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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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Start the day with xkcd

Friday, 23 November, 2018

Along with porridge, a guaranteed way to brighten the dullest, grimmest morning is xkcd. Should some of your mornings be dull or grim, that is. This is a typically quirky xkcd reminder that human spaceflight is older than many people think.

xkcd


Cecilia

Thursday, 22 November, 2018

One of the oldest musical institutions in the world is the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. It was founded at the command of Pope Sixtus V in 1585, who invoked two saints: Gregory the Great, after whom Gregorian chant is named, and Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music. Her feast day is celebrated in the Catholic, Anglican and Eastern Orthodox churches on 22 November. The story goes that Cecelia was a noble lady of Rome, who, with her husband Valerian, his brother Tiburtius and a Roman soldier named Maximus, suffered martyrdom in about 230 under the Emperor Severus Alexander. She was buried in the Catacomb of Callixtus, and her remains were later transferred to the Church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere.

This portrait of Saint Ceclia is by Il Lucchese, Antonio Franchi (1638–1709). After training in Lucca with Domenico Ferrucci, he moved to Florence to work under Medici patronage. He also published a text on the occupation of painting titled, La Teorica della Pittura.

Saint Cecelia


The capital of Oceania is Beijing

Wednesday, 21 November, 2018

In George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, which was published in 1949, Great Britain has become a province of a super-state named Oceania. This Oceania is ruled by the “Party”, which employs “Thought Police” to persecute individualism and independent thinking. Now, let us fast-forward to 2018 and our current Oceania:

“The most innovative — and disturbing — of the repressive measures in Xinjiang is the government’s use of high-tech mass surveillance systems. Xinjiang authorities conduct compulsory mass collection of biometric data, such as voice samples and DNA, and use artificial intelligence and big data to identify, profile, and track everyone in Xinjiang. The authorities have envisioned these systems as a series of ‘filters,’ picking out people with certain behavior or characteristics that they believe indicate a threat to the Communist Party’s rule in Xinjiang. These systems have also enabled authorities to implement fine-grained control, subjecting people to differentiated restrictions depending on their perceived levels of ‘trustworthiness.’…

… Inside political education camps, detainees are forced to learn Mandarin Chinese, sing praises of the Chinese Communist Party, and memorize rules applicable primarily to Turkic Muslims. Those outside the camps are required to attend weekly, or even daily, Chinese flag-raising ceremonies, political indoctrination meetings, and at times Mandarin classes. Detainees are told they may not be allowed to leave the camps unless they have learned over 1,000 Chinese characters or are otherwise deemed to have become loyal Chinese subjects; Turkic Muslims living outside are subjected to movement restrictions ranging from house arrest, to being barred from leaving their locales, to being prevented from leaving the country. Inside, people are closely watched by guards and are barred from contacting their families and friends. Those living in their homes are watched by their neighbors, officials, and tech-enabled mass surveillance systems, and are not allowed to contact those in foreign countries.”

That’s an excerpt from “Eradicating Ideological Viruses: China’s Campaign of Repression Against Xinjiang’s Muslims“, published by Human Rights Watch. Without doubt, China is an Evil Empire and it’s intent on destroying Western stability and prosperity through the cruel repression and exploitation of its own people.

China


Today is Saint Edmund’s Day. It’s personal

Tuesday, 20 November, 2018

According to Bernard Burke’s Vicissitudes of Families, the banner of Saint Edmund, with its three crowns on a blue background, was among those borne during the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169. The bearers included Maurice FitzGerald, Robert Fitz-Stephen, Redmund Fitz-Hugh, Meiler FitzHenry and Robert Fitz-Bernard. From then on, Saint Edmund’s banner became the standard for Ireland during the Plantagenet era. By the way, Richard de Clare and Raymond le Gros, who featured prominently in the Norman invasion, dedicated a chapel of Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin to Saint Edmund.

The banner of Saint Edmund Who was Saint Edmund? Well, when the Great Heathen Army advanced on East Anglia in 869, the obscure King Edmund led the resistance and he met his death on 20 November at a place known as Haegelisdun, after he refused the Vikings’ demand that he renounce Christ. They beat him, tied him to a tree, shot him with arrows and then beheaded him on the orders of Ivar the Boneless and his brother Ubba. Legend has it that his head was then thrown into the forest but was found by searchers after following the cries of a wolf that was calling out, in Latin, Hic, Hic, Hic (“Here, Here, Here”.)

