Saturday, 18 August 2018

attention generative adversarial network

Miss Cellania has given us a home work assignment that’s going to occupy us for the next few hours at least in the form of Cris Valenzuela’s laboratory’s latest artificial intelligence generative image maker. Earlier iterations of its kind sought to caption images submitted but this programme attempts to paint abstractions of text entered. Here are a few that I requested. Learn more about the methodology behind the demonstration project, and give it a try yourself at the links above and be sure to share some of your results.


Channeling the inventive spirit of World War II English mad scientist Geoffrey Pyke (previously) who among other suggestions to the Admiralty, recommended that bombing runs be staged from aircraft carriers with runways made of ice, reinforced with a mixture of sawdust and wood pulp called Pykrete, a London-based food studio has developed an assortment of frozen treats able to resist melting in 24°C heat for one hour, substituting fruit fibre for sawdust.
It might at first glance seem a frivolous thing to worry about but this second look at a composite material that was abandoned during the war due to other priorities and pressures could indeed translate to other applications from ways to keep foods and medications cooler for longer in places without reliable refrigeration or even something more ambitious that what Pyke envisioned himself as girders and frames to help stabilise and hold together ice sheets and icebergs until they can heal themselves. Pyke’s cousin, incidentally, Magnus was a radio and television presenter and celebrity, hosting many programmes on the topic of nutrition and food science and was the Home Doctor for Thomas Dolby’s 1982 song, She Blinded Me with Science—the one who interjects, “Science!” Maybe science and innovation can indeed save us yet.

internet caretaker

Via the Awesomer, we are directed back to Wikimedia’s Gift Shop (previously) for a look at its further adventures into street apparel with the foundation’s collaboration with Advisory Board Crystals. All proceeds go to funding the foundation and its many projects—beyond its flagship undertaking of free knowledge for all.


We learn that Icelanders have a catchy-sounding colloquial term, bongóblíða—bongo weather, to describe this rather pleasant respite from the sweltering heat we’re currently enjoying, though still quite seasonable and hot conditions. The word is a lyric from the 1988 Eurovision entry Sólarsamba (Sunny Samba) from father-daughter duo Magnús Kjartansson and Margrét Gauja Magnúsdóttir. Check out the link above to see a music video of the song for pronunciation help.

island one

The always engrossing and thematic Things Magazine directs our attention to a visionary and indulgent overview about how we’ll need to reassess our geometric conceits when outer space is no longer the beyond and we are living in orbit or in transit or as colonists on world’s where constants lose their consistency due to our perceptions warped by scale.  A series of studies held at Stanford University from 1975 to 1976 invited speculation on the form that future space stations might take and produced some fantastically ambitious illustrations for insular habitats composed of toruses and Bernal spheres which were self-sustaining environments and generated artificial gravity from rotation.
The article and images invites one to imagine what will it be like to live under a wrap-around sky with the horizon at the vanishing point and gravity is not an obstacle but rather a force harnessed in one’s favour and making us a bit superhuman in our strengths and capabilities..

Friday, 17 August 2018

bran and chaff

The fact that the genetic code of rice and maize were mapped in 2002 and 2009 respectively and the wheat genome is just now being puzzled out is not a comment on the staple crop’s importance—both culturally and agriculturally, but rather testament to advances in computational power pitted against an incredibly complex blue-print that is magnitudes larger than human DNA (three billion base pairs as opposed to sixteen billion in a cell of wheat) and is composed of six copies of each chromosome (hexaploid) compared to diploid humans (XY, XX).
One wonders how much fourteen-thousand years of farming contributed to that complicated pedigree and how much was driven by natural forces.  Equipped with this more complete picture and an understanding behind the mechanism and orientation of how certain traits are expressed, after careful research and deliberation (the worst trade-offs are the ones we don’t see coming) scientists hope to be able to select for adaptable cultivars that can withstand a hotter, drier climate or varieties that don’t require pesticides or fertiliser, like this indigenous Mexican corn that can fix its own nitrogen from the air. Other applications could yield wheat-based products that are more nutritious and palatable for people with intolerance to it.

