28 April 2021


Helichrysum sanguineum These flower in late spring in our area. It's common all over the Levant. The Jews call it "Dam HaMaccabim ("Blood of the Maccabees") and Arabs, according to Wikipedia, call it "Dam al-Massiah" - Blood of the Messiah. It's a protected plant in Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Links blog

‘Insanely cheap energy’: how solar power continues to shock the world | Energy | The Guardian

Twitter India blocks posts critical of Modi's Covid-19 response - CNN

In recent weeks, criticism against the Modi government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been intensifying on social media, as users post images of bodies lying in morgues and burning in outdoor crematoriums.

Vaccine hoarding is all the more disturbing as a Covid disaster unfolds in India | Gaby Hinsliff | The Guardian

as long as others are experiencing horrors on the scale of India, consciences everywhere will be troubled.

India missed the opportunity to reign in COVID, lulled by a false sense of security. Modi originally promised to vaccinate 100 million Indians by summer*, and could have done so - though maybe it's because they were busy exporting the vaccine to other countries. In general, as the world knew that vaccines were on the horizon, which was something like a year ago, there should have been a huge effort to build factories and an efficient supply chain. That would have been cheaper than all the economic stimulus packages and all the rest.
* Fact check: in January India promised to vaccinate 300 million by summer. By April 29, it had administered at least 138 million doses.

Sundar Pichai and Satya Nadella, Google and Microsoft's CEOs pledge support as India battles coronavirus crisis - CNN
They are sending a few million dollars, out of their billions.

India is churning out billion-dollar startups. Now they need to start making money - CNN

The mood a year later is very different, despite a brutal surge in coronavirus cases that is threatening the economic recovery. India's startup community has found itself in an unprecedented funding bonanza.

Israel is committing the crime of apartheid, rights watchdog says | Israel | The Guardian

a “present-day reality of a single authority, the Israeli government … methodologically privileging Jewish Israelis while repressing Palestinians, most severely in the occupied territory.

And it's much worse than what South Africans called “apartheid”, as Desmond Tutu and others have said. But Israel's increasingly right wing government is always going to deny that. Israelis have become conditioned to regard their situation as an existential struggle. The agenda of expropriation and replacement of Palestinians is long-term, persistent and ongoing, and it doesn't matter whether Palestinians are quiescent or violent. International pressure only manages to slow the process, but never to actually change anything.

'One system, one policy': Why Human Rights Watch is charging Israel with apartheid

What makes this report significant for HRW is that it “connects the dots” between Israel’s varying policies to show that they are driven by “one system, one policy, and one intent” to secure the permanent rule of one group over another.

Israel uses ‘apartheid’ to subjugate Palestinians: HRW | Human Rights News | Al Jazeera

“Policymakers must now shift their focus away from securing a political solution that might herald peace, and instead fight back against a trajectory of expanding Israeli territorial consolidation and Palestinian dispossession in the entirety of the land,” he said.

EXCLUSIVE White House backs 2030 milestone on path to net zero grid | Reuters

A 2030 target would be a milestone on the way to achieving President Joe Biden’s stated ambition of net zero carbon emissions in the grid by 2035. It could also potentially be passed without Republican support through a process called budget reconciliation.

Repair or replace? An expert guide to fixing or ditching eight essential household items | Life and style | The Guardian

26 April 2021



(Capparis spinosa)

These grow wild around here. They are extremely annoying when we encounter them while walking in the woods, because the thorns point backwards and have a never-let-go quality: if you step into a caper bush, there follows a prickly process of delicate extrication. What's more, in winter they lose their foliage, so become almost invisible, and only the dry thorny stems remain.

But now they are in their prime. The buds are ripe for picking, and pickling, though I've never attempted to do this. The ones in our fridge are imported from Turkey. Capers grow in many climates, apparently, from around the Mediterranean to the high altitude deserts of Ladakh.

URL shortening

I was just reflecting on the fact that I've been using bit.ly for URL shortening, and that bit.ly makes a living by tracking users. For many of these, I could/should be using our organization's URL since that is anyway short, and the CMS has a built-in re-direction feature. On reflection, I already do this in a couple of instances, such as an easy mnemonic link to our YouTube channel.

