Wednesday 12 June 2024

11x11 (11. 625)

indemnity clause: a look at the exactingly detailed Sanborn maps created for US insurance firms in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries 

unseen persia: thousands of historic photographs of Iran during the Qajar dynasty leaked on-line from the archive of the Golestan Palace  

sweet thing: Chaka Khan’s debut Tiny Desk performance  

bahรญa de cochinos: Russian warships on drill visit Cuba  

doubly-disambiguated bishop non-capture statemale: a vlogger tries to categorise the rarest chess moves  

transponder: wood proves surprisingly durable material in space as agencies plan to launch experimental satellites, like ships on the high seas—via the Linkfest  

1337: a pretty exhaustive list of English words that can be spelled on a calculator turned upside down  

hollywood canteen: a fond farewell to Janis Page, recently departed at 101  

the brannock device: a better shoe-sizer based on the barley corn  

gallus gallus domesticus: photographer recreates exacting portraits of Edo-era Ito Jakuchu’s studies of chickens—via Nag on the Lake  

geochron: the incredible restoration of 1960s analog, electromechanical world clock and map

dis-disgruntled (11. 623)

Via Slashdot we learn that the investment holding company Softbank, after a three year study into the feasibility of “emotion cancelling” technology, it has introduced a trial of AI-powered voice-conversion routines into its call-centre operations in aims to reduce the psychological stress incurred by those phone-bank employees worn down by hostile clients, transforming angry tones into more pleasant and calming ones. What do you think? This one-sided conversation wouldn’t seem to de-escalate matters—like a troll that didn’t realise they were muted rather than blocked and I have wanted to disengage from plenty of calls and do funny voices in my head sometimes to take the edge off and things rarely get confrontational—but the software supposedly maintains a restrained level of dissatisfaction and urgency to ensure that the operator takes the cues. The system will also terminate calls that go on for too long or become overly abusive.

Wednesday 29 May 2024

9x9 (11. 590)

priority seating: an account jammed packed with patterns for mass-transit upholstery—see previously—via Kottke 

ux: in the age of AI, perhaps it’s time to retire the term “user” 

voter turn-out: historically high temperatures in parts of India may skew election results 

๐Ÿ™‚‍↔️: this year’s bracket for most misinterpreted emoji  

described herein as a beverage carrying assembly: a patent for a beer puppet for festivals and sporting events  

the second soul: a thoroughgoing essay by Anton Howes on the history of salt—via Clive Thompson’s Linkfest  

instructions to the jury: closing arguments in the Trump trial and deliberation begins  

wasteful by design: digital technology and internet habits are becoming major contributors to the climate catastrophe 

transakcja: an endearing animation on courtship rituals in 1950s rural Poland

yokushitsu kansouki (11. 589)

Via the New Shelton wet/dry, we are are treating to some laundry lessons from Japan (see also) and a potential third way to cross the chasm on either side of the Atlantic when it comes to drying clothes. When have a nice rack in the backyard and try to line dry as much as possible but still have a heavy-duty tumble dryer that we have to resort to quite often, especially when the weather isn’t cooperating—and so were intrigued by the installation known as the “bathroom dryer” (ๆตดๅฎคไนพ็‡ฅๆฉŸ, ใ‚ˆใใ—ใคใ‹ใ‚“ใใ†ใ) that blurs the lines between interior design and appliance that blows warm, dry air onto the hanging clothes. Efficient and effective as the outdoors, no ironing needed and kinder to fabrics, more on laundry technology and culture from Bloomberg at the link above.


one year ago: a classic Tina Turner album (1984) plus hype cycles

two years ago: A Raisin in the Sun plus a visit to the Black Moor

three years ago: anatomical astrology, Noรซl Coward rap artist, St Bona plus the invention of the trampoline

four years ago: legislation per tweet, astronomer Maria Cunitz plus an AI parliament

five years ago: peak oil, air gaps, a concept car, modern still lifes plus the Mueller investigation

