Every ten days or so, I share a quick digest of what I've been working on and reading. Here's the latest. More in the series here.
Kind of a short newsletter today, but that's just how things pan out sometimes. Let's begin.
The mini-conference I hosted this past week, Elevate Live, was a huge success. Over four hours, we hosted talks from a collection of new voices in data visualization and information design, with speakers in Colombia, Nigeria, Portugal, Canada, and more.
If you missed it, head on over to YouTube to catch up - there's a recording there, and in the coming days/weeks we'll also be chopping out individual talks and uploading them.
If you attended, I'd love to hear which talk was your favourite. Hit reply and let me know. Oh, and if you're looking for a friendly and supportive place to level up your information design skills (including public speaking!), then consider becoming a member of Elevate.
The world's longest conveyor belt runs for 100km across Western Sahara, and is clearly visible from space.
I've pushed another small update to my Loud Numbers VCV Rack data sonification plugin. This one fixes a problem where data values weren't resetting when a reset trigger was received - only the position in the dataset was.
That was an issue when you gave the module a reset signal when it wasn't running - it would go back to the beginning of the data, but keep outputting the same voltages as before. Now, all outputs are set to zero when a reset signal is received.
I discovered the bug while putting together some sonifications for an upcoming project with Swiss musician Simon Petermann. The joy of building your own tools is that if something is broken then you can just dive in there and fix it - no need to wait for anyone else to get around to it. I'm hugely glad that I invested the time in learning enough C++ to create the plugin myself, rather than just paying someone else to build it for me.
I very much feel like an outlier in society, in the sense that I'm still trying my hardest to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Sweden, tragically, has been bottom of the class on this simple metric for the entire pandemic, and so I find it deeply concerning seeing so many other people elsewhere throwing their hands up and saying "welp, guess we just have to live with it" and returning to what they call "normal life". One data point: one in 40 people in England have Covid right now.
Craig Mod, an American who has lived in Japan for most of his life, has just published a powerful piece about his experiences visiting the UK recently, where he almost immediately caught the virus and was hospitalised.
He writes about the experience of getting the mildest of the variants:
Covid was like a kick to the throat. Then a kick to the chest and a hacksaw to the skull. Once exposed, it felt like important parts of my brain were nibbled at by pigeons as I curled up in a ball in a strange land far from home.
He also writes about the upsides of the last couple of years:
I thrived with the isolation, the turning down of all social events, the going virtual for a bunch of stuff that hitherto necessitated onerous travel. I loved the freeing up of my schedule to then double down on opening up my work, of getting books done, planning ever-more audacious walks, writing ever-stranger pop-up newsletters.
And finally he writes about the present-day experience of travel, as a life-long traveller:
The romantic ideal of travel is to leave as one version of yourself and return another, changed, “better” of yourself. This trip changed me, but not in the ways you might classically expect. I’ve returned suspicious of travel, more confused than ever about why so many people travel. Unsure if most travel of the last few decades makes sense, or has ever made sense or justified the cost.
I'd strongly recommend reading the whole thing.
Finally, on a lighter note, it was my dog Laika's birthday the other day. She's now five years old. FIVE! I'll leave you with a celebratory photo of her looking maximally gormless.
See you again in ten days.