four legs good, two legs bad

After considerable difficulty in finding a publisher for his manuscript—out of fears that criticism, however veiled, might distress the alliance with the Soviets under advisement of the Ministry of Information, George Orwell’s allegory Animal Farm was first released on this date in 1945.
The work, which is a retelling of the dismantling of the Czarist Russia and the violent Stalinist origins of the Soviet Union, informed by the author’s experiences of escaping Communist purges during the Spanish Civil War and realising how easily “enlightened people in democratic countries” can become gripped by propagandists and whipped into a furore. Originally bearing the subtitle “a fairy story,” the satire—removed from contemporary events and figures—does seem to become a clumsier way of getting one’s point across and might limit the novella’s scope away from dictatorships in general, but I think that such criticism—and we should have the wherewithal to question political relevance—re-enforces the need to study our history in order to avoid repeating it.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

rip aretha

Crowned Queen of Soul shortly after her discovery, commercial break-out in 1967, the elevation of Aretha Franklin was by no means something premature. Her impact and legacy are hard to assess, having been the soundtrack and rallying-cry to each of our lives when we needed it and when we were ready for it.  Resquiescat in pace.

the long game

Digg directs us to a fascinating article from The New Republic that traces the deep history of the KGB and successor organisation’s preening of their unwitting Manchurian Candidate, possibly going all the way back to Trump’s 1978 marriage to Ivana and subsequent visits to Czechoslovakia, with the real estate mogul becoming a person of interest who might provide insights into the soft power of celebrity.
Indeed, however, their plant turned out to be something like The Americans, only tawdry and dim and in reverse with the realisation that Trump and his circle had not only the potential for ingratiating themselves to politicians with the power to influence policy-makers but had were fools for flattery and the American oligarchs, the parasitical rich whose fortunes would not have materialised without heavy government subsidies and corporate bequests of to hollowed out institutions and services that the state used to provide, might be enlisted as statesmen themselves—either directly or indirectly.  There’s an exchange from 1986 recounted that would have otherwise appeared too dumb and conceited to be believed until this year with Trump fishing for information on nuclear weapons as a way to get a primer on how Gorbachev so he might be able to convince Reagan to invest Trump with plenipotentiary powers as an ambassador to the Soviet Union and of course, to open a hotel.  Arrogantly, Trump laid claim to his familiarity and confidence by linking himself to the administration through the lobbying firm of Black, Manaford & Stone who had helped orchestrate Reagan’s 1984 re-election victory who Trump had recently retained. It’s easy to concede that such vanity wouldn’t make for a plum asset. 


We’re grateful to TYWKIWDBI for the introduction to the “Law of Jante,” originally a satirical way to codify Scandinavian social foibles and group behaviour but now something taught in schools to reinforce social mores.
Setting his observations and reflections on small town life in a 1933 humorous work called “A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks” (En flykning krysser sitt spor), author Aksel Sandemose creates the fictional village of Jante and prescribes ten rules, which all echo the prevailing sentiment that overt ambition and rebellion—within certain tolerance—are selfish and inappropriate and one ought to adopt the Golden Rule to have the empathy and self-awareness to know that one is not better than everyone else. Outside the classroom, the term has taken on an idiomatic sense of disdain for over-achievers and agitators for agitation’s sake, and the attitude is testament to the social cohesion, tolerance, equity and compassion demonstrated by the Nordic culture. Visit the link above to review the full rules and learn more.


