Thursday, 31 March 2016

swan song or pangloss

As classical and liturgical music has done a good job of preserving Latin—and how antique sounding constructs are fossilised in Christmas carols, some ethnographically-minded composers are doing what they know best in order to try to help save some snatches of the estimated three-thousand languages that are threatened the vanish or become moribund over the next century.
The New York Times has fascinating coverage of this global collaboration, which does not aim to set obscure and unintelligible speech to music necessarily but rather transform them into music. Sadly, many of the resulting compositions are dirges as the quarry and quiver available to linguists is limited and the world is a bit poorer for the loss of the last native speakers of Bawm, Karaim, Chamling, Faroese, Istriot or Manx. Languages have always been subject to extinction but a few dominant languages and mass communication have accelerated the process and lingual diversity has probably never been so meagre since before the Tower of Babel. Some creative minds, nonetheless, are employing interesting and hopeful strategies to promote learning, curiosity and perhaps conservancy. The European Day of Languages (all two hundred twenty-five of them), promoting plurilingualist, is observed on 26 September and UNESCO celebrates International Mother Language Day on 21 February but any day is a good day to safeguard a rarity by any means at one’s disposal.


Curator extraordinaire Messy Nessy Chic treats us to a fine tour of all the varied iterations of the Ouija board—exquisite for their vintage designs and typography and use of symbolism.
Our guide also delivers a quick and comprehensive primer on sรฉances using this medium that dates as far back as Ancient Greek times, experiencing several spikes in interest over the ages and the understood science behind idiomotion—those involuntary little twitches that are telescoped to answer one’s own questions. The gallery of images is really fascinating, and whatever one’s thoughts on the subject, is sure to dazzle and captivate—just don’t neglect to scroll all the way through and say Goodbye.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016


Ahead of its planned field-trips on its founding day (we all ought to arrange our own outings as well to showcase the places for which we could be expert tour-guides), Atlas Obscura features a bitter-sweet, maudlin memorial to the struggles and triumphs of the gay community with a locus in the Congressional Cemetery securing of its own special corner.
Dishonourably discharged from the US armed forces for being a homosexual (against the advice of the court-appointed psychologist), Vietnam veteran Leonard Matlovich, sadly in anticipation of his imminent demise from AIDS related complications, devoted himself to making a statement for the ages. Within view of the resting place of self-loathing J Edgar Hoover, whose witch-hunts perpetuated discriminatory practises, and his suspected lover, Matlovich purchased a pair of plots and designed his nameless headstone, to be etched for the silent and anonymous sufferers whom had to hide their love away. Since his funeral, Matlovich has been joined by many others in repose and symbolically in victory as well, with several military same-sex weddings, legal and wholly vetted, held before Matlovich’s grave.


Though the referendum held in Scotland on whether to split from the United Kingdom did not pass, with the discussion and debate of the coming plebiscite over the BREXIT question, the country may be getting another chance to weigh memberships. The Scots enjoyed their independence (though under a shared monarch) three centuries ago but the union was rather coerced under duress when Scotland needed to be bailed out and presents an allegory, I think, for the current economic and political environment.
Wanting to stake their claim on the world’s stage (another possible case of imperial envy though the Scots treated the natives of their colony fairly well, relatively), some entrepreneurs secured a royal charter to establish an outpost in the South Pacific—New Caledonia, after the Roman name for the lands north of their province Britannia (the wilds beyond Hadrian’s Wall were also known as Pictavia). Financially, the venture was not very successful to begin with—with sandalwood being the only unique commodity and many investors went bankrupt over the ambitious scheme. To compound matters, the English refused trade with the Scottish colony and economic cooperation back home—even kidnapping New Caledonia’s native labour-force to work the more profitable sugar-cane plantations in Australia and Fiji—until Scotland said uncle and agreed to re-join the UK. To re-coup some of the losses, Scotland sold New Caledonia to the French Empire where it remains to this day. How do you think this might apply to the EU?

