I turn 75 years old today 2023-10-31. I am told, and periodically experience, that old age brings about frailty. Looking it up in an online dictionary, its definition sounds worse than I feel: as an aging-related syndrome of physiological decline, characterized by marked vulnerability to adverse health outcomes. Frail older patients often present with an increased burden of symptoms including weakness and fatigue, medical complexity, and reduced tolerance to medical and surgical interventions. My own definition is much simpler, frailty = reduced capabilities.
I notice that my renovation/ construction projects are taking longer to complete. It is not just because I have less energy in the day to work actively at them, but equally, there is less enthusiasm. The latest project involves the kitchen, with changes to the plumbing and electrical system that included some work by others. It took much longer than planned.
I have said that I will retire from construction projects starting 2024-01-01. I am aware that this will not be a complete stop. Additional work is needed in the attic to make it a suitable place to store things. This activity will continue, but only when I want to do it, and feel capable. I will accept no imposed deadlines.
Things can be a polite term for junk. Every time I think about storage, I recall Allied Van Lines, and their advertisements in the 1960s where they stated that they did not mix other people’s junk with your valuable possessions. In my dreams, I regularly see myself as a child peering into the back of a moving van, filled with increasingly irrelevant technology. The moving van gradually transforms into a dumpster.
Today, millennials are storing less junk because books, music, videos, games and more, are digital files stored on servers and distributed as needed to other devices.
In my old order universe, there were physical things: books were printed documents; music was long-play records or CDs or many other things; videos involved Betamax and VHS formats, DVDs and even laserdisks; games involved dice, pieces and folded cardboard sheets representing the game universe. In my preferred new order universe, things are files on a computer. I have not yet accepted that files should be kept on clouds = some stranger’s computer/ server. My solution is to encourage family members to cooperate, by storing encrypted backup data on each other’s servers.
Duolingo/ Sudoku/ Books
Duolingo and Sudoku are two activities I engage in on a daily basis, even though recent news reports tell me that these may not prevent dementia.
With Duolingo I regularly change languages. Within days of the start of the current war in Ukraine, I began to study Ukrainian. In 2023, I alternated between Ukrainian and Finnish. I used to change between these two languages, up to several times a week. Then, I stuck with each language for a month, before switching. For me, it was much easier than working with both languages every day.
After my son, Alasdair, asked for my company on a trip to the Outer Hebrides for five days in the summer of 2024, I decided to focus my attention exclusively on (Scottish) Gaelic. This does not mean that I am prepared to eat guga = salted gannet, on these travels. Fortunately, Is toil leam brocham gu mor! = I like porridge a lot!
Sudoku involves filling in squares in a printed book. Within each square I can code numbers using dots following the same numerical sequence used on touch-tone telephones, with 1-2-3 on the top and 7-8-9 on the bottom. There is no need for 0, or operation keys +,- x, / or =. I have decided that when the puzzles in my current book are used up, I will just use a Sudoku program found on my laptop or hand-held device. I say this every time…
Apart from Sudoku, I do not find games fun at all. I include crosswords as a type of game. My significant other plays card games on her laptop. I agree with Art Vaughan, that real-world challenges are more interesting problems to solve than constructed games.
Reading books in Norwegian
I attempt to read at least a chapter a day of books written in Norwegian. In part, this is to keep my Norwegian vocabulary active. This decision came about because of a conversation. I wanted to use the Norwegian word for jam, syltetøy. However, all that came out was French, confiture.
One newly read book was written by Norwegian author Geir Pollen (1953 – ), who lived in Russia from 2007 to 2020. Volga : En russisk reise (2021) = Volga : A Russian trip. It actually involved many trips over many years, but is organized geographically from the Volga headwaters north-west of Moscow, until the river enters the Caspian sea.
Reading about Russia is my attempt to understand the most extensive war in Europe since the second world war. I find that it helps to have it explained by someone from a culture where I have lived for over forty years. I am not so sure, I would be equally receptive to a book written by someone who has an American perspective. The book was written before the second Russian incursion into Ukraine.
The title of chapter 65, the last about the middle section of the Volga, can be translated as the world as a listening exercise. It is about Sofia Gubaidulina (1931 – ) born in Chistopol, in Tatarstan, Russia with Tatar and Russian heritage, a composer who has lived in Appen, a village near Hamburg, Germany, since 1991-02. Here is one shorter work: Vivente – Non vivente, for ANS Synthesizer (1970).
Pollen says that Gubaidulina describes her music as: a journey in a soundscape where the composer is just as exposed to the unknown as the musician and the listener. In the universe it sounds like: the things, the plants, the trees, the people, the animals, the earth, the stars. It is the starting point of music. If the people concentrated and did not surround themselves with so much noise, they would hear it. She compares modern life to a city where the artificial lights make it impossible to see the starry sky. The loss of the height dimension, the vertical in existence, is the greatest threat to mankind today, because we cannot live only in the horizontal, on the surface (p. 323).
I concur. The world is challenged by noise. I dislike noisy motorcycles. Yet, even more disturbing are subwoofers played inside assorted vehicles. They are especially annoying when I am walking through a natural environment. I may not be able to hear the sounds emanating from them, but I can feel them, and am looking forward to limits being placed on their noise levels.
The tragedy of the commons is an economic theory that states that individuals use up resources shared by many to benefit themselves. Because individuals generally act selfishly, shared resources are misused so that everyone ends up suffering in the end. I regard quiet and darkness as important shared resources. Other important shared resources include the atmosphere, the oceans, forests and wildlife. I am almost successful at unlearning the value of densely populated urban spaces. The British economic writer, William Forster Lloyd (1794 – 1852), introduced the concept in a pamphlet in 1833.
American ecologist and philosopher Garrett Hardin (1915 – 2003) wrote about the tragedy of the commons in a 1968 paper, calling attention to the damage that innocent actions by individuals can inflict on the environment. He is also known for Hardin’s First Law of Human Ecology: We can never do merely one thing. Any intrusion into nature has numerous effects, many of which are unpredictable. He is also regarded by many as a white supremacist/ racist. For example, he wrote: Lifeboat Ethics: the Case Against Helping the Poor, that appeared in Psychology Today, September 1974.
Global warming is another example of the tragedy of the commons theory. At least since the start of the industrial revolution, individuals, companies and societies around the world have been engaged in activities that have a serious impact on the atmosphere. In many cases, there is no disincentive for a company to stop releasing toxic chemicals into the air. Indeed, they have an incentive to do so because it allows them to increase their profits. They seem to have no obligation about how their actions will affect others. These actions can have a lasting effect on the planet, and everyone and everything on it, for generations.
I have already bought my next Norwegian language book by the same author, about a failed Swedish invasion of Trøndelag, aka the Carolean Death March, in the winter of 1718-19, led by Karl Gustav Armfeldt (1666 – 1736). Armfeldts Armé : historien om en katastrofe (2014) = Armfeldt’s Army : The history of a catastrophe.
Reading books in English
I regularly read books written by Obi Kaufmann (1973 – ): The California Field Atlas, The State of Water: Understanding California’s Most Precious Resource, The Coasts of California, The Forests of California. I am also looking to two forthcoming books, The Deserts of California, and The State of Fire: How, Where and Why California Burns.
I am also reading: Russia Against Modernity (2023), by Alexander Etkind (1955 – ): “Communism was modernity’s most devout, vigorous and gallant champion … It was under communist, not capitalist, auspices that the audacious dream of modernity … was pushed to its radical limits: grand designs, unlimited social engineering, huge and bulky technology, total transformation of nature.” Zygmunt Bauman (1925 – 2017), Intimations of Post-Modernity (1992) p. 179.
Modernity takes various forms. Etkind names a bureaucratic modernity, as proposed by Max Weber (1864 – 1920), in the 19th century, which was replaced by a paleomodernity, in the 20th century, with an emphasis on using nature for resources and energy. Now the world has encountered a gaiamodernity, from a theory proposed by James Lovelock (1919 – 2022) and developed in cooperation with Lynne Margulis (1938 – 2011) that is focused on using less resources and less energy. Small is beautiful, is a catchphrase for this era, as well as a book from 1973, written by Ernst Friedrich Schumacher (1911 – 1977).
In contrast, Russia is attempting to reverse modernity with its own special operation: stopmodernism. Anthony Giddens (1938 – ) expressed many of the ideas behind it, in his theory of structuration. Etkind views the 2022 war in Ukraine as structuration in practice (p. 8), and the war as a campaign against modernity. The major issue is trust.
My next work on Russia will be by Masha Karp (1956 – ) about George Orwell = Eric Arthur Blair (1903 – 1950). George Orwell and Russia (2023). She claims that Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty Four (1949) were not dystopias, but accurate fictional depictions of reality. Her book explores how Orwell’s work was received in Russia, and how it affects the totalitarian political reality today. It also why The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), Orwell’s exploration of British poverty, was never published in Russian. In this context, Vladimir Putin’s actions are simply the next transformation of totalitarianism, as predicted and described by Orwell.
Tony Judt’s (1948 – 2010) Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945 (2005), is also scheduled to be read. Judt decided to write this in 1989 while waiting for a train at Vienna central station, inspired at least in part by having witnessed the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. While the work has been highly praised, it has also been criticized.
Fiction has been missing in my diet. However, The Sycamore Gap Tree incident has inspired a change. On 2023-09-28, a sycamore tree standing next to Hadrian’s Wall near Crag Lough in Northumberland, England was felled, illegally. It was located in a dramatic dip in the landscape, which was created by glacial meltwater and was a popular photographic subject, described as one of the most photographed trees in the country and an emblem for the North East of England. As a steward to another sycamore tree, grown from a seed, I understand the loss.
Shortly afterwards, I discovered that Louise (LJ) Ross, had written a romantic crime novel taking place there. I am not quite sure what a romantic crime novel is, but decided I could experiment with it. Unfortunately, Sycamore Gap is the second book in the series, so I am first having to slog my way through her first book, Holy Island, about crime on Lindisfarne.
Sometimes I cannot appreciate the world without reflecting on local issues. Trust was eroded in Inderøy, this past summer, on the recreational hikes, as up to several people opted to drive between posts, rather than walking, using wheelchairs or kayaks to access them. Driving is not part of the social contract! As I write this, I think of Vic Leach, in New Westminster, encouraging people to walk more.
Trust is also being eroded in Norwegian political parties at the national level. There was a municipal/ county election in Norway on 2023-09-10. For the first time since 1924, the Labour Party was not the most popular party. In recent years there have been too many issues arising involving politicians, in this and other parties. For example, the leader of the political party I voted for in the national election in 2021, admitted to shoplifting a pair of sunglasses at a taxfree store at Oslo airport. I voted for another party in the municipal elections, and will probably continue to do so in the national elections to be held in 2025.
Meanwhile, some Norwegian government ministers have been criticized for their failure to follow rules, most often, recently about stock purchases, that could involve insider information. Sometimes, it is not the minister who is purchasing stocks, but their spouse.
Ulrich Bech (1944 – 2015) wrote that “social inequalities and climate change are two sides of the same coin”, Climate for Change, or How to Create a Green Modernity? in Theory, Culture & Society 27.2-3 (2010): 254-66, quoted from p. 257. Somewhere I read that members of the billionaire class use one million times more energy than the median earthling. Every time I read about energy inequality, I think of Technocracy, which aimed to give people an equal share of energy. Technocracy and light pollution are two topics that I intend to address in the next 99 upcoming weblog posts.
I Touch Myself
Time is different now, than it was in my childhood and long into adulthood. Before, others dictated the timing and sequence of events. It applied to most activities involving more than one person. In addition, people listened to radios, and allowed stations to determine what songs were played when. Television was similar. There was a schedule that had to be followed, if one wanted to watch, say, The Avengers, that British espionage series, created by Canadian Sydney Newman (1917 – 1997), one had to be available at a specific time each week. In the days before the internet, libraries provided a source of information, as well as entertainment. There were some places that allowed, even encouraged, a greater freedom. I was fortunate to live less than three blocks from New Westminster Public Library, that I could visit to increase my knowledge about various topics, even those of marginal interest to most other people. Yes, I would like to thank the librarians at New Westminster Public Library for their engagement, particularly in the period 1958 to 1979, when I was an active user there.
We have lived without radio and television for most of the current millennium, and have not missed it. The Norwegian government replaced FM (frequency modulation) radio with DAB+ (digital audio broadcasting) in 2017. This had no effect on my life. We purchased a DAB+ radio so that we could listen to emergency broadcasts, should that ever be necessary. The radio is tested about once a year, but otherwise remains silent. This technology is already outdated, as emergency conditions are now communicated with SMS (short messaging service) messages. I experienced this recently in Iceland, when I received an earthquake warning.
Today, the age of instant gratification is upon us. We have experienced three iterations of the internet, so far: dial up; ADSL (asymetic digital subscriber line); and, fibre optic cable. People are becoming increasingly dependent on assorted web engines and their algorithms to propose content. These engines seem to know a great deal about my interests. Sometimes, I am intrigued more by these algorithms, and their proposals, than the actual content.
At the beginning of October, at the top of my YouTube suggestions was I Touch Myself (1990) by the Divinyls. I later learned they were an Australian band from Sidney, active in the 1990s. I wondered why this particular song was proposed. I had never heard of the band, or the track. Of course, from the photo provided, I wondered if it has something to do with my interest in female vocalists. I decided to explore it, by viewing and listening to that proposed track from 1991.
Resetting the YouTube start menu, brought forward several versions of the same song, some by the Divinyls, as well as others. I then viewed two other versions, another from 1991 and one from 2006. Also among the content proposals was a short video version from the film, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997). I viewed it, but unlike the music videos, it repulsed. Like so many things in life, my sense of humour has also evolved.
After consuming these four versions, I delved deeper into the song, to understand better why this particular track was at the top of my YouTube list. It is easy to discover context today, because information is so much easier to access. Wikipedia and other sources of information are as close as one’s smartphone or laptop. Thus, within a few minutes I had discovered that the I Touch Myself Project was launched in 2014, a year after the death of Divinyl singer, Chrissy Amphlett (1959 – 2013) from breast cancer. Wikipedia could tell me that Amphlett wanted I Touch Myself to be adopted as a global anthem for breast health. The project was created in her honour with its mission to create educational forums to promote self-examination. In another few seconds I learn that October (every year) is breast cancer awareness month.
This past year two of the websites I used regularly have closed down. For many years, my primary source of books was The Book Depository. I also used Ello, a social media platform, as a source of inspiration for various forms of artwork. Originally, there was a third, Kottke, but it came back to life, after its founder had returned from a sabbatical.
I do not follow sports, but sometimes read results so that I can interact with normal people. There are two counrties that are natural for me to support, Canada and Norway, not to mention Ireland, that has provided citizenship to the others in my immediate family. With the Women’s World Cup, I felt I could impress these people by reporting a select few game results. Already near the start, on 2023-07-20, with Norway losing 1-0 to New Zealand, and Ireland losing 1-0 to Australia, I realized that backup could be necessary, in order to be on the winning side. Fortunately, Denmark and Sweden were also playing. By the end of group play, Canada and Ireland were out, but the Scandinavians were still in. On 2023-08-05, Norway lost 3-1 to Japan, and was out. The next day, Sweden beat USA on penalties, and was still in. The day after that, Denmark lost 2-0 to Australia. All hopes were on Sweden. In the end, on 2023-08-19, Sweden ended up in third place. On 2023-08-20 Spain won with England in second place. The scene was set for the main drama…
Dear Luis Rubiales: sportswomen are not dolls to be kissed, touched and patronised. Those are the words of Barbara Ellen in The Guardian.
Yes, I eagerly awaited the resignation of Luis Rubiales (1977 – ) for forceably kissing Jenni Hermoso (1990 – ), a Spanish professional footballer who plays for Liga MX Femenil club CF Pachuca (Mexico) and for the Spain women’s national team. She has previously played for teams in Spain, including Barcelona, and is the all-time top scorer for both Barcelona and Spain, at the end of the Women’s World Cup. She did not consent to be kissed.
