Thursday 13 June 2024

7x7 (11. 626)

senza vergogna: some notes for Martha-Ann Alito on her anti-Pride flag (see previously)  

factory floor: inside Andy Warhol’s studio—via Messy Nessy Chic  

prospecting: Norwegian mining firms discovers Europe’s largest cache of rare-earth metals  

adaptive force controlled shaving demonstration: a robot barber in Shanghai  

daily bread: an overview of the staple foodstuff’s contribution to civilisation  

hydrant directory: colour palettes of New York’s suppression points—via Pasa Bon!  

gruppo dei sette: following EU elections, the G7 forum begins in Puglia


one year ago: a top album by Alanis Morissette plus an early world-traveller

two years ago: a chronic case of the hiccups, a hit by Paul McCartney plus international crisps flavours

three years ago: the G7, Shangri La the musical, St Anthony plus two very prolific travelogues

four years ago: illustrator Wilbur Husley, assorted links to revisit, the Pentagon Papers (1971) plus a banger from Mungo Jerry

five years ago: the elusive American Middle-Class plus x before x-rays

Wednesday 24 April 2024

a frontier research problem (11. 511)

Trained on “publicly-available” text scrapped with or without consent from billions of human authored, English language websites in the hopes of informing accurate or at least confident language models, the rather nascent AI boom might be facing a bust as it is running out of data to mine. Previously we’ve looked at the phenomena of recursive AI as generated content begins to saturate the internet, but conversely as vast as the web seems industry experts estimate that AI—to presumably get better at delivering right and desired responses with minimal intervention by exposure to countless right answers and only learning through brute iteration—needs far more information than has been thus far produced in order to advance. Exuberance, nonetheless, is undeterred and growing, notwithstanding immense energy demands, threats to labour and intellectual property even given a spotty record of actual adoption and the dangers of citing less than authoritative sources—the original sin of artificial intelligence, exhausting the sum of human knowledge, only really came to light not by complaints of plagiarism but rather from competitors trying to shield warehoused content from the clearing house and our actions may be propping up something adversarial and degenerative. More from Ed Zitron at the link up top.

Tuesday 23 April 2024

7x7 (11. 509)

betteridge’s law: the legacy of Alfred Harmsworth, Viscount Northcliffe, and commoditising fascinating factiods to sell newspapers  

congestion pricing: overtourism and its consequences  

disclose, divest: on the 1968 anniversary of the protest that ousted the university’s president and established the student body senate, activism on Columbia’s campus is again in the national spotlight over Palestine  

grace period: America’s addiction to credit cards  

zoonosis: concern rises over avian flu as it appears in cows and wild animal communities  

nonstop flight: the epic migration of the Bar-tailed Godwit and the engineering of feathers—via the New Shelton wet/dry  

catch-and-kill: deal to bury stories unfavourable to Trump by tabloid The National Enquirer was an “agreement between friends”

Saturday 27 January 2024

piggy bank (11. 296)

As part of an inventory from the British Museum that concludes—along with the need for better definitions and legal protections to ensure that important antiquities are not sold on the open market—recent years have yielded the highest number of treasures found since records have been kept, we are introduced to non-singular practise of Iron Age Britons of storing their coins in naturally occurring hollow flint nodules found in the chalk and limestone strata of the region. The contents of the ball date from the last decades BC and were minted in the East Wiltshire area and are classed as “Savernake Wreath” staters, after the Ancient Greek standard, ฯƒฯ„ฮฑฯ„ฮฎฯ (weight), circulating first as ingots then as coins, brought by the Celts to Western and Central Europe. Learn more at the History Blog at the link above.


one year ago: the Paris Peace Accords (1973), corecore, Ballroom Blitz plus Cistercian cyphers

two years ago: RIP Peter Robbins, the voice actor for the character Charlie Brown, more on esoteric programming languages plus assorted links to revisit

three years ago: The Singing, Ringing Tree, inspired watch-faces, computing in Poland plus an alternate spelling alphabet

four years ago: policy via magical thinking plus emoji on license plates

five years ago: more on generative adversarial networks

Tuesday 9 January 2024

10x10 (11. 254)

job security: the US only created seven-hundred new IT positions last year—compared to two-hundred seventy thousand in 2022—via the New Shelton wet/dry  

tidy mouse: an industrious rodent sorts out a human’s workspace 

a theft from those who hunger: Dwight Eisenhower’s Chance for Peace Speech of 1953   

