Friday, 29 April 2016

Another ten interesting items before I log off for the weekend

Collar the lot! Britain’s policy of internment during the Second World War
via National Archives by Roger Kershaw
Seventy-five years ago today [it was 75 years when this was originally posted] on 2 July 1940, the SS Arandora Star, a British passenger ship of the Blue Star Line, was torpedoed and sunk in the Atlantic en route to St John’s, Newfoundland. On board were 712 Italians, 438 Germans (including Nazi sympathisers and Jewish refugees), and 374 British seaman and soldiers. Over half lost their lives. How did this tragedy happen and why were these foreign nationals classed as ‘enemy aliens’ being transported to Canada? To answer this, we need to understand more about the British policy of internment during the Second World War.
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Memento Mori: the beautiful ways we have kept the dead among the living
via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow
Art historian Paul Koudounaris travelled the world, visiting 30 countries to document the practices—ancient to modern, solemn to joyous—by which human remains are displayed. From good luck charms to genocide memorials, his gorgeous art book Memento Mori collects the finds.
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A plague on all their houses
via Prospero by N.M.

June 7th 1665 was an unnaturally hot London day, the hottest that Samuel Pepys had experienced in his 32 years. Sapped by the “mighty heat”, this naval bureaucrat got home late and spent the next few hours pacing in his garden at Seething Lane. He had a lot on his mind. There had been no word of the English fleet that was fighting against the Dutch, and he was worried that his young wife Elizabeth had not yet returned from Gravesend (she had been delayed by an oncoming thunderstorm). But the deeper cause of his unease was something he had seen earlier in the day: two or three houses in Drury Lane with red crosses and “Lord have mercy upon us” painted on their door. Here was confirmation that the plague from Amsterdam, known to have reached England’s shores in early spring, had arrived in the capital. Suddenly aware of his body odour, Pepys stepped out to buy a roll of tobacco “to smell to and chaw”, hoping its medicinal properties would preserve him in the days ahead.
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Yosemite Cadillac: 1919
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Yosemite Cadillac: 1919
The high Sierras circa 1919
“Cadillac touring car at Yosemite in snow”
With the Sentinel Hotel in the background
6½x8½ inch glass negative
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Are There Logical Limits to Self-Maximization?
via Big Think by Jag Bhalla
Both biology and economics are in the “productivity selection” business. Comparing them yields lessons.
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This is quite a short article, as most Big Think items are, but if you spend time as I did following even a few of the links you will get caught up in an interesting time suck.

Dusting the Furniture of Our Minds
via 3 Quarks Daily: Michael Marder in the New York Times
Dust is everywhere. We contribute to its multiplication through our polluting industries, by wearing clothes and using things around us, and in the course of merely living — shedding skin cells, hair, and other byproducts of our life.
But we also are it. Both the Bible and William Shakespeare would have us believe as much. “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,” Adam and Eve are told in Genesis. Hamlet, in his nihilistic soliloquy, asks rhetorically about the human, “What is this quintessence of dust?” Science, of course, has provided some actual basis for this notion in findings indicating that the most fundamental material of life on earth originated in the “dust” of long-dead stars.
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Oxford’s Influential Inklings
via Arts & Letters Daily: Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski in The Chronicle Review

