October 28th, 2009





I love this cavernous kitchen design by Carlos Pereda Iglesias and Óscar Pérez Silanes (via offcolors).

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October 27th, 2009

i think i’m in love

If I make it to my eighties and i’m as charismatic and on-the-ball as Elaine Morgan, i’ll count myself very fortunate. Here she is championing the theory that humans evolved at some point in history in a water-based environment (the “aquatic ape theory”).

I have no idea if the theory holds any water (pun not intended) but I admire its fantastic latitude. I also feel somewhat calmed to know that, under this theory, my burgeoning gut may have some sort of evolutionary justification.

October 27th, 2009

life logging camera

Worn on a cord around the neck, the camera takes pictures automatically as often as once every 30 seconds. It also uses an accelerometer and light sensors to snap an image when a person enters a new environment, and an infrared sensor to take one when it detects the body heat of a person in front of the wearer. It can fit 30,000 images onto its 1-gigabyte memory.

The ViconRevue was originally developed as the SenseCam by Microsoft Research Cambridge, UK, for researchers studying Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Studies showed that reviewing the events of the day using SenseCam photos could help some people improve long-term recall. ABC News

The sensecam’s current primary purpose is to create a video log from the wearer’s perspective that can be used to jog the memories of Alzeimers patients. But the technology is now in production by Microsoft and — who knows — it may become the next egocentric extension of the established twittering and blogging culture.

October 25th, 2009

bodhisattva in metro

Beautifully simple short film, guaranteed to make you smile… A bodhisattva enters a metro car. (via fivebranchtree)

October 25th, 2009

Jung’s mandala

[mandalas] … are all based on the squaring of a circle. Their basic motif is the premonition of a centre of personality, a kind of central point within the psyche, to which everything is related, by which everything is arranged, and which is itself a source of energy. The energy of the central point is manifested in the almost irresistible compulsion and urge to become what one is, just as every organism is driven to assume the form that is characteristic of its nature, no matter what the circumstances. This centre is not felt or thought of as the ego but, if one may so express it, as the self. Although the centre is represented by an innermost point, it is surrounded by a periphery containing everything that belongs to the self — the paired opposites that make up the total personality. This totality comprises consciousness first of all, then the personal unconscious, and finally an indefinitely large segment of the collective unconscious whose archetypes are common to all mankind.

from Concerning Mandala Symbolism. C. G. Jung. trans. from “Uber Mandalasymbolik,” Gestaltungen des Unbewussten (Zurich, 1950), p. 73

(via this page)

October 24th, 2009

george orwell book coat


My paperback copy of George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia was in need of some love; its spine was broken, the pages were falling out, and the cover was pretty ugly to begin with (I can’t even track down the cover online, which suggests it’s a design that didn’t last long).

So I knocked out a new jacket, complete with buttons. I rebound the book with woodglue along the spine.


The colourful felt used is actually cut from a metre-length of kitchen cloth that I got at the supermarket.

The text is printed directly on to the felt. I fed an A4 piece of the felt through my (standard) printer. The text resolution was surprisingly crisp and attractive.


October 23rd, 2009

Is the average worth reporting?

Today, I was face painting at a carnival for my little brothers elementary school. All of the girls had been asking for butterflies, hearts, flowers etc. One girl walked up and as I began naming off some choices such as the generic hearts and flowers she cut me off and simply said, “A blue moustache please.” Coolest kid ever. MLIA

My Life is Average is a fun site that allows users to submit little anecdotes from their day to day lives. It ends up (from what i’ve observed) being a celebration of little sparks of originality and humour in the banal. I approve.

Another aspect of it I admire is the sort of eerie warmth you get from reading these anonymous entries, connecting with the faceless authors.

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October 22nd, 2009

stop the wine presses

Red wines like Rioja or Pinot Noir are kinder on your teeth than white wine, which is acidic and erodes the tooth enamel faster.

Eating cheese while you drink, however, might balance the pH due to its … calciferousness. Beeb.

October 22nd, 2009

through the frosty crevasses


The BBC website has a round-up of the Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009 award (catchy!) winners.

Urmas Tartes won the Animals in their Environment category for this image of a springtail, otherwise known as a “snow flea” navigating its way through delicate snowflakes.

When the temperature drops below freezing, the insects climb down through the frosty crevasses to the warmer soil below.

See the rest at the Beeb.

October 21st, 2009

apple basil dressing

For posterity:

4tbs white wine vinegar
3-4tbs fresh basil, chopped
2tbs lemon juice
half tsp ground ginger
1 apple (royal gala), cored, chopped, skin left on
1 tsp tabasco sauce
salt & pepper to taste

Blend everything smooth. Very potent, tangy, flavoursome.

Adapted from this recipe.

October 19th, 2009

do you have any advice for those of us just starting out?

By Ron Koertge:

Give up sitting dutifully at your desk. Leave
your house or apartment. Go out into the world.

It’s all right to carry a notebook but a cheap
one is best, with pages the color of weak tea
and on the front a kitten or a space ship.

Avoid any enclosed space where more than
three people are wearing turtlenecks. Beware
any snow-covered chalet with deer tracks
across the muffled tennis courts.

Not surprisingly, libraries are a good place to write.
And the perfect place in a library is near an aisle
where a child a year or two old is playing as his
mother browses the ranks of the dead.

Often he will pull books from the bottom shelf.
The title, the author’s name, the brooding photo
on the flap mean nothing. Red book on black, gray
book on brown, he builds a tower. And the higher
it gets, the wider he grins.

You who asked for advice, listen: When the tower
falls, be like that child. Laugh so loud everybody
in the world frowns and says, “Shhhh.”

