alexch's almanac

Apr 20

“I made this letter quite long because I lacked the time to make it shorter.” —

Blaise Pascal, 1656 #TLDR. Also applies to code. 

Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.”

Apr 19

“part of what makes Rails development “interesting” is that there’s such a mix of information about Rails 2.3, Rails 3.x and Rails 4 out in the wild, treated as though they are slight variations on a common theme, rather than three different products unified mainly by a shared product name.” — Archimedes’ Lever: Rails is Rails is NOT Rails. Oh, my aching head.

Apr 11

“It flies in the face of the agency’s comments that defense comes first,” said Jason Healey, director of the cyber statecraft initiative at the Atlantic Council and a former Air Force cyber officer. “They are going to be completely shredded by the computer security community for this.” — NSA Said to Exploit Heartbleed Bug for Intelligence for Years - Bloomberg

Apr 10

“Homeless people in these stories, it is worth noting, are almost always referred to by their first names, while their tormentors, or benefactors, are afforded the dignity of a surname.” — Let Them Eat Code | Dissent Magazine via Gerry Canavan

Mar 25

“We think of our future selves as strangers.” — Why We Procrastinate - Issue 9: Time - Nautilus

[TL/DR: Gravity is quantized!]

The Bicep2 waves are magnified images of the hypothetical particles called gravitons that would transmit gravity in quantum theory.

Imprinted on the cosmos when it was a subatomic quantum speck, they have been blown up a trillion trillion times and spread across the sky for inspection.

It would take a thousand trillion Large Hadron Colliders to make one in the lab, but the poor man’s particle accelerator has done it free of charge.

“The universe does what we can’t do,” said the physicist Lawrence M. Krauss of Arizona State, who recently wrote a paper on this with Frank Wilczek, a Nobel laureate and physics professor at M.I.T.

While some theorists have questioned whether quantum theory can ever be applied to gravity, Dr. Wilczek said last week that the new discovery “means gravity is quantized.”

” — Ripples From the Big Bang -

Mar 23

“There’s some indication that what makes a bisexual person may be less about what they’re strongly attracted to and more about what they’re not averse to.” — Carlos Legaspy - The Scientific Quest to Prove Bisexuality Exists -

Mar 20

Opt out of Dropbox's arbitration clause -


If you’re a Dropbox user, you probably got an email in the last few days about an update to their TOS that basically puts all disputes into arbitration rather than litigation. 

If you’re like me, you probably glossed over this update because gah, legalese. 

Allow me to summarize what it means when a company wants to handle all disputes in arbitration:

No matter what they do (delete your data, privacy breach, overcharging, whatever), you don’t get to sue. Instead, THEY get to choose the arbitrator according to whatever criteria they want, and thus any dispute is decided by someone they’re paying.

Also, you can’t join a class-action suit against them. Which sounds like no big deal, but when a company takes advantage of a bunch of people all in the same small way (incorrectly assessing a service charge, for example), class action is how companies are made to clean up their act en masse, instead of waiting for thousands of people to call them up and demand their $20 back or whatever.

I love Dropbox and use/recommend it enthusiastically. But this is a company that we entrust with some of our most important data- the kind of data we need to have access to wherever we are. Family photos, portfolios, projects representing years of work, etc. And as we’ve seen with Google buying Nest, even if we trust the management team in charge of our data right now, that’s not guaranteed in the future. Founders move on to other things. Companies with great products get acquired. Business decisions get made that change the direction of the company.

The agreement we make with Dropbox is too important to be enforced only by an arbitrator of their choosing. You have 30 days from the date of notification to opt out of the arbitration clause. Do it now.

“The thing that just cracks me up is this compilation to JavaScript, which is just the most insane thing. [laughter] If I was predicting the future history of the computer industry, the concept that people would be taking C code and compiling it to JavaScript to run in web browsers is just not part of the roadmap.” — Stephen Wolfram

Mar 16

“There’s not much of a difference between the president appearing on Between Two Ferns and appearing on The O’Reilly Factor. The difference is that we admit we’re a comedy show.” — Scott Aukerman, the director of President Obama’s Between Two Ferns interview, speaks.

