Tuesday 19 July, 2022

The family that cycles together…

… stays together.

Spotted in Arles on Friday evening.

Quote of the Day

”Basic research is like shooting an arrow into the air and, where it lands, painting a target.”

  • Homer Adkins

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Alison Krauss | Down To The River To Pray


Long Read of the Day

Medium in the rear-view

There’s been lots of commentary about the ‘blogging’ platform Medium since it was announced that its founder and CEO, Evan Williams, was stepping down. Dave Winer (Whom God Preserve) has written a perceptive post about it on his blog.

He’s taken on the three things that people regarded as distinctive about Medium:

  • Its ‘clean’ look
  • Users didn’t have to start their own blog to write a post
  • It provided authors with a way of making money.

Dave thinks that the need for the platform to make money was the key flaw. Interestingly, it may also turn out to be the Achilles heel of Substack, the service I use to produce this newsletter version of my blog.

Do read Dave’s piece in its entirety because he’s the wisest guy around on this stuff. He was the blogger who best articulated the First Law of Online Writing: always make sure that anything you want to endure is hosted on a platform that you control. I used to write on Medium sometimes, for example, but I always made sure that anything by me that appeared there was also published on Memex — i.e. on the open Web. Same things applies to this newsletter version — it’s always on the Web, every day. So if, one day, the folks who run Substack turn nasty or greedy, well they can go whistle and I’d use a piece of open source software to create a newsletter version.

Monkeypox: What You Actually Need to Know

Really informative piece by Donald McNeil, just about the only journalist I would trust on a topic like this.

If there are two effective vaccines for this disease and one solid treatment, why are we losing the fight?

I blame several factors: shortages of vaccines and tests, the initial hesitancy by squeamish health agencies to openly discuss who was most at risk, and the refusal by the organizers of lucrative gay sex parties to cancel them over the past few months—even as evidence mounted that they are super-spreader events.

Also, something I didn’t know: the virus is related to smallpox, but it’s not nearly as lethal. The successful 25-year effort to eradicate smallpox held it in check (the smallpox vaccine also prevents monkeypox). But smallpox vaccination ended in 1980 because the old vaccines had some rare but very dangerous side effects. So…, well you can guess the rest.

Terrific piece by a great journalist who was — IMO — unfairly forced out of the New York Times.

My commonplace booklet

Two titans when young

Dave Winer found this when going through his (capacious) archives.

On not trying to be too clever…

When trying to think of a smart-aleck title for the wonderful trompe l’oeil artwork on the front of a house in Arles, I thought it’d be nice to adapt the title of Magritte’s famous ‘This is not a pipe’ painting of a pipe. And then typed “… as Matisse might put it.” A stupid error, of course, but sometimes the nice thing about being a blogger is the amusing (and tolerant) ways readers respond. So a flood of emails came alerting me to the mistake, but also pondering the significance of the mistake. After all, the original painting had a number of titles — “The Treachery of Images”, “This is not a pipe” and, apparently, “The Wind and the Song”. Magritte pointed out laconically that it was not a pipe but an image of a pipe — hence perhaps his ‘Treachery of Images’ title. Chris Patten generously observed that my readers think of me “as a medieval craftsman who deliberately creates an imperfection, so as to not offend God”. And Felicity Allen suggested that the mistake reflected not only the treachery of images, but also “the treachery of memory”.

I’ll drink to that last one. I’m a great believer in Mark Twain’s dictum that “The older I get the more clearly I remember things that never happened”.

Thanks to everyone who transformed what might have been an embarrassing morning into a lovely start to the day.

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