2023-02-15Well, we moved to Germany (we know!), so I’ve been correcting some of my gaps in recent German history by reading the lengthy Wikipedia page on German reunification. In terms of online life, that’s the only real giveaway that I’ve moved in the real world. The rest of the anglophone media roar rolls along as before with two notable edits. I’ve completely cut out the very high volume Westminster insider newsletter I used to read first thing every morning (why?
I collect interesting things from the web as I go. That collection takes a few forms. Firstly, there’s this fixed directory of links that I try to update and prune and organise into sections that feel right. Secondly, I sometimes make posts that round up interesting things I’ve found in the month or so prior. Finally I have “highlights”, where I cut out interesting snippets from longer articles and paste them here.
Scroll down a little for the directory. Scroll down a little further for a paginated list of highlights and link posts.
- Postcrossing - Postcard exchange
- Highland Walks - Personally vetted walks in the Highlands
- London Walks
- FATMAP - Curated and well-mapped walks in Britain
- Ian’s Shoelace Website
- Tree Talk - London Tree Explorer
- Diamond Geezer - Incredibly detailed London blog
- Dan’s Motorcycle Repair Page
- Jim Machalak’s Boat Designs
- The Mother of all Maritime Links
- omg.lol - $20/yr for a domain, Mastodon account, email forwarding and more indie stuff
- Tilde Town
- Low Tech Magazine
- Marijn Florence’s Linkroll
- Jacob Hall’s Linkroll
- Electric Trash
- Gossip’s Web
- Garden of Blogs
- Barbra - Flash cards
- Old Fashioned - Cocktail recipes
- ZLibrary - Free e-books
- Witeboard - Online shared whiteboard
- ScreenplaySubs - Read screenplays alongside Netflix
- Percollate - Convert web pages to nice e-reader renders
- All the DIY Links You Never Knew You Needed - Links and pointers for DIY tabletop games
- Chest of Books - A collection of non-fiction books painstakingly converted to HTML
- Death Generator - Generate the death screens from classic games with whatever text you want
- Learn X in Y minutes - The fatest reference I’ve found for checking language syntaxes
- Responsive Image Syntax in HTML
- Scraping Recipe Websites
- Web History
- Redis Inventor on Code Comments
- Goodreads to SQLite
- Postgres Configuration for Humans
- Linux Command Library - Handy Linux one-liners
- OMGLORD - A designer that has a good link directory
- Devin Argenta - I know him I like him
- Monokai - The creator of the Monokai font creates nice web experiments too
- Pamphlets About Police Violence
- How Your History Gets Made
- Cookbooks and Home Economics - Internet Archive of historical cookbooks
- Emergent Tool Use from Multi-Agent Interaction - Great AI demonstration showing human-like behaviour adaptation
- Proceedings of the IRCS Workshop on Prosody in Natural Speech - One summer in the 90s
- So you want to learn physics
Highlights and roundups
2022-11-07First off, here’s a DJ set I liked. Right now a lot of people are talking about leaving Twitter (here’s mine). Many of those that go ahead with it and turning up in Mastodon (here’s mine) and talking a big game about how the collapse of Twitter will beget a golden age for the decentralised internet. That’s nice. I don’t believe it’s really going to be that simple, though. On the topic of decentralised internet things: the FBI seized the Z-lib ebook archive!
2022-10-07First I have a whole collection of maps. There’s a map to show where in the world Wikipedia edits are coming from. There’s a map that shows all the different kinds of planning boundaries that overlap the in Britain. There’s an incredibly detailed weather map. Finally, here’s a whole series of maps that examine how much various governments fudged their COVID-19 infection, hospitalisation, and mortality rates. There are a couple of websites about making websites to share.
2022-08-24First I have this amazing oral history of the production of certain aspects of the video game Red Alert 3. Specifically the story is about how this incredible cut scene, starring Tim Curry as a high camp Soviet general blasting off into space, came to be. It’s astonishingly detailed and manages to go far beyond “pretty funny clip”. It talks about how casting and producing these little fragments of video for video games works.
Uvalle went into solitary confinement in 1993, when he was 21 years old. Now, at 47, he’s been in solitary for 26 years—more than half his life.
