Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Google Plus Connect on Flickr

Liam O’Flynn: Seán Ó Duibhir a’ Ghleanna

Saturday, 14 April, 2018 0 Comments

It’s been a month since the uilleann piper Liam O’Flynn died and not a day has passed since without a reflection on the void left by his absence. Like many Irish traditional musicians, he began his musical journey with the tin whistle and his attitude to this humble instrument was typical of his approach to all things: respect. Here, he plays the air of the 17th-century song, Seán Ó Duibhir a’ Ghleanna.

Note: Seán Ó Duibhir a’ Ghleanna (John O’Dwyer of the Glen) was the subject of many songs in Irish and English that portray him as a romantic, rebellious symbol of the old Gaelic order crushed during the Williamite War in Ireland. Its fate was sealed on 12 July 1691 when the Dutch general Godert de Ginkell defeated the French commander Marquis de St Ruth at the Battle of Aughrim in Galway. This led to the Treaty of Limerick and the scattering of the Irish troops (“The Flight of the Wild Geese”) to Europe, where they found employment in the armies of France, Spain, Austria and Prussia.

“Here’s a health to your and my King
The sovereign of our liking
And to Sarsfield, underneath whose flag we’ll cast once more a chance.
For the morning’s dawn will wing us
Across the seas and bring us
To take our stand and wield a brand among the sons of France.
And though we part in sorrow
Still Seán Ó Duibhir a’ Ghleanna
Our prayer is ‘God save Ireland and pour blessings on her name’.
May her sons be true when needed
May they never fail as we did
For Seán Ó Duibhir a’ Ghleanna, we were worsted in the game.”


Wine work

Friday, 13 April, 2018 0 Comments

It was a pleasure to work with the excellent English photographer Sam Chick on a story for SevenC3 about Michael and Wulf Unger, who store some of the world’s finest wines deep, literally, in Bavaria. The brothers use the best of old and new technologies to protect the treasures their clients have saved for the rainy day or the winter’s evening. And, of course, if these assets must be liquidated, that Chateau Petrus can be yours for just €3,800 a bottle.

Unger Wein


Elizabeth Holmes and the Art of the No Easy Ask

Thursday, 12 April, 2018 0 Comments

If you think Mark Zuckerberg is having a tough week, consider the (mis)fortune of Elizabeth Holmes. Remember her? The CEO of Theranos was the poster girl for all those who bought and sold the delusion that a photogenic founder was an essential first step on the road to unimaginable riches. And, sure enough, gullible investors and sycophantic media beat a path to the golden door in the Valley in the hope of turning blood into treasure. And they ponied up an incredible $1.4 billion along the way.

Zuckerberg may have been on the hot seat, but Holmes is in deep water. Consider the letter she recently sent to shareholders regarding the company’s looming default on a $100 million loan. Snippet:

“The most viable option that we have identified to forestall a near-term sale or a potential default under our credit agreement is further investment by one or more of you. In light of where we are, this is no easy ask. However, given your support of the company over the years, we wanted to provide this opportunity before we proceed too far down the current path.”

Holmes is a fraud, but one has to admire (almost) the chutzpa of “this is no easy ask”.

Miss Fortune


Páraic and Pearse

Wednesday, 11 April, 2018 0 Comments

No. This is not a post about the Good Friday Agreement, or about the Irish nationalist who was one of the leaders of the Easter Rising in 1916. It’s about Páraic McGloughlin, a professional visual artist living in Sligo, in the West of Ireland, and his professionally musical brother Pearse McGloughlin. Their video mixes sounds with satellite images of the Earth to create something, well, different.


Zuckerberg live

Tuesday, 10 April, 2018 0 Comments

Today, Mark Zuckerberg appears before the US Congress and is answering questions from a joint hearing of the Senate judiciary and commerce, science and transportation committees. Tomorrow he will face the House committee on energy and commerce.

Note: Facebook is larger than all nations, and all human groups in history, with the exception of global Christianity, which it now almost equals in numbers of “followers”.


The Terrible Cost of Obama’s Failure in Syria

Tuesday, 10 April, 2018 0 Comments

That’s the title of Kathy Gilsinan’s excoriating article in The Atlantic, which was, and is, an Obama-friendly publication. But there comes a time when the most loyal subjects and supporters have to face the truth, even when it is painful, and this is very, very painful, indeed. Snippet:

Four years ago, it almost looked as if chemical attacks on Syrian civilians would stop. “We struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out,” declared then-Secretary of State John Kerry on Meet the Press in 2014. Kerry was referring to Bashar al-Assad’s declared stockpiles of chemical weapons which, under a 2013 deal struck by the Obama administration following a sarin nerve gas attack that brought the U.S. to the brink of striking Syrian government forces, were dismantled and shipped out of the country.

But there were two important and deadly loopholes. The first was that Assad did not declare everything—a reality that Kerry acknowledged in a farewell memo to staff, in which he wrote that “unfortunately other undeclared chemical weapons continue to be used ruthlessly against the Syrian people.” The second was that chlorine gas, which has legitimate civilian uses, was not part of the deal. The Syrian American Medical Society and the White Helmets civil-defense group have documented 200 chemical attacks in Syria since 2012, many involving chlorine.

At the time, those familiar with the ways of the Syrian tyrant knew that this was a rotten deal. Yes, Damascus gave up some material to make it look like it was complying and the Washington spin-doctors were able to sell the story that Obama and Kerry had done something heroic, but Assad was left with an intact chemical arsenal. Terrible.


