13 June 2021

Cherries

We currently have an over-abundance of delicious fresh cherries. D ordered a crate, which we distributed among family members. Then on Saturday she joined Samah with the women of Naam* on a trip to the Golan Heights, where she picked another box of cherries. Their visit was to the Druse town of Majdal Shams, and included a tour that explained the unique situation of the Druse of the Golan Heights. (Since the Israeli annexation, they are Israel residents, but non-citizens, like Palestinian East Jerusalemites.)

*Naam, which is a Hebrew acronym of “Arab women at the center” (as well as the Arabic word for "yes)" tries to advance the rights of Arab women, both in Israeli society and in their local society, particularly in the town of Lydda/Lod/Lid, which was a flashpoint in the recent violence.

Vertigo

I've been experiencing momentary vertigo on one side for a few weeks now. I was reading up on it today, and see what I need to try is what is called the Epley maneuver - a simple one-time therapy that anyone can do at home, though it is recommended to do it with a physician. The idea is to dislodge free-floating particles from the semicircular canal of the ear. There are a bunch of videos on this on YouTube. Note: the recommended private way to watch YouTube videos is through Invidous. It's not a great idea to look up a medical condition on Google, or watch YouTube videos on something like that when logged in to Google servers.

Links

Camilla Pang: 'You have to acknowledge the hilarity of what it is to be human' - The Guardian

Part of your achievement is to challenge myths about neurodivergence – for instance that autism involves a lack of empathy.

Yeah. Oh, completely. I’m not giving you hugs and kisses and expressions of empathy that are weird to me. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not working hard to make sure your needs are met. Empathy comes in many forms and languages, but it’s also an endeavour by one human to connect with another in a way that takes up a lot of their mind. So this book is a gesture of empathy. You can be warm and empathetic, which often go hand in hand, but basically empathy is nonjudgmental and quite simple. A lot of the time, I’m trying to figure out what people need, how I can make them happy, and I realised that this process in itself is a form of empathy.

Camilla Pang is the author of Neurodivergent and Explaining Humans: What Science Can Teach Us about Life, Love and Relationships.


Clamour for wealth tax grows after revelations about super-rich’s affairs - The Guardian

“The scandal here isn’t that they broke the rules – they didn’t. It’s that the rules are so bad,” said Advani, who has spent his career exploring the reasons behind why the richest people often pay the lowest tax, proportionally speaking. “It’s great that the data leak has exploded these details to the public and made regular people think about it, as it’s only with wide public support that politicians will act.”

“The only way to really get cash from these super-billionaires is to start taxing the ownership of wealth”

Elizabeth Warren, the US senator who has proposed a 2% tax on people with assets of more than $50m and 3% on those with more than $1bn, said: “Our tax system is rigged for billionaires who don’t make their fortunes through income, like working families do. The evidence is abundantly clear: it is time for a wealth tax in America to make the ultra-rich finally pay their fair share.”


Indian-origin journalist wins Pulitzer Prize for exposing China's vast infrastructure for detaining Muslims - The Hindu

“This is what the best investigative journalism can do and why it is so essential.” Ms. Rajagopalan's Xinjiang series won the Pulitzer Prize in the International Reporting category.

In 2017, not long after China began to detain thousands of Muslims in Xinjiang, Rajagopalan was the first to visit an internment camp — at a time when China denied that such places existed, BuzzFeed News said.

“In response, the government tried to silence her, revoking her visa and ejecting her from the country,” BuzzFeed News wrote in its entry for the prize.

“It would go on to cut off access to the entire region for most Westerners and stymie journalists. The release of basic facts about detainees slowed to a trickle.” Working from London, and refusing to be silenced, Rajagopalan partnered with two contributors, Alison Killing, a licensed architect who specialises in forensic analysis of architecture and satellite images of buildings, and Christo Buschek, a programmer who builds tools tailored for data journalists.

Online satellite imagery of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Recent articles in HaAretz and the BBC mentioned this analysis of satellite images, in connection with the current censorship of high resolution images of Israel and the OPT. This was particularly noticed during the recent bombardment of Gaza. The reasons go back to 1997, when, responding to Israeli concerns, the US introduced a law prohibiting the distribution of high resolution satellite imagery of Israel, and the law was applied also to the OPT. As a result, this is the only country on earth where such images are not available on any of the web's free mapping sites and applications such as Google Maps, Bing, Apple maps and even Yandex. However, this is now expected to change. The US is no longer the sole provider of satellite imagery and in 2020 the US abrogated its own law prohibiting the distribution of such imagery. High resolution satellite images are already available to purchase, but they have yet to reach the free mapping sites. Among other things, the change should make it easier to see Israeli colonization activities in the OPT.

