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Book review: “In Search of Lost Time”, fifth volume

· 8 min read

Is it me, or is this getting a bit better?

Still too damn long and still too damn detailed. And too damn overemotional (the amount of stress it can still cause grown-up Proust that one time that his mum didn't show up in his room to kiss him good-night that summer evening when he was a little kid!). And too damn posh and affected.

But on this fifth volume there were a dozen pages here and fifty pages there that were real engaging or real funny. And a few memorable quotes and brilliant reflections on life and love (of which I share a few at the end of this post).

Marcel Proust (Wikimedia Commons)

“Love, what is it but space and time rendered perceptible by the heart”

April 2024, first week

· 4 min read

There's a silly thing I started doing in 2008: during the month of April I take one photo every day to “document” my day-to-day life for my future self.

The idea, at least initially, was to be as “natural” and “honest” as possible, and to take pictures of myself doing all kind of things during the month — from household chores to work to time with friends to special events. In the first years I was much more meticulous about selecting varied and representative moments each day, and about using timers, mirrors, stands and even other people to help me capture the moment as faithfully as I could. I always thought: “I want my 80-year-old self to be able to peek at my life as it is today”, because I have a bad memory in general and I think I will like that. And indeed, it's been “only” sixteen years since I started, and I already enjoy browsing past April photos and reading the comments I wrote at the time.

I always posted the photos online, but hid the most intimate ones from strangers: those are visible only to family and/or to friends — and a few are only available to me (that's why you probably see fewer than 30 photos in each of my albums and sets online).

In the goold old days of Flickr, a bunch of friends and acquaintances liked the idea and even played along for a few installments. It was good fun for one month every year, some of us who had met mostly over the interwebs got to know each other a little better, and some people took it almost as seriously as I did. When we all most of us abandoned Flickr, I used Pixelfed for a while (eg, April 2021 here and here). During the transition, I never got around to publishing the photos I took one year (2020, I think). Some of those years I set myself a theme or a prompt for the month: “16:9 aspect ratio”, “black & white with dashes of colour”, “repetitions or reflections”, etc. And one year, I forgot to take one of the photos (but I have forgiven myself).

Anyway, here goes my first week of daily photos this year!

Seventeen years on Twitter

· 2 min read

Seventeen years ago yesterday, everybody was talking about that amazing gadget, the “iPhone” — but nobody you knew had one yet, because the world had been introduced to the iPhone only two months earlier.

Seventeen years ago yesterday, in Europe only wonks knew who “Obama” was, since he had just announced that he'd be running for president the previous month.

Seventeen years ago yesterday, I had been living and working in London for one year, and I was loving it.

Seventeen years ago yesterday, Twitter had been open for registrations for half a year, and was slowly getting more attention from geeks (although the product had been one year in the making already). It was exactly then that I joined the “micro-blogging platform” and started tweeting all kind of banal thoughts — just like the few friends of mine who were there already.

What causes the “gender pay gap”?

· 5 min read

What pay gap, exactly?

“While the official gender pay gap figure is 9.1% for full-time workers, the pay gap between men and women aged 22-39 is negligible [ONS 2017 a]

Between ages 22 and 39, this gender pay rate gap is negligible (between about -1% and +2%). The all-ages ‘averaged’ full time pay rate gap in favour of men (currently a median little above 9%) occurs entirely due to a pay rate differential opening up after age 40 and applies only before tax. For part time workers the (gross) gender pay rate gap is in favour of women by 5.1% (2017). […] Men pay 169% more income tax than women.” [ONS 2017 b]

“There is no pay gap for full-time workers 21-35 living alone. [According to a 2005 study,] among college-educated never married individuals with no children who worked full time and were from 40 to 64 years old, men averaged $40,000 a year and women $47,000.” [Sowell 2011]

“As far back as 1971, single women in their thirties who had worked continuously since high school earned slightly more than men of the same description. As far back as 1969, academic women who had never married earned more than academic men who had never married.” [Sowell 2016]

Women and men in the same circumstances (e.g., same type of institution, discipline, and amount of experience) fare equivalently [Ceci 2011]

Encrypt. Now.

· 6 min read

We have come to a point where end-to-end encrypting all your private data and private communications is no longer an ethical option, but an ethical duty.

Imagine a new law was being discussed in your country to make it mandatory that all buildings have glass walls. All houses would be transparent. The (stated) goal of the law is to make it harder for criminals to hide their wrongdoings. It would be difficult to stock up on illegal drugs or to operate an industrial printer of counterfeit money without the police (and, incidentally, some of your neighbours) noticing. Domestic violence and child abuse would be visible through transparent walls. Let's say that the new law will allow you to have a shower curtain, a little folding screen in your bedroom, and blankets on your bed. Except for those meagre provisions, assume that your government (and random passers-by, and potentially anyone) will be able to watch what you do at all times.

An illustration for this post generated by Stable Diffusion

Now imagine you are a regular, law-abiding citizen who can afford to lead a “transparent” life most of the time, and manage to get some limited “privacy” only occasionally. Given how hard it is for individual citizens to steer the behemoth that is the State and its government, and since you personally “have nothing to hide”, you could be tempted to simply give up and prepare to obey the new law.

But you should resist.

You should strongly oppose that bill and help build resistance to it. Most importantly, if such a law ever came into effect you would be morally obliged to disobey, to boycott.

Being late

· 10 min read

This epiphany popped into my mind a few days ago, and has been in my head since:

I am mostly happy with the things I've done in my life so far,
but I was late to many of those things.

Photo by

The craze for expensive phones

· 8 min read

My current smartphone, a Moto G5S Plus, is five years and one week old.

At the time, on 2018-09-01, it cost me my employer €139.75 on Not because that was the budget I was given, but because I chose that model (I could have easily asked for a more expensive phone). Back then I also bought a plastic case for it, and I think I have a film protecting the screen, too. I reckon I paid twenty euro or less for both accessories. That's a grand total of ~€160 for a phone that was quite good in 2018.

Let us ignore electricity consumption and carrier bills associated with it (those are practically a given, and there is little variance there in quality or price). The total cost of ownership (TCO) of my phone as of today is ~€32/year.

The phone is sturdy, and even more so with the case around it. I have clumsy hands, so I have dropped it on the floor multiple times, and banged it accidentally against other objects and furniture. I have taken it to hikes and runs, and to beaches. It got wet sometimes, and the case is scratched. After five years, I don't seem to be able to break it. If this phone is still in good condition one minute into 2024, its TCO will be ~€30/year.

An illustration for this post generated by Stable Diffusion