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Lenin But Not for Long Ricoh KR-10 Super Berlin, Germany Sunday, September 4th, 1988.

Forum Straight Through
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Forum Straight Through Ricoh KR-10 Super Rome, Lazio, Italy Thursday, September 15th, 1988.

Lenin But Not for Long
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Lenin But Not for Long Ricoh KR-10 Super Berlin, Germany Sunday, September 4th, 1988.

Central Plaza in East Berlin #2
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Central Plaza in East Berlin #2 Ricoh KR-10 Super Berlin, Germany Sunday, September 4th, 1988.

Central Plaza in East Berlin
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Central Plaza in East Berlin Ricoh KR-10 Super Berlin, Germany Sunday, September 4th, 1988.

Ex-Nazi Olympic Bell
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Ex-Nazi Olympic Bell Ricoh KR-10 Super Berlin, Germany Sunday, September 4th, 1988.

Sparkass
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Sparkass Ricoh KR-10 Super Berlin, Germany Sunday, September 4th, 1988.

More Barcelona
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More Barcelona Ricoh KR-10 Super Barcelona, Spain Sunday, August 21st, 1988.

Let the Interrailing Begin!
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Let the Interrailing Begin! Ricoh KR-10 Super Paris, France Tuesday, August 2nd, 1988.

For the Jews who Fought the Nazis
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For the Jews who Fought the Nazis Ricoh KR-10 Super Jerusalem, Israel Sunday, June 14th, 1987.

Yad Vashem Sculpture Garden #4
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Yad Vashem Sculpture Garden #4 Ricoh KR-10 Super Jerusalem, Israel Sunday, June 14th, 1987.

Yad Vashem Sculpture Garden #3
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Yad Vashem Sculpture Garden #3 Olympus Mu2/Stylus Jerusalem, Israel Sunday, June 14th, 1987.

Yad Vashem Sculpture Garden #1
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Yad Vashem Sculpture Garden #1 Olympus Mu2/Stylus Jerusalem, Israel Sunday, June 14th, 1987.

•••

About

Briefs

Sunday, January 26th, 2020

Two interestingly contrarian pieces in the Daily Mail by authorities in their respective fields: “Ja, we Germans are jealous of Brexit” by Alexander Von Schoenburg, editor-at-large of Bild; and “Why woke diets featuring superfoods such as avocado are leading to a surge of distressing gut problems” by Luci Daniels, former chairman of the British Dietetic Association.

Wednesday, December 18th, 2019

Counterintuitive arguments from the redoubtable Ambrose Evans-Pritchard that Boris’s ascension reduces the plausibility of Scottish secession from the UK.

Saturday, December 14th, 2019

“Rising Inequality and the Changing Structure of Political Conflict” — the inaugural James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Lecture in Economic Inequality at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics by Thomas Piketty (March 30th, 2018).

Sunday, October 13th, 2019

AutoCar drives the electric Jaguar I-Pace from London to Frankfurt. As recently as two years ago such a journey simply wasn’t feasible. Now, once you have the more expensive car, it’s much cheaper than driving diesel let alone petrol. That said, charging stops are an hour rather than five minutes, and every 200 miles rather than say every 500. But I think there is some good here. Travellers must get out and stretch their legs for a longer while. All in all our automotive future looks improved.

Sunday, September 8th, 2019

I want to ride the Goldenpass Express, a Swiss panoramic train designed by Pininfarina.

Friday, March 15th, 2019

Sunday, December 16th, 2018

The nine totally must-read lessons of Brexit by Ivan Rogers, who was fired as Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the European Union for stating some of these truths. Abject.

Thursday, October 25th, 2018

British influence in the EU has been far greater than recognised, this piece argues. If this was better understood in Britain — and if, say, the BBC had devoted a couple of hours a week to pure Europe news — I’m guessing Britons would be much more pro-Europe today and the Brexit own-goal would not have occurred.

Tuesday, July 10th, 2018

A German court has issues the first GDPR ruling, reports The National Law Review. It concerns ICANN, the American non-profit that oversees the global WHOIS database of registered internet domain names, and German registrar EPAG.

Sunday, June 17th, 2018

Michael Chabon on Finnegan’s Wake [2012].

As my year of diving languorously into the murky waters of the Wake wore on, I came to feel that it was this failure, this impossibility, this grand futility of the Wake, that constituted its secret theme, its true aboutness.

