This is the hometown of San Francisco’s worst drug dealers

From Megan Cassidy and Gabrielle Lurie for the San Francisco Chronicle: “Thirty-five hundred miles southeast of San Francisco, a dirt road in Honduras shared by pickup trucks and oxcarts cuts through mostly abandoned farmland. On the outskirts of a small village, a jewel-toned mural appears like a mirage: the Bay Bridge, sparkling at night, stretching across a 10-foot-high wall. In a nearby town square, a skinny child in a Steph Curry T-shirt climbs a tree. A few blocks away, a three-wheeled mototaxi whizzes by, a San Francisco Giants sticker affixed to its bumper. More extravagant emblems of San Francisco appear unexpectedly and often, alongside crumbling adobe huts, stray roosters and heaps of singed garbage. Handsome new homes, some mansions by local standards, some mansions by any standard, rise behind customized iron gates emblazoned with San Francisco 49ers or Golden State Warriors logos.”

How I learned to be blind

From Andrew Leland for the New Yorker: “I first noticed something wrong with my eyes in New Mexico. I was a freshman in high school. We hung out at Hank’s house; he was our charismatic leader, and his mom was maximally permissive. One night, in Hank’s room, our friend Chad sat on a beanbag chair, packing a pipe with weed. After dark, we hiked up the hill behind the house to get a view of the city. The moon was bright, but I found myself tripping on roots and stones and wandering off track. At one point, I walked right into a piñon tree with prickly branches. My friends laughed, and I played up my intoxication for effect. Eventually, though, my mother brought me to see an eye doctor. After a series of tests, he sat us down and said that I had retinitis pigmentosa, or R.P., a rare disease affecting about a hundred thousand people in the U.S.”

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There were reliable, easy-to-use electric cars a century ago

From Stewart Brand at Works In Progress: “At the very beginning of the auto industry, no less than three radically different design-for-maintenance philosophies fought it out. One lost, but not because of maintenance issues. The other two won big by rejecting each other’s approach to maintenance. Electric automobiles were the first to market, almost fully formed by the 1890s. The electric car appeared to have all of the good points of the horse and buggy with none of its drawbacks. It was noiseless, odorless, and very easy to start and drive. No other motor vehicle could match its comfort and cleanliness or its simplicity of construction and ease of maintenance. Gasoline-powered internal combustion engines were arriving at the same time, but they were a pain to run. Owners who could afford it hired a chauffeur to repair and drive the complex machines.”

A group of shipwrecked boys survived on a remote island for over a year

From Dan Lewis at Now I Know: “In June of 1965, six Tongan boys — all between 15 and 17 years old — decided to skip school. They attended a Catholic boarding school at St. Andrew’s College in Nuku’alofa, Tonga’s capital, on the island of Tongatapu. For reasons unclear, the boys decided that it wasn’t enough to go into town for the day; they really wanted to escape the strict schooling environment. They hastily stole a small boat, measuring only about 24 feet long, and set out to sea. They anchored for the night a few miles offshore, probably expecting to return home the next day. But the weather had other ideas. A storm struck their ship, snapping the rope that tied them to the anchor, and for the next eight days, their tiny ship was tossed. The quickly-deteriorating ship crashed down on the shore of a barely-charted, deserted isle known as ‘Ata.”

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The battle of the blackest black versus the pinkest pink

From Dan Lewis: “The pink above is brighter than most computers can display. If you want to see just how bright the pinkest pink can get, you’ll have to see it with your own eyes. The good news is that you can buy some. For about $5, the maker of the pink, artist Stuart Semple, will sell you a 50-gram jar of it which you can turn into paint. Oh, but there’s a catch. Here’s the relevant text from the page: “*Note: By adding this product to your cart you confirm that you are not Anish Kapoor, you are in no way affiliated to Anish Kapoor, you are not purchasing this item on behalf of Anish Kapoor or an associate of Anish Kapoor.” To understand why, you need to know about something called Vantablack, which Wikipedia describes as “the blackest artificial substance known, absorbing up to 99.965% of radiation in the visible spectrum.”

