Things we liked in 2023

Check out things we found interesting in 2023. From podcasts, recipes, books and more (the featured image above being the first thing: it’s the most recent infared photo of Uranus from Nasa. View more photos.)

Online reads and listens


Researchers develop AI model that uses satellite images to detect plastic in oceans

A good thing people are doing with AI (a nice change from worrying if it’s causing the downfall of humanity). Read more from

What Thoreau Heard in the Song of the Crickets

It’s a tale about how we work, and it has two parts. In the first, the crickets both announce the seasons and push them forward, each one foretelling what soon will come.

Read more from NYT.

It’s important to be nice to AI

Google DeepMind researchers recently developed a technique to improve math ability in AI language models like ChatGPT by using other AI models to improve prompting—the written instructions that tell the AI model what to do. It found that using human-style encouragement improved math skills dramatically, in line with earlier results.

Read more from ARS Technica.

The home of Solange Knowles

Explore the beauty of Solange’s Los Angeles loft, which she has had since she was 19 years old – and be prepared to have major interior design envy. Her loft blends textures and artworks seamlessly. The aesthetic is flawless.

A lot of the work that I have is in conversation with my mother, whether it be an artist that she’s introduced me to or work that we’ve seen together. It echoes what feels like home to me, childhood memories, or reflections of my own journey. There’s a Robert Pruitt work that’s sacred to me. He’s from Houston, and the men and women in his work are the kinds of men and women I recognise from my own life.

Read the feature from Apartamento.


Kindness in the news

Steve Hartman shares heartwarming stories throughout the year, but now has a weekly (Monday) segment on CBS Mornings where he and his kids follow up with some of the people from those stories years later. Sometimes we need a reminder there are still kind people out there. Watch the segment on Paramount+.


What most people get wrong about wealth, fame and happiness

We also talk about why so many successful people are miserable, why great ideas don’t scale, the difference between happiness and contentment, the wisdom of a Snickers bar, the downsides of fully optimized culture, and how to write.

Listen here.
Illustration via 99designs

How to Be Happy, Reverse Bucket Lists, The Four False Idols, Muscular Philosophies, Practical Inoculation Against the Darkness, and More

“1 episode, not the entire podcast channel. Life and the SCIENCE of Happiness. I’ve listened to this at least 3 times.” – Rod. Listen to the podcast here.

SEO stuff

Deep Reading

Really interesting discussion about how we consume information shapes our brain.

Skimming is a defense mechanism – in Wolfe’s view, our era of information overload represents a historical inflection point where our ability to read — truly, deeply read, not just scan or scroll — hangs in the balance.

Read and listen from NYT.

A case against SEOs

This article dives into the world of SEO, questioning its impact on Google results. Are clickbait-wielding SEO experts the culprits behind the infodemic, or does Google’s profit motive play a part? It’s a tangled web where both players shape our online reality, raising concerns about the future of accurate information. In short: Is SEO manipulating us, or is Google just playing the algorithm game? Read more from The Verge.

Internal Google algorithm documents come to light at antitrust trial

Recent findings from a legal proceeding have shed light on the intricacies of Google’s search algorithms, highlighting how heavy they rely on content relevance, the importance of external links, and the analysis of user behavior data to determine search result rankings.

Google’s approach simulates document comprehension by valuing user reactions – creating a feedback loop that informs search engine rankings. This revelation is a call to action for marketers to craft not only informative content but also interactive and engaging user experiences, which are instrumental in influencing search visibility.

Google’s internal documents state:

  • They don’t fully understand documents but infers quality from user interactions.
    • “Today, our ability to understand documents directly is minimal. So we watch how people react to documents and memorize their responses.”
  • Positive reactions from users to a document are taken as a sign of good quality.
  • The search engine operates by induction, learning from past user responses to optimize future search results.

Read the full article.

Emma Thompson Is Right: The Word ‘Content’ Is Rude

To hear people talk about ‘content’ makes me feel like the stuffing inside a sofa cushion.

Read more from the NYT.

Taking care of ourselves

Insight Timer

Great for Breaks: Meditation, Mindfulness, Background Noise, Breath-work, Yoga/Stretching. Learn more about Insight Timer.

There’s something off about LED bulbs — which will soon be, thanks to a federal ban, the only kind you can buy.

There’s something off about LED light…

I started to confide in people that I was seeing things, that the light was wrong, and usually they knew exactly what I was talking about. Over lunch, a friend unspooled an epic account of his quest for dimmable bulbs that would actually dim. A stranger in a shared taxi forwarded me a blog post he’d written about his conviction that the color of objects lit by LEDs was washed out and about his incredulity at how fast they failed.

Keep reading about terrible lighting on NYmag.

Quick meditation

The New York Times has created an interactive meditation guide that is centered around nature and includes meditation tips from experts. Explore the interactive tool.