Photographer Christy Lee Rogers gives her subjects a distinct Pre-Raphaelite, Baroque quality not with gauzy filters and tuning but by submerging them, fully swathed and swaddled with colourful fabrics, in a floodlit pool. This ethereal composition is part of Rogers’ series called “Muses” and you can learn more at Colossal at the link above.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018


Via the always excellent Nag on the Lake, we are treated to writer and composer Aaron Alon’s gradated deconstruction of English orthography.  Because of English’s pedigree and influence, there are a lot of counter-intuitive formulations that really bedevils learners and makes the cultural hegemony more than a bit fraught and maybe a little suspect, betraying a reluctance to synthesise new influences any more.  This short demonstration normalises (previously) vowel and consonant sounds in stages to give us an illustrative demonstration of what the language might sound like if spelling and pronunciation were consistent.  A weirdly intelligible dialect comes out of it.  Do give it a listen and let us know what you think.


Lately I’ve incorporated (like in the article, when confronted with how we’ve rubbished the oceans with our profligate and careless use of petroleum products) of picking up litter on my long walks, and so was delighted to be reminded that there are other motley crewes of enthusiasts combining cleaning up with exercise.
Plogging, the portmanteau named by Stockholm resident Erik Ahlström is a combination of the Swedish plocka uppa and jogging and describes a popular fitness and do-gooder trend that’s been gaining momentum since at least 2016. Though it seems Germans are growing less and less tidy (a discouraging development for the strata of rubbish that collects on the curb, gutter and under shrubs), I can’t say I’ve encountered as interesting trash as the intrepid ploggers in New York—detritus of fast food mostly and fruit drink sippy pouches. You’re on notice, Capri Sonne. I ought not be so dainty about picking up trash, however that’s giving a little more meaning to my idle wandering, calling myself a flâneur rather than a jogger or plogger and perhaps not being enough of an aspirational cleaner (picking up only plastic deemed fit for the recycle bin) to maybe encourage others to join in.

open door policy

A creative couple, a game developer and a television writer, in Tokyo commissioned a living space from the architectural studio +0 located in the maze of cul-de-sacs and blind-alleys that characterise the city’s central wards to blur the boundaries of our understanding and expectations of public versus private space, with the ground storey of the “House in Ōji” open to community ingress, egress and regress.  What do you think?  There is a touch of the surreal to the optical illusion, resolving a paved lane as one’s foyer.  The owners can elect to close their doors and any pedestrian can still easily sidestep the structure and continue along the path unimpeded but I would personally feel really self-conscience and guilty over capriciously restricting access after opening up my home.

a desilu production

Originally hailing from Buenos Aires and son of the long-time second-fiddle to the city’s national opera, jazz arranger and composer Lalo Schifrin was captivated with music from an early age and a collaboration with Dizzy Gillespie in 1956 set Schifrin’s career on a trajectory that brought him to Hollywood six years later.
Aside from dozens of studio albums that comprises a respectable discography on its own, the award-winning Schifrin garnered well-deserved aplomb for his talent, employing catchy time signatures like the five-four of his theme for Mission: Impossible, Schifrin quickly became television and film’s mainstay for scores and incidental music. Other television series include The Man from UNCLE, Mannix and Starsky and Hutch. Of the over one hundred-sixty movies Schifrin crated and synchronised the soundtrack for include Cool Hand Luke, Bullitt, Che!, THX 1138, Enter the Dragon, Return from Witch Mountain, Jaws, The Amityville Horror, Clint Eastwood’s Sudden Impact, The Dead Pool and the Rush Hour series.

blogoversary: we are ten

Wow—I’m happy to have reached that milestone, especially in an age where the allures and pressures of social media have kind of short-circuited other forms of curation and journaling and hope to be able to sustain it for years to come. After a decade, we are still finding our voice and bearing and treasure those new and old who’ve done the heavy-lifting and come along for the ride and indulge our rants and banter and tolerate our mistakes and missteps.

