Sunday, 5 February 2023

a piece of the rock (10. 525)

Closed since 1969 after the near unanimous results of a referendum not to become a condominium shared with the dictatorship of Francisco Franco (the Gibraltarians much more partial to self-determination than either alternative), the border between Gibraltar and Spain was fully reopened on this day in 1985, effectively ending a decades-long embargo that restricted freight, postal and communication links and ocean-going traffic as well—the concession made as part of Spain’s admission into the European Community.

Monday, 5 December 2022

8x8 (10. 362)

under attended: when only two individuals show up to a new author’s reading, much of the establishment commiserates and share words of encouragement—via Super Punch 


giving face
: Poseidon’s Underworld takes a moment to reflect after a month’s sabbatical  

postcards of dead birds: more on strange Victorian Christmas greetings—see previous here and here  

monochrome: an AI tool to colourise black-and-white images—see previously 

government attic: Things Magazine reminds of us this great aggregator of FOIA logs—see previously 

the christmassy chord: a deconstruction of iconic holiday standards 

the tartarian empire: an introduction to a bizarre architectural conspiracy theory—via ibฤซdem  

rsvp: journalist was one of six attendees who showed up for an expensive Metaverse party hosted by the European Union

Saturday, 29 October 2022

level 42 (10. 255)

Was really pulling for my Team Europe to pull into the lead—albeit this is a strangely weighted scale given that we’ve resided in three different Bundeslรคnder, had extended stays in different regions within several of these countries and have been there on vacation multiple times (plus discounting the other two dozen nations in North America), but nonetheless—courtesy of Maps Mania, we enjoyed tallying places we’ve lived, made holidays or just transited through. There are expanded, more cosmopolitan versions to be found at the link up top. Do let us know your score.

Thursday, 13 October 2022

§§ (10. 219)

The oldest formal data protection law in the world, the State of Hessen promulgated its Data Protection Act (das Datenschutzgesetz) on this day in 1970. A model for privacy legislation to follow, it was authored chiefly by Spiros Simitis, inspired by a visionary article in the Frankfurter Allegemeinen Zeitung (FAZ) warning of the potential pitfalls of widespread computer use and when the law was adopted by the Landtag to great zeal, it was declared that omniscient, panopticon of survellience would not be able to gain purchase here, setting up an independent institution to monitor against Orwellian practises. Though lacking a robust regulatory framework by today’s standards, evolution and articulation of the law enshrined for us in iterations the concepts of retention and disposition schedules, data earmarking and anonymization as well as informed consent and the right of information self-determination.

Wednesday, 12 October 2022

eurobruggen (10. 217)

Via Pasa Bon! we learn that one Dutch town called Spijkenisse, part of Rotterdam, has managed to claim all the anonymous, composite bridges on Euro banknotes for the Netherlands by building the spans over one waterway in the residential area Het Land from 2011 to 2013.  The community was also in the headlines more recently at the beginning of November 2020 when a metro car that jumped the track was saved by a whale tail sculpture after pummetting ten meters. 

Tuesday, 12 July 2022

7x7

smacs 0723: astronomers unveil the first colour pictures from the James Webb Space Telescope—see more, see previously  

power plant: an interactive map of energy and industry from the European Commission  

ecovado: a sustainable, locally-sourced alternative to the imported avocado  

empire rollerdome: New York street photographer Patrick D Pagnano captures 1980s roller disco—via Messy Nessy Chic 

 €/$: euro, US dollar at parity  

maps mastery: a profile of expert-level GeoGuessr players—via Waxy  

zero-g: researchers at Kyoto University design artificial gravity architecture

Thursday, 23 June 2022

scheduled territories

Also known as the above legal entity the sterling area came into being in 1931 when the pound was unpegged from the gold standard and a number of countries, mostly Commonwealth nations, either employed the £ or had a fixed rate of exchange with it, effectively came to an end on this day in 1972 when the British government unilaterally applied exchange controls to all its participants—with the exception of the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands—with the departure of forty-five members from the economic bloc in protest of UK monetary policies. Once the most robust and coherent currency areas, the realisation trade with the continent was more important that historical preferential trading with former parts of the empire prompted the UK to seek closer ties with the European Communities—the Common Market—and devalued, floated the pound ostensibly to halt outflow and flight to the US dollar but many saw it at the time as a concession to France’s objection to UK membership in the organisation that would go on to become the European Union, which repealed its veto the following year. Coincidentally, this day also marks the 2016 anniversary of the Brexit referendum.

