Monthly Archives: December 2012

Tenth Grade Tech Trends

My sister maintains that Snapchat is up there with Instagram, in terms of usage amongst her peers. Her exemplary use case was a moment that she captured in the airport of a funny looking man who was snoozing in an awkward position. It’s the type of thing that you want to share with somebody, but it’s insignificance would make it awkward in a text or status update. “It’s a way to connect with friends when you don’t really have anything to say.” Or in my words, if traditional messaging is functional — communicating for a purpose; “What time do you want to meet for the movie?” — Snapchat is the opposite, whatever that is.

My takeaway: Snapchat is a communication tool, seriously.

more on

Which apps are used by teenagers in California. While it’s sounds depressing, the article is very educational.

Falling From The Friendly Skies

Yes, Baumgartner broke the speed of sound, but it wasn’t that big of a deal: he was starting from so high up that he would probably have fallen at least a couple of hundred meters per second even if he’d opened his parachute the moment he jumped.

The physics of high altitude jumps.

Last week, as part of a cultural discovery project…

What scares me the most is not the glances, mixed emotions, or 10-page paper that will inevitably come as a by-product of this project. No, what scares me is that this is the world we live in. We exist in a place where individuals living their truths can be subjected, directly or otherwise, to fear simply for living those truths. We live in an age where feeling ‘normal’ in your own clothing can create unfathomable contention with strangers, despite them having zero investment in their lives. We live in a world where the material, the fabric, the pieces that adorn you are somehow allowed to say more about who you are than the convictions in your heart and the sincerity in your deeds.

I don’t know about you, but I refuse that world. I refuse to let these things overcome the passion and genuine honesty that I’ve been so fortunate to bear witness to in my time. I refuse to let backwards, unprogressive mindsets stifle the glow and drive of those who are undeservingly robbed of it.

A hipster decides to wear a skirt as a social experiment and discovers, to his own astonishment, that the backwards, unprogressive people dare to judge him.

Being free of such petty limits of perception he should focus next on another group oppressed by our society and wear black boots with brown shirt and red armband.

Fortune Exclusive: Larry Page on Google

Partly I feel that Google is in uncharted territory in the sense that I don’t think there’s an example from history I can take and say: “Why don’t we just do that?” We’re at a pretty big scale. We’re doing a lot of different things. We want to be a different kind of company. We’d like to have more of a social component in what we do. We like people to be happy with the products they’re using. We like our employees to be happy about working here.

Larry Page on mobile, search, innovation at Google and his role as a CEO.

Stop Generalizing About Europe

All of this wouldn’t bother me so much if it weren’t for the fact that I see these kinds of generalizations all the time. It’s not uncommon for Americans who’ve briefly visited one or two countries in Europe to say, “In Europe they…” or “Europeans are…”. This makes me cringe every time, because it is the equivalent of a European person visiting a city in Mexico and going, “In North America they…” or “North Americans are…” solely based on their experiences in that Mexican city.

Somebody finally acknowledges that Europe is the continent that includes both Switzerland and Russia.

2012: The Year Rubyists Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Threads (or: What Multithreaded Ruby Needs to Be Successful)

All that said, there are some features I would personally like to see in Ruby which would substantially benefit multithreaded Ruby programs, GIL or no GIL. I would personally prioritize all of these features ahead of removing the GIL, as they would provide cleaner semantics we need to write correct multithreaded Ruby programs:

Missing Ruby features that would make it easier to write multithreaded programs. A lot of good information about how concurrency works.

Thinking the Unthinkable

“You can’t wear whatever pants you want to,” I said, my tone affable, reasonable. “And you definitely cannot call me a stupid bitch. You’re grounded from electronics for the rest of the day. Now get in the car, and I will take you to school.”

I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.

A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books.

Highly disturbing story of parenthood.

Higher education: Not what it used to be

Concern springs from a number of things: steep rises in fees, increases in the levels of debt of both students and universities, and the declining quality of graduates. Start with the fees. The cost of university per student has risen by almost five times the rate of inflation since 1983 (see chart 1), making it less affordable and increasing the amount of debt a student must take on. Between 2001 and 2010 the cost of a university education soared from 23% of median annual earnings to 38%; in consequence, debt per student has doubled in the past 15 years. Two-thirds of graduates now take out loans. Those who earned bachelor’s degrees in 2011 graduated with an average of $26,000 in debt, according to the Project on Student Debt, a non-profit group.

The crisis of (American) education system is a common theme. The article shows the scale of the problem.

The Organism Will Do Whatever It Damn Well Pleases

I’m all for reinventing the wheel, because it’s one of the best ways to learn. But you shouldn’t even think about reinventing a damn thing until you’ve exhaustively researched every single last wheel, old or new, working or broken, that you can lay your hands on. Do your homework.

That’s why I love unearthing stories like The Lessons of Lucasfilm’s Habitat. It’s basically World of Warcraft … in 1985.

Lessons on nurturing online community from an ancient computer game.

What does randomness look like?

The Poisson distribution has a habit of creeping up in all sorts of places, some inconsequential, and others life-altering. The number of mutations in your DNA as your cells age. The number of cars ahead of you at a traffic light, or patients in line before you at the emergency room. The number of typos in each of my blog posts.The number of patients with leukemia in a given town. The numbers of births and deaths, marriages and divorces, or suicides and homicides in a given year. The number of fleas on your dog.

Blog entry on Poisson distribution from a fantastic science blog.