On a couple of of the WordPress installations I use for organizations, Jetpack is enabled, and Jetpack includes a URL shortener of its own (wp.me), which, according to its privacy statement, does not track site visitors (only site owners and registered users (these sites don't have registered users). So it's also possible to use these WP sites for the purpose of redirection, when appropriate.

Old article

An old friend sent me back an article that I must have written and sent to him many years ago. It is about the desirability of living life without meaning. This must have been a subject that was important to me at the time, and thinking about it must have given me a sense of meaning. The major development is that it doesn't seem important these days. Meaning is inherent in an activity at the time that we are doing something. This post is meaningful while I'm writing it. Afterwards, not so much. I can move on.

Links blog

The Most Effective Malaria Vaccine Yet Discovered - Slashdot

Excellent news today: we have word of the most effective malaria vaccine yet discovered. A year-long trial in Burkina Faso has shown 77% efficacy, which is by far the record, and which opens the way to potentially relieving a nearly incalculable burden of disease and human suffering.


Algerian scholar gets three years in jail for ‘offending Islam’ | Middle East News | Al Jazeera

The scholar, author of two well-known works, was criticised for writing that the sacrifice of sheep predates Islam and for criticising practices including the marriage of pre-pubescent girls in some Muslim societies.

Biden tells Erdogan he plans to recognise Armenian ‘genocide’ | Genocide News | Al Jazeera

United States President Joe Biden told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he plans to recognise the mass killing of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I as an act of “genocide”, Bloomberg and the Reuters news agencies reported Friday, citing people familiar with the call between the leaders

‘Insanely cheap energy’: how solar power continues to shock the world | Energy | The Guardian

April 16, 2021


Origanum syriacum growing in the woods nearby.


It's just over a year since I closed my Amazon account, in protest over its conditions for workers. I was never a prolific shopper, but I'm glad I closed that account. Companies like Amazon deserve to be boycotted.

Links blog

How colonialism eroded Pakistan’s history of religious fluidity | History News | Al Jazeera

“Pre-colonial identities were fuzzy, unclear,” says Qasmi. “People used to negotiate with multiple identities and movements. So there was no contradiction in a Hindu visiting a Muslim shrine or vice versa. The Hindu/Muslim, as we understand them today, was yet to be crystallised. Things began to change with the colonial state, with the arrival of modernity.

“Modernity doesn’t like this fuzziness. Identities needed to be indexed, clearly defined. They had to be determinable. People were pigeonholed according to the preconceived notions of the officers of the colonial state."

In the Indian subcontinent, Islam and Hinduism (as well as various other religions) existed together for many centuries, long-enough that ordinary people managed to overcome their differences (if they ever really had any). Saints and holymen (of which Kabir is probably the most famous example) were loved by Hindus and Muslims alike, and both would flock to their tombs. The British, with their divide-and-rule policies, and then weaponized modern forms of Islam and Hindutwa, intervened to spoil intercommunal harmony. Traditions of what this article calls religious syncretism and fluidity , that were gradually built over centuries, were violently broken apart. Nowadays, such syncetism persists mainly in certain far-away villages. Amitav Ghosh describes the worship of the guardian spirit Bonbibi in the Sunderbans, by both Hindus and Muslims, but there too, the religious syncretism is breaking down.

There will always be those who say that the bloodshed and betrayal that came later proves that these good relations were really a myth all along. The same is often said about other situations where people of different religious communities coexisted peacefully for a time, from Andalusia to Morocco to Yugoslavia. But one can also see the outbreak of conflict as the aberration, and the periods of quiet as the natural condition. Neither interpretation is completely accurate. It is simply that traditions of tolerance and intercommunal harmony are built gradually and painstakingly, but can then be easily shaken. What humans need to do is find ways of creating bases of reconciliation that are resilient to being undermined by new ideologies or political expediency.

California student body demands ban on caste-based discrimination | Education News | Al Jazeera

“All of these inequalities associated with caste status have become embedded in all of the leading South Asian American institutions and they extend into American mainstream institutions that have significant South Asian immigrant populations,” it said, noting that such discrimination “has long been overlooked by American institutions”.

I hadn't considered that caste-based discrimination migrates so well to America and elsewhere, but it stands to reason.

Purple revolution: India’s farmers turn to lavender to beat drought | Global development | The Guardian
'Lavender’s easy-to-grow properties makes it popular with farmers, he says. “The income generated from lavender farming is much better than growing crops like maize. One hectare of land can generate as much as 30 to 45 litres of lavender oil, which is in high demand as an essential aromatic oil.”'

