17 July 2021

A concert

We have a husband and wife team of professional pianists in the village, who also teach piano and, at least once a year, arrange a concert in their home for their students; who may be either conservatory students or local children. We attended one of these this evening. The musicians were great; the western classical piano music, for the most part is mildly boring, sometimes irritating. I have less appreciation for it than for Middle Eastern and Indian classical music. It isn't the instrument that I dislike; I love the Keith Jarrett concerts, for example. But I came home and immediately put Cafe de Anatolia on. That's what I mainly listen to these days.


I have gradually come to the understanding that I'm interested in long-form blogging, and not at all in social networking or microblogging. I'm no good at the latter. I've never been able to build much of a network. My interactions are poor; fraught with inhibitions, sometimes cringe-worthy, and I've never been able to sustain interest for very long. I've had various false starts on the mainstream and the alternative networks. I enjoy writing, but it's mainly for my own benefit. Blogging helps me to process my experiences and develop my thoughts. In spite of that, blogging is a public form of writing. I could write offline in my journal, or in Cherrytree, where I often begin my posts. In Cherrytree, starting a day entry is as simple as pressing the F8 key. I could also choose to use one of the more obscure forms, such as Genesis, or establish an Onion site, use the Interplanetary File System, or start a Dat site on Beaker browser. I've thought about all of these possibilities, but I am writing online in order that my writing will be available, so it doesn't make sense to create obstacles to reading it unless I want to connect to a cabal of like-minded cranks, which I don't. I want the blog to be generally available.

On the other hand, I don't want to thrust what I write deliberately under the nose of those who came upon it by chance. The Fediverse, in order to build its popularity, has large instances with public threads. Those who have not yet established a network of friends and followers can follow the public timeline with posts from everyone who is on a given network instance. Joining one of those instances means that automatically, one's posts appear in the public stream, unless one elects to keep them semi-private and restricted to followers. I don't, or no longer, want either of those options. I want a publicly available blog that doesn't get put into a public timeline. But I want to announce posts to those who may be interested to read them, using a variety of means (see the About page). This year, I started auto-posting blog post notices - just the WP excerpt and a link - to Twitter and Tumblr. There is also the RSS news feed, and I found a way of enabling mailings of complete posts to anyone who wished to subscribe. I still had a dilemma regarding the Fediverse, and how I wanted to appear there. I am currently on three Fediverse instances; a Mastodon instance (Fosstodon); my Hubzilla channel, hosted on the same home server, and Disroot.org, where my Hubzilla channel is cloned.

Despite these options, I decided that the easiest solution could be to enable Matthias Pfefferle's WP Activity Pub plugin. The latter allows, in the simplest way possible, anyone on Mastodon or the majority of the other Fediverse sites, to follow my WordPress.org blog, without the additional step of posting it to any Fediverse instances. The blog itself becomes a valid member of the Fediverse. That's the solution with the least overhead.

All of this is fairly academic. I actually expect no one to follow the blog, far less to actually read it. The way that I've set things up, I probably won't actually know if they do. Comments are turned off, mail subscriptions are handled through a third party, RSS feed subscriptions are anonymous, and I am not active on any of the networks where blog posts are announced. Till now, signs of "engagement", as Facebook calls it, have been close to zero. That's all fine with me.

I sometimes think of the days prior to social networking. Writers would publish their creations with much less interaction with the reading public. Even today, when we read a book by a living author, be it a novel or a work of non-fiction, we do not expect to enter into a dialogue with her. Some writers have taken advantage of this separation in order to cultivate an elaborate fiction. For example, when we read Annie Dillard's famous Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (for which she won a Pulitzer), we are sure that this is an actual record of life in a wilderness area, and do not suspect that the author is writing from a college library while living on the fringes of a small town. The mystique is helpful to the book's success, and not just its commercial success. The mystery regarding the identity of the narrator is partly responsible for its transformative power.


Pluralistic: 16 Jul 2021 – Pluralistic: Daily links from Cory Doctorow

The Tower of Babel: How Public Interest Internet is Trying to Save Messaging and Banish Big Social Media

July 7, 2021

Video editors

My computer seems to be running too hot lately, and I guess the summer temperatures are not helping. Conky is showing up to 97 degrees when handling certain processes. Prime among these is video rendering (no surprise there). But I have found that Openshot video editor is very resource-hungry even when it isn't rendering, and sometimes it becomes unresponsive for a while. As a consequence, I have installed KDenlive, which consumes fewer resources when running. I don't remember what sort of package Openshot is on my machine; I think the version I was running may have been a Flatpack, rather than the package found in MX package installer.

I still don't really understand video formats. All I know is that after my video editor has done its rendering, I can get the size down further in the terminal with ffmpeg, using ffmpeg -i input.mp4 -vcodec libx265 -crf 28 output.mp4. The Zoom video I converted today came out at 23% of the original size, after rendering it in h264 compression in Kdenlive. The quality remained adequate.

Tumblr links

I found a WP plugin that autoposts to Tumblr, working the same way as the Twitter or autopost plugin, so I will send links to my blog posts to Tumblr, as I do to Mastodon and Twitter. I could put the entire posts in Tumblr, but don't want to.


My boss, S complains that she is unable to download from our Piwigo albums to her iPhone. I tried with my Android phone and didn't really succeed either. It's simple enough on the Desktop, but hard to accomplish on phones. I asked why she needed to download to her phone, and she explained that she has better photo editing photos there than on her computers - something I hadn't considered. Afterwards I found that there are apps for iPhone and Android. The Android version is in FDroid, so I installed it. However, as a “guest user” there isn't a whole lot that one can do in this Android app. Actually the mobile site is more attractive. From the description, it looks like the iPhone version is more successful, though people were complaining in the reviews about not being able to download photos to their phones, though those reviews are from last year, and there was a promise to rectify the situation. (Our Piwigo albums ).


I had a terrible time attempting to download videos from Facebook, meanwhile. Various tools and methods did not work for me. One Chrome plugin did work (in Vivaldi), in a round about sort of way - but I hate installing questionable plugins in my browsers. For now I've left it there, but disabled it.

My mission today was to download some videos of the end of year parties of the school, that one of the teachers had placed in the School's facebook group. I successfully downloaded them eventually, and combined a few of them into a single video; which I will upload afterwards to YouTube.

Expensive car repair

I had to go to collect our daughter's Mazda 2 from the garage after being serviced. They found numerous things wrong with it - with all the repairs, the bill came to almost 6,000 shekels.

New Earbuds

From Ali-Express I ordered some Sony earbuds, for about $40, to replace the almost identical pair that I eventually managed to lose, after 5 or 6 years. The new pair arrived today: Sony MDR-XB55AP, offering "Extra Bass". They seem fine, though I wonder whether their quality justifies replacing the quite reasonable pair that came with one of our phones.


... Anyway, the new pair were in my ears quite a lot today. I went for a walk in the woods, listening to one of Cafe De Anatolia's 2-hour mixes. I think the reason I enjoy these so much is that unlike many mixes in the same genre, they rarely contain popular music - the smatterings of songs that are there are mostly "ethno" or "world" music. I wonder if such use deserves the term "cultural appropriation"? Probably: I am sure there are Hindus who would object to this use of bhajans as sound bytes. But I appreciate the bhajans just as much as all the rest. And there is something about the instrumentation that I feel reflects a real love of music, its various styles and its potential to affect consciousness. According to Wikipedia, I have read that some people compare House music to Muzak. But I don't think that comparison is justified - at least not with the stuff I'm listening to .


Berta Cáceres assassination: ex-head of dam company found guilty - The Guardian

A US-trained former Honduran army intelligence officer who was the president of an internationally-financed hydroelectric company has been found guilty over the assassination of the indigenous environmentalist Berta Cáceres.

Cáceres was best known for her leadership in the Agua Zarca struggle, but she was also a sharp political analyst, LGBTQ+ rights campaigner and human rights defender who had long frustrated the country’s economic and political elites with her ability to unite disparate sectors against the corrupt status quo.

Victor Fernández, one of the Cáceres family’s lawyers, said the verdict demonstrated the magnitude of the struggle by Cáceres and the Lenca community in the face of a corrupt state which sold off their territory without consent. “Their audacity, determination and dignity to resist, defend and triumph over this corrupt system sets a precedent. We have nothing to thank the justice system for. It was they who persecuted Berta; they criminalized her and displaced her. This victory is a result of our militancy.”

The low-desire life: why people in China are rejecting high-pressure jobs in favour of ‘lying flat’ - The Guardian

Fury in India over death of 84-year-old political prisoner Stan Swamy - The Guardian

India’s oldest political prisoner, an 84-year-old Jesuit priest who was denied bail as his health deteriorated, has died, prompting an outpouring of anger among lawyers, writers, politicians and activists.

