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Fortnite is more than a misspelt two weeks

Thursday, 21 February, 2019

It has been described as “the largest persistent media event in human history.” That’s because Fortnite has racked up more than six consecutive months with at least one million concurrent active users — all of whom are participating in a shared and consistent experience that spans multiple “seasons”, storylines and events. It was developed by Epic Games and has become a nice little earner, indeed. Epic Games, which was reportedly valued at $15 billion in October, grossed a $3 billion profit in 2018, according to TechCrunch. Fortnite is available on Windows, macOS, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS and Android. But what is it? Well…

Next move for Epic? The game has become a kind of “public square” so the notion of Fortnite turning into a platform is no longer seen as fantasy. Tim Sweeny could very well become the next Mark Zuckerberg.


At the cider vinegar farm

Wednesday, 20 February, 2019

Ballyhoura Apple Farm’s orchard is located on the outskirts of Kilfinane in Limerick.

Ballyhoura Apple Farm


And life slips by like a field mouse

Tuesday, 19 February, 2019

Ezra Pound Ezra Pound was one of the founding members of the imagist movement in the early 20th century. Imagism relied on the impact of concrete images presented in exact, everyday language rather than traditional poetic metre. This is imagism:

And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
Not shaking the grass

Ezra Pound (1885 — 1972)

Note: Ezra Pound was born in Idaho in 1885 and moved to Italy in 1924. He admired Mussolini and when World War II broke out he stayed in Rapallo from where he broadcast a series of radio talks attacking President Roosevelt and the “Jewish bankers” he deemed responsible for the war. The US regarded the broadcasts as treasonous and Pound was arrested at war’s end and imprisoned in an outdoor compound near Pisa.

While jailed, Pound completed the “The Pisan Cantos,” a group of poems that Paul L. Montgomery of the New York Times called “among the masterpieces of this century.” Eventually judged to be mentally incompetent to stand trial, Pound was transferred to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., where he remained incarcerated until 1958 when Robert Frost led a successful effort to free the poet. Ezra Pound was awarded The Bollingen Prize for Poetry in 1949 and he died in his beloved Venice in 1972.

Many writers have made disastrous personal and political choices but few have faced up to their failings as clearly as Pound did during his final years of catatonic depression. His acknowledgement here of his failure is honest and poignant and tragic:

I have tried to write Paradise.
Do not move.
Let the wind speak.
That is Paradise.
May the gods forgive what I have made.
May those I have loved try to forgive
what I have made.


The flagellation of Big Tech

Monday, 18 February, 2019

Amazon’s decision last Thursday to abandon its plan to build a new headquarters in New York City, citing fierce opposition from state and local politicians, is another sign that the techlash is beginning to hurt. Megan McArdle in the Washington Post:

“Though Amazon won’t lose much by redirecting expansion elsewhere (including adding personnel to its offices elsewhere in New York), Big Tech should be worried about the company’s experience. Once viewed by the left as the Good Big Business, Big Tech has now been reclassified to the ranks of the rapacious monopolists. Meanwhile, the right is also getting less tech-friendly as it perceives Big Tech taking the other side in the culture wars. At the moment, tech has no obvious political allies.”

If the techlash turns into a war on Big Tech, the Information Oligarchs will rue their love-in with the Left. Radicals in Seattle and New York can no longer be depended on to support every Silicon Valley edict and it’s rather late in the day for the likes of Google to go looking for allies on the right. As Warren Buffett famously said in another context: “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is keeping an eye on the ebb and flow along Capitol Hill these days, no doubt. He may yet be exposed, depending on the currents.


A New World version of an alimentari in Vancouver

Sunday, 17 February, 2019

“Channeling the effortless elegance of historic Italian interiors, and offering an eclectic selection of Italian culinary delights, Caffè La Tana in Vancouver is a revamped, New World version of an Italian alimentari, a small, family-owned grocery shop that you can find in most Italian neighborhoods,” declares Yatzer

La Tana was designed by the Vancouver studio Ste. Marie and the idea is of a “den”, which in Italian is loosely translated as la tana. The den here is that of the cunning fox, la savio volpe, and the cunning fox happens to be the mascot of Ste. Marie’s creative director Craig Stanghetta. (Photo: Ian Lanterman).

La Tana


Spoiled brats blame Trump for Europe’s failings!

Saturday, 16 February, 2019

“Spoiled for 70 years with an American security blanket, and for the past 20 by a common currency that artificially boosts its export market, Germany has most overreacted to Trump’s unorthodox views concerning NATO and trade. Yet Trump is not to blame for the fact that Berlin’s Nord Stream 2 project is a blatant violation of E.U. competition rules and an abject moral and political betrayal of its Eastern European allies. Trump is not to blame for the pathetic state of the German military. And Berlin has the gall to complain about Trump’s hasty retreat from Syria, despite not having committed a single soldier to the mission.”

So writes James Kirchick for The Brookings Institution in a piece titled Blaming Trump for their problems is the one thing Europeans can agree on. Kirchick has nothing but righteous contempt for Europe’s effete elites:

“In response to Russia’s blatant violations of the INF treaty, which puts the strategic stability of Europe at grave risk, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas reflexively called for a global disarmament conference. ‘The minister and his cabinet,’ writes Gustav Gressel of the European Council on Foreign Relations, ‘are detached from military realities.’ You could say the same about Germans generally, 55 percent of whom believe the United States is a threat — twice as many as those who view North Korea as one.”

