Hop On Your Boat With A Shovel (AD S4E9)
I had a nice offsprint — I started Moss Roberts’ very long translation of Romance of the Three Kingdoms — but tomorrow it’s back to writing. I wasn’t totally happy with how the first part turned out so I’m going to take another crack at it over the next two weeks — stay tuned!
“The Fall of Simon Magus”, studio of Pompeo Batoni, c. 1745- 1750
Russell’s Fun Facts Corner
- Spices have made and unmade empires, of course. But did you know that nutmeg — native to the Banda Islands of Indonesia but now the national dish of Grenada (it even appears on the Grenadan flag!) — is considered an intoxicant and is, according to some Muslim jurists, haram because it contains both a hallucinogen (myristicin) and an ingredient of MDMA (safrole)?
- How do you harvest salt from the world’s second-saltiest body of water (Lake Retba in Senegal)? In this informative video from Eater (h/t Kottke.org), we learn how. First step: cover yourself in shea butter or risk rashes from the salinity and heat (which can reach over 40 degrees Celsius). Second: hop on your boat with a shovel. Third: put on 30cm-long platform shoes and step out onto the lakebed. Fourth: carefully shovel up the salt that has formed into crystals, sinking to the bottom of the lake. Fifth: pour the saltwater through a sieve made of coconut palm and plastic (iron would just rust). Finally, carry it back to shore so it can be packed up and sold.
- cod3.attorney is a mysterious site with almost no links to the rest of the internet, featuring bizarre geometric images and blocks of gibberish text. A header (containing a paragraph of text contained in an image) claims that the site is intended to show off “useful Malbolge programs”, referring to an infamous esolang that is almost impossible to work with (most Malbolge programs are generated algorithmically instead of being written “by hand”). But the strangest part is that the blocks of text aren’t working Malbolge programs at all.
- Befunge is an esoteric programming language with the goal of being (relatively) trivial to interpret but extremely difficult to compile, which it accomplishes by having two-dimensional control flow — instructions are laid out on a 2d grid, with the instruction pointer able to move in any of the four cardinal directions; the instruction pointer continues moving in a single direction until it hits an instruction that tells it to change direction. Befunge programs can also write new instructions to the grid as it executes. Despite this, some Befunge compilers have been written. (h/t Hillel Wayne’s newsletter)
- Pompeii continues to be an archaeological gold mine: a box of trinkets, including carved scarab beetles, tiny skulls and dolls, and miniature penises, was discovered recently, with the presiding archaeologists arguing they are likely part of a sorceress’ toolkit used in fertility rituals.
What’s New, Rooby-Doo?
It has been hot in San Francisco this past week (well, as hot as San Francisco gets, anyway) and Rooibos has not been enjoying it.