In the last few days the sun has been sporadically shining in Copenhagen which (along with easing lockdown restrictions) means that when the clouds have cleared the city flocks to bars/ open spaces to have an after work beer. A welcome novelty.
The work front has felt like a war of admin attrition. Now that Cofruition has a solid foundation I’m looking to start getting new customers and so am trying to ensure I have the systems in place so that my fairly rudimentary processes don’t break under the strain of new work. A champagne problem, but pretty ugh right now.
My girlfriend and I will see if we manage any international travel soon, but whilst the default position of most countries seems to be to put each other on the orange list, it may be Denmark for the foreseeable.
I hope wherever you are in the world you’re getting to feel a bit more movement/ freedom as we approach the midpoint of the year!
Things I’ve been thinking about last month
I had an interesting chat with a friend this month about the rise and rise of conspiracy theories.
There seems to be a fascination these days with finding hidden meanings and attributing world events to an elite group of rich people trying to cause harm. Upon some research it turns out there is a quite a precise definition of a conspiracy theory that distinguishes it from other belief systems:
a belief that an event or situation is the result of a secret plan made by powerful people
What’s interesting is that these beliefs fluctuate over time (see here for less academic version).
In times of high inequality, the feeling of powerlessness increases and conspiracy theories rise. The researchers of one study analysed letters to The New York Times and found that complaints/ theories about secret powerful cabals peaked around 1900 and again in the late 1940s.
It’s on the rise again, no doubt perpetuated by echo chambers etc of social media.
Either way, I found it interesting to start the conversation with the observation of more conspiracy stuff in the media, and finish with viewing it as an indicator of social inequality.
Why are puppies so cute?
Slight change in direction.
My girlfriend and I had a long weekend staying at an Airbnb where the hosts had four 4-week old labrador puppies (don’t worry, pics at the bottom).
When we went over to the main house and saw them it was remarkable how we instinctively melted at their sight and proceeded to spend an hour coming up with idle chit chat with the hosts just so we could have an excuse to stay.
It got us thinking whether humans are hardwired to find puppies cute – would even someone who had never interacted with puppies/ baby animals also find themselves weak at the knees?
Or at least, as sure as you can be. The theory goes that humans are hardwired to want to care for baby humans, and baby animals share a lot of these traits (small size; large eyes compared to head etc.).
My friend also felt there was something in puppies innocence which was endearing. Within minutes of interacting with the puppies they began to fall asleep on us (admittedly whilst we stroked them), but I’m sure there’s some anthropomorphic tendency to attribute an openness and trusting as cute traits (vs a more wily older dog who has learnt that the world isn’t always perfect).
Anyway, if you haven’t recently, I can recommend getting going to see some small animals if you can. A real mood lightener.
Side note: a longstanding business I’ve had is for “Corporate Puppies” (companies paying for a bunch of puppies to a be taken to a large office for an hour and letting staff come in and play with them). If you’re keen to collaborate – hit me up.
A selection of podcasts etc. I’ve enjoyed recently
- How Belarus hijacked a plane | Stories of our times: really well made episodes by The Times newspaper. I saw in the headlines about a plane being grounded in Belarus, but ~27 minutes after listening to the episode I feel so much more informed
- Freshwater Five | Today in Focus: a mini-series by The Guardian on some fishermen who are in jail for drug smuggling despite (they claim) scant, or rather circumstantial evidence. It was another mini-series (like Tunnel 29) where I found myself forgoing TV in favour of the audio experience
- AI and Neuroscience | DeepMind: a series looking to demystify artificial intelligence with one of the world’s leading AI companies. It does a good job I feel
- How handball encapsulates Danish culture | What The Denmark: we’ve been having some good feedback on this episode. I knew next to nothing about handball before moving to Denmark, but it turns out to be a mega popular sport in other countries and reveals a lot about Denmark’s egalitarian social structure.
I seem to have been doing more reading this month, including a couple of “proper novels”
- Atonement | Ian McKewan: the most recent entry to a list I saw of The 100 Greatest Novels of All Time. It was heavy, but a really good story
- Disgrace | J.M. Coetzee: a story set in post-apartheid South Africa that won the Nobel Prize
- White Working Class | Joan Williams: the byline is Overcoming class cluelessness in America. It does a good job of explaining things that “liberal elites” find irrational
- New AI theory on why your dreams are weird | Big Think: “Dreaming helps us generalize our experiences so that we can adapt to new circumstances. Therefore, the strangeness of dreams is what makes them useful”
- In praise of the lightweight life | Rob Dix: my friend Rob has a great blog/ newsletter full of interesting thoughts and observations. This one is some of the benefits of at least feeling like you could pack up and leave if you wanted to.
- Minari: touching story of a Korean family moving to the rural US in the 1970s
- Nomadland: “I’m not homeless, I’m houseless”. Nice reminder of how one can live a minimalist lifestyle, but also the upsides of having running water.
- Mare of Easttown: Kate Winslet is a small town Pennsylvania cop. Despite the hallmarks of most other TV detectives (drinks too much, doesn’t take orders) it was surprisingly engaging on multiple levels
- Bo Burnham | Inside: one man covid comedy special from a guy filming himself inside for a year. One of the most creative things I’ve watched in a while.