This is truly some next-level camping.
Nitasha Tiku of The Verge attended the casting call for putative startup drama 94110. She auditions for a role as venture capitalist, and is unexpectedly asked to conduct an interview in character. She finds it not only easy, but empowering, to pretend to be a rich asshole.
Failure had come up in my audition as well. When my name was called, I walked into a tiny white room with two men and one woman seated behind a folding table. The instructions warned that the panel "may ask some interview-style questions." I expected them to inquire about me, not the fictional investor I was playing, but I found it easier than expected to stay in character. One could say I #crushedit.
With the number of venture capital funds growing, how do you pick a winner, they asked. Pattern-matching, I said. What’s your relationship with failure? Badge of courage, I wear it proudly even if the newcomers don’t. What do you think of the Mission, is it for work or play? There's no work-life balance in the tech industry because we love what we do. What do you do when someone annoys you? Get up and leave. What if you see them out again? Nod politely. It's not personal, it's just business and my time is too valuable to waste.
Pretending you're a rich, entitled asshole is very empowering. What's more, fielding questions when you're supposed to sound like an expert helped me "grok" the propensity for meaningless business babble. Sometimes you need to say "pivot" just to buy yourself time to think.
Sounds like anyone could do it. How do I get that gig?
This is really too good not to re-post. My favorites are "Why we don't follow building regulations", "Counting the individual grains of sand in our aggregate gave us a 0.1% improvement in stability", and "We didn't understand this old building so we just ripped it down and replaced it with a latrine".
HN, Builder's Edition: pic.twitter.com/PHkfHJCoSh— Jason Frame (@jaz303) March 5, 2015
I think a lot of software methodologies are promulgated by consultants -- who have very different needs than startups or established companies. Bret Slatkin makes the point that you should always consider the source of the advice when determining if it applies to your situation.
I like reading people's opinions about building software, but it’s really important to consider the source. I think a lot of advice for programmers out there isn’t contextualized enough.
Examples of metadata I want to know:
- Is the author running an agency? Do they just need to build X more things faster?
- Is the author building a 10+ year company? Do they need long-term infrastructure?
- Is the author a frontend, backend, full-stack, functional, etc programmer?
- Does the author manage? Are they a tech lead? Do they write code every day?
Knowing the answer to such questions determines whether or not the author's guidance applies to your situation. It's highly likely that most of the advice you see out there isn't actually relevant to you at all. Including this post :)
This is a good article about the rise of gravel races in Minnesota. I won't make it back for a gravel grinder this year, and I miss them! Perhaps I need to check out the Eroica California course.
Minnesota is swept up in the growing Midwest interest in gravel bike races, known as “gravel grinders.” Hailing from every corner of the sport — mountain bikers, touring enthusiasts, tandem riders, even cycling rookies — many are finding a home on the gravel scene. Indeed, the variety of wheel widths and frame shapes at gravel start lines are testament to the sport’s inclusiveness.
Mission Bicycle tells the story of the short-lived 1894 San Francisco to Fresno bicycle mail route. 210 miles on a fixed gear bike, split into 8 relays, the mail could be delivered in 18 hours for $0.25.
When I read stories like this, I think, were people back then just more badass than today?
Books read in 2014
Since 2006, I've been keeping track of the books I read each year (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013). In 2014, I read 37 books. The books that stuck with me as being especially good are:
I loved half of this book and found the other half to be a slog. The part about how people interact online and on mobile phones was fascinating and timely. The part about how people interact with robots was OK, but really seemed like a stretch. One of main examples was the Furby. It was interesting to read how people interacted with the Furby, but it does not seem to me that the Furby led to an explosion of lifelike robots in the home.
If you've spent any time in San Francisco, you know there is an epidemic of homelessness. I wondered why this happened (Reagan often gets the blame for closing the mental health hospitals, but the book shows this is too simplistic.). American Psychosis is an indictment of the way we treat mental illness in America. To be sure, the public mental health hospitals were terrible places, but the community mental health treatment centers were never an adequate replacement, and today, police and county jails are the front-line treatment for many mentally ill people. Torrey's solution is re-centralize treatment and expand the ability of the state to force individuals to undergo treatment. He is particularly critical of the ACLU. Involuntary treatment brings to mind the abuses of psychiatry in the Soviet Union but Torrey makes a strong case that the freedom to be insane is no freedom at all.
I found out about American Psychosis from a review in the New York Times, which is worth reading for a summary.
The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, George Packer
This is a collection of stories about individuals trying to get by in New Gilded Age America, interspersed with vignettes of extraordinary people who've succeeded in the new milieu. This isn't a book that tries to explain why (as Atrios puts it) shit is fucked up and bullshit. Instead, it follows people as they try to make sense of an America where the promise that working hard means you'll have economic security has fallen apart.
