💭 one mississippi.

welcome to sam’s brain drain, a weekly collection of thumb-stopping things to tap, read, & watch.

estimated reading time: 5m 30s.

⏰ 2 days until 2020. TWO DAYS.

i really like taking photos on film. the delayed gratification that comes from shooting, developing, & scanning is something quite elusive these days.
this camera has since broken, sadly.


on the agenda this week: a note from me on the past decade, radar for bees, and joe biden’s stutter.

⚡️ tag me on instagram or share this on twitter if you enjoy this week's brain drain!


📝 a note on: this decade.

a decade. ten whole years.

i’m not quite sure how to feel about the fact that this decade seems to have passed by in just a blink of an eye.

say “one mississippi” out loud (or in your head, i’m not looking). the length of time it took you to say it equates to roughly one second.

there were 315,360,000 seconds in the past ten years.

315 million utterances of “one mississippi”.

unfathomably long but equally it passes by rather too quickly.

in 2010, i was just a very young looking fourteen-year-old entering into the very first year of “important exams” at school. thinking back to this time, i’d likely be mentally preparing myself to start writing the dates on my copybook page as 01/01/2010 and not 01/01/2009. writing the correct date was a concept that remained firmly beyond my grasp for a surprisingly large number of years.

flash forward to 01/01/2020 and i’m now working at one of the world’s most valuable tech startups. how’d this number-bungling, fresh-faced, bumbling-idiot manage to swing that?

answer: a bunch of hard work and a bunch of the resulting good fortune. i’m still counting my blessings every day, wondering to myself, “just why exactly are things going right for me in the end?”.

anyway, enough about me. here’s to making the next decade as full of life, love & laughter as the one just passing.

i’ve a good newsletter for you this morning. thanks for sticking around & reading my rambling words.

it means an awful lot.

- sam.


👂 earworm: alta.

“taking all, too much i can't see
i hope you have everything you need
gonna give myself away
leave my self-astray.”

stream now:

alta give us the perfect tune to crydance to with ‘figured out’. with hannah lesser on vocals and julian dowson on production, this melbourne duo make music that can soundtrack every feeling on the spectrum.

the disjointed, lo-fi beat emerges from beneath a jazzed-up piano, its percussive punch peaking in the chorus. the whole song feels doused in nostalgia and reflection – with syncopated vocal chops echoing, plus vinyl crackles and squeaks – it all places you in a hazy regret, reflecting on what could have been. in the softer, sparser moments, hannah’s gentle emotive vocals keep it sparkling. rounded off with soulful vocal samples, the tone moves from muted to bold with masterful ease.

fbi radio.

listen to alta on spotify or on apple music.


📚 word of the week:

“peripeteia”.

successive, alternating, or changing phases or conditions, as of life or fortune; ups and downs.

this documentary is delicately balanced on an iceberg-sized peripeteia that is easily spoiled, so if you want to see this movie … read no further.

the new yorker.


🤪 mildly humorous:

outtakes from the twitter-sphere.


🧠 brain candy:

🐝 bee-dar.

learn how the scientists behind the biodar project are attempting to spot swarms of bees on weather radar to figure out just how badly their numbers are in decline.

was developed in the 1930s, and played a key role in the second world war, when it was used to track the movements of enemy planes and ships. but the network of wartime radar stations constructed around southern england also detected weaker signals that radar engineers couldn’t make sense of. these phantom reflections appeared on radar when the skies were completely clear, and moved in seemingly random patterns. the operators dubbed them "angels".

radar angels may have remained a mystery if not for the efforts of david lack, a renowned ornithologist who served in the british army’s operational research group and was stationed in the orkney islands during the second world war, working on applications for radar. lack thought the angels that his colleagues had been seeing might be birds, and with the help of fellow conscript, entomologist george varley, proved it – via telescope observations, and an experiment where they strung a dead herring gull from a balloon above a radar station.

after the war, radar became a widespread tool for monitoring weather. but one mystery remained. while it was known that birds accounted for most of the ghost signals, smaller echoes dubbed "dot angels" appeared on some of the new, more powerful meteorological radars being installed across the world.

in january 1949, bell labs scientist ab crawford conducted a series of experiments trying to recreate dot angels above a radar station in arizona. he aimed radar pulses at the exhaust plumes of planes flying overhead, positioned large bonfires so that the smoke would blow into the radar’s path, and set off explosions in the sky. nothing worked.

but when crawford lined a searchlight up with the direction of the radar at night, he saw small objects moving around in the beam that seemed to match up to the dot angels: insects.

read more via wired.

