On the death of Stalin

I believe I’ve just watched the funniest movie in at least a few years. Every single scene, every single interaction, is shot through with dark humor. It really doesn’t get any darker than this.

It’s the kind of material which a lesser movie might have tried to satire or (worse!) turn into a fictionalized documentary.

But no, an accurate retelling is all that works here, preserving all of the idiocy, all of the despair, all of the absurdity— and there is so much absurdity here!

My favorite movie of the year, by far.

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General Interesting Links: April 2018

 

Yes, the figure at the bottom of this absurdly tall tree is a horse!

 

Bunch of random stuff that I liked this month:

In this process, which scientists call ‘ballooning’, the spider creates a sail-like web that catches the breeze, allowing it to travel distances as short as a few meters or embark on epic journeys that can take them up into the jet stream or as far as remote islands in the ocean.

  • I found some old advertisements that I liked, but I liked them so much I made the one-liner into a separate post.
  • I’ve been watching a bit of “Thomas the Train Engine” with my daughter, and have a growing unease at the back of my mind each time I do, but this person nails the reason why; will never be able to look at it the same way again (!)
  • I feel terrible that I never paid attention to this line at the beginning of The Big Lebowski, so here’s someone over-analyzing it
  • Something that doesn’t fit anywhere: about seeking, and insights (also has something to say about the Matrix, and about just doing)
  • The “canon wars” continue on (I’m very pessimistic about all this; readers who’ve seen me mention Allan Bloom in the past know which side of the fence I sit on, though)
  • Finally, the real” story of Alladin turns out to be way more obscure/interesting than I knew!

The un-happened future

Regular readers may have noticed my fondness for historical advertising (of a very specific kind). Here are some old advertisements by Bohn Aluminum that I came across, and here is a bigger list. This stuff dates from the 1940s.

These look like the background design of Bioshock and you can’t imagine seeing something like this today, but the real story here (I think) is how it used to be possible to imagine building big stuff in a positive sense, and how everyone almost took it for granted that “wonderful infrastructure” was going to come, perhaps sooner, perhaps later, but it was going to come.

Today, it’s hard to find believers of that sort. Today, this giant rocket airplane, with five decks, would draw either a laugh, or a smirk, or worse, but for a brief period it might have drawn admiration.

Starting new C++ projects

I wanted to have a playground to try out new idioms and concepts (hah!) in C++, and it became an excuse to figure out what the right way (in my opinion) would be, given the enormous range of choices each step of the way.

I settled on two requirements: a good build system and a good standard library augmentation.

There are numerous build systems these days, but (blame familiarity here, I guess) I went with Bazel.

Similarly, familiarity led me to pick Abseil over (say) Boost or Folly.

To show how straightforward it can be these days to “just start making” something in C++, I made a small dummy program that has a single cc_binary rule and uses some basic string library functions.

(The real story is how amazing it is to have open-sourced versions of these, this setup would have been unthinkable just a couple of years ago!!)

Take a look here.

Monthly recap (April 2018)

 

Bread pudding and vanilla ice cream

 

Major updates:

  • Weekend trip to Monterey
  • Having fun at work 🙂
  • Kite flying with Tara

Minor updates:

  • Couple of birthday parties for Tara
  • Met some old friends after many years!
  • Annoying but necessary bone-graft/implant

Watched/read:

  • Building without nails (documentary on old architecture)
  • Lost in Space (the new Netflix series)

Programming/Math/Science roundup: April 2018

Old Lisp programs

I found an old chess program that Mark Watson (somehow I can’t find the original link anymore, my Gist mirroring it is here). I was wondering what it would take to get it to run again, and I was shocked to find out that when I copy-pasted it in, loaded the file, it … it just worked !!

This is not supposed to happen, really. Code from 28 years ago isn’t supposed to just run. I don’t need to talk about how even Python code from 10 years ago would require some work to run.

Also notable is the lack of required scaffolding in terms of makefiles, build tools or anything of the sort. Yes, you could imagine breaking the code up, but it’s just 585 lines. Drop it in and load the code, and you’re good to go. No extensions, shims, nothing.

As proof, here is a short transcript of me playing terribly with it.