Saturday, 22 January 2022

the new normal

On this day in 2003, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld fielded questions during a press conference, including Charles Groenhuijsen a Dutch reporter from Nederlandse Publieke Omroep, who spoke to the mood of reservation and doubt in the coalition of the willing: “But now the European allies. If you look at—for example—France, Germany also a lot of people in my own country … [I]t seems that a lot of Europeans rather give the benefit of the doubt to Saddam Hussein than Geroge Bush. These are US allies. What do you make of that?” After some prevarication, Rumsfeld replied, “Now you’re thinking of Europe as German and France. I don’t—I think that’s old Europe. If you look at the entire NATO Europe today, the centre of gravity is shifting to the East.” Heralded later as the German Worte des Jahres—altes Europa—it was embraced by many politicians as a badge of integrity for their well-founded skepticism and reluctance in contrast to what some regarded as opportunistic realignment for New Europe.

Friday, 21 January 2022

aack one

Though I admit that I would be burying the lede if I didn’t confess that I would have turned to this excellent and highly recommended podcast mini-series on the Cathy comic strip (1976 - 2010) and its author Cathy Guisewite by Jamie Loftus for the mere fact the concluding episode is entitled Guisewite Shut, it is a subject worth revisiting—rather unfairly dismissed and reviled as a trope of “the four basic guilt groups,” it’s a much more subtle and nuanced ocial commentary on generational transitions and power dynamics.

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.

9. being crafty occasionally (3)

Vis-a-vis the recent popularity of the game Wordle, we quite appreciated this retrospective from Public Domain Review on the development (see previously) of the modern crossword puzzle, the appeal of diversions and challenges in times of turmoil, cryptic clues and the connection of the contemporary poetry of TS Elliot. Much more to explore at the links above plus with new puzzles daily, give Wordle a try.

Friday, 7 January 2022

web 3.0 is going great and is definitely not an enormous grift that’s pour lighter fluid on our already-smouldering planet

Via Web Curios (definitely lot’s more to check out there), we are introduced to a project by Molly White who curates articles and discussion threads that illustrate the dark side of tech utopian-thinking and how we can’t just code our way to equality and out of an environmental crisis that is exacerbated by Ponzi schemes and chasing that greater fool. There are some choice headlines about corporate malfeasance, lack of disclosure and how riots and disruptions to the internet in Kazakhstan (to quash the coordination of said protests) reveal the extent of bitcoin mining occurring there, subsidised and underwritten by the government’s policy of producing cheap fuel from the dirtiest sources.

Thursday, 6 January 2022

triple axel or i, tonya

On this day in 1994, figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was assaulted and bludgeoned with a police baton after practise by hitman Shane Stant in an ice rink arena in Detroit, the attack arranged by Jeff Gillooly, the ex-husband of rival skater Tonya Harding with the intent of stopping Kerrigan from competing in ongoing championships and out of the Winter Olympics and improving Harding’s chances for success. At first Harding denied any knowledge of the conspiracy to take out the competition but later admitted to trying to conceal the attack in its aftermath, eventually disclosing more involvement. Kerrigan recovered in time for Lillehammer, with both skaters competing in the Winter Games. Later, Harding was disciplined with a life-long ban from participating in figure skating events. The incident and drama is summarised in Weird Al Yankovic’s 1994 parody of the Crash Test Dummies’ “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm,” “Headline News”:

Once there was this girl who
Swore that one day she would be a figure skating champion
And when she finally made it
She saw some other girl who was better
And so she hired some guy to
Club her in the knee cap.

Friday, 31 December 2021

pneumonia of unknown etiology

On this day in 2019, the World Health Organisation’s China Country Office received a report of approximately four dozen cases, with a fourth of the patients presenting as severely ill, detected in Wuhan in Hubei province. Original disease vector that introduced the contagion were never identified but the virus SARS-CoV-2 and variants eventually came to be classified as COVID-19. One year later to the day—shortly after the roll-out had already begun in the UK, the WHO’s stringent regulatory authority approved its first eight emergency-use validations for vaccinations undergoing clinical trials, hedging various strategies to stimulate immune responses in the human body to this novel coronavirus we had not been exposed to before, including messenger RNA, fragmented and inactivated virus approaches.

