Omnium Gatherum: 30jun2021

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for June 30, 2021

Here’s a variety of notable things I’ve recently found that you may also be interested in checking out:

  • How the Prophetic Fiction of Kathrine Kressmann Taylor Exposed the Dangers of Nazism and the Rise of Hitler.” Excerpt from Margot Livesey’s introduction to the 2021 edition of Address Unknown [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor—”A rediscovered classic and international bestseller that recounts the gripping tale of a friendship destroyed at the hands of Nazi Germany In this searing novel, Kathrine Kressmann Taylor brings vividly to life the insidious spread of Nazism through a series of letters between Max, a Jewish art dealer in San Francisco, and Martin, his friend and former business partner who has returned to Germany in 1932, just as Hitler is coming to power. Originally published in Story magazine in 1938, Address Unknown became an international sensation. Credited with exposing the dangers of Nazism to American readers early on, it is also a scathing indictment of fascist movements around the world and a harrowing exposé of the power of the pen as a weapon. A powerful and eloquent tale about the consequences of a friendship—and society—poisoned by extremism, Address Unknown remains hauntingly and painfully relevant today. ”
  • The Empire of Gormenghast“—”I am re-reading the Gormenghast trilogy, which is pleasing to me. Don’t know how long ago I read it but I must have been through a lot of changes since then because the writing is amazing in a way I have no memory of. That for later; for now the thoughts which idle through my mind before sleep are about the world around Gormenghast.”
  • Samuel Hill was prophetic in 1966 when he predicted Southern churches in crisis.”—”In his monumental work, Southern Churches in Crisis, published in 1966, Samuel S. Hill Jr, then chair of the religion department at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, wrote: ‘The cultural-social complex in which revivalism-fundamentalism came to birth and flourished daily undergoes significant modification. The passing of the old culture spells the decline of this culture-religion spawned in it and so closely tied to it. As a result, the last four or five years have witnessed the first trends in scores of years toward the stabilizing of religious statistics. Although the denominations do not yet acknowledge it or grasp its significance, an unprecedented era, likely to be marked by flux and decline, is breaking upon them. The heart of the matter is that the ministry of the churches is ever more irrelevant to persons in the new society. … If what the churches are doing does not relate the divine message, compassion, and power to (people’s) real lives, their understanding, their needs, and their problems, the churches act irresponsibly.’ What Samuel Hill projected into the future 55 years ago has become our present. Perhaps a brief foray into his thought will provide insight into where Southern churches have been, in order to better understand where they are right now.”
  • Following on news about “Dragon” man: “New fossils reveal a strange-looking Neanderthal in Israel
  • From the Alpha and Omega dept: “What is a heat dome? Extreme temperatures in the Pacific Northwest, explained“—”In this case, a ridge of high pressure, which is the heat dome, has become lodged in the Pacific Northwest. It is acting as a block in the atmosphere, not allowing the weather to move. The specific type of block is called an Omega block, because it looks like the greek letter Omega, and the hot air is pooling inside.”
  • Ugh. Not now Attack of the Clones! “Single bee is making an immortal clone army thanks to a genetic fluke. One bee has cloned itself millions of times over the past three decades.”
  • Ugh. Not now giant glowing space hand of, presumably, Apollo! “Giant ghostly ‘hand’ stretches through space in new X-ray views.”
  • Dinosaurs were struggling long before the asteroid hit“—”Millions of years before a massive asteroid struck what’s now the Yucatan Peninsula, the dinosaurs were already struggling. Though the devastating effects of the asteroid impact that ended the Mesozoic Era likely turned out the lights on the dinosaurs, new research suggests global cooling was already ushering them to the door.” Tweet—”Did an asteroid write this?”
  • ‘Polar dinosaurs’ may have given birth in the Arctic over 70 million years ago, study finds.”
