201 lines of html code presenting 2,058 words

an aural noise

word salad: The Witch Doctor has always been passionate about music, but it is only in the last 7 years that she has fully dedicated herself to djing and producing psytrance/psychill. She has been playing Psytrance since the late 90’s starting with Vinyl but a scientific career and education meant focus had to wait. The rewards have been bountiful this last 7 years – from playing with and working with renowned artists to having weekly radio shows on multiple stations. The pandemic may have temporarily stopped her from playing at parties and festivals, but it has also allowed her creative spirit to flourish and commit even more time for producing mesmerizing tracks and mixing via the airwaves. The result of this dedication speaks volumes and long may it continue.

some of the things I read while eating breakfast in antisocial isolation

Swiss Maps Are Full of Hidden Secrets

Find the Easter eggs—or the naked lady.

Naughty cartographers with too much time on their hands. Embiggenable.

SWISS HUMOR. Now there’s two words you don’t often see together. In fact, Google Trends lists zero occurrences of the phrase between 2004 and now. Even “German humor” produces a graph (albeit a rather flat one). But not only is there some evidence that Swiss comedy does exist, it might just be that being well-hidden is kind of its thing. Find it and laugh. Or don’t, and the joke’s on you!

That evidence, as it turns out, is cartographic. The Swiss Federal Office of National Topography, Swisstopo for short, is a decidedly serious institution. Many serious things—time and money, for starters—depend on the accuracy of its maps. In the case of its mountain maps, actual lives hang in the balance. Yet in decades past, the austere institute’s maps have served as the canvas for a series of in-jokes among its more fun-loving cartographers.

Switzerland’s geography proved to inspire map makers in surprising ways.

These mapmakers played a game of wits against their superiors, the ones whose duties included checking the maps before publication. Over the years, the cartographers managed to slip in—on maps that were supposed to contain only dry topographic facts—drawings of an airplane, a fish, a marmot, a mountaineer, a face, a spider, even of a naked lady. Once discovered, these humorous additions were removed without pardon. At least, that’s how it used to be.

Either way, it doesn’t matter. Swisstopo is defeated by its own thoroughness. Its map page allows you not just to zoom in and out of the most recent maps but also to browse historical maps and thus revisit these “Easter eggs” that prove, however obliquely, the existence of a sense of humor among the mountains of Switzerland.

How the US Presidency Became a Performance

Image is everything.

Joe Biden takes a selfie with actor Ke Huy Quan.

Joe Biden is pretty old, and voters see this as a problem — 86% of us think he is too old to run for president. Interestingly, only 62% of voters believe that the age of Donald Trump, who is only three and a half years younger than Biden, is problematic.

I’d like to think that a quarter of Americans have taken sober stock of the situation and, after carefully looking at the actuarial tables, concluded that a president of 81 is too old. At the same time, someone at the young age of 77 is fine. But I doubt that this is what’s going on.

There are two explanations for the difference in poll numbers. The first is how partisanship functions in America today — Democrats seem more likely to admit their candidates’ shortcomings to pollsters than Republicans, leading to a huge split along party lines. But, even among independents, there’s a difference between perceptions of the two men: 91% believe that Biden is too old, while 71% have the same perception of Trump.

So, there must be more to it than Republican bullheadedness. What is it about Biden that seems too old? Maybe it’s the law of round numbers — he’s passed 80, while Trump hasn’t. But, it appears that voters are concerned about what they see from Biden in a way that they’re not concerned about Trump. The issues that people cite most commonly are:

  • He just looks old — his hair is thinning (in contrast to Trump’s completely natural hair), he’s skinny, and he seems frail.
  • He speaks softly, more cautiously, and more slowly than he used to.
  • He occasionally slips up in his speech, as when he swapped in “Mexico” for “Egypt” in a press conference.
  • He doesn’t appear in public often, which shows he fears that he’ll reinforce these perceptions if he is on TV too much.
  • You’ll notice that there are no serious allegations that Biden’s judgment is terrible or that he doesn’t understand the issues. I’m unaware of any evidence that Biden’s age has affected his decision-making.

    Another way to put this is that all of the worries about Biden’s age are about his ability to perform the role of president, not his ability to do the job of president.

    This doesn’t mean that concerns about Biden’s age aren’t important, but it highlights the degree to which the modern presidency is a performance more than anything else. We don’t want a quietly competent technocrat or a master of bureaucracy; we want a showman.

    So, how did we get here?

    How did the US presidency become a performance?

    Monty Python May Have Inspired Mel Brooks to Make a Musical

    In the early 1990s, Monty Python’s Eric Idle thought Broadway musicals had stopped being funny. Can you blame him? In David Morgan’s Monty Python Speaks, Idle lamented the demise of broad, goofy musicals in favor of shows about “people with plates on their faces.” One can assume he was referring to Andrew Lloyd Weber’s decidedly unfunny Phantom of the Opera.

    Idle decided to do something about it, approaching comic legend Mel Brooks with an intriguing idea: What if we turned your classic comedy The Producers into a musical? According to Idle, Brooks turned him down, claiming it wasn’t a good idea. But he clearly changed his mind because just a few years later, Brooks made The Producers into a stage smash that won 12 Tony Awards, breaking the previous record held by Hello, Dolly!

