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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

2197 Articles
93 Comments

5 days Ago

Why so angry?

Published on in Quotes

“Rage is by no means an automatic reaction to misery and suffering as such. Only where there is reason to suspect that conditions could be changed, and are not does, rage arise.”
Hannah Arendt

The True Self

Published on in Quotes

“At sea, a fellow comes out,”
Herman Melville

1 week Ago

Capsule Movie Reviews Vol.2019.1

Published on in Books & 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 almost 1200 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.

36.15 code Père Noël... [More]

Compiler Pessism

Published on in Programming

“In practice, nearly everything you write is potentially dependent upon the order of evaluation, but in practice it isn’t because you are not a nincompoop.”

He completes the thought with “[b]ut the compiler doesn’t know that. The compiler must adhere to the letter of the language standard, because it has to compile insane code as well as sane code.”

Occupy vs. Burning Man

Published on in Philosophy

Chuck Palahniuk on Joe Rogan says that there was only one Occupy because it wasn’t any fun. Burning Man, on the other hand, has been going on for 30 years and is bigger and better every year.

This is an insipid analysis of the two events. Occupy is about a revolution, against the corporate dominance. Burning Man is about subsuming revolutionary fervor in a corporate way. Tickets cost $200-$1200.

At least Joe Rogan pushed back against that.

Occupy never got a chance because it was squashed as... [More]

Skynet is the good outcome

Published on in Technology

Will Artificial Intelligence take over the world? Only if we let it, I think.

And we’re almost certainly going to let it.

Our habit seems to be to capitulate to any form of power that dangles a short-term bauble of convenience before our greedy, beady eyes, even if it always seems to be just out of our grubby reach.

AI is dangerous less for what it is capable of doing now and more for how much power we concede it even when it’s stupefyingly shallow. We’ve given up before the battle has even... [More]

Because of course they do

Published on in Public Policy & Politics

I’m not even going to do more than cite the article US Intelligence thinks Russia may have microwaved US embassies in Cuba, China by Sean Gallagher (Ars Technica).

I’m honestly not sure how anyone with an ounce of journalistic self-respect can write an article like this non-ironically.

I wrote in the title, “because of course they do”. I’m referring to the “analysts” who—after nearly a year—have decided that the Russians are to blame.

It is here that we should all become more adept at both thought experiments and... [More]

Poisonous Hyper-capitalism

Published on in Technology

From Kai-Fu Lee’s new book says Artificial Intelligence will be Google vs China and will kill half the world’s jobs by Robert X. Cringely

“And I find it difficult to see China as being any more of a development crucible than is Sand Hill Road, where startups have even less time to succeed and therefore more pressure to evolve. Explain to me how this is incorrect, because the numbers are published and are real. In comparison to other adolescent startup cultures, yes China is and will be successful and they are... [More]”

A Holier-than-thou Bullshit Factory

Published on in Public Policy & Politics

Out-of-date and chock-full of devil’s advocacy.

I’ve listened to some coverage of the Kavanaugh hearings on The Intercept. This includes an unusually giddy and convinced Jeremy Scahill and a typically partisan Amy Goodman.

What shines through is this notion that being blackout drunk (i.e. not remembering parts of an evening) is an indication of alcoholism, or having a drinking problem. It’s also the sign of a really good party.

These people all sound like shrill churchgoers who can’t even... [More]

Analyzing a LateStageCapitalism meme

Published on in Public Policy & Politics

There was a meme posted to Reddit at How are we supposed to live? that discusses the costs of various features of life now vs. 40 years ago.

The discussion petered out quickly when someone posted a refutation from Meme Policeman. In fairness, it didn’t exactly refute the meme, but questioned its numbers and tried to put them into a better context.

I responded with the following comment,

It’s not just the cost of these things, but also the value obtained for the money.