Then start again.

I’ve posted this before, but it’s advice that’s worth reviewing from time to time.

October 18th, 2009

how blue jeans are made

The video is actually about how new genes are made but I thought that might scare people away. It’s interesting I promise.

October 17th, 2009

good scientists borrow, great scientists steal (from nature)

Above: Leaves, the most efficient solar panels.

We have our own inefficient ways of harvesting the sun’s power, but nature of course was there first and had a long time to work out the most effective way.

Plants soak up some of the 1017 joules of solar energy that bathe Earth each second, harvesting as much as 95 percent of it from the light they absorb. The transformation of sunlight into carbohydrates takes place in one million billionths of a second, preventing much of that energy from dissipating as heat. But exactly how plants manage this nearly instantaneous trick has remained elusive. Now biophysicists at the University of California, Berkeley, have shown that plants use the basic principle of quantum computing—the exploration of a multiplicity of different answers at the same time—to achieve near-perfect efficiency.

Biophysicist Gregory Engel and his colleagues cooled a green sulfur bacterium—Chlorobium tepidum, one of the oldest photosynthesizers on the planet—to 77 kelvins [–321 degrees Fahrenheit] and then pulsed it with extremely short bursts of laser light. By manipulating these pulses, the researchers could track the flow of energy through the bacterium’s photosynthetic system. “We always thought of it as hopping through the system, the same way that you or I might run through a maze of bushes,” Engel explains. “But, instead of coming to an intersection and going left or right, it can actually go in both directions at once and explore many different paths most efficiently.”

More at Sci Am

October 17th, 2009

Janacek’s Love Letters

From NPR:

At age 63, Czech composer Leos Janacek began his most unusual writing project — a constant stream of more than 700 love letters written to a married woman 37 years his junior. It’s remarkable, considering that the young woman, named Kamila, expressed little feeling for Janacek or his music.

Even so, Janacek filled his letters with passion. At an age when most people slow down, Janacek, fueled by his own unrequited love, went into high gear. He composed some of his best music, including the String Quartet No. 2 — called, appropriately, Intimate Letters.

Commentator Rob Kapilow pinpoints a section from the third movement of the quartet which he says reveals much about Janacek’s unique sound-world. The passage is actually a musical portrait of Kamila, one that Janacek described to her in a letter: “It will be very cheerful, and then dissolve into a vision of your image, transparent, as if in the mist.”

You can hear Janacek’s String Quartet No. 2, Moderato, and read more from this article, on the NPR website.

Incidentally, the latest avant garde project compilation includes some Janacek — Mladi.

October 17th, 2009

the scent of rain on dry earth

The scent of rain on dry earth has a name: petrichor.

from Greek petros “stone” + ichor “the fluid that is supposed to flow in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology”

According to wikipedia, two Australian researchers came up with the word in 1964 when writing an article in Nature.

“Petrichor, the name for the smell of rain on dry ground, is from oils given off by vegetation, absorbed onto neighboring surfaces, and released into the air after a first rain.” Matthew Bettelheim; Nature’s Laboratory; Shasta Parent (Mt Shasta, California); Jan 2002.

Via bestofwikipedia.

October 17th, 2009

NASA melts Martian ice with warmth of heart

If that title was unexpectedly romantic then it was perfect.

NASA, it transpires, has for the past 50 years enlisted not just calculating concept artists in its ranks, but also artists employed to document the human experience that is attached to NASA’s
monumental missions.

John Walker of the National Gallery of Art quickly agreed to help, arguing that artists could “probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race.”

The results of this stunning collaboration between scientists and artists are collected in NASA/ART: 50 Years of Exploration, by James Dean and Bertram Ulrich, published by Abrams Books.


David Stone titled this painting “A Handful of Emeralds” after hearing astronaut John Young describe the stars as “a handful of emeralds thrown across the sky.” He tried to express the magnificent, revolutionary solitude experienced by an astronaut adrift in a manned maneuvering unit, staring out at the void of space.

Discover magazine has a selection of images from the book, with descriptions.

October 17th, 2009

hungarian rock

Like space candy for the ears:

Hungarian rock by Gyorgy Ligeti, (1923-2006) an hungarian composer, performed in a barrel organ by Pierre Charial. The painting in the video is “goldrosa” by Josef Albers (1888-1976).

October 17th, 2009

Great Big Tree

Via 3qd:

May I be a great big tree
so big I can’t see those taking shelter under me,
a deep green conical figure wrapped in serenity
Just as I dangle my bare feet in the water
may my roots joyfully draw
from an unknown subterranean current

May I be such a great big tree
that those who look at me
will naturally feel peace and repose

Yet may my luxuriating branches and leaves
whisper to a breeze like stray hair
May they awaken before anyone else in the rosy glow of morning
May their blue shadows be cast on earth
spreading like a trailing lace skirt
May my thoughts be kind
May my thoughts be refreshing
The tree will not move
The tree will not speak
yet may it be a ladder heavenly children ascend and descend

If someone comes and rests by me at the height of day
I will provide deep shadow and infinite comfort

On a stormy day
I will be even greater, more stalwart
I will firmly anchor my roots in the great earth and will not sway
Yet my sap will flow smoothly
even my incised wounds will issue forth a refreshing scent
Soon I will whisper a smiling song
When night arrives I will dissolve into darkness
unbeknownst to people
may the song alone become invisible ripples

by Kiyoko Nagase

translation: Takako Lento
from Ooi naru jyumoku; Publisher
Sakurai Shorten, Tokyo, 1947

I’d like a woodland burial when I die so I can be a great big tree, too. Or part of one, at least.

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