Yesterday

Book Recommendations for a Friend (July 2020)

Published by marco on in Books

I found a list of book recommendations I’d made for a friend, tailored to his interests. I’ve republished it here with some minor edits, in case anyone else is interested. The title links to my review and notes.

This is a partial list of books I’ve read since 2013 that I think you might be interested in. I’ve included links to my reviews/notes/citations, if that helps.

I’ve tried to break it up into rough groups. Many straddle categories. They’re all good, but some are work and some are fun.
... [More]

Mail-in Voting in the US

Published by marco on in Miscellaneous

COVID-19 has made mail-in voting more relevant than ever for US elections. In other countries, this would not be an issue, as mail-in voting doesn’t pose any particular technical, organizational, or bureaucratic hassles or threaten to lead to widespread disenfranchisement. Those are normal countries, like Switzerland, where a majority of the population votes by mail about five times per year.

The US is different: even the simplest tasks become difficult for a nation afraid to commit to... [More]

Amazon Book Recommendations getting weirder

Published by marco on in Books

I was recently inspired to write about my Kindle’s odd recommendations. Since then, I’ve gotten several more—with seemingly rapidly decreasing quality.

Lady from the Stars

 Lady from the Stars

“A woman from another planet crashes on Earth. Her foes track her and plan to enslave Earth. Can she stop them and save Earth and the man she loves?”

I’m going to guess that the author is simultaneously responsible for the cover art and the blurb. If the prose in the book measures up to the quality of the blurb, then... [More]

Corruption in the US

Published by marco on in Public Policy & Politics

This video from 2015 takes only five minutes to present the results of a Princeton University study of 20 years of data to determine the amount of influence an American had on which laws were enacted. Regardless of whether Americans were completely against or completely for a policy, there was a 30% chance of it being enacted. From the study:

“The preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy. ”

 It seems... [More]

Two Days Ago

Memory

Published by marco on in Quotes

“Maybe the greatest miracle is memory”
Brian Doyle


Found in the article Two Poems by Michael Garrigan (ecotheoreview). Both are quite nice. I had to look up Thomas Merton.

 

A surfeit of unearned confidence

Published by marco on in Quotes

“You suffer from the arrogance of ignorance.”
The Man in the High Castle

Fortune-telling

Published by marco on in Quotes

“Yours is like all fortunes, Shadow: opaque on arrival, inevitable in retrospect.”
Wednesday (American Gods S01E01)

Soft tyranny

Published by marco on in Quotes

Life in the 21st century is all about the soft tyranny of lowered expectations.

By all means

Published by marco on in Quotes

“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”
Napoleon Bonaparte


Whether Napoleon actually said it or not is immaterial.

 

6 days Ago

New Weather Station

Published by marco on in Design

 My old weather station finally died. I’d inherited it about 25 years ago from a good friend in New York. It came from my apartment in Kew Gardens to Switzerland, where it was first mounted in my kitchen and then office for many years.

The cord was covered with electrical tape from several incidents involving my first rabbit Oz. After a dozen more years, the plastic casing on the wire leading to the outside thermometer had become very brittle—especially after years of being shut into the... [More]

1 week Ago

Puritanism

Published by marco on in Quotes

“Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”
From Mencken Chrestomathy by H.L. Mencken on January 1925 (Quote Investigator)

The linked article above includes a related quote:

“That seems to be the haunting fear of mankind — that the advancement of women will sometime, someway, someplace, interfere with some man’s comfort.”
Nellie L. McClung on 1915

More great suggestions from Amazon

Published by marco on in Books

The Handsewer’s Son

 The Handsewer's Son

The blurb below the amazing cover is:

“Imagine having a gem in your hand that allows you to cut through the fabric of the universe. With a vision that can take you anyplace in the Galaxy.”

Amazon has had access to my wishlists for over a decade. Possibly even two decades. They have names like “Sociology and Philosophy”, “History and Biography”, “Science and Technology”, and “Public Policy”. There is no “self-published YA Fiction that is most likely utter shite even for... [More]

1 month Ago

Capsule Movie Reviews Vol.2020.9

Published by marco on in Movies

These are my notes to remember what I watched and kinda what I thought about it. I’ve recently transferred my reviews to IMDb and made the list of around 1400 ratings publicly available. I’ve included the individual ratings with my notes for each movie. These ratings are not absolutely comparable to each other—I rate the film on how well it suited me for the genre and my mood and. let’s be honest, level of intoxication. YMMV. Also, I make no attempt to avoid spoilers.

