11 October

Description of plague

A "Description of the Plague at Florence in the Year 1527" records this plague in detail, authored by Lorenzo di Filippo Strozzi :

Our pitiful Florence now looks like nothing but a town which has been stormed by infidels and then forsaken. One part of the inhabitants, ... have retired to distant country houses, one part is dead, and yet another part is dying. Thus the present is torment, the future menace, so we contend with death and only live in fear and trembling. The clean, fine streets which formerly teemed with rich and noble citizens are now stinking and dirty; crowds of beggars drag themselves through them with anxious groans and only with difficulty and dread can one pass them. Shops and inns are closed, at the factories work has ceased, the law courts are empty, the laws are trampled on. Now one hears of some theft, now of some murder. The squares, the market places on which citizens used frequently to assemble, have now been converted into graves and into the resort of the wicked rabble. ... If by chance relations meet, a brother, a sister, a husband, a wife, they carefully avoid each other. What further words are needed? Fathers and mothers avoid their own children and forsake them. ... A few provision stores are still open, where bread is distributed, but where in the crush plague boils are also spread. Instead of conversation ... one hears now only pitiful, mournful tidings – such a one is dead, such a one is sick, such a one has fled, such a one is interned in his house, such a one is in hospital, such a one has nurses, another is without aid, such like news which by imagination alone would suffice to make Aesculapius sick.


Photo sizes

Most people I know seem to have such a muddy view of photo sizes, without any idea of whether they are sending me a small photo or a large one. Software and messaging programs don't bother to inform them about the sizes in which their photos will be sent and what those sizes mean.

Soma FM

I have been checking the different channels available on Soma.fm. These are described at  https://somafm.com/playlist/ . Just now I'm listening to their Drone Zone, which is all right for doing work by. The station seems a less commercial than options like YouTube and Spotify, though it's unfortunate they are an "Amazon affiliate". If I spend a long time with them, I'll send a donation.

Bibi Go Home

My young grand daughter watched my son making a sign for the local evening demo at the intersection. His sign, calling for the expulsion of the prime minister, was "Bibi Go Home". Her interpretation of this was "Bibi Come Home", which sounds friendlier.



My default search engine, Disroot's instance of SearX, seems to be having trouble sometimes, lately, and then I end up using DDG. I might think about hosting my own instance.

Celebrity status

It's funny how celebrity status (or "influencer" status in social media) means that people pay attention as if being good at one thing automatically turns them into an expert all manner of things, and attracts engagement, likes and comments even when their statements are not particularly intelligent, or explicitly dumb. I first came to understand that being an expert in one field doesn't extend to others while living alongside people who are at the top of their academic fields yet, when it comes to more ordinary matters, their interactions and interventions were often idiotic or childish. If we could just remember this principle, I think it could save us some of our disappointment regarding the outbursts of people like Elon Musk, J.K. Rowling or whoever is the current bête noire. Just ignore them.

"Not to honor men of worth will keep the people from squabbling"
Lao Tzu.

Tomatoes from Italy

D. just read in The Marker that those imported cans of Italian crushed tomatoes that we've been buying are the produce of modern slave labour, in a market controlled by the mafia dons of southern Italy. Whenever we buy imported stuff I think, well at least I know it isn't coming from Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories, but there are other possibilities just as bad.

Cory Doctorow, Covid-19, film

I liked the interview with Cory Doctorow in The Guardian. For a science fiction writer and technology geek, he's a lot more grounded in reality than those who are driving the tech industry.

One of the problems with The Social Dilemma is that it supposes that tech did what it claims it did – that these are actually such incredible geniuses that they figured out how to use machine learning to control minds. And that’s the problem – the mind control thing they designed to sell you fidget spinners got hijacked to make your uncle racist. But there’s another possibility, which is that their claims are rubbish. They just overpromised in their sales material, and that what actually happened with that growth of monopolies and corruption in the public sphere made people cynical, angry, bitter and violent. In which case the problem isn’t that their tools were misused. The problem is that the structures in which those tools were developed are intrinsically corrupt and corrupting.

Covid-19 thoughts

It's just typical of our era that when a pandemic strikes, it is possible to look at it from two opposite perspectives: that it's the most dangerous and deadly threat to public health in a century, and a kind of mass delusion that is less dangerous than the counter-measures used to protect us from it.

Doctor Sleep

Regardless of Stephen King's opinions, The Shining works as cinema and you can enjoy it more than once. This one is almost unwatchable rubbish.


✭ Amazon says nearly 20,000 of its U.S. workers have COVID-19 | Boing Boing
https://boingboing.net/2020/10/01/amazon-says-nearly-20000-workers-have-covid-19.html✭ Leather-like material biofabrication using fungi
✭ Why the hidden world of fungi is essential to life on Earth

✭ Library of Things - Wikipedia
 Library of Things movement is a growing trend in public, academic and special libraries in many countries.[7][8] There are also free-standing organizations separate from libraries, such as tool libraries, toy libraries, community sharing centers,[9] independent non-profits, and individual initiatives.
2020.10.10 08:38:56 edit delete
✭ India's tea workers strike as government fails to deliver wage increase
For years, the owners of the vast plantations in Assam have been accused of under-paying and exploiting workers. Campaigners have reported that workers have little access to clean water, work in unsanitary and dangerous conditions and have their fundamental human rights undermined.
In 2018, the Indian government had agreed to raise the daily wage from the current figure of 167 rupees to 350 rupees, but has failed to implement the decision. There are fears that, after consulting tea estate owners, the government will backtrack on its promise and move to significantly lessen the increase.
✭ Louise Glück wins Nobel Prize for Literature - BBC News

Our times

The 20th century may have been the last era when people were able to create innocently and non-imitatively while remaining true to the gradually constructed stack of human culture. It was still possible to believe in the myth of progress. Ideologies continued to offer hope. Affluence was still based on manufactured goods and hard labour. The earth still had a future. In the current century there is an imitative, phony atmosphere of excess. Creation is born of a cynical exploitation of past forms without inherent belief in them. Economically we have lost our gold standard, culturally there is a constant need to seek reassurance from the fake convictions of peers who are similarly deluded and obsessed. Only in the present era could leaders like Trump emerge, movements like ISIS emerge, socio-economic disparities grow so large, and mass delusion be so prevalent in the presence of available information. Meanwhile we are partying through the apocalypse, blissfully unaware: the decimation of our biosphere.

Creation, as a word is from an old Indo-European root meaning to act. In order to create innocently in the current era we need to stop re-acting, detach ourselves from our culture of imitation and violence, and free our minds from old forms. Our civilization has let us down. We are basing our lives on ways of thinking that have led to the current insanity, modes of behavior that we know to be destructive. Solutions are not to be found within the matrix that has created the problems. We need to free ourselves of the weight of human culture, reevaluate our place in the universe, taking as our measure the entire biosphere. We need to de-condition ourselves from learned thinking and behaviour.

India’s violent history

Yesterday finished Khushwant Singh's Delhi, which tells the story of the capital from invasion to invasion, massacre to massacre, and concludes with the pogrom on the Sikhs in 1984.  And today I was reading a horrifying story about the Muzzafanagar and Shamli District riots last September. The location of the places where the recent atrocities took place is around 100 km from Delhi.