Friday 5 November, 2021

Many thanks to those kind readers who enlightened me about this lovely photograph. Euan Williamson identified both the bird (a rose-ringed parakeet) and the photographer, Petr Sochman, and thought that the parrot appears to be saying “Social distance, please!”

And John Burke found the source of the picture — the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards. Their current finalists for the 2021 awards are a hoot (or an hoot, if you’re as pedantic as I am).

The great thing about being a blogger is that your readers know more than you do.

Quote of the Day

”Mrs Woolf’s complaint should be addressed to her creator, who made her, rather than me.”

*  Cecil Beaton, replying to Virginia’s dislike of a drawing he did of her.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Thomas Tallis | If Ye Love Me | The Cambridge singers


Long Read of the Day

Much of what you’ve heard about Carter and Reagan is wrong

Great blog post by Noah Smith.

Revisionism at its best. Made me think again about both Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

OpenLearn’s triumph

For many years I worked happily and productively at the Open University, one of the best ideas of Harold Wilson’s Labour government which evolved into a global pioneer of what used to be called ‘distance learning’. It was an astonishingly creative and lively place to work, and I was lucky to be part of it. The only British institution even remotely like the OU is the BBC.

Towards the end of my time there, some of my colleagues created OpenLearn, an online service which now offers over a thousand free courses and learning resources. This has been a Godsend to thousands of people who were locked down during the pandemic. This creative response to the pandemic has just been recognised by the Open Resilience Award by OE Global, Open Education Global is an international non-profit organisation that supports the development and use of open education around the world. I know that virtue is supposed to be its own reward, but sometimes it’s nice when the world recognises it too.

US blacklists NSO

The FT reports that

The US has added NSO Group, the Israeli military-grade spyware manufacturer that created software traced to the phones of journalists and human rights activists around the world, to a trade blacklist as it targets the growing surveillance threat posed by hacking-for-hire companies.

NSO and a competitor, Tel Aviv-based Candiru, were among four companies added by the commerce department on Wednesday to its so-called entity list, which would restrict exports of US hardware and software to the companies.

This is big news and long overdue. It’s also a massive endorsement of the work that Ron Deibert and his colleagues in the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto have been doing for years. They have been tireless in the front line of the battle against the spyware industry. The Lab is one of the few examples of academic institutions which are having a real impact on the tech industry rather than just engaging in virtue-signalling. Ron and his colleagues marshal formidable technical expertise in the public — rather than the private — interest. You could call the Citizen Lab the NSA for civil society.

My commonplace booklet

Eh? (See here)

Two things…

  • ”All this talk about Metaverse is an excellent way to refocus the attention to the future and away from its present problems. A video that essentially uses a video-game-like interface, Facebook can wash its hands off reality and whatever toxicity of the reality. After all, it is all just a game. You can’t be any angrier about fake information being shared in the metaverse than you can be angry about running over someone in grand theft auto.” (Om Malik on his blog)

  • Steven Johnson: Where good ideas come from. Nice video.

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