During the hectic middle decades of the 20th century, from the end of the Great Depression through the Second World War and into the 1950s, a small circle of intellectuals gathered weekly in and around the University of Oxford to drink, smoke, quip, cavil, read aloud their works in progress, and endure or enjoy with as much grace as they could muster the sometimes blistering critiques that followed. This erudite club included writers and painters, philologists and physicians, historians and theologians, soldiers and actors. They called themselves, with typical self-effacing humor, the Inklings.
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Who was Amelia Edwards?
via OUP Blog by Penelope Tuson
Abu Simbel by Dennis Jarvis, via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 2.0].
Surprisingly few people have heard of Amelia Edwards. Archaeologists know her as the founder of the Egyptian Exploration Fund, set up in 1882, and the Department of Egyptology at University College London, created in 1892 through a bequest on her death. The first Edwards Professor, Flinders Petrie, was appointed on Amelia’s recommendation and her name is still attached to the Chair of Egyptian Archaeology.
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Fitzgerald’s greatest novel: It’s not the one everyone thinks it is
via 3 Quarks Daily: Taki in Spectator
Fitzgerald was famously obsessed with the mysteries of great wealth, but back then wealth was something new among Americans. Poor old Scott wrote more about the ruinous effects of wealth, which is a very large theme even today. I recently read a couple of articles on Fitzgerald, one claiming that he wrote Gatsby in Great Neck, Long Island, where the action takes place, the other that he wrote the greatest of American novels in Antibes. I believe both writers are correct. Fitzgerald started the novel in Long Island and finished it in Antibes. Detective Taki solves the riddle in one short declarative sentence.
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Tuesday, 26 April 2016

I refer to these posts as "trivia" but most items are not trivial. There's ten of them.

Screw the Magna Carta. The Charter of the Forest is where it’s at
via Boing Boing by Rob Beschizza
The 800-year old Magna Carta, limiting the powers of the English monarchy, is hailed as a foundation stone of modern democracy and civil rights. But not only is it more limited in scope than commonly supposed, much of it is humorously and oddly specific, at least to modern ears.
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Yes, I know last year was the year to be talking about the great charter but this is too funny for words so even if it is nearly a year late please enjoy it.

Want To Live Longer? Go Nuts!
via Big Think by Dustin Petzold
If you’re at your desk, snacking on one of those giant jars of peanuts, take heart: You’re also extending your life. A paper from the International Journal of Epidemiology reveals that a steady daily diet of various nuts can protect you against an array of different diseases, including cancer and diabetes. Men and women from The Netherlands, ages 55-69, were tracked over a 29-year period, and had their food consumption assessed throughout.
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Build it and they will come
via Prospero by E.H.B.

The small Polish town of Pacanow has survived wars, revolutions and floods. It is a nondescript place, but it has one advantage over cities renowned for their cathedrals and palaces. Its own claim to fame is indestructible: it is home to Koziolek Matolek, the goat at the middle of the country’s best-known children's comic book.
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Bottle Boys: 1909
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
November 1909
“Night scene in Cumberland Glass Works, Bridgeton, N.J.”
Mak­ing bottles one at a time
Glass negative by Lewis Wickes Hine
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Old time elegance marries solar technology with solar outdoor clocks
via Red Ferret by Debra Atlas
chomkola solar street clock atlanta 2 2 Old time elegance marries solar technology with solar outdoor clocks
Outdoor clocks have been a fixture of large and small towns for several hundred years or more. But add solar to the mix and it gets interesting.
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Violence: A Modern Obsession
via 3 Quarks Daily: Ian Thomson in The Guardian
Even HG Wells, with his uncanny gift of scientific foresight, could not have predicted the murderous flash of light over wartime Nagasaki. Never before had a government planned the atomic annihilation of an entire city. The US airmen aboard the B-29 did not, however, feel morally responsible for the violence; neither did the scientists who helped to assemble the bomb, nor even the US president and his White House advisers. Division of labour had made the contribution of any single person seem unimportant. Adolf Eichmann, by a similar agency, saw the Final Solution to the Jewish question in terms only of his own special competence (the smooth running of the Auschwitz deportation trains) and this, too, enabled him to ignore the consequences of his violence.
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The 12 sweets you need to know about (and try)
via OUP Blog by Darra Goldstein
Have you ever tried vinarterta? How about gugelhupf? Whether these are familiar or completely foreign to you, this list of sweets is a must for everyone with a sweet tooth. All the sweets, cakes, desserts, and treats on this list come from The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, so give them a go and try one, some, or all!
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Hive consciousness
via 3 Quarks Daily Peter Watts in Aeon (Illustration by Richard Wilkinson)
Rajesh Rao (of the University of Washington’s Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering) reported what appears to be a real Alien Hand Network – and going Pais-Vieira one better, he built it out of people. Someone thinks a command; downstream, someone else responds by pushing a button without conscious intent. Now we’re getting somewhere.
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Never-ending universe
via Arts & Letters Daily: John Leslie in Times Literary Supplement
Steven Weinberg became famous for his elegant The First Three Minutes (1977), which described what happened during the Big Bang. Two years later, he shared a Nobel Prize for unifying electromagnetism and the nuclear weak force – a large step towards today’s Standard Model of particle physics. The citation for his Benjamin Franklin Medal of 2004 said he was widely considered “the preeminent theoretical physicist alive today”. To Explain the World, his twelfth book, tells of the long, hard struggle to arrive at modern science, which started to take something like its present form only in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The book is a magnificent contribution to the history and philosophy of science.
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Thursday, 21 April 2016

