Mental Distractions

20 May 2022


Modern travel

I decided to join D for part of her planned trip to Plum Village, so I'll be there for her "Lamp Transmission" ceremony. That meant booking flights. There are less options today, following the pandemic, and many trips to Bordeaux involve travel of 20 - 30 hours or more. I struggled for a couple of hours with Expedia, trying to find something cheap and convenient, but eventually gave up. D came to the rescue with E-Dreams, which, in this case, seemed to have more options with the cheapo companies like Veuling, Wiz and whatever. She was able to find a cheaper flight, which I eventually booked.

One thing I learned along the way is that it is much easier to book a flight to France than to order a rail ticket. (It's true that Air France offers rail arrangements sometimes instead of connecting flights.) I have previously had more success with the SNCF website (and previously have had their telephone app), but this time the experience was awful. First, in order to make any booking, one has to log in. For that to happen, after the password log-in they send a confirmation code by email. After that there's a CAPTCHA. That's already three kinds of verification. But a couple of minutes later, a message popped up telling me that I had been blocked, due to suspicious activity, so I simply had to give up. I was using an up-to-date Vivaldi browser, which uses the same rendering engine as Chrome and matches it for all other browsing features. I have Privacy Badger installed, but nothing that blocks ordinary javascript.

Travel is becoming quite a nightmare in our era. Booking rail tickets in France, India, and no doubt in many other countries, is a horrible experience dressed up in the guise of being sophisticatedly modern. Here in Israel we just had a foreign guest who took a bus from the local junction, only to discover that tickets can no longer be purchased on the bus itself. She managed to reach Jerusalem only due to the kindness of a passenger.

Plane, bus and rail companies, whether private or government-run are guilty of the worst form of ableism. Our modern pretenses against all kinds of discrimination against people with disabilities, are a complete sham. They challenge even mentally fit people with their byzantine arrangements, and only work very well if one is equipped with a smartphone full of surveillance apps. The situation is getting worse, not better. If all of this somehow helped to reduce carbon emissions, by making travel less popular, there might be an advantage, but the ones who travel most are not those who feel challenged by these difficulties. And the relative complexity and inconvenience of public ground transportation favors travel by planes and private cars.


I made good progress today, especially on the matter of file transfers. I discovered earlier that although WebDAV had seemed to work, it actually is only presenting the server folders in read-only format. I cannot change anything. The configuration there is too complex and I gave up on WebDAV just as I've given up on GIT, so it was back to FileZilla. Then I discovered Rsync, which, although I knew about it, had never actually used. It's powerful and amazing. It's also very quick (at least for what I need it for) and simple to use from the commandline, once you get the syntax right. Furthermore, it's something that I can execute from within Emacs (where I'm now composing this blog).

So now, for blog posts, I only need to a) save the file b) publish it locally and c) rsync it to the server. All of this happens within emacs itself. When I grow more proficient, I will probably set up a macro to handle these operations even more quickly. That's a nice thing about emacs, and probably the Lisp programming that underlies it - that it can be used on a simple level, but provides the opportunity to grow with it. When Stallman talks about the advantage in open source programs that the code is up-front and visible, people like me think that that's all well and good, but the majority of us are completely unable to read code. However when I look at Lisp code, understanding it seems within reach.

Browser colors

I noticed today that the colors in Vivaldi are brighter than those in SeaMonkey or Chrome. The blue color that I have been using in this blog appears purplish in Vivaldi. I tried to find something about this in the settings and it looks like there may be a configuration option for this, but I didn't succeed in changing anything.

Tags: software travel
18 May 2022

2022-05-18 Progress with the Server


Eventually I'm using an old EEEPC netbook for a new home server. It's many years old, but the battery life is still excellent, so it's less likely to suffer the kind of shocks that rendered my previous server disk unbootable.

I've been spending hours and days with this server project, but it's hard to remember what I've been doing. I tried for a long time to get Git to work, but eventually gave up. The explanation why would be too much trouble. I'll focus instead upon what's worked so far.

I was able to set up SSH. Uploading for now is via good old Filezilla, which is both easy and tiresome. Eventually I may try to set up an easier way through emacs or the command line.