💭 what joe biden can’t bring himself to say.

this is a great piece on joe biden, and on people who stutter.

“stuttering can feel like a series of betrayals. your body betrays you when it refuses to work in concert with your brain to produce smooth speech.”

his eyes fall to the floor when i ask him to describe it. we’ve been tiptoeing toward it for 45 minutes, and so far, every time he seems close, he backs away, or leads us in a new direction. there are competing theories in the press, but joe biden has kept mum on the subject. i want to hear him explain it. i ask him to walk me through the night he appeared to lose control of his words onstage.

detroit was biden’s chance to regain control of the narrative. and then something else happened. the candidates were talking about health care. at first, biden sounded strong, confident, presidential: “my plan makes a limit of co-pay to be one. thousand. dollars. because we—”

he stopped. he pinched his eyes closed. he lifted his hands and thrust them forward, as if trying to pull the missing sound from his mouth. “we f-f-f-f-further
support—” he opened his eyes. “the uh-uh-uh-uh—” his chin dipped toward his chest. “the-uh, the ability to buy into the obamacare plan.” biden also stumbled when trying to say immune system.

fox news edited these moments into a mini montage. stifling laughter, the host steve hilton narrated: “as the right words struggled to make that perilous journey from joe biden’s brain to joe biden’s mouth, half the time he just seemed to give up with this somewhat tragic and limp admission of defeat.”

read more via the atlantic.


🦶 footer:

that’s all for this decade.

😌 chat soon.


did you know that word of mouth is the only way something like this grows?

tell one of your colleagues what they’re missing out on 😈.

they can sign up here.

you can also share this on facebook or tweet about it.

🚨 if you post a screenshot to instagram stories of your favourite part of the email & tag me (@sam.travel), i’ll repost the best ones.


🎉 get social:

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twitter: @sammcallister

email me: smcallis[at]gmail.com

website: sammcallister.me


👋 read one of my last 5 posts:

🖼 the art of money laundering.

💰 plaster saint.

🏡 cul de sac.

🌙 rising waters.

👂silence speaks volumes.

or click to see them all.

🖼 the art of money laundering.

welcome to sam’s brain drain, a weekly collection of thumb-stopping things to tap, read, & watch.

estimated reading time: 4m 10s.

⏰ 23 days until 2020.

i’m flying back to san francisco today.

next month, i’ll be taking my longest trip to date: 30 hours of flying to australia (via qatar). spending 15 hours at a time sitting will definitely be a test for me & my overactive mind.

it’s like the equivalent of two kids in the back shouting arewethereyetarewethereyet.

interestingly enough, australia is almost ireland’s antipodal point - such that a straight line connecting the two would pass through earth's centre. these points are as far away from each other as possible.

i’m bloody excited to go on an adventure.


on the agenda this week: the art of money laundering, & opening every letter to santa claus.

⚡️ tag me on instagram or twitter if you enjoy this week's brain drain!


👂 earworm: baynk.

“chasing feelings, pacing back and forth
what are all the empty places for?”

one of new zealand’s hottest producers, baynk is a true success story that never seems to end. jock nowell-usticke, the mastermind behind baynk, earned a degree in chemical engineering years ago, but now he’s performing to some of the biggest crowds at notable music festivals like lollapalooza, hard, and life is beautiful.

not only does baynk fully produce his own impressive discography, but he also takes it upon himself to program his own thrilling show lights and direct all artwork designs.

ones to watch.

stream now:
listen to baynk on spotify or on apple music.


📚 word of the week:

“vicissitudes”.

successive, alternating, or changing phases or conditions, as of life or fortune; ups and downs.

the marble faces, which stand innumerable along the walls, and have kept themselves so calm through the vicissitudes of twenty centuries, had no sympathy for his disappointment.

nathaniel hawthorne, the marble faun, 1860.