Now found yet another ten items that I thought interesting nearly a year ago

Machine Vision Algorithm Chooses the Most Creative Paintings in History
via MIT Technology Review

Creativity is one of humanity’s uniquely defining qualities. Numerous thinkers have explored the qualities that creativity must have, and most pick out two important factors: whatever the process of creativity produces, it must be novel and it must be influential.
Continue reading fascinating machine classification algorithm. And the pictures that it finds are some of my favourites!

Italian women and 16th-century social media
via OUP Blog by Lisa Kaborycha
Venetian courtesan Veronica Franco (1546-1591) describes the perils of her profession in one of her Familiar Letters, which she published in 1580:
To give oneself as prey to so many men, with the risk of being stripped, robbed or killed, that in one single day everything you have acquired over so much time may be taken from you, with so many other perils of injuries and horrible contagious diseases; to drink with another’s mouth, sleep with another’s eyes, move according to another’s desires, always running the clear risk of shipwreck of one’s faculties and life, what could be a greater misery?
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The Light Runner: 1910
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
The Light Runner: 1910
Fairfax County, Virginia, circa 1910
“Vienna P.O.&rdqou;
Our title comes from the name of the delivery wagon
8x10 inch glass negative
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Missing link found between brain, immune system
via 3 Quarks Daily: From KurzweilAI
Overturning decades of textbook teaching, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have discovered that the brain is directly connected to the immune system by vessels previously thought not to exist. The finding could have significant implications for the study and treatment of neurological diseases ranging from autism to Alzheimer’s disease to multiple sclerosis. “It changes entirely the way we perceive the neuro-immune interaction. We always perceived it before as something esoteric that can’t be studied. But now we can ask mechanistic questions.” said Jonathan Kipnis, PhD, professor in the UVA Department of Neuroscience and director of UVA’s Center for Brain Immunology and Glia (BIG).
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Movies for Booklovers – When the Silver Screen Goes Literary
via Abe Books: compiled by
Interesting that this is not in the list.
Look, even the most devout and voracious reader has to come up for air sometimes to prevent our eyes from crossing. And when we do, surely we must dip a toe into the waters of other hobbies. What’s nice, though, is how many of those hobbies can still sneakily support our bibliohabits. Film-watching, of course, is a no-brainer. With many of our most beloved stories adapted for the silver screen, it’s another avenue to spend time with our favourite literary characters.
And even in the case of original films that weren’t books first, many still explore literary events, people and stories in pleasing ways, which is a boon to a booklover.
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All about that Double Bass
via OUP Blog by Miki Onwudinjo
double bass
Distinguished musicians Domenico Dragonetti (1763-1846) and Giovanni Bottesini (1821-1889) established a long-standing tradition of playing the double bass that was carried on into the 20th and 21st centuries. From the 1500s, this deep-toned string instrument has made its way from European orchestras to today’s popular music to retain a more natural acoustic sound in performances. If you’re all about that bass, check out these fun musical facts about the double bass and its history.
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When Kansas Took Colorado to Court
via 3 Quarks Daily: Ben Merriman at n+1
Why do these people need so much water? The answer, in large part, is corn. In the 19th century, cattle raised on the plains were shipped off to Chicago for slaughter, but over time meatpacking moved progressively closer to the cow. The stockyards grew so huge that their size became inefficient. Improvements in the railroads and, later, the advent of the semitruck made it cheap to transport meat without a central site of production.
Decentralization also enabled management to escape Chicago’s strong labor movement. The industry is now dispersed across dozens of small plains cities: Dodge City and Garden City on the Arkansas in Kansas, and Liberal, which isn’t far, as well as Greeley, Colorado, and Grand Island, Nebraska, along the Platte. Each city and its small hinterland is a vertically integrated unit for producing beef, and corn is the cheapest means to fatten cattle before they are sent to the slaughterhouse. Consequently, many plains farmers now grow corn instead of dryland crops like wheat. But corn is water hungry and must have twenty inches of rainfall a year to survive and at least forty to thrive. Only one of the corn-growing counties along the upper Arkansas receives twenty inches of rain a year, and some places are so dry that they are, both technically and in outward appearance, deserts.
Although corn is manifestly unsuited to the climate, it is grown in enormous volumes, and irrigation is what allows this to continue.
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The supermarket of lost luggage
via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz
If lost luggage isn't reunited with its owner after 90 days, it may end up at the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama, where the contents are sorted and sold in what looks like a thrift store for packed possessions.
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Uncle Joe is revered in Putin’s Russia as a benevolent dictator
Stalin’s latest biographer dispenses with the myths and gives us all the facts — which far surpass any fabricated horror
via Arts and Letters Daily: Charlotte Hobson in The Spectator
‘We will achieve abundance’ promises a propaganda poster of 1949. But by 1952 most free Soviet citizens shared the same diet as the inhabitants of the Gulag
‘Lately, the paradoxical turns of recent Russian history… have given my research more than scholarly relevance,’ remarks Oleg Khlevniuk in his introduction. Indeed, in Putin’s Russia Stalin’s apologists and admirers seem daily to become more vocal. The language of the 1930s is used in televised tirades against ‘internal enemies’ and ‘foreign agents’. Stalin himself is upheld not only as a strong leader, but also as an ‘effective manager’ who, despite his mistakes, did what was necessary to modernise the Soviet Union; or, contrarily, as a benevolent dictator who was unaware of the corrupt actions of his officials.
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Thursday, 14 April 2016

Another ten "trivial" items

Minute Man Men: 1921
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Minute Man Men: 1921
San Francisco circa 1921
“Lexington ‘Minute Man Six’ dealer window, Van Ness Avenue”
Another of those promotional events whose significance has vanished along with the product
5x7 glass negative by Christopher Helin
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Chorus lines
via Prospero by J.W.

Forty years ago a record like no other appeared in the British singles chart. Released in May 1975, 10cc’s dreamy, six-minute “I’m Not in Love” bucked the saccharine pop trend of boy-loves-girl. It was a denial of feelings, about sending a girlfriend away: “I’m not in love, so don’t forget it/It’s just a silly phase I’m going through.” Eric Stewart's high-pitched delivery, accompanied by keyboard and electric rhythm guitar, and saturated by what sounded like a choir of angelic voices, had the effect of contradicting the song’s words. The music had the intensity of a passionate embrace and it became the summer’s romantic soundtrack.
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Phoenix Press: Depression Era Pulp
via Abe Books by Scott Laming
The Leprechaun Murders by Adrian Reynolds
New York’s Phoenix Press was a publisher of mysteries, westerns, and other light fiction in the 1930s and 1940s. We were alerted to this company’s literary history by a loyal AbeBooks customer called Paul Rollinson, who encouraged us to feature Phoenix’s fantastic Depression-era pulp, if only for the amazing dust jackets. Phoenix was one of many lending-library publishers of the era, and fought to rise above the others of its ilk to make a name for itself in the tough economic climate.
Phoenix churned out hundreds of titles and developed a reputation for paying less than generous royalties to its authors, and that meant it produced some rather suspect literature over the years. However, there were some real gems published by Phoenix, including a large number of debut novels by up-and-coming authors, books from talented writers cut loose by larger publishers, and even a number of established writers who were down on their luck and needed a pay cheque.
Despite (or perhaps because of) the kitschy nature of some titles, collectors of pulp art and design have embraced Phoenix Press for decades. Beyond the content of the books, they are inarguably a treat to look at because of their stylised spectres, cartoon cowboys and designer damsels in distress all bursting off the dust jackets in vibrant colours.
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Another New England – in Crimea
via Big Think by Frank Jacobs
“I don't want to change the world”, sang Billy Bragg in the early 1980s, “I'm just looking for a New England.” Some nine centuries earlier, a similar thought must have crossed the mind of an obscure Saxon nobleman as he sailed away from his recently vanquished homeland.
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This is one story that, contrary to my normal practice, I read from beginning to end.