Father Stan Swamy, a priest and human rights activist who spent five decades fighting for the rights of the tribal community in the state of Jharkhand, was arrested in October 2020, charged under draconian terrorism laws and held in judicial custody.

Despite Swamy’s weak condition from advanced Parkinson’s disease, which worsened after he contracted Covid-19 in prison last month, the courts repeatedly denied him pre-trial bail.

Google, Facebook and other tech companies threaten to quit Hong Kong over privacy law - The Guardian

No, open source Audacity audio editor is not “spyware” -| Ars Technica

The article seems to me a bit too understanding. I think her comment about any normal commercial program requiring telemetry for law enforcement is ridiculous:

This leaves the last row—"data necessary for law enforcement, litigation and authorities' requests (if any)." While that's certainly a broad category and not particularly well-defined, it's also a fact of life in 2021. Whether a privacy policy says so or not, the odds are rather good that any given company will comply with legitimate law enforcement requests. If it doesn't, it won't likely be a company for long.

Maybe that's true for online services and social networks, but for offline programs, really?

Biden’s right-to-repair order could stop companies from blocking DIY fixes - Ars Technica

March 8, 2021


Abie Nathan

There's a corner of the woods across from the village dedicated to the peace activist Abie Nathan; not by us, but someone must have thought it an appropriate place. When it was made, in 1999, Nathan was still alive, but in a wheel chair, after his stroke. I well remember the ceremony. Shimon Peres was there, among other luminaries.

During the 1970s and 80's everybody listened to his pirate radio station, "the Voice of Peace," broadcast from a ship outside Israel's territorial waters. John Lennon helped him to buy the ship. Every half hour or so there would be recordings of Menahem Begin and Anwar Sadat during the latter's visit to Jerusalem: “No more war, no more bloodshed’ ... ‘the October War will be the last war’."

At one point, the Coca Cola company decided to stop advertising on his station, so he replaced their jingles with one of his own, "Drink pure refreshing water, there's nothing better for you... drink water today" an ear worm that worked so well, I can still hear it today.


Royal Families

I didn't have the energy to read much about the Oprah interview with Megan (?). It ranked high in the news here; Israelis seem to love all that stuff as much as people in other places. The Crown was hugely popular, for some reason. Maybe the best thing to do about royal families is just to ignore them, then maybe they will go away. Seriously; the brand is only maintained thanks to public interest and the revenue they generate.


I learned a bit about the apostille process today. I need to get a document signed for my brother in the US. Before 1961 embassies had a lot of work cut out for them because only they could approve the legal documents provided in foreign countries. Then came the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents. Countries that signed the convention recognized each other's notarized legal documents, as long as the special apostille stamp was attached by an entity chosen as competent in each signatory country. In the US, this is the secretary of state in a given state. In many countries, it's the ministry of foreign affairs. In Israel they are provided in magistrates' courts. The US embassy is also able to notarize some US documents without the need for the apostille process, but currently they are not providing that service due to the COVID pandemic. There are also US notaries that provide online services, but apparently only for Americans in possession of a social security number. So, in my case, my only option seems to be to go first to an Israeli notary, pay the standard fee, then obtain the apostille stamp from a magistrate's court. Such things as notaries and apostilles have been the nuts and bolts of government bureaucracies, from Roman times.


In the last century of the Republic, probably in the time of Cicero, and apparently by his adoptive son Marcus Tullius Tiro, after whom they were named 'notae Tironianae' a new form of shorthand was invented and certain arbitrary marks and signs, called notae, were substituted for words in common use. A writer who adopted the new method was called a notarius. Originally, a notary was one who took down statements in shorthand using these notes, and wrote them out in the form of memoranda or minutes. Later, the title notarius was applied almost exclusively to registrars attached to high government officials, including provincial governors and secretaries to the Emperor.

The word apostille also has Latin roots, from post illa then French, meaning a marginal note.

Musical addictions

When I was working as an embassy mail boy in my youth, one of my colleagues happened to be learning the tabla. You could see that he was really sunk in it. In every idle moment his fingers would drum on a counter top and his mind was constantly caught up in the beats.

