QZ qz thoughts
a blog from Eli the Bearded
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Covid-19, Day 135

Today's numbers: New York State has 345,045 reported cases and 26,981 deaths. California has 71,051 cases. US overall 1,375,542 cases and 82,030 deaths. World wide infections are at 4,280,000 and deaths stand at 290,370. It is still widely believed all of these numbers are undercounts due to testing shortages and delays. In particular, the US is leading the world in cases and still hasn't gotten a handle on testing.

I hear (well, read) lots of speculation that Trump has stopped caring about the death and destruction. Rich people can better isolate themselves and pay for treatment, so it's only poor people seriously affected. Force them back to work so people who run businesses and people who invest can get back to making money. It's easy to believe he's that callous and self-centered based on his frequent public speaking in which he denies any responsibility and lazily tries to blame others.

The Supreme Court is back in session, but now with all remote cases. Just today they heard arguments in a group of cases all trying to get access to his tax records. His being Trump's. The cases involve, eg, New York State having subpeonaed his accounting firm to investigate tax fraud with the Trump Foundation, his dubious charity.

I have been cautiously going back in stores and getting takeout food again, but am still getting the bulk of the shopping done by services. Several restaurants have switched over to repacking restaurant sized ingredients for consumers and selling that. Buy through their website then pickup at the door.

store sign demanding people wear masks

Around here, mask wearing is done by the majority of people most of the time. San Francisco requires shoppers to wear masks, and compliance has been good. Other parts of the country are not like this.

Overall the differences from last year's normal are less jarring day by day. Some people have been complaining that it's hard to tell Monday from Tuesday from Saturday from Wednesday and are still counting days, at least humorously, in March. May 12th is March 73rd. I'm not having that trouble. I have noticed wildlife in the city seems different. Pigeons seem scarce and song birds seem louder. Last week I heard coyotes. A first for this neighborhood, where there are no wooded parks for them to live in. It's not all bad.

May Updates

A bunch of things of small changes this first week of May.

  1. The qzpostfilt tool has a bug fix with inline <code> and a new close & open paragraph operator: .pp
  2. The is a search box on the blog to run tag searches
  3. The aaa_tags and paginateqz plugins have slight changes to make search results and later pages marked as such
  4. There are flavour template and css changes to go with that
  5. I have finished going through all old blog posts and fixing the easily fixable links.
  6. I have gone through all the old blog posts and fixed non-UTF-8 characters and title formatting.


Landfill: Notes on Gull Watching and Trashpicking in the Anthropocene by Tim Dee. Copyright 2018, first printing February 2019.

I've read a bit about garbage, most recently Waste and Want by Susan Strasser (1999, but apparently used as a textbook, so easy to find new), so I thought this might be good to get some fresher information. The title, and subtitle, certainly pulled me in.

No. This is a British author writing a lot about his personal experiences, often as a reporter following more serious bird watchers than him. There are, it seems, a fair amount of bird watchers who specialize in watching sea gulls. In many cases these people hang around landfills and transfer stations because the gulls like the easy pickings.

Every chapter is essentially a self-contained essay with at least some tangential connection to gulls. There's one that compares and contrasts Hitchcock's The Birds to the original short story, with some attention devoted to the gulls in each for example. It's not what I wanted, but it's not a bad book.

When I found this in a bookstore (the famous "City Lights Books" in San Francisco, which I was visiting with some out-of-town house guests), I was drawn to the title and picked it up to read a couple of pages from inside. I happened upon chapter eight "London Labour and London Poor". This is one of the least gull-ish chapters, but also one of the most interesting to my tastes.

That chapter is about Henry Mayhew's three volume 1851 (based on 1840s work writing a newspaper column; volume four came out 1862) London Labour and the London Poor (at Wikipdia and volume 1 at Gutenberg, volume 2 at Gutenberg, volume 3 at Gutenberg, but apparently no volume four). Mayhew interviewed and wrote about the most marginal people of the time. The excerpt that made me buy the book:

Trash has a deep and determing place in Mayhew's cosmology. Waste management, in its widest sense, is vital to the story. This begins with the lowest class (Mayhew calls them low but was clearly sympathethetic to such people). The endeavoured to eke out scraps for a penny or two from what others had decided was useless. Contemplating suc lives and such labour makes Mayhew ask big questions. When do objects — or people — cease to have value?

