Monthly Curations: December 2022

Lidar overlay showing a part of an extensive civilization in Guatemala

Monthly Curations — November 2022

Monthly Curations — October 2022

  • I had initially dismissed this “crater full of ice” photo (on Mars) as too-good-to-be-true, but … it is real !
  • NeoVim is now just as much of an extensible editor (the easy use of Fennel for config has created an Emacs-Lisp counterpart !)
  • “Who made who” (from a HN comment, referencing links between cancers and fungi within them)
    • Sometimes I wonder if we’re just giant machines built by microorganisms. It would certainly make an interesting story, along the idea of a robot discovering they were made by somebody else, which I believe has already been explored
  • A talk on “Intelligence beyond the brain“, some notes:
    • Single-celled organisms are intelligent too
    • “Intelligent problem-solving in morphospace”
    • We can bio-engineer at a low-level, but not at a high-level
    • Cells can “recruit their neighbors” !!
    • Radically self-organizing
    • Experiments (some weird ones) show chemical intervention can “repair hardware defects”
  • “Systems at scale”, w.r.t. money laundering
  • Goddamnit, geeks have been righteously complaining about “feature-itis” and retreating to their hermit kingdoms for so long. Here is one such complaint all the way back in 1999 (!)
  • Elegant code, or inscrutable code golfing? You decide: “random walk in two lines
  • A somewhat despairing article, from the Economist (except it’s from 7 years ago, and things haven’t got any better …)
  • A “pre-historic” amputation (!)
  • I wanted the Moonlander but ergonomics led me to the Kinesis Advantage2. Today, you can get a mix of both, with the Kinesis Advantage360
  • Friedman describes the paradoxes we’ve been led to, in the absence of clear priorities
    • I understand why people want all five — now. I want all five! But they involve trade-offs, which too few of us want to acknowledge or debate. In an energy war like the one we’re in now, you need to be clear about your goals and priorities. As a country, and as a Western alliance, we have no ladder of priorities on energy, just competing aspirations and magical thinking that we can have it all.

  • On letting go of the GPL, by Martin Kleppman
    • For all these reasons, I think it no longer makes sense to cling on to the GPL and copyleft. Let them go. Instead, I would encourage you to adopt a permissive license for your projects (e.g. MIT, BSD, Apache 2.0), and then focus your energies on the things that will really make a difference to software freedom: counteracting the monopolising effects of cloud software, developing sustainable business models that allow open source software to thrive, and pushing for regulation that prioritises the interests of software users over the interests of vendors.

  • A phenomenal tour of the Great Pyramid, feels like I’m right there!

Building big

"Cenotaph for Newton"
“Cenotaph for Newton”

There have always been “mega-building projects”. In the past, these were large hydro-electric projects, and more recently skyscrapers competing to be the tallest building.

Today one such mega-project is “the line”, which aims to cut across the desert in a narrow strip blanketed by sheer glass walls.

I find this ridiculous, but hey I’m not the one spending half a trillion on it, so I’m happy to watch them try.

I want humanity to build something gigantic, but my desires had tended towards something functional, like a large space station, or a space elevator, or some such.

Then I discovered Étienne-Louis Boullée.

None of his buildings were ever realized1, but his are the sort of ideas I can get behind.

My favorite2 is the “Cenotaph for Newton” (image above), but all his buildings exude some sort of quality I cannot name.

This is something I wish would be made in the world today. It can be.

These are all within our ability to make, lacking only the will to make them. I don’t particularly care who makes them, as long as they exist and are accessible.

  1. Well, except for residential work, like this, which still shows his influence.
  2. Biased by having recently read an astonishing account of his life. If someone deserves a monument like this, it’s him.

Monthly Curations — September 2022

Facility map in the elevator of a “luxury” doomsday bunker

The longer I am a software engineer the longer I begin to understand that the soft skills are much more important than all the technical skills. For me software engineering is much about dealing with my insecurities and coming to term with my weaknesses. I also feel that it is a lot about dealing with your ego and a lot with cooperating with colleagues and bosses. The longer I am a software engineer, the more I understand that developing software is not about writing code but communicating with people.

The second Elizabeth was born on April 21, 1926, and has reigned over Britain since 1952. She was six weeks older than Marilyn Monroe, three years older than Anne Frank, nine years older than Elvis Presley—all figures of the unreachable past. She was older than nylon, Scotch tape, and The Hobbit. She was old enough to have trained as an army driver and mechanic in the last months of the Second World War.

“The conception of monarchy as a way of life is not easy to explain to those who are unaccustomed to it,” Morrah wrote in 1958, just six years into Elizabeth II’s reign. “To peoples whose social system and patriotic tradition are founded upon revolt against a distant or authoritarian king—to the Americans and the French, for example—it is apt to seem a paradox. Such as these are inclined to suppose that the British people only continue to tolerate their ancient monarchy because its real content has been emptied out of it by political progress.” But this was not true, Morrah argued. The British monarchy is one of the few institutions in history to have voluntarily ceded power, whether it be Charles II accepting the existence of Parliament or Elizabeth II paying income tax.

The Queen is dead; long live the King. The world must now discover, after a reign that lasted seven decades, what England, and Britain, is without her.

  • Something I learned: hyper-legible fonts (I never thought about how “blurry letters” would be so hard to distinguish!)
  • Interesting new browser, “Arc
  • Great overview of different financial eras with “computer analogies”
  • An interesting anecdote about the development of the Soyuz transport vehicle
  • A weirdly wonderful take on Terry Davis

Modernity has a strong apocalyptic feeling to it, in the biblical meaning of the word, which means “the unveiling”, the event when we see and know reality in all of its forms as it truly is. If we are in a stagnant period of history in which we are not having real technological progress but rather we just optimize screens to get people addicted to click ads, maybe the way out of this mess and to get actual innovation is to get on your knees and pray that God will illuminate you on how to build a warp drive.

  • On luxury doomsday bunkers (Manages to be ridiculous and frightening at the same time!)
  • An instrument the size of an house: a giant pipe organ
  • Closer to deciphering the Indus Valley Civilization script (perhaps?)
  • I hope to be this active in my 60s (!)
  • Software to be thankful for” (I would add a bunch of macOS desktop software to this, but otherwise a good list)
  • Attempting to predict the future of computing

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!

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 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.