Wednesday, 1 June 2022

the stresa convention

Hosted in the above Italian city on the shores of Lago di Maggiore on this day 1951, the International Treaty on the Use of Appellations of Origin and Denomination of Cheeses (see also) was adopted by the members of the European Community (EC) and went into force two years later—providing a framework for protection of goods manufactured and matured in regions by dent of local, loyal and uninterrupted traditions—plus relief from imitators. The first annex lists Gorgonzola, Parmigiana Romano, Pecorino and Roquefort. The second annex includes Asiago, Camembert, Cambozola, Danablu, Edam, Emmental, Esrom, Gouda, Gruyรฉre and Samsรถe.

Sunday, 22 May 2022

hail to the bus driver

Our gratitude to Super Punch for not just informing us of the annual European Tramdriver Championships held in host city Leipzig (see previously, which we just missed this time around but there’s always next year) but also is a very serious competition with teams and fans of mass-transit from all over the continent coming together. Check out the links above for more on this extreme motor-sport for everyone, whose trials include best breaking-speed and accuracy, obstacle courses and various other traffic, shared-lane gauntlets.

Sunday, 24 April 2022

the snake in the tunnel

Following a referendum in France the day before that admitted the UK, Ireland and Denmark into the Common Market, on this day in 1972 at a summit in Basel the members of the European Economic Community agreed to install an exchange system to limit fluctuations in rates in order that the basket of European currencies would be consistent with the US dollar. With the titular nickname (Schlange im Tunnel, le Serpent monรฉtaire europรฉen), the arrangement was the first attempt to peg the Mark, the Franc and the Pound Sterling to one another that ultimately led to the creation of the euro and was precipitated by the Nixon Shock of the previous year with the repeal of the Bretton Woods system. This coordination, cartel was a method to control appreciation and depreciation and retain relative stability until the following year when the dollar began to float freely and member nations diverged in their response.

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

vilnius group

Constituted in May 2000, member countries Slovenia, Slovakia (having already undergone its Velvet Divorce in 1993, the date falls on the anniversary of the 1990 compromise that ended the so called Hyphen War, Pomlฤkovรก vojna, started in 1989 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union on what to call themselves and how to share a territory with two identities) Romania, North Macedonia, Lithuania (it’s capital the namesake), Latvia, Estonia, Croatia, Bulgaria and Albania to lobby as a group for NATO inclusion, all aspirants acceded to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation on this day in 2004 with the exception of Albania, Croatia and North Macedonia (under the Adriatic Charter) joining in 2009 and 2020. The former association closely maps with the composition of the Visegrรกd Group, another former pooled campaign for European Union membership and presently a regional economic cooperative.

Monday, 7 February 2022

metadata

As Slashdot reports, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, Meta, is threatening to pull core services out of Europe altogether if EU privacy laws—including GDPR which has been enforceable for years now—prevent the company from sharing European user data with domestic operations. Good riddance to bad rubbish—I hope that that’s a promise that the anti-social media platform can deliver on.  We hope regulators do not relent and make concessions to the platform.

Saturday, 15 January 2022

unwort des jahres

Critical of unreflective and dehumanising, casual use in the press, the independent jury have selected Pushback as their “un-word” of the last year for Germany—previously. The often illegal practise of forcing migrants back from the borders of destination or transit countries was illustrated by the tragic stand-off at the EU frontier in Poland on the boundary with Belarus, weaponising asylum seekers from Iran, Iraq and Syria by granting them (at great personal costs—see previously) visas to Minsk and then pushing them out for West to care in reprisal for sanctions levied.

Wednesday, 29 December 2021

mmxxi

As this calendar draws to a close and we look forward to 2022, we again take time to reflect on a selection of some of the things and events that took place in 2021. Thanks as always for visiting. We’ve made it through another wild year together and we’ll see this next one through together as well.

 january: In the US state of Georgia’s run-off election, Democrat candidates prevail and thus switch the Senate’s controlling majority. The joint session of Congress to certify the votes of the Electoral College in favour of the Biden-Harris ticket is interrupted by a violent insurrection on the Capitol incited by Donald

Trump, yet the proceedings are resumed undeterred. For his gross incompetence and treasonous actions, the US House of Representatives impeaches Trump for a second time. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are inaugurated president and vice-president of the United States of America in a socially-distanced ceremony held on the same portico where the violent coup attempt occured two weeks prior. Across Russia, thousands protest the arrest and detention of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.  English filmmaker Michael Apted (*1941), entertainer Siegfried Fischbacher (*1939, see also last May) and baseball players Tommy Lasorda (*1927) and Hank Aaron (*1941), actress Cloris Leachman (*1926) as well as accomplished star of stage and screen Cicely Tyson (*1924) pass away.  

