13 August 2021

Planning and preparing for a walk

I have been busy researching the possible walk in France - now it looks more likely that I will begin in Le Puy en Velay, and do the route sometimes called the Via Podiensis or the GR65. On the other hand, COVID figures are rising again in France, so it may eventually happen that Israel will cancel all flights there. Nothing can be certain in the COVID era. In Israel itself, dire predictions are being made about the ever-worsening situation.

Part of my preparation has been taking longer walks. Fortunately we are ideally placed for such training, being able to pick from among numerous trails whenever we leave the village. We just have to be sure, in this season, to start very early in the morning, or, alternately, to walk in the late afternoon. Morning is better, so I have been out by just after 6 AM.

I discovered that with the OSM app in my phone, I can very easily record my walk, as well as find my way. So I know that I have been traveling each time about 9 to 9.28 km, going at an average speed of 4.4 - 4.5 km per hour, and descending / climbing about 300 m. OSM is really an app that shows the value of free open source software. Despite its weaknesses, it is so much more flexible than the commercial alternatives. Enthusiasts can easily create their own layers and applications of it.

Two old cameras

Around 2008 or 2009 I bought a Canon PowerShot SX110, which I still have. But then in 2015 I replaced it with a Panasonic ZS45, which was advertised as a real bargain as the price had been knocked down from around $400 to $200 - I picked it up on one of my trips to the US. I had paid about $300 for the Canon PowerShot - but products are always more expensive in Israel, so I don't know what it was selling for in the US at the time.

I hadn't done much research on either camera, however now, when I look at old reviews, I see that the PowerShot was very well received, whereas the Panasonic got roundly panned. So I have pulled out the Canon and started to snap some photos. Despite the double megapixel count of the Canon, and its superior CMOS sensor, I have to say that the Canon pictures are more pleasing. I may take that one with me on my walk. There's a possibility of repairing my son's Sony A5000 camera; but the repair is expensive and the camera is a bit heftier. If I carry a camera at all the walk, it had better be small and light.


Things that caught my eye

Dissident Pakistani exiles in UK ‘on hit list’ - The Guardian

Critics of country’s military told by Met police of plots against them as security forces fear there may be an attack in Britain

Anti-Muslim slogans raised in Indian capital, suspects in custody - Al Jazeera

Opposition parties say the violence and hatred against Muslims are not a “fringe phenomenon” and are being “actively promoted” by Modi and his most trusted aide, Home Minister Amit Shah.

Poland’s coalition under threat as parliament votes on media bill - The Guardian

“Our parliament will today be voting to disenfranchise TVN, Poland’s largest, American-owned independent TV station. If the bill passes, we will likely cross the point of no return toward a kleptocratic autocracy.”

the move follows a sustained government drive to control Poland’s media in which public service outlets such as the state-run TVP television station become propaganda organs for the ruling party, while private, independent media have been steadily driven out of business.

Hundreds of Polish journalists and editors have also signed an open letter calling on the government to halt “the destruction of media freedom in our country”.

The Israeli army, meanwhile, is killing Palestinians every day - around 140 of them since the hostilities of May. They are shot dead in the most trivial way, whether they are children or adults. There is, as usual, little accountability. As numerous people have pointed out in the past, Israel and Palestine have tiny populations. In a larger country, this amount of carnage would amount to the killing of thousands.

Every loss means one more grieving and embittered family. It increases the likelihood of further bloodshed in the future. Israelis have every reason to fear that, although it may be trivial to kill Palestinians today, this will not be forgiven, in a situation where the tables are turned. I think everyone carries this knowledge with them, and keeps it in a corner of their brains, as a latent fear. Conflicts follow Newtonian laws.

In first massive cyberattack, China targets Israel - Haaretz.com

the Israeli targets included state bodies and as well as private organizations from the fields of shipping, high-tech, telecommunications, defense, academia and information technology.

Despite the ongoing American feud with China, Israel has allowed Chinese companies to carry out several major infrastructure projects here, including building a new port in Haifa and the light rail project in the greater Tel Aviv area. However, Israel didn’t grant the Chinese firm Hutchison a permit to buy the mobile operator Partner. And it may have intervened behind the scenes to thwart the sale of the Phoenix insurance company to another Chinese firm, Fosun.

