Saturday, 12 January 2013

Saturday smiles (even if the sun is behind the cloud)

Radio Shack computer catalog from 1983
via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow

On the Internet Archive, a hi-rez scan of the 1983 Radio Shack computer catalog, which is a wonderland of jaw-dropping prices for prosumer equipment from my boyhood that doesn’t even qualify as a toddler’s toy today. I will always retain a fondness for acoustic couplers, though, as they were the way I first connected to a computer, running a screenless teletype terminal connected to my Dad’s university PDP by means of one of these suction-cup wonders. There was something, I dunno, legible about being able to see how the Bell handset fit into that cradle, to hear the barely audible tinny whine of the characters crawling over the wire. It was like being able to watch nerve impulses travel from a brain to a distant limb.
But $995?
Radio Shack Catalog RSC-09 Computer Catalog (via Hacker News)

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The post-scarcity society. Keynes predicted that it would be here by now, that leisure would replace work. Suppose such a utopia is feasible, will we want it?... more

The EU and the Habsburg Monarchy
The threat that the EU faces today is as deadly as the one that confronted the Habsburg Monarchy a hundred years ago, writes British diplomat Robert Cooper in an article contributed to Eurozine by Transit.

“Instead of the uncontrolled expansion of armies and navies of the early twentieth century, when few understood the implications of the new military technology, we live today in a world of uncontrolled global financial markets dealing in instruments that few comprehend. And the crisis strikes at the heart of the EU. If the EU ceases to be a bringer of prosperity but becomes instead a cause of impoverishment, it too will collapse. Because, unlike the Habsburg Monarchy, the EU is not a state but a community of states, its collapse will not begin at the centre, but at the edges. If it ever dies, it will do so with a whimper, rather than a bang. This fish rots from the tail, not the head. The explosion will come not in Brussels but on the streets of Athens, Rome or Madrid. Perhaps we are seeing the first signs.”
But getting it right does not need a miracle:
“It requires only open debate, open minds, a readiness to listen and to learn. Intellectual clarity and human sympathy is all that we need, plus some understanding of what we stand to lose,” Cooper, one of the intellectual architects of EU foreign policy, concludes. “Unlike war, there are no winners when financial markets collapse (no, not even George Soros). If we fail, it will be by errors in our economics or misjudgements of our politics or through collective stupidity.”
Robert Cooper
The European Union and the Habsburg Monarchy

Astounding and Interactive Sidewalk Art Around the World
via Flavorwire by Alison Nastasi
Alternative sidewalk design explores eco-friendly, minimally invasive ways to pave pathways for pedestrians. Artists take the concept in another direction and create a temporary reprieve from the daily grind by offering interactive spaces for play and pondering. Sometimes they’re in the concrete jungle, and other times new spaces are created in unlikely locations, allowing pedestrians to explore the terrain. The sidewalk becomes the art itself. We recently told you about a giant trampoline sidewalk, and it inspired us to search for other impressive and imaginative “sidewalk” art.
See what happens when quiet footpaths, bridge walkways, city streets, and other places people tread are made over.
Personally I find some of the images disturbing (not horrific but definitely weird) but this one I loved!

You can see the rest of Alison’s pick here.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Our memory, ourselves. We are the sum of all we’ve done and all we hope to do. So is retrograde amnesia the end of our sense of self?... more

Clampdown on candy cigarettes
via Boing Boing by Rob Beschizza
An old-timey soda shop in St. Paul, Minnesota, has been busted for selling candy cigarettes.
Lynden's, on Hamline Avenue near Cretin-Derham Hall High School, said a city inspections official came in last week and gave the shop a warning and added that a misdemeanor citation – with a $500 fine – would be next if the non-carcinogenic confections continue to be sold.
The sugary sticks were recently banned in the city, which would prefer that you just shop at Amazon.

This is one of those occasional articles that I really think need a wider airing than the academic community at which it is aimed.
Evaluating the role of vegetation on the ventilation performance in isolated deep street canyons
an article by Wai-Yin Ng and Chi-Kwan Chau published in International Journal of Environment and Pollution Volume 50 Number 1/2/3/4 (2012)
Vegetation is generally considered as an essential component for a sustainable city as it helps improve its microclimate environment and reduce greenhouse gases emissions.
However, there is some evidence suggesting that adverse effects may be caused by tree-planting in shallow urban street canyons.
Accordingly, we intended to investigate whether similar observations are found for different canyon geometries, i.e., canyons with aspect ratios higher than 1.
Also, we attempted to investigate how the air quality varies with different tree planting densities by using CO as a representative for gas pollutant emitted from vehicle sources. The findings derived from CFD models indicate that tree planting elevates the CO levels inside canyons.
Increasing the tree planting density can deteriorate the ventilation performance of canyons and to a greater extent for those with lower aspect ratios.
However, the change in ventilation performance is less sensitive to a change in tree planting density at high planting densities. Accordingly, the decision in relation to tree planting in deep canyons should be weighed against other benefits like cooling effect, and energy saving.
The findings should be of great value to urban planners in planning a sustainable city.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Ever feel that Wodehouse’s books are all the same? You’re on to something: “I have only one plot and produce it once a year with variations” ... more
Watch it! Big time waster here!

Modern Farmwoman: 1940
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Modern Farmwoman: 1940
July 1940
“Farm woman washing clothes in her motor-driven washing machine. Near Lincoln, Vermont”
Silver gelatin print by Louise Rosskam
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Voyager 1 Hits Rumble Strips At the Edge of the Solar System
via New on MIT Technology Review
NASA’s oldest interstellar spacecraft is suddenly measuring changes more dramatic than any it has seen during its 35 year journey.

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