Self Wright

Category: Curated Page 1 of 11

Zeppelin repair

Came across this in a large coffee-table size book on the Hindenburg.

Imagine doing repairs on the side of this giant airship, while in the middle of the ocean!

An old car

Something about keeping this old car running seemed really inspiring.

Preserving a 1918 Ford Model T

Tale of two articles (2)

Saw these two articles side-by-side, the contrast was too much 🙂

On one hand, “we need to raise the debt ceiling, we’re about to default, the Treasury will exhaust emergency measures“, on the other hand, “we need to borrow another 3.5T”

A tale of two articles

Saw these two in the newspaper today, within two pages of each other, and … it felt like a social commentary of sorts.

Generally interesting links — Aug 2021

Plate XIX from the first volume of Pettigrew’s Design in Nature (1908), illustrating the resemblance between spiral shell formations and bony portions of the inner ear


  • Bio-luminiscent oceans

  • Startling cuttlefish memory:

“Cuttlefish can remember what they ate, where, and when, and use this to guide their feeding decisions in the future,” said co-author Alexandra Schnell of the University of Cambridge, who conducted the experiments at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. “What’s surprising is that they don’t lose this ability with age, despite showing other signs of aging like loss of muscle function and appetite.”

  • the “spiralist“, perhaps the most fascinating historical-scientific-insightful thing I’ve read this year

Pettigrew confessed himself totally spellbound by the mystery of Nature’s most ubiquitous, liquid, and quixotic form — the spiral.
Pettigrew’s newspaper model showed that the heart’s double helical structure — now known as the helical ventricular myocardial band (HVMB) — was essentially a triple-twisted Möbius strip.
In both arenas of animal physiology, Pettigrew found a spectacular resonance: movement at once precedes and follows structure, the direction of movement in living things being in every instance determined by the composition and configuration of kinetic spiral parts. This resonance seemed to reach right down to the atomic level. Unlike the closed system of the heart, the spiraling lines of atoms and molecules were arranged so that matter could be added in any amount, in unlimited directions. An open flow of energy and form was the basis for growth and progression in all creatures.


World events


Doctors are baffled by the rare disease and have concluded that he is the only person in the US to have the suction capability.
Not only is he able to stick objects to his skin, but his wounds heal faster, he gets sick less and ages slower than the average person.

27 feet tall. 77 tons. Lead, steel, and glass armor almost two feet thick. A 500 horsepower supercharger engine. Able to withstand 3,000 times more radiation than a human. Mighty claws able to tear, rend, and shred steel with 85,000 pounds of force…yet nimble enough to balance an egg on a spoon.


One of the questions often asked about the IBM PC is why we chose the Ctrl-Alt-Del reset sequence. We proposed Ctrl-Alt-Del as a warm-boot sequence to provide some of the capability of a reset switch. It is difficult to activate by mistake, since the keys are widely separated. By storing a special character in a particular memory location, the warm boot would bypass the memory-test portion of the power-on self test (POST), taking less time than turning the machine off and back on.


Generally interesting links – Jul 2021


  • Stone age art “in a new light”

    Torches work best on the move, as their flames need motion to stay lit and produce a lot of smoke. Though torches cast a wide glow, they burn for an average of just 41 minutes, the team found. That suggests several torches would have been needed to travel through caves. Concave stone lamps filled with animal fat, on the other hand, are smokeless and can offer more than an hour of focused, candlelike light. That would have made it easy to stay in one spot for a while. And while fireplaces produce a lot of light, they can also produce a lot of smoke. That type of light source is best suited for large spaces that get plenty of airflow, the researchers say.


  • “What Termites and cells have in common”

    … created a life-like proto-cell energized by chemical potential, which is capable of translating external signals into shape changes in dependence on its own self-organized morphology. With this, the team has revealed how the collective dynamics of nanometer-sized macromolecules self-organize into micrometer patterns that affect the cellular perception of shape-changing extracellular cues in our own cells.


