Saturday Morning Links

1. Ever heard of Labrador? Well, there’s a decent chance that you may have as it is in Canada and it is the place where the Vikings landed in item 2 below.

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

2. Via SyFy, by using the knowledge of solar flares and the samples of wood that was taken down using metal tools in Newfoundland, Canada, scientists have determined that the Vikings arrived in North America in the year 1021 A.D.

The scientists extracted 127 samples from the wood, and 83 rings were examined. They used two methods to secure dates. The first was to compare the amount of carbon-14 in each ring with known atmospheric amounts from the time. This gives a rough date for the waney edge of the wood. They also then looked for an anomalous spike in carbon-14 in an inner ring, knowing this would have come from the 993 A.D. event, and then simply counted the rings outward from there to get the date of the waney edge.

In all three samples the waney edge was dated to the same year: 1021 A.D. This would be incredibly unlikely to occur at random.

This means that Vikings were definitely in North America, specifically Newfoundland, Canada, more than four and a half centuries before Columbus. And mind you this may not have been the first visit, just the first we have evidence for. So Vikings were there in 1021 A.D. at the latest.

In fact, looking at different kinds of cells in the wood the scientists could tell one tree was felled in the spring of that year, while another was in the summer/autumn, indicating the Vikings were there for several months.

3. Via Medium’s Alvin Townley, this is the story of Cecil Smith, the Texas cowboy who may have been the best polo player ever.

4. The Atlantic Photo, the volcano exploding on the Canary Islands is absolutely demolishing La Palma. I mention a changing coast below, but this is changing the coast of this island too.

5. The Statesider’s Elizabeth Miller on the ever-changing Louisiana coast, the rising water forcing the changing of the coast because it just is. I like to think of the coasts of maps as finite, but that’s just not the case.

We’d launched onto a quiet bayou an hour’s drive south of New Orleans, then cruised through calm waterways, raising binoculars after heron and egrets. We were aiming for a manmade island that marks what used to be Louisiana’s southern edge and looking for evidence of the efforts to reconstruct a vanishing coastline along the way. At one point on our south-bound trip, Healthy Gulf community science director Scott Eustis showed me his GPS. The screen indicated we should be in a channel. Instead, open water surrounded us.

Every map you look at of Louisiana is a lie. They simply can’t keep up. A relatively current print edition will show a chunk missing from between the highways that run alongside the farmland, fishing docks, and oil and gas processing stations to the southern fringes of the state. In satellite images of the coast, pond names hover over expanses of blue. The broad fans of the Mississippi River’s delta have washed away into thin strips. That river poured the landscape into place over millennia, but it’s taken just a century to unravel it.

Saturday Morning Links

1. Ever heard of the city of Ulm? It’s in Germany and it’s the beginning of the journey from link #5.

Photo by Luis Fernando Felipe Alves on Unsplash

2. Via Wired, a guy read every Marvel comic and then wrote a book, All of the Marvels, which appeals to the comic fan in me.

Reading them all at once, though, allowed Wolk to see the entire landscape at a single view. He notes, for example, that decades-old characters written by dozens of different people end up having consistent themes, but they change to reflect their times. Stories about Iron Man are always about the military industrial complex, Wolk realizes. In the 1960s, they were pretty rah-rah about American power. That changed during the Vietnam War. Back then the stories were about lasers and nukes; these days they’re more likely to be about surveillance, data, and artificial intelligence. Or take Captain America, a character whose stories are always about how Americans perceive themselves—which made it interesting when the commie-smashing Cap of the 1950s comics was reimagined in the 1970s as a government-employed imposter who turned out to be a white nationalist. X-Men stories are famously about diversity and acceptance, though the team was created as a race parable. It evolved, if you will, into present-day stories about international relations and gender identity.