Rubiales is president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and one of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) vice presidents. He refused to resign, and was dumb enough to say, “A social assassination is taking place. I don’t deserve this manhunt I have been suffering.” It took Fédération Internationale de football association = FIFA to remove him, if only temporarily. FIFA will look at whether his actions constitute violations of Article 13 in its disciplinary code, concerning offensive behaviour and fair play.
The Spanish government was also taking action to force his removal. It was asking Rubiales to explain himself to a Spanish administrative court as soon as possible. If it deems he violated the professional sports code, he could then be suspended.
Hermoso stated: “I want to make clear that at no time did the conversation to which Mr Luis Rubiales refers to in his address take place and, above all, his kiss [was n]ever consensual.”
She added his claims were “categorically false and part of the manipulative culture that he has generated”.
“I feel the need to report this incident because I believe no person, in any work, sports or social setting should be a victim of these types of non-consensual behaviours. I felt vulnerable and a victim of impulsive-driven, sexist, out-of-place act, without any consent on my part”.
“Quite simply, I was not respected.”
She was put “under continuous pressure” to help with a “statement that could justify” Rubiales’ actions – and so were her family, friends and team-mates.
“These types of incidents add to a long list of situations that the players have been denouncing. This incident is the final straw and what everyone has been able to witness on live television also comes with attitudes like the one we saw this morning [Friday, 2023-08-25] and have been part of our team’s daily life for years”.
81 players confirm they will not play for Spain’s women’s team until he is removed from his post. In addition, two Spanish men’s national team and Real Betis players, Héctor Bellerín and Borja Iglesias, criticised Rubiales on social media, with the latter refusing to play for Spain until Rubiales resigned.
By Saturday, 2023-08-26, RFEF had threatened to sue Jenni Hermoso, accusing her of lying and defamation, and the women football players who signed a letter in which they refused to play for their country as long as Luis Rubiales remained its leader. Obviously, a lot more people in the RFEF need to be replaced.
Then, Ángeles Béjar (? – ), Rubiales’ mother, entered the Church of the Divine Shepherdess in Motril, Granada, Spain on Monday morning, 2023-08-28, to begin a hunger strike to protest what she describes as her son’s unwarranted, inhumane and bloodthirsty hunt.
Ángeles Béjar was taken to hospital on 2023-08-30.
On 2023-09-05, Jorge Vilda (1981 – ) was fired as head coach of the Spanish women’s national team.
According to a Guardian article, Luis Rubiales’ uncle, Juan Rubiales, told El Confidential: “We Rubialeses are absolutely committed to the idea of dignity. And dignity is to defend Jenni, to understand her, and to reproach the shameful behaviour of this president…. I think [Luis Rubiales] needs a social re-education programme and a re-education in his relationship with women.” He described his nephew as a man “obsessed with power, luxury, money and women”. In a separate interview with the newspaper El Mundo, he added that his nephew was a “man with a clear machista [sexist] tinge”.
Irene María Montero Gil, MP is a Spanish politician and psychologist, member of the Podemos party. She has been the Spanish Minister of Equality since 2020-01-13. She described the kiss as a “lower-intensity” form of sexual violence that is often invisible and normalised in society.” On 2023-09-10 she tweeted: “Se acabó [It’s over].”
On 2023-09-10, Gary Lineker, former England footballer turned BBC broadcaster who played in Spain for three years, tweeted about Rubiales resignation: Rubiales: “No voy a dimitir. No voy a dimitir. No voy a dimitir. No voy a dimitir.” “Voy a dimitir [I resign].”
Rich Men North of Richmond
At the start of the first American Elephant Party television debate on 2023-08-22, an excerpt was played of Oliver Anthony’s (1992 or 1993 – ) song, Rich Men North of Richmond, then discussed. Fox News host, Martha MacCallum, said Anthony’s “lyrics speak of alienation, of deep frustration with the state of government and of this country. Washington DC is about 100 miles north of Richmond.”
On stage stood seven current or former governors and congressmen and one venture capitalist, all members of the Elephant Party.
McCallum asked: “Governor DeSantis, why is this song striking such a nerve in this country right now?”
Ron DeSantis, replied: “Our country is in decline. This decline is not inevitable. It’s a choice. We need to send [Donkey Party member and US president] Joe Biden back to his basement and reverse American decline.”
However, on Friday 2023-08-25, nonpartisan Anthony released a 10-minute video, in which he rejected that answer and denied that he was a conservative figure. “The one thing that has bothered me is seeing people wrap politics up in this. I’m disappointed to see it. Like, it’s aggravating seeing people on conservative news try to identify with me, like I’m one of them. That song has nothing to do with Joe Biden. You know, it’s a lot bigger than Joe Biden. That song’s written about the people on that stage and a lot more, not just them.”
It was hard, Anthony said, to “get a message out about your political ideology or your belief about the world in three minutes and some change. But I do hate to see that song being weaponized, like I see. I see the right trying to characterize me as one of their own. And I see the left trying to discredit me, I guess in retaliation. That’s got to stop.”
He said the response to his song had crossed party lines and that he welcomed a diverse audience.
“If you watch the response videos on YouTube, it’s not conservative people responding to the song. It’s not even necessarily Americans responding to the song. I don’t know that I’ve seen anything get such positive response from such a diverse group of people. And I think that terrifies the people that I sing about in that song. And they’ve done everything they can in the last two weeks to make me look like a fool. To spin my words. To try to stick me in a political bucket.”
Wikipedia tells us, that Anthony is the first songwriter to debut at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 with no prior chart history in any form, Anthony is the first male songwriter to chart 13 songs all simultaneously in the top 50 Digital Song Sales while still alive—Prince and Michael Jackson exceeded that count only following their deaths.
Confession 1: I have not actually listened to Oliver Anthony’s track. After about 10 seconds I find the raspy voice and Piedmont dialect , along with a resonator guitar so unpleasant that I turn it off. I was able to listen to Johnny Cash (1932 – 2003), or more likely his artificial intelligence alter-ego, singing it.
Confession 2: I find the names of political parties difficult to accept. I am not sure what makes, say, the Democratic party, more democratic than another party. I frequently avoid that aspect of political debate, by codifying their real names. In this alternative universe, the party that is closest to me is the Marmot party. Why? The marmots I know best, those living on McArthur Island in Kamloops, British Columbia are enthusiastic and engaged, but without direction. I often rename parties after party symbols.
Wildfires have become an issue. To call them a serious problem is to undermine their destructiveness. I think especially of the village of Lytton in British Columbia, but also Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, not to mention Lahaina, on Maui. On 2023-08-19, West Kelowna, across Okanagan Lake from Kelowna, where I spent most of my childhood summers, was experiencing wildfires. Kelowna, was being threatened by them. They experienced the wildfire of a century twenty years earlier, on 2003-08-16. Yes, I too am amazed at how short centuries have become!
We have to improve the terms used to describe wildfire events, removing the time scale. A once in a century fire, could be more accurately described as a 1% chance wildfire event. This, has now become a more common 5% chance wildfire event. In another ten years that might increase to a 10% chance wildfire event. These percentages indicate that there is no regularity to these events.
Historically, there have also been large wildfires in the past, such the Peshtigo fire in Wisconsin in 1871 and the Sudbury fire in Ontario in 1916. At times in Australia, Indonesia and other places there have seen multiple fires burning simultaneously, causing significant harm and loss of life. Cities have also burned, notably, the Great Fire of London on 1666-09-05 and Chicago, that started the same day as the Peshtigo fire, 1871-10-08. New Westminster, where I grew up has experienced two massive fires that started on 1898-09-10 and 2020-09-13, respectively.
While I avoid expletives, I am thinking of introducing one for dramatic effect, combustion! (with variants). For example, “It was a combustive mess”. Like most other expletives, it adds no truthiness to a basic statement. Here, a mess is a mess. Combustive simply adds emotional flavour. While some forms of combustion are necessary, the world in my lifetime has produced too much of it. My hope is that by making it an expletive, people will reflect on their combustive behaviour and reduce or eliminate it.
Despite being as much of a NIMBY (not in my backyard) as the next person, I am a proponent of decarbonization, including the total elimination of fossil-fuels, such as natural (and unnatural) gas from houses. Induction stovetops are a more effective (but not necessarily cheaper) way to cook. Hydro, geo-thermal, solar and wind are effective ways of producing clean electricity.
Hawaiian Electric irresponsibly claimed that they could not turn off the electricity on Maui because some customers were dependent on electrical power for medical devices. In addition Maui uses electricity to provide water for residents. My reply is that batteries have been invented that can provide power to medical devices, in situations where it is unsafe to have grid power on. Yes, I am aware that someone has to think of that solution, and that batteries cost money. So does an enormous loss of life, with so many people unaccounted for! Where I have lived water relies on reservoirs and tanks at higher levels, and uses gravity feed to provide water to consumers. Admittedly, water may have to be pumped into these storage places.
Somewhat later, I received the following reply from a friend: Appears Hawaii Utility removed downed power poles, equipment, suspected of possibly causing the devastating fire …. therefore jeopardizing offficial investigation. Cover up?
Maui County is suing Hawaiian Electric over the fire that leveled Lahaina, The lawsuit includes a demand for a jury trial. It alleges the destruction could have been avoided if power lines had been shut off. This is part of a growing critical focus on the utility with videos apparently showing downed cables setting fire to vegetation. There were ample warnings of strong winds from a nearby hurricane, but Maui County claims which that Hawaiian Electric and its subsidiaries negligently kept power lines live. Some quotations: “These power lines foreseeably ignited the fast-moving, deadly, and destructive Lahaina Fire, which completely destroyed residences, businesses, churches, schools, and historic cultural sites.”; “Defendants knew that the high winds the [National Weather Service] predicted would topple power poles, knock down power lines, and ignite vegetation.”; “Defendants also knew that if their overhead electrical equipment ignited a fire, it would spread at a critically rapid rate.”
Maui County is not free of blame. Critics say it was not prepared for the event, and provided an inadequate response. In other place, such as California, electric utilities routinely shut down large stretches of above-ground power lines in strong winds. One has to question whether above-ground power distribution is suitable in the 21st century.
This 2023-08-08 fire was the deadliest wildfire in the United States for more than a century. It burned through about 800 hectares destroying the historic town of Lahaina, a former Hawaiian royal seat. It has rendered thousands of people homeless. Maui County released a list of 388 names of people who remain unaccounted for. Recovery is expected to take years. Federal estimates suggest the fire caused $5.5 billion of damage.
At the end of August, Tim Anderson has written something I could never write, It has to do with the popularity of computer languages. This topic is easiest to explain by looking at fruits. Different fruits have different uses. Personally, I avoid apples and cherries because they don’t like me. I do consume citrus fruits, but they are not substitutes for each other. I would never eat a lemon or a lime with breakfast, like I would eat an orange or half a grapefruit.
Then there are general programming languages, that can actually be used to make a software product. These are a totally different ilk, much like an orange or (for some people) an apple or a handful of cherries. There have been many generations of these, with Python being the most popular today. It was named after the British comedy group whose first name is Monty, rather than a snake. It first appeared in 1991. C, the language I use most, first appeared in 1972. Fortran first appeared in 1957.
I am now changing the advice I am giving to young people about which general purpose language to learn and use. My new favourite is Rust, named after the plant pathogenic fungi (order Pucciniales) with about 7 000 species. This programming language first appeared in 2015, but originated some years earlier at Mozilla, makers of the Firefox browser. It is supported by a number of large tech companies including Alphabet (Google), Amazon and Microsoft. Apple uses Swift, a competing language and successor to Objective-C, in most areas, but uses Rust in robotics.
I use the expression, democracy tax to indicate a willingness to pay more for goods and services that are made in democratically governed countries, as opposed to paying less for equivalent goods from countries that are more autocratic. Despite its shortcomings, I generally use the latest Democracy Index, as provided by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), to determine a country’s relative placement.
The countries where I have the greatest emotional attachment had the following rankings on the first EIU Democracy Index, made in 2006: Norway (4), Canada (9), Ireland (11) and USA (17), listed in ranked order. In 2021, the ranks were: Norway (1), Ireland (7), Canada (12) and USA (26). Our nuclear family of two parents and two adult children are all citizens of Canada. My wife and children are citizens of Ireland. All but one child are citizens and residents of Norway. That one child lives in USA, along with numerous other relatives.
Countries where I also have some emotional attachment include other Nordic countries (ranked 1, 2, 5 & 6 in 2006, but 3 – 6 in 2021). This ranking pattern of 2006 followed by 2021 continues below. In addition, I attempt to support other democratic countries economically, where this is possible. These countries include many members of the European Union and Switzerland (10 – 9). In Latin America I am especially impressed with Uruguay (27 – 13) and Costa Rica (25 – 20). In Austral-Asia, New Zealand (11 – 2), Taiwan (32 – 8), Australia (8 – 9), South Korea (31 – 16) and Japan (20 – 17) are to be praised. In sub-Saharan Africa, I attempt to give theoretical support to Mauritius (25 – 19). Yes, Mauritius and Costa Rica were tied in 2006, as were Ireland and New Zealand.
Ranking for some of the larger European Union countries: Germany (13 – 15), France (24 – 22), and Italy (34 -31).
If countries should be mentioned where I feel an emotional detachment, not because of the people themselves, but because of their political systems: United Kingdom (23 – 18) for leaving the European Union, Russia (102 – 124) for its invasion of Ukraine, and China (138 – 148) for its oppression of Hong Kong, and threats against Taiwan. Note, figures presented were from 2021 before the latest, 2022-02-24, Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Since the Russian invasion, I have attempted to prioritize purchases from the most democratic countries, and to avoid the least democratic.
A democracy tax is voluntary. In many cases, there are few if no choices available. Such is the case in Norway about food stuffs. Many of these are produced by agricultural cooperatives in Norway. Unfortunately, Norway is incapable of supplying all of its nutritional needs. So products are imported into Norway by the major grocery wholesalers. Admittedly, in some areas it is easier to exercise one’s ability to choose where something is made, than others. Below are examples of attempting to pay the democracy tax on a big-ticket item, and smaller-ticket items often related, specifically, to computing in its various forms.
Our first application of the democracy tax was with respect to ordering a new electric vehicle. We decided to exclude cars from China, but to consider cars from France, Germany, Italy and South Korea. A Volkswagen ID.Buzz was ordered on 2022-05-23, and delivered on 2023-02-13.
There are cheaper EVs than the Buzz. There is also conjecture that next year’s EV will be cheaper this this year’s. Yet, as old people we felt we could not put off buying a new vehicle indefinitely. Similarly, it was announced that features we might appreciate would be coming after the initial release. These included four-wheel drive, and removable rear seats. We decided we could live without them, and accept something simple.
The residential charger we installed for our EV cost about 5% of the cost of the EV itself. It is possible to save money buying a charger from a less democratic part of the world. However, with about 2/3 of the price related to installation, this would not save much money. We opted to buy one that was made in Norway, the Easee Home. We also opted to increase the length of wiring needed so that we could park the car as we have done for the past thirty-four years.
We decided to buy Asus Zenfone 9 hand-held devices (cell phones), with 16 GB RAM and 256 GB of storage. Asus equipment is typically designed in Taiwan, but made in China. These were purchased in 2022-09 to replace a Chinese designed and made Xiaomi Pocophone F1 purchased in 2018-12. Because hand-held devices control so much of a vehicle’s functions, we decided we wanted to have phones purchased before the arrival of our new EV, even though the Pocophones probably could have lasted an additional year or two. One irritation with the Pocophones was the almost continuous request for tracking permissions, that had been previously denied. While the Zenfones cost over twice the price of the Pocophones, they still cost less than equivalent phones that our children buy. In the eight months of ownership, we have not had a single tracking request.
There are two types of keyboards, ANSI – used in USA, and ISO – used mainly in Europe.