Why the story of George Orwell’s forgotten first wife still matters

BBC Radio 4 - Great Lives, George Orwell

Amanda Hooten writes for the Sydney Morning Herald: “Eileen O’Shaughnessy married Orwell in 1936 and became Eileen Blair (George Orwell’s real name was, rather prosaically, Eric Blair). But Funder found she was virtually missing from Orwell’s own, often deeply personal, writing about his life. This was odd, Funder thought – especially since, as she dug deeper, she discovered a woman who was, according to seemingly everyone who knew her, a truly remarkable person. Eileen Blair was a woman who won a scholarship to and earned an English degree from the University of Oxford, at a time when women were barely admitted to higher education. She was a woman who not only performed every skerrick of the domestic work in her life with Orwell, but also supported him financially for at least two years of their nine-year marriage.”

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What it’s like to grow up as an Untouchable in India

From Sujatha Gidla in LitHub: “When people in this country ask me what it means to be an untouchable, I explain that caste is like racism against blacks here. But then they ask, “How does anyone know what your caste is?” I explain it like this. In Indian villages and towns, everyone knows everyone else. Each caste has its own special role and its own place to live. The untouchables, whose special role is to labor in the fields of others or to do other work that Hindu society considers filthy, are not allowed to live in the village at all. They must live outside the village. They are not allowed to enter temples, or to come near sources of drinking water used by other castes. But how do people know your caste when you go elsewhere, to a place where no one knows you? There they will ask you, “What caste are you?” And you cannot refuse to answer.”

Why American diners look the way they do

The 12 Best Retro Diners In The South

From Jason Kottke: “Architect Michael Wyetzner says that American diners took their cues from trains – the word diner came from the dining car on a train. Many of the design elements in a diner are based on the necessities of dining on a train in a railroad car, like booth seating and counter seating, and an open kitchen. On the exterior, you have that stainless steel smooth curvature, you’ve got that Art Deco typography. And then on the interior you have the checkered floor, you have the booths, you have the globes, and you have the jukebox. In the early part of the 20th century, trains were the dominant form of travel. If you look at some of the earliest diners, they were in fact, actual train cars that were placed permanently on the ground.”

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Hemingway was fascinated by the idea of gender fluidity

From Matthew Wills at JSTOR Daily: “When Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Garden of Eden was published in 1986, it changed our reading of the author’s life and work. Uncompleted at his death in 1961, the Garden manuscript revealed the “depth of his interest in homosexuality and the mutability of gender,” writes literary scholar Valerie Rohy. Combined with his widow Mary Welsh Hemingway’s diary and memoir, the book suggested a different way of looking at an author who wore his hypermasculinity on his safari jacket sleeve. In the novel, David and Catherine, a honeymooning American couple in Europe, explore switching gender roles. Catherine bobs her hair to a boyish cut, explaining, “I’m a girl, but now I’m a boy, too.”

The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the rebirth of Western Occultism

From Mitch Horowitz at Medium: “The history of the Golden Dawn began in fall of 1887, when London coroner and Freemason William Wynn Wescott came into possession of a folio of alchemical symbols and encrypted ritualist writings in English, French, Latin, and Hebrew. The 60-leaf folio was accompanied by a sheet with the name and address of a mysterious (and possibly invented) German countess whom the bearer could contact for guidance. Wescott said that he received these “Cypher Manuscripts” from the Rev. A.F.A. Woodford, a fellow Freemason who died that year. For his part, Woodford is sometimes said to have purchased the manuscripts from an antiquarian bookdealer in 1880; other accounts have him receiving them from Masonic scholar Kenneth R. H. Mackenzie, who died in 1886. Wescott claimed to have received from the countess news of hidden masters called “Secret Chiefs,” from a Hermetic-Rosicrucian order.”