Thursday, 30 December 2021


Naturally calendars are cyclical and there are surprisingly few iterations of the Gregorian, civil almanac with just fourteen possible variants and happily one can recycle one’s 2011 calendar for 2022. I wonder if any correspondence is in store with the Arab Spring igniting in Tunis and spreading across the region, a catastrophic earthquake in Christchurch, Wikileaks publishing documents and dossiers on Guantanamo Bay detainees, the death of Osama bin Laden, the arrest of Ratko Mladiฤ‡ for war crimes during the Serbian conflict, the massacre in Utรธya, the European sovereign debt crisis, water on Mars, Occupy Wall Street, the death of Muammar Gaddafi and the world population reaching seven billion souls—just to name a few events of note. Interestingly, this day was skipped—advancing from 29 December to the thirty-first by polities in Samoa and Tokelau moving from east to west of the International Date Line, aligning their time zones better with their chief trading partners, reversing a move undertaken in 1892, celebrating US independence day (4 July) twice and match clocks in California, the source of dominant commercial activity back then.

Sunday, 26 December 2021

the year in photos

2021 beginning a continuation of the previous year in many ways and not the grand departure we were counting on, changes and improvements are incremental rather than escapingly exponential and so appreciated, these collections of superlative images that chronicle the course of the past twelve months. There were of course too many arresting and consequential photographs to include them all, but this one picture framed by Don Seabrook of after school band practice addresses that stepwise nature of best-practices trialled and abandoned, sometimes without explanation, like those directional arrows in supermarket aisles that aren’t apparently needed any more or the rules of masking at restaurants and how safety bumps and personal mitigation-measures up on the limits of science. Much more to explore from Kottke at the link up top aggregating the lists from various news outlets.

Thursday, 23 December 2021


Similar to other courtesy alphabets and attempts at Latinisation we have encountered before—with varying degrees or success and reception (see here and here), the always engrossing Language Log introduces us to the above transcription scheme also known as Sin Wenz (“New Script”) developed by Russian and Chinese Sinologists and saw widespread use in the 1930s and 1940s. This first attempt as Romanisation (see previously) had native speakers as stakeholders and notably did not attempt to indicate tonal shifts as those were expected to be made clear by context. Much more at the links above.

Saturday, 11 December 2021


level 5—the scent represents a fully personal experience with some unrelated property. the experience itself has no aroma or shared understanding: Yankee Candle’s Stages of Abstraction—via Waxy  

pine-eleven: conservative pundits suggest arson attack on network’s Christmas tree a ‘hate crime’ and an assault on religious freedoms  

by-line: Bloomberg’s annual jealousy list of articles they wish they’d written—via Kottke  

a new system of arithmetic and metrology: Johan Nystrรถm’s hexadecimal tonal and temporal notation (1863)  

alpine exports: Little Switzerlands abroad—see also here and here  

you buy—i die: Indian handicraft as indictment against thoughtless consumption

Saturday, 4 December 2021


In what’s become an annual treat, Tom Whitwell again shares fifty-two items he has gleaned from the past year. In the compilation, drawn from experiencing editing projects for Fluxx / Medium, Whitwell’s shared new facts learned include that daily over a million images of coffee grinds are uploaded to a fortune reading app (the process of divination called tasseomancy), advice on how to solicit better answers, the MSG hoax, the truth behind the mystery seeds from China hysteria, and a few we’ve previously covered like how cowpox vaccine was transported around the world, traditional Japanese microseasons, how film was formulated to privilege lighter complexions, and how the threshhold effect applies even to a doorway on screen. Many more astonishing correlations at the links above—do let us know your favourites.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021


dress rehearsal: for a quarter of a century, an individual attended his own funeral  

dominical letters: how the artificial unit of the week came to govern our lives—see also  

carceral publications: a collection of US prison newspapers  

yes or no questions: celebrate the conclusion of Futility Closet’s eight plus year run with a final episode of lateral thinking puzzles  

hvorugkynsnafnorรฐ: despite progress in the choices for human naming conventions, the Icelandic governing body for horses is still highly gendered  

regenerative medicine: researchers develop “xenobots” capable of biological self-replication—via Waxy  

amigone: aptly named mortuary services—via Super Punch

Sunday, 7 November 2021

four seasons total documentary

Via Miss Cellania, we are treated to a preview of the documentary, premiering in full on the occasion of the press conference’s one year anniversary, about the venue (see previously here and here) booked by the Trump campaign by mistake that became a media sensation from the perspective of the landscapers that ensured the boon and bane of viral fame.

