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Jeremy Cherfas: Posts

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Jeremy Cherfas
https://www.jeremycherfas.net/blog.rss


A little challenge

As I work on my new theme for this site, I noticed again that the old theme's way of dealing with the webmentions I send is not 100 per cent functional. Specifically, quite a few sites seem not to like the h-card here, which is present on every post as a <div> that contains pure <data> elements.

Having just read, then, that Stephen Rushe has a new implementation of the Authorship algorithm, it seems only right to send him a webmention.

Wed, 16 Oct 2019 16:30:00 +0200


Listened to: Impeach This!

Episode summary: We catch up with Gary Gerstle and Helen Thompson about the state of the Trump presidency, from impeachment and cover-ups to Syria and Ukraine. We ask what it would take for Republican senators to desert him and what the collateral damage is likely to be for the Democratic presidential candidates. Plus is Hillary really - really?! - back in the game? Talking Points: What are the grounds for impeaching Trump? - There’s a legal argument: Trump breached campaign finance laws. - There’s also a constitutional argument: that Trump is trading American interests for personal gain. More specific charges are less open to counter-attack. Politically, it may be advantageous for the Democrats to focus on Ukraine. - But a too narrow charge might not resonate. The Democrats need to make the case that this matters morally and link it to a broader American narrative. - Elections are a sacred event in American democracy. - But the U.S. electoral system also depends on a certain amount of corruption to work. - Is fear of…

Tue, 15 Oct 2019 11:11:00 +0200


Listened to: Estates

Episode summary: Council estates: Laurie Taylor talks to Insa Lee Koch, Associate Professor in Anthropology at the LSE, and author of a new study which explores the history of housing estates and the every day live of residents on one such estate in southern England. How did council housing turn from being a marker of social inclusion to a marker of abject failure? Also, the origins and symbolism of the ‘sink estate’, a term invented by journalists and amplified by think tanks and politicians. Tom Slater, Reader in Urban Geography at the University of Edinburgh, traces the usage of this term and the long term impact of associating council estate residents with effluence and sewage. Producer: Jayne Egerton

Mon, 14 Oct 2019 20:05:00 +0200


King content crowned again

As part of a project I have in mind, I've started downloading the logs of this site from my server. Looking at them, I'm still surprised by how many pages search engines seem to be looking for and failing to find. Two questions:

  1. Where are they coming from? Mostly, it seems, opensiteexplorer.com, which is now moz.com.
  2. Why doesn't my nifty rewrite rule redirect as I thought it did? 1

Anyway, I'm not actually pursuing answers in detail. Instead, I'm using the first three unfound pages each morning as a goad to bring those old pages into the not-so new-anymore site. It was doing that that alerted me to the second point, because after finding the old version and chasing down all the links in it, I noticed that the page does indeed exist, exactly where it ought be. And looking back, the links on that page, tracked down with the help of The Internet Archive, are a microcosm of some changes over the past 15 years.2

Rex Sorgatz's website is still going, although these days he seems to be putting more effort into his newsletter.

The website he was working on, for NBC's coverage of the Athens Olympics? What would he make of it now?

The $14 steadycam? No longer still there, but parked and "coming soon," complete with fetching person-at-work under construction image. How it takes me back.

The Italian Stanley Kubrick fan site is still there too, and on this visit, so was the English version, albeit a little scrambled. Kubrick's telex about the Steadycam is still there too.

Saddest, for me, are the demise of "probably the oldest UK based Poultry Web Page" and the glorious Vasalini's Chickencam, offering "A live view of daily life in a chicken yard on the island of Martha's Vineyard. They don't make 'em like that any more.

In passing, I note that both of those sites were members of webrings. The one hosted on Geocities is dead as a Norwegian Blue. The other, remarkably, is still going strong on Angelfire.

It's tempting to try and draw some overall conclusion, but beyond harking back to a time of innocence and empowerment, I'm not sure I can. Everything that allowed people to make those pages back in 2004 (except the NBC site) is still available to anyone who cares to make something similar.

Go to it.


  1. RewriteRule ^\d{4}/\d{2}/\d{2}/(.*)$ /blog/$1 [R=301,L] is the rule in question. Which, I expect, should convert GET /wp/Archive/2004/07/05/king-content/ to GET /blog/king-content/. But it doesn't. 

