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Singularity approaching

Saturday, 4 November, 2017 0 Comments

What will life be like when the the predicted “singularity” arrives? Visual Suspect, a video production company based in Hong Kong, has come up with a depiction of what, for many, is a terrifying prospect. It’s terrifying because the “technological singularity” is the notion that artificial super-intelligence will trigger rampant technological growth, resulting in revolutionary changes to civilization.

The starting point for those wishing to learn about the singularity hypothesis remains The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology written by the futurist Ray Kurzweil and published in 2005. Three years later, Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis founded the Singularity University in California. It offers educational programs that focus on scientific progress and “exponential” technologies, especially AI.


Kick started

Friday, 3 November, 2017 0 Comments

Congratulations to Hoodman Blind on exceeding their Kickstarter funding goal for the recording, mixing and mastering the band’s debut EP. Drive on!

Hoodman Blind


All our Souls’ Day

Thursday, 2 November, 2017 0 Comments

“The soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts.” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

All Souls' Day

All Souls’ Day

Let’s go our old way
by the stream, and kick the leaves
as we always did, to make
the rhythm of breaking waves.

This day draws no breath —
shows no colour anywhere
except for the leaves — in their death
brilliant as never before.

Yellow of Brimstone Butterfly,
brown of Oak Eggar Moth —
you’d say. And I’d be wondering why
a summer never seems lost

if two have been together
witnessing the variousness of light,
and the same two in lustreless November
enter the year’s night…

The slow-worm stream — how still!
Above that spider’s unguarded door,
look – dull pearls… Time’s full,
brimming, can hold no more.

Next moment (we well know,
my darling, you and I)
what the small day cannot hold
must spill into eternity.

So perhaps we should move cat-soft
meanwhile, and leave everything unsaid,
until no shadow of risk can be left
of disturbing the scatheless dead.

Ah, but you were always leaf-light.
And you so seldom talk
as we go. But there at my side
through the bright leaves you walk.

And yet — touch my hand
that I may be quite without fear,
for it seems as if a mist descends,
and the leaves where you walk do not stir.

Frances Bellerby (1899 – 1975)


All our Saints’ Day

Wednesday, 1 November, 2017 0 Comments

“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”
— Saint Francis

Our saints

Note: All Saints’ Day was initiated by Pope Boniface IV, who consecrated the Pantheon to the Virgin Mary and the martyrs on 13 May 609 AD. Boniface IV also established All Souls’ Day, which follows All Saints. The choice of the day may have been intended to co-opt the “Feast of Lemuria,” which the Religio Romana used to placate the restless spirits of the dead. The Christian holy day was established on 1 November in the mid-eighth century by Pope Gregory III as a day dedicated to the saints and their relics.


Halloween horror tale

Tuesday, 31 October, 2017 0 Comments

Five werewolves came down from the cold North at the end of October. Old wily werewolf sniffed the fallen leaves and filtered their decay for a scent of humanity blown through by the recent storms. His younger mate lazily curled back her lips, exposing eager fangs, and looked back at the three cubs, their yellow-gold eyes filled with soullessness.

“Well,” she said, a note of impatience in her whine. “What did you find?”

Old wily werewolf stared into the dark, paused, and then spoke.

“I found hints of smoke and toast and traces of rosemary,” he said. “There was an unmistakable aroma of peat and aged birch and, if I’m not very much mistaken, bacon.”

The last word sent a jolt though his pack and they began to bark at the Hunter’s moon.

“Shut up!” he snarled. “Listen.”

“Listen to what?” the cubs cried in unison.

“Listen to me,” old wily werewolf commanded. “I have a plan.”

And he explained that the scents told him a story of an old woman living alone, just a night’s run from where they lay. She would be eager for company and the sound of three hungry cubs outside her door would evoke a natural empathy. From what he knew of human nature, she’d adopt and feed them, and then wily werewolf and his wife would slope by and kill her.

“And can we chew on the bones?” the cubs queried, their yellow-gold eyes now filled with psychopathic love.

“Certainly, lads,” said their mother. “And we can all live in her cosy house for the rest of our lives.” Together, they raised their faces to the sky and howled with joy.

Down the valley, the old woman had just finished her prayers beside the fireplace when the wind carried the werewolf voices down the chimney. “A hungry family by the sound of it,” she said aloud to the empty room, “I have just what they need.” So she got up, her back aching with the labour of almost nine decades, and began to take down the werewolf traps from the wall. Three small ones, and two big ones.

Halloween horror


The amazing Amazon jobs and money machine

Monday, 30 October, 2017 0 Comments

Hear this: Amazon now employs 542,000 people, up 77 percent on a year ago.

And this: The company announced third quarter sales were up 34 percent to $43.7 billion. But there’s more. Consider this:

“Amazon launched Amazon Wind Farm Texas, its largest windfarm yet, which generates more than 1,000,000 megawatt hours of clean energy annually from over 100 turbines. Amazon now has 18 solar and wind projects live across the U.S. with more than 35 on the way. Together, Amazon’s renewable energy projects now produce enough clean energy to power over 330,000 homes annually.”

Those stats, and many, many more can be found in the retailer’s press release from last Thursday, which makes for thought-provoking reading.

As Jeff Bezos once said: “There are two kinds of companies, those that work to try to charge more and those that work to charge less. We will be the second.”


Poem in October for Sarah

Sunday, 29 October, 2017 0 Comments

Poem in October by Dylan Thomas is dedicated to Sarah Fitzgerald, who has not yet reached her thirtieth year to heaven. “And I rose / In rainy autumn / And walked abroad in a shower of all my days.” Happy birthday, Sarah.