Saturday, 6 November 2021


the audience effect: fellow blogger and internet caretaker Duck Soup passes a million page-views

ะณั€ะฐั„ะธั‡ะบะธ ะดะธะทะฐั˜ะฝ: celebrating the works of three pioneering Serbian graphic designers and topographers

mountain view: a prop gravesite used for film and television, interred and disinterred thousands of times, in a very real cemetery 

subject matter expert: the street photography of Eric Kogan—via the morning news  

utter rubbish: traumatising photographs of the garbage, sometimes neatly knolled, that humans produce  

the briefing: a definitive guide to COP 26  

greased falcon: a fan-channel dedicated to Star Wars! The Musical (2008)  

time in a bottle: hackers are amassing encrypted data in the hopes that within a few years, quantum computers will be able to unlock it—via Slashdot 

return to comfort town: more on brilliant housing development in Kyiv inspired by building blocks—see previously

Sunday, 26 September 2021

bundestagswahl 2021

Germany is holding a national ballot to elect the members of the twentieth Bundestag, the federal parliament. With Angela Merkel having chose not to run after sixteen years as chancellor, this vote marks the first time in modern Germany history that the incumbent is not seeking reelection.  Seven top candidates from Germany’s forty-seven listed political parties are vying for top position and the mandate to form a coalition government and reach a power-sharing agreement with the opposition.  

Monday, 20 September 2021


With the current climate twenty years on and comparable numbers of lives lost and lives impacted on a daily basis due to the pandemic and our trenchant, asocial behaviour and a resurgent Taliban controlling Afghanistan, it feels a bit hollow marking the anniversaries of the events that unfolded domestically and internationally in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 Attacks. The Bush doctrine, however—first characterised to the press as a “war of terrorism” on 16 September and then presented formally as a global “war on terror” in an address to a joint-session of the US Congress on this day in 2001, labeling “our enemy is a radical network of terrorists and every government that supports them” has an outsized legacy that impacts nearly every aspect of our lives.   Despite consternation and criticism with this approach, the policy went forward with consequences around the world. Though his predecessor, US President Barak Obama, avoided the term and declared the conflict over on 23 May 2013, stating the that the US military forces and intelligence agencies could not and would prosecute a war against a tactic, instead styling the commitment as world police as Overseas Contingency Operations and substantively continuing, even expanding America’s role.

Saturday, 18 September 2021


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.


Beginning a week after the 9/11 attacks and continuing over the next month, a bioterrorist—likely a scientist at the US government’s biodefense and research labs in Fort Detrick, Maryland—posted letters laced with anthrax spores to several media outlets and the offices of two US senators, killing five individuals, mostly mailroom staff and infecting a further dozen with the bacteria. Compared to the hunt for the Unabomber for its range and time to identify a culprit and motive, the FBI operation named with the above portmanteau pursued a number of false leads, the attacks spawning, several copycat hoaxes. The notes in the envelops which purported to come from a non-existent grade school contained variations on the message:


Al Qaeda and Iraq initially blamed, focus not turning to the possibility that it was a domestic actor within the government until 2006, forensic geneotyping just reaching the sophistication needed to trace the particular bacterial strain back to its source, though the ordered destruction of all anthrax stockpiles limited the chance for future research into the crime. The US mail service is still hyper-vigilant over suspicious packages and prone to false-alarms.

Thursday, 16 September 2021


Whilst admittedly many newsletters become something to ignored, deleted or at best skimmed over, greymail that one forgot one subscribed to, we were intrigued by this tip to receive a weekly run-down of the most edited articles and pages on the platform. From the same team at Hat Note that brought us the innovative experience Listening to Wikipedia, this is an effective way of wrapping up and reviewing the past seven days in news and culture.