Sunday 7 April 2024

7x7 (11. 474)

my dad is dracula (and a very good dog): the funny webcomic by Jason Poland—via Miss Cellania  

good night george: a last nostalgic look the Glasgow hotel featured in Trainspotting, Taggart and with other cameos in television and film—via Nag on the Lake  

volcanic vortex rings: Mount Etna is sending out smoke signals, a phenomenon never before documented on film  

penny hike: instructions to create a lodestone for mindful, distraction-free wandering, using AI, to return you to where you started—via Web Curios—it has a certain resonance but I’ll give you a magic pebble to keep in your pocket so you don’t get too lost 

spyware: the secret weapons of Cold War espionage  

carmel-by-the-sea: a historic hotel known as the birthplace of the Apple Macintosh restored  

bug bytes: US government created comic books to fight disinformation and increase media literacy fall rather flat of their goals appealing to old tropes—via Hyperallergic

Wednesday 27 March 2024

the usual suspects (11. 452)

After years of obscuring police line-ups in creative and comical (to some) fashions, one department will comply with a request from a toy company to respectfully stop using its image to hide the faces of potential law-breakers in its social media posts. Certain authorities had been in the habit of protecting the identity of suspects for non-violent crimes in case they were exonerated and not to expose them to public shaming—the stocks—but all began to comply once legislation was passed to protect the identities of all until proven guilty. We’re not sure why such a blotter needed to be circulated in the first place, unless looking for more witnesses or issuing an all points bulletin. Mugshots are also removed after a fortnight. In any case, no more minifigs.


one year ago: The Leopard (1963) plus Everything is a Remix

two years ago: Starlight Express plus Let America Be America Again

three years ago: a cargo freighter blocks the Suez Canal, Moby Dick by Matt Kish, statehood for Washington, DC plus the Tenerife Airport Disaster (1977)

four years ago: the etymology of a snack cracker, Typhoid Mary, vintage bathrooms, an Oscar boycott (1973) plus job losses soar due to the pandemic

five years ago: Japan becomes less vegetarian (1872), driving home through the Rhรถn plus The Disorder of Things

Thursday 21 March 2024

eo 9835 (11. 439)

Also knowns as the “Loyalty Order” and instituted to combat supposed communist infiltration in the echelons of the federal government, the executive order was issued by US president Harry S Truman on this day, primarily in response to criticism that the Democrat administration had been too lax about suppressing Soviet influence, fuelled by ongoing investigations by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Although Truman hoped that this move might placate his dissenters, it quickly snowballed, leading to the creation of the Attorney General’s List of Subversive Organisations and a sweeping FBI inquiry of all three million federal employees—three hundred were ultimately dismissed as security liabilities—warranting further research if the subject was disposed to disloyalty in the form of sabotage, espionage, treason, sedition or advocacy thereof. The order was ultimately revoked in stages by Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter and repealed entirely under Bill Clinton in 1988, eliminating fealty in favour of allegiance, which had become entrenched as discriminatory hiring policies that barred gay individuals from foreign service positions and that required that gay charitable and educational organisations applying for a tax exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service publicly disclaim that homosexuality was a “sickness, disturbance or a diseased pathology.”

Monday 18 March 2024

7x7 (11. 435)

deadwooding: Banksy acknowledges authorship of a new mural bringing back some greenery to an aggressive prune tree in Finsbury Park  

subspace: an ultra high-definition video of a cat chasing a laser-pointer was beamed over thirty million kilometres to improve future video calls to the Moon and Mars 

running-stitch: beautiful embroidered portraits from Karola Pezarro  

deadspin: more on the internet’s undead, reanimated by private equity and name recognition—see previously, see more  

bunga bunga: Italy’s Foreign Press Association to move into former home of Silvio Berlusconi, who famously disparaged reporters as Communists  

honeytrap: Aphra Behn’s intersecting careers as a professional writer and spy  

sequoiadendron giganteum: imported by the Victorians as status symbols, Giant Redwoods (see also) are thriving in the UK at more than half-a-million and growing

Sunday 17 March 2024

you sad pocketbook of polluted purulence (11. 431)

Via Nag on the Lake’s always excellent Sunday Links, we are directed to a handy password generator created and coded by Ron Hardin that generates randomised phrases in the form of rather arch insults, which satisfies the hallmarks behind this top layer of security by being hard to guess, not readily susceptible to a brute-force attack and deliciously memorable, mostly alliterative, adhering to the techniques of champion memorisers. Especially if it’s work-related, it’s cathartic to hurl such aspersions into the void even if it is only for one’s benefit, aghast and empowerment—and are probably as secure as any alternative. See what scornful phrases you can come up with, you dear old harrowing can of cantankerous claptrap.

