183 Articles


2 weeks Ago

Lockdown in Xi’an

Published by marco on

The article China: Xi’an residents in lockdown trade goods for food amid shortage by Robin Brant (BBC) suggests that the BBC’s standards are perhaps not what they used to be. I read through the article, but it contains nothing but unsourced conjecture and anecdotes. There’s “Social posts show”, “numerous complaints on social media”, and “One video showed a resident appearing to […]”

It’s not that I don’t believe that this is happening to at least some degree. Of course not. In a city of 13 million, anything and... [More]

3 weeks Ago

Listen. Pause. Think. Pause. Pause more. Respond.

Published by marco on

Hot takes are not a good thing for online discourse. They’re occasionally funny, but they tend to kill thought as people start to one-up each other with more hot takes. Or, even worse, “takedowns” of what were obviously meant as hot takes.

Is Anything on the Internet Real? by minutephysics (YouTube)

Listen first. Or read. Ingest.

Pause to think about what you’ve just read or heard. Try to sort out where it might go in your existing knowledge. Does it fit? No? Why not?

Try to imagine why the other person might have written or communicated the thought... [More]

Spoiled and blind or just moral and predictive?

Published by marco on

Are people who say “this year sucked” necessarily spoiled and blind to their own privilege? Or are they extending their moral obligation to mean that, even though they personally benefitted, “this year sucked”—and that things will continue to suck—for a lot of other people?

The article ‘Wow, What A Terrible Year!’ Say People Living At The Absolute Peak Of Human Civilization (Babylon Bee) is intended as satire, but as with all satire, there is supposed to be an underlying truth to it. That’s what... [More]

What’s next? Oh, it’s UFOs, I guess

Published by marco on

Hot off the presses of the conspiracy-theory pressure-cooker is the idea that the new movie Don’t Look Up—which is about a world that ignores the dire warnings of scientists about an incoming comet—is “predictive programming”. I suppose that means that it’s not just entertainment, but material intended to train people into acquiescence when something does arrive? Like aliens? The article Looks like that global UFO “attack” may be impending after all by Mark Crispin Miller (News from Underground) includes this quote from a reader,

“I... [More]”

2 months Ago

This sounds like an awesome job

Published by marco on

After 16 years working at Encodo Systems AG, I’m currently between jobs. I’ve been asked a few times, “what do you really want to do?”, to which I usually answer, “what don’t I want to do?”

There are a lot of things I’d like to do that I think would be useful, but for which I’m currently unqualified, or only non-officially qualified. I’m a fast learner, but sometimes that’s not enough. You have to be able to hit the ground running. There’s other stuff for which I’m eminently qualified and for... [More]

3 months Ago

A note on Rush Limbaugh (and others like him)

Published by marco on

 A friend recently sent me this meme to note that they’d missed it when it was still relevant. That got me thinking, naturally.

What word should we use to describe Rush? “Genius” is not inappropriate, is it? I mean, he didn’t just carve out a niche; he carved out an empire. He knew what some people wanted to hear and he figured out how to get more and more people to want to hear it. He knew how to sell it. It seems like his radio persona matched his private persona[1], so it’s not even clear... [More]

6 months Ago

Synonyms for Sucker

Published by marco on

In an online conversation the other day, I wanted to use the word “gull” to describe someone who was easily fooled. The intended recipients had probably never heard that word used in that context, but they generally like to learn new words and usages. As I was wondering whether to use it, I suddenly wondered whether I’d remembered the term incorrectly and looked it up to double-check. I looked up sucker (Merriam Webster) and stumbled upon a delightful collection of synonyms for “sucker”:

“chump, dupe, gull, mug... [More]”

8 months Ago

Overpromising or false advertising?

Published by marco on

I spotted this box of “lane Ground Biscuits” at the local grocer’s.

 lane Ground Biscuits overpromises

It may, on the surface, look like a box containing a bag full of pre-crushed cookies. I assume that that’s what “ground biscuits” are. This box was on the shelf next to other boxes of “biscuits”, with a picture of what looked like…cookies.

