I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.

– Stephen Jay Gould


Featured artist: Yukai Du

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 200! 🎉

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Four years ago, I sent the first issue of this newsletter to 10,507 readers. This week, we’re hitting the 200 issue mark and just crossed 38,000 readers. I’m not one who obsesses about numbers but it’s still nice to see the audience grow organically. Slow and steady wins the race, right? Not that I’m in one.

I think one of my more commendable work attitudes is nicely summarised in last week’s opening quote: “Perseverance – a lowly virtue whereby mediocrity achieves an inglorious success.” In many of my peers’ eyes I must be a pretty terrible marketer. I have no real growth strategy. I rarely ‘sell’ my work. Germans don’t like grandstanding. I guess that’s why influencer culture feels so objectionable to me. What I lack in sales skills, though, I make up in perseverance.

Marketing guru Seth Godin said in an interview with Offscreen: “What if, instead of finding readers for my writing, I did writing for my readers.” That’s been my attitude for quite some time now, too. I rather figure out ways to serve my existing audience better than concoct strategies to increase it. Few things get better with scale, and even fewer things get better with scale and speed.

On that note, I’d like to ask you, dear reader, for some feedback: I put together a reader survey to better understand what parts of DD you like/dislike. The survey takes just a few minutes and you can skip any question you don’t want to answer. It will help me serve you better. And that’s all the platitudes you get in this issue.

Whether you only joined in week 199 or you’ve been reading me in your inbox from week 1 – I truly appreciate you giving me your time every week. Thank you for making me show up every Tuesday! It’s a wonderful forcing mechanism for becoming a better thinker and writer, but not much of a marketer. See you next Tuesday! – Kai


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A newsletter for indie creators

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Apps & Sites

Plan Harmony →

Social trip planner

This sounds like a really useful trip-planning app when going on the road with friends or family: Plan Harmony offers a collaborative approach to plot out an itinerary, manage a travel budget and make decisions together.

iNaturalist →

Explore & track biodiversity

As “one of the world’s largest communities dedicated to exploring biodiversity”, iNaturalist hosts millions of nature lovers snapping tens of millions of photos and discussing observations they make of animals and plants. There’s also a mobile app that helps you identify plants from around the world.

Brilliant →

Math & science puzzles

I love the idea behind Brilliant: hands-on, interactive math and science problems that challenge beginners and experts alike and help sharpen your visual and intuitive problem-solving skills. Friends of DD enjoy a 20% discount on a year of Premium. Become a Friend to access specials like this.

Recommend Me a Book →

Test-read without a cover

This is yet another lovely way to find new books to read: “Read the first page without judging the cover. If you’re hooked, click the reveal button to find out more.” You can set a genre in the settings (the cogwheel at the bottom).


Worthy Five: Madison Hanna


Five recommendations by brand storyteller and big feeler Madison (Mads) Hanna

A video worth watching:

I often find myself coming back to this short underwater film: AMA by Julie Gautier. As someone who is big on words, I didn’t realise it was possible to experience so many emotions in a silent film.

A book worth reading:

Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun is an enchanting Young Adult novel and a rollercoaster of emotional depth and whimsy. I read it every other year just to remember what it feels like to be truly alive.

An activity worth doing:

Memory-recording: when I find myself in awe of the beauty of a moment, I don’t pick up my phone. I take a deep breath and slowly ‘record it’ through each sense: the taste of the moment, the smell, the feel, the sound, and of course, the sight.

A newsletter worth subscribing to:

I like pop culture, but I don’t love it. Big Spaceship’s Internet Brunch satiates the high-level itch to keep up just enough with mainstream culture to feel ‘in the know’, but not overwhelmed.

A quote worth repeating:

A lyric from Orville Peck’s The Curse of the Blackened Eye: “It ain’t the letting go, it’s more about the things that you take with.” Just think about it.


