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Author Archive: Eamonn Fitzgerald

Ex-pat Irishman keeping an eye on the world from the Bavarian side of the Alps.

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The Good Hat: Ms Bowen and Mrs Trump

Wednesday, 25 April, 2018 0 Comments

First lady Melania Trump wore a dramatic white hat yesterday as she and her husband Donald hosted French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron for a White House state visit. The wide, flat-brimmed creation was designed by Hervé Pierre and not since Pharrell Williams wore a 10-gallon item to the 2014 Grammys has a “tit for tat” (Cockney rhyming slang) created such waves. Social media users immediately compared the look to Beyoncé’s black “Formation” hat.

Talking of hats, in 1950, the great Anglo-Irish writer Elizabeth Bowen provided an introduction to The A B C Of Millinery by Madame Eva Ritcher. Snippet: “For centuries, Woman has desired that her head-covering — be it cap, bonnet or hat — should in itself be a thing of beauty. A thing which shall at once express and flatter the wearer and be, gaily, in tune with her own time.” When she was right, she was right.

Bowen concludes her introduction: “My advice to readers who cannot hope to embark on the actual making of hats is this — take what you’ve learned from these pages to heart when you go shopping. No longer will you, in show rooms, find yourselves adrift, depressed and confused. Let this book be your guide to the Good Hat.” Chapeau!

Flotus with hat


The decline and fall of grammar and style at Inc.

Tuesday, 24 April, 2018 0 Comments

“One of the most common conversations among business travelers have among each other is to discuss how to pack optimally for your next trip. As someone with more than two million miles of experience under by belt, I have developed several tricks and hacks to pack light…”

Wut? You might be inclined to think such a rubbish sentence was created by some badly programmed AI, but it wasn’t. In fact, it’s the opening of an article published by Inc. that’s so riddled with grammatical and stylistic errors that it’s comically unreadable. “How Many Pairs of Underwear Should You Pack On Your Business Trip? 2 Million Miler Packing Secrets” is the title of this gem and it was “written” by one Jim Schleckser, who styles himself “CEO, Inc. CEO Project”.

Inc.

History: Inc. was founded in Boston in 1979 by Bernie Goldhirsh, an MIT-trained engineer who had worked at Polaroid before founding Sail magazine, which he sold for $10 million. He used the profits to launch Inc.

In 2000, the terminally ill Goldhirsh sold Inc. to German publisher Gruner + Jahr for a reported $200 million. It was the peak of the dot com mania, after all. In 2005, after sobering up, Gruner + Jahr offloaded Inc. for $35 million to Joe Mansueto, CEO of Morningstar. Now, apparently, Joe the billionaire cannot afford to employ copy editors.


Shakespeare’s Words

Monday, 23 April, 2018 0 Comments

The world celebrates William Shakespeare’s birthday today. He was born on 23 April, the same date he died in 1616, aged 52. Actually, while his death is documented officially, we’re not fully sure about the exactness of his birth. What we do know is that he was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in April 1565 and that his baptism was recorded in the Parish Register at the Holy Trinity Church on Wednesday, 26 April 1564. Given that baptisms usually took place within three days of birth back then, it’s believed that the Bard was born on this day, 454 years ago.

To mark the occasion, linguist David Crystal and his actor son, David, have released the 3.0 update of their ShakespearesWords.com. “The financial side of the site is now administered by Professor D Crystal & Mrs H Crystal Business Partnership,” we learn in the History of the site section, and the funding model allow ten free page views “for anyone who just wants a quick browse or query.” After that, one has the option of purchasing a day ticket, a month ticket, a year ticket or a 10-year ticket. Website management is costly and bills have to be paid.

“But the comfort is, you shall be called to no more payments, fear no more tavern bills.” — First Gaoler, Cymbeline, Scene 5 Act 4

Background: Posthumus Leonatus is in prison, and the warder is saying that while he’s not in a great place, the upside is that he doesn’t have to pay his bar tab.

And a favourite for the day that’s in it? This from Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, Scene 2:

Give me my Romeo. And when I shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.


Champion of breakfasts

Sunday, 22 April, 2018 0 Comments

Ingredients:

  • Half a cup of oatmeal
  • Tablespoon of chia seeds
  • Handful of blueberries
  • Handful of pomegranate seeds
  • Half a cup of almond milk

Method: Mix and store in fridge overnight. Eat early morning. Greet the day.

Breakfast


G&T weather

Saturday, 21 April, 2018 0 Comments

It’s going to be warm today. Up around 28C, they say. Ideal for gin & tonic and the shops are filled with the same; now that gin has become the drink du jour. A local outfit is selling both Roku and Sipsmith, the best of Britain and Japan, as it were. In Japanese, roku means “six” and Suntory’s premium gin contains six quintessentially Japanese botanicals: green tea in the form of sencha and gyokuro; cherry, as blossom and leaf and then yuzu citrus and Japanese pepper.