  • Past, present and future stars that can see Earth as a transiting exoplanet.”—”In the search for life in the cosmos, transiting exoplanets are currently our best targets. With thousands already detected, our search is entering a new era of discovery with upcoming large telescopes that will look for signs of ‘life’ in the atmospheres of transiting worlds. Previous work has explored the zone from which Earth would be visible while transiting the Sun. However, these studies considered only the current position of stars, and did not include their changing vantage point over time. Here we report that 1,715 stars within 100 parsecs from the Sun are in the right position to have spotted life on a transiting Earth since early human civilization (about 5,000 years ago), with an additional 319 stars entering this special vantage point in the next 5,000 years. Among these stars are seven known exoplanet hosts, including Ross-128, which saw Earth transit the Sun in the past, and Teegarden’s Star and Trappist-1, which will start to see it in 29 and 1,642 years, respectively. We found that human-made radio waves have already swept over 75 of the closest stars on our list.”
  • Alien planets have had ‘front-row’ view of Earth for ages, astronomers say. What if we’re the aliens?”
  • ‘Edge of chaos’ opens pathway to artificial intelligence discoveries.”—”Scientists at the University of Sydney and Japan’s National Institute for Material Science (NIMS) have discovered that an artificial network of nanowires can be tuned to respond in a brain-like way when electrically stimulated.”
  • When A City-Size Star Becomes A Black Hole’s Lunch, The Universe Roils.”—”A black hole swallowing a neutron star — a star more massive than our sun but only about the size of a city — has been observed for the first time ever.”
  • NASA’s Webb Telescope Will Look Back in Time, Use Quasars to Unlock the Secrets of the Early Universe. Looking back in time, Webb will see quasars as they appeared billions of years ago. Outshining all the stars in their host galaxies combined, quasars are among the brightest objects in the universe. These brilliant, distant and active supermassive black holes shape the galaxies in which they reside. Shortly after its launch, scientists will use Webb to study six of the most far-flung and luminous quasars, along with their host galaxies, in the very young universe. They will examine what part quasars play in galaxy evolution during these early times. The team will also use the quasars to study the gas in the space between galaxies in the infant universe. Only with Webb’s extreme sensitivity to low levels of light and its superb angular resolution will this be possible.”
  • Earth-like worlds capable of sustaining life may be less common than we thought. Life on other potentially habitable worlds might not receive enough light to sustain a thriving biosphere.”
  • How ancient people fell in love with bread, beer and other carbs. Well before people domesticated crops, they were grinding grains for hearty stews and other starchy dishes.”
  • From The Day of the Triffids dept: “Researcher introduces new CRISPR 3.0 system for highly efficient gene activation in plants.”
  • New Device Creates Water From Thin Air. Researchers say they have solved the tricky problem of making a totally passive, 24/7 water generating system.”—”The design works pretty well, Hächler said. In lab tests, the maximum yield his team was able to get from the device was 0.05 liters (1.8 fluid ounces) per square meter per hour, very close to the theoretical maximum yield that researchers had calculated. That means the device is able to practically produce around 1.2 liters per square meter per day, or about a third of a person’s required daily intake. This is around twice the output of some other passive technologies, the researchers said.”
  • What’s Really Happening When You Experience Déjà Vu? The study of déjà vu is now legit science, though researchers still don’t know what exactly causes it.”
  • Science Should Not Try to Absorb Religion and Other Ways of Knowing. Our diverse ways of seeing reality will never, and should never, meld into a monolithic worldview.”
  • How Underground Fiber Optics Spy on Humans Moving Above. Vibrations from cars and pedestrians create unique signals in cables. Now scientists have used the trick to show how Covid-19 brought life to a halt.”—”Fiber optic cables work by perfectly trapping pulses of light and transporting them vast distances as signals. But when a car or person passes overhead, the vibrations introduce a disturbance, or imperfection: a tiny amount of that light scatters back to the source. Because the speed of light is a known quantity, the Penn State researchers could shine a laser through a single fiber optic strand and measure vibrations at different lengths of the cable by calculating the time it took the scattered light to travel. The technique is known in geoscience as distributed acoustic sensing, or DAS.”
  • Your AI pair programmer. With GitHub Copilot, get suggestions for whole lines or entire functions right inside your editor.”—”Trained on billions of lines of public code, GitHub Copilot puts the knowledge you need at your fingertips, saving you time and helping you stay focused.”
  • Can Algorithmic Bias Teach Us about Race?“—”Machines learned racism from humans. Perhaps humans can now learn about that racism from the very machines they taught.”
