Sunday, 20 July 2014

Trivia for 20 July 2014

Some Assembly Required: 1906
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Some Assembly Required: 1906
“Great Lakes Engineering Works, Ecorse, Michigan. Steamer James Laughlin at left”
Now where’d I put that instruction sheet?
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How much pressure did it take to pop the top off Mexico’s Popocat├ępetl volcano?
On June 17 2013, the Popocat├ępetl volcano in the state of Puebla in Mexico belched out a pretty impressive looking volcanic plume. Fortunately for us, it was caught on webcam, at a town a safe distance away.
Aatish Bhatia presents a video and some very impressive maths in Wired.
Go read for yourself -- and thank whatever higher power you might believe in that we do not have lava flowing at upwards of 130mph in the UK.

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Darwin referred to humor as “a tickling of the mind.” But seriously: What actually happens in our brain when we laugh?… more

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via BoingBoing by Mark Frauenfelder
The Art of Manliness has reprinted “37 Conversation Rules for Gentlemen” from a 1875 book entitled, A Gentleman’s Guide to Etiquette by Cecil B. Hartley.
The rules are still valid!
For example:
33. When asking questions about persons who are not known to you, in a drawing-room, avoid using adjectives; or you may enquire of a mother, “Who is that awkward, ugly girl?” and be answered, “Sir, that is my daughter”.
37 Conversation Rules for Gentlemen

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Jewels from the Mud: The Elegance of Water Lilies
via Encyclopaedia Britannica by Richard Pallardy
Ponds aren’t often glamorous bodies of water. They lack both the grandeur of oceans and lakes and the racing energy of rivers and streams. They can, at their least pleasing, be stagnant and fetid, little more than lenses of water over pits of muck. Yet the langorous movement of their currents and the rich organic matter lining their bottoms support life-forms that defray their olfactory and aesthetic liabilities: the gem-like water lilies, otherwise known as the family Nymphaeaceae.
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Water lily, Humboldt Park, Chicago. Credit: Richard Pallardy

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
In 1943, after his parents died in Treblinka, Raphael Lemkin invented a word to describe the crime – genocide – and helped to make it illegal. Why hasn’t the law worked?.. more

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How We Confuse Time and Space
via Big Think by Lee Smolin
The whole history of physics has been a history of diminishing the nature of time and diminishing the role of time. Take a very simple example. When you see something move through the air – that’s something that happens in time. And then you could take a film that you made of that and call that an experiment or call that a record of motion.
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via Gizmodo.com
What is it about humans that make us love–and hate–being lost?
Since the time of ancient Greece, we’ve been figuring out ways to entertain ourselves within extraordinarily confusing structures. There are dozens of different types of mazes: there are standard mazes, which feature “multi-route” paths; and labyrinths, which only have single routes. Then there are indoor mazes, plain air mazes, hedge mazes, corn mazes and so on.
Here's the link to a collection of 23 fascinating examples that give us a glimpse into the cultural history of getting lost–on purpose.

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The Internet was supposed to open a golden age of global interconnectedness. Instead, it’s made would-be cosmopolitans of us all… more

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No, Everything Does Not Happen for a Reason. Thank God for That.
via Big Think by Nicholas Clairmont
“Everything happens for a reason” is my very least favourite thing for someone to say. It is bad philosophy, bad theology, bad thinking, and bad advice. It manages to combine the maximum of ignorance with the maximum of arrogance.
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Saturday, 19 July 2014

Saturday trivia (19 July)

Retarder Tower: 1942
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Retarder Tower: 1942
November 1942
“Chicago, Illinois. South classification yard seen from retarder operators’ tower at an Illinois Central Railroad yard”
Medium format nitrate negative by Jack Delano for the Office of War Information
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Color Zen is a Relaxing, Addictive Puzzle Game
via How-To-Geek
 
Are you ready to journey into an abstract world of colors and shapes? Then welcome to Color Zen, a relaxing puzzle game with no scores and no penalties for failure…just simple rules, intuitive controls, and awesome puzzles to keep you busy for hours on end.
Read all about it
NB. Costs $0.99