overstock or my name is hunt hunter

Via the always interesting Super Punch, a venerable ceramics kiln in the Saga Prefecture is inviting the curious and adventurous to tour their facility before being unleashed on a treasure hunt in their vast warehouse. Producing porcelain since 1865, no one really has an accurate inventory of the factory seconds or discontinued lines—stock that went unsold for one reason or another.
For a small fee, visitors are given a torch, gloves and a basket for a ninety-minute’s scavenge and allowed to keep whatever they can fit in the basket. It’s a good and fun way to clear out the bargain-basement, and reminds me of the time I went to a sprawling flea-market in the town of Selb with table after table of tiles and porcelain objects made in the local factory—and I’m very happy that Flohmarkt season is coming around again.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

aliolio oder orange is the new black

I had to wonder about the fancy, pulpy but paper and disposable napkins that dressed our table the other day. Alliums Dream it read, which I interpreted as garlic in Latin—close but more in the direction of shallots or leeks and had to retract my answer, though one could still fairly wonder why even in a restaurant (and taxonomically vindicated), one would be wished oniony dreams.
Champagne wishes and caviar dreams, perhaps.  I had to wonder at the coincidence of receiving a sturdy mug as a gift that was patterned with little constellations of the same horticultural bulb florets the following day. There is quite a lot going on with what we would refer to as tubers, much more interested in what is going on underground and conveniently out of sight.  H replied that maybe that was the new fashion-flower of the year. Maybe poke-salad is next.

sir top of notch

Nag on the Lake as always has a wealth of interesting and intriguing posts to pore over and often it’s hard to settle on one—of course, you, gentle readers do not need to settle for just one article—but this item about a concept car that was to be the final word in automotive safety struck me especially as bearing further investigation. 
The unique chassis of the Sir Vival has a cyclopean turret for the driver above the passenger cabin and had segmented front-wheel drive motor (sort of like the Enterprise being able to separate the saucer section from the warp-core) and a host of other ingenious safety features. In an age where we’ve drifted away from these retro-futuristic visions and are moving towards vehicles that are self-driving but are non-starters without a strong WiFi connection and would never suffer a tinkerer or any non-authorised repairs as that would violate the terms of the lease, I hope enough jalopies are preserved for our post-Apocalyptic steeple-chases—as these newest models would not fare very well, I think.

great seal

Happening to revisit an article that celebrated the ban of the Confederate States flag as a symbol of hate by lampooning all of America’s state banners as derivative and perhaps designed by those not well-versed in the rules of vexillology, I had to pause over the emblem of South Carolina: I had seen the palm—palmetto tree, with crescent moon on the bumpers of a few co-workers and in the parking-lot and had always assumed that it was a symbol of solidarity of those who had been deployed to a certain forward-operating base in the Middle East, a unit badge and not any home-town patriotism. I would sing to myself, “Midnight at the Oasis—put your camel to bed.”
It turns out that this flag—which is an outlier being within the rules of simplicity and proportion where most flag-makers, either with only scant history to draw on or uninterested in aboriginal traditions, belted out what they could as eager members of the coalescing federation. Surely I’d seen this banner, along with all the others, on display in the parade-grounds but it struck me as something wholly new.
South Carolina’s flag directly recalls the battle-garb of the rebel militia with the crescent charge and the palmetto trunks that defend the fortifications against British assaults during America’s revolutionary war, instead of invoking the colours of the constituents of Yugoslavia or other desperate campaigners of inclusion and splitting the difference. Michigan’s motto is basically “if you lived here you’d be home by now,” in Latin.  Surely having a distinctive symbol is a requirement for membership, but it does seem as if some ran out of ideas and were under pressure of a deadline to throw together something.  One has to wonder what barriers to ascension that later territories had to face.

