27 January, 2021


My attitude to food and cooking is based on simplicity. When I'm by myself, I make sure I get a salad every day, and all the nutritional components we need, but I don't go to any lengths at making that interesting, so my meals typically take only a few minutes to prepare. I've been vegetarian from the age of 18 or 19 and, for the last few years have tried to cut down on dairy products.

Unlike me, my partner has been taking food preparation really seriously lately, and making the most interesting dishes. Today she made mixed vegie patties baked in the oven, with a kind of buckwheat-bulgar wheat pilaf that was really nice.

When our children were growing up, neither of us had the time and energy to spend on meals. We bought lots of frozen vegetables and ready-made vegie schnitzels and other shortcuts to easy meals. It's surprising actually that our three children continue to be vegetarian and didn't rebel against the regime. One of them became a strict vegan. All of them are more into cooking than we were at their age.

Another thing that has improved in the last decade or so is the quality of the ingredients. We eat mostly organic food. We receive every week a crate of vegetables from a local farm, and supplement this with other, again, mostly organic foods from nearby shops. We're not 100% strict - if we need some extra tomatoes or something, we'll just buy them in a regular mini-market.

Links Blog

I've always had a distant affection for Tumblr, as an interesting cross between blogging and a social network, so I spent some time reading up on recent changes. Actually hubzilla, or the way I use it, is not unlike Tumblr in its style. I'm happy that Automattic purchased Tumblr from the likes of Verizon.

✭Tumblr thoughts, the future of social, Spotify for Podcasters, & more - Cybercultural
The social aspects of WordPress.com - Automattic’s user-friendly, hosted version of WordPress - are also subpar. The “Reader” on wordpress.com is just awful. By contrast, everything on Tumblr is slick and just works. So I think this deal augurs well for both Automattic and WordPress users.

✭Beyond reblogging: The future of Tumblr | The Daily Dot
“I think it is crucial that Tumblr take care of their content creators,” Grelle said. “They should work to make this the best possible place for people to post things they make. If Tumblr could shift the perception from a place where people mostly repost things, to a place where things originate, I think they would leave their competitors in the dust.”

✭Tumblr's CEO on the future of social, remote work and learning from TikTok - Protocol — The people, power and politics of tech
One thing that hasn't changed, D'Onofrio said? Tumblr's plan to be an "infinitely expandable" creative canvas where people can post, share and discuss virtually anything they can think of. More than a decade after the company started, he said, that vision hasn't changed. And he's convinced nobody does it better than Tumblr.

✭Facebook is bombarding rightwing users with ads for combat gear. See for yourself | Facebook | The Guardian
"Facebook announced that it will be temporarily banning some ads for gun accessories and body armor. It’s not enough"
#facebook being Facebook.

✭UK sells arms to nearly 80% of countries under restrictions, says report | Arms trade | The Guardian
fifths of countries subject to arms embargos, trade sanctions or other restrictions over the past five years, according to analysis.
#UK #nations

✭Violent clashes as Indian farmers storm Delhi's Red Fort | India | The Guardian
Jaspal Singh, 50, a farmer from Gurdaspur district in Punjab, said that nothing would break the resolve of the protesting farmers. “No matter how much force the Modi government uses we are not going to succumb,”

Adeptly symbolic to go for the Red Fort. Makes their struggle historic.

✭Global ice loss accelerating at record rate, study finds | Environment | The Guardian
The rate of loss is now in line with the worst-case scenarios of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading authority on the climate

10 January, 2021


Came down with a bad cold; it's been creeping up on my for several days. In the daytime I dismantled my desk. I'm going to try sitting on the floor again, or using a seiza bench. I'm convinced that chairs are unhealthy and turn us into invalids. Anyway, the desk was set too high, so if the experiment doesn't work, I will at least lower it.

In the evening, started to read King Lear for some reason. It's been about a week since I opened a novel or watched a movie. I woke up in the night and have been listening to a couple of talks on YouTube; Zizek, Peterson.

Links Blog

✭ Covid-19 : après leur hospitalisation, trois patients sur quatre présenteraient des symptômes durables, selon une étude chinoise
Six mois après l’apparition des symptômes, 76 % des patients sortis de l’hôpital ont déclaré présenter encore au moins un symptôme"

Ce travail a aussi porté sur 94 patients dont les taux d’anticorps sanguins ont été enregistrés au plus fort de l’infection. Six mois après, ce niveau d’anticorps neutralisants contre le virus avait chuté de plus de la moitié.

I guess it really isn't predictable whether the vaccination will give long-term immunity either; it's not something they have had enough time to test.

✭ The forest-builders of India’s Shivaliks | Human Rights News | Al Jazeera
Treated like encroachers, a community in India fights for rights to the forest they built.

Regarding the struggle of "Tongia" villages ( a system set up during the time of the British to get people to do re-forestation in return for agricultural and dwelling rights. The system worked very well. Since the setting up of nature and forestry reserves, they have faced difficulties.