Colombia’s cartels target Europe with cocaine, corruption and torture | Drugs trade | The Guardian
Armed Belgian police raids have lifted the lid on a sinister new front in the drugs war

France to ban some domestic flights where train available | Air France/KLM | The Guardian
MPs vote to suspend internal flights if the trip can be completed by train within two and a half hours instead

7 Best Private Search Engines (And Some You Should AVOID)

February 28, 2021


   Beautiful weather meant that the wood and fields around the village were full of weekenders coming out for picnics. Trees in a nearby almond grove are beginning to blossom. Cyclamen are in their prime, and the wild mustard are also starting up, with their prolific lemon yellow bloom. One of our neighbours was gathering some for his animals a couple of weeks ago and gave us to taste the stalks; a real mustardy taste. My son, his wife and kids, along with many other families from the village, spent most of yesterday and the day before out in a certain clearing in the woods that has become popular. Yesterday, they organized a collective meal cooked in a poyke, which, I learned, is a large South African iron pot for cooking over a fire. We walked over there yesterday, but today we had our younger son over, and the wife's mom. D made two lasagnas - one vegan and one vegetarian.

Links blog

★ Pakistan passes ‘historic’ bill banning corporal punishment of children
"Last month, an eight-year-old boy was beaten to death by his teacher for not memorising a lesson in a madrasa"

★ Saudi crown prince approved killing of Jamal Khashoggi, US report says | Jamal Khashoggi | The Guardian
"Friday’s release of the assessment was expected to be accompanied by further actions from the Biden administration, which are expected to be unveiled by the State Department."

'Bill Gates is continuing the work of Monsanto', Vandana Shiva tells FRANCE 24
by FRANCE 24 English on YouTube

I think YouTube suggested this one, based on my interests. I have been following her for a long time, and once attended one of her talks. She's a great speaker. I didn't know about the book that is the subject of this interview. The interview, on France 24, was less interesting than the one linked below. The interviewer appeared cold, unsympathetic, uninterested. I was wondering what she had to say about the farmers' protest, so went on to listen to the interview below, on Russia Today. The interviewer had done his homework, knew how to challenge her, and draw her out, though this sometimes led to long-winded explanations.

★ Dr. Vandana Shiva on India’s farmers protests: Indian farmers are victims of food imperialism (E976) — RT Going Underground

"On this episode of Going Underground, we speak to Dr. Vandana Shiva, the founder and president of the technology and natural-resource policy foundation Navdanya, who was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’. She discusses the recent avalanche in Uttarakhand, which has left hundreds missing, and the causes behind it. She also explains how the World Bank’s actions in 1991 were arguably the start of Indian farmers’ battle with global capitalism, and why India’s farmers are organising en masse to oppose Modi’s neoliberal farming laws. Dr. Shiva talks about multinational farming corporations and their war on India’s independent farmers, the history of the spread of GMO technology such as ‘Roundup’, why a transition away from industrial farming back to small-scale farming is needed to fight climate change, and much more!"

I went back to look on the web on how I could purchase that book on "Oneness and the 1%" It wasn't available for me in most of the places I checked. Kobobooks wouldn't sell it to someone in Israel. At the Book Depository it was out of stock. At The New Internationalist, it wouldn't give me a quote for shipping. Eventually I bought it from a US seller called Alibris. But that wasn't a good option. It will let me read the book only in my browser, or in a phone app called Bookshelf. I don't sign into Google, so can't order from the Play Store - anyway, now I've found the APK, so it should be okay for me.

★ Kremlin takes swipe at Navalny's reputation as he is sent to prison colony | Alexei Navalny | The Guardian
"At issue is whether a series of videos from the early 2000s produced by Navalny opposing migrant workers – as well as his refusal to apologise for them – should downplay the public campaign for his release from prison, which has been driven by his investigations into corruption and for leading protests against Vladimir Putin."

★ Lady Gaga's bulldogs returned unharmed after kidnapping | US news | The Guardian
"Dogs were dropped off at a police station in Los Angeles, while dog walker shot in the attack is recovering." So at least they are not being held for ransom.

