Joel Dueck

Joel Dueck

584 thoughts; 46 streams
last posted Nov. 20, 2020, 9:36 p.m.
3
Minnesota
Joined on Oct. 26, 2012, 8:47 p.m.
get recent cards as: atom

My first test results came back today — negative. I had ordered an at-home saliva test simply because I could. I plan to order and take a new one every week as long as I’m required to work in the office (and until a vaccine becomes widely available).

44 thoughts
updated Nov. 20, 2020, 9:36 p.m.

Another possible example of this that I thought of yesterday: church worship teams, which frequently lead songs whose theme or refrain is “Here I am singing this song and worshiping”.

6 thoughts
updated Aug. 27, 2018, 6:06 p.m.

In short, the entire published content of the CMS is contained in or derived from a single file.

10 thoughts
updated June 12, 2018, 7:28 p.m.

Scrolling down past the cover art shows the chapter marks, as usual.

28 thoughts
updated Oct. 9, 2016, 6:18 p.m.

Even just being able to search the Memo field would be an improvement, because then I could use that as a "tags" field.

16 thoughts
updated Sept. 26, 2016, 4:49 p.m.

Another news clipping:

Washington Post: An alarming number of scientific papers contain Excel errors

The Australian researchers found that roughly 1 in 5 of these papers included errors in their gene lists that were due to Excel automatically converting gene names to things like calendar dates or random numbers.

...Even more troubling, the researchers note that there's no way to permanently disable automatic date formatting within Excel. Researchers still have to remember to manually format columns to "Text" before you type anything in new Excel sheets — every. single. time.

23 thoughts
updated Aug. 26, 2016, 2:18 p.m.

Another dimension of comparison: the ways in which I intuit (rightly or wrongly) each activity to be healthy or unhealthy for my personal development.

With Twitter, there is this great Unease (in which many of us share) that the actual activity of Twitter is both addictive and destructive of one's inner life, regardless of who you interact with. On the other hand, I have also found my thinking challenged and broadened by reading and interacting with people I'd ordinarily never hear from.

With church, it's sort of the opposite; I understand the activity of weekly communal worship and eating itself to be fundamentally (profoundly) sound; but that there are also Problems caused by tribalism among the particular people you might find yourself with.

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updated June 27, 2016, 5:50 p.m.
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updated April 20, 2016, 3:33 p.m.

Definitions

Separate from the arguments, both sides need a place to say what they mean by certain key terms.

Either side can define a term, and for each term each side can explain what they mean by it with text of any length.

21 thoughts
updated March 22, 2016, 5:31 p.m.

Others are thinking about this as well! From kottke:

It is the assertion of The Walk of Life Project that the Dire Straits song Walk of Life is the perfect thing to play at the end of movies.

6 thoughts
updated March 15, 2016, 5:18 p.m.

Sixth Argument: “Scandinavians aren’t as happy as Americans”

Writer brings up suicide rates as, I guess, a proxy for economic results.

The simple explanation for this is that frozen darkness is depressing and this has nothing to tell us about Scandinavian economics.

11 thoughts
updated Feb. 19, 2016, 8:20 p.m.

At one extreme, we can see that Twitter and Facebook

  • make web publishing completely simple for authors of no technical ability whatsoever -- but only at steps 3, 4 and 5;
  • shift that difficulty to either side of the publishing lifecycle: steps 1-2, step 6 and step 8;
  • make you dependent upon them for step 7 (backup) (Twitter makes this easy, Facebook makes it impossible);
  • make steps 9 and 10 effectively impossible.
6 thoughts
updated Sept. 3, 2015, 5:11 p.m.

As of yesterday multiple targets are supported. So for any tag that I design in my custom markup, I can specify what output it will produce for HTML targets, and LaTeX, and plain text, etc. I blogged about it.

12 thoughts
updated Sept. 2, 2015, 4:12 p.m.

This will always make me smile: https://vimeo.com/57981966

2 thoughts
updated July 30, 2015, 9:36 p.m.

3. Payment Processors

Some have said (including myself, initially) that Bitcoin would be the way to go. I think the truest thing ever said about Bitcoin is that everyone who touches it becomes either a thief or a victim. It's possible that Bitcoin could be incorporated, but in my experience and from what I've seen keeping an eye on Bitcoin since near the beginning, it's just far too complex for average people to secure their Bitcoin wallets.

15 thoughts
updated April 24, 2015, 2:29 p.m.

