158 Articles


1 year Ago


Published by marco on

This is another public-service announcement.[1]

I’m a bit of a fanatic about hyphens. Hyphens aren’t really that difficult in English.

With Adverbs

I was recently asked whether an adjective following an adverb needs to be hyphenated. For example, does “This is a fully qualified sentence.” need a hyphen?

It does not. But almost everything else does.

According to the article Adverbs and Hyphens by Maeve Maddox (Daily Writing Tips), the AP Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style agree:

“When a compound modifier–two or more words... [More]”

Books in Zürich Aiport

Published by marco on

The book store at the Zürich Airport has a decidedly more diverse assortment of literature than I would have expected. I just expected a ton of Clive Cussler and John Grishman and John LeCarré, but I was pleasantly surprised.

On the first couple of shelves, I noticed three Chomsky books and a Varoufakis[1] book.

Another shelf held Naomi Klein, Chomsky and Varoufakis:

On another shelf, Laurie Penny showed up and, once again, Varoufakis.

Ishiguro’s classic and Arundhati Roy’s latest were... [More]

Links and Citations and Thoughts Vol.2017.1

Published by marco on

The following is composed largely of links, citations and notes that I make on almost everything I read. I’ve expanded my notes slightly and cleaned them up for public consumption. Instead of letting these notes moulder in an unpublished draft (as I’ve done many times), I’ve put together a format that I think might be useful for readers but that doesn’t take as much time as individual articles on each topic would.

Mobiles are Huxley’s Soma

tl;dr: I’m trying out a new format that lets me... [More]

Dear Netflix: Have some respect for your content and your viewers

Published by marco on

Dear Netflix,

Have some respect for your content. It’s pretty good. Can I just watch it, please?

Why can’t you just relax?

Why do you feel the need to play something all the time?

Your content is good. Your aggressive need to constantly decide for me when to play it is severely annoying.

Did I leave a show selected for more than 5 seconds because I was waiting until I was ready to watch it?

BOOM. Netflix gonna play a trailer that spoils everything.

Or, worse, yet, Netflix just gonna up... [More]

2 years Ago

Spellchecking done wrong

Published by marco on

I don’t even care what the new CodeCov (GitHub) tool actually does or whether it does it well.

All I know is that it definitely doesn’t do it seemlessly.

Airport Atmosphere

Published by marco on

These are notes that I took in June of 2016 as I was sitting around the airports of New York City, trying to get to Baltimore on the same day that a giant thunderstorm was visiting that area. I started taking notes after savoring the dining experience in the LaGuardia airport.

If you thought airports of old were inhospitable, you’re in for a treat. The old food courts have been replaced by faux-upscale eateries. Before each diner stands a tablet with a menu and gambling games. Generic pop... [More]

PSA: The past tense of lead is not lead

Published by marco on

The article Office-Droned Out by Amber A'Lee Frost (The Baffler) is interesting enough and by one of my favorite writers at The Baffler, but she, too, makes the mistake of writing lead as the past tense of lead.

“My inability to pay attention to details or engage in repetitive work ledlead to (or perhaps only exacerbated; it’s a chicken-and-egg thing) an anxious, grinding depression, and the sneaking suspicion I was actually totally unemployable.”

Please stop doing this. It’s confusing. I can put up with other... [More]

The Snobbery of the Liberal Elite

Published by marco on

It’s become clear that, instead of drawing any useful lessons from several recent defeats, the liberal elite is doubling down on its snobbery vis-à-vis the unwashed masses. Case in point: the unalloyed adoration of Meryl Streep’s single-handed, surgical strike against the greatest enemy that Western civilization has ever known.[1]

I, as usual, didn’t watch it, because I prefer to be persuaded by content rather than presentation. I read the transcript (New York Times), though. Meryl doesn’t take long to cozen to... [More]

An Open Letter to Greg Proops

Published by marco on

Dear Greg:

I wasn’t going to do a tl;dr, but I thought of one. I offer it as a bone thrown by an incorrigibly garrulous writer to his reader.

Stop being Chris Matthews.

Perhaps that’s too short.

Let me try again.

If I wanted to be yelled at by MSNBC to believe stuff for which they feel no obligation to provide evidence (or provide the “national security” copout), then I could just watch that. I want your opinion, not Rachel Maddow’s[1] shallow press-release regurgitations.

The rest I will... [More]

3 years Ago

Stuff I (re-)learned this weekend

Published by marco on

  1. No matter how sunny it is or how dry the streets are, 15ºC in February means a windy, windy bike ride. It’s cold somewhere and the warm air is hurrying to get there. Still, awesome to be back outside.
  2. The Swiss are not nearly as prone to nationalism as the French. This, despite the obvious fact that Switzerland chose to blow a hole in the middle of the EU with their absence while France joined a union with its age-old enemies Germany, Spain and England. The French have a real problem with... [More]

Censorship, propaganda and misdirection

Published by marco on

A friend of mine wrote a long message on Facebook about how censoring the photo below was the exactly the wrong reaction. he expressed concern that his young daughter would grow up in a humorless, intolerant world.

