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Link love

Thursday, 19 March, 2015 0 Comments

“Link is acceptable in reference to a hyperlink on the web. If an article refers to material of interest to readers, such as a website, document, image or video, provide an embedded link as a convenience.” The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, 2015 Edition

As a convenience, here is a link to a shop selling the updated version of The New York Times style guide. Since the last edition was published in 1999, much has changed, and the new guide reflects the impact of “web, the.” BTW, for the NYT the lowercase form is now acceptable in all references to the World Wide Web. And BTW again:

“abbreviations popular in online and texting slang should be used only rarely, for special effect, and should be rendered as readers most often see them: BTW, FYI, LOL, OMG, tl;dr, etc.”

Payments: Facebook has a message for paij

Wednesday, 18 March, 2015 0 Comments

Facebook hired PayPal’s David Marcus last summer to manage its messaging products, and in the company’s July earnings call, Mark Zuckerberg implied that a payment product was coming. And here it is: Facebook users can tie their debit card to their account to transfer money to one another with Messenger. “The Messenger app now includes a small ‘$’ icon above the keyboard which opens a payments screen where users can type the amount they wish to send,” reports Kurt Wagner for Re/code. The feature will be rolled out on iOS and Android in the US before launching internationally.

paij All of this will be watched with interest, no doubt, in Wiesbaden, where the paij app is headquartered. When the European Web Entrepreneur of the Year Awards were handed out last year, the Female Web entrepreneur Award went to Sylvia Klein, founder and managing director of paij. “Strategic partnerships and system integrations will help paij to determine the future of mobile payment apps initially in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and later Europe in general,” she stated. “In the long haul paij has the potential to establish a mobile payment concept taking on global challenges.”

The “long haul” has a short shelf life these days and it’s not just Facebook’s Messenger that’s ante portas. Apple Pay is shaping up to be part of that “global challenge” that paij will have to deal with. By the way, paij might need to move up a gear or two if it’s develop a convincing European battlespace strategy. The company’s last tweet was on 18 February, the most recent Facebook post was on 2 March and those to click the blog link on the company’s site get this alert:

Welcome to Parallels!

If you are seeing this message, the website for blog.paij.com is not available at this time.
If you are the owner of this website, one of the following things may be occurring:
You have not put any content on your website.
Your provider has suspended this page.

Obviously, paij needs to work on its messaging.

Joyce: the words, so beautiful and sad, like music

Tuesday, 17 March, 2015 1 Comment

Our reading for St Patrick’s Day is taken from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. The book explores the meaning of identity, authority, belief, autonomy, the Catholic Church and language. It was published in 1916, a seminal year in Irish history and mythology, and the fact that all the issues Joyce explored are still unsettled in the Irish psyche and in Irish society, shows his true genius. In this key scene, Stephen Dedalus has a confrontation with the Dean of Studies, an English Jesuit. Neither has any idea that the act of defining the innocent word “tundish” will have far-reaching consequences. Let us turn now to page 144:

To return to the lamp, he said, the feeding of it is also a nice problem. You must choose the pure oil and you must be careful when you pour it in not to overflow it, not to pour in more than the funnel can hold.
What funnel? asked Stephen.
The funnel through which you pour the oil into your lamp.
That? said Stephen. Is that called a funnel? Is it not a tundish?
What is a tundish?
That. The funnel.
Is that called a tundish in Ireland? asked the dean. I never heard the word in my life.
It is called a tundish in Lower Drumcondra, said Stephen, laughing, where they speak the best English.

A tundish, said the dean reflectively. That is a most interesting word. I must look that word up. Upon my word I must.

His courtesy of manner rang a little false and Stephen looked at the English convert with the same eyes as the elder brother in the parable may have turned on the prodigal. A humble follower in the wake of clamorous conversions, a poor Englishman in Ireland, he seemed to have entered on the stage of Jesuit history when that strange play of intrigue and suffering and envy and struggle and indignity had been all but given through — a late-comer, a tardy spirit. From what had he set out? Perhaps he had been born and bred among serious dissenters, seeing salvation in Jesus only and abhorring the vain pomps of the establishment. Had he felt the need of an implicit faith amid the welter of sectarianism and the jargon of its turbulent schisms, six principle men, peculiar people, seed and snake baptists, supralapsarian dogmatists? Had he found the true church all of a sudden in winding up to the end like a reel of cotton some fine-spun line of reasoning upon insufflation on the imposition of hands or the procession of the Holy Ghost? Or had Lord Christ touched him and bidden him follow, like that disciple who had sat at the receipt of custom, as he sat by the door of some zinc-roofed chapel, yawning and telling over his church pence?

