Hello friends. Time to put 2019 to a close! I think it's been one of my happiest years ever — although it's not been one for the world at large.
Here's links and factoids to keep you curious between, I hope, abundant meals this end of year:
Wikipedia is the best website
- Public Universal Friend is an American Quaker pastor, who reported having died from an illness, in 1776, and been reanimated as a genderless evangelist. The Friend rejected both birth name and gendered pronouns, and developed a following under the Society of Universal Friends.
- The Gävle goat is a traditional Christmas display made of straw, which gets erected yearly during the Advent period in the central square of Gävle, Sweden. Although it remains illegal, it has been the subject of arson attacks, successful and attempted, almost every year it has been erected.
- The Committee on Evil Literature was set up in Ireland in 1926 to censor print by the Minister for Justice. They initially believe the Irish public could decide for themselves what was proper to read, rather than the state… but the public asked for censorship.
- The Swingometer is the device used to show how constituencies swing between parties during each General Election in the UK. It has been built by the BBC since the first televised general election in 1955, and has evolved in different versions since.
- A list of premature obituaries.
- The category obsolete occupations include fascinating jobs like bear-leaders, toad doctors, alewives, printer's devils, soda jerks, poundmasters and “computer (job description)”.
- Nominative determinism is the apparent tendency of people's names to influence their career path.
- “Low-background steel” mostly comes from sunken ships. It is needed to build devices that need to accurately detect small quantities of radioactive particles, in the medical and scientific fields. These cannot be built with regular steel that's made after WW2, because the radiation from nuclear events since raised the radioactive signature of modern steel.
- A list of the oldest companies in the world. (56% of the companies older than 200 years are Japanese).
- Back to the space theme: a fascinating article on stolen and missing Moon rocks.
- A re markable list of unusual deaths.
- Spice Chess is a conceptual chess board by artist Takato Saito, where the visual shapes of each piece is replaced by a distinct smell. It comes from a series also containing Weight Chess and Sound Chess.
- Donna Kossy is a writer and book dealer specialised in "crackpotology and kookology", and has become an authoritative reference about “forgotten, discredited and extreme ideas” and those who believe in them. Warning: the page can be the start of a deep Wikipedia spiral into the Aquatic Ape hypothesis, Zermatism, UFO cults, dinosaur pets and other theories that make flat earthers feel sane. She maintained the Kook Museum website until 1999, still archived.
- Stephen Blumberg, AKA the "Book Bandit", stole no fewer than 23,600 books from libraries and universities and is recognised as the most successful book thief in the US.
- Following Steve last month, say hello to Hector, a thunderstorm that happens every day in the same place.
- If you go to the Northern Line platforms of the Embankment tube station, you may notice the announcements use a different voice than the rest of the TfL tube network. This is not a mistake, but rather a very endearing true story, recounted in a short film (or this thread).
- Brussels sprouts are having a renaissance, and it's not (only) because people have learned that you should roast them. It's also because in the past 15 years, Dutch plant breeders have made better, less bitter sprouts that are now all over supermarkets.
- An episode of 99 Invisible on the BBC's shipping forecast, an institution that helped putting people to sleep for decades. And, possibly, helping sailors. (via notoriousbigre)
- How the Hmong diaspora use a radio conference line to reconnect and create the most humble, secret radio channel of America.
- A compilation of the coolest links of the 2010s.
- Scientists used loudspeakers to make dead coral reefs sound healthy, and fish flocked to them.
Everything is depressing
In my ears
Work! Design! Tech!
Best wishes for 2020, folks!