Thursday 23 May 2024

aerophone (11. 577)

Officially recognised and granted a patent for his invention on this day in 1829, Armenian extract working in Vienna the accordion (from the German Akkord for concord of sounds) of Cyrill Demian (ิฟีตีธึ‚ึ€ีฅีฒ ิดีฅีดีตีกีถ) and sons was only half of modern version with bellows and a single button board but was considered distinct enough for court authorities from the portable klezmers and harmonicas available for vocal accompaniment. Numerous variations followed and there is some debate amongst historians who credit Friedrichroda native Christian Friedrich Ludwig Buschman with the innovation but the accordion of Demian’s was clearly based on a common prototype called the Handรคoline with a lot of competing models being introduced at the time (see also), and Garfield’s dad Jon, an attested aficionado, states in the comic strip that Demian is his hero, making it cannon.

Wednesday 1 May 2024

7x7 (11. 527)

the function of colour: more scans from a beautiful 1930 volume on design in schools and workshops

sporulate: scientist create a plastic first strengthened then digested by bacteria  

wck: resuming their mission of feeding people in Palestine, Josรฉ Andrรฉs’ cookbook is nominated for a prestigious gastronomical award  

aim high in creation: a survey of North Korea’s popular culture  

barnard 33: JWST captures a sharp image of the iconic Horsehead Nebula of Orion  

dead reckoning: the history of the Etak Navigator and other cartographical innovations  

architectural renderings: the Art Deco illustrations of Charles Perry Weimer—via Messy Nessy Chic

Saturday 13 April 2024

the bessemer saloon ship (11. 484)

Steel magnate and prolific inventor during the late nineteenth century and second-wave of the Industrial Revolution—whose innovations were uniquely punctuated with enduring commercial success, including steam-power and techniques that improved steel manufacturing and solidified Sheffield’s reputation for more than a hundred years as a major industrial centre (also the namesake for the Alabama steel town) as well as numerous other improvements in material engineering with glass and iron, Henry Bessemer’s chronic disposition to sea-sickness inspired to come up with his rather singular flop. Though working in principal and in models, the sea-trial ended in disaster, crashing into the pier at Calais as it attempted to leave the harbour—outside of the control of the crew—however his idea for a self-righting cabin, a saloon, that swung on gimbals and hydraulic cylinders during cross-Channel journeys for passengers’ comfort in rough weather was ahead of its time. More from Amusing Planet at the link above.


one year ago: assorted links to revisit

two years ago: the Unicode Technical block of characters

three years ago: the show goes on, the legacy of project MKUltra, a capsule hotel annex in the woods plus more on Star Fleet uniforms

four years ago: extended Eastertide plus funny bios for birds

five years ago: empathy and tribalism, more coding by radio, retro McDonald’s packaging plus perennial cereal crops

Wednesday 27 March 2024

9x9 (11. 453)

 you are old, father william, the young man said: Better Living Through Beowulf has been applying Lewis Carroll characters to the trials and tribulations of Biden and Trump  

gรผneลŸ enerjili santrali: power plant in Turkeyi’s Konya region is straight out of science fiction  

rotoscopio: artist Antoni Sendra celebrates his daring daughter’s favourite things with more than two thousand hand painted frames of animation ahead of her sixth birthday 

toto, i don’t think we’re in kansas anymore: the Ruby Slippers theft saga continues 

read/write drive: Infinite Macs and making computing history accessible, including an emulation of the original World Wide Web browser—via Waxy  

licensed broker: the rise and fall of the professional appellation electragist  

fleischer studios: the history and evolution of animation from the phenakistiscope to Pixar  

low-vacuum pipeline magnetic levitation technology: a hyperloop test track in the Netherlands 

come to jesus moment: Trump attempts to capitalise on Biden’s split with Israeli leadership

Sunday 17 March 2024

riding the rails (11. 429)