🤪 mildly humorous:

outtakes from the twitter-sphere.


🧠 brain candy:

🖼 the art of money laundering.

the sale of a $120,000 banana (that was subsequently eaten, bizarrely) at art basel last weekend reminded me of this article.

when you sell your home the paperwork details the sale, including your name, and the title search lists the names of the people who owned the property before you. but when someone sells an artwork at auction — even something worth $100 million, much more than your house — the identity is typically concealed.

oh, the paperwork might identify the work as coming from “a european collection.” but the buyer usually has no clue with whom he or she is really dealing. sometimes, surprisingly, even the auction house may not know who the seller is.

secrecy has long been central to the art world. anonymity protects privacy, adds mystique and cuts the taint of crass commerce from such transactions. but some experts are now saying this sort of discretion — one founded in a simpler time, when only a few wealthy collectors took part in the art market — is not only quaint but also reckless when art is traded like a commodity and increasingly suspected in money laundering.

read more via the new york times.

🎄 every letter.

séamas o’reilly is a brilliant writer, infamous for his story of how he ended up alone in a room with the president of ireland whilst high on ketamine.

“when i was a 22-year-old student in dublin - dirt poor, heartbroke and overly fond of acid - i somehow found myself spending christmas 2007 opening each letter to santa sent by every child in ireland. this is that story.”

like working in the media or writing for a living, opening children’s letters to santa is one of those jobs that feels better to tell people about than to actually do. so, i told everyone. i regaled tables at parties about how i was the sole person on earth allowed, legally or ethically, to open any envelope containing those children’s innermost wants, and i described the toys, bicycles and boys they so desired.

i told everyone how any letter addressed to santa claus, even if it just had santa, with no address, and no stamp, would find its way to me. it sounded heartwarming – it was heartwarming – that any which had a return address would get a personal reply from santa, sealed with a lapland watermark and a north pole stamp. the bulk of the letters i got were clearly sent in batches by teachers who’d received templates from an post and coached their class through their letters, before packaging them together, with neatly appended addresses for each child.

but there were still some mavericks among the clade, those who had clearly gone out on their own and assembled their own letters off their own bat, who wrote long, fiddly messages in barely readable handwriting, screeds that went on for pages and pages and finished with a hopeful, but fundamentally useless, “micky, aged 8”.

read more via totally dublin.


🦶 footer:

that’s all for this week.

😌 see you next monday!

did you know that word of mouth is the only way something like this grows?

tell one of your colleagues what they’re missing out on 😈.

they can sign up here.

you can also share this on facebook or tweet about it.

🚨 if you post a screenshot to instagram stories of your favourite part of the email & tag me (@sam.travel), i’ll repost the best ones.


🎉 get social:

instagram: @sam.travel

twitter: @sammcallister

email me: smcallis[at]gmail.com

website: sammcallister.me


👋 read one of my last 5 posts:

💰 plaster saint.

🏡 cul de sac.

🌙 rising waters.

👂silence speaks volumes.

📈 smarter, not harder.

or click to see them all.

💰 plaster saint.

welcome to sam’s brain drain, a weekly collection of thumb-stopping things to tap, read, & watch.

estimated reading time: 3m 30s.

⏰ 30 days until 2020.

what’s top of mind for you ☺️?


on the agenda this week: the first modern disaster, escalators & hypocrites.

⚡️ tag me on instagram or twitter if you enjoy this week's brain drain!


👂 earworm: sebastian paul.

“stuck inside a thought
dreaming 'bout our talks.”

sebastian paul is carving out a path all his own. raised in a military family and currently finding himself between los angeles and colorado, paul claims no specific home. this sense of constant transition fuels his expansive sophomore ep.

this is one of those rare projects that simply demands your attention. an artist clearly not too keen to linger on any singular moment for far too long, paul’s sophomore outing is rife with unexpected twists and turns, which only unfurls to give way to further unexpected developments. the result is intoxicating.

ones to watch.

stream now:
listen to sebastian paul on spotify or on apple music.


📚 word of the week:

“postprandial”.

after a meal, especially after dinner: postprandial oratory; a postprandial brandy.

the father alone did nothing, but still rested on his couch, perhaps indulging in a postprandial nap.

w. h. hudson.


