Nat’s 2022 Technical Link Pile: Random

December 30, 2022 – 7:18 pm

See the Intro for context.

[20221231] 36 Things I Learned in 2022 — #1 blew my mind: For the first time in history in 2020, the weight of things produced by humans (concrete, metals, plastic) was greater than the weight of the global living biomass.

[20221224] Reported Sleep Duration Reveals Segmentation of the Adult Life-course into Three Phasesearly adulthood (19-33yrs), mid-adulthood (34-53yrs), and late adulthood (54+yrs). They appear stable across culture, gender, education and other demographics. 

[20221223] Adobe Enhance — free tool to clean up recorded voices.

[20221223] Process Reparenting in Windows — fascinating technical discussion that roams through undocumented APIs and OS data structures to be able to explain how Windows fires up a new process and sometimes leaves very worrying kernel traces.

[20221221] Public Domain Day 2023 — I’m so happy I’ve lived to a time when the material entering the public domain is good! AA Milne, Conan Doyle, Hemingway, Agatha Christie, Kafka, Metropolis, The Jazz Singer, Hitchcock’s first thriller, Laurel and Hardy, Irving Berlin, Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington.

[20221210] A Desk with its Own Schedule – don’t leave it to your better self to decide to stand.

[20221210] TicketMaster Built on VAX Architecturethe load during onsales is immense. Years ago we did an experiment to write a ticketing system in pure C. There were several locking issues among an inability to advance a stack pointer fast enough.

[20221210] Some Thoughts on Social Networking and UsenetUsenet clients mostly worked on the assumption that you wanted to read new news, that you haven’t seen, and that if you wanted to go back and read older things, then you could.[…] Contrast current social media, including the fediverse. Most sites have an endless scroll, and if you keep scrolling for long enough, you will come down to things you have already seen. Typically there will be no indication that they are something you have already seen; you just have to remember that you’ve seen them before.

[20221210] Plumber’s Guide to Git – git is blobs and trees, and this “how it really works” is a straightforward guide to making sense of git.

[20221210] Git Notes – little-known git feature (dropped by github) for attaching arbitrary text into a commit.

[20221126] How AI Text Generation Models Are Reshaping Customer Support at Airbnb — interesting to see prompt engineering used in the wild.

[20221126] One-Time Fuses — used in Christmas tree lights and secure hardware.

[20221126] — a blog catalog.

[20221126] History Doesn’t Repeat, But It Does Rhyme — first formulation of this is 1965 from a psychoanalyst Theodor Reik. Not Mark Twain or any else to whom it was credited.

[20221126] Writing by Hand is Still the Best Way to Retain InformationAlthough typing notes can be useful and even faster for some note-takers, ultimately it does not have the cognitive, tactile, memory, or visual cognitive effects that people can get when they write by hand. Typing notes can be good, but it won’t make it easier to remember what was said later on. 

[20221126] Diátaxis — a documentation framework that divides docs into Tutorials, How-To Guides, Explanations, and Reference. Each have a different use, different purpose, and different creation.

[20221126] RFC 1855 — 1995 Netiquette. Everything from UPPERCASE IS SHOUTING through “If a person doesn’t respond you might try another tty. Use finger to determine which are open. If the person still doesn’t respond, do not continue to send.” Which is advice for a long-gone Unix protocol called talk. Also, it has two spaces after every full-stop.

[20221119] Comic Mono Font — Comic Sans as a monospaced font, suitable for code.

[20221119] Story of the Unix Epoch –fascinating history of the Unix Epoch time, with diversions into electricity grids (a tick was a cycle on the power grid) and leap seconds (invented after the time epoch).

[20221119] Potluck — Turing complete documents

[20221119] German Air Traffic Control Depended on Emacs — great story.

[20221102] Does Experience Matter — no, didn’t improve results on tests.

[20221102] gpt3-cli — cli (in python) for GPT3.