Monday, 28 March 2016

moral turpitude and misheard lyrics

This news flash from Dave Log 3.0 reminds me of that rather earth-shattering revelation that there was never a family of Berenstein Bears: that little, obnoxious ditty that Pebbles Flintstone and Bam-Bam Rubble performed in one episode wasn’t the catchy lullaby we remember.
I always thought it went “winners never lose and losers never win” and would hum that to myself, but it’s rather a creepy, anachronistic admonishment for cavemen toddlers to keep smiling, lest Satan take your souls. Not that vacuuming the house with a baby mastodon makes much sense under scrutiny, but now this song rests as really something disconcerting and jarring. I think Betty and Wilma had to witness their children grow up to be delinquents all the same.

amenities oder unterkunft

Over the weekend, H and I got a chance to dine at the oldest guesthouse in the storied and venerable city of Leipzig. 
The institution that eventually became famous, as widely known as Leipzig’s other famous restaurant Auerbachs Keller or the Hofbrรคuhaus of Mรผnchen, as Thรผringer Hof came into existence in the early fifteenth century as the urban estate of the rector of the University of Leipzig (a Freihaus as such in town residences are called was exempt from city tax although it was afforded the protection of the city wall) who in 1466, realised that there was a significant market gap when it came to feeding and sheltering students—especially until they were sponsored by fraternal societies.
The rector opened up a corner of his home as a public-house—doing a brisk business for over six centuries, with just a few interruptions.

Multiple dining halls could accommodate some twelve hundred guests and the establishment was known to the likes of Martin Luther, Bach, whose home-church and choir are just around the corner (along with another less famed watering-hole, but I liked the name, nonetheless) and Richard Wagner.

hot cross-buns or imitation is the greatest form of flattery

The good doctor and faithful chronicler remind us on this Easter Monday of other ancient rites of Spring—though the mourning and fast seems transposed to the high summer months of Sumer with the solstice rather than the equinox, and it’s always dicey having truck with the elder gods since there’s not the same level of scholarship and sometimes parallels are forced (or our bias looks to distance them). In any case, there was a prolonged funeral service held every year just as the daylight started to wane a bit more than it had the day prior, and during this time is was in keeping for the mourners to make the sign of a “t” across their chests and eat little cakes stamped with a “t” for the departed but soon to return of shepherd-god Tammuz (Dumuzid), loyal consort of fertility goddess Inanna (Istar, to whom eggs and bunnies were sacred). Accounts become conflated but some hold that Tammuz (still the name of the month of July in some Arabic languages some four millennia later) died whilst defending his flock from a marauding boar.
Other mythological traditions support this trope, including the enchantress Circe turning hapless men into swine, the battle-boars of the Norse gods and the jealous god Ares (Mars) transforming himself into one to kill Adonis. Inanna threatens to make the world an infertile wasteland, unless Tammuz is returned to her. Another version offers that Tammuz dies at his own volition in order to harrow the Underworld, as for reasons only known to the goddess, she popped in to check in on the vanquished Bull of Heaven (done in by Gilgamesh and his partner in crime, Enkidu in an earlier episode) and managed to get herself stuck there. Tammuz and his lady-love only manage a compromised ransom, however, and Tammuz spends half a year imprisoned to be releaved by Inanna to serve out the rest of the annual sentence, an unsatisfactory arrangement like that movie Ladyhawke. Maybe a year without Winter (or without Summer) reunites them.

Sunday, 27 March 2016


Atlas Obscura has an interesting feature on the antiquated though not wholly forgotten and not wholly exclusive homosexual canting dialect called polari—from the Italian to chatter.
Camp as camp is, that’s one of the core vocabulary derived from polari (so too fruity), along flair for the theatric with ajax for near by, naff for drab and plain, troll, and zhoosh to smarten-up, it was once used as code for when the practise was considered illegal among polite company and was part of the steerage for men in the merchant-marines and waiters on cruise-lines. The parlance fell out of favour once it started to be parodied on a popular BBC production in the 1970s and became main-stream, as it were, but polari has seen a revival—with some endearing terms lasting all this time, with latter-day glam rock and specifically the final album from David Bowie.