Hopefully we’ve shared something meaningful and resonate.  Upwards of fifty-five hundred posts—there are a few goods ones are to be found but going by measures of popularity, here are the top ten entries since last year when we paused to mark PfRC’s birthday:

10. Some speculation on the identity of the inventor of Bitcoin
9. Assorted links including rescued laboratory animals and giving a voice to animal emojis
8. A short biography of the well-travelled Aloha Wanderwell
7. Weird plots for Star Trek: The Next Generation
6. More links including Twin Peaks mapped Super Mario style
5. The effects of an exclusively fast-food diet
4. The ballot in Nazi Germany
3. The paradox of time-travel
2. Geographic extremes
1. A panel discussion of vampiric vegetables

Now on to our second decade.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

tara on techwood

Built originally to house a community centre for the Russian-Jewish diaspora of Atlanta, Georgia in the 1940s, Curbed contributor Lisa Napoli presents a fascinating profile of the historic, stately structure that became the unlikely first headquarters of a new and novel venture from 1980 to 1987 when the operation relocated from midtown to the Omni Centre: a round-the-clock cable news network with nation-wide reach. The first journalists to work for CNN were relegated to studio space in the basement, while more prestigious programming had the upper storeys and founder Ted Turner himself occupied a loft apartment. Though no longer a hub for twenty-four hour reporting, the old mansion remains part of CNN’s campus.


aurora: a primer for the Parker Solar Probe’s mission to touch the Sun, seeking answers regarding the solar winds and corona posed decades ago

banana for scale: an exponential (previously) romp through the Cosmos that will help one to appreciate perspective

of podcasts and puppets: an interview with the handler for MST3K’s Crow T Robot speaks on how novelty acts inform culture

wiigwaasabak: wanting to boost confidence and interest in preserving and using native languages, a First Nations young man took the initiative to dub his favourite cartoons in Anishiaabemowin and Cree

dugout: via Slashdot, a visit to the remote Australian opal mining town where people live underground

maccoin bubble: enthusiasts in China are trading commemorative tokens (whose face-value is a hamburger) issued for the fast food franchise’s fiftieth birthday at greatly inflated prices

bride of frankenstein: actually she’s Trump’s monster

strandbeest evolution: Dutch artist Theo Jansen engineers giant kinetic Jabberwockies that travel the beach powered only by the winds

science fiction/double feature

Management reminds that this is not a blog about commemorations and anniversaries but marking some occasions are difficult to forego, like the debut on this day in 1975 in London of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, based on the popular musical stage production of two years prior. Technically still in limited release (at any given moment, playing in a cinema somewhere), after over four decades, it is the longest-running theatrical release in history, despite its exposure to wider audiences.


Fifteen years ago over the next two days a massive disruption to the power grid in the northeast United States and Ontario left some fifty-five million without electricity, caused by a software bug at the control room of a single monitoring station that failed to compensate for an overloaded transformer (a fallen branch) that cascaded quickly across the entire network.
These memories of 2003, absolutely crippling metropolises like New York City, illustrate how delicate, brittle our infrastructure is and how quickly things fall apart and an important reminder how important it is to have a contingency plan for when things go wrong.

Monday, 13 August 2018

departures and arrivals lounge

As Curbed reports, the restored 1962 Eero Saarinen’s iconic TWA Flight Centre—originally designed as the terminal for the Trans World Airline’s hub at the John F Kennedy International Airport of New York City—the “Grand Central Station of the Jet Age” to be revitalised under protective status (not all were so decorously spared) as a historic landmark (Saarinen also designed the Gateway Arch of Saint Louis, Missouri) as a conference space and hotel that reference the Mid-Century Modern trappings of its inception is, construction work continuing a pace since 2016, already accepting bookings for a projected opening date early next year. Check out more photographs of the interiors with retro furnishings, skyboxes and other amenities at the link up top.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

