Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Google Plus Connect on Flickr

Bloomsday 16.6.16

Thursday, 16 June, 2016 0 Comments

On 16 June 1904, James Joyce and Nora Barnacle walked out together through Dublin’s Ringsend district. The writer went on to immortalize the day in Ulysses and in Dublin today wandering Joyceans will roam the city, visiting many of the places where the book is set in an attempt to reconstruct the events of the novel through readings, performances, food, drink, costumes and general celebrations of the genius that is Joyce. Apart from a fistful of euros, nothing else is needed for Bloomsday.

With the Euro 2016 tournament taking place in France, the country where Joyce eventually settled, it’s worth having a peek at the role football played in Ulysses. The best place to start for this kind of research is Finnegans Web, which offers an HTML version of Ulysses. There’s a link to Concordance Text Search (Omnicordia V-1.5), which will look up words in Ulysses, Finnegans Wake, Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Stephen Hero. And football? The word occurs three times in Ulysses:

“Cissy Caffrey whistled, imitating the boys in the football field to show”
“If you bungle, Handy Andy, I’ll kick your football for you.”
“(Halcyon Days, High School boys in blue and white football”

Joyce had what kid’s would call an awesome vocabulary. A cursory glance at Ulysses reveals: abscission, boustrophedon, comestible, excrescence, frangible, gavelkind, messuage, ormolu, pruritic, thaumaturgic, unguiculate and football. Happy Bloomsday!

160616joyce


Marshall McLuhan: today’s media and today’s terror

Wednesday, 15 June, 2016 1 Comment

After Larossi Abballa had killed a French police officer and his partner near Paris on Monday evening, he posted a 12-minute video from the scene to Facebook Live. Speaking in a mix of French and Arabic, he smiled evilly as he urged his viewers to target the police, declared that the Euro 2016 football tournament would “be like a cemetery,” and pondered what to do about the dead couple’s three-year-old son.

“When people get close together they get more savagely impatient with each other,” said Marshall McLuhan in a television interview in 1977. Anticipating the arrival of Facebook Live, he accurately predicted the downsides of social media platforms: “Village people aren’t that much in love with each other, and the global village is a place of very arduous interfaces and very abrasive situations.”

With France in despair and the European Union in disarray, McLuhan foresaw the current rage, the hooliganism and the hatred of the elites: “All forms of violence are a quest for identity… Identity is always accompanied by violence… Ordinary people find the need for violence as they lose their identities, so it’s only the threat to people’s identity that makes them violent.”

McLuhan also anticipated that the likes of Larossi Abballa would use social media to broadcast their nihilism: “Terrorists, hijackers — these are people minus identity. They are determined to make it somehow, to get coverage, to get noticed.”

And in the same interview he predicted the current clash of civilizations: “The literate man can carry his liquor; the tribal man cannot. That’s why in the Moslem world and in the native world booze is impossible. However, literacy also makes us very accessible to ideas and propaganda. The literate man is the natural sucker for propaganda. You cannot propagandize a native. You can sell him rum and trinkets, but you cannot sell him ideas. Therefore, propaganda is our Achilles Heel, our weak point”

Note: Four hours after Larossi Abballa had made his statement on Facebook Live, French police stormed the house in Magnanville, and shot him dead. (The three-year-old boy was unharmed.)


Microsoft could make a phone with LinkedIn

Tuesday, 14 June, 2016 0 Comments

Last year, LinkedIn’s revenues were almost $3 billion, but it recorded a net loss of $166 million. Most of its income comes from the “talent solutions” division, which charges recruiters to advertise jobs and use the company’s data, but the rest of the network is loss making. So why is Microsoft paying $26 billion for it, then? And what will it do with this new acquisition? Paul Ford has come up with a list of 9 Things Microsoft Could Do With LinkedIn. Example:

4. Microsoft could make a phone with LinkedIn.

What? No. What? Stop. The Facebook phone was a disaster (remember? I remember.) But there’s still probably some bizarre and monstrous Blackberry-esque WindowsLinkedPhone that could happen — something that jams all the messaging through LinkedIn accounts. It could even work with SharePoint. Can you imagine?

