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Current Topic: Technology

Things I am not allowed to do any more
Topic: Technology 8:14 am EST, Jan 13, 2010


Yelling "Fire in the hole!" whenever I make a checkin is not team building.

I will not refer to the head of corporate research as a "lamer," especially when he is in the same stairwell when I utter this.

David Owen:

If you and your spouse are dressed almost identically, or if you are carrying your passport in a thing around your neck, or if you are wearing any form of footwear or pants that you clearly purchased specifically to wear on airplanes, or if you make it obvious (by repeatedly turning around and talking to passengers in seats not adjacent to yours) that you are travelling with a group, the charge is fifty dollars.


At least Ballmer had the good sense to be ugly, which gave him an odd kind of dignity.

Roedy Green:

Your code should not look hopelessly unmaintainable, just be that way.
Otherwise it stands the risk of being rewritten or refactored.

Things I am not allowed to do any more

Algorithmic Authority
Topic: Technology 8:30 am EST, Nov 19, 2009

Clay Shirky:

One of the things up for grabs in the current news environment is the nature of authority.

It's impossible to be right all the time, but it's much better to be wrong on good authority than otherwise, because if you're wrong on good authority, it's not your fault.

Algorithmic authority is the decision to regard as authoritative an unmanaged process of extracting value from diverse, untrustworthy sources, without any human standing beside the result saying "Trust this because you trust me."

Jeffrey Rosen:

In "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy," Woody Allen shows up at Mia Farrow's window on a flying bicycle and urges her to hop on. "Andrew, we'll get killed," she protests. "Trust me," he replies, "it's me, Andrew." She looks skeptical, and he tries again. "Trust me anyhow."

Algorithmic Authority

The questionable value of the real-time web
Topic: Technology 8:24 am EST, Nov  4, 2009

Daniel Tenner:

Everyone is talking about the "real-time web". That's usually a pretty strong indication of a buzzword that will soon mean very little.

Benjamin Friedman:

These talented and energetic young citizens could surely be doing something more useful.

Maggie Jackson:

Despite our wondrous technologies and scientific advances, we are nurturing a culture of diffusion, fragmentation, and detachment. In this new world, something crucial is missing -- attention.

Paul Carr:

If we all started thinking a bit more like friends, and a bit less like attention whores, the privacy problem would be solved at a stroke.

The questionable value of the real-time web

Dromaeo: JavaScript Performance Testing
Topic: Technology 8:24 am EST, Nov  4, 2009

John Resig:

There are a number of techniques that the Dromaeo suite uses in order to achieve accurate results. Together they provide a solid foundation for allowing significant performance analysis to be completed.


The majority of widely known web performance optimization practices today focus on the application tier or the database tier. Traditional performance testings tools do no front end optimization testing. And yet the front end has the biggest impact on web application performance in modern applications. Do you see the disconnect yet?

This is an enormous opportunity.

Dromaeo: JavaScript Performance Testing

Topic: Technology 8:02 am EDT, Oct 28, 2009

Contraptor is a DIY open source construction set for experimental personal fabrication, desktop manufacturing, prototyping and bootstrapping.

Various —Āartesian robots can be assembled from Contraptor and used as a prototyping platform for projects such as XY plotter, mini CNC machine, 3D printer, etc.

From the archive:

Fab@Home is a website dedicated to making and using fabbers - machines that can make almost anything, right on your desktop.

Neil Gershenfeld:

Students are desperate for hands-on experience.


The 'Bus Pirate' is a universal bus interface that talks to most chips from a PC serial terminal, eliminating a ton of early prototyping effort when working with new or unknown chips.

From earlier this year:

The Arduino open-source microcontroller platform can be programmed and equipped to perform a nearly endless list of functions.

From 2004:

This class teaches the use of several types of CAD/CAM machines, and techniques for making literally 'almost anything'. The lecture notes include valuable tips on how to make those machines work, and links to other web sites with detailed information on the world of CAD/CAM.


The Bus Pirate
Topic: Technology 7:56 am EDT, Oct 22, 2009

Interfacing a new microchip can be a hassle. Breadboarding a circuit, writing code, hauling out the programmer, or maybe even prototyping a PCB. We never seem to get it right on the first try.

The 'Bus Pirate' is a universal bus interface that talks to most chips from a PC serial terminal, eliminating a ton of early prototyping effort when working with new or unknown chips.

The Bus Pirate

A New Biology for the 21st Century: Ensuring the United States Leads the Coming Biology Revolution
Topic: Technology 7:24 am EDT, Sep 24, 2009

New from the National Research Council:

Now more than ever, biology has the potential to contribute practical solutions to many of the major challenges confronting the United States and the world. A New Biology for the 21st Century recommends that a "New Biology" approach--one that depends on greater integration within biology, and closer collaboration with physical, computational, and earth scientists, mathematicians and engineers--be used to find solutions to four key societal needs: sustainable food production, ecosystem restoration, optimized biofuel production, and improvement in human health. The approach calls for a coordinated effort to leverage resources across the federal, private, and academic sectors to help meet challenges and improve the return on life science research in general.

Freeman Dyson:

Now, after three billion years, the Darwinian interlude is over.

Jay Keasling:

We have got to the point in human history where we simply do not have to accept what nature has given us.


I've gotten old enough that I now understand why adults seek to escape reality. Paradoxically, I think I was better at escaping reality when I was younger.


When children start to play with real genes, evolution as we know it will change forever.

A New Biology for the 21st Century: Ensuring the United States Leads the Coming Biology Revolution

Topic: Technology 8:12 am EDT, Sep 17, 2009

Timo Arnall:

Nearness explores interacting without touching.