13 June 2021


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.


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.


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



That’s good news. The same evening, on Israeli TV they interviewed many from southern Israeli towns who were all in favor of continuing the campaign, because otherwise, they said, there will only be a renewal of hostilities within a short time. The same lack of imagination is shared by most of the personalities on Israeli news programs. They rarely speak about bringing real change, ending the Occupation, stopping the blockade on Gaza, creating conditions in which peace based on equality and justice will be more attractive than the perpetual conflict.

As the situation is now, in Palestinian perception, the only way to get their issue back on the agenda, is to begin lobbing missiles at Israel. When nothing is happening, Israel does not use the period of quiet in order to bring about change, but continues with its colonization practices and curbs on Palestinian freedom. The periodical flare-ups only feed into increasingly right wing Israeli governments and enhances the popularity of Hamas on the Palestinian side.

The world community, meanwhile, who do not really want to spend time on the Palestinian – Israeli conflict, and would rather forget about Palestinians in general, falls asleep. It only wakes up when something happens that is impossible to ignore. Then we see see social media posts and news stories in left-wing publications shouting about genocide and war crimes, for a while. But the truth is, for the most part, Israel looks more attractive and easier to deal with, for the majority of Europeans and North Americans, than do Palestinians. The country is a success story; modern, smart, upbeat, and, except for the one thing that won’t go away, likable. Even with its lousy rightwing leadership, the country is effective – such as now when it beat every other country in getting its citizens vaccinated. There too, it missed an opportunity. It could have put vaccines into the hands also of Palestinians under Occupation. This was arguably its responsibility, under international conventions regarding the responsibility of the occupying power.

No one really expects anything to change. And that, itself, is a problem.

Source: https://hubzilla.vikshepa.com/item/ac7a3a13-098a-4be5-9a6c-e6196a05bfd1

17 May 2021


I have successfully installed WordPress on my home server. For now, I will use it in conjunction with Hubzilla. I keep discovering that I'm not much of a social-media person (more of a blogger). As a blogging platform, WordPress still beats Hubzilla, unfortunately. Some examples (the ones that interest me):

  • it's easy to get a list of one's posts, where I can make quick adjustments.
  • one can backdate posts (this is possible in Hubzilla, by making an adjustment somewhere in the settings - I did this previously but was unable to discover how it's done. Mike MacGirvin's post describing how that's done was deleted).
  • It's easy to import and export one's blog from WordPress to other platforms.
  • It's easier to make theme changes and adjustments in WP.

WordPress does not work very well with social media. The Indyweb people have done as well as they can but Hubzilla's WordPress plug-in (hubzilla_wp), which draws comments back from Hubzilla to WP works better. At least, it did previously; I'll see now if it still does.

RSS newsfeeds have come to be regarded as arcane. I don't want to post links to Twitter or Facebook, but do want to provide an opportunity to follow me on the Fediverse. That seems to be a minimum. So I will continue to cross-post to Hubzilla.

In the meantime, I've stopped following anyone who has not engaged with me on Hubzilla.

Links Blog

Israel’s doctrine: Humane bombing and benevolent occupation
Indeed, since its inception, Israel has projected a conflicting image of being powerful but insecure, superior but needy, bloody but humane, violent but vulnerable, and ultimately a merciful warrior and a vicious peacemaker.

Marwan Bishara's opinion piece in Al-Jazeera is probably among the best, as usual. Again, I find myself losing patience with everyone who suddenly wakes up again to what is happening here, only to fall asleep again between the periodical flare-ups of the conflict. What this means on the ground is that the Hamas strategy of using violence in order to provoke interest is the only thing that actually works. If Palestinians are quiet and peaceful, everyone forgets about them. Israel can continue expropriating land and colonizing. The world is only too happy to ignore it. Meanwhile, Arab states like the Emirates, which have always wanted Israel as a business partner, can feel free to establish relations, without too much criticism from their own people. No one wants ugly violence and warfare, except maybe the politicians who stand to gain from it, the army and militants who get to use their skills, and the military industry that can test-drive their latest weaponry.

