Monday 28 August 2023

ydinjรคtteen loppusijoitustila (10. 968)

Via fellow internet peripatetic Messy Nessy Chic, we are directed towards a quick but ruminative tour of an installation in Finland, which in two short years will see no human traffic for the next hundred thousand. The deep geological repository of Onkalo near the Eurajoki power plant on the western coast will be the first long-term disposal facility for spent fuel rods and other highly radioactive material currently warehoused in storage depots around the world, the site chosen for its geologic stability and informed by residents around the site’s location. The reflections of being among the last to tread these caverns is particularly poignant as one imagines the surface landscape taking on a new character in the intervening aeons and how might these seals remain unbroken for untold future generations.


one year ago: Culture Beat’ Mister Vain (1993) plus the short-lived BBC spy drama Quiller

two years ago: your daily demon: Asmodeus assorted links to revisit plus the art of Arthur Tress

three years ago: the death of Emmett Till (1955)

four years ago: the iconic artwork Marianne Saxl-Deutsch

five years ago: the Ramstein Air-Show Disaster, Late-Stage Capitalism, more links to enjoy plus more on the Great Span


Thursday 27 July 2023

๐Ÿ’Ž (10. 909)

Rivalling the Pentagon as the world’s largest office building—having held the title for the past eight decades, the Morphogenesis architecture group announces the completion of its diamond-trading bourse on the outskirts of Surat in Gujarat, a city with a strong, established heritage in the gem-cutting business as well as textile manufacture and other commercial enterprises. Although the six hundred thousand square metre complex which can host nearly seventy thousand professionals is certified as a green building project, one has to wonder about the human and environmental impact that the trade has and what synergy within a hub, campus means for those who work there. More from Dezeen at the link above. 


one year ago: the lochs of Scotland plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: Stevie Nicks’ solo debut (1981), network bumpers, previously unpublished pictures of David Bowie, beckoning cats, more on the inconsistencies of the English language, Avant Garde magazine plus AI generated Tarot cards

three years ago: one of the fourteen Holy Helpers, a iconic cartoon introduction (1940), a growing collection of non-words plus the GIFs of Katy Daft

four years ago: a funeral for a glacier, bee habitats on bus shelters, more on data breaches and lax consequences for compromising personal information plus more vexing vexillology

five years ago: Madonna Madonna, coral bleaching, a commemorative bee coin plus mapping climate change in Europe

Wednesday 28 June 2023

10x10 (10. 840)

⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️: Neal Fun’s (previously) infuriating password game  

ceiling cat: the European Souther Observatory in the Chilean mountains discovered a feline nebula

bad odds: wagering on climate change to bring the danger and risk to present and personal 

backstage: newsletters (from 1962 to 1980) published for Disneyland crew members, scanned in full—via Super Punch  

homage to magritte: a 1974 tribute in five vignettes to the Surrealist artist 

independent legislature theory: US Supreme Court strikes down suit that would cut checks and balances and judicial review of laws passed 

monkey bars: the first jungle gym (see previously) was built in hopes of teaching children about three-dimensional space and Cartesian coordinates 

magma: mining volcanoes could provide a more ecologically-friendly way to extract metals  

power of ten: NASA’s coding commandments focused on testability, readability and predictability that keeps critical systems safe and running in outer space  

goodnight phone: an interactive web comic for our shared present—via tmn


one year ago: assorted links to revisit plus a surprise session of the January Sixth hearings on the US Capitol Insurrections

two years ago: body language, the UN International Criminal Court (1993), Miss Continuous Towel and other spokesmodels plus Pitman shorthand

three years ago: a corporate typeface, a performative masculine simulator game, Martian meteors plus cataloguing one’s possessions

four years ago: the Stonewall Riots (1969), surveying Titan plus bringing back the chestnut tree

five years ago: Paul Simon on Sesame Street, silent cooking videos, assorted links to revisit plus combating fake product reviews

Tuesday 17 January 2023

7x7 (10. 476)

inflection point: one young person’s crusade to salvage writing, journalism before ChatGPT changes it forever 

beasts of burden: the giant donkeys of Ancient Rome—see also  

birth-rate: China registers its first population decline in six decades 

ren faire: author Eleanor Janega’s Once and Future Sex  

level 100 schlamm zauberer: police attempt to clear remaining protester demonstrating against the demolition of the hamlet Lรผtzerath for surface mining of coal—see previously  

☠️: a safety warning from the Electric Company (1973)  

midway in the midjourney of our lives: what AI does well and why AI is not intelligent

Thursday 12 January 2023

7x7 (10. 410)

salt of the earth: a tour of Ukraine’s Soledar salt mines—presently under siege 

black mass: Boston is hosting the Satanic Temple’s SatanCon—see previously

verpertilio-homo: what the Great Moon Hoax of 1835 reveals about contemporary misinformation  

lhs 475ฮฒ: JWST discovers its first exoplanet—via Damn Interesting’s Curated Links  

discretionary time off: salaried Microsoft employees given unlimited vacation leave  

jot and tittle: an unorthodox scholar ferrets out biblical forgeries  

russie d’aujourd’hui: a look back at Soviet boosterism and propaganda publications

Saturday 3 September 2022

ausflug thรผringenersee (10. 107)

H and took a summer’s end quick excursion to the dammed Saale river valley to tour the landscape that developed around the reservoirs (Stauseen) and how the natural intersects the artificial.

