Media Summary: November 2017

Some interesting links for the month:

Moscow 1968
Moscow, 1968

 

“Let me furnish the amusements of the nation and there will be need of very few laws,” P. T. Barnum, the great impresario of the circus, told the New York Sun in 1880. In his essay “Superman Comes to the Supermarket,” Norman Mailer noted a strange depression at the 1960 Democratic convention, which didn’t make any sense until he saw John F. Kennedy in the flesh:

“I understood the mood of depression which had lain over the convention, because finally it was simple: the Democrats were going to nominate a man who, no matter how serious his political dedication might be, was indisputably and willy-nilly going to be seen as a great box-office actor, and the consequences of that were staggering and not at all easy to calculate.”

We are now living in the world Barnum and Mailer predicted. The United States has become a histriocracy. We are ruled by celebrity. Whether or not Trump himself is in power will not change this fact.

  • Bit of a bizarre trivia piece from Atlas Obscura.
  • Trends come and go in campus politics
  • Since ‘nation-scale cyberattacks’ are in the imagination again, this piece on how it first happened in Estonia, in 2007.
  • I’m going to keep plugging Inherent Vice as something you should watch, this time through a Youtube montage.
  • Fun to hear Frank Herbert talk (!) about the “origins of Dune” (original recording, from Feb 1969)
  • If you still aren’t persuaded of the extra-ordinary intelligence of octopuses, read this
  • If you’re up for a long-form article on liberty, individuals etc. try this piece

For us, too, bearing the duties and responsibilities of freedom without being prepared for them poses great dangers, especially the danger of abandoning our liberty in return for security or the passing pleasures and distractions of our abundant age. This danger is avoidable only if we take the long way to liberty, the way that prepares us through the practice of responsibility and through the formation and refinement of our souls.

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Sci/Math/Prog Summary: November 2017

A 1994 University of Minnesota alumni magazine spread featuring the Gopher protocol architects.

Interesting stuff from the past month:

Media Summary: October 2017

Some interesting links for the month:

Aerial view of Ur, 1927.
Aerial view of Ur, 1927

Sci/Math/Prog Summary: October 2017

Interesting stuff from the past month:

  • I feel the old “static typing vs dynamic typing” debate has gotten more nuanced recently with ‘spec’ and ‘schema’ in Clojure (i.e. better, fine-grained, runtime constraints). Also, as this article shows, there is a different “sweet spot” for different companies/people, which colors their perceptions of usefulness.
  • Cool antique stuff: check out this machine that debuted at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York.
  • A fake interview with Linus Torvalds on Linux and Git, which made me smile 🙂
  • A balanced look at Urbit (not fawning, and not hating). If you’re curious, read this next.
  • You knew the moon affected the earth by its gravity, causing tides; but did you know it’s light was also influential?
  • Presented as idle curiosity: “Git bombs
  • Squids are marvellous creatures
  • Allen Wirfs-Brock gives a fascinating account of Smalltalk, and what it’s really about.
  • LIGO wasn’t just about discovering Gravitational Waves (and winning a nobel!) … it has also explained Gamma Rays, and the origin of heavy elements.
  • Inertia.
  • Someone’s journey developing a new Forth (ignore if you don’t know what that is).
  • As the subtitle of this text points out: “Once, robots assisted human workers. Now it’s the other way around.”
  • Cool weird trains of the past: duplex railway!
  • Been using Tinderbox for less than a year, but I share this person’s opinion.

On Robot Overlords

Extract from a recent New Yorker story, “Welcoming our new robot overlords”

We stood behind a young woman wearing a polo shirt and Lycra shorts, with a long blond ponytail. When a step was completed, a light turned on above the next required part, accompanied by a beep-beep-whoosh sound. A scanner overhead tracked everything as it was happening, beaming the data it collected to unseen engineers with iPads. Employees who follow a strict automated protocol—some call them “meat robots”—need little training. Even the drill was attached to a computer-assisted arm; the worker just had to move it to the right position and let the machine do its magic. A decade ago, industrial robots assisted workers in their tasks. Now workers—those who remain—assist the robots in theirs.

