Blurred Linens

Happy Annoy Squidward Day. Fun fact about the grumpy, clarinet-playing Krusty Krab cashier: The SpongeBob creator originally named him "Octoward," but scratched that because it was too awkward. It turns out zoology is not nearly as important as vibiness. To celebrate the day, you can utter his famous words: "I hate all of you."

In today's edition:

  • When pigs fly and AI flies jets...

  • Trump's first major challenger

  • A whipping ceremony?

🔑 Key Stories

Autopilot Jets Coming Soon?

US Department of Defense (DoD) research agency DARPA announced AI had successfully piloted an F-16 jet

  • DARPA develops advanced technologies for the military. It’s been researching AI and machine learning on jets since 2020, including on F-16s, a US jet

  • During a series of tests this December, AI successfully piloted an F-16 for 17+ hours. A human pilot was on board but did not control the plane

  • The test was part of 600+ current DoD projects exploring the use of AI in warfare, on which the DoD spent $2.6B last year. An Air Force spokesperson said it could start to develop AI-assisted jets by 2024

Dig Deeper

  • The short-term goal isn't to replace pilots, the Air Force spokesperson said, but rather to use AI to assist them in high-stress scenarios. DARPA claimed its recent tests prove that AI can fulfill that role

Mixed Inflation Report

In January, US inflation fell for the 7th straight month but stayed higher than many expected

  • The US annual inflation rate last month was 6.4%, i.e. prices were generally 6.4% higher this January than last. That’s down from 6.5% in December, but higher than what surveys showed economists expected

  • Prices rose by .5% from December to January, up from a .1% rise from November to December

  • Government data suggest rent prices grew by .7% last month, energy 2%, and food .5%. This may cause the Fed to raise interest rates more aggressively, which slows economic growth

Dig Deeper

  • The January rate is still much lower than last June, when inflation reached 9.1%, its highest rate since 1981. Many economists now agree that peak inflation has passed, although getting it down to the target rate of 2% may require more aggressive action

Louis Vuitton Taps Pharrell

Fashion brand Louis Vuitton (LV) announced that Pharrell Williams will become its head menswear designer

  • LV is the world’s #1 luxury brand by revenue

  • Pharrell is an artist and designer who rose to fame in the 1990s as part of hip-hop group the Neptunes. He’s sung or produced #1 hits “Happy,” “Blurred Lines,” and “Drop It Like Its Hot,” and has created fashion brands including Billionaire Boys Club

  • LV’s last menswear head was Virgil Abloh, one of the most influential people in fashion until he died at age 41 in 2021 following a private battle with cancer

Dig Deeper

  • LV called Pharrell a “visionary whose creative universes expand from music to art, and to fashion — establishing himself as a cultural global icon." Pharrell's first menswear line will debut this June in Paris

Air India Jumbo Deal

Indian airline Air India made the largest commercial plane order in history

  • Boeing projects that India — which may already be the most populous country and has one of the world’s fastest-growing economies — will become the fastest-growing airline market within 2 decades

  • Air India, owned by India’s government since 1953, became a private company last year. It currently has a 10% stake in the Indian market and only ~100 jets

  • On Tuesday, Air India confirmed it will buy 220 jets from the US’ Boeing and 250 jets from the EU’s Airbus, making it the largest plane purchase ever

Dig Deeper

  • Over the next 2 decades, Boeing estimates Indian airlines will need 2,000+ new jets to meet domestic demand among its 1.4B people and compete with other airlines for long-distance travel

The Pillow for Side Sleepers

Together with Marlow

An ideal sleeping position is on the side. Without the proper support, though, a good morning is not in the forecast.

  • The Marlow Pillow has an adjustable design that adapts to give side sleepers the support they need

  • It's made with a proprietary fill of memory foam and polyester fiber that uses NASA technology and a unique zippered design for easy adjustability, allowing users to find the exact loft profile that fits them

  • At the same time, cooling-infused memory foam and ventilated zipper gussets help create better airflow, regulating your body temperature so you stay cool during the night. Meanwhile, its antimicrobial shell repels unwelcomed guests like dust mites and bacteria

Dig Deeper

  • The pillow has been perfected over 8 years with repeated research, surveys, and prototypes. And to ensure satisfaction, it's also backed by Brooklinen's best-in-class customer service and a risk-free warranty. Plus, don’t miss their President's Day sale, from today until 2/23!

🍿 Popcorn


  • Shake off the... rust: After halting in 2021 due to the death of a crew member, Rust aims to resume production in the spring. Alec Baldwin, who faces charges of involuntary manslaughter, will return to star

  • And so it begins! Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley announced her bid for the White House in 2024, challenging her ex-boss Donald Trump

  • $5 footlong buyout? Subway is reportedly exploring a sale. The sandwich giant has over 37,000 stores and is expected to be valued in the ballpark of $10B


  • Sorry, not sorry: A German ballet company director refuses to apologize to a dance critic for smearing dog feces on his face for years of "annihilatory criticism"

  • Incognito Sam: Prosecutors raised alarm over Sam Bankman-Fried's use of a private VPN to watch the Super Bowl, arguing he could use it to visit illicit sites

  • Bad Grass RiRi: Rihanna's halftime performance may have exacerbated the slippery field conditions in the second half of the Super Bowl

👇 What do you think?

Today's Poll:

Do you believe a college education is necessary for success?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Today's Question:

What traits do you associate with people who live in your area?

Reply to this email with your answers!

