Today is Irony Day: Wetherspoon’s short on some beers as Brexit affects deliveries.

    They blame ‘lack of lorry drivers and strike action.’ Hadn’t heard about a strike; does it exist? And more importantly, what on Earth could have caused a lack of drivers???

    Corona Vu

    This article was in yesterday’s Independent. I felt like I had travelled back in time to last May:

    Crucially, the report, which was written by independent experts, concludes that NHS guidelines failed to consider airborne infection, a key way the virus is transmitted.

    – Sean Russel in the Independent, NHS Covid guidelines ‘fundamentally flawed’ and need replacing, says nursing union

    It further says:

    But research now suggests that airborne transmission – where tiny droplets of saliva from people talking, calling out or coughing can remain suspended in the air – can be a particular problem in poorly-ventilated rooms.

    – As above, Independent article

    ‘Now’? Research now suggests that it’s airborne? We’ve known that since at least June of last year. In fact, I first posted about masks, and about going out with a rudimentary one, in early April!

    How can NHS guidelines be so ludicrously far from what we understand? It would be comically far if it wasn’t so serious.

    The Guardian Might Stop Being a Printed Paper

    Colin Morrison, writing at ‘Flashes & Flames’:

    The Guardian, which has arguably become the world’s most sophisticated digital news operation, may be contemplating an end to its printed newspapers. That may have been signalled by the recent decision to cut 180 jobs (or 12% of its UK workforce) as a result of Covid.
    But, tellingly, newsstand print sales, at £49.3m, were 50% down compared with 2016. Last year, print accounted for 42% of revenue (£94 million) and an estimated £75 million of production, distribution and marketing costs. So, the printed newspaper may last year have delivered almost £20m of real profit. But now Covid is pushing it into losses from which it may not be able to recover – without dramatic change.

    Interesting and unsurprising to learn that Saturday is (was?) its biggest day for print sales:

    Like most UK national newspapers, The Guardian has been highly profitable on Saturdays because of higher prices and sales volumes. Pre-Covid, The Guardian had been selling 100,000 copies at £2.20 on weeekdays. But, on a Saturday, it was selling 246,000 copies at £3.20 – and with more advertising revenue too.

    After our local newsagent stopped delivering the Saturday Guardian, we went out and bought it most weeks… until Covid and the lockdown. We haven’t bought it since, probably, March. But we do pay online, as supporters and subscribers.

    I don’t think I’d mind that much if it went digital-only, though it would be the end of an era. You’d think they could keep just the Saturday edition, but:

    The management may already have concluded that any plan to print a newspaper only on certain days (including the weekend) will not be viable. Much of the experience (especially of the Newhouse family’s Advance newspaper group in the US) seems to show that reducing the daily frequency seldom works: once the daily habit is broken, newspaper buyers quickly seem to stop buying the paper altogether. A consolation print option could be the expansion of the 101-year-old news magazine Guardian Weekly which claims readers in more than 170 countries.

    I’d guess they’ll maybe keep The Observer going for a while: Sunday papers have their own distinct identities.

    The contrast with digital could not be greater. The Guardian has 160 million monthly uniques across the world, some 25% in the UK. More striking, though, are those digital editions in North America and Australia/New Zealand which, respectively, have advertising revenue of £25 million and £11 million. These are now strong operations, evidenced by Australia where The Guardian is the fourth largest online news service with an audience of 11.6 million (more than 50% of the adult population) – ahead of News Corp’s national daily, The Australian.

    Good to know it’s beating Murdoch on his home turf.

    Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab describes The Guardian as “a weird newspaper” because: it has nearly two-thirds of its readers coming from outside its own country; started in one city and moved to another; and is owned by a trust that mandates it promotes liberal journalism in Britain and elsewhere.

    “A weird newspaper”: works for me.

    The Monster (Wear a Mask!)

    Dr Sayed Tabatabai writes beautifully about the horror of working in an ICU at the moment.

    Sometimes when people sound quieter and calmer during a respiratory issue it’s a sign of impending doom.

    You can’t make noise if you can’t breathe.

    – Dr Sayed Tabatabai, The Monster

    Go read. It’s a Twitter thread. Only 22 tweets. ThreadReaderApp doesn’t seem to be working.

    And please: start wearing a face covering if you ever go out.

    Good piece by Margaret Atwood about… what everything’s about, these days.

    Any child growing up in Canada in the 1940s, at a time before there were vaccines for a horde of deadly diseases, was familiar with quarantine signs. They were yellow and they appeared on the front doors of houses. They said things such as DIPHTHERIA and SCARLET FEVER and WHOOPING COUGH. Milkmen – there were still milkmen in those years, sometimes with horse-drawn wagons – and bread men, ditto, and even icemen, and certainly postmen (and yes, they were all men), had to leave things on the front doorsteps. We kids would stand outside in the snow – for me, it was always winter in cities, as the rest of the time my family was up in the woods – gazing at the mysterious signs and wondering what gruesome things were going on inside the houses. Children were especially susceptible to these diseases, especially diptheria – I had four little cousins who died of it – so once in a while a classmate would disappear, sometimes to return, sometimes not.

    In General Election 2019: the news media failed profoundly — but not in the way you think, Adam Tinworth buries the “lede.” Probably deliberately, as the whole piece is worth reading.

    The key point is that the Reuters research showed that people spent only 16 minutes a week on average reading news during the election.

    That’s a ludicrously low figure.

    Also odd is that the Shortcut that I used to create this post pulled this text out as the title: “The Media & the 2019 General Election: trusted, but little consumed.” Which would be better in terms of not burying anything, but I can’t see where it came from. The <title> tag, I’d have to guess, but you don’t really see those on a phone. And not that much on a computer, once you’ve got more than a couple of browser tabs open.

