A tale of two thefts
In the United States, only certain types of theft are newsworthy. For example, on June 14, 2021, a reporter for KGO-TV in San Francisco tweeted a cellphone video of a man in Walgreens filling a garbage bag with stolen items and riding his bicycle out of the store. According to San Francisco's crime....
Very informative piece on wage theft and the disparities in how it’s reported versus other property crime. Obviously one has to insert the famous chart of how property crimes are very insignificant compared to wage theft - I’ll look that up again and add it in the comments.
“Shoplifting is just a small fraction of total property crime because more than half of the value of all stolen property comes from stolen vehicles and currency. Nevertheless, media coverage of shoplifting vastly exceeds media coverage of wage theft. A search of United States publications in the Nexis news database reveals 11,631 stories mentioning shoplifting so far in 2021. Over the same period, the same outlets published just 2,009 stories mentioning wage theft. “Posted on 2021-11-30T06:46:41+0000
Bait and Switch: Companies Promise Workers Pay Rates In Ads They Don't Deliver On
"They said if they gave me that they would have to give everyone that"
How is this not illegal?
“Alex, a 35-year-old who recently moved to Miami, answered a posting through the online employment marketplace Snagajob offering $16 an hour to work in a technology sales position at Staples. At the end of the interview, the manager revealed that the pay was actually $10 an hour.”Posted on 2021-11-29T20:53:16+0000
Ask Miss O11y: I Don't Want to Be On Call Anymore. Am I a Monster? - Honeycomb
Charity Majors challenges managers to better understand the life of on-call engineers and how to share that on-call ownership among the team.
Great perspective on the eternal oncall debates.
"Individuals owning things. In a healthy engineering organization, there are no gaps in coverage. Every critical component is owned by a TEAM, not a person. People practice pairing and buddying up for code reviews for just this reason, to make sure other people know about the tricky bits, the twiddly bits, the history, how to debug, how to ameliorate. The more critical the component, the more urgent this coverage becomes."Posted on 2021-11-28T23:09:22+0000
Uber Survived the Spying Scandal. Their Careers Didn’t.
A former co-worker accused the men of wiretapping their colleagues, hacking foreign governments and stealing trade secrets. It wasn’t true, but the allegations still follow them.
This is an interesting quote at the end for sure. Also an interesting read overall, covering some aspects of the security business I’m not super familiar with. And on what appears to be one of the (rare) legitimate defamation suits I’ve seen in the US.
“The appetite for intelligence gathering in the hypercompetitive tech world continues, though. Mr. Gicinto, the former C.I.A. officer, has a warning for any of his former colleagues considering a move to this part of the private sector, where the motivations behind a given mission are not always as clear as he found them in his past work life.
“In the government, when you’re given a mission or you’re given a task, you go and you execute on the mission,” Mr. Gicinto said. “Your experience tells you to go execute because your boss or the leadership have given you this tasking, and you worry about how to do it — not whether or not you should do it, because you’ve never had to worry about that before.””Posted on 2021-11-28T21:18:18+0000
Opinion | The Rule of Six: A newly radicalized Supreme Court is poised to reshape the nation
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. holds the reins but is no longer firmly in control of his horses. Some of his most conservative justices are champing at the bit.
Long read, I learnt a lot about history and the American courts from this one.
“If that grim diagnosis seems correct, the cure is more elusive. Some treatments, like court-packing, would be worse than the disease. Others, like imposing term limits, are harder to administer and wouldn’t be effective for years. Which means: The court is where it is. The Rule of Six is now in force. Conservatives have time to write their views into the law books, where they will remain for decades to come. The change they choose to enact will be swift or slow; it will be open or stealthy.
But make no mistake: It is coming. The court, and the nation, will be worse off for it.”
An Open Letter to Airbnb
The pitchforks are coming
This was pretty well worded and worth a read. Harsh but fair in the picture they portray.
“Now obviously, your full-time job is simply to boost Airbnb’s stock price, so I don’t expect you’ll heed any of these suggestions; in which case, all that’s left to say is: Enjoy it while it lasts. Because they're coming for you, and when they do, there will be blood. You thought Occupy Wall Street had a big turnout? Wait until hundreds of millions of evicted renters smash your empire. Rule number one of business: Never back desperate people into a corner. Pretty soon, the listings on your website will just become a hit list.”Posted on 2021-11-28T07:30:05+0000
The Algorithm That Lets Particle Physicists Count Higher Than Two | Quanta Magazine
Through his encyclopedic study of the electron, an obscure figure named Stefano Laporta found a handle on the subatomic world’s fearsome complexity. His algorithm has swept the field.
"By the late 1990s theorists had mastered predictions at the one-loop level, which might involve 100 Feynman integrals. At two loops, however — the level of precision of Gehrmann’s calculation — the number of possible sequences of events explodes. A quarter century ago, most two-loop calculations seemed unthinkably difficult, to say nothing of three or four. “The very advanced counting system used by elementary particle theorists for counting the loops is: ‘One, two, many,’” joked Ettore Remiddi, a physicist at the University of Bologna and Laporta’s sometime collaborator."Posted on 2021-11-27T20:38:34+0000
What Hot Dogs Can Teach Us About Number Theory | Quanta Magazine
The Chinese remainder theorem is an ancient and powerful extension of the simple math of least common multiples.
The chinese remainder theorem is one of those really cool mathematical tricks that I always forget about till I need it and end up having to google it.
"You probably won’t need the Chinese remainder theorem to plan your next picnic, but in case you need to distribute access to information among your friends or secretly share troop strength with your generals, make sure this extension of least common multiples is on your list."Posted on 2021-11-27T20:14:20+0000
Interesting analysis on the crypto craze.
“These days I read a lot of cross-disciplinary commentary on the crypto asset bubble, and what strikes me as particularly strange is the sheer level of disconnect between people’s lived experience of this mania. I’ve never seen anything else like this in technology and the topic will divide rooms. Between the software engineers, venture capitalists, economists, and the chattering class there is very little consensus at the base level of reality of what the heck is even going on. It draws parallels between the Indian proverb about the blind men and the elephant, or perhaps the idiom about the blind leading the blind.”Posted on 2021-11-27T19:00:21+0000
Why don’t we just open the windows?