We invested in Sipsmith, which is distilled in London by Sam Galsworthy and Fairfax Hall. They called their distillery Sipsmith because they see themselves as “sip-smiths”, just like writers are regarded as wordsmiths: “I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race,” wrote James Joyce in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Galsworthy and Hall forge Sipsmith and their smithery is a mix of philosophy and artisanal delight made with 10 botanicals: Macedonian juniper berries, Seville orange peel, Spanish lemon peel, Chinese cassia bark, Madagascan cinnamon bark, Bulgarian coriander seed, Spanish ground almond, Belgian angelica, Spanish liquorice and Italian orris.

The result is floral and mellow and splendid. The bold juniper is matched by an invigorating freshness and there’s sweetness and dryness in that mix of lemon and orange. This is gin at its finest. Try it straight, to savour the balance, before adding the tonic, ideally, to complete the London picture, BTW.

Roku and Sipsmith

Cheers! Today is the 92nd birthday of a woman who likes to take gin with lunch.


Rainy Day in the Galtee Mountains

Friday, 20 April, 2018 0 Comments

Regular reader and intermittent poet, Liam Murray, is so captivated by this blog’s title and header photo that he has combined the two in verse. The Galtee Mountains pictured above were the fons et origo of our great mother, God rest her soul, and they remain our spiritual home. The Golden Vale mentioned below was a tract of nearby pasture land that represented a form of earthly paradise for mother and father, who cultivated their own fields and gardens as if they, too, were golden. And they were.

Rainy Day in the Galtee Mountains

The gathering clouds announce a change
The Galtee Mountains turn a shadowed blue
Quieter birds in hedge rows sense the mood
Distant rolling thunder fills the ear.

Clouds carrying rivers of rain
Continue to flow across the plain
Bushes shake in windy salute,
In the moist filled air across the Golden Vale.

The deluge pours on expectant fields
Blades of grass glisten; laced with rain drops
Sails of cloud continue to unfurl,
Above it all the sun still shines.

Liam Murray

Cullane Garden


Fish on Trump

Thursday, 19 April, 2018 0 Comments

“Verbal fluency is the product of hours spent writing about nothing, just as musical fluency is the product of hours spent repeating scales.” So wrote the great Stanley Fish in How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One. Today, the literary theorist, legal scholar, author, newspaper columnist and intellectual Stanley Fish will celebrate his 80th birthday and we wish him health and happiness for many years to come.

Stanley Fish wrote his final New York Times column in December 2013, but he returned to the paper’s pages in July 2016 with a warning to academia titled Professors, Stop Opining About Trump. According to Fish, historians “are merely people with history degrees, which means that they have read certain books, taken and taught certain courses and written scholarly essays, often on topics of interest only to other practitioners in the field.” It’s not degrees, says Fish, but the strength or weakness of the arguments that tells in the end. Fish returned to Trump later that year in his book Winning Arguments: What Works and Doesn’t Work in Politics, the Bedroom, the Courtroom, and the Classroom. Snippet:

“And yet that performance has a method. Trump’s artlessness, like Mark Antony’s, is only apparent. Listen, for example, as he performs one of his favorite riffs. He begins by saying something critical of Mexicans and Chinese. Then he turns around and says, ‘I love the Mexican and Chinese people, especially the rich ones who buy my apartments or stay at my hotels or play on my golf courses.’ It’s their leaders I criticize, he explains, but then in a millisecond he pulls the sting from the criticism: ‘they are smarter and stronger than our leaders; they’re beating us.’ And then the payoff all this has been leading up to, the making explicit of what has been implied all along. Stanley Fish ‘If I can sell them condominiums, rent space to them in my building at my price, and outfox them in deals, I could certainly outmaneuver them when it came to trade negotiations and immigration.’ (And besides, they love me.)

Here is the real message, the message that makes sense of the disparate pieces of what looks like mere disjointed fumbling: I am Donald Trump; nobody owns me. I don’t pander to you. I don’t pretend to be nice and polite; I am rich and that’s what you would like to be; I’m a winner; I beat people at their own game, and if you vote for me I will beat our adversaries; if you want wonky policy details, go with those losers who offer you ten-point plans; if you want to feel good about yourselves and your country, stick with me.

So despite the lack of a formal center or an orderly presentation, Trump was always on point because the point was always the same. He couldn’t get off message because the one message was all he had.”

Stanley Fish was, and is, sharp.


