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article war

A Prayer for Volodymyr Zelensky

I keep going back and forth on whether the Russian invasion really is the start of the Third World War. I suppose once Russia completes the takeover of the eastern portions of Ukraine they might stop, but it’s like RISK. As everyone knows, nobody who takes over Ukraine with a large army ever stops there. This is going to be the Third World War.

Last week the Atlantic published a piece about the unlikely Ukrainian President and his fortitude.

Before he became the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky played the part on television. He created and starred in a comedy series, Servant of the People. His character, a high-school history teacher, is surreptitiously recorded by one of his students as he passionately rants against the tyranny of corruption in his nation. Without his knowledge, the video goes viral. Without campaigning or even wanting the job, the teacher is improbably elected president of Ukraine. The humble Everyman, out of his depths in nearly every respect, goes on to become a heroic leader of his country.

Zelensky might be the hero Ukraine needs but as for the rest of the world, there needs to be some tough choices. It’s going to be just like it was in the Second World War, and once again we’re going to wait too long.

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article history

The Quebec Cannonball in a Tree

The other day I learned that the tourist attraction and historical artifact, an English cannonball in a Quebec City tree is no longer there. I also learned that it probably wasn’t a cannonball, although it was likely built to be a bomb (at one point).

CBC posted the article about its history and removal last year:

It took three days of hard work, but the famous “cannonball” trapped in the roots of an American elm tree on the side of a historic street in Quebec City has been removed without any booming surprises.

Below is a photo I took of the famous tree in 2010. I was told it is believed that the ball was a cannonball shot at the French from an English ship during the multi-year siege before the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.

Historian Jean-Marie Lebel did his own investigation into the unmarked ball and published his findings in the June 2015 article for Prestige magazine which can still be found online.

He determined the cannonball is not a cannonball at all as those tended to be smaller and made of lead.

The ball is actually a bomb, he wrote.

Bombs like this one were hollow, metallic projectiles which were charged with an incendiary material like a cloth rag and ignited with a fuse.

So if it wasn’t a cannonball fired into the city by the English in 1759 in the siege before the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, then how did this “bomb” get there?

The ball was likely there on purpose, installed as a wheel guard to protect homes from passing carriages, the article says.

These retrofitted bombs were affixed to a metal rod that was then inserted into the ground like the bollards of today that can stop trucks in their tracks.

A photo from 1908 shows bombs which have been transformed into wheel guards to protect the fronts of houses on Corps-de-Garde Street. (Courtesty of the Collection Gino Gariépy)

I liked it better when I thought it was fired there in the famous battle but I never should have fallen for it. For one thing, the “cannonball” would have had to have been there for 251 years when I saw it in 2010. Obviously the tree wouldn’t have been that old. Oh well, it’s satisfying to know the truth even if the fiction was more interesting.

Categories
article Politics

The True Story of Family Day

Vice News recaps the origins of today’s family day holiday. As the story goes, the creation of the holiday was linked to the arrest and conviction of one of Don Getty’s sons on cocaine-related charges. Getty himself, however, has said over the years that the two events were not related. I had heard this story before, but I had mostly forgotten it.

In 1988, Dale Getty tried selling an ounce of coke to an undercover cop in an Edmonton motel room, and Family Day was born. Seriously.

Happy Family Day.

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article

Misquoting Einstein

Reading this short piece about digging up the author of a quotation misattributed to Albert Einstein hit me just right. Which led me to this Business Insider article of 12 commonly misattributed quotations.

I’ve listed them below, but if youre curious to find accurate attributions, I recommend checking out the article.

“Let them eat cake.” — not Marie Antoinette

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” — not Voltaire

“Standing on the shoulders of giants” — not Sir Isaac Newton

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” — not Nelson Mandela

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” — not Mark Twain or Jack Benny or Muhammad Al

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” — not Dr. Seuss

“Well-behaved women rarely make history.” — not Marilyn Monroe

“There’s a sucker born every minute.” — not P.T. Barnum

“If you have to ask how much they are, you can’t afford one.” — not J.P. Morgan

“If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.” — not Winston Churchill

“The ends justify the means.” — not Niccolo Machiavelli

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” — not Albert Einstein

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article

Remembering September 11, 2001 — 20 Years Later

If you only read one article published for the twentieth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, I recommend Jennifer Senior’s story in The Atlantic, What Bobby Mcilvaine Left Behind.

Heart wrenching.

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article

Osama Bin Laden Brought to Justice: An Oral History

I’ve only been to New York City once1 but this was before the September 11th attacks and so I was lucky enough to see the World Trade Center buildings while one still could.

New York (1997)

Because of that trip though, the attacks on September 11, 2001 resonated on a more personal level. It was a place I had been inside. I didn’t know anyone that died but I know people that do.

My brother called moments after the second plane crashed and when I found out, I instantly jumped out of bed and glued myself to CNN for the rest of the day.

This blog didn’t exist then and I always felt bad that I never wrote anything about how I felt that day nor how I felt when the successful raid on Bin Laden’s compound was announced. Perhaps someday I’ll put some thoughts down about it but for right now, I just want to recommend the fascinating retrospective put together by Politico about the time before and after the raid in Abbottabad — as told from the people who were involved. It’s a long and intensely worthwhile read.

Osama Bin Laden’s Death — a White House Oral History.

(via One Foot Tsunami)


  1. Not including a quick stop at the airport on my trip to Israel.↩︎

Categories
Apple article

Apple Considers Paid Subscription Podcasts?