The 16th century book that launched a thousand travel books
via Abe Books by Richard Davies

Travel writing has been around for about two thousand years with both the Romans and Greeks documenting their experiences of early exploration. However, the 16th century marked the real start of travel writing with advances in printing technology and numerous explorers – from Francis Drake to Martin Frobisher – traveling to the corners of the globe on behalf of their respective superpowers.
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‘Born Bad’: How the idea that we’re all sinners has shaped Western culture
via Arts & Letters Daily: Michael Dirda at The Washington Post
While original sin may seem an unlikely subject for an honorary research associate at the School of Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Tasmania, James Boyce has nonetheless written a brilliant and exhilarating work of popular scholarship. I pencil vertical lines in the margins of the books I read whenever a sentence or paragraph seems especially striking. My copy of “Born Bad” carries such scribbles on every other page.
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10 songs to play to children to teach them about life
via The Guardian by Laura Barton
The Beatles
British schoolchildren are to have Haydn, the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper album, and Santana foisted on them in the classroom. What popular music do you think should play a role in young people’s education?
Only one of the ten in the list is no longer playable on YouTube.
Continue reading and, above all, listen.

Make a 30-second combination lock cracking device
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder
“C-C-C-Combo Breaker is a motorized, battery powered, 3D printed, Arduino based device that can crack any Master combination lock in less than 30 seconds!”
Check it out for yourself

The Murder of Mayakovsky’s Poetry
via Arts & Letters Daily: Emily Hill in Spiked Review of Books
The murder of Mayakovsky’s poetry
A Soviet crime – the neglect of their greatest poet – must be avenged.
‘Biographers are amateur private detectives’, Roman Jakobson once wrote. If so, there are few juicier cases than Vladimir Mayakovsky. For even his death presents a double murder: the suicide of the man and the annihilation of his poetry. The crime scene remains intact – preserved for us by Pasternak. The corpse lies, alone in a room, with a bullet through the heart. The murder weapon – a Mauser pistol – was provided by an agent of Stalin’s secret police. The suicide note is a startling poem – with a new pun.
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London, 1641
via 3 Quarks Daily by Charlie Huenemann
London was an exciting place to be in 1641. The political uncertainty was both thrilling and terrifying: many Puritans, convinced that their suspected crypto-catholic king, Charles I, was in league with the Anti-Christ, were pushing back against his high-handed policies. Their frustration was to lead to civil war within a year. A small circle of London intellectuals, led by Samuel Hartlib, seized the uncertainty of the time to push for what they hoped would be a middle way: a tolerant and enlightened Protestantism that could serve as a foundation for a pan-European utopia.
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Monday, 4 April 2016