First we stopped to take a guided tour of the Saalfeld Fairy Grottos (die Feengrotten), a set of caverns in a former mine for alum shale (see previously) remarkable for their colourful mineral veins, called speleothems, owing to the porous soil.

Commercial operations halted in 1850 (the use of potassium aluminate as a preservative was antiquated) and was opened to tourist as early as 1914 due to the reputedly curative properties of the ambient radiation present, after the discovery of the third chamber, the Mรคrchendom—the Fairy Tale Kingdom and the Grail Castle after various interpretations of the sedimentary creations.

Seeing this tableau inspired Siegfried Wagner to pattern the set design for his father’s opera Tannhรคuser for the Bayreuth Festspiele in the 1920s.

Saturday 20 August 2022

erlebnis bergwerk (10. 073)

Decommissioned since 1993 but revitalised since as a living museum and working mine and venue, I had a chance to visit with H’s father the salt and potash (Kalisalz, used as an important agricultural fertiliser) extraction operation near the village of Merkers on the Werra river not far from Bad Salzungen.  

 Aside from the long history of mining and a comprehensive lesson on the enterprise and geology that bores under the Rhรถn mountains, the location is also the hiding spot for hundreds of tonnes of gold, silver and paper currency (amounting to around eighty percent of the holdings of the Reichsbank at the end of the war) and many priceless works of art looted by the Nazis, discovered per chance by the advancing United States army (tipped off by slave labour transporting treasures to the mine) who then worked quickly to clear it out of Soviet occupied territory before the borders were demarcated.

After being lowered in safety gear—like actual miners beginning their shift—in a hoisting cage that descended into the dark, and driven in flatbed transports from five to eight hundred metres below the surface through a network of tunnels that covers an area the size of Munich. 

Though the vehicles were only taking the dips, curves and ascents at under twenty kilometres an hour, the darkness, wind and narrowness of the shaft made it seem much faster, like a roller coaster ride stretched out for some two hours, with intermissions, lastly in the above Goldraum, a pair of excavated former bunkers that now serve as a machine exhibit, theatre and a concert hall with uncommonly good acoustics and unique crystal grotto with accompanying bar for refreshments—the deepest in the world.  

It was definitely worth the visit and would drag H along next time.

Thursday 23 December 2021


On this day in 1986, the Zeche (Coal Mine Industrial Complex) Zollverein in the city of Essen ceased operations, workers leaving for Christmas break not to return, due to dwindling output that did not justify the high maintenance costs, among the last mining and coking facilities in operation in the Ruhrgebiet. The campus, built in the New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit) style, is considered an architectural and engineering masterwork and the conserved landmark, Shaft 12, was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage registry in 2001.

Wednesday 14 July 2021

chevron of chain counterchanged argent, sable, argent

Winning entrant designed by vexillologist Gracie Sheppard in a contest sponsored by a local museum to create a symbol for the region, the flag of Black County was first hoisted in 2012—thereafter on this day to mark the invention of the Newcomen steam engine in 1712 that heralded the beginning of the Industrial Revolution with a county fรชte.

The heavily industrialised area in the West Midlands after Birmingham has no single set of defined boundaries to the satisfaction of all with the most common being where the coal seam has come to the surface and refers to the layer of soot that covered everything from all the mining, mills and factories by the mid-1800s. Chain-manufacture was big business there, as was glass-making and brickworks. Charles Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop established the region’s first literary conceit as a vicious hellscape in 1841 with others upholding it including J. R. R. Tolkien’s Mordor—elvish for dark land—corresponding with contemporary accountings, with some suggestion that activist and Communist and Labour party mayor of Bilston in Staffordshire, Ben Bilboe, was the inspiration and namesake for the hobbit character, the author’s family having roots in the West Midlands.

Sunday 9 May 2021


Celebrated today on the anniversary of the 1950 Schuman Declaration which proposed the pooling of French and Wester German coal and steel industries and the first European Community, Europe Day was introduced in 1985 by the EU predecessor organisation the European Communities. The Council of Europe marked its own Europe Day earlier in the week with the anniversary on the fifth marking the council’s founding in 1949, both observances commemorating pan-European identity and integration.