★ Massacre in the mountains: How an Ethiopian festival turned into a killing spree - CNNMassacre in the mountains: How an Ethiopian festival turned into a killing spree - CNN

What a horrible incident. The conflict there never seems to die, like another conflict I know. I think there was activism around Eritrea when I was a student at Exeter in the 1970s.

★ The worldwide web as we know it may be ending - CNN
"A combination of rising nationalism, trade disputes and concerns about the market dominance of certain global tech companies has prompted threats of regulatory crackdowns all over the world. In the process, these forces are not just upending the tech companies that built massive businesses on the promise of a global internet, but also the very idea of building platforms that can be accessed and used the same way by anyone anywhere in the world."

Then there's this, an author with a sci-fi book about the actual end of the internet: "Infinite Detail", by Tim Maughan. I listened about half-way through a Zoom interview with him by Vijaya Lakshmi (poet and writer) and another fan of his books. The link was from @dust via Bob Mottram. Interesting.

★ People with extremist views less able to do complex mental tasks, research suggests | Psychology | The Guardian
“A key finding was that people with extremist attitudes tended to think about the world in black and white terms, and struggled with complex tasks that required intricate mental steps, said lead author Dr Leor Zmigrod at Cambridge’s department of psychology.”

That's amazing. They also find links between performance in these tasks and conservatism.

The photo - with an almond tree beginning to bloom - was taken a couple of weeks ago. They flower earlier when by themselves.

15 January 2021

Learning, relearning

I was going to write the title "what I learned today", but I realized that much of what we think we learn anew, we have actually learned before; maybe just not as well. Boing Boing brings us the link to a film that shows how, with a stroke of a pen, China undermined the entire single-use plastic recycling cycle, back in 2017. The whole practice was based on a lie, and the parts of it that continue, are based on the same lie.

I also learned, thanks to Cory Doctorow, more about the mess at the heart of First Look Media and The Intercept. I don't read the Intercept very often. I know I should, but, for some reason, what I find there does not keep me coming back for more. Anyway, somehow I had completely missed the whole story about Reality Winner., so learning about it now filled in a large gap. I did know that Greenwald left, over the Hunter Biden story. Now we know that Laura Poitras was quietly fired, late in 2020. Today I also learned that the work of archiving the documents collected by Snowden did not continue.

Currently in the Intercept there is a lot about the decisions by the big tech companies to censor Trump and rightwing fanatics, and about their exodus to other platforms like Telegram.

Dave Winer mentions Jack Dorsey's idea for a federated social network infrastructure called "bluesky". The Verge had a lot to say about that at the time he first talked of it, or documented what the founders of the existing federated networks had to say about it. This reminds me of Berners-Lee and his Solid (which is now to be incorporated into some new project that I didn't understand.) I think we should not hold out hope that people who have done great things will magically repeat their successes.

Links blog

✭ The Intercept Promised to Reveal Everything. Then Its Own Scandal Hit.
The Intercept Promised to Reveal Everything. Then Its Own Scandal Hit (NYT)
#journalism from notes

✭ Praxis Films
Open letter from Laura Poitras concerning her firing from First Look Media, which publishes The Intercept.

✭ How China ended the lie of recyclable plastic | Boing Boing
"The plastics industry did a great job of convincing everyone that their product was easily recyclable, but China finally put an end to that pleasant fiction in 2017."

Fascinating. Inconveniently, the solution seems to be to shutdown the entire disposable plastics industry. For the consumer, the best thing is just not to buy things packaged in plastic. What I learned also is that buying good quality plastic is better than buying cheap disposable plastic, not just due to the factor that it lasts a long time, but also because, at end of life, it can eventually be recycled. Assuming, I suppose, that it can be easily separated from other components.

✭ Facebook is showing ads for military gear to far-right users, watchdog group says

"Despite last week’s insurrection, Facebook is continuing to show ads for weapon accessories, body armor, and other military gear on its site, according to the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), a nonprofit watchdog. "

12 January, 2021


My evening's entertainment yesterday evening was three talks with Noam Chomsky. He is 92, and was born exactly a month later than my father, who passed away a few months ago. The breadth, depth and maturity of his political perspective are without parallel and he has been a critical observer of world history as it has unfolded since before WWII. I love to listen to him. I keep hoping that through it I will somehow receive an immunization against all the bullshit we are constantly fed by the media. Among the things he mentions in his talks is that in a previous era, often common working people without any university education were better educated than we now believe. Asked about intellectuals, he points out that after the end of the Vietnam War, ordinary people, time and again in polls expressed the understanding that it was a moral calamity and willful injustice while pundits on the left continued to say that it had been simply a well-intentioned failure.

