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Fireside Friday: January 1, 2021

Happy New Year! Good riddance 2020! Fireside this week. Next week, we’ll be finishing up our look at the Dothraki of A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones by looking at how they are shown to fight and comparing that to the fighting patterns of actual historical horse-borne nomads. Of course, it’s … Continue reading Fireside Friday: January 1, 2021 →

via A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry January 1, 2021

Streets Before Trust

There’s an emerging mentality among left-wing urban planners in the US called “trust before streets.” It’s a terrible idea that should disappear, a culmination of about 50 or 60 years of learned helplessness in the American public sector. Too many people who I otherwise respect adhere to this idea, so I’m dedicating a post to […]

via Pedestrian Observations January 1, 2021

Is Remote Work Viable?

No, not in the long run. This has big implications for cities in the future, because it means firms will want to cluster more near production amenities – that is, other high-productivity firms. A city like New York manifestly has very weak consumption amenities, because in the spring it proved that its government is dangerously […]

via Pedestrian Observations December 30, 2020

Systems design explains the world: volume 1

"Systems design" is a branch of study that tries to find universal architectural patterns that are valid across disciplines. You might think that's not a possibility. Back in university, students used to tease the Systems Design Engineers, calling it "boxes and arrows" engineering. Not real engineering, you see, since it didn't touch anything tangible, like buildings, motors, hydrochloric acid, or, uh, electrons. I don't think the Systems Design people took this critici…

via apenwarr December 29, 2020

Against essential and accidental complexity

In the classic 1986 essay, No Silver Bullet, Fred Brooks argued that there is, in some sense, not that much that can be done to improve programmer productivity. His line of reasoning is that programming tasks contain a core of essential/conceptual1 complexity that's fundamentally not amenable to attack by any potential advances in technology (such as languages or tooling). He then uses an Ahmdahl's law argument, saying that because 1/X of complexity is essential, it's impossible to …

via Posts on Dan Luu December 29, 2020

Thoughts you mightn't'a thunk about remote meetings

Welcome to this week's edition of "building a startup in 2020," in which all your meetings are suddenly remote, and you probably weren't prepared for it. I know I wasn't. We started a "fully remote" company back in 2019, but that was supposed to mean we still got together in person every month or two to do strategic planning, share meals, and resolve any accumulated conflicts. Well, not this year. Instead, we had to learn to have better remote meetings, all while build…

via apenwarr December 27, 2020

Milk Experiments

I mixed milk with some colored pigment. First, the color spread a little tiny bit. And then when we added we added some dish soap the colors spread and a big colorful wave.

via Lily Wise's Blog Posts December 27, 2020

Quick Note: Consumption and Production Theories of Berlin

I’ve periodically written about consumption and production theories of cities – that is, whether people mostly move to cities based on consumption or production amenities. The production theory is that what matters is mostly production amenities, that is, jobs, and this underlies YIMBYism. Consumption theory is that people move for consumption amenities, and, moreover, these […]

via Pedestrian Observations December 27, 2020

Costs Matter: Some Examples

A bunch of Americans who should know better tell me that nobody really cares about construction costs – what matters is getting projects built. This post is dedicated to them; if you already believe that efficiency and social return on investment matter then you may find these examples interesting but you probably are not looking […]

via Pedestrian Observations December 25, 2020

My favorite essays of life advice

Life is short • There is no speed limit • How to Be Successful • You and your research • Becoming a Magician • 95th percentile isn’t that good

via benkuhn.net December 23, 2020

Metcalfe’s Law for High-Speed Rail, Redux

Americans are in big infrastructure spending mood, and my post from February using Metcalfe’s law to argue in favor of expansive high-speed rail in the eastern half of the United States has been attracting renewed attention. That post looked at how Metcalfe’s law that the value of a network rises in proportion to the square […]

via Pedestrian Observations December 20, 2020

Opposite attractions

Crossposted from world spirit sock puppet.

via Meteuphoric December 19, 2020

Collections: That Dothraki Horde, Part III: Horse Fiddles

This is the third part of a four part (I, II, IV) look at the Dothraki from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and HBO’s Game of Thrones. We’re looking at, in particular, the degree to which George R.R. Martin’s claim that the Dothraki are “an amalgam of a number of steppe … Continue reading Collections: That Dothraki Horde, Part III: Horse Fiddles →

via A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry December 18, 2020

What is it good for? But actually?