While offering more... [More]

Explicit vs. Implicit Violence

Published on in Philosophy

On a post on Reddit, someone cited Michael Moore as follows,

“In my first film, Roger & Me, a white woman on social security clubs a rabbit to death so that she can sell him as “meat” instead of as a pet. I wish I had a nickel for every time in the past 10 years that someone has come up to me and told me how “horrified” they were when they saw that “poor little cute bunny” bonked on the head. The scene, they say, made them physically sick. The Motion Picture Association of America gave Roger &... [More]”

Inventing languages for the sake of it

Published on in Programming

The article Fear, trust and JavaScript: When types and functional programming fail presents issues in JavaScript and a solution: use another language. The list several newer ones that are completely untested.

But the main problem that the article mentions can’t be solved 100% by any language. The main problem is at the boundaries of your application: inputs.

When you get data from an external source, you have to validate it somehow before passing it along to the rest of the application.

No... [More]

Anyone Can Be a Programmer, Right?

Published on in Programming

The post on Reddit called Someone asked me to make a site for them and I don’t know how the fuck I’m supposed to go about it. is about exactly what it sounds like it’s about. Amid the flurry of comments with recommendations on how to pretend he (or she) knows how to build a web site by using tools he’s (or she’s) never heard of, I chimed in with,

What is it about software that makes people who have never done it think that they can do it professionally?

What if your neighbor had heard you... [More]

iOS can’t get the easy stuff right

Published on in Technology

This is a laundry list of issues I’ve had with iOS over the last half-year or so. Some things get fixed; others break. This operation system is in its 12th version and is 10 years old. It’s made by the richest company on the planet. It’s frustrating to watch the magical engine of capitalism and privatization be seemingly unable to get even the easy stuff right.

How is it that I’m the only one to whom this happens? iOS is supremely unreliable. I have an iPhone 6s with iOS 12.01 and a battery... [More]

SBB iOS App refreshes too much

Published on in Technology

Here is the text of my bug report to the SBB for its iOS App. I wrote them in German, so I’ll let them stand that way; translations are in the footnotes.

Verbesserungsvorschlag im iOS-App

Umgebung

iOS 11.4.1, SBB Mobile 8.2.2 (10)

Use Case

Einen Benutzer will schon geladenen Streckeninformationen ohne Datenverbindung lesen.

Beobachtetes Verhalten

Der SBB-App aktualisiert immer wieder automatisch, auch wenn der App nur vor kurzem verlassen wurde (z.B. 10 Sekunden, wenn man auf einem... [More]

RIP Uri Avnery

Published on in Miscellaneous

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]

Windows 10 Search is not very good

Published on in Technology

Windows Search has been unpredictable for a long time. If you’re a MacOS user, it feels terrible. It’s an utter mystery how Windows can’t seem to find anything, even in a small pile of startup icons and control-panel entries. It’s a database of a few hundred entries, at best. Let’s see how Windows 10 fares.

I finally took the time to document my struggles to run the “Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio”. There are so many words in there. Which ones can I type to find the icon? Hint: I... [More]

Why use Docker?

Published on in Technology

Use Case

Let’s imagine we’re working on a PHP web site together, using PostgreSql as a database.

Without Docker

Without something like Docker, I’ll write a readme.md that tells you which PostgreSql to install (maybe latest, whatever), how to configure the Apache server (or Nginx, whatever) and make sure the document root, extensions, modules, etc. are all lined up for this project.

In order to write this readme, I had to set it up on my machine and carefully write down instructions matching... [More]

Apple iCal

Published on in Technology

Apple iCal is another piece of software that’s in a very established field, with a very established feature set, in which Apple has been producing software for over a decade. It’s a calendar application with reminders. The reminders can be set to a specific time, with one or more alerts. An alert can be snoozed for a certain amount of time.

This is not rocket science.

Ok, so a modern calendar has to be able to pull in remote sources, to sync with other sources, and to send notifications. It... [More]

Leaving Syria

Published on in Public Policy & Politics

The article Trump gets it (half) right by John Quiggin (Crooked Timber) is about Trump’s recent decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria. In it, he makes the following point:

“[…] the history of US involvement in the Middle East has been one of consistent failure at least for the last 40 years. […] Reagan in Lebanon, 40 years of failure on Israel-Palestine, failed confrontation on Iran, incoherent attempts to influence oil supplies, and, of course, the second Iraq War including the rise of ISIS).”