Links blog

✭Father of the Web Tim Berners-Lee prepares 'do-over' | Reuters
Building on ideas developed by an open-source software project called Solid, Inrupt promises a web where people can use a single sign-on for any service and personal data is stored in “pods,” or personal online data stores, controlled by the user.
✭ Clothes washing linked to ‘pervasive’ plastic pollution in the Arctic | Plastics | The Guardian
“With these polyester fibres, we’ve essentially created a cloud throughout the world’s oceans.”

I was going to say that it would be better to switch to bamboo, but it turns out that this is not necessarily the answer.

A couple of other articles I found on this:

It would probably be better to do more handwashing. That's what I always do when I travel, and sometimes continue for a while after I return. But I would have a hard time doing so while traveling, without relying on quick-drying synthetic fabric.


✭ We are Israel's largest human rights group – and we are calling this apartheid | Israel | The Guardian
"The systematic promotion of the supremacy of one group of people over another is deeply immoral and must end."

✭ Israel is a non-democratic apartheid regime, says rights group | Israel | The Guardian
Embassy spokesperson rejects ‘false claims’ in report that alleges policies perpetuate supremacy of Jews over Palestinians

Everything that is said by B'Tselem is plainly true. I think everyone knows this, including Israeli Jews (who, depending on their politics, may find various ways to justify it).

However, people do get hung up around words. Apartheid is a term imported from another regime in another continent. It's attractive to use by activists, because it immediately invokes visceral reactions in everyone who hears it. Furthermore it has been declared a crime against humanity under international law. ANC members have pointed out that the situation in Israel is actually much worse than what they experienced in South Africa:

'In July 2008, 21 South African activists, including ANC members, visited Israel and Occupied Palestine. Their conclusion was unanimous. Israel is far worse than apartheid as former Deputy Minister of Health and current MP Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge explained:

“What I see here is worse than what we experienced – the absolute control of people’s lives, the lack of freedom of movement, the army presence everywhere, the total separation and the extensive destruction we saw….racist ideology is also reinforced by religion, which was not the case in South Africa.”'

B'Tselem identify four levels of "apartheid" suffered by Palestinians under Israeli rule, at the lowest end those in the Gaza Strip (which has been called an "open-air prison"); to those living in the Occupied West Bank, to those who live in East Jerusalem (who are entitled to revokable residency rights), to those who live in Israel, who have full citizenship, but still lack equality with Israeli Jews.
#israel #palestine

✭ The dark side of Israel’s vaccine success story | Coronavirus pandemic News | Al Jazeera
"there is a dark side to Israel’s “vaccine success story”: While it is immunising its citizens against COVID-19 at an unrivalled rate, the Israeli government is not doing anything to vaccinate millions of Palestinians living under its military occupation. In a cruel irony, hundreds of doses on the cusp of expiration were reportedly thrown away in Israeli clinics last week, while millions of Palestinians are being denied the vaccine."

Palestinian citizens of Israel (and probably residents of East Jerusalem) are being vaccinated, but not residents of Gaza and the West Bank. To reinforce the accusation of "apartheid", one can mention that Israeli settlers in the West Bank are included in Israel's vaccination drive.
#israel #palestine #COVID-19

28 December, 2020

Planet Ocean


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
 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
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
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
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

✭ If you want to travel next year, you may need a vaccine passport - CNN
 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
“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.”

24 October, 2020

Websites and energy

post by Kev Quirk led to some research on how to reduce the digital impact of websites and turned up the links below.

My Hubzilla page got a very poor rating. I will at least try to optimize images better. The only pluses are that
a. It is hosted at home and does not have many visitors. My own visits are only via the local network.
b. People don't need to visit the site at all if they see the posts on the fediverse, or use a feed aggregator

 this has made me think that maybe my custom of aggregating various items throughout the day into a single post may be less effective than, in the traditional way of social media, i.e., creating a separate post for each item. When a post federates to hubzilla servers, aggregated items will usually be re-sent with each new edit, and, if the post is quite long, this will result in energy waste. If a post is edited, the edits, as far as I understand, are not re-sent to other fediverse sites.

