Thursday, 28 February 2019


la pittrice: the outstanding life and career of female Italian Renaissance painter Sofonisba Anguissola

sentoculture: artist and drafter Honami Enya creates cross-sections of Japanese communal bathhouses

blockhead: good old Howie Schultz explores running as a third party candidate

all the rembrants: Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum displays all the works in its accession (previously) by the Old Master

sent from my iphone: Apple curates some superlative photographs taken by telephone

newlyweds: exploring the kitsch and social conventions of the mid-century honeymoon resorts of the Niagara Falls

muse and museum: the enigmatic subject of some two-hundred fifty Andrew Wyeth paintings he’d kept secret from everyone 


From the BBC Monitoring desk, we learn that years of neglect and crumbling infrastructure may be turned the Athens’ advantage and lead to the revival of an ancient and storied river that used to course through the city unimpeded but has been buried for decades after a post-war building boom.
Flowing down from Mount Hymettus and emptying into Phakeron Bay, the banks of the River Ilisos (ฮ™ฮปฮนฯƒฯŒฯ‚, a demi-god, son of Demeter and Poseidon) was a favourite spot for Socrates and his pupils as well as being dotted with shires and temples to Zeus, Diana and Pan along its route. Rather than repairing the tunnel that contains the river, the plan is to return it to the surface and line its banks with a public park, emanating from the Pantheatnaic Stadium—the venue for the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.

sede vacante

With already burgeoning anti-Catholic sentiment channeled and thrust to the next level with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln whose conspirators included Mary Elizabeth Surratt, a practising Catholic and hung by the neck until dead, and her son John Harrison Surratt—fugitive from justice who fled to Europe and briefly served as a Pontifical Zouave (the Papal States’ infantry—pictured in uniform) before being recognised and extradited back to the US, on this day in 1867, America suspended consular relations with the Holy See—diplomacy not to be restored until 1984. In the interim, special envoys and emissaries were appointed to negotiate deals and coordinate participation on specific political and humanitarian issues. Kindred sympathies between Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II both over their shared crusade against Communism and a bond formed after each survived assassination attempts in 1981.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019


From the Japanese ๅ…ซๆ–‡ๅญ— for eight letters, researchers at Harvard are reported to have successful synthesised a DNA analogue that incorporates additional four artificial base-pairs to complement the four natural ones that assumes the familiar double-helix structure. For moment, this potential expanded genetic repertoire could not escape the laboratory as it requires constant chemical nourishment that does not occur in natural biology but the potential is there for some incredible applications—including the search for extra-terrestrial life, pathology, enhanced data storage and nano-scale engineering.

idle, torrent

We are quite enjoying these soothing amorphous abstractions, courtesy of Colossal, as they grow and disperse across the screen from artist Alex Moy. The dripping transformations and ink-traps made us think of that psychedelic Sesame Street interstitial animated piece with the Yo-Yo Man and the Lost Kid. “Try to remember everything I passed but when I go back, make the first thing the last.” More to explore at the links above.

falsche flagge

Having become a metonym for actions facilitated or at least capitalised upon by authorities to forward their own interests and selectively deny elements of the opposition—or mere scapegoats (Caper emissarius)—their civil rights, the Reichstag Fire occurred this night in 1933.  Though later investigations and court proceedings suggest that the act was that of a lone arsonist (though pyromaniacal tendencies were never established), Nazi leadership—including the newly named Chancellor Adolf Hitler with just a week to go before a decisive vote that would eventually grant the party and executive plenary powers—that there was a vast conspiracy of Communists working to keep Germany down.
Firefighters extinguished the blaze by 23:30 but the complex was gutted and heavily damaged. Immediate consequences were cemented the very next day, when at the request of Hitler and Hermann Gรถring, President Paul von Hindenburg signed an incendiary decree into law that suspended the right to appeal unreasonable detention, freedom of the press, public-assembly and the expectation to privacy over the telephone or in the mail. These strictures were in place throughout the Dritte Reich. Parliamentary sessions were held in the Kroll Opera (accounting for the theatrics and stage-craft) adjacent to the ruins of the Reichstag building.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

this is … npr

Among many other grand and tragic moments that share this anniversary, our faithful chronicler Dr Caligari informs, that on this day in 1970 , by an act of the US Congress—following the passage of the 1967 Public Broadcasting Act, which also provided for a Public Broadcasting Service to cover the TV airwaves too—the National Public Radio network was established, the mandate signed into law by Lyndon Baines Johnson.