beautiful briny

Over the weekend, H and I returned to the old gas-works of Leipzig that's been converted in a holodeck of sorts called the Panometer, which is a favourite venue for the artist and activist Yadegar Asisi.
This time, we dove, were im- mersed in the world of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, lead to the panoramic viewing-gallery with an informative display addressing the biodiversity housed in these coral shoals of the fragility of this treasured ecosystem. 
The exhibit (click on the pictures to enlarge) was informative without being gloomy, of course.
I think the most humbling and provocative aspect of it all, however, was how being in such a huge space made bigger by the stagecraft of the flats really gave one the feeling of venturing there and an idea of the macrocosm and microcosm in details that were highlighted while trying to take it all in and still asserting one’s presence without being lost in the moment.

may easter joys attend you

Saturday, 26 March 2016

pneumatic danube

The much vaunted hyper-loop looks like it have its ground-breaking ceremony soon, but not shuttling passengers between Los Angeles and San Francisco, in California as originally envisioned, but on a circuit along the Danube (Donau) from Koลกice to Bratislava, Slovakia, to Vienna (Wien) and on to Budapest, Hungary. Driving, the journey would take around eight hours, but passengers aboard the hyper-loop trains would complete this route in just under an hour. That would be a pretty keen way to explore the region and be home again in the evening.

Friday, 25 March 2016

chicken of the sea

There is a species of gecko (Uroplatus phantasticus) native to Madagascar that has the common name of the “Baweng satanic leaf gecko.” Not only does its tail bear an uncanny resemblance to dropped foliage, so too does its whole body when not in motion.
The trade name was given to the lizard by enterprises that imported these unusual specimens from the island off the the south-eastern African coast to make them sound even more exotic as pets. Aside from sea-monkeys, I can’t think of an another incident where animals were reflagged by the pet-market, though I can come up with several times that animals destined for consumption were given fancier culinary brand-names. Not to fault responsible human caretakers whom did not create such a market to begin with, our duty to conserve natural habitats is all the more urgent so such fantastical creatures can thrive in the wild as well, and the ones who look like cigarette butts or fast-food wrappers don’t gain the advantage.

small wonder

In less than twenty-four hours after unleashing an artificially-intelligent chatbot into the wild, Tay’s handlers were quickly compelled to delete her social-media tracks and essentially ground the programme that’s supposed to emulate a teenage girl and was an experiment to enhance those automated customer-service trees that big corporations are wont to chase us up.
Equipped with the common-parlance of Millennials and at least a rudimentary sense of self- preservation (if not self- promotion), it is unclear—to me at least—whether Tay was assaulted en masse by every single troll on the internet and fought back in kind or whether studying the internet, Tay came up with her own provocations, calculated to draw maximum attention—with optimised offense. I feel it’s equally bad if exposure to an overwhelming human-traffic was so corrupting or the programming was faulty to begin with, but Tay progressed from innocent and rather saccharine to raunchy, vulgar and violent in practically no time at all—spouting off several choice rants that surpass what even the most polemic politicians and avid-commentators are capable of. I wonder if Tay was sat in a corner and given a chance to think about what she had said, or whether like her trail of hate, she was deleted as well. At this juncture, it might be hard to argue that Tay was conscious, but if self-aware teenage moderators ever come into existence, I do not think we can just start switching them off for repeating what their parents say or for holding the wrong opinions. What do you think?

digital colonialism

Via Superpunch, we learn about the unintended consequences of walled-gardens and the democratic outreach of the internet to places that have the infrastructure but not the monetary means to join the broader online community.
Magnanimously, some social media sites and one public resource have granted Angola (a former Portuguese colony and a place bigger than western Europe but does not seem to register much)—as they have done for other places in the developing world, access to a tier of web pages and applications at no cost to subscribers’ data-plans. Some would argue that this underprivileged glimpse askance of the open internet is not more beneficial than none at all, saying either you have to play by our rules or giving the disadvantaged a manipulative taste that builds brand loyalty.  In order to use the internet as it was intended, pirates in these places have transformed the network into secret coves and hidden harbours to distribute movies, music and television programmes—much to the concern and frustration of those that have extended these free but closed services, which can be mistook as the internet itself.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