There are dustment in Mayhew — men in the vanguard of professional waste collection. But they were far outnumbered by informal rubbish collectors. On these people Mayhew performs a kind of rescue anthropology. He describes them as if they were members of a ramshackle federation:

  • Bone gubbers and rag-gatherers
  • Pure-finders
  • Cigar-end finders
  • Old wood gatherers
  • Dredgers, or river finders
  • Sewer-hunters
  • Mudlarks
  • Dustmen, nightmen, sweeps, and scavengers

"Pure" is dog shit. Its name alone indicates our classificatory anxiety about its status. It was sold to tanneries, where it was used to cleanse and purify leather. In London, 200 to 300 men were "engaged solely in this business." A covered basket and a glove were required, though many dispensed with the glove, "as they say it is much easier to wash their hands than to keep the glove fit for use." There were even those who worked fakes and passed "mortar" off as pure.

That's great reading. The connection to gulls for this chapter? How the presence of so many and so varied human trash pickers squeezed the gulls out of the easy trash-pickings niche.

Cherry Picking

One thing I have seen time and time again is people using two different branches of code for staging and production and then letting those branches slowly drift further and further apart.

I can fully understand staging should exist for testing stuff before you put it in production, but there should be a steady march of stuff that goes into staging and then maybe a few pieces get backed out, then all of staging syncs to production. Without the regular sync-ups, staging ceases to be an effective place to test things because it's not production + just these small changes but instead it's kinda like production but it has that, this, and some other differences.

But sometimes you have to deal with the hand you're dealt and can't ask for a reshuffle. Which brings us to git cherry-pick.

xkcd 1596

If that doesn't fix it, git.txt contains the phone number of a friend of mine who understands git. Just wait through a few minutes of "It's really pretty simple, just think of branches as..." and eventually you'll learn the commands that will fix everything.

I understand the "graph view" of git quite well. I still find the command line view of git to be a PITA. But it's a truism that people explaining Git get caught up that graph. Here's a page that came up in the first page of search results for git cherry-pick and provides a perfect example.

Once executed our Git history will look like:
    a - b - c - d - f   Master
           e - f - g Feature

Yes, but how do I actually use git cherry-pick?

So with the background that my current most common environment has an "upstream" that represents the real (in-use) repo, a personal fork called "origin" (author dev), and a main (staging) branch of "master" and a production branch of "prod", here's a workable example of using cherry picking.

# If you have the same sort of setup, but haven't yet added prod
# locally, start with:
git checkout --track origin/prod

# Now switch to the prod branch
git checkout prod

# Make this current prod branch match the upstream prod.
# The rebase will discard your local prod history, but presumably
# the upstream prod history is what really matters
git pull --rebase upstream prod

# Now find some commit IDs that are in master but not prod
# and filter those with grep (the grep is optional, but may
# be very helpful). "master" here is a branch you've actually
# commited stuff to, and tested those commits there.
git cherry -v prod master | grep commit-description

# Armed with commits you want to apply, create a branch off
# your current prod to apply those
git branch -c PROD-CHERRYPICK

# Then use "git cherry-pick" to apply the commits to prod.
# If the diffs can be applied cleanly, this will completely
# "commit" the differences. If there are conflicts, you'll
# need to manually edit the files and select which set of
# changes are correct.
git cherry-pick commithash

# Changes applied, you can push that branch of prod to origin
# and make a pull request for origin PROD-CHERRYPICK to
# upstream prod
git push -u origin PROD-CHERRYPICK

Your workflow might not involve branching your origin "prod" for the changes, but it's a little cleaner and allows you to put a meaningful name on the branch. At $WORK, those meaningful names are by convention the Jira ticket names. It's a little awkward because I'll have a branch for PROJECT-NNN, apply that to master, then have to delete that branch and create a new one for my prod changes. The policy exists for the benefit of the computer code tracking my work, though. And poor simple computers are not great at subtly, so that's that.