Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope your festive season’s going well and there’s much fun and merriment for all. Here, for your enjoyment, is the world’s first Christmas card, from 1843. It was commissioned by Sir Henry Cole and drawn by John Callcot Horsley, part of the general commercialisation of Christmas that decade. It’s rich with … More A Christmas card from history…
It’s funny how food fads change. After a generation and a half of being told fat is bad for us, now we’re told it’s not (probably), and instead the Evil Food de Jour is sugar. There’s a good deal of science behind that. Sugar, in the quantities we eat it today, wasn’t part of our … More Who profits from food fads?
I’ve decided the other day that computer operating system names and numbers have lost something since the early eighties. Back then, Microsoft were producing a thing called ‘DOS’, which stood for ‘Disk Operating System’ and was sensibly issued in successive versions – 1, 2, 3 and so on. I think the last one I saw … More I prefer operating systems that aren’t named after beaches. Or ice cream.
One of my pet irritations about Christmas is the zombie mall frenzy, when shoppers go into a kind of trance amidst the glitz and glitter of the mall and start shelling out cash for chintzy consumer items made of cheap plastic. Most of these gee-gaws break 28 seconds after being unwrapped, and by 29 December … More Where did the commercial Christmas zombie frenzy start?
I have to admit to a certain cynicism about the age of big data – the age of online convenience where we can shop from home, buy stuff with the click of a button, and have it sent to us. Books, among other things. But there’s a down-side. ‘They’ know what you bought – and … More Big brother is watching us because we asked for it – Huxley style
Years ago, my high school English teacher had a fantastic talent for rendering Shakespeare so painfully dull that we used to hang out for maths classes or death or a revolution or something. I’m not sure how he managed it, but he did. If the teacher had said: ‘Shakespeare’s stuff is filled with really, really … More Shakespeare – the amazing, fun and immortally rude bard
There’s a vigorous naval enthusiast community out there. And it’s always intrigued me how often their discussions devolve to bitterly personalised argument, often infused with a kind of nationalist machismo in which paper statistics become weapons for invalidating the personal worth of the other party. Setting aside the point that this is basically dick-waving, using … More Why ships are more than just steel and lists of statistics