The evidence for preventing covid-19 is lost in translation The world is finally coming to terms with the realisation that transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is airborne.1 First came the modelling studies, sizing up airborne particles, their trajectories, and viral load; and then came examples from the real...
“Common sense dictates so much of what is done for infection control, since most funding bodies consistently prioritise the most immediate, urgent, or commercially beneficial societal problems. Furthermore, current guidelines tend to focus on solid bodies, such as people; surfaces, both hard and soft; equipment; and water. Air is literally nebulous. Just as cleaning was the Cinderella of infection control during the past decade or so (and methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus sorted that out), we must now confront the neglected, but substantive, role of air in transmitting infection.14 It is fair to say that air could be the final medium to define and standardise within the infection control itinerary.”Posted on 2021-11-27T18:14:56+0000
A Tale of Three Rust Codebases
When is it a good time to start using Rust? The founding team at Convex has had the privilege of leading development on some of the most heavily used Rust-based systems in the world: Magic Pocket, Dropbox's geo-distributed data storage system. This system has run on close to a million
This was a great read that covered both the technical and social considerations and trade offs that go into language choice at both small and large companies. Worth a read.
“When one team has feature requests for another it's also very common just for them to jump in and make the change themselves. It's often far faster to coordinate changes via a simple code review rather than a series of Jira tasks, plus it's only fair that the team that wants the feature invests the time to make it happen. This is a major challenge when there's a (programming) language barrier between teams.”Posted on 2021-11-27T07:33:11+0000
Researchers Defeat Randomness to Create Ideal Code | Quanta Magazine
By carefully constructing a multidimensional and well-connected graph, a team of researchers has finally created a long-sought locally testable code that can immediately betray whether it’s been…
“Practical and theoretical applications should soon follow. Different forms of locally testable codes are now being used in decentralized finance, and an optimal version will allow even better decentralized tools. Furthermore, there are totally different theoretical constructs in computer science, called probabilistically checkable proofs, which have certain similarities with locally testable codes. Now that we’ve found the optimal form of the latter, record-breaking versions of the former seem likely to appear.”Posted on 2021-11-27T06:40:07+0000
New Concerning Variant: B.1.1.529
I hope everyone in the States had a fantastic Thanksgiving (even if you’re a Dallas Cowboys football fan). I hate to ruin the holiday, but… We have a new variant. I’ve not seen this much anxiety ridden chatter among scientists about a COVID19 variant before. Even among the calm, cool, and coll...
“P.S. A few random thoughts I didn’t know where to put above:
Travel bans are not evidence-based: It may seem like travel bans for individual countries are a necessary step, but I cannot stress enough that they do not work. For example, we had a travel ban with China in March 2020, only to be infiltrated with a European strain. Travel bans are a political move; a tool to show the public that the government is responding. Travel bans can do a lot of damage, though, like perpetuate disease related stigma. This variant has already spread. A travel ban is not an evidence-based solution unless you stop all travel from every country.”Posted on 2021-11-27T03:22:39+0000
Even Health-Care Workers With Long COVID Are Being Dismissed
Medical professionals are used to being believed, but as patients, they found that their expertise didn’t matter.
“For many, this has provoked painful introspection. Some candidly confessed that they dismissed patients in the same way that they have since been treated. They’re ashamed about it. “What else was I wrong about?” one said.”Posted on 2021-11-25T07:34:45+0000
Introducing QOI — the Quite OK Image format. It losslessly compresses RGB and RGBA images to a similar size of PNG, while offering a 20x-50x speedup in compression and 3x-4x speedup in decompression. All single-threaded, no SIMD. It's also stupidly simple.
This was some pretty interesting algorithmic stuff.
“Seriously, I'm dumbfounded. BMP and TIFF have run-length-encoding and then GIF comes around with LZW. But there's nothing in between. Why? I found the space between RLE and LZW to be large enough to spend many days on. And there's a lot more to explore.”Posted on 2021-11-25T06:10:08+0000
Exit Interviews: Moiz Syed
"Journalists are encouraged to hold the powerful accountable, but never to proclaim the larger moral lessons of their work."
“I wonder what was it about a T-shirt that said “Abolish ICE” that almost everyone in the newsroom other than me knew would not be tolerated. Of course, when I talk about this incident with my journalist friends, the topic of objectivity comes up, including the idea that publicly proclaiming “Abolish ICE” makes you unfit for journalism. I think that’s bullshit. American journalism has a long tradition of upholding the status quo, whether that’s supporting slavery or the so-called war on terror or the police—which is not objectivity, but simply a different subjectivity.”Posted on 2021-11-24T07:56:01+0000
CNN - Breaking News, Latest News and Videos
View the latest news and breaking news today for U.S., world, weather, entertainment, politics and health at CNN.com.
This was a depressing and well written read covering some of the major trials going on in the US right now and their implications. Also I learnt I should prefer this version of CNN as it’s so much nicer.
“This angry White man has been a major character throughout US history. He gave the country slavery, the slaughter of Native Americans, and Jim Crow laws. His anger also helped fuel the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
It's this angry White man -- not the Black or brown man you see approaching on the street at night -- who poses the most dangerous threat to democracy in America.
That's a sweeping claim. But these trials represent something bigger than questions of individual guilt or innocence. They offer a disturbing vision of the future, and a choice about what kind of country we want to live in.”Posted on 2021-11-24T07:06:45+0000
Writing a Fuzzer for Nes Games
My project this weekend was a fuzzer for nes games based on seeded input from TAS movies
This was really interesting, and doubly impressive that this got built in a weekend!
“Overall this exceeded my expectations for this weekend. It demonstrated that, at a minimum the fuzzer can find glitches not in the original input, and can generate a new set of inputs that can be given to an external emulator to replicate the glitch!