    The bad news for Idle was that he wasn’t in on the action. The good news was that The Producers had Broadway looking for more silly musicals, paving the way for Idle to adapt Monty Python and the Holy Grail into the hit musical Spamalot.

    Cheese Rolling and Other Insane British Sports

    How about wrestling in gravy, or shin-kicking?

    We Brits have quaint, old-fashioned ways of doing things that the rest of the world laughs at, and to be honest, in a lot of cases that is perfectly fair.

    And our eccentricity is exemplified in no better way than in our love for unusual and totally bonkers sports.

    Which is just as well really because we are not that great at most mainstream sports.

    British tennis players didn’t exactly excel at the Australian Open, even though we invented the bloody game, and as I write the England cricket team is losing to India.

    I wouldn’t mind, but we invented cricket as well, back in the 16th century, and now we’re shit at that, too.

    But, enough of today’s sporting disasters, let’s go back in history to medieval times, in fact to Cooper’s Hill near Gloucester, where we discover the beginnings of the ancient sport of

    Cheese Rolling

    A large, circular-shaped Double Gloucester cheese weighing eight pounds is simply rolled down a steep hill from the top, and mad people chase after it. They hurl themselves down the grassy slope in an effort to be first to catch the cheese, often injuring themselves in the process.

    There are races for both men and women, and the winner goes home with the cheese.

    And often a broken limb.

    Will you adopt massive Murray? He’s the 2.5-ton statue in Arleta couple’s yard – but they’re moving

    Murray the Moai was a surprise gift for David Gee in 2007 from his wife, Diedra.

    Murray, a 2.5-ton replica of the Moai on Easter Island, sits in David Gee’s yard in Arleta on Feb. 2, 2024. Murray was fabricated out of volcanic rock in 2007 and is approximately 7.5 feet tall. Embiggenable.

    On an inconspicuous street in Arleta, retiree David Gee’s yard is renowned, not for a stunning garden or a towering tree, but because Murray lives there.

    Murray is a 2.5-ton replica of the monolithic Moai figures on Easter Island. The originals were carved by the indigenous people of Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island, in the Polynesian islands sometime between 1200 and 1500, historians say.

    Murray, while no kid himself, is quite a bit younger than his distant relatives.

    View of Moais — stone statues of the Rapa Nui culture — in Easter Island, 3700 km off the Chilean coast in the Pacific Ocean, on Aug. 5, 2022. – The ancestors warned about it, but in the frenzy of tourism, they ignored the advice until the pandemic arrived. Isolated and closed off, Chile’s Easter Island has become almost self-sustaining, and now that tourism is back, they are looking to preserve it along with caring for its iconic moai.

    “He’s sturdy and he hasn’t complained for all these years,” Gee joked. “He’s not much of a talker at all. And he’s waterproof.”

    Towering at 7.5-feet tall, Murray the Moai was a surprise gift for David Gee from his wife, Diedra Gee.

    Ed. Murray can live in my front yard if someone’s will pay to ship him here.

    CAUTION: Some language may not be appropriate for work or children.

    This sport is fair dinkum incredible. Cheers to everyone that sent it in to me.

    THE LAST TAB . . .

    Who Wrote At A Higher Level, Abraham Lincoln Or Barack Obama?

    I was shocked when I ran books by presidents through the ‘readability statistics’ checker on Microsoft Word.

    Barack Obama at a White House computer. Embiggenable.

    WHO WROTE AT A HIGHER LEVEL, Abraham Lincoln or Barack Obama? Thomas Jefferson or George W. Bush? And how do the reading levels of their books or speeches compare with those of bestselling novels?

    Answers to questions like these are easy to find if you run presidents’ books or speeches through the Microsoft Word spell-checker.

    When the Word spell-checker shows you the results, you see the Flesch-Kincaid grade level at the bottom of the column of numbers that appears on your screen. (If you don’t see it, search Microsoft Word Help for “display readability statistics” or for an online tutorial that tells you how to display those.) You can also see the reading level of your own writing this way.

    In U.S. schools, each grade level roughly corresponds to an age. Children typically start kindergarten at age 5 and graduate from high school, 12th grade, at 17. They reach ninth grade — the first year of high school — at about age 14, 10th grade at 15, 11th grade at 16.

    So if Word says Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address has a reading level of Grade 10.9, you know it’s written at the reading level of an almost-16-year-old.

    Currier and Ives lithograph with Thomas Jefferson at far left.

    I grew curious about such statistics when Mitch Albom had a string of №1 bestsellers in novels like The Five People You Meet in Heaven and — even by pop-fiction standards — his books seemed dumbed-down.

    To test my impressions, I typed part of his For One More Day onto a new document page and ran the Word spell checker. It confirmed my instinct: The book was written at a third-grade level.

    That made me wonder when Presidents Day rolled around: Were U.S. presidents writing at a similarly low level? I used Word to calculate the reading levels of the presidents’ books, if these were easily available, and their best-known speeches if not.

    Ed. When I asked my current version of Word how to display readability statistics, I was informed that my version is retired.

    Ed. More tomorrow? Possibly. Probably. Maybe. Likely, if I find nothing more barely uninteresting at all to do.

    Ed., etc. I didn’t have time to do this today.


    Assimilation Complete