I use ISO, not ANSI. Yet, when I bought a laptop in 2019, I had not thought about that important fact, and ended up buying an Asus Vivobook with an ANSI keyboard. That choice was regretted almost every day. Thus, when Trish’s machine was over seven years old, I allowed myself the luxury of buying us both new laptops, with ISO keyboards, despite the fact that my laptop was only three years old.
Originally, I expected to buy Asus Zenbooks, like Trish’s older machine. However, it appears that Asus is only offering ANSI keyboards with their laptop machines. We ended up with Acer Swift 3 machines, which – because of their inferior screen technology – cost considerably less than a Zenbook. Both Asus and Acer machines are typically designed in Taiwan, but made in China.
I also use a desktop machine, in addition to a laptop. This requires the use of additional equipment. For a long time I avoided buying an ergonomic mouse and keyboard, despite their advantages. Most are expensive, and I didn’t think they were worth the price, despite an official diagnosis of osteoarthritis in a large number of joints in my hands. By 2021, I had changed my mind, transitioning from a Logitech M535 mouse and a K380 keyboard to a more ergonomic Logitech MX Vertical mouse and a K860 Ergo keyboard. Because of vision issues, I also purchased a better monitor/ screen/ display made by AOC. Logitech is a Swiss company. AOC is a Taiwanese company.
Not all of our capital expenditures are related to computing. More recently, the local yarn shop closed down. Patricia decided that she could afford to buy about five years worth of supplies, at half price. Here, she was able to purchase Norwegian brands. Yet, one wants to ask how much of these use Norwegian wool exclusively?
For some months I have been concerned about the inability to adjust my Ryobi mitre saw to compensate for cutting deviations I experienced. My solution was to buy a smaller, but more accurate Bosch mitre saw that will meet my needs. Previously, I had replaced a Scheppach table saw with a Bosch table saw, and am considering just one further replacement, a Coop brand track saw with yet another Bosch model. I have discovered that Bosch provides the product quality I need and appreciate. I also discovered that these products are made in China.
Reducing the democracy tax
There are ways to reduce the democracy tax. With retirement at the end of 2016, 2017-01-01 marked the beginning of a new era, with a (partial) set of new values. Our pensions were set at 60% of our final employment earnings. Since then they have been reduced by 0.75% per year. For us, there have never been any issues about living within our means. We have managed to save money every year of our retirement. We are not overspending, in terms of our income. However, I did look at ways in which I could save additional money without affecting the quality of our lives.
One of the things I did not want to do was to focus on buying sale items at sale prices. The easiest way to save money on something, is to avoid buying it.
Another way to reduce the democracy tax is to buy used items. Yet, sometimes one spends money and gets little in return. One of the first used items I purchased in my retirement was a Logitech K380 keyboard, on 2020-01-06. This keyboard was my favourite, so I wanted to make sure I had a duplicate in case it wore out. It hasn’t and it probably won’t so this was an unnecessary purchase. The only advantage in purchasing it, is that my two offspring can both inherit one.
A kitchen is not just a place for food storage and preparation, it is also a natural place for the accumulation of nutritional and food preparation information. I bought a used Asus All-in-One (AiO) computer on 2020-10-12 to become the interface for this information. In addition, it could act as a room control unit in the kitchen. One can never be completely certain how technology will be received. The kitchen is designed with an extra 2.5 meters of usable desk/ table top for food preparation purposes. I am intending to use less than 0.5 meters of counter space for the computer, yielding a net gain of 2 meters.
Starting with the pandemic in 2020, and continuing until today, it is no longer possible to buy everything off the shelf. There are major delays. In 2023, instead of buying new Raspberry Pi boards for projects, I am buying used Acer Revo desktop machines, with a minimum of 4 GB RAM, and a 120 GB SSD. Currently, I have 2 x RL70, 1 x RL85 and 1 x RN66 models, and hope to conclude my purchasing spree with a 1 x RN76 model, sometime later this year. These are cheaper, and adequate for all my needs. I have decided to buy one piece of kit a month, for a maximum of NOK 1 000.
The RL70 units are intended to work as combined controllers for both a greenhouse and a weather station. Once the hardware is built the two units will be given away. The software will be kept, and the details published, so that others will be able to use the insights (and code) developed.
The RN models will probably be used as a Windows machine for those programs that fail to operate properly using Linux Wine. Wine is often called a compatibility layer, rather than an emulator. It often works, but sometimes it doesn’t, meaning that it is appropriate to install and use Windows. The programs that fail to work were first developed when Windows XP was the most common operating system. I have a working copy of this that can be installed. In addition, I have a working copy of Windows 7, should it be needed. In both cases, the computer will be operated without any connection to the internet.
The RN76 will probably run a library program, and a slide digitization program. The RN66 will probably run a CNC machine in the workshop. Note: the workshop is being transitioned away from being a place to support building construction, to a fabrication centre. The first step was to replace the Ryobi EMS254L mitre saw, with a Tesaker CNC milling machine. A smaller Bosch GCM 8SJL mitre saw has been purchased that can be used on location.
In 2023-05, I discovered that Logitech was making at least some of its Nordic keyboards with an ANSI configuration. I found this disturbing. Thus, I decided to buy yet another Logitech ISO keyboard, this time as a Logitech MX keys mini in pink. This was purchased used at approximately half the price of a new equivalent keyboard. I will remind readers that pink was often regarded as a male colour in the 19th century, and even in the 20th century up to the 1920s.
I then read that Logitech would be making an improved version the MX mouse Anywhere 3 to be called the 3S. While this offered technical improvements, it would be more expensive. I decided to buy one using the old technology. It is not always necessary to have the best quality, everywhere. Indeed, I have no intention of using this MX keyboard and mouse immediately. Rather, they are reserve solutions should my current Logitech ergonomic keyboard (K860) and mouse (MX vertical) wear out, or otherwise fail.
One of the reasons I prefer to make things myself, is that I prefer the simpler look that my projects provide. I prefer the handmade to the elegant.
Even dreams should be downsized. For the past twenty years I have imagined myself using a computer numerical control (CNC) milling machine. It is useful to make all sorts of things. The question is, how big should its bed be? The standard answer is 1 250 x 2 500 mm, which will accommodate 48″ x 96″ sheets of plywood, or their slightly small metric equivalents. Sometimes, the standard answer is not the best answer, for three reasons. First, the mill may be larger than required to make interesting products. Second, it may be too expensive, relative to the benefits it provides. Third, it may not turn out to be as useful as one imagines. Fortunately, a professional CNC machinist in Inderøy had decided to get rid of his student project, a Tesaker CNC milling machine, because he had purchased something larger. So, I was able to acquire this at a fraction of the price of a larger machine. Of course it only has a working surface of 300 x 500 mm, which is more than adequate.
My workshop is a converted single car garage, about 3 x 6 meters with a small annex originally used to store firewood, providing about 20 square meters of space. There are times when I think that it would be better if it were twice the size. As an auxiliary workshop to complement building construction, it has been adequate. It will also be adequate for the manufacturing of smaller objects. But it cannot be both simultaneously. I have had to learn to accept that fact.
This is the situation through much of life. One has to accept that one is born at a particular time in a particular place. Throughout one’s childhood, one’s abilities to make decisions are restricted, notably by parents and teachers. Increasingly, one is able to take greater control over one’s own life, but that control is not total. Various institutions, authorities and other people want a say in what happens, and can exhort pressures to enforce it.
An aspirational digression
Some of the issues involved in a democracy tax, and globalization more generally, can be discovered by looking at the Ever Given, the container ship that decided to shut down the Suez canal from 2021-03-23 to 2021-03-29, but remained within the canal system until 2021-07-07, when it was released after agreeing to pay an estimated US$ 600 million in compensation to the canal authorities. With a displacement of almost 266 Gg, a length of almost 400 m, a beam of almost 60 m, and a draught somewhere between 14.5 (design) and 16 (maximum) m it is Suezmax size, indicating that its dimensions are the largest capable of transiting the Suez Canal in a laden condition. The ship was one of 13 Imabari 20 000 container ships designed and built by Imabari Shipbuilding of Japan, and owned by its subsidiary Shoei Kisen Kaisha. The vessel is registered in Panama, has technical management by Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement of Germany, is time chartered and operated by Evergreen Marine of Taiwan. The ship was sailing with an Indian crew of 25, led by Krishnan Kanthavel, from the container port at Tanjung Pelepas in Malaysia to Rotterdam in the Netherlands with Felixstowe in England, the next port of call.
In the Suez canal, Kanthavel was nominally in charge, while the vessel was under the effective control of Egyptian pilots. Once the Ever Given arrived at its European ports, the estimated US$1 billion worth of goods onboard in up to 20 124 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) containers, would be shipped by ship, rail and truck to a large number of different countries located throughout the European Union, and its former member, the United Kingdom.
The transport of goods involves many corporate participants located in many divergent countries. It is difficult to know how fair any contracts are. For example, the captain of the container ship is responsible for all of its operations, even if the commands are given by pilots. It is difficult to know if the staff onboard a container ship are paid living wages, if taxes are being paid, if the environment is being respected. All we can guess, is that massive profits are being made, transporting goods from some distant point of origin to some other distant destination.
The same lack of detailed knowledge surrounds every item being transported on the ship.
During the pandemic, people have experienced that just-in-time inventory management is not compatible with the world’s current economic disruptions. A democracy tax involves a willingness to pay more to buy something made locally. How local, probably depends on the product. Our eggs and milk come from neighbouring farms, our new car from a slightly more distant European country, our computing equipment originates in an Asian democracy, but are manufactured in China.
People should not expect a market economy to last. It is dependent on having a surplus population that opt to compete with each other. Fertility rates indicate that most developed, democratic countries have fertility rates of about 1.5 births per woman, or lower. This means that countries will have to ensure that vital services, such as basic infrastructural needs, food, health care and education are met, before governments should encourage more competitive activities.
This may also mean that governments may be required to intervene in markets. In 1980s Norway, price controls were still in effect, but they were over by 1990. Some older people, and those with origins in other cultures may have experienced the benefits of rationing, or the detriments of extreme inflationary prices, possibly even famine, if countries chose not to implement rationing.
There is no need for prophetic gifts to understand that there will be limitations placed on market economies. If it has not already started, it will in the near future. In addition to the demographic issues noted in the previous paragraph, there are two other reasons for this. First, two years of supply issues has shown that people want to place restrictions on trade, they want to avoid price gouging, but are willing to pay fair prices. Second, globalization has not yet died, but it is being transported by ambulance to an economic hospital, where it will undergo tests to determine its economic viability.
Depending on size, either meters (m) or millimeters (mm) are most often used to specify product length/ width/ height without any further need to specify units. Mass is more difficult to specify. Depending on purpose, some people like: the stone = 14 pounds (lb) = ca. 6.35 kg; the long/ imperial hundredweight (cwt) = 8 stone = 112 lb = ca. 50.8 kg; the long ton = 20 cwt = 160 stone = 2 240 lb = ca. 1 016 kg; the short ton = 2 000 pounds = ca. 907.18 kg; or, the tonne = 1 000 kg = 2 204.6 lb = 1.102 short tons = 0.984 long tons. In the metric system, the kilogram is the base unit of mass. This is ideal in many circumstances, including measuring body mass.
When dealing with heavier objects beyond the range of the kg, there is the megagram (Mg) = 1 000 kg, commonly referred to as a metric tonne (t), which is approximately the same mass as a (non-metric) short ton. Ships are often specified by their tonnage: gross (GT)/ net (NT)/ dead-weight (DWT), or their displacement. Large ships can have their displacement expressed in gigagrams (Gg), which some people would recognize as being thousands of tons/ tonnes.
Americans should get the impression that they are encouraged to start/ continue using metric units! As a Canadian, I started using them in science classes in school starting in the early 1960s, but used them more systematically after 1970. In Norway, I had no option but to use them for almost everything. Exceptions: Boat lengths are measured in feet. Timber, width and thickness were measured in inches, but the Norwegian inch is longer than the imperial inch. It was used to compensate for the shrinkage timber/ lumber would experience between being cut and delivered to England.
In my retirement career as a writer of weblog posts, I try to maintain a balance between using words that almost every adult understands and some more unusual, but appropriate, words that can enhance people’s appreciation of a topic. There is no point in using hyfalutin English, if nobody understands what it means.
Rather than choosing just a single new word, I wanted to select groups of relevant words, related in different ways to each other. Many of these words refer to social justice, or at least the social situation society finds itself in towards the end of a pandemic, with a war waging in Ukraine, and with Iranian women (and many others) protesting their denied basic human rights.
Social justice entered the English vocabulary, almost two hundred years ago, in 1824. Its emphasis has evolved. Earlier, it was concerned about social rights and roles. Then came the suffragette movement to extend the vote to women, and many others, emphasizing political rights. Currently, the emphasis is on social mobility and economic justice.
The term acronym was invented in 1943 by Bell Laboratories to refer to new words like RADAR = radio detection and ranging, that had been created from the initials of the words in phrases. Except, some people want to exclude RADAR and SONAR = sound navigation and ranging, because they do not regard them as real acronyms. Both RA- and SO- use two letters to refer to a single word, radio and sound, respectively. FONO has similar challenges.
On my daily to do list, I have managed to write two items: 1) painting (as in artwork), 2) walking. The list is actually titled, fun things to do without a computer, so writing weblog posts is excluded, as is playing a synth – which is nothing more than a computer musical instrument. But it is not the only thing left out. Leaving Cliff Cottage to socialize is just not worth the effort, much/ most of the time. HOGO = “hassle of going out” is used as an acronym, but probably inaccurately. A more honest acronym would be FOGO = “fear of going out.” Perhaps, HOGO is subsumed in FONO = “fear of normal” which has largely replaced FORO = “fear of running out,” common at the beginning of the pandemic, applied to toilet paper and other necessities, real or imagined. This replaced the pre-pandemic FOMO = “fear of missing out.”
There are lots of new terms related to influencers. Quantitatively, one website wants to use the following multipliers: nano influencers with 1K–10K people following; micro influencers with 10K–100K; macro influencers with 100K–1M; and, mega influencers with 1M+ followers. Apart from the last one, these defy convention. Purists believe there should be influencers (i) with 1 – 999 followers, kiloinfluencers (ki) with 1 000 to 999 999 followers, and megainfluences (Mi) with 1 000 000 or more followers. At every level there are also fake influencers, paying for followers and engagement, so they look more influential than they are.
Personally, I don’t even like the term influencer, despite its English origins in the 1660s. I continue to live in hope that others will refer to me as a doyen = a senior member, as in age, rank, or experience, of a group, class, profession, etc., a term with French origins, at almost exactly the same time. I prefer it to the more modern, maven = expert or connoisseur, with Yiddish and Hebrew origins.
A finfluencer is a social media influencer who focuses on financial and other money-related topics. Like other influences, their job is to encourage people to buy particular services.
A silvfluencer is a middle-aged or elderly person who encourages people, typically queenagers, to buy items such as clothing and make-up by recommending them on social media. A queenager is a middle aged or older woman, who leads a busy life, dresses stylishly and enjoys having fun. Sometimes these people are so old they are referred to as coastal grandmothers, who embody the simple, elegant style of rich, older women living by the sea on the east coast of the United States. Many of these are part of the elastic generation, between 50 and 70 who are well off and have a broad range of interests, seen by the advertising industry as consumers who are likely to spend a lot of money.
Planet placement involves conversations/ products/ services related to environmental issues, to raise the audience’s awareness of climate change/ environmental destruction. Presumably, this would include references to probiotic architecture = buildings that can host bacteria that help keep people healthy. If pets are involved, barkitecture may be part of the solution.
Readers are encouraged to start their own influencer careers, that involves only their families and friends. If that seems too massive, start off with just yourself, then gradually scale up to ten followers. A free, hosted weblog is an appropriate place to start. Set an achievable goal, such as an annual posting. Some people may prefer to post photos, or other graphic content, without any words. Others may prefer spoken words (as in podcasts) rather than written words. In the blogosphere there is a place for everyone.