As such the main challenge facing this fuzzer going forward are around optimizing mutation and selection to pick interesting runs.”Posted on 2021-11-23T21:04:28+0000
Opinion | Is America on the brink of a civil war?
The signs give cause for concern. America suffers from societal and political conditions that predispose it to violence, and the list seems to be growing.
“Americans don’t even have a sense of shared history. Is America’s story one of a moral crusade dedicated to defending the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness of which we should be proud? Or is it a story of territorial expansion, slaughter, slavery and imperialism of which we should be ashamed?”Posted on 2021-11-23T20:29:29+0000
More Americans say they’re not planning to have a child, new poll says, as U.S. birthrate declines
The Pew survey points to a long-term evolution in parenthood trends in the United States.
Honestly not surprised at this one.
“Coupled with the recent release of federal demographic data, this poll points to a long-term evolution in parenthood trends in the United States. The spiraling costs of child care, health care and education — along with global instability, including the coronavirus pandemic and climate change — could all be contributing to a broader change in attitudes to marriage and priorities in life.”Posted on 2021-11-23T16:54:50+0000
KP on Twitter
“If a federal judge ever began a court order (94 pages long!!!) about me this way, I might just walk into the ocean. I'd beg you to yeet me into the sun's fiery maw as a mercy. But it's not about me, so instead, you can join me as I schadenfreude my way through this order. 🧵 https://t.co/5k1FaL...
I just spent half an hour reading a Twitter thread about a really weird legal case. I’d prefer sharing an article instead of tweets with screenshots but here you go. This one was both hilarious and enlightening at the same time.
“An Alabama steel mill and its Littler Mendelson PC defense team committed "calculated sabotage" on a wage-and-hour suit with repeated lies and an attempt to push blame for their own discovery stonewalling onto a third party, a federal judge has ruled.”Posted on 2021-11-23T07:47:01+0000
The Real Inflation Problem Is Corporate Profiteering
Don’t be hoodwinked. It isn’t Joe Biden who’s making record profits and gouging U.S. consumers. That would be corporate America.
This is certainly changing my perspective on the recent inflation news.
“And what that means is pretty simple: Corporate America has seized on the fears of inflation to jack up prices on you and make a ton more money. According to The Wall Street Journal, nearly two out of three of the biggest U.S. publicly traded companies had larger profit margins this year than they did in 2019, prior to the pandemic. Not just profits. Larger profits. Nearly 100 of these massive corporations report profits in 2021 that are 50 percent above profit margins from 2019.
CEOs are quick to suggest to media that they have been forced to raise prices because of one difficulty or another. However, my organization More Perfect Union reviewed recent corporate earnings calls featuring CEOs of some of the largest companies in the world, like Tyson Foods, Kellogg’s, Pepsi, Mondelez (a huge snack food and beverage company that used to be known as Kraft), and others. And we found jubilant executives revealing that price hikes are great for business.”Posted on 2021-11-23T05:49:39+0000
Undefined Behavior deserves a better reputation
“Undefined Behavior” often has a bad reputation. But what, really, is Undefined Behavior, and is it actually that bad? In this blog post, I will look at this topic from a PL perspective…
I learnt a lot about language semantics from this one.
“In closing, I would like to propose that "Undefined Behavior" might need a rebranding. The term focuses on the negative case, when really all we ever care about as programmers or compiler authors is that programs do not have Undefined Behavior. Can we get rid of this double negation? Maybe we should talk about "ensuring Well-Defined Behavior" instead of "avoiding Undefined Behavior".
To sum up: most of the time, ensuring Well-Defined Behavior is the responsibility of the type system, but as language designers we should not rule out the idea of sharing that responsibility with the programmer.”Posted on 2021-11-23T05:47:59+0000
Opinion | Remote Work Is Failing Young Employees
Unless carefully designed, pandemic office culture risks hurting the least experienced workers in our organizations.
I know this is the reality at a lot of places but it’s sad that this is the case.
“We asked early career workers what resources they wished they could have had during those early pandemic months, and the responses were full of helpful ideas for any company. Most important, they wanted a clearly delineated mentor who — crucially — was not also their supervisor or in charge of evaluating their performance. One person suggested a dual mentor program that paired new employees with a co-worker in a similar position in the company who could offer advice on more quotidian concerns, as well as a more senior employee who could provide longer-term career advice.”Posted on 2021-11-22T20:48:27+0000
Dysfunction Is Central to the Basic Functioning of American Society
Pandemic measures like the stimulus temporarily helped and empowered working-class and vulnerable people. And that’s quickly becoming a problem for an economy based on their hyper-exploitation.
“A similar dynamic surfaced in the used-car market. While it’s common knowledge that used-car prices shot up during the pandemic, it’s less widely appreciated that a key reason was the decline in auto repossessions.
Since even used cars are well beyond the means of many Americans, about two-thirds of all auto purchases in the United States are financed with some kind of loan. Over the last decade, auto lending has expanded into the subprime market, as financiers embrace the kind of risky lending that led to the mortgage crisis in 2008. As a result, about two million cars are repossessed by lenders annually. These cars are then resold by dealers, forming a crucial part of the used-auto supply chain.”Posted on 2021-11-22T17:09:27+0000
Everyone Is Missing the Point of Reddit’s Antiwork Sub
"I mean, antiwork isn't just telling your boss to go f--- off,” says one of the sub’s founding moderators.
“Even if the favorable economic conditions giving people the ability to turn down crappy jobs swing back in the other direction, the shift in attitudes could last longer. Devon Price, a social psychologist and author of Laziness Does Not Exist, says “the culture is changing rapidly, and dramatically.”
He says the obsession with work and productivity in the U.S. goes back to the Puritans and that over the centuries, it’s helped to justify colonialism, slavery, and the gutting of social supports for vulnerable populations. Living through a once-in-a-century pandemic, however, has exposed the hollowness of that belief system, and many people are exploring new ways of existing in the world that don’t center work.”Posted on 2021-11-22T08:41:55+0000
Turpin sisters describe living in 'house of horrors': 'I thought I was going to die'
Jennifer and Jordan Turpin share their stories for the first time.
