William Butler Yeats’s The Second Coming, written in the aftermath of the First World War, has worked its way into the zeitgeist. As the stampede toward extreme politics accelerates in our own era, Yeats’s words resonate:

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;”

In a step back yesterday, it would appear that in Italy, the center-left thwarted a power grab by Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigrant League Party in the northern region of Emilia-Romagna.

Small victories are welcome, too.

Holiday Slide Show

For the holidays, a leisurely slide show of 171 photos posted between April and August this year on a trip around the world through Vietnam, Thailand, Finland, Germany, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine, France and Ireland. Just click the screen shot here to get started, then pop it out to full screen if you like, and enjoy! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy New Year.

Machines Are People, Too

The early internet brought the cost of voice communication dramatically down, and fast. For some years American consumers grumbled that ‘customer service,’ having been sent to cheaper offshore call centers, became incomprehensible and ineffectual.

These days I find call center calls with my dear fellow Americans, if not as incomprehensible, then at least as ineffectual. Is it just me?

It has to be the script they suit up with when they come into work, and their apparent inability to deviate therefrom into humanity. Blame the two-hour-old coffee in the bottom of the Bunn?

Tonight I called the air conditioning repair people after business hours and a live voice delighted me. I told it, “Oh hi, I was just thinking what I would tell the answering machine.” This plunged the live voice into stunned silence.

Spontaneous remarks had not been addressed on her script.

Pause, and a time wobble.

“Your address?”

Ah. On this conversation, we shall interact only as machines.

Now, why?

Global Climate Strike in Edinburgh, Dublin

Love this. Today’s Global Climate Strike from Edinburgh. Have a look:

Similar tweet from Dublin: