Monday 14 June, 2021

Remembering Zoombini

A thousand thanks for the dozens of lovely emails sympathising with us on the loss of our precious cat. I’ve tried to reply individually to everyone who wrote. The overwhelming message of the responses is that the relationships we have with our pets are often more intense and more important to us than we generally admit or realise.

Another thing: Zoombini’s sibling, Tilly, came with her to us on the same day 17 years ago. After Zoombini’s heart had stopped on Thursday, Tilly went to her, sniffed around and licked her ear in the way she often did, and then left the room. Since then she’s clearly been unmoored. It’s as if life has suddenly become boring for her. Hopefully this will fade and she will settle into a new routine.

When we came down stairs on Friday morning, we found her sitting on the doormat by the cat-flap, looking out. Was she wondering when her sister would return? Or just looking out? Who knows?

These are deep waters, Holmes.

Quote of the Day

”The trouble with Ian is that he gets off with women because he cannot get on with them.”

  • Rosamond Lehmann on Ian Fleming

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Bob Dylan | Visions of Johanna


First time I’ve heard this version. Lyrics are hard to make out, so here they are.

Long Read of the Day

There is nothing so deep as the gleaming surface of the aphorism

A lovely — aphoristic almost — essay on the aphorism by Noreen Masaud.

The critic Susan Sontag underlined the point in her diary of 1980: ‘Aphorism is aristocratic thinking: this is all the aristocrat is willing to tell you; he thinks you should get it fast, without spelling out all the details.’ But this isn’t quite right. Part of the charm of the aphorism, and mystery, is that it doesn’t really expect its audience to ‘get it fast’, or even get it at all. Its slick form sets out to confound and stymie as much as educate.

Big Brother is still watching you and he goes by the name Facebook

Yesterday’s Observer column:

The security guru Bruce Schneier once famously observed that “surveillance is the business model of the internet”. Like all striking generalisations it was slightly too general: it was strictly true only if by “the internet” you meant the services of a certain number of giant tech companies, notably those of Facebook (including WhatsApp and Instagram), Google (including YouTube), Twitter and Amazon.

The trouble is (and this is what gave Schneier’s aphorism its force) that for a large chunk of networked humanity, especially inhabitants of poorer countries, these walled gardens are indeed what people regard as “the internet”. And that’s no accident. Although Chinese smartphones are pretty cheap everywhere, mobile data tends to be prohibitively expensive in poor countries. So the deal offered by western tech companies is that data charges are low or zero if you access the internet via their apps, but expensive if you venture outside their walled gardens.

Of all the companies, Facebook was the one that first appreciated the potential of this strategy…

Read on

New York Senate Passes Electronics Right-to-Repair Legislation

The legislation still has to pass the Assembly, but the Senate became the first legislative body in the US to pass a bill that would make it easier to fix your things.

From Matthew Gault’s report:

The New York State Senate has overwhelmingly voted to pass electronics right-to-repair legislation, becoming the first legislative body in the country to do so. It is a major step forward for a movement that has overwhelming public support and has been working toward getting a law done for the last several years.

“It protects consumers from the monopolistic practices of manufacturers,” Senator Phil Boyle said on the floor. “We all have computers, laptops, and smartphones that we repair once in a while. Many times we have to send them back to the manufacturer for simple repairs that cost a lot more. Now people can repair their own computers, laptops, and smartphones, and farm equipment. We don’t have to send them back to the manufacturers.”

The Senate passed the bill with 51 Senators voting for and only 12 voting against. The bill still has to pass the Assembly on an extremely tight deadline—New York’s legislative session ends Thursday. If enacted, New York’s Digital Fair Repair Act would be the first of its kind in the United States. One of its strengths is its simplicity. According to the text, it “requires OEMs to make available, for purposes of diagnosis, maintenance, or repair, to any independent repair provider, or to the owner of digital electronic equipment manufactured by or on behalf of, or sold by, the OEM, on fair and reasonable terms, documentation, parts, and tools, inclusive of any updates to information or embedded software.”

Also — See Cory Doctorow’s blast on this subject — “Monopolists are winning the Repair Wars”.

Ed Yong wins a Pulitzer

Well deserved. Here’s his Editor’s letter to the staff of The Atlantic :

It is with great happiness that I share the news that Ed Yong has won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting. This is a wonderful moment for Ed, for his editors, and for the entire Atlantic.

Ed has become the indispensable reporter of the pandemic, and I’m so pleased that the Pulitzer Board is recognizing him for his outstanding achievements. Through his writing, Ed has illuminated pathways of understanding for tens of millions of our readers; he has been a sentinel, a source of brilliant analysis, a beacon of moral clarity; and he has provided comfort when it was needed the most. It is an enormous pleasure for me to count Ed as a colleague and friend. Ed is part of the best team covering the pandemic (and science more broadly) in our industry. One reason for their great success is that they lift one another up, and all of us are beneficiaries of this team’s selflessness and hard work.

The Pulitzers were opened to magazine entries five years ago. This is The Atlantic’s first win, and so an historic day for the magazine.

Seems to me that the only serious competition to Ed for the Explanatory Reporting prize was Zeynep Tufecki — who also writes for The Atlantic.

Dream on, Brexiteers

From Jonty Bloom’s blog

The latest Brexiteer fantasy is that the solution to the Northern Ireland Protocol is to place the border between Ireland and the rest of the EU. It tells you a great deal about the mindset of these people that they think their problem is so important that others will destroy themselves to help them but let’s just look at the facts.

Ireland is in the EU and the Single Market, is an independent country and regards Brexit as a very inconvenient mess, caused by the British government. Its huge economic successes have been built on being in the EU and it knows it. It is also best mates with the new American President, who like international law and thinks states should comply with the treaties they sign.

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