Tuesday, 21 November 2017


oumuamua: that interstellar asteroid that visited our solar system has an unexpected shape 

session replay: the most popular websites log every keystroke and dalliance of every visitor and sell it to the highest bidder, via Slashdot

cryptogram: artificial intelligence enlisted to hunt the Zodiac Killer apparently writes creepy poetry in its spare time

kerning: fresh off the assembly-line, typewriters were put through the paces with “Amaranath sasesusos Oronoco initiation secedes Uruguay Philadelphia”

gastro obscura: our intrepid adventures have a spin-off food and drink blog

nori: the story behind the volunteer Manchester researcher who saved Japan’s post-war seaweed harvest, known as “Mother of the Sea” for her contributions


Extracting treasure from the Earth is very dirty business—only exacerbated by our insatiable drive to eke out just a bit more profit informed by chemistry.
Humans are slowly coming to terms with the idea that the planet has finite resources, and until it becomes commercially viable to mine asteroids (I’d argue that that time has arrived since it might spare us some of the scars of excavation and render the advantage that scarcity confers meaningless—or at least make it something aspirational) there are quite a few strategically significant elements that are in danger of running out, as illustrated on this period table.  As we learn the consequences of treating our home as if it were inexhaustible, we are also on the verge of realising that our lifestyle (outfitted with electronic components that require certain amounts of these endangered) is not sustainable. It’s especially disappointing to consider we might be sacrificing future spaceships and foregoing genuine technological progress for the sake of baubles and charms whose potion calls for a dash of indium and a pinch of hafnium.

Monday, 20 November 2017

arc of narrative

Our faithful chronicler, Doctor Caligari, informs that among many other notable events, on this day in 1983 an audience of over one hundred million Americans tuned in to watch the made-for-television movie, “The Day After.”
Suppressing a potential military coup in East Germany, Soviet forces blockade West Berlin—an act that NATO forces interpret as an act of war and responds in kind. Things escalate rather quickly with Russia pushing towards the Rhein and nuclear bombs used on the US Army bastions of Wiesbaden and Frankfurt. As the war expands beyond the German frontier, a nuclear exchange takes place, culminating with a high-altitude burst that results in an electro-magnetic pulse that disables the remaining technologies that the survivors of the first strike can avail themselves of. The director, Nicolas Meyer (also known for his cinematic Star Trek adaptations), reported suffered influenza-like symptoms during production, and when doctors could find no somatic cause, they determined Meyer was suffering under a bout of severe depression due to having to contemplate the horrors of war.

kinder überraschung

Citing serious privacy concerns that not only include the harrowing prospect of potential kidnappers tracking one’s children’s routine and whereabouts but also concerns that parents may be using the devices to monitor their children’s teachers, Germany has banned their sales and wear by young children (EN/DE). The watches were originally marketed to children between the age of five and twelve with the pitch that they’d instil a lifelong commitment obsession with keeping active but as cheap devices saturated the shops many fell short of security safeguards meant to protect the safety of users.

have you considered getting a machine to do that for you?

Ahead of the debut of its Selectric typewriter—which had the revolutionary labour-saving enhancement of a magnetic tape for recording and playback of keystrokes—IBM engaged master Muppeteer Jim Henson and composer Raymond Scott to—rather prematurely, usher in the end of drudgery and tedium with a promotional short-film. Despite the cheerful, liberating message, there is a sinister sense of apprehension just below the surface that reflects how society had as much a tenuous time grappling with automation as they do with machine learning presently. The same reassuring words that “machines should do the work and people should do the thinking” might still apply but we might be hurtling towards a time when our virtuosity might become second fiddle.


Soberingly, we are reminded via Slashdot of another dirty little secret underlying climate change and those compacts meant to stave off the sort of run-away changes that would render the Earth a very inhospitable place compared to what we’ve grown accustomed to insofar as the targets and pledges are not only calling for a severe curtailment in carbon emissions but are also contingent on taking that surplus carbon-dioxide out of the atmosphere.
It’s not an impossible feat and we can rise to the occasion (despite ourselves, and maybe cleaning up the past is in some ways easier than the paradigm shift needed for going forward) but the amount to sequester from the environment represents something on par with the industrial output of the past two decades and the technologies to accomplish this feat are only just emerging. The fact that the Paris Agreement was negotiated knowing this rather grim calculus only makes me more hopefully for the audacity of ingenuity.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