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Theoretical physicists, enamored of mathematical elegance, impose patterns on muddled reality. Is this a science or a genre of storytelling?… more

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Why are People Right-Handed or Left-Handed?
via How-To-Geek
Have you ever wondered why people have a preference for using one hand over the other? What is it that determines hand dominance? Is it because of evolution, is it hereditary, or due to something else? SciShow takes a quick look at the topic in this terrific video.
Why Are There Righties & Lefties? [YouTube]

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Your Beliefs Make You Healthy. You Just Need to Believe in Them
via Big Think by Andrew Newberg
Research that has shown the potential benefit of being a religious or spiritual person is a population-based answer. In other words, the overall population does a little bit better, but that has no implication for each individual.
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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
An octopus experiences the world as bright and tasty. Or so we think. Does imagining yourself as an alien creature reveal something about your own mental life?… more

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For a Better Night's Sleep, Should Couples Sleep in Different Beds?
via Big Think by Orion Jones
In search of a good night’s rest, couples are increasingly sleeping in separate beds, according to sociological surveys and architectural ledgers of new homes being built, an increasing number of which contain two master bedrooms.
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Daily Coffee Prevents Disease, Helps You Live Longer
via Big Think by Orion Jones
Coffee_cup
Several recent health studies confirm that people who drink one to three cups of coffee per day have a lower risk of contracting certain diseases, including dementia, and are more likely to live longer than those who abstain from the caffeinated drink. “In a 2012 study of humans, researchers...tested the blood levels of caffeine in older adults with mild cognitive impairment...and then re-evaluated them two to four years later. Participants with little or no caffeine circulating in their bloodstreams were far more likely to have progressed to full-blown Alzheimer’s than those whose blood indicated they’d had about three cups’ worth of caffeine.”
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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Is time an absolute construct or merely a matter of perspective?
The theoretical physicist Lee Smolin offers an unsettling answer… more

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Why raindrops don't kill mosquitoes
via BoingBoing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
For a mosquito, every summer storm is like a million Volkswagen Beetles falling from the sky. How do they survive the deadly deluge?
Meghan Cetera explains at Popular Science.


Sunday, 13 July 2014

Sunday trivia (13 July 2014)

Airplane Mode: 1929
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Airplane Mode: 1929
Dec. 5, 1929. Ignition interference from airplane engines on aircraft is largely a myth according to C. Francis Jenkins, Washington, D.C., inventor who has designed a radio receiving set which he says does not pick up noises from a flying power plant. In this photograph is shown Mr. Jenkins (right) and his laboratory assistant.
Video pioneer Francis Jenkins, seen here last week, and an anonymous protege who has a telegraph key strapped to his leg. By our reckoning this counts as early mobile texting. Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative.
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10 Literary Restaurants for Hungry Book Nerds Around the World
via Flavorwire by Emily Temple
What’s even better than drinking while reading? Eating while reading, of course (hint: you can have a drink, too). With the news that Biblio, a book-themed eatery, was popping up in Williamsburg, Flavorwire took to the Internet to put together a guide to a few amazing-looking literary-themed restaurants from around the world. Indulge your eyes (and, if you’re close enough, your stomachs) at these bookish establishments.
06
Dublin is nearest to the UK.
See more here

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Edmund Burke: the father of modern conservatism? Perhaps. But his great political battles were thoroughly liberal causes... more

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Why Our Brains Are Hungry for Puzzles
via Big Think by Will Shortz
Shutterstock_50503615
There are general reasons why we like puzzles and then there are particular reasons why we like crossword puzzles, Sudoku and things like that. The general reason is we’re faced with problems every day in life. Most of them don’t have perfect solutions. We just muddle through the best we can and move onto the next thing. Also, there are very few things in life that we completely grasp or that are completely our own.
You drive a car, but do you really understand how the car was made? Do you understand all about how the engine works? Probably not, but all you need to do is drive. But the nice thing about a human-made puzzle is when you solve the problem, you feel a sense of satisfaction that you don’t get much in everyday life, because you’ve found the perfect answer and also you’re seeing the whole process. If you solve a crossword you know you’re carrying it through, literally from square one to the end and that gives you a sense of satisfaction that you don’t get in everyday life.