The detailed story of the Damascus incident interwoven with the history of nuclear weapons and the inherent conflict between keeping nuclear weapons ready to use and under centralized control. Read this book and be astonished that no nuclear weapons accidents have occurred (yet). Along the way, Schlosser exposes the brutal folly of the nuclear arms race (lack of coordination between the services resulted massive overkill targeting). These weapons are still with us, and the possibility of an accident is almost inevitable, especially has more countries achieve nuclear capability.
Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie
Ancillary Justice is a solid space opera with an interesting premise. Its protagonist is a soldier who was formerly a starship -- or rather, a human who was enslaved and erased and made part of the starship's group mind. It isn't the most ground breaking science fiction novel of all time, but Leckie's universal use of the pronoun "she" for every character makes it a fascinating book and well worth reading.
Here's the complete list of books I read in 2014:
How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, Charles Yu
Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science, Atul Gawande
Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, Sherry Turkle
A Deepness in the Sky, Vernor Vinge
The Dragon Waiting, John M. Ford
Remote: Office Not Required, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
American Psychosis: How the Federal Government Destroyed the Mental Illness Treatment System, E. Fuller Torrey
Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet, John Bradshaw
The Lifecycle of Software Objects, Ted Chiang
Inventing Wine: A New History of One of the World's Most Ancient Pleasures, Paul Lukacs
Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture, David Kushner
Constellation Games, Leonard Richardson
Same Difference, Derek Kirk Kim
We Learn Nothing, Tim Kreider
The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, George Packer
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan
Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, Michael Lewis
All You Need is Kill, Hiroshi Sakurazaka (translated by Alexander O. Smith)
Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, Eric Scholosser
Tailchaser's Song, Tad Williams
The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe
The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss
Mo' Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove, Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson and Ben Greenman
Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie
The Last Page, Anthony Huso
The Land Across, Gene Wolfe
The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life, Lynne Twist
Meanwhile in San Francisco: The City in its Own Words, Wendy Naughton
A Night in the Lonesome October, Roger Zelazny
Rainbows End, Vernor Vinge
The Causal Angel, Hannu Rajaniemi
The Human Division, John Scalzi
The God Engines, John Scalzi
Left Out in America: The State of Homelessness in the United States, Pat LaMarche
The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
Embassytown, China Miéville
Agile!: The Good, the Hype, and the Ugly, Bertrand Meyer
Libertarian dreams turn into organized crime nightmares on the hidden web:
Tor’s anonymity helps criminals by making it harder for the state to identify and detain them. Yet this has an ironic side-effect: it also makes it harder for them to trust each other, because they typically can’t be sure who their interlocutors are. To make money in hidden markets, you need people to trust you, so that they will buy from you and sell to you. Having accomplished this first manoeuvre, the truly successful entrepreneurs go one step further. They become middlemen of trust, guaranteeing relations between others and taking a cut from the proceeds.
To this end, entrepreneurs have found it necessary to create and maintain communities, making rules, enforcing them, punishing rule-breakers, and turning towards violence when all else fails. They have, in effect, built petty versions of the very governments they are fleeing.
Benjamin Mako Hill criticizes his fellow intellectuals for cultivating disinterest in professional sports (and decides to become a football fan):
Several years ago, I was at a talk by Michael Albert at MIT where he chastised American intellectuals for what he claimed was cultivated disdain of professional sports. Albert suggested that sports reflect the go-to topic for small talk and building rapport across class and context. But he suggested that almost everybody who used the term "working class struggle" was incapable of making small talk with members of the working class because — unlike most working class people (and most people in general) — educated people systematically cultivate ignorance in sports....
Bethany Bryson, a sociologist at JMU has shown that increased education is associated with increased inclusiveness in musical taste (i.e., highly educated people like more types of music) but that these people are most likely to reject music that is highly favored by the least educated people. Her paper’s title sums up the attitude: "Anything But Heavy Metal". For highly educated folks, it’s a sign of cultivation to be eclectic in one’s tastes. But to signal to others that you belong in the intellectual elite, it can pay in cultural capital to dislike things, like sports, that are enormously popular among the least educated parts of society.
I wouldn't say my own lack of interest in sports is exactly cultivated at this point (it's more the end result of the process of failing to acculturate to sports as a child) but he makes a good point.
[T]he city revised its transportation mode objectives, dramatically increasing the bike and pedestrian trip goals.
The new mode split goal:
50 percent motor vehicles
12 percent transit
20 percent bicycles
18 percent walking, car pools, and other forms
This is one of the most pedestrian- and bike-centric modal split objectives in the United States....
The city created a policy that allocates general fund transportation spending by mode to match the mode share percentage goals desired....
This policy mandates that our city must allocate general fund transportation spending at the same ratio as the mode share goal desired. Meaning 20 percent of funding needs to go to bicycling. (Emphasis added.)
Wow! A city could build Netherlands-level bike infrastructure with a few years of 20% funding.