Tuesday, 31 December 2019

five... four... three... two...


visual basic

Via Boing Boing, we are introducing to an intuitive programming language called Piet, based on the geometric compositions of Dutch abstract painter Mondrian (previously here and here), allowing for a rather esoteric if not immediate and accessible way of encoding and decoding the syntax and logic operators that underpin coding.
The inventor hosts an extensive gallery of classical applications and test-programmes at the link above, like this elegant and aesthetically congruent prime number probe written by Kyle Woodward. There’s also a nice suite of variations on “Hello World.” I’ll owe that there’s a certain level of unfamiliarity to work through as with any creative interface but I really cherish such projects as these—striking me like all the fussy, complex and niche musical instruments that composers saw a need for even when something off-the-shelf might have done the job.

porf and potus

On this day when the first President of the Russian Federation (Президе́нт Росси́йской Федера́ции) the guarantor of the constitution, commander-in-chief and highest office chosen by popular election, Boris Yeltsin resigned his commission over domestic dissatisfaction with his reform efforts (see previously), and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin assumed the presidency.
A statutory hiatus between Putin’s second and third terms (the law establishing that none can serve more than two consecutive terms) ushered in the caretaker government of Putin's own Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev from 2008 to 2012, allowing Putin again to stand in elections that year. Yeltsin is seen here bestowing Putin with the livery collar or chain of office, a ceremonial insignia of the presidency, like the sash, worn on special occasions. Although there is no law prohibiting a partisan presidency, by convention all incumbents have dropped party affiliation while in office.

Monday, 30 December 2019

you can turn the clock to zero, honey—i’ll sell the stock, we’ll spend all the money

Via fellow internet caretaker Miss Cellania, we learn the backstory to those novelty New Year’s glasses, concocted on one stoned evening in January of 1990 and put into production in time to herald in the next year by revelers and for the following years to come.
The duo behind the iconic variations, Richard Sclafani and Peter Cicero of Seattle, were schooled in the patent application process and realised that there was essentially no safe means of protecting one’s design from being knocked-off by competitors—yet they did register pairs of glasses for the next fourteen years and did have a good and profitable stint of success, until when the final year of the twentieth century appeared on the horizon with 2000 and too many opportunists saw the potential for easy profit. Those sales diminished and their marketing efforts undercut, both behind the phenomenon are grateful for their good run and the smiles they brought to people counting-down. Designers will again, after 2020, be challenged to come up with more clever frames.

8x8

getränkekiste: photographer Bernhard Lang features bottle crates from novel perspectives, via Nag on the Lake

россумские универсальные роботы: a 1979 children’s book series illustrated by Mikhail Romadin (*1940 – †2012) of Tarkovsky studios, whom went on to draw for Ray Bradbury and others

uranometria: stars captured on older stellar charts now seemingly vanished could point incognito alien civilisations, via Strange Company

accessory dwelling unit: architecture graduate creates prefabricated homes out of Hawaii’s problematic, invasive Albizia trees

fiat tender: giving cash as a gift but at the same time keeping the personal touch

i demand a recount: “Me and the Boys” voted community choice Meme of 2019, followed closely by “Woman Yelling at a Cat”

chinampa: a look at the fading, ancient practise of floating farming along the canals of Xochimilco

64x64: favourite photographs of the year by as many photographers

smygflyga

We completely understand and empathise with the fact it’s hard to settle on a favourite—especially when one is spoilt for choice, so we are enjoying pouring over this list of notable neologisms that Sweden’s top linguists at the Institutet för språk och folkminnen have identified that helped define the past year.  The gretaeffekten of course looms large having rightly been recognised for their overwhelming importance to the age by no less than two august language authorities and with the derivative title word—flying on the sly, not disclosing one’s travel itinerary because one failed to plan ahead so one could train-brag so as to avoid flight-shaming—plus other well-deserved honours besides, shared amongst all allies. We further enjoyed how the registry included internet terms like deplatformering and ASMR, clarified to readers as a hjärnorgasm and not some further Marvel Cinematic Universe appropriation of Norse mythology.