Crossposted from world spirit sock puppet.

via Meteuphoric December 16, 2020

To listen well, get curious

When I’ve listened the most effectively to people, it’s because I was intensely curious—I was trying to build a detailed, precise understanding of what was going on in their head.

via benkuhn.net December 12, 2020

Collections: That Dothraki Horde, Part II: Subsistence on the Hoof

This is the second part of a four part (I, III, IV) look at the Dothraki, the fictional horse-borne nomads of the A Song of Ice and Fire / Game of Thrones series. We’re looking at, in particular, the degree to which George R.R. Martin’s claim that the Dothraki are “an amalgam of a number … Continue reading Collections: That Dothraki Horde, Part II: Subsistence on the Hoof →

via A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry December 11, 2020

Unexplored modes of language

Crossposted from world spirit sock puppet. English can be communicated via 2D symbols that can be drawn on paper using a hand and seen with eyes, or via sounds that can be made with a mouth and heard by ears. … Continue reading →

via Meteuphoric December 10, 2020

Why are delicious biscuits obscure?

Crossposted from world spirit sock puppet.

via Meteuphoric December 8, 2020

Cultural accumulation

Crossposted from world spirit sock puppet. When I think of humans being so smart due to ‘cultural accumulation’, I think of lots of tiny innovations in thought and technology being made by different people, and added to the interpersonal currents … Continue reading →

via Meteuphoric December 6, 2020

In defense of blub studies

Why it’s worth it to deeply understand the fiddly, boring-seeming details of the computer systems you use every day.

via benkuhn.net December 5, 2020

Collections: That Dothraki Horde, Part I: Barbarian Couture

This is the first part of a three part (II, III) look at the Dothraki, the fictional horse-borne nomads of the Game of Thrones / A Song of Ice and Fire series and the degree to which George R.R. Martin’s claim that they are “an amalgam of a number of steppe and plains cultures” holds … Continue reading Collections: That Dothraki Horde, Part I: Barbarian Couture →

via A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry December 4, 2020

Fireside Friday, November 27, 2020

Hey folks! Fireside this week. A bit of a change-up in terms of the coming attractions. I had planned to start “Textiles, How Did They Make It?” next, but I want to do a bit more reading on some of the initial stages of textile production (that is, the production of raw flax and wool) … Continue reading Fireside Friday, November 27, 2020 →

via A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry November 27, 2020

Can I work for a bad company and still be a good person?

No.

via apenwarr November 23, 2020

It’s not economically inefficient for a UBI to reduce recipient’s employment

A UBI (e.g. paying every adult American $8k/year) would reduce recipient’s need for money and so may reduce their incentive to work. This is frequently offered as an argument against a UBI (or as an argument for alternative policies like the EITC that directly incentivize work). This argument is sometimes presented as economically hard-headed realism. … More It’s not economically inefficient for a UBI to reduce recipient’s employment

via The sideways view November 22, 2020

Children’s podcast recommendations

I’ve emailed my list to enough friends that I should really just post it. Podcasts have been a big part of Lily’s life since around age 4. Before that, she spent a lot of her time demanding of any available adult, “READ. READ TO ME” (once she literally asked the cat, who did not read […]

via The whole sky October 11, 2020

Review of two Rhiannon Giddens songs

I listened to the “Folk Songs” album from Kronos Quartet, partly because of the two Rhiannon Giddens songs. I was interested to know the backstory on her songs, but I got annoyed by reading reviews of these songs that seemed to miss critical pieces. The only review I could find of “Lullaby” called it “sprightly”, […]

via The whole sky October 11, 2020

How to make video calls almost as good as face-to-face

I spent way too long figuring out the how to make video calls feel natural. Here’s the best advice I came up with.

