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some of the things I read in antisocial isolation

Bali’s Massive Stone Sarcophagi Included Global Grave Goods

Mirrors from China, glass beads from Roman Egypt, and other treasures from far-flung places accompanied ancient Balinese elites to the afterworld.

Centuries ago, Bali’s elite were buried in massive stone sarcophagi, some of which were carved to resemble turtles, such as the example at left, on display at Museum Gedong Arca. Embiggenable.

THE DISTRICT OF PANGKUNG PARUK lies on the northern coast of Bali where verdant green jungle meets azure sea. It is off the beaten track, removed from tourist hotspots on the south coast around the city of Denpasar. In 2009, a local rice farmer digging an irrigation trench stumbled upon a massive stone sarcophagus that had been buried for nearly 2,000 years. Experts from the Bali Institute of Archaeology were summoned and, over the next two years, working with the landowner they found and excavated three similar sarcophagi at the site, some of them still containing the skeletons of their owners—as well as surprising items that hinted at the global reach of the culture that fashioned them.

The style of large, oval sarcophagi was already well known to archaeologists working on Pulau Dewata, the “Island of the Gods” as Bali is known locally. In fact, more than 200 such sarcophagi have been recovered by archaeologists around the island over the last century—the first, standing in the temple of Pura Penataran, was initially misidentified as a pig feeding trough by Dutch scholar Pieter de Kat Angelino. The earliest of the found sarcophagi are more than 2,600 years old, but production reached a zenith during the Balinese Bronze Age, from the seventh to early ninth century.

The Balinese burial containers were carved from tuff, a stone formed from compressed volcanic ash. The rock is common on the island, which is riddled with tunnels from ancient quarry operations to carve out stone blocks destined for statues, pillars, bas-relief, and sarcophagi. The Bali sarcophagi are characterized by their oval shape, and by distinctive knobs on the ends that are often carved into animal or anthropomorphic shapes.

Bali’s northern coast is relatively remote, far from the island’s tourist hub—but almost 2,000 years ago, people living there had trade connections stretching all the way to Egypt and China.

One of the most impressive of these megalithic artifacts, currently housed in the Museum Gedong Arca, was carved to resemble an old turtle. Its curved neck may have served as an anchor point for a rope used to move the heavy sarcophagus by pulling it on a sledge supported by rollers. Creating these majestic containers—some of which are more than 8 feet in length—with hard stone pounders, bronze chisels, and handfuls of sand for smoothing would have represented an enormous investment of time, skills, and resources. They would have been used only for the burials of the island’s most elite members, including chieftains and priests.

Inside Mexico’s anti-avocado militias

The spread of the avocado is a story of greed, ambition, corruption, water shortages, cartel battles and, in a number of towns and villages, a fierce fightback.

A sculpture of an avocado at the town’s entrance in Ziracuaretiro, Michoacán.

Phone service was down. A fuse had blown in the cell tower during a recent storm. Even though my arrival had been cleared with the government of Cherán in advance, the armed guard at the highway checkpoint, decked out in full fatigues, the wrong shade to pass for Mexican military uniform, refused to wave me through. My guide, Uli Escamilla, assured him that we had an appointment and that we could prove it if only we could call or text our envoy. The officer gripped his rifle with both hands and peered into the windows of our rental car. We tried to explain ourselves: we were journalists writing about the town’s war with the avocado, and had plans to meet with the local council. We finally managed to recall the first name of our point person on the council – Marcos – and after repeating it a number of times, we were let through.

To reach Cherán’s militarised outskirts, we had driven for hours on the two-lane highway that laces through the cool, mountainous highlands of Michoacán, in south-central Mexico. We passed through clumps of pine, rows of corn and patches of raspberry bushes. But mostly we saw avocado trees: squat and stocky, with rust-flecked leaves, sagging beneath the weight of their dark fruit and studding the hillsides right up to the edge of the road. In the small towns along the way, there, too, were avocados: painted on concrete walls and road signs, atop storefronts and on advertisements for distributors, seeds and fertilisers.

