Monthly Curations- August 2022

Sculpture at Waikoloa

  • Public art in a surprising place

Hilton Waikoloa’s art collection

In pursuit of that goal, Hemmeter traveled to China, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Burma and beyond. He spent at least a year traveling and shipping artwork back to Hawaii on barges where it would then be flown by helicopter to the hotel’s property.

But the best thing about the collection, besides its sheer size and diversity, is that viewing it costs nothing, and that holds true for both guests and members of the general public.

Displayed throughout the corridors and common spaces for all visitors to enjoy, the Hilton Anatole’s varied collection ranges from 12-foot segments of the Berlin Wall painted by Jurgen Grosse to an 18th Century Thai Reclining Buddha fashioned in gilt-bronze.


The “just use Fossil” approach is particularly novel!
2022-08-05


Spectacularly contrarian take: “Use one server

When you experience growing pains, and get close to the limits of your current servers, today’s conventional wisdom is to go for sharding and horizontal scaling, or to use a cloud architecture that gives you horizontal scaling “for free.” It is often easier and more efficient to scale vertically instead. Using one big server is comparatively cheap, keeps your overheads at a minimum, and actually has a pretty good availability story if you are careful to prevent correlated hardware failures. It’s not glamorous and it won’t help your resume, but one big server will serve you well.


Everything getting older

Food for thought

The Onion’s Our Dumb Century is a classic satirical look at the twentieth century, of course, but it’s also a nice tour through the American zeitgeist over that time. One of the headlines that hits a little harder than it used to is from 1985: “Dynamic New Soviet Leader Not on Brink of Death.” In the early 80s, the USSR successively appointed Yuri Andropov (68 years old, died in office in a year and a half) and then Chernenko (who took power at the age of 72 and died after just over a year). But now the US Senate is the oldest it’s ever been, the speaker of the House is 82, the party leaders in the Senate are 71 and 80, and the Presidency is held by someone who won at age 77, running against a 74-year-old.


A look at “low-level” schemes (though still missing a mention of Gambit/Gerbil)


An entertaining Youtube channel which also promotes a much-needed “cultural coming-together” in these times:


On the bio-electrical science behind how organisms control anatomy through gene expression.


On unifying “toy languages” and “real languages”


A blend of FreeBSD and macOS?

Sounds too good to be true, but good luck to the folks doing this 👍


Some Guix evangelism


Scheme in Excel? :-O

First Windows Subsystem for Linux, now this … how different from the world of 15 years ago ! 🙂


In which I learn about the python concurrency landscape


The promise of Rust, and a perspective on the languages that came before.


Matt Damon explains things 😐

(or, why moves are the way they are …)


Interesting overview of the types of computation in games (simulation numerical shading) and the varying performance aspects of each, and musings on “language suitability”.


Fun fact: a Russian team was hunting for Atlantis near Britain in the late 90s 🤷‍♂️


Fun fact: Alligators can go up to two years without food !!

(saw this while watching a new nature documentary)


Some interesting comments in this post on what was lost with the loss of the old Usenet:


Planta Sapiense


A look at Racket and Rhombus


Surprised I never came across this earlier: Cliodynamics

(Reminiscent of psychohistory !)


On over-planning

A comment I can agree with (from this HN thread)

So many threads discussing with an engineering mind if 40 is half your life, a third, blah blah blah.

Truth is you don’t have tomorrow for granted. We could die today, tomorrow or in 90 years. Planning ahead so strictly is like wrapping a blanket around your head for safety in a firefight.

Don’t overplan, don’t quantify everything in life, relax, enjoy, smile and roll with the punches as much as you can. We only get one life.

Monthly Curations: July 2022

Star formation inside the galaxy NGC 7496

Monthly Curations- Jun 2022

(The Smalltalk balloon)

(As before, simply lifted from my tagged Micro.blog posts, and, I realize, heavily skewed this month towards specific themes)

  • A minimalist scheme (R4RS, and fits in 4K of memory)

  • Lisp in the browser, playfully done.

  • Making (“printing!”) objects with Sound!

  • Of REPLs:

    It’s trivial to build human-friendly CLI on top of machine-friendly RPC, but much harder to build machine-friendly RPC on top of a human-oriented command line.

  • Resources for self-learning math

  • A counter-point to overly designing for flexibility in software.