We just saw the documentary tonight and it’s every bit horrifying as the blurb makes it out to be. I don’t get how people can be this evil.
“Jennifer Turpin, and one of her sisters, Jordan Turpin, are telling their story for the first time in an exclusive interview with Sawyer. They are the first of the 13 Turpin children to share their stories. In their interview, the Turpin daughters described years of their parents, David and Louise Turpin, abusing them and their siblings, some of whom were shackled to beds for months at a time, and being deprived of food, hygiene, education and health care.”Posted on 2021-11-21T03:53:35+0000
Leaked Audio: Amazon Workers Grill Managers at Anti-Union Meeting
"We are putting the company on our back 10 hours a day...They’re taking time away from our breaks. There is no voice here."
““See you’re dodging it,” another worker interrupted, raising his voice. “A lot of [members] get better benefits when they join a union. That’s the whole point of this. Why would Amazon workers decide to form a union if Amazon was doing everything they wanted it to do?”
The representatives attempted to cut the worker off, but the worker continued, “No, I’m going to talk….You mentioned all these [mechanisms] that workers have to speak out. And what has Amazon done? Nothing. I’ve been at Amazon for six years, bro. What are we talking about here? The issues that were occurring in 2015 are occurring now. So you talk about using your voice? There has been no change at all. The same amount of personal time. The same amount of vacation time. The same amount of [unpaid time off]. People get fired left and right. People get sick. Amazon didn’t even want to tell nobody about COVID. What are we talking about?””Posted on 2021-11-20T06:27:36+0000
Marilyn Manson: The Monster Hiding in Plain Sight
He was a provocative media darling for decades. Offstage, exes allege, he was an abuser who made their lives hell. A Rolling Stone investigation based on court documents and more than 55 new interv…
This is so horrifying.
“Other people in Warner’s orbit have declined to participate in this story, citing their fear of Warner and the need to protect their own mental health. “That’s in part why he got away with it for so long: Because victims of his felt completely ashamed that they still didn’t realize what was happening to them until it was way too late,” Bianco says. “He told the whole world and nobody tried to stop him.””Posted on 2021-11-19T06:15:38+0000
Amazon's Dark Secret: It Has Failed to Protect Your Data
Voyeurs. Sabotaged accounts. Backdoor schemes. For years, the retail giant has handled your information less carefully than it handles your packages.
This was a scary and worrying read at how practices can be poor at large tech companies. So many scary quotes in here, but I’ll pick one that is really ironic because the PR response, while technically and legally correct, really misses the point and is misleading.
“In the midst of all that expansion, Gagnon wrote, breathtaking things were slipping through the cracks. Just that May, staffers had discovered that, for a period of two years, the names and American Express card numbers of up to 24 million customers had sat exposed on Amazon's internal network, outside a “secure zone” for payment data. It was as if a bank had realized that some sacks of cash had been left in a back office, outside the vault, for several seasons. The exposure was corrected, but the scariest part was that there was no way to be sure whether anyone had snooped on the payment credentials during all that time—because the data set's access logs only went back 90 days. “So we had no idea what the exposure actually was,” Gagnon remembers. “I was astonished by that.” (Bemisderfer says, “There is no evidence to suggest the data was ever exposed outside of our internal system in any way.”)”Posted on 2021-11-19T05:39:44+0000
Inside Felicia Sonmez’s Lawsuit Against the Washington Post
Why was a reporter punished for speaking up about sexual assault?
“So far, management has made no internal comment on the suit, which is expected to play out over the next few months at least. It has created an awkward situation for a group of folks used to holding the powerful accountable. As one Post staffer put it to me, “We’re constantly demanding and shaming governments and companies for not being transparent. And here we are, the least transparent about our own internal issues — it’s stunning that management doesn’t seem to recognize the hypocrisy in that.””Posted on 2021-11-18T05:53:18+0000
Activision CEO Bobby Kotick Knew for Years About Sexual-Misconduct Allegations at Videogame Giant
The top executive didn’t inform the board of directors about some reports, including alleged rapes. The company is facing multiple regulatory investigations.
Great reporting on a terrible situation. Don’t even know where to begin. I’ll probably start with two call outs I saw in follow up articles from gaming media where they called for his resignation.
First, (partly) in response to gender discrimination and allegations of unequal pay, they fired their old president and appointed two co-leads, one male and one female. And then proceeded to pay the woman less for the same job.
Second, in response to the initial allegations, Frances Townsend sent an incredibly shortsighted response that directly prompted a walkout. Kotick called the letter tone deaf and removed her from her position on an internal committee for employees concerns. Turns out Kotick had written the email and sent it from her account so it wouldn’t come from a man. Yikes.
“Those documents, which include memos, emails and regulatory requests, and interviews with former employees and others familiar with the company, however, cast Mr. Kotick’s response in a different light. They show that he knew about allegations of employee misconduct in many parts of the company. He didn’t inform the board of directors about everything he knew, the interviews and documents show, even after regulators began investigating the incidents in 2018. Some departing employees who were accused of misconduct were praised on the way out, while their co-workers were asked to remain silent about the matters.”Posted on 2021-11-17T07:12:08+0000
The end of “click to subscribe, call to cancel”? One of the news industry’s favorite retention tactics is illegal, FTC says
Most U.S. news organizations won't let readers cancel online. The Federal Trade Commission wants that to change.
I’m glad the FTC is finally doing things to improve our lives.
“But it’s not just hedge fund-owned publishers that have adopted the subscription practices that have caught the government’s attention. Again, most U.S. news organizations don’t give readers an easy way to cancel online. When I checked — more than a week after the FTC announced it planned to crack down on companies who don’t make it easy to cancel — The New York Times still requires you to talk to someone if you want to unsubscribe, either by starting a live chat or by picking up the phone.”Posted on 2021-11-17T03:54:35+0000
Their intervention wasn't wiping out guinea worm, that was just a side effect. The intervention was, basically, travelling around the country and embedding in regional government offices in order to understand their problems and then advise/facilitate better decision making. In the course of talking...