Sunday 22 September 2019

grube messel

On my way back to my workweek apartment, I finally took the opportunity to explore the Messel pit, a UNESCO World Heritage site though probably singular among that group for not yielding up its treasures and those that have been unearthed belong in collections spread across the globe. Though the outline of the caldera seems apparent now, the volcanic lake that gives to researchers on average a well preserved fossil specimen once every quarter hour would not exist as it does today, looking back and documenting in great detail a snap-shot of life circa forty-eight million years ago during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, if not for a series of accidents, beginning with quarry operations in 1859, when oil shale was discovered.
I happened to arrive just in time to take the last tour of the day, the only way to venture down into the pit. Miners back at the time were discovering fossils in this Lagerstรคtte but due the depositional characteristics of the formation (most remains discovered are not petrified or mummified but captured as fleetingly delicate impressions) but after a few hours’ dehydration, the fossils would disintegrate into a big fish tale. Demand and war drove digging which waxed and waned over the years, the quarry being used as a place to store the rubble of Darmstadt after its destruction during WWII, and during the early 1970s, the place was nearly turned into a permanent landfill (the war also created a make-work site to employ locals breaking bricks—and as amateur palรฆontologists while the economy recovered) until the decision was overturned by strong protests and the land was purchased by the state of Hesse. Hobby fossil-hunters developed a resin-transfer technique to preserve fossils once exposed outside of their containing matrix around this time and has been widely adopted as standard practise. Constant pumping keeps the ground water from welling up and universities continue slow and careful excavation.
We were able to inspect some recent discoveries, the slates kept from dehydrating in a water bath and were privileged to pass around a fish fossil (see also). Though the mascot of the Messel Pit is Ida, the singular Darwinius Masillรฆ—a transitional lemur-like creature that also had characteristics prefiguring the simians, primates being distinguished in the main by the wetness or dryness of their noses—the site was finally elevated in 1995 with UNESCO status not because of any individual find, including crocodiles, giant squirrels and nine pairs of copulating turtles caught in the act—far predating Pompeii, but rather because of the sheer volume and scientific rigour that it took to share what one uncovered, which underscores the problem of preservation.

Saturday 29 December 2018

dinosaurier des jahres

Since 1993, Germany’s Naturschutzbund (NABU, Nature Conservancy Corps) in Berlin has been awarding its annual dirisive distinction, its Dinosaur Award, to the group or individual who’s actions are most emblematic of regressive tendencies in environmental stewardship.
This year’s prize went to the chairman of an energy company who pledged to continue the expansion of its strip-mining operations and destroy the remaining sliver of the old growth Hambacher Forst despite massive protests and the gradual phasing out of coal. Earlier in the month, a ceremony was held in the nearby Ruhrgebiet to mark the closing of the country’s last black hard coal mine, also operated by the same energy giant fossil.  There are regrettably too many of such barons (sometimes ourselves included for our lifestyle choices) to contend with but who might you nominate for failure to adapt?

Tuesday 11 December 2018


Whilst the international community is struggling to make meaningful progress that might avert the destruction and consummation of civilisation as we know it by committing to being less garbage tenets of this planet, the United States has not just backed out of global compacts that nudge in the right direction but has now assumed the mantle of profligate troll by counter-messaging the United Nations sponsored conference in Katowice (coat of arms pictured, the region known historically for its industry and coal reserves) with a pavilion extolling fossil fuels.
The US, despite the fact that antiquated oil barons can curry favour with the Trump administration and embarrassingly promote dirty fuel as a means to curb climate change, is certainly not alone in not upholding their end of the bargain and affecting real and saving change will require dramatic transitions away from not only traditional means of powering society but the ways in which society consumes resources itself. Activists chanting “keep in the ground” disrupted the start of the event with the remaining audience looking noticeably thinner after the protest.

Wednesday 5 September 2018

kunst und kohle

A consortium of museums in Germany’s post-industrial heartland, das Ruhrgebiet (previously), is bidding a conflicted adieu to its withering coal-powered past.  Still the world’s largest producer of the particularly dirty variety of lignite (a very dubious honour) and amid ongoing protests to retire extraction and burning of coal altogether, the museums curate a fascinating, nostalgic reflection on the culture informed by coal towns and mining communities through a variety of artefacts that attest to working conditions and the relationships forged by the families whose daily routines included confronting mortality—either through accident or backbreaking labour. Read more about the retrospective of exhibits at Hyperallergic at the link above.

Saturday 23 August 2014

dig dug

Spotted on the ever-excellent BLDGBlog, here is beautifully crafted nineteenth century German boardgame from the collections of the British Museum called Der Bergbau. This precursor to Minecraft (which also does not have rules, per se) looks like a version of 'Chutes and Ladders' but there are unfortunately no instructions on how to play.