In addition to its cargo of satellites, SpaceX’s latest and literal Moon Shot had in its manifest a back-up copy of human civilisation, a thirty-million page anthology of history, literature and genetic code stored in a format meant to be prone to obsolescence.
This lunar library—part of a larger initiative to preserve a record of humanity flung around the Cosmos and lasting a billion of years, irrespective of what transpires on Earth, since other hedging for doomsday seems already under threat—we seriously have to do better. A privately funded landing module (Beresheet, which means “In the beginning” in Hebrew) will ferry this curated disk and primer on the human condition to the surface of the Moon in mid-April.

muster and moquette

CityLab made a quite wonderful and inspired appeal with their international, publically-jured round-up of mass-transit upholstery (previously here and here) sourced from trains, busses and metro-lines in service all over the world.

A few that I’m acquainted with can be reviewed here and I can completely relate to the feeling of pride and affection that passengers develop for these dreadfully excellent and challenging creations in textile that need not only to be practicable and identifiable (like this specimen of priority-seating for ScotRail) but have to also remain fresh, colourfast and rebuff graffiti for quite some time. Do share the distinctive seat-covers from your local public transport—and support them with your ridership and patronage. Much more to explore at the link above.

Monday, 25 February 2019

reverse look-up

In much the same way as a neural network can conjure people into existence before wishing them to the cornfield, we find a rather mysterious Swiss registered website—via LitHub—that seemingly authors short bits of stream-of-conscious fiction in the comments section of a Whois domain ownership query.
A refresh yields a different story with a different cast of characters and trajectory and only the holding company (a safe and infamous target in a former affiliate of bounty-hunting collections agency that was scandalous dissolved in 2011) remains the same. What do you make of this? Beyond the writing prompts offered up out of random noise—assuming that there is not some deeper feedback experiment going on here—we are all eager and programmed to tease pattern and intention out chaos and disruption, jolting something out of a background of near non sequitir, much like the reaching reassurance of a horoscope or fortune-teller.


Via Memo of the Air, we are treated to a photographic retrospective of the year in pictures, 1969 edition. Fifty iconic images curated by Alan Taylor show what shook the world and beyond fifty years, whose rumblings are still being felt. From Vietnam, Nixon, civil rights movements, the Moon landing, to Woodstock with everything else in between, it was surely an arduous task to pick a range of representative pictures—much less one.

pyt med det!

Our thanks to TYWKIWDBI for making us wise to another keenly useful Dutch turn of phrase—which, while not being the opposite or antidote to the equally thorny to translate hygge—in the attitude-encapsulating word pyt.
While not resignation nor the high-mindedness of forced-perspective, acknowledging pyt or pressing the “pyt-knappen” expresses the decision to accept circumstance beyond one’s control and influence—despite hardships and annoyance—and to not dwell or dawdle longer on it. Those events and happenstance margins of power (liminally outside what we can control) can prove the most draining but this light, delicate word has the magic to dispel them and invite hygge in their place.


actuation: robots will construct a new robotics science museum in Seoul—via Nag on the Lake

the way of flowers: an expanded look at the aesthetics of ikebana (previously)—the traditional art of Japanese flower arrangement

go transit: the vehicle just gets you there

high-intensity incidental physical activity: studies suggest that the most impactful forms of exercise aren’t exercise at all

gambay: an interactive map of Australia’s aboriginal languages—via Maps Mania

just want your extra time ... and your gif: a collection of officially-endorsed Prince animations

osborne bulls: the backstory of those iconic silhouettes that dot the Spanish countryside along freeways

beat of a different drum: a marching band with “robotic” music 

Sunday, 24 February 2019


The always brilliant Everlasting Blört directs our attention to a Tiny Desk Concerto from NPR of the Kiev-based quartet, whose name means “give-and-take” in Old Ukrainian and whose sound and soul reflects the “chaos” of incorporating the unexpected. If the vocal bridge from the last number, “Divka-Marusechka,” has a familiar holiday ring, that’s because it is referencing a traditional folk chant called “Shchedryk” (ะฉะตะดั€ะธะน ะฒะตั‡iั€, Bountiful Evening)—a New Year’s Eve carol appropriated by the West through intermediaries in 1919 as “Carol of the Bells.” Much more to hear at the group’s website at the the link above.


