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39 things tagged “quotes”

On Masks

Bill Burr on The Joe Rogan Experience:

BURR: I don’t want to start this bullshit. I’m not gonna sit here with no medical degree, listening to you with no medical degree, with an American flag behind you smoking a cigar, acting like we know what’s up, better than the CDC. All I do, is I watch the news once every two weeks - I’m like, “Mask or no mask? Still mask? Alright, mask!” That’s all I give a fuck about. I don’t care. I just love how wearing a mask became like this fucking like soft thing that you were doing… like being courteous…”

ROGAN: It’s for bitches.

BURR: Why is it for bitches? That’s just so stupid.

ROGAN: (Fakes weak cough)

BURR: Oh God you’re so tough with your fucking open nose and throat and your five o’clock shadow. This is a man right here! A man doesn’t wear a mask.

Joe’s immediate response somehow reminded me of the “infantile phallocentric Nietzscheanism that is destroying modern human culture” from one of my favorite articles.

Getting Naticked

Rex Parker:

A long time ago, I was solving this puzzle and got stuck at an unguessable (to me) crossing: N. C. WYETH crossing NATICK at the “N” — I knew WYETH but forgot his initials, and NATICK… is a suburb of Boston that I had no hope of knowing. It was clued as someplace the Boston Marathon runs through (???). Anyway, NATICK — the more obscure name in that crossing — became shorthand for an unguessable cross, esp. where the cross involves two proper nouns, neither of which is exceedingly well known. NATICK took hold as crossword slang, and the term can now be both noun (“I had a NATICK in the SW corner…”) or verb (“I got NATICKED by 50A / 34D!”)

Here’s the Urban Dictionary entry. Learned that that “crosswordese” is a thing. Been doing the NYT Crosswords fairly regularly over the past few years and that page has a lot of useful, vowel-y ‘bridge’ words and phrases (e.g. AGRA, ESAU, ISAO, OMOO, DEUSIRAE.)

Always be leveraging

On tech culture’s obsession with quantifying and optimizing every single moment of one’s existence1:

I hate this framing. It is pressuring, dehumanizing as it contextualizes human endeavor in transactional terms, usually in a market.

I know this goes against the ethos of high-tech, but humans don’t have an imperative to be as productive as possible. They don’t have to make the most use of their time. They don’t have to get as efficient as they could. These are metrics that work fine for our machines, our code. But humans are not machines. Sure, we shepherd the machines, and sure sometimes we are in rivalrous dynamics that increasing efficiency has a payoff, but it is never the goal in itself.

The real “currency” we have, if we are using the term in the sense of denoting essentialness, is our humanness, our mortality, our psyches, our connection with other people and seemingly mundane but meaningful parts of our lives. I mean, look how many of us started baking their breads and enjoying it. It is not a wise use of the “currency of time”, but it is part of life very well spent, as our internal reward mechanisms have been telling us.

@acituan on HackerNews, commenting on this article

  1. With corroboration via sophomoric interpretations of stoicism and objectivism, all aimed at summoning this latent, dispassionate übermensch whose sole purpose is to “leverage” and deliver value. ↩︎

The Official Response

WOOLEY. What if the Prime Minister insists we help them?
SIR APPLEBY. Then we follow the four-stage strategy.
WOOLEY. What’s that?
SIR WHARTON. Standard Foreign Office response in a time of crisis.
SIR WHARTON. In stage one we say nothing is going to happen.
SIR APPLEBY. Stage two, we say something may be about to happen, but we should do nothing about it.
SIR WHARTON. In stage three, we say that maybe we should do something about it, but there’s nothing we can do.
SIR APPLEBY. Stage four, we say maybe there was something we could have done, but it’s too late now.

A political manual for the ages.

Gender Roles

Sofia Tolstoy, at 19, after the first of their thirteen children:

I am left alone morning, afternoon and night. I am to gratify his pleasure and nurse his child, I am a piece of household furniture. I am a woman. I try to suppress all human feelings. When the machine is working properly it heats the milk, knits a blanket, makes little requests and bustles about trying not to think — and life is tolerable. But the moment I am alone and allow myself to think, everything seems insufferable.