via benkuhn.net September 27, 2020

Distributed public goods provision

Most people benefit significantly from privately funded public goods (e.g. Wikipedia). If we all contribute to such public goods, then we can all end up better off. But as an individual it’s almost never a good return on investment. I think of supporting such public goods as being a good citizen, but that leaves open … More Distributed public goods provision

via The sideways view September 26, 2020

Learning Game

I came up with this game. In the game one person thinks of something and then gives the other person a clue. And the other person writes a guess down on a blackboard or a piece of paper. Or really anything you have that's laying around that's available for writing on. The other person says whether it's right or wrong. And then when they get it right the other person takes a turn. When they get it wrong the other person gives them another clue and they guess again. It has to be clos…

via Lily Wise's Blog Posts September 17, 2020

Notes on “Anthropology of Childhood” by David Lancy

I read David Lancy’s “The Anthropology of Childhood: Cherubs, Chattel, and Changelings” and highlighted some passages. A lot of passages, it turns out. [content note: discussion of abortion and infanticide, including infanticide of children with disabilities, in “Life and Death” section but not elsewhere] I was a sociology major and understood anthropology to be basically […]

via The whole sky August 27, 2020

Jewelry

This is jewelry I made, but I didn't really make all of them. My au pair Erika made a few of them but I made most of them. I made at least six of them. Erika made two. Free delivery within a half hour bike ride of West Somerville. Otherwise I will send it to you in the mail. You pay for shipping. Email my dad, Jeff (jeff@jefftk.com) if you want to buy something. Butterfly Bracelet It costs $8. I was thinking about butterflies when I made this bracelet. Pom-pom Bracelet I was thinking about pom-p…

via Lily Wise's Blog Posts August 27, 2020

Pony Podcast

For kids one to ten. I might add some other episodes later. Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

via Lily Wise's Blog Posts August 18, 2020

Tools for keeping focused

no badges • close slack • check email 1x/day • keep todos visible • use rss • kindle + rss • hide phone apps • block ui elements • block sites • better window switcher • no tabs

via benkuhn.net August 4, 2020

IPv4, IPv6, and a sudden change in attitude

A few years ago I wrote The World in Which IPv6 was a Good Design. I'm still proud of that article, but I thought I should update it a bit. No, I'm not switching sides. IPv6 is just as far away from universal adoption, or being a "good design" for our world, as it was three years ago. But since then I co-founded a company that turned out to be accidentally based on the principles I outlined in that article. Or rather, from turning those principles upside-down. In that article, I exp…

via apenwarr July 22, 2020

How do cars fare in crash tests they're not specifically optimized for?

Any time you have a benchmark that gets taken seriously, some people will start gaming the benchmark. Some famous examples in computing are the CPU benchmark specfp and video game benchmarks. With specfp, Sun managed to increase its score on 179.art (a sub-benchmark of specfp) by 12x with a compiler tweak that essentially re-wrote the benchmark kernel, which increased the Sun UltraSPARC’s overall specfp score by 20%. At times, GPU vendors have added specialized benchmark-detecting code to their…

via Posts on Dan Luu June 30, 2020

Quick note on the name of this blog

When I was 21 a friend introduced me to a volume of poems by the 14th-century Persian poet Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky. I loved them, and eventually named this blog for one of my favorite ones. At some point I read more and found that Ladinsky’s “translations” were more like riffs on themes in […]

via The whole sky June 21, 2020

On scruffy spaces

Before I had children, I liked to think about how I would decorate their rooms. I collected Pinterest boards full of images like this, full of colorful, whimsical objects. Now that I’ve actually tried it, I see more of the backstory behind these photos. Know who assembled, maintained, and photographed these rooms? Adults. What kind […]