a great day in harlem

On this day in 1958, Esquire Magazine photographer Art Kane, famous for his iconic framing of many musicians and figures in the fashion industry, assembled fifty-seven jazz performers with some of the children from the neighbourhood at a brownstone between Fifth and Madison Avenues for a group portrait, which remains one of the most important cultural and academic artefacts in studying and understanding the impact of the genre.
Among those assembled include Count Basie, Lester Young, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Milt Hinton, Charlie Mingus, Gene Krupa, Maxine Sullivan and Sahib Shihab. Visit this website to learn about each person pictured and hear a sample of their music.  The photograph became the subject of a documentary film which was told in the form of overlapping biographies of each of the subjects and went on to inspire many homages, like 1988’s “A Great Day in Hip-Hop” or the 2004 and 2008 “A Great Day in London” and “A Great Day in Paris” that celebrated artist of Caribbean, Asian and African descent living and working in those cities.

carlina acaulis

Taking a walk through the woods, I noticed in a few select spots, along the verge of the path and outside the places dappled by shadow a sort of silvery thistle that while sticking me as somehow very familiar seemed still an exotic treat. Afterwards I learned that these flowers are indeed called a silver thistle (die Silber- oder Rhöndistel being native to Alpine regions and this area), differing from their more common, stalked relatives due to having no stem (a-caulis), an incidence of what’s called inflorescence where the blossom comes directly out of the leaves.
Wanting to protect its relatively exposed pollen supply safe until a bee or butterfly comes along, the thistle will close up the flower presaging rain showers as was a traditional way of forecasting the weather—especially as the plant is likely to flower in August through September. The plant, as with other thistle varieties, was important for folk medicine for its recognised antimicrobial and diuretic properties, as well as being edible—the thistle being the undomesticated version of the artichoke.
I also realised where the image of the flower came from: for years we’ve been using up a particular notepad for shopping and to-do lists whose edges are printed with patterns in Nature, with the silver thistle as one of the examples of precision engineering and design.

horseless carriage

Although very much retold from an America perspective, it was nonetheless interesting to consider the etymological journey we embarked on to get to the colloquial term car (from cart)—automobile, a French convention ultimately with Greek roots, being a technical, industry term (similar to the formal German PKW—Personnen Kraftfahrzeuge) that’s only used in North America. Of the early trade names suggested before reaching a critical mass and adopting a standard name, early media coverage referred to prototypes as the Motorig, Buggyaut, Tonneau, the Diamote and the Mocole—among others.  Be sure to visit Jalopnik at the link above to discover more car-related cul-de-sacs and points-of-departure.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

freedom of religion is also freedom from religion

We were a little familiar with the personage of Ingersoll (*1833 - †1899) though the occasional quotation featured on Cynical-C, whose author has happily reconsidered retiring from blogging, but had not invested learning more about the figure, who is regarded as one of the greater orators and politicians of the United States of America during the Golden Age of Free Thought (the freethinking movement that coalesced with the conclusion of the US Civil War in 1865 and lasted until roughly the outbreak of World War I—but did not get the needed extra academic nudge until learning that this day is (among a few other things) the anniversary of Robert Green Ingersoll’s birth.
I wonder what the noted lawyer and politician called “The Great Agnostic” would make of such a day of obligation. Amazingly popular and charismatic as a speaker, despite attacks levied against his character for disdaining organised religion and spirituality that did not compliment scientific inquiry, logic and humanism, audiences would pay the sum of one-dollar entry fees (nominally, around thirty dollars in today’s money but that’s a simplistic comparison considering how far a dollar stretched back then and what else a person could get instead for that admission price) and attended to Ingersoll’s every word. Credited with informing the way we understand the separation of church and state as well as reviving Thomas Payne as an important, foundational figure in socio-political thought, many of Ingersoll’s lectures, whose topics were not limited to disabusing superstition and fealty but also humility, family, universal suffrage, civil rights and Shakespeare, were improvised but many others were committed to print—which one can peruse here in full or, if you’d rather, as a daily digest.