individual results may vary

Via Dave Log v. 3.0, we are introduced to an algorithm that will calculate one’s heritage based on the composition and pattern detected in user-submitted, candid photographs. One is then invited to participate in a more scientific post-script by submitting DNA swabs into the company to discover and embrace the richness of one’s diverse heritage.
Of course, this is far from a ringing endorsement since there’s junk science all around and it’s the conflation of race and ethnicity with genetics that’s been confounding society both before and after we’ve had the background and literacy to couch it in sensibly and remains a stubborn wedge of contention despite attempts to try to reclaim some maturity in discourse. Is it some harmless fun? Or is it one of myriad routes to capturing a target demographic who are swayed by the false importance and false sense of certitude of such things? I was disappointed at the outset to be told be told that I was a whopping eighty-five percent white (whatever that means) myself. Don’t contribute to the dissolution of culture and civilisation and spread stuff like this uncritically. Internet, we are disappoint.


In the wake of learning of the huge cache of Pentagon intelligence compromised when it was uploaded to a commercial cloud computing network with one contractor having the oversight to change the classification-level (privacy-settings) of an unconscionably vast amount of documents, another, developing story of how those National Security Agency software and system exploits were intercepted and put to work not just as a backdoor access platforms at will but now at the disposal of the criminally-minded, ransomware and a potent means to disable utilities and infrastructure seemed even more resonant.
It’s unclear whether all those Pentagon files were migrated to the cloud out of convenience sake or what, but a policy change and architectural limitation prompted the change at the NSA that led to these devious secrets to be let out. Aware how pernicious these techniques could be if they weren’t just available to the good guys, the NSA compartmentalized them under the category of ‘exceptionally controlled information,’ not according the files a digital existence, reference material check-out and return to be stored in locked safes overnight. With the profusion of cyber warfare and expanding techniques of keeping tabs on others, the number of strongboxes and vaults needed to store all this printed data grew as well. Eventually, the NSA building where these files were kept began to groan under the weight of the all the safes and structural collapse seemed eminent. Protocols were relaxed and locked, non-segregated filing cabinets were allowed and shortly afterwards, those offensive cyber weapons were not clandestine any longer.

Saturday, 18 November 2017


Via Inhabitat and as part of Dezeen’s series of good design for a bad world we discover that a Dutch engineer has created a prototype lamp that works symbiotically with a living plant to produce light as a by-product of natural cycle of photosynthesis.
Microbes in the soil of this terrarium breakdown the organic compounds that are the surplus catalysts of plant’s nourishing itself and the lamp harnesses a part of that bacterial fuel cell to power a meagre glow. Such technology does not just yield a novel night-light but rather is infinitely scalable and entire cities could derive a significant portion of their energy from adjacent woods—making the notion of re-forestation not only seem more valuable—as it was prior to the Industrial Revolution as a source of quarry, fuel and building material, but as an absolute mandate, delivering as a bonus all the benefits of having more wooded areas and home to all the species that they shelter. Fields growing food crops could also be conscripted into double duty, providing electricity in a sustainable manner as well as feeding a given population.

Friday, 17 November 2017

büsi kitty

We’re grateful to Dangerous Minds to introducing us to award-winning artistic collaborations of the Swiss duo of Peter Fischli and David Weiss († 2012) by way of their non sequitir hijacking of the Times Square Astrovision screen in 2001 and having it display instead of the usual advertisements and news-crawl a footage of a very sedate cat lapping up milk from a dish—for six and a half minutes.
February of 2016 saw an abbreviated revival with the video—in a sense the original cat video though there are of course antecedents,with a three minute version gracing some sixty screens at once at given intervals. The artists are arguably best-known for their Rube Goldberg-like chain of mechanical causality cinematic deconstructionist performance piece called The Way Things Go (Der Lauf der Dinge), whose usque ad aras telescoping enjoys some physical avatars as permanent exhibits, including one in the Wiesbaden Museum that I will have to examine again with newly found appreciation.