  • John McAfee hideout traced to ‘ghost hotel’ with a bitcoin farm.”—”Cybersecurity guru John McAfee — who was found hanged in his jail cell this week — had been hiding out for years in a Spanish “ghost hotel” owned by a Russian who allegedly used it to run a secret bitcoin farm, according to reports.” “McAfee on Wednesday had just been ordered to be extradited to the US when he was found hanged in his Barcelona jail cell.” “Some of the US charges he faced included a pump-and-dump scheme involving cryptocurrencies that he was touting on social media. In that case, McAfee and an accomplice allegedly bilked bitcoin investors out of some $13 million in two schemes, including one where they bought up large quantities of “alt-coin,” then inflated the price of it by publicizing it on Twitter. They then sold off the cryptocurrency at the inflated price and made a $2 million profit, prosecutors said. He had been facing up to 30 years in jail if convicted of all the charges against him.” Also, previously: “Antivirus pioneer John McAfee found dead in Spanish prison.”
  • Mircea Popescu, Bitcoin Blogger and Provocateur, Reported Dead at 41. Mircea Popescu’a aggressive brand of unapologetic, uncompromising Bitcoin evangelism made his influence enduring despite his documented instances of sexism and bigotry.” Also “Bitcoin Billionaire Reportedly Found Dead.”—”Given his tremendous wealth — his holdings would have been worth almost $2 billion when Bitcoin hit all-time highs in mid-April — the crypto market is now wondering what will happen to all those assets. It’s a timely reminder that without a backup plan, digital currency holdings can easily end up being wiped off the face of the earth when their owner passes away.”
  • Discovery of Black Death bacterium in 5,000-year-old body shows ancient roots of medieval plague.”
  • Scientist recovers coronavirus gene sequences secretly deleted last year in Wuhan. He finds 13 sequences from some of the earliest cases in Wuhan.”—”Finding the origin story for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus responsible for nearly 3.9 million deaths worldwide, has been largely hampered by lack of access to information from China where cases first popped up. Now, a researcher in Seattle has dug up deleted files from Google Cloud that reveal 13 partial genetic sequences for some of the earliest cases of COVID-19 in Wuhan, Carl Zimmer reported for The New York Times. The sequences don’t tip the scales toward or away from one of the many theories about how SARS-CoV-2 came to be — they do not suggest the virus leaked from a high-security lab in Wuhan, nor do they suggest a natural spillover event. But they do firm up the idea that the novel coronavirus was circulating earlier than the first major outbreak at a seafood market.” Also “Scientist Finds Early Virus Sequences That Had Been Mysteriously Deleted. By rooting through files stored on Google Cloud, a researcher says he recovered 13 early coronavirus sequences that had disappeared from a database last year.” Also, previously: “Scientist Finds Early Coronavirus Sequences That Had Been Mysteriously Deleted.”
  • GOP megadonor funds S.D. troops’ border deployment.” Also “GOP donor funds South Dakota National Guard troops in Texas.” Also “Kristi Noem Uses GOP Donor’s ‘Private Donation’ For Guard Deployment To Texas. The South Dakota governor and 2024 presidential hopeful says the troops are necessary to protect the southern border from migrants trying to enter the country.”—”‘Kristi Noem is using National Guard troops like mercenaries for her personal political ambitions and some authoritarian fantasy of a personal military,’ Wellman said. ‘The whole thing is, if not illegal, incredibly inappropriate.'”
  • Inside Gun-Surrendering Criminal Mark McCloskey’s Very Sad St. Louis Rally.”—”Noted local criminal Mark McCloskey played host to a barbecue/political rally on Sunday afternoon, drawing tens of admirers to the sweltering parking lot of a closed outlet mall in St. Louis County to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the time he pulled a gun on a crowd of people who otherwise would never have noticed or cared he existed.”
  • Pastor Greg Locke Says Biden Is ‘Demon-Possessed,’ Insists Trump Is ‘Legitimate President’
  • QAnon Supporters Express Boredom With ‘Same Old’ Trump Speech: ‘This Is Getting Ridiculous’.” Getting?