peer of the realm

Marquess of the baronet of Anglesey (Ardalydd Môn), privy counsellor to the courts of Victoria and Edward VII and nicknamed “Toppy,” Henry Cyril Paget (*1875 - †1905) lived a short and by the reckoning of his of his fellow royals a destitute and squandered one. At age twenty-three Paget married his cousin Lilian Chetwynd and the same year came into his title with the death of his father and inherited extensive estates throughout England and Wales. Paget had the chapel of the family’s country seat converted into a one hundred-fifty seat theatre (modelled off the Dresden Opera) and staged everything from elaborate costume dramas to cabaret for invited audiences.
Paget’s plans to tour with his theatre company, already mortgaging some of property to fund the excursion, was a step too far and she had their marriage annulled—though later cared for him at his death in Monaco, bankrupt and suffering from a prolonged illness (he’d always been somewhat restrained by a weak constitution) and possibly eager to win the right to hold onto some of his prized-possessions at Monte Carlo. All of it, the jewels, private custom rail cars for his actors, the clothes, the costumes—even his dogs, were auctioned off. Neither gambling nor lovers seemed to be the cause of Paget’s downfall, however—only a rather innocent though irresponsible propensity for profligacy and performance—also nicknamed the Dancing Marquess, Paget had a signature slinky snake dance that he would do no matter what the occasion, the later which none faulted him for. Even if the obituaries in the newspapers as well as the heir (another cousin) who inherited what was left of the Anglesey lands plus the debt were harsh, that heir ordered destroyed all of Paget’s diaries and correspondence, so we’ll never know if there was more to the story. Whatever the case, the people in his troupe as well as those associated with the family manors genuinely cared for their eccentric lord and patron.

a high-toned, candied muskiness

We’ve just been made aware that the common North American grape variety for wines, juices and jams is called the Niagara and is a hybrid of the European species Vitis vinifera and the native Vitis labrusca—the fox grape, named for its earthy character and cause of and partial, unsatisfying rescue from the French wine blight of the 1850s due to its export overseas with a pernicious aphid in tow—through this illustration from the 1901 Woodlawn Nurseries Spring seed catalogue. The grape was first created through selective cross-breeding in 1868 and are cultivated along the eastern seaboard and in the province of Ontario. It was also nice to be reminded that there was once a convention of the mail-order seed catalogue that while by its nature is a nod to competition and proprietorship also recalls a time when barriers to entry were low and farmers and gardeners weren’t beholden to one source.

tuppence a bag

I had the thought walking through the city the other day noticing the persistent scratching and pecking of pigeons amid all the rubbish on the streets and wondered if the two factors (pigeons aren’t pests, just opportunistic and very tolerable of human vermin) could be combined to achieve a solution. I don’t want to frame pigeons as underachievers but I don’t know if they can be trained—although doves seem very patient and compliant with prestidigitators and seen to have enjoyed their work as emissaries—to pick up and sort trash.
I’ll have to ask a friend who is a pigeon fancier what he thinks of my scheme. Maybe it’s simpler to train people to be decent and not litter rather than have someone else clean-up after us. In any case—that same thought has been turned into a real exercise at a historic park in France, where rangers and handlers are training rooks to spruce up the place and pick up any stray litter, human visitors being generally respectful about leaving nothing else behind, in exchange for a small morsel of bird food. What do you think? As with any intervention, there could be unforeseen consequences. Perhaps corvids are better at teaching other birds to execute clean-up missions. I think, especially with the insect population dangerously low with knock-on effects up the food chain, maybe this relieves some pressure on the competition for scarce resources by feeding the birds as a reward.

Friday, 10 August 2018

darling, it’s better down where it’s wetter

Via Boing Boing, we are treated to a rather remarkable demonstration video from Marine Imaging Technologies’ new HYDRUS camera. An array of eight underwater cameras whose perspectives are selectable as if the footage were in real time surveys a reef off the Cayman Islands under natural, low light conditions, giving one a taste of what live-cams undersea could offer.


