linkmachinego.com
May 13, 2019
[life] John Horton Conway: the world’s most charismatic mathematician … enjoyable profile of John Horton Conway – the creator of the cellular automaton called Game of Life.

Conway made what he called “The Vow”, promising himself: “Thou shalt stop worrying and feeling guilty; thou shalt do whatever thou pleasest.” He no longer worried that he was eroding his mathematical soul when he indulged his curiosity and followed wherever it went, whether towards recreation or research, or somewhere altogether nonmathematical, such as his longing to learn the etymology of words. Conway’s fate now was to do all the stuff that he had formerly feared his fellow mathematicians might floccinaucinihilipilificate. “Floccinaucinihilipilification” is his favourite word. He reckons it’s the longest word in the Oxford English Dictionary (it is certainly in the top three), and without prompting he gives an account of its etymology: it is a Latin-based word, invented circa 1730 at Eton as a schoolboy’s joke. And, Conway recites nearly verbatim the OED’s definition: “the action or habit of estimating as worthless.”

May 10, 2019
[comics] No, I’m not counting that appearance in Super Friends … Mike Sterling looks back at the shock of the JLA’s appearance in Swamp Thing #24. ‘Alan Moore had already been reexamining (or “deconstructing,” if you will) the superhero genre over in England with his reintroduction of original Captain Marvel 1950s knock-off Marvelman. What was once bright and cheery with that character is now menacing and mired in modern day government conspiracies and violence. But the JLA’s appearance in Swamp Thing set the tone for nearly all future appearances of superheroes in this series. They’re never just “as-is,” it’s always in the context of “what’s wrong with this,” or “here’s what’s really odd about them,” or “did you ever realize this?” They’re all recontextualized in the comic’s tone, designed to make you see them differently, to reconsider them, to be kept off-balance by them.’
May 9, 2019
[life] Mariko Aoki phenomenon … Do you have a urge to defecate after entering a bookshop? You are not alone! ‘Persons with a history of experiencing the Mariko Aoki phenomenon were described as having a “book bowel” tendency (Japanese: 書便派 sho’ben-ha) in Vol. 41 of Book Magazine.’
May 8, 2019
[work] Moderately Motivated Gen-Xer for Hire‘Candidate understands that individual contributions often have limited value in the wider context, and is content to follow orders with no grasp of said orders’ ultimate purpose or importance. Gratification on a severely delayed timetable is perfectly acceptable. Candidate is accustomed to a reporting structure that includes multiple redundant levels of management.’
May 7, 2019
[alien] Alien 40th Anniversary Short Films … Six official short films celebrating Alien’s 40th anniversary.

May 3, 2019
[comics] Grown Man Who Owns Bane Action Figure Has Love To Give‘Saying that he is here, that he is caring, and that he is available, local man Philip Gorney, who owns a 6-inch Mattel action figure of the comic book villain Bane, confirmed Thursday that he has love to give. “I could make somebody happy, I am loving, and I deserve to be happy, too,” said the 31-year-old man who has drawn several full-color illustrations of the superhero Swamp Thing…’
May 2, 2019
[newsletter] BLAST! … I’ve really been enjoying Mo Morgan’s new newsletter – a nicely designed and well focused collection of links and thoughts. Recommended.
May 1, 2019
[canals] Does Birmingham Have More Canals Than Venice? … Jez Higgins compares the two cities. ‘In fact, the difference between the two is rather less than you might think – Birmingham has around 58km of canal, while Venice has 42km. Given a population about around a million against Venice’s 62,000, that actually means that Birmingham is vastly under-canaled. It has a trifling 5⅘cm of canal per head of population against Venice’s magisterial 67¾cm. For Birmingham to reach Venice-equality we would need to build another 620km of canal.’
April 30, 2019
[tech] Death by PowerPoint: the slide that killed seven people … How Microsoft PowerPoint contributed to the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. ‘Typing text on a screen and reading it out loud does not count as teaching. An audience reading text off the screen does not count as learning. Imagine if the engineers had put up a slide with just: “foam strike more than 600 times bigger than test data.” Maybe NASA would have listened. Maybe they wouldn’t have attempted re-entry. ‘
April 29, 2019
[comics] Why are comics shops closing as superheroes make a mint?‘While superheroes have never had a higher profile, the gap between cinema and comics has never been wider. The days when you could pick the latest issue of Spider-Man or Batman from the newsagent’s shelves are long gone. Last week, comic writer Ron Marz tweeted that, during a presentation to a school class, one girl raised her hand and asked him where she could actually buy comics…’
April 26, 2019
[tech] Illustrations of Imaginary Cyberpunk Gadgets … by E Wo Kaku Peter. Below is a portable anti-vampire kit.