Thursday, May 31st, 2018

The Dawn of Day

Friedrich Nietzsche

♦♦♦♦

This is a delicious book to pick up in spurts — BMW punchy as Emerson is Rolls-Royce bubbly — but I couldn’t say what it’s chiefly about, where it starts, where it ends, how it fits in with Nietzsche’s other books, nor whether I’ve even read it before (I do remember particular points but perhaps they’re also mentioned in the other books). As usual this 19th-century giant sounds as if he writes… this morning.

Sunday, April 1st, 2018

What did Jews tend to die of? The entry on morbidity in the Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906.

Friday, March 30th, 2018

When Galileo looked up at the night sky with his new-fangled teslescope one profound effect was the dislodging of the nonsensical metaphysical notion from Aquinas of the perfection of the stars.

Sunday, January 21st, 2018

“A gifted mimic, he nonetheless eschews regional accents for comic effect.” Dean Allen, RIP by his friend Om Malik. I used Allen’s work to type this very link; he invented Textile, a method for writing HTML (now superceded in mindshare by John Gruber’s Markdown). See also Gruber’s and Jason Kottke’s eulogies.

Saturday, December 30th, 2017

In Mosaic, Martin Kramer tells the tale, set over lunch in Ein Kerem, of the closest Jerusalem ever got to internationalization. (At one point I found the internationalization of Jerusalem a heady and exciting notion—providing of course that the UN move its HQ there.) A most vivid history op-ed piece.

Monday, December 11th, 2017

There has never been a West European post-Second World War policy in [the Middle East] except to await the American position and then stake out something more favourable to the Arabs.

Conrad Black, “The Palestinians should take what they can get while they can”

Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

Ivan Rogers, the UK’s Permanent Representative to the EU during David Cameron’s tenure as Prime Minister, speaks to the events leading up to the Brexit referendum. There’s so much detail, and we see where Cameron was succeeding, but nonetheless a failure happened here.

Tuesday, October 24th, 2017

On the crippling ambivalence throughout the British Government as it feels compelled to implement Brexit. Something’s got to give.

Monday, September 25th, 2017

In a nice interview about his book, the great Yanis Varoufakis reviews what happened during the Greek bailout negotiations.

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017

Robots don’t eat chocolate. James Meek weaves a rich tale of Cadbury’s moving its chocolate factory from Bristol in England to Skarbimierz in Poland. We get EU politics, British commercial history and contemporary Polish politics. It’s a microcosm of the economic game of musical chairs happening in our era. [via Tyler Cowen’s marginalrevolution.com]

Sunday, June 25th, 2017

As an antidote to the borderline smarminess of Jason Horowitz’s New York Times article about returning to Rome, here is a more substantial, dignified, rewarding and useful guide to visiting the city by a blogger named Nan Quick: My Recipe for a Stress-Free Week in Rome. Warning: she takes a couple of paragraphs to warm up.

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

He had me with his first-paragraph mention of Trattoria Da Enzo, my favorite. I’ve forwarded to visitors this panegyric to Rome by the incoming New York Times’ bureau chief. A lot of attractive restaurants mentioned and described. [via Juan Carlos Bronstein, who was unimpressed by the tone, as are many others in the comments]

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017

This is fascinating: Turks residing in liberal Europe voted far more heavily for Erdogan’s authoritarian referendum — about 70/30 — than did Turks at home, about 50/50. Far less still did Turks in the USA and the UK vote for it — about 84% and 80% against respectively. A measure of ideological/cultural integration?

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

Albeit behind Iran, Israel squeaks onto Walter Russell Mead’s list of the Great Eight Powers of 2017. It’s amazing that only one European country makes it here.

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

Ian Buruma on Brussels. I found it a pretty exciting city so when I saw this article I jumped on it (plus I vaguely remember being impressed by something else this fellow wrote) and it’s pretty sweeping and fun.

Monday, October 17th, 2016

Monday, September 12th, 2016

Now that I’ve joined eyeem.com, I was attracted to this article on Instagram and art history. “Today, we look at Instagram feeds with the same level of scrutiny as the Renaissance merchants who converted their Madonnas into ducats.” He argues persuasively and enjoyably that we are being just like Amsterdam burghers.

Monday, September 5th, 2016

In this report on Ryanair’s service between Budapest and Eilat, anna.aero lists the low-cost airlines flying to Israel. All the others fly to Ben-Gurion. So that’s Eilat to Budapest in February roundtrip for 85€!!!