This piece resonated a lot with me. Lots of interesting lessons relating to project management and engineering productivity - and how planning is quite hard to get right everywhere. I ended up side tracking and reading through most of the references because they were engaging.
“What I've seen happen instead is, when work starts on the projects, people will ask who's working the project and then will make a guess at whether or not the project will be completed on time or in an effective way or even be completed at all based on who ends up working on the project. "Oh, Joe is taking feature X? He never ships anything reasonable. Looks like we can't depend on it because that's never going to work. Let's do Y instead of Z since that won't require X to actually work". The roadmap creation and review process maintains the polite fiction that people are interchangeable, but everyone knows this isn't true and teams that are effective and want to ship on time can't play along when the rubber hits the road even if they play along with the managers, directors, and VPs, who create roadmaps as if people can be generically abstracted over.”Posted on 2021-11-16T06:08:28+0000
How (some) good corporate engineering blogs are written
I've been comparing notes with people who run corporate engineering blogs and one thing that I think is curious is that it's pretty common for my personal blog to get more traffic than the entire corp eng blog for a company with a nine to ten figure valuation and it's not uncommon for my blog to get...
Great read on the value and benefit of (corporate) engineering blogs. Kind of ironic I share this one first as I got here from a link on another of his blogposts.
I also should finally dust off my old blog and start posting again perhaps…
“I've been comparing notes with people who run corporate engineering blogs and one thing that I think is curious is that it's pretty common for my personal blog to get more traffic than the entire corp eng blog for a company with a nine to ten figure valuation and it's not uncommon for my blog to get an order of magnitude more traffic.
I think this is odd because tech companies in that class often have hundreds to thousands of employees. They're overwhelmingly likely to be better equipped to write a compelling blog than I am and companies get a lot more value from having a compelling blog than I do.”Posted on 2021-11-16T05:53:28+0000
Opinion | Without Parental Leave I Might Be Dead
Family leave should be a right, not a privilege.
“But withholding paid leave from new parents can be lethal. The United States has one of the highest maternal death rates among developed countries. More than half of those maternal deaths occur after the birth. Only 17 percent occur on the day of delivery.
The death rates are higher for women living in poverty, and for Black women (who are three times as likely as white women to die from pregnancy-related complications). Adequate paid parental leave creates a life-or-death divide along racial and class lines. Survival after giving birth should not be a luxury afforded to wealthy white women.
A country with enough money to give a single billionaire a $2.9 billion lunar lander contract can afford to let women recover from the highly inconvenient task of perpetuating humanity. But we don’t. Because when it comes to an empathic or medically coherent understanding of childbirth, some of the people creating the budget proposal have the priorities of a Bond villain.”Posted on 2021-11-14T18:47:59+0000
A Former Facebook VP Thinks Investing in Humans Is the Future of VC
She gets $1.7 million. Sam Lessin’s venture firm gets 5% of her creator earnings for 30 years. “it's def not indentured servitude,” he says.
Is it just me or this seems like a loan with a lot more strings attached and one that seems like it has a lot more downsides for the people being “invested” in?
“The decision to invest directly in humans brings about a host of legal, ethical, and moral questions that Lessin will surely need to confront head-on. The idea that someone might sign a 30-year employment contract and that society should explicitly value a human brings up questions of indentured servitude and worse—claims which Lessin sees as entirely ill-founded. (“it's def not indentured servitude,” he recently wrote in response to someone who said the legal issues seemed “daunting.”)”Posted on 2021-11-13T21:36:59+0000
ChaosDB Explained: Azure's Cosmos DB Vulnerability Walkthrough | Wiz Blog
Pull back the curtain and get the step-by-step technical walkthrough of ChaosDB, one of the most sever Azure vulnerabilities of all time
Yikes. Great write up though, I learnt a bunch from this one.
“We managed to gain unauthorized access to customers’ Azure Cosmos DB instances by taking advantage of a chain of misconfigurations in the Jupyter Notebook Container feature of Cosmos DB. We were able to prove access to thousands of companies’ Cosmos DB Instances (database, notebook environment, notebook storage) with full admin control via multiple authentication tokens and API keys. Among the affected customers are many Fortune 500 companies. We also managed to gain access to the underlying infrastructure that runs Cosmos DB and we were able to prove that this access can be maintained outside of the vulnerable application—over the internet. Overall, we think that this is as close as it gets to a “Service Takeover”.”Posted on 2021-11-13T19:50:15+0000
Apple Quietly Buying Ads Via Google For High-Value Subscription Apps To Capture App Publisher Revenue
The cost: potentially millions of dollars in lost revenue. Plus, high advertising costs for their own campaigns. It’s a form of ad arbitrage, they say, and it’s been going on for at least two years.
Yikes. This seems unethical.
““Apple is trying maximize the money they’re making by driving in-app purchases that people buy through the Apple Store,” one source, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, told me.
“Apple has figured out that they can make more money off these developers if they push people to the App Store to purchase there versus a web flow.””Posted on 2021-11-13T04:49:19+0000
AI Code Generation and Cybersecurity
AI will revolutionize the way that we write computer programs. The U.S. government and industries need to invest in AI as a cybersecurity tool.
This was a great read worth internalizing.
[ disclaimer: it’s from someone I work with and highly respect ]
“A new era of automated code generation is beginning to take shape. This shift will create new opportunities to develop more secure code by scaling the techniques we already know to be effective. However, a number of technical challenges remain. It is imperative that we prepare for the changes this era will bring. “Posted on 2021-11-11T20:07:09+0000
Judge buys Rittenhouse lawyer’s inane argument that Apple’s pinch-to-zoom manipulates footage
That’s not how it works.