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30 of the Most Beautiful Sci-Fi Book Covers Ever Made
via Flavorwire by Emily Temple
Science fiction cover art has a bad reputation. Not without reason: much of it is pulpy, overly brash, or just plain scary — it’s kind of the name of the game. Yet there are also plenty of science fiction novels and collections that buck the trend and manage to be not only palatable to those that (for instance) love the insides but hate that naked green woman on the cover, but downright gorgeous.
From the 30 covers I have to choose just one: you can see the rest here.
christopher-priest-the-is
It wasn’t in the end a very hard decision.
The patterns and colours on the islands fascinate me.


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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Once transgressive, revolutionary, anti-authority, street art now is the establishment. Did the artists grow up or sell out? more

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Love Hormone Oxytocin Draw Us Together, Keeps Us Apart
via Big Think by Orion Jones
Through experiments, scientists are coming to a more complex understanding of how oxytocin, a brain chemical commonly referred to as the love hormone, works in long term relationships as well as initial attractions. When men in long term relationships are given doses of oxytocin, they tend to keep a greater physical distance from attractive females than do single men also given the hormone.
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What Makes the Mind and Brain Different?
via Big Think by Orion Jones
Brain_art
Given the power of neuroscience to fascinate the public, it might seem that the brain has given us a window into human nature. Indeed we often look to brain scan images to help us understand what chemicals are working on the brain, and therefore on the body, in conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s to drug addiction. But the brain and the mind are different frameworks.
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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
In defence of opera. Yes, the plots are often absurd, lyrics unintelligible, stagecraft over-elaborate. Opera is extravagant. But it isn’t in decline… more

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Can Physics Save Economics?
via Big Think by Big Think Editors
When the theoretical physicist Lee Smolin was asked to join a research group to work on economics his first response was “I don’t know anything about economics”. That’s okay, said Mike Brown, the former CFO of Microsoft, “because nobody does and the whole system is about to collapse”.
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Saturday, 12 July 2014

Saturday Spectacular for 12 July 2014

Cat Wedding: 1914
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Cat Wedding: 1914
1914
“Kittens in costume as bride and groom, being married by third kitten in ecclesiastical garb”
Holy catrimony!
Photo by Harry W. Frees
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I am trying very hard not to inundate you all with cute cat photos but it is hard!

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10 Famous Literary Characters That Are Significantly Younger Than You Think
via Flavorwire by Emily Temple
When an author creates a character, he or she bestows upon this fictional person specific attributes — age, looks, certain proclivities — that may or may not be made explicit on the page. But whether the character is explained fully or not, there’s no telling what will happen when the culture at large gets a hold of him. Especially if the notoriously age-garbling film industry gets involved. Prepare to be shocked at famous literary characters that are significantly younger than you (probably) think they are.
scarlett2
Scarlett O'Hara is ??
Are you right? Check it out here

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Stink bombs and sneezing powder, that’s how Nazi thugs shut down German cinema in the 1930s. And yet Hollywood remained silent… more

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A dragon is no idle fancy
via 3quarksdaily by Morgan Meis
Tolkien was a noted scholar and linguist before he was a published novelist, labouring on the Oxford English Dictionary and then embarking upon a long career at Oxford University, where he was professor of Anglo Saxon studies and later Merton Professor of English, a chair he held until his death.
His iconoclastic 1936 lecture, “Beowulf: The Monster and the Critics”, challenged assumptions that the eighth century text should be treated purely as a historical document and not a work of art. It’s now regarded as a watershed moment in Beowulf studies. In the essay, Tolkien didn’t mince words in his disdain of fellow academics: “For it is of their nature that the jabberwocks of historical and antiquarian research burble in the tulgy wood of conjecture, flitting from one tum-tum tree to another”. He was particularly dismissive of those who ignored the importance of the poem’s monsters — Grendel, Grendel’s mother and especially the dragon that Beowulf kills, but not before he himself is mortally wounded.
more from Elizabeth Hand at the LA Times here.