Via Damn Interesting, the start-up Ironlev demonstrates that it is possible to achieve magnetic levitation on existing train routes, successfully testing a prototype vehicle on the Adria-Mestre line near Venice whose speed topped out at seventy kilometres per hour. No modifications were made to the track to accommodate the maglev test carriage, and given the network of underutilised and in some cases abandoned rail infrastructure linking all parts of the continent, the potential applications, despite technical challenges, are significant for efficient and quick transportation of people and goods. Aside from a levitating service run briefly in Germany (die M-Bahn) to supplement gaps left in public transit following the fall of the Berlin Wall until reunification and a few other proof-of-concept trials, there are only six operational lines in China, South Korea and Japan presently with the biggest expensive and barrier to expansion being the high cost laying new dedicated tracks.


one year ago: assorted links to revisit, a Gloria Gaynor classic plus “All You Tories”

two years ago: Leipzig After-Hours

three years ago: Joseph of Arimathea, Lost Horizon (1973) plus vaccination campaigns as portrayed in movies and television

four years ago: a homecoming staged for the cameras (1973) plus the art of Edward Hopper speaks to pandemic isolation

five years ago: St Patrick in the Russian Orthodox Church plus The Fourth Dimension and the Bible (1922)

Wednesday 13 March 2024

the temple of invention (11. 418)

Via tmn, we discover that from 1790 to 1880, the US Patent Office uniquely required filers to include with each application a model of their inventions, which were later curated and exhibited in the agency’s miniature gallery, established ahead of Washington, DC’s other museums as the top attraction of the capital city. Long ago deaccessioned and largely lost (as a form of crowd control), some artefacts have been collected and put on display, including the exquisitely impractical and unmarketable hull of Abraham Lincoln’s boat design with inflatable and evacuatable ballast to improve navigation (6469, the only patent granted to a US president—though I suspect that Trump has registered an unfashionable number of trademarks administered by the same authority) along with dozens of other ambitious artefacts of ingenuity.


one year ago: the network effect

two years ago: assorted links to revisit plus Saint Ansovinus

three years ago: more links to enjoy, snowdrops plus a classic number from Brewer and Shipley

four years ago: a coup attempt in Germany (1920)

five years ago: the world wide web (1989), noise-cancelling, plant mobility plus more Olympic pictograms

Tuesday 27 February 2024

infinite improbability drive (11.386)

Via Kottke, we are directed to an interesting observation, theory by Lisa Riemers (an example of l'esprit de l’escalier—a stair-step realisation, the perfect reply that came too late—shared after a podcast recording) that technology has graduated beyond Star Trek-inspired hardware with tricorders, comms-badges, tablet computers—though we are still lacking the transporters, replicators, warp-travel and post-scarcity society—and is entering the Douglas Adams’ phase, when absurd tech calls for correspondingly absurd inventions. The super computer Deep Thought, in The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, which devised the Ultimate Answer, forty-two, but made no sense as the Ultimate Question was outside the scope of its programming, Electric Monks that did the believing for you to alleviate some of the tedium of it, the exceeding wealthy building custom planets, depressed robots and lab rats (hyper-intelligences in disguise) subjected to experimentation conducting research on the scientists all seem to have their corollaries in chatbot and AI trials, virtual boyfriends, unhinged and hallucinating large language models, rogue driverless cars and luxury doomsday bunkers. Maybe we have attained the Babel Fish / Universal Translator, however, but the verdict is still out. More at the links above.

Friday 23 February 2024

welcome to my ted talk (11. 371)

Founded on this day in 1984, the first Technology, Entertainment, Design conference of the US-Canadian non-profit media organisation—freely distributing “ideas worth spreading—featured futurist Mickey Schulhof demonstrating the compact disc, invented some eighteen months prior, and the Apple Macintosh with presentations by mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, Nicholas Negroponte (with some rather prescient predictions, see also) and Whole Earth Catalogue’s Steward Brand. Broadening to scientific, cultural, humanitarian and academic topics, the main symposium has been held annually in Vancouver with other events interspersed throughout the year hosted globally and has been available universally under a Creative Commons license online since 2006.