— The Prison Inside Prison, Michael Baranjas in The Texas Observer
This is not the apocalypse you were looking for
The right, of course, has never had a monopoly on catastrophist fever dreams. The idea of a cleansing armageddon that instantly erases all the awkward parts of modernity, all the weary years of work and compromise between where we are and where we’d like to be, is universal, and universally childish. I’ve spent far too much time listening to drunk hipsters with retro-Soviet facial hair tell me there’s no point in feminism or anti-racism, because all of that will be fixed after the giant, bloody workers’ revolution that is absolutely on the way, so really it doesn’t matter how we treat each other in the present. You can hear the same gleeful anticipation in the rhetoric of “dark-green” eco-fundamentalist groups, which right now are outpacing religious extremists in their rush to claim the coronavirus as nature’s revenge on humanity. If you are really so keen to be punished, there are websites for that. If you find yourself eager to see the whole species punished, that’s not a fetish, that’s fascism.
— This is not the apocalypse you were looking for, Laurie Penny in WIRED
Local power and the social order
But very few of my classmates really belonged to the area’s elite. It wasn’t a city of international oligarchs, but one dominated by its wealthy, largely agricultural property-owning class. They mostly owned, and still own, fruit companies: apples, cherries, peaches, and now hops and wine-grapes. The other large-scale industries in the region, particularly commercial construction, revolve at a fundamental level around agriculture: They pave the roads on which fruits and vegetables are transported to transshipment points, build the warehouses where the produce is stored, and so on.
Gentry classes are a common feature of a great many social-economic-political regimes throughout history. Pretty much anywhere you have a hierarchical form of social organization and property ownership, a gentry class of some kind emerges: the local civic elites of the Roman Empire, the landlords of later Han China, the numerous lower nobility of late medieval France, the thegns of Anglo-Saxon England, the Prussian Junkers, or the planter class of the antebellum South. The gentry are generally distinct from the highest levels of a regime’s political and economic elite: They’re usually not resident in the political center, they don’t hold major positions in the central administration of the state (whatever that might consist of) and aren’t counted among the wealthiest people in their polity. New national or imperial elites might emerge over time from a gentry class, even rulers - the boundaries between these groups can be more or less porous - but that’s not usually the case.
— American Genry, Patrick Wyman in Perspectives: Past, Present, and Future
James IV arrived in Edinburgh, and came to Holyrood Palace by 18 November, where on 22 November he rewarded a man who had brought animals with 20 gold crowns, these animals had been with the African women, the “More lasses”, at Inverkeithing. They included a Portuguese horse with a red tail, and a civet or “must cat”. On 26 November he gave the woman who brought the “More lasses” from Fife 4 shillings. On 27 November James IV ordered that two suspected plague victims, who had been excluded from Dunfermline town, should have 14 shillings.
— Ellen More, Wikipedia
This candle doesn't smell of anything
After Terri Nelson noticed people complaining online about a lack of scent from newly purchased scented candles, Kate Petrova analyzed Amazon reviews for candles from the past three years and found a drop in ratings for scented candles beginning in January 2020 (compared to a smaller ratings decline for unscented candles).
The hypothesis is that some of these buyers have lost their sense of smell due to Covid-19 infections and that’s showing up in the ratings.
— Speculation: Scented Candle Ratings Down Due to Covid-19 Loss of Smell, Jason Kottke
The New York Public Library archives
But the real gem of the library, in Lannon’s view, is the stuff that you can find only in boxes like the ones now strewn across the table. “You can get a book anywhere,” he said. “An archive exists in one location.” The room we’re standing in is the only place that you can read, say, the week’s worth of journal entries in which New York Times editor Abe Rosenthal contemplates publishing the Pentagon Papers. It’s the only place where you can read the collected papers of Robert Moses, or a letter T.S. Eliot wrote about Ulysses to James Joyce’s Paris publisher, Sylvia Beach.
These collections aren’t digitized. The only way to find out what’s inside them is to ask for a particular box — often with just a vague notion of what will be in it — and to hold the old papers in your hands. “I don’t know how one could be interested in libraries and not archives,” Lannon told me. They tell you “the stories behind things,” he said, “the unpublished, the hard to find, the true story.” This, I began to see, is why someone might have been inclined to call Lannon the most interesting man in the world: it’s because he knows so many of these stories himself, including stories that no one else knows, because they are only told here.
That is the paradox of being an archivist. The reason an archivist should know something, Lannon said, is to help others to know it. But it’s not really the archivist’s place to impose his knowledge on anyone else. Indeed, if the field could be said to have a creed, it’s that archivists aren’t there to tell you what’s important. Historically momentous documents are to be left in folders next to the trivial and the mundane — because who’s to say what’s actually mundane or not?
— Keepers of the Secrets, James Somers in The Village Voice