So far, so good.

What the company that makes it thinks it is, is

“[…] all you need […] to free your imagination and to enjoy in infinite possibilities to be creative, to have fun... [More]”

10 months Ago

On Pissing Contests

Published by marco on

I read an article called on Matt Taibbi, Gogol, and Cancel Culture by Evgenia Kovda (Immigrants as a Weapon), which I’d gotten to because it’s actually Yasha Levine’s SubStack and his wife is sharing it with him. She wrote about Matt Taibbi,

“Makes one think about all this cancel culture outrage that you’re manically producing these days. You constantly write about how dangerous this new wave of censorship is to art and culture and speech and self-expression, and how stifling it is. But Gogol — your literary hero — proves the... [More]”

1 year Ago

Processing the Information Firehose

Published by marco on

The following article explains how I personally organize, consume, and produce information.

Writing Process

I get information from carefully selected sources, combining more narrowly defined streams without the help of an algorithm—or at least not a single one. I defer reading, viewing, and listening—preferring to determine the order that I consume content rather than letting fate decide.

I will sometimes read or watch something immediately—and even then, only if it’s short—but... [More]

A Video on Justice by ContraPoints

Published by marco on

The presentation in this video is both unorthodox and well-produced; the information is top-notch and interesting. It discusses justice not as found in courts, but as found online, where it is meted out by the self-nominated and righteous.

Justice (Part 1) by ContraPoints (YouTube)

From the video above,

“I’m not going to comment because I don’t want to be canceled for seeming to take a neutral stance on an issue on which I’m supposed to take sides.”

Speaking of which, I’d only recently discovered ContraPoints when I watched... [More]

Edward Snowden interview with Joe Rogan (September

Published by marco on

For the second time in a year, Joe Rogan interviews Edward Snowden for about three hours. The last time, Snowden was promoting his book Permanent Record; this time, he’s here to drop more knowledge about the U.S. and the world work—just in time for the election. The interview is well-worth the time.

Joe Rogan Experience #1536 − Edward Snowden (YouTube)

The U.S. Department Of Justice had also very recently found that the NSA had acted illegally. This does not exonerate Snowden from the crimes with which he’s accused, but does prove that when... [More]

Modern News Media is a Business

Published by marco on

The article The Post-Objectivity Era by Matt Taibbi (SubStack) is based on the transcript of a speech he gave.[1] It is an excellent summary of both the history of U.S. media and its current business model.

The basic thrust is that the media has always been in it for the money. There is no golden age of principled objectivity to which to return, in that sense. The news was more objective in olden days, but only because it made more sense to be that way. The media catered to the broadest possible audience for two reasons:

... [More]

Mail-in Voting in the US

Published by marco on

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]

2 years Ago

A response to a sincere solicitation

Published by marco on

The following is a sample of the response I’ve composed to respond to the increasing numbers of solicitations to advertise on my site that I’ve been receiving of late. I’d ignored them at first, but many followed up, so I felt bad and responded. Two replied immediately and thanked me for taking the time to respond[1] and to wish me well in my future endeavors.

The extra bit about Opera was my helpful tip that the link she’d wanted me to include in my web site contained mostly incorrect... [More]

Six feet

Published by marco on

According to What is the origin of the saying “six feet under”,

“The phrase “6 feet under” originated in London, England in 1665. It came about as London was being ravaged by the Bubonic Plague. […]
The mayor of London at the time issued a decree that all plague deaths had to be buried at least “6 feet under” to help halt the spread of infection.”

355 years later, another plague has made the expression “six feet” au courant, at least in those countries still using the imperial system of... [More]

Mordillo Idyll Puzzle

Published by marco on

That’s six hours of quarantine time for 1000 pieces. We still have more puzzles of the same size, plus a pretty big lego kit (10242 − Creator: Mini Cooper).

Air Travel to the U.S. (Software Errors)

Published by marco on

The airline Swiss needs to work on tact in its e-mails. Or they need to work on their QA process.

