Currently browsing the year of 2020 ⤵

What if..

Quite the thought experiment from John Gruber today:

A question I’ve pondered these last few post-election weeks: What would have happened if Mark Zuckerberg were all-in on Trump? What if instead of flagging and tamping down on Trump’s utterly false but profoundly destructive “election fraud” anti-democratic power grab, Facebook had done the opposite and pushed the narrative Trump wants? What if Trump owned Facebook? What if Zuckerberg ran for president, lost, and pursued a similar “turn your supporters against democracy” strategy?

Daring Fireball

How would that play out? Probably best not to think about it.

His post is in response to an article posted in The Atlantic earlier this month: ‘Facebook is a Doomsday Machine’, which is a great, but not one to read just before bed.

Merry Christmas

Good evening, from Plague Island.

Europe has decided that we are persona non grata, and thousands of lorries are holed up in a Kent airfield, waiting to cross the border. I imagine that there are a lot of lorry drivers that badly need the toilet.

Britain is on the brink of crisis. It’s a word that has lost all meaning, but it’s still true. COVID-19 roams the island unchecked. The tiered system of local restrictions has failed, primarily because we don’t have a useful test and trace system, and ’restrictions’ peppered with holes large enough to drive a lorry through. There is not a single metric that says we are doing a good job. In fact, we are doing a terrible job.

So, it defies common sense for the PM announces that people can mingle at Christmas for five days – as well as the statutory guidance. Chris Witty, with a face that said ‘this is fucking mental’, stressed that it would be unwise to get together unnecessarily. What we have to do, essentially, is complete a risk assessment. Because we’ve shown that we’re good at that up to now? What the hell are they thinking?

The Christmas super-spreading event has reluctantly been reduced to a single day, because, I assume, the country will rise up in rebellion if they can’t share a turkey dinner. That’s fine by me, but it’s time to give up the laissez-faire approach; otherwise, disaster looms in January.

Christmas seems to get larger every year – peeking over the horizon from October and climaxing on December 25th. Not so much this year. We are relaxed. The usual frantic rush never appeared. For me, a smaller Christmas will be a time to enjoy the little things – boxes of Quality Street, mince pies and a series of terrible Christmas films.

Enjoy yours, whatever you are doing. Try not to kill your grandma. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Merry Christmas

The New Wilderness

My Thoughts

People say that books can take you places. Diane Cook takes us to a pristine wilderness, which we see through the eyes of a group of people who try to make a life there while the world outside burns. I cried, twice. This book helped me to understand why people fear so much for our natural environment, and then do so much to protect it.

It’s beautifully written and had me gripped from start to finish.

Highlights

She put her foot against that worn skin and shoved his limp body. “Please don’t kick me anymore.” He curled tighter, his head hiding in his hands as though he expected a beating. “You may have noticed I’m not doing well.” Bea pushed him with her foot again. [Loc: 5790]

They would make a family and rear their young, and then, at an age when it seemed their young could take care of themselves, they would send them away to find their own land to explore. And then they’d have more young. “What age were you thinking,” Jake had asked. “I think probably by six,” said Agnes. Jake paled. “What?” “You don’t agree?” She absorbed his silence, studied the incredulous look on his face. “I guess I could be convinced to wait till seven or eight?” “Agnes, that is way too young.” [Loc: 4838]

The clouds hung in the sky like dirty globes of cotton. [Loc: 1751]

“Aren’t you worried about that fire spreading?” Bea’s voice quaked with anger, and maybe a little sadness. “Not really. My horse is fast.” [Loc: 4797]

Juan muttered, “Pickup location.” He shook his head. “Pickup location?” He fumed. “Pick up meant pick up people?” “I thought they were giving us some fucking rice,” said Debra. [Loc: 2612]

She knew on the other side of it was a profoundly different world. She thought it must be the border with the Mines. The land was mostly in active use, the jobs automated, but she knew there was housing for the workers who were needed. The workers tended to be those who couldn’t afford even the smallest apartments in the City. Who’d been pushed out, priced out generations ago. Now they had barracks or low-cost apartment complexes for their indebted lives. [Loc: 1079]

The salt was the thing that lasted the longest. And after it was gone they discovered that real food tastes like dirt, water, and exertion. [Loc: 840]

The greatest gift

I really couldn’t have got through 2020 without books. They’ve taken me to places that I couldn’t have visited, helped me to know people who I will never meet, and opened my mind to different perspectives – so this quote from Om Malik resonates:

More than any other medium, books have defined life. They have helped me imagine. They have helped me escape. And they have educated me and shown me a better version of myself. 

Om Malik – Our sadness is really selfishness

I am a reader by luck. I don’t recall my parents reading to me when I was young, nor do I remember being surrounded by books. My parents were Jehovah’s Witnesses. One of the many ways that this frustrates your childhood is an exclusion from the school assembly, so while my peers gathered in the hall, singing hymns or doing whatever else you do in a school assembly in the 1980s – I would sit in the small library and, with lack of anything else to do (and because we didn’t have the luxury of pocket entertainment devices back then), I would pluck books from the shelves and read to pass the time.

Books have carried me through the most challenging times of my life. I enjoyed reading to my children when they were younger, and both of them have picked up a love of stories. It’s the greatest gift I have given them.

A shot of happiness

I don’t know who any of these people are, but this video sure did cheer me up this morning.

Highlights

Often, when reading on my Kindle, I’ll highlight passages that catch my attention as I go through.

I’m now adding these highlights to my bookshelf page. You can see the first example here. I think they look quite nice.

The Glass Hotel

Highlights

He didn’t insist on a detailed explanation. One of our signature flaws as a species: we will risk almost anything to avoid looking stupid. [Loc: 2989]

even though Oskar knew all of this to be correct and knew Kaspersky was in the right, he still wanted to throw his shoe at the screen. Why are the righteous so often irritating? [Loc: 3018]

‘It’s possible to both know and not know something.’ [Loc: 3234]

But they were citizens of a shadow country that in his previous life he’d only dimly perceived, a country located at the edge of an abyss. He’d been aware of the shadowland forever, of course. He’d seen its more obvious outposts: shelters fashioned from cardboard under overpasses, tents glimpsed in the bushes alongside expressways, houses with boarded-up doors but a light shining in an upstairs window. He’d always been vaguely aware of its citizens, people who’d slipped beneath the surface of society, into a territory without comfort or room for error. [Loc: 3581]

It is possible to disappear in the space between countries. [Loc: 3654]

Rocket Launch as Seen from the Space Station

This is the launch of a Russian Soyuz-FG from Kazakhstan, back in November 2018. It’s nice to have a reminder that we are capable of really special things.