The Weekend Collection

A small collection of good things to read and watch (didn’t have much time to listen last week) when time allows.

Read: I have a great deal of admiration for David Letterman. He’s an intelligent, very funny guy with a lot of class. All of that shows through in this conversation in which he offers his assessment of the current political landscape from his perch in retirement. The beard is still weird. (about 32 minutes)

Read: You go to a theater and probably don’t think about the device being used to project the movie. Unless something breaks of course. However, one writer at Vox says “the way a movie is projected can have a meaningful impact on your theatrical experience”. And presents the fascinating story of why and how. (about 10 minutes)

Read: Carl Sagan was a man ahead of his time. Although it was written more than 20 years ago, his Baloney Detection Kit, “a set of intellectual tools that scientists use to separate wishful thinking from genuine probability”, somehow seems very current. (about 9 minutes)

Read and Watch: Our short visit to Cuba last November is still swimming around in my head, sticking like few other trips I’ve made in my life. This short article and video is one of the best essays I’ve seen on the state of Cuban travel (positive and not so), and is worth a view even if you don’t plan to go. (4:24)

Watch: You’ve probably never heard of Marie Tharp but, as this wonderful animated film from The Royal Institution, a British charity dedicated to educating the public about science, explains, her work and determination proved the theory of continental drift and plate tectonics. Show this one to your middle and high school science students. (4:39)

3-2-1 For 10-23-16

Three readings worth your time this week.

David Letterman always had a certain intelligence to his goofy sense of humor, and aspects of that personality shine in this profile about his life in retirement (that creepy beard!) and his work on a series about the global effects of climate change. Maybe you need to be a baby boomer to fully appreciate him, but I’ve been a fan of Letterman after finding his work in college. (about 11 minutes)

But what if I don’t want to be a baby boomer? What if someone doesn’t feel a part of the group into which they’ve been sorted by demographers? You can be a Perennial. A new grouping one writer has created, based “on shared values and passions” instead of the “faux constructs behind an age-based system of classification”. It’s a nice idea. We’ll see if anyone else joins. (about 3 minutes)

We are told self-driving cars are well on their way. But before everyone jumps into one, one writer wants us to take a close look at the computer controlled systems we already have. For example, almost all commercial airplanes are being mostly flown by computers and mistakes can happen. “The rarer the exception gets, as with fly-by-wire, the less gracefully we are likely to deal with it”. Don’t read this during your next flight, but do read it. (about 21 minutes)

Two audio tracks for your commute.

The Sporkful is an odd little podcast about food, but it’s not about cooking. The segments explore how food and the activity of eating reflects American society and culture. A great example is the first of a four part series on the subtle, and not so subtle, racial and cultural signals restaurants put out “that tell you what kind of place it is, and whether it’s for you”. (41:31)

Many supermarkets and other stores offer self-checkout registers these days and more are adding the option every day (I hate the ones at the local hardware store). The history of it’s invention is an interesting story, created by a Canadian doctor. Listen to this Planet Money segment for that and to find out why grocery store checkout still sucks. (20:27)

One video to watch when you have a few minutes.

Pixar has created some of the best movies of the past twenty years. Not best animated movies. Best movies. Period. A great example of the powerful storytelling nurtured in that environment is this incredibly moving short film created by two Pixar artists in their spare time. I wish my spare time was half as creative. (6:45) [Note: the site says this film will be available for a “limited time”, although it doesn’t say how long that is.]