 The worst thing to happen anywhere ever

A friend of his wrote that they should “agree to disagree” on the impact that this picture has. I answered with the following comment (lightly edited to change tenses, pronouns and given names):

My first response

I understand that you’ve used a lot of words to say that you’re... [More]

4 years Ago

Is Encodo a .NET/C# company?

Published by marco on

Encodo has never been about maintaining or establishing a monoculture in either operating system, programming language or IDE. Pragmatism drives our technology and environment choices.[1]

Choosing technology

Each project we work on has different requirements and we choose the tools and technologies that fit best. A good fit involves considering:

  • What exists in the project already?
  • How much work needs to be done?
  • What future directions could the project take?
  • How maintainable is the... [More]

5 years Ago

On encouraging a prescriptivist to use more hyphens

Published by marco on

The title sounds like a self-post on Writing Prompts, but it describes quite accurately what I attempted to do when formulating a response to the essay Nobody. Understands. Punctuation. by Peter Welch (Still Drinking).

Below is the text of my mail to him.

I’ve read a few of your essays since you made such a splash with what you are probably aware is your making-it-to-the-big-time essay ”Programming Sucks” and I enjoyed the last one propounding descriptivism over prescriptivism.

A descriptivist is ordinarily well-shielded... [More]

Watching movies made by rapists

Published by marco on

What is it worth to wade into a discussion where you are asked to choose a side based on no clear rules of evidence?

I mostly enjoy Woody Allen movies. That he has been with Soon Yi, the adopted daughter of his ex-wife for years doesn’t really weigh on my opinions of his films. I must admit that knowing that Polanski raped a teen-aged girl and fled the country enters into it very little when I’m considering whether to watch one of his movies. Polanski clearly got away with it and wasn’t... [More]

Cursing: for when you really hate something

Published by marco on

There are things that make us mad in this world. There are various release mechanisms for this. A common—and very effective—one is to curse.

But sometimes the thing about which we need to curse is so terrible, so skull-fuc&$kingly bad that you have to invent new curses for it. And sometimes, you have to invent entirely new technologies and possible futures in order to envision a situation bad enough to engender the creation of a language that would include language severe enough to... [More]

Interesting take on the future of Netflix

Published by marco on

The article Netflix’s dumbed-down algorithms by Felix Salmon (Reuters) discusses a change in focus in recent years at Netflix—actually since they switched to emphasizing streaming content over DVD delivery.

Netflix has started to position itself more as a television company than a “great movies” company because of purely economic reasons. As Salmon puts it, “Netflix’s big problem, it seems to me, is that it can’t afford the content that its subscribers most want to watch.” The big blockbusters that people actual want... [More]

SBB Online not so hot either

Published by marco on

A little while ago, I wrote about my experiences with the SBB automated ticket machines. The online experience is somewhat better but still has some mysterious bugs and omissions—it’s hard to believe that this software has been in use for years—and by millions of users.

Where’s the Zürich Hauptbahnhof?

One example comes from the list of suggestions returned when a user types in the “from” or “to” field in the route finder. One day, I entered what I thought was an easy match, one of the... [More]

6 years Ago

Tick, tock (death of a ticket salesman)

Published by marco on

The following story tells tale of a day spent with the ongoing user-experience (UX) catastrophe that is the interface of the SBB/ZVV automated ticket machines.

While it’s certainly possible that our experiences are unique and that others can easily purchase their perhaps simpler tickets, we have found that veering ever-so-slightly from the beaten path leads into some very deep and dark weeds.

Even were we to accept that the fault for the confusion engendered by the UI lay entirely with us,... [More]

A rainy day in Züri Oberland

Published by marco on

It’s been raining a lot in Switzerland this year. The Tobelbach near Wetzikon was bound to be quite swollen with water after this Saturday so, despite the still-pounding rain, we took an evening walk to the Pfäffikersee to see just how drastic things had gotten.

A rainy day in Züri Oberland (YouTube)

EVSC 2013 Semifinals

Published by marco on

It’s Euro-Vision Song Contest time again. Semifinals part II tonight. Don’t judge me. It’s like a traffic accident; you can’t look away. There were a lot of contestants, but here are the ones I found noteworthy.