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

The Guardian interviews Brunhilde Pomsel, Goebbels’ secretary, now 105, who retired in 1971 as executive secretary to the director of programmes at Germany state broadcaster.

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

On “the Weimar aspect of our current moment”: I haven’t read Andrew Sullivan for a long time, but he seems to be hitting it here, Democracies end when they are too democratic, in New York magazine.

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Saturday, July 16th, 2016

“The Kemalist era in Turkish history lasted for almost 100 years, but finally came to an end in the last 18 hours.” A great balance between up-to-the-minute reports and historical background, Walter Russell Mead live-blogs the failed Turkish Coup.

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

Quite the sentence, this, from Walter Russell Mead: “Products of meritocratic selection who hold key positions in the social machine, the bien-pensant custodians of post-historical ideology—editorial writers at the NY Times, staffers in cultural and educational bureaucracies, Eurocratic functionaries, much of the professoriat, the human rights priesthood and so on—are utterly convinced that they see farther and deeper than the less credentialed, less educated, less tolerant and less sophisticated knuckle-dragging also-rans outside the magic circle of post-historical groupthink.”

Sunday, September 13th, 2015

A week in Berlin, where all anyone can talk about is refugees, and the author observes: “All this moral unction reminds me of the reality-challenged 1920s in Europe, which gave rise to the very ugly 1930s.”

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

Thomas Piketty, author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century, talks to Die Zeit about Germany’s own debt relief and the proper way forward now.

The latest Troika loan package is an “exact repeat of the self-defeating policy that caused Greek debt dynamics to spin out of control in the last two…” rues this astute, outraged commentator. What with the Iran deal as well, we seem these last couple of days to be watching the West’s self-immolation.

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Monday, May 19th, 2014

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

index topics eu eu

Denver Met

My intent here is not only to participate in a conference but to suck up myriad Americana as a thirsty exile catapulted back in for a primer.

Yes

It’s a Somewhat Rauschenberg World

I don’t like this use of animals, like Damien Hirst’s. The artist could not have asked the goat for permission so should not have assumed it was granted.

Black Tracks the Presidents

The great virtue of Conrad Black’s Flight of the Eagle is its steady track across the entirety of the nation’s history, treating each president equally under its own law and order.

Homepage Design 2016

No matter the screen size, a web site should feel like itself, even if it doesn’t look it. So do “mobile first” second.

Yes

From iPhone 4S to 6S: An Appreciation

The increased size, something I was so hesitant about, feels fine to me now. And because it’s thinner it feels less obtrusive in my pocket.

Spectreview

With the villain’s quasi-sibling bond to the hero, 2015’s 007 movie deflates to an incestuous Möbius Strip.

In Gaza, Israel Should Own its Terrible Tactic

Although such excoriating labels as “collective punishment” and “state terrorism” aren’t entirely wrong regarding Israel’s application of the Dahieh Doctrine in Gaza, history does suggest that the method is effective in fighting a fundamentally defensive war.

Go Deny Yourself

This four-letter little word undermines our modern values of tolerance and presumption of innocence.

Some Consumer Affairs

I’ve tried to enjoy schlepping water, thinking that it serves to keep us to some human roots.

Yes

From Nokia N95 to iPhone 4S

Annoyances and upsets with the iPhone 4S have been more than offset by its screen, the silkiness of its surfaces, the camera, and the third-party market for both software and hardware.

2001: A Space Odyssey: Dry, Juicy, Linear, Luminous

The dancers in the ape-suits; how they move is an incredibly energetic output for us. Contrast their physical reaction when witnessing the monolith to that of the astronauts in the newly-minted 21st century.

The Mouse and the Cantilever

Steve Jobs we lost at the age of 56; when Frank Lloyd Wright reached that age it was 1923, the time of merely his second comeback with Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel.

Friendship is for Weenies

It’s amazing, given the adulation he enjoyed elsewhere, that the Israeli public knew from the start not to trust US President Obama.

Before the Setup

It’s 1983: Go for the Apple IIe with 64k that could be opened up as a hobbyist machine? Or the smaller, sleeker and newer IIc with double the memory but a closed case?

At Modi’in Mall

There’s nothing else around here except empty desolate pretty hills. The Israel Trail passes by a bit to the west. The shops are mostly franchises, almost all homegrown: Super-Pharm, Aroma, Tzomet Sfarim, Cup O’ Joe’s, LaMetayel, Mega, Fox, Castro, H&O.

