How I Became ‘Rich’
During a rare opportunity to vacation in Hawai’i, Stacy Torres is forced to confront her status as better off than where she came from.
Human interest story on someone growing up, finally having some money to take a vacation, and how they felt being able to do that while their family never could.
Worth reading to recognize our privilege and how we're all so different.
"I’ve attained some privilege. I don’t punch a clock like my dad; I work in my pajamas some days and get paid to read, write, think, and teach. I can afford a cappuccino once in a while."Posted on 2019-06-30T17:31:45+0000
Interns’ Job Prospects Constrained by Noncompete Agreements
Internships have long been an opportunity for inexperienced workers to try out different industries and build valuable contacts.
I don’t understand the need for non-competes for interns. Can someone please enlighten me?
““The idea of noncompetes for interns is ludicrous,” said Terri Gerstein, a Harvard University academic who previously served in the New York attorney general’s office. “Internships are supposed to be for educational and professional development, and are about expanding—not limiting—job opportunities.” She said it is unlikely intern noncompete agreements would be upheld in court in most states.”Posted on 2019-06-29T20:58:05+0000
Google’s new reCAPTCHA has a dark side
The latest version of the bot detector reCaptcha is invisible to users and has spread to more than 650,000 websites. It’s great for security—but not so great for your privacy.
Discusses classic security versus privacy tradeoffs in the context of the new recaptcha mechanism.
Oh and also usability! Since "legitimate" users often have to do less here.
"Google encouraging site admins to put reCaptcha all over their sites, and then sharing the resulting risk scores with those admins is great for security, Perona thinks, because he says it “gives site owners more control and visibility over what’s going on” with potential scammer and bot attacks, and the system will give admins more accurate scores than if reCaptcha is only using data from a single webpage to analyze user behavior. But there’s the trade-off. “It makes sense and makes it more user-friendly, but it also gives Google more data,” he says. Google would not clarify what it does with the data it captures about user behavior via reCaptcha, only that it is used for improving reCaptcha and general security purposes."Posted on 2019-06-28T14:00:49+0000
The BS-Industrial Complex of Phony A.I.
How hyping A.I. enriched investors, fooled the media, and confused the hell out of the rest of us
This was an ad / marketing piece for a company cleverly disguised as an article about AI. I'm usually against that stuff but if you skip the ad (at the end!) the author has made some good points about the AI hype, how we got there, and how we can fix it.
"In this way, Dynamic Yield is part of a generation of companies whose core technology, while extremely useful, is powered by artificial intelligence that is roughly as good as a 24-year-old analyst at Goldman Sachs with a big dataset and a few lines of Adderall. For the last few years, startups have shamelessly re-branded rudimentary machine-learning algorithms as the dawn of the singularity, aided by investors and analysts who have a vested interest in building up the hype. Welcome to the artificial intelligence bullshit-industrial complex."Posted on 2019-06-26T17:07:51+0000
How Verizon and a BGP Optimizer Knocked Large Parts of the Internet Offline Today
Today at 10:30UTC, the Internet had a small heart attack. A small company in Northern Pennsylvania became a preferred path of many Internet routes through Verizon (AS701), a major Internet transit provider.
Interesting read on the internet outage yesterday - full of technical details and a really accessible explanation of what happened. It also contains good explanations for preventative measures ISPs can take.
Also full of Cloudflare throwing *lots* of shade on Verizon. I'm impressed that this came out in ~8 hours, that legal signed off, and that Verizon haven't pushed back yet.
"IRR filtering would not have increased Verizon's costs or limited their service in any way. Again, the only explanation we can conceive of why it wasn't in place is sloppiness or laziness."
"All of the above suggestions are nicely condensed into MANRS (Mutually Agreed Norms for Routing Security)"Posted on 2019-06-25T15:59:52+0000
Startup idea checklist
I’ve been tinkering with different startup ideas and needed a good checklist to think through them. There are great templates for this already: The YC application, Amazon’s internal press release, and Sequoia’s Writing a Business Plan. I found myself mixing and tweaking these templates because...
Really good checklist for filtering product ideas.
“I use this list both to develop ideas and filter them. If you adopt it, be careful about using it as a filter. Remember that in the early stages, good ideas are very easy to kill.”Posted on 2019-06-23T22:48:41+0000
Learning to build distributed systems - Marc's Blog
A common question I get at work is "how do I learn to build big distributed systems?". I've written replies to that many times. Here's my latest attempt.
Interesting overview on the theory and practice of building distributed systems from an expert in the field.
Worth taking note of.
“If you're lucky enough to be able to, find yourself a position on a team, at a company, or in a lab that owns something big. I think the Amazon pattern of having the same team build and operate systems is ideal for learning. If you can, carry a pager. Be accountable to your team and your customers that the stuff you build works. Reality cannot be fooled.”Posted on 2019-06-23T03:11:14+0000
This Japanese Company Charges Its Staff $100 an Hour to Use Conference Rooms
Everything has a price, which helps keep workers focused on the bottom line.
This approach seems absolutely dystopian and right out of Black Mirror - it doesn’t stop at my initial thought (reducing meetings); but focuses on gamifying and putting a dollar value to everything done at work.
I wouldn’t want to work here, but hey, the results seem to be indisputable.
“The approach has so far paid off. Disco’s operating margin has risen to 26% from 16% since the experiment was implemented eight years ago, and its profitability is the envy of the industry. Its share price has almost quadrupled in that period, to roughly 16,000 yen ($148), giving the company a $5 billion market value. Thanks to bonuses, worker pay is more than double the national average of 4.7 million yen, and in 2017, Disco was the first to win a new government award for creating an ideal workplace.”Posted on 2019-06-23T03:05:35+0000
The Revenge of the Poverty-Stricken College Professors
“Two half-time adjunct jobs do not make a full-time income. Far from it,” Ximena Barrientos says. “I’m lucky that I have my own apartment. I have no idea how people make it work if they have to pay rent.”
This was so sad and heart breaking. I was aware of the plights of the adjuncts in the US (and worldwide) but didn’t realize it was this bad. I’m glad they are unionizing.
There are so many quotes in there I’d like to cherry pick but I figured I’d go with this one:
“In fact, this is a big lie. The long term trend in higher education has been one of a shrinking number of full-time positions and an ever-growing number of adjunct positions. It is not hard to see why. University budgets are balanced on the backs of adjunct professors. In an adjunct, a school gets the same class taught for about half the salary of a full-time professor, and none of the benefits. The school also retains a god-like control over the schedules of adjuncts, who are literally laid off after every single semester, and then rehired as necessary for the following semester.”Posted on 2019-06-22T22:33:48+0000
Why Google+ Failed
Google Plus didn’t fail because Facebook is invulnerable. It failed because of deep flaws embedded in it from the very start.
Interesting read on the demise of google+.
Goes into some history, but also describes organizational, structural, and design problems that faced the product.
“At the same time, we couldn’t be absolutely certain we were right. We couldn’t provide concrete evidence that the current direction was wrong. And when the execs are extremely smart people making 10 times the salary you do, there’s a tendency to give them the benefit of the doubt. Surely they must know what they are doing.”Posted on 2019-06-22T08:21:47+0000
Smaller code, Better code
I was enjoying some pizza the other day with some buddies that know a bit about my research and understand where I am coming from with regards to my own computing aesthetics. They understand that I have always pushed for the smallest code that I can get, and to simplify as much as possible. A bit as...
Extreme example, but worth reading into why lines of code is a terrible metric all around for judging progress, projects, or effort.
“Bottom line? Getting to that point where you're doing more with less and keeping things as simple as they possibly can be, is really a lot of work. It means that for every one of those 750 lines, I've had to examine, rework, and reject around 5400 lines of code”Posted on 2019-06-16T20:45:01+0000
Level Design Patterns in 2D Games
This post discusses six common level design patterns present in 2D videogames that we found from analyzing over thirty 2D games.
The author, a PhD student at NYU studying game design, goes into a lot of exciting patterns and shows how they contribute towards both engaging and entertaining gameplay.
Bookmarking for future use.
"Ultimately, level design patterns have always been used in games. Having guidelines on how to improve the player experience is a very valuable tool. A formal taxonomy facilitates wider dissemination of these concepts, stimulating expansion and contribution, helping improve level design practices."Posted on 2019-06-16T00:11:03+0000
Paternity Leave Has Long-Lasting Benefits. So Why Don’t More American Men Take It?
Men who take leave are less likely to get divorced, and have better relationships with their children, research shows.
The article goes into the author's own anecdata around the tale of two births, one with more parental leave than the other; and then goes into some studies on the benefits observed in families even decades later, when leave was present.
However I feel like one quote in the article has a very easy (sad) answer: "Why Aren’t American Men Taking Leave?" -- it's just not available.
Ends on a good conclusion though:
"For my part, I came out of my own paternity leave with an easy ability to take both of the kids as soon as I was done at work, or to handle sick days when they came up. That allowed my wife to transition back to her own job more quickly, and to commit with more confidence to new projects. We are both still as overwhelmed as most other parents of little kids, but at least we feel like we’re muddling through it together."Posted on 2019-06-16T00:03:02+0000
We Could Have Had Electric Cars from the Very Beginning
Early electric cars performed better in cities than internal combustion vehicles, but didn’t give riders the same illusion of freedom and masculine derring-do.
This was such an interesting trip down memory lane, going into society and automotives.
"So, the electric was a perfectly viable automobile for city traffic, superior to the gas car in many ways. Yet it provided neither the thrill and danger that rescued Vanderbilt from his ennui nor the romance of the open road and escapism of the bicycle. A 1902 report on “The Problem of the Automobile” in Electrical World and Engineer pointed out that the EV would never afford the freedom of the bicycle or gasoline car. Even if charging points or battery-swapping stations were available in the hinterland, the writer concluded, “One does not wish to limit his country tour to lines of travel along which he can strike charging facilities . . . [one] wants to have a certain liberty of action which a journey fully prearranged cannot give.” Had the EV won out against the IC car in those early days, our patterns of life would now be entirely different. Indeed, had this period of random technological mutation selected for the electric, the social history of America would be unrecognizable. The EV struggles in the marketplace today because it is a pigeon being asked to swim like a goldfish. We live in the world the IC automobile made. That world is not conducive to mass transit or even walking. It is little wonder that the EV, too, struggles to compete on the IC’s terms."Posted on 2019-06-15T23:59:27+0000
Oberlin College case shows how universities are losing their way
We are reaching a point in higher education where leaders are ceding control to activists.
Don't know how to feel about this, given this is the first I'm hearing about it and this is from the point of view by a paper (presumably) slanted against the college.
Per a reliable legal commenter on HN, though, the data is scary:
A bit more factual context:
1. The student "protests" erupted the day after the 2016 election results came in, with a corresponding politically inflammatory element at work in the background.
2. The underlying incident involved an underaged black student who attempted to buy a bottle of wine, was refused, and was then found to have 2 other bottles under his coat as he walked out. When the owner's son chased him out, an altercation ensued and, as police arrived, they found the owner's son on the ground being hit and kicked by three persons, including 2 female friends of the shoplifter.
3. I use shoplifter, instead of "alleged shoplifter," because a guilty plea was entered admitting to the crime and also acknowledging that racial profiling had nothing to do with the incident.
4. Protests immediately erupted and were so volatile that the local police chief said he felt he had to call in outside help from a riot squad.
5. The students who did the protests claimed that Gibson's bakery not only had engaged in racial profiling in the particular incident but also that it was a long-time racist presence in the local business community. (Gibson's had been founded in 1880 and was strictly a family owned business, with the business supporting 3 generations of the family at the time of the incident).
6. The Oberlin dean of students (Merideth Raimondo) appears to have joined in the protests directly, shouting through a bullhorn and handing out fliers calling Gibson's racist. She claimed she used the bullhorn for 1 minute only and only to tell the students to observe safety precautions. Multiple other witnesses at the trial claimed she did so for a half hour and that she was a direct participant in the events. The jury obviously did not believe her. Also, she denied that she had handed out any fliers, was contradicted by a local reporter who said she had handed one to him, called that reporter a liar, and (at trial, once under oath) later admitted that he was telling the truth that she had handed him a flier knowing him to be a reporter.
7. The college immediately joined in the affair by terminating its long-term contract with Gibson's. A couple of months later, it reinstated that contract. Then, when the Gibson family filed suit, it terminated the contract permanently.
8. The college took the position that the matter would be dropped if Gibson's dropped the shoplifting charge and if it committed in the future to bring all incidents involving students directly to the college before it got the police involved. Gibson's refused to comply with this condition.
9. Gibson's in turn offered to forego any and all legal claims if the college sent out a mass communication stating that Gibson's had not engaged in racist activity and had no history of being racist. The college declined to do this.
10. Gibson's took a huge financial hit as a result of all this, barely managing to stay in business. It had to lay off all of its 12 employees and the family owners continued to operate the business without salary for 2 years.
11. Gibson's sued the college and its dean of students alleging libel, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and interference with business relations.
12. Throughout the trial, the college took the position that it had done nothing wrong, was only protecting the students' right to free speech, and had no responsibility for what happened. It also took the position that Gibson's was worth no more than $35,000 in total value as a business and that such amount should be the maximum awarded in any damages award.
13. The jury award $11.2 million in compensatory damages, $33 million in punitive damages, and also said that Oberlin had to pay Gibson's attorneys' fees. Under state law, there is a 2x cap on punitive damages (2x times the amount of compensatory damages awarded) and thus the punitive award will be set at $22 million. The judge is still determining the attorneys' fees question. All in all, though, the jury basically slammed Oberlin to the max and also awarded major damages against the dean of students.
14. Oberlin sent a mass email to its alumni association essentially saying that the jury disregarded the clear evidence showing it had done nothing wrong and vowing to fight this through appeal. It also formally announced that it will be filing an appeal.
15. Oberlin has had a long-time "townie" vs. "gownie" culture but this far transcends the small tensions that have historically existed.
William Jacobsen at Legal Insurrection has been on this case in great depth from inception, believing it is a case of major significance concerning college activism run amok. Here is a link to his reporting on the original verdict that contains a ton of links to the prior coverage: https://legalinsurrection.com/2019/06/verdict-jury-awards-gi...
The article here is by Jonathan Turley, a distinguished liberal law scholar, who is pretty critical of Oberlin's handling of the case, as I think most people are."Posted on 2019-06-15T23:36:18+0000
Comparing the Same Project in Rust, Haskell, C++, Python, Scala and OCaml - Tristan Hume
During my final term at UWaterloo I took the CS444 compilers class with a project to write a compiler from a substantial subset of Java to x86, in teams of up to three people with a language of the group’s choice. This was a rare opportunity to compare implementations of large programs that all di...
Interesting language comparison, which goes into a small (but not tiny) project independently developed by various teams and contrasts both the size of the resulting code, and in some cases, the quality / expressiveness of the languages.
While I'm generally not a fan of lines of code being used as a metric for discussion, in this case the author justifies the choice decently.
"I think my overall takeaway is that design decisions make a much larger difference than the language, but the language matters insofar as it gives you the tools to implement different designs."Posted on 2019-06-15T23:28:12+0000
Photos Of Travelers Coming In And Out Of The US Have Been Hacked And Stolen
A Border Patrol database of traveler photos and license plate images was "compromised by a malicious cyber-attack."
Days since last big breach: 0.
Important lesson here on ensuring the third parties you contract out to are also following security best practices.
“A US Customs and Border Protection subcontractor suffered a data breach that exposed the photos of tens of thousands of travelers coming in and out of the United States, the agency revealed Monday, in what it described as a "malicious cyber-attack."
The database of identifying traveler photos and license plate images had been transferred to a CBP subcontractor's network without the federal agency's authorization or knowledge, CBP explained. The subcontractor's network was then hacked, though CBP said its own systems had not been compromised.”Posted on 2019-06-11T04:51:02+0000
His DNA Solved A Century-Old Jailhouse Rape. The Victim: His Grandmother.
Commercial DNA tests showed that Hiram and Bruce were related. But their link proved to be much deeper — and darker — than either could have imagined.
This was such a page turner - a human interest story that goes into American history, the prison system and a bit of slavery. Packaged with modern DNA testing.
"Hiram’s family secret was more dramatic than most. But DNA tests are unearthing all kinds of long-buried truths. Studies suggest that roughly 2% of people don’t know the true identity of their biological father — a “non-paternity event” in genealogy jargon."Posted on 2019-06-10T21:28:17+0000
For Men Who Hate Talking On The Phone, Games Keep Friendships Alive
Any time a friend of Eddie Gill’s calls him on the phone, his first thought is: “Why the fuck are you calling me?”
Interesting foray into the psychology of social connectedness and how it differs across the genders.
I can relate to a decent chunk of it where the friendships that were made through gaming at least in my network seem to be deeper and more long lasting.
“What is clear is that video games aren’t just entertainment—they’re communication technologies. When Eddie Gill wants to “open a beer and sit down to play games and talk over the Xbox headset,” he’s not just sitting down to play Apex. He’s keeping his friendships alive.”Posted on 2019-06-09T22:38:54+0000
To Evade Pre-Prohibition Drinking Laws, New Yorkers Created the World's Worst Sandwich
It was everywhere at the turn of the 20th century. It was also inedible.
This covers prohibition and was a great read on unintended consequences. Come for the history, stay for overly righteous folks getting frustrated.
