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April 8, 2021
[science] Why Physicists Tried to Put a Ferret in a Particle Accelerator … You’ll be glad to hear that Felicia the Ferret’s Intrinsic Field was not removed. ‘Faced with a recalcitrant ferret, the scientists reassigned her to a section of 12-inch-wide tubes in the Meson Lab, a testing facility that was still under construction. “She was taught to scamper through progressively longer tunnels until she was ready to try one of the 300-foot sections that will be joined together to make the Meson Lab’s tubes,” Time noted. After her first run, she emerged “looking a little tired and bemused but otherwise quite healthy,” according to Beck. She’d pulled the string all the way through. As planned, workmen pulled the swab through the tubes. It came out covered with specks of dust and steel.’
April 7, 2021
[tech] Booting an IBM PC from a Vinyl Record … Watch and listen to the PC boot here. ‘There is a small ROM boot loader that operates the built-in “cassette interface” of the PC (that was hardly ever used), invoked by the BIOS if all the other boot options fail, i.e. floppy disk and the hard drive. The turntable spins an analog recording of a small bootable read-only RAM drive, which is 64K in size. This contains a FreeDOS kernel, modified by me to cram it into the memory constraint, a micro variant of COMMAND.COM and a patched version of INTERLNK, that allows file transfer through a printer cable, modified to be runnable on FreeDOS. The bootloader reads the disk image from the audio recording through the cassette modem, loads it to memory and boots the system on it. Simple huh?’
April 6, 2021
[tech] Why Computers Won’t Make Themselves Smarter … A look at why the singularity is unlikely. ‘This ability of humans to build on one another’s work is precisely why I don’t believe that running a human-equivalent A.I. program for a hundred years in isolation is a good way to produce major breakthroughs. An individual working in complete isolation can come up with a breakthrough but is unlikely to do so repeatedly; you’re better off having a lot of people drawing inspiration from one another. They don’t have to be directly collaborating; any field of research will simply do better when it has many people working in it.’
March 31, 2021
[headlines] 49 brilliantly underwhelming local news headlines from across the UK ‘Angry Seagulls Strike Back’

Angry Seagulls Strike Back

March 29, 2021
[clowes] Ghost World at 20: ‘In an era of teen comedies and American Pie, this was an antidote’ … Looking back at Terry Zwigoff’s movie of the comic. ‘Those contrasting viewpoints underline Ghost World’s complexity; everyone takes something different from it. For Douglas, it is principally about nonconformity. “In the end, even Seymour conforms,” she says. “When Enid goes in and he’s wearing the blue jeans that his new girlfriend purchased for him, it is this abandoning of everything they’ve made fun of.” Others see it as a film about boredom, or about being unwilling or unable to grow up, while some respond to the characters’ nostalgia for a time they haven’t lived through. Zwigoff had intended partly to critique consumerism: “I wanted to set the story against a background of the sweeping, bland, contrived monoculture of which mindless consumerism is, of course, a part.”’
March 26, 2021
[suez] Is the ship still stuck?‘Yes. It’s been like this for 2 days, 22 hours and 52 minutes.’
March 23, 2021
[moore] 32 Short Lucubrations … John Coulthart shares some memories and thoughts about Alan Moore.

