Originality is nothing but judicious imitation.

– Voltaire


Featured artist: Chaaya Prabhat

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 123!

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In his graduation speech (see the Food for Thought section below) Pete Davis talks about the power of closing some doors, of not keeping every possible option open, but making certain commitments in life for the sake of focus and clarity. I think getting older is a lot like that – filtering out, zeroing in.

One of my biggest achievements later this year will be making it to the end of my thirties. (Unless I just jinxed it.) The benefit of accumulating life experience is that it gives your identity sharper contours: I’m more confident in my abilities and more accepting of my inabilities.

This solidifying identity that comes with age can also become a trap, though. How many old people do you know whose opinions seem rigid, whose curiosity seems to have faded? It’s as if they locked all doors and threw away the keys, to use Pete’s metaphor.

Several years ago, my then-partner attended a German language course in Berlin. Standing out from the many young international students was a soft-spoken, white-haired British retiree almost three times as old as his classmates. I only briefly talked to him during a social outing of the class, but I was instantly captured by his energy. He talked and listened with genuine open-mindedness, free of judgement and full of curiosity. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one leaving that night thinking, ‘I want to be like him when I’m old!’

So as I’m hurtling towards the big 40, I think a lot about to how to stay curious – how to walk down that long hallway of doors without being afraid of taking a sneaky peek once in a while. – Kai


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In 30 Minutes or Less SPONSOR


The Tiny MBA →

The shortest business book on earth?

There is no single right way to do things in business, but you can avoid lots of common mistakes along the way. Each page of The Tiny MBA offers ideas, prompts, clues and suggestions and reflections to help you navigate business in ways that most people only learn the hard way.


Apps & Sites

Kinopio →

Mindmapping with added cuteness

There is something utterly adorable about Kinopio – a “visual thinking tool for new ideas and hard problems”. You can drop media and other links into any ‘card’ through its simple markup language. Explore some public example spaces through the ‘Explore’ button in the bottom left corner.

Rally →

Video calls in breakout rooms

With so many meetings shifting to video calls, some interesting new approaches try to make that experience less annoying. Rally makes splitting into groups – or ‘breakout rooms’ – easy. Watch the short demo video to see it in action.

Tabbs →

Chrome tabs navigator

This little Chrome plugin helps you find tabs by title or word matches within pages and it increases performance by suspending unused tabs with ‘Tab Nap’. Everything is controllable through keyboard shortcuts.

EqualStreetNames →

Inequality in street names

A fascinating open data project that mapped all street names of the city of Brussels named after a person in order to identify which ones have a male or female origin. (Unsurprising spoiler: 93.07% have a male origin)


Worthy Five: Chenxin Jiang


Five recommendations by writer and literary translator Chenxin Jiang

A recipe worth trying:

Peanut butter noodles are a great pandemic food that can be made with pantry staples and dressed up in a myriad of ways. Chopped scallions make for a pandemic-friendly bonus.

A cause worth supporting:

Excellent public transit in both urban and rural areas doesn’t just help limit carbon emissions, it’s also the bedrock of a more equal society.

A newsletter worth subscribing to:

The Browser is consistently surprising. It requires a paid subscription but occasional editions can be read online for free.

An activity worth doing:

Reading domestic news as covered in the foreign press helps me get a perspective on it that’s informed by another society’s political conversation and their differing assumptions.

A word worth knowing:

Nixtamalization, an ancient Mesoamerican practice of preparing corn or other grains that kept deadly niacin deficiencies at bay, was not rediscovered until the 1930s.




Victionary Publishing →

Art and design books

I recently stumbled across the website of Victionary, an Asian book publisher with an impressive collection of art, design and typography books. Some of their portfolio-style books present projects based on specific materials, such as stone or metal, or segments of the colour palette, such as gold or iridescence.


Bloom →

A modern gardening magazine

Most amateur gardening publications are aimed at the baby boomer generation. UK-based Bloom seems to target a younger audience, trying to balance practical, everyday tips with “a celebration of the beauty of all green spaces, whether they’re in the countryside or the middle of the city, on your windowsill or in an allotment, highly groomed or utterly wild.”


Overheard on Twitter

Spend less time worrying about the AI going out of control and more time worrying about the people controlling the AI.



Food For Thought

A Tale Of Two Ecosystems: On Bandcamp, Spotify And The Wide-Open Future →


This excellent piece comparing Spotify and Bandcamp is such a great example of the two internets we have created: Bandcamp CEO Ethan Diamond: “‘You start with this idea that music is healing, that is obviously a power that should be in the hands of everybody who has the talent to wield it. ... And so that’s what Bandcamp is. That’s what I feel like we’re here to build – that system. And the way you do that is by ensuring that artists are compensated fairly and transparently for their work.’ ... What truly comes first for Spotify is competition – the company is focused on eliminating other places for time spent listening to... whatever. If it’s to conspiracist shock jock Joe Rogan – now signed to Spotify for exclusivity of his podcast, reportedly for upwards of $100 million – then it’s Joe Rogan. And Joe Rogan is anything but healing.”

Graduate Speaker Pete Davis →


A great, short commencement speech about how ‘keeping our options open’ is very much part of our zeitgeist and often an obstruction to achieving anything worthwhile. “When Hollywood tells tales of courage, they usually take the form of slaying the dragon. It’s all about the big brave moments. But I’ve been learning from these heroes that the most menacing dragons that stand in the way of reforming the system or repairing the breach are the everyday boredom and distraction and uncertainty that can erode our ability to commit to anything for the long haul.”

After Alarmism →


In this important longread, climate journalist David Wallace-Wells conveys the tiniest inklings of optimism, but as he makes clear in the second half of this piece, we may have only moved from being utterly screwed to being screwed. There is a lot to quote from this piece but one statement that stood out and nicely described much of the political action we’re seeing right now: that it’s all coming “both too slow and much more quickly than seemed possible not very long ago”.

Travelling Under the Social Influence →


New Zealand does it again! This time with a light-hearted tourism ad encouraging people to stop replicating the same Instagram shots over and over again and seek out fresh ideas for their gram fams.


Aesthetically Pleasing

❏ ❏

The NY creative agency run by Jessica Walsh created this impactful, bold brand for indoor vertical farming company Plenty, featuring a custom typeface “inspired by plants”.

❏ ❏

Absolutely stunning street and nature photography straight out of Karachi, Pakistan by Muhammad Baloch.

❏ ❏

The Bellbrae House is another one of those places with a modest, functional material palette that I like so much: ply sheets on the inside, iron sheets on the outside – and a cozy fireplace at the centre.

❏ ❏

Another one of Pangram Pangram Foundry’s impressive type families: “Migra is a spiky serif typeface inspired by the features in migratory birds.”



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