Wednesday 3 November, 2021

Break Time

Bikers taking a break in a Derbyshire village, August 30th.

Quote of the Day

”Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.”

  • Robert Frost

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Martin Hayes (violin) and Dennis Cahill (guitar) | Three reels (The Sailor’s Bonnet, Tommy Peoples’ and The Union Reel.


Recorded in Dolan’s pub in Limerick, Christmas, 1999.

Long Read of the Day

“It Might Well Be Unsolvable”: Nilay Patel on Facebook’s reckoning with reality (and the Metaverse-size problems to come)

Transcript of an interesting, wide-ranging Vanity Fair interview with the Editor-in-Chief of The Verge, a very experienced observer of the tech industry. The interview discusses how tech journalism covers the industry (badly, IMHO), the fact that even giant companies can fade away (remember GE?), whether we are at an inflection point with the technology and its corporate exploiters and — naturally — Facebook’s latest attempts to escape from the consequences of its actions.


I think it’s the beginning of a reckoning with how being this connected affects us and affects our lives. I don’t know that we have built the social systems or the political hierarchies to deal with it. I think that has huge repercussions, especially in a country with a First Amendment like ours. I’m not sure the government has the tools it might need, and I am extremely unsure the government should have those tools.

So I think this is the beginning of that: How connected should we be, and who should be the gatekeepers of that connection? How do we hold those gatekeepers in line? No one knows the answer. It is the central challenge of our time. The literal reckoning with the shape of society that absolute connection has brought us, is upon us. And it is nowhere close to the end.

Interesting throughout.

Zuckerberg’s Metaverse

Given that you probably have better things to do than follow every twist and turn in the Facebook saga, you may have missed the most idiotic pivot to date — the attempted re-branding of the company as ‘Meta’ and the launch of Mark Zuckerberg’s big new idea — the ‘Metaverse’. I was going to try and explain how fatuous this idea is but then thought that the most efficient way to get the idea across would be to suggest that you watch the lad himself doing it.


So if you’re curious, do have a look. It’s 11 minutes long, but it speaks volumes about the delusion of using technology to escape reality.

Oh — and keep a sickbag handy.

Talking politics on Albania

My colleague David Runciman has a great podcast series called Talking Politics which has been running since 2015 and (deservedly) has a huge audience.

A couple of weeks ago he recorded a remarkable conversation with Lea Ypi about her book,  Free: Coming of Age at the End of History, which is the story of her childhood in Communist-run Albania and the effect on her of discovering as a teenager that all of her assumptions about her country and her family had been wrong.

It’s a truly extraordinary tale, and Ypi (who is now a Professor of Political Theory at LSE) tells it beautifully in the book. The podcast conversation, an exchange between two political theorists who eschew jargon, is terrific.

It’s almost an hour long, so you will need to set aside time for it. But it’s worth your while.

My commonplace booklet

Eh? (See here)

I’m not an epidemiologist, but it has seemed obvious to me almost since the virus first arrived (and certainly after the first variants manifested themselves), that the world has changed and that we’ll never get completely free from this plague. So why not adjust to this new reality?

And now I find that Dr Anthony Fauci was saying much the same thing in a White House Briefing on October 13:

It is going to be very difficult — at least in the foreseeable future and maybe ever — to truly eliminate this highly transmissible virus. And again, as I mentioned, we’ve only eradicated one.

So, what are we looking for?

We’re looking for a level of control of the virus that would allow us to be able to essentially approach the kind of normal that we are all craving for and that we all talk about.

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