The bicycle is the most civilised conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.
- Iris Murdoch
Before the bicycle came along, women were expected to progress on foot, in carriages, or on horseback, always while supervised and preferably with the utmost slowness and delicacy. How you traveled denoted your class; to be walking the streets was seen as a highly suspect activity, and was tightly moderated among 19th century women of the upper classes, who were meant to stay largely indoors or to venture outside only with chaperones and in acceptable public spaces.
Various inventions changed that, from the department store to the car — but the bicycle was likely the most crucial of them all. Inexpensive, easy to use and capable of high speeds, the velocipede, as it was then known (the women who rode them were known as “velocipedestriennes” at the time), would remake the world for women in the 19th century, and has done so ever since. Get on your bikes and let’s have some fun.
Bicycling didn’t just give women a way to get around freely; it also, surprisingly, played a role in women’s sexual liberation — purely because some people believed that if women went around straddling something, they would start having orgasms all over the place (which, needless to say, these people thought was a bad thing). Even worse according to some quack doctors it would lead to lesbianism.
Traditionalists fulminated against the idea of the bicycle as an instrument that would instigate a sexual awakening, whether personal, as many people expressed trepidation about a woman straddling a bicycle seat and experiencing the shocks and vibrations of the road, or socially, as bicycles gave women the freedom to escape the watchful eyes of parents and chaperones.“ Bicycles: The 19th century’s shocking vibrator-slash-Uber alternative.
However, not every 19th century sexist was entirely upset by the idea of women going out and getting exercise. It’s noted in City Cycling that some thinkers, hilariously enough, recommended the idea because the strength of cycling would make them “more fit for motherhood.” Women who wanted approval from their doctors for their cycling habit, though, also ran the risk that they’d be informed that the bicycle would rattle their innards and leave them vulnerable to everything from tuberculosis to gout.
They were also informed that “bicycle face,” the tense expression of concentration required for dodging traffic, would ruin their beauty, and that the whole practice would make them bowlegged from too much pedaling. Women kept pedaling regardless.
Biking can be so much fun.
The bicycle is the most civilised conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.
| Iris Murdoch
The region’s ingredients are trending in foodservice—and have direct connections to familiar U.S. southern cuisine—but wide acceptance is an uphill climb...[more]
Africa has more than 600 tech hubs and rising, ranging from incubators and accelerators to co-working sites. While the startup game is about survival of the fittest, it is also one where community is power...[more]
When a pop band goes on the road to promote a hit record, they’re almost certainly re-singing a version of their work that matches what the fan expects to hear, not the daring, original work that they actually might feel like playing that night.
And when, twenty years later, they go on a reunion tour, the same is true, but even more so. The band make-up has changed, their tastes have changed, and they’re an oldies act now. Playing covers of their own work.
Every once in a while, Pablo Picasso painted a daring new work of art. But most of his 10,000 paintings rhymed with the ones he’d done before. In his words, “I often paint fakes.”
Fakes and covers are an essential element of the creative cultural economy. But when we engage with them, we should do it on purpose and not be confused about what we’re getting (or creating).
In Senegal the majority of woman are still restricted by traditional roles but as photographer Denisse Ariana Pérez discovered when she met founder and coach Rhonda Harper, Black Girls Surf is an important movement for change...[more]
In the countryside of Ghana lies this unique home made from rammed earth, recycled plastic, and fortified against the elements using natural materials. The home was constructed from student Anna Webster’s winning design through a Nka Foundation building competition. She states, “We aimed to overcome the negative associations of these materials and move away from the primitive image of building with earth by applying a modern design aesthetic.” Plastic waste is repurposed into window screens and roof materials and the sturdy rammed earth walls are covered in a cassava starch sealant to prevent exterior water damage. The home cost just $7865 to construct and serves as an example of what can be done with found materials and a little creativity...[more]
he air in Nairobi is heavily polluted by emissions from cars, buses and mopeds. The first solar-powered trucks and jeeps with electric motors have now started appearing in the city. While the energy is cheap, the vehicles themselves are not
Draw a perfect circle. Use a compass or a plotter.
Now, zoom in. If you zoom in close enough, you’ll discover that it’s not a perfect circle at all. In fact, anything we create, at close enough magnification, isn’t perfect.
It’s foolish to wait until you’ve made something that’s perfect, because you never will. The alternative is to continue to move toward your imaginary ideal, shipping as you iterate.
Getting better is the path to better.
Wander amidst the faded colonial splendor of Sao Tome, the capital of Sao Tome and Principe, and it's easy to be charmed by the African city's laid back, tropical simplicity. Traders jostle to sell their wares at the bustling central market while fishermen laugh and joke by the large bay that swoops around the city.
Follow the promenade along the coast towards the edge of town, meanwhile, and a rural paradise of palm-lined beaches and stunning biodiversity awaits.
Uninhabited until being discovered by the Portuguese in the late 15th century, Sao Tome and Principe is a tiny archipelago situated in the Gulf of Guinea.
It became a outpost of the slave trade under Portuguese rule, with sugar cane, cocoa and coffee all prominent exports. Labor practices thankfully improved over the centuries and independence eventually arrived when the Portuguese left in the mid-1970s.
Yet Sao Tome and Principe is once again attracting the attention of international explorers, this time in the shape of tourists...[more]
Lenny Levine was a great kindergarten teacher. And he ran his class by this one rule.
It means that if another kid comes along, you need to include them in your game.
It changes everything. It puts an emphasis on connection, not exclusivity. It changes the dynamics of belonging. It weaves together a foundation that crosses traditional boundaries.
It’s a bit like giving every kid in the class a valentine’s day card. Some say that it cheapens the sentiment because it’s not about selection, it’s about inclusion. I think we’ve got plenty of selection already.
In the adult world, open doors create possibility and that leads to insight and productivity.
When you’re beginning a new engagement, a new job, a new partnership, it might be worth agreeing on a list in advance. You don’t have to include all of these, and you don’t have to agree with them (because you can always take the other side) but here are some to start with:
We always answer emails to each other within a day, even if it’s just to say ‘got it’.
You’re invited as a guest into a purpose-built room in our Slack.
We’ll pay your invoices before they’re due.
We agree that all of our interactions are off the record, unless we agree otherwise.
We’ll never use legalese or intentionally trick you with loopholes in our agreements. Instead, we’ll be as clear as we can and honor what we said, and expect that you’ll do the same.
If we’re not sure, we’ll ask each other.
We don’t miss deadlines.
We don’t sprint at the end, we sprint at the beginning.
We don’t make compromises simply because bad planning means that we’re running out of time.
We eagerly highlight the potholes ahead, but spend no time casting blame after something fails.
We are intentional and specific about the work. “Who is it for” and “what is it for?” are the two key design questions.
We don’t use semi-colons or animated emojis.
If it’s not working, we’ll say so, and do it with specificity and kindness.
We’ll pay a lot but expect to get more than we paid for.
No cilantro. Of course.
All of us are on borrowed time. There are no refunds and there are no guarantees.
At some point, the only time you’ll have to worry about is the time you’ve wasted.
Coming soon: The Podcast Fellowship is coming back. It’s helped more than a thousand people find a voice. Sign up here for more details.
May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
– Bob Dylan
Nigerian agritech startup, Farmcrowdy, has announced its acquisition of Best Foods L&P Limited, one of Nigeria’s largest meat processors.
For an undisclosed amount, the acquisition will see Farmcrowdy own majority stake in Best Foods including its assets, team and customer contracts to supply meat across the country...[more]
When Nigerian chef Olasore Osidele became a vegan six years ago, people warned him that cutting out meat was questioning God’s plan...[more]
Fulaba provides handcrafted jewelry from African High Culture including authentic Fulani earrings and bracelets that are a fit for a queen. We offer free shipping to the United States and Canada!