via The whole sky June 21, 2020

My personal avocado toast recipe

I don’t like to make a big thing out of identifying with my generation, but millenials have one thing right: avocado toast is the perfect breakfast food. This is my very simple and quick recipe, which, yes, I did invent. Recipe time: ~5 minutes Yields: 4 slices Ingredients: 4 slices of bread for toasting (I […]

via Holly Elmore June 10, 2020

Don’t fear regret

It is normal and healthy to have regrets. I have lived in mortal fear of regrets most of my life. And guess what? I regret it. There’s no getting around them– just listen to your feelings and learn from them. “I’m not okay, and that’s okay” is a popular saying for dealing with grief. We […]

via Holly Elmore June 10, 2020

Gardening

Today I trimmed lots of milkweed with my daddy. I trimmed it because it was taking over the sidewalk and I thought that it was taking over too much of the sidwalk. So did my dad, so we went home, asked my mom for some garden shears, came back, and then I cut all of the milkweed down. Or, at least all that was blocking the path.

via Lily Wise's Blog Posts May 31, 2020

A simple way to get more value from tracing

A lot of people seem to think that distributed tracing isn't useful, or at least not without extreme effort that isn't worth it for companies smaller than FB. For example, here are a couple of public conversations that sound like a number of private conversations I've had. Sure, there's value somewhere, but it costs too much to unlock. I think this overestimates how much work it is to get a lot of value from tracing. At Twitter, Rebecca Isaacs was able to lay out a vision for how…

via Posts on Dan Luu May 31, 2020

A simple way to get more value from metrics

We spent one day1 building a system that immediately found a mid 7 figure optimization (which ended up shipping). In the first year, we shipped mid 8 figures per year worth of cost savings as a result. The key feature this system introduces is the ability to query metrics data across all hosts and all services and over any period of time (since inception), so we've called it LongTermMetrics (LTM) internally since I like boring, descriptive, names. This got started when I was looking for a st…

via Posts on Dan Luu May 30, 2020

Embrace mediocre tastes, true happiness

The plain fact is that there are no obvious moral consequences to how people entertain themselves in their leisure time. The conviction that artists and connoisseurs are morally advanced is a cognitive illusion, arising from the fact that our circuitry for morality is cross-wired for with our circuitry for status. — Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate […]

via Holly Elmore May 24, 2020

Finding home in the time of coronavirus

Disclaimer: I’m going to say this once. Obviously, I am not happy about the coronavirus’s threat to public health or the economic toll it’s taking. I do not think the existence of this pandemic is good. Just so happens that social distancing and remote work suits me. I am truly an introvert, and this whole […]

via Holly Elmore March 31, 2020

Have it all: take your spouse’s name socially

When you get married, you are creating a family. One way to reinforce that is to have the same name. But whose name do you pick? Do you hyphenate? Do you not hyphenate, and never have a simple time filling out a form again (like my friends the Rabideau Childerses)? Do you make a new […]

via Holly Elmore March 31, 2020

Several grumpy opinions about remote work at Tailscale

As a "fully remote work" company, we had to make some choices about the technologies we use to work together and stay in touch. We decided early on - about the time we realized all three cofounders live in different cities - that we were going to go all-in on remote work, at least for engineering, which for now is almost all our work. As several people have pointed out before, fully remote is generally more stable than partly remote. In a partially remote team, the remote workers seem to …

via apenwarr March 11, 2020

How (some) good corporate engineering blogs are written

I've been comparing notes with people who run corporate engineering blogs and one thing that I think is curious is that it's pretty common for my personal blog to get more traffic than the entire corp eng blog for a company with a nine to ten figure valuation and it's not uncommon for my blog to get an order of magnitude more traffic. I think this is odd because tech companies in that class often have hundreds to thousands of employees. They're overwhelmingly likely to be better …

