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Amoris Laetitia backgrounder

Friday, 8 April, 2016 0 Comments

Pope Francis to make key marriage pronouncement” is how the BBC puts it in the run up to today’s publication of Amoris Laetitia, the Apostolic Exhortation about Catholic teaching on the family. The text, rumoured to be 250-pages long and divided into 300 points, will be presented by Cardinals Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, and Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, at a press conference in Rome. Scheduled to begin at 11:30 Central European Time, the event will be broadcast live via the Vatican’s Television Centre.

Where did the BBC gets its headline? The document has been surrounded by secrecy, with no leaks to the media before its presentation. This makes Amoris Laetitia unusual, seeing that Francis’ encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’, was published by the Italian magazine l’Espresso three days ahead of the official presentation.

What can we expect? The focus will be on the “many new situations requiring the Church’s attention and pastoral care.” In other words, partners living together before marriage, communion for divorced and remarried Catholics and homosexual unions vs. heterosexual marriage, to name just three areas of contested cohabitation that are facts of 21st century life. The Guardian has already pre-empted liberal disappointment: “Pope Francis to dismay reformists with ‘modern families’ document.” Francis wouldn’t be Francis, however, if he didn’t have a surprise or two up the sleeve of the papal cassock.


Merle Haggard

Thursday, 7 April, 2016 1 Comment

The fiercely independent country music singer Merle Haggard died yesterday in California, surrounded by friends and family. He was 79 and yesterday was his birthday. When he was 21, Haggard was sent to San Quentin State Prison following a burglary attempt. While imprisoned, he saw Johnny Cash perform for the inmates and upon his release in 1960 he determined to turn his life around, which he did.

“Now, as far as my body development, I’m two different people. My right side is more developed than my left side. That’s an occupational hazard. My chiropractor said to me, ‘You look like you had a hard life. Like you lifted lots.’ Well, no, but I have played the fiddle some. Hell, if a fella could get good dope anymore, he’d learn to play the fiddle left-handed and build up the other one-half of his body.”

Ornery by Bryan diSalvatore, The New Yorker, 12 February 1990

Merle Haggard


WhatsApp: privacy vs. transparency

Wednesday, 6 April, 2016 1 Comment

“We live in a world where more of our data is digitized than ever before. Every day we see stories about sensitive records being improperly accessed or stolen. And if nothing is done, more of people’s digital information and communication will be vulnerable to attack in the years to come. Fortunately, end-to-end encryption protects us from these vulnerabilities.”

So say WhatsApp co-founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton in their latest blog post, which is about their decision to protect messages between WhatsApp users with an end-to-end encryption protocol so that third parties and WhatsApp cannot read them, meaning that the messages can only be decrypted by the recipient.

In light of the Panama Papers exposé, the debate about privacy vs. transparency has reached a new level. Would Mossack Fonseca have profited from end-to-end encryption of communications between their officers and clients? Public opinion suggests that the massive leak of the Panamanian law firm’s data is a civic benefit and that transparency is the greater good. Jan Koum and Brian Acton, however, are now promising that the end-to-end encryption protocol they’re deploying will make it impossible for “third parties” (police, journalists, etc.) to access chats, group chats, images, videos, voice messages and files on their platform. Given this, will it be possible for people to have a consistent position on privacy vs. transparency? Can both co-exist?

Update: privacy vs. transparency: Meet the ‘Drone Vigilante’ Who Spies on Sex Workers.


We need to talk about the smart home

Tuesday, 5 April, 2016 0 Comments

The “smart home” is a bit like the “paperless office.” Lots of promise, but the prospect remains untidy. The smart home landscape is cluttered with multiple standards and inelegant solutions, but some big names are determined to bring order to the household hub: Alphabet is making its bid with Nest and Samsung has acquired SmartThings.

For smaller smart home players like Wink, the encroachment of Apple and Alphabet is ominous. Wink launched in 2014 with a strategy tethering several competing standards, but the future turned grim when its parent, Quirky, the ambitious incubator, went broke last year. Flex came to the rescue, however, and Wink now claims to have 1.3 million devices on its network. Given all this turmoil, it’s not surprising Wink has a sense of humour as this clip, with its nod to fears of a robotic future, shows.


comma.ai

Monday, 4 April, 2016 0 Comments

Given its name, one might think that a business titled “comma.ai” is working on a venture that combines punctuation and artificial intelligence. And the story gets more curious when one learns that it’s hiring “Competitors:”

Competitors: People who have done well at math competitions(USAMO, PUTNAM), competition programming(ACM, USACO, codejam, topcoder), science fairs(ISEF, STS), or capture the flag(DEFCON, secuinside, GITS). Those competitions don’t just select for ability, they also select for quickness. We are in a very competitive space.

comma The company slogan is “ghostriding for the masses”, which might be an obscure reference to punctuation, but it’s a nod to transport, in fact, because the brains behind this is George Hotz, a brilliant hacker, who has built his own self-driving car. He’s now forming a team of machine learning experts specializing in hardware, software and data, and Andreessen Horowitz announced today that it is leading a $3.1 million investment in Comma.ai.