seo: how Google’s search algorithm has shaped the web  

past is precedent: Austin Kleon shares one-hundred things that made his year—a very good list 

the big mac index: the rising costs of fast food and its political implications 

high school high: graphic designer Veronica Kraus curates gems from old yearbooks—see also—via Messy Nessy Chic  

armed conflict survey: mapping wars around the world  

double fantasy: celebrated photographer Kishin Shinoyama, who captured the intimate moments of John Lennon and Yoko Ono for their album art (see below) passes away, aged 83 

 year-on-year: the word from Davos forecasts anaemic economic growth


one year ago: Nobody Told Me plus canal workers’ jargon

two years ago: Mambo Italiano, RMS Queen Elizabeth plus the premier of the iPhone (2007)

three years ago: classic rebrands, assorted links to revisit, a snowy day, more on Cats plus a diet inducing doorway

four years ago: attempts for a peaceful resolution to the Iraq War (1991), the yacht whisperer plus plans for a Woven City

five years ago: the diplomatic status of the EU downgraded, more Hampsterdance, repairing the Azure Window plus more links to enjoy

Saturday 23 December 2023

11x11 (11. 208)

mmxxiii: the year in anniversaries, including the debuts of Question Hound, Casablanca, the World Wide Web, The Exorcist and the Yom Kippur War 

seasons greetings: decades of off-kilter Christmas cards from John Waters 

explainer: five video essays worth your holiday downtime 

tl;dr: public nominates longreads worth revisiting  

enigmatic chemical reactions: runaway chaotic catalysts are heating up two massive landfills near Los Angeles  

cash-on-deposit: leaving money in your bank-account also contributes to one’s carbon-footprint  

lithub: the biggest literary stories of the year 

a year in illustration: the collages accompanying Pluralistic posts  

re:view: Dezeen’s annual top tens 

et exaltavit humiles: a medieval token likely dispensed by a Boy Bishop, who held authority from the feast of Saint Nicholas through the Day of Holy Innocents, was discovered in Norfolk  

2023: the year in review from the Financial Times

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

Thursday 7 December 2023

9x9 (11. 169)

sub-space: the potential problems of communications with relativistic spacecraft, traveling at a fraction the speed of light with solar-sails  

new quality productivity: Chinese buzz-words of the year, including a coinage by President Xi 

ailex: artist Alicia Framis announces her marriage to a hologram  

der nussknacker: the Fรผchtner family who made the first traditional nutcracker is still in the business  

wallsynth: Love Hultรฉn’s custom, one-of-a-kind musical creations have a Mid-Century Modern aesthetic  

the day of the animals: a 1977 nature rampage film from William Girdler  

network effects: building a better, unbundled Craigslist turned out like the trajectory of Twitter 

american dream: Investopedia’s most searched economic terms of the year reveal a lot about how people feel about their financial situation 

 in space, no one can hear you kern: when lost in the inner Solar System, typography can come in handy


one year ago: Blue Marble (1972), Sovereign Citizens plus using AI to invent a language

two years ago: galaxies outside our own plus assorted links to revisit

three years ago: birdsong in December, more links to enjoy, non-conterminious territory plus more words of the year

four years ago: the Guzman Prize awarded (1969), Scientology HQ plus a lunar cruise

five years ago: the etymology of chauvinism, Dr Magnus Hirschfeld, circular economies, more movie typography plus juxtaposing photography


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

Wednesday 22 November 2023

freiwirtschaft (11. 131)

Proposed by German-Argentine economist and proponent of market socialism Johann Silvio Gesell—detailed though eventually acquitted by authorities impressed with his argument in his own defence for his part in the in the short-lived, experimental Bavarian Soviet Republic, Freigeld (that is money free from the temptation for hoarding it without the incentive of interest) that decayed and depreciated over time, thus rather than a store of wealth made “worse as a commodity if we wish to make it better as a medium of exchange.” Considering himself a world-citizen and constantly relocating, Gessel arrived in Buenos Aires to open a franchise of a family member’s business coinciding with the 1890 economic depression and the experience informed his thoughts on property and welfare and sought to balance self-interest and liquidity. Like a form of negative interest or demurrage (the cost of holding money subject to a periodic tax), Gessel’s proposed currency would have a limited purchase—before expiry—of a constant value, subject to neither inflation nor deflation, freely exchangeable among other currencies and bear a grid on the obverse of fifty-two spots for monetary authority issued stamps for which the holder must affix one per week for the note to hold its value, the bill losing value as long as it was retained and not spent at the holder’s expense. The experiment was trialled (with certificates and scrip) to some acclaim and continues for a certain extent with limited-time-offers, coupons and local complementary currency.