Friday 15 March 2024

6x6 (11. 422)

merica: singular, normalised behaviour of US residents that they’ve become inured to 

sfx: more mind-blowing short videos from OpenAI’s Sora—see previously 

outstanding in the field: highlights from the annual British Wildlife Photo  

negative pressure ventilator: an obituary for author, lawyer and polio survivor who used an iron lung for seven decades  

getty images: foundation and museum has made over eighty thousand artworks and artefacts from its collect available to the public  

free drawing: lessons in illustration from 1925 by Franz ฤŒiลพek and Hermann Kastner bytedance: users react to app’s uncertain future in the US


one year ago: assorted links to revisit

two years ago: another MST3K classic, a Roman holiday plus the Doomsday Clock

three years ago: the Ides of March, the Feast of the Holy Lance, more links to enjoy plus a lost and found project

four years ago: the Osaka World’s Fair Expo (1970), a Roman Star Trek episode, disease vectors, antique bills of sale, some blasphemous graffiti plus Scotland’s new bank notes

five years ago: a non-gendered digital assistant, xenophobic dogma, unblurring photos, college admission and privilege plus more links worth the revisit

Tuesday 12 March 2024

███████ ██ ████████ (11. 417)

In collaboration with the Electronic Free Foundation, Muckrock (previously) has just announced its annual Foilies award winners, recognising the most egregious instances of US government violating the precept of the public record. Ahead of their also recurring Sunshine Week to champion the importance of transparency and access, this tenth iteration really featured some strong resistance to FOIA requests, doubly depressing considering the death of local journalism and advocacy outlets, flouting disclosure requirements of the law. From attempt to tag a cache of email correspondence with the label “NO FOIA” in hopes to keep fraud from the public eye or attempts to reveal corruption and mismanagement met with ingratitude to zealous librarians checking out books themselves to keep them out of circulation while bans for certain literary works were still pending court challenges and politicians trying to keep secret their travel expenses. These achievements, both large and small, have impact, and are not bailiwick of lawyers and reporters, only requiring determination. Learn more at the link above.

Monday 11 March 2024

000_34L82nw britain-royals (11. 415)

Whilst speculation about the whereabouts and fate of Kate Middleton not seen in public since a Christmas engagement has run rampant, with alleged sightings in the unlikeliest of places including the Wonka Experience, a family photograph posted on Mothering Sunday has backfired and done little to quiet the rumours after the wire-services issued a mandatory kill-notice to remove the image released by Kensington Palace due to an editorial issue and possible manipulation. The Princess of Wales later admitted to doing the touch-up work herself and apologised for the lightly edited portrait taken (see also) by the prince for causing such controversy and at a time when all the principal royals are out of the picture and not performing public duties, it only fuels conjecture, sometimes to wild conclusions.

Sunday 3 March 2024

penrose tiles (11. 398)

Given the potential, inevitably of quantum computing to break even the hardest encryption and pose an existential threat to the digital framework of privacy and security that we’ve become accustomed to, a possible reprieve in the form of aperiodic tiling is welcome news. Rather than focus on the symmetrical and repeating approaches to tiling a surface, polymath and Nobel laureate Roger Penrose and others began to study inflation and deflation of imperfect coverage in the 1970s, and anticipating the models of quantum computing, physical qubits and the superimposed virtual states, the never-repeating mosaics are not in themselves a place to hide information but a check-digit redundancy to ensure calculations stay on course. Given the nature of quantum mechanics—measuring the in-between state, neither zero or one and both, will cause the value to collapse, making the circuitry a rather delicate and unreliable thing and could lead to a more robust and internally consistent way for encoding and encryption as we know it. More at the links above.

