The Notices

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  1. Hello hello,
  2. Psst. Wanna know how to steal a page from an antiquarian book just by using a piece of wet string? This piece on the wild world of rare book thieves will tell you. (I’m not sure that’s the spirit one should be reading it in but hey, everything's a life hack.)
  3. Also: Amor librorum nos unit: ‘The love of books unites us’. That’s the motto of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers. To which the only acceptable response is OMG there’s an International League of them?! Awesome.
  4. Dogshit. Bullshit. Apeshit. I’d never noticed how English has an animal-shit-meaning for almost every eventuality until I saw this taxonomy of shits over on Insta. (Excellent suggestions in the comments, too.)
  5. So, a couple of months ago there was a flurry of interest in something called Bionic Reading – a technique that supposedly makes text more readable on the internet by highlighting some characters in bold. It makes some rather pompous claims for how this will help fix the world’s ‘shallow reading’. I did a slightly snarky spoof of it, pointing out that a far more effective way of improving readability is to avoid writing needlessly pompous waffle in the first place. (Snark’s not really my vibe and I slightly regret it tbh. But it was kinda funny.)
  6. Now obviously I’m all for anything that helps make writing more accessible. (Full disclosure: someone with ADHD messaged me that they found Bionic Reading helpful, though several people with dyslexia said it actually made reading harder). Also, Nick Lunn in California emailed about BeeLine Reader – an extension you can add your phone, browser, PDFs and now eBooks that uses a changing colour gradient to help guide your eye through long blocks of text. It’s based on solid research and is getting growing support among universities and public libraries. Because it only uses colour, it’s ‘non-invasive’ (doesn't bust out text or cause formatting issues) and you can turn it on and off. Much better.
  7. Rocking horse shit. Chickenshit. No shit.  
  8. Related to the shallow-reading thing: I loved this thoughtful essay Our Technology Sickness and How To Heal It by Jewish scholar Micah Goodman. It’s also an excellent primer on why Jews study the Talmud, Spinoza’s ideas on freedom and Erich Fromm’s Art of Loving. So, like, packed with goodness.
  9. Also: I noticed the experience of reading Goodman’s piece was oddly calming. Then I realised – the article doesn’t contain any hyperlinks. And a nice touch: there’s a link for a printable PDF version included, to make it easy to read offline. That should totally be a thing, shouldn’t it.
  10. And while we’re on the subject of nice tweaks to reading formats, this review of Susan Sontag biography in the Sydney Review of Books, done as a kind of Pass Notes-esque Q+A is great. More book reviews like this, please.
  11. Electric vehicles are silent. Which means deciding what noises they should make is kind of a tone of voice question. If you’re interested, this New Yorker piece on automotive ‘acoustic design’ might be, ahem, up your street. Or similarly, this Why This is Interesting blog. (And if you’re a car manufacturer – sign up to my other newsletter, Tone Knob, all about tone of voice.)
  12. I’ve been sorting through some old boxes of stuff recently. It struck me that it’d be useful to have a word for that particular kind of nostalgia you get from re-discovering trivial mementos – old bus tickets, a childhood plastic keyring –  that you'd forgotten existed, wouldn’t miss if they were gone, but can never throw away once you’ve picked them up again. I haven’t found a word yet (suggestions?). But serendipitously I did stumble across this Convivial Society newsletter on the same subject. (Might print it out and put it in a box in the loft for 20 years so I can stumble across it again one day.)
  13.  Don’t think of children as ‘disadvantaged’. Instead, ‘under-served’. This excellent bit of language re-framing comes from this powerful speech by Olivia Taylor.
  14. That’s all for now. Gonna take a few weeks off over summer. See you in the ‘Autumn term’!
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