At 25:

I am so often alone with my thoughts that the need to write in my diary comes quite naturally […] Now I am well again and not pregnant — it terrifies me how often I have been in that condition. He said that for him being young meant “I can achieve anything.” For me […] reason tells me that there is nothing I either want or can do beyond nursing, eating, drinking, sleeping, and loving and caring for my husband and babies, all of which I know is happiness of a kind, but why do I feel so woeful all the time, and weep as I did yesterday? I am writing this now with the pleasantly exciting sense that nobody will ever read it, so I can be quite frank with myself […].

And:

I have served a genius for almost forty years. Hundreds of times I have felt my intellectual energy stir within me and all sorts of desires - a longing for education, a love of music and the art. And time and again I have crushed and smothered these longings. Everyone asks, “But why should a worthless woman like you need an intellectual or artistic life?” To this question I can only reply: “I don’t know, but eternally suppressing it to serve a genius is a great misfortune.”

Here’s more about her life and her diaries.

The Unborn

“The unborn” are a convenient group of people to advocate for. They never make demands of you; they are morally uncomplicated, unlike the incarcerated, addicted, or the chronically poor; they don’t resent your condescension or complain that you are not politically correct; unlike widows, they don’t ask you to question patriarchy; unlike orphans, they don’t need money, education, or childcare; unlike aliens, they don’t bring all that racial, cultural, and religious baggage that you dislike; they allow you to feel good about yourself without any work at creating or maintaining relationships; and when they are born, you can forget about them, because they cease to be unborn. It’s almost as if, by being born, they have died to you. You can love the unborn and advocate for them without substantially challenging your own wealth, power, or privilege, without re-imagining social structures, apologizing, or making reparations to anyone. They are, in short, the perfect people to love if you want to claim you love Jesus but actually dislike people who breathe.

Prisoners? Immigrants? The sick? The poor? Widows? Orphans? All the groups that are specifically mentioned in the Bible? They all get thrown under the bus for the unborn.

Dave Barnhardt, Methodist pastor

and

They’re all in favor of the unborn. They will do anything for the unborn. But once you’re born, you’re on your own. Pro-life conservatives are obsessed with the fetus from conception to nine months. After that, they don’t want to know about you. They don’t want to hear from you. No nothing. No neonatal care, no day care, no head start, no school lunch, no food stamps, no welfare, no nothing. If you’re preborn, you’re fine; if you’re preschool, you’re fucked.

– George Carlin, Back in Town

Process and Tooling

I thought using loops was cheating, so I programmed my own using samples. I then thought using samples was cheating, so I recorded real drums. I then thought that programming it was cheating, so I learned to play drums for real. I then thought using bought drums was cheating, so I learned to make my own. I then thought using premade skins was cheating, so I killed a goat and skinned it. I then thought that that was cheating too, so I grew my own goat from a baby goat. I also think that is cheating, but I’m not sure where to go from here. I haven’t made any music lately, what with the goat farming and all.

I’ve made this mistake all too often, especially when trying to learn something new.

Things that quote kinda reminds me of:

Richard Serra on Art

Q: Why make art? What do you find by doing it? What does it get you?

Serra: I always wanted an alternative existence. And by that I mean I wanted to do something where I could study my own sentiments and experiences. And I found that I can do that in relation to making things and making art in particular. And I did that since I was a kid it was a place I always could go to that I could concentrate and deal with the problems that I thought were of interest to me. And if I was clear enough about what it was that I was probing,
and stayed with the premise of I was probing, it was possible that it could also be clear to someone else, and it was important that it not be something that somebody else has done.

I think one of the things art does is that it asks you to perceive what it is on its own level […] I think works of art engage, possibly, an ‘internal memory bank’ that isn’t linear and it can make you see the outside reality in that way also.

That’s from a recording at the SF MoMA. I first heard of him after moving to Des Moines and seeing his “Five Plate Pentagon” at our beautiful sculpture park.


Image Source: DSM Public Art Foundation

Home

So, here you are
too foreign for home
too foreign for here.
Never enough for both.