Being introduced by Coudal Partners’ Fresh Signals to the social media property whose motto of déjà (or presque) vu ambiance and directive to wander, roam and replicate struck us as immediately relatable and perhaps our own mugging for the camera, which we’d fancy as unique though signs indicate the opposite and also recalled the perfectly cromulent but made-up German-sounding word above.  
Vemödalen is the frustration experienced upon the realisation that’s one’s photograph has already been captured millions of times before and therefore less worthy of esteem or admiration. Naturally there’s a degree of the cliché in holiday photos and posing for the perfect shot that one should recognise and reconcile oneself to but it also doesn’t mean that one should stop (civilly, politely) taking and sharing one’s vacation slides.

the very model of a modern-age millennial

Here is the first stanza by award-winning writer Meg Elison whose verse is a clever adaptation of the Gilbert and Sullivan standard, the “Major-General’s Song,” which if you don’t know, please look it up so one can better appreciate how the author captures the hesitation, scansion and spirit of the satirical song.  I am older but have been known to caucus with this group.

I am the very model of a modern-age millennial,
I’ve got no cash, no house, no kids, and student debt perennial,
I know the rules of Tinder, and I’m not sold on monogamy
(For what it’s worth I think that stems from trouble ‘tween my mom and me)
I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters on the gender front
Myself, I am nonbinary; your labels I so do not want
Been disillusioned by my expectations with a lot o’ stuff,
The skills with which I am equipped for life are frankly not enough

Go to McSweeney’s and check out the whole rhyme and refrain.


Diplomatic relations between Canada and Saudi Arabia are in complete disarray after the kingdom’s asymmetrical response to what it characterises as meddling in internal affairs after the Canadian foreign minister and other diplomats expressed concern over the arrest of human rights activist, Samar Badawi who had recently spurred reform that confers more independence for women in allowing them to drive and to conduct some business without a chaperone—prompting a youth organisation to respond rather threatening for its trading and educational partner to mind its own business.
The medium is the message, as Marshall McLuhan says.  Official government measures from the kingdom included the suspension of all trade and investment (part of this feud may be sourced back to a weapons deal arranged by the previous Canadian administration which the Trudeau government rescinded out of concerns of backing oppressive, authoritarian regimes), recalling its ambassadors, expelling the Canadian mission, ordering Saudi citizens being treated in Canadian hospitals to request discharges and transfers to facilities in another nation and for sixteen thousand students sponsored by scholarships studying at Canadian schools relocate at the risk of losing financial assistance. Other countries in the region joined Saudi Arabia in denouncing Canada for politicising human rights, which seems to me one of the chief if not the primary purposes of government. The US refused to weigh in on this affair, urging Canada and Saudi Arabia to work it together.

Thursday, 9 August 2018


Inspired by the mythological character that’s half horse and half human, engineers at the Italian Institute of Technology (Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, IIT) in Genoa have created Centauro, a strong and durable search and rescue robot capable of clearing debris and breaking through barriers.
With the aim of providing support to human first responders in disaster situations, Centauro is being taught to think for itself and the training will hopefully translate into faster reactions and independent problem-solving. Visit the link above for more information and a video demonstration of Centauro in action.

depth of field

Evoking the photographic aesthetic called bokeh (ボケ, Japanese for blur or haze) Cape Town artist Philip Barlow’s out-of-focus landscape oil paintings of cityscapes are a reflection of perception that outstrips more realistic depictions that ultimate grounds the real in the surreal. Discover more of Barlow’s work at the link above.