While the conflict rages, ordinary people on both sides are living in fear. Israel has the tactical advantage (by far), but when missiles are falling, people are petrified, regardless of how effective those missiles happen to be. We want it to stop, heal our wounds, rebuild, and get on with our lives. But what the country needs is constant pressure from the world to end the occupation, halt its colonial practices, and start behaving like a responsible, humane country. Palestinians need a real prospect that their children will see better times. Neither Palestinians or Israelis are bad people, or any worse than the citizens of other countries. They do much better when they are working together than when they are locked in conflict.

13 May 2021

Violence all around

I sympathize with those posts in social media that call to boycott Israel, but the trouble is, the world only notices what's going on here when there are people getting killed. The violence is ongoing; the occupation and the closure are violence; the ongoing expropriation of Palestinians from their homes is violence, and it's been going on for a hundred years. When there's a sudden outbreak, there are accusations from both sides about who started it. Well, the Palestinians "started it" but staying quiet doesn't exactly help their cause, and doesn't mean that Israel will stop doing what it's doing or change its systematic policies of settlement and expropriation. It can only continue because the world turns a blind eye to all that or stays mum.

As for me, I can't boycott Israel, because I live here, as it happens, in a place that tries to work for equality and peaceful change. Right now I'm dismayed, not only by the possibility of a ground operation. That itself would be horrible. The last one, in 2014, killed around 1,500 Gazans, and turned whole neighborhoods into rubble But even worse is the upsurge of violence between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel itself. There have already been lynchings, pogroms, riots, and they are only getting started. More is planned for tonight. It is turning out worse than the year 2000, when 12 Palestinian and one Jewish citizen were killed in the internal violence. The damage then caused to the fabric of Jewish - Arab relations in the country took years to heal. I don't know who would want a situation where people on either side would feel endangered simply by entering the wrong neighborhood or town, but evidently there are those that love that prospect.

This country has everything it needs, in terms of land, resources and skills to be a paradise for Jews and Palestinians alike. They do much better when they are working together than when they are fighting one another. The only thing lacking is wise leaders. But every wrong that is perpetrated creates another bad memory and fuels feelings of hatred and revenge. The prospects of creating a just and peaceful society only recede.



hosh31.81782, 34.97896, 3 days ago   The sign says it all. The welcome isn't to the UK, but only to the bloody border.

EU citizens arriving in UK being locked up and expelled | Brexit | The Guardian

Hostile UK border regime traumatises visitors from EU | Brexit | The Guardian

Cory Doctorow's linkblog wrote the following post 4 days agoKim Stanley Robinson's 2020 novel "The Ministry for the Future," is a fierce imaginative work. Robinson doesn't just depict a future beyond the climate emergency and capitalism itself, he depicts the specific, wrenching transition that takes us there.

"As I wrote in my review, the (variously attributed) maxim "It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism," isn't quite right."

Download, never "open in"

Update: the described behavior depends on the browser. I was using SeaMonkey. Chrome browsers don't seem to place the document in /tmp. Firefox makes the opened document "read only".

Here's something really stupid that once every few years catches me unawares:
I download a document from Google Drive in .odt format.
The dialogue box asks whether to "open the document" in LibreOffice, or to save it.
I click to open in LibreOffice.
I work on the document. Looks fine; it has a name and everything, and I carefully save it before closing.
I turn off the computer.
I open the computer the next day.
The document has vanished.
It went into /tmp/mozilla_ , a folder that is completely erased every time the browser is closed or the computer is shut down (I'm not sure, but the result is the same).

Of course, the solution is not to (not ever!) "open the document in LibreOffice" but to save it, then open it. But every so often I forget that. And then, like now, it can result in the loss of several hours work. There are no warnings against this behavior, either in the browser or in LibreOffice. It's something you just learn the hard way.

7 April, 2021


Israeli TV is occupied by the recent failed elections. Yesterday, the pres. having no other option, gave Netanyahu the mandate to try to form a government; but he did so very grudgingly, and refused to be there for the traditional photo shots. In parallel, Netanyahu's trial finally got under way; so for him, clinging onto power is a question not just of political survival.