Support for YAML is probably a long way off but it could go several ways:

  1. Hardly Nothing: Just strip YAML headers in document previews (just like Marked)
  2. Minimal: Implement syntax highlighting for YAML headers along with stripping YAML in document previews
  3. Nice: Implement basic metadata (say title, date, and author) per-sheet and per-group, in an "internal" Ulysses format, and optional inclusion of this metadata as YAML when exporting to Markdown. Plus #1 and #2 for use in external files.
  4. Really nice: In addition to #3, allow users to define their own custom fields. To preserve some simplicity, these need only support strings of text and could be the same for all projects.
32 thoughts
updated April 1, 2015, 10:05 p.m.

Artwork — When I started the site in 1998 I was using Victorian spot art illustrations (Examples: 1, 2). They're one of the few (maybe only) design elements that have survived to the present; amazingly, they still "fit". But I'm still using the original scans, because I lost the Dover art book I got them from. Just recently I finally ordered another copy.

The plan is for Jess to paint & ink her own watercolor versions of the same sketches. We've talked about doing this for a couple years now. I'll probably leave the originals in place on very old posts (the ones that predate the 2012 redesign) and update newer ones with fresh, colour, retina-quality artwork.

3 thoughts
updated March 27, 2015, 2:28 p.m.

Two years later:

The Magazine, Newsstand, and "Subcompact Publishing" all turned out to be duds.

Ebooks may still be relevant for now. But the medium is so annoying to work with due to platform fragmentation and complete lack of open distribution mechanisms.

Personally at this point the mediums that interest me most are (1) plain old web pages (for reasons like this) and (2) printed books (which, unlike any digital format, have actual archival qualities).

17 thoughts
updated March 27, 2015, 2:31 a.m.

My current paperless setup:

  • Fuji ScanSnap S1300i. The OCR in the included scanning software does a great job, which means my PDFs are fully searchable from the moment they're scanned
  • Hazel for automatically filing incoming scans. I set up rules to search for specific strings and dates within the scanned PDFs and use those to rename, tag and move them into a special "Paper Documents" folder.
  • An Amazon Basics shredder. This thing is not very quiet but it is aggressive and does the job quickly. I keep it in the basement and either recycle the cuttings or compost them.
9 thoughts
updated March 21, 2015, 6:28 p.m.

@joeld wrote above:

there's no way to file thoughts entered here into a different stream later on

Yes there is, we just obviously haven't been clear about it. If you "repost" from Your Thoughts to a stream, it moves it to that stream.

As to where they appear for others, they are under the "General Thoughts" tab on a user's page.

13 thoughts
updated March 21, 2015, 6:12 p.m.

If you have $178k to throw at an unexpected hitch in your crowd funded project, you are basically someone who has way more money than you know what to do with.

This explains the warehouse, the lawyers, the accountants, and (let's be honest) the unrelenting optimism about following your passions.

15 thoughts
updated Dec. 23, 2014, 4:11 a.m.

I could be wrong. But I seem to remember that a lot of the Apple side of the "Apple vs PC" arguments of yore focused on "how is it used" rather than "who has the fastest CPU".

3 thoughts
updated Oct. 27, 2014, 5:23 p.m.

Really, just think an open source Tumblr, optionally self-hosted, with RSS-powered "Follows" and Dashboard.

27 thoughts
updated Oct. 21, 2014, 5:35 p.m.

In my column on Microblogging with RSS I'm proposing that, in the future, blogging software would be fused with RSS reading. (Think Tumblr with its "follow" functionality, but self-hosted.)

The Vouch proposal for webmention abuse would fit very nicely with this model, if we allow follow lists to do double-duty as "endorsements".

So each blog will publish a list of other blogs it publicly follows -- basically a list of its RSS subscriptions.

These follows serve the purpose of Vouch's endorsements. Another blog could then send you a webmention if you follow them, or if a blog you follow follows them.

This automates the process of creating a vouch for webmentions you send, although the bulk of the "work" is still done on the sender's end. The sender simply needs to look up the follows of all the target's follows and see if it finds itself in there anywhere.

15 thoughts
updated Oct. 21, 2014, 4:33 p.m.

The initial "tile" Start screen has a metric ton of crap on it. Very sad.

4 thoughts
updated Sept. 18, 2014, 4:01 p.m.

In comparing ProtonMail with the GPG approach, remember the following:

  • As noted earlier, it's far harder to compel or steal that metadata from ProtonMail than from typical email providers. The U.S. government can have that info from Google very quickly and silently.
  • GPG remains little-used because it is too complicated for most users. It's worth considering why Snowden resorted to Lavabit rather than trying to educate lots of lawyers and activists on how to use GPG. (He did use GPG for his most sensitive correspondence, however.)
  • Both approaches are equally vulnerable to a compromised user machine.
  • Even if you and your correspondent both host your own private email server, that server can be physically and silently seized if it is located on U.S. soil, or the soil of any country the U.S. can strong-arm, or if it is hosted/colocated by any company with U.S. ties. And you can't count on encrypted filesystems to save you from government forensics.
22 thoughts
updated June 25, 2014, 4:09 p.m.