one year ago: a proposal for a broadcast energy transmitter, assorted links to revisit plus the Beatles’ White Album

two years ago: Angela Merkel becomes chancellor (2005) plus a Harry Belafonte classic carol

three years ago: more on script and spelling reform, the Battle of Ballon (845), more on Angela Merkel, the resignation of Margaret Thatcher, the BBC motion graphics archive plus the Feast of St Cecilia

four years ago: Our Sandman plus more public testimony over the Trump impeachment inquiry

five years ago: Plato’s Stepchildren plus a Thanksgiving greeting

Tuesday 31 October 2023

thrifty business (11. 086)

First observed on this day in 1925 as the result of an initiative of the First International Savings Bank Congress (see also)—a summit of some three hundred fifty delegates from twenty-seven countries held in Milan—held the year prior, World Savings Day was promoted as not just an occasion to encourage home economics but to promote financial literacy. While the original motivation came in response to the end of World War I and has always emphasised education, the perceived over-commercialisation of the holiday has been subject to criticism for inculcating young people as early and loyal clients (traditionally accounts opened at this time, shifted according when and where the date fell on a bank holiday, included calendars as giveaways and other enticements) and bundling the cause with other premiums, like insurance and investment instruments. 



one year ago: St Quintinus

two years ago: suffrage in Switzerland, a Brazilian monopod, dancing security dogs, assorted links to revisit plus Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses

three years ago: a collection of strange classical music compositions, Frestonia, police propaganda plus more links to enjoy

four years ago: Halloween greetings, a collection of metro logos, a Cornish holiday, the Speaker of the House steps down plus the Trump impeachment

five years ago: more of the season’s salutations, an October Surprise plus the March of Folly

Sunday 22 October 2023

11x11 (11. 070)

post-amazon era: monopsonic retailer’s workers’ are writing about the dystopian company to fight back—via Slashdot  

sublet: tech startups are relinquishing office space office space back to their landlords  

stop making sense: negative manifestos, rule-breaking and by defined by what one is not  

deci-lon 10: an outstanding collection of slide rules curated by the analogue computer’s appreciation society—named after their seventeenth century inventor, William Oughtred of Cambridge—via Web Curios  

dancing delicacies: 3-D printed plate and nano technologies promise interactive meals  

primer simposium tecno: a 1981 electronic music concert in Madrid  

piramida: updated plans for the restoration of Tirana’s Brutalist landmark  

destroilet: an automatic combustion plumbing solution popular in the 1960s and 70s 

down in the underground: agencies of the subsurface 

fiver: a new adaptation of Watership Down as a graphic novel 

proposition m: San Francisco passes a punitive tax of vacant housing speculation  

the faanmg index: the blush has worn off Amazon’s rose—via Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links (lot’s more to explore there)


one year ago:  brittle egos bristling at Karen’s Garden plus modern sundials

two years ago: the International Meridian Conference of 1884, The Last Picture Show plus an early alternative currency

three years ago: the father of psychophysics, red food dye, another failed doomsday prophecy plus the Humument series

five years ago: the US Gun Control Act of 1968, the WWII bombing of Kassel, the spread of disinformation, anticipatory libraries for other worlds plus RIP to the inventor of the Little Library

Wednesday 18 October 2023

a conference divided (11. 065)

Entering its third week without a leader, the US House of Representatives’ Republican forerunner for the gavel and Speaker of the House, a hard right conservative, Trump apologists and noted obstructionist, having blocked far more legislation than sponsored, failed to secure the required majority with some rather brave GOP hold-outs refusing to allow Congress to fall further into the control of a radical minority element of the party. Despite not having secured the commitment of other fellow Republicans for support, the vote was brought to the floor, hoping that a public forum would draw the ire of their constituents in a rather unprecedented campaign for a congressional leadership role. Under pressure to fill the vacant role of House Speaker, Congress is unable to introduce new bills and severely handicaps its ability to address immediate concerns of funding the government with a looming deadline in mid-November, approving the appointment of ambassadors and military commanders or for extending aid and armaments to allies of two wars.


