fifteen things tagged “history”

Ghost Structures

This is such a wonderful idea. Stand opposite the glass and you’d know what Kruševac Fortress in Serbia looked like in its heyday:

Franklin Court in Pennsylvania is another example of how one could illustrate architectural history.

Franklin Court was the site of the handsome brick home of Benjamin Franklin, who lived here while serving in the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention. Franklin died here in 1790; the house was torn down 22 years later. Today the site contains a steel “ghost structure” outlining the spot where Franklin’s house stood and features the Benjamin Franklin Museum […]

National Park Service

Dorothy Counts

04 September, 1957

Dorothy Counts, the first and at the time only black student to enroll in the newly desegregated Harry Harding High School in Charlotte (NC), is mocked by protestors on her first day of school. Bystanders threw rocks and screamed at Dorothy to go back to where she came from.

The man walking beside her is probably Dr. Edwin Tompkins, a friend of the family and a professor at the black college Johnson C. Smith University. After a string of abuses, Dorothy’s family withdrew her from the school after only four days. Children had been enrolling for the new school year and tension was particularly high in the south for districts trying to comply with the US Supreme Court’s ruling that states should desegregate their schools with deliberate speed.

World Press Photo

I cannot imagine what she must have felt.

“There was unutterable pride, tension and anguish in that girl’s face as she approached the halls of learning, with history jeering at her back,” he later said. “It made me furious. It filled me with both hatred and pity. And it made me ashamed. Some one of us should have been there with her.”

Michael Graff, quoting James Baldwin, “This picture signaled an end to segregation. Why has so little changed?”, The Guardian

Photos by Douglas Martin.




Bas Uterwijk’s ‘Post Photography’

Bas Uterwijk’s AI portraits1 look just like photo shots, but are largely generated by an algorithm. He uploads drawings and paintings, often images of people who lived before the invention of photography. With the help of a neural network he creates realistic interpretations that appear as if they were made in a photographic process.

Each work is a quest for the visual character of the person portrayed. By combining art-historical and archaeological elements, Uterwijk achieves a layered and fascinating result.

Website (Google translation of Dutch text)

First came by this remarkable generation of the DOOM guy’s face:

And here are Alexander, Caesar, Zuck, and Jesus.

More of his work on Instagram.

  1. Looks like he uses ArtBreeder with StyleGAN2. ↩︎

Ottoman Food

I found out I am to thank the Ottomans for a lot of my favorite things to eat and drink:

  • Baklava (which dates back two thousand years, to the Assyrian Empire)
  • Coffee made the Right Way™
  • The modern kebab
  • Shawarma
  • Sherbet
  • Dolma (stuffed food) and Sarma (wrapped food)
  • An ancestor of the hummus: a chickpea spread flavored with cinnamon, pine nuts, and currants. Consumed with bread and popular in the 15th century
  • Ayran: My absolute favorite thing to drink on a hot day. Couldn’t find many differences between ayran and the laban I grew up drinking.

The Song of Seikilos

This is the "the oldest surviving complete musical composition, including musical notation, from anywhere in the world" and dates from “either from the 1st or the 2nd century AD.” It was found engraved on a tombstone and was “dedicated by Seikilos to Euterpe, who was possibly his wife.” (Wikipedia)

While you live, shine
have no grief at all
life exists only for a short while
and Time demands his due

😭 💗

The Korn Shell

Good talk by Siteshwar Vashisht at FOSDEM 2019 on maintaining the Korn shell and old codebases in general. I came by his work while reading up on the fish shell. Featured this nugget

He talks about how they removed dead/inapplicable code and micro-optimizations, refactored a lot of legacy code, improved tests, switched to a new build and CI system, and so on.

Began with this baffling one-liner that won the International Obfuscated C Contest in 1987

main() { printf(&unix["\021%six\012\0"],(unix)["have"]+"fun"-0x60);}

And reminded me of this Aaron Sorkin-esque story about David Korn which I heard via BLN

Greg Sullivan, a MicroSoft product manager (henceforth MPM), was holding forth on a forthcoming product that will provide Unix style scripting and shell services on NT for compatibility and to leverage UNIX expertise that moves to the NT platform. The product suite includes the MKS (Mortise Kern Systems) windowing Korn shell, a windowing Perl, and lots of goodies like awk, sed and grep. It actually fills a nice niche for which other products (like the MKS suite) have either been too highly priced or not well enough integrated.
An older man, probably mid-50s, stands up in the back of the room and asserts that Microsoft could have done better with their choice of Korn shell. He asks if they had considered others that are more compatible with existing UNIX versions of KSH.

The MPM said that the MKS shell was pretty compatible and should be able to run all UNIX scripts.

The questioner again asserted that the MKS shell was not very compatible and didn’t do a lot of things right that are defined in the KSH language spec. The MPM asserted again that the shell was pretty compatible and should work quite well.

This assertion and counter assertion went back and forth for a bit, when another fellow member of the audience announced to the MPM that the questioner was, in fact David Korn of AT&T (now Lucent) Bell Labs. (DavidKorn is the author of the KornShell).

Uproarious laughter burst forth from the audience, and it was one of the only times that I have seen a (by then pink cheeked) MPM lost for words or momentarily lacking the usual unflappable confidence. So, what’s a body to do when Microsoft reality collides with everyone else’s?

“Calcium-Carbonate Concretions”

Michael LaPointe writing for The Atlantic on The Pearl of Lao Tzu

But elsewhere in the Miner letter, the curator terms the specimen a “pearlaceous growth,” and stresses that it ought not to be classified as a precious pearl. The gems we commonly know as pearls are formed within the organic tissue of saltwater oysters, whose inner shells possess nacre, or mother-of-pearl, which generates a pearl’s signature luminescent sheen. Compared with these gems, Tridacna-clam pearls are more like porcelain. Indeed, the Pearl of Lao Tzu cuts an ugly figure. Some might liken it to a lump of white clay; others might think it’s an alien egg.

Under U.S. trade law, it’s perfectly legal to call such objects pearls; any shelled mollusk—even a snail—can make a pearl. But gemologists traffic in precious pearls, and discard the rest with a pejorative classification: calcium-carbonate concretions.

I think it looks like a big ‘concretion’ of hardened, polished, chewing gum. Like a misshapen mozzarella ball.