When I first came across sponcon, I thought it referred to spontaneous content, rather than sponsored content. This is equivalent to one of my favourite phrases, native advertising. Wikipedia mentions its origins with Hallmark Hall of Fame, a television series that started in 1951. Native refers to the matching of product form and function with the platform upon which it appears. In other words, the product and content are merged. For example, an advertorial is an advertisement in the form of editorial content, a portmanteau = blend, of the words advertisement and editorial. Product placement = embedded marketing, a precursor to native advertising, places the product itself within the content. Think of a frosted glass of root beer on the tray attached to a woodie station wagon with a surfboard, parked at an A & W drive-in in Everett, Washington.
Companies fail for different reasons, but a lack of focus on the product or service and target customers is a big part of the reason. Burning through cash is another challenge, indicating an inability to plan and prioritize.
Founders and investors should acknowledge the existence of unicorpses = failed billion dollar startups, and spend less time and energy fantasizing about unicorns. What the world needs now are businesses that are sustainable.
According to a weblog post by Chris Joyce, a J-Score, with its 10 criteria, each subjectively rated from 0 to 10 points, can be used to distinguish unicorpses from unicorns. Unicorns earn 95 points or more.
These are, in summary: 1) There must be multiple barriers to entry other than money and marketing. 2) The product must be differentiated in several ways. 3) The product must not be a copy or newer version of an existing product. 4) The product must offer some form of controversy. 5) In order to be successful in a mature industry, a product must be fundamentally different from that offered by existing companies. 6) The product must not be a commodity, a standardized, universally distributed type of product. 7) The product must actually work/ function. It cannot just be a proof of concept/ prototype/ minimum viable product (MVP). 8) The product must not be ahead of its time. 9) The product must be salable. 10) The product must provide extreme value to purchasers.
April: Exhausted majority
More in Common, is an organization that comments on American society. They have concluded that as many as three quarters of Americans are exhausted from the tribal actions of political leaders and the media, and – especially – from having to navigate the ever-changing landscape of political correctness. This majority of Americans are the Exhausted Majority!
Today’s battleground for the exhausted majority is the office. After two years of thriving without it, and even increasing productivity, workers feel no need to return. In fact, if they do show up, it is likely to be a lonely place. The challenge facing businesses is demographic. There are fewer children being born to replace retiring workers. People in many countries express their opposition to immigration, not willing to admit that if fertility rates fall below 2.1, as they have in most developed countries, immigration is regarded as the only alternative to maintaining a workforce. A few countries, allergic to immigration, wish that robots could be a viable approach.
The Population Reference Bureau (PRB) provides the following fertility rates for 2022. Niger is at the top with 6.7 births per woman. Iran has about 1.7 according to PRB, but other sources state 2.1, almost exactly the same as the replacement rate. In Europe, Italy is one of several countries that has a fertility rate of about 1.3. Other sources state that the average age for first-time mothers in Italy is 31 years old, the highest in Europe. In Norway, PRB says the fertility rate is 1.6, but other sources indicate that it is back up to just under 1.8 after falling to under 1.5 in 2019. Other PRB figures: India = 2.1; USA = 1.7; Russia = 1.5; Canada = 1.4; China = 1.2; Ukraine = 1.0. South Korea, Macau and Hong Kong have the lowest fertility rates in the world, at 0.8 births per woman.
In an attempt to find other phrases containing majority, I came across the blind majority who, apparently, drink the kool-Aid. This usually refers to a person who believes in a dangerous idea because of perceived potential high rewards. The phrase originates with Tom Wolfe’s (1930-2018) The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968), about Ken Kesey (1935 – 2001) and his band, the Merry Pranksters, in 1964. The term also references the 1978 revolutionary suicide of 900 members of the People’s Temple, in Jonestown, Guyana, drinking Flavor-Aid mixed with cyanide. Yet, whenever I hear the phrase, the blind majority, I start reflecting on wilful blindness, as described by Margaret Heffernan (1955 – ), in her book Wilful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at our Peril (2011), and more generally a legal term about a situation in which a person seeks to avoid civil/ criminal liability by intentionally keeping themselves unaware of facts.
Other phrases include the non-majority, the minority, who are bucking a trend; those who are following the crowd, conforming to majority beliefs, opinions or practices; and crowd-pleasers, saying something the majority wants to hear.
May: Ruscism & more
At one level Ruscism/ Rusism/ Russism can be regarded as a form of ethnic discrimination applied to Russians, and people of Russian ancestry, especially since the start of Putin’s special military operation on 2022-02-24, that everyone else refers to as a war. Like all forms of ethnic, religious and cultural discrimination, it is not something to be condoned.
Since this Russian invasion of Ukraine has had so many implications, some related variations will be examined.
Russism (русизм) was popularized, described and extensively used in 1995 by President of the unrecognised Chechen state, Ichkeria, by Dzhokhar Dudayev (1944 – 1996), who saw the military action by Russia in Chechnya as a manifestation of the rising far-right ideology. He described it as: “a variety of hatred ideology which is based on Great Russian chauvinism, spiritlessness and immorality. It differs from other forms of fascism, racism, and nationalism by a more extreme cruelty, both to man and to nature. It is based on the destruction of everything and everyone, the tactics of scorched earth. Ruscism is a schizophrenic variety of the world domination complex. This is a distinct version of slave psychology, it grows like a parasite on the fabricated history, occupied territories and oppressed peoples.”
The variant рашизм = rashism/ rashyzm, has its origins in the 2008 Russian-Georgian war. It became popular in Ukraine after the Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. It refers to Russian fascism generally, and is often used specifically to refer to Russian military forces occupying parts of sovereign Ukraine. In both Ukrainian and Russian it is written the same way, but romanized as rashism in Russian, and rashyzm in Ukrainian.
On 2022-04-23, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated: “This country will have a word in our history textbooks that no one has invented, which everyone is repeating in Ukraine and in Europe – ‘Ruscism’. It’s not just random that everyone is saying that this is Ruscism. The word is new, but the actions are the same as they were 80 years ago in Europe. Because for all of these 80 years, if you analyse our continent, there has been no barbarism like this. So Ruscism is a concept that will go into the history books, it will be in Wikipedia, it will be [studied] in classes. And small children around the world will stand up and answer their teachers when they ask when Ruscism began, in what land, and who won the fight for freedom against this terrible concept.”
A leat is an artificial watercourse dug into the ground, especially to supply water to a watermill or its mill pond. Paul and Rebecca Whitewick used the term in a video describing the Hereford and Gloucester abandoned canal tunnels.
This prompted me to reflect on the use of other archaic water terms, where the acre-foot is the most problematic. An acre is traditionally defined as the area of one chain by one furlong = 10 square chains = 22 x 220 yards =4 840 square yards = 66 x 660 feet = 43 560 square feet. By international agreement an acre is exactly 4 046.856 422 4 m2. When a surface area of one acre is covered by one foot of water, the result is 1 613.333 cubic yards = 43 560 cubic feet = 325 851 American gallons = 1 233.48 m3. This forms a cube approximately 35 feet 2 inches = 10.72 m in all three directions, to the closest inch or cm, respectively.
Note #1: Videos about canals, trains and buses are entertaining! One of videos we watch repeatedly is All Aboard! The Country Bus which is a two-hour journey through the Swaledale valley in North Yorkshire, first shown in 2016.
Note #2: Thankfully, the length of a chain has been standardized at 66 feet. Before 1834, a Scots chain was about 74 feet and an Irish chain 84 feet, adding even more confusion.
Note #3: When we have to translate acres into something understandable, we use these approximate values. For larger areas: 1 km2 = 250 acres, while 1 000 acres = 4 km2; For smaller areas: 1 000 m2 = 0.25 acres, while 1 acre = 4 000 m2.
There is an group of emerging nations, known as the BRICS, from the names of member nations. In alphabetic order these are: Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa. Except, now they appear to have admitted two new members, Argentina and Iran. To help these nations find a collective name for themselves, I have used an anagram solver. The one name that attracted my attention was cibarsi, an Italian word meaning to feed on, or to eat. Since Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria and Türkiye have also expressed an interest in joining, I am encouraging everyone to find an inclusive name or phrase for this extended group.
A totally unrelated group of states is DACH, majority German-speaking states of Central Europe (except Liechtenstein). From Deutschland in German for Germany, Austria in Latin for Austria and Confoederatio Helvetica in Latin for Switzerland. Dach means roof in German. The term DACH+ is sometimes used to include Liechtenstein. DACHS = badger in German, includes German-speaking South Tyrol in Italy.
Since American families typically have long and convoluted histories of immigration, one creative activity is to invent an inclusive name that includes much of that geography as possible. Here is the anagram solver that could be helpful.
Prindel, possibly spelt prndl, is the mechanism on a car, used to select: park-reverse-neutral-drive-low. Before, people called them a gear selector or, possibly incorrectly, gear lever. This appeared on an episode of Munro Live, with Carl Crittenden talking about the Nimbus One electric vehicle (EV), a tadpole = reverse trike = three-wheeled vehicle with two wheels up front and one in the back. The prototype was being tested at Kettering University, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In 2021-03-01 Nimbus stated the price of a Nimbus Halo would be US$ 6 420, with deliveries expected worldwide in mid to late 2022. By 2022-09-01, the name had been changed to Nimbus One, the price to US$ 9 980, and the delivery date to late 2024.
On 2022-08-17, Stellantis presented an Dodge Charger Daytona SRT electric concept vehicle, expected to enter production in 2024, and displacing the current ICE versions. While Stellantis stated that the reason for this vehicle is performance (read: burning rubber), another motivation is saving US$ 609 million in civil penalties for Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) fines arising from missed emission targets.
The Charger EV is probably the antithesis of other EVs in other ways, especially because of three features:
R-Wing: intended to increase aerodynamic efficiency while maintaining the Charger’s characteristic bulky front-end.
eRupt transmission: a multi-speed electro-mechanical transmission with distinct shift-points (jerks), rather than a smooth transitions from one gear to the next.
Fratzonic Chambered Exhaust: a fake exhaust note made so that the EV sounds just like an ICE vehicle. While this may appeal to muscle car enthusiasts, it will offend everyone else.
Fratzog is a Dodge term and logo that was used between 1962 and 1976 (some say 1981), especially on high-performance Dodge models. The logo contains a fractured deltoid composed of three arrowhead shapes that form a three-pointed star. Elwood Engel (1917 – 1986) was Chrysler’s chief designer, but for me it is unknown who came up with the meaningless Fratzog name for the logo, when pressed. It stuck, and was incorporated into assorted badges/emblems and integrated into the design of such parts as steering wheel center hubs and road wheel covers.
Prior to this, Chrysler’s chief designer, Virgil Exner (1909 – 1973), had introduced a radical Forward Look redesign of Chrysler’s vehicles that was the design language for the 1955 – 1962 model years, that featured a Flookerang logo, with two overlapped boomerang shapes, representing space-age rocket-propelled motion.
A fictosexual is a human being sexually attracted to a fictional character. I am not a member of this clan, especially if I restrict myself to fictional book characters. In Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons universe, there are, admittedly, three potential objects of attraction: Susan Walker, Ruth (Nancy) Blackett and Margaret (Peggy) Blackett. Television opens up some greater possibilities with The Avengers, whose characters include Cathy Gale, portrayed by Honor Blackman (1925 – 2020), Emma Peel, portrayed by Diana Rigg (1938 – 2020), and Tara King, portrayed by Linda Thorson (1947 – ), a Canadian. So that I do not completely offend American male readers, I will also mention Honey West, with the title character portrayed by Anne Francis (1930 – 2011).
I searched fictional male character women find most attractive, in order to find a suitable result for women readers. The first result was disappointing. If I selected a random romantic novel depicting the Regency period, Duke would probably emerge. The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains is about an unnamed ranch hand, working at the Sunk Creek Ranch, located outside of Medicine Bow, Wyoming. The novel was written by Owen Wister (1860-1938) in 1902, but set in the 1880s. For those who prefer a more graphic approach, Classics Illustrated #150 is available. Numerous film and television versions, have been made.
We learn that the word is lox, which is probably Proto-Indo-European, was pronounced the same then as it is now in modern English. Then, it meant salmon, and now it specifically means smoked salmon. With the exception of delicatessen owners, and their patrons, I am not sure how much the term is actually used in English. It probably entered English through Yiddish, a West Germanic language historically spoken by Ashkenazi Jews. However, variations of lox = salmon, abound. The Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) in German is Lachse; in Icelandic and Swedish it is lax; in Danish and Norwegian it is laks. In Finnish, it is Lohi. In many slavic languages it is losos. Further west and south there are salmo variations, such as the English salmon, the Dutch zalm, the French saumon, the Spanish salmón, the Portuguese salmão, and even salmo, in Esperanto. The Interlingua-English dictionary, confirms that salmon in Interlingua refers to the English noun salmon: 1. Salmo salar, the fish salmon; as well as 2. the color salmon. This is to be expected in a constructed language based on Romance languages.
Uptober is another word found the same day. This apparently refers to the month where bitcoin is going to turn around and increase in value. In 2013-10, one bitcoin was worth about US$ 192. This rose to a peak of over US$ 65 000 in 2021-11. Since then it has generally fallen in value. On 2022-11-10, the price was US$ 15 742.44.
Other -tober references encountered during the month include: inktober, for people interested in pen and ink drawings. On Halloween, cobwebs and dust loose their status as dirt, and become decorations. Then, as midnight approaches, it is Oct-over.
Watching a BBC video, The Surprising Story of Kid’s TV, the surprising part of it was that children’s television included hosts who were a little different. It might be a northern English dialect, an origin in the Caribbean, Down syndrome, the absence of an arm or (for teen programs) a non-binary sexual orientation. Sometimes, it might even involve children. At the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the BBC showed Belfast children laughing and having fun, and children from dysfunctional families. The surprise I wanted to investigate more, related to deafness, and the use of signing.
With the internet, one is always being led on to the next exciting topic.
First there was Deaf View/Image Art (De’VIA), visual art that represents the Deaf experience and Deaf culture. The term was first defined and recognized as an art genre in 1989. The De’VIA manifesto outlines criteria for De’VIA works: representative of Deaf experiences; use of specific artistic strategies such as color contrast and centralized focus; visual fine arts and alternative media; not exclusive to Deaf artists and not inclusive of all Deaf artists.
This led to: Arnaud Balard (1971 – ), who was born deaf, but who became increasingly blind. He is best known for his Surdism manifesto. Surdism as an artistic, philosophical and cultural movement offers an affirmation of Deaf culture. Surd (English) = sourd (French), which remains the principal word for deaf. In appeared in French as a noun from 1540s. It arrived in English about the same time, 1545–55. It is derived from the Latin surdus = muted, deaf.
Balard also created the Sign Union flag. Wikipedia tells us: After studying flags around the world and vexillology principles for two years, Balard revealed the design of the flag, featuring the stylized outline of a hand. The three colors which make up the flag design are representative of Deafhood and humanity (dark blue), sign language (turquoise), and enlightenment and hope (yellow). Balard intended the flag to be an international symbol which welcomes deaf people.
Note: Here at Cliff Cottage, hearing can be a challenge. Trish has used hearing aids since her early forties, while I have had tinnitus since my early fifties.
A hogamadog is a snowball used to start a snowman – by rolling it through a snowfield, so it gradually becomes increasingly bigger. More generally, it is something that increases in size as it spirals outwards from a central core. According to Paul Anthony Jones, who found it in the English Dialect Dictionary, as a word that began life as a local name for the shell of a snail.