A slew of recent articles1 claim that Apple is creating a new paid subscription service providing premium podcasts. According to these reports, Apple thinks they need to start shelling out cash for big name podcasts in order to compete with Amazon and Spotify. This is the same Spotify that was recently downgraded from neutral to sell by financial group Citi because Spotify hasn’t seen the kind of returns they would like on the hundreds of millions they spent locking down premium podcast providers such as Gimlet Media, Joe Rogan, and others.

From fortune.com:

Apple has been the dominant distributor of podcasts in the U.S. for more than a decade, offering the programs for free. […] But the company now faces significant competition from two of its biggest rivals: Spotify and Amazon.com Inc.

So let me get this straight, Apple has been offering podcasts for free for almost 20 years and NOW they suddenly face significant competition to their FREE offering?

It’s not crazy that Apple may feel they are leaving money on the table. It’s not uncommon for Apple to discuss ways it could improve growth and it makes sense to explore the idea of bringing in top tier podcasts as an additional draw to Apple Music, but Apple does not care one iota about Spotify’s attempt to monetize podcasts. If anything they chalk it up as a win when people use their hardware more often regardless of the service they are using.

From The Information:

“Apple—long considered the sleeping giant in the podcast space—is waking up. The company, which runs the most widely used podcasting app in the industry, is discussing launching a new subscription service that would charge people to listen to podcasts, according to people familiar with the matter.”

Apple has plenty of “discussions” about all kinds of ideas. Don’t go to print until at least there is a hint that they’ve decided on something.

Here’s my Claim Chowder: There will be no premium podcast subscription service from Apple. If there is any truth to these rumours, it’s about Apple giving a little more love to their Podcast app (which has also been rumoured). If Apple were to offer “high quality”, “paid” podcasts, it will be tied into users’ existing subscriptions to Apple Music.

Update: They did it. Apple is now offering subscription podcasts. What I didn’t understand when I called down the idea was that they wouldn’t pay upfront for finished shows or personalities but would facilitate podcasts adding a subscription and then take a cut of the proceeds.

1. Apple Is Ready to Invest in Its Own Original Podcasts, Apple Developing Podcast Subscription Service to Better Compete With Spotify, Apple Plans Podcasting Subscription Service in Threat to Spotify, Apple Mulls Podcast Subscription Push Amid Spotify’s Land Grab.

Categories
article humor war

The Case for War

By Someone Whose Kids Won’t Die Fighting in It

McSweeney’s makes the case for war with Iran.

As one of the most important writers at one of the most important newspapers in the country, it’s my job to inform my readers why they should uncritically support the United States government’s most recent war. I understand that many of you might not want to get into another drawn out, costly conflict in the Middle East, particularly if you were one of the thousands of parents who had their kids die needlessly in the last few wars. But as someone whose kids won’t die fighting in the war, it’s important that you understand the flimsy, morally bankrupt justifications for war, and why it’s vital for you to throw more of your children’s lives at this one.

(via)

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article ethics

Facebook Abusing Your Contact List

As if you needed more reason to despise Facebook, Kashmir Hill reports on Facebook’s truly garbage practise of violating your contacts information without disclosing that’s what they’re doing.

Facebook is not content to use the contact information you willingly put into your Facebook profile for advertising. It is also using contact information you handed over for security purposes and contact information you didn’t hand over at all, but that was collected from other people’s contact books, a hidden layer of details Facebook has about you that I’ve come to call “shadow contact information.” […]

Facebook is not upfront about this practice. In fact, when I asked its PR team last year whether it was using shadow contact information for ads, they denied it. Luckily for those of us obsessed with the uncannily accurate nature of ads on Facebook platforms, a group of academic researchers decided to do a deep dive into how Facebook custom audiences work to find out how users’ phone numbers and email addresses get sucked into the advertising ecosystem.

The researchers also found that if User A, whom we’ll call Anna, shares her contacts with Facebook, including a previously unknown phone number for User B, whom we’ll call Ben, advertisers will be able to target Ben with an ad using that phone number, which I call “shadow contact information,” about a month later. Ben can’t access his shadow contact information, because that would violate Anna’s privacy, according to Facebook, so he can’t see it or delete it, and he can’t keep advertisers from using it either.

The lead author on the paper, Giridhari Venkatadri, said this was the most surprising finding, that Facebook was targeted ads using information “that was not directly provided by the user, or even revealed to the user.”

You’ve got to read the whole Gizmodo article. As John Gruber put it, “[…] Facebook [is] a criminal enterprise. Maybe not legally, but morally.”

(via DF)

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article

Football, dogfighting, and brain damage: The New Yorker

I just finished reading (and loving) Malcolm Gladwell’s newest book, Outliers, and I highly recommend it. I’ve just now had a chance to catch up with his New Yorker articles, the latest of which asks the question, what do football and dogfighting have in common? The answer: somebody’s getting hurt for somebody else.

“They cleared me for practice that Thursday. I probably shouldn’t have. I don’t know what damage I did from that, because my head was really hurting. But when you’re coming off an injury you’re frustrated. I wanted to play the next game. I was just so mad that this happened to me that I’m overdoing it. I was just going after guys in practice. I was really trying to use my head more, because I was so frustrated, and the coaches on the sidelines are, like, ‘Yeah. We’re going to win this game. He’s going to lead the team.’ That’s football. You’re told either that you’re hurt or that you’re injured. There is no middle ground. If you are hurt, you can play. If you are injured, you can’t, and the line is whether you can walk and if you can put on a helmet and pads.”

Football, dogfighting, and brain damage : The New Yorker.