[20221102] Invasive Diffusion — pointers to How To for style transfer.

[20221008] Codebase as Database – using Datalog to query your codebase. 

[20220919] Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Retail – omg 2 SKUs can = a single product. How do you have a data model that isn’t RDF?

[20220901] SCARF: A Brain-Based Model for Collaborating with and Influencing Others — Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness.

[20220804] The Illustrated TLS 1.3 Connection — phase by phase, what each step of the connection is.

[20220804] Perception of Probability Words — the inter-quartile range of “we believe” is 40% to 100%. Helps you calibrate your use of the words by understanding how people will perceive your statements.

[20220728] Apologies that Heal – five ways to apologise, different people need different types: expressing regret; accepting responsibility; making restitution; repentance/commitment to change; asking for forgiveness. Has examples of language of each.

[20220724] Usborne Coding Books – nostalgia.

[20220719] Inside Baseball – Microsoft’s term for intra-company jargon. E.g., we might draw a distinction between Resolved and Closed on tasks, but customer doesn’t know or care about that distinction.

[20220718] Book of Experiments – fun with kids. See also The Boy Mechanic Vol I and The Boy Mechanic Vol II and The Boy Electrician and The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments

[20220718] A Systems Model of Anxiety-Driven Procrastination – anxiety and overwhelm form a feedback loop. Eliminating distractions doesn’t stop the loop. You need to find ways to push through: break down into smaller chunks, discover the purpose. Acknowledge the anxiety and reduce overwhelm.

[20220629] Pen and Paper Exercises in Machine Learning – The exercises are on the following topics: linear algebra, optimisation, directed graphical models, undirected graphical models, expressive power of graphical models, factor graphs and message passing, inference for hidden Markov models, model-based learning (including ICA and unnormalised models), sampling and Monte-Carlo integration, and variational inference.

[20220629] Fixing Head-Forward Posture — explanation of the biology, and five stretches that help.

[20220529] The Difficulty of DMs — arguing against a company communicating in DMs.

[20220528] 101 Tactics for Revolutionaries​​become known as “the guy who…” so when the time is right, everyone knows there’s a guy who… ; realise there are no rules, you can do what you like; don’t try and do it unless you’d do it for free. They couldn’t pay you enough.; don’t call it anything. If it has a name, people, including you, will waste time arguing what it is and isn’t; call it something. Otherwise nobody can ever talk about it; learn to sell people the problem, not the solution. People buy because they have a problem.

[20220526] MainboardTerminal – a retro-style computer with a modern core.

[20220526] Framedeck – a cyberdeck with the framework mainboard.

[20220524] Deep Learning in Business Analytics: A Clash of Expectations and Realitythe adoption of deep learning is not only affected by computational complexity, lacking big data architecture, lack of transparency (black-box), and skill shortage, but also by the fact that DL does not outperform traditional ML models in the case of structured datasets with fixed-length feature vectors.

[20220524] The Craft of Writing Effectively – it’s about the reader. “Every word should create value for the reader”. Academic research and publishing needs the reader to believe that it has value.

[20220504] Russian Cinemas Showing Torrents – Western companies have pulled Russian distribution of their products, and Russian cinemas are responding by screening torrents of Western movies.

[20220504] Writing for Engineers – good advice about the why and how of writing. Not so much about how to write good English, for which I always recommend Bugs in Writing: A Guide to Debugging Your Prose.

[20220502] 103 Bits of Advice I Wish I Had Known – not all are obvious. Take note if you find yourself wondering “Where is my good knife? Or, where is my good pen?” That means you have bad ones. Get rid of those. and You can be whatever you want, so be the person who ends meetings early.

[20220422] Cross Border Employment – legal issues around remote workers.

[20220404] Printer for GitHub Issues – uses a receipt printer and a Raspberry Pi.