🤪 mildly humorous:

outtakes from the twitter-sphere.


🧠 brain candy:

🌊 the first modern disaster.

on the morning of november 1, 1755, an earthquake rocked lisbon, the portuguese capital and a bustling port city of roughly 275,000 people. as buildings collapsed, flames from hearths and candles ignited a massive fire that burned for a week, devouring much of what the quake itself had spared. meanwhile, not long after the last tremors ended, a tsunami—the largest in history, reaching speeds of up to fifty miles per hour—engulfed the ruined city.

when it was all over, as many as 40,000 people had perished in lisbon and its environs, though some contemporary estimates of the death toll were much higher. thousands more died in nearby spain and northern africa. rumbles from the earthquake and its aftershocks were felt throughout europe, as far north as scandinavia.

the cultural impact of the lisbon earthquake was nearly as extraordinary as the physical wreckage it caused. often called the first modern disaster, the great lisbon earthquake gave rise to vigorous investigations of its causes, with empirical observations and scientific knowledge informing the ambitious rebuilding of the ruined city that was undertaken and financed by portugal’s royal government. the horrific and widely publicized lisbon disaster also led to the first international relief effort in world history.

read more via lapham’s quarterly.

🚶‍♂️ uneven escalators.

a study in london found 74.9 per cent of people choose to stand instead of walking, especially on the longer ones. with this ‘stand on the right, walk on the left’ rule, we’re giving up 50 per cent of the space on our escalators for roughly 25 per cent of our commuters.

look for this problem next time during rush hour where the “standing” side of the escalators ends up with a line of people trying to get on. it may seem counterintuitive, but people who are walking up escalators to save seconds off their commute are actually slowing everyone else down.

efficiency aside, there’s another reason why walking on escalators might be a bad idea—safety. escalator accidents are much more common than you think.
a cbc investigation found that escalator accidents happen every second day in the montreal metro. in the u.s., about 10,000 escalator-related injuries end in emergency room visits every year.

read more via cbc.

💰 plaster saint.

a favourite headline from this week: “professor who wrote book on drug crime is accused of money laundering.”

a miami professor who’s an expert on drug trafficking and organized crime was charged by the u.s. with laundering money from venezuela, skimming more than $250,000 for himself.

bruce bagley, 73, a professor of international studies at the university of miami, was the co-editor of the 2015 book “drug trafficking, organized crime, and violence in the americas today” as well as a contributor to various journals on the topic.

but on monday prosecutors in manhattan charged bagley with laundering about $2.5 million into the u.s., money that foreign nationals embezzled and got from bribes and other corrupt schemes. bagley pocketed about 10% of the money, according to prosecutors.

read more via bloomberg.


that’s all for this week.

i hope you hold me accountable to keep this interesting 😝.

😌 see you next monday!


🦶 footer:

did you know that word of mouth is the only way something like this grows?

tell one of your colleagues what they’re missing out on 😈.

they can sign up here.

you can also share this on facebook or tweet about it.

🚨 if you post a screenshot to instagram stories of your favourite part of the email & tag me (@sam.travel), i’ll repost the best ones.


🎉 get social:

instagram: @sam.travel

twitter: @sammcallister

email me: smcallis[at]gmail.com

website: sammcallister.me


👋 read one of my last 5 posts:

🏡 cul de sac.

🌙 rising waters.

👂silence speaks volumes.

📈 smarter, not harder.

☄️ burnout.

or click to see them all.

🏡 cul de sac.

welcome to sam’s brain drain, a weekly collection of thumb-stopping things to tap, read, & watch.

⚡️ happy monday.

i’m learning to think slower, and to talk more. what’s your plan this week?


as an aside: tesla’s new cybertruck is hideously ugly. however, i’m a huge fan of those who dare to break the mould. following the status quo kills innovation. it may not be pretty but it’s refreshing & that’s what matters most.


on the agenda this week: a new vision for neighbourhoods, deafened dolphins & the eradication of smallpox.

estimated reading time: 3m 35s.

⚡️ tag me on instagram or twitter if you enjoy this week's brain drain!


👂 earworm: ato.