february: A military uprising in Myanmar wrests power from the government of Aung San Suu Kyi.  Actor Hal Holbrook (*1925) and veteran become fund-raiser who raised millions for the National Health

Service Sir Captain Thomas Moore (*1920) himself succumbed to COVID-19.   French screen-writer and director Jean-Claude Carriรจre (*1931) passed away, and so veteran actor Christopher Plummer (*1929). The US Senate again convenes as jury to vote on whether to acquit or prosecute Donald Trump’s impeachment.  Larry Flynt (*1942), publisher, pornographer and self-styled anti-censorship champion, passed away, as did jazz virtuoso and twenty-three-time Grammy Award winner Chick Corea (*1941).  The US Senate votes not to acquit Donald Trump a second time after his second impeachment.  A polar vortex brings severe winter storms to Texas and Mexico, leaving millions without heat and electricity has the power grid is overwhelmed.  Talk radio provocateur Rush Limbaugh (*1951)  dies after a year-long struggle with lung cancer.  Poet and activist Lawrence Ferlinghetti passes away, aged 101. Martian probe Perseverance touched down on the Red Planet to begin a search for signs of past life. The US rejoins the Paris Climate Agreement.  

march: Oprah Winfrey interviews the estranged, self-exiled Sussexes about Meghan Markle’s treatment

by the Royal Family, causing consternation and many to question the institution of the monarchyPhantom Tollbooth author Norton Juster (*1929) passed away aged ninety-one.  A container ship gets lodged in the Suez Canal, hindering global trade and could potentially be stuck for weeks.  Legislators in the American state of Georgia pass selectively restrictive laws to disenfranchise Black voters.   Children’s book author Beverly Cleary (*1916) writer of the Ramona Quimby series passed away, aged 104.  The usurping military forces in Myanmar gun down dozens of pro-democracy protesters.  Islamic rebels besiege the city of Palma in Mozambique.  Undercover operative whose missteps brought the Watergate scandal to the press and public, G. Gordon Liddy (*1930) died, aged 90, as did author Larry McMurtry (*1936) who penned Lonesome Dove, The Last Picture Show and Terms of Endearment.

april: Prince Phillip passes away, aged 99.  As tensions escalate between Russia and NATO with a troop

build-up along the border with Ukraine, US President Joe Biden proposes to meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to normalise relations and restore diplomatic ties.  The police officer who murdered George Floyd is found guilty on all charges.  Walter Mondale (*1928), former vice president under Jimmy Carter, and presidential candidate with running-mate Geraldine Ferraro passed away, aged ninety-three.  Astronaut Michael Collins (*1930) who orbited the Moon while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin explored the lunar surface passed away, aged ninety.

may: Accomplished actor Olympia Dukakis (*1931) passed away, aged eighty-nine.  Architect Helmut Jahn (*1940) behind the Messeturm in Frankfurt and the Post tower in Bonn died in a bicycle accident.  Dozens of rebel priests across German defy the Catholic church and offer benedictions to same-sex couple.  Israel airstrikes in Gaza escalate.  Actor, author, televangelist and TV’s Captain Merrill Stubing Gavin MacLeod (*1931) after suffering a long bout of ill-health.  

june: G7 leaders meet in Cornwall, in person.  A coalition government in Israel unseats Netanyahu after a

dozen years as prime minister.  The US government establishes Juneteenth as a new federal holiday though new laws to disenfranchise Black voters continues apace in many Republican controlled polities.  The space station Tiangong receives its first crew.  Software and computer security pioneer John McAfee (*1945) found dead in a Spanish jail cell awaiting extradition to the US over charges of tax evasion.  Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, was disbarred for peddling the lie that that the election was stolen from his former client.  The US government issues a declassified report to congress regarding unidentified aerial phenomenon.  A twelve storey condominium complex near Miami, Florida collapses with dozens injured and unaccounted for.  

july: Outrage as more mass-graves of indigenous pupils found at historic Canadian residential schools.  Hundreds perish from record heatwaves and wildfires along the Pacific coast of North America.  Angela Merkel makes her last official visit to the United Kingdom, addressing the Houses of Parliament, the last

foreign leader to do so since Bill Clinton in 1997.   Richard Donner (*1930), film director behind The Goonies, Superman and the Lethal Weapon franchise passed away.  England plans to fully reopen with no COVID-19 restrictions late in the month despite a resurgence in cases and the rapidly spreading Delta variant.  Jovenel Moรฏse, the Haitian president, was assassinated.  Continual and torrential rains exacerbated by the climate emergency caused severe flooding in western Germany and the Henan region in China.  The Special Committee on the January 6th Capitol Insurrection heard opening testimony from law enforcement on the scene of the terror attack.  Inventor and infomercial pitchman Ron Popeil (*1935) passed away.