Friday 1 March 2024

8x8 (11. 392)

unauthorised avatar: Ukrainian individual discovers her likeness from her self-help videos have been cloned to sell Russian goods, friendship with China  

criterion collection: a curated series of great moments from the film company’s archive of Closet Picks  

il galateo, overo de’ costumi: the age of impoliteness—an influential sixteenth century Venetian treatise of delicacy and manners  

the weeknd stroke psa: a song parody about signs and symptoms of a cerebrovascular incident  

@smalin: graphic artist Stephen Manlinowski creates beautifully animated classical and jazz score—via Web Curios 

the hero’s journey: “the chosen one,” coming of age narratives of Dune, Star Wars, Harry Potter are mostly about adolescent boys coming to grips with their sexuality—via tmn  

dark currents: a 1992 public access occult soap opera from Marrawamkeag, Maine inspired by Dark Shadows, Twin Peaks  

thimblerig: internet retailer’s financial shell game and predatory pricing enabled it to create an untenable monopoly not thought sustainable

Saturday 24 February 2024

back-end analytics (11. 377)

Though tacking the prefix smart on appliances and/or connecting them to the internet of things has a mixed record and has raised many alarms over privacy concerns, this scandal revealed by a glitch in a vending machine, one of an array of banks of automats installed at the University of Waterloo in Ontario really illustrates how—as with contracts for delivery robots surveilling other campuses to collect dragnet data in jurisdictions with less stringent protections—innovation is just a cheap veneer for marketing and demographic stockpiling. No one was expecting, much less consented to, being subject to a facial recognition programme when it came to this transaction. The smart snack dispensers are being replaced with more traditional and less sinister ones, hopefully something more tried-and-true that take coins and display their selection behind glass, rather than on screen.

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

Wednesday 14 February 2024

9x9 (11. 351)

planisphere: explore the fifteenth century Mappa Mundi—made by a Venetian cartographer and monk map who never left the lagoon  

high rollers: the character and history of burlesque shows  

robots.txt: a tiny text file that has been the underpinnings of the internet is unravelling due to AI 

a load-bearing day: the confluence of several celebrations, including Ash Wednesday (be furiousing rather than fasting), Valentine’s and the Luni-Solar New Year  

my unfortunate incarceration: the abundant prison-tech alliance is a brutal harbinger of what’s to come

bulletisation: the functional literacy crisis in reading comprehension—via the morning news 

service sector: some large companies requiring AI-informed personality tests for vacancy applicants  

disco vicar: some Anglican churches and cathedrals opening for parties  

news deserts: explore local journalism and those newsrooms hanging on—via Maps Mania

Sunday 11 February 2024

callsign (11. 345)

Via the always excellent Maps Mania, we are referred to the rather infamous interactive flight tracker from Jack Sweeney that amalgamates real-time, crowd-sourced transponder data that follows commercial and
controversially the flight-plans of private jets belonging to well-known figures, the open-source forum used by other aggregators to publicise and monitor the itineraries and environmental footprint of celebrities who would rather their outsized impact, hypocrisy and whereabouts to be known. Some believe that keeping tabs on soi-disant free-speech champion Elon Musk motivated him to purchase Twitter and try to silence his critics. Taylor Swift also recently expressed feeling her privacy and security violated by Sweeney’s site—but in response sold one of her private aircraft, possibly for an upgrade. We were surprised to see the quite a number of smaller, non-commercial flights over our airspace. More at the links above.

8x8 (11. 343)

๐Ÿ˜ถ: a Good Internet cross-posting of Good Music, featuring a mix of tracks from Wilco, Kim Gordon, the Beths and many more  

nato backstab: in a Drudge Report style headline, the Huffington Post reports Trump at a campaign event that he might encourage Russia to attack ‘deadbeat’ allies 

internal monologue: philosophers explore new field of the inner voice at the intersection of psychiatry  

compliance moats: anti-anti-monopolists and data-brokers wrangle over regulation 

story-walk: using olfaction with narrative to simulate reflection and retention  

certificate of honourable discharge: explore the best-preserved Roman military diploma (constitutio) in a new 3D exhibit  

grand bargain: US Supreme Court seems poised to keep Trump on state ballots but deny him blanket immunity 

i’m only sleeping: a Grammy winning painted music video of the Revolver track from Em Cooper

Thursday 18 January 2024

7x7 (11. 278)

you are not a product: the demise of the social network Ello’s ambitions  

right: US to UK export Word of the Year—see previously  

mystic pizza: a new popular regional style from the US state of Connecticut  

arbustum: ancient Roman wine-growing techniques and forest agriculture may help battle modern climate change  

sora-q: Japanese space agency is poised to land a transforming robot on the Moon  

gloogo: a lexicon of words that don’t exist yet but should (see also) from Burgess Unabridged—the source of the term blurb  