Yesterday I searched for a simple web photo viewer. There are many, many of these on SourceForge, but the majority were developed years or decades ago, and development has stopped. The classic web platforms are, I think Coppermine, Lychee and Piwigo. I know Piwigo very well, but wanted something much simpler. I wanted to avoid databases and new programming frameworks where I would be dependent upon experts.

Eventually I settled on, a PHP program that renders directories as galleries without requiring a database. I've already set one up at

I think Novagallery will integrate nicely into my low tech site. It's lightweight and easily modifiable. Although it's free open source software I've purchased a license for it ($15) in order to support the developer.

Trip to the Galilee

That trip to the Lower Galilee shown in the photo album was nice. We went with Rosita from Italy and stayed the night in the Fawsy Inn in Nazareth. I should have taken some photos of that interesting building as well, but I felt rather lazy about photography on this trip.


The visit to the Tabor stream, at the bottom of a wadi that eventually empties into the Jordan river was amazing. We visited only a short stretch of it, descending from Kibbutz Gazit.

In the wadi grow various interesting flora. According to Wikipedia, one of these is asafoetida. But they mean the Ferula communis that grows everywhere in Israel/Palestine. It's a poisonous plant, that is sometimes mistakenly eaten by sheep - to their sorrow. True asafoetida (hing) is derived from other members of the Ferula family (again, according to Wikipedia). There was an interesting Guardian article this week about Sylphium, another long extinct Ferula (apparently), prized as herb in the Roman era, and growing only in one particular region of Eastern Libya.

Shireen Abu Akleh

I wrote a little about this earlier [1]. Eventually we have a statement [2] in English that is well-written and clear, and doesn't sound like propaganda. It represents my view well enough, but I needn't worry about that, since the village leadership take responsibility for it.

My own trivial conclusion from the killing of the journalist, and the violence against the pall bearers at the funeral, is that these are not just a reflection of the brutality and stupidity of Israel's security forces, but of deep-rooted attitudes in Israeli society.

The killing is not a one-off phenomenon but fits a pattern. It is the pattern, rather than the individual event, that demonstrates a complete disregard by Israelis demonstrate for Palestinian lives.

Israelis obsess about their own security but have been led to believe that this increases proportionally with the oppression of Palestinians. When a debacle like the Shireen Abu Akleh killing occurs, the government approaches it mainly as a public relations problem. First, spread doubt as to who fired the bullets, in the hope that the initial outcry will die down. Next, fake a willingness to call for an inquiry. In reality, almost all human rights violations and war crimes go unpunished. [update: now Israel says there is "no need" for an inquiry, and accepts the testimony of the army unit.]

Until basic attitudes change, Israel will continue to commit crimes that poison any hope for a reconciliation. That's not by chance. The Zionist project is not interested in reconciliation but only in dominance and the eventual elimination of Palestinians from their homeland. This is not a program that is ever going to succeed, but pursuing it serves short term political interests.

What most Israeli Jews want in their lives is peace and security, but they readily accept the lie that the best way to obtain these is the use of violence and force. In their world-view, the best defence is offence. Palestinians are primarily seen as a threat. They are grudgingly accepted by the state and into the family of humanity only when they serve in the army or stifle any signs of dissent. It's hard to be hopeful that this situation will ever change.

The Shireen Abu Akleh affair also highlighted the double-standards by which world media approaches such cases, as shown by Gawker's article [2]. But saying so risks drawing fire from right-wingers who will surely find opposing evidence that shows just the contrary. The Middle East conflict is just another arena for strengthening whatever political views you already hold.

As human beings we need to look at the way in which opinions become such an important facet of our identity.


[1] 2022-05-14 - Does my village have a right to express an opinion in my name?

[2]Statement regarding the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh - Wahat al-Salam - Neve Shalom

[3] The Media has a difficult time saying Israeli forces killed Shireen Abu Akleh

Tags: technology nature
15 May 2022

2022-05-15 - Server software

I've been looking at my various options regarding the home server; whether to try to restore my old Hubzilla installation, or something new. I have several old laptops lying around that could be used. I thought again to try to use Bob Mottram's freedombone/libreserver installation. It doesn't have Hubzilla, but does have another Zot/Nomad based platform called Roadhouse. But I instantly got stuck with that because his basic instruction for installation does not work, and the directions are unclear.

