Special Snowflakes

Car mechanic gives birth to a revolution.

The second operating system hiding in every mobile.

Snowflake photography [via io9].

Speaking of snow, please give generously.

Jonathan Coe on Boris Johnson.

The Age of Enthusiasm [via Mefi].

The blog is dead, says Jason Kottke. Not this one, despite appearances—it’s just taking me a while to write the particularly long next entry.

20 December 2013

I missed a week of updating by obsessively watching everything Who-anniversary-related on iPlayer, including this clip of Tom Baker’s reappearance seventeen times. Here are some undoctored links.

Aurora and unusual clouds over Iceland.

If all stories were written like science fiction stories.

If science fiction stories were written like Facebook feature releases.

How a copyright mistake created the modern zombie.

How a US-UK pact forged modern surveillance.

Naomi Klein on how science is telling us all to revolt.

Charlie Brooker on why video game television is so hard to make.

Re:char will help Kenya go green and save money.

Imagining the post-antibiotics future. Guess what—it’s awful!

Headlines from a mathematically literate world.

Waterstones’ amusing riposte to Amazon Prime Air.

5 December 2013

No Good Reasons

Brian Eno and Grayson Perry have a chat. Perry’s recent Reith Lectures were great listening for this inveterate gallery-goer and son of an art school lecturer.

Der Speigel investigates the Munich art find. Also, some useful context on Nazi views about “Degenerate Art”.

Competition is killing the NHS for no good reason (unlike the Guardian’s headline writers, I wouldn’t suggest that ideology is a good reason).

UK police are about to get sweeping new powers for no good reason.

Life without parole for non-violent crimes for no good reason.

Murder by Craigslist. A story of an awful crime that draws some surprisingly hopeful conclusions.

Great story on the criminal legacy of leaded petrol, which left me glad I spent my 1970s childhood in the countryside.

There is no pause: global warming may have been dramatically underestimated because there aren’t enough weather stations at the poles. I’m slightly stunned that this realisation didn’t dawn sooner.

Of all the heart-breaking coverage of Typhoon Haiyan, the aerial photos of “Anibong town near Tacloban city” taken before and after the storm got to me the most. Look at where the road inland from the coast went in 2012... and where it is now.

What it’s like on the boats to Christmas Island. Open ocean, open boats.

This round-up of what’s happening at Fukushima is terrifying. The evacuation of Japan scarcely bears thinking about... but...

Oh man, this is fantastic [via Dara O’Briain]. This isn’t too shabby either.

16 November 2013

It’s the Polymath Singularity, Innit?

The case for tall wooden buildings (also in TED form).

The decline phase of Wikipedia.

The hidden technology behind Twitter.

What Snowden’s revelations mean.

Robert Twigger on learning to be a polymath.

The Singularity has already happened. More Terry Bisson.

“A full-frontal assault on democracy.”

Diplomatic reactions to Kristallnacht.

The Nazis’ grey anatomy.

Ayn Rand’s grim inspiration.

“Basically” is basically fine, yeah?

Steve Coogan interviewed.

Mitchell and Webb interviewed.

Clash of the Coogan and Mitchell.

It’s good when your invention takes on a life you never expected.

8 November 2013

In the Lost and Found

When privacy jumped the shark.

How hard is it to vanish in the digital age?

Dead and going to die.

An Elliott Smith oral history.

You Suck, Sir (via Mefi).

Million-year data storage. Yes, please.

OS X 10.9 Mavericks: The Ars Technica Review. Seems okay to me so far. Two annoyances are the way list view in finder windows greys out everything except filenames, and command-clicking a folder opens a new finder tab rather than a new window. The usual little things.

Lost wormhole.

Why Do I Study Physics?

A new look at climate tipping points.

Unprecedented recent summer warmth in Arctic Canada: “The indications are that Canadian Arctic temperatures today have not been matched or exceeded for roughly 120,000 years.”

29 October 2013

Expedited Shipping

“Welfare is need mistaken for desire. Wealth is desire mistaken for worth.”

How many ships would a ship ship ship if a ship ship would ship ships? Part 1, part 2.

The story of Saroo Brierley absolutely floored me. Shame his ebook isn’t available in the UK (but you can Look Inside at its opening pages, at least).

Steven Poole’s Unspeak, now in documentary form.

Lowering My Standards by Jack Handey.

The art of Robert Wechsler (via Mefi).


“The ocean is broken.”

21 October 2013

First Aid

Band-Aids can’t fix everything. Paperclips can be dangerous.

Mothers as furniture.

MacPaint lives!

