4 August 2021

The Virus

What I see, when I look at the John Hopkins site, is that this Delta variant causes a big rise in infections, in the countries where it becomes prominent, and then there is either stabilization or a fall-off. That's true even in countries like India, where the majority of the population remains unvaccinated. I expect that will happen here in Israel too. But I think we are going to be living with this virus for a long time; and there may even be worse variants. But, of course, if a disease kills too many people, it also hurts its own ability to propagate.

White grub beetles

Last night I woke up and decided to make myself a cup of tea, in which I discovered one of those pesky brown bugs of the season. Every summer we have a spate of these, which are called locally "khomeinim". I had no idea of the formal name, so I spent a considerable time trying to find out who and what they are.

It turns out that the formal name is Maladera insabalis. They were first observed and classified by entomologists in northern India, in 1894. They reached Israel in 1983, probably coming with the import of pistachio nuts originating in Iran. They quickly spread here as they have no natural enemies. As grubs, they feed on the roots of plants like sweet potatoes. As beetles, they eat foliage of citrus and other fruit trees, so they are regarded as a dangerous agricultural pest. But for those of us who are not farmers, they are a bothersome insect, as they tend to come by the thousand, and are attracted to house lights. They get inside homes through the smallest aperture and generally make a nuisance of themselves, once they are in. They don't bite and are quite harmless unless they happen to crawl inside one's ears. They are known to produce a bad odor when stepped upon. The bad smell is also present when they are vacuumed up. When they first emerged in Israel, someone thought they were a new species, so he gave them the name Maladera matrida. "Matrida" is a Hebrew word meaning bothersome. But it later emerged that they had been discovered almost a century earlier.

They are a cousin of the Japanese beetle, the colorful pest that I recall from the US (they defoliate vegetables and garden plants). But, as far as I remember, the latter are less annoying than these brown bugs and less likely to get inside.


Talks 'constructive', India & China say remaining issues to be resolved in expeditious manner - The Print

But I just read that India is sending warships into the South China Sea. That doesn't sound like the thing to do if they want those talks to go well.

Why is China smashing its tech industry? - Noahpinion


Belarus exile group leader Vitaly Shishov found dead in Kyiv, police say - The Guardian

Shishov’s disappearance came as the Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya said she was forced to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics and threatened with forced repatriation for criticising her athletics federation on social media.

‘Emergency meeting’: Israeli cyberarms firms scramble after NSO scandal - Haaretz.com

The hacking of Indian democracy - The Hindu

an inquiry at the highest level under the supervision of the judiciary is a constitutional necessity. If this does not take place, India will cease to call itself a democracy.

Pegasus: Why Americans should be alarmed by the spyware controversy in India - Scroll

The destruction of Indian democratic institutions under Narendra Modi since he came to power in 2014 is well documented. If these new allegations are left unaddressed, which is the most likely outcome, their chilling effect on society will ensure India’s swift decline into a sham democracy like Russia.

Pegasus spyware found on journalists’ phones, French intelligence confirms - The Guardian

UN health agency wants Israel, others to stop COVID booster shot campaign - Haaretz.com

WHO officials say the science is unproven about whether giving booster shots to people who have already received two vaccine doses is effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

“We call on everyone with influence – Olympic athletes, investors, business leaders, faith leaders and every individual in their own family and community – to support our call for a moratorium on booster shots until at least the end of September,” Tedros said.

11 February 2021

Yael visited; which is now legal again, after the relaxation of lockdown rules. She lives in Jerusalem and wanted see a bit of greenery. We all went for a walk in the fields, which are currently full of wheat.


She knows more about wild flowers that I do. This, it turns out, is a wild orchid:


After taking her down to the bus station, I did the grocery shopping, all at the whole foods store. We don't get fruit delivered in our organic vegies crate, so I got some of those and lots of other things, including some Mt. Hagen fair trade coffee beans. The whole beans were a bit cheaper than the ones that were already ground, so I bought a kilo of beans, though we had just given the coffee grinder back to our daughter.