Poem in October

It was my thirtieth year to heaven
Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbour wood
And the mussel pooled and the heron
Priested shore
The morning beckon
With water praying and call of seagull and rook
And the knock of sailing boats on the net webbed wall
Myself to set foot
That second
In the still sleeping town and set forth.

My birthday began with the water–
Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name
Above the farms and the white horses
And I rose
In rainy autumn
And walked abroad in a shower of all my days.
High tide and the heron dived when I took the road
Over the border
And the gates
Of the town closed as the town awoke.

A springful of larks in a rolling
Cloud and the roadside bushes brimming with whistling
Blackbirds and the sun of October
Summery
On the hill’s shoulder,
Here were fond climates and sweet singers suddenly
Come in the morning where I wandered and listened
To the rain wringing
Wind blow cold
In the wood faraway under me.

Pale rain over the dwindling harbour
And over the sea wet church the size of a snail
With its horns through mist and the castle
Brown as owls
But all the gardens
Of spring and summer were blooming in the tall tales
Beyond the border and under the lark full cloud.
There could I marvel
My birthday
Away but the weather turned around.

It turned away from the blithe country
And down the other air and the blue altered sky
Streamed again a wonder of summer
With apples
Pears and red currants
And I saw in the turning so clearly a child’s
Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother
Through the parables
Of sun light
And the legends of the green chapels

And the twice told fields of infancy
That his tears burned my cheeks and his heart moved in mine.
These were the woods the river and sea
Where a boy
In the listening
Summertime of the dead whispered the truth of his joy
To the trees and the stones and the fish in the tide.
And the mystery
Sang alive
Still in the water and singingbirds.

And there could I marvel my birthday
Away but the weather turned around. And the true
Joy of the long dead child sang burning
In the sun.
It was my thirtieth
Year to heaven stood there then in the summer noon
Though the town below lay leaved with October blood.
O may my heart’s truth
Still be sung
On this high hill in a year’s turning.

Dylan Thomas (27 October 1914 – 9 November 1953)


At Tally’s haunted pub

Saturday, 28 October, 2017 0 Comments

Well, it’s not haunted by any particular ghost that we know of, but it’s haunted in the sense that it represents the spectral remains of a vanishing rural Irish pub culture. The countryside is dotted now with these shuttered places and they are sad reminders of a more sociable past that’s been eroded by forces including migration, mobility, work, an ageing population, stricter penalties for driving while intoxicated and the availability of ultra-cheap alcohol in supermarkets.

Tally Bourke’s was notorious for its late hours and its oddities. When Tom Tobin got the job of installing shelving in the pub, he found that Tally housed her flock of hens behind the counter. The customers never complained, though. And they never objected to the lack of toilet facilities, either.

Tally Bourke'


Don’t know which Chinese newspaper to read?

Friday, 27 October, 2017 0 Comments

Don’t worry. The Party does. Telling the truth is now a revolutionary act in China.

Chinese newspapers

“Even despotism does not produce its worst effects, so long as individuality exists under it; and whatever crushes individuality is despotism, by whatever name it may be called, and whether it professes to be enforcing the will of God or the injunctions of men.” — John Stuart Mill, On Liberty


The daily wisdom of Google

Thursday, 26 October, 2017 0 Comments

Back in 1,400 BC, the Oracle of Delphi was the most important shrine in ancient Greece. Built around a sacred spring, it was considered to be the omphalos (the centre of the world) and people came from all over Greece and beyond to have their questions answered by the Pythia, the priestess of Apollo. Her cryptic answers could determine the course of everything from when a farmer planted crops, to when an empire declared war. Today, Google has replaced Delphi as the omphalos and people from all over Greece and beyond can have their questions answered by the algorithm. Example:

Google oracle

History: For centuries, scholars congregated at Delphi, and it became a focal point for intellectual inquiry as well as a meeting place where rivals could negotiate. The party ended, as it were, in the 4th century AD when a newly Christian Rome proscribed the prophesying. Then, on 4 September 1998, Google was founded in California.


The Democrats have issues, as they say

Wednesday, 25 October, 2017 0 Comments

Breaking: Clinton campaign, DNC paid for research that led to Russia dossier. According to The Washington Post: “The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped fund the research that resulted in a now-famous dossier containing allegations about Donald Trump’s connections to Russia and possible coordination between his campaign and the Kremlin, people familiar with the matter said.”

Meanwhile: Andrew Sullivan is worrying about what he calls “The Issue That Could Lose the Next Election for Democrats:”

“I don’t believe it’s disputable at this point that the most potent issue behind the rise of the far right in America and Europe is mass immigration. It’s a core reason that Trump is now president; it’s why the AfD is now the third-biggest party in the German, yes, German, parliament; it’s why Austria’s new chancellor won by co-opting much of the far right’s agenda on immigration; it’s why Britain is attempting (and currently failing) to leave the EU; it’s why Marine Le Pen won a record number of votes for her party in France this spring. A critical moment, in retrospect, came with Angela Merkel’s 2015 decision to import over a million Syrian refugees into the heart of Europe… This is, to be blunt, political suicide. The Democrats’ current position seems to be that the Dreamer parents who broke the law are near heroes, indistinguishable from the children they brought with them; and their rhetoric is very hard to distinguish, certainly for most swing voters, from a belief in open borders. In fact, the Democrats increasingly seem to suggest that any kind of distinction between citizens and noncitizens is somehow racist.”

The bottom line for Sullivan is this: “The most powerful thing Trump said in the campaign, I’d argue, was: ‘If you don’t have borders, you don’t have a country.’ And the Democrats had no answer, something that millions of Americans immediately saw.”