one year ago: the BBC at 100, rallying against the totalitarian regime in Iran plus a gallery of nightmare art

two years ago: an obtunded opportunity, your daily demon: Velar, Toto’s Africa plus Video Killed the Radio Star

three years ago: International Necktie Day, more musical mashups, more mushrooming, drills for the zombie apocalypse plus put our service to the test

four years ago: the Peaceful Revolution of East Germany,  a font inspired by Greta Thunberg, more US gun violence plus prayer goes digital

five years ago: International Credit Union Day, Big Bird retires plus the Postal Illuminati

Sunday 15 October 2023

rentenmark (11. 058)

In order to combat runaway hyperinflation after World War I and the the subsequent occupation of the industrial Ruhr region by French and Belgian forces that caused a major slump in economic activity and an attendant drop in government tax revenues that the Weimar Republic tried to compensate for with quantitive easing (that is—printing more money), finance minister Hans Luther, working with the Reichsbank, introduced a new currency on this day in 1923 to replace the Papiermark. Money had become nearly worthless and subject to precipitous devaluation on a daily basis due to lack of gold and other stable assets to back it, and Luther, whose plans for reform were grounded on the economic principles espoused by Karl Helfferich who suggested floating, indexing monetary value on rye and other agricultural commodities, devised a mortgaged-mark not tied to produce and crop yields (the original idea rejected due to inherent instability) but rather to the land that produced them, backed by biannual payments on farmland and business properties. With the first notes issued on 1 November, one trillion Papiermark could be exchanged for one Rentenmark and the relatively successful transition provided the stability for a recovery in the national economy. 


one year ago: most popular Halloween candy by state according to AI, a UB40 classic from 1988, the cemetery of Old St Pancras plus a menu ร  la carte

two years ago: assorted links to revisit, more unaired television pilots, Mouldy Old Dough plus dialling up the fright factor with AI

three years ago: more obscure and choice insults, a musical selection from Bronski Beat, more links to enjoy, Jack the Ripper’s From Hell letter, word nuance in cooking plus The Great Dictator (1940)

four years ago: high-energy cosmic rays

five years ago: a fun Star Trek musical mashup, more links plus discovering the convenience of public transport


Friday 29 September 2023

lapse in appropriations (11. 030)

With the deadline looming and only hours left before a government shut-down (previously) looks more and more inevitable, continued in-fighting amongst Republican members in Congress sabotaged a bill sponsored by the Senate that would have have been a stop-gap measure, a continuing resolution, to keep the funded government and operational through mid-November. The Speakership in hock and the House of Representatives held ransom by a radical element willing to let the government run out of money, insistent on a thirty-percent across the board cut in budgets and halting aid to Ukraine. Despite a precariously narrow majority in Congress that cannot enforce its will (captivity to an arch-conservative, pandering wing notwithstanding) without compromise and concession, particularly in mixed jurisdiction (and again, gerrymandering that protects their seats notwithstanding), the GOP is refusing to negotiate and willing to force a crisis costly in terms of economics and repute that may prove difficult to resolve.


one year ago: the Mayak disaster (1957) 

two years ago: assorted links to revisit

three years ago: Star Trek tarot,  the Feast of the Archangels, the cartoons of R Cobb plus more links to revisit

four years ago: more Theremin maestros plus more Middle English vulgarities

five years ago: the Munich Agreement (1938) plus the Suprematism movement

Wednesday 20 September 2023

the panic of 1873 (11. 011)

The period of economic stagnation originally referred to as the Great or Long Depression before the interwar slump set new standards for the definition and though caused by a range of contributing factors including the opening of the Suez Canal that was disruptive for entrepรดt trade (also controlled by the British Empire, goods from the Far East were formerly warehoused in South Africa with the previous sea route around the Cape of Good Hope and the traditional sailing ships could not be adapted to navigate the new short-cut as the prevailing Mediterranean winds pushed them back into the Red Sea), devastating fires in Chicago and Boston and Germany going off the bimetallic standard—precipitating a fall in silver prices, the financial crisis with global implications was chiefly attributed to rampant speculation by investors in railroads and boom in their construction particularly in the United States following the Civil War. The panic began on this day in 1873 with the collapse of the Jay Cooke & Company, an innovative banking institution and brokerage house that pioneered the use of “wire” transfers and confirming transactions over telegraph lines, overextended and unable to sell on millions in bonds it had secured to build a second transcontinental line. With the railroad company and the bank indebted, bankruptcy soon followed with contagion spreading to other financial institutions and the insurance industry, prompting the closure of the New York Stock Exchange for ten days with immediate redundancies in the manufacturing sector. Railroad workers went on strike in protest of reduced wages, further exacerbating the crisis and knock-on effects overseas which led to a wave in immigration to the States that coincided with the easing of the turmoil by 1879.