via Posts on Dan Luu March 11, 2020

It's ok to feed stray cats

Before we had kids, Jeff and I fostered a couple of cats. One had feline AIDS and was very skinny. Despite our frugal grocery budget of the time, I put olive oil on her food, determined to get her healthier. I knew that stray cats were not a top global priority, and that this wasn’t even the best way of helping stray cats, but it was what I wanted to do.. . . . .The bike path near where I live has a lot of broken glass on the ground nearby. My family likes to go barefoot in the summer, and a lo…

via Giving Gladly January 27, 2020

Hedonic asymmetries

Creating really good outcomes for humanity seems hard. We get bored. If we don’t get bored, we still don’t like the idea of joy without variety. And joyful experiences only seems good if they are real and meaningful (in some sense we can’t easily pin down). And so on. On the flip side, creating really … More Hedonic asymmetries

via The sideways view January 26, 2020

Moral public goods

Suppose that a kingdom contains a million peasants and a thousand nobles, and: Each noble makes as much as 10,000 peasants put together, such that collectively the nobles get 90% of the income. Each noble cares about as much about themselves as they do about all peasants put together. Each person’s welfare is logarithmic in … More Moral public goods

via The sideways view January 26, 2020

Prediction markets for internet points?

Using real money in prediction markets is all-but-illegal, and dealing with payments is a pain. But using fake money in prediction markets seems tricky, because by default players have no skin in the game. Here’s a simple proposal that I think might work reasonably well without being too hard to try: Create a service that … More Prediction markets for internet points?

via The sideways view October 27, 2019

Graveyard Shift at Dawn Dance

I would say I’m alllmost recovered from the all-nighter I pulled this weekend calling the graveyard shift (4AM–7AM)—but heck, what a blast! Here’s the program I called (most of these walked through minimally or not at all): 50/50 — Bob Isaacs Fiddler’s Fling — Cary Ravitz (Will Mentor var.) Maliza’s Magical Mystery Motion — Cary Ravitz Rollin’ to the Grey Eagle — Hank Morris Read Between the Lines — Bob Isaacs The Young Adult Rose — David Kaynor Treasure of the Soda Bar — Maia McCormick Cheat Lake Twir…

via Maia Calls Dances September 4, 2019

Reflections on My First Techno Contra

Last weekend, I called my first techno contra (as part of a double dance at CDNY to celebrate the wedding of two of our lovely dancing humans 😍). It turns out, to no one’s surprise, that calling techno is a fair bit different from calling a regular evening dance. Here are my reflections on calling my first techno (including a bunch of great advice from folks on SharedWeight’s Callers’ Listserv). + If you can, listen to the tracks in advance! I worked with DJ Flourish (Mark Moore) from Philly—he’…

via Maia Calls Dances April 7, 2019

You have more than one goal, and that's fine

When people come to an effective altruism event for the first time, the conversation often turns to projects they’re pursuing or charities they donate to. They often have a sense of nervousness around this, a feeling that the harsh light of cost-effectiveness is about to be turned on everything they do. To be fair, this is a reasonable thing to be apprehensive about, because many youngish people in EA do in fact have this idea that everything in life should be governed by cost-effectiveness. I&…

via Giving Gladly February 19, 2019

Improve Your Community With This One Weird Trick!