 

 

Media Summary: September 2017

foucault-and-stoneman-n-death-valley
Foucault and Michael Stoneman in Death Valley.

Some interesting links for the month:

  • This right here is just … one of those things I can’t believe I hadn’t seen yet: a “breaking the fourth wall” sketch on Saturday Night Live about “The last voyage of the Starship Enterprise” (filmed in May 1976).
  • This long article was less about millennials and perhaps more about pop culture, but certainly caused the phrase “premium mediocre” to stick in my head.
  • If I had the time, I would be playing Uncharted. The latest one, ”The Lost Legacy” is out, and is apparently both eye-catching and a well-told story.
  • Speaking of things I haven’t watched for lack of time, the new ”Twin Peaks” has got good reviews.
  • In City Journal, someone muses about “Silicon Valley vs Gotham” (missing the latter).
  • A biography of Alex Honnold, the chap who climbed El Capitan with no tools (seems surprisingly normal).
  • An interview with someone who accompanied Michel Foucault on his trip through California and Death Valley.
  • I’m going to leave this title here without comment: ”Why is linguistics such a magnet for dilettantes and crackpots?”
  • Andrew Sullivan asks: Can our democracy survive tribalism?
  • You either get very excited about stuff like this, or you don’t: a bunch of papyrus was discovered from during the time the great pyramids were being constructed! (so, mundane “normal life” stuff, along with mundane details of the build, but … isn’t that cool?)

The bug count also rises

This is amazingly funny, so I just had to reproduce it. Highlighted my favorite bits … enjoy!

In the fall of that year the rains fell as usual and washed the leaves of the dust and dripped from the leaves onto the ground. The shuttles drove through the rainy streets and took the people to meetings, then later brought them back, their tires spraying the mist into the air.

Many days he stood for a long time and watched the rain and the shuttles and drank his double-tall mochas. With the mochas he was strong.

Hernando who worked down the hall and who was large with microbrews came to him and told him that the ship day was upon them but the bugs were not yet out. The bugs which were always there even when you were in Cafes late at night sipping a Redhook or a double-tall mocha and you thought you were safe but they were there and although Enrico kept the floor swept clean and the mochas were hot the bugs were there and they ate at you.

When Hernando told him this he asked how many bugs. “The RAID is huge with bugs,” Hernando said. “The bugs are infinite.”

“Why do you ask me? You know I cannot do this thing anymore with the bugs.”

“Once you were great with the bugs,” Hernando said. “No one was greater,” he said again. “Even Prado.”

“Prado? What of Prado? Let Prado fix the bugs.”

Hernando shrugged. “Prado is finished. He was gored by three Sev 2’s on Chicago. All he does now is drink herb tea and play with his screensavers.”

“Herb tea?”

“It is true, my friend.” Hernando shrugged again. Later he went to his office and sat in the dark for a long time. Then he sent e-mail to Michaels.

Michaels came to him while he was sipping a mocha. They sat silently for awhile, then he asked Michaels, “I need you to triage for me.”

Michaels looked down. “I don’t do that anymore,” he said.

“This is different. The bugs are enormous. There are an infinity of bugs.”

“I’m finished with that,” Michaels said again. “I just want to live quietly.”

“Have you heard Prado is finished? He was badly gored. Now he can only drink herb tea.”

“Herb tea?” Michaels said.

“It is true,” he said sorrowfully.

Michaels stood up. “Then I will do it, my friend,” he said formally. “I will do it for Prado, who was once great with the bugs. I will do it for the time we filled Prado’s office with bouncy balls, and for the time Prado wore his nerf weapons in the marketing hall and slew all of them with no fear and only a great joy at the combat. I will do it for all the pizza we ate and the bottles of Coke we drank.”

Together they walked slowly back, knowing it would be good. As they walked the rain dripped softly from the leaves, and the shuttles carried the bodies back from the meetings.

 

Credits here.