Wednesday 12 June 2024

counting crows (11. 621)

Previously we’ve visited general corvid intelligence (see previously here and here) and numeracy in bees—and given the recent discoveries of a whale language (not forgetting the Plant Kingdom, ibฤซdem) and elephantine endonymy—it is no wonder that we learn, via Clive Thompson’s latest Linkfest, that our cawing friends too understand the concept of numbers, according to preliminary studies undertaken at the University of Tรผbingen. Crows furthermore have been shown to vocalise actual numerals, corresponding to values from one to four consistently and have sophisticated maths skills. More at the links above.


one year ago: assorted links worth revisiting

two years ago: the precursor to the bicycle, Cleopatra (1957) plus good wine needs no bush

three years ago: Clash of the Titans (1981), shutter sounds, Russia Day, Deep Throat (1972), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) plus the tripartite devil

four years ago: Loving Day, more concatenation plus a unique geometrical construct

five years ago: Canada decriminalises abortion and homosexuality (1969), Volkswagen tries to clean up its reputation, vintage Kellogg’s advertising plus a horse of a different colour

Sunday 2 June 2024

jenny wren (11. 601)

Via Sentence First, we learn how the robin (and its distant American cousin—not closely related) got its name.  Prior to scientific and ordered taxonomy, in fifteenth century England—and elsewhere—it was common practise to give familiar species human names, this companionable nomenclature enduring in some of the more common monickers, like magpies from flocks originally called Margarets or a daw named Jack, and Robin Redbreast—from the diminutive form of Robert and their distinctive, easily recognisable orange plumage, the colour unknown and not distinguished until the introduction of the fruit about a hundred years later. More from Bird History 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”

Tuesday 16 April 2024

passerine dream (11. 493)

Via Damn Interesting’s Curated Links, not only do we learn that our avian friends also dream, singing silently in their sleep, but researchers are able after a fashion, to decipher these nocturnal rehearsals by carefully monitoring unconscious muscle contractions along a bird subject’s vocal tract, akin to eye-movements during REM sleep, amplifying and correlating the series of calls with observed behaviours. These dream sounds, using a Great Kiskadee (pitogue, bichofeo—a member of the tyrant flycatcher family and named onomatopoeically for its exuberant call, bien-te-veo or “I see you well”) from Central and South America for the study, suggest that the specimen was replaying a daytime territorial defence with an encroaching intruder, insightful surely but given the nature of dreaming, perhaps only part of the story. More from New Atlas on the methodology, anatomy of birdsong and a sound-clip at the link above.

Monday 18 March 2024

insatiable birdie (11. 433)

Via Miss Cellania, we not only learn the rather elegant physics and chemistry behind those sippy bird toys but also that researchers have given it an upgrade as a device to generate energy.

Sometimes mislabeled as a perpetual motion machine, the thirsty mechanism is a heat engine, two evacuated glass bulbs linked by a tube pivot on a crosspiece and turns the temperature gradient along the body into a pressure difference that translates to the mechanism. Water evaporates from the head (usually adorned with something absorbent like felt) and lowers the temperature and pressure and causes some of the vapour in the chamber to condense (usually ether, alcohol or chloroform) and the liquid is forced up the neck, causing it to tip forward. The ambient air temperature warms the bottom bulb and causes the cycle to repeat. The toy, originally called a Pulshammer was a German invention improved by Benjamin Franklin, after seeing one in action around 1768 and illustrates the principles of capillary action, wet-bulb temperature, heat of condensation as well as several laws of thermodynamics and idea gases and with the latest modifications also demonstrates the triboelectric effect (static electricity), harnessing it to power small appliances and seems overall like a pretty good educational apparatus, provoking thought while charging.  Who knew? More technical details and a video demonstration of the prototype at the link above.

