Three readings worth your time this week.

First up, a very quick post pleading Blog, You Idiots. “We need good things to read. We need them steadily, from people whose voices we enjoy. Short things. Commentary about a topic the writer has a greater interest in than you do. Something funny. Something very stupid. Not some big, long, boring thing, just a little thing that you read and enjoy.” Now that’s inspiration. (2 minutes)

Under the heading of a silver lining to global climate change, one route of the Northwest Passage was so free of ice this summer that a 1000 passenger cruise ship was able to make the trip from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The voyage sounds exciting (that’s an amazing picture in the article) but also something that cannot be a good sign for the future of the world. The company is going again next summer if you have $22,000 to spare. (4 minutes)

South Park is beginning it’s 20th season this fall, and the show is almost as subversive, offensive, and funny as when it started. Even more surprising is that it’s creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, still produce the show and write most of the material according to this interview. After the huge success of The Book of Mormon, you’d think they might have turned the making of a little cartoon over to someone else and just collect the royalties. (12 minutes)

Two audio tracks for your commute.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson is one of the great science explainers. Ray Kurzweil is one of the few people who can genuinely be called a futurist (not to mention a genius). Tyson’s interview of/discussion with Kurzweil as part of New York’s 92nd Street Y “7 Days of Genius” series is an interesting, sometimes scary, and fun (in a geeky sorta way) exploration of where human intelligence could be going. (51:36)

Why do textbooks, especially for college courses, cost so much? That’s right up the alley of the people who produce the Planet Money podcast. And this week, in an update to a segment first aired two years ago, they try to find some answers. (15:12)

One video to watch when you have a few minutes.

In the first episode of a new National Geographic video series on the Ingredients used in common products, a chemist takes a deep dive into what’s in the toothpaste most of us use. In the last section, the narrator tries to blend his own toothpaste from only natural ingredients. This would be a good view for a middle or high school science class, although I wonder if district lawyers would allow students to replicate the recipe in class. (6:44)