See yesterday's results below the Wrap! 

🌯 Roca Wrap

Roca co-founder Max Frost and writer Alex Norris spent 2.5 weeks in Ethiopia last month. Frost will be writing about it here in the coming newsletters.

Before the whipping, there was the drinking.

Minutes before, we had driven off the road, down a short dirt path, and arrived at a thatched roof hut surrounded by a wooden fence on top of a hill. Outside the fence, dozens of women sat on the ground, drinking.

For the family that lived in a hut, today was a special day. It was their son’s coming of age, the day of his bull jumping ceremony – and maybe the most important day of his life. After this day, he was a man, and therefore eligible for marriage. For simplicity, I'll call him the groom throughout this.

The women were in skirts, shirts, and necklaces. They all had identical haircuts: Braids dipped in red clay that drooped over their heads. Soon, they were standing up, dancing and singing in a circle. Our guide told us that they were getting drunk in preparation for the whipping. Once the lead whipper arrived, the ceremony could begin.

Woman prepares for whipping

Hamer woman prepares for whipping

The lead whipper was the groom’s best friend. His job at the ceremony was to whip the groom’s female family members. The more whipping they withstood, the more it showed they cared about their son/cousin/brother/nephew, and the more pride the groom and his family would have.

After 45 minutes or so of waiting, everyone started moving to a clearing. In the distance, we saw the whipper – a 20ish-year-old man – approaching. Someone handed him a long branch, and the women started jumping up and down, beckoning him to whip them.

The lead whipper cracked the branch on the first woman’s back, then the crowd broke into a fury. All the men grabbed their own branches, and started whipping like crazy. The women jumped up and down, tugging on the men’s shirts and asking for more.

The tips of the branches were bendy, they weren’t like hard sticks, but they were clearly painful. It took a few minutes before we saw the first drops of blood.

For maybe 15 minutes, the whipping continued. When the men tired, the women literally pulled on them and begged for more. The men would sometimes scream at them to get away, but normally, they’d oblige with another smack on the back.

When it was over, the women’s backs were bleeding heavily. Yet they were all smiling, laughing. Our guide, a member of this tribe, the Hamer tribe, told us that one of the best things a Hamer woman can do is get scars from this practice, because it proves her loyalty to their family.

Woman with scarred back

A Hamer woman after the whipping

When the whipping ended, the crowd returned to the hut, where women had begun boiling coffee in large clay pots. They poured the coffee into wooden bowls, which the group passed around. Men walked around the group offering water bottles of homebrewed liquor.

Once everyone was buzzed, the group – maybe 100 people – walked for a mile or so, following a dirt path through a river and up a hill to a village that sat in a clearing. For the next hour or so, we waited as the men wrangled the bulls. Finally, they were lined up.

“7 bulls, he must be wealthy,” our guide said.

7 bulls were standing side-to-side, and everyone had formed a large circle around them. Just outside of the circle, the groom stripped off his clothes, and stood there butt naked, his hands covering his crotch.

Women watching

Women watching the Bull Jumping ceremony

When it was time, he entered the circle and sprinted toward the lineup of bulls. He jumped on the first, then ran across all 7, and hopped down on the other side.

His confidence up, he no longer bothered hiding his groin. He sprinted at the bulls again, jumped on one, and stepped across the rest before hopping down.

Then again: Sprinted at the bulls, jumped up, ran across.

Then again, back in the other direction, and again, one more time.

Man on bull

The man of the hour runs across the bulls

When all was said and done, he ran across the bulls 5 times. After that, according to tribal tradition, he could officially become a man.

Our guide told us that the Hamer men must do at least 4 runs across the bulls. After that, it’s a matter of showing off. Some people will run as many times as they can to impress their friends; others will just call it quits.

Boy watches with a gun

Hamer herder watches the ceremony

As soon as the running ended, the crowd dispersed and began making their way back to the hut. They had to celebrate the groom’s becoming a man, which meant a big feast and a long night of drinking ahead.

We met 2 men from the Hamer tribe who had left the village and moved to town, which is the closest one comes to exiting the tribe. Both did so to get an education, as their villages didn’t have schools.

While they each had taken up many aspects of modern life – internet, studying English, western clothes – they both said this ceremony was non-negotiable. If you want to be a Hamer man, you must jump the bulls. Neither had done so because they both had older brothers, and a younger brother isn’t allowed to jump until his older brothers have.

By the end of the ceremony, the sun had set and we set off. Not even the bull jumping would prepare us for what we saw next.

Two children standing

Hamer children watching the ceremony

If you have thoughts, let us know at [email protected]!

🌊 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

Do you believe in love at first sight?

Yes: 49%No: 51%

P.S. Thank you to all of you lucky lovebirds who shared your "love at first sight" success stories!

Yesterday's Question:

What are the most important qualities in a romantic partner?

Stefanie from California: “Openness (giving and receiving) is the quality I value most in a romantic partner. Having someone be open enough to share themselves with you is beautiful. Having someone who is open to receiving when you share of yourself is beautiful. If all your cards are on the table, you're playing the game of life as teammates not opponents. That's when the magic happens!”

Adam from Virginia: “Good communication, good communication, and good communication. “

Alex from Wisconsin: “Trust! Being able to trust your partner is definitely one of, if not the most important quality in a partner.”

🧠 Final Thoughts

It’s a beautiful February day here at Roca HQ. The sun is shining, the keyboards are clicking, and we’re just happy to be alive.

Hope you all have great days!

–Max and Max