one year ago: assorted links to revisit, Yugoslavian fashion plus climbing Everest (1923)

two years ago: more links to enjoy, two probes passing in the night, more shibboleths plus Arnold Schwarzenegger makes an appeal to the people of Russia

three years ago: RIP Yaphet Kotto, more links worth the revisit, Motown on tour (1965), mourning rings, fear of covering up plus the fashions of Birgitta Bjerke

four years ago: an iconic photograph from the battlefield (1942)

five years ago: Transit Driver Appreciation Day

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

Friday 26 January 2024

12x12 (11. 294)

brownstone: Gotham Gothic rowhouses as playing cards  

wall of eyes: Radiohead spinoff artist Jonny Greenwood’s latest album 

scrabblegram: a form of constrained writing using all one hundred tiles of the game  

blackula: a look at the brave inversion of exploitation cinema  

research purposes: profiles in the pornographers of Wikimedia who image and caption—see also—human sexuality, via Web Curios  

parks & rec: a map of sites in the US funded by FDR’s New Deal programme—via Waxy 

best laptop 2024: readership, AI and the collapse of media outlets  

nullification: Texas governor, alleging the US federal government has failed to protect the country from an immigrant invasion, hints at secession  

the compaynys of beestys & fowlys: revisiting how animal groupings (see previously on the subject of venery) received such colourful names—via the morning news  

schluckbildchen: sixteenth century edible devotionals  

mixtape: Kim Gordon, formerly of Sonic Youth, raps her grocery list in new song Bye Bye 

ephemerama: a growing archive of modern illustrations from circa 1950 to 1975—via Things Magazine


one year ago: more trompe l’oeil paintings, assorted links to revisit plus pie-chart studies

two years ago: morphing logos plus more links to enjoy

three years ago: zorbing, the Council of Trent (1545), Australia Day, more links worth the revisit plus Tubman on the twenty

four years ago: modular, prefab kiosks plus the first television demonstration (1926)

five years ago: the longest government shutdown in US history, architect Sir John Soane plus all the world’s writing systems

Sunday 21 January 2024

stochastic parrot (11. 284)

Despite having encountered and cited the extremely apt coinage several times in various contexts beforehand, we realised that we never knew the term’s etymology—the leading part’s anyways—as coming from the Ancient Greek for something determined at random or derived from guesswork (ฯƒฯ„ฯŒฯ‡ฮฟฯ‚—also a pillar to prop up a fishing net to mend it) from the office of the stokhastes attempting to predict an outcome by divination, later coming to mean a probabilistic conjecture or augury by allocation. Though a good word of caution against mimicry and anthropomorphising, it does perhaps underestimate the faculties and experience of our feathered friends. More from Language Log at the link above.

Monday 11 September 2023

glistening green (10. 996)

This photograph by Nicolas Reusens perfectly frames a male emerald tanager (the informal name above for the Chlorochrysa phoenicotis) won gold in the portrait category for the Bird Photograph of the Year (B-PoTY, previously) taken in its native habitat in a nature reserve in the tropical jungles of Ecuador. Selected from over twenty-thousand submissions, the overall winner among all the superlatives went to Jack Zhi for a dramatic act shot captured in southern California of a peregrine falcon defending her nest from a brown pelican. More at the links above including the annual contest’s conservation initiative.

Saturday 9 September 2023

7x7 (10. 991)

trochilinae: a look at the evolution of evolution of hummingbirds—see previously  

uranometria: a comparative study of constellations across cultures—via Web Curios  

portfolio: photographer James Mollison documents children’s rooms, collectors and their collections around the world plus other projects—via Things Magazine  

lightning 4-2: a record-setting speedrun of Super Mario Bros  

zero width non-joiner: let AI generate a custom emoji—note the cursed thumbs up/down icons—via Waxy

extended-stay: Plato’s Cave (previously) will be raising its rent—via JWZ  

halcyon days: a slow-motion look at the kingfisher’s dive 


one year ago: Stone Temple Pilots plus the proclamation of King Charles III

two years ago: more on DC statehood, the Battle of Teutoberg Forest (9 AD), rewilding begins at home plus assorted links to revisit

three years ago: the establishment of Washington, DC (1791), the disputed Hans Island, a lighthouse transformed plus AI supervillains

four years ago: more on the moons of Jupiter 

five years ago: Trump threatens to remove US troops from Germany plus an expansive pattern library


