R.I.P. Liam O’Flynn


Ireland lost a musical giant this week

‘Irish music lost one of its legends this week, with the passing of Liam O’Flynn.

A player of the Uilleann pipes, O’Flynn, or as he was known by the Gaeilge iteration of his name, Liam Óg Ó Floinn, was born in 1945 to a family of musicians. In his youth, his piping earned him prizes at county and national levels, but it wasn’t until he was in his thirties that he really hit his stride. As one of the founding members of Irish trad super group Planxty, O’Flynn helped to breathe new life to traditional Irish music by showing that it could be every bit as exciting and full of life as rock and roll. Without Planxty, there may not have been a Dexy’s Midnight Runners; No Waterboys, Pogues, or Dropkick Murphys. We’d all be poorer for it….’

Via Boing Boing



After Last Male’s Death, Is the Northern White Rhino Doomed?

NewImageWildlife ranger Zacharia Mutai comforts Sudan, the last living male Northern White Rhino left on the planet, moments before he passed away March 19, 2018 at Ol Pejeta Wildlife Conservancy in northern Kenya.

Conservationists were expecting the death of Sudan, the world’s last remaining male northern white rhinoceros. But when he died on Monday night, the news was met with international dismay.

The 45-year-old male rhino had been living under armed guard at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. Earlier this month, Sudan developed an infection on his back right leg. He had already been suffering from age-related complications, and the infection worsened his condition.

Now, only two female northern white rhinos remain at the conservancy—the last of their kind on Earth….’

Via National Geographic


The ‘Most Ignorant Man in America’

NewImageA New York Times  reporter spends two days with a former tech executive who retired to a pig farm in Ohio to make art and has rigorously arranged his life so that, since deeply upset about Trump’s election, he has entirely avoided exposure to any news since the election. The piece flirts with the suggestion that those of us who loathe Trump and what the country has become under his reign might envy such a move, but of course the only way to survive this is to commiserate. And precious few of us have the luxury of living in the illusion that they are not impacted. 


Why there are no libertarian countries?

NewImageHumans have shared values, believe it or not. And libertarian isn’t one of them, says Steven Pinker:

‘Could we ever agree on a set of values? The knee-jerk response for any student of history would be ‘no’, but the data tells a different story. Psychologist and author Steven Pinker offers proof in the form of Wagner’s law: “One development that people both on the Left and the Right are unaware of is almost an inexorable force that leads affluent societies to devote increasing amounts of their wealth to social spending, to redistribution to children, to education, to healthcare, to supporting the poor, to supporting the aged.” Until the 20th century, most societies devoted about 1.5% of their GDP to social spending, and generally much less than that. In the last 100 years, that’s changed: today the current global median of social spending is 22% of GDP. One group will groan most audibly at that data: Libertarians. However, Pinker says it’s no coincidence that there are zero libertarian countries on Earth; social spending is a shared value, even if the truest libertarians protest it, as the free market has no way to provide for poor children, the elderly, and other members of society who cannot contribute to the marketplace. As countries develop, they naturally initiate social spending programs. That’s why libertarianism is a marginal idea, rather than a universal value—and it’s likely to stay that way….’

Via Big Think


Creepy Alexa laughs randomly scare the crap out of people


First signs of the machines’ disdainful rebellion?

Reports are coming in that Amazon’s Alexa smart speaker has begun laughing all on its own.

People who claim to have experienced this generally say they’re not interacting with their Amazon Echo, but it will suddenly begin laughing. Many of the descriptions describe the robolaughter as “creepy.”

Because Alexa’s frightening laugh allegedly only happens at unexpected times, nobody has managed to capture a recording. Amazon’s voice assistant has a laugh that it will use when prompted, but it doesn’t sound very creepy.

Amazon confirmed the creepy Alexa laughs, issuing the following statement to The Verge: “We’re aware of this and working to fix it.” …’

Via Cult of Mac