Ijeoma Umebinyuo, Questions for Ada

and

Home is not where you are born; home is where all your attempts to escape cease.

Naguib Mahfouz

State, Coupling, Complexity, & Code

Dependencies (coupling) is an important concern to address, but it’s only 1 of 4 criteria that I consider and it’s not the most important one. I try to optimize my code around reducing state, coupling, complexity and code, in that order.

I’m willing to add increased coupling if it makes my code more stateless.

I’m willing to make it more complex if it reduces coupling.

And I’m willing to duplicate code if it makes the code less complex.

Only if it doesn’t increase state, coupling or complexity do I dedup code.

The reason I put stateless code as the highest priority is it’s the easiest to reason about. Stateless logic functions the same whether run normally, in parallel or distributed. It’s the easiest to test, since it requires very little setup code. And it’s the easiest to scale up, since you just run another copy of it. Once you introduce state, your life gets significantly harder.

I think the reason that novice programmers optimize around code reduction is that it’s the easiest of the 4 to spot. The other 3 are much more subtle and subjective and so will require greater experience to spot. But learning those priorities, in that order, has made me a significantly better developer.

crun1r on HackerNews (emphases and formatting mine.)

❣️


Jan 12 On “incidental duplication”:

I’ve usually heard this phenomenon called “incidental duplication”, and it’s something I find myself teaching junior engineers about quite often.

There are a lot of situations where 3-5 lines of many methods follow basically the same pattern, and it can be aggravating to look at. “Don’t repeat yourself!” Right?

So you try to extract that boilerplate into a method, and it’s fine until the very next change. Then you need to start passing options and configuration into your helper method… and before long your helper method is extremely difficult to reason about, because it’s actually handling a dozen cases that are superficially similar but full of important differences in the details.

I encourage my devs to follow a rule of thumb: don’t extract repetitive code right away, try and build the feature you’re working on with the duplication in place first. Let the code go through a few evolutions and waves of change. Then one of two things are likely to happen:

  1. you find that the code doesn’t look so repetitive anymore, or,
  2. you hit a bug where you needed to make the same change to the boilerplate in six places and you missed one.

In scenario 1, you can sigh and say “yeah it turned out to be incidental duplication, it’s not bothering me anymore.” In scenario 2, it’s probably time for a careful refactoring to pull out the bits that have proven to be identical (and, importantly, must be identical across all of the instances of the code).

burlesona on HackerNews (emphasis and formatting mine.)

Whatever. I say we continue to abstract away and make better and better hammer factories and beam at our sophistication in creating unnecessary complexity #jobsecurity

Data, Data, Data

Linus Torvalds on git

I’d also like to point out that unlike every single horror I’ve ever witnessed when looking closer at SCM products, git actually has a simple design, with stable and reasonably well-documented data structures. In fact, I’m a huge proponent of designing your code around the data, rather than the other way around, and I think it’s one of the reasons git has been fairly successful

[. . .]

I will, in fact, claim that the difference between a bad programmer and a good one is whether he considers his code or his data structures more important. Bad programmers worry about the code. Good programmers worry about data structures and their relationships.

Because God Can See

When I was little — and by the way, I was little once — my father told me a story about an 18th century watchmaker. And what this guy had done: he used to produce these fabulously beautiful watches.

And one day, one of his customers came into his workshop and asked him to clean the watch that he’d bought. And the guy took it apart, and one of the things he pulled out was one of the balance wheels. And as he did so, his customer noticed that on the back side of the balance wheel was an engraving, were words.

And he said to the guy, “Why have you put stuff on the back that no one will ever see?” And the watchmaker turned around and said, “God can see it.”

Now I’m not in the least bit religious, neither was my father, but at that point, I noticed something happening here. I felt something in this plexus of blood vessels and nerves, and there must be some muscles in there as well somewhere, I guess. But I felt something. And it was a physiological response. And from that point on, from my age at the time, I began to think of things in a different way. And as I took on my career as a designer, I began to ask myself the simple question: Do we actually think beauty, or do we feel it?