✭ Google suspends Parler social network app over incitement to violence | US Capitol breach | The Guardian
"Google has suspended the Parler social networking app from its Play Store until the platform popular with many supporters of Donald Trump adds “robust” content moderation."

"Apple follows by warning the platform popular with supporters of Donald Trump that it must have a better moderation system"

No idea, what's right or wrong. I just hope we all don't end up like China. When we were all talking about the Arab Spring, the social media platforms were praised as enablers of change. I guess the American Civil Rights movement and the overthrow of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe somehow managed without social media, or, probably, any mainstream media in their countries. When there are grievances, the pressure is somehow going to boil up, to be channeled either by right-wing demagogues or legitimate social reformers.


UPDATE: Cory Doctorow has it.
✭ Pluralistic: 09 Jan 2021 – Pluralistic: Daily links from Cory Doctorow
As Parler disappears from the Android and Ios app stores and faces being kicked off of Amazon's (and other) clouds, people who worry about monopolized corporate control over speech are divided over What It Means.
#freedom-of-speech #social-networking

8 January, 2021


A few years ago, I was much less successful in my attempts to use GIMP. Now YouTube has a video on pretty well everything I want to do. Today, I wanted to improve my knowledge of making electronic signatures. I'm usually the one to make these for everybody around here, but I discovered I was doing it wrong, or not in the best possible way. They weren't properly transparent. This had never bothered me before, because in LibreOffice, they don't really need to be transparent. You can just take a jpeg signature, and wrap it "in the background" and the non-transparent white parts will move behind the text. However, the other day, I had to sign a PDF document (actually a picture inside a PDF container) and I noticed that my signature wiped out some of the text. So I thought I'd better learn how to do it better - not just for me, but for all of our signatures (which we keep in a folder on Google Drive).

There were a couple of good YouTube videos on the subject. The best one :

OpenOffice & Gimp Tutorial: Making a Signature With a Transparent Background
by Ongytenes on YouTube
) was by a person who calls himself Ongytenes, with a really pleasant, avuncular US southern drawl. I followed all the directions precisely, but there was one step that didn't work for me. The step involves strengthening the signature's colour with the paintbrush set to Overlay mode. That's all very well, but it coloured also the image's transparent alpha channel. I discovered that for this not to happen, you have to "lock" the alpha channel. Perhaps in earlier versions of the GIMP it was locked by default, so Ongytenes didn't mention that.


While D is teaching her mindfulness classes by Zoom, I'm basically shut up in the bedroom, because she gives those two-and-a-half-hour classes in front of the bedroom door. So if I were to wander out, that would create a disturbance. So I have lots of time to learn about GIMP on Friday mornings, and today I was also learning about Zoom. I never need to initiate any Zoom meetings personally, but I do need to be able to help others with that. So today, again via YouTube, I was learning all about proper lighting and presentation skills. A lot of thought has gone into that program. There were so many tips that go way beyond the knowledge and skills that most people have of it. Anyway, I eventually ended up ordering a green screen and stand. Not in order that D. can present herself in front of some Hawaiian beach scene, but in order that she can give her presentations in a better place than in front of our bedroom door, so I won't be a captive while she is doing them.

Links Blog

✭“Shkreli Award” goes to Moderna for “blatantly greedy” COVID vaccine prices | Ars Technica
"Award judges cited Moderna’s pricing of its COVID-19 vaccine, which was developed with $1 billion in federal funding. Still, despite the tax-payer backing, Moderna set the estimated prices for its vaccine significantly higher than other vaccine developers."
#COVID-19 #capitalism

✭ Platforms Must Pay for Their Role in the Insurrection | WIRED
"In their relentless pursuit of engagement and profits, these platforms created algorithms that amplify hate speech, disinformation, and conspiracy theories."


✭ Donald Trump suspended from Facebook indefinitely, says Mark Zuckerberg | US news | The Guardian
"If Trump does continue to violate Twitter rules to the point of being banned from the site, a community of alternative social networks already exists to provide him with an alternative platform."

✭ Iran issues Interpol notice for 48 US officials including Trump | Conflict News | Al Jazeera
"Iranian judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili announced during a press conference on Tuesday that Iran has requested the international police organisation to arrest Trump and 47 other American officials identified as playing a role in the assassination of top general Qassem Soleimani last year."

I wonder if in earlier ages, as many hostile acts were perpetrated, without a full declaration of war, while in the meantime, maintaining the pretense that all countries equally belong to international frameworks like the UN, Interpol, etc., under a sham veneer of civilized international behaviour.

✭ Iran compensation plan for downed plane slammed by Kiev - The Hindu
"The Islamic republic admitted three days later that its forces mistakenly shot down the Kiev-bound Boeing 737-800 plane after firing two missiles, amid heightened US-Iran tensions."