But if a story is so big that it contains, like, everything, is that still a point of view? Is that still art? Wolk’s answer is yes, but his main goal, he tells me, is still to find ways someone could start reading Marvel Comics now, today, and enjoy them without being crushed by history and time. “I’m somebody who’s leading you on a guided tour of this enormous territory that I’ve walked every mile of, and you don’t have to walk every mile,” he says. “I don’t want to show you what I think the highlights are. I want my readers to be able to find the parts that will matter to them.” He’s trying to pathfind a trail that maybe only a longtime comics reader can see. Every frame of every Marvel story might have been an infinitesimal, but like some grand mathematical model they all integrate together into the long, long arc of the Marvel universe.

3. Via Colossal, Anglea Hao digitally draws Japanese shops with incredible details and these are just neat to look at. That’s it.

4. Via Reddit, websites that people wish other people knew more about. This is actually pretty amazing and have found several websites that I had no idea existed. And you sort of get the idea that the internet is bad, but there’s lots of good out there as well.

5. Via Vanity Fair’s William Prochnau and Laura Parker, in 1932 Oskar Speck is bankrupt, the threat of Nazi Germany is looming, and begins a 7-year and 30,000 mile kayak trip.

In 1929, the Great Depression crushed a country already on its back. By 1932, more than 30 percent of German workers were unemployed. Speck ran a small electrical-contracting company. It went bankrupt, taking the boss and his 21 workers into the streets. For Speck it was the last straw. He was fed up with the limitations of his life and his country.

The same frustration drove many Germans to the guttural siren song of Adolf Hitler. It drove Speck over the horizon. In the strange bubble world he would live in for the next seven and a half years he would brush up against Germany’s new keepers briefly, fly a swastika, and at least once seek out the Nazis’ financial help. As with so many Germans of his era, the full story of his political leanings will probably never be known. But in 1932, Oskar Speck seemed without any politics at all. “All I wanted was to get out of Germany,” he said later.

On May 13, 1932, he packed up his five-year-old kayak, called Sunnschien, boarded a train to the Danube River city of Ulm, dropped the boat into the water, and, “without any fuss or farewell,” paddled east with the current.

It was an unlikely start by an unlikely adventurer. Speck stood five feet ten inches, and weighed a lean 140 pounds. He couldn’t swim—and even traveling halfway around the world by ocean he never bothered to learn. He pushed off with little money, little planning, and only a vague goal of reaching Cyprus to find work in the copper mines.

Saturday Morning Links

1. Ever heard of Maaenboodhoo? Me neither. It’s in the Maldives, which I am sure you’ve heard of which is an archipelagic that’s southwest of Sri Lanka (more south than west). What was amazing to me was this photo of the capital city of Malé and they have appeared to use every square inch of this island, almost like SimCity.

Photo by Ishan @seefromthesky on Unsplash

2. If you are at all into soccer and the U.S. Men’s National Team, this ESPN profile on El Paso’s own 18-year old phenom Ricardo Pepi is great. Pepi is the son of Mexican immigrants could have played for Mexico or the U.S. and chose the U.S. This hits home for me because my boys are immigrants and if Youssouf ever becomes an athlete that can choose between the Democratic Republic of Congo and the U.S., he’d almost assuredly choose the U.S. because of his lack of connection with the DRC.

WHEN YOU’RE THE child of immigrant parents, you often feel as if you’ve got to make their struggles and sacrifices count for something. Calling it a burden is too much. Call it that feeling you get when you look at your father or mother and wonder what dreams they had before life shook them awake.

Because sometimes your mother is 16 years old when she had you. And sometimes your father pawns the family car and borrows money because those can become tomorrow’s problems if it means everyone’s eating today. And sometimes, you live in a place like El Paso and Juárez that are often neglected by their governments, and it feels like you must escape.
Like the rest of the communities, largely of Mexican descent, along the north side of the Texas-Mexico border, El Paso County has a substantially higher poverty rate than the rest of the country. Its per capita income is over $12,400 lower than the national average. It has lower levels of educational attainment. It has more than twice the national percentage rate of uninsured residents under 65.

It’s why when you come from the El Paso-Juárez borderland — as I do — it’s easy to feel an urgency. It’s disquieting to notice how few things grow here. The barren surroundings don’t help. Out in the wide-open spaces of West Texas and Northern Mexico, it’s easy to get lost.

