May 20

Degrees

You can no doubt be obese and healthy — for a little while.

Just like you can be submerged in water and remain healthy — for a little while.

Reality eventually intrudes in both cases, however.

May 19

Hintin’ it’s not Clinton

I’ll be glad when this election is over, no matter the outcome. Tired of hearing about it. Tired of witnessing formerly-sane people descend into terror and nostalgic fantasy.

I don’t support Trump, Clinton or Sanders — but I fundamentally can’t understand anyone who supports Clinton. What a terrible choice for the country, for progressivism, for feminism, for the world.

I can understand supporters of Trump, though I disagree with them. I can understand Sanders supporters, because I mostly agree with them (though not as much with their candidate).

But I can’t understand — will never understand — their apologies and excuses for Hillary Clinton’s mendacity, corruption and terrible leadership skills. Her policies will be destructive to the nation and the interests of the US. Trump has a way with words — or at least short phrases — and “Crooked Hillary” is perhaps the most apt political slur ever.

Clinton might arguably be the lesser evil, but she’s still damn evil indeed. She won’t be president (it’ll be Trump because the electoral college favors him) but that she could be is a terrible fact of American political life.

May 18

Flang

“Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

May 18

Missing the apparent

How did I miss this? Seems so obvious. So obvious. But I forget that most people are about most things much more emotion-driven than I am.

Note that I am not saying that I am some rational maximizer. However even when I was a little kid, I realized I was not very emotional and had to spend those emotions on things that really mattered. That’s just my personality and I’ve been aware of that since I was five at least.

Anyway, here’s what I missed: most of the weirdo fact-savaging from people like Kevin Drum, Lance Mannion, Charles Blow, Sarah Kendzior and Paul Krugman in their support of Clinton is just plain old 90s nostalgia. And life was comparatively good then, and people of that age (Sarah Kendzior fits this frame less, but still does I think) associate both Clintons with that relatively-idyllic period — even though all of that was in spite of the Clintons rather than because of them.

And I even understand — jobs were really easy to get then compared to now. The country seemed to be ascendant. Communism was vanquished. Poverty was falling. People were getting rich left and right on dot-coms and tech plays. People were flush. Crime was way down. Things did truly feel very optimistic, like we were making progress on many fronts.

So I understand Clinton people, because I comprehend this now too: there is nothing policy-related that really matters to you about Hillary (as is true of 80% of people all of the time), and there are no logical arguments for or against Clinton that can sway you.

Because it’s just not about that.

It’s about how much better living in the 1990s felt than how it feels now. Which it did in nearly every way, I agree. I remember that sense of hope very well. Clinton won’t bring that back — it ain’t coming back — but I can understand how it might feel like she could.

I missed the bleeding obvious. But at least I got it now.

May 17

Trends

IT industry predictions.

We live currently in a world that believes in scaling out things VERY wide with very inefficient code.

Indeed. I’ve seen too many companies building systems on Docker and other highly inefficient platforms that while resilient are literally hundreds to thousands of times slower than they would be if you used a decent programming language on one or two dedicated machines in a traditional failover cluster.

The problem is that even most computer science graduates aren’t taught much actual computer science (ask my partner, she is a computer science grad from a decent school and doesn’t feel she got what she should have out of it), so for most problems what you gain in parallelism you lose in raw speed.

The speed of light is finite. The speed of electrons is finite, and even slower than light. Coordination costs are high, and rise exponentially the more nodes you have (this isn’t quite true for many classes of problems, but writing books is not what I do here).

Scaling is great. But scaling actually hurts you in many cases. I can build a single machine that’s faster than some thousand-node Docker containers for many problems — if I use the right hardware and the right programming language, and a properly-optimized database.

But like most human endeavors, IT moves on trends and what’s cool rather than what makes sense.

May 17

No IT

I would not recommend going into IT if you are starting your career now, though the salaries look attractive.

Most of those jobs are going to disappear. Many will be automated away. The rest will decamp to India or China or (one day) Africa. And then they too will mostly be automated and go away forever.

What field, then? None are safe. Just the way it is. World is changing faster than any compensation is possible.

May 17

SatCom

My grandfather hand-built a satellite dish in 1979. This was in rural North Florida. Most people there had never seen one before.

The local police investigated him briefly for “spying for the Russians,” though why you’d spy with something so obvious and sizable was never clear.

Anyway, my grandfather constructed a dish that would’ve at the time cost around $115,000 in today’s dollars for around $4,000, not including his own labor. The most expensive part was the low noise amplifier. The rest was mainly just tubing and some wire mesh.

After I got a little older, I’d help him build the dishes when I went over. He then was building them to sell to others. I wasn’t very good at it because I was and am about as handy as a sea slug, but my grandfather was remarkably tolerant of my mis-bending of pipes.

I remember marveling that we could build something on a picnic table made out of chicken wire and pipe that could pick up a signal from space no stronger than a 60-watt light bulb.

May 16

Well, yes

Well, yeah, if you want to have a body like a god, you have to eat a lot.

And you also have to work out a lot. I was in the 82nd Airborne Division for five years (already a unit that tends to work out a whole lot), serving most of that time under a commander who was a fitness nut.

In the military, that makes you a de facto fitness nut too. I never had a body like Chris Hemsworth, but at my peak I weighed around 170 pounds at 5’8″ with about 8% body fat. That was with working out ~4 hours a day most days, and eating around 4,000 calories a day. That is a lot of working out, but it wasn’t all high-intensity — it was intelligently done and very effective.

At my peak, I could bench 250 pounds, run two miles in 11 minutes, run 12 miles without even being at all tired, and do 130+ push-ups in less than two minutes (without stopping). I was fast, flexible, not muscle-bound and had tons of explosive power and I didn’t get tired at all really. (I once during that time helped a friend move and literally ran the boxes to and from the moving truck up and down the stairs both ways. I moved something like 40 boxes in the time it took him to do four. I wasn’t tired at all even after all that.)

But unlike this article states, you don’t have to eat expensive food. Humans are omnivores; any calories with the right nutrients will work. Most days, I ate at the chow hall. But I definitely did need to all those 4,000 calories  as if I didn’t, I lost energy.

I never want to work out that much again, but it was actually kind of fun being that physically capable. However if someone wants to pay me as much as Chris Hemsworth gets paid to do that again, bring it the fuck on.

Otherwise, I’ll definitely pass.

May 15

Green with envy

I know, to be a modern pseudo-liberal, one must abhor John Green for daring to write about people not like him in every single way — but one of the movies I enjoyed the most recently was The Fault in Our Stars.

While by no means perfect, one of the main things I liked about it is that it takes the intensity and reality of teenage emotions and life changes seriously. Especially this is needed as an antidote to the view of many adults that nothing that happens to anyone under 21 is real. But I remember being a teenager very well and many things seemed — and were — much more consequential to me then than they are now as an adult. And of course with cancer in the mix this intensifies it all the more.

I’ve not read the book but the film at least aspires to be a lot of things, and achieves most of them. And unsurprisingly, Shailene Woodley is just excellent outside of the Divergent bore-fest. And Laura Dern is always great but here she’s in top form indeed.

Also it is a shockingly intelligent film, with even some references to neuroethics and other correctly-explained bits of science — which rarely happen in any movie much less one featuring teens.

Why it’s “exploitation” when John Green writes about young people but not when Alaya Dawn Johnson or the even-older Suzanne Collins (53) does so I will never understand — but either way, the movie is worth watching for Woodley’s performance alone.

Just like life the film provides no comfortable answers nor obvious choices but rather asks what we will do with the time that we have while it is still ours.

Recommended.