Yes

The Israel I Love, the Bad So Far

If the signage were a bit more effective, the staff’s diction and demeanor more professional, then we might have avoided this testy altercation.

Shanghai Europe

So, finally, we stopped yesterday; the Israeli assault on Gaza of late 2008/early 2009 is over. With it, Israel lost moral purity and made vital strategic gains.

Yes

Panning for MacBook Pro

Even if it did nothing, was just a prop in a futuristic movie, the MacBook Pro would be impressive; it’s like a sculpture of my previous computer, the MacBook, except it’s actually an improved computer!

Stop Yesterday

Is the goal of Israel’s current assault on Gaza to discourage Hamas from firing rockets or to render them incapable of doing so? These are two quite different projects.

Short-circuiting Place-based Longing

If there’s one tangible benefit to having lived in a variety of places it’s that it furnishes evidence of the futility of longing to be elsewhere.

A Crawl Across Crawley, Part 1

Irit, the Jam and I walk from Brighton to Gatwick Airport.

Clash of the Midgets

I was annoyed to have my sauna moments despoiled and dominated, reverberating with this old geezer’s most naff yap.

Yes

Israel’s Greatest Victory Since Osirak?

If Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza was part of a masterplan to staunch the damage done by the victory of the Six Day War in 1967, then today we see another step in its unfolding.

The Small Adventures, Part 2

There in the empty restaurant by the water at Dieppe I had toast with foie gras, a carafe of red wine, a huge plate of mussels and chips, and finally a crème brûlée. Somehow, though I’ve eaten in restaurants hundreds of times, I felt grown up.

Yes

The Small Adventures

Late for the 11pm train to Milan, we enquired frantically among the taxis for one who’d accept the two dogs and take us to Termini Station so I could begin our journey to Britain.

Tony Blair and the Four-State Solution

Ariel Sharon’s disengagement policy reflected an understanding that ownership of the Palestinian issue is shared with Egypt and Jordan. If Tony Blair were to acquire this view, perhaps he really could help facilitate an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A Restoration and Return

There she was, sitting outside the apartment block! How did she do it? Dogs—or at least Jam—must have some sort of navigational sense we don’t understand.

Curs to Fate

Yesterday I lost Jam in Villa Borghese, the central park here in Rome, some five miles from Talenti, the neighborhood where we’re staying. She has not turned up since.

Yes

Jam and Bread, Jam and Bread!

My dog Jam has spent over a third of her time here in Italy as her fixtures have fallen away—first Maddie, then me. But now I’m back!

Yes

This Trip’s Last Day

I went to Astor Place Haircutters. I crossed Manhattan Bridge on foot. I walked west along Canal St, seeking a bamboo steamer.

I, Thou and Pastor Bob

At the Calvary Church here in Fort Lauderdale the Biblical locations feel so far away that they can be abstracted and spiritualized. There is religious energy here.

Yes

The Big and Easy

The American stage is grand, as are the achievements and ambitions, but daily life seems lamed by a compulsive denaturing.

A Drop in Time

The camera hit the ground lens first, bashing it in so that it would no longer wind in and out, and couldn’t switch on. Without it, my perception of an important personal era was degraded.

A Ride to Gatwick Airport

Airports. They’re so charged, so symbolic, and so empty once you’re at one; I dream of them so often.

Only the Rustle in the Trees

Grief, loss — these are the great teachers surely. What one has will pass.

A Cabaret, Old Chum

It’s a last bastion of civility, being allowed to drink at Penn Station, Brian mused ruefully as we carried our beers to his train home to Great Neck.

Fatahland and Hamastan

Now Israel has a dog in a real Palestinian fight: the nationalists rather than the Islamists.

Yes

Stars, Stripes & Superlatives

Here in Los Angeles I am bombarded with superlatives. Daniel’s record collection. The Bikram Yoga College of India world headquarters. Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. All mixed in with the most ravaging mediocrity.

Shite on Brighton

“Like many provincial towns,” the Private Eye reviewer stabs, “Brighton, as depicted in this hacked-together tribute, defines itself more by what it isn’t than by what it is. It’s not London, for one thing.”

Daily Yin

For my first test of the day as day, I open the back door and step outside to the little patio to see the sky and feel the air. I realize not everybody does this, so if people tell me I’m a miserable bastard then perhaps this little habit will correct their impression.

Mind the Dream

Dreaming about our passed companions as if they are alive requires tricks to the dreaming mind to overcome what it believes and knows to be true.