The date of observance and tone having shifted significantly since the Icelandic calendar was first codified and presently equivalent to Valentine’s Day, Woman’s Day has settled on this day—having beforehand been held on the first day of the month of Gรณa—which could fall anywhere between the eighteenth and the twenty-fifth of February, due to the strictly solar character of the traditional way of keeping track of the passage of time which employed interstitial weeks rather than leap days every few years to correct for seasonal creep. The extra week called sumarauki was always inserted into the summer and the rather ingenious and tidy system developed in the 900s had twelve months of thirty days each (three hundred and sixty plus four epagomenal ones) and the months always began on the same day of the week. The old Icelandic year was divided between “short days” (see also here and here)—Skammdegi—that described the length of daylight during the winter and its corollary “nightless days”—Nรกttleysi. The dark and harsh first half of the year consisted of:

  • mid October – mid November: Gormรกnuรฐur, Gรณr’s month which marked the time to harvest and slaughter livestock for the winter
  • mid November – mid December: รlir, Yuletide 
  • mid December – mid January: Mรถrsugur, feasting time 
  • mid January – mid February: รžorri, dead of Winter 
  • mid February to mid March: Gรณa 
  • mid March to mid April: Einmรกnuรฐur, the month of transition
Summer is welcomed with Sumardagurinn fyrsti and the six months of unending days, many named after now forgotten goddesses—making an even stronger argument to honour the women in your lives all year around, follow with:
  • mid April – mid May: Harpa, the beginning of Summer 
  • mid May – mid June: Skerpia 
  • mid June – mid July: Sรณlmรกnuรฐur, the sunny month 
  • mid July – mid August: Heyannir, time to dry the hay for the livestock 
  • mid August – mid September: Tvรญmรกnuรฐur, for some reason, the second month 
  • mid September – mid October: Haustmรกnuรฐur, autumn sets in

Saturday, 23 February 2019


The foothill of the Taunus range just on the outskirts of Wiesbaden—going by the term Hausberg, home mountain owing to the sense of ownership and defining characteristic that the landform has for its neighbouring borough, that I took the opportunity to revisit was originally known as the Ersberg before taking on the more romanticised name in the title in the nineteenth century when an ensemble of structures were built at the summit—with more added over the decades, and a funicular train was put in service to ferry guests to the summit.
The little rail depot was yet closed for the winter—we’d taken it up from the valley beforehand—but walking was a pleasant option. After strolling through a folly-filled park that banked on either side of a small brook, one first encounters the gleaming gold domes and spires of the Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Elizabeth, whose striking beauty, visible throughout Wiesbaden belies a sad story.
Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mikhailova (*1826 – †1845), niece of Emperor Nicholas I, married Adolf, Duke of Nassau (*1817 – †1905), and celebrated a brief but happy personal and political union—living in Schloss Biebrich, until Elizabeth died during the birth of their first child.
Grief-stricken and inconsolable, the Duke choose the spot on the hillside for a memorial church so he could always have a view of it from his residence.
Along with a parsonage and a cemetery, the church is one of the largest Russian Orthodox congregations in Europe outside of Russia—Wiesbaden already having garnered popularity with Russian tourists as a health spa and with a sizable emigre population that grew after the violence and revolution of 1917, and houses the Duchess’ sarcophagus.
A little further up on the hilltop lies an extensive Bergpark, the focal point being a temple, specifically a neoclassic monopteros—a circular colonnade supporting a dome roof, with views of the city below.
All that remains of former guest accommodations (the hotel that catered to guests of the nearby thermal baths burned down in 1989) is a single turret that towers over an amphitheatre. There was also a parkour set up in the forest—dashing through the treetops—but I thought maybe I had hiked enough already for the day but would consider coming back to see how the course is set up.