“i like to be alone
too much some would say
voices in my head, running relay
mood moving like, a ballet duet
beautiful for you i reckon.”

ato has just dropped his latest album, ep3:

leeds rapper ato has made his own lane in music: detailed anecdotes that are relatable, like almost missing a flight because you wanted to spend an extra hour with someone. and they're laid over lush production that ranges from james blake-esque layered tracks to club ready rhythms.

the fader.

stream now:
listen to ato’s new album on spotify or on apple music.


📚 word of the week:

“copacetic”.

fine; completely satisfactory; OK.

the united states of the 1960s experienced many social upheavals. but in one realm, all was copacetic.

new york times.


🤪 mildly humorous:

outtakes from the twitter-sphere.


🧠 brain candy:

🌳 cul de sac.

my friend lama & her team have just launched a new business focused on fundamentally improving real estate & life at large, it seems. the first car-free neighbourhood built from scratch in the u.s.

how we move determines how we live, and how we move is changing.

we’re undergoing the first major shift in transportation since the interstate highway system. private car ownership is giving ground to transportation that is on-demand, shared, and (on average) more environmentally friendly. that 1-mile trip to get ice cream is increasingly happening on shared bikes, electric scooters, or on foot. lyft shared and uber pool make daily trips more affordable. and there is a renewed interest in public transit investment, including the expansion of the light rail in phoenix.

people have responded by making different personal choices. in 1983, 46% of 16-year-olds had licenses. today, it’s just 24%.

fewer cars, less roadway, far less parking. new possibilities for how we live.

we’re building the first car-free neighborhood from scratch in the u.s. and we’re proud to say it will be in our hometown. culdesac tempe will have 1000 people and 0 private cars.

read more via culdesac.

🐬 dolphins in the ganges.

india’s ganga is a noisy river.

there’s the churning of sediment, the hums, grunts and growls of fishes and turtles. there are the cacophonous stretches of cities and industries breathing and dumping their waste into the river. then there’s the constant din of boats and ships, and the clamour of heavy machinery dredging the riverbed.

the gangetic river dolphins are effectively blind; they don’t really have use for eyesight in the shallow, sediment-rich, murky waters of the rivers they inhabit. instead, the mammals see with sound.

they produce ultrasonic clicks, and use this echolocation to find food, avoid ships and chart their way around the waters. they also modulate their clicks to talk to each other. but what does a dolphin do when its underwater home gets increasingly cacophonous?

read more via qz.

💉 smallpox, the speckled monster.

smallpox was one of the worst diseases humanity has ever faced & remains the only infectious disease to have ever been eradicated.

the reason? the world’s first iteration of a vaccine.

smallpox had one blessing, which people noticed long ago: if you survived it, you would never get it again. this even led to a theory that the cause of the disease included some innate seed, present in everyone; some poison in the blood that could be activated by the wrong trigger, but then expelled from the body for good.

which led to a simple, “so crazy it just might work” idea:

why not give yourself smallpox on purpose and just get it over with?

that was the idea of smallpox inoculation: deliberately communicate a mild form of the disease in order to confer immunity.

inoculation began as a folk practice. the inoculator, in one version, took contagious matter from the pocks of an infected person, put the liquid on a needle, and pricked the skin of the patient. they developed the fever in 7–9 days and passed through all the symptoms in a few weeks.

no one knew why, but the disease contracted in this way seemed to be milder and less deadly. (the best modern theory is that the body has a more effective immune response if the virus enters through the skin rather than the respiratory system).

read more via roots of progress.


that’s all for this week.

i hope you hold me accountable to keep this interesting 😝.

😌 see you next monday!


🦶 footer:

did you know that word of mouth is the only way something like this grows?

tell one of your colleagues what they’re missing out on 😈.

they can sign up here.

you can also share this on facebook
or tweet about it.

🚨 if you post a screenshot to instagram stories of your favourite part of the email & tag me (@sam.travel), i’ll repost the best ones.


🎉 get social:

instagram: @sam.travel

twitter: @sammcallister

email me: smcallis[at]gmail.com

website: sammcallister.me


👋 read one of my last 5 posts:

🌙 rising waters.

👂silence speaks volumes.

📈 smarter, not harder.

☄️ burnout.

🎲 growing old.

or click to see them all.

