Listen: a sexy hymn to Ishtar, in the original Babylonian


Doris Prechel reads Ammi-ditāna's incredibly hot hymn to Ištar in Babylonian (MP3) as transcribed by D. O. Edzard. Read the rest

LA Whiskey Society tastes and reviews "medicinal" whiskey from Prohibition


From 1920 to 1933, the only way to drink whiskey in America was to get a doctor's prescription, which would be pasted on the bottle (max one bottle/person/week) -- much like the "medical marijuana" of today. Read the rest

How To Recognize and Handle Abnormal People: A Manual for the Police Officer


In 1954, the National Association for Mental Health first issued the book "How To Recognize and Handle Abnormal People: A Manual for the Police Officer." Included were techniques on dealing with all kinds of "abnormal persons," from psychopaths, drug addicts, and the "mentally retarded" to civil protestors and those involved in family disturbances.

A selection of scans is below. And if you're not satisfied, you can purchase a copy of the 1975 edition on Amazon for the low price of $103.

(Print via Weird Universe)

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Statues of recently-canonized Junipero Serra vandalized


My California public school education was filled with romanticized stories of the Spanish Missions. What we were taught was not accurate. The folks already living here were abused and enslaved. It comes as no surprise that people feel a lot of anger over the sainting of Junipero Serra, and that the Carmel Mission, where he is interred, was vandalized. Read the rest

Jamaica wants slavery reparations from the UK


Members of Jamaica's Parliament are threatening to turn their backs on David Cameron during an official visit unless he agrees to discuss reparations for slavery during the meeting. Read the rest

Artificial Intelligence, considered: Talking with John Markoff about Machines of Loving Grace


Literary podcaster Rick Kleffer writes, "I must admit that it was too much fun to sit down with John Markoff and talk (MP3) about his book Machines of Loving Grace. Long ago, I booted up a creaking, mothballed version of one of the first Xerox minicomputers equipped with a mouse to extract legacy software for E-mu. Fifteen years later I was at the first Singularity Summit; the book was a trip down many revisions of memory road."

John Markoff’s ‘Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans and Robot’ is a fascinating, character-driven vision of how the recent past created the present and is shaping the near future. The strong and easily understood conflict at the heart of this work gives readers an easy means of grasping the increasingly complicated reality around us. If we do not understand this history, the chances are that we will not have the opportunity to be doomed to repeat it.

Our technological ecology began in two computer labs in Stanford in the early sixties. In one lab, John McCarthy coined the term “Artificial intelligence” with the intention of creating a robot that could think like, move like and replace a human in ten years. On the opposite side of the campus, Douglas Englebart wanted to make it easier for scholars to collaborate using an increasingly vast amount of information. He called it IA, Intelligence Augmentation as a direct response to AI. Thus were born two very different design philosophies that still drive the shape of our technology today – and will continue to do so in the future.

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Step Aside, Pops: a new Hark! A Vagrant! collection that delights and dazzles

Canadian historian turned webcomics god Kate Beaton is back with her second Hark! A Vagrant! collection: Step Aside, Pops. Never before has history been so bitterly funny.

Words about slavery that we should all stop using

"Plantation" = "labor camp"; "slave-owner" = "enslaver"; "Union troops" = "US troops." Read the rest

Find out when your name was popular with Baby Name Explorer app

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It's not super scientifically perfect but it's a fun tool.

The first person, and cat, to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel


In 1901, Annie Edson Taylor, then 63, was the first person to make it over Niagara Falls in a barrel. She designed her own barrel, containing a harness and mattress, and sent her cat over the falls first as a test. Read the rest

Wacky dudes in Russia open 1940s war ration can and eat it because Russia


According to the uploader's description, these jolly Russian gentlemen here are opening what is identified as a 70-year-old package of Soviet fighter pilot war chow.

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110-year-old message in a bottle gets returned to sender

A few months back, Marianne Winkler found a bottle on a German beach with a message inside requesting its return to the Marine Biological Association (MBA) that had dropped more than 1,000 bottles into the North Sea as part of a study of currents. Thing is, that experiment took place more than a century ago. From National Geographic:

"We haven't had [a bottle] returned in living memory," says Guy Baker, an MBA spokesperson.

(Former MBA president and lead researcher on the bottle study George Parker) Bidder got about half of his messages back, says Baker. And the longest it took for one of his bottles to come home—before this current one—was about four years....

Bidder's bottle has also been submitted to the Guinness World Records for consideration as the oldest message in a bottle ever recovered. The current record-holder is a 99-year-old bottle discovered in a fishing net off the Shetland Islands in 2013.

"Century-Old Message in a Bottle Returned to Sender" Read the rest

EFF-Austin panel commemmorating the 20th anniversary of the Steve Jackson Games raid

The Secret Service raid on Austin's Steve Jackson Games started the fight over freedom and privacy online, and resulted in the founding of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and EFF-Austin. Read the rest

Chastity belts were a joke, then a metaphor, then a hoax

Historian Albrecht Classen got so tired of hearing people blithlely assert that chastity belts were ever a thing that he wrote The Medieval Chastity Belt: A Myth-Making Process, explaining how a 15th century hoax that appeared in a manuscript that also feature fart jokes and devices for making people invisible became canon.

From Sarah Laskow: Read the rest

Inspiring and gorgeous patent drawings

Inventions are exciting, but the best ones are art.

This might be the world's earliest flowering life

fossil flower
David Dilcher of Indiana University writes that this 130 million year-old fossil may represent the first life on earth to flower and pollinate underwater.

Based on the many fossil examples we examined, Montsechia floated in freshwater lakes and was submerged in the water. It had a spreading growth, branching freely. This flowering plant didn’t display any of the showy blossoms we tend to associate with flowers. But because it contains seeds enclosed in a fruit, the basic characteristic of angiosperms, it is classified as a flowering plant.

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Memory Palace podcast about a Confederate monument honoring a real racist


Nate DiMeo, host of the always excellent Memory Palace podcast, points us to the new episode "about the history of the Nathan Bedford Forrest monument (and Confederate monuments in general) that the city of Memphis is planning on moving from a prominent place downtown to a nearby cemetery, because Forrest was, essentially, a racist monster."

The Memory Palace: Episode 73 Read the rest

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