superposition or quantum of solace

Researchers in Finland may have just triggered a breakthrough in quantum-computing by harnessing  entanglement, the counter-intuitive phenomenon when pairs of atoms or photons become linked and even when separated by light-years act as one unit, a change to one instantaneously imparted to the other (the origin of the sceptical phrase “action at a distance”). As long as the pairs remain bonded, the entangled system can perform all possible permutations that that particular matrix can investigate at once, as opposed to the sequential fashion that traditional computers use—which is always finite no matter how much computational power is in the circuits.
Access to every solution simultaneously would of course be a boon and bane one and the same, since encryption would wither immediately and though perfectly predictive modelling would be possible, I would imagine that things could escalate very quickly. We’ve been spared or denied these consequences so far (so called quantum-computers aren’t really quantum-computers) because, thanks to the Heisenberg principle of uncertainty, these systems fall apart when one measures them. Nothing says that atoms or photons have to be binary—either a zero or a one, however, and could have a whole spectrum of energy levels. And like the non-sequential approach to problem-solving that quantum computers could essay, particles can also skip gears (as it were, shifting from reverse to fourth-gear without going through the intervening stages) and receiving the output by this method does not cause the entangled system to collapse.


Via Laughing Squid comes an interesting segment showing the evolution of the New Yorker magazine mascot, Eustace Tilley. His profile has graced the publication since its first printing but has changed many times over the decades, the original caricature appearing on the cover generally on the magazine’s anniversary. The raffish figure with a top hat and monocle was inspired by the mid-nineteenth century international man of fashion and social butterfly Alfred Grimod d’Orsay, the comte d’Orsay.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016


This outstanding tubular concept dwelling, first proposed and subsequently dropped by investors back in 2013, may now have a new lease on life after glass and solar panel manufacturers expressed interest in Aibek Almassov’s designs.
I don’t know what the terrain is like in rural Kazakhstan but I would imagine that such retreats in the woods are the bailiwicks of the wealthy and privileged however much forested land was available. I do like the idea that the support column is a living tree that one lives with but not sold on the idea that such arrangements could have a small, hidden footprint on the environment with all the other things people need in their range, like roadways and plumbing at minimum. I suppose, however, such roosts could be logistically supported by delivery drones and be designed to self-sufficient and sustaining. If we could have such a leap-frogging lifestyle, that would be a pretty keen thing indeed.

brigadoon or memory and function (and memory)

All of Collectors’ Weekly show-and-tell sessions are highly recommended reading but I am really intrigued by this new take on nostalgia with a visit to the dystopian town of Scarfolk condemned to cycle forever through the decade of the 1970s, accompanied by council chair himself, Richard Littler.
With a truly twisted but inspired imagination, Littler has crafted endless ephemera and paraphernalia that could pass as authentic vintage posters and pamphlets, drawing on faded memories of growing up. Not that the artist had a traumatic childhood under the cynical, totalitarian regime he showcases, Littler, like us all, is able to distil those odd, incongruous moments—like the very special episodes when parental-guidance was suggested or the peculiar repertory of songs we sang in elementary school music class: Don Gato to be followed by a little number called If I had a Hammer—calling the practise proto-hauntology. Visit Collectors’ Weekly for the full interview and a curated gallery of Scarfolk’s artefacts.


Some with the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council might be smarting over its decision to ask the internet to choose the name for its newest research vessel that will ply the Arctic seas and was expected to christened after a great explorer or naturalist. Instead with due ceremony in the finest naval tradition, Boaty McBoatface will be launched on its maiden voyage in 2019. I heard this on Radio 4 yesterday, but Boing Boing had the scoop and ran with it. One of the Happy Mutants was advertising a product from its emporium under a similar moniker, and I thought to myself, “you had me at McBoingface,” not yet knowing the reference.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

We wholeheartedly agree with Belgium’s reaction to this assault, as this further attempt at destructive social-engineering—baiting the innocent and peaceful with yet more aspersions as it’s exactly what the Cosplay Caliphate is hoping to engender. Sewing distrust and fear only promotes their cause by backing those who fled that way of life and outlook into a corner, and those who recruited a handful of listless losers to do their bidding did so that we as hosts could no longer discriminate and assault those migrants living among us and block the escape-routes of those who have no share in this and are themselves terrorised. Our thoughts and prayers are with the suffering, but this, as the corridors of power of the European Union, is an affront to us all. “French-fries” are of course Belgian cuisine become a contribution to the entire world.


