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Name Marco Von Ballmoos
Member since
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Home page http://earthli.com/users/marco
Description

The (only) developer at earthli.com.

Contents

2398 Articles
95 Comments

5 days Ago

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

Published 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 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]

Dean Baker breaks down Remdesivir

Published on in Finance & Economy

The article A Gilead-Remdesivir Fix: The Ten Percent Solution by Dean Baker (Beat the Press) points out that it is absolutely not difficult to fix the so-called problem with remdesivir. It’s a short article, so I’ll just cite it in full, highlighting the most salient bits for those who need a tl;dr for a four-paragraph article.

“The Washington Post had an excellent piece documenting how the government put up most of the money for developing remdesivir, a drug that now offers the hope of being the first effective treatment... [More]”

6 days Ago

George Floyd: The Class War’s Latest Victim

Published on in Public Policy & Politics

A man named George Floyd was murdered by four police officers in Minneapolis last week. One kneeled on his neck for over eight minutes, while two others kneeled on his torso and one stood by and watched. They seemed more-or-less unperturbed that they were being filmed by witnesses. The video picked up George’s pathetic pleas to let him up.

The police had been called by a shopkeeper who suspected Floyd of having passed a counterfeit $20 bill. Floyd was in his car nearby when the officers... [More]

German virologist Christian Drosten

Published on in Science & Nature

Professor Christian Drosten is a virologist working at the Charité University Hospital in Berlin. Since the beginning of March, he’s been doing an informative podcast in German called Coronavirus-Update. I’ve found him to be highly informative and factual in a world filled with propaganda, conspiracy theory and shoddy science.

The following interview with Drosten was one I found in English, which he also speaks fluently. I thought the 30 minutes, in particular, were very enlightening... [More]

2 weeks Ago

Amazon can’t validate phone numbers

Published on in Design

I almost never use Amazon. I almost never buy things. Recently, I had the pleasure of discovering that Amazon—a trillion-dollar company that delivers stuff all over the world—cannot properly validate phone numbers when you add an address.[1]

I entered a phone number[2] for an address to “help with delivery”. No matter how I entered the number, I got the error message,

Please remove invalid characters from phone number field (sic)[3]

I started with copy/pasting the phone number straight out of... [More]

C# 9: finally, covariant returns

Published on in Programming

The article Welcome to C# 9.0 by Mads Torgersen (Microsoft Dev Blogs) (May 2020) introduces several nifty new features that I am really looking forward to using.

What about C# 8?

I still haven’t moved Quino to C# 8, as the only feature I’d love to have there is the non-nullable types, which ReSharper Annotations provide with earlier versions of C#. Not only that, but the nullabilities are properly propagated to users of Quino. It’s understood that recent versions of Visual Studio and runtimes and compilers also do this but, until... [More]

Deeply ingrained American exceptionalism

Published on in Public Policy & Politics

Introspection is not easy. To really examine one’s own drives and implicit assumptions takes patience and, above all, humility. The first time you dive down, you may not like what you see. Who you think you are may be only a surface representation—something you’ve plastered over a bundle of atavistic core principles that you’ve never bothered to evaluate, question, or correct.

So it is with American hegemony, which has never not thought itself noble. People of all nations have a jingoistic... [More]

Earthli gets OpenGraph and Twitter metadata

Published on in earthli.com

Most tools that scrape web pages use the OpenGraph metadata embedded in web pages. Some fall back to using the more general and older metadata tags, like description or the <title> element, but this leads to a rather limited embedding. Almost no-one extracts pictures from pages unless explicitly requested to do so by metadata.

Until recently, earthli didn’t include this metadata, leading to somewhat substandard rendering of any links pasted to social media.

Sample Metadata

As an example, the... [More]

The Scarlet Plague by Jack London (1915, read in 2020)

Published 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]

3 weeks Ago

NY Times Spelling Bee

Published on in Fun

I recently wrote that Kath and I have a one-year streak going in the NYT Crossword Puzzle. While that is still ongoing, we’ve also recently discovered a little gem called Spelling Bee (New York Times). The concept is elegant and simple:

  • You get seven letters arranged in a honeycomb.
  • You have to combine these letters to come up with as many words with four letters or more as you can.
  • The middle letter is required.
  • You can repeat letters as much as you like.
  • Answers can overlap one another. (E.g. “glad” and... [More]

1 month Ago

The Long Emergency: Surviving the End ... Howard Kunstler (2005, read in 2020)

Published 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]

Contact-tracing and surveillance

Published on in Technology

Contact tracing, or just “tracing”, is a way of determining who’s been infected with a contagious disease in a community. Compared to self-isolation en-masse, it’s a finer instrument: instead of everyone staying away from each other, properly trained workers trace the path of the disease, using this information to isolate the ill from the still-healthy.

How it works

When someone tests positive for a contagious disease, tracers interview them to find out where they’ve been and who they’ve... [More]