02021Q2 REYKJAVIK: Since we last spoke, at least one new volcano has formed and is spewing lava from 8+ rifts. The situation went from worrying daily earthquakes to tourist attraction in less than a week.

For some amazing drone shots, checkout Björn Steinbekk's YouTube page.

✉️ 🔐 Letterlocking

With the availability of paper in the 13th century, more people were sending letters. The sender wanted the contents to be protected and this lead to "letterlocking

Letterlocking, a term coined by Jana Dambrogio, is the art of writing a letter and folding and/or piercing it and sealing it with wax. Thus, locking the letter and making it obvious if there was any tampering or reading of the message in transit. 

Letterlocking is in the news because a team at MIT managed to scan and virtually unlock a letter, reading its contents without breaking the seal. 

In the old days, when you had to pay to receive a letter, many were just left unclaimed at the post-office. This letter comes from the Brienne Collection, a European postmaster’s trunk preserving 300-year-old undelivered mail full of locked letters.

Previously, to read the contents, the artefact's lock needed to be destroyed. Using this new method, they can get the best of both worlds, preserving the locked letter artefact and being able to read the contents.There are plenty of letter locking tutorials on YouTube. It is fun to create your own.

We found Pigeon Posted where you can order a pack of postcard-sized, pre-printed, pre-folded letters which are locked when you place a stamp.

We reverse engineered the folding, but anyone who’s done any sort of printing knows tolerances for printing, cutting, and folding can be pretty large. When trying to make such an exact fold to make your own lock, it needs to either be done slowly for each individual letter or leave it up to the experts and just order a pack.

⚫️ 🎹 Black MIDI

We can’t believe we’ve never mentioned Black MIDI before. It is a fascinating blend of the digital and analog!

Black MIDI is a genre of synthesized music with millions, if not billions, of notes in a song. It's called Black MIDI because If it were written as sheet music, the page would effectively be black with ink. If you search on YouTube for Black MIDI, you can find some of the most amazingly crazy musical art pieces.

The analog equivalent of these videos would be a real piano playing the notes. What tips Black MIDI from just a song played on the piano to something much more interesting, is when it leaves the realm of what is humanly possible. The digital world opens new possibilities and amazing things happen, from the speed, to the utter cacophony of sound. It is a joy to watch and listen.





This shirt/meme is now 20 years old!

Experimental Jetset first created this shirt in Feb 02001 and it was meant to be formulaic. It was designed so that various band member names could be dropped into the template.

In doing so, they created a meme and opened the doors to anyone who wanted to create one.

Recent Articles

To wrap-up each year, we write an omnibus post looking back at previous articles and offer updates. We also create an Annual Report which breaks down our numbers: hours, invoices, articles and more.

It was a year ago we had to cancel the 02020 edition of the Material Conference, but we have a few ideas about how to take it forward as a traveling conference.

(optional.is) First Said is our attempt to replicate the @NYT_First_Said bot which posts the first instance of words used on the NYT.


Triagemail: Get unread email under control. An iOS (and Mac Silicon) app to check any email account. With only 4 options, get through all your unread email fast so you never miss anything important. $1.99 on the App store.

Designing with Data eBooks. If you need to tell your story using data, pick up these books today. Now pay what you want pricing for epub, mobi, pdf.

Write betterer with Text Stats. An iOS app and extension to any text editor. It breaks down word count, difficult sentences, adverb overuse and more. $0.99 on the App store.

A quarterly newsletter from (optional.is)

Copyright © 2021