Ten more interesting items that are little or nothing to do with work

The Science Of Craving
via 3 Quarks Daily: Amy Fleming in More Intelligent Life
The reward system exists to ensure we seek out what we need. If having sex, eating nutritious food or being smiled at brings us pleasure, we will strive to obtain more of these stimuli and go on to procreate, grow bigger and find strength in numbers.
Only it’s not as simple in the modern world, where people can also watch porn, camp out in the street for the latest iPhone or binge on KitKats, and become addicted, indebted or overweight.
As Aristotle once wrote: “It is of the nature of desire not to be satisfied, and most men live only for the gratification of it.” Buddhists, meanwhile, have endeavoured for 2,500 years to overcome the suffering caused by our propensity for longing. Now, it seems, Berridge has found the neuro-anatomical basis for this facet of the human condition – that we are hardwired to be insatiable wanting machines.
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Bedtime Stories
via An Awfully Big Blog Adventure by Tess Berry-Hart
Every night when I take three-year-old Benjy up to bed, we go through the same bedtime routine.

Benjy scampers ahead and closes the bedroom door: I knock gently on it: 
Me: “Knock knock knock.” 
 Benjy: (reciting from inside) “I wonder who that can be? It can’t be the milkman, cos he’s already been. It can’t be the grocer’s boy, because it’s not the day he comes. And it can’t be Daddy, because he’s got his key. We’d better open the door and see.” I push the door ajar. 
“It was a big, furry, stripy ...”
“TIGER!” shouts Benjy joyously.
To which I reply: “Excuse me, but I’m very hungry. Can I have tea with you?”
Benjy opens the door wide. “Yes of course! Come in!”
So we’ve already re-enacted the first few pages of Judith Kerr’s The Tiger Who Came To Tea, and that’s even BEFORE we get to the bedtime story ...!
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Life Lessons From Beloved Children’s Characters
via MakeUseOf by Dave LeClair
Children’s characters are actually smarter than you might think. As grown ups we like to think that we’re above learning life lessons from characters made for kids, but the truth is, the lessons these characters teach children are really applicable to us in our daily life.
Infographic here

Why we’re still up in arms about the mystery of the Venus de Milo
via The Guardian by Jonathan Jones
A reconstructed model of the Venus de Milo, depicting her spinning.
There are multiple theories about the Venus de Milo, the ancient Greek statue famous for its immaculate beauty and lack of arms. Many suggestions about how those missing limbs were once positioned and what Venus was doing with them have been advanced since this elegant antiquity was discovered in 1820 on the Aegean island of Milos.
Was she holding a spear? Or looking in a handheld mirror? Archeaology professor and textiles expert Elizabeth Wayland Barber suggested that Venus was spinning, and suggests the statue may represent a prostitute, as spinning was an activity associated with ancient Greek sex workers.
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The trouble with “modernity”
via Arts and Letters Daily: Christopher Nealon at Public Books

It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that capitalism is the engine behind the environmental crises of the early 21st century. It doesn’t even take a Marxist: as the French environmental journalist HervĂ© Kempf put it in a recent book, it’s not so much Homo sapiens as the rich who are destroying the earth – rich people, rich nations. His claim is backed up by reams of data, and he’s not the only one who’s making it (see, for instance, the latest volume by Naomi Klein). So why do we cling to the idea that it’s “humanity” – humanity in some essential sense, not just the accidents of particular human societies – that’s brought the planet to the brink of disaster? Mark Greif’s probing new book, The Age of the Crisis of Man, offers a kind of prehistory of this humanity’s-to-blame discourse, and therefore the beginnings of an explanation for its resilience.
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I don’t pretend to be an academic or an intellectual which means that I will often increase my skimpy knowledge of a subject area simply by reading in-depth reviews such as this one.