How the UK thinks wealth should be distributed, how we think it is, and how it is.

The 29 stages of a Twitterstorm.

Logo mashups.

The Sagrada Família, completed in 90 seconds.

“What we call creativity is simply an expression of professional consensus.”

“The internet will suck the creative content out of the whole world until nothing is left.”

I sat on the links I was gathering in August about Miranda, Manning, Snowden and the NSA for too long, but these are still worth sharing:

The abyss from which there is no return.

The whistleblower’s mad moral courage.

Manning and the two Americas.

14 October 2013

Having spent a couple of weeks following long Metafilter discussions of the U.S. federal government shutdown, it’s slightly staggering how little attention the British media are paying it now that the novelty has passed. That’ll change sharpish if the debt ceiling is breached. For those who haven’t been following along, here are a few links that caught my attention in those threads.

A U.S. default would be a catastrophe dwarfing Lehman’s fall.

What happens if the debt ceiling is breached?

Absolutely everything you need to know about the debt ceiling.

Why are we talking about the debt ceiling crisis as if it’s normal politics?

A federal budget crisis months in the planning.

The little rule change that guaranteed a shutdown.

Even if the debt ceiling crisis is resolved, the shutdown has already managed to derail a whole summer’s worth of Antarctic science at a time the world can ill-afford it.

12 October 2013

Ravaging Time

Tim Minchin’s advice to new graduates.

Who killed Britain’s Bronze Age forests?

Across the Ravaged Land, part 1, part 2 (via Mefi).

Photos of Eyjafjallajökull erupting in 2010.

Watch World War II unfold over Europe in 7 minutes.

How would the U.S. media report on the shutdown if it were happening to another country?

Better Than Kittens.

6 October 2013

The Big One

Last week I became a founding friend of Australia’s Climate Council, which seemed the least an expat could do in the face of the Abbott government’s short-sightedness—if not wilful ignorance—in axing its predecessor, the government-run Climate Commission. This week, the new IPCC report has demonstrated just how important bodies like these now are.

Climate change has been one of the main subjects occupying my attention in recent years (in fact, for as long as I’ve been aware of it), but you wouldn’t know it lately from this blog. The reason is I’ve been storing up links to write The Big One, the post that would go into carefully argued detail about the whole deal, converting deniers and consoling the despondent... but...

It hasn’t happened. Last year’s turbulent summer came and went, and then America copped the left hook of Sandy, and not long afterwards the right of Sandy Hook, which although it was nothing to do with climate change made it a bad time to bring the mood down even further. And then there were fires close to home with their own climate implications, and the winter that ate spring here in Britain, and it seemed that there would never be an end to new stories, new links, and my ever-growing hypothetical post.

Read More · 1 October 2013

Compressive Stresses

A year on the Yenisei.

A son’s search for his Amazonian mother.

The town being swallowed by a sinkhole.

Learning how to live... on St Helena.

To be Shakespearean, or not to be.

Prince Rupert’s Drop.

Read More · 30 September 2013

Dancing With Myself

Who needs GTA5 when you’ve got the Vader and Emperor Dance-Off?


A dance to the music of time.

Just when you thought “Willow’s Song” couldn’t get any better. Britt Ekland dance not included.

A fantastic Radio 1 promo filmed by the Beeb at great expense in 2009 and then scrapped so as not to look as if they’d spent all that money. Complete with soundtrack by the bestest rock thing of the ’00s. (Via.)

Hang on, isn’t this how “The Star Spangled Banner” is supposed to go? (I had to sing it at the start of every day for a term when I was twelve, so I get to say that.) (Poor kid.)

23 September 2013

You’ll Laugh, You’ll Cry

Xerox copiers randomly alter numbers in scanned documents. There’s one of these outside my office.

Are universities collecting too much information?

Bruce Sterling on Snowden, Assange and Manning. Partial rejoinder at Boing Boing.

How copyright made mid-century books vanish.

How a single mutation expanded (some of) humanity’s diet.

Exquisitely Weird Spiders.

The Alan Partridge Player for iPhone. The new movie is classic Alan.

Doctor Two. Great clip from a show that gets better and better.

The marvellous Claudia O’Doherty: What is England? What is Jack the Ripper? What is Time?

44 Mortifying Autocorrect Blunders. Funniest thing I’ve seen online in ages.

One Second to the Next. A devastating documentary by Werner Herzog.

11 August 2013

Our very normal solar system isn’t normal anymore.

Can a week under canvas reset our body clocks? Yes.

Are we hybrids? Who knows, but it’s an entertaining idea (via Mefi).