globus cruciger

The curators over at Hyperallergic take a closer look at the rather controversial, record-setting auction of a painting attributed to Leonardo da Vinci and its buyer—unnamed but surely a member of that exclusive set of the highest percentile of wealthy oligarchs—who through the acquisition and trade of such treasure exert pressure on both geopolitics and the art world by inflating the price of such works beyond the endowment of any museum.
Indeed, the provenance of Salvator Mundi (Saviour of the World, a theme in Christian iconography) is uncertain and the attribution to Leonardo is recent and based on only on some signature pentimenti and is perhaps at best a piece from the master’s studio with a touch of his instruction. If the identity of the seller, a Russian billionaire potash-magnate and philanthropist, sounds familiar to anyone, it could be over a real-estate transaction with Donald Trump and a long-standing reputation of using art to shield his monetary wealth from others. Outside of the cost-range of the world’s museums, the painting is probably destined to return to the cavernous bowels of the freeport from whence it briefly emerged until next time it’s swapped among the plutocracy.

shirley temple or taste/ip

Via the always discerning Nag on the Lake, we are introduced to a clever gadget—a virtual cocktail glass—that uses a combination of lights, wafting aromas and most importantly a mild electric stimulation to the tongue and taste buds to convince us we are experiencing flavours that aren’t really there. What do you think? This gustatory hallucination apparently can transform a glass of plain water into a fine scotch, and I suppose as the technique becomes more refined and shared widely, it will be able to recreate the most subtle notes and expressions for those who cannot or should not partake of adult-beverages and seems like a better substitute than having a mocktail.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

morning constitutional

Betraying an a mild arithmomanic tendency by finding and enshrining the number twelve in human humours and anatomy, we enjoyed the introduction to one Doctor Alesha Sivartha (the pen name most probably of a Kansas country physician Arthur E Merton) and his graphically striking if not of great literary or scientific merit—as so many books on theosophy with contrasting or complementary theories were being published in the same era—Book of Life: The Spiritual and Physical Constitution of Man.
The charts and diagrams certainly do espouse the convoluted heraldry of palmistry and phrenology (click to enlarge) more effectively than most other, wordy treaties on similar topics and offer an enticement for further study. Despite the profusion of such works and some outmoded notions that really date the good doctor, there’s a systematic approach to be found and an enduring legacy attached to it—maintained by one of Merton’s decedents, which can be found at the source link above.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

reporters without borders

The PEN International foundation—the acronym originally standing for Poets, Essayists and Novelists, which I never realised, sort of like TED Talks (Technology, Entertainment, Design)—has since 1981 designated this day as a time to honour and support writers who speak for those silenced, fight against oppression and for the freedom of expression, often to their peril. Such gadflies, imprisoned or censored, have been supported by the organisation since the 1960s with special committees formed to advocate on behalf of inconvenient dissenters, but the Day of the Imprisoned Writer was established to show solidarity and to showcase the profiles of courageous individuals that speak up.  The day has now also come to commemorate all the journalists killed in the line of duty between this November and last November.


la collina dei conigli: rescued veteran laboratory rats experience the outdoors for the first time

synchronicity: Krista and Tatiana Hogan are twins joined at the head and share a unique brain configuration that allows each to experience the other’s perceptions and possibly thoughts
animoji sounds: a Finnish comedian and voice-actor named Rudi Rok gives the animated menagerie their roar

pylos combat agate: a tiny decorative seal from a Mycenaean tomb is changing conceptions about ancient artistic skills

se possible: Card Against Humanity has purchased land abutting the US-Mexico border and hired a law firm specialising in eminent do
main to make building that wall as difficult as possible

sonata primeval: the sound poetry of avant-garde exile Kurt Schwitters that Brian Eno sampled from for his 1977 album Before and After Science

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

jeroboam, rehoboam

Deezen reports how the New York design studio of Dror Benshetrit permanently installed a giant wine rack for the vineyards of Brancott Estate in the Marlborough region of New Zealand’s South Island.
The geometric structure reflect the tidy grid of plants that the diamond-shaped frame towers over is titled Under/standing from a point of view posited by Buckminster Fuller that to truly understand an undertaking, one had to build it and stand underneath it—which is surely an inviting vantage. Viniculture has only been practised in the area since the 1970s but due to the strong contrast between hot, sunny days and chilly nights, the wines of Marlborough quickly garnered international renown for its unique and strong expressions.

