Eschaton: Because I Am Not Serious
Seriously, sometimes Atrios still speaks the truth better than anyone.
trump  politics  united-states  psychology 
6 days ago
I've been a (perhaps not so) secret fan of Vaporwave
<<... for a few years now and it’s amazing to see how it’s evolved over the years. Here’s the product of one night’s attempt to pull together a diverse range of what Vaporwave has become>>
7 days ago
[1705.03394] That is not dead which can eternal lie: the aestivation hypothesis for resolving Fermi's paradox
<<If a civilization wants to maximize computation it appears rational to aestivate until the far future in order to exploit the low temperature environment: this can produce a 10^30 multiplier of achievable computation. We hence suggest the "aestivation hypothesis": the reason we are not observing manifestations of alien civilizations is that they are currently (mostly) inactive, patiently waiting for future cosmic eras. This paper analyzes the assumptions going into the hypothesis and how physical law and observational evidence constrain the motivations of aliens compatible with the hypothesis.>>
fermi-paradox  aliens  computer-science  futurism 
9 days ago
Neil Fraser: News: CS in VN
Anecdotally, I have a colleague who ran an onboarding session for our platform SDK at a Vietnamese outsourcing firm and he said their engineers are very sharp.
programming  education  computer-science 
9 days ago
Intel's Management Engine is a security hazard, and users need a way to disable it | Electronic Frontier Foundation
Since 2008, most of Intel’s chipsets have contained a tiny homunculus computer called the “Management Engine” (ME). The ME is a largely undocumented master controller for your CPU: it works with system firmware during boot and has direct access to system memory, the screen, keyboard, and network. All of the code inside the ME is secret, signed, and tightly controlled by Intel. Last week, vulnerabilities in the Active Management (AMT) module in some Management Engines have caused lots of machines with Intel CPUs to be disastrously vulnerable to remote and local attackers. While AMT can be disabled, there is presently no way to disable or limit the Management Engine in general.
. . .
On many Intel chips, the Management Engine is shipped with the AMT module installed. It is intended to allow system administrators to remotely control the machines used by an organization and its employees. A vulnerability announced on May 1 allows an attacker to bypass password authentication for this remote management module, meaning that in many situations remote attackers can acquire the same capabilities as an organization’s IT team, if active management was enabled and provisioned.
intel  security  vulnerabilities  hardware 
9 days ago
The Racial Wealth Gap and Homeownership Nonsense – MattBruenig | Politics
Yet another way that economic policies that favor real estate as an asset class are profoundly misguided.
economic-inequality  racism  real-estate 
13 days ago
Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie (@Kindle)
Finished 2017-05-06. Ancillary Justice was promising; its sequel, although enjoyable in some ways, is unfortunately a letdown.

It may be unfair to compare Leckie to Iain M. Banks, but it is hard to escape the comparison. Banks was doing conceptual science fiction ("what if there were an anarchic post-scarcity civilization run by superintelligent AI that justified its existence through a messianic mission of subtle and devious intervention?"), Leckie is doing the British Raj in Space ("here is an interstellar empire, it oppresses the colonials in the exact ways that colonial powers always have, let's have some tea" --- and calling the empire the "Radch" is seriously on-the-nose). Maybe I'm more annoyed than I should be because I feel there was so much potential left on the table here. We are put in the viewpoint of a sharded-off fragment of an AI hive mind in the midst of a galactic civil war and we get a drawing room drama about whether to set out the good china for the guests (this is not an exaggeration), taking place entirely in a single gravity well.

Also, there are some basic nuts and bolts failures of craft:

+ The editing is tragically negligent. Count for yourself how many times you are repetitively reminded that the viewpoint character is a former ancillary.

+ Presumably in order to stretch the material across the trilogy format which is so integral to contemporary publishing, the "novel" (really, half a novel) ends with no particular fanfare right at a critical turning point of plot.

+ The whole issue of ancillaries --- Leckie's biggest science-fictional conceit in this series --- is addressed in a rather muddled way. The protagonist's attitude towards ancillaries and the process of making them is incongruously inconsistent with her (admittedly evolving) attitude in the previous novel, even though this one picks up almost the instant after the end of that one. Furthermore, the removal of Tisarwat's implants --- which is, more or less, like liberating an ancillary --- seems to be treated, by the protagonist, all the other characters, and (crucially) the narrative itself, as a purely practical problem rather than a problematic, historically unique refutation of the empire's historical attitudes towards ancillary slavery. It would be fine to have the characters themselves paper over all this cognitive dissonance, but it feels like a jarring omission for the author to fail to address or at least gesture towards the questions that should be raised in an active reader's mind. Apart from the wasted science-fictional potential, this is rather like a more elevated version of when you see characters in a horror movie stupidly walking unarmed into dark places that are full of monsters --- here we have characters confronting gigantic challenges to their way of thinking without reacting.