Tuesday 11 July 2023

7x7 (10. 874)

fit for a king: a selection of ersatz castles for sale in the US 

caliology: corvids using anti-bird spikes for nesting material
100ยบ in the shade
: mapping tree shadows 

free agent: labour force of the outsourced talk about the effects of the AI revolution—via Waxy  

ravensbourne: finding the lost rivers of London—see previously  

involuntary memory: the aetiology of earworms 

cheese royal: Burger King in Thailand introduces a menu item composed of twenty slices of American cheese

Friday 16 June 2023

free-range (10. 811)

Via the always excellent Web Curios, we are referred to a genuinely clever idea, too bad it only ships from Australia, in basically an open frame hamster ball for fowl friends in this product called the Chicken Orb as we’ve been thinking about maybe adding one or more to the family—and we can’t really fence in the entire backyard and there are foxes on the prowl (but no dingos), though couldn’t say whether this would also afford protection.  The dog seems rather tame with the ducks and geese in the pond and could foresee this sort of enclosure working on at least that level too.  What do you think?  Should we give it a try?

Wednesday 7 June 2023

6x6 (10. 792)

extremadura: BBC Reel has more on the disappearance of the Tartessos civilisation—freighted with myth and legend—at the edge of the known world

uspto: strengthening the case for junk patents could severely stifle innovation in America—see also—via the new shelton wet/dry  

crowbox: an experimental platform for the autonomous education of corvids—see previously 

l’agence tous risques: the title them for the A-Team on French television had jaunty little lyrics—see also—via Super Punch 

know before you go: the Human Rights Campaign joining others in declaring a state of emergency and issuing travel warnings for LGBTQ+ people in the US  

pogostemon cablin: ancient vial of Roman perfume identified as patchouli oil

Sunday 28 May 2023

moonbird (10. 773)

Our gratitude to Fancy Notions for the re-introduction to the life and portfolio of animator John Hubley (with credit to his contributing creative partners and family members), who left Disney after Fantasia and the 1941 Animators’ Strike, dissatisfied with the direction the company was going, joined up with UPA, was investigated by the House Un-American Activities Committee and essentially blacklisted before starting an independent studio, Storyboard, through his Academy Awarding winning cartoon from 1959, that illustrated a secretly recorded discussion between his two sons (his wife Faith taping the imaginary adventure shared by Mark and Hampy). More to discover at the link above.

Saturday 8 April 2023

the egg war of the farallon islands (10. 660)

Regaling us with the strange tales of real and artificial scarcity and runaway inflation for the city of San Francisco flush with money owing to the Gold Rush (see previously) which seems like an apt allegory for modern San Francisco with the boom and bust of the native tech sector and the real estate market, Lit Hub contributor Lizzy Stark—via Strange Company—surveys the shortage of women and perishables through the price of eggs in California territory, the untenable fickleness of domesticated hens and turning to a seabird sanctuary for scavenging that dedicimated the local wild populations of auks, gulls and of pinnipeds from a rocky, treacherous outcropping in the bay. The cost of a dozen eggs in American markets today exacerbated by the tumultuous economy has nothing from back during the frontier days.