It would also be nice for Reporter to have access to Healthkit data, thus allowing a combined data source for reporting from any other fitness apps/wearables you might be using.

15 thoughts
updated June 10, 2014, 5:49 p.m.

Being an 80s kid, I love Reading Rainbow. But I found myself unexpectedly dismayed by yesterday's Kickstarter.

What is it we loved about Reading Rainbow?

And, setting aside why we enjoyed it, what kind of cultural value did it have?

(You can comment on my blog here or make your own stream with the same name.)

14 thoughts
updated June 9, 2014, 12:18 a.m.

Property is a point of honour. The true contrary of the word “property” is “prostitution”. And it is not true that a human being will always sell what is sacred to that sense of self-ownership, whether it be the body or the boundary.

20 thoughts
updated April 23, 2014, 1:38 a.m.

As I mentioned before, Gelernter's book is mainly interested computer syntheses of human creative problem-solving, but he devotes a couple of chapters to looking at what his ideas mean for poetry, ancient thought, and spirituality.

Gelernter believes low-focus thought is the medium or music of mystical spiritual experiences.

His argument for this is rich and well worth reading. I can't include it in full here, and I'm afraid to edit it down lest I mutilate it, but you can read a few of the most relevant pages of it in this PDF scanned from the book.

35 thoughts
updated April 6, 2014, 6:33 p.m.

Another thing about Pinboard's killer feature: it's the kind of thing where, once you sign up for it, it doesn't make any sense to cancel it or restart it. That definitely doesn't hurt the economics any.

7 thoughts
updated April 3, 2014, 5:40 p.m.

The Territory Tax

The designers promise "the game will never offer players a paid-for advantage over opponents – the only way to build a successful empire will be through commitment and planning."

This is nice, but perhaps we could go one further: not only will players not be able to buy advantage over other players, but players that do amass large amounts of territory (above a certain threshold of ridiculousness) will need in-app purchases in order to retain their empires at baseline levels.

Given that this game could require significant ongoing server infrastructure and attendant costs, this could be a way of keeping the whole thing sustainable.

9 thoughts
updated April 1, 2014, 2:07 a.m.

This is body text[^1].

[^1]: This is a footnote

2 thoughts
updated Jan. 28, 2014, 4:06 p.m.

This brings us to Analogy #2, the second statement above:

"Are all forms of music poetic?" -- no, that's not quite what I'm asking;

Rather, the possibility we are considering is that: all the forms of language that share some overlap with music are poetic forms.

11 thoughts
updated Jan. 28, 2014, 1:32 p.m.

“In handwriting the brain is mediated by the drawing hand, in typewriting by the fingers hitting the keyboard, in dictation by the idea of a vocal style, in word processing by touching the keyboard and by the screen’s feedback. The fact seems to be that each of these methods produces a different syntactic result from the same brain. Maybe the crucial element in handwriting is that the hand is simultaneously drawing. I know I’m very conscious of hidden imagery in handwriting—a subtext of a rudimentary picture language. Perhaps that tends to enforce more cooperation from the other side of the brain. And perhaps that extra load of right brain suggestions prompts a different succession of words and ideas.”

— Ted Hughes, from this highly informative interview in Paris Review

9 thoughts
updated Jan. 17, 2014, 10:29 p.m.

The only risk with allowing span-level spoiler markup is that the writer will be too indiscreet when choosing what sentences they wish to reveal and which to redact.

2 thoughts
updated Jan. 17, 2014, 3:04 p.m.

Swiss to vote on 2,500 franc basic income for every adult

Another example of basic income -- this one not, I think, very likely to have good results overall.

For one thing, it should be suspect because it is purely the result of a popular referendum; the only thing needed to get it on the ballot was to collect 100,000 signatures from the populace. So the amount of the "basic" income was probably picked very arbitrarily based on popular appeal, rather than sound economic analysis.

For another, the amount is too high. As Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution notes:

With that, a married couple could piece together more than 67k and simply not work, so this sum appears infeasible.

8 thoughts
updated Jan. 7, 2014, 4:41 p.m.

Today at the Chaos Computer Congress (30C3), xobs and I disclosed a finding that some SD cards contain vulnerabilities that allow arbitrary code execution — on the memory card itself. On the dark side, code execution on the memory card enables a class of MITM (man-in-the-middle) attacks, where the card seems to be behaving one way, but in fact it does something else. On the light side, it also enables the possibility for hardware enthusiasts to gain access to a very cheap and ubiquitous source of microcontrollers.

-- On Hacking MicroSD Cards

8 thoughts
updated Dec. 30, 2013, 3:42 p.m.