Nevertheless, despite all my complaints, there's a better-than-even chance that I'll read the 3rd. I'm rooting for Leckie to realize the potential of this premise, and there is still enough here to be basically an enjoyable read.

p.s. The gender thing is a fun twist and the kind of thing I would like to see more of. But it faded into the background for me in the middle of the last novel. It is amusing to spend a few spare brain cycles now and then wondering if the sex you inevitably assign mentally to certain characters would match up with the author's, and that play can be thought-provoking, but this is frosting, and the fundamental cake is somewhat underbaked.
booklog  finished:2017  fiction  science-fiction 
15 days ago
Weekend Reading: Daniel Davies: Why a Speech from Barack Obama is Worth $400,000
Banking and corporate finance are relationship businesses, and political household names are marketing gold. They attract the kind of people who are otherwise very difficult to get hold of: they make the clients feel important, and burnish the image of the banker who organised the event as someone who is at ease in the corridors of power. You need to secure only one advisory role on a big deal to justify years and years of paying for former world leaders to decorate your corporate social life.

The fundamental insight here is that the reason that we can be sure that these payments are not purely transactional is that nothing in investment banking is purely transactional. Across fields from advisory to research to capital markets, bankers are used to working on spec, building relationships and trust, and eventually getting paid at the time of a big transaction. . . .

So payments to former politicians for speeches and access shouldn’t be seen as straightforward purchases of services; they are one of the ways in which bankers invest in an overall ecosystem that they think benefits them.

DeLong and Davies might mean this to be a sort of defense, but in a larger sense it is just a more accurate but still damning description of the ecosystem of power.
corruption  politics  finance  culture  business 
23 days ago
Jeff Atwood @codinghorror I am getting a lot of blowback for advocating @tqbf's "don't ever use Linode for security reasons I can't elaborate on" position
Read the thread. This is how security information gets disseminated in some cases these days: reputable people get on Twitter and say stuff.
security  computing  cloud-computing  hosting 
23 days ago
Jerry Saltz: My Life As a Failed Artist
It is quite rare to have such a frank dissection of one's own failures.

<< When I arrived in New York in 1980 to become part of that world, I didn’t know what hit me or how much of the deep content in my art had to do with Chicago, my own naïveté, and isolation. I was so out of step. Chicago was still involved with 1970s Conceptualism, straight photography, regional ideas of hard-edged abstraction, process art, and Pluralism. Things in New York were so different: The city was exploding in Neo-Expressionism, Pictures, and graffiti art. The first of these was out of my painterly and scale reach; the second, out of my intellectual depth; the last was nothing I was involved with, and I could never stay up late enough or do enough drugs to really participate in clubbing.

I was in shock, unable to muster what real artists use to fortify themselves when faced with situations like this. When I teach today, I often judge young artists based on whether I think they have the character necessary to solve the inevitable problems in their work. I didn’t. I also didn’t understand how to respond to an outer world out of step with my inner life without retreating into total despair. Oscar Wilde said, “Without the critical faculty, there is no artistic creation at all.” Artists have to be self-critical enough not to just attack everything they do. I had self-doubt but not a real self-critical facility; instead I indiscriminately loved or hated everything I did. Instead of gearing up and fighting back, I gave in and got out. >>
art  career-advice 
4 weeks ago
Production-Ready Microservices: Building Standardized Systems Across an Engineering Organization, by Susan J. Fowler
Finished 2017-04-09. Somewhat mistitled --- nearly everything here is just general guidance on how to run a reliable software as a service, and it overlaps considerably with other entries in the genre such as TPOCSA or the Google SRE book. (Of course the microservices angle is very savvy marketing.) Where this book is strong is in laying out clear, concise checklists that can be easily followed by any reasonably competent engineer --- in fact, in terms of page ratio to content, this book may be a more efficient manual for establishing SRE-style practices in a software development organization than either TPOCSA or the SRE Book, although people who are serious about the field will want to read all three.

The biggest drawbacks of this book may be

(a) it is somewhat light on technical specifics (this is a deliberate choice by the author; it makes the advice more timeless but also demands a lot of supplementation on the part of the reader);

(b) the practices advocated by this book assume a level of staffing resources that is genuinely astounding to me, coming from a much smaller startup. Again, the reader will have to do a lot of hard thinking to figure out how to prioritize these issues and implement them in a leaner organization. One thing that emerges fairly clearly from Fowler's portrait of "microservice" development at Uber is that going all in on the microservice philosophy only makes sense for companies whose main problem is how to apply the large engineering resources at their disposal to a sprawling galaxy of problems; for organizations that face different tradeoffs, a simpler and coarser-grained architecture may be far more manageable.
booklog  finished:2017  nonfiction  devops  software-architecture  software-engineering 
6 weeks ago
Microservices AntiPatterns and Pitfalls
This is not very rigorous --- the circuit breaker pattern as a substitute for timeouts is almost a non sequitur, for example, and does not actually solve the distributed systems problem that it is purporting to address --- but may be worth a skim.
ebooks  software-architecture  devops  programming 
6 weeks ago
Browsix: Unix in the browser tab
I swear I had this exact idea in early 2013. Good on this team for implementing it though.
unix  systems  programming  web-development 
6 weeks ago
R. David Mullin‏ @RD_Mullin Replying to @RD_Mullin and @davidmwessel Brookings report hints at & math aptitude performance shows: US does a poor job teaching math. Singapore Math is a superior curriculum.

