100 Not Out — my lockdown diary — is now out in a Kindle version!
You can get it here.
The World Wide Cobweb
In our garden, one frosty morning.
Quote of the Day
“If I could explain it to the average person I wouldn’t have been worth the Nobel prize.”
- Physicist Richard Feynman
(Not entirely correct: remember his famous explication of the O-ring failure that caused the Challenger disaster.)
Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news
Joan Baez & Mary Chapin Carpenter sing “Catch the Wind” Live in concert
Dave Winer has a nice post on his blog:
I’m sure we’ve lost a lot in the last four years that we don’t yet know about, especially in 2020. But the United States is still the United States. Journalism tends to make it appear worse than it is. In day to day life, at least where I live, things are much the same as before. The store shelves are still full. You can still buy a wonderful meal. Want to buy a car? You can. The roads are clear. Gas stations have gas. Supply chains work. The health care system is a mess, as before, but much worse right now. The laws for the most part are enforced (except for you know who and his friends). Western civilization created and tested three highly effective vaccines in record time. We did this. To Americans who hate elites, if you understand these sentences, you might want to think again about living in a country that values education, science and math enough to get these things done, pronto, when needed, to save your life. Yours. You. Now we’re going to try to get our political system to work for us again. Maybe you can possibly not get in the way of that? I know that’s a lot to hope for. :-)
Long read of the Day
Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world
Very useful Guardianessay by Stephen Metcalf on an important concept that has become debased through casual usage and by being ‘weaponised’ by all and sundry.
In short, “neoliberalism” is not simply a name for pro-market policies, or for the compromises with finance capitalism made by failing social democratic parties. It is a name for a premise that, quietly, has come to regulate all we practise and believe: that competition is the only legitimate organising principle for human activity…
The dog that didn’t bark yesterday
From Jonty Bloom’s blog:
The dog that didn’t bark in yesterday’s statement from the Chancellor was the word Brexit. It didn’t get a mention yet it hangs over the economy like a dark cloud, at least according to the Office for Budget Responsibility; the Government’s own number crunchers.
I thought the figures sounded pretty good, a no deal Brexit will end up with the economy being 2% smaller than it would otherwise have been. Not too bad really, until I realised that was 2% on top of the 4% hit from Brexit with a Free Trade Agreement. So 6% in total if the talks which only have weeks to run end up without a deal.
To put that in context, 2% is about our annual average growth rate in the last ten years, or our entire annual defence budget or three times our foreign aid budget. 6% is three years growth, or three times what we spend on defence or a more than half what we spend on the NHS. That money will have to come from somewhere else, higher taxes or lower spending but will we notice?
Those losses don’t come as one hit but as slightly slower growth over many years. Will we still be blaming Brexit for slightly lower growth in, 1, 2 or 5 years time? I doubt it.
Why are we so obsessed with ‘saving Christmas’?
Great essay by Tim Harford.
We said our goodbyes to my mother on Christmas Eve 1996. She had died earlier in December after a long and painful illness, but when the end came it was sudden. It can’t have been straightforward to arrange a funeral service on Christmas Eve, the churches being put to other uses, but somehow my father managed it; the children’s stockings were filled as well.
I think I speak with some knowledge of what does or does not ruin Christmas.
It has been baffling, then, to watch the speculation in the British press about whether Boris Johnson will “save Christmas”, as though he were some over-promoted elf in a seasonal movie. (It is, admittedly, a role he is better qualified to play than that of prime minister.) Apparently, the thinking is that if the country is still in lockdown in late December, Christmas is ruined. If lockdown is lifted, as expected, in early December, Christmas is saved.
Given how desperate Boris Johnson is to be liked, my money is on the latter scenario. What makes this so absurd is that in the big scheme of things, Christmas doesn’t matter. Don’t get me wrong: I love Christmas as much as the next man, even if the next man is a reformed Ebenezer Scrooge. But when it comes to catching up with my family, I’d rather not risk giving everyone the unintended gift of Covid-19, whether or not it is legal to do so.
As for the economy, the Christmas boom is smaller than you might think. Joel Waldfogel, author of Scroogenomics, estimates that for every £100 we spend across a typical year in the UK, just over 50 pence is part of the December Christmas boom.
Of course, some retailers and restaurants will be badly hit if Christmas spending is prevented by lockdown rules. But we should be honest about the situation: large sections of the economy have already been devastated, and that would be true with or without legal restrictions. Few people want to attend pantomimes in a pandemic.
Lovely piece. Worth reading in full.
Why I use BBEdit
I’ve used a marvellous plain-text editor — BBEdit — for many years. (All my journalism is written with it.) Bare Bones Software, the outfit that created it, has just announced that it now runs natively on the new Apple M1 CPU. I’m not surprised: they’ve always been ahead of the game.
Turns out, I’m not the only fan. John Gruber is another; I just came across this story on his blog:
I was several hundred words into my iPhone 12 review last month, went to get another cup of coffee, came back, and boom, the MacBook Pro I was using had kernel panicked. This machine hadn’t kernel panicked in years. It hasn’t kernel panicked again since. Murphy’s Law was trying to screw me.
I hadn’t saved what I’d written yet. Now, it was only a few hundred words, but they were an important few hundred words, the ones that got me started. The words that got the wheels turning, that got momentum going.
Rebooted. Took a sip of coffee. Logged in.
Looked at BBEdit. There it was. Right where I left off.
Other, hopefully interesting, links
The vintage beauty of Soviet control rooms. Just thinking: they’d make terrific Zoom backgrounds. Hmmm… Link
How to get good at chess. Lovely piece by Stephen Moss. Link (Thinks: I need to get to work: my 7yo grandson has taken it up and challenged his Grandpa to an online match.)
What the former Home Office Permanent Secretary & GCHQ Director Sir David Omand thinks of the Priti Patel scandal. Link. Marvellously forthright and spot on.
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