this week i

sent holiday cheer via reindeer charioteer. the crucial moments of our lives / innately come as a surprise. canadifferences: about, sorry, zed, quebec

when you think about it, giraffes are more impossible than unicorns

how many times do you check your work? // until it stops smelling like poop

that's a terrible photograph // well, you're in it, got to work with the material you've got

do you think i'll get more nice emails from people at nchs? // notice he didn't comment on the haikus

envision antony and cleopatra act 1, scene 5, line 25 o happy horse, to bear the weight of antony! plus three-letter arcade top scorers hdn, wam, lvb

credit rembrandt with invention of the non-player character (npc). anatomy lessons were a social event in the 17th century. check my mean baleen

danced to beach boys pet sounds, peak instrumental creativity. school of athens, four terrain home, lucas cranach the elder, punic war with dinosaur



(1) in guatemala..digging up mass graves

whenever you get into a confrontation with the police, the guy with the biggest badge wins

work in the day and cry at night 

(2) unlimited liability for trivial errors could return


(3) light as a spiritual phenomenon

vermeer's virtual disappearance from the record is usually explained by the small size of his corpus - modern scholars estimate that the entire oeuvre consisted of some forty-five to fifty works, as compared to more than 350 currently attributed to his great compatriot rembrandt


(4) banned in south africa

shoot a reel of film and fade away like a wraith

cole's ice-cool forays into dangerous territory often look poised and considered, as if he'd been assigned to shoot a commercial or a sports day prizegiving

on a hospital tv, a week before he died in february 1990, he watched mandela walk away from victor verster prison

one of the great witnesses to the apartheid years


(5) if you're in kyiv, and you only speak russian and english, it's politic to try english first

relief, perhaps, that it was someone else, putting a shiver of triumph in your own working limbs and heartbeat

volunteers gathered by a project called repair together, which combines reconstruction work with weekend rave parties

taboo on happiness..most people not on the front line had a feeling of guilt

half the windows in a nearby skyscraper were missing

even in wartime, flowers bloom


(6) child soldiers, bullet-riddled corpses and squalid refugee camps set in a candyfloss landscape

the deep greens of the congolese jungle as hot pinks and purples

the humans and their baleful work

the blazing, contaminated, violent frontier of a planetary-scale disaster

(7) the overkill hypothesis

mammals..began to fill the ecological niches that the asteroid emptied

homo sapiens giving the chicxulub asteroid a run for its ecocidal money in the twenty-first century

a mastodon roast in virginia


(8) improperly stored next to..twenty-three tons of fireworks and a thousand car tires

sahar fares, a twenty-seven-year-old firefighter whose smiling face, as she leaned out the window of a fire truck, became a national symbol..her body was identified by her engagement ring


(9) we might, in fact, be past it already, treading thin air like wile e. coyote before the fall

government reports from the 1970s and 1980s are eerily similar to climate projections today: 'nuclear smoke clouds generated by a relatively low level of explosions (e.g. a hundred megaton) could cool the earth's surface by 36° to 72° fahrenheit'

instead of trying to fabricate precision out of desperation, or calculating just because we can, we need to take stock of what we do not or cannot know

the shapes of many of the pdfs are pretty much unknown, even unknowable.  we could just assume everything is normally distributed, make an informed estimate of each pdf's centre (the mean) and standard deviation (the degree to which the distribution is spread out), and hope for the best.  this is in fact standard practice when modellers have nothing more to go on

computation, which is what modelling is all about, suggests precision, even when it shouldn't

(10) public-private partnerships have become the magic formula

for every persian gulf potentate or monroe doctrine satrap on whom the us lavished arms and accolades, there was a mohammad mosaddegh or jacobo arbenz or salvador allende who dared to threaten euro-american corporations' god-given right to these countries' resources


(11) if people are arguing about your numbers, you're winning

the word comes from the german: statistik, of or pertaining to the state or government

the winner in the no-census stakes is lebanon, which hasn't had one since 1932

the dry records of name and number give the faintest hints of the dramatic individual changes in circumstance they record.  frederick douglass appears in the 1830 census as a number: he is probably the '1' indicating a male slave aged between ten and 24 living in the baltimore household headed by hugh the 1840 census frederick douglas is listed as a head of household in new bedford, massachusetts

he was talking about market research, and when i said something sensitive and thoughtful about it being mostly bullocks, he replied: 'no, it can be very helpful, but the thing you have to remember is that it is delphic.  it answers the question you ask, but it doesn't tell you what to do

thatcher's conservative government changed the way unemployment was measured more than thirty times

goodhart's law: 'when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure' 