august: The UN Panel on Climate Change issues a stark, bleak forecast for the planet’s future as a suitable place for life as we know it.  Wildfires rage throughout the Mediterranean, Siberia and the North American west coast.  As coalition forces depart, the resurgent Taliban takes several regional capitals in weeks with Kabul poised to soon collapse as authorities flee and embassies are evacuated.  A massive earthquake strikes Haiti.  Tragically, most Afghani government officials flee the country and the capital falls as the Taliban retakes power and restores the emirate after nearly two decades of warfare.  US army installations in Germany assist with Operation Allied Refuge (OAR) as thousands of Afghans are airlifted from the country.  Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts (*1941) passes away. 
Just days ahead of the deadline imposed to complete evacuation missions out of the Hamid Karzai international airport, an Islamic State affiliate and sworn enemy of the Taliban for being too Westernised, lax, undisciplined detonated twin suicide bombs outside the gates, killing dozens.  Veteran actor and advocate Ed Asner (*1929) passed away as did Jamaican musical giant Lee “Scratch” Perry (*1936).  On the sixteenth anniversary of the devastating Hurricane Katrina, a destructive storm called Ida makes landfall.  The Taliban celebrates with fireworks and firing rifles in the air the departure of the last US flight from the Kabul airport, declaring victory.

september: The legislature of the state of Texas passes a tranche of new laws curtailing voting access, restricting teaching of America’s racist past and present, mandating the national anthem at sporting events, permitting universal carry laws for firearms and doing away with licensure or training requirements and

essentially banning abortion by placing a bounty on abettors and deputising neighbours to litigate the ban against neighbours.  New Wave actor Jean-Paul Belmondo (*1933), whose roles defined the genre and called the French counterpart of Marlon Brando, James Dean and Humphrey Bogart, passed away.  El Salvador becomes first country to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender.  “Yes Sir, I Can Boogie” singer Marรญa Mendiola (*1952) of Baccara passed away in Madrid.  An effort to recall and replace Democrat governor of California fails and Gavin Newsome retains his place, though the balloting and counter-campaigns cost taxpayers of the state in excess of a quarter of a billion dollars.  The first commercial, all-amateur space tourism mission safely splashes down after three days in orbit.  Entrepreneur, inventor and computing pioneer behind the ZX Spectrum, Clive Sinclair passed away, aged 81 (*1940).  Justin Trudeau’s party retains power following national elections.  After three years under house arrest in Canada and fighting extradition to America on charges of espionage and circumventing sanctions against Iran, business executive Meng Wangzhou, daughter of the head of Chinese communications giant Huawei, is released. 

october:  US president Biden’s agenda is derailed, diminished by moderate voices in his party.  A vaccine for malaria is trialled in Africa.  Amid a growing corruption scandal, Austrian leader Sebastian Kurz

tenders his resignation, though choosing to remain leader of his political party and will retain his seat in parliament.  William Shatner, aged ninety, as a space tourist becomes the oldest human to enter the Earth’s orbit.  Attending an open-advice surgery for his constituents from Leigh-on-Sea, long-time MP David Amess was murdered by an attacker with a knife.  Former US Joint-Chief-of-Staff and Secretary of State, Colin Powell (*1937) dies from complications arising from COVID-19.  President Biden’s Build Back Better plan, under pressure from elements of his own party, is rather austerely pared back, dropping proposed benefits like universal college tuition and paid family-leave.  Garbage social media network rebrands its parent company as Meta as it prepares to build and embrace its concept of the metaverse.  A military coup in Somali plunges the country into chaos with no signs of peaceful resolution.

november: A powerful storm-flood in western Canada cuts off Vancouver from the rest of British Columbia.  Weaponised refugees massed at the EU frontier by a provoking Belarus at enormous personal

cost are slowly being repatriated to the lands they fled.  After exonerated in a gross miscarriage of justice, Republicans acclaim a teenage, white supremacist murderer as their new hero.  Award winning Broadway songwriter Stephen Sondheim passes away, aged ninety-one in the same week as Schoolhouse Rock! lyricist Dave Frishberg (*1933).  The COVID-19 Omicron-variant, first detected in South Africa, is causing major concerns as convention cases rage resurgent in Europe, poised to be more widespread and deadly than the same time a year ago.  Inflation and supply-chain issues threaten global economic recovery.  On the anniversary of its independence from the UK in 1966, Barbados becomes the world's newest republic, with Sandra Mason as the island’s president. 