The name Edmund contains the elements ēad (“prosperity, riches”) and mund (“protector”). The Irish Gaelic forms are Éamon, Éaman and Éamann. The corresponding Anglicised forms are Eamon and Eamonn.

Your blogger’s grandfather on the maternal side was Edmund O’Donnell. He is buried in the graveyard of Lisvernane Church in the Glen of Aherlow, County Tipperary.


When Erich Honecker visited Las Vegas

Monday, 19 November, 2018

He didn’t, of course, but the contemporary Chinese historian Qin Hui asks us to imagine what might have happened if the East German tyrant had taken a tour of the Strip and kicked back in the penthouse suite at the Bellagio before playing the slots. Unlike the wily Communist Deng Xiaoping, who led China through far-reaching market-economy reforms, Erich Honecker was as thick as a brick so his wretched regime collapsed in 1989 and was consigned to the dustbin of history. Here’s Qin Hui:

“Imagine that twenty years ago, East Germany had suppressed democratization and kept the Berlin Wall. East Germans had no freedom, low-wages, and low human rights, and there was no policy of on-par conversion of East and West German marks. What if Honecker toured the West, visiting Las Vegas and the Moulin Rouge, discovering that the developed world was great, after which he developed a great interest in market economies, and decided to abandon utopia to make money. He left the politics the same, but changed the economy to be part of West Germany’s. He opened the doors wide to Western capital, demanding in return that the West keep the doors open to accept East German products. He would use authoritarian means to provide the best investment opportunities: whatever piece of land you decide you need he would get it for you; workers had to toe the line and could not protest; if people’s homes were in the way of a business deal he would get rid of them; he could decide on allotment of rights to enterprises, there would be no need to deal with anyone, labor unions and agriculture unions were not allowed, he would reward anyone who came to invest and get rid of anyone who got in the way of investment…What do you think would have happened had that come to pass?

The answer is simple. If the state had insisted, the East German people would have stood for it, and the results might have been completely different from what they are now. Western capital would no longer head for China, or Romania, and West Germany wouldn’t be employing Turkish workers. They would have swarmed into East Germany, and sweatshops would have sprung up all over East Germany, which would have poured tons of cheap commodities onto the Western markets, completely renewing East Germany’s original industries… East Germany would immediately have had an economic miracle, and the ‘deindustrialization’ and high unemployment rates would have appeared in West Germany. With the flight of capital from West Germany, labor would have lost its bargaining power, unions would have declined, welfare would have diminished, and the people’s capitalism, built over more than a century, the ‘social market economy’ and its welfare state, would no longer exist. Of course, East Germany would experience serious social problems, such as inequality, alliances between the state and merchants, rampant corruption, environmental pollution, etc. But if the East Germans could withstand all of this, then what would have happened to West Germany?”

The answer to that final question can be found in “Dilemmas of Twenty-First Century Globalization” at the excellent Reading the China Dream blog.

Between the lines of Qin Hui’s piece is a warning about the clear and present danger posed by China, which pretends to be socialist, but is bent on destroying post-war Western prosperity through the cruel exploitation of its own people. This is the context in which one should read the far-too-favourable New York Times feature “China Rules.”

Note: Since 1992, Qin Hui has played the role of the public intellectual, taking a stand on a range of issues, often in conflict with the official Communist Party line. In December 2015, his best-selling book Zouchu Dizhi (Moving Away from the Imperial Regime), was banned. The work examines how the prospect of constitutional democracy collapsed in early-20th-century China after the country had broken free of the Qing dynasty.


Smartphones are almost everywhere

Sunday, 18 November, 2018

It’s estimated that 40 percent of the world’s population now has a smartphone. For three billion people, writes Alan Taylor in The Atlantic, “these versatile handheld devices have become indispensable tools, providing connections to loved ones, entertainment, business applications, shopping opportunities, windows into the greater world of social media, news, history, education, and more.”

Here, Nigerian refugee Aicha Younoussa poses with a smartphone in front of her tent in a refugee camp in southern Chad.

In Chad

Here, attendees take photos of President Donald Trump as he attends the 2018 Young Black Leadership Summit in the East Room of the White House.

President Trump in the White House

Here, three women take selfies in the Piazza del Duomo in Milan.