Sunday, 29 December 2019

suspended judgment

Via the always excellent Nag on the Lake, we find ourselves affronted with those awful low-points of anti-scholasticism that makes one bid good riddance to the past decade, which in many ways has all the hallmarks of regression and should have by all rights set our species on the trajectory to the cutting-room floor—and perhaps still will.  Take solace while perusing this hall of shame that you don’t rank among them—the climate change deniers, the flat-earthers, the anti-vaxxers, the incels and their ilk and hopes that one never does. Condemnation of what’s wrong and misguided is of course justified but can also serve to cement one’s beliefs, grounded or baseless.

bunkermuseum

Travelling on a bit north of the Rennsteig (previously here, here and here) and taking advantage of the bright but frosty weather, H and I went to a part of the vast nature reserve known as the Frauenwald and took a tour of a compound that was once maintained by the East German Army (die NVA, Nationale Volksarmee) under the authority of the Ministry for States Security (MfS, die Stassi) as an emergency command-and-control bunker for continuation of governance in case of attack during the Cold War, established well behind enemy lines.

Constructed in parallel a nearby rest-and-recuperation resort constructed for soldiers on leave, the nearly thirty-six hundred square metre complex was mostly above ground but designed to be sealed off from the outside environment and stocked with provisions to keep its compliment alive for four weeks before restocking was needed.
The installation was decommissioned and mothballed after 1989 and run as a private venture since 2004. The narrow corridors and vaults was like being on a submarine—especially mindful of the point of this exercise and keeping it self-sufficient, uncontaminated as it were, prepared for all contingencies including chemical, biological and nuclear strikes—and the period dioramas recalled us to the museum once housed in the Colossus of Prora.
The past is a foreign country.  The former situation room was especially poignant with original furnishings and woodchip on the wall and not much different than the legacies centres still in operation (contrary to how they’re portrayed in the movies) and imparts a since of relief that somewhere so delicate and relatable was not ultimately conscripted to be part of mutually assured destruction and hope that such redundancy might inform the geopolitics we are heir to.

there’s plenty of room at the bottom

Delivered on this day before an assembly of the members pf the American Physical Society at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena (see also), Richard Feynman’s (*1918 – †1988) lecture—subtitled “An Invitation to Enter a New Field of Physics” addressed the virtually limitless possibilities of miniaturisation and is heralded in retrospect as the birth of nanotechnology. A culmination of research, including though-experiments and practical demonstrations, Feynman’s intrigue was contagious as he pondered the ramifications of manipulating matter at atomic scales—creating incredibly dense circuitry, data-storage systems as well as vanishingly small mechanisms and medical interventions that were precision-controlled rather than relying on chemical processes that could be poorly grasped or might not work outside of the laboratory.
Though these motorized enzymes and ingestibles remained theoretical concepts and the bailiwick of science fiction until recently, the seminar ended with Feynman issuing a couple of challenges to his audience, the first of which were solved in very short order: the first thousand dollar payout came with the development of the first nanomotor the following year, the second—fitting the whole of the Encyclopædia Britannica on the head of a pin took a bit more time but its equivalent was finally accomplished in 1985

the constitutions of clarendon

Beginning just ahead of the eight hundred-fiftieth anniversary of his murder in Canterbury Cathedral on 29 December 1170, the British Museum is hosting a series of events and exhibitions on the life and legacy of Thomas Becket (previously).  Acting on what they interpreted as an express order from Henry II, four knights brutally killed the archbishop (see link immediately above) and this palace intrigue which went on to inspire sainthood and pilgrimage, solidified by his earlier exile for crossing the king—whose later inversion and disfavor helped curry the Protestantism and the fledgling Reformation in the bulwark of Henry VIII (see also). Read more about the special collections at the links above and at the museum’s own blog and watch this space for further updates.

Saturday, 28 December 2019

fundbüro

Via Dave Log v.3, we’re well acquainted with the Unclaimed Baggage Processing Centre in Enterprise Alabama that sells on lost and never claimed luggage from the airlines and more recently were given a tour of Paris’ but we were heretofore unfamiliar with the logoistics behind reuniting when possible, warehousing then auctioning off lost items from Germany’s railways as told in this visual storyboard from the New York Times.
Nearly a quarter of a million items, from the mundane to the esoteric and inexplicable—steeped in more mystery when one considers how one might lose track of certain treasures much less be unable to follow up on their whereabouts, are found every year in stations, on the platforms and left in the trains. A team of a dozen curators headquartered in Wuppertal try to deaccession their collections through research and detective work and find their owners.
Once all efforts have been exhausted, items go under the hammer, auctions held weekly on Platform 1. Though it would be a bit of a railway journey in itself but I’m going to resolve to check the city and the Bahnhof for the clearance event out one Thursday afternoon soon.

visitor count

Courtesy of Gizmodo, we are referred to a register of pages ranked, rated and annotated that Wikipedia users have visited over the past year.
Over a quarter of a trillion inquiries were logged for 2019 and moderators have stretched out that list out to its top five-thousand topics (the very last place still netted one million two-hundred thousand page views). The very top-tier most read articles—for the English language suite of sites at least but one wonders how that hegemony is exported and translated, mostly seem to by playbills, programmes and Cliffs’ Notes to help audiences better understand what entertainment that they just consumed.
Not only is it interesting to see on the expanded list that indelible mark of purple for a link visited as one scrolls through this list, it’s also an engrossing exercise to realise that one has perhaps not researched a particular figure or event further (on Wikipedia at least) which one hopes that they were better informed or should have been more curious about or those that stand out as utter mysteries and make one want to hover over it if not click through and glean more.

Our apologies for the late proclamation, as the announcement for the Kanji Character of the Year—under the auspices of the scholastic organization Kanji Aptitude Test Foundation, based in Kyoto—is writ large in bold calligraphy on the portico of a historic temple every 12 December (previously), but it is still an annual superlative worth reflection.
Maybe we will remember to watch for it next time it comes around.  Jured from a variety of sources including people’s choice, the character 令 (pronounced rei) was selected. It’s primary meaning is order but harking back to the abdication and enthronement of a new emperor with a new era, Reiwa, we are also reminded that it can connote beautiful harmony, which one can hope is not just a record of the year that’s passed but also a portend of the year to come.

Friday, 27 December 2019

say what?

Though possibly more familiar to audiences as cover-version and originally debuting on their album Honey, the formative funk group Ohio Players’ hit single Love Roller-Coaster first topped the charts in North America on this day in 1975, remaining on the Top 40 list for weeks.
Though in line with the premise of the song that romance is like a thrill-ride, a seemingly errant though audible scream (heard around 01:24 of the single, about a minute later on this album version) has been a persistent source of urban legends since its release, ranging from a deadly recording studio mishap to the confession of guilty conscience. The scream was in reality voiced by keyboardist Billy Beck. The contributions of Beck, Leroy Bonner, James Williams and other members were recognised in 2013 with the group’s induction into the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame (matriculating as part of the inaugural class) in Cleveland.

7x7

rebirth of a salesman: revisiting a 1969 documentary that revealed how evangelism and door-to-door sales converged

новогоднее дерево: the evolution of the Yolka New Year’s Tree—from its pagan roots to Soviet anti-religious symbolic staple (see also)

mamurluk: also home to the Museum of Break-Ups, a new gallery space dedicated to hangovers opens in Zagreb

now that’s a name i’ve not heard in a long time: a fan-made Obi-Wan Kenobi Star Wars story

intern’yet: reportedly, Russia successfully unplugs from the world wide web and replaced global portals with domestic ones

bergkristall: Adalbert Stifter’s timeless, beloved 1845 novella

open conference bridge: a team of volunteers are retrofitting and reviving a network of payless, pay phone booths to bring community cohesion

mmxix

As this calendar draws to a close and we look forward to 2020, we again take time to reflect on a selection of some of the things and events that took place in 2019. Thanks as always for visiting. We've made it through another wild year together.

january: China lands a probe on the far side of the Moon.  In the US, works from 1923 enter into public domain, the first tranche to do so since 1998. After a contested election, the incumbent government of Venezuela is declared illegitimate.  We had to say a sad goodbye to Zuzu, a long time companion for my mother and a devilish dog.

february: The Trump administration announces its decision to withdrawal from the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, prompting Russia to follow suit.  Pope Francis becomes the first pontiff to visit the Arab peninsula.  A second summit between the US and North Korea collapses in failure.  We bid farewell to fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld, musician Peter Tork, and actor Bruno Ganz.

march: A terrorist’s rampage kills fifty people during services in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, prompting the government to immediately ban the sales and ownership of assault weapons.  Special Counsel Robert Mueller concludes his report on Russian interference in the US 2016 presidential election and summits it to the Attorney General.  Copyright reforms pass in the EU Parliament.  After successive failures to pass a divorce deal, Brexit is delayed.    We had to say goodbye to musicians Dick Dale and Keith Flint, actor Luke Perry, as well as filmmaker Agnès Varda.

april: Wikileaks founder Julian Assange loses his political sanctuary after seven years residing in the Colombian mission to the UK and is apprehended at the behest of the US, to be extradited to stand trial for releasing classified materials.  We sadly had to say goodbye to another canine companion, Chauncy. Astronomers capture the image of a black hole.  Brexit is postponed again. During Holy Week, a conflagration engulfed Notre-Dame de Paris.  Over three hundred individuals in Sri Lanka were massacred on Easter Sunday.

may:  Austria’s far-right coalition government collapses after an incriminating video surfaces of a senior official emerges of him promising infrastructure contracts in exchange for campaign support to the posturing relative of a Russian oligarch during a meeting in Ibiza.  Sebastian Kurz resigns as Austrian chancellor and Brigette Bierlein leads a caretaker government until new elections can be held.  We bid farewell to master architect I.M. Pei, Tim Conway, Peter Mayhew, Leon Redbone and Doris DayGrumpy Cat also passed away too soon.

june: The Trump family take a summer vacation, going off to London to see the Queen, fêted by outgoing Prime Minister, Theresa May, discharging one of her last, onerous official duties before stepping down. The US administration reinstates most sanctions and travel restrictions against Cuba.  Trump ordered strikes against Iran for the destruction of a US spy drone, belaying the order once jets were already in the air and instead authorised a cyber-attack against the government.  Over the course of two evenings, the large pool of Democratic nominee hopefuls held debates.  We had to say farewell to iconic New Orleans singer, song-writer and producer Mac Rebennack, otherwise known as Dr John, as well as epic, old Hollywood filmmaker Franco Zeffirelli and Gloria Vanderbilt.

july: Violent protests continue in Hong Kong.
An arsonist attacked an animation studio in Kyoto, killing dozens.  Donald Trump channels his racism to strengthen his bid for re-election, having never stopped campaign, blowing a dog whistle that is clearly audible to all.  Boris Johnston succeeds Teresa May as prime minister and head of the UK Tory party.  We had to say goodbye to Brazilian musician João Gilberto who introduced the world to bossa nova as well as business magnate and philanthropist turned independent politician Ross Perot (*1930), US Supreme Court associate justice John Paul Stevens, Argentine architect César Pelli and actors Rutger Hauer and Russi Taylor.

august: Protests continue in Hong Kong.  India revokes the special status accorded to the disputed territory of Kashmir, escalating tensions with neighbouring Pakistan and China.  More gun violence visits the US.  Puerto Rico goes through three governors in five days.  Sex-trafficker and socialite Jeffrey Epstein was found dead of apparent suicide in his jail cell awaiting trial.  In the midst of a mass-extinction event, Trump repeals the Endangered Species Act and the Amazon burns.  Poet and author Toni Morrison (*1931), Irish singer Danny Doyle and lyricist David Berman died as did actor Peter Fonda and animator Richard Williams.

september: Setting a dangerous precedent, the US national weather agency revises its hurricane forecast to match the antics and bullheadedness of Donald Trump in the wake of the death and destruction brought on the Bahamas.
Prime minister Boris Johnson prorogues Parliament until only two weeks ahead of Brexit departure day.  Trump also announces the cancellation of secret talks he was to hold with a delegation of the Taliban that probably otherwise would have been a 9/11 anniversary photo-op.  Greta Thunberg leads a Fridays for the Future climate walkout in Washington, DC and addresses Congress and global strikes follow.  After thirty years as presenter for BBC Radio 4 flagship Today programme, John Humphrys retires.  House Democrats launch impeachment proceedings against Trump after it was revealed he sought to impugn his political opponents with the help of a foreign power, this time Ukraine.  Photojournalist Charlie Cole (*1955) who captured the iconic image of Tank Man and artists Eddie Money (*1949) and Cars headman Ric Osasek (*1944) and pioneering journalist Cokie Roberts (*1943) passed away.

october: Trump withdraws US troops from the Kurdish controlled border region of Syrian and Turkey promptly invades.