Other dialect words mentioned in the article are: adullamite = someone dissatisfied with the current political outlook; barleyhood (Tudor) = crapulence (defined by Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784) as sickness by intemperance) = hangover; boun = to decorate a home with evergreen branches; bull week = the week leading up to Christmas Day, when workers had to tie up all their loose ends ahead of the holidays; flapdoodler = a dissembling political speaker, in 19th-century slang; fyole = a dusting of snow; grantism = political cronyism and nepotism, after President Ulysses S. Grant (1822 – 1885) awarded more than 30 of his friends and relatives high-profile positions in the early 1870s; kirsmas-glass = a toast to a house given at Christmas; present-silver = money given in place of a gift, used since the 1300s; propine = pourboire (originally French) = Trinkgeld (originally German) = money to be spent on drink; roorback = a rumour circulated for political gain; sonrock = a cosy fireside chair; toe-cover = an inexpensive but pointless gift; whullup = a gift given to curry favour; yuleshard (a corruption of yule’s jade) = a festive fool, someone who leaves work unfinished on Christmas Eve.
Special mention: -flation
Throughout 2022, there have been many new -flation terms circulating, especially with the onset of supply-side inflation, since the pandemic. From the 1960s, until now, most inflation has been demand-side, where consumers have too much money to spend, and the price of products and services increases. The common cure is to increase interest rates, so that people are discouraged from borrowing, and encouraged to save. Supply-side inflation is due to production issues. Increasing interest rates does not alleviate the problem. Both price controls and rationing have been used to restore order.
Greedflation uses inflation as an excuse to increase prices more than necessary in order to make as much money as possible. Greenflation results in a similar price increase, but it is caused by moving to more environmentally friendly options. Ripflation arises when companies use inflation as an excuse to increase their prices more than necessary in a way that rips off (= cheats) their customers. Skimpflation involves a situation where the price of a product or service stays the same but the quality becomes worse. Cash stuffing = saving cash in a different envelope for each type of purchase, is a financial strategy that involves saving cash instead of investing it, in order to beat inflation. Cash? The only cash I have is one (1) 10-krone coin, shared with Patricia and kept in our car, used to release a shopping cart, and to ensure that the cart is returned to a designated collection point before leaving the shopping centre.
A Norwegian language article on the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation website about the price of eggs, provides some numbers for discussion. In 2022-06, 18 Eldorado brand eggs cost NOK 32.90. On 2022-07-01, the price of eggs was increased to NOK 37.40. In 2022-09 the price increased yet again to NOK 37.90. But, at the same time, the number of eggs was reduced from 18 to 12. The price per egg had increased from NOK 1.82 to NOK 3.16, a price increase of 74%. This was termed krympflasjon = crimpflation = shrinkflation. In marketing, this psychological trick is referred to as barely noticeable differences. Marketers hope that customers won’t notice the difference.
On 2022-12-14, at 06:36 the Norwegian Language Council (Språkrådet) announced that krympflasjon is the Word of the Year 2022. Council director Åse Wetås said: [It] summarizes 2022 in an striking way. There are many who experience difficult times because of the price trend we has seen so far.
Word to avoid in 2022 (and beyond): Metaverse
Metaverse is a word that has been nipping at my heels the entire year. It was actually the word of the month for January, until it was replaced. It also resulted in an emphasis on social justice.
Metaverses are found in two flavours. 1. In the beginning there was a science fiction concept, of a shared, realistic, and immersive computer simulation of the real world or other possible worlds, in which people participate as digital avatars. 2. This diverged into a networked online space inhabited by people in digital environments who interact and experience a shared virtual space with virtual reality, augmented reality, game consoles, mobile devices and/ or conventional computers.
In 2022-04, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel (1990 – ) told the Guardian that Snap avoids using the term because it’s pretty ambiguous and hypothetical.
This was followed in 2022-05, with Amazon senior vice president, devices & services, David Limp stating if he asked a few hundred people what they thought the metaverse was, he’d get 205 different answers with no common definition.
By 2022-07, Mark Zuckerberg (1984 – ) had commented that he believes Apple and Meta are in a very deep, philosophical competition to build the metaverse: “This is a competition of philosophies and ideas, where they believe that by doing everything themselves and tightly integrating that they build a better consumer experience. And we believe that there is a lot to be done in specialization across different companies, and [that] will allow a much larger ecosystem to exist.”
Then in 2022-10, Tim Cook (1960 – ) responded: “I always think it’s important that people understand what something is…. I’m really not sure the average person can tell you what the metaverse is.”
Looking at other social media products, in the week after Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, on 2022-10-27, there have been several controversial developments at Twitter: Senior management are fleeing; ordinary workers have been threatened with mass firing; hate content has multiplied; advertisers are pausing their spending; veryifying an account will cost a monthly fee. In response, users are terminating accounts.
Colin Harrison, emeritus professor of literacy studies, University of Nottingham, writes in a letter: I’ve spent much of the last 10 years researching how best to educate young people into becoming safe, confident internet users, but this becomes more difficult every day. Academics and teachers need to let Musk know that his thoughtless and dangerous behaviour does not broaden democracy. Instead, it supports the view, already held by tens of millions of Americans, that if you don’t like the world that democracy has given you, you simply use money and violence (amplified by social media) to eliminate it.
On 2022-11-02, Tik-Tok admitted that: [W]e allow certain employees within our corporate group located in Brazil, Canada, China, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, and the United States, remote access to TikTok European user data.
Oxford Languages has awarded goblin mode their 2022 Word of the Year, best reflected the ethos and mood of the past 12 months. The slang term is defined as a: type of behavior which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations. The term first appeared on Twitter in 2009, and went viral in 2022. Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Languages, stated: It captured the prevailing mood of individuals who rejected the idea of returning to ‘normal life’, or rebelled against the increasingly unattainable aesthetic standards and unsustainable lifestyles exhibited on social media. People are embracing their inner goblin.
While Word of the Year is typically based on analyzing language data on the popularity of emerging words, in 2022 Oxford Languages held a public vote with over 300 000 people participating. About 93% favored goblin mode, against metaverse and #IStandWith.
There will be no discussion of gaslighting, Merriam-Webster’s word of the year, 2022. Instead, people will be advised to investigate this and other such words in an appropriate Wikipedia article.
Other word of the month contenders, that didn’t make the grade in 2022 include: Clerihew = 4 line poem; Psychotronic = paranormal.
Word of the Year: Necessory
Necessory is a noun that combines necessity with accessory. It is not to be confused with the adjective, necessary. A necessory is an appurtenance that one can not live without. Personally, I regard a Pilot V-ball 0.5 mm pen with blue ink, a necessory when awake and dressed; a 5 meter tape measure, with millimeter markings is a necessory in the workshop; a hand-held device aka a cell phone or mobile phone, is a necessory most 21st century people cannot leave home without. I would like to thank my dear wife, Trish, for inventing this word.
For those who avoid using appurtenance on a daily basis, it is often defined as something associated with another, more important thing. In other words, it is an accessory. The plural, appurtenances, refers to equipment: clothing/ tools/ instruments, used for a specific purpose. In other words, gear.
In 2022 social justice has involved opposition to a war in Ukraine. Thus, many military terms have entered people’s vocabularies since 2022-02-24, when the world was forced by Russian attrocities to remember the words of Carl von Clausewitz (1780 – 1831), [Vom Krieg (1832)] On War (1984): War is a mere continuation of policy with other means (Chapter 1, title of section 24).
Ukrainian geography is better understood. Increasingly, some people can even place the Donbas = Donets basin, on a map, along with Mariupol, the Sea of Azov, and the Carpathian mountains. Odes(s)a has been Vancouver’s sister city since 1944. Crimea is no longer just known for its 1853 – 1856 war. Kyiv has effectively replaced Kiev as the spelling of Ukraine’s capital. KyivNotKiev is StratCom Ukraine =the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) online campaign for strategic communications, that started 2018-10-02 had a goal to persuade English-language media to use Kyiv (Ukrainian Київ) instead of Kiev (Russian Киев).
In Snidanok. Online, Oleksandr Avramenko (1971 – ) encourages writing russia in all lower-case letters, and states this is a Ukrainian language rule since Soviet times, but not codified in the current Ukrainian orthography, allowing/ encouraging the names of disparaged people, such as hitler (1889 – 1945) or putin (1952 – ) to be written this way.
The expression I appreciate best is Затридні = Inthreedays = In three days, which refers to Russian statements that it would take Kyiv in three days, at the beginning of its special military operation, a euphemism for war. It now describes any strongly believed, but unrealistic plan. Завести трактор = Start the tractor, refers to: the use of unusual methods / tools, specifically tractors to drag abandoned tanks.
At the beginning of the war there was Saint Javelin, a mime created by Toronto broadcaster Christian Borys (1986 – ), which has now raised over US$ 1 million in funding for children in Ukraine. Soon javelin, stinger, NLAW = next generation light anti-tank weapon, manpad = man-portable air defense system, referring to guided surface-to-air missiles, were part of a common vocabulary. APC referred to an armoured personnel carrier. Similarly, T-64, T-72, T-80 and T-90 were commonly understood to refer to Russian designed battle tanks. Then there is the high mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS) and the Patriot surface-to-air missile system.
The term drone was used as early as World War I to refer to towed aircraft used in target practice. One of the first descriptions of a drone as an unmanned aerial vehicle, appeared in a Popular Mechanics article in 1940-12. Lee de Forest (1873 – 1961) and U. A. Sandabria (1906 – 1969) were described as working on a robot television bomber, effectively a drone. Today, people are more specific, distinguishing a Shahed-136 kamikaze unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) from a Bayraktar TB2, a medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV).
Some military terms are more psychological than others. There are six situational awareness centres in Ukraine. Ukrainian infowarriors = programmers, at these centres are responsible for Delta = a dynamic battlefield map/ software package showing battlefield positions/ movements. Its purpose is to predict enemy moves so they can be struck faster and more accurately.
These centres have an informal feel, They use Agile techniques = short cycle creation: code, test, launch, repeat. Ukraine has a younger, less hierarchical political culture, where there are more and better horizontal links between units, military and civilian. There is an absence of military uniforms, and the presence of a drone workshop with engineers perfecting a light activated bomb release mechanism on an off-the-shelf quadcopter, fitted with 3D printed parts. Aеророзвідка (aerorozvidka) = aerial reconnaissance, involves drone operators and programmers. One cannot function, without the other.
Then there is the open source intelligence (Osint) department, where date and location data is extracted from social media posts written by Russian recruits, along with satellite imagery supplied by Nato partners, drone footage, photos and information supplied by informers behind Russian lines. These are all fed into the Delta battlefield map, which is accessible to military users through Starlink satellite communications. Delta’s integration of battlefield information is an essential part of a competition Ukraine has to win to survive, with computers as weapons, and data as bullets.
To gain a better understanding of war, I watch a weekly video made by Perun, an Australian military-industry analyst. To gain a better understanding of the Ukrainian language, I study Ukrainian with Duolingo four days a week (M-Tu-Th-F), the other three days are devoted to Dutch (Sa-Su-W).
The war has also influenced our purchasing behaviour. Whereas before, Russian radios and Chinese cars might have been considered for purchase, both amateur radio operators in our family have acquired American made radios, and our upcoming electric car originates in Europe. Acquiring products has become more difficult, because globalization with outsourcing and just-in-time inventory policies are not working for the benefit of ordinary people.
Soon, it will be 2023, and the focus of words for the year will change from social justice to environmental justice.
At some point in their lives, many people admit to being collectors. They use this term because it is neutral: less pious than saver, which would suggest an ethical motivation; less compulsive than hoarder, which would admit to an addiction.
The pronunciation of these terms provides insights into the mind set of listeners. Sometimes, I deliberately mispronounce saver as savior. No one has ever misunderstood or commented on this mispronunciation. I do this when I am trying to represent saving as a religious mission, perhaps even regarding collected stuff as an environmentally sustainable alternative to buying new things. One can also feel the greater intensity of negative impressions, when the term hoarder is pronounced almost normally, but with increased emphasis on the first syllable.
In this weblog post, there will be no attempt to prevent anyone from living in their own fantasy world. The actual thing collected/ saved/ hoarded varies. The economic elite might engage in ostentatiously collecting Renaissance art or incunabula = books printed before 1501. Members of a middle-class might collect hard-covered books, stamps or coins. Sports enthusiasts might collect baseball cards. My mother collected representations of birds, one from each of her trips.
In the 1960s, pennants were popular with children, and we at Cliff Cottage still have remnants of a pennant collection. Many of these were subsequently displayed on bedroom walls. The attached photo of a pennant of Hope, is for a location that represents a boundary, separating polite, sustainable, environmentally conscious Cascadia from the wild, ruinous, environmentally indifferent interior of British Columbia. Hope is on the banks of the Fraser River, about 110 km eastwards/ upstream from New Westminster, and 70 km southwards/ downstream of Hell’s Gate. While five species of Pacific salmon can be found there, with one depicted on the pennant, I am more interested in the declining number of White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus), found south of Hell’s Gate. Sometimes I try to impress some people by mentioning that the area was used as the location for the film Rambo – First Blood (1982). Others are more impressed when I mention that the Othello tunnels, part of Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park, take their names from the works of Shakespeare.
Some insights into collecting will be offered by looking at how others approach the acquisition of things. As this paragraph is being written, our teletype replacement reports that over half of newly baked Norwegian fathers have bought something used on Finn, the Norwegian equivalent of Craigslist. This is a change of attitude. In contrast after 42 years in Norway, we have bought our first new sofas. Previously, we have only had used sofas. Before that, it was covered mattresses on the floor.
Unfortunately, the art of buying used equipment online requires diligence. On one occasion, I bough a computer with a hard drive that contradicted the product description. Since I intended to upgrade it anyway, I ignored it. On a second occasion, stage clips were missing from a stereo microscope, both in the product description provided by the seller, as well as in the sending, but not in the photo used as part of the product description.
A large number of former male colleagues acquire vehicles with personality, when their economy allows it. The vehicles vary. I know some who have bought: (former) military trucks/ motorcycles/ muscle cars/ sports cars/ vans.
One colleague specialized in buying Land Rovers. He confided that he told his wife that he owned eight, because that was the number of vehicles that were registered. I believe the real number was fourteen. Some of these may have just been kept for their parts. Soon the number was reduced to thirteen as he gave one to his daughter, at the time one of my students. I suspect this was in order to buy her silence about the real number of vehicles involved. She admitted to me that she had obtained the very best of the vehicles in his collection.
I had noted that a disproportionate number of male workers in what can be regarded as female-dominated professions, such as teaching and nursing, own uber-masculine vehicles, such as large trucks and muscle cars.
To test this hypothesis, I have watched documentary/ reality programs to see if these stereotypes are common. Not only are the results inconclusive, they seem to point to the opposite conclusion, at least in three series involving vehicle collectors.
Marshal Chapman, was a professor of geology who lived on Isle au Haut, population 70, in Maine, when he appeared in the fifth episode of the documentary, The US East Coast (2014), starting at 33:08. He has a relaxed and modest approach to collecting his two functioning older vehicles, a 1924 Ford Model T coupe, and a 1930 (?) Ford Model A flatbed truck. Among the characteristics he appreciates about his Model A is its high ground clearance and low top speed (33 mph = ca. 50 km/h) allowing him to see more of the landscape as he drives through it. He claims he has no problems obtaining spare parts, with old restorers dying off, and their widows wanting these obsolete vehicles out of their lives. He also claims that once there is one vintage car in a barn, it starts to reproduce so one ends up with four or five vehicles. He is unsure how this happens, just that it does. He also allows his vehicles to take a day off, if they need it, accepting that old cars have quirks. These are internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, but Chapman’s approach to collecting involves several ethical principles that are needed if the world is to successfully transition to a greener future.
Mike Hall, appears in Rust Valley Restorers, a reality series set in Tappen, British Columbia on Shuswap Lake. I know the area well. For most of my childhood, our family stayed for a week at a waterfront cottage at Blind Bay, 15 km from Tappen. Hall is the opposite of Chapman. When the series started, he claimed to own 400 vehicles from the 1950s – 1970s, rusting away in what he describes as a field of dreams. Towards the end of the series, he gives up on his dream, and auctions most of them away, because he is unable to restore them. Hall is a hoarder, and his collecting habits are an obsession and probably an addiction.