March 22, 2021
[comics] Ed Brubaker has “mixed feelings” about The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘For the most part all Steve Epting and I have gotten for creating the Winter Soldier and his storyline is a “thanks” here or there, and over the years that’s become harder and harder to live with. I’ve even seen higher-ups on the publishing side try to take credit for my work a few times, which was pretty galling…’
March 19, 2021
[covid-19] How the Europe and the United States Lost COVID-19 … A long, depressing read on Europe and America’s failure over Covid-19. ‘As the pandemic progressed, both exhausted countries flipped from denial to capitulation, choosing to treat almost any caseload plateau as an opportunity to relax, no matter how high a level of ongoing spread it represented. “It was like, ‘We’re gonna have a great summer and holidays,’” she says, laughing ruefully. “Can you believe it? Last summer, I was up on panels with Tory politicians where they’re saying, ‘You’re safer flying to Greece or to Spain than being in the U.K. because they have lower rates than us.’ And they are 100 percent serious! It’s like it’s a basic human right, to have a holiday and go abroad, and we can’t possibly take it away. Everyone was saying elimination was impossible. You still hear it, right? ‘Impossible, it’s impossible.’ Which is kind of the choice that we’ve made here. Elimination is just too difficult.”’
March 18, 2021
[politics] Dominic Cummings plays all his favourite songs at reunion gig … John Crace sketches out the return of Dominic Cummings. ‘Cummings began by explaining the concept of Aria with the help of a Venn diagram he had brought with him. That small pink area? That’s where scientific research was currently concentrated. That vast blue area? That’s where he thought the scientists should be focused. Not so much thinking outside the box as thinking outside the circle. And if the diagram wasn’t sufficiently clear, MPs would be able to find a version in the 100,000-word blog he had altered on his return from Barnard Castle in the spring of last year.’
March 12, 2021
March 11, 2021
[life] What the Pandemic Is Doing to Our Brains … How’s your pandemic brain coping? ‘Prolonged boredom is, somewhat paradoxically, hugely stressful, Franklin said. Our brains hate it. “What’s very clear in the literature is that environmental enrichment—being outside of your home, bumping into people, commuting, all of these changes that we are collectively being deprived of—is very associated with synaptic plasticity,” the brain’s inherent ability to generate new connections and learn new things, she said.’
March 9, 2021
[moore] The Bookseller teases Illuminations and Long London – new books from Alan Moore‘Wills recently signed the bearded comics legend Alan Moore, writer of Watchmen, V for Vendetta and From Hell, among other landmark works. Moore has never had an agent, and given his famous public disagreements with filmmakers on how they have adapted his stories, perhaps he should have. At any rate, Moore has written some prose works—a collection of short stories and Long London, a series of speculative novels—which at this writing Wills is auctioning in the UK.’
March 8, 2021
[tv] Aha! – The Oral History of Alan Partridge … The real-life origins of Alan Partridge. ‘I was able to see quite quickly that this character could have more scale than just doing sports, and it seemed to me that the chat show was a perfect vehicle. I had a very strong image for Alan, and whether it actually happened or not, I’m not sure, but I think I remember a sports reporter on TV interviewing some footballers who then threw him into the swimming pool. He had to put on a brave face while sopping wet. That, to me, was everything about Alan – having to be brave in the face of his own humiliation. The principle with Alan was: how can we torture him the most? (Patrick Marber)’
March 5, 2021
[web] A Grizzled, Months-Old Chrome Tab Welcomes a Fresh-Faced New Tab to My Browser Window – McSweeney’s Internet Tendency‘I’d say I thank god that I’ve stuck around as long as I have, but when you stick around as long as I have, you realize there is no god. Just an unfeeling, capricious universe, playing with us as a child with marbles. You’ll learn. Over time you’ll move further and further to the left, pixel by pixel, as each new recruit pops in. All you can do is load pages as fast as you can, keep your ad blocker ready to fire at a moment’s notice, and try to tune out the constant thrum of lo-fi hip-hop beats to relax/study to. Me, I’ve been holding this same Atlantic article so long I’ve atrophied. It’s too long to ever finish reading, but just vaguely interesting enough to not get closed. ‘
March 4, 2021
[tv] Charlie Brooker in Conversation with Adam Curtis … A long discussion covering many topics.

All the unedited tapes from which the news stories were cut… They are extraordinary. They’re like a strange, magical world that is halfway between real life and the snippets of doom that we transmit. There are terrible things on them – but the overwhelming amount is just the record of stuff happening. I’ve got hundreds of thousands of hours of it, and the effect of watching it is incredibly calming. It sends you into that kind of dream state we talked about earlier, where you start wondering what happens to all the billions of billions of moments of experience that are never recorded. Where does that all go to? And I find myself drifting off into wondering about what other people’s experiences must have been like in the fragments I’m watching.