one year ago: assorted links to revisit, Civilisation plus number names

two years ago: more on the Royal Order of Adjectives plus London’s courting of oligarchs

three years ago: Quo Vadis (1951), the names of chess pieces plus Unworter of the Year

four years ago: more links to enjoy, ending NDAs, a superspreader event plus leap days

five years ago: a visit to the Neroberg

Tuesday 20 February 2024

10x10 (11. 365)

royal mews: King Charles’ one of a kind electric Jaguar up for auction—via Miss Cellania  

ppe: the portable nuclear bomb shield, patented by Harold Tiff  

got clearance clarence: after embarrassing blunder over bad travel advice, Air Canada advocates personhood (and limited liability) for its chatbot customer representative 

1776 days: Julian Assange’s long detention and fight against rendition to the US for Wikileaks

that which you call hardee’s, we call carl’s junior: food deserts, prevalence and distribution of casual dining chains in the US 

tigers blood: new singles from Waxahatchee 

daddy daughter day: breakdancing, bitcoin father revealed as a veteran of member of the Christian Coalition and conservative speech writer 

the second in line: Swedish illustrator Mattias Adolfsson—via Messy Nessy Chic  

body armour: Casimir Zeglen, the priest who invented the bulletproof vest  

motorcade: Joe Biden’s Cadillac sedan for sale—via tmn


one year ago: artist creates a prosthetic extra digit plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: more links to enjoy, the subterrene (1972) plus The Shape of Things to Come (1936)

three years ago: introducing the Jeep (1941), a Nyan Cat NFT plus a suite of Japanese pictograms

four years ago: more mass-transit upholstery, RIP Larry Gordon Tesler who invested copy-and-paste, superannuated map styles, the possible extradition of Julian Assange plus the new US ambassador to Germany

five years ago: all the presidents’ meals, a secret meeting between industrialists and the Nazi government (1933), more links worth the revisit, the US emergency broadcast system (1971), vintages mazes plus the bokeh technique

Saturday 17 February 2024

♐︎ (11. 357)

Via Boing Boing, we are directed towards a project by Matt Webb that resulted in this handy app that always points to the galactic centre of the Milky Way, the rotational point coincident with the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A* surrounded by about ten million older red giant stars in close proximity. When I got my first model of iPhone, I got made fun of for first playing with the compass before anything else, and I’m not ashamed to say, especially for someone with a poor sense of direction, I still find it engaging even with no particular place to go. With little avowed programming skills and no experience in making apps, the details of realising this undertaking in collaboration with AI are really interesting and illustrative of the cooperative effort—it’s not just summoned into existence but was enabled and was a great leveller, but even more internet was the preamble about Webb cultivating a superpower to orientate himself to intuitively know where this dense, far away region was an imagine the waltz of the cosmos relative to this pivot-point and relative to himself—reminiscent of some insular and aboriginal languages using geographical features, landmarks or cardinal directions rather than the egocentric right and left. Webb’s navigational instinct has since sadly waned but can be supplemented by this little creation, grounding  to know even when it’s below one’s feet.

Saturday 10 February 2024

7x7 (11. 338)

caught between the moon and new york city: taking a harrowing subway ride in 1981  

homing: Nikola Tesla’s love for pigeons and telepathy—via Strange Company 

 : more on the interrobang—see previously  

stringe-watching: the opposite of binging a series to indulge in the experience  

hash mark: the works of artist Ding Yi coinage: TikTok has seen an (irritating) explosion in linguistic novelties to promote niche microtrends—via Miss Cellania  

in the aeroplane over the seas: Neutral Milk Hotel covers for the album’s anniversary 

castro street: Bruce Baillie films Riverside, California in 1966


one year ago: assorted links to revisit, Tapestry (1971) plus a pioneering hypertext novel

two years ago: the Dread Pirate Roberts plus a geographical challenge

three years ago: the Simpsons’ intro, the feast of St Scholastica, vernacular ceramics, no fly free zones plus profiting from conspiracy

four years ago: more Orange Menace

five years ago: more links to enjoy

Saturday 27 January 2024

horsey horseless (11. 299)