One of the essential properties of Near Field Communication is nearness, but this is set against one of the paradoxes of touch-based interaction where, in fact, nothing needs to touch.


Good jobs in the US will be less and less knowledge-based and more and more service-based, focusing on proximity to clients.


Science and technology have had a profound affect on the way humans perceive space and time -think, for example of the way information technologies such as the telephone have reduced our former perception of the world as inaccessible, unknowable and exotic to a sensibility of nearness, friendliness, fellowship and instantaneity (the so-called "global village"). The scientific knowledge which produces technology remains a system of beliefs, the perspectives of science are thought-structures, that is ideologies, which organise the world into sets of believable fictions. Although science has tried to define "the thing in itself", it ends up exploring "the thing for me", through the practical postulate - the praxis - of space/time paradigms. This had had a practical effect upon our invention, and our use, of new technologies.

From the 2008 Year in Ideas:

The survey showed that Predator crews were suffering through "impaired domestic relationships" -- a problem which might possibly have something to do with the proximity of the Vegas strip.

Jonathan Franzen:

The very essence of the cell phone's hideousness, as a social phenomenon--the bad news that stays bad news--is that it enables and encourages the inflicting of the personal and individual on the public and communal. And there is no higher-caliber utterance than "I love you"--nothing worse that an individual can inflict on a communal public space. Even "Fuck you, dickhead" is less invasive, since it's the kind of thing that angry people do sometimes shout in public, and it can just as easily be directed at a stranger.

Milan Kundera, via Rebecca Brock:

It takes so little, so infinitely little, for a person to cross the border beyond which everything loses meaning: love, convictions, faith, history. Human life -- and herein lies its secret -- takes place in the immediate proximity of that border, even in direct contact with it; it is not miles away, but a fraction of an inch.


Coders at Work: Reflections on the Craft of Programming
Topic: Technology 8:19 am EDT, Aug 20, 2009

Peter Seibel:

Based on nearly eighty hours of interviews with fifteen all-time great programmers and computer scientists, Coders at Work provides a multifaceted view into how great programmers learn to program, how they practice their craft, and what they think about the future of programming.

Alan Perlis, via Peter Norvig:

Everyone can be taught to sculpt: Michelangelo would have had to be taught how not to. So it is with the great programmers.

Matthias Felleisen, et al:

Indeed, good programming is a fun activity, a creative outlet, and a way to express abstract ideas in a tangible form. And designing programs teaches a variety of skills that are important in all kinds of professions: critical reading, analytical thinking, creative synthesis, and attention to detail.

We therefore believe that the study of program design deserves the same central role in general education as mathematics and English. Or, put more succinctly, everyone should learn how to design programs.

Fiona MacCarthy on Richard Sennett:

Pleasure in making comes from innate necessary rhythms, often slow ones. As we know in our own lives there is much more satisfaction in cooking a meal or caring for small children if we are not in a hurry. Doing a job properly takes the time it takes. Sennett argues in a fascinating way that, while we are working, submerged processes of thought and feeling are in progress. Almost without being aware we set ourselves the highest standard which "requires us to care about the qualities of cloth or the right way to poach fish". Doing our own work well enables us to imagine larger categories of "good" in general.

Paul Graham:

You can't write or program well in units of an hour. That's barely enough time to get started.

Nir Rosen:

"You Westerners have your watches," the leader observed. "But we Taliban have time."

Pico Iyer:

It seems that happiness, like peace or passion, comes most freely when it isn't pursued.

I have no bicycle, no car, no television I can understand, no media -- and the days seem to stretch into eternities, and I can't think of a single thing I lack.

Coders at Work: Reflections on the Craft of Programming

Information Overload? Relax.
Topic: Technology 7:09 am EDT, Jul  7, 2009

Gordon Crovitz:

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow told an interviewer last week that she spends so much time in Spain because "they seem to enjoy life a little bit more. ... They don't always have their Blackberrys on." In order to get passengers to pay attention to safety announcements, Air New Zealand decided to show a video of stewardesses and pilots dressed in nothing but body paint.

Getting our heads around information abundance will mean becoming more discerning about what information is worth our time and what kinds of tasks require real focus.

David Owen:

If you and your spouse are dressed almost identically, or if you are carrying your passport in a thing around your neck, or if you are wearing any form of footwear or pants that you clearly purchased specifically to wear on airplanes, or if you make it obvious (by repeatedly turning around and talking to passengers in seats not adjacent to yours) that you are traveling with a group, the charge is fifty dollars.

Samantha Power:

There are great benefits to connectedness, but we haven't wrapped our minds around the costs.

Maria Semple:

It's a throwback to a better time, when people didn't check Defamer every 15 minutes.

Have you seen "Revolutionary Road"?

Hopeless emptiness. Now you've said it. Plenty of people are onto the emptiness, but it takes real guts to see the hopelessness.

Kurt Schwenk, via Carl Zimmer:

I guarantee that if you had a 10-foot lizard jump out of the bushes and rip your guts out, you'd be somewhat still and quiet for a bit, at least until you keeled over from shock and blood loss owing to the fact that your intestines were spread out on the ground in front of you.

From a March 6, 2001, transcript of an online chat between Bernd-Juergen Brandes (cator99) and Armin Meiwes (antrophagus):

antrophagus: It's only a few days until March 9

cator99: Still, I would have rather met you yesterday and felt your teeth

antrophagus: One can't have everything. There's still some time before you really feel my teeth


You can't eat panda ... they are too greasy!

Joel Stein:

There is so much you can't know about your spouse when you get married, like that one day she will want to eat her placenta.

Atul Gawande:

Let us look for the positive deviants.

Information Overload? Relax.

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