Thursday 3 September, 2020

A young visitor

I was rifling though old photographs today and found this. In May 2014 a group of Wagtail chicks in our garden fledged. After his first flight, this one landed outside our bedroom window and looked interestedly in for a few moments before eventually deciding to have another go at this flight business. It was an utterly charming moment.

Quote of the Day

“People only ask if you are enjoying yourself when you aren’t”

  • E. Nesbit

Musical alternative to this morning’s radio news

Green Day: I Fought The Law


A fairly restrained performance compared with The Clash’s version

I always thought it was written by Buddy Holly but it turns out it was by Sonny Curtis, who tells the story of its composition here (17’30” into the interview). He wrote it in 20 minutes.

If you want to understand why Covid-19 is so complex and so dangerous, then this looks like the first attempt at a general theory of how it works inside the body

It’s basically an explanation for lay readers of the ‘Bradykinin hypothesis’.

In everyday terms:

Covid-19 is like a burglar who slips in your unlocked second-floor window and starts to ransack your house. Once inside, though, they don’t just take your stuff — they also throw open all your doors and windows so their accomplices can rush in and help pillage more efficiently.

Great piece of general explanation. Long read but worth it. Renewed my determination to try to avoid catching the disease.


Edward Snowden was right: the mass surveillance program he exposed was illegal

From a Reuters report

Seven years after former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the mass surveillance of Americans’ telephone records, an appeals court has found the program was unlawful – and that the U.S. intelligence leaders who publicly defended it were not telling the truth.

In a ruling handed down on Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said the warrantless telephone dragnet that secretly collected millions of Americans’ telephone records violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and may well have been unconstitutional.

Snowden, who fled to Russia in the aftermath of the 2013 disclosures and still faces U.S. espionage charges, said on Twitter that the ruling was a vindication of his decision to go public with evidence of the National Security Agency’s domestic eavesdropping operation.

“I never imagined that I would live to see our courts condemn the NSA’s activities as unlawful and in the same ruling credit me for exposing them,” Snowden said in a message posted to Twitter.

Evidence that the NSA was secretly building a vast database of U.S. telephone records – the who, the how, the when, and the where of millions of mobile calls – was the first and arguably the most explosive of the Snowden revelations published by the Guardian newspaper in 2013.

Up until that moment, top intelligence officials publicly insisted the NSA never knowingly collected information on Americans at all. After the program’s exposure, U.S. officials fell back on the argument that the spying had played a crucial role in fighting domestic extremism, citing in particular the case of four San Diego residents who were accused of providing aid to religious fanatics in Somalia.

It’s taken seven years. But this is a great day.

A tale of two stores

I just watched a terrific lecture by Younglin Yoo of Case Western Reserve University and afterwards went to his personal website, where I found this instructive story.

I went to Office Max to pick up chairs that I ordered earlier. The store was almost empty. I was happy to see my chairs stacked up in the cash register area. I thought it would a quick stop at the cash register to pay for the chairs and leave. Perhaps 5 minutes total.

There were two employees at the cash register. One was dealing with a customer who tried to get a refund. The other was trying to find a product that a customer wants to buy (if you buy a big item there, you bring a card from the floor to the cash register and they will bring to you). I was the first one behind these two customers. Lucky me, I thought! Well, not quite…

Read on.

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