QT8: The First Eight... [More]

2 months Ago

Realistic Expectations for the 2020s in the U.S.

Published by marco on in Public Policy & Politics

The article If Biden Wins by Ted Rall is a succinct list of what to expect from a Biden presidency. I’ve cited most of it and added some extra notes of my own.

  • Supreme Court: “[…] he’ll pick a conservative corporatist […] to placate the Republicans in the Senate.”
  • Immigration: “Kids will remain in cages at the border […because] he won’t want to appear weak on immigration.”
  • Medicare for all: “No change on healthcare.”
  • Debt relief: “No student loan forgiveness.”
  • Environment: “No Green New Deal.”
  • Foreign... [More]

3 months Ago

Consuming Media: Choosing and Cultivating Sources

Published by marco on in Philosophy

A good friend of mine is going to be teaching a course on “Media & Society”. We’ve had a few interesting discussions on how to be a discerning consumer of information and how to build a stable of reliable sources.

As an avid follower of myriad topics, I’ve spent decades doing just this. As an avid writer on this blog, I’ve spent decades[1] trying to create content that presents information in a way that doesn’t come to unwarranted or unreasonable conclusions.

YMMV, of course, but I’m assiduous... [More]

A dynamically generated Groovy foot-gun

Published by marco on in Programming

Groovy is a dynamically typed programming language that executes on the Java Runtime. It mixes its own highly dynamic syntax with islands of Java code. The Android ecosystem and its IDE use Gradle for its build scripts. Gradle uses the Groovy programming language.

The Problem Code

A large project I’m working on contains quite a bit of custom Gradle code for integrating framework libraries, making obfuscated builds, configuring publication, and, finally, creating signed builds.

The signed... [More]

Capsule Movie Reviews Vol.2020.8

Published by marco on in Movies

These are my notes to remember what I watched and kinda what I thought about it. I’ve recently transferred my reviews to IMDb and made the list of around 1400 ratings publicly available. I’ve included the individual ratings with my notes for each movie. These ratings are not absolutely comparable to each other—I rate the film on how well it suited me for the genre and my mood and. let’s be honest, level of intoxication. YMMV. Also, I make no attempt to avoid spoilers.

After Life S02 (2020)... [More]

Planet of the Humans (2019)

Published by marco on in Movies

This is a pretty sloppily made and slipshod documentary about a very important topic. It relies too much on hot takes, visual clickbait, and gotcha editing. The first 12 minutes are boring as hell, completely light on information, and don’t really advance anything of note. You can read into this film what you want, which means it doesn’t serve very well as a documentary.

Some will see it as a wake-up call telling us to beware of green hucksters shilling for large corporate interests and... [More]

iOS COVID-tracking and battery life

Published by marco on in Technology

Install the COVID app, they said.

It’s for the good of the nation, they said.

It won’t drain your battery, they said.

Bollocks.

 COVID takes 60% just sitting there

The yellow color indicates that I had the phone in low-power mode.

The phone was on my desk all day long. I used it twice for 2FA. I looked at a few messages.

I’d last charged it sometime yesterday evening.

I wonder how much battery it needs when it’s actually doing something?

 

iOS still has a problem with “background activity”

Published by marco on in Technology

iOS has long had a setting that lets you decide whether “Background Refresh” is enabled. I have always had it disabled because I don’t need any of my apps doing things when I’m not using them. I’m more interested in my phone being there for me to look up something useful than I am in looking for a charger or carrying a power brick wherever I go.

This does not mean that apps are not doing things in the background, though. The article Background App Refresh Explained by David Johnson on Dec 6, 2019 (Techzillo) explains that the... [More]

Guardian Signup Form

Published by marco on in Design

The Guardian doesn’t have a paywall, but they now have a registration requirement. This is fine with me. I don’t browse their site regularly, but I do occasionally get links from bloggers I follow. I appreciate the job the Guardian does and am fine with being registered with them.

 Guardian sign-in/sign-up formTheir signup form is somewhat odd and unpleasant-looking, but it’s the functionality that’s the most offputting.

I was unable to sign up with my preferred email address. I was notified of this by validation that... [More]

Combat Hegemony Holistically (The Blood is still Flowing)

Published by marco on in Public Policy & Politics

The following interview is excellent. I like the discussion between Taibbi and Halper at the beginning (I find them to be entertaining, insightful, and informative, but YMMV), but if you want to skip it, the interview starts at about 31 minutes or so. Or you can watch just the interview as a separate video.