Do You Trust This Computer?

Monday, 9 April, 2018 0 Comments

Courtesy of Elon Musk, new documentary about AI titled Do You Trust This Computer? was streamed for free over the weekend. The film explores the role of artificial intelligence in all aspects of modern society, and features commentary from educator Jerry Kaplan, scientist Rana el Kaliouby, entrepreneur Andrew Ng, investor Shivon Zilis, roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro and screenwriter Jonathan Nolan.

“Director Chris Paine and his team have done an amazing job with this movie. It’s a very important subject that will affect our lives in ways we can’t even imagine — some scary, some good,” said Musk in an announcement. The founder of Tesla and SpaceX is known for his dark outlook on artificial intelligence and he warns that tyrants of the past were hindered by the fact they were human, a limitation not shared by supercomputers. “You would have an immortal dictator from which we can never escape,” he says in the documentary. Musk says that we need to assimilate machine learning before we are overtaken by it.

Trivia: At 1:02:00, Alexander Nix, then CEO of Cambridge Analytica, makes an appearance saying that US voters need “a persuasion message… and it needs to be nuanced.” The candidate he was selling? Ted Cruz.


Liking Taylor Swift

Sunday, 8 April, 2018 0 Comments

Charlie Laurence, the writer of I Like Taylor Swift, sums up so much of today’s Warholian-Instagram fame thus: “In the song I admit I haven’t really listened to much of her music, but I’m inundated with images and stories about her.” Charlie Laurence’s band, Coach Hop, will celebrate the launch of I Like Taylor Swift with a London show at the Hope and Anchor pub in Islington on Friday, 20 April.

“She’s just a girl with a guitar,
and she’s very far away
she dated a Kennedy
and I see her every day, in magazines and websites.
People say it’s kinda fey to like her, but if you say that I’ll fight ya
I don’t care what people say.”

Note: The Kennedy referred to in this verse is Connor, son of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and the late Mary Kennedy. Connor Kennedy’s relationship with Taylor Swift began in June 2012 and ended in October that year.


Nasim Aghdam and the YouTube convergence

Saturday, 7 April, 2018 0 Comments

Recap: In Iran, she was known as “Green Nasim”, commanding a certain degree of social media clout. On Tuesday, in California, Nasim Aghdam proceeded to the headquarters of YouTube in San Bruno and went on a shooting spree. Three were wounded, with the sole death being Aghdam, who took her life after the bloody splurge.

Mark Steyn peels back the layers in a piece titled The Grand Convergence. Snippet:

“What happened is a remarkable convergence of the spirits of the age: mass shootings, immigration, the Big Tech thought-police, the long reach of the Iranian Revolution, the refugee racket, animal rights, vegan music videos… It was the latest mismatched meeting between east and west in the age of the Great Migrations: Nasim Aghdam died two days before her 39th birthday, still living (according to news reports) with either her parents or her grandmother. She came to America at the age of seventeen, and spent two decades in what appears to be a sad and confused search to find something to give her life meaning. But in a cruder sense the horror in San Bruno was also a sudden meeting of two worlds hitherto assumed to be hermetically sealed from each other: the cool, dispassionate, dehumanized, algorithmic hum of High Tech — and the raw, primal, murderous rage breaking through from those on the receiving end.”

For all those who have fallen out of love with the Silicon Valley dataopolies, Blockchain is the most promising technology as it has the potential to disrupt the centralized social media companies.


Twitter thread on AI and FB

Friday, 6 April, 2018 0 Comments

Note: A thread on Twitter is a series of connected Tweets from one person. With a thread, you can add updates, context and background by connecting multiple Tweets together.

François Chollet constructs exemplary Twitter threads. A software engineer and artificial intelligence researcher at Google, he’s the creator of Keras, a leading deep learning framework for the Python programming language, and he has a new book out, Deep Learning with Python. In other words, he knows his AI, and he knows how Facebook uses AI to achieve its ends. Chollet’s Twitter thread from 21 March is informative and disturbing. Highlights:

The problem with Facebook is not *just* the loss of your privacy and the fact that it can be used as a totalitarian panopticon. The more worrying issue, in my opinion, is its use of digital information consumption as a psychological control vector.

We’re looking at a powerful entity that builds fine-grained psychological profiles of over two billion humans, that runs large-scale behavior manipulation experiments, and that aims at developing the best AI technology the world has ever seen. Personally, it really scares me

Twitter thread

And this is a powerful call to arms by Chollet: “If you work in AI, please don’t help them. Don’t play their game. Don’t participate in their research ecosystem. Please show some conscience”


Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology

Thursday, 5 April, 2018 0 Comments

The full title of Adam Alter’s book is even longer: Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked. Money quote:

“Facebook has an endless feed; Netflix automatically moves on to the next episode in a series; Tinder encourages users to keep swiping in search of a better option. Users benefit from these apps and websites, but also struggle to use them in moderation. According to Tristan Harris, a ‘design ethicist,’ the problem isn’t that people lack willpower; it’s that ‘there are a thousand people on the other side of the screen whose job it is to break down the self-regulation you have.'”

Our age of behavioural addiction is still in its infancy, but we can no longer ignore the writing on the screen. Everything from family and friendship to rest and play is being crowded out by smartphones, e-mails, social networking and on-demand viewing. Understanding the nature of addiction is a necessary first step in defending our well-being, but it will be hard to beat our new habits when thousand of dopamine pushers “on the other side of the screen” are being paid huge sums to hook us.

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked