Category: Education & Learning

The Most Popular Non-Obvious Stories of 2022 (Based On Reader Feedback)



Every week for the past year, I’ve curated the most fascinating stories every week in my weekly email Non-Obvious Insights Newsletter. This year the newsletter was honored in the prestigious Webby awards too. It’s always interesting for me which stories seem to resonate most with readers based on how many email responses I get, how frequently a story is shared on social media and how frequently the link to the full story is clicked. Based on this combination of quantitative and qualitative data, here is a partial list of some of the most popular stories of the year, based on what my readers shared (scroll down to read the full stories):

  1. The Surprising Forgotten Medieval Habit of “Two Sleeps”
  2. Does Science Need To Be Dumbed-Down To Make It Meaningful?
  3. Why Humans Learned To Laugh (and Naming the Uranus Mission)
  4. The Predictable Failure of Unlimited Vacation Policy
  5. The Backstory of the Bookshelf That Converts Into a Coffin
  6. Is It Ever Possible to Avoid Buying More Stuff For Your Stuff?
  7. The Science Is In. Wearing Your Shoes In the House Is Disgusting.
  8. Oslo’s Secret Future Library Holds Books To Be Published In 100 Years
  9. Why Do So Many Media Personalities Use Our Hate As A Popularity Test?
  10. Why I Just Became A Noble Citizen of the Micronation of Ladonia

Note – Some of the most popular links are to stories that have photo collections such as the winners for the World Press Photo collection to TIME magazine’s best photos of the year (Read more...)

Back To School Images of the Past Show Us How Far We Have Come



Just in time for back to school, the Smithsonian shared a gallery of American school supplies of the past. Browsing the photos, it’s fascinating just how many of the images featured on these items suggested where the boundaries were set for people of the time. Stamps featured teachers who were only white and female. Sports team photos lacked any racial integration. Lunch boxes commemorated shows that reinforced stereotypes. Pencil boxes showed the “right” way to demonstrate patriotism. Crayon boxes still contained colors now considered racist (like “Flesh” or “Indian Red”). Sometimes a deep dive into history is just what we need to appreciate how far we’ve come.

Why I Will Never Buy a Macbook



I am a writer, so my keyboard is pretty important to me. It’s the reason why my computer of choice for the past two decades has consistently been a Lenovo Thinkpad. They have the best keyboards.

Clive Thompson is a journalist I have admired and read often – but his sadistic laptop choices baffled me. He recently estimated that he typed “22 million keystrokes on Apple’s horrid butterfly keyboard.” Yet he describes how he stuck with using a Macbook for years despite it’s painful user experience. This strikes me as a perfect example of our dysfunctional relationship with expensive things. Pricey shoes, cars, furniture, food and much more are often terribly uncomfortable to use or consume … but we buy them anyway and invite the suffering.

It’s time to stop doing that. Embrace the comfortable clothes you got used to when working from home. If you have the budget, upgrade your laptop and donate your old one to someone who can’t afford to do the same. And at the very least, upgrade your keyboard. Life’s too short to wear uncomfortable shoes and use a crap keyboard. Especially if you spend a lot of time writing … or any time walking.

Magazines Create Empathy That Can Change the World. Here’s How To Save Them.



“The print magazine is an antidote to information overload, a form of media that contains a finite amount of content, releasing readers from the laborious task of deciding what to consume in the limited spaces of time in a day.”

Magazines are my favorite media. I read an ode to the power of the printed word in magazines this week and it reminded me of all the things I love about them. The process of curating this email is a constant battle to avoid overload, and I find that magazines always help. Unlike a lot of online content, the stories and images in magazines are usually professionally produced by real talented editors and creators. The long take they regularly offer is unique and their ability to select and publish stories that are timely without feeling outdated is a constant inspiration for me to try and do the same.

Sadly, many magazines are ceasing operations or moving to an online format only. The good news is, magazine subscriptions remain a steal compared to the cost of other things. So if you’re like some of the people interviewed in the article and have forgotten about the appeal of magazines, maybe now is a good time to restart some of those subscriptions you once had – or find some new ones.