Israel-Gaza: Why is the region blurry on Google Maps? - BBC News

29-31 August 2020

Maps

I don't have Waze and am trying to avoid Google Maps in favour of OsmAnd for driving directions. It's pretty usable in our area. I like the interface, but not everything is perfect, at least in my set up.

  • I still haven't figured out a way to make the map face in the same direction as the driving. It would be easier to read if it would switch itself around.
  • In our area at least, it doesn't recognize street numbers.
  • It's a bit hard for me to read all the information. I think it's time to get multi-focals!

Openstreetmaps political bias?

Looking again at my address coordinates, I see that Openstreetmap is guilty of a political bias. The majority of the village is actually in what Israelis term a "no-man's land" (שטח הפקר) between Israel and Palestine (formerly Jordan), whereas the presentation in Openstreetmap shows us as being well within the Israeli territory.

The status of this buffer zone has never actually been decided. It was not, like East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights, unilaterally annexed by Israel. Google Maps and other mapping companies do show the no man's land area, but it has not been added to Openstreetmap. I don't know how to edit there, but perhaps I should write to them. I imagine that, like Wikipedia, Openstreetmap is a hotbed of political dispute, and the omission is not by chance.

(See the Wikipedia article on Latrun)

Meanwhile on Google and Apple maps

Calls for Google to put Palestine on the map

Primary School

Our village school opens the school year tomorrow with a bit of a dispute. We were set to have 2 fairly balanced first grade classes, but then parents of 11 Jewish children withdrew their registration, citing a need for their kids to learn closer to home while the pandemic continues. This caused a rumpus in the parents committee, as some of the Jewish parents from outside the village were scared their kids might find themselves at a disadvantage among many Arab children. The school management decided to solve the problem by reversing the registration of 13 Arab children 2 weeks before the school year. The parents of those children are up in arms, justifiably. Most of the people here in the village - both Jews and Arabs - very much agree with them. However the school formally belongs to the education ministry and there isn't much we can do, it seems.*

There'll be a demonstration tomorrow in front of the school gates: "Hey first grade: we are missing 13 children" --- the residents of Neve Shalom protest this shameful decision"

Image/photo

Budgie on my Linux

I must say, I'm quite happy with the Budgie desktop environment on MX Linux (19.2). Usually a distro's native desktop works best, but I grew frustrated with a couple of things in XFCE and switched. I like that it docks applications; and can pin them to the panel. I think that any modern windows manager should have that feature built in by now. It also does a better job of suspending and waking up from suspension. Under XFCE on MX, if one suspends by closing the laptop lid, the login screen will be missing, when the lid is reopened. (One can still blindly type the password in order to log back in.). Actually, in Budgie, there's a login bug as well. If, when suspending the Hebrew keyboard has been active, it is impossible to change the language and log back in with the Latin keyboard. (My work-around is not to use alphabet keys in the password). Finally, Budgie does a better job of managing multiple displays than XFCE. Sometimes under the former, if I would just unplug a display, I'd be left without a primary display. Budgie is attractive, light-weight and works better for me.

Visit

Y. came to visit, bringing a German friend. Y, from Haifa, has both Jews and Palestinians in her family, and grew up with an aversion to Zionism and the myths that most people of her generation imbibed. She taught for a while in our school, but has always had a personality and intelligence that makes most people wary of her, so someone eventually ejected her from her position and she left the village. But we have stayed in contact with her throughout the years. She lives in Jerusalem and is about to retire. In recent years she became interested in Krishnamurti and Buddhism. She visited K's center Brockwood Park, near Oxford, and spent a few months at the Intersein Buddhist retreat center in Bavaria.