✭ How Local Fonts Can Save The Environment - Kev Quirk
✭ The Green Web Foundation | Directory
 directory of green hosting
✭ Webwaste – A List Apart
 say a picture paints a thousand words but sometimes it’s a thousand words of crap."
✭ Website Carbon Calculator | How is your website impacting the planet?
✭ This website is killing the planet

Red spotted longhorn beetle

My son sent a photo of one of these he found on our patio. We had one also last year, which proved almost impermeable to drowning, starving or anything except bug spray. It's the red spotted longhorn beetle, Batocera rufomaculata; scary and huge. It attacks fig, mango and avocado trees in Israel/Palestine, and a few years ago decimated most of the fig trees in our village.



Saturday morning so far has been helping wife with Zoom (not that I'm better at those things than she is), and she too is just assisting by Zoom-hosting an online "day of mindfulness" of the Thich Nhat Hanh sangha, which a couple of other people are leading. The mission was to share a screen in which an audio clip would be shared together with having the lyrics appear on the screen. Of course, when the session actually started, nothing happened quite so easily as in the couple of practice sessions we did. She had to search frantically in Nautilus for the audio file, remember to un-mute her microphone, then look for the PDF with the lyrics.

Somebody else is supposed to divide them into breakout rooms and she planned to do that by making him a co-host. Zoom claims that a co-host can arrange the breakout rooms, but the button doesn't appear on his screen, meaning that he will need to be the host. Etc.

At least Zoom, to its credit, has a Linux version, though, in a previous session, I think we discovered that the Linux version was a bit behind the version for MS Windows and Mac, and thus lacking a couple of features. (It may have caught up by now.)


Jitsi-meet might be a simpler option that we all could be using, but it would mean that just when people are getting used to Zoom, we will ask them to try something new; and I'm wondering whether it has all the features needed. Breakout rooms, for example, seems to be still a beta feature, and not in Disroot's version. But I'm more worried about the smoothness of the streaming; I won't know until I can properly experiment with it.

20 October, 2020

Somebody said on the internet...

"I said it before and I'll say it again: cyberpunk romanticizes oppression."
I think one of the problems of science fiction in general is that we usually conceive the future in terms of what we know. Orwell's 1984 was his 1948, a dark vision based on what he saw in the present, and he said later it might not have turned out quite as miserable if he hadn't been so sick and miserable himself at the time that he wrote it. Science Fiction, like worry, is a prayer for what we don't want. If our vision of the future is dystopian, then we are likely to reap a dystopian reality. If we can imagine a future based on freedom and abundance, where we find creative solutions to the problems that threaten us, we have a better chance of surviving as a species. Martin Luther King understood the power of such positive vision when, in a few simple words, he conjured up a reality that both black and white people instantly wanted. However alluring dystopian fiction might be, it is not where we should spend our time. Yuval Noah Harari says that science fiction is the literary genre for our time. But I don't think he meant visions of doom and gloom. Solarpunk is better than Cyberpunk. The images at the end of David Attenborough's new film are pure solarpunk.

Life on our Planet

We watched, before going to bed, David Attenborough's latest film on Netflix. At age 93, he's still amazing, and this is the sort of film you instantly hope that everybody will watch. I wonder what people in the future will make of these plaintive appeals for a change in direction, pitted against hard, intractable interests? Giants like Attenborough are after all quite small and trivial compared to what they are up against, and, in a way, perhaps they are participants in the same game. I have the image of a bunch of people being swept along in a great flood of debris, each of us clinging to a raft of beams from a ruined house, or sticks of furniture; the wealthy land owner and the landless peasant caught up in the same flood, unable to do more than hurl insults at each other as they float on towards the open sea.

Bichlal, I think the best strategy in our times might be that of the Tao Te Ching, the best protection to be vulnerable but useless, a gnarled and knotted tree for which the carpenter has no use, whose only value is to provide shade for the weary traveler.

The more we get caught up in the struggles that aggrandize victors, the more we ourselves become vectors of the pathogens they disseminate. In such an epoch, we need to have the smallest possible footprint in the herd that is ravaging the earth, treading nimbly around the insects so easily crushed by our clobbering feet. In practical terms, we need to consume as little as possible, remain anonymous. Our cloak of invisibility is simply that we are indistinguishable from everyman.

