Daily Office:


Matins: The Urban Mole won second prize; I’d have made it the first-prizewinner. (via Good)

Lauds: A forgotten instrument from a famous score has been re-invented (one hopes!): the steel glockenspiel that Mozart had in mind for The Magic Flute.

Prime: One of the biggest problems in the way we do business — literally — is the slapdash way in which we do or don’t clean up after ourselves: “When Auto Plants Close, Only White Elephants Remain.”

Tierce: Unexpected but inevitable: what happens when lightweight Smart Cars are parked near canals. (via Infrastructurist)

Sext: How To Cook Like Your Grandmother. (via  MetaFilter)

Nones: After more than six years of expense, it has come to this:

“If there ever was a window where the seeds of a professional military culture could have been implanted, it is now long past. U.S. combat forces will not be here long enough or with sufficient influence to change it,” wrote [Col Timothy R Reese]. “The military culture of the Baathist-Soviet model under Saddam Hussein remains entrenched and will not change. The senior leadership of the I.S.F. is incapable of change in the current environment.”

Vespers: Will Blythe writes up the new new Thomas Pynchon novel — a noir detective story — at The Second Pass.

Compline: At the Frontal Cortex, Jonah Lehrer discusses some recent findings about television as a balm for loneliness.

Bon weekend à tous!


§ Matins. What a concept: sewerbots:

Dirty? The positioning of the Mole at the top of the pipe protects it from contamination. Furthermore the customer will never come into contact with the outer shell. When it’s ready to be filled at a packing station, one can touch the mole’s interior through a special port. The Mole is a hermetically sealed box with a round shape and a lotus-effect surface. This makes cleaning easier. The maximum packet size is a little bigger than an average shoe box. It can carry typical Amazon products like books, DVDs and, of course, shoes. Each Mole unit has its own electric motor. Electricity is supplied by the rails.

Be sure to click through to have a look. It’s very clear that the Urban Mole would fit easily into purpose-built maintenance tunnels in a redeveloped urban area such as, say, the Queens Boulevard Corridor.

§ Lauds. At the risk of sounding a little bit sniffy, the most interesting thing about this story is that the impetus for re-creating the instrument comes from the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, an original-instrument band.

In modern productions, the part of the bells is usually played on a celeste, a 20th-century instrument resembling an upright piano. That was not an option for the Brandenburg musicians, who perform with period instruments.

‘‘If I played a celeste with our orchestra it would sound woeful,’’ Dyer said. ‘‘It is very much a modern instrument and the pitch is all wrong. We had to find something that would work in a period orchestra.’’

The instrument was built in Dorset by organ-builder Robin Jennings.

§ Prime. It doesn’t take a lot of thought to see that plants ought to be insured for demolition or retooling.

The worst of the empty auto plants is located, perhaps fittingly, on the downtrodden east side of Detroit.

The 3.5-million-square-foot factory has been crumbling since the Packard Motor Car Company closed its doors more than 50 years ago. Trees grow on the plant’s roof, and chunks of concrete regularly fall from the bridge that connects two of its buildings.

Trespassers often explore its rotted interior, and photographs and videos of the ruins are easily found on the Internet.

Vandals have set fires several times this year in the piles of wooden pallets, tires and garbage that litter the complex. It is not unusual to see clouds of thick smoke pouring from the building on a summer evening.

Something to look forward to.

§ Tierce. Why? Because they can!


§ Sext. This is great American cooking, still fantastic every now and then (because it will kill you if you try to live on it).

Cooking used to be all about making food that tasted good. But somewhere along the way, we seem to have decided the diet-of-the-week was more important. How to Cook Like Your Grandmother is a return to recipes and techniques that are based on what tastes good, not on junk science and fad diets. You won’t find the words lite, low, lean, free or skim anywhere. This is all real food, cooked the way Grandma would have done it.

Onion rings — Mr Kime prefers to fry in beef tallow — chocolate brownies, egg salad, even cheesesteak. Tired of banana bread? Why not go all out on banana cake? We’re dreaming of test kitchens.

§ Nones. Col Reese’s report, written for internal use only, has been posted on “at least one military-oriented Web site,” according to the Times story by Michael Gordon.

§ Vespers. Thomas Pynchon is not on our list, for reasons captured in the following passage:

Conspiracy is the organizing principle of Inherent Vice. That this is a noir novel merely makes explicit an underlying structure common to all of Pynchon’s fiction in which paranoia, delusion and momentary enlightenment alternate at a dizzying speed. Doc attempts to solve a mystery that may or may not be solvable, so dense are the thickets of information through which he must hack, so opaque the motives of nearly everyone he comes across, including old and new flames.

Against Doc’s humane ethos — if I’m not mistaken, he nearly always declines to be paid for his investigations, and he only shoots a couple of really bad guys — the forces of darkness wage their diabolical war. In no particular order, he battles the LAPD, the FBI, loan sharks utilizing an early version of the Internet, neo-Nazis (who also happen to be Ethel Merman fanatics), local vigilantes, a rock ‘n roll musician on the government payroll, shady developers, proto-New Agers and a mysterious organization known as the Golden Fang, which may in fact be run by dentists.

The swirl of paranoia and the surfeit of creativity (dentists?) annoy us.

§ Compline. Our response, generally affirmative, bristles with axiomatic distinctions.

  • “Television” here refers to an entertainment technology that’s used in the home. It has no necessary connection to “broadcast television,” which we revile.
  • Watching DVDs or video on demand is significantly different from “tuning in” to a show that runs at a certain time (ie, The Daily Show). When we watch a DVD, we’re running the show. When we tune in to The Daily Show, we’re joining a crowd.
  • Unfortunately, running the show — by choosing a DVD to play — is the only thing about watching television that is not passive. We  believe that it’s the passivity of watching television that intensifies the depressing effect of coming to the end of a show — especially of a serial such as Mad Men.

Better by far, we believe, to have a lot of good Facebook friends. (Friends who are good at Facebook.)

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