Protests continue in Hong Kong, marring China’s seventieth anniversary celebrations.  There is a terrorist attack on a synagogue in Halle.  Trump refuses to cooperate with House impeachment proceedings.  John Bannister Goodenough (previously) is recognised with a shared Nobel in Chemistry for his pioneering work with lithium batteries. An all-women team of astronauts successfully complete a space-walk.  Brexit is delayed again with the extension pushed back to 31 January 2020.  ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is killed in a raid by US military forces.  The Trump administration is highly recalcitrant and uncooperative during impeachment proceedings.  Long-time congress member representing Baltimore, Elijah Cummings (*1951), passed away.

november:  The Trump impeachment hearings go public.
Aide and political consultant Roger Stone found guilty on all counts for obstruction of justice, witness tampering and lying to Congress just as Trump intimidates former Ukrainian ambassador live during her testimony and career diplomat Marie Yovanovitch is afforded the chance to reply in real time.  A deadly knife-attack on London Bridge is halted by three by-standers, one with his bare hands and the others armed with a fire-extinguisher and a narwal tusk.  The historic Austrian village of Hallstadt is partially burned down.   Frank Avruch (also known as Bozo the Clown, *1930) passed away. We also said farewell to William Ruckelshaus (*1932), America’s first Environmental Protection Agency administrator and government official who defied Richard Nixon during the Saturday Night Massacre.

december:  The venue moved from Chile due to ongoing unrest, the environmental summit COP25 commences in Madrid.
Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin step down.   Greta Thunberg is named TIME’s Person of the Year.  In the UK General Election, a sizable Tory upset gives Boris Johnson a mandate for the UK quitting the EU.  Global trade wars with the US and the rest of the world as belligerents re-surges, this time over Nord Stream 2 (previously) and opting for an energy source at least marginally cleaner than American oil and natural gas obtained by fracking.  Wildfires continue to devastate Australia.  We had to bid farewell to pioneering Star Trek screenwriter DC Fontana (*1939), veteran stage and screen actor appearing in M*A*S*H*, Benson and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine René Murat Auberjonois (*1940), spiritual guru Ram Dass (*1931), accomplished actress Anna Karina (*1940) and Carroll Spinney (*1933), the puppeteer behind Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch (previously) for nearly fifty years.

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

pause for station identification

As always thanks for visiting and please don’t be a stranger. From ours to yours, PfRC wishes you all a happy and auspicious holiday season!

hark the herald ai’s carol

Reprising a 2017 experiment this time with more powerful machines, Janelle Shane (previously) had her neural network try its hand at composing Christmas songs, drawing from a dataset of two hundred and forty carols compiled by the Times of London, and the output really underscores how profoundly strange that the holiday with its strange fossilised language would be for outsiders.
With verses for Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer like “Its heart was full of sugar / And the most prized food item was its head” and “For sinful men such a deity doth appear / And wink and nod in reply.” If you subscribe to AI Weirdness at the link above, you can sign up to receive the full text of these and other experiments—which as an occupational hazard feature an inordinate amount of cusses and references to gun-violence. Grandma got run over by a reindeer.

