Worthwhile

A random set of internet gems that I enjoyed recently, starting with the Coronavirus COVID19. Three Twitterers that seem to knowledgable, up-to-date and not hyping-up matters are Kai Kupferschmidt, Helen Branswell and Ian M Mackay. Plus, there are good articles coming from down under.

Don't bury the lede, not even in grant applications.

The International Space Station in LEGO. I like that this is an official set, not a custom design or one-off sale. Speaking of which: My Science Tower is still waiting to be built.

Quit the news! (PDF) It's bad for you!

Robin Hanson comapares Parasite and Joker. This made me think less of Parasite and want to watch Joker. I have downloaded it, but not gotten around to it yet.

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Posting Images from Android to a Static Site

posting-from-android

I didn't post this picture because it is in any way interesting in itself, but because I can! From my phone, that is!

Let me back up and tell you why I find that exciting. This site is statically generated and a new blog post is added via a markdown file, re-compiling and uploading. This means firing up the text editor and some quick command-line actions after finishing the writing. This fits me perfectly fine, most of the time.

But when it comes to images, I found always it cumbersome to first download them to my laptop for processing and inclusion in a post. Which is why I finally got around to figuring out how to post them directly from the phone that takes the image.

The centerpice for making this work is Termux which gives you a full Linux-environment on Android devices; it's really really good and can do much more than I describe here. Termux supports the "Share with..." mechanism and allows me to execute a script with the shared file as argument. So I adapted my script that prepares the markdown file and resizes the image for this purpose.

Now when I share an image from my phone with Termux, the following steps happen:

  • The image is saved in Termux.
  • My script is called with the image location.
  • It asks me to enter a title which is used as the post title, the URL-slug and the filenames.
  • The Markdown template with this information, the image link and date/time is prepared, and saved.
  • A text editor is fired up to verify and/or write an extra line in the mardown-file.
  • The image gets resized and renamed accordingly.
  • The files get added and committed to the repository, and pushed to GitHub.
  • Finally, Pelican is told to re-compile the site into HTML, make the smaller inline-version of the image, and upload everything with rsync to my RaspberryPi-server.

Done.

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The Fall Of The Rebel Angels

the-fall-of-the-rebel-angels

What's not to like about this painting by Bruegel from 1562‽ I've been using it as my desktop background for a while and still discover new details.

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Comments Are Back

The possibility to leave comments on blog posts is back! Thanks to Isso which provides a stand-alone solution for self-hosted comments. Please let me know if there are technical hiccups...

I might even import the old comments from the Wordpress-site at some point, they are not lost.

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Are Stars Alive?

The other day over lunch we half-jokingly talked about whether or not stars are alive. A colloquialism among astronomers is that a star is "dead" when there is no more nuclear fusion, so stars in the late stages of their evolution are "dying". Some smartass took the metaphor literally and pointed out that stars are always dead, never alive. But are they, really? they asked in return.

Now, the gut reaction is, of course, that stars are not alive. They are described quite well by physics alone, with a little bit of inorganic chemistry. But one should always question one's own intuitions and stars after all do have metabolism, a life-cycle and are "born" in generations. They do not reproduce directly, but by enriching the interstellar medium with they fusion products, thereby influencing the next generation of stars. Stretching the analogy, one could say that stars that fail in doing this (for example stars that collapse into a black hole without supernova explosion) have "failed to reproduce" in an evolutionary sense.

At the time I could not quite articulate why it still felt wrong to me to call stars alive, and I did not want to argue by some outdated list of strict criteria, vaguely remembering that the definition of life does not have such a clear-cut answer as one would like.

Luckily one the podcats I listen to just answered it for me: Sean Carroll interviewing Sara Imari Walker on Information and the Origin of Life .

They don't talk about stars, but connecting life to information processing was what had slipped my mind over lunch that day. I will not reiterate it here but highly recommend to listen for yourself, or read the transcript on that same page.

A highlight for me was this section:

There is something about intelligence as a physical process that’s quite different. If you just had physics and chemistry and no biology, no organisms, no evolutionary history acquiring info§rmation, you would never see a planet launching satellites into space.

What’s interesting to me is what can happen causally in the Universe. And I think there’s a lot of processes that can happen, but just don’t. And that what biology does is it somehow can cause things to happen that wouldn’t happen outside of the kind of process that biology is. And so, I think there is a deep connection actually between information and causation.

(Slightly edited and condensed by me.)

Another take-away message is that "life" or "no life" is not necessarily a binary decision, but a continuum. Things can be less alive than others. I think this maps nicely onto consciousness. It's not that there is some moment when "the lights turn on" but a scale with some beings haveing more of it than others.

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What I've been brewing

raol

I might still write these up in more detail here, but I've been documenting some of my recent beers in the German homebrewers forum already, with lots of pictures. So if you are interested in this kind of thing, head over there for my Fruit & Sour Beers and the Norwegian Råøl. The corresponding recipe for the latter is also available here and I uploaded another one for a White IPA with Kveik.

I have been brewing several more beers with different Kveik strains and very much like the fact that they can be dried and thus stored for a long time before using them again.

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It's a Dell!

The question I asked myself almost three years ago, what new laptop to get, finally got resolved a few weeks ago. The old Thinkpad X230 still has not broken down, but I need to compile things at work more often nowadays, so a more modern machine made sense.

Thus, after some more agonizing, I bought a Dell Latitude 5401 with an Intel i7-9850H, 32Gb of RAM and a fast SSD. The not-tiny formfactor suits me well and I like the larger screen. Skipping the Microsoft-tax by ordering it with Ubuntu pre-installed is a plus. So far it does its job well enough and I do not regret the choice.

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Site Update

This site no longer runs on a small virtual server in some data center, but it just moved home. Literally home that is, it now runs from my old RaspberryPi3 that sits on top of my fridge. This became possible because we got fast internet into our cottage in the middle of the Swedish forest.

With government subsidies and spreading costs over the local association, getting connected cost us 1800 EUR in total, which is a steal because they had to dig an extra kilometer just to get to us. Yes, there is an acutal glass fiber running all the way into our kitchen and I could get 1GBit/s up and down, if I had the use for it.

I was shortly considering switching back to Wordpress here, but decided against it, even though there did not seem to be a performance problem on the RasPi. I might still do it eventually for the comments and easier posting from mobile, but I would have to write a script to insert the posts that I made in the meantime from the markdown files into the database, since the RSS-import of WP fails.

Caddy is no longer just a proxy for nginx to get automatic LetsEncrypt certificates, but it serves the files itself now and interfaces with fastcgi, among other things for my instance of TT-RSS that I use as my main news and blog aggregator.

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Religion vs Class?

I saw a claim on Twitter that made me think:

If you think it's crazy how much a child's life is affected by being born into a religion, wait until you hear about class!

(my translation from Swedish)

My first reaction was, No way! Religions are much more restrictive. But then again, I guess it depends very much on the context. Even in secular societies it can be hard to break out of a cultish religious context, but I won't deny that class might be more limiting for most. To make the same case for other places in the world, like women in the middle east and central asia, would be more difficult.

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