To Dye For

FlexDyer from Imago, an example of how digital technologies can help alleviate the massive global pollution caused by dyeing.

Dyeing to Save Water: “digital dyeing”—normally spraying the dye onto fabric with inkjet or other technologies, and unique approaches like this one, stand to help the textiles industry reduce its horrendous environmental footprint by eliminating or at least significantly reducing the use of water and the consequent pollution involved with conventional dye baths.

Men Children?

Heavy Petting

“Pet yarn” is not a term with which we are familiar—nor is “canine cashmere,” for that matter—but for those who want to get even closer to their pet, VIP Fibers in Morgan Hill, Calif., can spin pet fur into yarn that can then be knitted or crocheted into a scarf, a hat, maybe an entire sweater if you have a St. Bernard. Or even: “a bikini that Pettigrew made from her Samoyed's fur ‘for shock value.’”

[S]he is making a living spinning the fur and hair from pet dogs, cats, rabbits, goats — even a pet buffalo — into yarn. Costs range from $6 to spin enough raw fiber — less than an ounce — to make a "pettable picture frame," to several hundred dollars for enough yarn to make a blanket.

“Pet buffalo”? Anyway, although there is a certain instinctive “ick” factor, Pettigrew is quick to riposte:

"That beautiful wool sweater you love so much started out on the back of a sheep, standing endless days out in a pasture, exposed to the elements and collecting vegetation, ticks, lice and the like. The cashmere sweater that you saved up for actually came from the belly of a goat! And your silk blouse? Well, I won't bother telling you which end of a worm it came from!"

That’s a perfectly fair point.

Full Flight

Color Trends

Recently, the BBC had a long feature about color trends. Did you know “millennial pink” was a trend? (“The hottest hue in recent years has been so-called ‘millennial pink’ – seen in countless cool bars, hotels and restaurants – although this trend is finally tailing off.” But then who remembers bars, hotels, and restaurants?)

We all know Pantone’s Color Of the Year (and if you missed color guru Shoshana Burgett’s history of color reference guides earlier this week, you’ll want to check it out) but designers are starting to get even more creative when it comes to color, flouting “traditional” color systems like Pantone, RAL, and others.

today many successful colourists and designers prefer to work outside these rigorous systems, following their own taste in colour or challenging the standardisation of colour widely used by industry, which, they argue, delimits and impoverishes the palette of colours we see around us in everyday life. Dutch designer Hella Jongerius, for example, constantly experiments with colour, and displayed the fruits of her research at the exhibition Breathing Colour at London’s Design Museum in 2017.


Berlin-based Jongerius develops colours for the furniture company Vitra, and created products for her exhibition that presented colour in fresh ways, shedding light on their mutability. One of these, her Colour Catcher, comprises sheets of folded coloured paper; shadows and reflections hitting its different planes resulted in each one acquiring an individual tone. Another idea was a formulation of 16 shades of black created without resorting to carbon. “Instead, I used handcrafted pigments including ultramarine green, cobalt green, natural umber, ruby red and magenta,” she says. “If industry replaced carbon with another black pigment [it] would have a revolutionary effect on our visual landscape. It would change hundreds of the colours found in the industrial palette.”

Ignorance Is Bliss

Say My Name (Correctly)

Here’s an interesting new feature that LinkedIn just added: the ability to upload 10-second audio clips to let your connections know how to pronounce your name, presumably correctly. If you regularly have people mangle the pronunciation of your name, it’s not a bad idea. Of course, that isn’t necessarily all you can use it for—perhaps you want visitors to your profile to be greeted by a personal message of some kind, or perhaps 10 seconds of lurid profanity. Choose wisely.

Who Was that Masked Man?

U-Bahn Bans Ban

To attempt to enforce a mandatory mask requirement, the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG), Berlin’s public transport system, has adopted a unique approach: they have banned deodorant. After all, if everyone reeks, who wouldn’t want to wear a mask?

It’s obviously a joke, but still...

I, Robot?