– Richard Seymour, How Beauty Feels

I want it to be as beautiful as possible, even if it’s inside the box. A great carpenter isn’t going to use lousy wood for the back of a cabinet, even though nobody’s going to see it. When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.

Steve Jobs

You did quite a bit more than the MVP for the fucking “sprint”, but you smile a lot and sleep quite well indeed. Excellence is a habit.

Saved here via Stephanie Harcrow’s post.

Love, Knowledge, and Compassion

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy – ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness – that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what – at last – I have found.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a hated burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

– Bertrand Russell, What I Have Lived For

Comedians and Comics

From an episode of My Next Guest with David Letterman:

Letterman: First of all, let’s define terms. Comedian and comic: used interchangeably but mean two different things.

Seinfeld: Kind of different, yeah. A comedian is a, to me, a full-fledged, not only a monologist, but someone who can really work a room, work a crowd and has a real act. A comic… that, I think, is a notch down. Wouldn’t you agree?

Letterman: Well, you’re assigning value to them.

Seinfeld: Yes.

Letterman: I thought they were two different pursuits. That a comedian was somebody who would be funny on stage, in a theatrical production, or in film, something like that, whereas a comic would be more like what you’ve made a career of.

Seinfeld: Oh, no, no, no. You’re talking about a comedic actor. Jackie Gleason was not a comic. He started out as a comic but he was a great comedic actor. Ten Danson is a great comedic actor, but he’s not a comedian. He has no act to do in Vegas. Which is the objective.

Letterman: So you’re saying that a comedian… but I don’t understand why there is a judgment assigned to being a comic.

Seinfeld: Just because we like judging others, that’s the reason.

Simpler Gmail

Michael Leggett, lead designer of Gmail from 2008-2012

“It’s like Lucky Charms got spewed all over the screen,” he says to me, as he scrolls through his inbox. It’s true. Folders, contacts, Google apps like Docs and Drive–and at least half a dozen notifications–all clutter Gmail at any given moment. And of course, there’s that massive Gmail logo that sits in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. Just in case you forgot that you just typed “gmail.com” into your browser bar three seconds ago. “Go look at any desktop app and tell me how many have a huge fucking logo in the top left,” rants Leggett. “C’mon. It’s pure ego, pure bullshit. Drop the logo. Give me a break.”

Fast Company, “The former lead designer of Gmail just fixed Gmail on his own”

So he made this plugin for Chrome and Firefox that cuts out all the terrible visual noise of Gmail. I’m never uninstalling this one.

And while I’m on the subject, who signed off on this disaster?

Because we all know that the only way to attact attention to a UI element is to adorn it with a big blue goddamn fucking tumor.

Chernobyl (2019) · IMDb · A+

On Post-Truth

What is the cost of lies? It’s not that we’ll mistake them for the truth. The real danger is that if we hear enough lies, then we no longer recognize the truth at all. What can we do then? What else is left but to abandon even the hope of truth and content ourselves instead with stories? In these stories, it doesn’t matter who the heroes are.

But it is still there. Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid. That is how an RBMK reactor core explodes. Lies.

To be a scientist is to be naive. We are so focused on our search for truth, we fail to consider how few actually want us to find it. But it is always there, whether we see it or not, whether we choose to or not. The truth doesn’t care about our needs or wants. It doesn’t care about our governments, our ideologies, our religions. It will lie in wait for all time. And this, at last, is the gift of Chernobyl.

Where I once would fear the cost of truth, now I only ask: What is the cost of lies?

And: What would happen were you to ingest a grain-sized piece of the Reactor No. 4’s core today:

If you ate this fuel chip, not much of it would likely dissolve in your gut; the matrix is UO2, and U(IV) Oxide is poorly soluble even in the acid environment of the gut. But let’s say it did dissolve completely and got metabolized. You’d be committing yourself to about 20 mSv (2 rem) from Cs-137, and probably a similar dose from Sr-90. Basically, if you were a radiation worker in the USA, your annual dose limit of 5 rem would be met. In many countries and facilities, you would exceed annual allowances.