This quote is... amazing. I knew people hated logarithms in math class but this is taking it to the next level.
"“iPads, which are made by Apple, have artificial intelligence in them that allow things to be viewed through three-dimensions and logarithms,” the defense insisted. “It uses artificial intelligence, or their logarithms, to create what they believe is happening. So this isn’t actually enhanced video, this is Apple’s iPad programming creating what it thinks is there, not what necessarily is there,” they added."Posted on 2021-11-11T17:35:19+0000
A Right-Wing Brawler Asked a Court to Protect Him From an Antifascist’s Tweets
Adam Kiefer got a restraining order against an antifascist researcher who revealed that he was at the Capitol on Jan. 6. It might have been a costly mistake.
“Kiefer submitted a screenshot of Loder’s tweet as an exhibit, telling the court: “Loder states that he is not a journalist but an activist. There fore [sic] ‘slapp law’ doesn’t count.”
Unfortunately for Kiefer, that is not how the law works.”Posted on 2021-11-11T07:35:33+0000
Rust Iterator Items An exploration of syntax
TL;DR: I think we should add generators to Rust. I’ve implemented a prototype of my proposal using a procedural macro, and I would love people to open issues and/or PRs with implementations or potential syntax and other ideas around the syntax of the feature.
Learnt a lot about programming language syntax and design trade offs from this one.
“I believe such a feature in Rust would be desirable. This might not give you the full flexibility of writing impl Iterator by hand, but I think it would cover the vast majority of cases people care about and are now stopped by the sudden complexity hurdle.”Posted on 2021-11-11T07:11:47+0000
Doing Fraud on Securities Fraud
Also Naked Electric Vehicles, AMC crypto miscellany, management advice and Shiba Inu arbitrage.
“Not legal advice or anything, but if you wake up at night thinking about JAIL because of crimes you’re doing, don’t put that in email. Maybe also stop doing the crimes, but definitely don’t, like, manifest your jail dreams in email.”Posted on 2021-11-11T06:50:20+0000
The Gradual Extinction of Softness by Chantha Nguon with Kim Green
The first time I cooked rice by myself, at five years old, I burned it to a tarry blackness.
This was a really well written and engaging human interest story about someone who grew up in Cambodia in the age of Pol Pot. It’s hard to describe but worth reading. It manages to evoke all the emotions: from love to heartbreak to pity to hope.
“Recipe: Little-Girl Heaven
one older brother
a carefree girl, small enough to stand on the front
a beautiful city
Combine one spoiled little girl, a shiny Vespa, and a worshipped older brother. Weave through the bustling streets of pre-war Phnom Penh at night. Grin like mad into the onrushing wind and drink the night air through your teeth. Savor this feeling, as all the ingredients will soon be extinguished, save the night wind.”Posted on 2021-11-11T05:08:45+0000
Technical Advisory – Arbitrary Signature Forgery in Stark Bank ECDSA Libraries (CVE-2021-43572, CVE-2021-43570, CVE-2021-43569, CVE-2021-43568, CVE-2021-43571)
Stark Bank is a financial technology company that provides services to simplify and automate digital banking, by providing APIs to perform operations such as payments and transfers. In addition, Stark Bank maintains a number of cryptographic libraries to perform cryptographic signing and verificatio...
Yikes. Goes to show how rolling your crypto is always hard and how you must always carefully follow the spec (the spec mandated checking for this case...)
"Therefore, a signature (r, s) = (0, 0) is deemed valid by the code for any message, and under any public key."Posted on 2021-11-11T00:12:37+0000
Updating The Verge’s background policy
On "on background."
Definitely interested in seeing how this plays out over the long run and whether more outlets pick this up. I think overall this would improve reporting and increase trust in media if done by more places (so that the outlets doing this don’t get crowded out).
“This list could go on and on — the clear pattern is that tech companies have uniformly adopted a strategy of obfuscating information behind background. It’s also easy to see why companies like to abuse background: they can provide their point of view to the media without being accountable for it. Instead, journalists have to act like they magically know things, and readers have to guess who is trustworthy and who is not.”Posted on 2021-11-10T16:25:47+0000
"This project will only take 2 hours"
Whenever I think something is simple, I try to walkthrough it and come up with all of the reasons why it isn't.
Great example of this thought process it takes to build software and why it’s never that easy.
“I've started using it as a thought experiment exercise for project management. Whenever I think something is extremely simple, I walk through it step by step to uncover the complexities, design decisions, use cases, and potential features that I missed.”Posted on 2021-11-10T04:28:39+0000
How We Saved Millions in SSD Costs by Upgrading Our Filesystem - Heap
During COVID we experienced rapid growth in the amount of data we ingest. This post details some of the problems this caused us and how we solved them.
This is some pretty cool work enabled by new state of the art compression algorithms.
“When all was said and done we observed the following impact:
* Total storage usage reduced by ~21% (for our dataset, this is on the order of petabytes)
* Average write operation duration decreased by 50% on our fullest machines
* No observable query performance effects”Posted on 2021-11-10T04:16:06+0000
A secret tape made after Columbine shows the NRA's evolution on school shootings
Just after the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School, NRA leaders agonized over what to do. NPR obtained recordings of the calls, which lay out how the NRA has handled mass shootings ever since.
What I’m surprised by is the fact that someone kept these tapes and recordings for 20+ years and only now released them. That takes some dedication. But also: why not release them earlier?
“In addition to mapping out their national strategy, NRA leaders can also be heard describing the organization's more activist members in surprisingly harsh terms, deriding them as "hillbillies" and "fruitcakes" who might go off script after Columbine and embarrass them.”Posted on 2021-11-09T16:42:25+0000
Starbucks Union Vote Sets Up a Watershed Moment for U.S. Labor
U.S. workers have authorized strikes in a wide swath of industries and quit jobs in record numbers but could soon pull off an even more audacious coup: Winning a unionization vote at one of the country’s signature non-union firms, Starbucks.