corpus callosum

We appreciated being introduced to the philosophical tenants of bicameralism, which author and psychologist Julian Jaynes developed in 1976 best-selling work The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind.
Though the hypothesis, which holds that at the cusp of prehistory the human mind was in a divided state where functions are discrete and an individual would interpret cognition as one hemisphere as dictating orders and the other side as listening and obeying, is now generally not accepted by the scientific community it did appeal to me like the idea that consciousness is the brain’s response to the forces of entropy trying to tear down its complexity. Jaynes goes on to expound that the two chambers of the brain were not wholly disconnected and inaccessible to each other but rather that his supposed bicameral mind of the ancients experienced thoughts in a non-conscious way, being directed externally rather than exercising volition though commands emanate from the same source. Humans only truly became self-aware and consciousness emerged once the gods stopped speaking. What do you think? The epics do indeed contain volumes of encounters with the gods, disembodied voices and divine inspiration—but little textual evidence for introspection and reflection. The notions of being partial to left-brain/right-brain tendencies is enjoying a resurgence as are the possible relics of bicameralism of in mindfulness, religion, trance, hypnosis and deferring to outside authority.

Monday, 13 November 2017

wildlife crossing

With our yard overwhelmed once a year with toads creeping to the pond to spawn, this selection of speculative articles on how artificial intelligence and driverless vehicles might be programmed or one day on their own come to hold Nature in deference or reverence really resonated with us.  We will volunteer with others of course to help ferry them across but there is still an awful lot of carnage in the single lane road that separates the woody hills from the valley.
What if autonomous cars and lorries meant not only a sharp decline in the number of human deaths but also meant the end of roadkill? We imagine, given the relatively neat and tame environment of the streets, that learning to recognise erratic and wild animals—and surely this feature is already figured into the algorithms with stray pets as potential hazards—would present a big challenge but perhaps the machines will out-perform their operators. Though dodging deer and boar and livestock won’t necessarily restore the balance of the natural world that we’ve thrown into disarray and there’s even the potential for more suffering with more creatures crowded into less habitat, the idea that cars might respect animal right-of-way by taking different routes to avoid migratory or breeding paths was quite intriguing. Like the trolley problem of computer ethics, future vehicles might need the hint, the protocol that maxmising the number of lives saved outweighs human convenience or profit but once taught this directive, the lesson is not prone to being countermanded by greed or laziness. 

locavore or on the growth of plants in closely glazed cases

Writing for the Atlantic, Jen Maylack invites us to reflect on how a seemingly elementary idea, the not-so distant ancestor of the modern terrarium, changed the course of the world—heralding in not only global trade but also the spread of Western colonialism and the spread of invasive species.
As basic as the principle underlying it is the Wardian Case was so revolutionary as to be the realisation of all the past endeavours of the alchemists—achieving a hermetic seal, that is, staving off the advance of time that defines all us mortals—with just as far reaching repercussions albeit in an unexpected form: a self-regulating environment that would capture in microcosm a plant’s natural habitat and perpetuate it at least long enough for it to become a transplant in a botanical garden or another area that afforded similar climes and growing conditions. The invention of the portable greenhouse came about just in 1829 when a physician and garden enthusiast (with a special obsession for ferns), one Dr Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward, lamented how London’s polluted air was killing off his prized collection and learned through trial and error that if prepared correctly that the right moisture levels could be maintained within a closed-system, by extension enabling the possibility of long-distance shipping incrementally to our present world of year-around availability fresh fruits and vegetables, regardless of one’s location—which of course have collateral environmental and geopolitical costs associated with them.

foil me—you can’t get foiled again

Despite all the bombastic claims, the US imposing a seemingly crippling, trade-war signalling tariff on Chinese aluminium has little relation to the reality of economic repercussions with the assault as a bureaucratic-foil since American assets that Trump is seeking to privilege are already producing at capacity, these posturings represent something significant.
In the same way that this regime would proffer the dismantling of the federal government as it is known and reduce it to its component parts betrays a woeful ignorance of the role that each department and agency plays in vouchsafing the country, its natural resources and material wealth, the stability and prosperity of future generations is being traded off wholesale to champion the mood and sentiment of the moment. While Dear Leader is liberal with his grace and favour postings—though slow to fill some of those sinecure positions where the opportunity to appear tough on bloated, expansive government is a greater enticement—and the competency of the office-holder (or the continued vacancy) does not seem to have momentous impact, those scientific studies and internships that go unfunded and policy that goes undrafted and undebated do matter immensely and is not administration for its own sake. We see who really benefits from this embargo against Chinese aluminium, despite how its framed, and like the science and service of various government agencies that are easily taken for granted because we don’t see them, aluminium foil is pervasive as a packaging and preservative material and component of almost all manufactured goods. We ought to take a critical eye to civil service and make certain that the public is getting a fair return on its investment but we also ought not be so easily swayed with sophistry just by dint of the unfamiliar.