Michoacán, where about four in five of all avocados consumed in the United States are grown, is the most important avocado-producing region in the world, accounting for nearly a third of the global supply. This cultivation requires a huge quantity of land – much of it found beneath native pine forests – and an even more startling quantity of water. It is often said that it takes about 12 times as much water to grow an avocado as it does a tomato. Recently, competition for control of the avocado, and of the resources needed to produce it, has grown increasingly violent, often at the hands of cartels. A few years ago, in nearby Uruapan, the second-largest city in the state, 19 people were found hanging from an overpass, piled beneath a pedestrian bridge, or dumped on the roadside in various states of undress and dismemberment – a particularly gory incident that some experts believe emerged from cartel clashes over the multibillion-dollar trade.

In Cherán, however, there was no such violence. Nor were there any avocados. Thirteen years ago, the town’s residents prevented corrupt officials and a local cartel from illegally cutting down native forests to make way for the crop. A group of locals took loggers hostage while others incinerated their trucks. Soon, townspeople had kicked out the police and local government, cancelled elections, and locked down the whole area. A revolutionary experiment was under way. Months later, Cherán reopened with an entirely new state apparatus in place. Political parties were banned, and a governing council had been elected; a reforestation campaign was undertaken to replenish the barren hills; a military force was chartered to protect the trees and the town’s water supply; some of the country’s most advanced water filtration and recycling programmes were created. And the avocado was outlawed.

Citing the Mexican constitution, which guarantees Indigenous communities the right to autonomy, Cherán petitioned the state for independence. In 2014, the courts recognised the municipality, and it now receives millions of dollars a year in state funding. Today, it is an independent zone where the purples and yellows of the Purépecha flag, representing the Indigenous nation in the region, is as common as the Mexican standard. What started as a public safety initiative has become a radical oddity, a small arcadia governed by militant environmentalism in the heart of avocado country.

But the environmental threats posed by the fruit have grown only more pressing since then. In the US, avocado consumption has roughly doubled, while domestic production – mostly confined to drought-stricken corners of central and southern California – has begun to collapse. The resulting cost increases have encouraged further expansion in Mexico, attracting upstarts that are sometimes backed by cartels, whose members tear up fields and burn down native trees to make way for lucrative new groves. Some landholders and corporations are getting very rich. I had come to Cherán to see whether this breakaway eco-democracy could endure in the face of a booming industry.

5 Bugs That Prove Computers Themselves Were a Mistake

We coded this airplane wrong, sorry. It will flip upside-down and kill you.

Computers are terrible. We ourselves have never used them, not even once. We wrote this article by setting the type by hand and then photographing it, and we can only speculate on how those images later reached you.

All computers are dangerous, even when unplugged, as they often host vast colonies of spiders. And when we try running actual software on computers, well, this is when the threat goes from bad to worse. The code may be bad, and the computer may go haywire, as happened when…

5. A Satellite Went So Crazy, It Spun Out-of-Control and Exploded

Japanese legend tells of a painter who drew four dragons. He didn’t draw their pupils (also known as their Hitomi), and passersby pointed out the omission. So, he painted Hitomi onto two of the dragons. They now came to life and flew away. Anyway, in 2016, Japan launched a satellite and named it Hitomi, after the legend.

It’s like naming a spacecraft Icarus.

The satellite was designed to observe distant X-rays to decode the mysteries of the universe. It had to point at different sectors of space, so it contained little motors to turn it in one direction or another. Early one morning, scientists ordered it to flip over and stare at a quasar named Markarian 205. Gyroscopes in the satellite detected that it was flipping too much. Rotator wheels now kicked in to rotate it in the opposite direction. The problem was, the gyroscopes were reporting wrongly, so the wheels were turning for no reason.

The system had a fail-safe for this. It had thrusters that could blow to oppose this uncontrolled rotation. But scientists had uploaded the wrong command to control these thrusters. Instead of opposing the rotation, they rotated Hitomi in the same direction — faster and faster. It soon spun so fast that it blew apart, sending bits of itself flying off endlessly into space.

And that was the end of the satellite Hitomi, which had cost a quarter billion dollars and was named after a legend about losing control of your creation.

I lived in Florida for two years and it was a nightmare.