The Dharma Tits

Buddhism is the philosophy and psychology closest to Cognitive Therapy and vice versa.

Yes

Still Got the Jam

Jam was one of Maddie’s nine puppies, the one who remained after the others were all taken. That was always my plan, to keep the runt.

Such a Tramp

Maddie, who died 18 months ago today, was a mangy mutt and stank, but she was also among the most beautiful dogs I’ve ever seen and for me the longest, richest, widest, deepest streak of feeling lucky.

So You Noticed

I have had something very flattering: a request. Juan Carlos has asked me for comments on Casino Royale.

Reminds Me of Tel Aviv

You get to a stage in life where you are already formed by the past. Thoughts and dilemmas about place are either central questions or a distraction from real issues.

Fly the Blag

Ryanair has brought wretchedness to the skies. Rather than existing on a privileged plane, you stew in a poisoned atmosphere.

Approaching Infinite Justice

Immediately after 9/11, the burgeoning war on terror was named “Operation Infinite Justice”. Within days it was renamed “Operation Enduring Freedom”, but is the new name a mere cloaking of the first?

On the Seventh Day

The Mrs is skeptical of David Allen’s Getting Things Done self-management system because it eschews the rigors of time management in lieu of what feels right. But GTD is about informed feeling.

Don’t Panic!

An academic romp through Jewish American comedy starts out as a veritable rollercoaster ride, but grinds to halt with its obsession with one Bob Dylan.

Photographing a Handsome Old Man

I want to get people in my pics, but it’s tougher when you’re no longer a wide-eyed teenager, because people generally don’t like to think they are a spectacle.

The Beauty of Rain

Rain makes the rocks shine. It puts in motion things that are otherwise static. It illustrates gravity most prettily.

Ode to Salame

It’s supposed to be the arsehole of Tel Aviv, Salame Street, running east-west at its southern tip, but it always does me darn good.

I Love Laundry

How pleasing it is to have my own washing machine. If all isn’t right with the world, not even in my world, at least the laundry cycle is functioning.

Lovely Scenery, But Walks Getting Boring

Unless I drive somewhere new, it’s not much fun to just step out the door and wander. But driving to go for a walk seems a tad ridiculous.

For Love of Economy

It disturbs me to be driving a car that gets fewer kilometers to the shekel than did my previous.

Shinui and the Seven-Year Itch

How refreshing to see Asian faces out shopping in Tel Aviv, or Africans riding the bus to Ra’anana. With them Israel is given fresh wellsprings of culture.

Allah Help the Jackals

While it’s obvious that overplaying your power can result in a downfall, it’s less obvious that underplaying it also leads to trouble. America did this in the 1970s under Carter. Israel seems to have done it almost perennially.

Yes

For Tel Aviv, Better a Skylift Than a Subway

Rather than copycatting a transportation system from the 19th century, Israel could inject into its civic planning the same audacity and resourcefulness that it has historically brought to agriculture and defence.

Yes

Canada Obscura

There’s not a patch of water to be seen—the most liquid thing is the word “Coffee” on one of the low-slung strip-mall buildings. It’s a scene more artful than art itself.

Tour of Kitchen Duty

There was yelling and spray and I raced to keep up. One can enjoy, briefly, the company of men.

Shiny Bright Toadstool

In Israel’s case, burgernomics don’t add up because significant factors contribute to the 30%-odd surcharge on a Big Mac.

The Fresh Jewels of Spring Mound

Quality of life in Tel Aviv is fundamentally enhanced by two simple factors: trees are everywhere, and so are apartments.

Independence Park Up for Grabs?

To this day men of many ages walk these bushes, they delicately lurk these bushes, and stand in places odd to choose.

We Tri Harder

A land could be governed not only by the three separate arms of government, but by three sovereign states.

Yes

Tira Saunters

The one-lane road is empty; down below is the Sharon Plain, looking vast. Israel may be a small country but we’re still speaking here of land.

A Call to Thumbs

When you hitchhike it’s out of your hands, and that’s therapeutic. Paradoxically, you also see how much control you do have.

 

Briefs (cont’d)

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

From an interview with Yuja Wang at steinway.com:

Sometimes when I play Prokofiev, I try to extract the groove or beats from other rock music.

Other rock music!

Sunday, July 5th, 2020

The animated line-drawing illustrations at Ralph Ammer blog definitely make me want to read every post!

