Mar 10

Cast

Why would I care if Comcast bought Netflix?

Netflix was once useful; now it is not. For people like me who want to watch specific often obscure things Netflix has gone from genius to fucking worthless in a few short years.

Comcast and Netflix are not that dissimilar now. Sounds like a pretty good match to me.

Mar 10

My greatest joy

My greatest joy lately has been using µBlock — which is much better and svelter than AdBlock Plus — to eradicate destroy extirpate and annihilate all the top and bottom completely useless navigation bars that sites like the New Yorker, Salon and others have created that impinge on the content and offer absolutely nothing to me.

It’s a lot of fun. It’s like a video game but infinitely more useful.

Modern design trends have all been about punishing the user and removing control. But I’m taking back control since I can’t actually punch every designer in the face who had anything to do with these trends (though I would enjoy that if I had the time).

I recommend µBlock. It works great and it offers a much improved interface for choosing what to nuke on a page. And it hasn’t sold out to the ad companies.

Mar 09

Trivia questions

This article is about software engineers, but in my field — high-level infrastructure design and operations — the same thing happens.

Yet in engineering, we expect people to do live engineering on a white board under stressful interview conditions because, well, because that is what we have always done. Most programmers need StackOverflow, Google search, or Dash in order to be effective, yet you get to an interview and are expected to spontaneously remember the positional arguments for some esoteric function. And we keep doing this even with people who have years of experience in the field!

Yep. It’s weird when I go into an interview having 15 years of experience and having accomplished now some really major things in my field and get asked what port SSH is on.

First of all, I know it. Knew it since SSH itself was new, nearly. But who the crap cares what port SSH is on? What does that even have to do with my job, and why could I not look it up if I needed it, assuming I did not already know it?

I know, there must be some basic test of competency (I guess), but is that really it? Is that the best you can do?

People are always surprised when I do interviews and I don’t ask a single technical question. Instead, I chat with the candidate about some projects they’ve done, what technologies they like and why, and what they are looking forward to in the field. I might ask them to show me how they might design something if they had complete control and tell them there are no wrong answers, but that ideally they should be able to explain why they’re making the choices they are.

It’s not perfect but so far I have a good record of hiring people and them not being duds.

But trivia questions? Come on, what are we, in 9th grade and in some Brain Bowl competition?

Mar 08

Panics and their duration

The by many measures best mathematician in the world married one of his students.

Grace Tao gave her son and his wife, Laura, the book after they were married. “Because I’m a terrible cook,” says Laura, who was a student in one of Tao’s classes at UCLA in 2000 and went on to work at the solar system research and development group JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) after graduating as an electrical engineer.

He is therefore irretrievably and incontrovertibly evil.

Historically speaking, sexual panics and paranoias last 30-50 years. We’re about 20 years into this one — it started in about 1994 or so — so at best we have another 10 years and at worst another 30.

I hope it is not the latter.

Mar 08

Wood you

Sometimes, the Repubs are right and regulation does go too far.

Citing health concerns, the Environmental Protection Agency now is pressing ahead with regulations to significantly limit the pollution from newly manufactured residential wood heaters. But some of the states with the most wood smoke are refusing to go along, claiming that the EPA’s new rules could leave low-income residents in the cold.

When I was a kid, we burned wood because it was basically free to us other than the small cost of gas to haul it. At the time we could not have afforded anything else.

Though North Florida does not get all that cold, there are 30-40 nights in the 30s and there are 10-12 usually that get into the 20s — plenty chilly when you are in a non-insulated house.

This requirement if enforced would’ve made my family’s life much worse. I am sure there are families out there today where the same is true.

Mar 07

Wiredo

Where does Wired find these nincompoops?

It must be a difficult task to write an entire article about net neutrality where nearly every “fact” or assertion is outright wrong or a gross exaggeration. I won’t refute them all point by point because I really have much better things to do with my life. Suffice it to say nearly nothing in this article resembles reality in any way, not even “and” and “the.”