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Inside the Balkans’ alternative postal system

From Ilir Gashi at The Guardian: “Since she started taking passengers between Sarajevo and Belgrade 20 years ago, Rada has been performing an additional function, working as part of an informal postal network. She transports anything anyone wants to send, as long as it’s legal and can fit in a car. And if it wasn’t for Rada, for many people this would be much more difficult. All across the former Yugoslavia, the Bosnian war created borders that cut through families and friendships and all other sorts of relationships (perhaps with the honourable exception of organised crime “families”); this was followed by a steady dissolving of infrastructure – roads, transport routes, bus lines, postal services – that once kept Yugoslavia together. It was almost as if someone wanted to make sure that we were all kept away from each other, inside our walled ethnic communities.”

Liberland, Europe’s would-be Bitcoin micronation

Inside Liberland, a Crypto-Libertarian Micronation In Eastern Europe

From Matt Broomfield for UnHerd: “Chugging down the Danube in a fisherman’s boat, past the unrecognised exclave known as Liberland, it’s hard to reconcile fantasy with reality. This patch of land — lushly forested, mosquito-ridden and boggy — remains unclaimed by neighbouring Croatia and Serbia, allowing a coterie of libertarian crypto enthusiasts to claim it as a nominally-sovereign micronation. But this sleepy cartographical quirk is a far cry from the visionary design generated by Zaha Hadid Architects to represent Liberland in the Metaverse, where silhouetted avatars stroll down deforested avenues lined with grand, neo-futurist architecture. The idea of setting up an “independent” nation has always been attractive to libertarians, even though a half-century of attempts to establish tax-free idylls have produced no tangible results.”

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The fourth generation of the Flying Wallendas just can’t stop

From Marcus Webb for Delayed Gratification magazine: “I remember every moment of my fall,” says Lijana Wallenda, one of the fourth generation of the Wallenda family to perform on a high wire – and, in 2017, the latest member to suffer a horrific accident. “I can see the ground getting closer, closer, closer to my face before I hit it. All I could think about was my sons, nephew and niece… I’m not letting them do high-wire walking for a living. No, the generations of wire-walking end here.” The Wallendas’ long line of aerialists started with Karl. Born in Germany in 1905, he began learning stunts as a young child, and was performing by the age of six. In 1922 he formed the Flying Wallendas high-wire act with his brother Herman, schoolfriend Joseph Geiger and Helen Kreis, who would become his wife. The Flying Wallendas spent several years touring Europe before moving to Sarasota, Florida, in 1928 to join the famous Ringling Bros circus.”

What kind of person can run in a tiny, maddening circle for 24 hours straight?

Two runners at the D3 Dawn to Dusk to Dawn ultramarathon in Sharon Hills, Pennsylvania, running at night around a 400-meter track in May 2023.

From Stephen Lurie for Slate: “Gagz had been running for 17 hours and 20 minutes when he made it to the southeast corner of the loop. He’d already chugged past this spot 370 times, but on his 371st lap, he started walking across the lanes. “I’m takin’ five,” he told me. “I have to. I just don’t want my lead to dwindle.” He reached the edge and laid down, propping his tattooed legs up against a waist-high chain-link fence, long gray beard falling toward the damp red track. He planned to sleep for exactly five minutes. It was midnight for civilians, but at Dawn to Dusk to Dawn—a grueling 24-hour ultramarathon in Sharon Hills, Pennsylvania—hour 17 meant more to the runners. Gagz, 47, wasn’t the only one who’d started to creak. Harvey, the race leader who had already run more than four back-to-back marathons that day (107.87 miles), needed to change his shoes.”

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A renegade sea otter is terrorizing California surfers

From Susanne Rust for the Los Angeles Times: “Since mid-June, an otter has been attacking and terrorizing surfers off the Santa Cruz coastline — in at least one case, stealing a board. In recent days, the attacks have grown increasingly aggressive. “At first, we were like, ‘Look how cute?’ But then it bit down on the board and chewed off a piece, and we were like. ‘What’s going on?’” said one surfer. He said the otter jumped on his board and began biting it. He tried to flip the board, but the otter got right back on — and started lunging at him. An adult sea otter can weigh 30 to 100 pounds, and reach 5 feet in length. The force of an otter’s bite has been estimated to be 615 pounds per square inch, while a wolverine’s can reach 1,720 pounds per square inch. The average person’s bite force is about 162 pounds per square inch.”