I do not write this story with an intention of being remotely condescending.

To the contrary —

I write it with a sharp sentiment of disheartened sadness and dejected disappointment.

In 2022, I moved from New York to Florida.

As a life-long North-easterner, I had never lived in another region of the United States, outside of the tri-state area.

The first morning I awoke on the West Coast of Florida —

I felt excited.

I was hopeful, joyful and filled with a sense of renewed goal orientation.

I was eager to make new friends and find genuine connectivity with others.

The weather was a gorgeous 82-degrees and the gulf-wind had a mild warmth to it that day.

I was only a few weeks away from starting a new job and days away from moving into a new apartment.

But as I sit here, two years later —

I feel a melancholy heartache in remembering that moment.

Living in Florida has been nothing short of a nightmare.

Truly, I have never experienced anything like the state of Florida.

I’ve observed and experienced a slew of bigotry, harassment, dismissive attitudes, homophobia, transphobia, lethally aggressive driving, rudeness and passive aggressive staring.

Although most of such was subtle, it was strongly evident.

On a hot day, Maru keeps swinging slowly on the swing. Maybe he swings the swing with his tail.

Ed. 暑い日には、マルはスイングでゆっくりと振り続けます。たぶん彼は尾でスイングを振る。


The sad, stupid rise of the sigma male: how toxic masculinity took over social media

His heroes are Patrick Bateman, John Wick, Tommy Shelby and Walter White. He follows Andrew Tate and idolises wolves. And he has quickly become a laughing stock. Welcome to the world of the sigma male.

Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.

YOU ARE A LONE WOLF. You are an independent thinker who makes his own rules. You are confident and competent. Women are drawn to you, but you don’t really care about them. Your day begins at 4.30am with a cold shower, followed by a punishing workout and an even more punishing skincare routine. You shun conventional career paths and run your own business, probably in crypto or real estate or vigilante crime fighting. You are that rarest of males – you are a sigma.

Either that or you’re a bemused bystander who has had a hard time avoiding content about sigma males and the “sigma grindset”. In the past few years, sigma masculinity has blown up. It’s all over social media – and it’s helped define what could be a masculine archetype for our times, supposedly exemplified by characters played by the likes of Keanu Reeves, Cillian Murphy, Bryan Cranston and Christian Bale, plus the manosphere influencer Andrew Tate as well as actual, real life wolves.

All of these and more have gone into the meme-culture blender when it comes to the sigma phenomenon, which could well be an indication of how deep it has seeped into the mainstream, and by extension into the minds of our impressionable, smartphone-addicted youth. It has been described as “extremist thinking” and “a new kind of toxic masculinity”, although as we shall see, these fears may be overstated.

‘I’m just an extreme example of what a working man can achieve’ … Cillian Murphy as Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders.

Either way, YouTuber Lily Simpson probably summed it up best in a viral post on Twitter/X from January 2021 that helped put the whole thing into the mainstream: above four images of various permutations of sigma male content, it read: “What the fuck is going on with men?”

Ed. More tomorrow? Possibly. Probably. Maybe. Likely, if I find nothing more barely uninteresting at all to do.

Ed., etc. I didn’t have time to do this today.


HUMOR | ROAD TRIP: Anal Avalanche
The raunchy road trip game that’s as easy as it is greasy.

The truck slowed down, prompting me to look up from my recycled crafts project.

“Gotta pee again?” I asked.

My husband extended his arm and pointed.

“Woah. It’s the motherload,” I whispered.

Ruger sprang upright from a deep slumber in the back seat. He inched as far forward as his seatbelt would allow and panted in my ear before covering it in stinky kisses.

“You’re going down,” I said to Evan.

“That’s not fair! I’m driving!” he said. “Wait until I stop. Don’t look at them yet.”

“I promise nothing. Ooh! Anal Fun Finder!” I squealed.


“Anal Windstar!” I shrieked.


“Anal Surveyor! Anal Escape! Anal Airstream!”

“God damn it.”

“Anal — ” I couldn’t even finish, I was laughing so hard.

“What?” he asked. “Get ahold of yourself, it can’t be that funny.”


Assimilation Complete