Side-Eye

jealousy glass

This is sneaky: Operagoers in the 18th century could spy on their neighbors using a “jealousy glass” — you’d appear to be watching the stage but a mirror would direct your view to the side, like a horizontal periscope. Marc Thomin, optician to the queen of France, wrote in 1749:

It is sufficient to turn this opening in the direction of whatever one wishes to observe and the curiosity is immediately satisfied. Its usefulness is confined to letting us see surreptitiously a person we seem not to be observing. This lorgnette may have been called a decorum glass because there is nothing more rude than to use an ordinary opera glass for looking at some one face to face.

Hanneke Grootenboer writes in Treasuring the Gaze, “Apparently, it was very convenient in allowing one to keep track of latecomers entering the opera without having to turn one’s head.”

(From J. William Rosenthal, From Spectacles and Other Vision Aids: A History and Guide to Collecting, 1996.)

Commentary

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Schreiber.jpg

Notes left in manuscripts and colophons by medieval scribes and copyists, from the Spring 2012 issue of Lapham’s Quarterly:

New parchment, bad ink; I say nothing more.

I am very cold.

That’s a hard page and a weary work to read it.

Let the reader’s voice honor the writer’s pen.

This page has not been written very slowly.

The parchment is hairy.

The ink is thin.

Thank God, it will soon be dark.

Oh, my hand.

Now I’ve written the whole thing; for Christ’s sake give me a drink.

Writing is excessive drudgery. It crooks your back, it dims your sight, it twists your stomach and your sides.

St. Patrick of Armagh, deliver me from writing.

While I wrote I froze, and what I could not write by the beams of the sun I finished by candlelight.

As the harbor is welcome to the sailor, so is the last line to the scribe.

This is sad! O little book! A day will come in truth when someone over your page will say, “The hand that wrote it is no more.”

In her History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting, Anne Trubek lists another: “Here ends the second part of the title work of Brother Thomas Aquinas of the Dominican Order; very long, very verbose, and very tedious for the scribe.”

“The Longest Letter in the World”

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:PSM_V88_D195_Longest_letter_written_on_tape.png

Your friends are always asking for long letters. To supply this demand a man in Los Angeles, California, has invented a little novelty that has captured the fancy of visiting tourists.

It consists of a roll of paper tape sixty feet long. The paper is made to write on, and has a place for the name and address of the sender and receiver. It goes as first class mail for two cents, like any other letter, and can be mailed in any mail box.

These little ‘long letters’ cause many a laugh and one can write a regular letter on the tape, by merely unrolling it as it is used up.

Popular Science Monthly, February 1916

Good Boy

The esoteric programming language DOGO “heralds a new era of computer-literate pets.” Commands include:

SIT — If the value of the current memory cell is 0, jump to STAY.
STAY — If the value of the current memory cell is not 0, jump to SIT.
ROLL-OVER — Select the next operation in the operation list.
HEEL — Execute the currently selected operation.

This program prints the words HELLO WORLD:

roll-over roll-over heel roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over heel heel heel 
heel heel heel heel heel heel sit roll-over roll-over roll-over heel roll-over 
roll-over roll-over heel heel heel heel heel heel heel heel roll-over roll-over 
heel roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over heel roll-over roll-over 
roll-over roll-over roll-over stay roll-over roll-over roll-over heel roll-over 
roll-over heel roll-over roll-over roll-over heel roll-over roll-over roll-over 
roll-over heel heel heel heel heel heel heel sit roll-over roll-over roll-over 
heel roll-over roll-over roll-over heel heel heel heel roll-over roll-over heel 
roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over heel roll-over roll-over 
roll-over roll-over roll-over stay roll-over roll-over roll-over heel roll-over  
roll-over roll-over heel roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over heel 
roll-over heel heel heel heel heel heel heel roll-over roll-over roll-over 
roll-over roll-over heel heel roll-over heel heel heel roll-over roll-over 
roll-over roll-over roll-over heel roll-over roll-over roll-over heel heel heel 
roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over heel heel heel heel heel heel heel heel 
sit roll-over roll-over roll-over heel roll-over roll-over roll-over heel heel 
heel heel roll-over roll-over heel roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over 
roll-over heel roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over stay roll-over 
roll-over roll-over heel roll-over roll-over heel roll-over roll-over roll-over 
heel heel heel roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over heel heel heel heel heel 
heel heel heel heel heel sit roll-over roll-over roll-over heel roll-over 
roll-over roll-over heel heel heel heel heel heel heel heel heel roll-over 
roll-over heel roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over heel roll-over 
roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over stay roll-over roll-over roll-over heel 
roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over heel heel heel roll-over roll-over 
roll-over roll-over heel roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over heel heel heel 
heel roll-over roll-over heel roll-over heel heel heel roll-over roll-over 
roll-over roll-over roll-over heel roll-over roll-over heel heel heel heel heel 
heel roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over heel roll-over roll-over heel heel 
heel heel heel heel heel heel roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over heel 
roll-over roll-over roll-over heel heel roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over 
heel roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over roll-over heel

