A 1785 guide to creating fireworks

Thursday, 10 July, 2014

I’m not sure what’s the more fascinating, a book, published in 1785, choke full of recipes for fireworks, or the tome, complete with hand crafted text and illustrations, itself.

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Taking a second look at “Catcher in the Rye”

Thursday, 10 July, 2014

I read “Catcher in the Rye” at high school, but don’t recall being all that focused for some reason. Perhaps it is time for a re-read, something US economist Tyler Cowen did recently, an exercise that brought forth some new insights into both the story itself, and its writer, J. D. Salinger.

Salinger took part in the D-Day invasion with part of the manuscript in his backpack. Salinger also fought in some of the toughest battles of WWII and later in his life sought extreme withdrawal. It all supports the notion of WWII as the major event in his life and one which he never got over. It is no accident that the deceased younger brother is named Allie.

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Into the wide blue coloured internet

Tuesday, 8 July, 2014

If there’s one colour that web designers and brand strategists have a preference for, it would be blue, but you don’t need me to tell you that. But why is so much blue used on the internet in the first place? Might it be because blue was one the first colours, aside from black and gray, to make an appearance online, back in the day?

The man who invented links was writing them to a grayscale screen. The first popular browser, Mosaic, later turned links blue because it was the darkest color available at the time that wasn’t black; they needed to stand out, but only just. Blue was the best alternative. Blue always survives the focus group. Blue wins the a/b test. Which is convenient, because blue is usually already there.

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Stonehenge is but one of many such megalithic stone structures

Monday, 7 July, 2014

New York City based visual artist and photographer Barbara Yoshida has travelled around Britain, Europe, and the Mediterranean region, taking pictures of ancient megalithic stone structures that are similar to, but perhaps not as well known as, Stonehenge.

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The kid next door and his nuclear reactor in the garden shed

Friday, 4 July, 2014

Imagine coming home one day to find scientists hard at work dismantling a nuclear reactor the teenager next door had decided to build in his parent’s garden shed. Apparently no one in the neighbourhood had any idea such a device was in their midst until then…

But June 26, 1995, was not a typical day. Ask Dottie Pease. As she turned down Pinto Drive, Pease saw eleven men swarming across her carefully manicured lawn. Their attention seemed to be focused on the back yard of the house next door, specifically on a large wooden potting shed that abutted the chain-link fence dividing her property from her neighbor’s. Three of the men had donned ventilated moon suits and were proceeding to dismantle the potting shed with electric saws, stuffing the pieces of wood into large steel drums emblazoned with radioactive warning signs. Pease had never noticed anything out of the ordinary at the house next door.

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I have sea fort and a constitution, I have my own nation

Thursday, 3 July, 2014

A former World War II sea fort located off the coast of Britain, in the North Sea, that slightly resembles an oil rig, and originally known as HM Fort Roughs, eventually went on to become the nation, or micronation, of Sealand.

British military personnel finally left the fort in 1956, and sometime later it was occupied by pirate radio broadcasters. In 1967 it was taken over by Paddy Roy Bates, who intended to establish his own pirate radio station there.

By 1975 Sealand had its own constitution, national anthem, flag, currency, and passport, while Bates ruled as a prince. In 1978 mercenaries staged an invasion while Bates and his wife were visiting Britain. Although Bates managed to regain control of the fort, the invaders continue to claim Sealand as theirs to this day.

There has a to be a screenplay in the story of Sealand…

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Family photos of the passage of time

Thursday, 3 July, 2014

In 1991 London based photographer Zed Nelson started taking a photo each year of a friend, and his family, until 2012. More of these sorts of photo collections – that span years and decades – seem to keep coming to light, but that doesn’t make them any less interesting.

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The horror, the horror, old school telephones

Wednesday, 2 July, 2014

Our children will no doubt laugh at us when we tell them what telephones – you know, those devices you Snapchat and Instagram with – used to be like in “the olden days”. I baulk when I remember how… cumbersome the old rotary dial models especially, used to be.

Once upon a time, you couldn’t fit a phone in your pocket or purse. You couldn’t use it to play music, take pictures, shoot video, or check the Internet. You couldn’t select your ringtone or customize your desktop image – because your phone didn’t have a desktop, and its tone was predetermined, for many decades, by Ma Bell, and then, after deregulation, by the manufacturers of budget-priced, cheaply-made phone sets. You could, starting in the late 1980s, speed-dial the last number you entered, and program up to seven or eight others; but your phone probably still needed a wire to work, and woe unto you if your emergency situation didn’t occur in close proximity to a wall jack.

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As a plus at least maths would have once been fun for poets

Tuesday, 1 July, 2014

I’m not much of a poet, and don’t I know it, so I am thankful I did not live at time – think up until the sixteenth century – when mathematical equations were written as metered verse, because then I’d have been doubly bad at maths.

Why did people stop expressing maths problems as metered verse? Because it was around this time that mathematical symbols such as plus, minus, and equals, were devised, or at least started to come into more widespread use.

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For a healthier future should we eat like our Paleolithic ancestors?

Wednesday, 25 June, 2014

While we don’t need to send civilisation as a whole back to the Stone Age, there may be some benefit in adhering to the diet of our Paleolithic ancestors, one that consisted mainly of meat, fish, nuts, and berries:

The argument for the so-called “Palaeolithic diet” goes like this: the human body adapted to life during the Stone Age, and as our genetics has changed very little since then, this means biologically speaking we are far better-suited to the hunter-gatherers’ diet that existed before there was any agriculture. Details vary from diet to diet, but on the whole they advocate eschewing all dairy products, grain-based foods like pasta, bread or rice, and in some versions lentils and beans aren’t allowed. Proponents argue modern disorders like heart disease, diabetes and cancer have arisen primarily from the incompatibility between our current forms of diet and our prehistoric anatomy.

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