Friday 14 August, 2020

Quote of the Day

” In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican.”

  • H.L. Mencken

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

The Parting Glass – Ceiliuradh at the Royal Albert Hall


In April 2014, the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, paid the first State Visit of an Irish Head of State to the UK. On the concluding night of the visit, the President attended a remarkable celebration — called a Ceiliuradh in Irish — in the Albert Hall. The concert was produced by my friend Philip King, and ended with all of the artists who had participated singing The Parting Glass, a traditional way of bringing an evening to a close.

UK has another go at a contact-tracing app

According to The Register

Britain’s NHS has released its second go at a contact-tracing app to help limit the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus infections, thanks in part to some help from the neighbors.

Limited trials of the smartphone app have begun on the Isle of Wight and in the London Borough of Newham, roughly two months after the first version of the software flamed out due to its failure to reliably keep track of the people you’ve been near, which is somewhat of an oversight for a program that’s supposed to warn you if you’ve been close to someone who tests positive.

In order to prevent a recurrence of the first app fiasco, it is understood that the UK government this time tapped up the Apple-Google decentralized API to reliably and efficiently perform the wireless contact tracing, which works on Android and iOS.

The report claims that the developers had help from Germany and Ireland. This won’t stop Boris Johnson claiming that it’s “world-leading”, though.

Summer reading #3

Frank Ramsey: A Sheer Excess of Powers by Cheryl Misak, OUP, 2020.

Frank Ramsey was a brilliant philosopher, mathematician and economist who died in 1930 at the age of 26 having made pathbreaking contributions to all three disciplines. He died from an illness contracted when he went swimming in the river Cam. Despite his youth, his intellectual contributions have been lasting and very influential. Paul Samuelson, the first American Nobel laureate in economics, said that “Frank Ramsey was a genius by all tests for genius”. Up to now there’s never been a biography for the general reader, which is hardly surprising given that Ramsey’s work was pretty abstruse. Despite that, though, Cheryl Misak has produced an amazingly readable and enjoyable biography without compromising on thoroughness. And it leaves one with an acute understanding of why Ramsey’s contemporaries were so devastated by his tragic and untimely death.

The joys of blogging

I’ve been blogging for a long time, and from the outset my working assumption was that it would be prudent to assume that on some of the topics I chose to cover there would be readers who knew more than me. And, broadly speaking, that’s been borne out over the years.

Recently, I became so fed up with the morning radio news programmes — particularly by the way the Johnson government has decided to hobble serious news outlets by refusing to let government ministers appear — that I decided it would be better for my sanity just to listen to music at breakfast and read the news in papers and on the Web. Hence the ‘Musical alternative’ at the top of each day’s blog.

Since then I’ve had a stream of great emails from readers with comments on music I’ve chosen and suggestions for other choices. Hugh Taylor, for example, wrote after the ‘James Joyce Playlist’ selection to suggest Beniamino Gigli singing in the bel canto style that Joyce so admired.

Ian Clark wrote about the track in which Paul Simon sang ‘American Tune’ and revealed something that I would never have known, namely that the tune was originally by Bach — which set me off on a hunt. My wife is a pianist and an organist and immediately recognised it as an Anglican hymn, “O sacred head’.

Then yesterday I had Leo Kottke playing another Bach tune, ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s desiring’ which I remembered hearing Kottke play at the Cambridge Folk Festival way back sometime in the 1970s. I couldn’t for the life of me remember which year, though. And then what should turn up in my email from Kevin Cryan this morning with an amazing link giving the date: July 28, 1979.

The great thing about blogging is the way it encourages humility in the blogger!

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