Via the always brilliant Nag on the Lake comes happy and hopeful news that a design student named Ari Jรณnsson of the Reykjavik Academy of the Arts has made a prototype, fully biodegradable plastic container out of powdered algae, an agar-like binding material that allows the vessel to keep its shape while holding something—like a full water bottle—but quickly decomposes once empty. While we’ve gotten somewhat better about recycling, more than half of all plastic packaging is used once then tossed and becomes an unwelcome and eternal addition to the environment. Read the full article at Dezeen magazine for more brainstorming and innovative solutions to problems both wee and seemingly overwhelming.

ohrwurm oder he do the song about the knife

Making the rounds in cyber-space and probably a subject already familiar to you all, the realisation that the Dire Straits number “Walk of Life” can foster a happy-end out of any exposition is one of those perennial re-discoveries that I absolutely treasure.
Regardless of whether it always holds (the exception makes the rule) and whether it’s appropriate as we tend to go very dark by making light, it is another one of those sandbox moments, like the jaunty Yakety-Sax theme or the Tetris song. When I was in elementary school, I remember our PE teacher choreographing a complicated dance routine that we’d all be nancing around and having fun for to that tune and “Centerfield” from John Fogerty (Put me in Coach—I’m ready to play) and a medley other other songs. Maybe Miss Boozer wanted us all to be background dancers, and I think was a nice wish. Too few films, I think, end on an upbeat and ironic note—and I think that maybe “When the Going Gets Tough (The Tough Get Going)” from The Jewel of the Nile by Billy Ocean might be another suitable candidate, rather than opting for an orchestral bombast. Maybe it ought to be made an honour to be part of a soundtrack again, like for James Bond openers. What songs would you recommend for this treatment?

Monday, 21 March 2016

grotesque or come out of the garden, baby, you'll catch your death in the fall

Growing up, I remember how my parents hung frightening Hieronymus Bosch miniatures in the living room. Far from finding it tortuous, abusive or nightmare-inducing, however, I always found myself fascinated with the detail of the little creatures and enjoyed making up stories about them.
I was excited to learn about this immersive exhibition, sponsored by Google’s Cultural Institute, not on Bosch himself but rather on one of the visionary artist’s important influences, Pieter Bruegel the Elder. This panorama, buffeted by the latest that virtual-reality technology can deliver, pulls one into the canvas of the 1562 Flemish masterpiece “The Fall of the Rebel Angels,” and makes the observer witness to archangel Michael’s expulsion of Lucifer, and that transfixing, psychedelic fall from grace from a privileged point of view. If you happen to visit the Belgian Royal Museums of Fine Arts, please let us know what it was like. Further, I was unaware of the internet giant’s artistic initiatives and would like to learn more about their projects as well.

contrast and harmony

Via Public Domain Review and John Ptak’s Science Bookstore, comes the beautiful, modernist colour analysis charts of รฆsthetic maven Ms Emily Noyes Vanderpoel (1902), whose pixelated palettes look like something in between the works of artist Piet Mondriaan and Pong or Tetris tiles. From mummy-wrappings to butterfly wings, Vanderpoel’s plates stir the viewer’s imagination for composition and compliment. Pursue a gallery of dozens of deconstructed illustrations at the links at the top.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

