Monthly Summary: Aug 2022

“Towers” in Minecraft I built with Tara

Major update(s)

  • Nearly a week in Big Island
  • A month-long saga of problems with my car came to an end, able to drive again

Minor update(s)

  • Playdates
  • School re-opened!
    • Bunch of “back to school” stuff
  • Family board games
    • Dixit (worked out!)
    • Karuba
  • Invasive double-implant dental operation


  • Audiobooks in the car with Tara:
    • Finished listening to book 3 of Wings of Fire
    • Started listening to Order of the Phoenix
  • Read The Untethered Soul
  • Tara watching new season of Bluey (one show we can bear to watch along too)
  • Watched Uncharted
  • Watched Stranger Things (season 3)


  • Tara started playing some Minecraft (only “creative mode” for now)
  • Some playing around with Wolfram Mathematica

What’s in a name

Three years ago, the New York Times published this article.

It was about “the fourth spy” at Los Alamos (in addition to the previously known ones, Klaus Fuchs, Theodore Hall, and David Greenglass)

What’s funky here is this line, right out of a movie:

In July 1945, the study reported, he was “part of a unit monitoring seismological effects” of the first detonation of the atomic device. His Soviet code name was Godsend, and he came to Los Alamos from a family of spies.

In case the “family of spies” bit seems far-fetched:

In 2012, Mr. Klehr obtained newly declassified F.B.I. files on informants who had successfully penetrated the Communist Party of the United States. Suddenly, he started seeing references to the Seborers, and major parts of the atomic puzzle fell into place: Oscar was Godsend, Stuart was Godfather and their older brother Max was Relative.

There you go. Like the Incredibles, just the … opposite, I guess.

Long 90s

While I was browsing the selection of streaming movies recently, and looking at the year each was made, I realized that in some subjective sense the kind of movies changed around 2011-13.

For example, there were these campy comedy movies with Jack Black that I cannot imagine being made today (and ditto for “simple story” movies, or “niche & interesting” movies).

Some of the changes are likely related to the “changed economics” of movies these days, some to the expectations to make money, and some to others.

It feels like there was a period that began with the end of the Cold War, and that ended with … perhaps the rise of ubiquitous social media and the present stage of big-budget mono-culture movies.

Of course, this might just be me over-thinking things.

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 !)


Each time I think I’ve exhausted the possibilities of the set of magnetic tiles we have at home, something new comes along.

Made this while playing with my daughter today:

Two factors seem to contribute to the large variety of forms here:

  1. The fact that the tiles are magnetic (at some medium strength level … I wonder what magnets just a bit stronger would do)
  2. The angles available

Of these, (2) is really under-rated.

Sometimes I wish they sold more squares, but only I appreciate the possibilities when I try to use the different kinds of triangles together.

The triangles come together not only in a variety of planar angles, but also solid angles, allowing for interesting three-dimensional structures that “regular stacking” would never create.

It is very therapeutic to “doodle in 3-d” with these: the “stacking process” can be very fast, and you can go back-and-forth with your kid, or just make your own thing.

I always feel happier at the end than when I began, regardless of what I made. It is like any other creative exercise, with a very low bar to getting started and easy to clean up.

I recommend keeping a set of Magnatiles around the house; of all the sets of toys (except for Lego, which is a totally different case) that we got many years ago, this is still seeing use, and I’m even thinking of getting more 🙂

On Citizenship, and the Republic

I was reflecting on a process which began fifteen odd years ago and recently came to a conclusion.

There is a mixture of feelings about what constitutes “America”.

On one hand, I feel a broad agreement with “values it historically represented” and with “the thoughts and works of Americans” in science and technology and literature, over the years.

On the other hand, I feel a broad disagreement with various bits of foreign policy, as well as a few “recent trends”.

It hasn’t been clear to me how I should resolve these conflicting sentiments.

Are they just intertwined parts of the same? Is it Like “the case of Jekyll and Hyde”, except writ large over a country?

It felt schizophrenic.

One way of reconciling this that occurred to me, and since then feels quite natural to me now, is to separate out two elements of America: Republic and Empire.

Of these, the “Empire” is what exists in a practical sense across the world, and then feeds back in various ways into policy and culture, national and domestic.

And of these, the “Republic” is what people (claim to) owe allegiance to, which “owns symbols” like the flag and the constitution, and which has formal (or, moral) claim in turn over institutions of government.

Both exist at varying levels of significance, at the same time, and with lesser or greater amount of symbiosis.

I will noodle about this over time, but this does seem to be a useful way of looking at “what America is“.

Fun with roots and series

Came across this bit of high-school math with series/roots:

It’s straightforward, lots of paper-and-pen solutions in that thread.

Something like Wolfram Mathematica makes it much easier:

The above shows a “sanity-checking” approximate solution with one term, followed by the correct solution.

It’s equally straightforward, spent 5-10 minutes to let off steam at the end of the day 🙂

Incidentally, WolframAlpha is able to get you the basic series solution too:

So, we’re really drowning in resources right now (which is balanced, I suppose by drowning even harder in distractions).

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.

Circle Art

Some simple, quick, random (yet, it should be pointed out in this age of Dall-E, deliberate and human-made) art featuring colored circles:

circles := 
   Disk[{RandomInteger[{-15, 15}], RandomInteger[{-15, 15}]}, 
    RandomInteger[{2, 7}]]}, 20]

backgroundDim := 19

background := 
 Rectangle[{-backgroundDim, -backgroundDim}, {backgroundDim, 
Graphics[{RGBColor[0.0117647, 0.313725, 0.588235], background, Red, 

title = StringJoin["Random Art# ", ToString[RandomInteger[10^10]]]
“Random Art #6544511576”