July 5, 2021


Darktable 3.6 has some improvements, and I'm slowly managing to use it a little more successfully, thanks to the excellent documentation
Many of the photos I receive in my work on updating the village websites are really poor. If I can improve them a little without too much fuss, I'm happy. Here is an example:


Admittedly not great, but better, without too much fuss.
The story and the photos are here.


Every item like, if handled fully, entails a baker's dozen posts:
3 posts on the original website (Hebrew, Arabic, English)
3 redirects from the village website (Hebrew, Arabic, English)
1 post + 1 crosspost on Facebook
1 post + 1 retweet on Twitter
1 post on Instagram
1 post on LinkedIn
1 post on our photo albums site.


The Guardian keeps its promise about highlighting climate news stories, and I don't always read them. The story that made an impression on me today, was by a doctor in Karachi. It really brings home the horror of living in a city that is growing hotter and hotter.

In Karachi, hot weather is normal … but 44C feels like you’re going to die The Guardian

There's also a CNN story summarized concisely in Slashdot:
CNN Reports 'Unprecedented Heat, Hundreds Dead' as Climate Change Hits the Northern Hemisphere - Slashdot

I'm enjoying my email subscription to Cory Doctorow's blog; he's a consistently interesting writer. Today he writes about "conspirationalism".
Pluralistic: 05 Jul 2021 – Pluralistic: Daily links from Cory Doctorow

When we talk about conspiratorialism, we tend to focus (naturally) on the content of the conspiracy. Not only are those stories entertainingly outlandish – they're also the point of contact between conspiracists and the world.
If your mom is shouting about "Hollywood pedos," it's natural that you'll end up discussing the relationship of this belief to observable reality. But while the content of conspiratorial beliefs gets lots of attention, we tend to neglect the significance of those beliefs.
To the extent that we consider why the beliefs exist and proliferate, the discussion rarely gets further than "irrational people have irrational beliefs." This is a mistake. The stories we tell one another are a kind of Ouija board, with all our fingertips on the planchette.
The messages it spells out don't describe external reality but they do reveal our internal, unspoken anxieties and aspirations.This is why we should read science fiction: not because it predicts the future, but because it diagnoses the present.

He also quotes his new book on "How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism and provides a link to the full version, which appears on Medium:

How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism, a New Book by Cory Doctorow | OneZero

Cheapskate that I am, I downloaded the complete text and turned it into an .epub so that I can read on my phone (It's 40+ pages of letter sized paper single spaced). I discovered in the process that although LibreOffice offers to export to .epub, Calibre still does a much better job of that.

Back to Karachi

That story about Karachi made my realize how fortunate I am living in a place that is not too hot and not too cold (admittedly very subjective definitions). Although the weather here gets up to about 32 degrees everyday for several months a year, it rarely exceeds 35-36 degrees, and it's a dryish heat, unlike the Eastern U.S. or Southern India, say. When I go to S. India, I manage without A/C, but only because I'm basically just hanging out, and not doing very much. As I've grown older, I prefer warm summers to cold winters and would not want to live further north than here.


In the conversation we had with Y, the other day, one of the things I said was that all nations basically suck. It doesn't matter whether it's Israel, India, the UK, the EU or the US. Today I was reminded of this by Dave Winer's blog:

America is not great#

I was taught as a youngster that the US was the greatest country ever, both at home and in school. I imagine this is the same education kids in every terrible country ever got. And my parents were biased, they were immigrants who would have died for sure in Europe during WW II if the US hadn't taken them in. #
Over time they came to see the reality that the US is a seriously flawed country. But nothing would have prepared them for what we've seen in the last five years. My mom died in February 2018, so she did live to see Trump elected, but did not see the January 6 insurrection, and all the looney tunes that followed. She also missed out on the 1619 Project which was, for me a real head-turner. #
I knew slavery was part of our legacy, but I didn't know that it was pretty much our whole legacy. We fought and won a Civil War to purge ourselves of slavery, but that wasn't enough, Jim Crow undid a lot of the good that was done in post-Civil War America. The Voting Rights Act, passed in 1965 and re-authorized in 2006, has now been gutted by the Supreme Court. And the Republican-run states are rapidly moving to deprive citizens of color their voting rights. #
The fact is the US is an awful fucked up country. It doesn't live up to the promise of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution for a huge portion of the population, and that means it doesn't mean shit for the rest of us. #
I am an American, nothing is going to change that, but if you asked me do I feel this is the greatest country ever, I'd say that's an idea we have to purge from our minds, the US is the opposite, it's a fat, lazy, spoiled, ridiculous excuse for a country. If we want to amount to anything we need to take a 180 degree turn now. #

What I said in that conversation with Y was that "all nations basically suck... all we can do is look for tiny pearls" in them - by which I meant, perhaps, idealistic communities, or places like Brockwood Park (which she had just visited).

But that's not entirely true: you can't take the "suckiness" out of the world; anymore than you can take the "suchness" out of it (a Buddhist term) - if it exists in nations, it exists also in idyllic islands, to a smaller degree - because we carry it with us in our natures. We have to deal with it, whereever we are.

Lately, I feel less idealistic and more pessimistic. I don't know if Palestine will ever be free, if slavery will be abolished, if capitalism defeated, or the world will be able to prevent environmental disaster. But that doesn't mean we need to hunker down and live selfishly. There are a lot of small things we can do to make the world a better place, and if we are "fortunate" we can share some of what we have. I learned that lesson when I first traveled in the east, and found that poor Afghani village people would always share what they had with their fellow travellers. If they had an orange, they would give some to everyone.

Planet of the Humans (again)

Reading George Monbiot's critique of "Planet of the Humans" I appreciated his ability to sift through the many details, see where the errors lie and then state the ways in which the film is inaccurate, dangerous and damaging to the cause that it is supposedly trying to support. Environmentalists face so many challenges from the political right and those with vested interests who wish to undermine challenges to the continued degradation of the biosphere.

Perhaps I misinterpreted the film, or saw what I wanted to see in it. Or perhaps I'm right after all. It's true that everyone experiences reality according to their individual tendencies. What dawned on me while watching it was that however careful we are to produce cleaner forms of energy, and however efficient those processes become, we will simply be encouraged to consume more, and it is built into the capitalist system and our own species' nature to do so. We will not be able to reverse the destruction because the more we produce, the more we will use. I don't see this as being a problem of the developing world and its burgeoning population (and growing needs), but a challenge to be addressed by those who are at the pinnacle of progress - who are also the heaviest consumers. They need to provide leadership in learning how to use less, not more.

But I don't think they will do so.