Chilean potato vine

solanum crispy

Photographed in Sydney Sussex College, Cambridge.

Solanum crispum (crispum means “closely curled”) – common names include Chilean potato vine, Chilean nightshade, Chilean potato tree and potato vine. Native to Chile and Peru.

Grows to 6 m (20 ft) tall, semi-evergreen, woody-stemmed climbing plant. Flowers resemble those of the potato, to which it is closely related.

From ‘The Great Hack’

poster with blocks of colour and text 'Rogue Data' and 'It’s late: do you know where your data is?'

Netflix showed a documentary about what went on in the campaigns to change people’s viewpoints in the US election and the EU referendum.

Christopher Wylie, the data scientist who worked for Cambridge Analytica said:

Cambridge Analytica are not a data analysis company: They are a data propaganda company.

About an hour into the video, Alexander Nix of Cambridge Analytica said:

We are a behaviour change agency

Brittany Kaiser, who worked for Cambridge Analytica, said they used the data they got from those who did Facebook quizzes – which also gave them access to the data of those people’s friends.

Armed with that they profiled millions of US voters and then targeted those who were ripe to be persuaded – the ‘persuadables’ as they called them.

They sent them ‘news’ (real and fake) until, as she said:

…they saw the world the way we wanted them to see it.

The parent company of Cambridge Analytica is/was SCL, which started out as a military contractor contracted to use research to influence behaviour of hostile audiences.

SCL was granted provisional “List X” status by the Ministry of Defence until 2013, giving it access to secret documents.

In 2014, MoD officials worked with SCL Group on “Project Duco” to analyse how people would interact with certain government messaging.

Guardian article 28 April 2018:

The UK Foreign Office, in 2008 signed a contract with Strategic Communications Laboratories, the former name of SCL Group, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, for a project to help tackle extremism by providing research and surveys into public opinion as part of an initiative to help Pakistan deal with extremism and radicalisation issues that could affect the UK.

From the UK Government website:

“List X contractors are companies operating in the UK who are working on UK government contracts which require them to hold classified information. This information is at ‘Secret’ or above or international partners information classified ‘Confidential’ or above, and is held their own premises at a specific site.”

Don’t hold me to it, but I think the allegation was that SCL passed their data to Cambridge Analytica, who used it to influence British voters in the EU referendum.

'rogue data' text against rectangles of various colours
poster with blocks of colour and a block exiting the frame with line trails - and text 'Rogue Data' and 'It’s late: do you know where your data is?'

If I Don’t Put It Here It Will Get Rubbed Out Eventually

scene of a fire in an electrical shop on Mill Road in Cambridge
scene of a fire in an electrical shop on Mill Road in Cambridge

Why did I take the photos of the burned-out shop on Mill Road? I had the camera with me, and I was drawn as though on rails to the scene of the fire.

Earlier, when I was further down Gwydir Street I saw a woman explaining to a motorist that the car would not be able to exit onto Mill Road. I thought she meant because of the roadworks. I wasn’t sure whether she meant pedestrians as well as motorists, because I could see a police car parked way down at the end of the street.

I thought then perhaps someone had been injured, a crime or an accident.

I was on my way to the Visitor Centre at the David Parr House on Gwydir Street and I wasn’t sure whether that was beyond the crossroads or before it. In the event, it was before the crossroads and when I went in the woman who runs the Centre explained that there had been a fire on Mill Road in an empty electrical shop.

She said the woman who owned the shop had been taken ill a few weeks before and so the shop was empty. And she had been a local character and the shop was very old. And her husband had died from a heart attack not long ago.

Now I read that the shop was named H Gee Electrical and that it took fire crews 19 hours to tackle the blaze, and that nearby residents had to be evacuated from their homes, and were given shelter at the Islamic Centre on Devonshire Road and the Earl of Beaconsfield pub.

I saw a blaze once. A big building with flames reaching up into the sky. I thought at the time it seemed unreal – people standing, looking, and the building the most energetic thing in the scene.

When I think of the Blitz in London during the war, I am in awe of the resilience of people who had to live through that bombing. And not just one night – two months of it.

Were they hardened, made stronger, weaker, more troubled, more found, by the experience?



I like the way the Fuji exposes and pushes the darker parts of the image way into the dark, like with this image of a Dahlia. Again, it is from the Fellows’ Garden at Christ’s College in Cambridge.

I looked up dahlia and was surprised at where it comes from. It’s a New World flower – from Mexico and Guatemala and into the northern tip of South America (not sure what happened to the intermediate countries between Guatemala and Colombia…)

The plant is named after Anders Dahl, author of Observationes Botanicae, and a student of Linneaus.

The story of the introduction of the plant into Europe is interesting – In 1787, the French botanist Nicolas-Joseph Thiéry de Menonville was sent to Mexico to steal some cochineal insects. He got the insects and reported that he had seen strangely beautiful flowers growing in a garden in Oaxaca.

A couple of years later the plants made their way to Europe, and the rest, as they say, is botany.


If this is not in fact a dahlia, and I have got it wrong (not unknown), then blame my poor faculties.

White Dahlia

Of course, it is not white – the original flower is not white. I ‘whited’ it in Photoshop. I rarely if ever convert a part of a photo into a black-and-white image. Perhaps you have seen those postcards of scenes like red London Buses crossing a B&W London Bridge? Not to my taste, but a chacun son goût, and now I have gone and done it. Seriously, do you like the white version?

I Couldn’t Give A Fig

Fig leaves on a tree In the Fellows' Garden at Christ's College, Cambridge

These are fig leaves on a tree in the Fellows’ Garden at Christ’s College, Cambridge. I thought there ought to be small figs on the tree – but nothing at all. I’ll have to ask when I next catch sight of one of the gardeners. I know it is early in the season, but the horse chestnuts in the park are well developed.

If you are not familiar with the phrase, ‘I couldn’t give a fig‘ means not to care at all about something. I googled and found that the origin of the phrase is a sexual gesture of contempt made by placing the thumb between the first and second fingers.

It originally comes from the Greek sykophántēs formed from the Greek for fig and vulva, sŷkon + -phántēs ‘one who shows’.