Hey experienced contradancers! Have you been looking for a new way to contribute to your dance community? Here’s one that I’ve been trying. It’s really small, and has the potential to make a really big impact on the quality of our dances, especially as more and more of us get on board with it. Ready? Here it is: Be quiet when the caller starts talking, and don’t talk through the walkthrough. That’s it. Really. If you want to go one step further, you can be the person who gently reminds people to …

via Maia Calls Dances January 31, 2019

Words Don't Help Beginners

I’ve been contradancing for over eight years, and can jump into even the most complex and falling-apart of contras and still have some idea of what’s going on. But last summer at English-Scottish-Contra Week at Pinewoods, I tried Scottish Country Dance for the first time and I had an experience I haven’t had for quite a while: I was completely at sea in a set dance. Scottish isn’t too different from contra and English, and I got along okay when I had a walkthrough. (Not great, mind you, but I ma…

via Maia Calls Dances January 21, 2019

No one is a statistic

I’m late to the party, but I've been thinking about the documentary “The Life Equation” about how people use data to decide make life-and-death decisions. The central example is a woman named Crecencia, a mother of seven who lives in rural Guatemala and has cervical cancer. The doctor treating her knows that screening other women for cancer is more cost-effective than treating this woman, and that the community doesn’t have enough money to fully fund both. The filmmaker writes: “Crecencia’s…

via Giving Gladly October 10, 2018

On Finding Purpose

We’re often taught about the importance of “finding your purpose” as you set out into the world and choose your pathway forward. The words change–sometimes it’s ‘purpose’, but you might also find your ‘bliss’, your ‘passion’, your ‘voice’, your ‘career’, or your ‘calling’–but the narrative remains the same. Whatever it is, you’ve gotta find it. And … Continue reading On Finding Purpose → The post On Finding Purpose appeared first on Hollis Easter .

via Hollis Easter April 13, 2018

XLR Mic Mute Switch with LEDs – Proof of Concept

Purpose I play music on stage, and that usually means using amplification (PA) systems. The bands I play with (Frost and Fire, The Turning Stile+, and others) typically have a bunch of musicians playing a host of instruments, each with their own microphones. Consequently, we need a lot of mic mute switches. The enemy of … Continue reading XLR Mic Mute Switch with LEDs – Proof of Concept → The post XLR Mic Mute Switch with LEDs – Proof of Concept appeared first on Hollis Easter .

via Hollis Easter September 30, 2017

How to Test Thermostat/Thermal Fuse in Kitchen Tools

How to test thermostat and thermal fuse units on kitchen appliances (espresso machine, coffee maker, rice cooker, pressure cooker) with a multimeter. The post How to Test Thermostat/Thermal Fuse in Kitchen Tools appeared first on Hollis Easter .

via Hollis Easter September 14, 2017

Use Up That Zucchini – Googoots / Cucuzza Recipe

Delicious crispy caramelized zucchini with garlic, basil, mint, red wine vinegar, and olive oil. Easily scales up to use all the zucchini in the house, and it's quick! Googootz! The post Use Up That Zucchini – Googoots / Cucuzza Recipe appeared first on Hollis Easter .

via Hollis Easter August 27, 2017

Hotline Memes

Jennifer Battle asked the National Association of Crisis Organization Directors’ mailing list for some uplifting hotline memes to use in training, since there didn’t seem to be that many available. Here are my first responses. (please feel free to use these if you like)   The post Hotline Memes appeared first on Hollis Easter .

via Hollis Easter May 24, 2017

Two standard donations and one new one

Here are three places Jeff and I are donating this year. The first two are similar to what we’ve been doing for years, and the third represents a change.Direct workJeff and I want to support work that directly makes the world a better place. (Some arguments against falling into a “meta trap” here.) As usual for us, this year we’ve given just over half our donations to direct work. We made these donations to the Against Malaria Foundation, one of GiveWell’s top picks, except for small amounts th…

via Giving Gladly December 30, 2016

Practical steps for self-care

Last week the Boston Effective Altruism group had a discussion on self-care for altruists. I've written about the topic before, but I wanted to share some of the more practical advice people had. Think beyond day-to-day choicesSelf-care isn’t just short-term decisions like whether to make time for yoga tonight. It’s larger life decisions too, like what job to take, where to live, how to budget money, and how to make time for partners, friends, and family.For me, having children was self-car…

via Giving Gladly June 15, 2016

via openring