With the one exception of tabla, and the ragas spun from it, I have never been very appreciative of percussion music. But nowadays I have started to enjoy house music and its abiding rhythms. Sometimes a piece will go on for six hours, like

Sahalé - Djiin (6 hours)
by Cafe De Anatolia ETHNO WORLD on YouTube
of Cafe Anatolia, which I am listening to right now: lots of percussion with lilting ethnic interludes. I've started to wonder what this kind of music does to my mind; will I turn into the musical equivalent of a pot head? Is this sort of music benign or harmful? Can it actually be called music? I've no idea.

In my parents' house the radio was always going. It was mostly talk; lousy commercials, traffic announcements, jingles, smidgens of news repeated ad infinitum Whenever I was at home alone, I would leave the radio off. But when my mom came home she would say "Ugh, it's like a morgue in here," and turn it back on. I'm convinced that my parents' consciousness was permanently altered by this constant radio noise. They even insisted that their cats loved it, "because it keeps them company". Eventually the creatures turned into the feline equivalent of pot heads.

2 February, 2021


When my kids were teenagers, I used to hate their House music, and now, weirdly I've started to like it myself. I've hardly seen a dance floor, but like to put it on while working. Listening a lot lately to Cafe de Anatolia, and Nora En Pure right now, in a piece recorded in Gstaad. My discovery engine is YouTube, but I think it's wasteful to stream, so I download it instead with Youtube-dl. I was till now downloading also the video and then extracting it, but now I've discovered how to download just the audio.


I bought my earphones about five years ago in an airport in Delhi or Mumbai. They're the simple in-ear kind with a black plastic wire, but they've been really good. It's easy to lose earphones, but I tend to look after my stuff. I also find that once something has been with me a while it tends to stick to me, and gets harder to lose. So the other day I had the earphones in my pocket on my afternoon walk. It was a particularly wild walk, as I didn't keep to the paths but scrambled down the face of the hillside, jumping over rocks and wading through thick grass. When I got home, I found the earphones were no longer in my pocket. I don't give up so easily, and the same evening I went out with my phone light and retraced at least the more civilized part of the way I had taken. No luck. The following afternoon I went out again and tried to approximate the route I'd taken down the hillside; which was impossible, but some of it I got right. After about 20 minutes, I saw them; my earphones were lying there on a rock.

I wasn't so surprised really. It's at least the second time I've found those earphones somewhere outside. The other time was on a park bench. I happened to re-visit the same bench without actually looking for them, a day or two later.

The Expanse

The Expanse is one of the few TV series I have stuck through. I didn't read the James Cory books - unlike one of my sons, who listened to all of them on audio - but I like the cast and the storyline. Unfortunately, I can never remember all the ins and outs of the plot, so I get a bit lost some times. Now it's at Season 5, and probably remains one of the best Sci-Fi series.

Muhammad Bakri interview

Last week I helped with setting up and then publishing the interview we did with the filmmaker Muhammad Bakri. As mentioned elsewhere in this blog, he just lost a suit that was brought against him by a soldier when he was making the film "Jenin, Jenin", back in 2002, just after the massacre/battle. He has been ordered to pay something like $80,000. Two earlier court cases had failed. In this one the plaintiff won because for a period of 4 seconds, he had been caught on film while in the refugee camp, so could claim that the charges of massacre brought by the interviewees damaged his personal reputation. Rubbish, of course. Bakri has been hounded, persecuted and denied work in Israel since making the film - almost 20 years ago. He views himself more as an actor than as a film maker. But he does not regret making the film. As he says, if it managed to get so many people riled up, and they are still going after him all this time, maybe the film "has something". Some of the viewers of the Zoom interview asked him if he would accept donations to help cover his losses; but he refused outright. He says he will take full responsibility. If people want to donate money, let them give it to those who were maimed or disabled after what happened there in Jenin, for example. Great guy. I see there's:

Jenin Jenin: Livechat with Mohammad Bakri and Adam Bakri
by bildamilda on YouTube
with him in English, recorded a couple of weeks ago.

Downfall of a psychologist

My partner was shocked to hear in the evening news that a psychologist she knows has been accused of multiple instances of sexual exploitation and rape. He's now in jail. He was also a yoga teacher, and is very popular in the alternative scene. I don't know him at all. But I know that creepy feeling of being disappointed with someone who you thought you knew.

Links blog

I saw that Cory Doctorow has written about how Google surveils us when we embed YouTube videos in websites, so have started to look into alternative ways.