Piazza del Duomo


Ye soft pipes, play on

Saturday, 17 November, 2018

“Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on.” — John Keats

Water music


The Russian Vozhd is the sick man of Eurasia

Friday, 16 November, 2018

Hadn’t heard of the Barents Observer, but it’s one worth bookmarking. What it does is provide “daily news reports from and about Scandinavia, Russia and the Circumpolar Arctic.” It’s also “a journalist-owned” online newspaper. Top story today: “Finland accuses Russia for disruption of GPS signals.” Quote: “Jamming of GPS signals first came known to public when the Barents Observer on November 2 could tell about pilots on a civilian passenger plane in Norway’s Troms and Finnmark region reporting about loss of satellite navigation.”

Back on 2 November, the Barents Observer did indeed publish a story about the jamming of GPS signals in the airspace between Kirkenes and Lyngen. Snippet:

“As previously reported by the Barents Observer, the Foreign Ministry brought up the question with Moscow after a similar jamming in March this year and requested Russia to halt such jamming. Last week, Deputy Director of Communication with the Foreign Ministry, Kristin Enstad, was not willing to share with the readers of Barents Observer what was said in the dialogue with Russian authorities.

Lina Lindegaard, press-officer with regional airliner Widerøe, told Barents Observer about one of their flights losing GPS signals. ‘Our chief operating officer got a report from a captain about loss of GPS signals,’ Lindegaard said. She underlined that the crew in cockpit always have alternative procedures on how to navigate if satellite signals can’t be received.”

Putin’s Russia is truly an evil entity and it’s determined to destroy what it can before it descends into complete decrepitude. Emmanuel Macron’s “European army”, which right now couldn’t fight its way out of un sac en papier in Brussels, will never be a match for the Vozhd. There’s no there there.


Let the unboxing begin

Thursday, 15 November, 2018

ThinkPad


Forsyth namechecks Snowden

Wednesday, 14 November, 2018

What if the most dangerous weapon in the world is not a nuke in a backpack but a 17-year-old boy with a brilliant mind, “who can run rings around the most sophisticated security services across the globe, who can manipulate that weaponry and turn it against the superpowers themselves?” That’s the premise of The Fox, the new thriller from Frederick Forsyth. Born in the year of the Munich Agreement, when British, French and Italian leaders agreed to Hitler’s demand for the German annexation of the Sudetenland, Forsyth has grown up in a world that has experienced its share of evil in his 80 years. The latest manifestation, in his latest novel, is the Vozhd, a Russian word meaning “the Boss” or, in the world of crime, “the Godfather”. When Forsyth was 15, the old Vozhd, Joseph Stalin, died. The new Vozhd is Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and one of his prized assets arrived in Russia in 2013, having fled from Hawaii. Snippet:

“When defector and traitor Edward Snowden flew to Moscow it is believed he carried over one and a half million documents on a memory stick small enough to be inserted before a border check into the human anus. ‘Back in the day’, as the veterans put it, a column of trucks would have been needed, and a convey moving through a gate tends to be noticeable.

So, the computer took over from the human, the archives containing trillions of secrets came to be stored on databases… Matching pace, crime also changed, gravitating from shoplifting through financial embezzlement to today’s computer fraud, which enables more wealth to be stolen than ever before in the history of finance. Thus the modern world gave rise to the concept of computerized hidden wealth but also to the computer hacker. The burglar of cyberspace.”

The Fox


So, farewell, then, ThinkPad X1 Carbon

Tuesday, 13 November, 2018

It was, when it appeared in 2012, a real alternative to the MacBook Air. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon had a 128-gigabyte solid-state drive instead of a hard drive, 4 gigabytes of memory, an Intel Core i5-3317U processor and a 14-inch (360 mm) screen with a resolution of 1600 by 900 pixels. The keyboard was backlit and spill-resistant and the whole package was as tough as old boots. Indeed, the Rainy Day X1 once popped out of a poorly-zipped rucksack and hit the frozen pavement with a heart-stopping whack. But it booted up subsequently as if it had merely fallen upon a quilt of eiderdown.

Now, reams and streams of words later, the replacement keyboard, minus U, O, B and N, is beginning to look like Bobby Clarke’s smile, and the engine cannot produce the kind of power needed to keep a dozen Chrome tabs open, Spotify playing, WordPress running and a host of other applications purring. The time has come to replace our loyal and reliable five-year old ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Farewell, then.

ThinkPad X1