On this day in 1945, a US Air Force B-29 Bomber dropped the Fat Man nuclear weapon over the city of Nagasaki as the second and last of such an assault in history. Originally the primary target was the city of Kokura but the mission was diverted due to the previous day’s firebombing of the Yahata, which obscured the view for the bombardiers. Although more powerful than Little Boy dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August, local terrain confined the damage from the plutonium bomb to the northern part of the city but thirty-five thousand perished instantly with over sixty-thousand sustaining injuries.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018


glou glou: TYWKIWDBI regales us with an overview of new wine terminology

города́-при́зраки: a visually stunning gallery of abandoned places in Russia, via Things Magazine

voluntarily generated pilomotor reflex: studying goosebumps produced at will is a lot more intriguing than it first appears

i’ve got to break free: Freddie Mercury trains with the Royal Ballet in 1979

der phantashische film: German animator Heinz Edelmann, best known for his work on Yellow Submarine, created a psychedelic opening sequence for broadcaster ZDF

south street squidport: as sort of a reverse trap-street, one online mapping service is creating neighbourhoods and districts according to the branding of advertising agencies

seal of approval

Via Kottke’s Quick Links, we learn that the Trump regime is poised to relax regulations that restricts the use of the carcinogenic construction material asbestos—banned in over sixty countries.
The Environmental Protection Agency (which is not supposed to be ironically named) issued a so-called “SNUR”—a significant new use rule, that states that the presence of this substance will no longer be considered a factor in risk assessments. Trump, who in part cited the lack of fire-retardant asbestos as the reason that the World Trade Centre’s Twin Towers were consumed in flames, harbours scepticism that runs counter to the consensus of science and medical professionals but has garnered the endorsement of a Russian asbestos mining operation that’s using his image (unauthorised I guess but who knows?) on its toxic product. Learn more at the link above.

3ème bataille de picardie

A century ago on this day, the Allied forces, shifting from trench battles to armoured warfare, staged the Battle of Amiens, advancing over eleven kilometers in a single, decisive thrust. This first victory marked the beginning of what later became known as the Hundred Days Offensive, which signaled the end phase for the Great War, boosting the morale of French and British forces and dispiriting the Germans with thousands surrendering and taken captive.

something about the ratio of dishwashers to bathrooms seems off to me, but what would i, a mere wretch, too dumb and poor to avoid being exploited by the predatory cost of higher education, know?

Having followed the aesthetic criticism of Kate Wagner’s McMansion Hell for some time, we appreciated the alert from Things Magazine on her epic, unrelenting and much deserved takedown on the US Secretary of Education’s hedious seaside summer home.
Infamously inimical to the department that she is in charge of managing so as to be a moustache-twirling caricature of a villain that would be laughable except for the tragic fact that she is dismantling public schools and assaulting teaching as a vocation, Wagner—burdened with student loan debt herself—is dedicating her critique to all those hard working and dedicated public school teachers that taught her how to write.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

trade wars are good, and easy to win

Last invoked in 1996 and causing the US to withdraw its threat of imposing secondary sanctions on Cuba, the European Union has adopted a blocking statue that provides a measure of protection to member state corporations that continue doing business with Iran and license to ignore the hectoring bluster emanating from the White House.
Though continued trade could be frustrated in practise, EU companies that are negatively impacted by the US unilateral departure from the terms of the deal with Iran and restoration of punitive tariffs can seek recovery through the courts and refuse to recognise jurisdictions that enforce the sanctions, which are backed only by the US (making good on a pandering promise made to mobilised, useful idiots) and few regional powers that stand benefit from a weaker Iran.

person of interest

Actress, socialite and former Miss Hungary Zsa Zsa Gabor (*1917 – †2016) acquired reportedly a three thousand page dossier by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to Muckrock that’s sharing the first tranche of files.
The celebrity was monitored ostensibly over her habit of serial marriages which included Turkish and German princes and a hotel magnate and for corresponding with her family in Europe during the War and contravening censors—indications of possible espionage or subversive activities. We’ll need to wait for the next release to find out if there was anything to substantiate these suspicions. Ms Gabor claimed once to have gone on a blind-date with Henry Kissinger, arranged by matchmaker Richard Nixon, but vehemently denied charges, put forward in the files, of dancing with Adolf Hitler on two occasions.