The absurd Maas and his sycophants will spend this weekend declaiming their mantras at the annual Munich Security Conference but their bleatings are pathetic and transparent. James Kirchick nails it here:

“But as long as Trump remains in the White House, expect most European thought leaders to continue using him as an excuse to avoid contending with the continent’s serious, systemic and structural problems, or pretend that these challenges are somehow the fault of the ogre in the White House. After all, Europeans can agree on so few things these days.”

The sting is in the tail there.


Why did the Airbus A380 fail?

Friday, 15 February, 2019

That was the question posed yesterday by Daniel Thomas, “Business reporter, BBC News.” Despite typing more than a dozen paragraphs and providing two infographics, Daniel failed to deliver anything that resembled an answer. The truth, perhaps, is too unpalatable because the simple fact is that the Airbus A380, a prestige project of European state capitalism, couldn’t survive in the free market. That’s why it failed.

Airbus A380


Bobbie Gentry’s classic ode to crazy love

Thursday, 14 February, 2019

Love is in the air. It’s Valentine’s Day, after all. But be careful. Love has been known to drive people crazy. Once upon a time, the love-crazed Billy Joe MacAllister threw something (a flower?) off the Tallahatchie Bridge in Leflore County, Mississippi — and then jumped in after it. So, ladies and gentlemen, let’s give a big hand to the beautiful Bobbie Gentry as she recounts her classic Ode to Billy Joe.

“A year has come ‘n’ gone since we heard the news ’bout Billy Joe
And Brother married Becky Thompson, they bought a store in Tupelo
There was a virus going ’round, Papa caught it and he died last spring
And now Mama doesn’t seem to wanna do much of anything
And me, I spend a lot of time pickin’ flowers up on Choctaw Ridge
And drop them into the muddy water off the Tallahatchie Bridge”


A deep learning colouriser prototype

Wednesday, 13 February, 2019

“We used the popular fast.ai and PyTorch libraries to develop our model, with an architecture and training steps inspired by Jason Antic. We trained our model based on a new set of more than 500,000 old, publicly available Singapore based images that we compiled, using a local GPU cluster with NVIDIA V100 GPUs.”

So writes Preston Lim about a project of the Data Science and Artificial Intelligence Division of GovTech Singapore. If you want to “colourise your black and white photos,” this AI will do it. Rainy Day tried it and here are the results. Impressive, eh?

Mr and Mrs RD in BW

Mr and Mrs RD in colour


RIP: The Banks of England

Tuesday, 12 February, 2019

The great Gordon Banks, a World Cup winner with England in 1966 whose plunging, swiveling save to deny Brazil’s Pelé in the 1970 World Cup is remembered as one of the greatest moments of goalkeeping, has died aged 81. RIP.

“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” — William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night


Iran’s loathsome “mullahocracy” at 40

Monday, 11 February, 2019

The theo-fascists who have ruled Iran for 40 years have failed to accomplish anything positive politically, socially or economically for their hapless subjects. Azar Nafisi, author of the wonderful Reading Lolita in Tehran, described life in the Islamic Republic of Iran as comparable to “sex with someone you loathe”. Speaking of sex, the mullahs have created a “society” where women can be stoned to death for extra-marital sex and girls married off at the age of nine. No wonder the people hate them. They have turned faith into something so puritanical and dour that it needs to be policed by religious commissars to ensure compliance.

Those of us who love writing, reading and the unfettered exchange of ideas should never, ever forget that Iran remains unique among modern nations for having put out a contract on a writer. On 14 April 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against the novelist Salman Rushdie because of his novel The Satanic Verses. As the late Bernhard Lewis wrote in The Crisis of Islam: “To supplement and anticipate the rewards of paradise, an Islamic charitable trust in Tehran offered a bounty to anyone who killed Salman Rushdie consisting of 20 million tumans (at the time around $3 million at the official rate, about $170,000 at the open-market rate) for an Iranian, or $1 million for a foreigner. Some years later the bounty, still unclaimed, was increased by the trust.”

In his awful edict, Khomeini informed “all the zealous Muslims of the world that the blood of the author of this book, which has been compiled, printed, and published in opposition to Islam, the Prophet, and the Qur’an, as also of those involved in its publication who were aware of its contents, is hereby declared forfeit. I call on all zealous Muslims to dispatch them quickly, wherever they may be found, so that no one will dare insult Islamic sanctities again. Anyone who is himself killed in this path will be deemed a martyr.”

Putting a bounty on a writer’s head and shutting down a country’s free press are the legacies of the evil Khomeini and his successors. Their fundamentalism is the wretched price the masses in Iran most pay, day in, day out.

Peter Hall, 13 August 1979: “Returned to London, and was diverted to read on the plane, in the New York Herald Tribune, that Miss Piggy [of the Muppets] has been banned from Iranian television during Ramadan because ‘Moslems do not eat pork and consider pigs unclean.'”