  • The ruling suspending Rudy Giuliani’s law license is hilarious.”—”In cataloging Giuliani’s transgressions, the filing reads as a bemused and indignant greatest hits of Trump 2020 election lies, along with point-by-point refutations and comically timed footnotes. With every other sentence, the judges are almost shouting at the reader, ‘Get a load of the nerve on this guy!'”
  • ‘The Tea Party to the 10th power’: Trumpworld bets big on critical race theory. Republicans aren’t coy about what they are trying to do. It’s not just about changing curricula. It’s about taking back Congress.”
  • No jail time for first Capitol Riot defendant sentenced. Anna Morgan-Lloyd gets 3 years probation for entering the Capitol illegally on Jan. 6.”
  • DeSantis signs bill requiring Florida students, professors to register political views with state. Universities may lose funding if staff and students’ beliefs do not satisfy Florida’s GOP-run legislature.” Also tweet—”Public universities in Florida will be required to survey both faculty and students on their political beliefs and viewpoints, with the institutions at risk of losing their funding if the responses are not satisfactory to the state’s GOP-led legislature.” Also tweet—”This is a horrendous step toward thought control. Any university that loses state funding for refusing to submit to this regime or for cooperating and then flunking the state’s test of ideological suitability will have a strong First Amendment case I’d gladly help press pro bono.”
  • They Seemed Like Democratic Activists. They Were Secretly Conservative Spies. Operatives infiltrated progressive groups across the West to try to manipulate politics and reshape the national electoral map. They targeted moderate Republicans, too — anyone seen as threats to hard-line conservatives.”
  • Nine Little Girls“—”Some years ago, deep into a confounding research assignment for which I had been combing through the website of the South Dakota legislature, I stumbled upon the recorded testimony of a woman describing in detail her own rape and torture, and the tortures of her sisters by the same hands. In her account the acts, which allegedly took place in the 1960s and 1970s, continued for several years and had begun when they were all children some fifty years earlier.” “Like all eight of her sisters (Louise, Francine, Mary, Barbara, Joann, and three others who wish to remain anonymous), and like most victims of childhood sexual assault, she claims that she repressed memories of the abuse that she sustained while a child and a teenager. Louise, Geraldine’s older sister, alleges that she was in third grade when she became the first of her family to be abused by the priests and nuns at St. Paul’s Mission School (now called Marty Indian School), a Catholic school in Marty, South Dakota. The nine sisters were born and raised in Olga, North Dakota into a tribe of the Anishinaabe people known by the federal government as the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, to a strong-willed matriarch, the mother of seventeen children. They were among those Native toddlers whose parents had willingly sent them to Native boarding school in order to secure an education that could supply the skills necessary to thrive in this country. Others across the country were ordered from their homes by government officials, still others were allegedly forcibly taken from their families.” “By becoming aware of them, and by extension of all the men and women like the nine sisters whose lives were permanently mutilated by similar ordeals, these stories became in some sense also mine. I say this humbly. Again, I am not like them, and I have not suffered anything like what they have suffered. But it would be wrong to turn away from them for that reason, to invoke ‘alterity’ and try to forget what I have learned. Difference should not be an excuse for indifference. If one does the work of study and imagination, the arduous and respectful work, then the gulf can be adequately traversed — certainly enough to impose moral and social and political responsibilities. Strangely, solemnly, in ways totally unlike the victims and their communities, I remember. They are a part of me. Now they are a part of you.”
  • Why Adélaïde Labille-Guiard’s 1783 Portrait of a Mother Nursing Broke New Ground.”—”The last time Adélaïde Labille-Guiard’s portrait of Christine Geneviève Mitoire was shown in public was almost as dramatic as the first. The large-scale pastel, ‘Portrait of Madame Charles Mitoire with Her Children’ (1783), surfaced in living color this month after only being visible for the past century in black-and-white reproductions, from a photo taken when it was last on the market at a Parisian gallery.” “Mitoire’s portrait caused a stir the first time it was exhibited, too. It was part of a series of 11 portraits that Labille-Guiard exhibited in 1783 as her Paris Salon debut, the year she was admitted to the prestigious Académie Royale. Mitoire was the only woman in the series. And she was breastfeeding.”
