The Pipwick Papers

As half of RPS swan off to GDC the other half – the good half – remain in the UK, beavering away and looking at links. Like beavers. Beavers who are building a dam out of URLs. I don’t know why the beavers would do this instead of using logs. Logs have worked really well for years, beavers. This is a stupid and unnecessary embracing of technology. Anyway, I – like those idiot beavers who don’t exist outside an analogy which went wrong – have built a URL dam in the flow of this blog.

Shut up, Pip.

This is not the Sunday Papers.

  • Climate clues point to a deadly combination of gerbils and fleas being responsible for the fourteenth century spread of bubonic plague rather than the previously assumed rats and fleas combo:
  • “We show that wherever there were good conditions for gerbils and fleas in central Asia, some years later the bacteria shows up in harbour cities in Europe and then spreads across the continent,” Prof Stenseth said.

  • Sesame Street’s version of House Of Cards, featuring Frank Underwolf is sublime.
  • A bill which is going up to the state senate could made baby boxes – little incubators – available in Indiana to allow people unable to cope with parenthood to safely and anonymously surrender their newborns. The idea is being described as an extension to safe haven laws which allow parents to surrender their newborns to designated people. It reminded me of the foundling wheels and hatches which came up when I was studying medieval church architecture at uni. A parent (usually the mother) would put the baby in a cylinder from an opening outside the church and then rotate it so that the baby ended up inside. They would then ring a bell before leaving so people would know there was a baby in need of care.
  • Co.Design’s Sophie Weiner talks about Yoyo – a tool for turning gifs into interactive animations.
  • Hopes and Fears has a linguistic explanation of Starbucks cup naming errors thanks to Ben Macaulay. I should maybe confess that I hated the confusion my name caused in Starbucks so much that I switched to giving my name as Sarah when I ordered.
  • Gabriel Thompson charts the history of The Anarchist’s Cookbook over on the Harper’s blog:
  • Leaving meant that Powell was cut off from news in the United States, often living without a telephone, and so had no idea where his book was turning up in the 1980s: the apartment of Puerto Rican separatists who planted a rash of bombs; the storage locker of antiabortion extremist Thomas Spinks, found guilty for bombing ten abortion clinics; the storage unit of Walter Leroy Moody, Jr., convicted of the bombing murders of a federal judge in Alabama and an attorney in Atlanta. To what extent these criminals relied upon Powell’s book is unclear, though the basic instructions he included are apparently correct; the FBI’s laboratory division determined the explosive section “appears to be accurate in most respects.”

  • There has been a lot written about the death of Leonard Nimoy at the age of 83. He’s one of those people whose death I never considered – he had this aura of calm which I think I interpreted as timelessness. This is his obituary in the New York Times, written by Virginia Heffernan. There’s another over on io9 by Charlie Jane Anders, and another on NPR by Eric Deggans.
  • In the end, Leonard Nimoy was the best example of an artist who took the early typecasting of a popular role and used it to fuel an expansive and creative career — giving fans the treat of seeing his signature character mature in the process.

  • Ran Ortner produces these spectacular trompe l’oeil ocean wave paintings.

    1. Anthile says:

      Well, this week I bookmarked Starships, swords, and the faded grandeur of science fantasy on the AV Club.

    2. Premium User Badge

      basilisk says:

      The Starbucks article has a neat premise, and the linguistic approach is sound, but the sample is tiny and it ultimately fails to reach any interesting conclusions. And trying to link these mishears to the process of language development is tenuous at best.

      Most importantly, several factors are completely omitted there – one, that Starbucks is generally a noisy place; two, that the English spelling system is ridiculous and the link between sounds and letters is utterly broken; and three, that in the English-speaking word, just about any combination of sounds may theoretically be a name, unlike in many other cultures where names are drawn from a finite set. With these three in place, it would be a miracle if Starbucks people got the name right every single time, or even 90% of the time.

      • zarniwoop says:

        I was never a regular Starbucks customer, but I used to go in when there wasn’t anywhere obviously better for coffee.

        I now avoid it like I would a pack of plague ridden gerbils. I don’t want to have to give them my name, so they can mispell it in horribly cheery handwriting on my cup. Fuck that. It’s unbelievable to me that this kind of shit doesn’t drive more people away.

        • Sigh says:

          It must be devastating to have to say “Zarniwoop” and then see what mockery the staff make of your name when writing it on your Double Carmel Espresso AlPacino. Your corporate outrage is completely justified.

        • Pich says:

          Did a mispelling ran over your car?

      • Awesomeclaw says:

        More to the point, what the hell is going on with that font

    3. Llewyn says:

      I’m sure there’s some good science behind it, though haven’t had chance to go looking, but the quote from the BBC article (which also stood out to me when I read the article) is awful and meaningless, and could be used to justify almost any set of circumstances.

      We show that wherever there were good conditions for gerbils and fleas in central Asia, some years later comets are sighted in harbour cities in Europe.

      • drussard says:

        Are you implying that collation isn’t causation?! You can’t go to press with that good sir.

        • Llewyn says:

          Good grief, it’s only just occurred to me; what if, rather than the other way around, it was actually the Black Death in Europe causing asiatic gerbils to thrive? I’d wager there have been good years for gerbils more recently than there’s been a major plague outbreak in Europe.

      • Monggerel says:

        I always thought gerbil sounded like some kind of exotic shrub

    4. fractallatcarf says:

      Blogs not logs

    5. Martel says:

      Another round of interesting links. I especially liked the anarchist cookbook one. I remember coming across that in like 93 at around 14 years old.

    6. Asurmen says:

      While I think everything that can be said has been said, surprised there’s no links for Mr.Nimoy :(

      • thedosbox says:

        Found this one in the comments on arstechnica:

        link to

        Leonard (Nimoy, Mr. Spock) was always kind of unapproachable. But a very good man. Sound ethics and a good sense of morality.

        How so?

        When it came to the attention of the cast that there was a disparity in pay in that George and I were getting the same pay but Nichelle was not getting as much, I took it to Leonard and he took it to the front office and they corrected that.

        He was sort of the captain, then?

        On that issue, he was. You could count on Leonard for that kind of thing.

      • Rikard Peterson says:

        Um… there are three Nimoy links in the article.

    7. Rikard Peterson says:

      I’m not familiar with House of Cards, but enjoyed the parody anyway, and then found that they had a playlist of 25 Sesame Street parodies. I’ve only watched a few of them yet, but this is great!

    8. celticdr says:

      Interesting read about The Anarchists Cookbook, would make an interesting morality tale as a film, and talk about having one big regret – this guy has it in spades compared to other people.