Y's friend Cornelia was visiting us for the second time, though I had completely forgotten her or her first visit a couple of years ago. She is working for a German public development bank on various projects in the West Bank, while living in Sheikh Jarakh in East Jerusalem, so her contacts are mainly with Palestinians. During the pandemic she returned to Germany for a few months, but returned to complete her 3 year tour of service. Before visiting us, the two had been at a concert in Beit Jimal, the Salesian monastery near Beit Shemesh - purportedly the burial place of St. Stephen. They brought some nice beer from the nearby boutique brewery in Srigim and we talked about German politics and the vagaries of the country's reception of refugees.

We went for a late afternoon walk down to the corner of silence, where the dome has recently been repainted a brilliant white. From experience, I know that it will quickly darken again. I wish they'd paint it the colour of the earth and trees surrounding it. Near the Garden of Rescuers I noticed for the first time the sycamore fig tree (ficus sycomoros) because it is currently full of its red fig-like fruit. The tree is comparatively rare in modern Israel, and the fruit are not harvested commercially. I once heard that they are popular in Gaza. There is still an avenue or two of huge sycamores in Tel Aviv. It's quite like Eitan to have remembered to plant one of these trees in the village.

Thoughts on another lecture by Harari

Listened to another YouTube video of Yuval Noah Harari, This one was a lecture at Google in 2015 and is about "new religions of the 21st century." I have read only the first of his books, and listened to various interviews. He lives not far from here, practices vipassana meditation, is strictly vegan, firmly on the left, anti-nationalist, and deeply influenced by Buddhism. The video is chiefly about the increasing power of the algorithm in undermining our currently dominant religion, which, as he says, is humanistic liberalism.

I was thinking his talk about the "new religions of the 21st" century would be about the discovery of our interdependence with nature and of the impossibility that the human race will survive the coming centuries while maintaining its existing speciesism.. At a point in the talk he asks a rhetorical question about the main scientific discovery of the 20th century? (the response: there are so many of them that it is hard to say), and then what was the main discovery in the same period from the faith religions ("the religions that believe in God"). The response he gives is that it is hard to decide, because we can't think of any. But I don't think that's strictly true. There is a discovery or re-discovery, of one of them core teachings of all religions, of altruism and the need to overcome our inherent egoism for the good of the whole. It isn't exclusively the domain of religion, and the dominant religions have themselves contradicted this message to disastrous effect. Yet the belief, or understanding, that there is a deep connection, or even a fundamental unity, between our own existence and consciousness and that of the universe, is both at the heart of religion, and is the key message of our times. "Key" because it is key to our survival as a species. Like the power of the algorithm, this understanding challenges humanistic liberalism and individualism, as Harari defines it. But unlike our new faith in algorithms to address the issues of our times, the earlier message that we can, and need to, transcend our egoism is at the heart of the human condition. It predates humanistic liberalism by tens of thousands of years and can be felt when viewing the art of the first humans on cave walls. And it will supersede our present stage of evolution, if we are to survive at all. It's a truth with which we have grappled from the beginning, but which rises to paramount importance in an era when we have the power to destroy both our species and the delicate symmetries that make all of life on earth possible. Eventually logic may lead us to the same conclusion. Indeed, we may already have enough scientific knowledge to emphatically confirm it. But if we don't grasp, at a deep level, and quickly, that in order to survive we must stop destroying the biosphere for selfish reasons, it won't be very helpful if this understanding remains confined to the rational level. Understanding has always been a matter more for the heart than for the intellect.

Music

Listening to Zaarbi e-rast of Zarbang, from my Emusic collection.

D. complains that I didn't update our music collection for the past several years, which is true, and anyway she wouldn't like my choices. However I suggested she will probably find something on Spotify, though I've never actually used it. Quickly downloaded through snap their Linux player for the old, outdated Ubuntu media PC we have in the living room. I guess it sounds all right..

Mostly I still listen to tracks I downloaded years ago from Emusic; nothing mainstream. Sometimes lately I've been supplementing this with stuff suggested to me by YouTube - ethnic, house. Indian classical or bhajans that I can listen to while doing other things.

When I first traveled through the Middle East in the 1970s, cassettes were in vogue. Young people in Turkey got me interested in their Halk Musik (folk music). In Konya I bought some sufi instrumental music - strange stuff. In Afghanistan, you could still wander into a tea shop and find people playing traditional instruments; though cassette players were beginning to take over. Back home I would hunt for rare stuff like Tibetan monastery music , Indonesian gamelan gong music and medieval madrigals on Nonesuch Records. I wonder if the label still exists?