[20220311] Questions That Interest Me — Why are certain things getting so much more expensive? Why do there seem to be more examples of rapidly-completed major projects in the past than the present? Why is GDP growth so weirdly constant? How do you ensure an adequate replacement rate in systems that have no natural way to die? How do we help more experimental cities get started? How do people decide to make major life changes? Why are there so many successful startups in Stockholm? Is Bloom’s “Two Sigma” phenomenon real? If so, what do we do about it? How can we better understand the dynamics of progress in science? Will end-user applications ever be truly programmable? If so, how? What’s the successor to the book? And how could books be improved? What’s the successor to the scientific paper and the scientific journal? What’s the right way to understand and model personality? Could there be more good blogs? Why are programming environments still so primitive? What does religion cause? Why is there no canon for life’s most important questions? Why are so many things so much nicer in Switzerland and Japan? Why isn’t China (yet) producing a lot of top-tier research? Why don’t we build nice neighborhoods any more? What influences when people act in accordance with their self-interest and when they don’t? What’s going on with infrastructure? Why did climatic variability suddenly decline in the Holocene period? 

[20220310] Kettle Logic – accused of stealing a kettle, the defense is “I returned it undamaged; it was damaged when I got it; I never took it in the first place.” Multiple contradictory arguments to defend a point = kettle logic.

[20220306] How to Slice a Bagel into Two Linked Halves — has more surface area than a straight cut so you get more cream cheese per bagel.

[20220306] Hoare and Knuth Quote Story — Knuth did say it originally, but Hoare repeated it (in writing), properly attributing it to Knuth. Knuth then read Hoare’s quote, missed the attribution, forgot that he was the one who said it, and repeated it again in writing, mis-attributing it to Hoare. The quote: “premature optimization is the root of all evil.”

[20220225] Figureheads, Factions, and Fictions — Auckland U research into mis/dis info and protests.

[20220222] Designing the New Way — Ask anyone in a complex organisation if there is a way to improve effectiveness they will almost always have an answer and it will almost always start with constructing an enormous pyramid of human skulls atop which they and the practitioners of their discipline sit atop as gods.

[20220219] MLPOS — Market Leading Piece of Shit, eg Jira.

[20220219] Locked Room Mysteries – the Michael Jordan of the genre, John Dickson Carr. Hated math, there’s a story about him punching a friend just for using the word algebra. Carr got his publishing contract by wagering a dinner that the CEO of Harper & Brothers couldn’t guess whodunnit. The final ⅓ of his book came in a paper wrapper with a promise to refund purchase price if it was unopened.

[20220218] Russian Smiles – far more than you wanted to know about Russians and (not)

[20220217] Tales of an Early Engineer – if you were looking at the team and the company today, you would be forgiven for believing that we knew what we were doing all along. You’d also definitely have trouble imagining just how fragile and humble things in the early days were.

[20220217] Acute aerobic exercise to recover from mental exhaustion – a randomized controlled trial – The empirical results showed that moderate aerobic exercise led to a better recovery for cognitive flexibility (mean difference divided by pooled standard deviation, Cohen’s d= 0.737), mood (d= 0.405), tiredness (d= 0.480), self-perceived cognitive capacity (d= 0.214), and motivation (d= 0.524) compared to active control treatment. Moderate aerobic exercise was also more effective than passive control treatment (d= 0.102 – 0.286) with the exemption of tiredness (d= 0.015) and restlessness (d = -0.473).

[20220217] Man Lives In Futuristic Sci-Fi World Where All His Interactions Take Place In Cyberspace – brilliant.

[20220216] Mr Mouse and Mr Owl Situations – “no idea what mr mouse’s problem is, mr owl has never done a thing to me”.

[20220216] Hackers Card Game – print it yourself card game.

[20220214] Intergenerational Mobility in the Very Long Run – Hungary: Family status held up under both Communists & capitalists. Florence: Being a descendant of a family with high income in the FIFTEENTH CENTURY means you have significantly higher income today. (via Twitter)

[20220213] Enterprise Programming Language — humour, or is it?