Why isn't Singapore Math widely adopted in US? Main reason is that teachers and parents don't know math well enough themselves to teach it.
With Singapore Math, students go from concrete to pictorial to abstract for each pre-algebra and pre-geometry topic.
I'm the learning guide for my two 11 year olds using Marshall Cavendish's Singapore Math, Math in Focus (compatible with Common Core)
math  education 
6 weeks ago
Drawing for Code
<< Input departs from the limitations of the pixel grid to become a powerful and flexible system of widths, weights, and styles, each with Sans, Serif, and Monospaced variants. >>
fonts  programming 
7 weeks ago
The Red: First Light, by Linda Nagata (@Kindle)
Finished 2017-03-??. It is kind of amazing that Nagata had to self-publish this initially to get her career as a novelist back in gear after hiatus, particularly given the obvious commercial appeal of this particular novel. I personally would have liked a slightly different ratio of science fiction to technothriller, but this is pretty decent overall and I'll probably read the rest in the series eventually. Neal Stephenson could certainly take a page from Nagata on how to write taut action scenes that don't overstay their welcome.
booklog  finished:2017  fiction  science-fiction 
7 weeks ago
LSE Business Review – Gender quotas and the crisis of the mediocre man
<< While accepting that they lean against underlying biases in gender representation, many opponents argue that such quotas offend meritocratic principles: women elected on the back of quotas need not be the most qualified and may displace qualified men. It would be nice to resolve these debates with hard evidence. However, relatively little is known about the impact of quotas on the competence of elected candidates – whether women or men.

Our study provides a unique window on quotas and, at the same time, pushes forward the measurement of competence in political selection. It uses the fact that, in 1993, Sweden’s Social Democratic party voluntarily introduced a strict gender quota for its candidates. In internal discussions of the reform, the party’s Women’s branch observed that some men were more critical than others. The quota became known colloquially as the “Crisis of the Mediocre Man,” since the incompetent men had the most to fear from an influx of women into politics.

Beyond the obvious point that the quota would give fewer positions to men, quotas can have strategic effects on political selection. Mediocre leaders have a strong incentive to surround themselves with mediocre followers, so as to bolster their chances of remaining in power. A less acknowledged role of quotas is to create a threat to such cozy arrangements. >>
8 weeks ago
Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations (TED Books), by Dan Ariely (@Kindle)
Finished 2017-03-??. I think I bought the wrong Ariely book by accident. This is the TED Books, a.k.a. glib Cliff's Notes, version of his research. I suppose I should buy a more substantial treatment sometime. Still, interesting enough, as far as it goes.
booklog  finished:2017  psychology  nonfiction 
9 weeks ago
The World of a Tiny Insect: A Memoir of the Taiping Rebellion and Its Aftermath, by Zhang Daye (Xiaofei Tian, trans.) (@Kindle)
Finished 2017-03-19. About 2/3 travelogue from the author's itinerant life as an adult, and 1/3 first-person account of the author's encounters with the Taiping Rebellion as a boy. That 1/3 is brutal but it is interesting both how much life normalizes after the unbelievable horrors of the civil war, and how decades later the subtle ripples remain in the culture. Probably only worth reading for people who are really interested in the Taiping period (as I am) but a worthwhile addition to the very limited English language literature on the period.
booklog  finished:2017  nonfiction  history  china  taiping 
9 weeks ago
The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers, by Ben Horowitz
Finished 2017-01-??. Worth reading although much of this material can be found on his blog. All autobiographical business books have some fraction of self-justifying bullshit to leaven the actually useful lessons but the ratio here is quite tolerable.
booklog  nonfiction  finished:2017  silicon-valley  startups  culture  business 
9 weeks ago
Building [a neural network using homomorphic encryption] - i am trask
<< With the approach above, you could train a regular, decrypted neural network for a while, encrypt it, send it to Party A with a public key (who trains it for a while on their own data... which remains in their possession). Then, you could get the network back, decrypt it, re-encrypt it with a different key and send it to Party B who does some training on their data. Since the network itself is what's enrypted, you get total control over the intelligence that you're capturing along the way. Party A and Party B would have no way of knowing that they each received the same network, and this all happens without them ever being able to see or use the network on their own data. You, the company, retain control over the IP in the neural network, and each user retains control over their own data. >>

I suspect that this isn't actually going to work but bookmarking for future digestion.
artificial-intelligence  neural-networks  cryptography 
9 weeks ago
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