Why did a father of sixteen children hire a hit man?

Why did a father of sixteen children hire a hit man?

From New York: "One weekday in the summer of 2021, Christopher Pence entered his home office in Cedar City, Utah, and plugged a USB stick into his computer. He booted up Tails, an operating system designed to optimize privacy, and used it to access the dark web — a marketplace teeming with illicit goods and services like child pornography, weapons, and drugs. Christopher, who was 41 and worked for Microsoft as a systems engineer, wanted to hire a hit man to kill a young couple he had met on only a handful of occasions. Christopher was an unlikely client in the murder-for-hire trade. He was not violent and had no criminal record. When he wasn’t logging ten-to-12-hour days working, often while listening to one of his favorite Christian rock bands, he was helping his wife, Michelle, raise their 11 biological and five adopted children. The entire family, along with Christopher’s retired parents, lived in a 5,800-square-foot home on the northern edge of the Mojave Desert, surrounded by wind-raked brushland and snow-capped mountains in all directions. They were building greenhouses on the property and had plans to buy cows."

If you really love Excel spreadsheets, this Las Vegas competition is for you

From The Verge: "It’s happy hour in Las Vegas, and the MGM Grand casino is crawling with people. The National Finals Rodeo is in town, the NBA’s inaugural in-season tournament is underway, the Raiders play on Sunday, and the U2 residency is going strong at the giant Sphere, so it seems everyone in every bar and at every slot machine is looking forward to something. (And wearing a cowboy hat.) Even for a town built on nonstop buzz, this qualifies as a uniquely eventful weekend. But I’d wager that if you wanted to see the most exciting drama happening at the MGM on this Friday night, you’d have to walk through the casino and look for the small sign advertising something called The Active Cell. This is the site of the play-in round for the Excel World Championship, and it starts in five minutes. There are 27 people here to take part in this event (28 registered, but one evidently chickened out before we started), which will send its top eight finishers to tomorrow night’s finals. There, one person will be crowned the Excel World Champion."

Much of W.B. Yeats's poetry was based on writing done by his wife

From JSTOR Daily: "Mere days into their honeymoon at the Ashdown Forest Hotel, Georgie (renamed George by her husband) must have had a ghostly suspicion—or perhaps simply seen the poorly hidden fact—that Yeats was still writing wistful letters to Iseult. Another newlywed might have told Yeats to take a long walk into the Lake of Innisfree. Instead, playing on their mutual interest in spiritualism and the occult, George tried a novel approach to saving her marriage. “On the afternoon of October 24th 1917, four days after my marriage,” wrote Yeats, “my wife surprised me by attempting automatic writing.” Automatic writing is where, according to believers, a spirit guides the pencil of a living medium as he or she writes out the spirit’s message. It took decades for Yeats scholarship to state the obvious: “We are having to take an extraordinary fact into far more serious consideration than we have before,” wrote Margaret Mills Harper in 1988. “Much of the literary output of one of our century’s major poets was directly influenced by a unique imaginative partnership with a highly creative woman.”

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What color is a tennis ball? The answer might surprise you

From The Atlantic: "It seemed like an easy question. The query came from a Twitter poll I spotted on my news feed. “Please help resolve a marital dispute,” @cgpgrey wrote. “You would describe the color of a tennis ball as:” green, yellow, or other. Yellow, obviously, I thought, and voted. When the results appeared, my jaw dropped with cartoonish effect. Of nearly 30,000 participants, 52 percent said a tennis ball is green, 42 percent said it’s yellow, and 6 percent went with “other.” I was stunned. I’d gone from being so sure of myself to second-guessing my sanity in a matter of seconds. More than that, I could never have imagined the question of the color of a tennis ball—surely something we could all agree on, even in these times—would be so divisive. I dropped the tweet into my team’s Slack channel, where the seemingly trivial question tore apart our usually congenial group. Lines were quickly and fiercely drawn, team green against team yellow, as my colleagues debated the very definition of color itself. Swords were brandished in the form of links to the paint selection at Sherwin-Williams."

How worm hunters coax the creatures to the surface so they can catch them

From Oxford American: "A hint of blue on the horizon meant morning was coming. And as they have for the past fifty-four years, Audrey and Gary Revell stepped out their screen door, walked down a ramp, and climbed into their pickup truck. Passing a cup of coffee back and forth, they headed south into Tate’s Hell—one corner of a vast wilderness in Florida’s panhandle where the Apalachicola National Forest runs into the Gulf of Mexico. Gary took one last sip of coffee, grabbed a wooden stake and a heavy steel file, and walked off into the woods. Gary drove the wooden stake, known as a “stob,” into the ground and began grinding it with the steel file. A guttural noise followed as the ground hummed. Soon, the ground glowed with pink earthworms. Audrey collected them one by one to sell as live bait to fishermen. What drew the worms to the surface seemed like sorcery. For decades, nobody could say exactly why they came up, even the Revells who’d become synonymous with the tradition here. They call it worm grunting."

Wild horses return to the steppes of Kazakhstan after two hundred years

From the BBC: "The airlifts of seven Przewalski's Horses from Europe to the Central Asian country took place in early June in an operation run by Prague Zoo. Researchers told the BBC that the horses are already doing well two weeks in: roaming around the plains and even beginning the mating process. Zoo officials say it's a triumph of generations of conservation work. "This is an endangered species returning to their ancestral lands, a species which went extinct in the wild in the 1960s," said Filip Mašek, a spokesman for Prague Zoo.While the horses have been slowly reintroduced to Mongolia and China in recent decades, this operation marks the first time they are back in Kazakhstan. The Przewalski's Horse is the last wild horse species on the planet, named after Russian explorer Nikolai Przewalski who was the first to identify the horse for the European science community."

A close-up of a coronal mass ejection from the sun

Acknowledgements: I find a lot of these links myself, but I also get some from other newsletters that I rely on as "serendipity engines," such as The Morning News from Rosecrans Baldwin and Andrew Womack, Jodi Ettenberg's Curious About Everything, Dan Lewis's Now I Know, Robert Cottrell and Caroline Crampton's The Browser, Clive Thompson's Linkfest, Noah Brier and Colin Nagy's Why Is This Interesting, Maria Popova's The Marginalian, Sheehan Quirke AKA The Cultural Tutor, the Smithsonian magazine, and JSTOR Daily. If you come across something interesting that you think should be included here, please feel free to email me at mathew @ mathewingram dot com