Thursday 24 March, 2022


Two slightly-dissatisfied teenagers, spotted the other day.

Quote of the Day

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect).”

  • Mark Twain

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Telemann | Horn Concerto in D Major


Long Read of the Day

The Latecomer’s Guide to Crypto

Kevin Roose is a very good journalist, so when he writes about anything I pay attention. This primer is worth it if you’re puzzled by the hysteria over ‘crypto’, NFTs and Web3.

I agree with the skeptics that much of the crypto market consists of overvalued, overhyped and possibly fraudulent assets, and I am unmoved by the most utopian sentiments shared by pro-crypto zealots (such as the claim by Jack Dorsey, the former Twitter chief, that Bitcoin will usher in world peace).

But as I’ve experimented more with crypto — including accidentally selling an NFT for more than $500,000 in a charity auction last year — I’ve come to accept that it isn’t all a cynical money-grab, and that there are things of actual substance being built. I’ve also learned, in my career as a tech journalist, that when so much money, energy and talent flows toward a new thing, it’s generally a good idea to pay attention, regardless of your views on the thing itself.

My strongest-held belief about crypto, though, is that it is terribly explained…

It was. Until now.

How Putin’s weaponising of “traditional values” at home resonates with some in the US

From the Washington Post yesterday morning…

That rightist strain of support is built on one of the Russian leader’s lesser-known war tactics: His casting of a Christian catchall — “traditional values” — as a weapon. To defend Russian aggression in Ukraine, he has lobbed disproved claims of U.S.-funded bioweapons labs and a neo-Nazi takeover of the government in Kyiv (both of which have found homes on as well). But even as Russian bombs kill scores of civilians, Putin has also sought to portray his war as righteous — describing Ukraine as a microcosm of the greater global tug of war between liberal and conservative thought.

His parlance speaks to the rise of Putin as a global touchstone of the far right. Building for years, his crafted image as a right-wing Christian leader is finding its most potent outlet in the horrific war in Ukraine. For the Christian right in the United States and Europe, Putin’s messaging is not so much a dog whistle as a blaring siren. The U.S. televangelist Pat Robertson has said that the Russian leader was “compelled by God” to invade Ukraine. U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) spoke this month at a White nationalist event where the crowd was earlier heard chanting “Putin! Putin! Putin!”

Well, well.

The Royal Mint to build ‘world first’ plant to turn UK’s electronic waste into gold

According to the blurb,

Pioneering new technology enables The Royal Mint to recover precious metals from discarded electronic devices such as mobile phones and laptops

The first of its kind plant will provide a source of high-quality precious metals while offering a solution to significant and growing environmental challenges

Forms part of The Royal Mint’s reinvention and helps secure a future as a leader in sustainably sourced precious metals

I liked Charles Arthur’s observation that Isaac Newton, who was once Master of the Mint, was passionately interested in alchemy. So he’d be pleased by this development.

My commonplace booklet

A post in Jonty Bloom’s blog about the Brexiteers as a Cargo Cult sent me to Wikipedia, which had this helpful observation that Cargo cults

“are marked by a number of common characteristics, including a “myth-dream” that is a synthesis of indigenous and foreign elements, the expectation of help from the ancestors, charismatic leaders, and lastly, belief in the appearance of an abundance of goods.”

Which fits the Brexiteer crowd in government pretty well.

Russia’s only justification for aspiring to be a superpower rests only its possession of nuclear weapons (and the veiled threat that it might use them). In economic terms it’s a second-rank power which combines a huge land-mass with an economy the size of Italy’s. And its current advantage of possessing large reserves of fossil fuel is, ultimately, finite, especially as the rest of the world transitions towards renewable energy. In that sense it reminds me of the UK with its North Sea reserves in the Thatcher years.

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