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Beautiful Devotion: Illuminated Manuscripts
via AbeBooks’ Reading Copy by Beth Carswell
ill-man
First created over 2,000 years ago, illuminated manuscripts had drawings or paintings of ornate initials, borders, flowers, vines and other decoration to accompany text.
A true illuminated manuscript was made without machines.
Frequently in devotional prayer books, the most exceptional art served as a status symbol. Nowadays, original illuminated manuscripts are highly scarce. But due to the surpassing beauty of the pieces, artists have painstakingly recreated the illuminations in facsimiles and reproductions, many of which are both affordable, and unforgettable.
Be Illuminated!
There are some lovely manuscripts in the British Library.

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
What is charm? Some mysterious cocktail of wit, wisdom, worldliness, civility. But this much we know: Charm is a virtue in decline… more

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What Dr. Seuss Can Teach Us About Our Polarized Times
via Big Think by John Maeda
Sneetches2
We definitely live in an increasingly polarized world today whether it’s red or blue or it’s chocolate or vanilla, or just look at our computers. They’re binary, ones and zeros. It can be one. It can be zero. It can’t be anything in between. If you look at the history of computing there was something called ternary logic, which could be one, zero or don't care. It never really set into culture or technology, but it was always there. Why is this important?
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Surreal Photos of Women Dressed in Books, Butterflies, and Paper Planes
via Flavorwire by Chloe Pantazi
These stunning photographs by the LA-based fine art photographer Brooke Shaden (spotted via Faith is Torment) depict moody landscapes, harking back to the Gothic romanticism of surreal paintings. In her words, Shaden is “creating new worlds through [her] photographs”, and indeed her photos suggest something otherworldly; they conjure a warped kind of down-the-rabbit-hole experience of the world. Perhaps most compelling in these photographs are the costumes Shaden’s subjects wear, made of unconventional materials — from paper planes and flowers to actual books (and, in one, flesh) — which are reminiscent of the fashion exhibited in the Met’s 2011 Alexander McQueen retrospective, Savage Beauty.
brooke-shaden02
View the other images here

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
From Chaucer to South Park, obscenity has evolved. Consider that in the 19th century, saying the word “trousers” could get you into trouble… more

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Do science: The life you save may be your own
via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
One of the people who developed the pacemaker is now 86
And he has a pacemaker

Friday, 11 July 2014

The Cyclical Behavior of Labor Productivity and the Emergence of the Labor Hoarding Concept

an article by Jeff E Biddle (Michigan State University) published in Journal of Economic Perspectives Volume 28 Number 2 (Spring 2014)

Abstract

The concept of “labour hoarding”, at least in its modern form, was first fully articulated in the early 1960s by Arthur Okun (1963). By the end of the 20th century, the concept of “labour hoarding” had become an accepted part of economists’ explanations of the workings of labour markets and of the relationship between labour productivity and economic fluctuations. The emergence of this concept involved the conjunction of three key elements:
  • the fact that measured labour productivity was found to be procyclical, rising during expansions and falling during contractions;
  • a perceived contradiction with the theory of the neoclassical firm in a competitive economy; and
  • a possible explanation based on optimising behaviour on the part of firms.
Each of these three elements – fact, contradiction, and explanation – has a history of its own, dating back to at least the opening decades of the twentieth century. Telling the story of the emergence of the modern labour hoarding concept requires recounting these three histories, histories that involve the work of economists motivated by diverse purposes and often not mainly, if at all, concerned with the questions that the labour hoarding concept was ultimately used to address.

As a final twist to the story, the long-standing positive relationship between labour productivity and output in the US economy began to disappear in the late 1980s; and during the Great Recession, labour productivity rose while the economy contracted.

Full-text Article (Complimentary)

JEL Classifications: B22, E24, E32, J24


Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Market for Blood

an article by Robert Slonim (University of Sydney, Australia), Carmen Wang (Harvard Business School) and Ellen Garbarino (University of Sydney Business School, Australia) published in Journal of Economic Perspectives Volume 28 Number 2 (Spring 2014)

Abstract

Donating blood, “the gift of life”, is among the noblest activities and it is performed worldwide nearly 100 million times annually. The economic perspective presented here shows how the gift of life, albeit noble and often motivated by altruism, is heavily influenced by standard economic forces including supply and demand, economies of scale, and moral hazard. These forces, shaped by technological advances, have driven the evolution of blood donation markets from thin one-to-one “marriage markets” in which each recipient needed a personal blood donor, to thick, impersonalised, diffuse markets.