To Serve Man

Here at Around the Web, we have occasionally highlighted some of the ways that restaurants and other retail locations are encouraging their customers to practice social distancing, be it via six-foot crowns or sombreros, pool noodles, etc. Customers are one thing, but it’s the waitstaff who are perhaps most at risk. So the Royal Palace in the Netherlands attempted to solve that problem by deploying robot waiters. Says AP:

[T]wo shiny white-and-red robots glide across the dining area's floor where, once the restaurant reopens, they will be serving Chinese and Indonesian specialties like Babi Pangang and Char Siu at 15.5 euros ($17) each.

"Hello and welcome" the robots say — in a voice best described as pre-programmed.

“Best described as...” We’re thinking the old Vocoder-based Cylon centurion voices from the original Battlestar Galactica, or perhaps something à la the Borg. “Resisting dessert is futile.” But we digress...

Their duties will include greeting customers, serving drinks and dishes and returning used glasses and crockery. It's unclear whether diners will be expected to tip.

The robots are also tasked with ensuring customers maintain proper distancing, although they don’t say how the robots will do that. We’ve seen Terminator, so we have some ideas. However, we’re not sure that dressing them foppishly makes them any less creepy and terrifying:

In a stab at quasi-human panache, one robot wears a chiffon scarf around its neck. And the hunt is on to give the two human names, with a competition already underway on Instagram. "We don't have a favorite yet. But the suggestion of Ro and Bot is out. We want to give them a normal name," said Leah Hu.

Great: Botty McBotface.

The Lesser Known

A Booming Industry

“Boombox restoration” is not something we have heard of before, but Lawrence, Kan.’s Colin Elwell does in fact restore old boomboxes—i.e., those old giant portable tape players that dominated the music landscape in the late 1970s and 80s. He modernizes them (i.e., adding Bluetooth, rechargeable batteries, etc.) and turns them into useful new projects, rather than chucking them into landfills or recycle bins. Says Gizmodo:

His most famous work is a Super Nintendo Classic merged into a boombox—it looks like the next best thing to a Nintendo Switch. Another favorite of his is a boombox with Amazon Alexa built in, which can be a hit at parties but has broader functionality, too.

We are envisioning someone walking down the street, a boombox perched on their shoulder, Alexa barking out directions. We’ve seen more ridiculous... Anyway:

For a lot of people, music isn’t just about the sound, it’s also about the look. Elwell is fueled by memories of what music’s style was like when he was young, which is why he crafts boomboxes with ‘80s flair and 2020 tech.

Heart Burn

Most Unkindest Cut of All

For many people—and not just in New York City—one of the highlights of summer is Shakespeare in the Park. Alas, this year, a number of Shakespeare in the Park productions have been canceled. But, for those whose summer is incomplete without the Bard, NYC’s Public Theater is taking Shakespeare to the air- and podwaves. Says the NY Times:

The theater said Thursday that it has been working with WNYC to record Shakespeare’s “Richard II” as a four-part serial broadcast that will be aired July 13 to 16 and will also be available as a podcast. The radio production, directed by Saheem Ali, will feature much of the same cast that had been scheduled to perform in Central Park, starring André Holland (“Moonlight”) in the title role and now including Phylicia Rashad as the Duchess of Gloucester.

Showered with Shame

You can wash off the dirt, but not the shame. More tales from The Age of Zoom, via The Guardian:

A municipal councillor in northern Spain has offered to resign after inadvertently broadcasting video of himself showering during an online council meeting that was being livestreamed.


Bernardo Bustillo, who works part-time with the municipality, began to fret that he wouldn’t have time to shower and shuttle his daughter to her commitments before heading to his other job as a swim instructor.

He came up with what seemed to him the perfect solution to multitask, hauling the computer into the bathroom and minimising the chat screen so that he could listen in on the meeting as he showered.

But like a 2020-specific anxiety dream, as his colleagues considered plans to clean-up a local river, an image of him showering appeared on bottom left of the screen, much of it blurred by a pane of frosted glass. The sound of running water drowned out the constant ringing of his mobile phone, as frantic colleagues tried to warn him that the camera was still rolling.


Auto Renew

This is nine kinds of horrifying: “BMW is planning to move some features of its new cars to a subscription model.”

BMW has done something similar in the past with infotainment features; for a while, if you wanted access to Apple CarPlay, you had to pay an $80 yearly subscription until the automaker abandoned that idea.

