It was like spring this week in Switzerland, and it was very pleasant to be outside. Wednesday we went to see the Rhine falls near Schaffhausen. There weren’t many people around. We walked across the railwaybridge to the other riverside for lunch in Neuenhausen. Along the right bank is a footpath with nice views of the falls. On the left bank, where we parked, the access to the viewpoints requires buying tickets. Looking around on the map where to explore next we spotted a photo museum in nearby Winterthur but it was between expositions. Instead we decided on visiting the Beim Stadthaus location of the Winterthur Kunstmuseum which has a collection of 20th century art.

We had the museum entirely to ourselves. We were the only three visitors. To enjoy at our leisure a wide range of works. It was great. In the 1916 museum building which also houses the natural museum, the halls are a bland beige and the works are presented without context, almost without information even. Just a name and a date. Being in there alone felt like discovering a forgotten wing of an old building that happened to have all these beautiful works of art in them. Or like being in a school building after hours when everyone else is gone. Being the only one in what is normally a frequented public building. Like you’re not supposed to be there, to have some personal time with all these works of art.

Van Gogh, Matisse, Monet, Giacometti, Calder, Arp, Mondriaan, Picasso, Braque and many more. Just us three to enjoy them, stand up close, talk about them. Walk away, come back to compare. Watch for a long time. No one also wanting their turn to look from the best angle, or trying to get a better picture.
Normally on public display, it became a fully private visit, which made it a very different quality of experience.
Who knew Winterthur held these unexpected treasures.

works by Van Gogh, Rodin, and Monet

Van Gogh and Rodin.

Painting by Leger, sculpture by Duchamp-Villon

Works by Mondriaan, Calder, Van Doesburg, Arp and Täuber-Arp

These index cards provide improvisation prompts. They contain words to use and suggestions for actions to use in a game of improvisation. One grouping of words and actions per index card. Seeing them laid out next to each other obviously reminded me of the use of index cards in personal learning/knowledge systems that are based on physical cards or made digitally (keeping one thing per note file), as well as of flash cards (like for spaced repetition). And it made me think of Chris Aldrich who collects examples of using index cards like these, as well as of Peter who is part of an improv group.

This set contains 108 cards with ‘nuclei’ of words and actions for improv. They were created by Jackson Mac Low in 1961 as ‘nuclei for Simone Forti‘ after seeing her perform in Yoko Ono’s loft. They were used by her as well as by Trisha Brown.

I came across this set of cards at the ‘Fondation du doute‘, the institute of doubt, in Blois, in a exhibition on the postmodern ‘Fluxus‘ movement that Jackson Mac Low participated in for some time.

This week I visited Valletta, Malta. The old town’s facades have many so-called gallariji. A gallarija is a woodpanel-enclosed balcony. They became common it seems from the late 17th century onwards. It gives the city streets a distinct character from other places.

On the corner of the Arch Bishop Street and Old Bakery Street, photo Ton Zijlstra cc by nc sa

Looking down Arch Bishop Street, photo Ton Zijlstra cc by nc sa

On West Street facing St. Paul’s Cathedral, photo Ton Zijlstra cc by nc sa

Above the stairs of Triq-Il-Batterija, photo Ton Zijlstra cc by nc sa

In October 2017 Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated by planting an explosive in her car. She worked on exposing financial and political corruption, and worked on the Panama Papers. Last year October the murderers were convicted, while the court case against the political and business principal is still ongoing. Four months later Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak was gunned down alongside with his life partner Martina Kušnírová, possibly after his name leaked from freedom of information requests. Kuciak was also involved in reporting on the Panama Papers. In that case the gunmen have been convicted, whereas similarly to Caruana Galizia’s case, the court case against the principal, also a politically connected businessman, is still ongoing. That is to say both were murdered by the klept, to use William Gibson’s label, for their work on transparency. As someone who has worked on government transparency for some 15 years from a different angle, there are always some overlaps between my (net)work and European investigative journalists, the organisations they work with and the projects they work on.

A large part of this week I was in Valletta, Malta, for the EuroGeographics General Assembly. Tuesday afternoon I strolled around town, and made sure to visit the impromptu memorial for Daphne Caruana Galizia that is on Republic Street in front of the courts of justice. Because the case is still ongoing, the corruption still in place therefore. And because upon arrival the very first Maltese newspaper I saw Sunday evening carried a headline about the assassination, still in the spotlight of attention five and a half years after the fact.

The improvised memorial for Daphne Caruana Galizia, calling for justice to be done almost 6 years on. Located on the square in front of St. Johns Cathedral along Republic Street, facing the front doors of the Courts of Justice. (Photo by me)

The Sunday Malta Times of 19 March 2023, with a headline connected to the 2017 assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The WordPress ActivityPub plugin by Matthias Pfefferle has been updated. It now allows you to @mention ActivityPub users and they will be notified of the mention in your blogpost, through ActivityPub.

This is useful. Yet, I’m holding out on using the plugin myself until three things are possible:

  • Set the user name of the ActivityPub account: Now the username is the login name of the user doing the posting. I recognise using WP user names is a straightforward way of turning WP into an ActivityPub client, and prevents having to add addditional stuff to the database. As I use non-obvious user names for additional website security, having those exposed as ActivityPub users is undesirable however.
  • Refuse follow requests: currently the plugin allows follows, and defaults to accepting all follows. As on my separate AP account I want to decide personally on follow requests.
  • Determine flexibly which postings get shared through ActivityPub, and through which ActivityPub user account. The current set-up is that all postings get shared through ActivityPub. I’d rather be able to determine not just on a post by post basis what gets shared but also to have specific categories of postings to be shared through a specific account.

I want to actively use the affordances ActivityPub allows on top of those WordPress as blogging tool provides. For me that is the ability to use the different activity types that AP can support, and to use dealing with followers and follows to selectively disclose content to different groups of people.

My current usecase for this is to have a separate AP account that shares my travel plans (posted in an unlisted category on my site) with accepted followers. The first part requires selectively sharing a category of postings, the second part doing so to a group of accepted followers on an AP account that is meant for just this type of postings and not my general AP account.

The plugin will develop in this direction, but is not there yet. I am slowly going through the code of the plugin myself to understand its architecture and choices. Perhaps it will give me an idea either on how to build on its core to create the functionality locally I want for myself, or maybe (though my coding skills are likely not adequate for it) add to the plugin itself.

Paris in the past week was far from empty, but it was quieter. Making for a pleasant visit: the terraces of restaurants and café’s were filled but there always was a table available for us. And enough traffic and passers-by to do some people watching from behind your coffee.

Coffee at Flores bistro, Boulevard Hausmann. Image Ton Zijlstra, license CC BY SA

The metro wasn’t as packed as I remember from previous visits. Metro stations didn’t have crowds at all, regularly allowing me to take pictures devoid of people. The trains we took between Paris and Versailles where we were staying were almost empty even.

Gare d’Invalides. Image Ton Zijlstra, license CC BY SA

All in all a great way to visit the city, busy enough to get a feel for the city, but not so busy you feel rushed along by the people around you, allowing us to set our own pace.