Serving up UTF-8 encoded plain-text files on the web may look garbled in the browser if the server's not sending the correct headers. I'm currently having this issue with the transcript links on my podcast episodes.

8 thoughts
updated Dec. 19, 2013, 4:46 p.m.

Misc low-hanging fruit

  • Seldon makes holographic recordings of himself that he sets to play at certain dates decades and centuries after his death. In these recordings he appears and explains to whoever happens to be watching the likelihood and significance of events which he has predicted, and which at the time the recording "airs" will have only just occurred. These replays take place in the city's Time Vault, which makes for an obvious play on Apple's Time Capsule backup software. Steve Jobs could appear in an advanced version of an Apple Time Capsule.
  • Power struggles within the Foundation form a big part of its narrative. Something related could be made of the ousting of Scott Forstall, the subsequent rise of Jony Ive and the end of skeuomorphism.
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updated Nov. 2, 2013, 2:54 a.m.
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updated Feb. 10, 2013, 6:03 p.m.

Streams by this user that have been favorited by others.

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updated March 21, 2015, 6:28 p.m.
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updated April 20, 2016, 3:33 p.m.
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updated June 25, 2014, 4:09 p.m.
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updated Oct. 9, 2016, 6:18 p.m.
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updated Oct. 21, 2014, 5:35 p.m.
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updated Oct. 21, 2014, 4:33 p.m.
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updated Sept. 26, 2016, 4:49 p.m.
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My first test results came back today — negative. I had ordered an at-home saliva test simply because I could. I plan to order and take a new one every week as long as I’m required to work in the office (and until a vaccine becomes widely available).

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My view “from the ground”:

  • Suddenly (within the last week) I am hearing of exposures from multiple people I know. Our neighbors are quarantining after a teacher at their son's daycare was exposed. Someone at work is quarantining after her boyfriend was exposed and he began showing symptoms.
  • It is now a lot easier to get tested than it was in the spring. In MN you can order an at-home saliva test that either insurance or the state will pay for.
  • Feels like our already-small world got a lot smaller since the weather got colder, the case numbers shot up again, and we increased our isolation from the few people with whom we’d been getting together.
  • With the vaccines in sight, we’re hopeful that we can get through this thing but it’s really going to suck for a while longer.
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Changes since August on a national scale:

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There have been a lot of changes in the past couple of months, but until recently my personal experience of the pandemic has not changed much: we continue to live the isolated in-limbo life.

My daughter, who is in first grade this year, is still doing distance learning as she was last spring. My son is in a private preschool, however.

Everyone at work has been “wearing masks” since the executive order in July. Not everyone is very good at it though; they're only required to do so when leaving their desks, lots of masks on chins etc.

We did have/attend a few outdoor gatherings over the summer. But now that it’s cold out again that’s not going to really happen much anymore. It’s widely understood that this virus spreads via aerosols and can linger in the air for hours, so unventilated spaces are a no-go for the prudent.

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I've been thinking about how narrow and limited my lived-experience view of “local pandemic life” is. I have so far been insulated from financial fallout, in fact we’re doing a bit better than normal thanks to reduced spending and the stimulus check. I rarely go out to buy anything anywhere other than the grocery store or the gas station, but those places appear as busy as they ever did, the main difference being that almost everyone has a mask on. It’s a huge contrast to the desolate abandoned Soviet-esque wasteland of mid-March.

And yet you know the unemployment numbers are still sky high, higher than they were at their worst in the last recession. Most of those people have had their income slashed by more than half with the expiration of the CARES act. Food shelf demand is extremely high. Mortgage delinquency has doubled. Federal eviction protections for many renters expired two days ago.

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Worth noting: I know of no one with whom I have a personal connection that has tested positive since April 30.

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The unemployment relief in the CARES act has expired. The House passed a second relief bill a month ago. The Senate waited until the beginning of August to start negotiations with the House, and now the Senate has adjourned until Labor Day without any agreement.

Trump has said he will extend an additional $300/week unemployment by executive orders, among other things. But it is widely understood among policymakers that this set of executive orders has many problems and that they will not have any meaningful effect.

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Ideological Split: There seems to be a trend in the reporting: there actually isn’t much of a partisan split in attitudes about the virus itself. One recent poll found support for mask mandates was at 72% overall. 86% of Democrats in the poll supported them, 58% of Republicans.

But anecdotally, the actual point of disagreement I see among Trump-aligned ideologues has changed. They no longer deny that the virus exists or that it can cause major health problems or that it has a high fatality rate compared to the flu. Most frequently the claim is that there is a simple cure to the virus but that doctors who know about it are being censored through some kind of conspiracy.

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Today Trump is saying that the election should be delayed until after the pandemic, which lines up with my expectations of March 19 above.