Yesterday I went to the dentist and she was convinced that my magnetic health fund card must have expired. It bore no signs of activity; no visits to clinics or hospitals, no prescribed medicine, no charted medical conditions. It seems that this is an anomaly at the age of 64, but really, I want as little to do with physicians as possible. If I die now, it might be a little young, but I have no unfulfilled ambitions. Better to live out my allotted number of years, but I wouldn't put up a struggle. I've no wish to live to David Attenborough's immense age, certainly. But it's true that I should do more to maintain my body and keep it hale. I try to eat right and live a healthy lifestyle, but don't get enough exercise.

Social blogging

A Hubzilla channel is a networked blog; somewhere between traditional blogging and traditional social media. I'm not a big fan of social media. I like to follow a few people who have interesting things to say, as long as they do not grow too wordy. I've stopped following people in the fediverse who are over-active for my taste. As for my own posts, I have learned recently to limit them by making a single post for the day and then editing it to include sub-posts. The edits don't usually reach beyond Hubzilla itself, if at all. So there's a daily reminder that I continue to exist, and the link to follow if someone is more interested. But since I'm writing mainly for my own pleasure, the presence or absence of viewers is unimportant. I might even stop using this space, or making posts public, if posts begin to create more engagement.


✭ 'Military Disneyland’: a cathedral to Russia's new national identity | Russia | The Guardian
“We are not talking about the geopolitical background at any particular time, we are talking about the fact that our armed forces have sacred help from above, from God and from the heavenly saints. That’s what the cathedral is about.”

✭ Russian cyber-attack spree shows what unrestrained internet warfare looks like | Cyberwar | The Guardian
"They did not just cause confusion and inconvenience. Quite apart from their alleged role in the rise of Donald Trump, they are accused of depriving hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians of light and heat in the middle of winter, and closing down the computer systems of a major Pennsylvania hospital. Their exploits are a foretaste of unconstrained cyber warfare might look like in the real world."

Worldwide Waste

There's a website called "World Wide Waste" that is dedicated to the subject of digital waste and its costs to the environment. It seems to me that it is less of a subject for the individual than for the corporations, although we are all guilty of over-streaming. I wonder whether the environmental costs of internet streaming is greater than reliance upon satellites? It may be that since both exist, it makes little difference. It must be better to use videoconferencing than traveling and commuting. Harari makes the point that we don't really have an energy problem - there is infinite energy that we could obtain. It's just a technological and an environmental problem. If we can only solve the 21st century technological problems of polluting industries, we will be able to enjoy the tech advantages, but, along the way, we are making terrible misjudgments. Humans are inherently wasteful. We need to cut down on packaging and processed foods, products that are wasteful.

Of course, writing these words, I'm aware that this is actually delusional and that we are still on the way to annihilation. I can make personal improvements, but the problems are endemic. Seeing the wastefulness of Americans, of my brother for example, there is little hope for humanity. And no doubt in Israel too I am unaware of the way many people are living. But there is satisfaction whenever one can make personal good decisions. These can be shared and communicated over our own networks in order to help popularize environmental consciousness.

Yes, despite the luxury of an independent, non-connected blog, it makes much more sense to communicate ideas that to keep them to oneself. I simply haven't cracked the technique of doing it in a manner that doesn't lead to disgust or embarrassment. Effective communication requires a style that is far removed from my slow circumlocution and roundabout thinking. Writers like George Monbiot are effective communicators, though even they manage to invoke the ire of folks who are quite near to them ideologically. And then there are the superstars, like Michael Moore, who also make terrible mistakes, unforgivable errors, which create great damage. So where does that leave someone like me? I guess it is all about an honest dialogue. Actually, I have little patience for one.

It's useful to do lots of reading I think I prefer to do my thinking, my writing or communicating as a monologue. Blogging is better for me than a Reddit-style back-and-forth, and even one-line responses to my posts bother me immensely. So that's how I end up with a blog that does not permit responses, or simply a private journal. The dialogue is simply me reading what other people have said, and then writing, in my own fashion, reflections on what I have read; or sometimes my own thoughts. There are folks who are better than me for the true dialogue. If am more private, it isn't arrogance, exactly, but the need for personal space. It's the reason that it is much easier for me to write offline, by hand, in a personal journal, than to write blog posts. But there is still room to transcribe these later.