Scientists solve the mystery of why wombats have cube-shaped poo

Here:

How wombats produce their cube-shape poo has long been a biological puzzle but now an international study has provided the answer to this unusual natural phenomenon.

The cube shape is formed within the intestines – not at the point of exit, as previously thought …

Good to know.

The Moose Cup Powered By Daraz

The Moose Cup Powered By Daraz being the trophy that the Sri Lankan and English cricket teams are now battling, out there in Sri Lanka, to win.

Moose. Daraz.

The Moose Cup Powered by Daraz is a regular cricket trophy, except that its giant cricket ball has antlers. On the right, Joe Root, England captain. On the left, not sure, but I presume that’s Karunaratne, not the Sri Lankan captain for this game because he damaged himself and couldn’t play in it.

There have been two days of cricket so far, and England have the upper hand.

On the first day, Endland’s Dom Bess didn’t bowl well

A quota photo – and why I (and 6k) like quota photos

Rough day today, what with the steroids having stopped. They definitely had a mental as well as physical effect. So quota photo time, this photo has been picked pretty much at random from the archives:

What made me pick it is that that’s not just the Shard, in a general way. It’s the Shard while they were still building it, the photo dating from March 2012.

The quota photo was one of the notions that South African based blogger 6k was kind enough to write about recently in connection with my blogging. And I do indeed think quota photos have value (as does quota blogging more generally). Just shoving up a photo like the one above is hardly going to spoil anyone’s day. After all, a photo can be skipped past in seconds if it does not appeal. On the other hand, it might just pack a bit more punch than that. So what’s to lose? I’m in a rush now, but maybe I’ll manage a comment, with a link or two maybe, to the effect that some of my favourite 6k photos over the years were often first posted as mere quota photos, which he posted just so as to post something. Yet I especially liked some of these particular photos in particular.

Maybe part of it is that a quota photo can be one of those photos that you just like, for no very obvious reasons that makes you want to attach an essay to it. Normally, you might hold it back until you decide what it means. This way, you just shove it up, and then others can like it too.

As for my quote photo above, I have, I think posted various versions of the above, where the Shard is aligned with one of the pinnacles of the Tower of London, but not this particular one.

I like that it includes a crane.

Steven Johnson’s history of what we do for fun

Tell ’em what you’re going to say, tell ’em, tell ’em what you said. I believe that’s the formula that many preachers follow when they give their sermons. The bit from a book below is from the “tell ’em what you’re going to say” bit, in other words the Introduction (pp. 8-11), of Steven Johnson’s Wonderland, which I ordered from Amazon back in October, and am now starting to dip into:

Delight is a word that is rarely invoked as a driver of historical change. History is usually imagined as a battle for survival, for power, for freedom, for wealth. At best, the world of play and amusement belongs to the side bars of the main narrative: the spoils of progress, the surplus that civilizations enjoy once the campaigns for freedom and affluence have been won. But imagine you are an observer of social and technological trends in the second half of the eighteenth century, and you are trying to predict the truly seismic developments that would define the next three centuries. The programmable pen of Jaquet-Droz’s Writer – or Merlin’s dancer and her “irresistible eyes” – would be as telling a clue about that future as anything happening in Parliament or on the battlefield, foreshadowing the rise of mechanized labor, the digital revolution, robotics, and artificial intelligence.

This book is an extended argument for that kind of clue: a folly, dismissed by many as a mindless amusement, that turns out to be a kind of artifact from the future. This is a history of play, a history of the pastimes that human beings have concocted to amuse themselves as an escape from the daily grind of subsistence. This is a history of what we do for fun. One measure of human progress is how much recreational time many of us now have, and the immensely varied ways we have of enjoying it. A time-traveler from five centuries ago would be staggered to see just how much real estate in the modern world is devoted to the wonderlands of parks, coffee shops, sports arenas, shopping malls, IMAX theaters: environments specifically designed to entertain and delight us. Experiences that were once almost exclusively relegated to society’s elites have become commonplace to all but the very poorest members of society. An average middle-class family in Brazil or Indonesia takes it for granted that their free time can be spent listening to music, marveling at elaborate special effects in Hollywood movies, shopping for new fashions in vast palaces of consumption, and savoring the flavors of cuisines from all over the world. Yet we rarely pause to consider how these many luxuries came to be a feature of everyday life.