Friday, 22 February 2019

chart of the moment

This animation, via Digg, of how the top fifteen global brands rankings have changed in the nearly two decades since 2000—set to a rather bracing soundtrack—ultimately proves to be a bit arresting, considering how business and economic models have changed (those rising to the top no where on the radar at the beginning of the video) and happy to see soda and cigarettes  recede but still a little shaken at the swiftness of the rise of tech giants—wondering if there’s much technology left in a sector so dominant.

pon de replay

Currently trending (which is a terribly presumption thing to say and assuredly no longer the case with as quickly as we are on to the next thing) is to find one’s abiding mood and moral compass by conducting an image search with Rihanna plus one’s birthday (day and month) to find the celebrity’s sighting that coincides with that day—and while I quite liked the results that I got of the Barbadian artist spotted on the set of the heist film Ocean’s 8 and think there’s nothing nefarious in this fun—I think it might make for a better daily horoscope if one went with the current date’s paparazzi photo—like this one of her leaving a private bash at Mayfair’s Novikov in 2010.

re: the sources of soviet conduct

Though never intended for public consumption but eventually published in Foreign Affairs magazine under the pseudonym Mister X eighteen months later, Deputy Chief of the Mission of the United States of American to the USSR George F Kennan dispatched his “Long Telegram” back to the State Department in response to questions by the Department of the Treasury as to why Moscow was not supportive of the newly minted institutions of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund on this day in 1946.
Unable to articulate his answer succinctly—which is often a bit suspect of the author’s grasp of the matter at hand—as Kennan owes in the preamble to the five part thesis that overburdened the telegraphic channels. Kennan’s characterisation that Soviet power was “impervious to the logic of reason: but responded well to “the logic of force” and rooted in nationalism and neurosis—espousing a stance and ideology that would inform and define the policy of containment and excluded the idea of peaceful coexistence.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

it’s bananas—b-a-n-a-n-a-s

As part of a series of episodes on the topic of cartels and monopolies, NPR’s Planet Money takes a look at how the pendulum of US justice system swung from one extreme to the other in its view on mergers and acquisitions—from advocating consumer protection and the fostering of competition to the notion that the public benefited from consolidation and corporate imperialism.
The shift in outlook was largely due to the influence of US Solicitor General (elevated to that position due to the carnage of the Saturday Night Massacre) and DC circuit judge Robert Bork (*1927 – †2012)—whose views coloured the opinion of the Supreme Court (whose nomination to the high-court was famously blocked, coining the term to bork as a verb for obstructing or de-platforming) regarding antitrust matters from the 1970s onward and resulting in these giant conglomerates and inescapable subsidiaries. One of the legal scholars contributing to this piece described the government’s extreme stance on both sides as a kid—beginning with the best intentions—starting to spell “bananas” and not knowing when to stop.

life electric

First isolated in a riverbed in 1987 and quickly recognised for the potential as an agent of bioremediation for their affinity for heavy metals that are otherwise toxic to microbes (see also), geobacter excrete electrons as by-products of their metabolism. In collaboration with the University of Ghent, Dutch designer Teresa van Dongen has created—as a demonstration project—lamps (though the frame of the piece is more reminiscent of the body of a virus rather multiplying proteobacteria) powered by this singular bacterial discharge, quartering a colony in a battery where it can thrive—recharged on a weekly basis with a drink of tap water cut with vinegar.

Wednesday, 20 February 2019


We enjoyed very much contemplating this illustrated history of mazes and labyrinths, a 1922 volume curated by Public Domain Review.
The branching lanes referred to as curses and the turns each a course, these classical pieces of landscaping and iconography from legendary times through to churchyards and engravings and the ornamental gardens of the great estates speak indeed to a collective unconsciousness and present a meditative puzzle, regardless of vantage point though some perspectives might seem more advantageous than others, especially if one is the engineer and architect. Much more to explore at the link above.

what kind of person bokehs a child?

We were extra delighted to learn—via the always brilliant Nag on the Lake—that Apple has taken the very real photographic technique and aesthetic that means blurry or hazy in Japanese, anthimerized (“I’ll unhair thy head” or “the thunder would not peace at my bidding” from Shakespeare or more recently, “Don’t @ me”)—verbified, to demonstrate the depth control, softening focus with the ability to reverse the effect, feature of the camera on their latest smart phone.