  • Picasso painting found as builder arrested over art heist. A painting by Pablo Picasso that was stolen nine years ago during a heist at a Greek gallery has been recovered.”
  • Purchased at a Landfill for $5, a David Bowie Painting Smashed an Auction Record.”
  • Mexico raids building project next to Teotihuacán pyramids.”—”Mexican archaeological officials reported last week that they had been trying since March to halt the private construction project, but work continued on what local media says were plans to build some sort of amusement park.”
  • From the Beneath the Planet of the Apes dept: “Eden Project to develop £30m ‘underground cathedral’. The Eden Project is planning an ‘underground cathedral’ by transforming a Portland cavern into a £30m tourist attraction in Dorset.”
  • Speaking of Planet of the Apes movies and Alpha and Omega level weather patterns, from 2019: “How Beneath the Planet of the Apes Nearly Buried The Franchise. How the insane Beneath the Planet of the Apes almost buried the series after two movies.”
  • Raves from the grave: lost 90s subculture is back in the spotlight. Driven by a ‘groundswell’ of young devotees and fortysomething nostalgia, a series of events is celebrating the youth movement.”
  • Rome’s Colosseum opens its underground for the first time in its history.”—”It is not only the first time in 2,000 years that the area — described as the “heart” of the building — has been open; since the underground levels, or “hypogea,” were where gladiators and animals waited before going into combat, this is the first time in the monument’s history that the public has ever been allowed in.”
  • Polish Politicians Sue Artist-Activists for Mapping ‘Atlas of Hate’.”—”A group of local governments in Poland that had declared themselves as “free from LGBT ideology” are waging a battle in court against four artist-activists who created the Atlas of Hate, an interactive map charting the country’s anti-gay zones.”
  • Affidavit: FBI feared Pennsylvania would seize fabled gold.”—”An FBI agent applied for a federal warrant in 2018 to seize a fabled cache of U.S. government gold he said was ‘stolen during the Civil War’ and hidden in a Pennsylvania cave, saying the state might take the gold for itself if the feds asked for permission, according to court documents unsealed Thursday.”
  • I’ve Cracked Zodiac, a French Engineer Says. Online Sleuths Are Skeptical. Fayçal Ziraoui caused an online uproar after saying he had cracked unsolved ciphers attributed to the Zodiac killer in California and identified him, potentially ending a 50-year-old quest.”
  • Three Core Ideas to Make Remote Work, Work.”—”Remote work, works – when we are intentional about it. My three core principles of remote work are: Embrace async. Enable autonomy. Build connection.”
  • ‘Birds Aren’t Real’ rolling rally makes first stop in Missouri.”—”According to Peter Mcindoe, with the Birds Aren’t Real movement, all birds in the United States were killed by the government and replaced by federal drones. “What makes me think that? I think the evidence is all around us, birds sit on power lines, we believe they’re charging on power lines, we believe that bird poop on cars is liquid tracking apparatus.” The movement – which has been fueled by online chatter as well as mysterious fliers posted in cities across the U.S. – is currently on tour, and Springfield was its first stop. Birds Aren’t Real relies on internet-fueled guerilla marketing to spread a silly message. Followers are poking fun at conspiracy theories like QAnon that have gone mainstream over the last few years.” Also Birds Aren’t Real.
  • Unheard Johnny Cash live album recorded by Grateful Dead engineer gets release date“—”A never-heard Johnny Cash live album from 1968 recorded by longtime Grateful Dead associate Owsley “Bear” Stanley in San Francisco is set for release on Sept. 24”. Direct via At The Carousel Ballroom April 24, 1968, also Amazon, iTunes, Spotify.
  • What is Itchfunding?. Itchfunding is just a community effort to move more games outside of traditional crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter or sites of it’s ilk, for the health of the indie game community. The ideal being that in the future, it’s easier to launch and fund a game without needing to rely on a massive corporation like Kickstarter, but also to keep all of your things in one place (in that the place you go to raise money, is also your normal store front).
  • Shipping Prices For Board Games Have Gone Through The Roof. Freight shipping costs are up 300-400%, a cost some publishers simply can’t afford to absorb.”
