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an aural noise

some of the things I read in antisocial isolation


Kew Gardens Is Undergoing a Big, Steamy Change

Fitted PJs, new glasses, and a good drilling will keep this Victorian icon hot.


Can the famous greenhouse get greener? Embiggenable. Explore at home.


JUST OFF THE THAMES IN Southwest London, a prehistoric type of South African palm tree has been living for almost two centuries. Growing an inch a year, today it’s the height of a double-decker bus and slopes drunkenly 16 feet to the side. It needs four metal crutches to keep from falling over altogether—for an expat at least 249 years old, not bad.

The tree, an Eastern Cape giant cycad, is kept in the Palm House at the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew—an enormous, Victorian glass greenhouse and steamy Noah’s Ark for endangered species. The giant cycad is surrounded by tropical plants, from a solitary, silver-blue madagascan palm to vines heavy with yams, and rare island species thought extinct in the wild.

But now Kew Gardens is facing a thorny problem. More often these days, the cycad is also surrounded by Will Spoestra and his team of horticulturalists, tinkering with the soil in T-shirts and Wellington boots while engineers set up heat tracing equipment and, far beneath plants and people, contractors drill holes hundreds of meters into the ground.


Gardeners have to trim palms to stop them from shattering the glass ceiling.

After so many years, the giant cycad’s home is preparing for a nail-biting renovation, and many of the plants have to be moved—but with ancient organisms, nothing happens quickly.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: “I’m not sure the plants are dead happy about being moved.”


Your Phone Has Nothing on AM Radio

Why Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders are teaming up to save the century-old technology.


There is little love lost between Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Rashida Tlaib. She has called him a “dumbass” for his opposition to the Paris Climate Agreement; he has called her and her allies “shills for terrorists” on account of their support for Palestine. Lately, though, the right-wing Cruz and the left-wing Tlaib have found a cause they can both get behind: saving AM radio.

In recent years, a number of carmakers—BMW, Volvo, Tesla—have stopped offering AM radio in at least some models, especially electric cars. The problem is that their motors cause electromagnetic interference on the same frequency bands in which AM radio operates, in some cases making the already fuzzy medium inaudible. Carmakers do have ways to filter out the interference, but they are costly and imperfect—all to maintain a format that is in decline anyway. AM radio was eclipsed by the superior-sounding FM in the late ’70s, and the century-old technology can seem akin to floppy disks in the age of Spotify and podcasts. According to Ford’s internal data gathered from some of its newer vehicles, less than 5 percent of all in-car listening is to AM radio. Which is perhaps why Ford decided last year to drop AM from all of its vehicles, not just EVs.

Because so much listening happens in the car, the Ford news seemed like the beginning of the end for the whole medium. But just a few weeks after announcing that decision, the company reneged in response to political pressure. Before Ford’s reversal, Cruz and Senator Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, had introduced the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act, which would require exactly what its title suggests. (Bernie Sanders and more than 40 other senators have joined them as co-sponsors, along with Tlaib and 208 other representatives in the House.) Not everyone supports the bill: In December, Senator Rand Paul at least temporarily delayed its passage on the grounds that it constituted regulatory overreach. In the interim, Representative Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey announced new steps last month intended to ramp up the pressure on carmakers to preserve AM radio. The year is 2024, and somehow, AM radio still matters.

For Republicans, it’s the home of conservative talk radio. In a speech on the Senate floor, Cruz framed AM radio as a bastion of free speech and invoked such hallowed right-wing names as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck, all of whom got their start on its airwaves. By some accounts, conservative talk radio is still the most important medium for right-wing discourse, more even than podcasts or social media. Of the top-10 most-listened-to talk-radio shows, nine are right-leaning, according to the trade journal Talkers. Hosts have come out in force to defend AM: “The automobile is essential to liberty,” the conservative-talk-show host Mark Levin told his listeners last year. “The control of the automobile is about the control of your freedom … They finally figured out how to attack conservative talk radio.”


A man is suing Powerball after he was wrongly told he won $340 million

The operator of the D.C. lottery said the numbers were posted to the lottery’s website in error as part of a quality assurance test.


D.C. Lottery operators claim that they removed John Cheeks’ lottery numbers, which they state were not winning numbers, once they realized their mistake.


A D.C. resident is suing the Powerball lottery system and the D.C. Office of Lottery and Gaming after a technical error left him without a prize of $340 million, accusing the lottery operators of conspiracy, negligence, and fraud.

In the lawsuit, plaintiff John Cheeks states that on Jan. 6, 2023, he bought a Powerball lottery ticket for a game whose winners were set to be announced the following day. Cheeks checked the D.C. Lottery website on Jan. 8 and saw his numbers selected as the winners, which entitled him to the $340 million jackpot. But when Cheeks tried to claim his prize, he was told he hadn’t won.

“‘Hey, this ticket is no good. Just throw it in the trash can,’” Cheeks said he was told by the D.C. Office of Lottery and Gaming, as reported by NBC Washington. “And I gave [the worker] a stern look. I said, ‘In the trash can?’ [They said] ‘Oh yeah, just throw it away. You’re not gonna get paid. There’s a trash can right there.’”


A photo of the D.C. Lottery website taken by John Cheeks on Jan. 8, 2023. The website shows his winning numbers: 07-15-23-32-40.

According to D.C. lottery operators, Cheeks’ numbers were posted by mistake by Taoti, the digital ad agency and contractor that operates the D.C. Lottery’s website on behalf of the local government.



6 CEOs Who Showed Their Whole Ass on Social Media


You’d think that once you reach the top of the business world, you’d be perfectly happy to stay as ignorant as possible. However, like a despised king willingly descending his ivory tower to waltz through the town square, some CEOs insist on chopping it up on social media like they’re normal people. Usually, it’s just annoying, but in some glorious moments, something horrible slips out, and we all get to watch their public shaming.

Here are six times CEOs said a little too much on social media…

6. Bezos’ ‘Happy Earth Day’


“Would a man killing the earth have this many plants behind him?”

For most of us, the statement “Happy Earth Day” is as unobjectionable as they come. Even among holiday greetings, it’s not the most controversial. That’s a privilege we enjoy because we aren’t personally responsible for a good piece of the destruction of said earth. So when Jeff Bezos, owner of a company that pumps out the carbon dioxide equivalent of 80 billion pounds of coal yearly, starts getting teary about the environment, it rings a little hollow. Did he think all those shoddy foreign cellphone chargers were changing the world for the better?



KitchenAid Did It Right 87 Years Ago

Modern appliances are rarely built to last. They could learn something from the KitchenAid stand mixer.


My KitchenAid stand mixer is older than I am. My dad bought the white-enameled machine 35 years ago, during a brief first marriage. The bits of batter crusted into its cracks could be from the pasta I made yesterday or from the bread he made then.

I learned to make my grandfather’s crunchy molasses gingersnaps in that stand mixer. In it, I creamed butter and sugar for the first time. Millions of stand mixers with stories like mine are scattered across the globe, sitting on counters in family homes since who knows when. The Smithsonian National Museum of American History displays Julia Child’s cobalt-enameled mixer in its re-creation of her kitchen; when Julia traveled for a cooking demonstration, she demanded that a KitchenAid be provided.

If you buy the popular Artisan model today, your new appliance will look quite similar to the 1937 model designed by Egmont Arens: solid zinc base, enamel coating, arched overhang, a little cap for attachments on the face, room for a bowl to slot into its cradled arm. Inserting a dough hook or a whisk requires a simple click and turn, and adding an attachment to the front face uses the same motion. Arens, who edited the art section at Vanity Fair and designed objects such as aerosol cans, baby carriages, and beach chairs, once said in an interview that a machine’s parts should be “organized into a trim, sleek, streamlined shape—for in addition to lowering wind-resistance, streamlining also lowers eye-resistance.” The KitchenAid’s exterior design is a perfect example of that theory, not only functional but aesthetic: The contained, smooth lines of the casing and the glossy enamel make it easy to put away, satisfying to clean, and decorative on a countertop.

Read: Too many Americans are missing out on the best kitchen gadget

This sturdy, elegant device holds a lesson. Pry the mixer open, and you will see that many of the parts are interchangeable. If my mixer stopped spinning, I could clean out the debris on the inside, replace a broken gear, re-grease the machine, and screw the top back on again. If need be, the mixer could be outfitted with a new motor, probably for about $100. It is hard to break and easy to fix, and because it is not laced through with computers or a Wi-Fi chip, it will never reach obsolescence because of a software update.

How a device dies is almost as important as how it operates. Appliances that cannot be repaired the way the KitchenAid can become trash in just a few years.


Maru&Hana take a nap together almost every day. They are basically good friends, but I often see them fighting and pointing their butts at each other. But they soon made up again.

Ed. マルハナはほぼ毎日一緒に昼寝をします。 彼らは基本的に良い友達ですが、私は彼らがお互いに戦って尻を指しているのをよく見ます。 しかし、彼らはすぐに再び埋め合わせました。


THE LAST TAB . . .

Seventy-five square miles of Pluto

Possession is nine parts of the law.


Embiggenable.


MY GRANDFATHER GAVE ME THE DEEDS at my twenty-first birthday party—he said it was a family joke. Back in the 1990s, selling land on other planets had been all the rage. Someone had got it for his grandfather as a present.

In flowery language, the yellowing paper solemnly attested that the holder, Vincent Crabbe, his heirs and assigns; having paid the registration fee were entitled to the full rights and benefits of ownership of a plot of land on the planet known as Pluto, in perpetuity. There then followed a map of the planet, really only a circle with the words ‘North Pole’ on a dot in the middle. A rectangle showed the extent of the plot, its corners marked with latitude and longitude. Then there were a lot of official-looking signatures and stamps.

“Look at the other side, girl,” said my grandfather, his breath wheezing. He had spent years in the modified atmosphere of the early spaceships. That had been his life’s work. And it was going to be mine as well.

I turned the creased document over and there was a list of my forebears, with the words, ‘passed to my heir’ and a date after each one.

“There,” he pointed with shaking fingers. The bottom line had my name, Byrne Crabbe, and today’s date. “Now it’s yours, and maybe one day you’ll go there.”

“Thanks, Gramps.” I hugged his frail body. “But why didn’t you give it to Dad?”

“I tried,” he laughed. “He didn’t want it. Said I was a silly old fool for keeping hold of it.” He shrugged. “Maybe I was, but I always wondered, ‘what if?’.”


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.


ONE MORE THING:


Assimilation Complete