Brandon's Notepad

April 7, 2020

April 7, 2020: COVID-19 Dashboards, SafeYouTube

COVID-19 Dashboards

I doubt that anyone reading this is unaware of the current COVID-19 pandemic and the effect it has had on the world over the past few months. I really didn’t want to blog about it at all, but it’s really hard to ignore, so here we are. The following are a couple of dashboards I’ve been using to monitor the spread of the disease. – This has been my go-to dashboard from the beginning of the pandemic. It was created by a very enterprising high school student in Washington State by the name of Avi Schiffmann. I like it because it looks nice on mobile and breaks down the statistics not only by country/region, but also by State (so I can keep an eye on Texas, of course). There is also a recovery and fatality rate shown for each section, which I think were added recently. – This site has a lot of graphs to play with. You can look at growth by state, projected mortality rates, all sorts of stuff. And on many charts, you can highlight specific states and see how they are faring against the national average. The “Deaths per Capita” is the chart I’ve been watching the closest.


Distance education is a new and interesting challenge, as many parents around the world are now discovering, especially when there is a variety of solutions and technologies being utilized with little or no consistency. Instructional videos have been my biggest peeve so far. Some teachers upload MOV files directly from their phones to Google Classroom, but most upload them to YouTube…which, unfortunately, we block as part of our parental-control regimen. He had to loosen controls for a while and hope for the best.

Thankfully, one of the teachers started publishing links to her videos using The great news is that anyone can generate links, even parents. Just visit the site and paste the URL to any YouTube video and a new link will be generated for you. Not only does the new page exclude all of the excess page elements, like search capabilities, related/suggested videos and comments, but the viewer doesn’t get blocked (at least not with our setup, but I cannot guarantee it will work perfectly for everyone without some additional configuration).

I had been toying with the idea of writing some sort of proxy server that would cache requested videos and present them in a similar fashion, but now there’s no need. The site has an API too, so I may end up creating a self-service function that will save me from having to generate links by hand. They will only be able to generate links using YouTube URLs they already have.

Sharing & Feedback

I have found the resources covered in this post to be incredibly helpful, so please, share this post with your friends. If you have questions or comments about the items above, please leave them in the comment section below or feel free to send them to me via Twitter (@brandonsnotepad). Thanks!

November 2, 2010

Yerba Mate

Back to My Lists

I like coffe and I like tea, but I’ve discovered something just a little different in the health food section of the local grocery store. It’s a tea-like drink called Yerba Mate (‘mah-tay). It’s a product of South America, though it is commonly consumed in Syria and Lebabon as well. There is a traditional ceremony surrounding this drink, and while it is most often made in and drunk from a special vessel (a hollowed gourd) using a filtered metal straw (bombilla/bomba/masassa), it can readily be steeped in a french press or using teabags instead. The mate must first be soaked in cold water to retain its health benefits and then steeped in hot (but not boiling) water. Just so you know, if you like tea then Yerba Mate is not at all gross, though the color may make you think twice about taking that first sip.

General Information

Wikipedia: Yerba maté
Wikipedia: Maté

Health Benefits & Risks

Strong claims are made regarding the health benefits of Yerba Mate. It provides a sense of well-being, aids weight loss, reduces the risk of certain cancers, improves cholesterol levels, yada, yada, yada. Pages of these claims are readily available on manufacturer websites (e.g. Guayaki, Nativa) and elsewhere. If you don’t like the tea, Yerba Mate extract is available at health food stores.

Despite the cancer-prevention claim, there is a concern that Yerba Mate actually increases the risk of some other cancers, particularly cancers of the esophagus, mouth, bladder, lungs, and others; however, most references to this on the Web agree that the serving temperature may be the source of this risk, and not the plant itself. Steeping time (strength of the tea) may also be a factor, and at least one site stated that the smoking process used to dry the leaves is the likely culprit, in which case, my backyard barbeque is probably more lethal than the Mate. Of course, there were the common disclaimers that only heavy drinkers are at risk and that additional research is needed before definite correlations can be drawn. To compare, green tea can apparently also increase cancer risks due to serving temperature and cause kidney and liver damage if consumed in excess.


As mentioned in the synopsis above, this mate is traditionally prepared in a hollowed gourd and sipped through a filtered metal straw. Alternatively, it can be steeped in a french coffee press or using tea bags. It is commonly recommended to saturate the leaves in cold water initially, and then add hot (but never boiling) water.

I use a french press and personally find the sediment in the bottom of my cup to be quite unappealing. To solve this problem, I sift the loose leaf mate in a common kitchen strainer/filter that has a mesh less-fine than the one in the french press. I now steep only the leaves (hoja) and stems (palo) in the french press and save the powder (polvo) for later use in either tea bags or a cup-top coffee maker that uses paper filters.


Confessions of a Reluctant Yerba Mate Drinker [by William I. Lengeman III,]
Yerba Mate, The History of this Dietary Aid


Guayaki [common in USA; retail stores]
Cruz de Malta


There’s been mention of the affordability of Yerba Mate, particularly in the U.S. Just for reference, at the time of this writing (November 2010), a 227g bag of Guayaki costs between $5 and $6 at the local Kroger store, or approximately $22 to $26 per kilo. At the same time, a 500g bag of Cruz de Malta is available online for $4.99 ( to $5.50 (Amazon) or about $10 per kilo. A local Argentine bakery carries a 1kg bag for $4.99. There is no difference between these product and none of these prices include shipping or sales tax. In other words, shop around for the best price, which may not be online.

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