September 5, 2019
[sealand] A Visit to Sealand, the World’s Tiniest Nation … The bizarre creation story of the micronation of Sealand along with more recent history. ‘As we finished one last cup of tea in the kitchen, Michael grinned. He seemed as proud of the convoluted story behind his family’s bizarre creation as he was of Sealand’s resilience. Taking advantage of a gap in international law, Sealand had grown old while other attempts at seasteads never made it far beyond what-if imaginings. The Bates family was certainly daring, but the secret to Sealand’s survival was its limited aspirations. It had no territorial ambitions; it wasn’t seeking to create a grand caliphate. In the view of its powerful neighbors, Sealand was merely a rusty kingdom, easier to ignore than to eradicate.’
September 4, 2019
[blogs] Any old-school bloggers still posting? … Long list of operational blogs from Ask Metafilter.
September 3, 2019
[internet] Go Look: Usage Share of Internet Browsers 1996 – 2019 … A fascinating infoviz – mainly because it neatly illustrates Internet Explorer’s total domination of browser share for much of the early 2000s and later the rise of Chrome.
September 2, 2019
[comics] We Almost Got an Alan Moore/Kevin O’Neill Bizarro Comic? … Details on one of AM’s unstarted projects. ‘Me and Kevin O’Neill would really love to do a Bizarro mini-series, examining this whole Bizarro world. I mean, it’s square. How do the physics work on a world like that? What about the people who live on the corners? If you look at the pictures of the Bizarro world, there are continents that fold around the corners, so presumably you must have people living at right angles to each other. I just want to see Kevin draw it. I’m sure he’d be up to it.’
August 30, 2019
[anime] Go look: We Ranked Anime’s Top 10 Static Shots of Power Lines With Cicada Noises‘One Punch Man – That classic beautiful low angle shot of power lines on a hot summer day. The cluttered crisscross of the lines juxtaposed by the openness of the sky makes this one of the best power line shots ever.’
August 28, 2019
[truecrime] The Killing of Julia Wallace: An Impossible Murder … Go read this real-life locked room-style true crime story. ‘The Wallace case is like a jigsaw puzzle where the last piece never fits. No matter how many times we reassemble it, it stubbornly refuses to form a complete image. At the centre of that fragmented picture remains the unknowable figure of William Herbert Wallace; flustered insurance salesman or criminal genius?’
August 27, 2019
[books] My Favorite Anti-Semite: H.P. Lovecraft … A well-written attempt to square the circle of being a Jewish HPL fan whilst dealing with his prejudices and bigotry. ‘Why did he at once obsess over spreading Jewish influence in the media and then encourage and enable young Jewish authors? Why did a man who believed in the evils of Aryan “mongrelization” marry a Jewish woman? If he believed that the only good Jew was an assimilated Jew, why did he admire the traditional Jewish imagination? I have no answers. Like so much of the forbidden knowledge and alien monsters that fill Lovecraft’s stories, bigotry is by its nature irrational, contradictory, and more than a little insane. His anti-Semitism seems illogical because it was illogical, the product of personal factors and frustrations about which we can but speculate.’
August 23, 2019
[king] The best Stephen King movies … ranked!‘Carrie (1976) -It didn’t take long for Hollywood to realise the prolific King was the equivalent of discovering a new oil field when it came to horror movies: his debut novel was in cinemas within two years of publication. Brian De Palma turned King’s tale of horrendous high-school bullying and psychokinetic wrath into something like a high-school heist movie, with mean girl Nancy Allen patiently plotting disproportionate revenge against Sissy Spacek’s browbeaten, willowy wallflower. Despite the 2013 remake, De Palma’s bloody blowout remains the definitive version.’
August 22, 2019
[space] NASA’s Voyagers Grow Weaker Each Year … How the Voyager probes are still running after 40 years in space. ‘Engineers also shut off a heating component that keeps one of Voyager 2’s instruments warm enough to function in the frigid cold of space. Turning off a heater buys the mission four watts, the same amount it loses in a year. After months of deliberation, scientists decided that sacrificing this instrument, which last year helped confirm that the spacecraft had left the solar system, was worth it. Unlike the others, this instrument can point only in certain directions. Some other instruments have, incredibly, tolerated the loss of their heaters, sometimes for years.’
August 21, 2019
[comics] How did a street in Norwich become a location for Alberto Breccia’s “Mort Cinder”? … The mystery of how a Norwich street became a location in one of Argentina’s best comics. ‘Michael Crouch was surprised to discover that a few pages in, the protagonist travels from Chelsea in London to somewhere called Mertonville, near St. Albans. “On turning the page I was surprised to see a very faithful rendition of Elm Hill in Norwich,” he notes.’
August 20, 2019
[comics] Watchmen, t-SNE sorted … Every panel in Watchmen sorted by similarity using a machine learning algorithm by Pete Ashton.