To live here is to feel the questions that are as omnipresent as the mountains surrounding the region and as persistent as the winds racing down from them. On the worst of days that wind howls. It makes the desert floor dance until the sand blocks the sun and turns the sky from a hue of blue to a reddish-brown.

That wind can rip the roof off buildings and tear doors from hinges. It can choke and blind you, sometimes worse. It’s on those days when it feels like we should all run away from this desert. Run away from this separate world between two countries. On those days when it sounds like some invisible hand is continually throwing dirt against locked doors and windows, it’s like the wind carries the existential questions that most here wrestle with.

3. Colossal with photos of split-screen photography, both below and above a water-line.

4. This got my attention as a former estate planning attorney, the descendants of Henrietta Lacks have sued Thermo Fisher Scientific for using her cells in medical research without per permission. Lacks died of cervical cancer and her cells became the first human cells to be successfully cloned and have been reproduced indefinitely and are called “HeLa cells”. Thermo Fisher is making money off of these cells (a lot of money) and never obtained Lacks’ consent.

5. I’m not in the crypto game, but this story of “Tether” crypto is really interesting as it is supposed to be crypto that is backed by the dollar, for every dollar turned in a unit of Tether is produced.

Saturday Morning Links

1. I took a break last week to take a trip to Washington. I got to see my brother, his wife, and my new niece. I had proposed in the summer that my brother and I do a “runcation” which was a way for me to go run in the mountains and go see my brother at the same time. Both things are fun and I had not seen my brother and his family since the pandemic started, so over a year and long enough for my new niece to be darn near 10 months old.

This is me reading to my new niece. Her name is Penny and this is Thursday before we started the planning process, although we did start planning prior to this point with me sitting on the chair. She and I are not planning anything.

2. On day 2, we traveled 3 hours to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest to hike the Snowgrass Flats and Goat Lake Loop Trail. This is generally considered to be an overnight trail I think, lots of people hiking in with packs for the evening and essentially sleeping at Goat Lake for the night and then completing the loop. TJ and I had plans to run the entire thing and be done in a few hours. This is the first time I’ve done something like this, to hike something that would seem a bit daunting and do it in enough time to be home for dinner. I should also clarify that my hat is not a Ted Lasso hat, it’s from a website called “Believe in the Run” and they review running shoes. Yes, I bought a hat from a running website.

3. The hike/run was really spectacular. I should clarify that when a lot of people talk about running trails, it’s walk up and then run down. You try to walk quickly because most people cannot run 2,000 feet up a mountain. It can be done, but it’s really difficult.

We went clockwise along the trail, which ended up being the correct choice as the run up was relatively short and the backside going down would be more run-able. Generally speaking, you’d think everything to be brown, but the fall colors were really something that neither TJ nor I had ever seen in a mountain setting, so it was terrific to experience.

Once you get over the valley, there’s this beautiful view of, well, everything. This really doesn’t do things justice, but it was really amazing. We should have run out on that ridgeline to the end towards what might be Mt. Saint Helens (we were really never sure as it could be Mt. Rainier in the distance, but it really doesn’t matter as it is pretty). On our way home we had a burger at some place in some town along the way. It was great.

4. The next day we ran around Squak Mountain for the day. This was a closer group of trails (not 3 hours away) and it allowed us to do a lot more, including a leisurely bike ride later in the afternoon after lunch.

The top of the mountain is radio equipment. There’s no lookout, so there was no “payoff” in the traditional sense, but it was still a ton of fun. The backend of the run consisted of running down a gravel road and we clocked 9 minute miles in the process, which is always a bit scary as your thighs are typically screaming and a false step could result in a trip to the dentist.

5. This was a fun hard weekend. The weather was perfect. I don’t know the exact temperature, but t-shirts were more than enough and was sweating most of the day. I should be careful about using the word “hard”. The easy part was seeing family and it was great, while the difficult part really wasn’t difficult, it was fun. Difficult things in my life are work related and I don’t like to conflate the two. This is so much more fun than anything that I normally get to do. And of all things my brother might give up a bit of riding the bike in order to run more trails.

Maybe our next trip involves Sedona.