Monday 2 October, 2023

Harvest time?

I once thought of making wine from our grapes, but after I’d read up on the kit I’d need to buy, and the expertise I’d need to acquire, decided that it might be easier (and perhaps cheaper) to buy a bottle of Chateau Lafite.

Quote of the Day

”History is the ship carrying living memories to the future.”

  • Stephen Spender

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Jon Lord | VI. Afterwards


After listening, I went to the Thomas Hardy poem that inspired the piece.

Long Read of the Day

Quantum Resistance and the Signal Protocol

This sounds geeky but a post on the Signal Blog does a good job of explaining why it matters. Basically, the security of our networked world depends on the fact that the cryptography that underpins it cannot be broken by brute-force computing with conventional computers. But if quantum computing turns out to be practically feasible then that bet’s off because they would be many orders of magnitude more powerful.

Do read the post to learn how outfits like Signal (of which I am a committed user) are being pre-emptive in case the quantum threat does materialise.

The US government is belatedly taking on Google in the most significant antitrust case in decades

Yesterday’s Observer column:

Although you’d never guess it from mainstream media, the most significant antitrust case in more than 20 years is under way in Washington. In it, the US justice department, alongside the attorneys general of eight states, is suing Google for abusively monopolising digital advertising technologies, thereby subverting competition through “serial acquisitions” and anti-competitive auction manipulation. Or, to put it more prosaically, arguing that Google – which has between 90% and 95% of the search market – has maintained its monopoly not by making a better product, but by locking down almost every avenue through which consumers might find a different search engine and making sure they only see Google wherever they look.

Why is this significant?

Read on.

My commonplace booklet

Imagined idiots

“Why do public intellectuals condescend to their readers?” Asks Becca Rothfeld in a nice essay in the Yale Review on why academics appear to lose their marbles when they try to write for non-academics.

She quotes from a 2015 essay by Mark Greif, founder of the online journal n+1, on the difficulties he had getting scholars to write for the general public.

When these brilliant people contemplated writing for the “public,” it seemed they merrily left difficulty at home, leapt into colloquial lan­guage with both feet, added unnatural (and frankly unfunny) jokes, talked about TV, took on a tone chummy and unctuous. They dumbed down, in short—even with the most innocent intentions. The public, even the “general reader,” seemed to mean someone less adept, ingenious, and critical than them­selves. Writing for the public awakened the slang of mass media. The public signified fun, frothy, friendly.

So, concludes Rothfeld, “If the academic humanities too often address only siloed experts, then pop philosophy too often addresses an audience of imagined idiots.”



Something I noticed, while trying to drink from the Internet firehose.

The World’s Longest Beak — a clip from the BBC from Planet Earth II in which David Attenborough talks about the Swordbill, a hummingbird with a bill longer than its body. Unmissable.


  • The artist who created the striking stained-glass mentioned in Friday’s edition was Harry Clarke. Thanks to Ivan Morris for enlightening me.
  • My intro to Branco Milanovic’s marvellous Long Read on Friday revealed my blissful ignorance of the fact that 1960s Belgrade was in Yugoslavia and therefore not in ”the Soviet empire” as I mistakenly claimed. Thanks to Richard Austin for pointing this out.

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