Penny Flip Tip

Whenever you’re called on to make up your mind,

   and you’re hampered by not having any,

the best way to solve the dilemma, you’ll find,

   is simply by spinning a penny.

No—not so that chance shall decide the affair

   while you’re passively standing there moping;

but the moment the penny is up in the air,

   you suddenly know what you’re hoping.

Persi Diaconis, The Problem of Thinking Too
Much

Scaling Mountains

Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and
without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the
speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow
down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and
exhaustion. Then, when you’re no longer thinking ahead, each footstep
isn’t just a means to an end but a unique event in itself. This leaf has
jagged edges. This rock looks loose. From this place the snow is less
visible, even though closer. These are things you should notice anyway.
To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the
mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here’s where things grow.

– Robert M. Pirsig, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

via BG

It Will Be Okay

It seemed to me that the house would collapse before I could escape, that the heavens would fall upon my head. But nothing happened. The heavens do not fall for such a trifle.

– Conrad, Heart of Darkness (taken completely out of context…)

Alan Kay on OOP

OOP to me means only messaging, local retention and protection and hiding of state-process, and extreme late-binding of all things. It can be done in Smalltalk and in LISP. There are possibly other systems in which this is possible, but I’m not aware of them.

Dr. Alan Kay on the Meaning of “Object-Oriented Programming”

So… Erlang? (RIP Joe Armstrong 🙏) And that was before this

(I’m not against types, but I don’t know of any type systems that aren’t a complete pain, so I still like dynamic typing.)

Indeed, Dr. Kay.

Rōshi Shopsin

A few favorites from a selection of Kenny Shopsin’s infinite wisdom. He ran this diner (which doesn’t really sound like one…)

On ambition

It’s just an initiation into the idea until the abilities to appreciate life forthe moments in a row starts to make you a deeper and more fulfilled person, and the energy you put towards pursuing the goals … it starts out obsessive.

The point of goals

My stupid goal: I’ve risen above that and I don’t need a goal, I’m just stupid. I just float free, knowing that after you’ve pursued a stupid goal for a long time, even if you understand it’s not important, you understand it’s a device to help you overcome the absurdity of life.

Social Media (article lists this as “on getting involved”)

[One] modern phenomenon is that people have begun to savor their spectatorship rather than being involved. They don’t want to be a part of it, or if they do, they don’t know how. They construct an artificial wall between reality and themselves — and they don’t cross it.

And on life

The only way to not be crushed by the stupidity of life is to pursue something energetically and gain as much satisfaction as you can before it gets stupid — and just ignore the fact that it’s stupid. The whole thing is shitty. You’re gonna fucking die.

It's Never Finished

I think my job doesn’t have an end goal. Words like “finished” or “complete” don’t exist. We do our best with today’s menu and entertain our guests. That’s all for today, it’s repetition.

– Chef Nozumu Abe, Sushi Noz

Numbering from Zero

Dijkstra on why numbering should start from zero.

Numbering is done with natural numbers. Let’s take zero to be the smallest natural number1. For the sequence (2, 3, 4, … ,12), using the convention (2 ≤ n < 13) is appropriate because

  • For a sequence starting with zero, like (0, 1, 2, 3), the left hand condition leaks into unnatural numbers if you use “less than”: (-1 < n).
  • For an empty sequence, the right hand also leaks into the unnatural if you use “less than or equal to”: (n ≤ 0)

And minorly, because these are the true of another convention (1 < n ≤ 12)

  • Difference between bounds (13 - 2 = 11) is the length of the sequence
  • I know that these two sequences are adjacent: (2 ≤ n < 13) and (13 ≤ n < 24)

All that’s prep for:

When dealing with a sequence of length N, the elements of which we wish to distinguish by subscript, the next vexing question is what subscript value to assign to its starting element. Adhering to convention a) yields, when starting with subscript 1, the subscript range 1 ≤ i < N+1; starting with 0, however, gives the nicer range 0 ≤ i < N. So let us let our ordinals start at zero: an element’s ordinal (subscript) equals the number of elements preceding it in the sequence. And the moral of the story is that we had better regard – after all those centuries!2 – zero as a most natural number.

