Then and now photos of American Civil War locations

Thursday, 2 July, 2015

An interactive collection of photos taken during the American Civil War, compared with images of the same locations from this year. How serene is what we see in the latter day pictures, when the bloodshed of the earlier photos is contemplated.

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Counting down the top fifty prog rock albums of all time

Wednesday, 1 July, 2015

Progressive rock, or prog rock… a list of the fifty greatest albums of the genre. You’ll never guess what the number one title is.

Think I’ll buy me a Pink Floyd record…

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Might Somerton Man’s death have been a crime of passion?

Tuesday, 16 June, 2015

I’m a fan of mysteries, I even have one or two of my own that I’m trying to unravel right now. The “Mystery of the Somerton Man” however, has intrigued many Australians, since the discovery of the body of a middle aged man on Somerton beach, in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, in December 1948.

No one seemed to know him. He carried no identification, and to compound matters, even the labels of the clothes he was wearing had been removed. A scrap of paper, bearing the words “Taman Shud”, led some too believe the deceased was possibly a Soviet, or US, spy.

A lengthy police investigation failed to turn up any clues as to who the man was, why he was in Adelaide, and how he wound up on Somerton beach. Derek Abbott, an engineer at the University of Adelaide, has been conducting his own research recently into the mystery, and thinks he may have found an explanation.

He speculates that the unknown man might have been having an affair with a married Adelaide nurse, who has long been linked to him, and they may have even had a child, Robin, together. Could it be that someone felt compelled to take Somerton Man out of the picture, as it were, on account of this relationship?

Abbott cautiously tested this theory by writing a letter to Roma Egan, a dancer in the Australian Ballet who was married to Robin Thomson from 1968 to 1974. Abbott enclosed a picture of the Somerton Man and asked if she knew any dancers who looked like him. Roma wrote back saying that the corpse resembled her ex-husband. She also told Abbott, darkly, that her ex-mother-in-law had been a woman with secrets, and that Jo – like the young Abbott – had an obsession with pharmacology.

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The Buran programme, the Soviet space shuttle that didn’t take off

Monday, 15 June, 2015

Photo by Ralph Mirebs

The Soviet Union, and then later the Russian Federation, aspired to a space shuttle programme, but only one craft, of a number that were built, ever went into Earth orbit, in 1988, an un-crewed flight at that. The Buran programme, as it was known, was eventually suspended in 1993.

While some of the vessels, or what was constructed of them, before the programme was terminated, can be found in various locations in Russia, this collection of photos by Ralph Mirebs, is about all that now remains of the Buran programme.

It’s unfortunate that more didn’t come of the project, considering the resources that had been expended into it.

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From dinosaur to chicken, a rather fast evolution actually

Thursday, 11 June, 2015

Chickens descended from the Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur, that we all know. But here’s the real mystery, how did something once so large, end up becoming so small? Paleontologists look to have discovered why:

For decades, paleontologists’ only fossil link between birds and dinosaurs was archaeopteryx, a hybrid creature with feathered wings but with the teeth and long bony tail of a dinosaur. These animals appeared to have acquired their birdlike features – feathers, wings and flight – in just 10 million years, a mere flash in evolutionary time. “Archaeopteryx seemed to emerge fully fledged with the characteristics of modern birds,” said Michael Benton, a paleontologist at the University of Bristol in England.

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The stylehunters of the Soviet Union

Wednesday, 3 June, 2015

If sartorial codes of some sort were ever imposed on citizens of what was once the Soviet Union, it didn’t stop a group of people, referred to as Stilyagi, or Stylehunters, from finding ways to dress with some individuality in mind.

Even though the Stilyaga subculture went directly against communist ideology, members’ motives were generally non-political. More an escapist subculture than a group of cultural protesters, Stilyagi created their own colorful world within a restrictive egalitarian regime.

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It was twenty years ago today that Jeffrey Zeldman taught us to code

Tuesday, 2 June, 2015

Influential New York City based web designer, I don’t believe that title has yet been deprecated, Jeffrey Zeldman launched his website twenty years ago last Sunday. I’ve been reading it for almost all that time, something I may have pointed out before. Twenty years, that’s a long time, but I’ve said before as well.

And then there’s this:

I wanted to launch a redesign on this 20th anniversary – in the old days I redesigned this site four or five times a year, whenever I had a new idea or learned a new skill – but with a ten year old daughter and four businesses to at least pretend to run (businesses that only exist because I started this website 20 years ago today and because my partners started theirs), a redesign by 31 May 2015 wasn’t possible.

I may not be anywhere near as busy as Zeldman, but so far it hasn’t been possible to update the design here, that has been in place eighteen months now. Those days of five redesigns a year are truly a distant memory.

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In your time on Earth…

Friday, 22 May, 2015

Quite a lot has happened, even if you’re not aware of every last occurrence. Type in your date of birth and get up to speed, thanks to this interactive from the BBC.

Find out how, since the date of your birth, your life has progressed; including how many times your heart has beaten, and how far you have travelled through space. Investigate how the world around you has changed since you’ve been alive; from the amount the sea has risen, and the tectonic plates have moved, to the number of earthquakes and volcanoes that have erupted.

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Surely hitchhiking hasn’t fallen victim to ride sharing?

Tuesday, 19 May, 2015

I can’t say I spot too many hitchhikers as I make my way around, but it could be I’m in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the US however, the once popular means of getting from point A to point B, appears to have fallen from favour completely. Could that really be so?

Given how few hitchhikers one actually sees on American roadways, it’s surprising any of us even know how to do it, or what it looks like. (As far as I can tell, a lot of first-time teenaged hitchhikers are either instructed by books or movies, rather than by actual sightings of roadside thumbs.) Once a common form of early 20th-century transportation, then the cornerstone of quite a few ’60s countercultural experiences, it has been all but eradicated from public view in the United States – save for the continued obsession with serial rapists and murders like Robert Rhodes, the “truck stop killer,” and Edmund Kemper, the “co-ed killer,” whose gruesome acts committed against women continue to be the subject of countless books, articles and TV specials.

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The hunt for Osama bin Laden. What really happened. Or not?

Monday, 18 May, 2015

There is Zero Dark Thirty, US director Kathryn Bigelow’s depiction of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, based, partly at least, on the official narrative of events, then there is Washington, D.C. based investigative journalist Seymour Hersh’s controversial take on the same topic.

They differ. Greatly.

The White House’s story might have been written by Lewis Carroll: would bin Laden, target of a massive international manhunt, really decide that a resort town forty miles from Islamabad would be the safest place to live and command al-Qaida’s operations? He was hiding in the open. So America said.

Mind you, some of Hersh’s claims are being disputed.

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