“For the libertines of New York City, Zacks writes, the second half of 1896 was “too good to be true, a drunken daydream.” The hotel carve-out allowed drinks to flow at all hours. There was no obligatory last call, and the city’s liveliest drinking spots now offered cheap beds mere steps away. For Raines and the law’s other architects, this was the most alarming unintended consequence: their efforts to make New Yorkers virtuous had caused a spike in casual sex and prostitution.”Posted on 2019-06-09T03:44:03+0000
GFS: Evolution on Fast-forward - ACM Queue
June 15, 2019 | Palace Hotel, San Francisco ACM-IMS Interdisciplinary Summit on the Foundations of Data Science ACM and the Institute of Mathematical Statistics are bringing together speakers and panelists to address topics such as deep learning, reinforcement learning, fairness, ethics, and the fut...
This was a very interesting technical read on the design challenges behind a large scale distributed system. Covers an insane amount of consistency and scaling challenges.
“Perhaps an even more important issue here is that the engineers making this decision owned not just the file system but also the applications intended to run on the file system. According to Gobioff, "The thing is that we controlled both the horizontal and the vertical—the file system and the application. So we could be sure our applications would know what to expect from the file system. And we just decided to push some of the complexity out to the applications to let them deal with it."”Posted on 2019-06-09T01:40:52+0000
Don’t Eat Before Reading This
A New York chef spills some trade secrets.
This is from 1999, but an engrossing tale about how food is actually made behind the scenes in kitchens. There's been a bunch of change since (or so I'd hope).
Oh and this is by Anthony Bourdain
"A few years ago, I wasn’t surprised to hear rumors of a study of the nation’s prison population which reportedly found that the leading civilian occupation among inmates before they were put behind bars was “cook.” As most of us in the restaurant business know, there is a powerful strain of criminality in the industry, ranging from the dope-dealing busboy with beeper and cell phone to the restaurant owner who has two sets of accounting books."Posted on 2019-06-08T22:26:36+0000
Introducing Google Research Football: A Novel Reinforcement Learning Environment
Posted by Karol Kurach, Research Lead and Olivier Bachem, Research Scientist, Google Research, Zürich The goal of reinforcement learning...
7 absolute truths I unlearned as junior developer
A few things I strongly believed when I was a junior developer which turned out to be wrong.
So much truth in everything here. I agree about having to unlearn so many the things as one grows their skill set.
It’s also unavoidable at times though - you learn the core technical skills and focus on that, then have to unlearn the bad habits - which can only happen when you truly internalize the harm of them.
This quote is a gem: “Not all experience is created equal. My experience coding in my bedroom, working as a student, working in CS research, and working at a growing startup are all valuable kinds of experience. But they aren’t all the same. Early in your career, you can learn 10x more in a supportive team in 1 year, than coding on your own (or with minimal feedback) for 5 years. If your code is never reviewed by other developers, you will not learn as fast as you can – by an enormous factor.”Posted on 2019-06-08T16:31:57+0000
Compiling C to WebAssembly without Emscripten — DasSur.ma
A compiler is just a part of Emscripten. What if we stripped away all the bells and whistles and used just the compiler?
Wiki - AGuideToRustGameFrameworks2019
Anyway, so here’s the story. ggez is, naturally, The Best Rust Game Framework, ’cause I maintain it. But there’s several other game framework crates that have very similar goals to ggez: Make it easy to make a nice 2D game with minimum friction. However, they have different approaches and make...
Extremely in depth read on game frameworks in rust, by the author of one of the more popular ones (ggez).
Disputed rant on piston aside it’s pretty solidPosted on 2019-06-02T23:41:08+0000
I’m a former elite athlete and I call BS on tech’s obsession with working long hours
As a champion gymnast, I trained 22 hours a week. Now, as a startup founder, I see how dangerous “hustle culture” can be.
“Sometimes what our jobs or our companies need isn’t our our most brilliant selves. It’s just completing a pile of tasks. But there’s nothing glorious about that, and let’s stop pretending that working 80 or 100 hours a week is a righteous, practical, or sustainable practice.”
I really wonder where Silicon Valley’s fetishization of long work hours began. It seems easy to link it to the puritanical work ethic in America but I’m not sure if that’s causal or just a correlation.Posted on 2019-06-02T19:14:07+0000
The Zankou Chicken Murders
When the patriarch of the hugely popular fast-food chain killed his mother and sister, then himself, he left behind a family wrestling with fate—and each other
This was such an interesting human interest story about an immigrant family, an LA institution, and some really good food.
I’m glad a Yelp review pointed out I should search for something about the murders.
Won’t stop me from having the shawarma though.Posted on 2019-06-02T18:19:33+0000