26 July 2021

Privileged

The other day, the billionaire Jeff Bozo earned quite a bit of flack for thanking all his thousands of employees and millions of customers who had given him the opportunity of flying up to space.

I was thinking of this while lying on the sofa after waking, still half somnolent, from my afternoon nap. In the background was the hum of the airconditioner, electric fans, the fridge, three computers and my silent phone. And I'm just lying here, and all this stuff is buzzing and whirring to keep me comfy and in symbiotic connection with the rest of the planet. And it's not only what I can hear: people are slogging-away 24/7 to ensure my coffee supply, fill my fridge with basic foodstuffs, pump my energy, water and gas, pipe in news, music and movies, and all the while I'm being served like a master by complete strangers working diligently for my general welfare, devoting themselves to discovering new vaccines and meds for my latent diseases, rolling out roads, guarding my gates, and schooling my grandchildren.

So much is going on, just while I lie here with my ears buzzing with the sounds of electronics and possibly with the background noise of all that human activity taking place just for me. I'm like the endpoint of an entire ecosystem about which I'm only dimly aware but without which I'd quickly drop dead. So I want to join Jeff in saying thanks to friends everywhere. Maybe I'm not a billionaire. But I've always depended on the kindness of strangers.

Links

UK economy growing at fastest rate in 80 years, says forecaster - The Guardian
Yes, that will be a comfort to many Brits who hadn't noticed.

Foreign journalists harassed in China over floods coverage - The Guardian

Rising nationalism in China and hostility towards foreign media have made reporting increasingly difficult and risky for foreign outlets.

In the past 18 months at least 16 US journalists have been expelled, and at least four journalists – including the BBC’s John Sudworth and two Australian journalists – were forced to flee. Two others – Australian TV anchor Cheng Lei and Chinese Bloomberg journalist Haze Fan – were arrested and detained on undefined national security accusations.

They only sent John to China because he was complaining too much about flooded tube stations in London

Global phone hacks expose darker side of Israel's 'startup nation' image - CNN

Despite the ominous title, the Israeli-born writer is chuffed; she ends the article with a sweet note which is quintessential Israel:

"I think sometimes people come to curse and the outcome is there is a blessing because what happened at the end of the day, people remember that the best technology is Israeli technology, NSO," Bachar said. "That's what people three months from now will remember."

8 June 2021

Eventually, it proved quite easy to install Microsoft Office on the office computers, under the company's donation plan for non-profits.  I just needed to ignore everything that it said about only being suitable for Windows 10 Pro computers.  While that would be true for their integrated online solutions, it isn't true for just the basics; all we are interested in at this point is their 10 free licenses for MS Office programs. Once I understood that I can simply enroll users and download the programs to their computer, my problem was solved.

I spent a bit of time yesterday evening setting up LibreWolf, a privacy-oriented re-packaging of Firefox. It works quite well, though I still don't feel like I have found my ideal browser.

My Thinkpad has been running hot lately; I might need to get it seen to.  In the meantime I've placed it on an old cooling pad that I had lying around.

Afternoon-walk thoughts

On my afternoon walk I thought a bit about principles; how we get attached to them, and how they are simply tied to our egoism.  We take a concept, a value, or an ideology and then decide to adhere to it.  Then it adheres to us.  We become attached to, identified with, and enslaved by it.  If someone insults our values, we take it as a slight to ourselves.   It is better not to become attached to values and ideas.  They anyway tend towards rigidity, and mimic the essential rather than express it. There is a verse in the Tao Te Ching: "When the Tao ceased to be observed, benevolence and righteousness came into vogue. Then appeared wisdom and shrewdness, and there ensued great hypocrisy."  The more that we become identified with values and principles, the further we wander from the wisdom expressed by Lao Tsu.  "The Sage has no decided opinions and feelings..."

Links

Xi’s change of heart is too late to stop China’s collision with the west - The Guardian

All around China’s borders, from India and South Korea to Malaysia, the Philippines and Australia, a grim story of intimidation, impunity and aggression is unfolding, as opposed to the confected, made-in-Beijing narrative of neighbourly co-existence.