Sunday, 12 November 2017


I was intrigued to learn about an episode of German true crime and an unsolved mystery that spanned over six years of extortion, shopping centre bombings, Scrooge McDuck and thankful no fatalities with the story of Arno Martin Franz Funke, a reformed blackmail artist. From his childhood, Funke was a tinkerer and an avid hobby chemist and holding down a series of odd-jobs also discovered a talent for illustrations and painted van art—among other things—to scrape together a living but few lucrative commissions were forthcoming.
Much later while on trial for extortion and public endangerment, it was discovered that the fumes inhaled while working in auto body shops caused some brain damage and perhaps was a contributing factor to the bouts of depression that Funke constantly dealt with—to include the conception of his criminal career. In May of 1988, placing an anonymous call from a pay phone to authorities in West Berlin, Funke demanded a sum of half a million Deutsche Marke from the largest German department store Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe) and to prove he was a force to be reckoned with, detonated a bomb in the store after-hours causing serious damage. With the money delivered surreptitiously and investigators having no leads, Funke was able to take a sabbatical and travelled until the cash ran out. Struggling again with his mental state, in 1992 Funke decided to target another chain of department stores in Hamburg and Berlin and quickly became a sensation. Spying an ad in the classifieds that simply read “Uncle Scrooge sends greetings to his nephews” (Onkle Dagobert grüßt seinen Neffen), it imprinted upon Funke as a cryptic message and a clear sign as to whom his alter-ego, his spirit-animal was to be. There were nine more ransoms over the next two years with retailers terrorised and the public, enlisted to help identify this individual captivated with his elusive and technical abilities. Spectacular feats of destruction were pulled off without the loss of life and police had grown obliging in placing the extortion money in lockboxes of Funke’s own design at an agreed upon remote location by train-tracks that would retreat speedily and sleathily along rail to Funke for collection further down the line. There were “Ich bin Dagobert” t-shirts and a novelty rap song singing his praises as a folk-hero. I think that this audacity didn’t make much news outside of Germany, at least to my recollection, because for America was dealing with the Unabomber around the same time, who did not quite fit into the same category. Despite his meticulous efforts to cover his path, regular shopping patterns at an electronics shop eventually led to Funke’s apprehension. After serving his sentence, Funke’s celebrity has seen a resurgence with various appearances on reality television. Moreover, Funke has been a consultant for heist-films, and drawing on his early interest for graphic design has become a regular contributor as caricature artist for the German satire magazine Eulenspiegel, often executing the cover art.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

all the glory to hypnotoad

It’s a little astounding to consider what the cultural touchstone with a cult-following that the animated science fiction sitcom Futurama has garnered despite its cancellation after an initial four-season run—later revived and drawn out with three additional non-consecutive ones, especially against the creators’ other series, The Simpsons, which is quickly approaching its third decade on television. We especially enjoyed this primer from the Daily Dot on the outsized number of internet memes (which seem resistant to being coopted by danker, darker agents) that the series inspired and suspect that you will as well.


I went to the other bank of the Main river and joined compatriots (despite not dressing up—I’m sure a union suit would have kept me warmer) in the courtyard of the Osteiner Hof of Mainz as we celebrated the beginning of the so-called fifth season, Fasching, that carries one’s spirits through the dreary days of winter all the way through until Lent.

Friday, 10 November 2017

emperor’s new clothes

Trying to understand what was driving the seeming profusion of America’s Dumbest Criminals Cornell University psychology professor David Dunning and graduate student Justin Kruger formulated what they termed the “illusion of confidence” to limn a particularly incredulous case ripped from tabloid headlines.
In 1995, a bank-robber reasoned that a liberal splash of lemon juice would render his face invisible to security-cameras—and as dumb as this seems, a quick mental review can probably conjure up other funny and tragic examples of modern day charms and talisman. This leap of hubris came to be known as the Dunning-Kruger effect—describing one’s inability to recognise his or her shortcomings despite ongoing critique and feedback. While all of have veils that were not willing to pull back and would benefit from being disabused, incompetence forever shuts out the possibility for honest self-assessment and flexibility needed for basic performance.

