Weather, Chick Parsons, Children, Voles, Degas

Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

Dogger, Fisher, German Bight

Fiona Harvey | Guardian | 24th August 2017

Short history of the Shipping Forecast, a public service since 1867, devised by Robert FitzRoy, pioneer of weather forecasting and previously captain of HMS Beagle on which Charles Darwin sailed. “The shipping forecast is now 93% accurate, and the forecast for inshore waters is about 97% accurate. Wind direction is not always as easy to get right as wind speed, with about 80% accuracy and more than 90% respectively, while about 15% of gale warnings turn out to be false alarms” (610 words)

Send Parsons Immediately

Peter Eisner | Smithsonian | 24th August 2017

Action-packed account of the amazing life of Chick Parsons, a one-man OSS in the Philippines under Japanese occupation. “Before World War II, Parsons had been the toast of Manila society, successful in business and unrivaled on the polo field, a gregarious, muscular expat American with a shock of wavy brown hair, a winning smile and an eagle tattooed across the expanse of his chest”. The day the war ended he resumed that life. And, in between, he displayed almost incredible bravery (5,300 words)

The Drive For Perfect Children

Tyler Cowen | Bloomberg | 22nd August 2017

As the genetic engineering of embryos comes to seem almost inevitable, what qualities will parents seek in their children? You might assume intelligence above all; but American mothers prize extraversion over intelligence; they want children who are fun to have around. “The current mix of human personalities and institutions is a delicate balance which, for all of its flaws, has allowed society to survive and progress. I’m not looking to make a big roll of the dice on this one” (800 words)

The Black Box Of Heartbreak

Mandy Len Catron | TED | 24th August 2017

We tend to think of love as a black box: Who knows how it works? But perhaps we can get some useful hints by looking at prairie voles, another of the very few species of mammal that practise monogamy. If anything, prairie voles are even keener on monogamy than we are, mating for life and co-operating enthusiastically as parents. “Like humans, prairie voles have the occasional extracurricular tryst — they are socially, not sexually, monogamous — but they typically return to their mates” (907 words)

Degas’s Model Tells All

Jeff Nagy | Paris Review | 24th August 2017

Pseudonymous but seemingly authentic memoir shows that even the greatest artist is no hero to his model. “If you posed for Degas, he paid poorly, five francs a session, the same amount a model two decades earlier could have expected. The atelier was cold and filthy, and, perversely for a man who spent so much of his life depicting bathing women, models were not permitted to wash. Degas had a mania for strenuous poses that left the women who assumed them cramped and numb” (1,800 words)

Video of the day: Literal Bohemian Rhapsody

What to expect:

Queen’s micro-opera enacted as noir detective fiction (4’05”)

Thought for the day

He who laughs last has not yet heard the bad news
Bertolt Brecht

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