Whatever Trump says or whatever some states do, if the Electoral College doesn’t convene for whatever reason, the current House votes for President and the current Senate votes for VP. Added wrinkle: the vote in the House only is one vote per state, not per representative. There is no way that process goes smoothly or decisively.

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Booked an expensive dinner at a local restaurant rooftop for the first week of August. This will be my first time eating at a restaurant since February (my wife went to a patio with a friend in June). Hopefully the weather cooperates. We’re looking forward to pretending things are sort of normal for a couple of hours.

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Yesterday, a statewide mask mandate was announced for Minnesota. Governor Walz ended up doing it as a unilateral executive order.

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Last week, something of a minor turnaround on masks at work. Amid a larger morale/retention crisis, my IT co-worker and I began to raise the need for others to at least wear masks if we are in their workspace helping with a computer issue. Especially since there is almost no social distancing in the office. The CEO acquiesced to a review of the current COVID policies with a possibility of adding some (!) guidance on mask use.

This week, my co-worker and at least two others have worn masks in the office. One of those because her daughter was exposed to someone who had tested positive.

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We are having a birthday party for my daughter this weekend. Following the “Stay Safe MN” order means no more than 10 people if we have to have it inside, 25 if outdoors.

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June Prognostications

  • I went back and forth on this, but think Congress will pass some additional relief. GOP senators have already shown they have no real problem with big deficit spending to help out a republican president, and Democrats have shown that spiking the economy to spite Trump is not, thankfully, in their playbook.

  • However, the negotiations around the price tag will be different this time around. The relief will probably not be enough to mitigate most of the economic pain that is coming, and this pain will really be on the rise in the Aug–Sep time frame.

  • Since the pandemic is now the setting and not the story, it will not even be close to the largest factor on the public mood between now and November. Right now the BLM protests are big on everyone’s mind, against the backdrop of the pandemic and the economy.

  • I would guess that between now and November, in addition to these things we will see at least one more kind of crisis get added to the mix before the election itself expands into every last corner of our consciousness. If I were writing the show, I would think we were due for something in the nature of foreign policy.

  • I’m no longer predicting who will win the US presidential election. Polls look good for Biden, but he’s a very old idiot who can still land himself in a lot of trouble by saying stupid things. He could perform very poorly in debates. He might also die.

  • I do predict a slow setting-in of big economic pain in the months leading up to the election.

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Prognostication Recap

From my March 17 guesses:

  • “The crisis will increase in severity through at least July, driven by severe healthcare shortages” — I think I missed this one. I also did not account for the locality of outbreaks; I was at that point still thinking of the US as a whole. So the reality was more mixed. Capacity-driven crises did hit in some places (New York) but were avoided in others. Both here in Minnesota and as a whole, the US has seen its case load level off and decline, but it remains much, much worse than the EU, which peaked at the same time and same level as we did in April.
  • “No measure big enough to offset major economic downturn will be able to pass in Congress…lots of unemployment and no relief” — In fact some sizeable relief did pass that may have so far spared us the worst of the pain. But since the unemployment supports are set to expire at the end of next month, (and it seems very doutbful that there will exist the political will to extend them), we might have just pushed the worst pain out to Aug–Sep. Unemployment claims are declining but still extremely hugely high. So I think this may yet prove true.
  • “If we get the disease, and the public mood, under control before June, Trump is reelected in November…If we get there between June and September, Trump loses in November” — Obviously the election hasn't happened yet. But I think these predictions were framed around some incorrect assumptions: 1) that public mood would improve in concert with our actual control of the disease spread; 2) a strictly linear picture of improvement, and 3) no other factors (civil rights protests, anyone?). What actually happened was that the atmosphere of fear and dread evaporated, but there was actually no change in our actual control over it. The two are not in any way linked.
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We’re through another month.

Masks: I am again, lately, the only person at work who wears a mask. Mask wearing at stores has become common, even though not everywhere required.

The Mode: In a hundred little ways, our mode or approach to pandemic reality has morphed into: do whatever, maybe wear a mask. People have given up on quarantine and even social distancing except in locations where rules are posted and enforced.

Partisan divide: With the death of George Floyd here in Minneapolis two weeks ago, and the subsequent protests all over the world, the most intense partisan fault lines are totally realigned now now around police brutality and systemic racism issues.

We’ve now seen that no one is procedurally against mass protests in the midst of a pandemic. Language like “sacrificing the elderly” aimed at those who want to reopen the economy ASAP is now conspicuously absent from any discourse about large gatherings.

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My employer is reversing the 20% pay cut they announced at the beginning of April (noted above). It is due to the terms of the PPP loan they received at the beginning of the month (also noted above).