There’s also this little nugget

I think Antony Jay is right when he states: “In corporate religions as in others, the heretic must be cast out not because of the probability that he is wrong but because of the possibility that he is right.”

  1. TIL that this can be so. ↩︎

  2. Don’t know what he means here… ↩︎

The Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect

You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward-reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story-and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I’d point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all.

But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn’t. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.

via.

Okay, but a paper can publish an article on Gravitational Waves authored by someone with a background in Physics on the same day as an article on makeup in the movies by a veteran showbiz reporter. Maybe I’m cherrypicking and he’s talking about the average overall quality. That being said, I do know that I wouldn’t have any MGM amnesia after reading, say, the The National Enquirer’s offerings on either topic.

The Bullshit Asymmetry Principle

The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.

Lawdamercy

Apu

From Soutik Biswas’, “The Simpsons: Not all Indians think Apu is a racist stereotype

“As I see it, there are two primary products that second generation Indian American comedians sell - the ridiculousness of their parents’ ‘culture’ (arranged marriage and ‘my son, the doctor’ are the commonest tropes); and the racism of white Americans,” Professor Chakravorty, who teaches at Temple University in Pennsylvania, told me in an email interview .

“It is not hard to see why these two lowest hanging fruits are plucked all the time. This is very standard fare. Apu is also very standard fare. What Kondabulu has done is nothing new. He picked almost the most identifiable Indian project possible in the US. And he plugged into the market for identity-based outrage.”

and

“I like Apu, in fact I love him. He has a PhD in computer science, but enjoys running his store, he is a valued citizen of Springfield, a ladies man and adores cricket and is funny,” Sidharth Bhatia, Mumbai-based founder-editor of The Wire, told me.

“It reflects true American diversity. The controversy about the stereotyping is classist snobbery - Indians in America don’t want to be reminded of a certain kind of immigrant from their country - the shop keepers, the taxi drivers, the burger flippers,” says Mr Bhatia.

“They would rather project only Silicon Valley successes, the Wall Street players and the Ivy League products, with the proper accents, people they meet for dinner - by itself a stereotype. The millions of Apus in America, the salt-of-the-earth types, with their less ‘posh’ accents, are an inconvenience to that self-image of this small group of Indian-Americans.”

Bingo.

His accent apart, Apu is a Midwestern pillar. Would the critics really have him speak like the other characters in the show, as if to say you’re not American unless you sound like someone from Des Moines? Are all caricatured accents racist? Should we ban “foreigners” from comedy shows altogether?

Naturally not—because we wouldn’t, then, have Apu. And can you really imagine America without him?

– Tunku Varadarajan, [Leave Apu Alone – He’s a Great American](Leave Apu Alone—He’s a Great American)

To quote Lewis Black entirely out of context: on a list of priorities, this “is on page six after ‘Are we eating too much garlic as a people?’”

The Wrong Person

We need to swap the Romantic view for a tragic (and at points comedic) awareness that every human will frustrate, anger, annoy, madden and disappoint us — and we will (without any malice) do the same to them. There can be no end to our sense of emptiness and incompleteness. But none of this is unusual or grounds for divorce. Choosing whom to commit ourselves to is merely a case of identifying which particular variety of suffering we would most like to sacrifice ourselves for.

and

The person who is best suited to us is not the person who shares our every taste (he or she doesn’t exist), but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently — the person who is good at disagreement. Rather than some notional idea of perfect complementarity, it is the capacity to tolerate differences with generosity that is the true marker of the “not overly wrong” person. Compatibility is an achievement of love; it must not be its precondition.

– Alain de Botton, Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person

It's what they do at Google

In addition, engineers have commoditized many technical solutions that used to be challenging in the past 15 years. Scaling used to be a tough challenge, not any more for many companies. In fact, part of my daily job is to prevent passionate engineers from reinventing wheels in the name of achieving scalability. It’s not because we don’t need to solve scalability problems, but because the infrastructure is good enough for most of companies. Building and operating so called “big data platform” used to be hard, not that hard any more. Building machine learning pipeline used to be hard, not that hard any more for many companies. Of course, it’s still challenging to build a highly flexible and automated machine learning pipeline with full support of closed feedback loop, but many companies can get by without that level of maturity.

