Custom Namiki Falcon fountain pen

This is a beautifully shot video of a supremely talented fountain pen writer.

I have a few fountain pens myself, and I love the way some of them write, but the combination of fine point with nib flexibility in this video is not something I’d be able to reproduce.

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

The World’s crops are now as dependent on us as we are on them, so it makes sense to store copies of the seeds themselves inside an Arctic bunker of sorts.

A photograph showing Svalbard Global Seed Vault
Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Built deep inside a mountain, the structure will eventually house a vast collection of seeds; safeguarding world crops against possible future disasters including nuclear wars and dangerous climate change – ‘Doomsday’ seeds arrive in Norway

The Millenium Seed Bank in London is another seed storage facility, but it doesn’t look quite so apocalyptic.

Svalbard Global Seed Vault on Wikipedia.


Is the World Cup finished?

A photograph showing Brazilian residents watching the opening match of the FIFA World Cup
Brazilian residents watch the opening match of the FIFA World Cup between Brazil and Croatia in Porto Seguro, Brazil, June 12. (Matthias Schrader/Associated Press)

I don’t mean that in an, “are we there yet?” sense. I mean, is this the last ever World Cup? Well, no, but in a recent issue of the New Statesman, Jason Cowley comments that

allegations of Fifa corruption have tarnished the image of the beautiful game. Can anything be done, or will Brazil 2014 be remembered as the last authentic World Cup?

Commenters will of course suggest that the arena of super-marketing in which these events now reside has meant that an authentic World Cup died a long time ago, but Cowley goes on to relate football then, versus football now, to a post- and pre-digital age.

… football can create a sense of unity and fellow feeling of a kind that has all but disappeared from daily life in an era of zero-hour contracts, virtual friendships, declining newspaper sales and multi-channeltelevision: something we can all share in and talk about. This sense of togetherness, of an enlarged and enraptured imaginary community, feels never more palpable than during a World Cup summer, when it can sometimes seem as if every second person you meet is preoccupied by the football.

And this he suggests, is over.

However the World Cup itself will never end, because, as he says, “it is a well-oiled engine of cash generation”,

but at what ultimate cost, especially when, as in the case of Qatar, the country has no football culture to speak of and impoverished migrant workers are dying needlessly there as they labour in the horrific heat to build Fifa’s air-conditioned stadiums in the desert?

I’ve certainly enjoyed this World Cup, so far, but I can’t see my interest being quite the same in a Russian- (2018) or Qatari- (2022) hosted event.

The full article, The last World Cup: after Brazil 2014, is the tournament finished?, can be found on the New Statesman website, and is worth taking a look at.


I, Pencil

In 1958, Leonard Read published “I, Pencil: My Family Tree as Told to Leonard E. Read“, and since that date, it’s become an essay on which a lot of Economics thinking is based.

I, Pencil, simple though I appear to be, merit your wonder and awe, a claim I shall attempt to prove.

Simple? Yet, not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me.

Read’s essay explains how the (so called) humble pencil is only possible as a result of the the culmination of a number of technologies; and the creative endeavour of the human race.

But, it’s also about pencils.

Full text of I, Pencil, at the Library of Economics and Liberty.

Virgin America makes booking a flight fun

A screenshot from Virgin America's beta booking site.
A screenshot from Virgin America’s beta booking site.

Planning a trip should be enjoyable, but when it comes to the part where you book your flights, the fun usually ends.

Virgin America’s new booking site – currently still in a beta testing phase – seems to change that for the better. As Julya Buhain at You the Designer says,

We associate the process with little calendars and little red asterisks to indicate that, yes – all the fields are required.

(I never understood the asterisks. How did we – as designers unanimously agree to that? #UIMysteries)

Instead, Virgin America has revamped their store front to an over-all friendlier user experience.

I like it, but it has stepped into the realm of “cute”. There’s a fine line between simplifying the process and making it so simple that it begins to resemble a children’s book. At some point, it’s going to start becoming patronising, and I think there’s a danger of this happening here.

Definitely a step in the right direction, though, and it reminds me of the recent work done by Tyler Thomson, Peter Smart, and Adam Glynn-Finnegan to redesign the airline boarding pass.