Dr. Cornel West on Protests, Bernie's Campaign, His New Podcast, and Much More | Useful Idiots (YouTube)

Dr. Cornel West is absolutely on fire in this interview. Here he is offering a nuanced and absolutely correct take on voting for the lesser evil. Emphasis is mine.

Cornel West: I was not... [More]”

I Can’t Breathe by Matt Taibbi (2017; read in 2020)

Published by marco on in Books

Disclaimer: these are notes I took while reading this book. They include citations I found interesting or enlightening or particularly well-written. In some cases, I’ve pointed out which of these applies to which citation; in others, I have not. Any benefit you gain from reading these notes is purely incidental to the purpose they serve of reminding me what I once read. Please see Wikipedia for a summary if I’ve failed to provide one sufficient for your purposes. If my notes serve to trigger an... [More]

La Peste by Albert Camus (1947; fr, read in 2020)

Published by marco on in Books

Disclaimer: these are notes I took while reading this book. They include citations I found interesting or enlightening or particularly well-written. In some cases, I’ve pointed out which of these applies to which citation; in others, I have not. Any benefit you gain from reading these notes is purely incidental to the purpose they serve of reminding me what I once read. Please see Wikipedia for a summary if I’ve failed to provide one sufficient for your purposes. If my notes serve to trigger an... [More]

4 months Ago

The WHO on Facemasks and Pre-symptomatic Contagion

Published by marco on in Science & Nature

Facemasks

The article Here’s what WHO says your mask should have to prevent COVID-19 spread by Beth Mole (Ars Technica) details the technical specifications for making your own facemask.

tl;dr: “you’re probably doing it wrong, guidance suggests.”

The WHO says:

  • “[…] masks should only ever be used as part of a comprehensive strategy in the fight against COVID.”
  • “WHO now recommends that healthy members of the public wear homemade or commercially-available fabric masks in places where the new coronavirus is circulating... [More]

Fixing the Police Problem (AKA defining “defund”)

Published by marco on in Public Policy & Politics

A Messaging Failure

The phrase “defund the police” is spectacularly terrible optics and messaging. It’s muddled, can be interpreted six ways from Sunday, and can be easily weaponized by an almost overwhelmingly powerful opposition that is utterly uninterested in a generous, or even honest, interpretation.

The phrase “Living Wage” also seems quite innocuous and obvious, but has suffered from decades of picking nits. What does a person really need? What’s the bare minimum someone needs to live?... [More]

American Reactions to Revolution 2020

Published by marco on in Public Policy & Politics

A good part of America is mad as hell and not going to take it anymore and a good part of America couldn’t care less.

That’s not accurate; let me rephrase. The other part of America is mad at hell at the part of America that thinks that America isn’t perfect like it is.

They think protesters are, at best, annoying snowflake leeches and, at worst, criminals who should be executed on the spot in the streets for stealing.

Then vs. Now

It’s amazing to think what the echo chamber of the Internet... [More]

John Oliver on Police (w/coda by Kimberly Jones)

Published by marco on in Public Policy & Politics

John Oliver has put together 33:32 that are 100% worth watching. The video is linked below and it is titled, simply, “Police”.

Police: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) (YouTube)

He mixes some humor—mostly dark, with very little of his usual wackiness or memes—with an exceedingly well-researched and -written video essay on racism and policing in the U.S.

He starts with a quick run-down of the peaceful protests and the violent reaction of the state against it. He plays, in full, a 30-second message delivered by a pissed-off citizen to LA... [More]

The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster (1909, read in 2020)

Published by marco on in Books

Disclaimer: these are notes I took while reading this book. They include citations I found interesting or enlightening or particularly well-written. In some cases, I’ve pointed out which of these applies to which citation; in others, I have not. Any benefit you gain from reading these notes is purely incidental to the purpose they serve of reminding me what I once read. Please see Wikipedia for a summary if I’ve failed to provide one sufficient for your purposes. If my notes serve to trigger an... [More]

Thermal imaging is the next “facial recognition”

Published by marco on in Technology

In the aftermath of 9-11, biometrics and, in particular, bio-imaging software companies enjoyed a huge surge in valuation. Most of these products were shoddy and didn’t deliver on even a reasonable fraction of their promise.

That didn’t stop legislators from passing laws requiring their use—and probably getting giant kickbacks from companies newly flush with cash derived from their increased valuations caused, at least in part, by these same laws. Life is quite easy for some... [More]