The wretched world is run by ox and ass
The wretched world is run by ox and ass,
And in vain build I.

unwort des jahres

Whilst the jury is still out on the national Unwort of the Year for 2019 (previously), the Landeshauptstadt of Hesse, Wiesbaden the arbiter of the actual Word of the Year—has made a few selections of its own, reflective of state and local culture and politics.
While we’ve encountered all three of the finalists and agree that the signage proclaiming the shopping corridors of the pedestrian mall downtown to be a weapons-free zone irksome and depressing and the winner in the form of an unending major construction project that has had Autobahn traffic in a snarl for years on end a frustrating if not befitting champion, we most enjoyed reconnecting, re-engaging with those awful E-Roller, electro-scooters abandoned, crowding the sidewalks. Do you have a nominee for Unwort of the Year for your area?

intergalactic planetary

Sampling from sources as diverse as Les Baxter, Modest Mussorgsky’s A Night on Bald Mountain through the filter of piano virtuoso Sergei Rachmaninoff, the Beastie Boys’ Grammy winning single showcased in a music video is celebrating turning twenty this year, inspiring a Toronto trio, Angela Young and children Lilah and Levi, to honour this anniversary with their holiday greeting. The three MCs dance their way through the city’s metro and Union Station to the song, outfitted like the band, wishing all a celestial season. You can watch the original at the link from Nag on the Lake above as well.

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

men would be silent and women would shed tears

Far more complex and nuanced that the Western internet slang that we used to invoking—LOL, ROFLMAO, etc.—though more sophisticated translations are to be found of even these basic expressions like ptdr, pété de rire, that is broken from laughter, Chinese speakers have adopted some of the conventions of Hanyu Pinyin (the official Romanization system for Mandarin—see also) as text messaging shorthand.
This use is not restricted to simple abbreviations however but as homographic initialisms of rather elaborate set phrases (chengyu) and stock epithets, like the title nánmònǚlèi or nmnl (男默女泪, “men would be silent and women would shed tears [to see it]. I would equate it to being able to telegraph thtc, am I right? Tell me about it [Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth, / With cadent tears fret channels in her checks, / Turn all her mother’s pains and benefits / To laughter and contempt, that she may feel / How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is / ] To have a thankless child! Another common one is rjbc—rénjiānbùchāi, 人艰不拆 short for human life is [already] so tough, you shouldn’t subject it to further [trials] or sqsj—shānqióngshuǐjìn, 山穷水尽 the end of hills and rivers, to be up to one’s neck, to be totally exhausted. Incidentally, the Mandarin slang equivalent of the LOL that we started with is xswl—xiào sǐ wǒ le 笑死我, making me laugh myself to death.

side-scrolling

A clever gaming enthusiast engineered a rotating LED cube as a custom platform for playing classic arcade games, like Castlevania featuring our vampire-hunting protagonist Simon Belmont, with the sixty-four by sixty-four panels mounted on a mechanised lazy-susan spindle whose speed and advance is adjusted with foot pedals to free up the hands for game play.
It is pretty keen indeed when nostalgia and know-how and retool the retro,  imbuing new life in an older franchise.  As impressive as the spinning display is, it belies the biggest technical challenge found in the programming of staging format games with the playable-character remaining stationary in the centre of the frame with the obstacles and opponents rushing towards and past our hero. Deconstructing the virtual world on a Nintendo Entertainment System emulator to track the character’s progress relative to game-play. More demonstrations and specifications are at the link up top.

Monday, 23 December 2019

o come, o come, emmanuel

With the evening prayer of the last week of Advent (previously) denoted as the hortatory Antiphons—a short chant with refrain textually based on the Book of Psalms and a call to meditate on one of the aspects of Jesus as Saviour, the last and final falling on the eve of Christmas Eve exhortation that O God is With Us, expanded into the carol.

Sunday, 22 December 2019

worldbuilding

In contrast to an early twentieth century conjecture that the then three and a half billion humans could all be fit on the Isle of Wight if all were standing shoulder-to-shoulder, science fiction author John Killian Houston Brunner (*1934—†1995) predicted that the population of seven billion of the 2010’s—an accurate foresight like many of the other visions of his future, overcrowded world, with all its attendant calamities—in his 1968 novel Stand on Zanzibar would need a significantly larger landmass.
The rather pioneering piece for the genre alternated between narrative and expository chapters that formed the future world setting that’s strangely familiar and would be one dystopia recognisable to contemporaries. A world of propagandised social media, centralised super computers, American hegemony, nuclear proliferation and mobile, instantly-accessible encyclopædic knowledge, the litany of negative predictions that do ring true is a bit bleak (though there are on balance enlightened ideas and attitudes towards gender-identity, sexuality and race that have their place in this future as well) but the methodical process that led Brunner to correctly extrapolate the fantastical and unimaginable by the conditions and trajectory he witnessed more than a half a century ago confer a certain solace on our inability to appreciate future consequence.