  2. I find it pretty hard to believe too. 

Mon, 14 Oct 2019 19:30:00 +0200


Listened to: 373- The Kirkbride Plan

Episode summary: Today, there are more than a hundred abandoned asylums in the United States that, to many people, probably seem scary and imposing, but not so long ago they weren’t seen as scary at all. Many of them were built part of a treatment regimen developed by a singular Philadelphia doctor named Thomas Story Kirkbride. Kirkbride was obsessed with architecture and how it could be harnessed therapeutically to cure people suffering from mental illness. The Kirkbride Plan

Mon, 14 Oct 2019 09:00:00 +0200


Listened to: Tunnel 29 full-length trailer

Episode summary: Thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Helena Merriman tells the extraordinary true story of a man who dug a tunnel into the East, right under the feet of border guards, to help friends, family and strangers escape. The series is based on original interviews with the survivors as well as thousands of documents from the Stasi archives and recordings from the tunnel. Producer & Presenter: Helena Merriman Sound design: Eloise Whitmore Editor: Richard Knight #tunnel29

Mon, 14 Oct 2019 08:21:00 +0200


Listened to: I’m a Monster

Episode summary: Getting into character and scaring people silly is one of Campbell Harmon’s favorite things in life. But his relationship to being a monster goes deeper than playing one in a haunted attraction.

Mon, 14 Oct 2019 08:10:00 +0200


Everything is connected

Two days ago, I bookmarked a column by Tim Harford, remembering the great economist Martin Weitzman. I knew Weitzman only because a colleague made use of his ideas on how to prioritise the conservation of species, the Noah's Ark problem. He wanted to pay people to conserve quinoa varieties, but which ones deserved support?

I was intrigued to discover Weitzman's objection to the idea that there's no point spending money on climate change now, because our descendents will be so much richer than us that they'll be able easily to cope. Weitzman focused on the tail risk. Using an analogy of treating his house for damp now, lest his great-grandchildren have to pay more to fix it in future, Harford explains:

The truly eye-opening contribution — for me, at least — was Weitzman’s explanation that the worst-case scenarios should rightly loom large in rational calculations. If there’s a modest chance that the damp problem will give all my great-grandchildren fatal pneumonia, I shouldn’t ignore that. And my great-grandchildren wouldn’t want me to: the probably rich great-grandchildren would happily sacrifice some trivial amount of income to avoid being the possibly dead great-grandchildren. But they won’t have the choice. It’s up to me.

And then, just moments ago, I revisited something I wrote 13 years ago: Take precautions: global warming deserves it, prompted by various published reflections on global warming the climate crisis, in turn prompted by An Inconveient Truth. In my piece, I complained that The Economist was too supportive of Bjorn Lomberg. I didn't know about Weitzman's argument then, and apparently, neither did The Economist.

And then, a final strange connection. Last night I happened to read an article in The New Yorker about a former Economist journalist called Jonathan Ledgard. And blow me if that article didn't trumpet one of Ledgard's passel of huge ideas:

"Many species are at risk of local extinction because they have no independent means to change their financial value," Ledgard explained. The goals is to "pick a local species that is threatened with extinction, give it some financial agency in the world, and then work out how the value that it holds can be distributed to the local human community."

A few months later, Ledgard called me to say that he had refined the concept to focus on the promotion of insect life on European farms.

Well, blow me. Genius invents payments for ecosystem services, with nary a mention of Weitzman or anyone else who has not only thought about this before, but has actually done it.

How was your Sunday?

Sun, 13 Oct 2019 11:31:00 +0200


Listened to: December Elections: Live Special!

Episode summary: A special edition recorded in front of an audience at the Podcast Live festival in London on Saturday: David, Helen and Chris Brooke discuss what we can learn from the early twentieth century about holding elections in the depths of winter. Constitutional crises, threats of civil breakdown, broken coalitions and very grumpy voters: we may have been here before. For information regarding your data privacy, visit acast.com/privacy

Sun, 13 Oct 2019 09:35:00 +0200


Listened to: WS More or Less: Does San Francisco have more rough sleepers than Britain?

Episode summary: Are the shocking statistics true? and how do you count people who don’t wish to be found?

Sun, 13 Oct 2019 08:52:00 +0200


Page created: Sun, Oct 20, 2019 - 09:05 PM GMT