History is mostly told as a long fight for the necessities, not the luxuries: the fight for freedom, equality, safety, self-governance. Yet the history of delight matters, too, because so many of these seemingly trivial discoveries ended up triggering changes in the realm of Serious History. I have called this phenomenon “the hummingbird effect”: the process by which an innovation in one field sets in motion transformations in seemingly unrelated fields. The taste for coffee helped create the modern institutions of journalism; a handful of elegantly decorated fabric shops helped trigger the industrial revolution. When human beings create and share experiences designed to delight or amaze, they often end up transforming society in more dramatic ways than people focused on more utilitarian concerns. We owe a great deal of the modern world to people doggedly trying to solve a high-minded problem: how to construct an internal combustion engine or manufacture vaccines in large quantities. But a surprising amount of modernity has its roots in another kind of activity: people mucking around with magic, toys, games, and other seemingly idle pastimes. Everyone knows the old saying “Necessity is the mother of invention,” but if you do a paternity test on many of the modern world’s most important ideas or institutions, you will find, invariably, that leisure and play were involved in the conception as well.

Although this account contains its fair share of figures like Charles Babbage – well-to-do Europeans tinkering with new ideas in their parlors – it is not just a story about the affluent West. One of the most intriguing plot twists in the story of leisure and delight is how many of the devices or materials originated outside of Europe: those mesmerizing automata from the House of Wisdom, the intriguing fashions of calico and chintz imported from India, the gravity-defying rubber balls invented by Mesoamericans, the clove and nutmeg first tasted by remote Indonesian islanders. In many ways, the story of play is the story of the emergence of a truly cosmopolitan worldview, a world bound together by the shared experiences of kicking a ball around on a field or sipping a cup of coffee. The pursuit of pleasure turns out to be one of the very first experiences to stitch together a global fabric of shared culture, with many of the most prominent threads originating outside Western Europe.

I should say at the outset that this history deliberately excludes some of life’s most intense pleasures-including sex and romantic love. Sex has been a central force in human history; without sex, there is no human history. But the pleasure of sex is bound up in deep-seated biological drives. The desire for emotional and physical connections with other humans is written into our DNA, however complex and variable our expression of that drive may be. For the human species, sex is a staple, not a luxury. This history is an account of less utilitarian pleasures; habits and customs and environments that came into being for no apparent reason other than the fact that they seemed amusing or surprising. (In a sense, it is a history that follows Brian Eno’s definition of culture as “all the things we don’t have to do.”) Looking at history through this lens demands a different emphasis on the past: exploring the history of shopping as a recreational pursuit instead of the history of commerce writ large; following the global path of the spice trade instead of the broader history of agriculture and food production. There are a thousand books written about the history of innovations that came out of our survival instincts. This is a book about a different kind of innovation: the new ideas and technologies and social spaces that emerged once some of us escaped from the compulsory labor of subsistence.

The centrality of play and delight does not mean that these stories are free of tragedy and human suffering. Some of the most appalling epochs of slavery and colonization began with a new taste or fabric developing a market, and unleashed a chain of brutal exploitation to satisfy that market’s demands. The quest for delight transformed the world, but it did not always transform it for the better.

Good morning Mozart

This morning, really quite early in the morning as it happened, I was able to walk past that Mozart statue, in what I think of as Pimlico Square. And because I’m not a morning person, and because the statue is so small and rather hidden away, I did walk past it, and had to retrace my steps. But back I went, and attempted more photos of it:

Once again, however, Young Mozart was silhouetted, this time by not himself being able to partake of the morning sun, but also by buildings behind him which did better. The only way to see his face was to zoom in on it.

Just like those Parliament Square statues I struggled to photo even okay for so long, I suspect the trick might be to go back there in the summer, but with clouds to stop the light all coming from the same direction.

I like how this statue says that already, even at his young age, Mozart already knew just what he was doing and how to command an audience. Or, maybe it’s just a case of him standing on a pedestal, which puts him in command automatically.