Apparently the forgivable portion of that loan is reduced by the amount of any payroll reductions made due to COVID-19. So they either pay the amount to employees or they repay it back to the government.

In this case at least, the “Payroll Protection” part of “PPP” seems to be working as designed.

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Saw first news today of a more contagious strain of the virus.

Edit: A rebuttal

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Last week during days when I’ve had to drive to the office, I counted three people besides myself who wore masks. This is at a location that on a pre-COVID normal day would have had around 30 people.

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Last week, after reading a recent piece in the NYT a few of us in my family have ordered or borrowed pulse oximeters (including my brother above, who has since tested positive). It appears that when COVID-19 complications occur, blood oxygen levels often drop to dangerous levels days in advance of any breathing difficulty, and this $50 device can provide you an early warning sign:

There is a way we could identify more patients who have Covid pneumonia sooner and treat them more effectively — and it would not require waiting for a coronavirus test at a hospital or doctor’s office. It requires detecting silent hypoxia early through a common medical device that can be purchased without a prescription at most pharmacies: a pulse oximeter.

Pulse oximeters helped save the lives of two emergency physicians I know, alerting them early on to the need for treatment. When they noticed their oxygen levels declining, both went to the hospital and recovered (though one waited longer and required more treatment). Detection of hypoxia, early treatment and close monitoring apparently also worked for Boris Johnson, the British prime minister.

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My brother (lives in the same state) has been sick for a week; now that Minnesota’s testing ramp is underway, he was able to get tested for COVID-19, and his results came back positive today.

He has been working from home for more than a month. We suppose he caught it from his wife who is an essential worker dealing with hundreds of people in public every day, though she has no symptoms so far.

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I’ve looked at the details of Apple and Google’s joint contact-tracing effort and I have to say, I think it is going to fail to make much, if any, difference.

They are going to absolutely nail the fundamentals, except for the part about actually verifying when someone has tested positive. There is going to be no standard for that.

In fact any piece that relies on the private health system make correct design choices and provide clear data and standards will fall flat on its face. People will spuriously self-report as positive, whether by accident or through idle malice.

The system will end up being useless.

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Have I had it already? The question lots of people are asking themselves, especially after recent autopsies and other work point to several weeks of previously undetected cryptic transmission in US cities.

Seems to bear out this tweet from two months ago (Feb 29):

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The big impact everyone is discussing today is that oil futures contracts for May 2020 (and only May) are below $1/barrel or even negative. This apparently has to do with today being some kind of due date; if you hold the contract beyond today you’ll be required to take physical delivery of the oil, and (for now) no one wants it.

However, this is not much of a felt impact for me and a lot of people, for the same reason that is causing the plummeting oil prices: we don’t drive much anymore. Also, neither I nor anyone I know works in the oil industry.

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I found out last week that my employer did manage to secure a (presumably) forgiveable loan/advance under the Payroll Protection Program.

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IRS stimulus check deposited to my checking account today, 17 days after passage of the CARES act. The amount correctly reflected our income, marriage status and the fact that we have two dependent children. Our immediate needs are already taken care of for now, so our plan for this money is to stick it in our emergency fund and re-evaluate at the end of the year.

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This will be the first full week I’ve worked from home.

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I started wearing a mask to work today, the first in my company to do so. This may be in part because I have some decent masks leftover from a trip, and they are quite hard to buy at the moment. But it also definitely feels like I am swimming against the social current here, and I am getting a lot of looks.

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My employer announced that amid a falloff in sales they are cutting most employees’ pay by 20% and converting some salaried/exempt employees’ status to hourly/non-exempt. The stated goal is to keep everyone employed amid uncertainty as to how long the downturn will last.

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Today a co-worker tested positive and was hospitalized, the first one in our company and the first such person personally known to me. This person has worked remotely for a long time, so there is no reason to think they carried it to others here in the office.

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It’s been a couple of weeks now since the John Hopkins COVID-19 dashboard was at all useful in the US. It was handy for tracking the global spread during the early stages, but at this point we all know cases are everywhere and skyrocketing. The useful dashboards and tracking sites are those that operate on a more local level.

It will probably become interesting to look at again in a couple of months, when we might start to see a plateau or decline in the global number of cases.