America suffered from an opioid crisis following the end of the civil war

A sanitary-commission nurse and her patients at Fredericksburg, May 1864

From Livia Gershon for JSTOR Daily: “When veterans of the US Civil War returned home, one of the barriers many faced to reintegrating into civilian life was opiate dependency. Prior to the Civil War, American doctors prescribed opiates, including opium, morphine, and laudanum, for a vast range of conditions, from painful injuries to loose bowels to fever. But doctors, and many members of the general public, were well aware of the dangers of the drugs. An 1849 article in Scientific American described addicted men as “ready to sell wife and children, body and soul for the continuance of his wretched and transient delight.” But they had little choice but to offer opiates to soldiers who otherwise would have been useless due to pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or other debilitating conditions. Some soldiers also took opiates before battle to calm their nerves.”

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The man who broke bowling

From Erik Wills for GQ magazine: “When he first alighted on the scene, Jason Belmonte – or Belmo, as he’s known to his fans – resembled an alien species: one that bowled with two hands. And not some granny shot, to be clear, but a kickass power move in which he uses two fingers (and no thumb) on his right hand, palms the front of the ball with his left, and then, on his approach, which is marked by a distinctive shuffle step, rocks the ball back before launching it with a liquid, athletic whip, his delivery producing an eye-popping hook, his ball striking the pins like a mini mortar explosion. Not everyone welcomed his arrival. He’s been called a cheat, told to go back to his native Australia; a PBA Hall of Famer once called the two-hander a “cancer to an already diseased sport.” He’s won 15 major titles, four more than anyone else in history, and seven Player of the Year awards, tied for the most all-time.”

The Stradivarius Murders

Brent Crane writes for Bloomberg: “On October 22 of 2021, Bernard von Bredow was found lifeless in his compound in Paraguay, sprawled beside his living room table. He’d been shot in the neck, and his body bore signs of torture. Fourteen-year-old Loreena was found dead in the bathtub. She’d been shot in the abdomen. Blood was everywhere—on the carpet, in the hall, in the kitchen. Belongings had been tossed about, maybe from a struggle, a search or both. Missing from the property, the local police announced later, were four specimens of the world’s most expensive musical instrument, the Stradivarius violin. The roughly 600 remaining violins built in the 17th and 18th centuries by the Italian luthier Antonio Stradivari can fetch as much as $20 million each.”

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Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a note asking his boss for time off work

From Dalya Alberge for The Guardian: “A 14th-century bureaucratic document requesting time off work for a civil servant has been identified as the only surviving handwriting of Geoffrey Chaucer, revered as the father of English literature. While it was known that the individual seeking a leave of absence was the author of The Canterbury Tales – during his 12-year employment as controller of the London Wool Quay – the application was assumed to have been made on his behalf by a clerk. Now a leading scholar argues that it was actually written by Chaucer and submitted by him for King Richard II’s approval. Prof Richard Green, a Canadian academic, said: “This would be the only known example of his hand.” From 1374 to 1386, Chaucer was the king’s controller, overseeing the payment of duty on exported and imported wool, among other goods.”

This Ukrainian group is archiving Russian soldiers’ graffiti

From Lisa Korneichuk for Hyperallergic: “After the liberation of the Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Kherson regions, Ukrainians discovered graffiti and inscriptions left by Russian soldiers on the streets and inside the buildings they had occupied. The Ukrainian cultural nonprofit Mizhvukhamy is documenting these findings in Wall Evidence, an open archive created for future research and analysis of the Russian invasion. “These writings need to be documented before people wash them away,” said Anastasia Olexii, the archive’s project manager. Olexii stayed in Kyiv during the region’s occupation and visited nearby villages as soon as the Russians retreated in early April 2022. That’s when she and her colleagues, Mizhvukhamy’s founder Pavlo Haidai and philosopher Oleksandr Filonenko, discovered the various graffiti and decided to begin documenting them.”

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