Instead of a boarding pass, they sent the following mail in response to a check-in attempt.

“Your boarding pass(es) could not be issued because necessary data is missing or because the immigration status does not allow boarding.

“Please note that it is your responsibility to hold all necessary immigration documents for this international trip. Click here to enter or amend your data and receive... [More]”

3 years Ago

Netflix is still optimized for the ADHD-addled

Published by marco on

Almost exactly 2 years ago, I wrote Dear Netflix: Have some respect for your content and your viewers, begging for Netflix to add a setting for adults, one that doesn’t auto-play trailers and content all the time.

Nothing has changed. The UI is still intensely eager to auto-play videos and trailers. It’s an incredibly hyperactive UI, almost afraid that if it stops making noise, it will die.

If you’re using the Samsung TV app, there is almost no way to have Netflix stay silent. The only way is... [More]

Thousand-year–old Sea Hag

Published by marco on

A lifetime ago, I knew a guy named Chris Jannuzzi. I worked with him at Logicat. I wrote software; he wrote content; we worked together. He was in a band. He was a musician. He might still be.[1] I learned a lot about music from him, his deep love for James Brown and his band, for example. I first heard of Vince Guaraldi from him. Gained an appreciation for vodka gimlets, on the other.

He gave me a song, once, that he and his band had written and recorded in the pretty amazing studio that he had... [More]

RIP Uri Avnery

Published by marco on

I have assiduously followed the writings of Uri Avnery for what feels to me like a long time now—at least 15 years. Those fifteen years were but the coda to Avnery’s extremely long and productive and honorable life. He was an Israeli peace activist with a wicked pen—right up until his death in August of 2018 at 94 years of age. He will be missed.

I include below two encomiums/elegies/obituaries from two other writers whose writings and reporting I respect deeply, Jeffrey St. Clair (editor... [More]

A brace of videos from Oxford (Varoufakis, Piketty & Žižek)

Published by marco on

I watched a brace of pretty rewarding videos from the Oxford Union.

Yanis Varoufakis

Yanis Varoufakis | Full Address and Q&A | Oxford Union (YouTube)

Yanis talks about the Euro: “It’s like taking the shock absorbers out of your car and then driving into a pothole. […] This is designer idiocy.”

He talks about RussiaGate:

“In the United States, you have the ridiculous situation where the Democratic party is going to the people and saying ‘you were duped by Putin. Putin stole the election through Facebook.’

“My goodness! I mean, what an insult!

“To people... [More]”

On Sounding British

Published by marco on

In the article From Bizarre Rage Against James Joyce to MI5 Phone-Bugging: Why I Collect Snippets of Strangers’ Conversations by Patrick Cockburn (CounterPunch), the illustrious journalist takes a break from writing about the tragedies arising from near-constant, western meddling in the Middle East to relate more uplifting stories on this first day of 2019.

Near the end, there’s a bit that—to my admittedly tinhorn American ears—is one of the most British things I’ve ever read:

“Earlier this month we went for a drink and a... [More]”

TIL: Consolidation in Online Pornography

Published by marco on

As in so many other lines of business, the online pornography world has seen a tremendous amount of consolidation in recent years. The company MindGeek was founded 14 years ago. as Mansef, a portmanteau of the owner’s names. It has since acquired nearly every significant online pornographic presence: Playboy, YouPorn, RedTube, PornHub and more. They’ve not only cornered the market in free, online pornographic video, but also hoovered up most of the classic producers and distributors, like... [More]

An Eclectic List of Holiday Reading

Published by marco on

Here’s a reading list I put together for a couple of friends, for when it’s dark and cold and boring:

  • An old man with a good head on his shoulders tells us how to fix Congress in First Step Post-Election – Open Up the Closed, Secretive Congress by Ralph Nader (CounterPunch).
  • Meagan Day interviews Kristin Ghodsee about her book Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism. They talk about life under socialist regimes (DDR lässt grüssen) made men and women both more comfortable and try harder to be good people (i.e.... [More]

4 years 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... [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]

5 years Ago

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]

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.