1. Welcome To The Zone!
  2. The Zone: No. 2 – Oct 22, 2020
  3. The Zone: No. 3 – Oct 29, 2020
  4. The Zone: No.4 – Nov 5, 2020
  5. The Zone: No. 5 – Nov 12, 2021
  6. The Zone: No. 6 – Nov 19, 2020
  7. The Zone: No. 7 – Nov 26, 2020
  8. The Zone: No. 8 – Dec 3, 2020
  9. The Zone: No. 9 – Dec 10, 2020
  10. The Zone: No. 10 – Dec 17, 2020
  11. The Zone: No. 11, Dec 31, 2020 – Special Edition
  12. The Zone: No. 12 – Jan 7, 2020
  13. The Zone: No. 13 – Jan 14, 2020
  14. The Zone: No. 14 – Jan 21, 2020
  15. The Zone: No. 15 – Jan 28, 2020
  16. The Zone: No. 16 – Feb 4, 2020
  17. So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish!

Best books of the year, productivity hacks, Earth’s new mini-moon, cute squirrels, and more in this week’s installment of The Zone.

  • I’m sure Merriam-Webster’s word of the year wouldn’t make any best of-lists. Based on a statistical analysis of the words people searched for in their online dictionary and a significant year-over-year increase in traffic, the word of the year is (suspenseful pause)… pandemic! Says Merriam-Webster: “Sometimes a single word defines an era, and it’s fitting that in this exceptional—and exceptionally difficult—year, a single word came immediately to the fore as we examined the data that determines what our Word of the Year will be.“ With Coronavirus in the first place, quarantine in fifth place, and asymptomatic on the eighth, 2020 has been the pandemic year, indeed.
  • For those times when you feel like you live in a catastrophe movie: watch this video in which a former NASA engineer builts an epic obstacle course for squirrels. It’s about 20 minutes long but well worth the time, trust me! It takes a whole new meaning since we started feeding the birds in our backyard. But we ended up with a different solution (scroll down, please).
  • The 10-3-2-1-0 Formula to Get More Done.
    • 10 hours before bed – No more caffeine.
    • 3 hours before bed – No more food or alcohol.
    • 2 hours before bed – No more work.
    • 1 hour before bed – No more screen time (turn off all phones, TVs, and computers).
    • 0 – The number of times you will hit the snooze button in the morning.
  • Did you know that Earth picks up a new temporary moon now and then? They’re usually pretty small – we’re talking about a few meters in diameter – and can hang around for a few years before they drift away. They contain the oldest material in the solar system. They haven’t been studied much as they are hard to detect. A new one has been recently discovered and baptized 2020CD3 (CD3 for short).
  • Speaking of moons: NASA’s 4K visualization showing the Moon’s phase and libration at hourly intervals throughout 2021 is awesome. This one is viewed from the Northern Hemisphere, and there’s one for the Southern Hemisphere too. NASA creates these simulations of the moon phases every year, with no practical purpose in mind. They are very instructive, though, as so much as NASA does. Universe Today has a good article about the nitty-gritty details if you’re into astronomy like me. I, of course, have an iPhone app to check moon phases (free). There are plenty of them in the app store; I used this one for years and I’m pretty happy with it so I never looked for others.
Starfish cling to rocks as the tide comes in off the coast of Greymouth, New Zealand. Photo by Stanley Loong
  • Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and US President George H. W. Bush declared the Cold War over on December 3rd, 1989. Living in Romania at the time, I remember thinking bitterly than nobody told Ceaușescu. But three weeks later, he was dead.
  • Tomorrow is Friday and cookie day, yay! I know what I’m going to do. If you thought baking cookies, you’re wrong. Eating them is more like it.

A Quote I’m Pondering

Heaven and hell are not separate places but are already here among us on earth. What separates and protects us from hell is a surface layer that could be called civilization. A surface layer that we have realized this year is much more fragile than we thought. Dystopias are alarm clocks. *

 Jan Gradvall, Swedish journalist in Dagens Industry Weekend magazine

From My Photo Archives

Close up of a red squirrel. Photo by Mihaela Limberea.
We gave up protecting the bird feeders and set up a squirrel feed station instead. Now there’s peace in the backyard.

* Here’s the original quote in Swedish:

Himlen och helvetet är inga separata platser utan finns redan här bland oss på jorden. Vad som skiljer och skyddar oss från helvetet är ett ytlager som man skulle kunna kalla civilisation. Ett ytlager som vi detta år har insett är mycket bräckligare än vad vi trott. Dystopierna är väckarklockor.

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