August 19, 2019
August 16, 2019
[blogs] Monster or guru? What Dominic Cummings’ blog tells us about him … Dominic Cummings has a blog and he puts collections of links into PDFs?! 😱 ‘He started it five years ago and has used it as a dumping ground for his thoughts. All of his thoughts. Some entries are only a few lines long while others stretch to 10,000 words. The whole thing, including attachments, has a higher word count than Ulysses. Like Ulysses, it is both focused and digressive, obsessive and uncontainable; all emphatic italics and BLOCK CAPS and (1) numbered points leading to (2) apocalyptic conclusions. Cummings studied history at Oxford but writes knowingly about subjects from bio-engineering to space exploration. His style oscillates between the academic and the hard-boiled. He suggests “bunging a few million quid” to someone to liven up the civil service; claims that “great unconventional hookers and a bit of imagination … get you into pretty much anywhere”; and wonders “what is to stop someone sending a drone swarm across the river and bombing parliament during PMQs”.’
August 15, 2019
[ideas] Accelerationism: how a fringe philosophy predicted the future we live in … A long-read on Accelerationism. ‘In 1998, Land resigned from Warwick too. He and half a dozen CCRU members withdrew to the room above the Leamington Spa Body Shop. There they drifted from accelerationism into a vortex of more old-fashioned esoteric ideas, drawn from the occult, numerology, the fathomless novels of the American horror writer HP Lovecraft, and the life of the English mystic Aleister Crowley, who had been born in Leamington, in a cavernous terraced house which several CCRU members moved into. “The CCRU became quasi-cultish, quasi-religious,” says Mackay.’
August 14, 2019
August 13, 2019
[life] Having the best mattress, suitcase, and vitamins nearly broke me … A journalist uses all the best products for a week. ‘For one week, I lived the kind of life that’s scientifically concocted by marketing professionals, the kind of life that Bill O’Reilly probably thinks of when he gets riled up about annoying young people. I tried to be a different version of me; I tried to be less gross. I will not lie and say that I had fewer than two existential crises…’
August 12, 2019
[comics] A Celebration of Spain’s “Golden Generation” Comic Book Artists … A great gallery of art from Spanish comic artists.

August 9, 2019
[movies] Nicolas Cage on Acting, Philosophy and Searching for the Holy Grail … Long, readable Nick Cage Interview. ‘I put this line in “Mandy”: “The psychotic drowns where the mystic swims.” You either have the proclivity to open up your imagination or you don’t. If you have that propensity and are on camera about to do a scene, what would make you believe in what you’re about to do? Say you’re playing a demon biker with an ancient spirit. What power objects could you find that might trick your imagination? Would you find an antique from an ancient pyramid? Maybe a little sarcophagus that’s a greenish color and looks like King Tut? Would you sew that into your jacket and know that it’s right next to you when the director says “action”? Could you open yourself to that power?’
August 8, 2019
[life] A revolution in our sense of self … A fascinating look at how human consciousness may have little depth and might actually be really shallow. ‘Each of us is a unique history, together with a wonderfully creative machine for redeploying that history to create new perceptions, thoughts, emotions and stories. The layering of that history makes some patterns of thought natural for us, others awkward or uncomfortable. While drawing on our past, we are continually reinventing ourselves, and by directing that reinvention, we can shape who we are and who we will become. So we are not driven by hidden, inexorable forces from a dark and subterranean mental world. Instead, our thoughts and actions are transformations of past thoughts and actions and we often have considerable latitude, a certain judicial discretion, regarding which precedents we consider, which transformations we allow. As today’s thought or action are tomorrow’s precedents, we are reshaping ourselves, moment by moment.’
August 7, 2019
[comics] The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Tempest … Deep Dive review of LoEG: The Tempest from the Comics Journal. ‘Moore is uniquely qualified to write a story about the role of stories at the end of narrative. He’s of the first generation of graphic novelists: people who saw the endless serialization of superhero comics and realized they were not as satisfying as an actual work of literature due to the lack of endings. He then worked, really hard, in the pages of Swamp Thing, to have enough characterization and thematic heft that story arcs could end in a satisfying way. He wrote “The Killing Joke” with enough self-seriousness it can be read as a final Batman story. He wrote “Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow” after being enlisted to conclude decades worth of Superman stories, a universe of self-referentiality, and made something touching using decades of material containing wild tonal variation built around a core of self-referentiality never intended to cohere as a singular work. That was over thirty years ago, and since then, his own narrative has been taken away from him, in multiple ways. Literally, stories he’s written have been taken away from him, work he created with the intention that it would belong to him has had its meaning compromised by a corporation’s seeing greater potential for profit in franchised garbage than it does in work of literary merit.’