On this day at this time, an erroneous Emergency Action Notification was dispatched to US broadcasters, directing stations to cease regularly scheduled programming immediately at the request of the government but no reason was given.
Listen to WCCO serving Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota area air silence here. The title refers to the codewords to give and them belay that order, and the bungle with the false alarm (the operator picked the wrong tape) revealed a lot endemic faults with the system—including that due to the fact the message coincided with a regularly scheduled systems test and many choose to ignore it and additional safeguards were added.


shadow-boxing: more clever illustrations from Vincent Bal (previously)

a sid and marty krofft production: the Banana Splits (see also) may get a revival, possibly as homicidal maniacs

animal husbandry: falcon breeders wear special copulation hats to get donor samples (see also the Falcon Hive), via Super Punch

shelf-life: a book whose pages are slices of processed cheese

www: via Kottke’s Quick Links, we discover that CERN has rebuilt the original 1990 browser that Tim Berners-Lee invented as an in-browser emulation—how does your website look through the lens of three decades?

bauhaus: a collection of short documentaries celebrating the design movement’s centenary (previously)

prรชt-ร -porter: a retrospective look at some of Karl Lagerfeld’s greatest fashion shows

climeworks: the determined Swiss start-up that is working to stop climate change through direct CO2 capture, via Swiss Miss  

geheimtreffen vom 20. februar

In order to raise funds for the election of the Nazi Party ahead of the early March general ballot and secure the two-thirds chambers majority to pass Enabling Act legislation (Ermächtigungsgesetz—formally called the “Law to Remedy the Distress of the People and the Reich”) and block its defeat, and give the party chancellor Adolf Hitler the plenary powers to pass laws without involving the tedious and meddlesome Reichstag, party officials held a secret meeting with some twenty prominent German industrialist (IG Farben, Opel, Siemens, various coal magnates, bankers and defence executives) on this day in 1933. Over two million Reichsmarks were contributed and made payable to a trust established by the party, and while the role of big business financing was undoubtedly crucial to the Nazis seizing power, it is also unclear if donations were completely voluntary.

all the presidents’ meals

The always brilliant Everlasting Blört refers us to a rather incredible, wide-ranging study from Foreign Policy on official White House State Dinners and how the evolution of the menu reflects changing tastes, health trends and American cuisine. Harry S Truman, hosting Dutch and British prime ministers Willem Drees and Winston Churchill, most certainly served samples of a certain new corn chip called Fritos and a couple of old fashioneds.
Nixon lost his creative flair after Watergate and recycled Bibb salads.  Jimmy Carter held the biggest state dinner with dignitaries from all over Latin American invited to attend the US transferring ownership of the Panama Canal. At one of the Reagans’ events, John Travolta danced with Princess Diana. Inventions of the kitchen—special sauces and desserts—were often named after the guests of honour. Reflecting popular diet fads of the 1990s, the Clinton White House only served beef on two occasions. Beautifully presented—plated, the interactive presentation that covers nearly nine decades of gastro-diplomatic fรชting, we are ready to dig in and sample the courses through history.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

peak curtains

Via Nag on the Lake, we learn about a couple of new and innovative IKEA undertakings that aim to augment and improve environmental conditions on a personal level which hopefully scales up.
Scheduled to go on sale in stores next year, the Gunrid drapes are made with a textile with a photocatalyst material that passively breaks down and absorbs air pollutants. The other development, based off the design of its toy boat the Smรฅkryp, has already been pressed into service, trawling Deptford Creek in southeast London and collecting trash, twenty kilogrammes a go. This demonstration project is set to expand and the Good Ship IKEA are remotely controlled—as well as autonomous units—equipped with web cameras that provide a live-feed and shipping-report on conditions as they ply the waters. Much more to explore at the links above.

drawn together

Hamburg-native and illustrator responsible for bringing to life English author and playwright Julia Donaldson’s Gruffalo, Axel Scheffler, has called London home for nearly four decades but since the Brexit referendum and the UK’s departure imminent, these days he’s anguishing over the outcome. In response, he invited some of his colleagues to illustrate their visions of Europe united and divided.

the fame monster

The always brilliant Nag on the Lake directs our ears to the neo-Baroque canon and counterpoint of arranger and performer Vincenzo Culotta in his adaptation of the 2009 release “Bad Romance.” Learn more and get the sheet music at the link above but I don’t think the artist managed to work in a G-A♯-G-A♯ tonic-dominant progression.

