A mixed metaphor walks into a bar, seeing the handwriting on the wall but hoping to nip it in the bud.
A misplaced modifier walks into a bar owned by a man with a glass eye named Ralph.
Holy Heck! Fiddlesticks! Amid Coronavirus, Potty Talk Torments Sports
This is a column about curse words, and the deployment of curse words in sports. Don’t worry: I’m not going to use a curse word here. At least none of the really good ones. I might use a drat, a rats, a Fudgesicles, or a phooey, or, if I get really agitated—and this is just a warning to the kids at home, curled up reading a print newspaper, as kids do—a gadzooks. But I’m not going to say $*#$@!. Or %&#*!, *#$#@, or #*$!(@%. And definitely not #$*#@*^!.
The Art of the Bad Faith Argument
The person who types “lol” is never actually laughing; the person who types I’M SCREAMING is silently dabbing at a screen. In the same way, the person who is perpetually shocked and outraged and brimming with righteous fury is almost always lying to themselves. They’re as affectless as the rest of us: play-acting, downloading synthetic emotions, and then passing them on.
How to decode a data breach notice
But data breach notifications have become an all-too-regular exercise in crisis communications. These notices increasingly try to deflect blame, obfuscate important details and omit important facts. After all, it’s in a company’s best interest to keep the stock markets happy, investors satisfied and regulators off their backs. Why would it want to say anything to the contrary?
Why we at $FAMOUS_COMPANY Switched to $HYPED_TECHNOLOGY
Ultimately, however, our decision to switch was driven by our difficulty in hiring new talent for $UNREMARKABLE_LANGUAGE, despite it being taught in dozens of universities across the United States. Our blog posts on $PRACTICAL_OPEN_SOURCE_FRAMEWORK seemed to get fewer upvotes when posted on Reddit as well, cementing our conviction that our technology stack was now legacy code.
The ‘War on Runners’ Is Getting Hot and Sweaty
I’ve honestly never seen people more excited for walks. It’s the Great American Walk Renaissance. Even the dogs are like: OK, this is getting to be a bit much.
This is why the Big Walk is usually the highlight of the day, right up there with the 4:59 p.m. bourbon.
As for the runners…OK, let’s deal with the runners, because the runners are getting a lot of grief right now. Some folks are getting steamed at the runners—social media teems with accounts of runners barreling around sidewalks like getaway cars from a bank heist, weaving among pedestrians, not adhering to rules of safe distance and personal space. People are getting so mad at runners, they’re starting to call them “joggers,” which runners really hate, because a “runner” is someone committed to fitness, and a “jogger” is someone who waddles around in sweatpants while eating a turkey leg.
Ten Lessons I Wish I Had Learned Before I Started Teaching Differential Equations
One of many mistakes of my youth was writing a textbook in ordinary differential equations. It set me back several years in my career in mathematics. However, it had a redeeming feature: it led me to realize that I had no idea what a differential equation is. The more I teach differential equations, the less I understand the mystery of differential equations.
95%-ile isn't that good
Reaching 95%-ile isn’t very impressive because it’s not that hard to do. I think this is one of my most ridiculable ideas. It doesn’t help that, when stated nakedly, that sounds elitist. But I think it’s just the opposite: most people can become (relatively) good at most things.
There are several sections here. Every time I thought I was nearing the end, more content showed up.
How to Get Someone to Take One for the Team
Nailed it: “There’s no I in team” says the guy saying someone needs to take one for the team.
I went to see a movie, and instead I saw the future
This is the future, I’m afraid. A future that plans on everything going right so no one has to think about what happens when things go wrong. Because computers don’t make mistakes. An automated future where no one actually knows how things work.
Farewell to Starbucks’s green straws
In the long history of pipe-assisted drinking—beginning with the gold beer-sipping tubes of the Sumerians—Starbucks’s plastic straws knew they were a cut above the rest. Their tight white wrapping carried not only English words but a stylish French inscription, Pas recommandé pour utiliser dans les boissons chaudes. Released from that confinement, springing up ready, they stood straight, stiff and tall as a stalk of wheat, with no disfiguring articulations; for they never quailed or bent. And their colour was beautiful. It was darker than the leaves of spring, lighter than the Washington forests and the logo of the company, yet fresh, viridian, straight from the palette of a Monet or a Van Gogh. But despite all that they were doomed to disappear by 2020, for not being green enough.
My Semester With the Snowflakes
At 52, I was accepted to Yale as a freshman. The students I met there surprised me.
Martin Scorsese: I Said Marvel Movies Aren’t Cinema. Let Me Explain.