The great thing about statues is they stay put, and you can keep going back until you get them right. (See also Bartok.)

John Wesley statue outside St Paul’s

I do love statue-photoing but I admit that it has been very hit-and-miss. This, however, by my modest standards, I rate as a hit:

That’s John Wesley. He was, or so it says on the base of the statue, the “father of Methodism”. And, it is right outside St Paul’s Cathedral. How come? Well, it only arrived there as recently as 1988 and is a bronze redo of another statue of Wesley that is in Central Methodist Hall. Or there’s another copy of the original there, or something.

I learned this here. And if you follow that link you get to an even closer head shot of this Wesley statue, which, to my eye, makes him look rather like the actor Christopher Plummer.

Crowd scenes

I’ve never been that interested in crowd scenes, until Sod’s Law swung into action and banned them.

So I went trawling through the archives, and to see if I could find any. I found … a few:

Tate Modern 2004, Hampstead Heath 2005, Farnborough 2012;
Trafalgar Square NFL gathering 2011, Blackheath Concert 2018, View from Tower Bridge 2019;
The Dome 2019, Bryan Caplan Lecture London 2019, South of France classical concert 2020.

That’s the trick of photoing. You need to know what is, at any particular time, temporary. In a few years time, I sincerely hope, crowd scenes will seem the most natural thing in the world. Again.

Wooden sheep out east

So there I was, out east, exploring what was happening to the canals in the Bow, Hackney Wick part of London, photoing photos like this, …:

When, rather suddenly, I came upon this:

All that grubbing around the canal being to create the sort of place where Desirable Apartments can be constructed, and Desirable Apartments need Desirable Sheep Sculptures.

Have you noticed how upmarket sculpture, and also upmarket toys, made of wood, make it very clear that they are made of wood? The woodenness is emphasised. Downmarket sculpture, and downmarket toys, are as realistic as they can be made to be, with the how of it left entirely behind. I veer into toys, because this sheep looks a lot like a toy, I think.

I see a connection between this emphasising of the particular material that the Thing is made of, in sculpture and toys, with Impressionism. Posh paintings, like Impressionist Paintings, make it clear that they are indeed paintings, made of paint, as well as paintings of something. I mean, take a close-up look. Paint! Paintings for peasants just look as much like what they are trying to be of as possible.

Harley in Earls Court

This afternoon, I was in the Earls Court area, getting tested for all my aches and pains and coughs. On my way back to the tube, I encountered a Harley Davidson, parked outside a barber’s shop:

The light was already fading, and the background is very distracting, despite being quite entertaining in its own right. But, whatever. Maybe it would have been better if I’d used my mobile. Memo to self: Do a session, in bad light, using only the mobile.

It’s the contrast between the lack of size of the front wheel and the size of the back wheel that I like about this beast. I love to photo these monsters, but I’d hate to own one.

I went searching on the www, to find an exact same beast nicely photoed. No success, although this is a bit like what I saw.

Young Mozart statue in Belgravia

At the point where Ebury Street joins Pimlico Road, which I think is in “Belgravia”, wherever exactly that starts and ends, there is a small triangle of space, the most notable feature of which is a statue of a young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, holding a violin:

The photo on the left there shows a bit of context, but is also badly lit, by which I mean lit from behind. I have frequently photoed this statue over the years, but never to any better effect than that. However, at the time I photoed the above photo, way back in 2004 with my antique Canon A70, I also photoed other photos of this statue that were half decent, as you can see above right, and below:

Sorry about the wire going through his head there.

This statue is quite recent, but I really like it. Read more about it, and about Mozart’s time in London in this piece. Mozart and family came to London when Mozart was eight. He and his elder sister amazed high society with their musical excellence, especially Mozart himself of course. Apparently he wrote his first two symphonies when in London.

London seems to be pretty short on great composer statues. Haydn? Mendelssohn? Both caused enough of a stir here to earn such recognition. I searched, but found only plaques. Elgar? Worcester. Vaughan Williams? Dorking. Purcell? A walk away from where I live, but I have long thought it hideous.

So this Mozart statue is probably London’s best composer statue. Any commenter who can prove me wrong will be gratefully attended to.

LATER: I forgot Bartok!