Slate: How scripted was the president’s part of this? In some of the other videos with big stars—the Justin Bieber episode, the Oscar preview—they seem more flustered and less in on the joke. The president was ready with zingers. How much of that was really him?

Aukerman: The president knew what to expect, but at the same time he came up with a lot of improv stuff. He surprised us. The back and forth between Zach and the president, where they’re kind of verbally assaulting each other—that went very well. Everyone had a general idea of where the conversation was going to go. We knew what Zach wanted to do. We were pleasantly surprised by where the president took it. Honestly, it felt like a real episode of the show. There’s something about the nonscripted sense of surprise. We were ready to pull the plug if it wasn’t going to be a normal Between Two Ferns video.

” — Scott Aukerman, the director of President Obama’s Between Two Ferns interview, speaks.

Mar 12

Van Damme is shooting guns, causing all sorts of mayhem, and he shouts to Chun-Li and Balrog: “Go, go, I’ll catch you later.” Here’s what Van Damme said the first time: “Go, go, I’ll catch you later — cut, cut, cut!”

It’s unusual for an actor to call cut; that’s the director’s role, but Van Damme was sure he’d said “ladder” instead of “later” and he demanded they do it over. De Souza, stunned, noted the crew would need to rematch the bullet holes, rerig the actors who fell from catwalks back on their wires, clean off the costume and replace the blood packs. But Van Damme ordered another take.

While the crew reset everything, Van Damme listened to the audio and realized he’d had it right. De Souza — vindicated, albeit after losing time and resources — decided to shoot the scene again for backup.

Van Damme got in position. De Souza called action. “Go, go,” shouted Van Damme, “I’ll catch you ladder!”

” — Street Fighter: The Movie — What went wrong | Polygon

Mar 10

“If the three most powerfully correlative demographic factors for educational success are parental income, race, and parental education, then our system of educational districting is a powerful tool for separating those demographically predisposed for success from those predisposed for failure. I am firmly in support of efforts to integrate these separate groups, for a variety of reasons. But those who suggest that doing so would result in the worst-performing students suddenly and significantly improving are almost certainly mistaking cause for effect.” — actual competitive behavior in charter schools | Fredrik deBoer

Mar 07

In Vermont, people understand exactly what I mean by the word [socialism]. They don’t believe that democratic socialism is akin to North Korea communism. They understand that when I talk about democratic socialism, what I’m saying is that I do not want to see the United States significantly dominated by a handful of billionaire families controlling the economic and political life of the country. That I do believe that in a democratic, civilized society, all people are entitled to health care as a right, all people are entitled to quality education as a right, all people are entitled to decent jobs and a decent income, and that we need a government which represents ordinary Americans and not just the wealthy and the powerful.

The people in Vermont know exactly when I mean, which is why I won my last election with 71 percent of the vote and carried some of the most conservative towns in the state. If I ran for president, and articulated a vision that speaks to working people, I am confident that voters in every part of this country would understand that.

The truth is that, very sadly, the corporate media ignores some of the huge accomplishments that have taken place in countries like Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway. These countries, which have a long history of democratic socialist or labor governments, have excellent and universal health care systems, excellent educational systems and they have gone a long way toward eliminating poverty and creating a far more egalitarian society than we have. I think that there are economic and social models out there that we can learn a heck of a lot from, and that’s something I would be talking about.

” — Bernie Sanders: ‘I Am Prepared to Run for President of the United States’ | The Nation

Feb 27

“House Speaker John A. Boehner replied, “Blah, blah, blah, blah.” That’s not some rude characterization of Boehner’s response; that was literally what Boehner said in response to a reporter’s question.” — Why is tax reform ‘dead on arrival’? | MSNBC