Sunday 14 July 2024

no responsive documents (11. 692)

Our friends at Muckrock (previously) have successfully through a FOIA petition to the US National Security Agency to locate a historic lecture delivered by computing pioneer Admiral Grace Hopper, authoring COBOL as a demonstration of a machine independent high-level programming language, at the intelligence agency’s Fort Meade headquarters. The NSA, however, is refusing to release the 1982 recording from its archives, preserved on an AMPEX video tape reel, because it has no equipment capable of making a copy. Although not an unsolvable problem, particularly for one of the most powerful and well-connected spy agencies in the world, and the Freedom of Information Action cannot require the records-holding entity to obtain hardware to access outdated file formats, it does speak to the problems of obsolete technology and our coming digital dark ages.

Thursday 11 July 2024

splogoverse (11. 681)

Having previously tracked how that the zombification of dormant domains followed the cannibalisation of the oldweb and general enshittification as squats for AI-generated slop, we gave a close reading to this account involving the purchase of a long-abandoned URL of a mainly print newsletter that once hosted their contributions in order to spare their by-line from the indignity visited upon many legacy websites, coopted by prolific impostors for name-recognition (like Red Lobster being private-equitied). Like the above cannibalisation—which seems rather tame in comparison—archived content (which may be also hosted in parallel by a successor publisher) is lightly edited and updated to make it appear fresh and relevant, at least to search engines and advertisers. More from Tedium at the link above.

Friday 7 June 2024

9x9 (11. 613)

brainstorm: an AI researcher creates webpages from search queries—via Web Curios  

resurfacing the past: cataloguing all of the sunken ships of World War II  

like a feather on god’s breath: Hildegard von Bingen continues to fascinate and attract a diverse following—see previously 

leica lux: a new app from the veteran company is a concession that film is dead  

pineapple cheese: a nineteenth century fad in New England—via Strange Company  

unfortunate juxtaposition: an omnibus of headline crash blossoms—see previously  

mycological studies: Ann Wood’s paper mushrooms 

 amperima: deep-sea researchers discovery a hot-pink “Barbie Pig” and a unicumber unknown to science in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone 

ddg: DuckDuckGo offers anonymity for AI chat sessions


one year ago: assorted links worth revisiting

two years ago: the Field of the Cloth of Gold (1520) plus the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494)

three years ago: more links to enjoy plus Brazilian phone booths

four years ago: an airport stretch-limousine, factorial pottery, a parting-shot from Cassini, more links to revisit, justice served plus besmirching a swan

five years ago: Iceland does not want your bottled water, even more links plus a Noah’s Ark theme park flooded

Friday 31 May 2024

uvb-76 (11. 597)

Courtesy of ibฤซdem, we are directed to an omnibus post on numbers stations (see previously) featuring the enigmatic beacon designated also with the callsign MDZhB (ะœะ”ะ–ะ‘, referred to as the Buzzer) broadcasting on short-wave radio. Mostly monotonous, there are sporadic interruptions with voice transmission, usually in Russian but sometimes audio-drops of Yosemite Sam and other memes but otherwise in strict messaging formats. This ostensible activation code was replaced with the ominous filler of Swan Lake during a brief period in November of 2010, a well-established preemption when all Hell is breaking loose to the consternation of monitors but regular programming soon resumed. While patently considered as a communications encoded directive for Soviet and Russian field agents, the transmitter does not possess the earmarks of a true numbers station, missives being too random, and is seen as sort of frequency- , domain -holding mechanism to dissuade others for future contingencies, including as some have suggested an automated “dead hand” signal which if broken would trigger a retaliatory response, assuming that command and control had been taken out by a first strike.

Monday 20 May 2024

i’m feeling lucky (11. 568)

Well before the default search engine began adding AI overviews to its results, users expressed their frustration and rebellion by adding a /r to their query to solicit some community juried results from Redditors less biased towards optimisation and more geared towards what people drove through discussion. Whilst rankings on any platform have never been free from a certain tilt that may create unwanted obstacles—or produce the desired outcome—this sort of copilot mode be default risks the user blaming, shooting the messenger (see previously) for what’s served up through the enhanced algorithm. Although Google chose to showcase its latest AI-focused upgrade on its biggest forum, the alternative filter, emulator of familiar web-caches reaching back a decade before SEO and general bot buttinskis was announced quietly by a liaison on a competing site. Sans ads, knowledge panels and scraping metadata from websites—but with tradeoffs—the parameter and suffix udm=14 brings one back to the unadulterated web to an extent that’s probably more geared to utility rather than simply nostalgia. More from Tedium at the link above and here is a website that automates it for your browser of choice.

Tuesday 7 May 2024

rabbithole (11. 545)

Via Mx Tynehorne’s Cabinet of Curiosities (previously), we found ourselves drawn into a web of unsolved, enduring mysteries, fringe and pseudoscience theories, cryptozoology, and urban, internet legends with this extensive and growing list of obscure phenomena from Iceberg Charts. Of course the trajectory from hesitancy, to skepticism to contrarian and conspiratorial thinking can be a slippery slope and most of the cited examples are tempered with a dose of rebuttal and academic remediation and many catalogued are harmless fun. Among the newer links, we found an enticing selection of alternative histories (see previously) plus a new one in the form of the Roman Senate’s capital condemnation of a poet, grammarian and plebeian tribune of the Late Republic called Quintus Valerius Soranus. A contemporary and correspondent of Cicero and credited with the intention of the reading aid in the form of a table of contents, Soranus was put to death by crucifixion under the dictatorship of Sulla for ostensibly, publicly revealing the arcane and sacred name of Rome. Though unclear the manner of the publication, perhaps in a poem’s acrostic—or whether this was a political pretext to rid themselves of a troublesome colleague—such evocatio was considered a grave taboo and never mentioned outside of exclusive, secret ceremonies as divulging the name was calling forth the civic, tutelary deity, which if known by Rome’s enemies could cause the protector god to abandon and defect. No one knows if the city truly had such a classified name or what it was—possibly after the elder goddess called Angeron—and the popular but possibly creatively incorrect that it was what Rome spelt backwards spelt was inspired by a dual temple built by Hadrian to the city and Venus with altars back to back and hence the ROMA-AMOR inversion.

Friday 26 April 2024

8x8 (11. 514)

flightline: stunning visualisations of air traffic  

splinternet: ByteDance does not plan to divest itself of TikTok following US ultimatum  

megadeath: modelling the destruction caused by a nuclear bomb on a major city  

mtv buzz: a surreal montage of audio and video clips arranged by Mark Pellington (1990)  

celebrity endorsement: musicians, artists and novelist pose with the Sears’ appliances in this 1969 ad campaign for Kenmore—see also  

undiscovery: the Map Men chart phantom islands—including some that have made it into the era of Google Maps—see previously  

22,5 light hours: engineers debug a forty-seven year old computer remotely from twenty-four billion kilometres away to revive the data stream from Voyager I—see previously  

embarking: a luxury airline that caters to canines above their human companions


one year ago: assorted links worth revisiting

two years ago: dismantling Soviet-era monuments

three years ago: more links to enjoy plus a special issue of LIFE magazine

four years ago: fantasy urban map generators, more links worth the revisit plus geopolitical optics

five years ago: an elegant and modern personal seal, even more links plus a Victoria houseplant

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