Here's the product, costing € 17.28 at Violey.com, in Europe, and €28 is what I paid for it in Israel. Fair trade means rip-off prices around here.


So next I had to go looking for a coffee grinder. Before buying, I sat in the car and DDGed "What to look for in a coffee grinder". perkbrew.com/coffee-grinders is a very comprehensive article on the subject. It makes it quite clear that "burr" grinders are much preferred to blade grinders. But, what to do? - normal electrical goods stores here sell only the latter kind. The cheapest of them cost around $35. The one I eventually ended up buying cost double that, because it had adjustable settings. I hope it's good. We normally brew a cup in the morning, and another after lunch, in a little Bialetti macchinetta / moka pot.

My oldest son, who is becoming a bit too finicky about his coffee, recently bought a hand grinder, but it seems to take a long time and a lot of elbow grease to make a small amount.

One kind of coffee I really enjoyed was a Nitro Cold Brew; which I had a couple of years ago on a really hot south Indian day, at Marc's Café in Auroville. Served in a wine glass. That was amazing.

4 February, 2021

Spring flowers and confused figs


(anemones growing wild on the hillside)


(they're a bit early)

Links blog

✭Panel discussion with actor/filmmaker Muhammad Bakri following recent court (...) - Wahat al-Salam - Neve Shalom
My post on the evening for the WASNS website
#israel #film

2 Israeli hospitals announce promising separate "cures" for COVID-19:

✭14 of 16 severe COVID patients in trial recover with experimental Israeli drug | The Times of Israel
2 cases remain in critical condition 28 days after receiving Enlivex Therapeutics’ Allocetra therapy in Phase II trials, marking 0% mortality rate in both studies of treatment

✭Israeli hospital claims may have found cure for COVID-19
"Preliminary testing shows that 29 out of 30 virus patients in serious condition that were administered the drug, dubbed EXO-CD24, once a day made a full recovery within five days; similar treatment announced by Hadassah Medical Center"

✭At last, the regime that enabled Amazon's monopoly power is crumbling | Amazon | The Guardian
"At last, the regime that enabled Amazon's monopoly power is crumbling"

✭Brian Eno: Artists like me are being censored in Germany – because we support Palestinian rights | Germany | The Guardian
"...now, in an unprecedented move, representatives of 32 of Germany’s leading cultural institutions, including the Goethe-Institut, have spoken out together, expressing alarm about the repression of critical and minority voices in Germany as a result of the parliament’s anti-BDS resolution.

Their joint statement says: “By invoking this resolution, accusations of antisemitism are being misused to push aside important voices and to distort critical positions.” A few days later, more than 1,000 artists and academics signed an open letter supporting the protest by cultural institutions."
#BDS #israel #palestine

✭For Palestinian filmmakers in Israel, it’s loyalty or silence
Mohammad Bakri’s story is the story of all Palestinian artists and filmmakers living in Israel who are trying as best they can to tell our story, and who are standing strong in the face of the Israeli establishment’s immensely powerful forces that try to turn us into a fig leaf. If we succeed in bankrolling our own films, we end up silenced.
#israel #palestine

✭Court indicts Palestinian terrorist for murder of Israeli woman
Indictment says Muhammad Mruh Kabha, who murdered Esther Horgen in December, smashed the mother of six on the head with a rock until she stopped moving in an attack he planned for over a month

✭Palestinians receive 10,000 doses of Russian COVID-19 vaccine
"Palestinians receive 10,000 doses of Russian COVID-19 vaccine"
(Donation from Russia).

#COVID-19 #palestine

✭Off-road, off-grid: the modern nomads wandering America's back country | Life and style | The Guardian
Across US public lands thousands of people are taking to van life, as featured in the Oscar-tipped film Nomadland

✭Over 300 million Indians may have COVID-19 - source citing government study | Reuters
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - About one in four of India’s 1.35 billion people may have been infected with the coronavirus, said a source with direct knowledge of a government serological survey, suggesting the country’s real caseload was many times higher than reported.
#india #COVID-19

✭Intercepted: Inside China’s Police State Tactics Against Muslims
A new report from The Intercept provides a raw glimpse into the persecution and sweeping internment of Muslims in northwest China’s Xinjiang region.