It may or may not be possible to restore the old installation, depending on how much damage there is to the disk. I'm afraid that I will plod through all the steps of using dd or ddrescue, only to find that it won't go anywhere.

I think the simplest will be to set up a new Debian system with Apache or other server software. For my needs, I don't even need MySQL or PHP, because I want to keep everything as simple as possible. I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty with stuff but I feel tech-weary. And I'm also unwilling to follow someone's instructions to set up a system that I would never be capable of understanding myself.

When I was growing up there was a Sci-Fi TV series in which an alien civilization requires earthlings to create a machine of such complexity and advanced tech that no one understands what they are actually building. It could save the earth or destroy it. I don't think I watched the series to the end, but it was a great concept, and I often think of that when I'm attempting to do things that go way beyond my comprehension.

For my blog, working either with simple html or the Bastion Bechtold's emacs org-mode system I feel reasonably comfortable. (When I have the time, I would enjoy learning the basics of Lisp programming too.) For now, I know that the output is simple html files that I can save, serve and move almost anywhere, such as on my Fastmail cloud server. The same with photos and other features that I would like to include. But I would like also to add a simple social networking system too. The easiest seems to be Bob Mottram's Epicyon, which uses the ActivityPub protocol, but has no database or javascript. The last time I tried it, I couldn't get it to work properly; but maybe now it's more stable. I hope so.

I was going through my newsfeeds yesterday and read a fairly negative review of Genesis. I had a similar intuition regarding it. He claims that it is "solutionism" - whatever that means. But I think he is saying that it tries to solve a problem that doesn't really exist. We can choose to keep things simple if we want to: for ordinary html and CSS based websites we don't need fancy Javascript frameworks, web applications and all the wizardry that modern commercial sites use. We can dumb things down to the level that we feel comfortable with, and spend our time writing and creating beautiful websites that rely upon simple code, instead of either delving into multiple layers of technology or deploying platforms through scripts that work well but leave us floundering when something goes wrong.

Being dependent upon technology that is beyond our reasonable ability to understand it, without specialization, is as bad as depending upon platforms like Facebook, in that we surrender control to someone else. I want to be go my own way, and be independent both of the big companies and complex technologies.


L'Inde brûle déjà du réchauffement climatique - tousdehors

« vivre décemment » dans un monde qui devient de plus en plus inhabitable et intolérable ne peut signifier que vivre, prendre soin les uns des autres et du monde et lutter tout à la fois.

Tags: software
14 May 2022

2022-05-14 - Does my village have a right to express an opinion in my name?

It's always a question. Yesterday the EU and the US "condemned" the behaviour of the Israeli security forces at the funeral of the Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh. When we hear that our country has condemned something, we don't think too much about whether we think that this represents us, as a citizen in that country. But when it comes to a small community of people making a statement in our name it's closer to home and we worry about it more. Here's what I wrote to the village, regarding this, regarding another controversy about making a public statement:

This isn't about the killing of the journalist or the behaviour of the security forces at her funeral, I personally think she was killed by a bullet from the Israeli side and that both the killing and the funeral illustrate the disregard by Jewish Israelis towards Palestinian lives.

But once again, we need to think about what we should say, and how we should say it.

I haven't seen the statement that Rita has put out in the name of the village because I do not have a WhatsApp account or an active personal profile on Facebook. (I have a facebook account only to enable me to send official announcement from the village).

I am against the sending of political statements in my name as a member of the village. I might or might not agree with them, but in any case probably won't agree with the wording. I don't think I'm alone in this. It is probable that any political statement put out in the name of three hundred or so members will upset somebody.

All such statement need to begin with "the municipal board of [our community] believes…" or the "educational board of [our community] believes…" and even then only after obtaining a unanimous agreement by the board members.

I'm OK with that. If I have a problem with them, I should elect other board members next time. I'm not sure, in any case, that I elected them to represent my political beliefs.