March 3, 2021
March 2, 2021
[meme] An anniversary for great justice: Remembering “All Your Base” 20 years later ‘This video’s 20th anniversary will likely make you feel old as dirt, but that doesn’t mean the video itself aged badly. There’s still something timeless about both the wackiness and innocence of so many early-Internet pioneers sending up a badly translated game.’
March 1, 2021
[books] The Culture War: Iain M. Banks’s Billionaire Fans … Why do Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk love Bank’s Culture novels so much? ‘And this is ultimately the challenge of attempting to base your own real world plans and aspirations on fiction: reality is rarely so straightforward. The Culture has a great deal of qualities that we lack, or regrettably possess—they’re less vicious, more thoughtful, and just overall more pleasant. Banks created an ideological playground by waving a wand and removing the trickiest barrier to any utopia: basic human shittiness.’
February 25, 2021
[fine] Work Reply Soundboard 👤💬 … A nicely done soundboard demonstrating a variety of moods at work. ‘Fine.’
February 24, 2021
[grief] British grief centres mainly around the making of sandwiches … Grace Dent on grief and sandwiches. ‘Dealing with death in a time of Covid, with wakes permitted for up to six people and no hotels, pubs or restaurants open, is a strange, awry sensation. My grief has been oddly nomadic. Death is here, I can feel it – I even have the paperwork to prove it – but, as a good daughter, there is no known fixed point to stumble towards, featuring people and faces and hugs and stories and scones on three-tier cake stands.’
February 22, 2021
[podcasts] The Battersea Poltergeist … I’ve really been enjoying this BBC Podcast’s deep dive into a paranormal 1950s British haunting.
February 18, 2021
[comics] The 2000 AD Thrill-Cast Lockdown Tapes Interviews Kevin O’Neill [Part 1 | Part 2] … A long interview with the renowned British comic artist.
February 17, 2021
[comics] Marvel Comics, Jack Kirby, and the NYHT magazine profile that broke them up. … A fascinating look at a key moment in Marvel’s history. ‘While chatting with Freedland that day, Lee also tore into Marvel writer/artist Steve Ditko, the co-creator of Spider-Man, with his signature passive aggression. “I don’t plot Spider-Man anymore,” Lee told the reporter. “Steve Ditko, the artist, has been doing the stories. I guess I’ll leave him alone until sales start to slip. Since Spidey got so popular, Ditko thinks he’s the genius of the world. We were arguing so much over plotlines I told him to start making up his own stories.” These digs wound up in the profile, too.’
February 16, 2021
February 15, 2021
[curtis] Adam Curtis’s Seaside Dream … Curtis visits Walton-on-the-Naze in 1983. ‘[Curtis] aimed to show that ordinary people could find fulfilment away from the ever-growing influence of global capitalism. His film was broadcast by the BBC on Tuesday 19th April 1983, only one day after 33 people were killed when terrorists bombed the US Embassy in Beirut. This documentary was “Just Another Day: The Seaside” and it depicted the small coastal town of Walton-on-the-Naze, where innocent holiday-makers found pleasure in a technology-free utopia…’
February 14, 2021
[truecrime] “Lovers make the easiest marks”: Profile of a romance scammer … An engrossing true crime story for Valentines Day. ‘In 2006, Rootenberg found his next victim, an executive from Montreal. (She requested anonymity so her name wouldn’t be linked to Rootenberg’s online.) After dating for a while, and after she’d loaned him more than $200,000, they bought a home next door to where his brother Jonathan and sister-in-law Karyn lived, a five-bedroom house in Lawrence Park. She thought she’d met the father of her future children. He thought he’d discovered a gold mine.’
February 9, 2021
[tv] From Tupac to Dom Cummings: meet the cast of characters in Adam Curtis’s new series … A looks at the personalities behind Can’t Get You Out of My Head. ‘George Boole, who invents Boolean Logic – a way of describing what goes on in people’s minds mathematically. It is the concept behind algorithms. His great-great-grandson – Geoffrey Hinton – now works in artificial intelligence at Google. Another of her relatives in the late 19th century puts forward the idea of being able to see the fourth dimension, which inspires a lot of the work of Alan Moore.’
February 8, 2021
[tv] The John Munch Cinematic Universe … A good look at how one fictional cop unites a number of TV and Movie Universes. ‘Munch was based on real-life Baltimore homicide detective Jay Landsman. After retiring from doing actual police work, Landsman became an actor who pretended to be a cop in The Wire, a show that already had a character named after him (as did Michael Chabon’s 2007 novel, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union). When Homicide ended in 1999, Munch took the unusual step of getting a transfer to another fictional precinct. He became a regular on the New York-based show Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, the first of many, many Law and Order spin-offs. Munch remained there until his on-screen retirement party in 2013, where he reminisced with characters from Homicide some 14 years after that show’s finale. This, it’s worth noting, is not a typical career trajectory for a fictional TV cop.’
February 5, 2021
[sound] Alvin Lucier – I Am Sitting In A Room‘I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice, and I am going to play it back into the room again and again, until the resonant frequencies of the room reinforce themselves, so that any semblance of my speech, with perhaps the exception of rhythm, is destroyed…’