    The End of the Dream. The Start of the Resistance

    Ian Dunt, writing at

    What is happening is a tragedy. A betrayal of Britain’s role in the world. A betrayal of the Europeans who came and made this their home. A betrayal of the idea that this is a calm, sensible country, that thinks in practical and pragmatic terms about what it is doing, that deals in small ideas instead of grand ideologies.

    The end of the dream. The start of the resistance.

    Worth reading the whole thing.

    Irony Failure Among Elite Headteachers

    Private schools criticise plans to get more poor students into university“. Of course they do.

    Sally Weale writes in The Guardian:

    Leading private schools have challenged plans to widen access to the most selective universities in England, warning they could lead to discrimination against young people “on the basis of the class they were born into”.

    Which doesn’t happen at the moment. Not at all.

    Jolyon Maugham QC and the Good Law Project are petitioning Johnson to ask the EU to allow us to have associate EU citizenship, as part of the exit negotiations. I can’t imagine it’ll do much good, but there’s no harm in signing.

    On one level I think they’re trolling Johnson: suggesting that he might want to — or suggesting that there’s any chance he would — appear statesmanlike.

    I hope everyone’s not petitioned out, because we need this: To establish a Public Inquiry into the conduct of the 2016 EU Referendum.

    There will be a public enquiry about Brexit and how it was mishandled, eventually. But it could be years from now. Sooner is better.

    Marina's on Fire Again

    Marina Hyde may have written her greatest line (so far):

    the Commons decision to take the prime minister into special measures

    The whole piece is, as ever, glorious.

    The Compulsive Pursuit of a Product That Does Us Only Harm

    Rafel Behr analyses our national condition:

    It looks like British social awkwardness elevated to the scale of a constitutional meltdown. It is the stiff upper lip chewing itself to pieces rather than name the cause of our suffering: not the deal, not the backstop, not the timetable, not Brussels, but Brexit. The poison in our system is Brexit. We need a path to recovery, not May’s frantic hunt for a stronger, purer dose.

    At The Guardian

    Nick Cave on AI and Songwriting

    If we have limitless potential then what is there to transcend?

    Mr Cave’s latest newsletter muses on the potential songwriting abilities of AIs.

    “Why’s it taking so long? We should just leave!” | The Reinvigorated Programmer

    Good analogy:

    Suppose your family lives in a flat that’s rented from a housing association. And you have come to feel (rightly or wrongly) that it’s not a very nice flat, and that the association interferes too much. So you discuss it as a family, and you think about all the lovely houses out there that you could live in, and eventually you decide to leave. So far, so good.

    EU Figures Rule Out Concessions as May Postpones Brexit Vote

    Honestly, she has no idea what she’s doing. Plus, she seems to be acting alone. We don’t have a presidential system here. The Prime Minister is not the entire executive.

    EU figures rule out concessions as May postpones Brexit vote

    Some Labour MPs are thinking along similar lines to me.

    Wes Streeting:

    “Labour cannot sit by and allow the choice to be between the economic ruin of a hard Brexit or the loss of sovereignty under Theresa May’s deal, with Britain subjected to EU rules but with no say over them,” he said. “As with any fork in the road, there is always the option of turning back home.

    “We know this is a mess made by the Tories, but the Labour party can’t just sit back and watch. It’s time for all of us in the Labour party to make the full-throated case for a people’s vote with the option of remaining in the European Union.

    “That leadership must now come from the top, or our party may never be forgiven for the consequences that follow.”

    Chris Leslie:

    “With even Tory ministers recognising Brexit threatens the poorest in society, our public services and Britain’s place in the world, to have a Labour leader just shrug about it, then go awol, is nothing short of a dereliction of duty.”

    OK, they’re maybe not planning to leave the party, but still.

    They Took Something Very Weird and Made It More Usable

    Good piece by Paul Ford, writing at Bloomberg on Microsoft buying GitHub:

    [GitHub] has a well-designed web interface. If you don’t think that’s worth $7.5 billion, you’ve never read the git manual.

    He means the man pages, I assume.

    GitHub is “the central repository for decentralized (sic) code archives,” which is mildly amusing. But this:

    In the pre-git era, you updated your software annually and sent customers floppy disks. But if you’re running a big software platform, you might update your servers constantly—many times a day or every 20 minutes.

    is a bit over the top. There were a lot of changes between sending out floppies and continuous deployment.

    I question his (lack of) capitalisation. The command is git, all lower case. But if you’re talking about the application, you should spell it “Git”, with the capital. I think so, anyway. You would write about “CVS”, even though the command was (is) cvs; and “Subversion,” with the command svn. But at least it’s not as annoying as people who write it in all-caps.

    Lastly, when he says, “Computers are mercurial,” I’m assuming he’s wryly referencing what was once Git’s major rival in the distributed version-control space. Nicely deadpan, if so.

    Microsoft to Buy GitHub?

    I can’t help but feel concerned about the news that Microsoft may be buying GitHub. I know they’re big on open source now, and even use GitHub themselves. But I remember how antithetical to open-source they used to be, so that worries me. And it rarely works out well when a big company buys up a small, interesting one.

    It's Inconvenient to Talk

    On Trump’s phone (mis)use:

    Trump’s call-capable cellphone has a camera and microphone, unlike the White House-issued cellphones used by Obama.


    I mean, it’s not going to be much use at making calls without a microphone.

    A Special Way of Being Afraid

    I only know one other of Philip Larkin’s poems; it is about parents and children. This one — ‘Aubade’ — is the best poem about death I’ve ever read.

    A sample:

    That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,
    No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
    Nothing to love or link with,
    The anaesthetic from which none come round.

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