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Felt impacts in Minneapolis so far:

  • No rush hour traffic whatsoever for the last couple of weeks.
  • Jess (spouse) has been home with the kids and the loss of any outside activity (gym, social gatherings with other adults, playground visits) combined with so much time with the kids who also have no other outlets, combined with the larger uncertainty about Everything, is taking a mental toll on her, as it would be on me if I were home alone with the kids.
  • This has exacerbated the already suboptimal divide between our two lives, hers centered at home and mine at work. Ideally we would both be home at this time. I’m upset with my employer for taking the stance that all of this represents some kind of business/profit opportunity rather than doing its part to limit the spread as much as possible.
  • My 4-year old has regressed in independence somewhat; he has no time with his preschool teachers and peers, and the more he is stuck at home the more constantly he demands our attention to keep himself from being bored. This is not unusual considering his age. He’ll obviously grow past this, but it’s affecting us now.
  • Jess went for groceries yesterday morning and the place was pretty empty for a Saturday morning. Lots of reminders to keep six feet apart. No one was using the self-checkout.
  • Various people at work who have the option (i.e., their work can be done remotely) have been working remotely.
  • Political chatter in the hallways and around offices has ticked up very noticeably. The vast majority of it is pro-Trump, which makes sense because most of my co-workers are right-wing.
  • A couple of my siblings are filing for unemployment benefits due to reduced or no pay from their jobs.
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On another note: a lot of celebrities seem to believe they can help us during these trying times by …being famous online from home. It’s getting old.

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Yesterday the Governor announced a “stay at home” order will be in place in Minnesota for 2 weeks starting Friday at midnight.

Many people are confusing this with a “shelter in place” order, which would be much more stringent. The stay-at-home order allows us to leave home for a number of reasons, such as to get groceries, exercise outside, work jobs in exempted/critical sectors, etc.

The last one is interesting. The guidance on exempt industries is very broad. According to MN’s Dept of Employment commissioner:

About 78 percent of the jobs in Minnesota are in critical industries as defined by the executive order, so it's just 22 percent that are not. (source)

There is also no enforcement, so companies can declare themselves exempt and require their workers to come in as usual. My own employer has taken this route. We sell desks and monitor walls, but since some of our customers are in exempt agencies they have decided we are exempt as well.

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Gov. Walz dithers about a statewide shelter-in-place order

Gov. Walz is, I think, two steps behind the curve of what we actually need to happen right now. By his own account to WCCO this morning: A) today's numbers are going to jump way up, and B) the rate of growth is going to accelerate! Besides this, he knows that the ratio of tested cases to the actual number out there is abysmal. And yet: a shelter in place order is “not the situation we believe we're at.”

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Developments today:

  • Grocery store workers included in definition of “emergency workers” in MN, qualifying them for free healthcare.

  • Some more malls closing, following MoA’s closure yesterday.

  • Trump has invoked an act that gives him the authority to direct private production in times of war (ventilators? testing?) but is dithering about whether he will use it.

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Seems apparent that the lack of testing capacity is going to require blunt, blind quarantining measures, which have a heavy heavy economic toll, rather than targeted quarantining measures which would have a lighter economic touch.

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Today I found out that a co-worker's son wired a house for someone who has now tested positive for COVID-19, and subsequently fell sick, missing a week of work. My co-worker, who is now working remotely, spent time at his son’s house while he was sick.

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You can see I’m on the side of the fork that says that the virus is real and serious, meaning there will be many thousands of deaths due to an overwhelmed healthcare system, and many thousands with permanent lung damage. I expect that my wife and I will get the virus, and am cautiously optimistic that we will not require medical attention to live through it.

The outcome that would pose an something of an ideological smack-up for me would be if less than 50 thousand people die from COVID-19 (i.e. fewer people than do from influenza in a typical flu season) or have permanent lung damage (and assuming SARS-CoV-2 spread doesn’t become a new seasonal event like H1N1). As dumb as it would make me feel, this would be my preferred outcome.

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Personal Prognostication Snapshot:

  • The crisis will increase in severity through at least July, driven by severe healthcare shortages and consequent too-late severe quarantine measures further braking the economy, as we have seen in Italy.
  • No measure big enough to offset major economic downturn will be able to pass in Congress.
  • So, lots of unemployment and almost no relief.
  • If we get the disease, and the public mood, under control before June, Trump is reelected in November. This is soon enough to avoid the worst economic pain, so that we all recalibrate our narratives and return to our baseline levels of (dis)satisfaction. Biden will be an ineffective nominee and, perhaps narrowly, end up as John Kerry 2.0.
  • If we get there between June and September, Trump loses in November, since by then it’s too late to prevent the massive economic pain’s effect on his already-bad approval numbers.
  • If the crisis drags on much of the way through September, the Trump admin attempts to use emergency powers big pressure in Congress from WH and some states to postpone an imminently disastrous election. Honestly not sure if SCOTUS upholds against the inevitable legal challenge. [edit 3/19/20: apparently the prevailing legal theory is that only Congress can change the date of the election. How exactly that plays out in a pandemic, I’m not sure. But even so, I think election-postponing is for sure going to be on the discourse table.]

Thoughts by this user that have been liked by others.

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It would be nice to be able to rename streams.