Saturday, 21 December 2019

7x7

fintech: the Nordic country put together an artificial intelligence crash-course for its citizens and now is making the curriculum available to all—via Kottke

chirogram: a deaf student at the University of Life Sciences at Dundee, seeing a deficit in communication, invents one hundred new signs to quickly articulate complex scientific concepts—via Dave Log

the year in pictures: TIME curates one hundred iconic images that tell the stories of the past twelve months

the decade in content: Vanity Fair reviews the trends, memes and moments that defined aspects of the past ten years

dj earworm: the decade encapsulated (previously—albeit on a smaller scale) in a mashup of one hundred songs

klaviatur: a demonstration of the six-plus-six, four row Jankó keyboard—which allowed players to cover ranges impossible by a single performer on a traditional piano

headspace: the framework of current privacy protection advocacy and laws is unprepared to safeguard us from the coming mind-reading technologies 

Friday, 20 December 2019

backstop, full-stop

Retaining a comfortable majority of votes in favour on the bill’s second reading, the newly constituted Parliament of Boris Johnson (previously) has passed a Brexit arrangement, essentially the same framework (albeit with a few key adjustments) as the one rejected numerous times proposed by Teresa May, just with the comfort of couching this disaster with mansplaining, which looks to guarantee that the UK will leave the EU by 31 January 2020.

battle of the bulge

With one of the last remembrance ceremonies thought to include witnesses to history taking place and the siege of Bastogne begun on this day in 1944, Allied forces in the Ardennes cut off by the resurgence of the Nazi army in efforts to recapture the port of Antwerp relieved by General Patton’s Third Army seven days later, I recalled this artefact, souvenir that I found at a Flohmarkt earlier in the summer.
The troops were ambushed in this nexus of roadways in the region with Generalleutnant Heinrich Freiherr von Lüttwitz requesting the surrender of the city—to which acting commander of the 101st Airborne Division Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe replied succinctly “Nuts!”—holding the line until reinforcements arrived. The cast iron disc, which I didn’t know how to interpret at first and supposed still, is fitted with mounts, suggesting it was the plaque of a larger memorial and on the reverse is inscribed MADE IN COUVIN, a nearby municipality that was also the staging grounds for Adolf Hitler’s headquarters and bunker during the occupation of France.

Thursday, 19 December 2019

5-7-5

The cynical, suspicious part of me that prone to insidious conspiracy and thoughts that immediately retreat to somewhere dark in every fun application that triangulates one’s whereabouts is just a cutely disguised ploy to harvest one’s data and commodify it is often vanquished (possibly an instinct that should be overcome) as it was with this non-proprietary mapping service that generates haikus based on the address (or coordinates if you choose to disclose them) we are referred to by Nag on the Lake and Maps Mania.
The poetry is a bit hit-or-miss but the element of serendipity is fun and keeps ones poking around. Nearby, I especially liked “The warm belly of the bus / High up in the trees / Branches of the tree” discovered while zeroing in on my actual spot.

h. res. 611

Becoming the second president in US history to be impeached (previously), specifically for lying while under oath and obstruction of justice in charges stemming from a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Paula Jones (the Supreme Court ruling that incumbency did not impart immunity from civil lawsuits) and sexual relations with a subordinate, White House intern Monica Lewinski, the House of Representatives voted to impeach William Jefferson Clinton on this day in 1988.
The articles were later exhibited to the Senate for adjudication, acquitting Clinton on both charges. Against protests that dismissal would signal that perjury was merely a breach of etiquette, White House Counsel Charles Ruff presented the compelling argument: “There is only one question—albeit a difficult one—that is a question of fact and law and constitutional theory. Would it put at risk the liberties of the people to retain the president in office? Putting aside partisan animus, if you can honestly say it would not—that those liberties would be safe in his hands, then you must acquit.”