Today, imbalances between aggregate supply and demand are a major challenge in blood markets, including excess supply after disasters and insufficient supply at other times. These imbalances are not unexpected given that the blood market operates without market prices and with limited storage length (about six weeks) for whole blood. Yet shifting to a system of paying blood donors seems a practical impossibility given attitudes toward paying blood donors and concerns that a paid system could compromise blood safety.

Nonetheless, we believe that an economic perspective offers promising directions to increase supply and improve the supply and demand balance even in the presence of volunteer supply and with the absence of market prices.

Full-text Article (Complimentary)

Hazel’s comment
Well worth reading for the social aspects of the economic argument.
Of course, you will realise that this is nothing whatsoever to do with careers or labour market information!



Monday, 7 July 2014

Sunday Spectacular

Five Ways of Going: 1908
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Five Ways of Going: 1908
Washington, D.C., circa 1908
“South facade, new Union Station” At least five modes of transportation represented in this detailed view
8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company
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Trust your memory? Maybe you shouldn’t
via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
Your very fallible memory
Your memories can be manipulated and changed. In fact, this happens often. And you’re the one doing it to yourself.

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Evgeny Morozov has emerged as the Mencken of the Internet age. His target: the woolly, wide-eyed thinking of the Silicon Valley “booboisie”… more

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The original Piglet and Pooh
via Pages & Proofs by Richard Davies
Piglet
In the New York Public Library, you will find an exhibit of the real Winnie the Pooh animals: Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga, Tigger and Pooh. The animals belonged to Christopher Milne, son of the author, A.A. Milne and the books were donated to the New York Public Library in 1987 by the publisher of the Pooh books . Piglet looks worn but fantastic. Pooh looks decidedly sad – as if being locked up in a library is driving him crazy.
Pooh

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Genghis Khan and climate
via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
New research is suggesting that the rise of the Mongolian Empire might have been linked to natural variation in the climate cycle.

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Theophilus Carter, Oxford cabinet maker, had a prominent nose, receding chin, and a fondness for top hats. Was he the real Mad Hatter?… … more

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1983’s wonderful Introduction to Machine Code for Beginners
via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow
Usborne’s 1983 classic is an astounding book, written, designed and illustrated by Naomi Reed, Graham Round and Lynne Norman. It uses beautiful infographics and clear writing to provide an introduction to 6502 and Z80 assembler, and it’s no wonder that used copies go for as much as $600. I was reminded of it this morning when @amanicdroid tweeted me with a link to a PDF of the book’s interior. I’d love to see this book updated for modern computers and reprinted.

See this in a size you can actually manage to read

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Spacegoing Earth: a painting by Angus McKie
via BoingBoing by Cory Doctorow

When I first saw this Angus McKie illustration, I had a moment when I thought it depicted the Earth being encased in a huge, space-going shell and I flashed back to Damon Knight's spectacular novel Why Do Birds, a straight-faced yet comic novel about a man who puts the whole human race in a box.
Then I realised that the picture depicted a hollow, space-going sphere being fitted with an armoured cover and my mind spun into a deep future from which it hasn’t entirely returned.
Beautiful work.
Here’s the official McKie site.

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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Syphilis and creativity. Nietzsche’s grandiosity, Van Gogh’s death obsession, Schubert, Flaubert, Wilde, Joyce: Did the disease shape their work?… more

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Why you shouldn’t (and should) be monogamous
via Big Think by Tauri1 Moosa
Why should you only have sex with the person you are in a relationship with?
After all, there exist many successful relationships involving people having passionate interactions, of whatever kind, with people other than their primary partner. This is done with their primary partner’s knowledge and consent and, presumably, consenting to their primary partner doing the same.
Continue reading