It really seems out of whack to me just how strongly Starbucks is fighting against 100 employees in 3 stores unionizing. Are they that worried of this spreading?
So far they’ve sent their founder and their North American president (separately) to speak to these employees, held many anti union presentations, doubled staff at these stores by bringing in other workers (one source says that bit is illegal) and asked to delay the vote.
“But Workers United’s NLRB election effort remains a gamble. While U.S. law promises employees the right to collectively bargain if a majority of their co-workers cast ballots in the affirmative, the law also gives companies wide latitude to campaign aggressively against unionization. Companies generally face only minimal penalties for engaging in illegal efforts to stymie the union or obstruct negotiations once a union is victorious.”Posted on 2021-11-09T07:15:53+0000
‘Success Addicts’ Choose Being Special Over Being Happy
The pursuit of achievement distracts from the deeply ordinary activities and relationships that make life meaningful.
Great read covering psychology, happiness, depression, and overwork.
“The first step is an admission that as successful as you are, were, or hope to be in your life and work, you are not going to find true happiness on the hedonic treadmill of your professional life. You’ll find it in things that are deeply ordinary: enjoying a walk or a conversation with a loved one, instead of working that extra hour, for example. This is extremely difficult for many people. It feels almost like an admission of defeat for those who have spent their lives worshipping hard work and striving to outperform others. Social comparison is a big part of how people measure worldly success, but the research is clear that it strips us of life satisfaction.”Posted on 2021-11-07T18:43:52+0000
This was a very well written human interest story discussing a manager and a group of employees at a McDonalds who walked out - and through this story it talks about the economy, the pandemic, and the labor shortage.
“He had not been back to see his father or siblings since arriving in Bradford. His job at McDonald’s was his refuge. His co-workers had become his family. Sometimes he and the rest of the night shift crew would finish work around 2 a.m. and walk two miles to the Sheetz coffee shop, where they would talk and eat mozzarella sticks, boneless chicken bites and burritos until dawn.”Posted on 2021-11-07T06:10:54+0000
An oral history of Bank Python
The strange world of Python, as used by big investment banks
Great read on a world of software I knew basically nothing about.
“I once described Minerva's "vouch" system, briefly, to another programmer who had never seen it. I explained that when you had a code change, you just had to convince any one of the code owners for the file in question to sign it off. If the change was very urgent, they might sign off your change sight unseen, based on your reputation alone. As soon as they clicked that "vouch" button - bang - your new change was in prod: after all, there is no such thing as a deployment step when your code is stored in a database. Disbelieving me, he asked who in the world would trust such a bank. The answer is a lot of people. They are a very big bank. You have certainly heard of them.”Posted on 2021-11-06T07:15:25+0000
How credit cards make money
Credit cards make money through net interest, interchange, fees, and marketing contributions.
I learnt a lot about economics and finance from this one.
“Competition for the business of business travelers caused one of the most important innovations in both consumer banking and the travel industries ever: cross-subsidization of credit card customer acquisition with travel company loyalty points. This economic engine became so massive that it is now worth strictly more than the airlines themselves, and it sparked a change of practice across U.S. cards: competing aggressively for customers by rebating interchange in the form of either rewards (such as airline loyalty points) or cash back (a post-transaction discount).”Posted on 2021-11-06T07:04:47+0000
Never update anything | blog.kronis.dev
My blog, where i attempt to collect my thoughts and share the occasional interesting topic with others
This article takes the argument to the extreme and one interpretation of this is that it’s a great rant. However there’s a lot of useful nuggets of information here around how software development has evolved over time. Goes deep into dependency management, patching, and development and deployment models.
“When you're telling your colleagues that you can't really work because Windows or JetBrains IDEs need to install some updates, they'll give you understanding, yet annoyed glances. When you tell clients that you cannot ship software because first you need to spend a few days or weeks refactoring software to keep up with the latest library releases, they will express their displeasure at you and will probably look elsewhere for someone who won't care about updates. When your company won't be the first to market, because about 20% of your total development capacity needs to spent on keeping up with the technical debt, which is slowly forced upon by the industry, while another 20% of the effort needs to go to writing and maintaining a test suite, the company will suffer as a result. And once you actually do get the buy-in to update the components and when it turns out that migrating from Spring to Spring Boot is actually a herculean effort that means carrying over about 50 dependencies of a legacy Java project that has about 1 million SLoC, during which you also discover that at least 20-30 of those are painfully out of date, then you'll just start writing blog posts like this”Posted on 2021-11-06T06:34:47+0000
Inside the life of a tech activist: abuse, gaslighting, but ultimately optimism
Tracy Chou has been a tech activist for almost a decade. Her story reveals what it’s like to fight Silicon Valley’s establishment.
This was a great bio, discussing Tracy’s experience in big tech, Silicon Valley fundraising, activism, and on making the world a better place. This quote was definitely optimistic, and tops off an inspirational story nicely:
“When you get her talking, Chou is thoughtful and nuanced, and even a little optimistic.
“What am I gonna do about that, if I’m really depressed about the state of the ecosystem?” she says, when I note that her optimism doesn’t exactly square with her own experiences. “Do I complain on Twitter about it? Do I try to get people to do something differently? Or do I just change my mindset? Even if it is bad, I just have to keep going. The only way it will get better is if I keep a more positive mindset and keep pushing forward. So it’s a little bit of a psychological trick on myself, too. If I let myself be overcome with the pessimism, then maybe nothing changes at all.””Posted on 2021-11-06T04:39:25+0000
Does having prime neighbors make you more composite? | bit-player
Babylonian accountants and land surveyors did their arithmetic in base 60, presumably because sexagesimal numbers help with wrangling fractions. When you organize things in groups of 60, you can divide them into halves, thirds, fourths, fifths, sixths, tenths, twelfths, fifteenths, twentieths, thi...
Very interesting analysis of what the author calls “tweens”: the numbers in between twin primes. There’s a lot of interesting patterns that I was not aware of before and it was a nice refresher on some number theory and probability concepts.