Here’s a similar program in Blub, which is designed to be readable by fish:

blub. blub? blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub! blub?
blub? blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub? blub! blub!
blub? blub! blub? blub. blub! blub. blub. blub? blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub.
blub! blub? blub? blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub? blub! blub! blub? blub! blub? blub. blub. blub.
blub! blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub! blub. blub! blub. blub. blub.
blub. blub. blub. blub. blub! blub. blub. blub? blub. blub? blub. blub? blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub.
blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub! blub? blub? blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub? blub! blub!
blub? blub! blub? blub. blub! blub. blub. blub? blub. blub? blub. blub? blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub.
blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub! blub? blub? blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub.
blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub? blub! blub! blub? blub! blub? blub. blub! blub! blub! blub!
blub! blub! blub! blub. blub? blub. blub? blub. blub? blub. blub? blub. blub! blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub. blub! blub.
blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub. blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub!
blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub! blub. blub. blub? blub. blub? blub. blub. blub! blub.

See User Friendly.

Tech Talk

http://www.freestockphotos.biz/stockphoto/9343
Image: Ozan Kilic

In 2017 research scientist Janelle Shane tried to train a neural network to name kittens:

Jeckle
Elbent
Jenderina
Roober
Snorp
Snox Boops
Cylon
Sookabear
Jexley Pickle
Toby Booch
Snowpie
Big Wiggy Bool
Mr Whinkles
Licky Cat
Mr Bincheh
Maxy Fay
Mr Gruffles
Liony Oli
Lingo
Conkie
Lasley Goo
Marvish
Mag Jeggles
Corko
Maggin
Mcguntton
Mara Tatters
Mush Jam
Tilly-Mapper
Mr. Jubble
Mumcake
Muppin

Bonus: At one point she accidentally trained the network on a dataset of character names from Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, and other fantasy authors and got Jarlag, Mankith, Andend of Karlans, and Mr. Yetheract. See the full list.

Podcast Episode 192: The Winchester Diver

https://www.flickr.com/photos/pikerslanefarm/3742773314

Image: Flickr

In 1905 Winchester Cathedral was in danger of collapsing as its eastern end sank into marshy ground. The surprising solution was to hire a diver, who worked underwater for five years to build a firmer foundation for the medieval structure. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll tell the story of William Walker and his curious contribution to saving a British landmark.

We’ll also contemplate a misplaced fire captain and puzzle over a shackled woman.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 191: The Longest Flight

timm and cook 1

The world’s longest airplane flight took place in 1958, when two aircraft mechanics spent 64 days above the southwestern U.S. in a tiny Cessna with no amenities. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll follow the aerial adventures of Bob Timm and John Cook as they set a record that still stands today.

We’ll also consider a derelict kitty and puzzle over a movie set’s fashion dictates.

See full show notes …

Odd Clocks

With the help of Australian engineer David Cox, the Swedish design firm Humans Since 1982 created this “clock clock,” a clock made of clocks whose hands stop every 60 seconds to display the military time in square numerals.

The clock fountain at Osaka’s South Gate Building, below, “prints” the time (and some surprisingly complex graphics) in sheets of water, somewhat like a dot matrix printer.

Think Pieces

Japanese artist Tatsuo Horiuchi creates digital art in Microsoft Excel. As he neared retirement he decided to take up painting, but he wanted to save the cost of brushes and pencils, so he used a tool he already owned, Microsoft’s popular spreadsheet program.

“I never used Excel at work but I saw other people making pretty graphs and thought, ‘I could probably draw with that,'” he told My Modern Met. “Graphics software is expensive, but Excel comes pre-installed in most computers … And it has more functions and is easier to use than Paint.”

He began painting in Excel in the year 2000. “I set a goal,” he says, “in 10 years, I wanted to paint something decent that I could show to people.” After only six years he took first prize at the Excel Autoshape Art Contest, and he’s been at it now for more than 15 years.

He sells the digital paintings as limited-edition prints that you can see and purchase here.