Trump at Mount Rushmore:

We are the nation that gave rise to the Wright Brothers, the Tuskegee Airmen, Harriet Tubman, Clara Barton, Jesse Owens, General George Patton, the great Louie Armstrong, Alan Shepard, Elvis Presley, and Mohammad Ali.

Yet the media called the speech “dark and divisive”.

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

Amalgamated from a dialog in the comments at a Marginal Revolution post “How to Live in a World Gone Mad?”:

The mob is saying silence is violence. Funnily enough, the mob also says speech is violence. They also say violence is not violence.

Fun, fun, fun!

Monday, June 29th, 2020

Cancelled Canadian Hal Niedzviecki is still at it, as deliciously elucidated in the rather literate comments.

Jordan Peterson is back, warning that the hard sciences are next.

Thursday, June 18th, 2020

Wednesday, June 17th, 2020

Theodore Dalrymple on “Silence is violence”, “No justice, no peace”, and other ominous bits of what he coins moral thuggery.

Monday, June 15th, 2020

Capping off a triumvirate of essays I’ve come across in the past few days that elucidate the current moment is Ross Douthat on the successor ideology.

David Goldman produces a fact-filled yet overarchingly-theoried analysis of the mid-pandemic race-themed disturbances. Like for Palestinians, he argues it’s about humiliation. Goldman is sympathetic but not sycophantic, analytic but not caustic.

Sunday, June 14th, 2020

Thursday, June 11th, 2020

The problem is that you have people who are so exhausted from their lousy diets and poor lifestyles, that the idea of putting any effort into anything is overwhelming.

Alan Goldhammer, Is Water Fasting Safe? In-depth Interview w/ Dr. Goldhamer & Dr. Group

Most of the food in the grocery store is nothing more than a few heavily subsidized grains like wheat, corn and soy cooked with oil, salt and sugar, and smashed together in different forms — that’s essentially what people are eating.

Alan Goldhamer, Is Water Fasting Safe? In-depth Interview with Dr. Goldhamer & Dr. Group

Sunday, June 7th, 2020

Saturday, June 6th, 2020

“Who is an Arab Jew?” is an essay by Albert Memmi written in 1975.

Thursday, June 4th, 2020

Rejecting “false equivalency between rule of law and rule by law”, the USA has published its Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China.

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020

“Opposing an aspiring Eurasian hegemon is the American prime strategic directive.” Donnelly’s back!

Saturday, May 30th, 2020

The editor of Spiked castigates the media for misreporting facts on Dominic Cummings’ lockdown behavior. But Brendan O’Neill’s focus on possibly disingenuous facts misses the larger disheartening truth.

Which is that a senior head needs to roll for the UK Government’s humiliating and deadly botching of its initial response to the pandemic. (That many of the leaders themselves contracted the disease is emblematic of this failure.)

Since elections will not be held for years, the next best thing to the PM’s head is that of his high-profile advisor. And this is fitting: as the great visionary and strategist, Cummings should have been the one who got the PM to take the pandemic seriously in good time.

So the details of Cummings’ hypocritical behaviours under lockdown are merely the pretext for some just humiliation for him and this Government. His firing would be the catharsis that marks entry into the next phase of this pandemic; indeed these are political norms. Instead however we slouch further into uncharted territory — political as well as medical and economic.

Thursday, May 28th, 2020

Sauna: The Finnish Bath

H J Viherjuuri

♦♦♦

Even in English translation, this relatively slim definitive work on Finnish sauna is filled with the dignity that seems to come with everything Finland. The author notes that the Finnish way of hot bathing — heating rocks and occasionally pouring water on them to produce steam — is the only one that can be both dry and wet.

Something new to me is that feet can take — and require — more heat than the rest of the body, so that not only should one be mostly prone in the sauna rather than sitting in order to heat the body equally (the hotter parts of a sauna are closer to the ceiling), but the feet can be even higher, so that a ledge or feet stirrups might be good.

Wednesday, May 27th, 2020

“We’ll be lucky if we just get a cold war.” Nouriel Roubini seems on the money that we’re outta money.

He says it’ll be a decade of depression, but why even only a decade? Covid-19 aside, massive change is coming, because Peak Stuff.

So a thought: why must retail be the heart of the economy? What if we were to become a civilization not of shopkeepers, nor even of marketers, but researchers?

Marketing could move from the core to the margins, with us only buying what we need, which is a lot less than what we’ve been buying to date, while taxes — collected on the profits gathered by a select few conglomerates manufacturing super efficiently with automation — pay for tons and tons of scientific research.