On Monday we went to a West Bank village to celebrate a friend's birthday party. I hadn't really wanted to, but it was eventually a nice gesture. About 20 years ago, during the second Intifada, he was shot on his doorstep by an Israeli soldier, while trying to usher some children indoors to protect them from the violence. He was paralyzed from the waste down. (In this rare instance, Israel even awarded him compensation for the injury.)

He has fathered five charming children, but, in yet another personal tragedy, his wife died of cancer a couple of years ago, while the children are still young. In the Israeli peace camp, he's a sort of symbol, because despite his injury he has remained a peace activist; he speaks Hebrew and has many Israeli friends and contacts.

I suppose the reason I had not wanted to go is that I don't really like these symbolic friendships; when Israelis and Palestinians meet, they are so often playing the part of citizen ambassadors: everyone on both sides says the expected things and makes an effort to maintain that despite the conflict we are, at bottom, human beings and can remain friends. It's all rather strained and conditional. In our village, there are more natural cross-cultural relationships, but that's mostly between folk who, on both sides, are at least fellow citizens.

There are layers of identity. When people with different cultural, religious or national identities meet, especially when they are opposing sides of a conflict, they initially make statements about us all being "human beings". It's a superficial level that hides many issues that they are afraid to talk about. If and when they eventually manage to broach these difficult, divisive issues, they discover that they are not simply "human beings", but are divided on many levels of identity. Of course, they are, in parallel, still "human beings". If they come to know each other well, the "human" identity may actually come to the forefront, whereas the other group identities may come to be seen as secondary. Those other group identities will always remain in the background, however. One has to hope that in situations of active conflict, the human identities will win out. There are many instances, in many places in the world, in which they haven't.

People with a political agenda, such as Palestinian resistance groups, object to "normalization" in a situation wherein the occupation and the oppression continue. A related issue is the question of "reconciliation". True reconciliation, in which one is able to forgive the enemy for their crimes, can come only after a conflict is resolved, or well on the way to being resolved. One cannot absolve a criminal who does not repent his crime, and cannot become reconciled to an enemy who continues to occupy your land and perpetrate injustice against you. The question is whether one can forgive an individual member of the group of your tormentors, and the answer is, I think, only if you know that she expresses active opposition or assists you in your struggle against the crimes that are being perpetrated against you. And is the relationship that you have with that person one of friendship, or simply of alliance?

The conflict is long and ongoing. What if your ally or friend does, initially, express opposition; attend demonstrations, sign petitions, etc., and then becomes discouraged or lazy about the struggle, which you yourself, as the oppressed person, have no alternative but to continue to resist?

As I grow older, I tend, more and more, to exempt myself from these moral struggles. In my personal life I don't seek friendships or alliances at all, on any side, and continue in my own way. Whether this is a residual effect of my yoga training, a personality trait, a latent, unresolved psychological problem, or a mixture of all these, is hard to determine. Human interactions are there as a matter of course, and I am, for the most part, gentle and kind, rather than prickly, but I find that I don't reach out to people and tend to leave them alone if they themselves don't reach out to me.

The struggle against injustice must always continue; but there are different personal stages in the struggle. While it is true that one must never remain silent in the face of injustice, there are different ways of expressing one's opposition. For example, standing and shouting one's opposition at the barricades is one thing, assisting in the attempt to address the root causes of the injustice, is another. And the chosen means may shift, as life goes on.


Rewilding our cities: beauty, biodiversity and the biophilic cities movement | Architecture | The Guardian

'Every year we dig mass graves': the slaughter of Pakistan’s Hazara | Global development | The Guardian
“There is no life for Hazara Shia in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

10 February, 2021

Gaza and Palestine

Helped put together a slideshow presentation for a doctor from our village on his visits with Physicians for Human Rights to Gaza. They do treatment days in hospitals and in private homes, about once every three months, and have been continuing also during the COVID pandemic. Italian or Arabic speakers can listen to his presentation at
PONTI - tra Gaza e Neve Shalom Wahat al-Salam

by Amici NSWAS on YouTube

A friend in Italy wrote because she said she was feeling a bit "homesick" for Israel/Palestine - she sent me an account of her visit to Hebron and the South Hebron hills, many years ago. The village she talked about, At-Tuwani, has been very much in the news lately, due to attacks and beatings from fierce Israeli settlers, incursions by the army, housing demolitions, etc. Internationals who maintained a presence and help to prevent some of the worst infractions have been unable to come due to the COVID crisis. Now a group of young Jewish Israeli activists will be staying there for three months, while learning Arabic. A young woman from our village is going there to help teach Arabic. It sounds like a good effort.

