A Brush With History
The First Sentence, Weekend Whats, Feel Good Friday
"'I really think this is the most important object ever found in my excavations,' said Yosef Garfinkel, an archaeologist at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a co-author of the study who has unearthed evidence of King David’s reign during his career. He paused, then added, with a hint of emotion in his voice: 'This is the first sentence ever found in the alphabet.'" The sentence that Garfinkel is referring was etched into a tiny ivory comb that "came from ancient ruins in central Israel and was about the size of a child’s thumb. A number of its teeth had snapped. It was so encrusted in dirt that the archaeologist who found it initially added it to a bag of assorted bones." Years later, someone re-discovered it. So what was the message that humans of 1700 BC passed forward? A message about war and peace? A treatise on the existence of gods? A guide to keeping your cave well-organized during the holidays? Nope. The message for the ages is this: "May this tusk root out the lice of the hair and the beard." NYT (Gift Article): An Ancient People’s Oldest Message: Get Rid of Beard Lice. (On the back, there was a reminder to exercise caution when investing in Crypto companies.)
2. That Sinkin' Feeling
Elon Musk entered Twitter HQ as its new owner carrying a sink and tweeting, "Let that sink in." Things have been sinkin' ever since. Mass firings. Terrible leadership. Major resignations. (Tweets can now only have 120 characters. 160 of them quit in disgust.) A horrible verified blue check program that lasted only about a day, but still did major damage to the Twitter brand (and many other brands, too). It's sad for the company, the employees, the users, Musk's co-investors and debt-holders, and in a bizarre way, Musk himself. His Twitter addiction got him into a terrible deal and the courts wouldn't let him back out of it. He wanted to own the libs, instead he owns an albatross. Musk could have been viewed as one of the great titans of our era, instead, he's tweeted his way into being a despised laughingstock. And like any Twitter addict, Musk knows that that Twitter is the worst place to embarrass yourself. Casey Newton with a great look Inside the Twitter meltdown.
+ Things "changed when social networking became social media around 2009, between the introduction of the smartphone and the launch of Instagram. Instead of connection—forging latent ties to people and organizations we would mostly ignore—social media offered platforms through which people could publish content as widely as possible, well beyond their networks of immediate contacts. Social media turned you, me, and everyone into broadcasters (if aspirational ones). The results have been disastrous but also highly pleasurable, not to mention massively profitable—a catastrophic combination." The Atlantic's Ian Bogost argues that The Age of Social Media Is Ending. I'm not so sure that's happening. But it's definitely a better prediction than the one Jack Dorsey made.
3. Fails From the Crypt
"Sam Bankman-Fried, one of the crypto industry’s biggest stars, has said a lot of things over the years, most recently that he’s 'sorry' and he 'f-cked up.' Before that, he said he might spend as much as $1 billion on politics in 2024. He said he had a lot of ideas for policing the crypto industry and using his crypto-fueled fortune for good. He said he’d be fine bailing out some crypto companies in trouble as crypto winter hit over the summer. All of these claims are now in limbo thanks to another thing he said on November 7: that his crypto exchange, FTX, was 'fine.' It was not. Instead, the next day, the exchange imploded. By Friday, November 11, the company had filed for bankruptcy, and Bankman-Fried resigned as CEO." Vox: The spectacular implosion of crypto’s biggest star, explained.
+ Before his epic fall, Sam Bankman-Fried was hailed as a crypto genius. Some clients saw smoke and mirrors.
+ The currency is newfangled. The bankruptcy is pretty old school. Enron’s Liquidator to Oversee FTX’s Massive Crypto Bankruptcy.
+ There was one bright spot for Sam Bankman-Fried. At least FTX didn't invest in Twitter.