Thursday, 9 November 2017


Coming across the notice that the Canadian broadcasting standards council has decided that a certain explicative is perfectly acceptable to use in French language programmes because it does not carry the same sense of violence and vulgarity as it does in English parlance and thus remains subject to censorship struck me as amusing and made us recall the unusual and charming curses of the Québécois. What do you think?  Does the lingua franca still have hegemon is a truly bilingual society?


c/2017 u1: passing interstellar object receives an official designation

cut and paste: a previously unknown Waldseemüller globe gore (a two-dimensional map whose segments are to be put onto a sphere) to be auctioned off, via Nag on the Lake

görliwood: historic German town of Görlitz near the Polish border named best filming location in Europe

a crack in the sky: a cache of recently declassified material on the last time the US conducted atmosphere nuclear tests, via Paleofuture

o brave new world: on the resonances of writing and what comes of surrendered that script—even temporarily

the giving tree: two landscape photographers travel the world to showcase some choice arboreal overachievers

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

man bites dog

Whilst the biggest social media news of the day is one platform’s decision to abandon a rule that ostensibly required users to put thought into their rants as they had to conform to character limitations—sort of like a telegram with a cost associated for a lack of brevity and conciseness (notwithstanding ways to circumvent this), another overlooked experiment was taking place. With the proliferation of fake news seemingly impervious to any countermeasures and talk of more regulation abuzz, the other social media titan (apt as they represent the second generation in this theogony) chose to combat spurious reporting by promoting commentary, no matter what the source, that characterized the cited article as phony. How do you feel about this? Do both deliberations fail to curb disinformation and rather accomplish the opposite? The trial-run did not discern between known yellow journalism and trusted news sources and effectively sowed distrust for legitimate media for many.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017


Via Messy Nessy Chic, we learn that after proving itself to be unviable as a commercial venue, the forty-six metre “beer brush” tower in Berlin will be on the auction block as a residential property.
The Brutalist, protected monument was originally conceived as suggestive of a tree was opened as a nightclub and restaurant in 1976 and after a succession of owners shut down finally in 2006 and remained vacant, later becoming an officially sanctioned canvas for graffiti artists. For the lucky winner, they’ll be in possession (hopefully as an actual abode and not some vanity backdrop for tourists) of a twelve thousand square metre, four room, four bath home.

army surplus

Cause certainly for alarm but no cause for surprise and not the first time that geopolitics have been used to leverage flagging economies, but just in case you we were unaware carnival barker Trump is exploiting regional and global tensions in order to bully allies into buying expensive American weapons systems.
This pitch is unoriginal, naturally, with all modern wars have been about expanding markets and fighting saturation, also known as peak missile defence shield. This arms race, however, comes at a very different time from when we were convinced of the last existential threat with data having replaced spycraft and elbow-grease and alteration far from the hallmarks of ingenuity but rather something that will violate the terms and conditions of one’s warranty, and of course statecraft a casualty of nativism and naïvism. As a collective civilisation, I think that the world cannot be put back in the mould of a military-industrial model and trying to compel others to return to this mind set and take up arms is nearly as dangerous as the incendiary posturing and unacceptable.


Bad Astronomer Phil Plait shares a truly wonderful tale about how scientific perspective evolves with new understanding and how curiosity has proven essential in reaching new heights that afford greater vistas.
The accidental story about the chain of collateral anomalies captured when observing another astronomical target in 1917 is a really resounding endorsement to aspire to the occasion no matter what one’s background is. With hindsight, we can see that the oddities noted a century ago are pretty solid evidence that a white dwarf (the stellar remnant of an imploded red dwarf) had recently ate and was still digesting its solar system. Though many projects are made of more mundane stuff than suggesting the existence of exo-planets decades ahead of the generally accepted thinking, there are numerous collaborative, citizen science endeavours achieving breakthroughs all the time. Do read the whole riveting re-telling at the link up top.  This is also your cue to dive into whatever archives at hand and be grateful for good record-keeping.