Most people being scientists: perhaps less chimera than inevitability?

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020

John Gruber awakens me to the difference between coding and programming. Coding is a means to a more distant end, the software product, whereas programming has a nearer end, a program.

A program is a thing worthy itself of attention and appreciation, whereas code, lacking the definite article, is not.

technovelgy.com, where science meets fiction, and a glorious taste of the old web.

Monday, May 25th, 2020

Deep Work

Cal Newport

♦♦♦

I’m doubt there’s much in Deep Work by Cal Newport that I didn’t already know, but I nonetheless had a hankering to see these ideas conveyed in an organized and impassioned way. My own way of working is already akin to what Newport suggests — for instance I disabled push email on my laptop years ago, and stopped using social media a couple of years ago.

Although he refers quite frequently to David Allen and GTD, one thing he does encourages that is not a GTD emphasis is setting time limits to work sessions with a view to working quicker — like say the Pomodoro Technique but not necessarily stuck on 25-minute periods.

I personally have eschewed this because I feel that with my work, you keep plugging away until the problem is solved. But I do see that there are many benefits to limiting the time on a task, one of them being (though I don’t think Newport mentions this) that it can make the task feel less onerous and intimidating if you know you’re only going to need to work on it for a limited period of time.

One immediate application for me was to start working on a somewhat mindless administrative task that normally takes me one or two full boring days. I realize that if I work on it an hour a day for a week or so, it will be all in all less onerous (and on time).

Sunday, May 24th, 2020

An anonymous employee beneficiary of Twitter’s IPO: “I think a lot of [people in Silicon Valley] care about basic income for everyone, because we’ve lived with it ourselves.”

Friday, May 22nd, 2020

Launch

Jeff Walker

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So now I understand the source of the myriad of preposterously-priced online courses I come across with preposterous limited-time-only sign-ups. Preposterously-priced because they are book projects broken up into series of articles or videos then priced an order of magnitude or two higher than a book; and preposterously time-limited because these are digital products and so can be purchased at any time. They are from the “secret formula to sell almost anything online” from this book Launch by Jeff Walker.

To be fair, Walker stresses that limited-time-only purchasing should be a genuine constraint resulting from the nature of the product, even if many acolytes seem to ignore this part. And his general admonition that a product launch matters and requires much preparation is something to take seriously. But I think regarding a SaaS, launches can be multiple and almost irrelevant to the product itself; launches are marketing activities that can be about any new feature no matter how trivial.

But I’m not responding directly to the book here, rather to my irritation at what it spawned. There is some good marketing advice here certainly, it’s just that I don’t find marketing very interesting. More fool me.

Thursday, May 21st, 2020

SARS-CoV-2 apparently interferes with the body’s one-two process of knocking out a virus, reports Stat News on discoveries made by Benjamin tenOever of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The virus blocks the production of interferons by infected cells, which slows down viral replication. But the signal to bring in killer cells goes unabated. The result is an arms race of virus and inflammatory cytokines within the lungs. Ingestion of interferons could redress this problem.

Monday, May 18th, 2020

Hail Freedonia, a Covid-19 vaccine is in sight! Hail Moderna, hail Massachusetts!

Sunday, May 17th, 2020

The Making of Prince of Persia

Jordan Mechner

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Video game maker Jordan Mechner wrote a rich diary of his life in the mid-1980s. This book covers the creation his second hit game, Prince of Persia, so we gain access of unique immediacy to the heroic tale of producing a universe-dent-making hit.

I wanted this book, which I discovered via Tyler Cowen’s most recent What I’ve been reading, as inspiration during a small lull in morale as I work on a digital product of my own.

Thirty years on there is some poignancy in that this early period of Mencher’s life was the peak: after graduating Yale, already dreamily successful, he shuttles between San Francisco and Hollywood creating video games and pushing screenplays, a digital Orson Welles (in his later game The Last Express, Mechner combines these passions, relying on cinema to produce an impressive commercial failure).

That said, perhaps it is no failure at all that one can point to the creative peak of a life — Mechner’s arguably was working within the memory constraints of the Apple II to create a foe, Shadow Man, based on the hero character. Here I’m reminded of Ken Kocienda’s not dissimilar Eureka moment when up against a constraint, that of using a dictionary to help create the iPhone keyboard.