“When I first began to ponder the tweens, I went looking to see what other people might have said on the subject. I didn’t find much. Although the literature on twin primes is immense, it focuses on the primes themselves, and especially on the question of whether there are infinitely many twins—a conjecture that’s been pending for 170 years. The numbers sandwiched between the primes are seldom mentioned.
The many varieties of highly composite numbers also have an enthusiastic fan club, but I have found little discussion of their frequent occurrence as neighbors of primes.
Could it be that I’m the first person ever to notice the curious properties of twin tweens? No. I am past the age of entertaining such droll thoughts, even transiently. If I have not found any references, it’s doubtless because I’m not looking in the right places. (Pointers welcome.)”Posted on 2021-11-05T21:11:53+0000
'I barely function some days': Covid 'long haulers' struggle to work amid labor shortage
Laurie Bedell feels trapped inside her home and her ailing body. She's battling post-Covid syndrome, a mysterious long-term condition plaguing some coronavirus patients, and she remains so ill after nearly a year that she's unable to work.
Still wondering why this doesn’t get considered as much in all the “people don’t want to work anymore” discourse.
“A recent US Census Bureau survey estimated that 3.7 million Americans are out of work because they're either caring for someone or sick themselves with coronavirus symptoms. The survey also found roughly 2.5 million people aren't working because they're concerned about getting or spreading Covid.”Posted on 2021-11-05T17:42:07+0000
Failing to call out 'critical race theory' as a racist dog whistle? Let me rewrite that for you! | Press Watch
Political journalists shouldn't be such suckers for Republican scare stories. "Critical race theory" is, of course, the latest.
Interesting well sourced read on the recent CRT panic. Lots of (valid) critiques of the modern newsroom here.
“Largely if not entirely missing from the coverage of “critical race theory” as a political issue is reporting on what children are actually being taught in school. Do the facts support the contention that children are being indoctrinated into thinking white people should feel guilty all the time? Or is this description, from Elie Mystal of the Nation, more accurate?
An essential project of that education system is to absolve present-day white people of any need to reckon with the horrors that made their world possible—and still make their world possible—by assuring them that whatever sins this country committed were redeemed or corrected by the efforts of previous Americans. As often as not, those sins and horrors are covered up to protect young white minds from ever knowing the truth about our country. This project is designed to leave white Americans feeling that they have nothing to atone for, so they can blithely continue doing the work of white supremacy and reaping the rewards of white privilege with a clear conscience. All historical tragedies, the ones that are mentioned at least, are framed through the eyes of some American (usually white) who fought against evil forces. Children are supposed to believe, as most kids are inclined to do anyway, that the forces of good eventually triumphed.”Posted on 2021-11-04T16:44:59+0000
Where Transcendental Numbers Hide in Everyday Math | Quanta Magazine
The transcendental number π is as familiar as it is ubiquitous, but how does Euler’s number e transcend the ordinary?
This was an interesting mathematical read.
“Seven years ago a different pair of researchers imagined that it might be possible to use such polynomial techniques to segregate autonomous cars from places they shouldn’t go. But at the time, computational speed made the idea a pipe dream.
Ahmadi and Majumdar’s new approach provides a way for carrying out such rapid-fire calculations. So, if and when self-driving cars are able to navigate the world safely, we’ll have Google and Tesla to thank — and also David Hilbert.”Posted on 2021-11-02T07:26:24+0000
When “Foundation” Gets the Blockbuster Treatment, Isaac Asimov’s Vision Gets Lost
The TV version of the classic sci-fi saga sidelines its source’s most pressing questions about power and precarity.
Interesting take, though I don’t fully agree with it. I’m personally a fan of the show, it’s a good portrayal that’s inspired by the novels. It’s definitely too hard to make the source material into something that has mass market appeal, and we’re still left with an exciting story.
“The Apple TV+ series could have tried to craft a new template to encompass these constellations. Instead, it falls back on a sturdily familiar one: a ragtag band facing down a mighty empire, with the fate of the universe pivoting on the actions of a gifted few. It’s an approach that would have appealed to Asimov’s Lord Dorwin, a dilettantish dignitary obsessed with identifying humanity’s original solar system. Rather than search for it himself, though, Dorwin relies on the findings of long-dead archeologists. When Salvor suggests that he do his own field work, Dorwin is incredulous: Why blunder about in far-flung solar systems when the old masters have covered the ground so much better than we could ever hope to? ♦
“Posted on 2021-11-02T07:00:54+0000
Preemptive Pluralization is (Probably) Not Evil ∊ swyx.io
What if we just assumed we might have two of everything?
“It is a LOT easier to scale code from a cardinality of 2 to 3 than it is to refactor from a cardinality of 1 to 2. This is a fundamentally under-appreciated nonlinearity. In other words, Preemptive Pluralization can make the difference between "sure, I'll add that today" and "this is going to take us 2 months and we'll introduce merge conflicts with every other in-progress feature."”Posted on 2021-11-01T20:34:35+0000
America’s Food Safety System Failed to Stop a Salmonella Epidemic. It’s Still Making People Sick.
For years, a dangerous salmonella strain has sickened thousands and continues to spread through the chicken industry. The USDA knows about it. So do the companies. And yet, contaminated meat continues to be sold to consumers.
I knew salmonella was bad but I hadn't learnt about the extent of just how bad it was and how prevalent it is in the US.
Also, I'm glad ProPublica has launched a site where you can put in a number from your packet of chicken and get a rating for how bad/good the source is in terms of salmonella outbreaks. This is pretty cool.
"Today, food poisoning sickens roughly 1 in 6 Americans every year, according to the CDC, and salmonella hospitalizes and kills more people than any other foodborne pathogen. Each year, about 1.35 million people get sick from salmonella. While most recover, more than 400 people die and 26,500 people are hospitalized. Some are left with long-term conditions like severe arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome. Salmonella costs the economy an estimated $4.1 billion a year, more than any other type of food poisoning."Posted on 2021-11-01T20:08:52+0000