Monthly Archives: February 2012

What Happens to the Coke in Coca-Cola?

While the original Coke formula had a significant amount of cocaine in it, it was quickly limited and, by 1903 or thereabouts, eliminated from the recipe. This was done in part because the desired flavor can be extracted from the coca leaves, removing the cocaine and leaving the drug aside as a byproduct. To this day, Coca-Cola needs coca leaves to make its drinks; as a Coke exec told the New York Times, “[i]ngredients from the coca leaf are used, but there is no cocaine in it and it is all tightly overseen by regulatory authorities.
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One of the essential facts of life you really need to know.

What not to ask technical people in interviews

The source of this post in my brain started when I stumbled upon an article tonight entitled “Front-end Job Interview Questions“. The absurdly long list of questions in the article is exactly the kind of questions that you should NOT ask. Ever.

All these questions do is scream, “I’m an egomaniac who has spent vast amounts of time Googling this nearly useless knowledge, but will ask you to regurgitate it to me without the aid of a search engine, and then judge you on how much it makes you sweat.”

While the article sounds reasonable, it’s written from a perspective of a person who has been programming since 1980. Asking somebody like that about JavaScript quirks means that he’s being interviewed for a wrong position.

Telling for sure if somebody is a good for a team or not is NOT possible during 1 hour interview anyway. It takes months.

The Freedom, and Perils, of Living Alone

Like many, Ms. Bennett also talks to herself — or, rather, to her cat. “I’ll try things out on him when I’m writing,” she said. “He’ll look at me like he’s actually listening. I wouldn’t discuss what I’m writing with my cat if someone were around.
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New York Times’ take on quirks of people living alone. Unfortunately (for science) it covers only behavior THEY admit to display.

The problem with startups is that they can’t solve the big problems

I need to be able to log into a secure web portal and see my medical records, what immunizations I’ve had, who my doctors have been, my insurance information, and I need to be able to share this if I change doctors. Instead of filling out the same form for 30 minutes every time I enter a doctor’s office, I need to talk to a real person about my health problems and keep track of how I’m solving them.

The article lists few big problems that are still waiting to be solved. It ends with rather pessimistic conclusion, but the list itself is an interesting one.

Why Mass Effect is the Most Important Science Fiction Universe of Our Generation

Mass Effect has a simple message: human beings are delusional about their importance in the grand scheme of things.

Mass Effect starts with humanity in the galaxy where it should have been in the United Federation of Planets: unnoticed among the other minor species struggling to prove to the Council why they add anything of value to the civilization that is Citadel Space. Such a message would be laughable were it made central to Star Wars or Star Trek, where nearly every important character is human. Star Wars and Star Trek start with the assumption that humans will be important in galactic civilization. Why? In part because the medium forced that decision, but more so because both universes assume that human beings add meaning to the universe. Mass Effect doesn’t make such an assumption. Mass Effect never lets you forget that we might not add one jot of meaning or benefit to intelligent life beyond our solar system.

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Mass Effect gets a well-deserved analysis.

Mountain Lion

Handshakes, a few pleasantries, good hot coffee, and then, well, then I got an Apple press event for one. Keynote slides that would have looked perfect had they been projected on stage at Moscone West or the Yerba Buena Center, but instead were shown on a big iMac on a coffee table in front of us.

Apple enters a “new territory” and it starts with an unusual way of announcing their brand new operating system.

Initially I’d been asking myself if it’s not degrading for Apple to approach “a blogger”. But then I read what John Gruber wrote and realized that his account of the story may be more important than a generic article from the “real journalists”. And it’s almost surely more insightful.

Walter Isaacson’s ‘Steve Jobs’

I think Jobs meant what he said to Fortune, and it’s an attempt to communicate the same core truth. But “Design is how it works” is a much better statement of Apple’s philosophy. Talk of a “product’s essence” (Isaacson’s words) or “the fundamental soul of a man-made creation” (Jobs’s) only serves to separate, conceptually, the art of design from the cold hard science of engineering. With just five words, “Design is how it works” expresses succinctly and accurately that engineering should and can be part of the art of design.

Gruber on the essential relationship between design and engineering according to Steve Jobs.

The Management Team

That’s the way it has to work in a knowledge organization. You don’t build a startup with one big gigantic brain on the top, and a bunch of lesser brains obeying orders down below. You try to get everyone to have a gigantic brain in their area, and you provide a minimum amount of administrative support to keep them humming along.
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I wonder who are Joel Spolsky’s readers: programmers or CEO’s…

Elderly ‘Experts’ Share Life Advice in Cornell Project

Most found that old age vastly exceeded their expectations. Even those with serious chronic illnesses enjoyed a sense of calm and contentment. A 92-year-old who can no longer do many of the things she once enjoyed said: “I think I’m happier now than I’ve ever been in my life. Things that were important to me are no longer important, or not as important.”
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62 more to go.