๐Ÿ‘‘๐Ÿ‘ ๐Ÿ’ฐ

Emoji are popping up more and more as evidence in court cases, as Slashdot informs, subject to interpretation and double-entendre, and often demonstrate that judges and attorneys are not prepared to deal with a level of innuendo and implicit deniability.
The inherent ambiguity in language is of course nothing new and employees legions of legal experts to study and in some cases capitalise on shades of meaning, but the case in point—trying to determine the guilt or innocence of a man entangled in a prostitution sting operation and whether he was proposition the undercover informant with the emoji string in the title in a text message—proceeded by the phrase “Teamwork make dream work”—is interesting to ponder because their seems, without further context, compelling arguments either way.
What do you think? Moving beyond the realm of awkward advances that can quickly become harassment or grounds for infidelity (sometimes an aubergine is just an aubergine), parsing meaning and intent becomes even more fraught as one is asked to judge what’s insulting (๐Ÿ’…), threatening or intimidating—confounded by the fact that reception of messages sent as positive or negative is not insignificantly coloured by the forum and platform that one uses.

Monday, 18 February 2019

executive overreach

On this day in 1856, among many other things both great and good, the American Party—isolationists and xenophobic who proudly styled themselves as the “Know-Nothings”—as our faithful chronicler, Doctor Caligari, informs, had their first political convention in Philadelphia and nominated their first campaigner for high office, former president Milliard Fillmore. Discreet to the point of secretive about affiliation and wanting nothing more than to stoke culture wars much like today’s fraught political landscape, it’s worth taking a moment indeed on this of all days to note the similarity between the person of candidate Fillmore and the actor, Alec Baldwin, who portrays (and apparently under threat for doing so) the current national emergency and pretender to the throne with such polish and acumen.

petri dish

I know that living cultures are not globules of a lava lamp nor do they exist for our amusement (like this ill-conceived portable sea monkey kingdom of tardigrades that was fortunately never realised) these bacterial lamps from designer Jan Klingler are, on the other hand, quite keen specimens and the epitome of having a conversation-starter in terms of home dรฉcor. At first selecting microbes for their aesthetic value and freezing the growth of the culture in place once the desired effect had been achieved, the resin plates can also be sourced from specific people and specific places.
Romantically, Klingler captured and projected the microscopic biome of the lamp post in Stockholm where the artist met his partner in one of his creations, sort of a post-modern fossilised keep-sake, and it would be an interesting dialogue and clinical trial—in keeping with the laboratory-inspired look, to display their separate microbial constellations (magnitudes larger than our human bodies alone) from when they first met and compare them to how they’ve changed as they’ve mingled and exchanged strains of bacteria.

grand ole opry

We are reminded of the fact that fried chicken magnate (with business partner Mahalia Jackson) and singer Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon (*1912 – †1996) who was better known by her stage name Minnie Pearl contrived a rich backstory for her signature character, including a fictional hometown of Grinder’s Switch (expanded from a real location outside of Centerville named for and consisting only of a rusty railroad junction box) Tennessee. I don’t really know what a Grindr or a Switch (oh—and oh, I think I am confusing it with Twitch but I don’t really get that either) is in the milieu of contemporary networking but I can’t imagine the two contexts have any particular affinity—though who am I to say?

and here we have idaho

Whereas many US states have adopted multiple official anthems coloured by one context or another—the majority sourced to eras not to be particularly proud of, New Jersey alone refreshingly of all the states and territories chooses to recognise none—though seemingly out of an embarrassment of choices rather than high-mindedness.
Others have waltzes, ballads, poems, state songs emerita attesting to the rousing horribleness celebrated that’s still too much tied up in the character of the place to let go of it altogether, marches and hymns. New Jersey, despite its diabolical native son in the Jersey Devil, does not have an official cryptid while acknowledging and taking ownership of more problematic symbols like the square dance, a patently racist contrivance rooted in no one’s cultural heritage.

path of totality

Via Space Weather, we learn that for some—in the Caribbean and parts of Central and South America, the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, will be blotted out during the night of 18 February through the early morning hours, when it is occulted by an asteroid with the designation (4388) Jรผrgenstock with its shadow moving upon the Earth.
It is strange to think such alignments of stars much greater than our own (dimmed by something far punier) happen all the time and hopefully garner some notice.  Discovered in 1964, the asteroid is named after the German-Venezuelan astronomer Jürgen Stock (*1923 – †2004)—not to be confused with the incumbent Secretary General of INTERPOL—who made significant contributions to the field of stellar photography, spectral analysis and classification as well as placing observatories in locations to maximise their abilities to study the Universe.