On being a remote

Wednesday, 18 April, 2018 0 Comments

“I’m used to working at home and now I find being at the main office a lot more distracting than working from home.” — Julia Evans

Julia Evans is a software developer. She lives in Montreal and works of the payment processing platform Stripe, on infrastructure. Her blog, she says, is about “being delighted about programming” but it’s not all Python headers, Ruby profilers and bash scripting. Back in February, she wrote about her experiences of working remotely, something she’s done for four years now. It’s a very useful post for those in the so-called “gig economy” and it addresses a lot of the questions posed by people contemplating replacing the commute with the home office.

A ton of people asked me questions about what I think of as sort of basic job health — how do you make sure your coworkers don’t ignore you / leave you out of discussions, how do you communicate, etc.

My current theory about this is — as long as I work on a team with a lot of other remotes, everything will be fine. Working as the only remote on a team of people who are all in person seems like hard mode — I have never done it and I’m not that interested in trying that.

Note: “I can’t imagine working remotely without good videoconferencing technology.”


Serenity Caldwell’s 9.7 iPad review

Tuesday, 17 April, 2018 0 Comments

“Drawn, written, edited, and produced with an iPad,” it was, she says. Bottom line: “The price is right. The tools are superb. This is the tablet I’ve been wanting since Jobs came out in 2010 to introduce the original iPad.” Serenity Caldwell admits it’s easy to make that claim, so she decided to prove it. Beginning with a blank page in the Procreate app, she created a iPad review video using her 2018 device, Apple Pencil and third-party apps.

Serenity Caldwell is the Managing Editor at iMore, and she’s “been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click.” She really loves her 9.7 iPad.

“To me, the 2018 base-model 9.7-inch iPad is a special beast: It hits a line drive right through the company’s fabled intersection of technology and liberal arts — and at the right price point. The iPad Pro did it first, but at a cost unattainable for all but the tinkerers and serious artists, and without iOS 11’s crucial multitasking features. At $329, the iPad offers a low-end tablet experience unlike any other on the market. Add an extra $99 for Apple Pencil, and Apple has created the best device for all-purpose education, period.”


Pope Francis – A Man Of His Word

Monday, 16 April, 2018 0 Comments

German director Wim Wenders will be back at the Festival de Cannes (8 to 19 May) with a new documentary titled Pope Francis – A Man Of His Word. According to Wenders, it’s “a personal journey with Pope Francis rather than a traditional biographical film about him. A rare co-production with the Vatican, the pope’s ideas and his message are central to this documentary, which sets out to present his work of reform and his answers to today’s global questions from death, social justice, immigration, ecology, wealth inequality, materialism, and the role of the family.”

Note: Today is the 91st birthday of retired Pope Benedict XVI. Felix dies Natalis tibi!


Syria and OSINT (Open Sources Intelligence)

Sunday, 15 April, 2018 0 Comments

Remarkable, indeed, is the wealth of information now at our fingertips. And it’s not just Wikipedia. There’s also the OECD Aid Database, Google Data Explorer and Enigma Public. When it comes to what’s happening on the darker side, Bellingcat uses open source data to investigate everything from Mexican drug lords to Russian gangsters, er, politicians.

Then, there’s The Aviationist run by David Cenciotti, a journalist based in Rome. Since its launch in 2006, it has become one of world’s most authoritative military aviation sites. His post yesterday, Everything We Know (And No One Has Said So Far) About The First Waves Of Air Strikes On Syria, is based on OSINT (Open Sources Intelligence) “since most of the aircraft involved in the raids could be tracked online via information in the public domain.” Snippet:

“Interestingly, at least two packages of 5 fighters (each supposed to include 4x F-16Cs from 31FW and 4x F-15Cs from 48FW loaded with air-to-air missiles — actually, the second one included only 3 Vipers instead of 4) supported by KC-135 tankers, provided DCA (Defensive Counter Air) cover to the bombers and to the warships launching TLAMs.”

Should this level of transparency worry us? After all, if David Cenciotti can access all this data easily, so can the Iranians. On the other hand, the abilities of people like David Cenciotti and Eliot Higgins to access and interpret Open Sources Intelligence means that the Iranians and their pals cannot get away with murder as easily as they once did. Their fingerprints are everywhere now, and they can be revealed in real time. Same goes for their lies. Take Russia’s claims that 71 out of 105 Cruise Missiles were shot down in the US-led strike. David Cenciotti casts a critical eye:

“If Syrian air defense units were ineffective in stopping U.S. cruise missiles, and most information now points to that outcome (actually, it looks like the Syrians fired their missiles after the last missile had hit), this represents a significant blow to the Assad regime and to Russia’s ability to assist in an effective air defense in the region.”

Question: What’s the toughest job in the world right now?
Answer: Sales rep for Russian air defense systems.