A few years ago, when the Jahalin bedouin tribe were under threat of their encampments being demolished due to the expansion of Maaleh Adumim settlement, I spent a night or two with them. It was when mobile phones were just coming in, and, as part of the effort, the activists had provided them with a mobile phone in order that they could call for help, alert journalists, etc. I had never used a mobile phone prior to that. It was a huge thing, about the size of a brick. It seemed a complete irony to have this state-of-the-art technology in a bedouin tent. During the time I was there, the bulldozers did not come; but they came afterwards. That encampment is no longer there, and the Bedouins were moved to a site adjacent to Jerusalem's garbage dump.

Links blog

✭Twitter: Order to block accounts ‘not consistent with Indian law’ | Freedom of the Press News | Al Jazeera
Twitter Inc has said it would not fully comply with orders from India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to take down some accounts as it does not believe the orders are consistent with Indian law.

✭Family of girl, 12, forced to marry abductor condemn Pakistan authorities | Women's rights and gender equality
"Criticism follows release of 29-year-old who kept girl chained in cattle pen, in latest case highlighting abuses of religious minorities"

6 February, 2021

Adventures in Wikipedia

Kennings are poetic compound-words used in old English and Icelandic literature. Thus, a word for the sea (appearing in The Anglo-Saxon poem, The Wanderer) is "whale road". Compound words are a feature of most Indo-European languages. "Himalaya" means literally "abode of snow". The various kinds of compounds (samasa) were carefully catalogued in Sanskrit, from Tatpurusha to Bahuvrihi. When Homer speaks of "the wine dark sea" (οἶνοψ πόντος) this too is a compound or epithet, rather than a metaphor, as the word "sea" does not appear in the original. The words literally mean wine + faced.

Wikipedia has an interesting article on this particular epithet. Apparently the Greeks had a hard time finding words for dark blue, though it may have been that the wine of Homer's era had a bluer colour than today's.

Other ancient peoples may have had similar difficulty with the colour. In Sanskrit, the word krishna can mean either black or dark blue. This is probably why the god Krishna, a dark-skinned Dravidian deity, is often painted with blue skin. The Hebrew word for blue, kahol has the same origin as kohl, the dark eyeliner that is used across Africa and West and Southern Asia, by both men and women. Muhammad used and recommended it, like fierce Pashtun tribesmen today. Kohl can be made from plant or mineral sources, but all of these are black, rather than blue.

The words that are used for kohl in Pakistan and northern India, like kajol, seem to derive from the same Semitic root. As does the English word alcohol which comes to us through Arabic, though it originally meant powder of the mineral antimony.

Another Sanskrit word for blue, "nila", may be cognate with the name the Greeks and Romans gave the Nile river in Egypt. A samasa epithet for the god Siva is "Nilakantha" (Blue Throat) because his neck turned blue when he quaffed the halahala poison. Or maybe just too much alcohol.

Links blog

✭How did the ‘great god’ get a ‘blue neck’? a bilingual clue to the Indus Script

✭ICC rules it can investigate alleged war crimes in Palestine despite Israeli objections | International criminal court | The Guardian
The international criminal court has announced that it has jurisdiction in Palestine, clearing its chief prosecutor to investigate alleged atrocities despite fierce Israeli objections.

✭Greta Thunberg effigies burned in Delhi after tweets on farmers' protests | India | The Guardian
"Media access to the protest sites has been largely cut off. A journalist was arrested for entering one of the sites over the weekend, and nine Indian journalists are facing charges including sedition and conspiracy over social media posts relating to the protests."

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.

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