The dean repeated the word yet again.
Tundish! Well now, that is interesting!

The little word seemed to have turned a rapier point of his sensitiveness against this courteous and vigilant foe. He felt with a smart of dejection that the man to whom he was speaking was a countryman of Ben Jonson. He thought:
The language in which we are speaking is his before it is mine. How different are the words home, Christ, ale, master, on his lips and on mine! I cannot speak or write these words without unrest of spirit. His language, so familiar and so foreign, will always be for me an acquired speech. I have not made or accepted its words. My voice holds them at bay. My soul frets in the shadow of his language.

Leaning against the fireplace Stephen heard him greet briskly and impartially every student of the class and could almost see the frank smiles of the coarser students. A desolating pity began to fall like dew upon his easily embittered heart for this faithful serving-man of the knightly Loyola, for this half-brother of the clergy, more venal than they in speech, more steadfast of soul than they, one whom he would never call his ghostly father; and he thought how this man and his companions had earned the name of worldlings at the hands not of the unworldly only but of the worldly also for having pleaded, during all their history, at the bar of God’s justice for the souls of the lax and the lukewarm and the prudent.

Rainy Day wishes all its readers, the lax and the lukewarm and the prudent, a very happy St Patrick’s Day.

Swooping and soaring in elegant and joyful arcs

Monday, 16 March, 2015 0 Comments

Frei Otto, the recipient of this year’s Pritzker Architecture Prize, was scheduled to accept the award in Miami in May, but he died on 9 March a few weeks short of his 90th birthday. His roofing concept for the Munich Olympic Park, which was the central stage for the 1972 Games, continues to impress and inspire.

Frei  Otto art

Frei stands for Freedom, as free and as liberating as a bird in flight, swooping and soaring in elegant and joyful arcs, unrestrained by the dogma of the past, and as compelling in its economy of line and in the improbability of its engineering as it is possible to imagine, giving the marriage of form and function the invisibility of the air we breathe, and the beauty we see in Nature.” Lord Peter Palumbo, Chair of the Jury of the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

The Nigeria of Ben Okri

Sunday, 15 March, 2015 0 Comments

On 28 March, Nigeria will elect a president. The incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the south of the country, is facing a strong challenge from Muhammadu Buhari, who is popular in the mainly Muslim north. John Hare was a district officer for both the colonial British and independent Nigerian governments and his essay, How Northern Nigeria’s Violent History Explains Boko Haram, is a poignant and troubling overview of nation’s past and present. Frankie Edozien, the director of Reporting Africa at New York University, looks at the pre-election landscape and concludes: Nigeria can beat Boko Haram with mercenaries but it won’t win the vote for Jonathan.

Jimi Agbaje

All this brings us to Ben Okri, the Nigerian poet and novelist, who was born on this day in 1959. He’s one of the country’s foremost writers and a key figure in what has been labeled African Traditional Religion realism. He won the Booker Prize in 1991 with The Famished Road, which is set against a background where two opposing political parties try to bribe or coerce people to vote for them. Despite Nigeria’s woes, Ben Okri believes.

The Awakening Age

O ye who travel the meridian line,
May the vision of a new world within you shine.

May eyes that have lived with poverty’s rage,
See through to the glory of the awakening age.

For we are all richly linked in hope,
Woven in history, like a mountain rope.

Together we can ascend to a new height,
Guided by our heart’s clearest light.

When perceptions are changed there’s much to gain,
A flowering of truth instead of pain.

There’s more to a people than their poverty;
There’s their work, wisdom, and creativity.

Along the line may our lives rhyme,
To make a loving harvest of space and time.

Ben Okri (1959 – )

Kate Henshaw

Life in Film

Saturday, 14 March, 2015 0 Comments

Out of Hackney in East London emerges Life in Film, which comprises Samuel Fry, Micky Osment, Dominic Sennett and Edward Ibbotson. This is Brit Pop with hints of The Smiths and David Bowie along with Belle and Sebastian, but the jangle sound of the band contains trans-Atlantic echoes of The Strokes and the Kings of Leon as well. The Followills will be pleased with the homage that reverberates right through Get Closer, which comes from Life in Film’s debut album, Here it Comes.

The ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness

Friday, 13 March, 2015 0 Comments

Snippet from Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett, who died yesterday:

The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

bootsTake boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.

In his writings, the ennobled Sir Terry Pratchet drew upon a noble literary heritage and his work encompassed the abundant genius of Charles Dickens, the enduring wit of P.G. Wodehouse and the stellar imagination of Douglas Adams.

