Name Marco Von Ballmoos
Member since
Email [hidden]
Home page http://earthli.com/users/marco

The (only) developer at earthli.com.


2551 Articles

10 months Ago

Fixing the Police Problem (AKA defining “defund”)

Published 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 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 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]

11 months 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]”

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]

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]

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]

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]

1 year Ago

Focused laser-like on the present

Published on in Quotes

“The most significant characteristic of modern civilization is the sacrifice of the future for the present, and all the power of science has been prostituted to this purpose.”
William James

Shit Rolls Downhill as Public Policy

Published on in Quotes

“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.[1]

[1] I can’t help but think that current U.S. President Donald J. Trump is only too aware of this stratagem—because it’s working for him like for nearly no other before him. People are not only emptying their pockets but are nearly sacrificing themselves on the altar of his reputation.

A side-scrolling adventure with the super-rich

Published on in Finance & Economy

The interactive side-scroller Wealth shown to scale by Matt Korostoff is an article that shows just how much money the 400 richest Americans (the .0001%) have—and what could be done with a relatively small fraction of it (e.g. use 6% to “refund all taxes for households earning under $80,000”).

Pro tip: Show the source of the page to read it without all of the scrolling.

You scroll horizontally along a nearly endlessly long page that discusses excessive wealth and the good it could do were it to be distributed.... [More]

Rising above the muck isn’t even that hard

Published on in Quotes

“[in America] the general average of intelligence, of knowledge, of competence, of integrity, of self-respect, of honor is so low that any man who knows his trade, does not fear ghosts, has read fifty good books, and practices the common decencies stands out as brilliantly as a wart on a bald head.”

China vs. the US: A Global Chronology of Covid-19

Published on in Science & Nature

The article Tomgram: Dilip Hiro, The Coronavirus Chronology From Hell by Dilip Hiro (Tomgram) provides an excellent and impartial review of the four months of history we have so far. In particular, he contrasts America’s inchoate response with the measured and ostensibly empathetic reaction of China. China reacted by increasing production capacity of PPE, masks, and ventilators.[1]

“By mid-March, the Chinese government and the Jack Ma Foundation, part of the giant corporate conglomerate Alibaba Group, had sent doctors... [More]”

We’ve known for a long time

Published on in Quotes

The post Two centuries and nothing has changed referred to the image below,

 Marx on Nature and Human Beings

It’s nicely put together, but it’s also not the original quote, which someone included in the comments in a giant wall of text from an English translation.

I found the original in German:

“Die kapitalistische Produktion entwickelt daher nur die Technik und Kombination des gesellschaftlichen Produktionsprozesses, indem sie zugleich die Springquellen alles Reichtums untergräbt: die Erde und den Arbeiter.”

The... [More]

A response to a sincere solicitation

Published on in Miscellaneous

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]

Revolution for President 2020 (Rant)

Published on in Public Policy & Politics

“If voting could bring change, they wouldn’t let us vote”
Mark Twain

In an interview of Noam Chomsky by Mehdi Hasan, Noam pleads his case for “holding your nose” and voting for Biden.

Mehdi Hasan and Noam Chomsky on Biden vs. Trump by The intercept (YouTube)

Noam’s done this for decades. We could be generous and perhaps appreciate his optimism about presidential elections—he never gives up and tells us that there’s no-one worth voting for. Instead, Noam always sees a lesser evil and votes for it—and tells everyone else to vote for it, as well.

Noam goes for the jugular

... [More]

NYT Crossword One-Year Streak

Published on in Fun

Kath and I passed a milestone today: we’ve been on a NYT Crossword-puzzle streak for one year.

 NYT 365-day Streak

You have to complete the puzzle on the day without asking for help. There is no time limit other than by the end of the day (so 24h maximum?) As you can see from the graph of average times I’ve also included, that issue doesn’t come up for us.

Maintaining a streak used to be more difficult before they improved the software for rebuses. A rebus is where you have to put more than one letter in a box... [More]

Capsule Movie Reviews Vol.2020.7

Published 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.

Jumanji: The Next... [More]

You still can’t trust Strava

Published on in Sports

People put so much stock in the records and trophies and numbers available on Strava, but it just seems so unreliable.

For example, I’d done a long ride a couple of weeks ago: about 140km with 2350m of climbing in just under six hours. Strava “estimated” my average wattage at about 144w.[1] A buddy of mine saw this and went out for one of his own a couple of days later, putting up about 150km with 2350m in about 6:15. My buddy went faster and farther, weighs at least 6-8 kilos more than me and... [More]

I’ve been talking to idiots, part II

Published on in Public Policy & Politics

Ignoring so-called other experts

One friend sent me this article 8 MORE Experts Questioning the Coronavirus Panic (Off-Guardian), which includes varied citations from varied experts. The site is for people who’ve been kicked off of the comments section of the Guardian (hence “Off-Guardian”). The formatting and flow are terrible, but some of the information is OK (e.g. “He suggested that the real figure for the number of cases could be 10 to 20 times higher than the official figure. If he’s right, the headline... [More]”

I’ve been talking to idiots, part I

Published on in Public Policy & Politics

 Wondermark: Gaping at the VapidSo here we are, six weeks in to a lockdown of society and slowdown of the economy, due to a particularly nasty virus. We knew it was coming, just like Japan and California know that an earthquake is in the offing. Unlike for earthquakes, we didn’t really prepare too well for pandemics. How could you? Until one happens, you just look like Cassandra. Why waste all of that money and restrict all of those freedoms for something that might happen? We don’t know when, we don’t know how severe, so... [More]

Richard Wolff on Socialism, the Economy and Coronavirus

Published on in Philosophy

Richard Wolff is the gift that keeps on giving. He’s just as brilliant talking into a laptop camera as he is giving lectures. I mentioned him recently as one of my favorite economist. The video is 75 minutes, but well-worth the time.

Richard D. Wolff − Is the Coronavirus the end of Capitalism & the Revival of Socialism? by AcTVism Munich (YouTube)

The following citation/transcript is from about 55 minutes, when the interviewer asked him what he thought of Biden vs. Trump..

“Biden is better than Trump, that seems clear to me. But, it’s almost meaningless because that’s such a low bar that the statement is,... [More]”