Perhaps it would have been a better book if he had fleshed out the journal with an italicized retrospective written now, but count me a late-arrival Jordan Mechner fan. And don’t get the Kindle edition lacking the illustrations; I think I’m gonna need to buy the actual book.

Thursday, May 14th, 2020

The comfort of having an organization is largely illusory; it still comes down to one programmer in the end.

Jordan Mechner, The Making of Prince of Persia

In the morning I put in the stair-climbing, and in the evening, the sword-sheathing.

Jordan Mechner, The Making of Prince of Persia

Monday, May 11th, 2020

What a fandango by Tel Avivi Hagai Farago.

Saturday, May 9th, 2020

Writing in The New Atlantis, Yuval Levin explicates in “Prudence in a Storm” the terrible opportunity cost of the politics of partisan catastrophizing:

We should be capable of seeing the difference between a crisis rooted in a chronic problem that demands to be addressed within the normal bounds of our political culture and a rare, extreme emergency that requires us to suspend some of the usual frameworks of our politics and mobilize massively but temporarily to respond.

Wednesday, May 6th, 2020

Tuesday, May 5th, 2020

Saturday, April 25th, 2020

The biggest balagan ever, the USA’s flailing then failing pandemic response:

By the time the virus broke on American shores, the problem was not that the United States didn’t have a single plan for an international pandemic. The problem was it had dozens of plans, totaling thousands of pages, issued by different agencies and by different administrations, apparently with little thought to how they would be combined or who would implement them.

Friday, April 24th, 2020

Some reflections on the pandemic by Yuval Levin:

Rather than a sense of mutual dependence … we might walk away from this crisis as even more capable loners.

Thursday, April 23rd, 2020

More people will die from Covid-19 because we cannot study drugs more quickly, writes Matthew Herper in STAT.

Yes. Anonymized data from all patients should be accessible to all. The social media giants have demonstrated that it can be done — data entered from all over the world into a single system that produces meaningful output. Indeed, the web is the perfect medium for it. Rather than setting up trials to evaluate the efficacy of a treatment, researchers could instead be checking the global treatment knowledgebase.

Using their web-connected devices, registered medical practitioners would log each step of a patient’s treatment as it happens; in medicine a new understanding would take hold that the practice is to both treat the individual at hand and publish that treatment because every facet of every case history can contribute to a myriad of studies.

A standards body could set the data model that is a medical case. Presumably the model would emanate out to include such information as the identity of the treating hospital, so that, eg, the geographical locale can be factored in by researchers.

One problematic aspect of a case is the patient’s anonymized identity, required for factoring in pre-existing conditions. A new price of our medical care would be its worldwide publicization, and the understanding that motivated organizations could connect even anonymized medical data with other aspects of a person’s life, such as a cessation of credit card use during hospitalization. Yet given what we now see is the catastrophic fallout of a pandemic, we will surely come to accept this cost, just like say driving licenses. Moreover, perhaps this could justify to Americans why healthcare should be free: one is contributing one’s medical biography to the knowledgebase.

Such instant availability of global treatment data would be useful not only to researchers but also — and possibly primarily — to doctors devising treatments in the moment.

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020

Cool made with Zoom music video (though if this is the state of contemporary pop music, count me out of the tune).

Sunday, April 19th, 2020

The eleven days in question are 12th–23rd March. Eleven days in which the [UK] government decided to give up with contact tracing and do, well, nothing. Mass gatherings were still allowed (because “science”). Concerts and racing and Champions’ League football. Pubs. Public transport. Everything. The over-70s, it must be conceded, were advised to avoid cruises.

Friday, April 17th, 2020

A brief survey of Israeli exit strategies for coronavirus lockdown, including the 5/2 and the alternate week plans.

 
 

•••

Newsroll

A quarterly magazine of urban affairs, published by the Manhattan Institute, edited by Brian C. Anderson.

experiments in refactored perception

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  • Notes: A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman

    I just finished the heaviest read so far in my pandemic reads list, Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror, about the 14th century, loosely an account of the European experience of the Black Death. It is a 784-page monster and I read it in 15-30 minute chunks at bedtime over 68 days, while live-tweeting it. I […]
  • Mansionism 1: Building-Milieu Fit

    In politically turbulent times, when it is not clear which way the arc of history will bend, it is useful to reframe the question of political futures in terms of built-environment futures. Instead of asking, what kind of milieu will we inhabit, you ask the potentially easier question, what sort of built environment will we […]