But those were for digital services—now the Bavarian carmaker has plans to apply that model to features like heated seats. BMW says that owners can "benefit in advance from the opportunity to try out the products for a trial period of one month, after which they can book the respective service for one or three years." The company also says that it could allow the second owner of a BMW to activate features that the original purchaser declined.

We can’t wait until Brakes as a Service (BaaS) becomes the norm.

A Modest Proposal

Egg Mobile

If you have ever hidden eggs for your children’s Easter morning egg hunt, you may have—if you were mean—hidden some in your car. However, Honda has apparently been hiding Easter eggs of a different sort in its cars. Says Core77:

Back in 2015, an administrator on the CivicXenthusiast forum discovered an easter egg in the center console of his 2016 Civic.

The rubber mat lining the bottom of the center console features debossed art depicting historical Honda vehicles.

A subsequent thread popped up, with Civic owners eagerly pulling up their mats and submitting photos. It came to light that there were four different designs, showing the HondaJet, the Asimo robot, several Honda motorcycles, the Ayrton-Senna-driven Formula One McLaren MP4/5, and even the Curtiss Special built by founder Soichiro Honda in 1924.

No Nukes

Libraries are serving an important role during the COVID pandemic, but one library in particular does have a bit of advice regarding attempts to ensure that borrowed books are virus-free: don’t microwave them. “[E]very book at that library -- and libraries around the country -- has a metallic radio frequency identification (RFID) tag that can and will burn in a microwave. The tags can also catch on fire...” Turns out the Kent District Library in Grand Rapids, Mich., did get a book back that appeared to have been burnt in a microwave, ostensibly in attempt to de-COVIDize it.

Actually, there is little chance that one can catch the coronavirus from a library book:

the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) held a webinar on this very topic with David Berendes, a CDC epidemiologist.

"You don't have to really worry about finding ways to disinfect those materials," Berendes said to the attendees, according to a recap of the meeting. "The virus, if it's present, would be present in very low quantities and would die off pretty quickly."

Libraries also have their own protocols in place to sterilize borrowed books.

Ent Man

A Side Too Far

One of the greatest cartoons ever was Gary Larson’s The Far Side. Larson retired 25 years ago, but acquiring an iPad has apparently restirred his creative juices, and this week he released his first cartoons in more than two decades.

We’re Doomed

This Week in Printing, Publishing, and Media History

July 6

1865: The first issue of The Nation magazine is published.

July 7

1928: Sliced bread is sold for the first time (on the inventor's 48th birthday) by the Chillicothe Baking Company of Chillicothe, Mo. At the time, it was said to have been the greatest thing since..umm…

July 8

1889: The first issue of The Wall Street Journal is published.

1947: Reports are broadcast that a UFO crash landed in Roswell, N.M., in what became known as the Roswell UFO incident.

July 9

1901: Prolific English author Barbara Cartland born. She published 722 novels and holds the Guinness World Record for the most novels written in a single year (23 in 1976). When she died in 2000, the paper industry went into a severe recession.

1911: Decidedly less prolific English author and illustrator Mervyn Peake born.

1945: Decidedly more prolific author (but nowhere near Cartland’s level), Dean Koontz born.

July 10

1856: Serbian-American physicist and engineer Nikola Tesla born.

1871: French novelist Marcel Proust born. In Remembrance of Things Past, he probably wrote as many words in one novel as Cartland wrote in 722.

1888: Greek-Italian painter and set designer Giorgio de Chirico born.

1962: Telstar, the world’s first communications satellite, is launched into orbit.

1978: ABC World News Tonight premieres.

2008: Apple’s AppStore opens.

July 11

1804: U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr (spoiler alert) mortally wounds Alexander Hamilton in a duel.

1927: American-Canadian physicist and engineer, and inventor of the laser Theodore Maiman born.

1960: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is first published in the United States.

July 12

1493: Hartmann Schedel’s Nuremberg Chronicle, one of the best-documented early printed books, is published. (The Museum of Printing in Haverhill, Mass., has an original copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle, one of only 400 copies in the world.)

1580: The Ostrog Bible, one of the early printed Bibles in a Slavic language, is published.

1854: George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak, born.