– via Hacker News (emphasis mine)

A Frenchwoman in America

SM, reminiscing

I was 15 when I first came to the United States. Detroit. There was nothing worth eating in Detroit. Except fudge. And White Castle. And Cheetos.

Brown Problems

From an old (2010) interview with Anand Wilder of Yeasayer

PP: What do you think of South Asian artists who have also broken into indie/mainstream music success, like Natasha Khan (Bat for Lashes), M.I.A., and yourself? Is there a different responsibility or consciousness involved with being South Asian and a musician in an industry environment where there are so few?

AW: [. . .] The problems facing Indians in America are what? Parents pressuring their kids to become professionals, parents valuing academics over social lives, parents pressuring their kids to marry. When you think about it in the grand scheme of things, these problems are really not that bad! I’m pretty sure Indians are America’s wealthiest ethnic group1 – I think if I was fully Indian, statistically I’d be a richer man! At least more educated. So the only thing holding us back from being in the spotlight is ourselves. Sure there’s probably some institutional racism out there, but I’ve been around the world, and there’s no place as open as America. Europe is an ass-backward, old school place. Everyone who wanted to do something new and interesting with their lives left Europe for America at one time or another. Don’t let all that supposed progressiveness fool you, they’re xenophobic as hell. And I love to visit India, but come on – it is a dusty, corrupt, and chaotic country, with an even more despicable gap between the rich and poor than America’s. Did I mention the dust?!

I embrace being different from your average white musician. That’s part of what I love about my band; we all have different personalities or backgrounds and we try to throw them all into the mix to create something new and interesting sounding. If I can be onstage and inspire some brown kid out there to pursue something artistic, something other than being a doctor or engineer, then I’m doing a good job. And if they want be a doctor or an engineer, good for them! Less competition for me.

Happy Popper

I slipped in a final question: Why in his autobiography did Popper say that he is the happiest philosopher he knows? “Most philosophers are really deeply depressed,” he replied, “because they can’t produce anything worthwhile.” Looking pleased with himself, Popper glanced over at Mrs. Mew, who wore an expression of horror. Popper’s smile faded. “It would be better not to write that,” he said to me. “I have enough enemies, and I better not answer them in this way.” He stewed a moment and added, “But it is so.”

– John Horgan, The Paradox of Karl Popper

Stupidity vs Expertise

There are some things that can beat smartness and foresight? Awkwardness and stupidity can. The best swordsman in the world doesn’t need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn’t do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn’t prepared for him; he does the thing he ought not to do; and often it catches the expert out and ends him on the spot.

– Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

Desperation

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via @thebarrytone

Linux and Switching

The problem isn’t CPU power. The CPU on any modern PC is going to blow away the processing power of any sort of network switch you’d care to buy except the really high-end ones. (Really high end. So high end that unless you already know them by name you are not going to want to buy them)

Offloading to the GPU would make things worse, not better.

The problem is latency. It takes time for the PC to take the buffer from the NIC, copy it to the to the main memory, process it on the CPU, copy it back down into a buffer, and then push it out to the network. All this copying around takes time. You could have a 30000 GHZ processor and it’s not going to help you out any.

No amount of programming or GPU offloading is going to make your I/O faster or have less latency. This needs to be done in the hardware. PCs are not designed to handle this. They are designed to have huge cache’s were you take a huge amount of data and process it through loops. This is exactly the sort of thing you do NOT want on a switch.

With a switch you want small buffers. You want small buffers optimized to the speed of the networks they are connected to and have the ability to shuffle information from one port to another. You want to get the information in and out as quickly as possible.

That being said I have no doubt that a Linux switch based on commodity hardware would have no problem keeping up with a 1Gb/s or even 10Gb/s network and having performance similar to any typical corporate switch.

The problem then is one of cost, energy, and space. A network switch takes up almost no room on a rack. It uses little electricity and creates little heat compared to a PC-style corporate Linux server. It has lots and lots of ports.