August 6, 2019
[tech] Future Historians Probably Won’t Understand Our Internet … A look at the difficulty of archiving Social Media. ‘If you want to understand how WordPerfect, an old word processor, functioned, then you just need that software and some way of running it. But if you want to document the experience of using Facebook five years ago or even two weeks ago … how do you do it? The truth is, right now, you can’t. No one (outside Facebook, at least) has preserved the functioning of the application. And worse, there is no thing that can be squirreled away for future historians to figure out.’
August 5, 2019
[space] Greetings, E.T. (Please Don’t Murder Us) … Steven Johnson on the Pros and Cons of attempting to contact Extraterrestrial Civilizations. ‘Drake leaned forward, nodding. “It raises a very interesting, nonscientific question, which is: Are extraterrestrial civilizations altruistic? Do they recognize this problem and establish a beacon for the benefit of the other folks out there? My answer is: I think it’s actually Darwinian; I think evolution favors altruistic societies. So my guess is yes. And that means there might be one powerful signal for each civilization.” Given the transit time across the universe, that signal might well outlast us as a species, in which case it might ultimately serve as a memorial as much as a message, like an interstellar version of the Great Pyramids: proof that a technologically advanced organism evolved on this planet, whatever that organism’s ultimate fate.’
July 21, 2019
[apollo] Classified Apollo 11 anomaly threatened to crash first moon astronauts … How a problem with the Service Module almost killed all the Apollo 11 Astronauts close to home. ‘About 15 minutes before the astronauts splashed into the Pacific Ocean, the CSM fully separated into its two parts. This was necessary because only the command module (which held the crew) had a heat shield. The heat shield protected the astronauts by deflecting and absorbing the scorching energies created by plowing through Earth’s atmosphere at about 25,000 mph — more than a dozen times as fast as a speeding bullet. The service module became useless and posed a collision risk after the two parts separated, so it was supposed to skip off Earth’s atmosphere like a stone thrown across a pond. But it did not.’
July 20, 2019
[apollo] Huge gallery of Apollo Program Photos … To celebrate the anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the moon here’s a collection of pictures NASA have uploaded. (Previously)

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon...

July 19, 2019
[apollo] The Underappreciated Power of the Apollo Computer … Alexis Madrigal on the Apollo Guidance Computer. ‘To maximize the built-in architecture, Hamilton and her colleagues came up with what they named “The Interpreter”—we’d now call it a virtualization scheme. It allowed them to run five to seven virtual machines simultaneously in two kilobytes of memory. It was terribly slow, but “now you have all the capabilities you ever dreamed of, in software,” O’Brien said.’
July 18, 2019
[apollo] Apollo 11 Landing: Norman Mailer’s Loony Account … Norman Mailer on Apollo 11. ‘This is the glory of Of a Fire on the Moon—the fidelity of Aquarius to his apprehensions; his space-operatic heebie-jeebies; his perverse, obsessive sense that under the achievement, something is dying. Plenty of people regarded the moonshot as a monstrous misallocation of resources. Aquarius alone—or alone in mass-market magazines—was ready to declare it a metaphysical catastrophe. In his stagy rhetoric, his mangled-by-moonbeams prose, he laments the lunar trespass by “strange, plasticized, half-communicating Americans,” and what it portends down here on Earth. Apollo’s success, he declares, “set electronic engineers and computer programs to dreaming of ways to attack the problems of society as well as they had attacked the problems of putting men on the moon.” Horrific prospect.’
July 17, 2019
July 16, 2019
[conspiracy] One giant … lie? Why so many people still think the moon landings were faked‘If you have ever been to the Science Museum in London, you will know that the lunar module was basically made of tinfoil. Apollo 8 had orbited the moon in 1968, but, as Armstrong remarked, correcting course and landing on the moon was “far and away the most complex part of the flight”. He rated walking around on the surface one out of 10 for difficulty (despite the problems he had with the TV cable wrapping around his feet), “but I thought the lunar descent was probably a 13”. That is until you compare it with the difficulty of maintaining a lie to the entire world for five decades without a single slip from any Nasa employee. You would also have to imagine that 2019-era special effects were available to Nasa in 1969 and not one of the 600 million TV viewers noticed anything amiss. Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) is a decent indication of what Hollywood special effects could do at the time – and it’s extremely shonky. It genuinely was simpler to film on location.’
July 15, 2019
[windows] Why did moving the mouse cursor cause Windows 95 to run more quickly? … Or, How to make programs install faster on Windows 95 – This isn’t very useful these days! ‘For reasons that are not entirely clear, but probably due to performance problems on low end machines, Windows 95 tends to bundle up the messages about I/O completion and doesn’t immediately wake up the application to service them. However, it does wake the application for user input, presumably to keep it feeling responsive, and when the application is awake it will handle any pending I/O messages too. Thus wiggling the mouse causes the application to process I/O messages faster, and install quicker.’