Many franchise films are made by people of considerable talent and artistry. You can see it on the screen. The fact that the films themselves don’t interest me is a matter of personal taste and temperament. I know that if I were younger, if I’d come of age at a later time, I might have been excited by these pictures and maybe even wanted to make one myself. But I grew up when I did and I developed a sense of movies — of what they were and what they could be — that was as far from the Marvel universe as we on Earth are from Alpha Centauri.
Besides a bit of old fashioned hand wringing here and there, a fairly level take, although I’m not sure how much I can bring myself to care.
Coffee is Hard
Quest games started with a premise like “escape the wizard” or “escape the aliens” then forced you to do a series of banal and random tasks to avoid the many, many ways to die. Once you know the way, most of the games can be completed in under an hour. On the first go, it took my whole family weeks. Not the least of the horror was often having to do things several scenes before there’s any reason for having done them: in Space Quest I, the hero-janitor Roger has to refuse the first offer for his bike, so the guy will come back a little later and throw in a jetpack. Of course there’s no indication that he’ll come back with a jetpack, and no reason to think there’s a need for a jetpack until three days later when Roger exits his spaceship and floats into the void because he doesn’t have a jetpack. This leads to replaying most of the game a dozen times just looking for a jetpack, which is hidden not in a spaceship closet or a bar or a cavern, but behind a tough-but-not-too-tough bargaining strategy. It also took about ninety seconds to switch between screens, so exploration was grueling on a good day.
After playing the first two, I realized I’d been programming for 17 years and could probably make my own, especially when all the art is 320 pixels wide and that’s about how many pixels I can work with before people give me a sideways look and ask if I really have a liberal arts degree. I decided to base the story loosely on my novel, for two reasons: first, if the game happens to get the kind of notoriety my novel has not, I might be able to boost sales by claiming the novel can serve as a hint book. Second, I spent nineteen years writing that stupid book, and this seemed like a good a way to manage the withdrawal symptoms. Three weeks later I’d built a rendering engine I’m quite proud of, a simple command and scene logic processor, and accidentally reinvented GIF compression.
How to Read “Gilgamesh”
The heart of the world’s oldest long poem is found in its gaps and mysteries.
All Penn, No Teller
Why Penn Jillette kind of makes sense as a tech magazine’s back-page columnist
But Jillette was something different. He was already famous—certainly more famous than Pournelle, an established science-fiction author, thanks to being a regular fixture on television during much of his career and starring in a legendary Run-DMC music video—and he likely did not need a nationally distributed computer magazine column to make a living. Jillette simply liked computers and knew a lot about them, which meant that he could rant about the details of an Autoexec.bat file just as easily as he can about politics. He gave the tech writing form something of an edge, while maintaining the freewheeling nature established by fellow pre-blogging voices like Pournelle.
Some good quotes and links here.
Doing Things The Wrong Way
Rules have a time and place, and “doing things wrong” is just a matter of your opinion, man.
The Lonely Work of Moderating Hacker News
The site’s now characteristic tone of performative erudition—hyperrational, dispassionate, contrarian, authoritative—often masks a deeper recklessness. Ill-advised citations proliferate; thought experiments abound; humane arguments are dismissed as emotional or irrational. Logic, applied narrowly, is used to justify broad moral positions. The most admired arguments are made with data, but the origins, veracity, and malleability of those data tend to be ancillary concerns. The message-board intellectualism that might once have impressed V.C. observers like Graham has developed into an intellectual style all its own. Hacker News readers who visit the site to learn how engineers and entrepreneurs talk, and what they talk about, can find themselves immersed in conversations that resemble the output of duelling Markov bots trained on libertarian economics blogs, “The Tim Ferriss Show,” and the work of Yuval Noah Harari.
This is a pretty fun read I think, even for people who don’t like HN. Or perhaps especially so. Some great, and dismal, quotes. Even ngate makes an appearance.
Life Can Get Weird When You’re Married to The Middle Seat
A guest columnist—who happens to be the regular columnist’s wife—ponders how his obsession with air travel benefits readers
The Stranding of the MV Shokalskiy
Mawson’s experience distills the Victorian age of Antarctic exploration to its essence, combining an unbelievable personal fortitude with the overall pointlessness of the endeavor. Even by Antarctic standards, George V Land was unexciting. The best thing you can say about it today is that sometimes a meteorite lands there.
But Mawson left behind a hut, and by the iron laws of Antarctic nostalgia that apply to any human structure below the 70th parallel, that hut is now an object of veneration, and must be visited.
In 2011, the Australian climate scientist Chris Turney heard the call of the Antarctic. As readers of this blog know, that can be an expensive call to hear. But the approaching centenary of Mawson’s expedition gave Turney a unique fundraising hook.
And then things went a bit sideways.