Mark Towle, from Gotham Garage, appears in Car Masters: Rust to Riches, another reality series that looks at car revitalization, so far in 32 episodes, from 2018 to 2022. Gotham Garage uses two workshops located in Temecula, a city in Riverside County, California, with a 2020 population of about 110 000. While there has been some discussion about the authenticity of the program, the important point here is that Towle and Gotham Garage are portrayed, not as collectors, but as distributors/ dispensers/ vendors of enhanced/ customized one-off vehicles, built on an existing chassis/ body. Despite claims to the contrary, these are not usually restorations. Rather, vehicles are rebuilt to incorporates the dreams of typically wealthy clients into their newly reconstructed vehicles.
I am still in a state of denial with respect to my collector status about tools. Starting about 2016, I built up a woodworking workshop to assist in the restoration of Cliff Cottage. I soon learned that it can be economically advantageous to buy specialty tools even for a single specific task. Hiring a worker is usually more expensive, and here in rural Norway, there is no option of renting unusual tools. Thus, the perpetual question asked is, what quality should that tool be?
To begin with, I often bought cheaper house brand tools that, while capable of performing assigned tasks, are less effective than better quality tools. I regret some of these earlier purchases.
I have replaced a Scheppach table saw (that suddenly stopped working), with a Bosch table saw, that continues to operate. The one tool that I have been most disappointed with is a Ryobi compound mitre saw. I should have opted for a Bosch model, even though it is three times more expensive. The Ryobi is the one tool in my collection that I refuse to allow anyone to inherit. I have left clear instructions that it is to be recycled!
I own several Meec battery electric tools, because they use the same standard battery, of which I have four. These tools are gudenuf! Many people regard DeWalt as the highest quality woodworking tool brand commonly available in Norway. When I look at their prices, I accept that Bosch has a quality that meets my needs. Most of these woodworking tools have been so little used that they will last not just my lifetime, but the lifetime of the next generation of user that inherits them, and possibly the generation after that.
Computers & Peripherals
I hope to apply what I have learned about woodworking tools, to computers and peripherals. My attitude to collecting computing equipment is that while the quantities exceed basic needs, they are still manageable.
I still recall one day, when indulgence took the overhand. I contacted a Norwegian company whose mission is to sell used computing equipment. I asked specifically about its holding of older Asus EEE PCs and netbooks. A white Asus EEE PC 702 from 2007 is arguably the first netbook. With a profusion of good will, one can almost regard this device as a PDA = personal digital assistant! Almost!!
I then mentioned that I might be interested in acquiring an Asus tablet. Originally launched in 2010 as an EEEpad, its name was later changed to ZenPad. Fortunately, they had neither. This obsession with an ancient EEE equipment is totally irrational. Despite having no need for obsolete kit, I am still attracted to the EEE netbooks, writing about them in 2016 and 2018. They are totally useless in this modern era.
Asus (which takes its name from the mythical winged horse, Pegasus) is a Taiwanese multinational computer company, the sixth largest in the world by unit sales. It was founded in 1989. I often claim that Asus is my go-to brand of computer, but if I consult my records, it turns out that Acer is bought almost as often. Acer is another Taiwanese mulitinational computer company, ranked as the fifth largest in the world by unit sales. It was founded in 1976. I think the main difference between the two brands is that Asus is pushing performance limits, which results in thermal = heat issues. Acer accepts that its products will be less powerful, but without thermal issues.
I also have a collection of Logitech products. Logitech is a Swiss-American multinational manufacturer of computer peripherals and related software, with headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland and Newark, California. It was founded in 1981.
My fascination with particular items of computing equipment can be found in earlier weblog posts, including: here, here, here and here. My main challenge is that I tend to treat each device as an individual, with its own personality. This attitude can be expensive.
Saved/ Collected/ Hoarded Equipment:
The easiest way to recover from excessive collecting, is to transition from collector to dispenser. Product enthusiasts may want to systematize their behaviour, establishing criteria for the acquisition, use and disposal of equipment.
Before acquiring any item, its life expectancy should be determined. This allows the user to count down to a disposal date. Use the term, it helps reduce attachment to an item. For computers of various types, the useful life has not crept up significantly over the years, since we first acquired a computer in 1986. Because of its expense, our first machine was kept five years. Many of the subsequent ones also lasted about that time, but with exceptions – especially after laptops became the norm. The next step is to determine how to get rid of that item, when it has reached the end of its operational life. A typical answer involves recycling. This is often a machine’s fate if it has failed in some way, shortening its expected life. For me, the most common cause involves chronic overheating, because I am always buying equipment that is too powerful, relative to its components, and too cheap, relative to its power.
Another situation arises if some temptress of machine becomes too alluring, encouraging one to acquire a new machine before the expected end of life. My rule is that I have to find someone who could take over that older machine, and give it away to them. With one exception, that I regret to this day, I have never sold a computer, keyboard or rodent. They are either recycled or given away. That means that few machines end up being stored at the end of their life.
Yet, I often feel compelled to give a plausible, rational explanation for my desktop machines. I tell them that sometimes, I need to work with multiple documents. Here having a large screen is the most sensible approach. If the person looks skeptical, I add that age, and the increasing weakness of my body (eyes and hands especially) encourage the use of ergonomic equipment (keyboards, rodent and screen) and the use of desktop machines. I conveniently forget to mention that docking stations are available for laptop computers. The truth of the matters is that I am impressed with miniturization, and how much computing power that can be fitted into a litre of space. My PN machines occupies just over half a litre. My hand-held device, just under 0.1 litre. Much of the time, I simply prefer using a desktop machine. Yet, at other times I prefer the convenience of a portable machine. Then again, nothing beats a hand-held device, for photography and telephony.
One way to look at costs is to compare amortized costs = costs per time period (day, week, month, year). I have selected monthly costs for comparative purposes. Capital costs are the one time expense of acquiring an asset. For cars and related products, operating costs are significant, so that the costs of insurance, registration and fuel should be included. For computing equipment, operating costs, such as the cost of electricity to run a machine, are difficult to take into consideration, with any degree of accuracy.
A Disciplined Collector
Disciplined collectors maintain control over the objects they are collecting, and are not controlled by them. They set physical limits on the size of their collection, and the amount of money invested.
Collecting an object is not a life-time commitment to that object. The size of a collection can be up-sized or down-sized. Newer objects can replace older objects. Regardless, there should be a plan, and this plan should be revised regularly.
The collection lifecycle involves several stages. Stage 0: A plan is worked out in advance for the life cycle of an object, involving a further 7 stages. Stage 1: Investigation. The characteristics that an object needs to meet are determined. Stage 2: Acquisition. One determines suitable specifications and price, enters the marketplace, and buys, or in some other way, acquires an object. Stage 3: Enthusiasm. The object is used with passion and joy, because it meets specified needs. Stage 4: Satisfaction. The object is used, but without enthusiasm, because one observes that other objects perform better or faster. Stage 5: Disappointment. The object is used, but its failings dominate its use. At this stage, the collection process for a new and better object starts at stage 1. Stage 6: Replacement. The new item reaches stage 2, and there is a transition in usage between the old and new object. At the end of this stage the old object is no longer in use. Stage 7. Disposal. The old object is sold/ given away/ recycled.
The US East Coast (2014), mentioned above, is a series I watch repeatedly. It is not so much the video content that attracts me, but more the incidental music by Gianluca Cerchiello!
When I mentioned the topic of this weblog post to Trish, she told me that I should write about my video collecting habits. The short version is that from 1998 , a large number of DVDs have been acquired. Starting in about 2000, their content has been transferred onto assorted hard drives. So I believe the question she really wants answered is: Why are these DVDs still kept? Except, that question is too kind. It should probably be rephrased: Why I am unable to discard these useless DVDs? Yes, I would like to know that myself, because they could be given to others to enjoy. I don’t have an answer, except to say, I am a hoarder!
If I were born in the 21st century, I am certain that I would have avoided purchasing most of the 4 000 physical/ paper books that are found in our library. Most, but not all, because I appreciate many books precisely because of their images. While there are technical problems using an e-book readers to view high-definition images, these are ideal tools for reading novels and more general works.
Our physical books are organized using a decimal classification system, first developed by Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626), but expanded upon by Melvil Dewey (1851 – 1931). Some aspects of this topic have been discussed in an earlier weblog post. The issues discussed there will not be repeated, but augmented.
Our starting point for a classification system is Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC). DDC was first published in 1876. The latest printed version, 23, was published in 2011. The online version, WebDewey, is continuously updated. Unfortunately, the DDC system is problematic, much like the personality of Melvil Dewey. This system was originally positively received, and initially almost universally used, especially if the universe is restricted to American public libraries. Its focus is on a masculine, Christian, European-American homophobic world. We have introduced modifications.
First, we use a revised schedule for DDC 200 (Religion), developed by Paul Gerard, which gives a more equal weight to all religions, and provides adequate space for a full treatment of the Bahá’í Faith. This is referred to as the Phoenix schedule, and has been implemented many places, including Cliff Cottage.
Second, our geographical world view is non-standard, with a focus on at least three different geographical areas: Greater Vancouver in Canada, Trøndelag in Norway, and the Bay Area in California. Thus I have developed my own classification system, Geoscheme. The current version, E2, dates from 2016-05-07, and can be accessed below.
While Dewey’s promotion of the metric system can be applauded, other areas of focus were less positively received and less successful, such as his promotion of a spelling reform, resulting in a permanent first name change from Melville, and a temporary last name change to Dui.
At the 2019 American Library Association annual conference, council document #50 presents a resolution on renaming the Melvil Dewey medal to remove Melvil Dewey’s association with the award. It was passed unanimously. Among the reasons cited are: “ … that he did not permit Jewish people, African Americans, or other minorities admittance to the resort owned by Dewey and his wife; … he was censured by the New York State Board of Regents for his refusal to admit Jews to his resort, whereupon he resigned as New York State Librarian; … Dewey made numerous inappropriate physical advances toward women he worked with and wielded professional power over; … during the 1906 ALA [= American Library Association] conference there was a movement to censure Dewey after four women came forward to accuse him of sexual impropriety, and he was ostracized from the organization for decades”.
Other Document Classification Systems
Perhaps the main challenge with library classification systems is their arrangement as hierarchical tree structures. As time progresses, the world of Melvil Dewey becomes less relevant. New categories become increasingly needed as old ones fade into the background. Increasingly, there is co-operation across fields, so that books (and other objects) need to display multiple classifications.
In Europe, the Universal Decimal Classification system dominates public libraries. It was developed by Paul Otlet (1868 – 1944) and Henri La Fontaine (1854 – 1943). They initially created the Répertoire Bibliographique Universel (RBU), starting in 1895. They then wrote to Dewey and received permission to translate his DDC into French. However, instead of translating, they made some radical innovations, such as adapting its enumerative classification approach in which all the subjects are listed and coded, into one that allows synthesis, essentially, the use of compound numbers to represent interrelated subjects. In addition, potential relations between subjects were identified, and symbols assigned to represent them. The result of this work, Manuel du Répertoire bibliographique universel, appeared in 1905. An outline of the UDC is available here.
So far, the important work of Charles Amee Cutter (1837 – 1903) has been ignored, in these weblog posts. Yet, his Cutter Expansive Classification system is important. It uses seven separate schedules, each designed for libraries of different sizes. The first schedule is the most basic. After this, each schedule expands from the previous one. Cutter provided instructions on how a library might expand from one schedule to the next, as it grows.
The Library of Congress Classification (LCC), was developed by Norwegian born librarian J. C. M. Hanson (1864 – 1943) from Cutter’s system, starting in 1897. It replaced the fixed location system developed by Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1846). The major flaw with LCC is its absence of a sound theoretical basis. Classification decisions were driven by practical needs, rather than epistemology: It is focused on books found in one library’s collection, and does not attempt to classify human knowledge of the world.
Our digital documents, including text, image and audio files are stored on a server, where several copies are kept in case of disk failure, along with other copies on external hard drives. These can be transferred to other devices as required, including e-book readers. These documents do not have the same need of a classification system, because they can be searched for in different ways. It takes only a few seconds to transfer these documents to other devices, such as laptops, stationary machines or e-book readers.
The Five Laws of Library Science
This weblog post is being published on the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan, (1892-08-12 – 1972-09-27). He was an Indian librarian and mathematician who developed Five Laws of Library Science (1931), and the Colon Classification System (1933).
The five laws are:
Books are for use: This focuses attention on access-related issues, such as library location, loan policies, hours and days of operation, the quality of staffing and even more mundane matters, such as library furniture and temperature control.
Every reader his or her book: libraries serve a wide variety of patrons, they have to acquire literature to fit a wide variety of needs. Everyone is different and each person has different tastes regarding the books they choose.
Every book its reader: All books have a place in a library, even if only a small demographic chooses to read them.
Save the time of the reader: All patrons should be able to easily locate the materials they desire quickly and efficiently.
A library is a growing organism: a library is a dynamic institution. Books, methods and the physical space needs to be updated over time.
There have been numerous updates and modifications of these laws over time. In 2004, librarian Alireza Noruzi emphasized the web. In 2008, librarian Carol Simpson referred to media, more generally. In 2015, B. Shadrach referred to knowledge. In 2016, Achala Munigal focused on social media.
Colon Classification System
A faceted classification uses semantic categories, either general or subject-specific, that are combined to create the full classification entry.
In the Colon Classification system, originally presented in 1933, a book is assigned a set of values from each independent facet, using punctuation marks (most notably colons) and symbols between the facets to connect them.
The system is organized into 42 classes. In the 6th edition (2006), some examples are: Class D = Engineering, J = Agriculture, N = Fine Arts, U = Geography and X = Economics. Each class is has its own specific characteristics, facets. There are five fundamental categories that can be used to express the facets of a subject:
Personality is the most specific or focal subject.
Matter is the substance, properties or materials of the subject.
Energy includes the processes, operations and activities.
Space relates to the geographic location of the subject.
Time refers to the dates or seasons of the subject.
As e-reading increases, and works rely more on digital storage, than physical storage, it becomes easier to use tags, rather than numbers, to classify books. With tags, one is no longer confined to the singularity of one classification system. Tags can be a mishmash of Dewey, Cutter, LCC, Colon or other features. There is no need to physically locate a book in order to read it. At Cliff Cottage, relatively fewer books are located on physical shelves in our library, while an increased number of books are found on virtual shelves on our server. There is no limit on the number of household residents, who can access the same book simultaneously!
A book can be found, and loaded onto an e-reader almost instantaneously. The current difficulty with such a system, is being in agreement as to which tags are to be used.
Note: This weblog post has been in development for over two years. One text (A) mostly about Ranganathan, was originally written 2020-07-08; a second (B), about library classification systems more generally, on 2020-11-19; a third (C) mainly about classification as it applies to physical inventories, like screws, buttons, flour and yarn, was started on 2021-12-23. These were amalgamated on 2022-02-25 and further modified on 2022-08-31 . This text didn’t work properly. On 2022-09-20, these were separated into two separate documents, essentially (A & B) and (C). The text as it appears here consists of the first two texts.
bell hooks (no capitals, please) was born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, on 1952-09-25, or 70 years before the publication of this weblog post. Her pen name is taken from her maternal great-grandmother who, according to Heather Williams “was known for her snappy and bold tongue, which [bell hooks/ Gloria Jean Watkins] greatly admired”. Williams further informs us that the name was put in lowercase letters “to distinguish [herself from] her great-grandmother.” It also signified that it was more important to focus on her works, not her personality, expressed as the “substance of books, not who I am.”
Perhaps the most import insight bell hooks brings is that communication and literacy, defined as the ability to read, write and think critically, are necessary for the feminist movement because without them people may not recognize gender inequalities.
If there is a single work that would help people understand bell hooks, it is Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism (1981). The title is not original. It was used by Sojouner Truth (1797 – 1883), as the publication title of an untitled speech given at a Woman’s convention in 1851 at Akron, Ohio. The fact that there is 130 years between these publications suggests that the status of Black women has not improved noticeably in that time.