[20220213] 25 Mental Models — “problem selling” is great.

[20220213] Amazingly Detailed Cryptocurrency Is Bullshit — “Cryptocurrencies’ roots lie deep in the libertarian culture of Silicon Valley and the cypherpunks. Libertarianism’s attraction is based on ignoring externalities, and cryptocurrencies are no exception.”

[20220209] The Ostrich Algorithm — a strategy of ignoring potential problems on the basis that they may be exceedingly rare. It is named after the ostrich effect which is defined as “to stick one’s head in the sand and pretend there is no problem”. It is used when it is more cost-effective to allow the problem to occur than to attempt its prevention.

[20220209] Ethan Coen Reviews Joel Cohen’s Macbeth — hilarious (not actually by Ethan, alas, just good comedy)

[20220209] Tim O’Reilly on Web3 —  I don’t think we’re going to be able to call Web3 “Web3” until after the crypto bust. Because only then will we get to see what’s stuck around. I like to contrast the betting economy and the operating economy. The operating economy is the one that delivers goods and services and people pay for them. And the betting economy is where you guess at what the value might be, or what other people think it might be.

[20220209] Data and Reality — tease of an interesting book (from 1978!) on data modelling

[20220207] SQL Police Department — solve crimes, learn SQL.

[20220207] A Treatise on Northern Ireland, volume 3, Consociation and Confederation — one statistic stands out from a census comparison from the first decade of the twenty-first century.  Just 2.1 percent of the population in Northern Ireland were born in the South, and just 1.3 percent living in the South were born in the North.

[20220207] The Integrative Role of the Sigh in Psychology, Physiology, Pathology, and Neurobiology — Increased breathing irregularity may provoke excessive sighing and hyperarousal, a behavioral sequence that may play a role in panic disorders.

[20220207] Reading on a smartphone affects sigh generation, brain activity, and comprehension — reading on a smartphone affected sigh frequency but not normal breathing, suggesting that normal breathing and sigh generation are mediated by pathways differentially influenced by the visual environment. A path analysis suggests that the interactive relationship between sigh inhibition and overactivity in the prefrontal cortex causes comprehension decline. 

[20220207] Omicron and Immunity — a really understandable intro to how immunity works, in the context of Omicron.

[20220207] Stubborn Attachments review — What other Most Important Priorities have you read about which give the average person a substantial role to play in the most important tasks ahead of us? What a rare thing! Everyone can be a steward of the glorious and wealthy future: everyone who upholds norms and keeps society a little more functional, everyone who makes a couple clever optimizations, everyone who safeguards some knowledge and passes it down to someone who can make more and better use of it, everyone who raises strong and capable and moral children. All of these are crucial tasks that can be fulfilled by a huge swath of the population.

[20220206] The Virtual Sales Handbook — you might check at the end for Completion (anything left to say), Alignment (everyone happy with where we got to), Next Steps, and Value (what are you taking away from this so far?).

[20220205] Where Americans Were Born – 14% 1st gen immigrant, 28% born in US but now living in a different state, 58% living in same state they were born in (!). Only slightly changed from 1850 when it was 11/23/66% instead of 14/28/58. 70s had immigration low (5% born outside the country), 1940 was peak “living in the same state you were born in”.

[20220205] Learning What You Don’t Know by Virtual Outlier Synthesis (VOS) – training a neural network to say “I don’t know” instead of guessing when it has no idea.

[20220205] The Website is Down – so many reasons why it might be unavailable to the user

[20220203] How to not get lost in your first foundational research – what I wish I’d had.