Interestingly, it was on this day in 1994 that Marc Andreessen and Jim Clark founded Netscape. Eight years later, it was acquired by AOL in a deal valued at $4.2 billion. Back then, it was all about the web. Today, the key words are mobile, data and AI. On 21 February, the startups investor Chris Dixon wrote a post on Medium titled “What’s Next in Computing?” Snippet:

“I tend to think we are on the cusp of not one but multiple new eras. The ‘peace dividend of the smartphone war’created a Cambrian explosion of new devices, and developments in software, especially AI, will make those devices smart and useful.”

Comma. Punctuation, is? interesting!


LinkedIn: Dowland, Hamlet, Shakespeare

Sunday, 3 April, 2016 0 Comments

The early life of John Dowland is a mystery. It has been claimed that he was born in Dublin, but no evidence has ever been found either for this or for the assertion that he was born in Westminster. What is without dispute, however, is that he worked as a lutenist at the court of Christian IV of Denmark in 1598. Thus, the link between John Dowland, the greatest instrumentalist of the English Renaissance, Hamlet, the greatest English play, and William Shakespeare, the greatest playwright ever, was established.

Dowland wrote Tarleton’s Resurrection in homage to Richard Tarleton, a 16th-century actor, who was Queen Elizabeth I’s favourite stand-up comedian, especially for his performance of impromptu doggerel, an early form of rap. It has been suggested that Tarleton is the inspiration for Shakespeare’s soliloquy in honour of Yorick, the deceased court jester, in Hamlet: “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow
of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.” (Act 5, Sc. 1).


Lines written upon this day five years ago

Saturday, 2 April, 2016 1 Comment

Michael Fitzgerald 1917 – 2011: “He was a farmer and he was a deep thinker. He loved the land, its history, its substance, its moods and its meaning. He knew why people had fought and died for it and he understood the passions it generated. His hands were shaped by decades of wresting a living from the soil. Possessed of a sense of chivalry that has all but disappeared, he was one of the last representatives of a culture that had its roots in an ancient, a simpler, a lost world. Those who were privileged to know him will miss him greatly. His passing is our loss.”

Father

“Of life’s two chief prizes, beauty and truth, I found the first in a loving heart and the second in a labourer’s hand.” Khalil Gibran


H&M presents the Mark Zuckerberg collection

Friday, 1 April, 2016 0 Comments

For the day that’s in it, “The Collection Pack” consists of seven basic grey t-shirts + one pair of basic jeans. “One less thing to think about in the morning.” #MARKFORHM

H&M for Mark


Apple is 40 today

Friday, 1 April, 2016 0 Comments

Apple was established on 1 April 1976, by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne to sell the Apple I personal computer kit, which was designed and hand-built by Wozniak. The company was incorporated on 3 January 1977 without Wayne, who decided to sell his 10 percent share back to Jobs and Wozniak for $800. Note: A 10 percent share of Apple Inc. would be worth $60 billion today. Two other numbers: Apple has 110,000 employees, but they’re dwarfed by the 300,000 developers supplying its App Store.

“Was Steve Jobs smart? No, not exceptionally. Instead, he was a genius. His imaginative leaps were instinctive, unexpected, and at times magical… History will place him in the pantheon right next to Edison and Ford. More than anyone else of his time, he made products that were completely innovative, combining the power of poetry and processors. With a ferocity that could make working with him as unsettling as it was inspiring, he also built the world’s most creative company. And he was able to infuse into its DNA the design sensibilities, perfectionism, and imagination that make it likely to be, even decades from now, the company that thrives best at the intersection of artistry and technology.” — Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs


So, let’s action that

Thursday, 31 March, 2016 1 Comment

The American linguist Arika Okrent wrote a book once and gave it a mouthful of a name: In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build A Perfect Language. On her YouTube channel, the videos have crisper titles: French Phrases Hidden in English Words, The Evolution of Dude and Why is English Spelling so Weird? Her latest offering tackles the dreaded management-speak and packs a lot of erudition into 3 minutes and 32 seconds.

A follow-up, we hope, will examine such current awfulness as “synergy”, “going forward”, “deliverables”, “empower”, “leverage” and, worst of all, the hideous habit of starting a sentence with the word “so.”


Move!

Wednesday, 30 March, 2016 0 Comments

“3 guys, 44 days, 11 countries, 18 flights, 38 thousand miles, an exploding volcano, 2 cameras and almost a terabyte of footage…. ” Rick Mereki, an independent filmmaker from Melbourne, packs a lot of travel into 60 seconds. For those who feel that it’s all been done before, this is inspirational. All one needs is the ability to view the world with less jaded eyes, two camera, three guys and the will to move.