No Complaints #87: Scissors, Spreadsheets and Signal Flags

Well, that was a week. 

Things to read

“There are many reasons to love kitchen scissors. There is – hooray! – no board to wash up. You are closer to the ingredients, because you are handling them. Each snip feels like a delicate decision. When chopping herbs, scissors do less damage to the cell walls, keeping more of the brightness. But the real joy of scissors is the way the cutting motion feels like an extension of your own hand muscles. Maybe you are doing nothing more than chopping mint for a salad, but for a moment, you are Wolverine.”

In praise of kitchen scissors. Email to Pocket.


“Planning is a way to consolidate your power. Setting down what you want to do and the path you’ll take to get there is like dropping an anchor into a stormy sea. It fixes your attention, and the most important resource you have is your attention. Find your focus, commit your time, and amazing things can happen.”

I love making a new spreadsheet more than almost everything else, so this piece about how a well-designed one can help you change the world made me very happy. Email to Pocket.


“Harmonics are also important. To be perceived as urgent, an alarm needs to have two or more notes rather than being a pure tone, ‘otherwise it can sound almost angelic and soothing,’ says Baldwin. ‘It needs to be more complex and kind of harsh.’ An example of this harshness is the alarm sound that plays on TVs across the U.S. as part of the Emergency Alert System. The discordant noise is synonymous with impending doom.”

How the hierarchy of alarm noises is constructed from “get up for work now” to “this plane is about to crash into the sea”. Email to Pocket.


“The poetry of the signal flags is obvious: it’s the poetry of code. Meaning: it says that which means this. What a marvel. How does it do that, make that this? We all just agree that it does, so it does. The arbitrary magic behind all language and currency. Poetry as code demands a key made of life, rhythm, feeling—you match what you know, what you’ve brought, with the text, arranged as it is, and you see if anything’s been deciphered at the end.”

As someone who grew up partly on a sailing boat, it seems obvious to me that a yellow and black chequered flag stands for the letter Q, and also indicates that a boat is now disease-free. But I've never really thought about why the lexicon of flags is as it is. Email to Pocket.


“One recent Sunday morning, Kate McKinnon was leaning over the remnants of a sliced banana and trying not to cry. The banana was to help with the bruising she'd gotten on the set of a bachelorette-party-gone-wrong film, tentatively titled Rock That Body. "It's with Scarlett Johansson. Do you know of her?" McKinnon deadpans. "I've been doing some pratfalls." The crying was because I'd just innocently mentioned that, God willing, come January, she may very well be the first woman in Saturday Night Live's history to play the president of the United States.”

Reading this pre-election interview with Kate McKinnon is quite something, now. Email to Pocket.


Things to listen to

I did quite a lot of relistening this week. I went back through some of my favourite episodes of Nocturne (especially this one about conquering a fear of the dark). I’m still busy on my complete relisten of Song ExploderAnd I listened to this episode of Another Round again, twice. 

PS This week’s podcast column is an interview with Sarah Brown, political activist and wife of the former prime minister of the UK, Gordon Brown. 


Things to watch



Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Know how you feel, C.

(This week’s thingamabob was sent in by long-time NC reader Graeme. Thanks!)

The guest gif

May your dream-sheep this weekend have sprightly little legs like this.

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THE END. See you next time!