4-day work week

This year we started a 4-day work week trial that has stuck. With an extra day off, members of the Pilot team have been spending time with family, taking care of home tasks, doing art, reading more and overall just enjoying having an extra day to relax. Read more about our 4-day work week.

Books we enjoyed

Parable of the Sower

Afrofuturistic Sci-fi set in the 2020s. “Parable of the Sower” by Octavia Butler is more than just a cautionary tale; it’s an exploration of resilience, faith, and the transformative power of community. Be prepared to be challenged, moved, and left pondering the questions: What would we do to survive? And what would we choose to believe in, even in the darkest of times? Learn more about the book.

Four Thousand Weeks

Oliver Burkeman’s “Four Thousand Weeks” throws a philosophical grenade at the productivity obsession, urging us to ditch the myth of conquering time and embrace our human limitations. In a sea of “get-things-done” guides, this book is a refreshing wave of “let-go-and-be-present.” Learn more about the book.

The Land of Uncertainty

Hatiye Garip’s artwork often features fragmented imagery and abstract shapes, breaking away from traditional storytelling methods. This unconventional approach creates an open-ended and subjective experience for the reader. Instead of being provided with a clear and strict narrative, readers are invited to actively participate in the interpretation of the artwork’s meaning and symbolism.

With raised spot gloss and an audio bundle, The Land of Uncertainty is paving the way for publications that attend to the needs of blind and low-vision folk.

Learn more about the unconventional comic book.

Devil House

Royalty rumors clash with real murder as a washed-up true crime writer dives into the “Devil House” case, only to unearth buried truths about himself and his own work. Bobby on our team says it was a pretty great book by John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats. He’s an intricate writer, so this was a fun read. Read more from Goodreads.

Food we liked

Eating in

Famous black bean chili

This recipe has been passed around Pilot for years – it should be added to the employee handbook. Could be vegan with non-meat hamburger and would likely be pretty good! The key is to let it simmer for at least a few hours. Get the recipe.

Black and white cookies

Easy and delish cookie recipe for any holiday or occasion. Get the recipe.

Chocolate chip pumpkin bread

A great fall-staple to share with friends, family and your office. Michaylah, on our team, has made it a few times this year already. Get the recipe.

Pecan pie brownies

Tyler on the web team made these brownies for Thanksgiving and said they are delish! Get the recipe.

Spicy white bean stew

This soup has been a go-to for Alex and Alyssa and I this fall/winter. They tend to switch out the Broccoli Rabe for Kale and say it’s just so warming and delicious! Get the recipe.

Namken Nutrition

If you’re trying to eat healthier next year, consider exploring Namken. It’s affordable and better yet, tastes delicious. They make healthy snickers bites, that are amazing. Learn more about Namken.

Eating out on the town


“Amazing Polish restaurant in Logan Square/Avondale area. I believe it had a Michelin star at some point. Food’s great, service is on point, and prices are very reasonable.” – Victor Visit Staropolska.

Warlord Chicago

“New restaurant that debuted in 2023 in the Avondale neighborhood. High-end wood-fired food until 1AM. Menu changes day to day. Great stuff.” – Bobby Learn more about Warlord.

Staying caffeinated

Purity Coffee

Purity improves people’s health through coffee by using clean production methods and sustainable souring.

We continue to research and lab test for particular bioactive compounds in our coffees, which scientists believe provide antioxidant support and anti-inflammatory activity for overall good health. However, one thing we do understand is that healthy, organic specialty coffees, roasted mindfully to maintain the most valuable compounds, in their entire combinations of compounds are more powerful than selected, extracted components.

Explore more about Purity Coffee and their products.

Local businesses we supported

U of I Ice Arena

“I’ve been taking up ice skating as a form of exercise this winter with the intent on playing rec hockey. There’s been talk of our local ice rink closing, and i’m really hoping that it doesn’t. It’s a great resource for the community…so fingers crossed it stays open.” – Alex. Visit the rink.

Urban Pooch doggie daycare

The Pilot Mascot, Mr. Sandwiches, enjoys attending daycare at Urban Pooch. There are a lot of other friendly dogs there and lots of yummy treats. Learn more about Urban Pooch (Also, they are our Ravenswood neighbors!).

Numero Group

“I’ve been a fan of this label for a few years. They are an archival label whose mission is to reissue rare records that are really good but didn’t get too much attention at the time they were released for whatever reason. They have an outstanding catalogue in a broad range of genres and also some amazingly curated Spotify playlists on their profile. Their store is located in Little Village/Pilsen area.” – Victor. Learn more about Numero Group.

Emporium in Logan Square

Fun arcade bar that can test your competitive edge. Emporium is a laid-back spot to spend some time with friends and have a good time. Visit Emporium.

Posted in News