Improvised Music’s Archives (part 31)
“Where Are You From Today” (Lyle Mays)
Lyle Mays (piano), Marc Johnson (double bass), Jack DeJohnette (drums)
(From the album “Fictionary”)
Beautiful, lush ballad by an amazing trio. Lyle Mays is such an underrated jazz pianist… simply one of the best around.
R.I.P. Lyle 🌹
“I’m doing this meaningless/damaging/banal work because that’s what the client wants.”
There are many variations of this.
The plastic surgeon who does hideous work on the faces of people who demand it. The marketer who’s still trying to get teens hooked on smoking. The teacher who blames the curriculum for the boring classroom experience because that’s what the state mandated…
It’s a trap, like all traps, because there’s a lot of truth to it. In fact, the client might be misguided or selfish or lazy. In fact, the boss doesn’t care enough.
Fine, that happened.
But what we do about it is the spot where we either excel or fail. If all we had were great opportunities for insightful clients and bosses, then important work wouldn’t be scarce at all.
As professionals, part of our job is to educate our client to keep them from doing something stupid, short-term or selfish. As linchpins, we get to choose our boss, and if you’re unable to persuade them to raise the bar, then the obligation/opportunity is to go do something else.
The winning sentence is, “Despite having a lousy client or uninformed boss, we were still able to do great work.”
There are two secrets to doing great work:
- Persuade the client to let you do great work.
- Get better clients.
They dance together every day.
You get better clients as soon as you act like the creator who deserves better clients.
In post-World War II England, the workers at Europe’s largest tire plant, Fort Dunlop, were at a standstill. The company, Dunlop Rubber, could not afford a specific carbon toughening agent that gave a tire its tread. Without this small but highly significant input, the factory’s 10,000 employees were out of work. Soon after, the Marshall Plan’s aid commenced, unlocked the toughening agent bottleneck. The plant went back to work and produced tires for the world to use.
The Marshall Plan catalysed the revival of Europe’s economy – not by being a panacea, but because it was agile enough to intervene in the market where its support could create this sort of multiplier effect. It leveraged pre-existing resources and addressed the gaps where it could maximise additionality.
There’s a little-known investment model perfectly suited to Africa’s economy that can also produce such a multiplier effect: a search fund, also known as “entrepreneurship through acquisition.”...[more]
I am not proposing a return to the Stone Age. My intent is not reactionary, nor even conservative, but simply subversive. It seems that the utopian imagination is trapped, like capitalism and industrialism and the human population, in a one-way future consisting only of growth. All I’m trying to do is figure out how to put a pig on the tracks.
| Ursula Le Guin
Name a brand of sneaker. Name a flavor of ice cream. Name a dead rock star.
If you came up with answers like Nike, Chocolate or Prince, you’re not alone. This is unaided awareness, the ability to name a member of a category without having to choose from a list.
It’s tempting to want to be the Nike of your category. It really pays off in group situations, where someone wants to be sure to choose an option that ‘everyone has heard of.’
But unaided awareness isn’t a useful goal. Because most decisions that matter aren’t unaided. Most choices are made with some consideration. What people say about you is even more important than being on everyone’s notorious list.
Adam Feinberg from Carnegie Mellon University and Ronke Olabisi from UC Irvine undertaking groundbreaking work in healing ‘unhealable’ wounds with adult stem cells and creating 3D bio-printed materials that can be used in biomedical research to test new drugs and print new organs such as hearts and lungs...[more]
I made this gasifier a couple of years ago now as a second attempt at the technology. My first attempt had a few bugs. The blower wasn't able to move enough air, the unit was over-sized for the amount of gas produced, and the gas wasn't cool enough upon exiting the gasifier, resulting in an unsatisfactory amount of condensate getting to the engine. So in this video, I show you how I built my new and improved homemade gasifier out of parts I could find for little to no cost. I use mine occasionally for generating electricity when the need arises...[more]
*No, that’s not what he said, and no, it’s not completely true.