April 25, 2019
[favicon] Tiny Mirror … a webpage that uses your webcam to create a tiny image within it’s favicon.
April 24, 2019
[comics] ‘What Gets Us Through is Just Getting Through’: Tom King Looks Back on Mister Miracle‘When I read the Fourth World stuff, to me it reads like an incredibly personal work. It reads to me as a guy who’d been through war and come back from it; it reads to me as a guy who’d achieved his greatest dream in life, which was to become this sort of comic creator for his family and then lost it, and was trying to recover it when he moved from Marvel to DC. It’s known that he originally developed the Fourth World for Marvel as this kind of Asgardian world, then he brought it over to DC when he felt disrespected how Marvel treated him. To me, when I read it, I see all of that mixed up – all that anger at Stan Lee, Marvel, all of that combined with a guy who grew up in the Jewish ghettos of the Lower East Side and had to scrap for everything he ever had, and fought his way through World War II – to me, it reads as an entirely personal work’
April 23, 2019
[conspiracy] Why conspiracy theories are getting more absurd‘It’s incredibly empowering to believe you have the true picture of reality and that everyone else is delusional. And if you look at conspiracists today, even the wackiest, like those writing about QAnon, they see themselves as the cognoscenti. They understand how the world really works, and they understand that the rest of us are brainwashed.’
April 21, 2019
April 18, 2019
[life] Paris Vows To Rebuild Notre Dame Despite Cosmic Absurdity Of Seeking Inherent Meaning In Fleeting Creations Of Man‘“We will come together as a nation to reconstruct Notre Dame, no matter the fundamental irrationality of imbuing mere man-made structures of stone and wood with any sort of deeper meaning in an existence where entropy is the only universal truth,” said French president Emmanuel Macron in a press conference, adding that the government had already received more than $700 million in pledged funding for a restoration project that will “serve as but a momentary impediment to the corrosive sands of time.”’
April 17, 2019
[games] iOS Games Worth Playing … fun list of iPhone / iPad games to download and play.
April 16, 2019
[comics] Lenny Henry’s guide to Graphic Novels and Comics‘Halo Jones – Alan Moore. Designed to be the antithesis of the super-tough women of superhero comics, Halo Jones was a driven everywoman character who lives in the 51st Century. Moore wanted specifically to add a female character to 2000AD comic. The first story arc centred entirely around Halo and her friend going shopping. However, when you live in a crime-riddled floating city, where regular, potentially fatal riots take place, such a simple task requires military planning and precision…’
April 15, 2019
[brexit] TV fans delighted as Brexit renewed for another season‘Television critics have never been keen on Brexit and many cite it as the only show which managed to jump the shark before it even began. “Good writing in any genre is founded on truth,” said critic Victoria Dean. “There was just so much unbelievable guff in Brexit’s trailer that it was obviously going to be a shit show. “I mean, all that stuff written on the bus! The ‘breaking point’ poster. The cartoon villains with no shred of humanity.”’
April 12, 2019
[web] The People Who Hated the Web Even Before Facebook … Interesting look at early skeptical views of the Web in the 1990s. ‘Ellen Ullman, who has continued to critique the tech world from the inside, might have made the most perfect critique of how the human desire for convenience would rule how technology was seen. “The computer is about to enter our lives like blood in the capillaries,” she wrote. “Soon, everywhere we look, we will see pretty, idiot-proof interfaces designed to make us say, ‘OK.’” The on-demand economy would rule. “We don’t need to involve anyone else in the satisfaction of our needs,” she wrote.’
April 11, 2019
[people] Ghosting … seems like a good time to repost this long read from Andrew O’Hagan on what it’s like ghostwriting for Julian Assange. ‘ I am sure this is what happens in many of his scrapes: he runs on a high-octane belief in his own rectitude and wisdom, only to find later that other people had their own views – of what is sound journalism or agreeable sex – and the idea that he might be complicit in his own mess baffles him. Fact is, he was not in control of himself and most of what his former colleagues said about him just might be true. He is thin-skinned, conspiratorial, untruthful, narcissistic, and he thinks he owns the material he conduits. It may turn out that Julian is not Daniel Ellsberg or John Wilkes, but Charles Foster Kane, abusive and monstrous in his pursuit of the truth that interests him, and a man who, it turns out, was motivated all the while not by high principles but by a deep sentimental wound. Perhaps we won’t know until the final frames of the movie.’
April 10, 2019
[brexit] EU Files Adoption Papers For Scotland, Northern Ireland‘Whereas Wales and England, the older siblings of Scotland And Northern Ireland, both voted to leave the EU and are perfectly happy to do so, the EU is making moves to rescue the ‘poor weans’ in the UK who voted to remain…’
April 9, 2019
[life] Mickey Rooney’s Wacko Businesses from Mickey’s Weenie World to Mickey’s Tip-offs Disposable … It turns out that Mickey Rooney had many wacky businesses! ‘To Mr. Rooney, every phrase suggests a book title, every person a character for a show, every mouthful a fast-food empire. ”He’s so creative it verges on insanity,” said his dresser Tony Buonauro. Mr. Rooney had written six unpublished novels and and had “Eight or 10 filmscripts ready for production. Scripts for all genres: a horror film for Bette Davis, a thriller for Glen Ford, and television pilots that range from ”Roughshod,” a Western, to ”The Discoverers,” which Mr. Rooney describes as ”the episodic adventures of Balboa, Cortez and Ponce De Leon.” One favorite was ”The Picture Nobody Should See.” ”It’s about Charlie and Hazel Crow,” says Mr. Rooney, ”a milkman and his wife who set out to make a porno film. That’s the picture nobody should see.” He claps his hands. ”It’s a picture within a picture!”’ [thanks @ModernDayNTK]
April 8, 2019
[potatos] Mickey Rooney’s Potato Fantasy‘Potatos Every Way Mickey Likes ‘Em!’