The Machine Zone is far too close to home.

Bradley Manning from inside the courtroom.

How the Snowden saga will end.

No escape from the bedroom tax.

Lone Star Statements.

Innerviews interviews Mike Oldfield.

Malcolm Tucker is the Doctor!

5 August 2013

These Aren’t the Links You’re Looking For

Pangea mapped with modern political borders (via io9).

James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem on dealing with failure.

Radio Four in Four Minutes.

Joss Whedon on Getting It Done.

Russell Brand on Newsnight.

The Worst Jobs in the World Matrix.

World’s oldest calendar discovered in Scotland.

Jack Handey’s deepness.

On “off of”.

Some Thoughts On Mercy.

The Man and the Ravens.

The BeatleBox.

Clive James in purgatory.

Locals and Tourists.

Edward Snowden’s not the story. The fate of the internet is.

31 July 2013

The Rejection Slip.

I was swallowed by a hippo.

London in 1927.

Southern slavery lasted until World War II.

Miyoko Shida’s incredible powers of concentration.

The Guardian on the Dunalley bushfire.

What if you’d bought Apple shares instead of a PowerBook in 2003?

Here’s that bad advice you were hoping for.

Fitzcardboardaldo (and The Corrugation of Dreams).

Anatomy of the Star Wars logo.

Teddy Has an Operation.

8 June 2013

The No-Such-Thing-As Society

Charlie Brooker’s apps that will transform your life.

Meiecundimees üks Korsakov läks eile Lätti [via Dr Buckles].

How The Inbetweeners was created.

SF author John Crowley on The Next Future.

Darth Baby’s Lightsaber.

Thumbs and Ammo.

These boots were made for tramping: Steve Bell, Mark Steel and Russell Brand on Thatcher’s death.

Read More · 18 April 2013

How Now, Brown Cow?

Humanity’s deep future.

How long will it last?

How to save wet books.

How Britain got a taste for horsemeat.

How “Golden Eagle Snatches Kid” ruled the Internet.

How the Harlem Shake went global.

Folklore and the vernacular Web.

The impossibility of auto-censoring chat.

The dangers of random permutations.

The dangers of graphical tricksiness.

Douglas Rushkoff: Why I’m quitting Facebook.

No comment.

Call Me a Hole: best mashup since “A Stroke of Genie-us”.

You Can’t Be My Girl.

200 great Brazilian albums.

Deconstructing Roy Lichtenstein.

Charlie Brooker on “Be Right Back” and Black Mirror.

It’s Brian Butterfield’s Sports Restaurant and Collector Cards!

7 March 2013

Click the Detonate Button Below

How Nikon makes its lenses.

How the people of Timbuktu saved their ancient manuscripts.

The last House on Holland Island [via Jim Kazanjian].

The flexible paper sculptures of Li Hongbo.

Adam Curtis interviewed at Vice.

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Not Butterfield: Brian’s Sleep Therapy, Gymnasium and Luxury Sportswear.

My favourite viral video in ages [here in an edited version] turned out to be staged [qui in italiano], but who cares? Via Mefi.

How the author of Seduction of the Innocent faked his data and killed an industry.

Nukemap reveals exactly how many kilotons dropped on your CBD would obliterate your house.

How Adobe endlessly rebuilds Photoshop.

In case you’re wondering how there were so many good videos of that meteor in the Urals: Russian roads from a dashcam’s point of view.

The absurd luck of famous men.

“Tubular Bells made me a million but the tax bill came to £860,000.”

It takes planning and caution to avoid being “it”.

21 February 2013

One Afternoon, Two Coats

Just had such a major weekend of DIY that I didn’t have a moment to post these links that were almost ready to go on Friday. So much paint, so much white spirit, so many barked knuckles. Once it’s all done, though, there’ll be time again for more than links here at last.

Read More · 4 February 2013

Backup Tennis Racket String

Brian Butterfield is back with Martial Arts and his Sports Warehouse.

The Office: An Unexpected Journey.

Bad Kids’ Jokes.

That’s the spirit.

Impressive sleight of hand at the 2012 Beijing International Magic Convention.

John Quijada and the language he invented.

Touché promises Minority Report-style interaction with technology and... anything.

The rise and fall of HMV by an advertising exec who worked on its account for many years.

I’ve been in the country for 18 hours and I’m already tired of cured pork.

Newly discovered chameleons that fit on the head of a match.

Tasmania’s bushfire devastation from above (impressively stabilized at YouTube).

20 January 2013

Weblog in 2012