Racism and sexism have doubly impacted the lives of Black women, so that they have the lowest status and worst conditions of any group in American society. Southern segregationists promoted a stereotype of Black female promiscuity and immorality. According to hooks, white female reformers were more concerned with white morality than the living conditions of Black Americans.
White society stereotyped white women as pure/ goddess/ virginal, in contrast to the stereotypical Black women depicted as seductive whores. This, in turn, justified the rape of Black women by white men. hooks views Black nationalism as patriarchal and misogynist.
The then-current feminist movement (from the 1970s), is seen as a (largely) white middle and upper class movement, unsympathetic to the needs of poor/ non-white women. This feminism actually reinforces existing patterns of sexism/ racism/ classism.
There are two other problematic starts, and legacies affecting Black women. The Nation of Islam dates from 1930. The Nation was started by Wallace Fard Muhammad (c. 1877 – c. 1934) in Detroit. After Muhammad’s disappearance, leadership was taken over by Elijah Muhammad (1897 – 1975), who expanded it to include schools/ banks/ restaurants/ stores/ truck and air based transportation systems/ publishing in 46 American cities. It also owned about 80 square kilometers of farmland in 1970. While all of these may be viewed positively, it was also a patriarchal organization that promoted gendered roles, and denied women leadership opportunities.
The Black Panther Party was started in the mid 1960s, by Huey P. Newton’s (1942 – 1989) and Bobby Seales (1936- ). They initially developed a 10-point manifesto. The Black Panther Party founded over 60 community support programs (renamed survival programs in 1971) including food banks, medical clinics, sickle cell anemia tests, prison busing for families of inmates, legal advice seminars, clothing banks, housing cooperatives, and their own ambulance service. The most famous of these programs was the Free Breakfast for Children program which fed thousands of impoverished children daily during the early 1970s. Newton also co-founded the Black Panther newspaper service, which became one of America’s most widely distributed African-American newspapers.
To begin with, not all was well with the Black Panther Party. It too advocated violence, black masculinity and traditional gender roles. Thus, it was not a vehicle for improving the status of Black women. It was patriarchal and misogynist. However, things started to improve, especially from 1968, when women constituted two-thirds of the party.
In Black Looks: Race and Representation (1992) hook takes an article by Audre Lorde’s (1934 – 1992) about black womanhood as a structure, then discusses how black women are imprisoned in a stereotype of violence, that continues on through the generations. She believes that the narrative can be changed, but that it is hard. Black women are encouraged to discuss Black literature. Yet, this does not come with any guarantees of self-actualization. In particular, she refers to Celie, a character in Alice Walker’s (1944 – ) The Color Purple (1982), where she escapes an abusive situation, only to return to a similar situation at the end of the novel. What these fiction writers are doing, is breaking “new ground in that it clearly names the ways structures of domination, racism, sexism, and class exploitation, oppress and make it practically impossible for black women to survive if they do not engage in meaningful resistance on some level.” (p. 50) Angela Davis (1944 – ) and Shirley Chisholm (1924 – 2005) are presented as examples of Black women breaking the trend and resisting the cycles. Women of color need to engage in feminism and in the “decolonizing of our minds” in order to center “social change that will address the diversity of our experiences and our needs.” (p. 60)
Not being Black, female or queer pas gay, it is not my place to pass judgement on the previous two works. At some level there is an intellectual understanding, but no lived experience. This is not the case with the third, and last, book that I would like to discuss: belonging: a culture of place (2009). hooks begins chapter 2, Kentucky is My Fate, with: “If one has chosen to live mindfully, then choosing a place to die is as vital as choosing where and how to live. Choosing to return to the land and landscape of my childhood, the world of my Kentucky upbringing, I am comforted by the knowledge that I could die here.” This was her fate, in 2021.
She regards her upbringing in rural Kentucky, as an exposure to anarchy, where people are enabled to live a relatively free life, despite racial separatism, white exploitation and black oppression. She contrasts this with more general urban experiences, where rules were made, imposed and enforced by unknown others, where “black folks were forced to live within boundaries in the city, ones that were not formally demarcated, but boundaries marked by white supremacist violence against black people if lines were crossed. Our segregated black neighborhoods were sectioned off, made separate. At times they abutted the homes of poor and destitute white folks. Neither of these groups lived near the real white power and privilege governing all our lives.”
In her last chapter, 10: Earthbound: On Solid Ground, hooks discusses the concept of interbeing, “That sense of interbeing was once intimately understood by black folks in the agrarian South. Nowadays it is only those who maintain our bonds to the land, to nature, who keep our vows of living in harmony with the environment, who draw spiritual strength from nature. Reveling in nature’s bounty and beauty has been one of the ways enlightened poor people in small towns all around our nations stay in touch with their essential goodness even as forces of evil, in the form of corrupt capitalism and hedonistic consumerism, work daily to strip them of their ties with nature…. To look upon a tree, or a hilly waterfall, that has stood the test of time can renew the spirit. To watch plants rise from the earth with no special tending reawakens our sense of awe and wonder.”
While I am happy that bell hooks was able to return to Kentucky, it is not always possible for people to return to their own place. For most of my adult life, my home town, New Westminster, on the banks of Sto:lo, the Fraser River, has been economically inaccessible. Thus, I have had to create my own substitute, Cliff Cottage, at Vangshylla, in rural Inderøy, Trøndelag, Norway. This has not happened without my own internal protests! Despite these, it is a place that is suitable for my anarchist self. Rural landscapes make better use of their internal resources, and are closer to sustainable. Prices for housing are lower, so people can work less. The benefits of an rural lifestyle are real.
Urban landscapes, unfortunately, have become dependent on the massive import of external resources, for their survival. They are no longer sustainable. People living there, feel a need to work excessively just to pay for the basics of housing. The benefits of an urban lifestyle are largely a mirage. At one point I read that in 2020 New Westminster experienced the worst air quality in the world due to the combined effects of the 2020 Western American wildfires and a fire at the old pier at the quay.
This week, I was sent two listings for houses for sale in Kerrisdale, a residential area in Vancouver, British Columbia, where Trish, my wife, grew up. The prices for these modest houses on smallish lots were between two and three million dollars, Canadian. I would discourage everyone, from supporting this form of übercapitalism. Buying such a house is not in the spirit of bell hooks. It is hard to be an anarchist, making monthly mortgage payments! It is hard to be an anarchist, wasting income on unnecessary expenditures.
After more than 1.4 billion seconds/ 23 million minutes/ 380 000 hours/ 16 000 days/ 2 300 weeks/ 530 months/ 44 years of marriage, couples may find that those microseconds of conversational lulls, become more frequent. Trish and I have decided to do something about it. We are now reading the same books found in the A Very Short Introduction series, published by Oxford University Press.
Wikipedia describes the books in the series as: concise introductions to particular subjects, intended for a general audience but written by experts. Most are under 200 pages long. While authors may present personal viewpoints, the books are meant to be “balanced and complete” as well as thought provoking.
The series began in 1995, and over 700 titles have been published. Many works, including the first book published in the series # 001, Classics, by Mary Beard (1955 – ) and John Henderson (1948 – ), have not been revised. In contrast #086 Globalization, by Manfred Steger (1961 – ), is now in its 5th edition.
These are ebooks read on a Kobo reader. The first book we read together was #215 Deserts, by Nick Middleton (1960 – ). It was published in 2009, but showed no evidence of being exceptionally out of date. Currently, we are reading #444 Mountains by Martin F. Price (1957 – ), published in 2015 and #175 Documentary film by Patricia Aufderheide published in 2008. That is, Trish has finished reading Mountains, while Brock has just started it; Brock has finished reading Documumentary film, while Trish has just started it.
We use the list of titles found in the Wikipedia article, to find titles of mutual interest.
We do not finish all books started. The first failed reading was #248 Keynes, by Robert Skidelsky (1939 – ). It was about British economist John Maynard Keynes (1883–1946), but failed to hold our attention.
A Short Introduction to Everything, published in 2003, has a cover indicating that it is free. This does not appear to be the case. At Amazon, an ebook version is unavailable. A paperback version costs US$ 30.10 or more new/ US$ 3.65 or more used. In both cases, delivery charges also apply. Harish P, writing about the book on Goodreads, gives the book two stars and comments: ‘Everything’ is misleading. I was thinking that the book could be something like ‘A Short History About Everything’ by Bill Bryson. That’s not the case to be. ‘Everything’ here refers to the titles in the Very short Introduction series. The book is intended as a primer/curtain-raiser of the titles that constitute the series. The book is divided into 7 themes aka chapter, each concerning a certain aspect of life or Universe, at large. The titles relevant to the theme are featured with some interesting summary. Only complaint-why am I charged for the book, when it is a little more than a marketing material of Oxford University Press. Luckily, I borrowed it from a friend.
Today, it is 350 years since Isaac Newton (1643 – 1727) sent the world’s first journal article to Henry Oldenbourg (1615-1677), secretary of the Royal Society of London, on 1672-02-06. It was about telescopes, and optics more generally. While authorship is important, Oldenbourg is historically important for introducing the concept of peer review to scientific writing.
Newton writes, “To perform my late promise to you, I shall without further ceremony acquaint you, that in the beginning of the Year 1666 (at which time I applyed my self to the grinding of Optick glasses of other figures than Spherical,) I procured me a Triangular glass-Prisme, to try therewith the celebrated Phaenomena of Colours. And in order thereto having darkened my chamber, and made a small hole in my window-shuts [shutters], to let in a convenient quantity of the Suns light, I placed my Prisme at his entrance, that it might be thereby refracted to the opposite wall. It was at first a very pleasing divertisement [diversion], to view the vivid and intense colours produced thereby; but after a while applying my self to consider them more circumspectly, I became surprised to see them in an oblong form; which, according to the received laws of Refraction, I expected should have been circular. They were terminated at the sides with streight [straight] lines, but at the ends, the decay of light was so gradual, that it was difficult to determine justly, what was their figure; yet they seemed semicircular.”
Of course, if one looks hard enough one can always find predecessors to almost everything. Thus, most historians working in the area add the adjective, modern, to the noun, review. In this way they can forget about the more original contribution made by Adab aț-Ṭabīb, = Morals of the physician, where modern readers could use practical ethics to replace morals, in the title. It was a historical Arabic book written by Al-Ruhawi, a 9th-century (probably) Nestorian physician who regarded physicians as guardians of souls and bodies. The twenty chapters of the work encompassed various medical topics, influenced by the works of Hippocrates and Galen.
This weblog post is to commemorate my 400th weblog post. It follows a previous commemoration, posted on .
When a new weblog post is published, 42 notifications are sent out (including one to myself). Of these, 18 are to women, and 24 to men. 26 go to people living in Norway (including 11 in Inderøy), 9 to people in Canada, and 7 to people in USA. Slightly more than half of the people, 22, are retired. I am biologically related to 8 people, and married to yet another. Of my adoptive family, all have declined an invitation to receive notifications. I have known one person for about 68 years, and another for less than a year. I have a relationship with each and every one. On average, 33 people read each post. I do not know who these people are, and I have no intention of finding out.
When I approached retirement, and started writing this weblog more seriously, in 2016, I stated that if readership exceeded 100 people, it was an indication that I was doing something wrong. This is still my belief. However, I have no objections to increasing readership to about that level, on the condition that I know the people or are related to them, or are recommended by people in these two groups.
Spam is not a major problem, but sometimes people I don’t know want to add inappropriate content. The post that has attracted the most spam is one about a Kaiyun Pickman, a Chinese pickup. This week, for example, someone wanted to add an advertisement there for an online casino. Even though I don’t know Paul MF Broadway, I allowed his comment because it was relevant. Relevance is the only criteria for having a comment accepted.
Veritas vos liberabit = The truth will set you free, is the motto of Johns Hopkins University. It is appealing, especially at a time when many politicians don’t seem capable of differentiating truth from lies. It is also Biblical, appearing in John 8:32. Yet, in 2017 W. Bradford Littlejohn described it as both the peril and promise of Christian liberty. Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported over 270 million cases, and over 5 million deaths, in the world, as publication of this weblog post approached. Currently, the omicron variant is dominating the press, if not the pandemic.
I am not impressed with former Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg who, in a press conference 2021-09-24, announced that people in Norway could return to their normal way of life. This was a lie, but I am uncertain if Solberg is too dense to understand this elementary fact, or if she was wishing ill will on the people of Norway because of her election defeat. There could even be other reasons. In any case, the result was that many people behaved as if life had returned to normal. Shaking hands and not maintaining an adequate social distance are examples of clear violations of acceptable pandemic behaviour. Now, the intensive care wards of hospitals in Norway are filled beyond their capacity with Corona-19 cases. In addition, since everyone knows that government budgets are written in stone, Norwegian hospitals will have to cut back on their services in 2022, because of cost overruns this year. Nurses and other hospital staff are also suffering burnout. Workers, who have the opportunity, are once again required to work from home. Masks are required in stores. Most public activities have been cancelled.
There is increased need for cooperation in many fields related to epidemiology, including the production and distribution of vaccines. Disease seems an inappropriate place for free enterprise/ capitalism, especially during a pandemic where none can be free of Covid-19, until everyone in the world able to be vaccinated is vaccinated. It may be possible to build a bubble, but even New Zealand has experienced that these can pop easily.
Jennifer B. Nuzzo, in a TED talk, compared Covid-19 with the 1904 Baltimore fire caused by a cigarette that destroyed 1 500 buildings/ 2 500 businesses/ 80 blocks. Despite aid from firefighters in neighbouring cities, they couldn’t hook up their hoses because in 1904 there were over 600 variations of hose couplings. This failure resulted in major changes: Data was used to make buildings safer and to improve fire responses; ordinances were passed that ultimately became building codes resulting in fire resistant buildings; fire alarms were installed that could detect and pinpoint fires in buildings; fire drills became standard practice; national standards for firefighting equipment were developed so fire crews had interoperable equipment. In the same way, lessons from Covid-19 will change the world forever. There will be no return to the previous normal.
The world is facing a human created climate crisis. On 2021-08-09, The sixth Comprehensive Assessment of Climate Science, a 3949 page report, was published. This report raises important questions, some of which are left to the interested reader to answer. Is libertarian capitalism better at solving social problems than, for example, democratic socialism? Why/ why not? What should be done to improve the situation for the majority of people given that there is increasing inequality in the world? What are the benefits of redistributing wealth and income from the many poor into the tax havens of a wealthy small minority? Are the large number of jobs created meaningful for the people employed? Why/ why not?
Americans spend about 17 % of their GDP on health care, in contrast to 10 % in Europe. That is more than 50 % difference. In USA it is the specifics of health insurance that determine benefits, in Europe there are strict rules that apply to everyone. Which system is better? Why? Is the increased cost of health care in USA beneficial or detrimental?
Should health care be provided as a government service, or should it be open to competition? Why? Private donors collectively make large donations to medical research. Why are the medical charities unable to patent treatments since they are financing so much of the research? Why are drug companies able to patent treatments, and profit from this situation? If this just? What alternatives are available to ensure that everyone receives the health care they need? What should be done to change the current situation?
Bayer owned Monsanto produces seeds that are genetically engineered to grow glyphosate tolerant plants, commonly referred to as Roundup Ready crops. While most plants die when exposed to glyphosate, genetically modified plants experience no ill effects. The genes contained in these seeds are patented and a source of income for Monsanto/ Bayer. Should these genetically modified plants be permitted? Why/ why not? There are a number of conflicting claims related to toxicity and carcinogenicity, especially, that give rise to doubt about the suitability of glyphosates and patented seeds. Monsanto has been found guilty of false advertising, and there are claims that some test results have been falsified.