April 4, 2019
[space] Apollo astronauts left their poop on the moon. NASA ought to go back for that shit. … Is there life on the Moon feft behind in astronaut’s excrement that was jettisoned from Moon Landers? … ‘After Neil Armstrong descended from the Eagle lander, becoming the first human to set foot on the moon, the very first picture he took on the surface shows, yes, the moon’s cratered surface, but also a white jettisoned trash bag (or jett bag). I can’t confirm there are feces in this particular bag (Buzz Aldrin declined to comment for this story), but there’s definitely one like it on the moon that contained or still contains human waste, according to the NASA History Office.’
April 3, 2019
[movies] The ultimate guide to analog control panels in sci-fi movies … A look at of the retro-tech in classic science-fiction movies. ‘Of all our control panel selections, Alien might have the most functional looking one. That’s because the production designer, Ron Cobb, constantly worked from the idea that everything should have a legitimate purpose. Cobb went as far as making legitimate real world safety signs for fixtures and airlocks.’
April 2, 2019
[brxit] How the UK lost the Brexit battle … A longread on why Brexit is failing. ‘For many around May, that a crash would come had been obvious for months. As far back as July 2018, senior figures inside No. 10 Downing Street had warned that her deal, as it was shaping up, was unsustainable. There was just no way a majority in parliament could be assembled for the Brexit the EU was offering. In truth, the trains had been set in motion far earlier — the collision was the culmination of decisions taken by both sides within the hours, weeks and months that followed the referendum. The EU’s determination not to cut London a special deal; Cameron’s decision to walk away; May’s sweeping promise not to raise a border in Ireland, while at the same time drawing incompatible red lines — something had to give, and it would not be Brussels.’
April 1, 2019
[privacy] A Few Simple Steps to Vastly Increase Your Privacy Online … straight-forward list of ways to inprove your privacy on the internet in 2019. ‘Switch to Firefox as your browser on all devices. I’m not a Chrome or Edge hater, I’m just lazy. I don’t want to parse whether each new update contains a privacy regression or new settings I need to worry about. I just want a browser that has more of my best interests in mind. Firefox is developed by a non-profit company, Mozilla, explicitly dedicated to users’ needs…’
March 29, 2019
[brexit] Happy #BrexitDay …

March 28, 2019
[books] A Definitive Ranking of Iain M. Banks’s Culture Novels‘Use of Weapons – It’s a dark, complex, unnerving, and deconstructive portrait of a character who, in any other writer’s hands, might have been sketched out as a straight-forward “galactic hero” archetype, winning the day with wits and a gun. While it’s often considered to be the high point of the series (and works hard to earn that title), the finicky nature of the narrative structure and some of the extreme sociopathy shown by heroes and villains alike make it much more than escapist reading. An amazing book, but an uncomfortable one.’