Sunday, 17 February 2019


If ultimately accepted by the Paris-based International Bureau of Weights and Measures (Bureau international des poids et mesures), Marginal Revolution informs, the ronna- and the quecca- as prefixes for the outlandishly large amounts of 1027 and 1030 (plus their microscopic and vanishingly tiny counterparts, the ronto- and quecto-) would be their first new official unit prefixes added to the metric system since 1991.
The current upper limit of the officially recognised and scientifically sanctioned scale is the yotta- and data-storage capacity is expected to reach and quickly surpass ten to the twenty-fourth power (1024, approximately the size of an individual human’s full DNA sequence, with the corollary yocto-) of bytes of information within the next decade. Though popular in common-parlance handy and a good avenue for talking about science literacy in general, the googol and related values are still vernacular and provisional.

jpeg image, 1024 x 1024 pixels

Via Swiss Miss, here’s a seemingly unending and disconcerting gallery of head-and-shoulders images of people (the name of the website is a constant reminder) that do not exist except as the figment of a machine’s imagination (see also here and here).
There are a few glitches when generating the images, sometimes noticeable in the background, make-up, hair or clothing but it’s beyond the Uncanny Valley of the Dolls in terms of realism. Paying a visit to the website, just hit the refresh button to summon another non-entity into being however temporarily. So many incept dates—I know they’re just fabrications, collages (though they could probably be readily assigned an extensive and made-up biography) but I also can’t help wondering what happens when one clicks next.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

tone it down


yo gabba gabba: Canadian researchers explore drug therapies that appear to rapidly reverse age-related cognitive deterioration in mice—via Slashdot

some assembly required: trace the evolution of furnishing trends through the covers of IKEA catalogues (previously) from 1951 onwards—via Nag on the Lake  

if i can make it here, i’ll make it anywhere: online retail giant abruptly cancels plans to build a second headquarters in New York City

hollywoodland: mapping the remaining iconic neon signs and other illuminated installations of California’s Electric Products Corporation

the doctor is in: a “public philosopher” takes deep and probing questions from strangers

deal or no deal: an overview of how UK expatriates living in the EU will be impacted post-Brexit

please won’t you be my neighbour: an appreciation of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood’s friendly Officer Clemmons 

oconus or american empire

When on that date which “will live in infamy” that is framed as the bombing of Pearl Harbour by Japan, it was not just Hawaii that was attacked but also the US territories of Midway, Guam, Wake and the Philippines as well as the British colonial holdings of Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaya.
It was not, however, that Pearl Harbour was an inclusive way of summarising all this assault under one aegis of place, as shown in preliminary drafts of the speech that Franklin Delano Roosevelt would make to the American people and commit the country to take part in the war effort fully, but rather a calculated appeal that hedged against Americans’ aversion to involvement in foreign wars. Because the Philippines seemed too exotic and a distant outpost like Guam didn’t seem worth military entanglement, they were downgraded and went unmentioned while Hawaii was promoted in the speech to the “American island of Hawaii,” much to the slight and consternation of the people of Manila and elsewhere who had also experienced great suffering.

Friday, 15 February 2019


A research group has trained a neural network that when given a prompt for prose or a news item can extrapolate a whole, plausible sounding passage, which for all its naturalness is wholly a product of machine learning and the computational musings, however, convincing are divorced from reality.
Recognising the potential for propagandise the automation of literature and the press (here’s a less scary example), the group is for now withholding releasing their findings to the public, until such time as we are better equipped to use such abilities in positive ways and not suffer under the abuse of them but I wonder if we’ll ever truly be prepared and sufficiently girded against our own copyediting and desire for a quick turn-over reflected back at us far faster than we could churn it out. Read more at the link up top.