💭 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.

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📝 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.

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