[20220202] Coercion Theory: A Basic Introduction for Practitioners – By its nature, coercion requires a decision by the actor being coerced, thus placing the outcome in the actor’s hands. But coercion, especially compellence, is difficult, and provides no guarantee of success — not even to very powerful actors. Reviewing five empirical studies of coercion, Downes concludes that compellence succeeds only about percent of the time. Actors can deter by threat of punishment or by threat of denial. It is never clear whether the absence of an attack is due to an enemy giving in to a deterrent threat. This ambiguity enables enemies who have been deterred to save face. Because compellence is active in ways that deterrence is not — the target state must perform an act rather than simply refrain from one — it is clear to all when compellence is successful. Moreover, the actor being compelled is usually being forced into some degree of humiliation. When it comes to timing deterrence can be indefinite while compellence, by contrast, must be definite – if compliance is being demanded, then how much, and for how long? The target state must be convinced that if it resists it will suffer, but if it concedes it will not. If it suffers either way, or if it has already suffered all it can, then it will not concede and coercion will fail. In general, Pape’s work found that punishment, risk, and decapitation all have problems as methods of aerial coercion. Leaders attached to a particular stake are often willing to pass the pain on to their populations in order to protect the survival of the regime. Since World War I, no industrial nation has been able to fight a peer competitor successfully without the ability to largely control its own airspace and contest enemy airspace.

[20220202] How to Explain an Idea – A simple trick I once learned is to structure the explanation into four parts, with one sentence for each part: (1) state the problem, (2) state the consequences of the problem, (3) state the solution, (4) state the consequences of the solution. Since the explanation now automatically includes both the problem and the solution, it usually is both more compelling and easier to understand. Followup: This is succinctly captured by a phrase from the video game industry: “Show locked doors before you show a key”.

[20220201] Giant Pyrosome – clones related to salps that form an organism that’s a chordate (has a spine). Yow.

[20220201] The New Hire Who Showed Up Is Not The Same Person We Interviewed – wow.

[20220131] You Don’t Know GIF — far more than you ever wanted to know about the GIF format.

[20220131] EVerest — EV charging software stack.

[20220131] Become a better writer in tech — “ask directed questions” is the best advice.

[20220131] Canon’s telling people how to circumvent their toner DRM — a shortage of official toner means they have to else customers can’t use their printers

[20220128] How much did a tunic cost in the Roman Empire? – 6-12 days of labour aka $500-1500 for simple tunic or $7k-21k for finest. “Robber” and “robe” share a common origin because grave robbing for clothes was common practice. Clothing a typical Roman peasant family would take ~3k hours of domestic labour a year every year, most of it devoted to spinning flax. From HN discussion: “The first engines were atmospheric pressure, e.g. they used a vacuum to work. They were not closed cycle and they did not care about wasting water seeing as their purpose was to be a water pump. They didn’t care about wasting coal as they worked at a coal mine. For the first century of their development they were stuck in the one niche where both the things they required were free.”

[20220128] We have jetpacks and we do not care – what it’s like to fly a jetpack

[20220128] Information Hazards: A Typology of Potential Harms from Knowledge – ways in which truth can be harmful.

[20220128] A Brief History and Ethos of the Digital Garden – “newly revived philosophy for publishing personal knowledge on the web”.

[20220201] Militarized Dolphins Protect almost a quarter of us nuclear stockpile

[20220201] What Romans Found Funny

[20220201] How to spot a conspiracy theory

[20220201] Why Agatha Christie could afford a maid and a nanny but not a car – goods have dropped in price while labour has risen in price; “Baumol’s cost disease” = people haven’t become more productive yet their wages are higher.

[20220201] Algorithmic Amplification of Politics on Twitter

[20220201] Inside a Boeing 777’s data center

[20220201] Gridrunner (game)

[20220201] Acra – database encryption at application level

[20220201] When – timezone utility in the commandline

[20220201] Open source tools from 2021 

[20220201] Making good pizza

[20220201] TMC music reccs

[20220201] Gymnastic commentary

[20220201] History of the blinking cursor

[20220201] Neal Stephenson’s recommended six books on information manipulation

[20220201] table of lotr

[20220201] Increase alcohol consumption in women under 50 with kids at home during lockdown

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