december: Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows releases Power Point slide-deck that outlined options for Trump to hold on to the presidency in the chaos of the 6. January insurrection to the commission investigating the attempted coup.  Monkees singer Mike Nesmith (*1942) passes away.  An unseasonal tornado rips through western Kentucky, leaving over a hundred dead.   Gothic novelist Anne Rice (*1941 as Howard Allen Francis O’Brien) passed away.  Tensions continue to mount at the Russo-Ukraine border with Russia putting forward a litany of demands for NATO to avoid invasion.   Journalist and author Joan Didion (*1934) passed away due to complications from Parkinson’s disease.   Borders close and travel-restrictions re-imposed over truly exponential spread of the the Omicron variant; preliminary findings suggest although less lethal, hospitals and other essential services could be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers and vulnerable populations still need protection.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu (*1931), anti-apartheid hero and moral-centre, passes away aged ninety.  Sadly veteran blogger Jonco, behind Bits & Pieces, passed away quite suddenly, leaving the blogosverse a dimmer place.  On the last day of the year and just weeks short of planned celebrations for her one-hundredth birthday, beloved talent and treasure with a career spanning over eight decades, Betty White (*1922) passed away.

 



Monday, 13 December 2021

high times and misdemeanors

Although the Netherlands may be the European country most closely associated to legal marijuana, it officially only tolerates commerce and possession that are still regarded as criminal, the small island nation of Malta, with the bill expected to pass through parliament and be signed into law in time for the weekend, will be the first polity within the EU to legalise cannabis.   The move comes ahead of broader drug enforcement harmonisation expected for governments in Switzerland, Germany and the Benelux in 2022.

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

ampelkoalition

After over two months of negotiations, the dominant political parties of Germany faring best in the last general election, the so-called Traffic Light Coalition by the colours of their respective factions, have agreed to form a new government with centre-left Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats (SPD, Red) appointed as chancellor. Under this power-sharing agreement, the once deputy to Merkel will allot cabinet seats to other affiliates with Greens candidate Annalena Baerbock expected to become foreign minister and the fiscally conservative, neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP, Yellow) under the leadership Christian Lindner positioned to take control of the finance ministery.

Monday, 22 November 2021

merkmal

Already holding the distinction since 2014 of being the senior leader of the G7 and longest term in the European Union of any elected head-of-state, Angela Merkel,  holding a doctorate in quantum physics, was appointed to the chancellorship of Germany on this day in 2005, following federal elections and creation of a coalition government as chair of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU-Partei), in partnership with the Bavarian sister-party and the Social Democrats.  Acting as chancellor still under a caretaker administration until a successor is appointed, Merkel has helped the EU and her own country weather the Great Recession, expansion of the supranational bloc, a green power revolutions—Energiewende, ended military conscription, oversaw healthcare reforms, crafted domestic and international responses to migrant and asylum crises, Brexit, Trump and attendant horrors, COVID-19 and the climate emergency.

Monday, 27 September 2021

distinguishing signs of vehicles for international traffic

From tomorrow on (28 September, 2021) and with no official reason cited though one suspects it is in show of support for Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom is switching its national identifier decal for cars and lorries from GB (Great Britain, the nations nominally to the exclusion of NI) to UK. License plates which also currently bear the GB identifier and the circle of stars on a blue field representing the European Union will also require a change, to UK above a Union Flag. The new stickers, needed for travel outside the UK but not applicable to Gibraltar or other overseas territories, will be available for £1.50.

Saturday, 18 September 2021

avoirdupois

Via Slashdot, as the Independent reports because of Brexit—as if EU standards were the sole compelling reason that the UK was harmonised with the standard that (nearly) the rest of the world uses—that should legislation pass, markets and shops will be able to opt out of metric units and regress to customary measures. Albeit as valuable as the colour of one’s passport, in reality the matter is more complicated and bound in other treaties including with the International Organisation of Legal Metrology, agreeing that only one official system of measurement be used.

Friday, 17 September 2021

6x6

pontifices maximi: the denatured bridges of euro notes 

top banana: the fruit label collecting community—via Weird Universe  

toccata and fugue: Bach’s compositions—see previously—from eight perspectives  

trolley problem: pedestrians recruited involuntarily in self-driving car trials—see also 

trivia killed the video star: a look back on how quiz games replaced arcade fascination  

soli cui fas vidisse minervam: polymath Lauri Maria Caterina Bassi Veratti, nacknamed after the goddess of wisdom, first salaried female professor