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Aside: Comments by git inventor Linus Torvalds raise doubts in my mind about the optimalness of git even for its intended use case (source code):

You released the Git distributed version control system less than ten years ago. Git caught on quickly and seems to be the dominant source code control system, or at least the one people argue about most on Reddit and Hacker News.

Git has taken over where Linux left off separating the geeks into know-nothings and know-it-alls. I didn’t really expect anyone to use it because it’s so hard to use, but that turns out to be its big appeal. No technology can ever be too arcane or complicated for the black t-shirt crowd.

I thought Subversion was hard to understand. I haven’t wrapped my head around Git yet.

You’ll spend a lot of time trying to get your head around it, and being ridiculed by the experts on github and elsewhere. I’ve learned that no toolchain can be too complicated because the drive for prestige and job security is too strong. Eventually you’ll discover the Easter egg in Git: all meaningful operations can be expressed in terms of the rebase command. Once you figure that out it all makes sense. I thought the joke would be obvious: rebase, freebase, as in what was Linus smoking? But programmers are an earnest and humorless crowd and the gag was largely lost on them.

Linus Torvalds goes off on Linux and Git, Sep 25, 2012

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Reporting did get wearying and old after a month or so, but after that it became routine.

If you have a fairly repetitive lifestyle, as I currently do, Reporter will make that extremely (perhaps painfully) clear very quickly. I work a 9-5 job and spend most evenings at home. Data collection becomes much less interesting when the data involved seldom changes.

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Effective questions: Reporter comes "What did you learn today?" as a default "ask at sleep" question. I soon ceased bothering with answers to this one. I guess it was too open-ended, and even when I have an answer it's never compact enough for the little-token format that Reporter seems to expect.

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The only questions I've added to the default set are "Are you wearing glasses?" (I started using non-prescription reading glasses for most screen related work to prevent headaches) and "How many coffees did you have today?"

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Usually a five-pointed star would indicate an opportunity to "fave" an episode, with no social aspect.

Calling this button “Recommend”, by contrast, makes it seem as though clicking it will make something social happen. But if something social did happen, I couldn't figure out what it was. For example, no new tweets appeared on my Twitter timeline as a result (it would have been a kind of creepy sneaky way to do it if it had though).

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A good example of an "easy" win would be if ThoughtStreams implemented sending and receiving webmentions.

  • Perform webmention endpoint discovery and sending on all outgoing links in new cards
  • Receive webmentions for streams and individual cards -- display them in appropriate places, and optionally notify the user.
  • Ideally allow users to specify a u-in-reply-to URL.

If this were in place, suddenly I'd be able to carry out a exchange with other TS users, or between my TS and any webmention-enabled blog, or between TS and any Twitter account (if the Twitter user is signed up at brid.gy).

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I've already implemented webmentions on my site, so I have skin in this game. At a minimum I'll be trying to design and code ways of mitigating abuse before it happens on my own web properties, now that I've opened that door.

But if in the coming months it turns out that abuse prevention remains an optional part of the spec, and people have to bake their own countermeasures (or not) on a site-by-site basis, then the writing will be on the wall.

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In this article I outline a few big changes I would make to the internet to empower small, independent creators, and to make certain kinds of huge online businesses unprofitable to run.

Adding universal micropayments to the web is a core piece of that proposed set of reforms. Here I muse about how that could actually be implemented.

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Overview of my proposed method

  1. The web server, responding to a request for a web page, includes an HTTP header that says, in effect, Price is $0.01, payment should go to john@hisdomain.com.
  2. The user's browser sees this header and notes this amount in a ledger.
  3. Every so often (exactly when would be configurable) the user would see a report saying "Here's how much web usage you've incurred", breaking the amount down by site
  4. The user would have the ability to adjust payment up or down. This could be done on a total basis (thus adjusting payments to individual sites proportionally) or on a site-by-site basis. Payments are voluntary.
  5. The browser connects securely to a payment processor (I nominate Gratipay or Patreon for starters) with whom the user has already signed up. It sends a list of payees and amounts for each, in a standardized format.
  6. The payment processor pays sites out of the user's balance as directed.
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3. Payment Processors

Some have said (including myself, initially) that Bitcoin would be the way to go. I think the truest thing ever said about Bitcoin is that everyone who touches it becomes either a thief or a victim. It's possible that Bitcoin could be incorporated, but in my experience and from what I've seen keeping an eye on Bitcoin since near the beginning, it's just far too complex for average people to secure their Bitcoin wallets.

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Been thinking about this for a while too:

For a while I've been thinking about people that tout themselves as experts in X but are really (self-professed) experts in being expert at X.

I'll call these types of people the Meta Experts.

Meta Experts may be too kind a term. In many instances of this kind of activity, there is more bullshit involved than "Meta Experts" would suggest.