  • Gartner looking back on their predictions for past hype cycles
    • ‌The most hyped technology in 1995 was Intelligent Agents
    • ‌I think of the Gartner Hype Cycle as a Hero’s Journey for technologies. And just like the hero’s journey, the Hype Cycle is a compelling narrative structure.
    • Missed big trends like “x86 virtualization” and “Open Source” (!!) and NoSQL



  • Andrew Sullivan on the “turn against liberalism” (as an old Obama fan, I find myself agreeing … and as someone who also lived in New York around the same time (the Bloomberg era), I find myself agreeing with this take on Eric Adams)
  • Looking back at an old pessemistic study
  • Slavoj Zizek on how we’re in a pre-WW1 time

Software engineering

  • The “IDE divide
    • language features vs tool features
    • Another view (had to track this down, since it was a broken link that wasn’t captured by either)
    • Further digression, into a meta-view:

      “There are two kinds of people in the world, those who believe there are two kinds of people in the world and those who don’t”.

    • Anyway, like all such divides, the final answer to “which one” is “both”
  • A look ahead at computing performance by Brendan Gregg
  • On “Portable and stable software”


A poetic paradox

Caveat: I like, but it’s extremely ad-riddled, and the only way it’s tolerable to me any more is in “reader-mode” that strips out all the distracting fluff.

I read random poems, and I recently came across this one.

A phrase from it seems relevant to a certain current in our times:

And the load of their loveless pity is worse than the ancient wrongs, 

The World of Tomorrow

The 700-foot-high Trylon and 200-foot-wide Perisphere, at the center of the fair.

I came across the old footage of the 1939 World’s Fair, which was promoted, at the time as “the world of tomorrow“, talking about the magnificent world of twenty years from now, of 1960!

Ironically, this fair co-incided with the outbreak of World War II, but in my opinion, the optimism within did prevail longer, probably up until the 1970s (there was a follow-up fair in the mid-1960s!).

There is an immensely positive message here, of how the future had to be better.

When people talk about how “it’s time to build” again, I think this — recapturing this lost optimism — is the only way to mean it in an unambiguously good way.

Generally interesting links – Jun 2021

An early hyper-text from the 90s


Japanese scientists have induced the jellyfish to repeat this transformation at least 10 times in a row—allowing a polyp to grow into a tentacled adult medusa, before subjecting it to stress (for example, a needle prick), and watching the process begin all over again. In this way, a single jellyfish—hypothetically at least—might be induced to live forever, cycling endlessly from young to old and back again.

The immortal jellyfish has something that humans have sought for centuries: the answer to eternal life. But to them, it is nothing. Workaday. Simple creatures, they may not even know they have this prize. Certainly, what with their rejuvenation coming during periods of pain or suffocation, they will not enjoy it. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote: “One has to pay dearly for immortality; one has to die several times while one is still alive.” I’m sure that jellyfish would, if they could, agree.





From an older time

I came across this plaque while on a trip last week.

Plaque before Gualala Hotel (it has my shadow on it, and some of the text is hard to read)

We were staying at Gualala, and were eating at Upper Crust Pizzeria, which was really good, and so we returned to it. Next to it was the “Gualala Hotel”. This plaque was in front of it.

At first, it was something I scanned through, and it did seem of some minor historical interest, and was about to walk past when I read the last few lines again.

Dedicated September 29, 6023 (2018)

I did the math.

6023 - 2018 = 4005

I vaguely remembered something involving 4004 BCE as a pre-deep-time possible “time of creation”, and … yes, that checked out.

James Ussher picked late 4004 BCE for this event — though this wasn’t very different from Newton’s (yes, that Newton) estimate of 4000 BCE.


The last line adds:

Credo Quia Absurdum

”I believe because it’s absurd”

The “belief” here isn’t about the hotel, surely, but rather this “timeline”.

It could be an inside joke then, mentioning this absurdity? Or, since it’s meaning is ambiguous, perhaps an expression of faith?

The second-to-last line read:

The Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus

This being a group given to pranks and satire, I favor the humorous interpretation.

Still, this was an interesting find 🙂

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