Sunday 10 September 2023

6x6 (10. 993)

wordwhile: whilst Damn Interesting takes a short sabbatical to recoup and regroup, try their fun word game  

home-ec: kakeibo (ๅฎถ่จˆ็ฐฟ) the century-old method of household budgeting devised by Motoko Hani, Japan’s first woman journalist  

germinating hope: seed art with a message at the Minnesota state fair  

bullet points: an encomium for the co-creator of PowerPoint Dennis Austin (RIP)  

vim and vigour: more on the nineteenth century cocaine-fortified wine—see previously 

 ☕️๐Ÿซ: more on universal words, Betteridge’s and Cunningham’s law—browse through the comments


one year ago: Hey Jude (1968), links to enjoy, more telling the bees plus more assorted links to revisit

two years ago: St Aubert, the ecological importance of oyster-beds, comparable to coral reefs plus even more links worth revisiting

three years ago: the largest basilica in the world, artist Marianne von Werefkin, a devastating earthquake in Constantinople (1509), the original and the reprised Fresh Prince, burning skies plus Hongkonger neologisms

four years ago: the dissolution of the Austrian Empire (1919), Boris Johnson suspends Parliament, Sharpiegate plus more assorted links

five years ago: Denver airport plays up conspiracy theories,  towing an iceberg to the desert, an innovative wind-turbine plus the premiere of X-Files (1993)

Friday 26 May 2023

8x8 (10. 766)

to scale: time: a model in the Mojave Desert that makes commensurate the span of a human life and the age of the Universe—see previously  

montreal protocol: humanity’s affirming effort to plug a hole in the ozone layer—previously—was an inadvertent salvation that is still paying off—see previously  

qartcode: generate custom scannable re-directs with the little pixelated image of ones choice—via Pasa Bon!  

talking steel guitar: the musical stylings of Pete Drake and his innovative talk box—see previously  

fourteenth amendment: US President Joe Biden’s options to stop the standoff over the debt ceiling  

i’m fantastic, made of plastic: the trailer to Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie  

flow-chart: your guide for turning on the air-conditioning in New England—works a lot of places—see also  

time out of mind: a 1979 BBC documentary series on science fiction featuring interviews with iconic authors

Wednesday 24 May 2023

7x7 oops all america (10. 764)

the hills we climb: Amanda Gorman’s inspirational poem (previously) during the inaugeration for Joe Biden among reading materials subject to a ban in Florida 

gen-z-span: a C-SPAN and Tik Tok split-screen is “giving democracy”—via Waxy  

sealioning: the baiting, false pretence for an honest discussion 

love is love: US retailer removing some LGBTQ+ collection apparel from its stores after backlash directed at employees plus more attacks against allied merchandise  

line-in-the-sand: negotiations on the impending US debt ceiling have stalled with little time to spare 

patent troll: the state of Louisiana introduces legislation to curtail the private equitisation of supposed infringement on intellectual property—via Super Punch  

won’t someone think of the children: analyses reveal that the majority of book ban challenges for curricula and libraries come from eleven people

Saturday 20 May 2023

you’re gonna need a bigger boat (10. 754)

In honour of the feast day of theologian and logician Blessed Alcuin, we revisit this humour take on his logistics puzzle recently presented as a lament by McSweeney’s Internet Tendency contributor Lillie E Franks: “American Infrastructure has Failed Me, a Farmer with one Wolf, one Goat and one Cabbage.” Thanks to a chronic lack of upkeep enabled by a culture of inertia in Washington, the rowboat can hold hold me and one of my three items. This creates serious problems, which our political system is ill-equipped to handle … the most realistic plan the Democrats have put forward is that I should take the goat across first, row back, take the wolf across instead of the cabbage, row back, and finally cross with the cabbage. And while that does deal with the problem of my goat eating my cabbage, it’s not a workable solution. More at the links above.