✭Youtube videos without cookies
Many companies, media outlets and bloggers enjoy sharing YouTube videos on their sites. The problem is that YouTube sets a tracking cookie (for marketing purposes) by default.
2021.02.02 21:22:40 edit delete
✭Lite YouTube Embeds - A Better Method for Embedding YouTube Videos on your Website - Digital Inspiration
Learn how to embed YouTube videos on your website in a fast, lightweight manner that loads the embedded video on demand thus reducing the size of your web pages and improving your core web vitals score.

✭Twitter suspends hundreds of Indian accounts after government demand | India | The Guardian
A Twitter statement on “country-withheld content” said suspensions of accounts or content was routine, arguing “many countries have laws that may apply to tweets and Twitter account content”.
#india #social-media

✭Chinese millennials aren't getting married, and the government is worried - CNN
With a looming population crisis on the horizon, the Chinese government has introduced a flurry of policies and propaganda campaigns exhorting couples to have children. State media lectured couples that the birth of a child is "not only a family matter, but also a state affair." In cities and villages, propaganda slogans advocating for a second child went up, replacing old ones threatening strict punishment in violation of the one-child policy.

✭WHO's Covid warnings were not heeded. Now the world has a new chance to beat the virus
Rich nations have made bilateral deals with manufacturers to vaccinate entire populations, sometimes several times over. This has left countries under huge domestic pressure to start immunising their populations little choice but to make their own arrangements.

This has resulted in manufacturers prioritising more profitable deals with rich countries, rather than support equitable rollout of vaccines to all countries.

✭Important stories hidden in Google's 'experiment' blocking Australian news sites | Technology | The Guardian
"The search giant’s experiments see sources of questionable quality being promoted over mainstream websites in some cases"
Smart people use other search engines.

✭Lunar cycle has distinct effect on sleep, study suggests | Sleep | The Guardian
"Scientists have long understood that human activity is facilitated by light, be it sunlight, moonlight or artificial light. But a study suggests our ability to sleep is distinctly affected by the lunar cycle, even when taking into account artificial sources of light."

Blame it on the moon.

Gurdjieff / de Hartmann Concert

Tonight - a wet and misty evening - we went to hear a concert, "In Search of the Sacred" by the Ensemble Resonance.  The venue was a hall by Mary's Well in Ein Kerem.  The audience was made up mostly of people who follow the mystical teachings of the Georgian philosopher G.I. Gurdjieff - it was the Gurdjieff groups in Israel that had brought the ensemble.  On an oboe and strings, they played for us Bach, Eric Satie and a piece "The Way to Jerusalem" by a modern composer Philippe Hersant.  In the second part they played the lovely, gentle music of Gurdjieff and de Hartmann, which I had heard before only on piano - I used to have an LP of this music by the jazz pianist Keith Jarrett.  It's years since I was able to play it.  The music sounds quite different on these instruments.

We emerged from the concert into a fine drizzle, and dipped into a quiet cafe for late night hot chocolate and apple pie.

On emusic

Over-all, I have had a good experience with emusic.com since I joined this music download service in early 2006.  At that time it cost $10 per month for 40 downloads.  It was the only for-payment legal music service available in Israel, except for some Russian sites, whose legality was murky enough to make me wonder if illegal downloads weren' t a better option.  There may be other possibilities today, though it could be the same: the music industry still attempts to close out competition from overseas. And now a neighbor who tried to follow my recommendation to subscribe to emusic was told by the emusic site that the service isn't available here.

Songs have gotten more expensive on emusic since 2006, though the service itself has improved quite a bit.  I came near to canceling my subscription recently when, without asking, they attempted to move me to a much more expensive plan (which nevertheless gave me fewer downloads than the previous one).  After a bit of email prodding, they came clean and even gave a hundred free downloads as compensation. So I was chuffed - though they still got me to pay more for less.

I'm happy with emusic because it specializes in the offbeat material I love - and the service works just as well on Linux as on Windows.  All tracks are DRM free, and owned permanently.  Still mainstream music fans in North America or Europe have better options.

One thing I learned to avoid was the service's Conduit.com tool bar.   Although not usually classed as malware, it certainly acts like it.   Ordinary Google searches start to be routed through Conduit (which is then paid by Google).   I did not understand, when installing the tool bar, that it was third-party, and it took me a while to find out what was hijacking my browser.   Conduit is an Israeli company, I discovered recently.