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On being a remote

Wednesday, 18 April, 2018 0 Comments

“I’m used to working at home and now I find being at the main office a lot more distracting than working from home.” — Julia Evans

Julia Evans is a software developer. She lives in Montreal and works of the payment processing platform Stripe, on infrastructure. Her blog, she says, is about “being delighted about programming” but it’s not all Python headers, Ruby profilers and bash scripting. Back in February, she wrote about her experiences of working remotely, something she’s done for four years now. It’s a very useful post for those in the so-called “gig economy” and it addresses a lot of the questions posed by people contemplating replacing the commute with the home office.

A ton of people asked me questions about what I think of as sort of basic job health — how do you make sure your coworkers don’t ignore you / leave you out of discussions, how do you communicate, etc.

My current theory about this is — as long as I work on a team with a lot of other remotes, everything will be fine. Working as the only remote on a team of people who are all in person seems like hard mode — I have never done it and I’m not that interested in trying that.

Note: “I can’t imagine working remotely without good videoconferencing technology.”


Serenity Caldwell’s 9.7 iPad review

Tuesday, 17 April, 2018 0 Comments

“Drawn, written, edited, and produced with an iPad,” it was, she says. Bottom line: “The price is right. The tools are superb. This is the tablet I’ve been wanting since Jobs came out in 2010 to introduce the original iPad.” Serenity Caldwell admits it’s easy to make that claim, so she decided to prove it. Beginning with a blank page in the Procreate app, she created a iPad review video using her 2018 device, Apple Pencil and third-party apps.

Serenity Caldwell is the Managing Editor at iMore, and she’s “been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click.” She really loves her 9.7 iPad.

“To me, the 2018 base-model 9.7-inch iPad is a special beast: It hits a line drive right through the company’s fabled intersection of technology and liberal arts — and at the right price point. The iPad Pro did it first, but at a cost unattainable for all but the tinkerers and serious artists, and without iOS 11’s crucial multitasking features. At $329, the iPad offers a low-end tablet experience unlike any other on the market. Add an extra $99 for Apple Pencil, and Apple has created the best device for all-purpose education, period.”


Pope Francis – A Man Of His Word

Monday, 16 April, 2018 0 Comments

German director Wim Wenders will be back at the Festival de Cannes (8 to 19 May) with a new documentary titled Pope Francis – A Man Of His Word. According to Wenders, it’s “a personal journey with Pope Francis rather than a traditional biographical film about him. A rare co-production with the Vatican, the pope’s ideas and his message are central to this documentary, which sets out to present his work of reform and his answers to today’s global questions from death, social justice, immigration, ecology, wealth inequality, materialism, and the role of the family.”

Note: Today is the 91st birthday of retired Pope Benedict XVI. Felix dies Natalis tibi!


Syria and OSINT (Open Sources Intelligence)

Sunday, 15 April, 2018 0 Comments

Remarkable, indeed, is the wealth of information now at our fingertips. And it’s not just Wikipedia. There’s also the OECD Aid Database, Google Data Explorer and Enigma Public. When it comes to what’s happening on the darker side, Bellingcat uses open source data to investigate everything from Mexican drug lords to Russian gangsters, er, politicians.

Then, there’s The Aviationist run by David Cenciotti, a journalist based in Rome. Since its launch in 2006, it has become one of world’s most authoritative military aviation sites. His post yesterday, Everything We Know (And No One Has Said So Far) About The First Waves Of Air Strikes On Syria, is based on OSINT (Open Sources Intelligence) “since most of the aircraft involved in the raids could be tracked online via information in the public domain.” Snippet:

“Interestingly, at least two packages of 5 fighters (each supposed to include 4x F-16Cs from 31FW and 4x F-15Cs from 48FW loaded with air-to-air missiles — actually, the second one included only 3 Vipers instead of 4) supported by KC-135 tankers, provided DCA (Defensive Counter Air) cover to the bombers and to the warships launching TLAMs.”

Should this level of transparency worry us? After all, if David Cenciotti can access all this data easily, so can the Iranians. On the other hand, the abilities of people like David Cenciotti and Eliot Higgins to access and interpret Open Sources Intelligence means that the Iranians and their pals cannot get away with murder as easily as they once did. Their fingerprints are everywhere now, and they can be revealed in real time. Same goes for their lies. Take Russia’s claims that 71 out of 105 Cruise Missiles were shot down in the US-led strike. David Cenciotti casts a critical eye:

“If Syrian air defense units were ineffective in stopping U.S. cruise missiles, and most information now points to that outcome (actually, it looks like the Syrians fired their missiles after the last missile had hit), this represents a significant blow to the Assad regime and to Russia’s ability to assist in an effective air defense in the region.”

Question: What’s the toughest job in the world right now?
Answer: Sales rep for Russian air defense systems.


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.