Sam Sells Seashells By the Seashore

There’s a popular myth about Dutch last names that goes like this: When Napoleon occupied the Netherlands and instituted a family name registry, only the upper classes had such names already in use. A significant subset took the opportunity to protest foreign rule by registering under silly names like “Born Naked,” “The Criminal” and “Little […]

Hard Times in the Younger Dryas

This time last year, most of North America was buried in an unusual cold period. The jet stream had hemorrhaged in early January and the Polar Vortex that usually sits atop the hemisphere like a halo came pouring down. Known as the 2014 North American Cold Wave, temperatures plummeted, particularly in the Northeast and Upper […]

The Last Word

January 19 – 23 Cassandra explains why the flu shot is ineffective this year, what H and N stand for, how the virus outevolved the statisticians, and why to get the shot anyway.  A magisterially thorough explanation, and one feels better for it already. Cameron has always liked maps, all kind of maps, maps that […]


In the 1992 documentary A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking describes what we would see if we were observing an astronaut nearing a black hole’s event horizon—the barrier beyond which gravitation is so great that not even light can escape. He invites us to imagine that the astronaut is wearing a watch, and that […]

A Few Good Maps

I’ve probably said this before, but I really like maps. In college, I bought a huge collection of used maps at a geography department sale to use as wrapping paper. When we lived in Oregon, we got a gigantic one of the state to put on the living room wall. (We also got an even […]

The Last Word: January 12 – 16, 2015

Monday: Guest Stephanie Paige Ogburn shops for an eye surgeon, doesn’t like what she sees. Tuesday: Guest Colin Norman dons his best snow goose camouflage, tries to blend in with a flock. Wednesday: Michelle knows better than to freelance for fun and profit, nonetheless has advice for editors who might smother either. Thursday: Jessa seeks solid research on suspected Alzheimier’s, comes up with nuns. Friday: Erik retrieves jaw from floor, explains one of the greatest athletic achievements of all […]

The Greatest Athlete in the World

On Wednesday, at 3:25 Pacific Standard Time, two scruffy, skinny men embraced atop Yosemite’s El Capitan. To the casual observer, just a couple dudes in a national park trying to get off the mountain before sunset. Yet, these men had accomplished something so amazing that the sitting US president would call and congratulate them. So difficult […]

Freelancing Sucks. Long Live Freelancing.

Last month, Fast Company senior editor Reyhan Harmanci published a column called “Freelancing Sucks.” She wrote: Everyone knows this: the freelancers, who are forced to beg for months-late checks; the editors, who surf on an endless sea of referrals, looking for unicorn writers who turn in copy clean and on time; the readers, who get the […]