Thirty-five years ago, in a conversation with Steve Wozniak (pioneer of the personal computer), Stuart Brand (founder of the Whole Earth Catalog along with many other foundational disruptions), said:
On the one hand you have — the point you’re making Woz — is that information sort of wants to be expensive because it is so valuable — the right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information almost wants to be free because the costs of getting it out is getting lower and lower all of the time. So you have these two things fighting against each other.
This is prescient, and it deserves to be quoted or at least paraphrased correctly.
Information wants to be free or it wants to be expensive.
How can both be true?
Information that seeks the network effect, that is most useful when lots of people know it, that changes the culture–well, making this information free is the best way to accomplish this effect. The alphabet wants and needs to be free, because if you had to pay to learn and use a set of letters to make words, it wouldn’t be universally adopted and would fail. The same is true for the pursuit of hit records–getting played on the radio is the goal of the label, even if the radio is giving the music away. The music is ‘worth’ more when it’s a hit.
The tension for so many creators is that they’re used to friction associated with their mass-produced work, friction that used to pay them better than it does now. This is the shift that Brand is talking about in half of his statement.
But some information is valuable because it creates barriers to entry, gives a few people a head start, confers status, solves a specific problem in real-time, etc.
There’s no reason to price the design of a custom addition to a home by a famous architect at free. The person who’s buying it doesn’t benefit from it being free–they benefit from the status that comes from it being scarce.
And the information that comes from a meeting that’s only open to paying attendees is worth more because you got to learn it and others didn’t.
And Michael Bloomberg is a billionaire because his company sells information to companies just a few seconds faster than they can get it anywhere else. The cost of the information creates scarcity and the scarcity creates value.
[This post was inspired by a poorly edited headline and article in the Times yesterday that got the quote wrong and is also remarkably (or sadly, not remarkably) sexist. It’s hard to imagine it having the same tone if it were written about a man.]
Kenton Nelson, A Blank Canvas
Coronavirus case update and forecast
I’m betting exponential.
For a very long time, major magazines and TV networks were very strict about the ads that they would run. The format, content and impact of an ad had to be approved before it showed up on network TV or The New Yorker. There weren’t many good places to run ads, so the media companies had the power.
Now, thanks to algorithmic media buying and the rise of digital, the media company sometimes has no idea who is even placing the ad, never mind how it works or what it’s for.
Ads aren’t vetted, they interrupt and they engage in a race to the bottom. As a result, your phone starts blaring an ad when you’re in a meeting trying to check the train schedule. And the biggest digital companies have given up and simply ignore the content and format of their ads. When a media company does try to establish standards, the algorithms simply go somewhere else.
The shift has gone from the context the ad runs in (which magazine) to the consumer it is targeted to. And that means that if a consumer sees an ad on platform A vs. platform B, the advertiser doesn’t really care. They’re just picking the cheap ones.
Ultimately, this destroys the value of the media company, corrupts our culture and hurts the long-term viability of the brands that have worked so hard to cut corners.
It’s possible to stand up and insist on better instead of cheaper. The entire world doesn’t have to look like the worst Android app.
Jiangtan park in Wuhan, China
That’s another way of saying, “It’s complicated.”
If you’ve got one reason that’s good enough, share that reason. The other reasons are extra, and if you spend a lot of time on them, you’ve just told us that it’s complicated.
Difficult decisions, on the other hand, ARE nuanced, and they involve adding up several benefits to overcome several negative outcomes as well. In those cases, it’s worth beginning by highlighting the things we’re going to avoid as a result of making this choice.
Balmed Holdings is a company based in the cocoa and coffee sector in Sierra Leone. Our motive is not only to buy and sell cocoa and coffee, but also to transfer knowledge to the youth and farmers in order to improve living standards in the rural areas.