Pulling out of Syria... [More]

Chinese land a rover on the dark side of the moon

Published on in Science & Nature

The article China makes history by landing on the far side of the Moon by Eric Berger (Ars Technica) has pretty exciting news.

“a Beijing-based control center commanded the spacecraft to begin the landing procedure at 9:15pm ET Monday (10:15am, Tuesday, local time), from an altitude of 15km above the lunar surface. During an 11-minute descent, Chang’e-4 slowed its speed from 1.7 km/s to nearly zero before it landed in the Von Karman Crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin.”

This is a science mission, but I’m really hoping... [More]

Three nice stories

Published on in Books & Movies

One Missing Piece by Jill Talbot (The Paris Review) is the story of a chronically peripatetic woman and her daughter. The story is specifically about a road-trip from Texas to Camden, NY, returning to place they’d lived for 3 years, full of memories.

“Every September or October, my father took me to the State Fair of Texas in Dallas, and, later, he took me and my daughter. He always followed the same route, from the entrance to Big Tex, to Fletcher’s Corn Dogs, then onto the automobile building and the food building[1], on and on,... [More]”

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

Published on in Miscellaneous

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]”

True Nobility

Published on in Quotes

“There’s nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.[1]
W.L. Sheldon


[1] The citation is often mis-credited to Ernest Hemingway, but the article at Quote Investigatoroffers quite a bit of clarification.

A discussion about RussiaGate

Published on in Public Policy & Politics

Is RussiaGate a giant pile of smoke? Just listen to two defenders of it, James Risen and Jane Bradley[1] in this video CIJ Logan 2018: Collusion or the New McCarthyism? by CIJ (Vimeo).

Risen circumlocutes into a summation that says that the Russians almost certainly didn’t do anything worthwhile, but that they tried real hard to do something, even if that something can’t be proved. He backs off considerably on the main RussiaGate accusations, although he is a stickler for terminology. It’s just that this... [More]

Human vs. machine categorization

Published on in Technology

Humans are currently better at detecting patterns than machines—this may change in the near future.[1]

However, machines are massively better at sorting detected patterns than humans. Humans can’t stick to a regime.

For example, a site like Reddit amounts to a vast sorting algorithm with posts, pictures, videos and articles as input and the subreddits as buckets.

Myriad users upvote and downvote these items to determine whether an item belongs in a given subreddit. If an item in one subreddit... [More]

Hacking your Voice Mail

Published on in Technology

tl;dr: If you don’t use your voice mail for your phone, then you should disable it. It is ridiculously insecure and can or will be used by hackers to gain access to other services you use (e.g. Whatsapp or PayPal).

On Sunrise, you can deactivate your voice mail by “calling” #145#. To re-activate, call *145#. You’ll get a confirmation message.

The CCC annual conference (Chaos Computer Club) took place last weekend, in Leipzig, Germany. There were several interesting talks, but this one stood... [More]

2 weeks Ago

Vocabulary Words

Published on in Books & Movies

This is a running list of vocabulary words I’ve encountered in my reading over the last several years. I use the vocabulary-list feature on my Kindle to collect words, then export them from the Sqlite database with a simple SQL. From there, I have a text file with words that I combine with my existing list, deduplicate and then re-apply formatting to generate the text below.

I will occasionally update this list.

Where a word (e.g. “reef”) has a common definition, I’ve left it off, preferring... [More]

Why do we need Jobs?

Published on in Public Policy & Politics

You’ll very often hear politicians, pundits and pretty much everyone talk about “jobs” as the be-all, end-all of the economy.

But why do we all need jobs? To stay busy?

Jobs are a means whereby the needs of a society are provided by its members. People have certain needs in order to survive—food and shelter being two of them. We’ll get to others later. A society is filled with people, each of whom need food and shelter.

Let’s imagine the beginning: each member fending for itself. There is... [More]

On Sounding British

Published on in Miscellaneous

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]”