This Code Sucks: A Story About Non-violent Communication

Nadia Odunayo speaks at Brighton Ruby Conference about Non-violent communication. This was interesting, I picked up a copy of the book to learn more.

— February 19, 2018

Nibble Nibble

Last year I read Memorize that poem! in the New York Times. I have never been into poetry much, but it seemed like an interesting idea.

Since ancient times, humans have memorized and recited poetry. Before the invention of writing, the only way to possess a poem was to memorize it. Long after scrolls and folios supplemented our brains, court poets, priests and wandering bards recited poetry in order to entertain and connect with the divine. For individuals, a poem learned by heart could be a lifeline — to grapple with overwhelming emotion or preserve sanity amid the brutalities of prison and warfare.

Yet poetry memorization has become deeply unfashionable, an outmoded practice that many teachers and parents — not to mention students — consider too boring, mindless and just plain difficult for the modern classroom. Besides, who needs to memorize when our smartphones can instantly call up nearly any published poem in the universe?

In fact, the value of learning literature by heart — particularly poetry — has only grown. All of us struggle with shrinking attention spans and a public sphere that is becoming a literary wasteland, bereft of sophisticated language or expressions of empathy beyond one’s own Facebook bubble.

Around the same time, we had checked out some children's poetry for our daughter, so I decided to memorize "Nibble Nibble" by Margaret Wise Brown:

Nibble Nibble Nibble
Goes the mouse in my heart
Nibble Nibble Nibble
Goes the mouse in my heart
Nibble Nibble Nibble
Goes the mouse in my heart
And the mouse in my heart is
You.

Lippity Lippity Clip
Goes the rabbit in my heart
Lippity Lippity Clip
Goes the rabbit in my heart
Lippity Lippity Clip
Goes the rabbit in my heart
And the rabbit in my heart is
You.

Flippity Flippity Flop
Goes the fish in my heart
Flippity Flippity Flop
Goes the fish in my heart
Flippity Flippity Flop
Goes the fish in my heart
And the fish in my heart is
You.

Biff Bang Bang
Goes the hammer in my heart
Biff Bang Bang
Goes the hammer in my heart
Biff Bang Bang
Goes the hammer in my heart
And the hammer in my heart is
You.

Drum Drum Drum
Goes the drum in my heart
Drum Drum Drum
Goes the drum in my heart
Drum Drum Drum
Goes the drum in my heart
And the drum in my heart is
You.

Softly now beats the beat of my heart
Softly now beats the beat of my heart
Softly now beats the beat of my heart
All for the love of you.

Since then, the poem has been part of our bedtime routine. Caroline Kennedy wrote in Poems to Know by Heart, "If we learn poems by heart, we will always have their wisdom to draw on, and we gain an understanding that no one can take away." It's not The Odyssey, but I feel that way about memorizing "Nibble Nibble". It's something special that my daughter and I share, and will always be a part of me.

— January 30, 2018

The Long Way Round

Sometimes when you read some history, you think "someone needs to make a movie out of this". Long Way Round is the story of the last Pan Am Clipper out of California bound for New Zealand before the outbreak of war in the Pacific. Narrowly missing the attack on Pearl Harbor, the crew is flying the last leg to Auckland when they receive word that the US and Japan are at war.

Their route home is cut off, and they are ordered to proceed back to New York...the long way. Amazingly, without a mapped route, without access to the high octane aviation fuel their engines need, a lot of close calls, and over 31,000 miles, they made it to New York.

— January 25, 2018

Meltdown in a nutshell

Charles Nutter provides a concise and easy-to-understand explanation of how the Meltdown attack works.

— January 25, 2018

FML: Why millennials are facing the scariest financial future of any generation since the Great Depression

This is what it feels like to be young now. Not only are we screwed, but we have to listen to lectures about our laziness and our participation trophies from the people who screwed us.

How screwed are the Millennials? It's dire.

— December 15, 2017

Wooden iPhone

wooden iPhone

This is an interesting toy. We found it at a playground, so I don't know if it's mass produced or a one-off. Either way, it's clearly a screen shot of an iPhone 6s or 7, rendered in wood (I think with a laser). The detail is impressive. You can see the network mobile network (Verizon), day (January 29) and time (10:20 AM), Bluetooth connection, and battery level (99%). There's also a third party app installed (YouTube) so it was not a stock screenshot. The body of the phone is also nicely done. It's perfectly sized and the microphone, speakers, home button, and camera are outlined.

— November 26, 2017

How A Russian Troll Fooled America

This is a detailed account of the career of a single Russian troll account. It shows a small sliver of how badly Americans were played by the Russian propaganda campaign.