This guy by the way is a shill for the telco monopoly. I looked up this motherfucker and it ain’t pretty. He wrote a paper supporting the Comcast/TWC merger. He is almost certainly in their employ though I can’t find and direct evidence of that (though that is not the way they get paid; usually it’d be 3rd-party consulting to claim they are “neutral”).

Wired has always been on the wrong side of this and similar issues. Their advertising depends on it — so I am sure that is the reason.

But if I worked for Wired I’d be incredibly embarrassed professionally to be associated with such outright and blatant shilling.

Mar 07

So behind they think they are ahead

This made me laugh, especially the headline “A Masterpiece Without a Genre.”

“Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel in 10 years is a sad, remarkable fantasy set after King Arthur’s death.”

And it features scenes like:

Here, in no special order of importance or chronology, are some things that happen in Kazuo Ishiguro’s new novel: An old man uses a hoe to fight off thousands of pixies who have attacked his wife as she floats down a river in a basket; an enchanted mist envelops a country, causing an entire people to forget its past; an ogre is found in a ditch, gravely indisposed, having killed and partially eaten a poisoned goat; an ancient widow prosecutes a grievance with a mysterious boatman by methodically slitting the throats of rabbits and spilling their blood on the floor of his childhood home; a past-his-Green-Knight-beheading-prime Sir Gawain faces off against a hell-dog in an underground chamber.

Of course no matter the quality if someone who’d started out writing fan-fic or in the pulp paperback ghetto had written the exact same thing it would have been relegated to the fantasy bin and never spoken of in polite company again.

I always laugh when incidents like this occur; some “important” author writes fantasy or sf — usually poorly and behind the leading wave of the genre by 25 years — and is praised for it, meanwhile actual genre authors are writing better, more nuanced work that is never considered other than to laugh at.

I don’t much care for the literary establishment. Luckily, it is much-diminished in importance (and they hate that).

Novels only don’t have a genre (as this Slate tripe claims) when the literary mandarins want to re-heat something that has been old hat for a few decades and present it as something unstained by those genre ties.

Pretty disgusting if you ask me.

Mar 07

Politricks

Here’s a more balanced review of American Sniper, rather than all the liberals soiling themselves over how it glorified violence or whatever else.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I will, as most of the reviews sounded very probably wrong to me because I’d never seen Eastwood helm a movie pointed the direction that one was accused of heading ideologically.

So American Sniper a war movie.

It is not a pro-war movie.

It’s not a particularly political movie.

The little politics Eastwood lets slip in are isolationist.

The only connection made between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq is chronological. The attacks happen and nineteen months later the war happens and Chris Kyle finds himself in Iraq. In between, he gets married. Eastwood makes no use of it for emotional effect, never mind using it to make a political point. It’s exposition. We don’t even see it happen. We see Kyle see it happen on TV.

That’s about what I expected. Eastwood is about as likely to make a pro-war movie as I am to vote for Rand fucking Paul. And of course one can’t really make a movie about Iraq and ignore the politics of it all — but still, I care about stories, and telling the story of a man doing a dangerous and dirty job in a bad situation is more interesting than explicitly political movies. Even if the job itself is very probably on balance evil, but situational evil.

I considered becoming a sniper in the military, and changing my job to that when I was offered the opportunity. I’m a very good shot and have the mentality for it. But in the end I am glad I did not, and declined because I did not trust (rightly) the military to want to kill the right people insomuch as anyone deserves death.

Note: I did not and do not support the Iraq war, do not think we should invade any country pretty much ever and am fully opposed to America’s past and future imperial ambitions. I am a liberal, and a far left-wing one at that.

If only the great body of people reacting to American Sniper had done so against the Iraq War — well, it probably would’ve still happened but this still seems a bit hypocritical. But criticizing in bad faith American Sniper is an easy reputation boost whereas inveighing against the Iraq war in the propaganda run-up was a huge risk.

So that’s why we see what we see today.

Mar 06

Needs more powah

Is this true?

For example, support for more than one email address is considered a power user feature that Google is dropping.

If that is a power user feature, I must be a robot fusion-powered space mutant turbo ninja user, because I have at least eight email addresses that I use somewhat regularly (including work addresses) and probably a dozen more that I am aware of but are in states of abandonment.