  • A quick over view of the features in Tinderbox (by Eastgate)

  • Looking back at Erlang, but also the rich history of telephony from which it (and distributed systems in general) drew inspiration

  • The “weird elephant story”

  • Guides to the world of Smalltalk: 1 2

  • A good scene composition from Dune, set to the best track from the soundtrack

  • Showcasing the history of Smalltalk, or rather the role of Smalltalk in the broader quest for a better form of learning-by-modeling.

A painting

Came across this painting through Twitter.

Something about it appealed to me.

The colors and shape of the arches reminded me of Bruegel’s Tower of Babel.

The title of the painting is “Das Begrabnis Eines Kreuzritters“, by Franz Ludwig Catel.

Or, translated into English, “The Burial of a Crusader“.

Monthly Curations – April 2022

The airship U.S.S. Macon under construction, about a hundred years ago …

Note: as mentioned last time, this is now based on the “Curated” category in my micro.blog

Not-so-uniquely stupid

From Jonathan Haidt’s recent article in the Atlantic:

The story of Babel is the best metaphor I have found for what happened to America in the 2010s, and for the fractured country we now inhabit. Something went terribly wrong, very suddenly. We are disoriented, unable to speak the same language or recognize the same truth. We are cut off from one another and from the past.

The high point of techno-democratic optimism was arguably 2011, a year that began with the Arab Spring and ended with the global Occupy movement. That is also when Google Translate became available on virtually all smartphones, so you could say that 2011 was the year that humanity rebuilt the Tower of Babel.

… three major forces that collectively bind together successful democracies: social capital (extensive social networks with high levels of trust), strong institutions, and shared stories.

Once social-media platforms had trained users to spend more time performing and less time connecting, the stage was set for the major transformation, which began in 2009: the intensification of viral dynamics.

This new game encouraged dishonesty and mob dynamics: Users were guided not just by their true preferences but by their past experiences of reward and punishment, and their prediction of how others would react to each new action.

The key to designing a sustainable republic, therefore, was to build in mechanisms to slow things down, cool passions, require compromise, and give leaders some insulation from the mania of the moment while still holding them accountable to the people periodically, on Election Day

Madison notes that people are so prone to factionalism that “where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts.”

… the power of social media as a universal solvent, breaking down bonds and weakening institutions everywhere it reached. He noted that distributed networks “can protest and overthrow, but never govern.”

with a naive conception of human psychology, little understanding of the intricacy of institutions, and no concern for external costs imposed on society—Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and a few other large platforms unwittingly dissolved the mortar of trust, belief in institutions, and shared stories that had held a large and diverse secular democracy together

the new dynamics of the post-Babel era, in which outrage is the key to virality, stage performance crushes competence, Twitter can overpower all the newspapers in the country, and stories cannot be shared (or at least trusted) across more than a few adjacent fragments—so truth cannot achieve widespread adherence.

A mean tweet doesn’t kill anyone; it is an attempt to shame or punish someone publicly while broadcasting one’s own virtue, brilliance, or tribal loyalties. It’s more a dart than a bullet, causing pain but no fatalities. Even so, from 2009 to 2012, Facebook and Twitter passed out roughly 1 billion dart guns globally. We’ve been shooting one another ever since

In the 20th century, America built the most capable knowledge-producing institutions in human history. In the past decade, they got stupider en masse.

Western societies developed an “epistemic operating system”—that is, a set of institutions for generating knowledge from the interactions of biased and cognitively flawed individuals. English law developed the adversarial system so that biased advocates could present both sides of a case to an impartial jury. Newspapers full of lies evolved into professional journalistic enterprises, with norms that required seeking out multiple sides of a story, followed by editorial review, followed by fact-checking. Universities evolved from cloistered medieval institutions into research powerhouses, creating a structure in which scholars put forth evidence-backed claims with the knowledge that other scholars around the world would be motivated to gain prestige by finding contrary evidence.

This, I believe, is what happened to many of America’s key institutions in the mid-to-late 2010s. They got stupider en masse because social media instilled in their members a chronic fear of getting darted. The shift was most pronounced in universities, scholarly associations, creative industries, and political organizations at every level (national, state, and local), and it was so pervasive that it established new behavioral norms backed by new policies seemingly overnight.