significant digits or the life of pi

Sadly, we missed out on enshrining the day reserved on the calendar for the appreciation of Pi some how this year, but ought push out some belated returns, thanks to this investigation prompted by the never-forgetful Kottke.
While modern computing can deliver ฮ  calculated out to some thirteen trillion decimal places, in search of patterns in the chaos, space agencies only have needed to use a value of the ration calculated out to about fifteen—fewer than the numbers one can count on this pencil if you magnify the image, to send out all our emissaries over billions of kilometers. One might wonder if rocketeers loose fidelity with that level of precision, but it turns out that rounding the value to fifteen decimal places, but if the distance Voyager I is from Earth is the radius of a circle with a circumference of over a hundred billion kilometers, yields a circle that’s only off by a few centimeters difference. The Universe is unimaginably vast and exceedingly small, yet scientist pronounce that to describe a circle that would envelop it all, we would only need about twenty-five more additional decimal places to calculate out a circumference of billions of light-years where there would be less than one hydrogen atom’s breadth between that pi and the pi out to the nth decimal. That’s amazing and I wonder what it means that we can push so far out with numbers to the point where it seems meaning and relevance fall away.

constitutional conventions or prairie home companion

A bit like the decision of Illinois to make its official language American, which requires I think a bit more than cursory curiosity to get to the bottom of it, the territory of Minnesota, when the US Congress through its enabling acts, invited voters to join the union in 1857, factious fighting in the corridors of power in Saint Paul kept resulting in a gridlock and the failure of the new government to produce a state constitution. Facing this impasse to accession against the will of all constituencies, two constitutions were drafted, one that the Republicans found acceptable and one palatable for the Democrats of the territorial government.
Aside from being transcribed on plain white paper and blue tinged stationary respectively and differences in grammar and syntax (neither party would relent to the other’s victory but the antagonism had no real substance to it), both of these documents upheld the letter of the law in essentially the same way and both documents were submitted to Washington, concluding the convention. Despite the fact there was no difference between Republican and Democrat editions and I think that Minnesota’s founders never intended the members of one political party to be subject to a different prevailing policy to those on the other side of the aisle, it does not seem like a very good precedence in any terms. I wonder if the oddity is still on the books, or if eventually, one or the other parties conceded. I realise that there are other versions of America’s national constitution out there—with transcription errata, like editions of the Bible with damning typos—but without a definitive copy, what would it mean to make amends?

Saturday, 19 March 2016


A shrub called the Butcher’s Broom (Ruscus aculeatus oder Stechende Mรคusedorn) has a very wide range spanning from Iran to the Meditteranean and a venerable history in traditional medicine, as the Presurfer informs.
Also called Kneeholm as it’s knee-high in the garden, one could be forgiven for overlooking this common and ornamental evergreen which seems less colourful than other holly bushes but it has an interesting adaptation that, like cactuses, called phylloclades that are essentially flattened stems that appear and function as leaves, and of all the trees that are in the wood, this holly bears its flowers and berries directly on the leaf. Part of the large asparagus family, its fresh shoots can be gathered and eaten the same way.

green fairy, ruby slippers

Nag on the Lake beckons to us to join her on the hunt for Italy’s answer to absinthe served up in a ruby red concoction called Tamango by a mysterious bar in Turin of the same name.
Just as one has to have reverence and respect for the Green Fairy, one also has to drink this signature cocktail very gingerly or face hallucinatory consequences. The travelogue is fraught with rather terrifying tales of patrons who failed to choose wisely. These poor souls could not straightaway click their heels together to go home. Cin cin!—but an abundance of caution is advised.

Friday, 18 March 2016

super nintendo chalmers

Though Ralph Wiggum may have had professional aspirations to be either a caterpillar or a principal when he grows up, some—nay, all—of the prodigy’s one-liners make are suitable and believable stump-speeches for a higher office. Dangerous Minds graces us with the collected quotations from one cartoon character put into the mouth of another.