While I am reluctant to encourage Roundup Ready crops, there are some genetically modified crops that I do support, with golden rice being the best example. Wikipedia tells us, golden rice is a variety of rice (Oryza sativa) produced through genetic engineering to biosynthesize beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, in the edible parts of rice. It is intended to produce a fortified food to be grown and consumed in areas with a shortage of dietary vitamin A, a deficiency which each year is estimated to kill 670 000 children under the age of 5 and cause an additional 500 000 cases of irreversible childhood blindness. Rice is a staple food crop for over half of the world’s population, making up 30–72% of the energy intake for people in Asian countries, making it an excellent crop for targeting vitamin deficiencies.
Of course, some crops (and probably some weeds) take it upon themselves to become Roundup Ready, through genetic modification. The challenge with both of these genetically modified products is that they both involve ethical decisions. Should genetically modified products be available? If yes, then in what form? Why? Why not?
This section on the State of the World was initially written 2020-01-26 at 20:45. It was modified for publication, starting on 2021-08-10 at 10:00.
The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference = 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held in Glasgow, Scotland, between 2021-10-31 and 2021-11-12. It is also the third meeting of the parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA3). In 1804, it was estimated that the world population finally reached 1 billion people. It reached 2 billion in 1927, and 3 billion in 1960. On 2012-03-12, the world population reached 7 billion. By 2021-10-17, 7.9 billion milestone was reached, heading to 8 billion in 2023. This growth is unsustainable.
In particular, I am concerned that the wealthier nations have reneged on their promise to provide $100 billion, that they promised during the Copenhagen climate change conference in 2009, to help developing nations strengthen their resilience to climate change. Thus, I am in full agreement with Tasneem Essop (? – ), a South African who is the executive director of Climate Action Network, that the third proposed final text is a clear betrayal of the world by rich nations.
I am also in agreement with Saleemul Huq (1952 – ), a Bangladeshi, who is director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development, and a senior associate of the International Institute for Environment & Development, that the world is facing two climate change problems: the old one of preventing catastrophic impacts for everyone if we go above 1.5 C and a new one of dealing with the loss and damage already happening due to increase of 1.1 C!
On Saturday, 2021-11-13, Extinction Rebellion protesters, with a piper leading a procession through the gravestones of Glasgow’s Necropolis, then lay in front of tombs declaring Cop26 and all the summits prior to it as a failure. Karen, from the Isle of Barra, said: “We are here grieving for a planet that has been sacrificed by the failure and stupidity of Cop26. The bare minimum needed from Cop26 were commitments to leaving oil in the ground and an immediate halt to fossil fuel funding. Anything less than that is idiocy. We know exactly what we need to do and we’re not doing it.”
Living in the past
Stellantis is a multinational automotive manufacturing corporation formed in 2021 merging Italian-American Fiat Chrysler with French PSA Group. The company is headquartered in Amsterdam. Currently, it is the sixth-largest automaker worldwide. Despite this, CEO Carlos Tavares is unhappy. He doesn’t like making electric vehicles, and claims that these have been imposed on his company, and are unprofitable.
This is the challenge of being a laggard, hoping electrification won’t happen. Now that it is inevitable, he complains that automotive industry electrification brings 50 percent additional costs against a conventional ICE vehicle. He states that these additional costs cannot be passed onto the final consumer, because most of the middle class will not unable to pay that price.
My reply to Stellantis, is to encourage them to shut down their entire automotive manufacturing activities. Let the Chinese, Vietnamese and other manufacturers take over. Despite the rhetoric, Stellantis has said that it is investing €30 billion through 2025 to build new EV platforms to support a series of new electric vehicles across its brands.
Profitability is not an industry problem. Other automakers have been able to make reliable and profitable electric vehicles. There are cost issues because of inflation and global supply chain problems. However, there are also benefits. Battery costs are now (2021) $132/ kWh. In 2016, five years ago, they cost $350/ kWh.
The Vinfast VFe35 is a 5 seater, all wheel drive SUV made in Vietnam. It provides a 300 kW motor with 640 Nm of torque, and a 90 kWh battery, for a WLTP range of 500 km. It is 4 750 mm long, with a 2 950 mm wheelbase. In comparison, a standard Tesla Model Y offers a 150 kW motor with 350 Nm of torque, and a 50 kWh battery, for a WLTP range of 390 km. It has the same length (4 750 mm) but has a slightly longer wheelbase at 2 981 mm. Both vehicles are being provided with over-the-air updates.
Living in the Present
Ecuador has enshrined the rights of nature in its rewritten 2008 constitution. The Guardian newspaper reports that the Ecuador constitutional court decided 2021-12-01 that mining permits issued in Los Cedros, a protected area in north-west Ecuador, would harm the biodiversity of the forest, which is home to spectacled bears, endangered frogs, dozens of rare orchid species and the brown-headed spider monkey, one of the world’s rarest primates. Enami EP, Ecuador’s national mining company, held rights for mining concessions that had been granted in two-thirds of the reserve. The decision means that mining concessions, environmental and water permits in the forest must be cancelled, not just for Enami, but throughout Ecuador.
Some regard the Rights of Nature as important as Thomas Paine’s (1737 NS – 1809) Rights of Man (1791/ 1792), a key text in the American Revolution that defends the French Revolution (1789 – 1799) against Edmund Burke’s (1729 NS – 1797) attack in Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790). One of Paine’s main arguments was that human rights originate in nature, and cannot be granted politically, because that would implies that they are revocable, in essence, that they are only privileges.
Rights of Man proposed many practical reforms. It was directed mainly at the British government at the time, but has application today: a written constitution composed by a national assembly; the elimination of aristocratic titles, because democracy is incompatible with primogeniture; a national budget without allotted military and war expenses; lower taxes and subsidised education for the poor; and, progressive income tax to prevent a re-emergence of a hereditary aristocracy.
Mica Peck (? – ), an ecologist and senior lecturer in biology at the University of Sussex, apparently of Finnish ancestry, but born in Ecuador, comments: “It is important for the world to reflect on the limits of nature and to seriously question the effectiveness of current conservation policies and actions. Policy frameworks that place humans in context as a part of nature, integrated into a system that balances intrinsic rights between legitimate subjects of the law, rather than placing humans as above, or apart from, nature, will be a necessary part of addressing the serious environmental issues that our planet is facing. This ruling is as important to nature as Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man were to our own species.”
My hope is that other countries will enact similar ecological provisions in their own constitutions.
With my eyes slowly failing, I intend to concentrate more on audio than video, but using computers as visual assistive/ enlargement devices where necessary. Building construction is another of my interests, but will stop when our residence since 1989-03-01 becomes suitable for a couple of old people to live in. Hopefully, by the time I am dead and gone, one or more of my children will decide that they too want to live in a house suitable for old people, but will fix it up to suit their own particular needs. My only request is that they spare the lives of some of my favourite trees.
Recently, I came across advice on how to prioritize activities. The first step was to make a ranked list of the top 25 categories of activities one would like to engage in. The second step was to note activities six to twenty five, and to develop a strategy to avoid them. That is because these activities are so seductive, that they will take time away from the top five activities.
Compiling this list has taken some months already, but I have managed to put two items on it: writing and electronics. Then I took exception to the second item. Electronics is probably the wrong term to use, it is too narrow. Mechatronics covers it better.
Somehow two Wyze smartwatches, have materialized in our house. These are a 44 model, for Trish, and a 47 model, for myself. These arrived without incurring any costs. This miracle occurred through the natural process of producing and raising a child, who ended up paying for these two watches and giving them to us. Thank you, Shelagh.
I am not exactly sure that they are going to work, as desired. Neither of us have worn watches for at least twenty years. However, we both come equipped with unused watch pockets on our respective jeans and chinos. Thus, the intention was to fill these pockets with a watch, that could be taken out to undertake common tasks, as needed. The first task is that a digital watch can always show the exact time, to within a few milliseconds. I especially wanted to have the time displayed with large digits, in a bright colour that contrasts with a dark background. This eliminates the need to have clocks located in rooms. The watch can also act as a timer that follows the person who needs it, rather than being located at the device (such as a stove top) being timed.
Despite their relatively small size, a HHD is sometimes too large to be carried about continuously. Personally, I am forever taking my HHD out of my pocket, and laying it on a desk or workbench. A smartwatch is considerably smaller, and can stay on a wrist or in a watch pocket. Thus, it can be much more effective at helping people remember events by sending notifications (accompanied by vibrations in advance of an activity) that are actually received by the user.
Some digital watch apps can be very useful. NightWare is a digital therapeutic device that currently fitted to an Apple Watch to interrupt post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related nightmares, by measuring heart rates and body movements. Other people may have other sleep disturbances that could benefit from similar interruptions to their sleep. This would require that the watch be worn!
Personal Data Assistant
In the 1990s, I considered buying a Psion 3 personal digital assistant (PDA). Charles Stross (1964 – ) regards the Psion 3 as an unsurpassed PDA because of its long battery life (20 to 35 hours) with 2 AA batteries, its stable and versatile software and its durable hardware. Others describe over twenty years of daily use with models such as the Psion 3mx. While Psion is English, the company had a major Canadian presence, with offices/ operations in Mississauga, Ontario. It was often compared with an American made Palm.
One of the mechatronics projects I am considering working on is a revitalized Psion, which would not be a recreation of a 1999 Psion 5mx Pro, but an extension of it, based on a Raspberry Pi Compute Module (CM), or other microprocessor, and using other 21st century components/ processes. What I miss on a HHD/ smartphone is a keyboard. I also prefer working in a landscape (in contrast to portrait) format. Thus, an updated Psion would have its case and keyboard recreated with a 3D printer. Originally, the EPOC/ Symbian operating system (OS) was used with applications for word processing, spreadsheets, databases, email, contact and diary management. The Open Psion Language (OPL) was available for software development. OpenPsion, formerly PsiLinux, is an open source project that attempts to provide a more modern OS for the Psion. The ultimate success of the project would to have the device actually function as a HHD, with phone capabilities.
As before, I continue to encourage people to write weblogs, rather than to use exploitive social media. In 2018, I quoted Bill Blunden in a weblog post about the challenges of social media, titled Social Media Revisited. The Guardian recently published an article that explains how social media, and Facebook in particular, is exploiting people. Restrict social media to friends and family, and perhaps a few others you don’t know that well, to keep it honest. Write about the topics that interest you that others might be interested in.
Jacinda Santora, 2021-08-27, made a list of 103 social media sites. Here, people may find one or more that suit their personalities. While some sites are huge, others like Goodreads or Pinterest are just large. Some people prefer one or more of the Reddit flavours, because of their own special interests. Some days, I even visit Ello.
The two social media platforms I do encourage are Diaspora and Mastodon. Only the former is on Santora’s list. Diaspora is a nonprofit, user-owned, distributed social media platform with independent nodes/ pods interoperating as a network. Mastodon is a self-hosted social networking service, with microblogging features, similar to Twitter. I have (largely unused) accounts at both. For further details, Wikipedia has articles on Diaspora and Mastodon.
Former president, Donald Trump, seems to be a fan of Mastodon. To avoid a lawsuit, his social media site, truth.social is acknowledging that the computer code powering the platform comes from Mastodon. He writes: “Our goal is to support the open source community no matter what your political beliefs are. That’s why the first place we go to find amazing software is the community and not ‘Big Tech’”. The Open Source section appeared 2021-11-12, two weeks after Mastodon threatened to sue Trump’s platform for violating its open-source license, that allows anyone to use it freely, but on the condition that the code and any ensuing modifications be made publicly available, allowing the entire Mastodon community to benefit.
I am disinclined to use a hand-held device (HHD) = smart phone (most often), for notes. It is not merely that I prefer a keyboard to a touchscreen, it is their lack of a suitable (read: fast) drawing tool that is most irritating. In addition, I find the lack of a visible file system annoying. During my working life, I used to carry a planner with me, with a page for each working day, plus a page for the weekend, so that each week occupied three sheets. While both calendar and note apps are found on my HHD, I seldom used either. There is too little to do that requires me to make a note of times and dates, so they either don’t get written down, or – if they do – the calendar isn’t consulted when needed. This means that I sometimes forget about (zoom) meetings that I want to attend. Around the house and when visiting building supply shops I carry a yellow A5 hardcover project book with 240 grid/ squared pages, with 4mm squares, that I do use. Here, I write notes with a V-ball pen with blue liquid ink, emerging from a 0.5 mm tip. The use of a pen is deliberate, so that any changes will be clearly visible.
Earlier this year, lacking pen and/ or notebook, I started taking notes on my hand-held device (HHD), using an app labelled Notes. Some days later, I was using Nextcloud, a server-client program on my desktop machine, and came across these same notes. They had been automatically copied from the HHD to the server, and were available to all of my other devices. Because of its built in privacy and security features, these were not available to anyone else using Nextcloud, although they could be sent to others using Warpinator (for other users of the server) or Signal (to a somewhat wider audience). Then again, they could be added to an email to allow contact with anyone.
In this very undramatic fashion, I had accidentally found a solution that had troubled me for years. My advice here is simple. People should acquire a server, even if it is just a minimal solution involving an inexpensive, single board computer such as a Raspberry Pi, and some form of storage. Then they should install Nextcloud, or some other server-client software, to run that server, as well as on all of their other devices.
For those wanting a more detailed history of my route to this discovery, this weblog post will end with its story. It is not for everyone, especially those with demanding children or other time constraints.
My outpouring of words in this weblog probably reflects an inability to keep a diary or a calendar, plus a dopamine addiction. On 2019-09-29 I decided to do something about this and started an experiment. It started because I wished that I had some form of a register so that I could look up what I had done with some missing bookcase hardware. Yes, I am aware that wiser people tape or in other ways affix hardware to the uprights, or at least shelving, so that the screws and other bits don’t wander off to party at more exciting locations in the universe. This attachment didn’t happen.
My significant other keeps many diaries, with names like garden, knitting, sewing and general. I’m not sure that such an arrangement would help me. While I’ve never actually read these books, I’ve had parts of them read to me – and they seems to deal mainly with weather and gardening events, perhaps even a record of visits or meals, for all I know. What I can’t imagine is any reference to screws, let alone one that details where a particular set of screws were stored.
The problem with diaries is their chronological nature. They are traditionally written in books made of paper. This might be useful for tracking some events, but not for most things. What the world needs is a digital diary, with what used to be called hyperlinks.
Unknown to me, but not unexpectedly, Digital Diary turns out to be a commercial Microsoft product, when I searched using these terms. I changed my search terms, adding open source, which brought me to SourceForge, which listed 26 open source search results. Twenty-five programs listed that they had between 0 and 3 downloads this week, with many of these programs claiming they were last updated in 2013.
Lifeograph was the exception with 53 downloads this week. It was recently updated (2019-09-18) and claimed: to be a private digital diary, for taking personal notes on life; to have all essential functionality expected in a diary program and strives to have a clean and streamlined user interface.
A more general search resulted in finding RedNotebook, described on SourceForge as open source time tracking software. It had 121 downloads that week, and was updated 2019-04-07. Features include: Text formating with bold, italic or underlining; tag and search entries; Insert images, files and links to websites; Links and email addresses are recognized automatically; Spell checking; Search-as-you-type; Automatic saving; Backup to zip archive;Word clouds with most common words and tags; Templates; Export to plain text, HTML or Latex; Content is future-proof: data is stored in plain text files; Translated into more than 30 languages.
The challenge with both of these products was their inability to update content on multiple machines automatically. As a user of three different machines, I was left with three incompatible versions of notes, unless I used excessive efforts to merge them.
Fast forward to 2019-10-25 and I downloaded and installed a third program, Simplenote, from Automatikk, the company that makes WordPress. Its main advantage, is that it allows one to have the same content on different machines. That is fine, but I am reluctant to let Automatikk store my data on its cloud. Since this was a test, I installed it on my VivoMini desktop machine, my VivoBook laptop both running Linux Mint, and my Xiamio Pocophone F1 hand-held device (HHD) running Android.
On 2020-11-23, more than a year later, I ended my experiment with Lifeograph, RedNotebook and Simplenote, and wrote this summary, timestamped at 18:47. There wasn’t much data collected, but my intuition allowed me to declare Simplenote as the winner. Yet still, I was unhappy, and the winning program was never used.