The problem is that the left controls the commanding heights of the culture: universities, news organizations, Hollywood, art museums, advertising, much of Silicon Valley, and the teachers’ unions and teaching colleges that shape K–12 education. And in many of those institutions, dissent has been stifled: When everyone was issued a dart gun in the early 2010s, many left-leaning institutions began shooting themselves in the brain. And unfortunately, those were the brains that inform, instruct, and entertain most of the country

Confused and fearful, the leaders rarely challenged the activists or their nonliberal narrative in which life at every institution is an eternal battle among identity groups over a zero-sum pie, and the people on top got there by oppressing the people on the bottom. This new narrative is rigidly egalitarian––focused on equality of outcomes, not of rights or opportunities. It is unconcerned with individual rights.

American politics is getting ever more ridiculous and dysfunctional not because Americans are getting less intelligent. The problem is structural. Thanks to enhanced-virality social media, dissent is punished within many of our institutions, which means that bad ideas get elevated into official policy

… three goals that must be achieved if democracy is to remain viable in the post-Babel era. We must harden democratic institutions so that they can withstand chronic anger and mistrust, reform social media so that it becomes less socially corrosive, and better prepare the next generation for democratic citizenship in this new age

Depression makes people less likely to want to engage with new people, ideas, and experiences. Anxiety makes new things seem more threatening. As these conditions have risen and as the lessons on nuanced social behavior learned through free play have been delayed, tolerance for diverse viewpoints and the ability to work out disputes have diminished…

A democracy cannot survive if its public squares are places where people fear speaking up and where no stable consensus can be reached. Social media’s empowerment of the far left, the far right, domestic trolls, and foreign agents is creating a system that looks less like democracy and more like rule by the most aggressive.

And the buried lede, IMO:

America is being torn apart by a battle between two subsets of the elite who are not representative of the broader society.

Monthly Curations: Mar 2022

A million-light-years wide radio ring
  • Interesting find that pushed back the Homo Sapien “culture timeline” quite a bit.

  • The Richat Structure: Nearly perfect concentric circles, nearly 30 miles wide! (yes, I had to go look it up on Google Maps, it’s very real)

  • “25 years of SmallTalk”, from 20 years ago

  • Found this a good overview of the trends and limitations of computing hardware over the decades.

  • Fascinating account of someone’s “life story of programming languages”; Inspiring, I should write my own some day 🙂

  • An account of the now-forgotten “Buran” fully automated space shuttle, and the “Energia” heavy-lift rocket.

  • On how “the perfect system, the perfect app” is a mirage

  • Ernest Shackleton’s lost ship is found

“For scientific discovery give me Scott; for speed and efficiency of travel give me Amundsen; but when disaster strikes and all hope is gone, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton.” – Sir Raymond Priestly, Antarctic Explorer and Geologist.

World War I had no good guys, no winners, just mediocre, small-minded politicians unable to step back from the brink

Monthly Curations- Feb 2022

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The JET reactor
  • On the dream of nuclear fusion
  • The Star Wars sequels as “the anti-trilogy”
  • Things (apps, services, products) to look forward to in 2023
  • On “Residential programming”
  • On the world’s longest immersed tunnel
  • A bunch of old hypertext papers
  • Thoughts on markdown
  • Writing a children’s book for programming, in 1991: “Professor Fortran

    AT: We hoped to make some money. But the fees came only a year after the book was published – under the terms of the contract. If we were paid immediately, we could buy a car. But there was a monetary reform and the fee was enough only to drink coffee.

  • The biggest galaxy
  • Came across yet-another-meditation-app, but this time slightly better, from the Monroe Institute
  • A story about body-shopping
  • A planet was found near Proxima Centauri. But more interesting than that is how it was found:

    This ‘wobble’ technique look for changes in the star’s motion along the line of sight from Earth; ESPRESSO can detect variations of just 10 centimetres per second. The total effect of the planet’s orbit, which takes only 5 days, is about 40 centimetres per second, says Faria, who is at the Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences of the University of Porto in Portugal. “I knew that ESPRESSO could do this, but I was still surprised to see it showing up.” .

Missing the web

From a recent HackerNews discussion about search engines, some harsh truth about the big shift in the last two decades:

>It is only more recently that they seem to have given up.

They haven’t given up; the OP has a point. The “sites” you are hoping for Google to return _don’t exist_. Any website online right now that doesn’t exist to drive ad revenue is exceedingly rare. In 2001, there were way more websites that existed just for fun; any tom, dick and harry could open up note pad and get a website online. That doesn’t exist anymore.

It’s my opinion that those who complain about Google search results are frustrated that Google can no longer find a web that no longer exists