  • If You’re A Child Of The ’80s, I Guarantee You’ll Fall In Love With This New “Goonies” Board Game. The Goonies: Never Say Die is a new role-playing game from the creative minds at Funko Games.” Also “The Goonies get a new board game this summer. Your first look at The Goonies: Never Say Die from Funko Games.” It’s currently exclusively at Target.
  • WizKids Announces New Dungeons & Dragons Game for Kids.”—”WizKids has announced plans to publish a new Dungeons & Dragons-themed game designed to teach kids the basics of dungeon delving. Earlier this week, WizKids announced Dungeons & Dragons: Dungeon Scrawlers – Heroes of Undermountain, a new game for 2-4 players. Each player is given a map of one of Undermountain’s infamous levels which players then have to traverse by using a marker to draw a continuous line through the different rooms. Players attempt to score victory points by interacting with treasures, defeating monsters and gathering artifacts, keeping in mind that they have to keep drawing their line while trying to race against other players in real time. Players can choose between one of four classes, each of which has an action that they can do quicker than the other players. For instance, the Barbarian can defeat monsters quicker than other players, while the Rogue collects treasure more easily. There’s also a level up component to the game and the maps grow more difficult as they delve deeper into Undermountain. Dungeons & Dragons: Dungeon Scrawlers – Heroes of Undermountain will cost $25 and will be released in October.” This page says it releases in July: Pre-Order – Dungeons & Dragons: Dungeon Scrawlers: Heroes of Undermountain.
  • New in the saga of TSR: “TSR Is Back…. Again!” and “TSR (2) Confirms TSR (3)’s Acquisition of Trademark (Updated!).” But Ernie Gygax on New TSR, WotC Beefs, Trademarks, Licensees, 5E, & More and Tweet—”WOOOOOOOOWWWW…. *sips tea*”. Also “A TSR Announces a Star Frontiers Reboot” and “TSR Plans to Bring Back Classic RPG Star Frontiers
  • From the “Here we come, walkin’ down the street” dept: “Adelaide’s ‘Big Bird Bandits’ appear in court charged with stealing Sesame Street costume.”
  • Interview with the Vampire Series From Breaking Bad Producer Coming to AMC in 2022. Friday Nights Light writer will serve as showrunner.”—”Given the numerous spinoffs AMC has produced for The Walking Dead and the size of the Anne Rice collection, the network seems eager to expand the Vampire universe as far as it can go.”
  • Good Omens is returning for a second season on Amazon Prime Video. Crowley and Aziraphale are coming back.” Also “‘Good Omens’ Renewed For Season 2 At Amazon.” Also “Michael Sheen, David Tennant to reunite for Good Omens season 2. Season 1 was originally intended as a standalone miniseries, adapted from Terry Pratchett’s beloved 1990 novel.” Also “Really Bloody Excellent Omens…” and “A Conversation with Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett” both Neil Gaiman talking about a sequel, so it’s not out of nowhere, or something that wasn’t already contemplated by both authors, if you were concerned at all.
  • Shang-Chi Teases The MCU’s Biggest Atlantis Setup Yet. The second trailer for Shang-Chi includes what could turn out to be the biggest Atlantis setup Marvel has done yet in the MCU.”—”The dragon in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings may be the biggest Atlantis setup that Marvel has attempted yet. Thus far, Marvel has avoided directly mentioning the undersea kingdom and the home of Namor the Sub-Mariner in Marvel’s movies.”
  • Watch “Legends Never Die: An Oral History of ‘The Green Knight’“, narrated by Ralph Ineson, a promo for A24’s movie The Green Knight, dir. David Lowery with Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, and Joel Edgerton; but it’s a pretty neat primer, as one might expect. The movie finally hits cinemas today. I mean, if anyone still goes to the cinema anymore. As a reminder, here’s the actual trailer.
  • Tweet—”I said goodbye today to River, who most of you know as Fallout 4’s Dogmeat. Heartbroken doesn’t cover it, but I won’t eulogize her here. For twitter, I thought it’d be appropriate to look back at her impact on that game. (plus, writing about game dev hurts less than grieving).”