+ I've never been a huge fan of crypto and I especially worry that it will be a money-making scheme for big time investors that leaves mom and pop investors holding the bag. But in my neck of the woods, I'm surrounded by true believers. Not sure what the vibe is like in New Zealand where YouTuber Danny de Hek assails what he calls a dangerous and deceptive scheme, one rant at a time. NYT (Gift Article, no coins required): The Crypto Ponzi Scheme Avenger.
+ Bottom line, Larry David was right.
4. Weekend Whats
What to Doc: No one does corruption quite like FIFA. For a good pre-World Cup watch, check out FIFA Uncovered, a four-part documentary on Netflix. If you're wondering how the hell this year's World Cup ended up in Qatar, this is the show for you.
+ What to Book: "As a homeless teenager writing college essays in her rusty Toyota Corolla, Emi Nietfeld was convinced that the Ivy League was the only escape from her dysfunctional childhood. But upward mobility required crafting the perfect resilience narrative." But really that's only part of the story in Emi Nietfeld's excellent memoir, Acceptance.
+ What to Read: Last week, I guest hosted The Sunday Long Read where I curated a list of excellent feature articles. (I know, I know, I'm really pushing myself out of my safety zone). If you need some good reading material this weekend, check out it.
5. Extra, Extra
One Man, One Vote, One Calculator: In Nevada, you're not allowed to count cards. Apparently, counting votes is also frowned upon. Why Nevada election results are taking days. And, here's how close the votes are for outstanding House and Senate races.
+ The Other Libs: We're headed to a Georgia runoff. Chase Oliver is probably the reason why. "Oliver was the third candidate in Georgia’s US Senate race: a pro-gun, anti-cop, pro-choice Libertarian who proudly announces himself as the state’s first LGBTQ candidate – 'armed and gay,' he boasts. And on Tuesday night, this surprise spoiler scored an historic upset of sorts, siphoning enough support away from the Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and his Republican challenger Herschel Walker to force the election to a December runoff."
+ Someone Put a Kherson Putin: "Zelensky describes it as an 'historic day' after Russia withdraws from the only regional capital taken since the war began. Cheering crowds greeted Ukrainian troops as the country's flag appeared on buildings in the city." Here's the latest: Zelensky says Kherson is 'ours' after Russian retreat.
+ Relief Ditcher: There will be an appeal, but for now, a federal judge in Texas struck down Biden's student loan relief plan.
+ Lightning Crashes Party: "At 11pm I heard a crack of thunder so loud I thought it was an explosion. Then it was as if something extremely heavy suddenly dropped on my body. I felt hot and cold at the same time – I had never felt anything like it before. I felt heavy and dazed. Next came the smell of singed flesh – I looked down at my right arm and saw that it was burning and blistering. I stumbled upstairs in shock and burning pain. Experience: I was struck by lightning while sitting on my sofa. (I just realized I've lived a life of danger.)
+ Water Meloncholy: This ain't a bad headline to go out on: Gallagher, watermelon-smashing comedian, dead at 76. (If he tried his this act today, he'd be canceled for mistreating fruit.)
6. Feel Good Friday
For Veterans Day: How an Air Force unit looked out for their own, even after she left the service. And, We salute the Marine who got promoted at a fried chicken restaurant on base.
+ In the midterms, the future of American democracy loomed large in voters’ minds. And in an unexpected twist, they were for it.
+ This video called The Mountain Dogs follows two beloved golden retrievers, Sampson and Baylor, as they climb to the summit of the Pinnacle Trail in Stowe, Vermont each day without their owners. (My beagles take a similar daily journey to the pantry where we keep the treats.)
+ "When I first heard that one of our customers wanted to cancel a large pizza order after only one friend turned up to her daughter’s birthday party, I knew I wanted to do something to cheer her up." Domino’s Pizza employee makes dessert for girl whose birthday party guests didn't show.
+ In a first, a fatal enzyme deficiency is treated in the womb.
+ A Time feature on the best inventions of 2022.
+ The Wholesome Whimsy of Reddit’s Bread Stapling Enthusiasts.