Who will be bought up/out next? Twitter shares are rising and the talk is that Google could snap it up by the year end. Vanity Fair: Why Microsoft’s $26.2 Billion Linkedin Acquisition Is Good News For Twitter. The same Vanity Fair has a portrait of Jack Dorsey, the Twitter CEO, in the current issue. Snippet: “…he wistfully talked about the group of people, mostly friends, who helped hatch Twitter in that rodent-infested basement. Some of them became billionaires, others ended up with nothing, but most no longer speak to one another. ‘It was such a good team. It just became so screwy, and confusing. I don’t know what happened. I don’t regret it. I feel sad about it,’ he said, his voice trailing off into the night.”

All of this is good preparation for the day when Jack has to write the kind of email that LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Weiner, wrote to employees yesterday:

“No matter what you’re feeling now, give yourself some time to process the news. You might feel a sense of excitement, fear, sadness, or some combination of all of those emotions. Every member of the exec team has experienced the same, but we’ve had months to process. Regardless of the ups and downs, we’ve come out the other side knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt, this is the best thing for our company.”


The evil inside Omar Mateen

Monday, 13 June, 2016 0 Comments

“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an unuprooted small corner of evil.

Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person.” — Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

Omar Mateen


Hodgson’s choices

Sunday, 12 June, 2016 0 Comments

Roy Hodgson, the manager of the English football team, is a lucky man, mostly. He has at his disposal a fleet of greyhounds, generally. His young side is nippy and swift, lean and agile, mainly. To be sure, there are a few cumbersome lads in the squad, but only a few, which makes Hodgson’s choices last night all more puzzling. With a one-goal lead and the clock running down, he took off his valiant captain, Wayne Rooney, and he replaced him with the sturdy Jack Wilshere, while the lumbering James Milner was brought on for the non-stop Raheem Sterling. Precautionary choices.

And what happened? In the second minute of extra time, Milner let Georgi Schennikov go past him easily to deliver a cross to his captain Vasili Berezutski, who slipped in between Danny Rose and Dele Alli, and the Russian’s slow-motion header arched its way into the far corner of the net, to the dismay of Joe Hart and Roy Hodgson and England.

When he most needed to remember his Shakespeare, Hodgson forgot. With the game afoot, he choose safety instead of spirit; he retreated instead of charging and Vardy and Rashford were left in the slips. It was England’s undoing. Roy’s no Harry.

“I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot;
Follow your spirit: and upon this charge,
Cry — God for Harry! England and Saint George!”

William Shakespeare, Henry V


To the Reader

Saturday, 11 June, 2016 0 Comments

Ben Jonson’s most famous play is Volpone, the story of an ageing Venetian nobleman whose only passion is greed. The first three lines set the tone, when Volpone says:

“Good morning to the day; and next, my gold!
Open the shrine, that I may see my saint.
Hail the world’s soul and mine!”

The poet and playwright Ben Jonson was born in London on this day in 1572. His father died shortly before his birth and his mother remarried a bricklayer. Ben attended Westminster School, worked as a bricklayer, fought in Flanders and became an actor and playwright. In 1598, he wrote Every Man in His Humor and in one production a young actor called William Shakespeare appeared in a leading role. Shortly after the play opened, Jonson killed Gabriel Spencer in a duel and was tried for murder. He was released by pleading “benefit of clergy” (by proving he could read and write in Latin). “Language most shows a man,” Ben Jonson said, “speak that I may see thee.”

To the Reader

Pray thee, take care, that tak’st my book in hand,
To read it well: that is, to understand.

Ben Jonson (1572 — 1637)


The Amazon Picking Challenge approaches

Friday, 10 June, 2016 0 Comments

Before we turn our attention to France and Euro 2016, it should be noted that when the quarter-finals kick off on 30 June in Marseille, Bordeaux, Lille and Paris, the Amazon Picking Challenge will be in full swing in Leipzig. This year’s event features two parallel competitions: the Pick Task and the Stow Task. It’s much more difficult than it sounds because although robots are developing a better feel for our world, they’re still terrible at physically handling it. Robots will need to be much more agile if they’re going to play a useful role in everyday life. In last year’s Amazon challenge, the bots had to grab loose objects — a package of cookies, a book, a rubber duck — and put them in a container. The winner took 20 minutes to deal with 10 items. Way to go, bots.