  • Finland: What the hell Finland? A few years ago you win with Death/Gore-Metal band Lordi and now you descend into the depths of bubble-gum pop with Krista (who was literally wearing bubble-gum–colored boots)? How did that number even get off the ground? It was, however, one of the... [More]

Penn & Teller: Bullshit

Published by marco on

Penn and Teller have had a TV show on ShowTime for a while now, but I’ve never seen any. Most of them are available on YouTube (see links below) but I have no idea how long those will last there due to copyright issues. As I watched, it was easy to sympathize with the new-agey folks—Penn is ruthless and relentless. Though he’s too self-satisfied at times, he tempers it with explanations for his anger—that he hates to see people preyed upon. Still, you think to yourself, these people seem to... [More]

Mentionable and Unmentionable Journalists

Published by marco on

Olivia Wilde was on the Daily Show recently (full episode) to promote a film. Jon Stewart was not only bedazzled by her, but also by her having had Christopher Hitchens as a babysitter when she was much younger. They lauded good ol’ Hitch for a while ‘cause he was such a stand-up guy, especially for someone who was a raging alcoholic (their words). When Jon asked her how her family had gotten Hitch as a babysitter, she responded that her family was part of a wonderful group of journalists that... [More]

7 years Ago

Does the NY Times even have editors anymore?

Published by marco on

So it’s another dreary Saturday (weather-wise) and I’m trying to make my way through this article, List of Pardons Included Many Tied to Power by Campbell Robertson (NY Times).

It tells of a traffic accident:

“Scotty Plunk, the driver of the truck, was killed. The driver of the Toyota, 19-year-old Joel Vann, had been drinking so much that he did not remember the accident.”

Plunk killed by teenage drunk driver, Vann. The story is about why Haley Barbour—notoriously corrupt governor of Mississippi—pardoned him.

“It is... [More]”

8 years Ago

How Dead Would this Guy Be in New York?

Published by marco on

The photo below is from the first week of the revolution in Tunisia by Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images (Big Picture Blog) and shows a protester taking aim at the police with a baguette[1].

I just couldn’t help thinking that the cops were surprisingly nonchalant considering the guy pretending his bread is a gun is part of a revolution. Would anyone like to hazard a guess as to what would have happened to this guy had he tried something like this in a real hot zone, like New York City? Amadou Diallo’s family, perhaps?

[1] The original article captioned... [More]

The United Kingdom, Great Britain and England Explained

Published by marco on

The video below[1] explains the difference between the various political and geographical entities that are still or have historically been associated with England. Below the video is a summary with links and a screenshot of the final graphic, which is a nice Venn diagram of all of the various entities.

The Difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England Explained by CGPGrey (YouTube)

  • The United Kingdom is a political entity that comprises England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
  • Great Britain is a geographical entity and is the largest of the British Isles and is a... [More]

Ordering Train Tickets

Published by marco on

Imagine, if you will, that you would like to take a trip from Zürich (to pick an arbitrary starting point) to Copenhagen (to pick an equally random destination).

Imagine further, if you will further indulge, that you would like to take the train in order to see Germany along the way instead of flying over everything. Imagine that you have a vague notion of nobility in doing so because of the ghastly wastefulness of flying, as far as carbon footprint goes.

You will be surprised—and not just... [More]

Plastic comments

Published by marco on

The venerable is closing its doors for good this weekend. I’ve been a member for about a decade and contributed sporadically throughout. I saved my comments from the site before it goes dark and included them below. The context is often not there, but it’s an interesting compendium of issues from the last decade.

My stats were as follows:

  • name: dur
  • member since: Tue 23 Oct 2001
  • karma: 8 (astute scholarly underrated succinct)
  • favorite words: countries(16), already(10),... [More]

9 years Ago

Askers vs. Guessers

Published by marco on

From the article This column will change your life by Oliver Burkeman (The Guardian):

“[…] when an Asker meets a Guesser, unpleasantness results. An Asker won’t think it’s rude to request two weeks in your spare room, but a Guess culture person will hear it as presumptuous and resent the agony involved in saying no. Your boss, asking for a project to be finished early, may be an overdemanding boor – or just an Asker, who’s assuming you might decline. If you’re a Guesser, you’ll hear it as an expectation. This is a spectrum,... [More]”

South Park 14.05_200 & 14.06_201

Published by marco on

Season 14, episodes 5 (#200 overall) and 6 (#201 overall) have been pulled by Comedy Central because of vieled death threats made by proprietors of a purportedly Islamic web site. The site—called[1]—supposedly peddles Osama bin Laden support and celebrates 9–11. It’s hard to tell because they’re down right now and showing no signs of coming back up anytime soon. The proprietors of the site live in New York City and claim to be devout Muslims, though they are more likely... [More]

How to pronounce “Eyjafjallajökull” in Icelandic

Published by marco on

Alternate title: Why Reddit is so awesome.

 The post “Eyjafjallajökull” isn’t as foreign to English as it sounds (Reddit) is in the linquistics Reddit (to which I am subscribed, natch) and is treasure-trove of crowdsourcing goodness vis-à-vis the etymology, pronunciation (OGG file[1]) and unique linquistic characteristics of spoken Icelandic. There is no way I would have guessed the pronunciation from the spelling; the native Icelander seems to elide quite a bit, but what do I know about Icelandic... [More]