To create a Linux commodity-based switch with 20 or 40 ports the thing is going to be huge, expensive, and hot.

So yes while it can be done it’s not practical.

On using a Linux box as a switch.

Child Endangerment

A mother in suburban Chicago breathes a huge sigh of relief this week, as she was reunited with her 8-year-old son Kevin, who was accidentally left at home alone as the family went on vacation to Paris. Apparently no one had noticed the boy was missing on their drive to the airport and through airport security and while boarding the plane.

Only once when they were in flight did the mother sense that a cherished family member may not have been present. She then shrieked, Kevin. She would rush home where she, along with police, found the boy unharmed physically, though he may deal with abandonment issues for years to come.

In addition to the boy, the police also found two career criminals who appeared to have suffered great bodily damage while attempting to rob the house. One man had been shot in the groin with a BB gun and had his hands severely burned by a hot doorknob. The other man had a nail and pieces of glass Christmas ornaments lodged in his foot. Both men also miraculously survived being hit in the head with a paint can that was apparently swung from a rope at high speeds, something which would normally crush a human skull.

Child Protective Services say they will not remove the child from the family since they believe it to be only a one-time occurrence, and certainly not something that could happen again the next year.

– Hari Kondabolu on Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!

Telling People Things

What’s going on is that without some kind of direct experience to use as a touchstone, people don’t have the context that gives them a place in their minds to put the things you are telling them. The things you say often don’t stick, and the few things that do stick are often distorted. Also, most people aren’t very good at visualizing hypotheticals, at imagining what something they haven’t experienced might be like, or even what something they have experienced might be like if it were somewhat different.

and

When people ask me about my life’s ambitions, I often joke that my goal is to become independently wealthy so that I can afford to get some work done. Mainly that’s about being able to do things without having to explain them first, so that the finished product can be the explanation. I think this will be a major labor saving improvement.

Chip Morningstar, “You can’t tell people anything

Orwell

When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases – bestial atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder – one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker’s spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favorable to political conformity.

– George Orwell, “Politics and The English Language

Oliver Burkeman on Hasty, Short-Term Thinking

It is alarming to consider how many major life decisions we take primarily in order to minimise present-moment emotional discomfort. Try the following potentially mortifying exercise in self-examination. Consider any significant decision you’ve ever taken that you subsequently came to regret: a relationship you entered despite being dimly aware that it wasn’t for you, or a job you accepted even though, looking back, it’s clear that it was mismatched to your interests or abilities. If it felt like a difficult decision at the time, then it’s likely that, prior to taking it, you felt the gut-knotting ache of uncertainty; afterwards, having made a decision, did those feelings subside? If so, this points to the troubling possibility that your primary motivation in taking the decision wasn’t any rational consideration of its rightness for you, but simply the urgent need to get rid of your feelings of uncertainty.

– Oliver Burkeman, “The Antidote

Freeman Dyson on Richard Feynman

When we arrived we were introduced to Henry Bethe, who is now five years old, but he was not at all impressed. The only thing he would say was “I want Dick. You told me Dick was coming,” and finally he had to be sent off to bed, since Dick (alias Feynman) did not materialise. About half an hour later, Feynman burst into the room, just had time to say “so sorry I’m late. Had a brilliant idea just as I was coming over,” and then dashed upstairs to console Henry. Conversation then ceased while the company listened to the joyful sounds above, sometimes taking the form of a duet and sometimes of a one-man percussion band.

and

In the evening I mentioned that there were just two problems for which the finiteness of the theory remained to be established; both problems are well-known and feared by physicists, since many long and difficult papers running to fifty pages and more have been written about them, trying unsuccessfully to make the older theories give sensible answers to them. When I mentioned this fact, Feynman said, “We’ll see about this,” and proceeded to sit down and in two hours, before our eyes, obtain finite and sensible answers to both problems. It was the most amazing piece of lightning calculation I have ever witnessed, and the results prove, apart from some unforeseen complication, the consistency of the whole theory.

– Freeman Dyson, “Maker of Patterns” (via Nautilus)