Sunday 2 April 2023

7x7 (10. 651)

spyvibe radio: The Man Called Flintstone and other cartoon-espionage crossovers  

hosanna, hin-nam: Palm Sunday from the donkey’s perspective—see previously  

made to order: a huge font specimen of a wide range of borders—see previously 

a1: a centenary of road numbering for the Ministry of Transportation 

rather fetching: canine portraits at London’s Wallace Collection  

sparkie williams: a very talkative budgie and other loquacious birds  

rabbit hole: new Kiefer Sutherland secret agent film channels vintage intelligence dramas

Wednesday 14 December 2022

6x6 (10. 384)

strife wins out: ๆˆฆ (ikusa, tatakau meaning war) is voted kanji of 2022—previously, see also—via Language Log  

dunston checks in: Poseidon’s Underworld reviews the 1996 comedic film starring Jason Alexander, Paul Reubens, Rupert Everett and Faye Dunaway  

hearth and home: more animated Yule Log loops—see previously—via Waxy 

twitterpated: a survey of possible dinosaur vocalisations  

mission highlights: arresting imagery from Artemis I—see also 

diwhy and regretsy: a collection of jargon and slang terms from the crafting community

Monday 5 December 2022

8x8 (10. 362)

under attended: when only two individuals show up to a new author’s reading, much of the establishment commiserates and share words of encouragement—via Super Punch 

giving face
: Poseidon’s Underworld takes a moment to reflect after a month’s sabbatical  

postcards of dead birds: more on strange Victorian Christmas greetings—see previous here and here  

monochrome: an AI tool to colourise black-and-white images—see previously 

government attic: Things Magazine reminds of us this great aggregator of FOIA logs—see previously 

the christmassy chord: a deconstruction of iconic holiday standards 

the tartarian empire: an introduction to a bizarre architectural conspiracy theory—via ibฤซdem  

rsvp: journalist was one of six attendees who showed up for an expensive Metaverse party hosted by the European Union

Tuesday 29 November 2022

up, up to the sky (10. 345)

Sharing the anniversary with many other sundry events of pith and circumstance, our faithful chronicler reports that on this day in 1975, the single from Silver Convention hit number one on on the Billboard Hot 100, holding the spot for three weeks before being unseated by CW McCall’s Convoy. Despite the paucity of lyrics (six words, which is an accomplishment in itself) owing to the fact that the German disco group didn’t speak so much English, it’s acknowledged to be the first avian themed song to reach the top of the charts, only followed by Prince’s When Dove Cry in 1984.

Friday 28 October 2022

ฮฌฯ€ฯ„ฮตฯฮฑ (10. 253)

On the south shore looking back over Souda Bay, there is an ancient settlement that enjoyed strategic importance from Minoan through Hellenistic times and to the modern day given the nearby Greek and NATO military bases, called Aptera—without feathers—owing to the legend that Hera, Queen of the Gods, convinced the Muses and the Sirens to a song contest, with the former sister-act handily beating the latter, the Sirens being so upset by losing that they rent their feathers a wings, dusting the ฮ›ฮตฯ…ฮบฮฌ ฮŒฯฮท (White Mountains) with them and plunged into the sea.

The archaeological remains of site mostly date to the Roman occupation and include a cistern and baths and an impressive amphitheater. Visiting on Oxi Day (ฮ•ฯ€ฮญฯ„ฮตฮนฮฟฯ‚ ฯ„ฮฟฯ… ฮŒฯ‡ฮน, the Anniversary of the ‘No’)—marking the date that Greece refused the ultimatum issued by Benito Mussolini and resistance to fascism during World War II, entry was free as well as the bit of history and the more contemporary couching. On same high plateau of Paliokastri, there was also the Kule (Castle) of Subashi with a view of the Ottoman Izzedin Fortress below.
In the area we also toured the monastery of St George (ฮœฮฟฮฝฮฑฯƒฯ„ฮฎฯฮน ฮ†ฮณฮนฮฟฯ‚ ฮ“ฮตฯŽฯฮณฮนฮฟฯ‚) outside of ฮ’ฮฌฮผฮฟฯ…ฯ‚ (Vamos) with tranquil small church and old olive presses that highlight pre-industrial extraction with millstones and frails, the round bags used for squeezing the pulp.
We got to sample some of their bread and olives afterwards.