Don’t expect Netanyahu’s departure to alter the course of politics in Israel - The Guardian

The burning desire to depose Israel’s longest serving leader is certainly the driving force behind the disparate eight-party coalition that hopes to replace him. But another factor also unites them – by default, if not by design: the consensus that in determining the future of the Jewish state, the conflict with the Palestinians can be managed in perpetuity.

It’s time to ditch Chrome - WIRED UK

When you sync your Google accounts to Chrome, the data slurping doesn’t stop there. Information from other Google-owned products including its email service Gmail and Google search can be combined to form a scarily accurate picture. Chrome data can be added to your geolocation history from Google Maps, the metadata from your Gmail usage, your social graph – who you interact with, both on and offline – the apps you use on your Android phone, and the products you buy with Google Pay. “That creates a very clear picture of who you are and how you live your life,” Fielding says.

Uyghurs are being deported from Muslim countries, raising concerns about China's growing reach - CNN
Palestinians aren't alone in feeling let down by Arab nations. Muslim Ughyars are being routinely extradited from Egypt, the UAR and elsewhere in the Middle East as China's dominance in the region grows.

28 December, 2020

Planet Ocean

Image/photo

Saw this film yesterday; although it is from 2012, it is still both beautiful and shocking. Amazing photography and filmmaking of Yann Arthus-Bertrand Michael Pitiot, with a gorgeous soundtrack by Armand Amar. The full-length movie is on YouTube #^

Planet Ocean [UK]- the film by Yann Arthus-Bertrand & Michael Pitiot
by Planet Ocean on YouTube

The day after the COVID-19 jab, I felt completely normal. The roaring wind we've had the last few days has died down. Temperatures around 12-19 C around here and fair weather. A family of raucous birds - not sure what they are, maybe minahs - have made their home in our yucca tree. They are at their voluble peak just after sunset, when I come home from my afternoon walk.

Links blog

✭ Is nuclear fusion the answer to the climate crisis? | Environment | The Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/28/nuclear-fusion-power-climate-crisis
Researchers
 developing a nuclear fusion reactor that can generate more energy than it consumes have shown in a series of recent papers that their design should work, restoring optimism that this clean, limitless power source will help mitigate the climate crisis.
#environment #energy

✭ Indian police charge army officer with killing three Kashmir civilians | World news | The Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/28/indian-police-charge-army-officer-killing-ka
Indian police have indicted an Indian army officer, accusing him of killing three civilians in Kashmir in July and staging their deaths as a fake gunfight.
#india #Kashmir

✭ China orders Alibaba founder Jack Ma to break up fintech empire | Business | The Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/dec/28/china-orders-alibaba-founder-jack-ma-brea
An editorial in the People’s Daily Chinese state mouthpiece said efforts to prevent monopoly and anti-competitive practices were “requirements for improving the socialist market economy system and promoting high-quality development.
#china #capitalism

✭ Saudi rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul sentenced to almost six years in jail | World news | The Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/28/saudi-rights-activist-loujain-al-hathloul-se
Although human rights campaigners will say she should never have been detained for so long without charge, the prospect of serving only a further three months in jail will help defuse a potentially damaging early confrontation with the Biden administration that would have occurred if she had been locked up for a further 20 years, as seemed possible at one point
#MENA

✭ If you want to travel next year, you may need a vaccine passport - CNN
https://edition.cnn.com/2020/12/27/tech/coronavirus-vaccine-passport-apps/index.html
Several
 companies and technology groups have begun developing smartphone apps or systems for individuals to upload details of their Covid-19 tests and vaccinations, creating digital credentials that could be shown in order to enter concert venues, stadiums, movie theaters, offices, or even countries.
#technology #COVID-19

✭ Wuhan citizen journalist jailed for four years in China's Christmas crackdown | World news | The Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/28/wuhan-citizen-journalist-jailed-for-four-yea
“The slew of detentions of those who speak out will only further impede the flow of information about the situation in China,” Human Rights Watch researcher Yaqiu Wang said. “Governments around the world should press Beijing to release wrongfully detained journalists and activists immediately.”
#china