Friday 4 February, 2022

Finally: the stamp of approval

In Ireland the technical term for this kind of nonsense is: codology.

Quote of the Day

Yes because a hundred years ago Sylvia Beach displayed in her Paris bookshop the first copy of a new novel she was publishing yes she was publishing “Ulysses” which is now recognised as one of the twentieth century’s greatest works of art and yes signed first edition copies can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars in auction it was written by Irishman James Joyce with its peculiar use of punctuation and yes its stream of consciousness James marked that occasion on 2 February 1922 with a muted celebration and laid out what was then the only other copy with its white letters on a blue background a nod to the colours of the Greek flag and thus to the novel’s chief inspiration Homer’s Odyssey and yes for Beach it was a risk of course supporting this experimental novel which was looked at unkindly by some like playwright George Bernard Shaw who said it was revolting and that if you imagine that any Irishman would pay 150 francs for a book you little know my countrymen

  • The Economist, marking the centenary of Ulysses’s publication in the style of Molly Bloom’s celebrated soliloquy at the end of the novel.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Julie Fowlis | My Love is on the High Seas’


Long Read of the Day

Consuming Joyce: 100 Years of Ulysses in Ireland

Terrific review by Hugh Haughton in The Literary Review of John McCourt’s marvellous (and mortifying) account of how, over a century, my fellow-countrymen moved from regarding Joyce’s novel as an “Odyssey of the sewer” to being celebrated “the great Irish book of the twentieth century”. It’s not a pretty story, but the good news is that we got there in the end.

Beautifully written review. Worth a read.

North Korea Hacked Him. So He Took Down Its Internet

This is really lovely. Just over a year ago, an independent US hacker who goes by the handle P4x was himself hacked by North Korean spies. He managed to prevent them from swiping anything of value from him, but he felt unnerved by the idea of state-sponsored hackers targeting him personally — and by the lack of any visible response from his government.

So he took matters into his own hands and launched a series of very effective Denial of Service attacks on various parts of the North Korean cyber-infrastructure.

This Wired report tells the whole story, and it’s a fascinating read. But in a way, it corroborates something that I wrote years ago about the paradox of asymmetrical warfare. My argument was that the most intelligent strategy an underdog nation threatened by a superpower could adopt was not to buy conventional weapons but to invest in building an elite cadre of sophisticated computer hackers who could go after the critical infrastructure of its adversary.

Why? Two reasons: hackers are much cheaper than kinetic weapons; and secondly, the underdog can act with impunity because his lack of a critical Internet infrastructure means that he’s largely immune to devastating cyber-counter-attack. This is not the case for, say, the US vis-a-vis China or Russia, and it explains why Biden (and Obama before him) seems to have backed away from massive retaliation for Chinese and Russian cyber-espionage.

P4x’s counter-attack on North Korea was successful for various reasons — which are discussed in the article. He succeeded in temporarily shutting down critical servers and at one stage cutting North Korea off from the rest of the world. But even as he did so, his attacks probably had little effect on the daily life of the country — because it’s primarily an offline state, and therefore largely impervious to cyber offensives. The same cannot be said for those of us who live in advanced industrial societies.

My commonplace booklet

 Rotterdam bridge to be dismantled so Jeff Bezos’ yacht can pass through.

The Koningshavenbrug, known to Rotterdammers as De Hef, was renovated in 2017 and the council pledged at the time it would never be dismantled again. But that promise is now set to be broken, Rijnmond said, to let Bezos’ yacht through. The bridge, placed over the river in 1927, has had a central role in city’s history and was heavily damaged during the bombardment of Rotterdam in May 1940. The bridge is now officially protected.

Bezos’ three-masted yacht is being built by the Oceano shipyard in Alblasserdam but is too big to pass under the bridge when the central section is raised to its full height. Now Oceano and Bezos have approached the council about temporarily dismantling the bridge at their cost.

Money talks. It’s a universal language.


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