@TEN_GOP was a heavyweight voice on the American far right. It had over 130,000 followers; it was retweeted by some of Trump’s aides. When it was suspended, in July 2017, voices across the American far right protested....

@TEN_GOP’s brief, but spectacular, career, shows how open America remains to foreign influence efforts. It was an anonymous account with no connection to the Republican party it linked itself to, yet it gained immense credence, first on the far right, and then in the main stream, entirely because of its partisan posts. Far-right commentators supported it; mainstream outlets and politicians quoted it; liberals attacked it; all were fooled by it.

— November 18, 2017

The best laptop ever made

Apple has made many great laptops, but the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro (2012–2015) is the epitome of usefulness, elegance, practicality, and power for an overall package that still hasn’t been (and may never be) surpassed.

I waited and waited to upgrade my 2010 MacBook Pro, until it was on its last legs, because I was hoping for a nice speed bump. Instead, the TouchBar MacBook Pro came out, and I couldn't do it. I bought a 2015 MacBook Pro instead. It's a great computer. I hope it lasts me. My only regret is that I could have had it sooner.

— November 15, 2017

Retroactive favorites: 2010 books

I've been keeping track of the books I read each year for a while now. In 2011, I started picking out a few favorites as well. I can't go back and add my favorites from previous years, but I can look back from now and pick out the books that still stand out to me, years later. This is necessarily colored by the passage of time, but that's all part of the fun. I've decided to start with the most recent year and go backwards to the beginning. Here's my retroactive favorites from 2010.

Book Cover

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, Jonathan Haidt

For a while, I was on a positive psychology kick, and read probably half a dozen books about happiness research. This was probably my favorite. Haidt surveys ancient philosophies and religions and considers their wisdom in light of modern psychology research.

Book Cover

American Aurora: A Democratic-Republican Returns. The Suppressed History of our Nation's Beginnings and the Heroic Newspaper that Tried to Report It, Richard N. Rosenfeld

I have never read a history book like American Aurora before. It is composed almost entirely of period newspaper editorials, strung together with in character first person observations by the editor of the newspaper. Does that make it historical fiction? It's strange to read, but it works. The book centers around the debate between the Democratic-Republicans (heirs to the Anti-Federalists) and the ruling Federalists as the Federalist government comes close to war with Revolutionary France. An important lesson I learned from this book is that American politics has been more partisan than it is now (and not just during the Civil War). Rival militias marched, newspaper offices were torched, people were assaulted.

Book Cover

Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel

Mantel takes Thomas Cromwell, the villian of A Man For All Seasons, and makes him into a rich, three dimensional character who will do anything to make sure his (rather feckless) master Henry VIII gets what he wants -- while, meanwhile, promoting his own Protestant agenda.

Book Cover

The Promise of Sleep: A Pioneer in Sleep Medicine Explores the Vital Connection Between Health, Happiness, and a Good Night's Sleep, William C. Dement

This is a strange book. Written by one of the scientists who started the field of sleep medicine and did a lot of pioneering research into sleep and sleep disorders, it's half fascinating insight into sleep research (for example, he tells the the story of how he was gearing up for a big study on melatonin as a prescription sleep medicine...and then the FDA categorized it as a supplement, kicking off the largest uncontrolled sleep study in history) and half an old man's reminisces. Nevertheless, I have recommended it to others several times over the years. It also has what Dement says is a fool-proof cure for jet lag, which is hard to carry out because doctors are reluctant to prescribe sleeping pills.

Book Cover

No Simple Victory: World War II in Europe, 1939-1945, Norman Davies

Americans get the "good war" version of World War II, where heroic democracies fight back against overwhelming odds against evil fascists. Davies, a historian of Poland, sets out to correct that interpretation. In his telling, the war in Europe was primarily a contest between two totalitarian states, with the Western allies relegated to ineffectual aerial bombardment. He presents a strong case -- in terms of men and materiel, the Eastern front was the axis of the conflict. This version of history is not one that we in the West get much of, and it colors the outcome of the war significantly.

— October 9, 2017

Google Vizier: A service for black-box optimization

Google Vizier performs hyperparameter tuning. And makes cookies:

At the tail end of the paper we find something else very much of our times, and so very Google. If you ever find yourself in the Google cafeteria, try the cookies. The recipe for those cookies was optimised by Vizier, with trials sent to chefs to bake, and feedback on the trials obtained by Googler’s eating the results.

It has already proven to be a valuable platform for research and development, and we expect it will only grow more so as the area of black-box optimization grows in importance. Also, it designs excellent cookies, which is a very rare capability among computational systems.

— October 2, 2017