🌙 rising waters.

welcome to sam’s brain drain, a weekly collection of thumb-stopping things to tap, read, & watch.

🙌 happy monday.

i’ve just had my visa approved for a trip to a very. exciting. country. any guesses?

on the agenda this week: unfilled spaces, ‘acqua alta’, & how airplanes once appeared a distinct impossibility.

⚡️ tag me on instagram or twitter if you enjoy this week's brain drain!


👂 earworm: fka twigs.

“calling my name, calling my name
taking the feeling of promethazine away.”

to paraphrase pitchfork:
‘magdalene’ (fka twigs’ first album in four year) is a fucking revelation.

i never thought heartbreak could be so all-encompassing.

i never thought that my body could stop working to the point that i couldn’t express myself physically in the ways that i have always loved and found so much solace.
i have always practiced my way into being the best i could be, but i couldn’t do that this time, i was left with no option but to tear every process down.

but the process of making this album has allowed me for the first time, and in the most real way, to find compassion when i have been at my most ungraceful, confused and fractured. i stopped judging myself and at that moment found hope in ‘magdalene’. to her i am forever grateful.

- fka twigs.

stream now:
listen to fka twigs’ new album on spotify or on apple music.


📚 word of the week:

“lacuna”.

an unfilled space; a gap.

attending to the mundane and the momentous, they punch in on the dark side of the clock, bridging the quiet lacuna between rush hours.

david montgomery, "all in a night's work," washington post.


🤪 mildly humorous:

outtakes from the twitter-sphere.


🧠 brain candy:

🇮🇹 acqua alta.

venice—a city that is particularly close to my heart—is flooding with increasing frequency & severity.

earlier this week, venice faced another monumental “acqua alta,” or “high water,” this time coming just inches shy of the 1966 record. dispatches from the scene described people tromping around in cheap rain boots as they walked single-file on footbridges elevated over flooded piazzas or waded through knee-high water. an estimated 70 percent of the city was submerged, and venetians endured another exceptional tide sunday, the ap reported.

“the disaster that struck venice is a blow to the heart of our country,” italian prime minister giuseppe conte said in a statement wednesday. “it hurts to see the city so damaged, its artistic heritage compromised, its commercial activities on its knees.”

michael oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at princeton university who has traveled to venice extensively, warned that if venice doesn’t complete its already-delayed coastal defense system as sea levels rise, the city will become useless as a place for people to live and to enjoy its cultural splendors.

read more via the washington post.

📖 five lessons from history.

lesson #4: progress happens too slowly for people to notice; setbacks happen too fast for people to ignore.

there are lots of overnight tragedies. there are rarely overnight miracles.

on january 5th, 1889, the detroit free press pushed back against the long-held dream that man could one day fly like a bird.

airplanes, the paper wrote, appear impossible: “the smallest possible weight of a flying machine, with the necessary fuel and engineer, could not be less than 300 or 400 pounds … but there is a low limit of weight, certainly not much beyond fifty pounds, beyond which it is impossible for an animal to fly. nature has reached this limit, and with her utmost effort has failed to pass it.”

six months later, orville wright dropped out of high school to help his brother, wilbur, tinker in their backyard shed to build a printing press. it was the brothers’ first joint project. it would not be their last.

if you had to make a list of the most important inventions of the 20th century, the airplane would be at least top five, if not number one. the airplane changed everything. it started world wars, it ended world wars. it connected the world, bridging gaps between cities and rural communities; oceans and countries.

read more via morgan housel.


that’s all for this week.

i hope you hold me accountable to keep this interesting 😝.

😌 see you next monday!


🦶 footer:

did you know that word of mouth is the only way something like this grows?

tell one of your colleagues what they’re missing out on 😈.

they can sign up here.

you can also share this on facebook
or tweet about it.

🚨 if you post a screenshot to instagram stories of your favourite part of the email & tag me (@sam.travel), i’ll repost the best ones.


🎉 get social:

instagram: @sam.travel

twitter: @sammcallister

email me: smcallis[at]gmail.com

website: sammcallister.me


👋 read one of my last 5 posts:

👂silence speaks volumes.

📈 smarter, not harder.

☄️ burnout.

🎲 growing old.

🌪 a whirlwind.

or click to see them all.

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