♄ ii

Not only have astronomers possibly deduced the mechanisms that generate and sustain heat to keep the subsurface ocean of the Cronian moon Enceladus from freezing over but can also extrapolate from their research that there has been a watery environment under the frozen shell for billions of years.
The satellite is named after the primordial giant (dread offspring of the Titans) that sparred with the Olympian goddess Athena in the Gigantomachy, and vanquished was buried beneath Mount Ætna. Attributed as the cause of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, scientists had their curiosity about the tiny moon piqued when they observed dramatic geysers of water shooting out of the southern hemisphere and seeding one of Saturn’s outer-most rings, and they thought an ocean might be hiding below as with Europa. Presumably, the age of the ocean would be long enough and stable enough to allow life in some form to gain a purchase and adapt to such harsh conditions. Looking out at this distance, delicate arrangement (though others might think that a barrier of ice is far more sheltering that the cold, open sky) makes me lament how careless we are with our ecosystem and hope that we might not have to learn the hard way.

Monday, 6 November 2017

war & pieced

Hyperallergic features a fascinating and therapeutic exhibit of quilts created by convalescing soldiers, put together mostly from remnants of their uniforms. Redeploying service members from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries British military adventures were encouraged to take to crafting rather than resorting to other, less healthy means of coping. Finished examples are exceedingly rare, but several samples have been brought together and put on display in the American Folk Art Museum in New York. 

shake ‘n bake (and I helped)

While I’d not want to risk alienating potential future sponsors, the profusion of mail-order meal services out there sort of baffles me—and I suppose in good faith I couldn’t accept their support since there’s no way such jostling and shuttling about staple ingredients repackaged could be ecologically excused—and I wonder what the allure is exactly. I remember reading once, and subsequently encountering many retellings in marketing contexts, how cake mixes and the like began to call for a superfluous egg because the extra effort lent a sense of legitimacy and accomplishment and appealed to bakers more so than the variety that did not.
Maybe the dining experience and our relationship with handed-down recipes are like that. I guess in that sense buying the experience, the virtual and vicarious reality, is what’s on offer and for myself, I’ll resort to processed foods, like boil-in-bag curries that allow me the pleasure of cooking rice to go with it or load-baring pizzas that I can flavor to taste, but I think I’ll not need a courier and a subscription.

time’s arrow

Linguists and historians suppose that the notion of clockwise and anticlockwise motion on the sun dial and clock face is related to the left to right apparent motion of the Sun as it crosses the arc of the sky for an occident observer—which, if true, raises some interesting questions about its antecedents.
Via Naked Capitalism we are treated to an exploration of the idea of circum- ambulation—at least in an Anglo-Saxon context with heavy resonance, surely, elsewhere. Though humans have always had the march of the heavens to trace, until the prevalence of time keeping and assigning direction to time’s arrow (also for navigation and shop-work with tools and bolts) it was probably enough in most situations to indicate direction rather than tendency. The terms sunwise (Uhrzeigersinnes), the Gaelic deasil (Deisel) and the Latin dexter, however, did exist before time pieces were common—with the Middle English widdershins—from the German widersinnig for going against, indicating a counter-clockwise motion (geden den Uhrzeigersinn). From lexical evidence, sunwise and widdershins to often be invoked when describing human processions around sacred sites. More about these propitious marches and examples of backwards running clocks can be found at the links above.

Sunday, 5 November 2017


It seemed a much simpler when toys came to life by dint of their personalities and one’s imagination and whatever extra features or accessories were attached were just bonuses.
The pretend of yesterday, however, is approaching companionship and one has to wonder what it means to educate and then abandon for the next entertainment. Perhaps it is this ability to learn and keep us engaged that makes it less likely for us to move on—since I hope that we learn too that play is not just some frivolity that one matures out of. By the same token, we ought not to resign what we create to the same indenture as our own formative freedoms sometimes unobligingly enters into through circumstance and necessity (and cannot escape) and not make present toys tomorrow’s involuntary labour-force. What do you think? Not to be too serious over matters of fun and games, but our Yoda would indulge some philosophic-sparring and it does seem far less palatable to be trafficker than to be trafficked oneself and to be making inferiors with superior capabilities.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