(12) scribblers, pirates and mystagogues wrote their prospectuses

franchising their sovereignty

the grand trunk pacific railway got federal guarantees and crown land to connect atlantic canada with a deepwater port on the closest ice-free harbour to asia, in remote british columbia 

(13) nantucket sleighride

orca communities are very conservative and tend not to mix with one another..some studies even call orcas 'xenophobic', so pronounced is their distaste for unrelated communities of their own kind

they would alert the whalers by breaching and lob-tailing (slapping their tail flukes on the water) before guiding the whaling crew to their prey and assisting in the kill, leaping on the backs of the stricken whales and trying to cover their blowholes.  their prize was delivered under what became known as 'the law of the tongue': the whalers would anchor down the carcass and leave it for a day or so to allow the orcas to prise open the whale's mouth to eat the tongue and lips (these are typically the only parts of a large whale that orcas consume, even in groups where baleen whales are their only prey; similarly, the south african pods that have recently been observed hunting fully grown great white sharks eat only the liver, which they extract with startling precision)

the appearance of orcas around ten million years ago correlates with the sudden and mysterious disappearance of more than half the known species of cetaceans, seals and sirenians (dugongs and manatees) from the fossil record.  as with the widespread extirpation of terrestrial megafaunt from areas colonised by humans during the pleistocene, one hypothesis is that orcas, as they expanded into new marine ecosystems, hunted many existing sea mammals to extinction.  it 'seems very likely..killer whales have eradicated whole species, perhaps many species' 


(14) early buddhist art is shot through with the cosmology of ancient animist cults that existed before the arrival of the new teachings

this forgotten world of the early deccan

hungry ghosts

nirvana, which means simply "a flame blown out by the wind"


(15) wage earners and their sympathizers

when the smith-connally act, passed over roosevelt's veto, banned union contributions in federal elections in 1943, the congress of industrial organizations (cio) got around it by inventing the political action committee

(16) the fungal pandemic

a cave near albany

hibernating bats are easy to census

their snouts were covered with a white powdery substance, as if they'd been snorting cocaine

like people and indeed like all animals - but unlike viruses or bacteria - fungi are eukaryotes, which is to say their cells contain a clearly defined nucleus.  the similarity in structure.."makes fungal cells difficult to target and kill without damaging our own cells"

(17) everyone now knows that corvids are intelligent and octopuses have brains in their arms

animals bred to have abnormally large appetites and which grow so fast that their legs cannot support their weight (in 1925, it would take a chicken sixteen weeks to reach 2.5 lb; today's 'broilers' reach 6.5 lb in the five to seven weeks they are allowed to live

insect sentience is a contested area

(18) what memory might struggle to retain

finger-counting, or dactylonomy, which assigns numbers to joints and hand positions, transforming multiplication and addition into a business of folding fingers and brushing knuckles..the english 'digit' derives from the latin digitus, finger or toe

the benefit of logarithms is that they allow you to transform multiplication and division into the simpler operations addition and subtraction.  imagine you want to multiply 8 by 16.  if you express these numbers as multiplications of two, it's the same as multiplying 2^3 by 2^4.  instead of doing that, however, you can just add together their logarithms, 3 and 4.  so 8 times 16 becomes the same as 2^7

 rare indeed was the kitchen drawer . . . that did not hide at least one broken calculator..its lcd display clouded or its battery compartment crusted with the lifeblood of exploded aaas

(19) roads with more than 10,000 vehicles per day should be considered absolute barriers to most wildlife

by 1995 deer were a factor in more than a million crashes a year, with two hundred human fatalities - making this gentle creature "north america's most dangerous animal"

the sole road in denali national park is now open only to buses carrying tourists, in part to reduce the noise of cars.  (evs will be scant help here - above thirty-five miles per hour, it turns out, tires produce more noise than engines)

"the story of the rainforest's unraveling is that of its highways, the 'lines of penetration' through which logs poured out and agriculture flooded in"

phoenix now has 12.2 million parking spaces, or three per person; des moines has twenty parking spaces per household.  little rock, newport news, buffalo, and topeka devote more land to parking lots than to buildings.  by square footage, there is more housing for each car in the us than there is housing for each person


(20) dole, then extolling viagra on television, contended that their legislation had never been intended to control drug prices

in 1847 the founders of what became the american medical association (ama) adopted a code of ethics that declared it "inconsistent with beneficence and professional liberality" to patent a medicine or prescribe a medicine that was patented