Books & Accessories


Fat, Crazy, and Tired →

Self-identity and transformation

With a provocative title, podcaster and TV host Van Lathan Jr. talks about a life filled with physical and mental health struggles, desperately trying to attain what society deems ‘a healthy body image’. “A sharp, funny, and brutally honest, cultural critique of the unspoken obstacles and extreme anxiety that keep us from maintaining good health in America’s ‘wellness waistland’, explored through vignettes about his mental health and weight loss journey as a Black man.”


The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide →

Practical sustainability tips

Even though I talk about this here all the time, it’s worth mentioning again: as with all advice on individual impact environmentalism, personal ‘eco hacks’ won’t save the planet; what they can do, however, is help us become more conscious of the collective impact of thoughtless consumerism. The author Jen Gale has also written a guide specifically for parents.


Overheard on Twitter

Back when AirBnB started it was like natural hosts renting out their cute homes and being like, “There’s craft beer for you in the fridge!” and now it’s someone’s 80th rental property with plastic Ikea furniture and it’s also out of soap.



Food for Thought

How to find joy in climate action →


I’ve long admired Dr Ayana Elizabeth Johnson’s work. After a fantastic podcast and a wonderful book, she’s now back with a TED talk that is inspiring as much as it is useful. A really articulate talk that anyone interested in climate action should watch. “My last challenge to you, then, since all our fates are intertwined, is in addition to leveraging your talents, can you help others in using theirs? Let’s work to demolish the societal barriers that prevent people from fully devoting themselves to climate solutions.”

The need for world government →


The idea of a ‘world government’ is as tempting as it is terrifying – but a great thought experiment nonetheless. A governing body with such expansive, totalitarian powers could solve a lot of urgent problems and oppress billions of people with draconian laws. “The tragedy of the commons was the unfortunate state where the commons were used but not maintained; everyone took from them, but nobody replenished them. We humans are in a similar state today where we want world-wide rights but we don’t want world-wide responsibilities. This is one sign of a planetary tragedy of the commons.”

Planting trees isn’t enough. Here’s why we need tiny man-made forests →


An insightful, short interview with an expert in sustainable agriculture and sociology that highlights the benefits of not simply planting trees – a popular but rarely effective way to mitigate climate change – but instead creating mini forests of native plant species as a way of restoring ecosystems and reconnecting with local flora and fauna. “After about three years, the whole system is self-sustaining and does not need any maintenance or assistance from humans. ... The plants protect each other from the harsh wind, kind of in a way that penguins in the Arctic huddle in a circle to shield each other from the harsh winds. Plants can do that too. If you have just one tree constantly battered by the wind without anything else around protecting it, that tree is going to be really stressed and it's not going to grow well. It will also lack the microclimate that's created when you have lots of trees growing together and you have that canopy.”


Aesthetically Pleasing

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Illustrator and lettering artist Rafael Serra explores and experiments with new looks of famous brands.

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‘Stone artist’ Akie Nakata paints animals on rocks that fit in the palm of your hand.

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Photographer ‘Greg Abandoned’ chases abandoned places around the world without sharing their locations.

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Apris is a contemporary, variable serif typeface with a unique flow. “Stems and arms flare out into acute ends that, depending on their position, resemble trumpet bells or thorns.”


Notable Numbers


Profiting from Russia’s war on Ukraine, British fossil fuel giant Shell posted record results with a $11.5 billion second-quarter profit. In the UK, Shell, like many oil and gas producers, typically pays no corporation tax because of government rebates and investment offsets.


In 2021, Ring, the Amazon-owned maker of internet-connected video doorbells, turned over a record amount of doorbell footage and other information to US authorities. That year, it received 3,147 legal demands, an increase of about 65% on the year earlier. Ring said it turned over user content in response to about 4 out of 10 demands.


In May 2020, the European Commission published its biodiversity strategy, which included the aim to plant 3 billion new trees by 2030. Two years on, as of 15 June, the EU has planted 2,946,015 trees – not even 1% of the three billion goal. That means there are 2,997,053,985 left to plant in the next seven and a half years.



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