Job creation in the New Economy

Thursday, 12 March, 2015 0 Comments

“WhatsApp crossed 1B Android downloads. btw our android team is four people + Brian. very small team, very big impact.” So tweets @jankoum. One billion Android downloads is an amazing achievement, but the boast of this being done with just five people is alarming as it confirms the theory expressed in The Jobless Future that the technologies which make modern abundance possible are enabling the production of much more output using far fewer people.

Jan Koum

Hitchens on Hillary: The case against drama

Wednesday, 11 March, 2015 0 Comments

Hillary Clinton went on a First-Lady tour of Asia in April 1995. Along the way, she visited Nepal and was introduced to Sir Edmund Hillary, of Mount Everest fame. Thereupon, she announced that her mother had actually named her for the great mountaineer. This assertion ended up a decade later in her husband’s memoirs.

Fact: Hillary Clinton was born in 1947, and Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay did not climb Mount Everest until 1953. Jennifer Hanley, a spokeswoman for Mrs Clinton, put it like this in October 2006 after the fiction had been exposed: “It was a sweet family story her mother shared to inspire greatness in her daughter, to great results I might add.”

All of this, and more, can be found in “The Case Against Hillary Clinton” by Christopher Hitchens, which appeared seven years ago in Slate. His conclusion was devastating: “Indifferent to truth, willing to use police-state tactics and vulgar libels against inconvenient witnesses, hopeless on health care, and flippant and fast and loose with national security: The case against Hillary Clinton for president is open-and-shut.” And, as the 2008 campaign record shows, the primary voters responded accordingly.

Incidentally, the Slate sub-heading on the Hitchens article was “Why on earth would we choose to put the Clinton family drama at the center of our politics again?” and Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo places “drama” at the heart of his take on the latest Hillary theatre. In “The Joy and the Drama” he observes, wearily, “The Clintons are great. But there is always something. Always. Always a dance, always drama.”

The case against Hillary Clinton remains conclusive. Martin O’Malley offers less drama.

Once upon a time in a land called Venezuela

Tuesday, 10 March, 2015 0 Comments

My, my, a lot can change in a short time. Back on 13 December 2012, famed Hugo Chávez bot Richard Gott reflected on the state of Venezuela in the Guardian. Was he alarmed, dismayed, perturbed? None of it. In fact, he painted an idyllic picture with phrases such as “huge oil revenues”, “competent team of ministers”, “running the country quite happily”, “no immediate crises”, “economy is purring along quite well” and the oleaginous “engaging and collegiate leader” for Comrade Maduro. Snippet:

Chavez “After 14 years of considerable institutional change, huge oil revenues now pour into the alleviation of the acute poverty suffered by a large percentage of the country, and there is a rock-solid base of chavista support that will take decades to erode. Chávez also leaves a competent team of ministers at the top, most of whom have been running the country quite happily in recent years. They share the radical vision of Chávez, and in Maduro they have an engaging and collegiate leader. There are no immediate crises in sight and, in spite of alarmist reports in the foreign press, the economy is purring along quite well. After more than a decade on a political roller-coaster, the country will return to a more normal profile.”

And today? Dissent, inflation and shortages of basic goods dominate the agenda. “President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government this week launched a 70 percent devaluation via a new ‘free floating’ currency system known as Simadi” reported Reuters last month. “‘They’re doing this because they don’t have any money,’ said a man who gave his name only as Felix, and who said he was 83.”

Note: Richard Gott was once the literary editor of the Guardian, but he resigned from the post in 1994 after it was alleged in The Spectator that he had been a KGB “agent of influence”. He rejected the claim, arguing that “Like many other journalists, diplomats and politicians, I lunched with Russians during the Cold War”. With the Russians said to be looking for lunch partners again, Richard Gott need never dine alone.

Of watches and cities

Monday, 9 March, 2015 0 Comments

Apple is holding one of its famous product-presentation events in San Francisco today. The focus will be on the company’s Watch, which is a big bet for Apple as  this is its first major product launch since the iPad, five years ago, and the first one under CEO Tim Cook’s leadership. If we’re so good at making things like watches and phones, how come we’re getting worse at making beautiful cities? That’s the question posed by the London-based Swiss thinker Alain de Botton in “How to Make an Attractive City,” a new video from the School of Life.

The best cities are a mix of wide and narrow streets, says de Botton. A city should be easy to navigate for both humans and vehicles, with avenues for orientation and alleys that allow us to wander and experience a sense of mystery.