๐„: time spent pausing is a worthwhile pursuit—see also on the fermata

Wednesday 20 December 2023

7x7 (11. 199)

dongmei zone: seven months interred in a online scam labour camp—via Waxy  

santa claus go straight to the ghetto: David Byrne shares his Christmas playlist  

napolรฉon vu par abel gance: a 1927 ingenious, panoramic adaptation of the historical figure 

local inference: when AI assistants leave the cloud and haunt one’s laptop, all bets are going out the window—via Good Internet  

autogamy: evolutionary changes in wild pansies suggest that the flowers have given up on increasingly rare insects and are turning to self-pollination, a vicious cycle for the whole ecosystem 

tom & jerry: the typology of North American eggnog cartons—via Kottke  

jewel streets: a twelve-block neighbourhood known as the Hole of New York City neglected and forgotten for decades

Tuesday 19 December 2023

in the stacks (11. 195)

Whilst the institution remains open to the public and its collection of manuscripts and rare books remain securely archived and conserved, the total collapse of the British Library’s digital infrastructure that made its entire catalogue freely accessible to all worldwide following a malicious cyberattack on Halloween is almost as grave as loosing the originals. A ransomware gang, auctioning off personal data of patrons and staff alike, has rendered its services largely unavailable even for those readers and scholars geographically close enough to visit in person and makes potential and present patrons reflect on nature of this sort of institution and how theft of connection is as bad as theft or destruction of knowledge itself. 


one year ago: A Christmas Carol plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: celebrating two decades of The Lord of the Rings, a literary clock plus more links to enjoy

three years ago: Dalรญ holiday cards, more links worth revisiting plus an angel on Mars

four years ago: Trump impeached, Clinton impeached (1998) plus map haikus

five years ago: even more links, French carols, sonic shades plus Trump withdraws from Syria

Friday 10 November 2023

9x9 (11. 110)

tragedy of the commons: Tokelau’s country-code top level domain (see also) turned the tiny Pacific island into a virtual den of thievery—via Web Curios  

hanna-barbera educational division: a bizarre 1979 film-strip about getting home safe for latch-key kids featuring some ranger danger 

itinerant filmmaker: travelling from town to town, The Kidnappers Foil was a four-decade vanity project for local talent, produced hundreds of times over  

suspense accents: add the sound of drama to your day—via Things Magazine  

mixtape 2023: Cardhouse’s annual audio/visual revue

bjรถrn of the dead: Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson to play a starring role in an apocalyptic ABBA-tribute band horror movie—via Good Internet  

so red the nose, or, breath in the afternoon: an Oakland, California speakeasy bringing back drinks from 1930s—including Ernest Hemingway’s favoured Champagne cocktail  

merrie melodies: a snippet of the score for the cancelled Coyote v Acme—see more about the shelved project 

legal autopilot: a neural network negotiated and finalised a contract—an NDA—without human intervention

Thursday 9 November 2023

pin (11. 104)

The startup called Humane, launched by two former Apple engineers, hoping to introduce an alternative to time-stealing smart phones and touch screens, has unveiled its brooch-like wearable, powered by AI that does not need to be paired with other gadgets, and designed for interfacing with large language models rather than apps, geared towards talking and voice commands (also through gesture and showing it objects) rather than focusing on typing and visuals. Though there is no display, AI Pin can project images with a laser onto the user’s hand. For privacy and disclosure to others within ear-shot, the “Trust Light” blinks when the badge is activated (no listening for a wake word) and collecting data. Though the question remains whether this new device, a lapel pin, might meet the same fate as Google Glass and other augmented reality accessories, the launch demonstration included a round of feats, including an email inbox, message summary, presenting one’s meal to it for nutritional information, navigation and real-time translations.


one year ago: the Lateran Basilica, an archaeological discovery in the muddy ruins of a bath house plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: another MST3K classic plus prioritising driverless technology over pedestrian safety

three years ago: World Freedom Day, unfortunate juxtapositions, a vaccine for COVID under development, a synonym for Schadenfreude plus Poe’s Dream-Land

four years ago: the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) 

five years ago: a resort on the Adriatic, single-use as Word of the Year, the veil of ignorance plus Kristallnacht (1938)