Then there's the Communications and Development Office. I'm a member of the staff, so I have to do what my boss there tells me. This time, she gave me a specific instruction not to translate or publish on our social media or website anything that the the chair of the municipal society asked me to publish. OK, but what does the website or social media pages represent, and who should decide what goes there? Does the Communications and Development Office have a right to overrule the municipal society or the educational association regarding the publication of political statements. I don't think so, but it's something that we need to decide. Ideally there should be cooperation, because there is a greater chance that, with the involvement of the C&D staff, we will avoid statements that will damage the village. But maybe we are also not sufficiently expert and we should employ a lawyer.

For example, regarding the Mavi Marmora affair, we initially made a statement that accused the army of "murder", then we realized that the word "murder", besides being polarizing, has a specific legal definition, that could result in the charge of libel, so we changed the word to "killing", a fact that could not be disputed.

Regarding the actual content of any message coming from the village, we know from social media that the perceived importance of a person's or an organization's message depends upon their perceived expertise or "authority" in a given field. Of course, that isn't true of celebrities and film stars, who automatically become authorities on almost everything. But that isn't the case for most of us.

So, in the case of an organization or a community like [ours], our place of authority is the fact that we live together, Jews and Arabs, as a community and conduct educational work there. If we want to be heard, we need to speak from that experience, and any statement we make needs to be informed by what we have learned from living together and educating towards a shared society. If we speak with that voice, it is more likely that we will be listened to. That means we should not be speaking like politicians or propagandists for a certain cause, on one side or the other, otherwise we will disappoint the very people that we want to reach. Some of them will not listen to us next time.

Tags: myvillage
10 May 2022

Tech problems | stress

Just before an enormously busy period at work, my home server crashed. I'd had problems with the internet connection, rebooted the router a few times, and turned off the power, without shutting down the server, as a result of which it seems to have damaged the disk. FSCK gets stuck. It's going to take me a while to get back to normal, so, for now, have moved the blog back to my fastmail storage. It's easy enough to do with a simple static blog like this one. I just haven't been able to bring back all the photos yet. For now, there's a way to blog again.

Actually, I feel lazy about re-establishing Hubzilla, and I wonder if I actually need the hassle of managing a complex php mysql system when I can blog so easily in simple html, and know exactly what I'm doing. People can do awe-inspiring, wonderful things with the web, but I'm a Luddite. Lud is actually just down the road from here.

It was amusing trying to manage with my primitive technological interface when attempting to pick up people from the airport this week. The only way to communicate with them was WhatsApp, but I refuse to use that, so had to rely on someone relaying the back and forth between us. This happened on two occasions. But somehow it eventually did work, and I was able to pick them up.

Now I have a problem with presentations. One guy did his in Canva, an online presentation platform. I told him I'm not gonna sign up for the service, so he'd better download it in some other format. He didn't know how to do that, so I've sent him a video clip on how it's done. Another woman did her presentation on yet another online presentation platform, Emaze. I'm not signing up for that one either, and asked her to download it for me. She's probably just as clueless.

The truth is, I can manage with all these services better than most people, but the time when I would agree to use them is past. I'm gradually receding into my little Luddite low-stress paradise, and if people want something from me they will eventually have to come down to my level.

Yesterday it dawned on me how I am at once the calmest person in the world, but also among the most irritable. Ninety-percent of the time I'm guilelessly peaceful, but occasionally do get irate. It's because I choose a life-style that is peaceful, and not that I'm inherently calm. Take me out of my artificially concocted environment, and I'm peaceful no longer. I don't cope very well with adverse or challenging situations, and my threshold is fairly low at times. Probably what stresses me out differs from what stresses most other people out, because I would say that I'm also unusually patient.

That I'm easily stressed does not mean that I'm living with stress, and suffering its harmful effects. Yesterday I met someone who, at the age of 63, was advised to retire. He had been living such a stressful life and working such long hours that his heart and respiratory system were failing. He quickly had three bypass surgeries and indeed retired. Now, he looks peaceful. I didn't need my health to go down hill before deciding to live peacefully, fortunately.

Tags: technology
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