take only photographs, leave only footprints

A pun on the way English-speakers used to refer to Volkswagen, abbreviatedly, as veedubs, a company in North Yorkshire is championing the electric, green revolution of the recreation vehicle and camping industry with eDub Trips.
To reduce the impact of the camping trip—ahead of the automotive manufacturer’s pledge to offer alternatively powered vehicles by 2022—eDub is converting classic VW mini-buses into fully electric models and in order to finance further effort, renting out the campers for weekend excursions. As nice and hopeful as the latest advancements in cleaner energy and electric-vehicles are, there’s always the point of return on investment to aspire towards—with presently the amount of pollution generated to build that brand new car won’t ever be balanced out by the tidiness of its performance throughout its lifetime. I’d dare suggest that putting out on the market anything less is just green-washing, but I think what eDub Trips is doing with its modernization campaign represents genuine progress in the right direction.

Friday, 3 November 2017

major arcana

Despite the banal and unsurprising nature of the cards we are dealt by our daily social media digest, it’s still nonetheless exciting to forecast one’s fortune and fate. One clever illustrator from Italy named Jacopo Rosati, we were introduced to by Dangerous Minds, obliges with a collection of tarot cards that make up a narrative of the typical user experience.

in vino veritas (in aqua sanitas)

As a follow-up to last year’s reprinting of a most sublimely surreal cookbook, the German publishing house TASCHEN will re-issue Salvador Dalí’s liberally illustrated field guide to wine grapes, viticulture and history, The Wines of Gala, which was last in print in 1978. The artist’s pairings were emotional driven and classified his wines based on how the contrasted or complimented his moods, with groupings like the Wines of Generosity and Wines of the Impossible.


Though the defamation case is stalled in the courts, the charges against a social media giant for libelling an individual as the face of terrorism and rampant, uncontrolled immigration illustrated that the legal framework of Germany was insufficient to hold such influential entities to account and informed what’s colloquially known as the “Facebook Law.”
Though highly valued and defended, Germany’s Grundgesetz does not privilege freedom of expression above human dignity and acting as a vehicle for the spread and incitement of hatred carries a heavy fine and networks have until the new year to ensure that they have controls in place to be and remain in compliance. Despite fears of censorship and the potential for differences in interpretation, it seems to me a good policy to adopt as these platforms become de facto surrogates for journalism and reliable reporting and one which might save us from ourselves and be restorative for our esteem in so far as it lends more mediacy to the moment.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

signal-to-interference ratio

Admittedly, we’ve probably been swooned by one of these viral, catchpenny maps ourselves and so really appreciated the person who, especially against the backdrop of the scope and scale of the disinformation campaigns launched to destabilise the US and other elections coming to light, rallied against the preponderance of dumb comparative charts. Whether or not any research went into their design is almost immaterial relative to the apparent provocative powers they’re accorded—seemingly an inescapable guarantor and fomentor of contention over an idiotic claim or accusation. This ought not be the conversation that we ought to be having but apparently this is what we’ve come to.

nia una menos

Via the ever brilliant Kottke, we learn that Peru held their national beauty competition over the weekend and contestants instead of disclosing to the judging panel their vitals (body measurements) according to the pageant’s expected script instead choose to recite statistics on violence against women in their country. Winner Romina Lozano took the opportunity to highlight trafficking victims.


We highly recommend dallying over this short lexical review of some very expressive Italian words. Our particular favourites—all to a letter new to us—were schifoso, a really visceral way to state one’s disgust, and the seemingly overly complicated asciugamano, a portmanteau of the dry plus hand that translates to towel, but nonetheless fun to say. What would you nominate? The post’s title is another useful one that means to muddle through, to get by.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017


geodes: unique, computer-generated jigsaw puzzles inspired by geological formations

plot twist: cinematic storyboards told in maps

roskomnadzor: Russian law outlawing virtual private networks (VPNs) used to circumvent state-imposed censorship and corporate-imposed regionalisms is coming into effect, via Slashdot

💅: introducing Tabloid Art History, a journal that explores the relationship between popular culture  and the appreciation of classic masterpieces

celadon: there was once a colour considered so rare and beautiful that only the privileged were allowed to look upon it

haute couture: post World War II Paris reclaimed its status as the world fashion capital by staging fashion shows with dolls to save on fabric, which was in short supply