insignia or fossil-fuelled

The Atlantic science correspondent Ed Yong unearths the intriguing stories behind the forty-three of the fifty American states that have designated a State Fossil, including polities where the subject of evolution is contentious and not to be mentioned in polite company, via Neatorama.
While most choose to enshrine a dinosaur whose fossil specimen was discovered locally, others were more esoteric in their selection—going for petrified tree bark or other mega fauna, a giant ground sloth and several states going for mammoths or mysteriously (for Connecticut) a track of footprint impressions left a couple hundred million years ago by an unknown hunter. I wonder if this this same dicey and political process is repeated for other national symbols.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

stochastic engineering

The ever stimulating Kottke directs our attention to a nifty widget that simulates complex systems with representative emojis that you populate your environment with and add protocols about how they interact and then the resulting models can provide forecasts for things like weather-patterns, wildfires, predation or epidemics—or for whatever scenario you can imagine rules for. This experiment, which examines the stability and sustainability of environments, reveals our weaknesses and fallacies when it comes to complicated and contingent reactions. This tool reminds me of that Microsoft Windows Game of Life, which simulated evolution with pixels forming larger, more complex shapes and gaining locomotion by a few simple rules.

vine-ripened or food for thought

I was remiss in not mentioning the contribution and suggested subject of a reader until weeks afterward, as the subject of food waste and the broader implications of nutritional policy and food-security are coming under scrutiny and have become major talking points in the news. The infographic and article at the link is an in depth but an accessible and circumspect look at the different arenas of food waste that may not occur to one as having knock-on effects beyond wonky fruits and vegetables or faulting green-grocers for tossing out edible food rather than sharing it with the needy (the statistics focus on the UK but surely it’s global in applicability and consequence).
Markets and restaurants, in fact, have been quite forthcoming in redistributing foodstuffs, though there’s always room for improvement and sometimes it is easier and cheaper to dispose of or repurpose ingredients in situ rather than delivering it to a foodbank. Household consumers are big contributors in terms food being thrown away but that’s in part due to promotions that encourage people to buy more than they need, reflected up the chain by markets that can quickly change suppliers to impact the livelihoods of farmers and state-subsidies. Surplus production can find other outlets but the production itself—even without considering the packaging and transportation—has significant environmental repercussions and small efforts towards reducing this loss can not only benefit economically, they could also help Britain and many other countries be more in compliance with their ecological pledges.

check-digit or super-symmetries

The maths world is a little giddy over a new mystery discovered through brute computing force. No one is quite sure what to make of it, but examining the distribution of prime numbers, mathematicians are realising that they try to be more different from the nearest neighbours on the number line than they need to be.

Prime numbers, above the single digits can only end (regardless of their size) in one of four numbers: 9,7,3 or 1—otherwise, you needn’t bother checking. One might expect that the law of averages would hold across infinity and there would be a one-in-four chance that one prime might end with the same digit. That does not happen, though, and mathematicians, should the findings hold, are wondering what these apparent aberrations might mean, and whether this might suggest that there is a way to break encryption and unsettle a formerly secure foundation.

gatekeeper and key-master

The European Union is reaching out to Turkey in order to help stem the tides of humanity washing up against the Greek coast and halted at the Macedonian border. The agreement currently being tendered has the country that spans two continents offering to take one migrant in limbo on the edges of Europe in exchange for resettling one Syrian refugee hosted by Turkey in EU lands.  Presumably, non-Syrian refugees deported from Greece and Italy back to Turkey will be then returned to their countries of origin—Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc. after an appeals process, which could not be conducted in the chaos of camps and choke-points along the Balkan route.
I don’t know what to think, and know there’s real terror and reason to flee and that determination to survive and protect one’s family is not broken by the bartering going on in Brussels, but as if this deal did not seem tenuous enough already, Turkey (knowingly, as the EU needs Turkey just now more than Turkey needs the EU) has asked for extra concessions to include three billion euro in aid, visa-free travel for its citizens to the EU and accelerating its ascension into the economic bloc. While I truly hope the lives and aspirations of millions are not subject to such political horse-swapping—all the more exacerbated by the upcoming plebiscite over the so-called Brexit—or become a political hot-potato over the leverage that the Turkish government has garnered. Seldom is heard a discouraging word—however, as no one dare speak about deportment past and recent that this new partner has displayed on the international and domestic stage: internal political and ethnic strife that is approaching a civil war of its own, aggression towards Russia, collusion with smugglers, terror attacks, and a despotic suppression of press-freedoms that barely register a mention. What do you think? Should Europe enter into this pact?