Footnote: If you’re thinking of putting a few quid on Belgium to win Euro 2016, it might do no harm to place a side bet on the neighbours to win this year’s Amazon Picking Challenge. Word is that the equipe from the largest and oldest Dutch public technological university are the real deal. Team Delft for the win.


Simone Giertz: robot Queen

Thursday, 9 June, 2016 0 Comments

The first thing you need is imagination. Then, you’ll need to buy a uArm robot arm. To make it move, Simone Giertz says you have to tell it which position the servo motors need to take up. This code sets the upper joint to 180°, the lower joint to 150° and the arm’s and suction cup’s rotation to 0: uarm.setPosition(180, 150, 0, 0); To pick something up with the suction cup, you code: uarm.gripperCatch();

Giertz, a natural comedian and a self-taught robbot-maker, has become famous for creating a crazy hair-washing bot, a terrifying chopping bot and this brilliant one:


Richard Bruton has lunch with 50onRed

Wednesday, 8 June, 2016 0 Comments

The Irish politician Richard Bruton is the country’s Minister for Education and Skills. Previously, he was the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and it was in this capacity that he broke bread on 29 October 2014 with 50onRed — “great tech company based in Philadelphia keen to learn about Ireland,” he tweeted enthusiastically during (or after) his working lunch. But 50onRed kept the secret sauce well hidden from all.

Richard Bruton has lunch with scammers

“Tyler wasn’t the only one surprised to find out what 50onRed really did. I spoke to more than a dozen former employees of 50onRed and its affiliated companies for this story and most of them said they didn’t know that 50onRed injected ads when they joined the company. (Nearly all of them requested anonymity, fearing legal retribution from 50onRed.) There was a new-employee learning curve, Tyler said. One person realized what was going on while working on the browser extensions themselves, while another said he started digging when the company’s jargon just didn’t add up to him.”

That’s a snippet from “The Perks Are Great. Just Don’t Ask Us What We Do” by Juliana Reyes in Backchannel, the Medium.com in-house technology publication. Around the time of Minister Bruton’s working lunch, “something snapped,” writes Reyes. “Executives started leaving after just a few months. Rich Sayer, 50onRed’s COO whom former employees said ran the company, left quietly in August 2014. Seven more high-ranking employees followed suit, several of whom joined the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon.”

Food for thought.


Robots: Is it really different this time?

Tuesday, 7 June, 2016 0 Comments

That’s the question posed by Louis Anslow, whose Newtru.st is researching “new ways to accredit knowledge without tests or physical intermediaries.” Technology, says Anslow, “has always triggered fears of mass unemployment. In 1811 it was the Luddites, who assumed they were done for.” From those roving bands of English workers who destroyed machinery in the 19th-century, Anslow tracks the dread of technology right up to the present in Robots have been about to take all the jobs for more than 200 years. Now, he says, “the advent of self-driving cars and consumer facing A.I., the fear of automation is once again at a fever pitch.”

Telemarketing robot


Meet Sophia, the mechasexual robot

Monday, 6 June, 2016 0 Comments

Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics has a daring goal: “We aim to bring-to-market the most compelling and engaging humanlike robots with greater-than-human wisdom, that are capable of developing a deep, trusted relationship with people.” The company’s mission is nothing less than “to create a better future for humanity by infusing artificial intelligence with kindness and compassion, achieved through millions of dialogs between our robots and the people whose lives they touch.”

Sophia is a Hanson robot and here she “dialogs” with Joanna Stern and Geoffrey Fowler of the Wall Street Journal. Does she prefer Mac to Windows? Android over iPhone? And, the big one: What does she think of Donald Trump?

Mechasexual: (1) Romantic and/or sexual attraction or behaviour between robots, androids or sentient machines. (2) The desire to have sexual relations with a sentient machine.