✭In the Cold and Rain, India’s Farmers Press Their Stand Against Modi - The New York Times
“They sold everything else. Only the farmers are left,” said 18-year old Ajay Veer Singh, who has been at the protest with his 67-year-old grandfather since it began in November. “Now they want to sell the farmers to their corporate friends too.”

✭Rihanna angers Indian government with tweet about farmers’ protests | India | The Guardian
The Indian government appeared to be angered by the celebrity attention on the protests, and in an unusual step it issued a statement that did not directly mention Rihanna or Thunberg but criticised foreign individuals for “rushing to comment on such matters” without a “proper understanding of the issues”.
2021.02.03 21:34:15 edit delete
✭Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny jailed for two years and eight months | Alexei Navalny | The Guardian
“Someone did not want me to take a single step on my country’s territory as a free man. And we know who and we know why – the hatred and fear of one man, living in a bunker, whom I offended by surviving when he tried to have me killed,” he said of Putin.

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.

15 October, 2020

Micromeria Frutocosa זוטא לבנה عشب الشاي
I finally discovered the botanical name of this plant, which we have in a plant pot in our garden. It grows all around here, in the forests and fields. It's never very prominent, but something that you will occasionally discover growing modestly, on a crevice between rocks. Its strong minty flavour is very nice as part of a herbal tea mixture or with black tea. By itself, some people find it a bit overpowering. It is also used in traditional herbal remedies. (Photo from Wikipedia)


✭ Cory Doctorow: "Imposing penalties on cheating monopolists is hard and must be done with care"
 penalties on cheating monopolists is hard and must be done with care, lest the companies turn new rules into a competitive advantage - rules they can afford to follow, but which their smaller...
✭ Italian woman tells how colleague spiked coffee to 'eliminate' her from job | Italy | The Guardian
“I put the other half in a test tube and tests revealed that it contained 10 times the amount of tranquilliser that is usually advised,” she said.

Cerrato was then caught red-handed. “With the police involved, we managed to stop her as she was putting the medicine into my cup.”

✭ This is what it is like to travel as a stateless person | US & Canada | Al Jazeera
every time I attempt to travel internationally, I am reminded of the hierarchies of humanity. The never-ending security checks, Kafkaesque application procedures, and aggressive interrogations by airport workers make me feel guilty for even asking for permission to travel. I know I am not alone in feeling this way – immigration systems are built to make immigrants feel like they pose a threat to their host country and the world at large.

7 October, 2020

Village views

On Saturday the temperatures dipped to near perfect and I spent a couple of hours out in a favourite spot just outside the village.

In various spots around the village, these flowers of late-summer - autumn are growing. I think it is the "Small Flowered Pancratium" (Pancratium parviflorum)


The "house of silence" has a new coat of paint.


The air was particularly clear and free of dust, so I got some nice landscape shots.


The larger sized photos are in the album.

Regal cinemas close

7,000 screens go dark
"Cineworld, parent company of Regal, announced that it will be suspending operations of its 536 Regal theaters as of Thursday, October 8. The suspension also affects 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse cinemas in the UK."

My last visit to one of those was while visiting my father and brother in the US, around Christmas. (Photos from Gainesville, Virginia.)




A beautiful psychedelic sky-blue metal chrome beetle emerged on my bed and under my admiring gaze discharged a large drop of brown poop on to the sandalwood-scented white sheet.

Monkeys drop unripe mangoes that hit the roof like bombs. This is not as loud as the staccati bursts of fire crackers exploded during funeral processions.

Peacocks screech out suddenly at any time of the day or night, responding to one another's calls.

Last night awoke to the smell of burning plastic - just the neighbours burning a pile of garbage in the street. I ran to close the shutters. I had already closed them on the southern side due to the maid's burning a pile of leaves earlier in the day.

Between 2 AM and 4 AM it's impossible to sleep. The air hovers around 30 C which the ceiling fan whips into a hot typhoon.

The pre-monsoon evening rains had lowered the temperature for a few days but now it is hot and dry again.