“The [Iranian] cabinet approved the provision of $150,000, or the equivalent in euros... for the families and survivors of each of the victims of the Ukrainian plane crash as soon as possible,” Iran’s presidency said, according to the official IRNA news agency.

“This compensation does not prevent the prosecution of the criminal element of the case before the competent judicial authority,” the statement added.

But Kiev said the compensation amount should be the subject of negotiations, stressing the need for “establishing the causes of the tragedy and bringing those responsible to justice”.

✭ Delhi riots victims, lawyers allege police pressure to drop cases | Conflict News | Al Jazeera
“They want to give a message that no lawyer should take up such cases or they won’t be spared.”

In so many ways, tiny Israel and humongous India are following a parallel path. Both have right wing governments that are trying to increase the standing of the dominant religion / culture to the detriment of the minority, and in both cases the minority in question is largely Muslim. In both countries, the loyalty of the Muslim minority to the state is doubted, while its allegiance to an outside country or countries is claimed. Arabs in Israel and Muslims in India are regarded more and more as second class citizens. Meanwhile, both countries control territories through a kind of military occupation. Both countries are militarily strong but obsessed with security in response to real and present security threats. While Indian Muslims are not ethnically different from Hindus, having simply undergone religious conversation over the centuries, they are perceived as different. But the same is actually true of Palestinians, whose DNA record closely matches that of Jews.

✭ Three men filmed beating dolphin to death arrested in India | India | The Guardian
"after footage of the attack went viral, prompting a national outpouring of disgust, three men were identified and arrested."

✭ India's supreme court gives go-ahead for controversial new parliament building | India | The Guardian
"Critics say Narendra Modi’s $3bn redevelopment of Lutyen’s central vista is an ‘expensive vanity project’

✭Global heating could stabilize if net zero emissions achieved, scientists say | Environment | The Guardian
"Climate disaster could be curtailed within a couple of decades if net zero emissions are reached, new study shows"

✭ Dozens of Hong Kong pro-democracy figures arrested in sweeping crackdown | Hong Kong | The Guardian
"The sweeping arrests on Wednesday morning came without warning, and shocked observers. It is the largest single mass arrest of people under the NSL, and appeared to relate to just a singular event: the holding of democratic votes."

✭ Watching a show at Israel's High Court
Watching a show at Israel's High Court - Opinion - Haaretz.com

Arabs in Israel challenged Israel's 2018 "Nation State Law" in Israel's high court. The country doesn't have a constitution, but relies on "Basic Laws" instead. The Basic Laws are mostly from the early days of the state, but this recent one was legislated by right wing politicians and intends to enshrine in law certain principles related to the Jewish character of the state. For example, whereas previously both Hebrew and Arabic were recognized as official languages, after the law, only Hebrew was recognized as "official", whereas Arabic has "special" status. This was objected to by Arab lawmakers and organizations, who finally had their day in court. However the judges, probably wary regarding their mandate of challenging a "basic law" that had been introduced through legislation, didn't take the challenge very seriously and found ways to slither out of doing anything. Samah (from our village) wrote this opinion piece for Haaretz and it appeared in the paper's Hebrew and English editions, though the English translation doesn't seem to be very good. It's interesting that the presiding judge made a reference to the gender equality law, saying that this is even more "basic" than the "nation state" law, and that therefore, when the country gets around to making a constitution, it will have to deal with this and other contradictions. As I mentioned to Samah, years ago, I also used this discrepancy among the arguments I made for conscientious objection. Women had the right to CO status, but men didn't. So there was a contradiction between this law and the law of universal army service for men. (It wasn't my idea, but that of my draft counsellor). Eventually they exempted me, without stating any reason other than a catch-all clause.

✭A scion of Zionist aristocracy wants to quit the Jewish people. Will Israel let him?… | Balfour Project
"Why Avraham Burg, who has served as Knesset speaker, interim president and head of the Jewish Agency, is asking Israel to annul his registration as a Jew"

Relates to the above issue. Avraham Burg, an important figure (and son of a top National Religious Party politician, has requested the population registry to remove his "Jewish nationality". Judaism is not conceived of just as a religion in Israel, but as a nationality. For example, in my identity card as a permanent resident, it is written that my nationality is "British". If I were a permanent resident but Jewish, it would be written that my nationality is "Jewish". Israel makes a differentiation between "nationality" and "citizenship". There was once someone who appealed to have his nationality inscribed as "Israeli", but he lost the case. Burg, who says that if possessing Jewish nationality (according to the Nation State Law) awards him privileges greater than those of other citizens, then he refuses to be registered as Jewish and wants it scratched from the record.

✭OHCHR | United Kingdom: UN expert cautiously welcomes refusal to extradite Assange
"I am gravely concerned that the judgement confirms the entire, very dangerous rationale underlying the US indictment, which effectively amounts to criminalizing national security journalism," Melzer said."