Through his 1899 patent for the above automobile mast or grill that fronted the steed of a horsed-carriage to cause less distress in mixed traffic, we are acquainted with the figure of Uriah Smith, Seventh Day Adventist minister, hymnodist, inventor and abolition and pacifism advocate. Disillusioned and disabused from religion following the Great Disappointment when the world did not end as foretold in prophesy but later joining the administration of the Advent church, contributing significantly to its theology and writing their own End Times eschatology, remaining in Battle Creek until expiring on his way to the office in 1903.

Tuesday 23 January 2024

challenger deep (11. 289)

Damn Interesting’s Allan Bellows invites us to accompany the on-going adventures of the Swiss-Family Piccard (see previously also here), who on this day in 1960 reached the ocean floor in the deepest part of the Mariana Trench aboard the bathyscaphe Trieste, designed by father Auguste and co-piloted by son Jacques—marking the first time a vessel, crewed or uncrewed, dove to such extremes, garnering insights in this never before seen environment. Much more at the links above.


one year ago: Stationtostation (1976) plus assorted links worth revisiting

two years ago: an Underground inspired uniform, Charles Lindbergh testifies before the US Congress (1941), artist Ger van Elk plus more on Wordle

three years ago: Earthrise, Bounty Day on Pitcairn, Duke Ellington at Carnegie Hall, the abominable mystery of flowers plus more links to enjoy

four years ago: hell for pendants

five year ago: the Ten Year Challenge for the environment, train-delays knitted, TRON minus the special effects plus artist Annie Wang

Tuesday 19 December 2023

9x9 (11. 196)

mister jingeling: a dozen, beloved department store Christmas characters—see also—via Miss Cellania

bubblenomics: pondering the consequences of when AI goes the way of crypto and NFTs 

indefinite causal order: quantum batteries are powered by paradox—via Damn Interesting  

a winter’s tale: selected readings of Christmas ghost stories—via Things Magazine  

the waitresses: the cynical anti-holiday hit Christmas Wrapping that became a festive classic 

infinite jukebox: a clever AI application that extends songs forever  

high ground: study of the competition for space dominance between the US and China suggests America occupy Lagrange points to counter malign ambitions  

52 snippets: facts gleaned from economics and finance from the past twelve months 

snoopy come home: Gen Z rediscovers and identifies with the Peanuts’ character

Friday 1 December 2023

fifty-two things (11. 154)

Continuing an annual tradition, Tom Whitwell shares some interesting and intriguing things, one per week, learned over the past year. Some of the more tantalising facts (most new to us) include how there was a hourly bank robbery in Los Angeles three decades ago, the apparent kidnapping of solar pioneer George Cove, forest cover in Scotland and England have returned to levels not seen in a thousand years, fake navel tattoos that create the illusion of height is hailed as one of the best inventions of the year plus the advent of psychedelic cryptography, concealed messages that can only be received by those on LSD. Much more at the link up top.

Tuesday 28 November 2023

9x9 (11. 146)

the big easy: Bonapartist diaspora had designs for Napoleon to retire in New Orleans—via Messy Nessy Chicsee also courtesy of Super Punch  

holiday emporium: Kottke’s annual gift guide returns after a hiatus  

triple word score: players and lexicographers are a bit mortified with Scrabble’s new tournament rules  

colophon: the rise and fall of Borders Books 

moonlight towers: during the infancy of electric lighting, there was a predecessor to serial lamps  

pump and dump: insurance companies are exacerbating the climate crisis 

fiat: during the bank strikes of Ireland in the 1970s, pubs stepped in to fill their function—via the new shelton wet/dry  

ai garage sale: haggle with robots for real items—via Waxy  

pas de goulots d’รฉtranglement dans la production: a strange 1940 diagram from linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf presenting French as a factory assembly line