Fibonacci clock: can you tell the time on the world’s most stylish nerd timepiece?
via The Guardian by Alex Bellos
Fibonacci clock
Hipster chronometer uses squares inside a golden rectangle to tell the time, and even doubles as a lava lamp.
Don’t you find clock faces quite aggressive, their hands and numbers constantly reminding you of the passing of the time?
If so, this beautiful invention is for you.
The Fibonacci clock lets you know the time more subtly, by changing colours and requiring you do some adding up.
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The School for Scandal on the Georgian stage
via OUP Blog by Robert W. Jones
School for Scandal featured image
Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s comic masterpiece The School for Scandal premiered at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in May 1777. The play was an immediate success earning Drury Lane, which Sheridan owned and managed, an enormous amount of money. The School for Scandal explores a fashionable society at once addicted to gossip and yet fearful of exposure. Jokes are had at the expense of aging husbands, the socially inexpert, and, most of all, the falsely sentimental. There are over a dozen surviving manuscripts of The School for Scandal, each different in some particular way. There are two reasons for this plethora. First, Sheridan’s inveterate tinkering, which led him to revise his play without ever committing to a final version. Secondly, manuscripts were required by theatre professionals who worked to make the play work as live theatre, and made adjustments and innovations. These professional efforts left their mark on the manuscripts revealing, almost inevitably, a great deal about how theatres used texts as tools.
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How long does it take to write a book?
via An Awfully Big Blog Adventure by Sheena Wilkinson

One of the most-frequently asked questions at school visits is, How long does it take to write a book? Or, How long does it take you to write a book?
My standard answer is that it depends on the book and the circumstances.
When kids ask this they probably imagine that the time taken means the time from when you write the first word until you write the last word – they don’t think about editing, the time taken between edits, the time spent planning and thinking and working out character and story problems. And of course, the time when you don’t seem to be writing but are actually very much involved in the making of your book.
Continue reading and find out how long it took this author to write this book from start to finish.

The Science of Scarcity
via 3 Quarks Daily: Cara Feinberg in Harvard Magazine
Toward the end of World War II, while thousands of Europeans were dying of hunger, 36 men at the University of Minnesota volunteered for a study that would send them to the brink of starvation. Allied troops advancing into German-occupied territories with supplies and food were encountering droves of skeletal people they had no idea how to safely renourish, and researchers at the university had designed a study they hoped might reveal the best methods of doing so. But first, their volunteers had to agree to starve.
Continue reading fascinating but terrifying at the same time.

In the olden days, creepy men would give “acquaintance cards” to women
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder

... and the women who received these cards probably didn’t like them or the men who handed them out. From Alan Mays’ wonderful collection of old timey ephemera on Flickr.
More on Boing Boing here or go straight to Flickr

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Economic Outlook: v30 issue 3 March 2016

Overview: Markets rally but risks still to the downside
  • Our growth forecast for 2016 is steady this month at 2.3% but the forecast for 2017 has been cut again, to 2.7% from 2.9%.
  • The near-term growth outlook has been supported by a decent rally in financial markets. Since mid-February, world stocks have gained around 8%, US high yield spreads have narrowed around 140 basis points and a number of key commodity prices – including oil – have also risen.
  • Another supportive trend is still-healthy consumer demand in advanced economies including the US and Eurozone. Although there has been some slippage in consumer confidence, it has been modest compared to either 2012–13 or 2008–09.
  • So overall, the global economy still looks likely to avoid recession and strengthen a touch next year. But risks to the outlook remain skewed to the downside.
  • Despite the recent market rally, world stocks still remain below their levels at end-2015 and well below last May's peak. Financial conditions more broadly also remain significantly tighter than in mid-2015, and inflation expectations somewhat lower.
  • And there are still negative signals from incoming data. The global manufacturing PMI for February showed output flat while the services PMI showed only very modest growth – both were at their lowest since late 2012.
  • Economic surprise indices for both the G10 and emerging markets also remain in negative territory, and our world trade indicator suggests no improvement from the dismal recent trends.
  • Notable growth downgrades this month include Germany, Japan, the UK, Canada and Brazil.
  • In our view, policymakers still have scope to improve the outlook. The latest ECB moves – more negative rates and more QE – will help a little. Widening of QE to corporate bonds also hints that more radical policy options are coming into view. But policies such as central bank equity purchases or money-financed fiscal expansions will probably require global growth to weaken further before they become likely.
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