedgerows and copses have been eliminated and farmland agglomerated into increasingly larger tracts of monoculture.

We should strive for a better balance, I’m trying to incorporate better quality flours into our homemade breads for starters. The ultra industrialised flour is pretty poor in comparison, although it has the benefit of being really cheap in comparison to high-quality organic flours.

Which brings home the fact that eating quality food made at home is the province of someone with not only money but time on their hands too. There’s no easy answer to food industrialisation and monocultures – the alternatives are expensive, but perhaps there’s a third way – a mix of both surely could be achieved at less cost to the environment while not making foods overly costly?

Iranian Women’s Rights

An improvement:

Iranian women will be able to officially enter a soccer stadium on Thursday for the first time in nearly 40 years to watch Iran’s 2022 World Cup qualifier against Cambodia, a historic feat after FIFA threatened to suspend the country over its controversial male-only policy.

Still, only 5% of tickets were allocated to female fans, because, eh, no apparent reason other than you know, being female is a problem. FIFA seems to be pushing the Iranian FA on this though, so that’s positive.


Good Tools

I’ve been thinking and reading about technical and non-technical leadership, productivity and leveraging, and this describes very well why you need good tools in your work:

Finally there’s a psychological aspect to providing good tools to engineers that I have to believe has a really impact on people’s overall effectiveness. On one hand, good tools are just a pleasure to work with. On that basis alone, we should provide good tools for the same reason so many companies provide awesome food to their employees: it just makes coming to work every day that much more of a pleasure. But good tools play another important role: because the tools we use are themselves software, and we all spend all day writing software, having to do so with bad tools has this corrosive psychological effect of suggesting that maybe we don’t actually know how to write good software. Intellectually we may know that there are different groups working on internal tools than the main features of the product but if the tools you use get in your way or are obviously poorly engineered, it’s hard not to doubt your company’s overall competence.

Peter Seibel, “Let 1,000 flowers bloom

I may come back to this.