Sunday 27 May 2012


Der Spiegel’s English-language stories section reports on an exhibition in Berlin about contemporary ghost-towns and the deliberate choices and accidents of history that are creating the phenomenon.

One nearly abandoned town featured in the museum’s profiles is Centralia in Pennsylvania, which became depopulated due to trash burning on this day in 1962 that got out of control and spread to a network of underground shafts of a disused coal mine. The area became unlivable (and restricted due to concerns over health and safety) and the fire is still smoldering. The coincidence of the timing between the anniversary and the opening of the exhibit caught my attention initially, and I found that although authentic ghost towns are relatively rare and Centralia unique, eternal coal dust fires are not, and there is one to visit just outside of Dudweiler (DE/EN) in the Saarland that has been stoked since early Baroque times. The town’s fate inspired the horror film Silent Hill and has held attention and the imagination over the past half a century. The exhibition explores what piques this fascination for the recently abandoned, decommissioned and maybe these mementos mori forces one to contemplate how long our presence can linger in a place without us.

Tuesday 20 March 2012

lend-lease or ostalgie

Possibly in anticipation of a disgruntled electorate for regional voting in May, a very polarizing and divisive idea has been offered up for public consumption by some cash-strapped communities in North-Rhine Westphalia: civic leaders argue that the Solidarity Pact tariff (DE/EN) for helping integrate the former East Germany has become redundant and they can ill-afford to make further financial contributions.

The industrial region of the state in question is called the Ruhrgebiet and has seen some struggles, contemporary and on-going since some mining and manufacturing operations have been curtailed, but is hardly a Rust-Belt. The cities and towns there on the verge of insolvency were prey and prone to the same mechanisms that have distributed this economic crisis globally. Perhaps it is the press coverage that is most politically-charged, igniting much comment and discussion. These assistance payments, scheduled to expire in 2019, helped the former East (the so-called Neue Lรคnder—which is in fact true since under the East German regime, there were no states but rather districts that were restored to their former boundaries with reunification but when it’s said in the news, it sounds a little back-handed to me) to rebuild and thrive. No one, I think, is begrudging past payments or doubts it was necessary but are merely suggesting that perhaps its time has come—that East Germany is on equal footing with the West, however, the media has exploded the debate into greater dimensions.
Old prejudices come out—though they are never much restrained, like the small comments about having, for the first time in history (which spans a little more than two decades, just), both Chancellor and President from East Germany—and I think maybe people forget that the Solidarity Pact is not a tax solely levied on the people of the Ruhrgebiet but rather something paid by all citizens, East and West alike, and the fact that razing the border, along with added government support, also significantly increased the opportunity for commerce for Western firms and made quite a few businesses extraordinary wealth over night and fueled the German Wirtschaftswรผnder. It seems almost, in the realm of politicking, that the suggestion is a swipe against the economic rescue packages of the European Union, which are something held at arm’s length from a plebiscite.

Tuesday 24 May 2011

pumpspeicherkraftwerke and urban-cozy

Apparently there is an offensive on, as Spiegel International (in English) reports, of radical knitters bent on outfitting their environs with yarn. Though now is not quite the season to dress a utility pole with a comfy and hand-made sweater, this creative expression of graffiti artists is pretty enchanting.
Additionally there was news of plans to capture the kinetic energy of fair-weather sources, solar and wind, and store it as potential energy. This project (auch auf englisch) is being studied in the abandoned mines of the Harz region, where we recently saw some of the expansive feats of engineering designed to harness nature. This idea, which has been applied elsewhere, allows excess power generated by the sun or turbines to be stored by transferring it to a pump system that fills a reservoir at a higher elevation, then acting on the same principle as a turbine spun by the onslaught of water at a dam.
Anscheinend gibt es eine Kampagne der radikalen Strickerin-Begabung beim Ausstatten ihrer Umgebung mit dem Garn, als Spiegel Internationale Berichte (auf englisch). Jetzt ist nicht das Wetter, um eine StraรŸenlampe in einen Wolle-Pullover anzukleiden, aber diese Graffitikunst ist sehr bestechend.
Zusรคtzlich es gab Nachrichten รผber Plรคne, die kinetische Energie von Schรถnwetterquellen, Sonnen- und Wind zu gewinnen, und es als potenzielle Energie zu erhalten. Diese Projekt (auch berichtete auf englisch), wird in den aufgegebenen Bergwerke des Harz studiert, wo wir kรผrzlich besuchten. Die Idee, im betrieb anderweitig, erlaubt รœberschussmacht erzeugt durch die Sonne oder Windturbinen, versorgt zu werden, es einem Pumpe-System รผbertragend, das ein Reservoir an einer hรถheren Erhebung fรผllt, dann demselben Grundsatz wie eine Turbine gesponnen durch den Fluss von Wasser an einem Damm oder Stausee folgend.