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.
The New York City passport office
> The New York passport office. Wow. Where to begin?
Expedia: from software bug to customer service nightmare, a modern Odyssey
> Instead of keeping an account and my data private, Expedia created a fake account. Instead of deleting the fake account, Expedia deleted both accounts. Instead of reactivating the account I had to create a new account. Instead of adding points to the new account, Expedia deleted the new account again. After 30+ interactions over two months with the massively incompetent support, I lost about 10,000 points, my status, but received $75 and 3000 points (about $100 total) in compensation. Go Expdia!
From Punched Cards To Flat Screens
> When I retired at the end of September 2007, I knew I would be expected to make a speech at the retirement lunch. Looking back over the 40 years that I had been part of the computing community in Cambridge, it struck me again just how much change there had been, and also how many different areas of computing I had worked in. For the younger colleagues who listened to my speech, the early years must seem like ancient history.
The end of political cartoons at The New York Times
> In April 2019, a Netanyahu caricature from syndication reprinted in the international editions triggered widespread outrage, a Times apology and the termination of syndicated cartoons. Weeks later, my employers tell me they’re ending political cartoons altogether by July. I’m putting down my pen, with a sigh: that’s a lot of years of work undone by a single cartoon - not even mine - that should never have run in the best newspaper of the world.
> I’m afraid this is not just about cartoons, but about journalism and opinion in general. We are in a world where moralistic mobs gather on social media and rise like a storm, falling upon newsrooms in an overwhelming blow. This requires immediate counter-measures by publishers, leaving no room for ponderation or meaningful discussions. Twitter is a place for furor, not debate. The most outraged voices tend to define the conversation, and the angry crowd follows in.
What I Learned Trying To Secure Congressional Campaigns
> I don’t believe I accomplished much, but I made so many friends along the way! And I learned a lot about the idiosyncratic world of Congressional campaigns; knowledge that I want to now hand over to you, the next person willing to take a swing at this piñata of futility.
> The candidate was hardest person to secure. They were too busy to come to the training. They didn’t want to move off their Loudong SB250 phone because it had all their favorite Flash games from the Yahoo store on it. Three different antivirus programs competed for dominion over their Windows 7 laptop.
> Ideally, there would be a billing model where the training is free, but the campaign gets charged thousands of dollars for ignoring it.
Privacy Rights and Data Collection in a Digital Economy (Senate hearing)
> As someone who earns his living through data collection, I am acutely aware of the power the tools we are building give us over our fellow citizens’ private lives, and the danger they pose to our liberty. I am grateful to Chairman Crapo, ranking member Brown, and the committee for the opportunity to testify on this vital matter.
Oh, We Don’t Sell Food At This Restaurant — We Purvey Provisions
> Greetings and welcome to Victual, an old-time public house and purveyor of fine provisions that has been foisted upon you by someone who lives in the West Village. Before you ask, yes, this Gingham shirt and denim apron are sewn directly into my skin to save time.