23 April, 2019

My questions for prospective employers (Director/VP roles)

Last time I was looking for a job, I wrote up a list of questions I wanted to ask prospective employees. I just ran across the list again, and figured I’d share. I was looking for a senior management role (Director/VP-level) in Engineering or Security, so the questions are sloped in that direction.

Also note that I was in a fairly strong position; I didn’t need the a job immanently. So, I was able to ask fairly direct, challenging questions. You may have a lower risk tolerance and want to scale some of these back.

22 April, 2019

The Kingdom of God is Within You by Tolstoy


For good reason Christ's only speech which is not meek, but
reproachful and cruel, was directed to the hypocrites and against
hypocrisy. What corrupts, angers, bestializes, and, therefore,
disunites men, is not thieving, nor spoliation, nor murder, nor
fornication, nor forgery, but the lie, that especial lie of
hypocrisy which in the consciousness of men destroys the distinction
between good and evil, deprives them of the possibility of avoiding
the evil and seeking the good, deprives them of what forms the
essence of the true human life, and so stands in the way of every
perfection of men.

Men who do not know the truth and who do evil, awakening in others
a sympathetic feeling for their victims and a contempt for their
acts, do evil only to those whom they injure; but the men who know
the truth and do the evil, which is concealed under hypocrisy, do
evil to themselves and to those whom they injure, and to thousands
of others who are offended by the lie, with which they attempt to
conceal the evil done by them.

20 April, 2019

GSnow comments on grief

Alright, here goes. I'm old. What that means is that I've survived (so far) and a lot of people I've known and loved did not. I've lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can't imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here's my two cents.
I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don't want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don't want it to "not matter". I don't want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can't see.
As for grief, you'll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you're drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it's some physical thing. Maybe it's a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it's a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.
In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don't even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you'll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what's going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything...and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.
Somewhere down the line, and it's different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O'Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you'll come out.
Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don't really want them to. But you learn that you'll survive them. And other waves will come. And you'll survive them too. If you're lucky, you'll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.

What’s So Great about Western Civilization

Every generation, humans start from scratch. As Hannah Arendt said, every generation Western civilization is invaded by barbarians — we call them “children.” As babies we come into the world with the same programming as Viking, Hun or caveman babies. These barbarians need to be civilized and that’s a job primarily done by families, which is why the days are long and the years are short. We teach barbarians how to be citizens in the broadest sense of the word, through formal education, religious teaching, social norms and the modeling of proper behavior. In other words, we assimilate people into a culture.

why selection bias is the most powerful force in education

Selection bias hides everywhere in education. Sometimes, in fact, it is deliberately hidden in education. A few years ago, Reuters undertook an exhaustive investigation of the ways that charter schools deliberately exclude the hardest-to-educate students, despite the fact that most are ostensibly required to accept all kinds of students, as public schools are bound to. For all the talk of charters as some sort of revolution in effective public schooling, what we find is that charter administrators work feverishly to tip the scales, finding all kinds of crafty ways to ensure that they don’t have to educate the hardest students to educate. And even when we look past all of the dirty tricks they use – like, say, requiring parents to attend meetings held at specific times when most working parents can’t – there are all sorts of ways in which students are assigned to charter schools non-randomly and in ways that advantage those schools. Excluding students with cognitive and developmental disabilities is a notorious example. (Despite what many people presume, a majority of students with special needs take state-mandated standardized tests and are included in data like graduation rates, in most locales.) Simply the fact that parents typically have to opt in to charter school lotteries for their students to attend functions as a screening mechanism.

17 April, 2019

/u/MRCHalifax explains how the Lord of The Rings book trilogy is about soldiers coming home after the war

I feel like the point of the Lord of the Rings wasn’t the destruction of the Ring and the defeat of Sauron, but the return of soldiers to their homes. I feel like Tolkien wrote everything before the destruction of the Ring so he could write about what happened afterwards.
Merry and Pippin are able to return to their normal lives. There were no shortage of men who literally grew while in service, put on a good diet and getting good exercise for the first time of their lives (note that Merry and Pippin literally come back taller). They saw battle, saw friends fall, and experienced the horrors of war, but they never saw the trenches. The war was on the whole a positive experience for them, the great adventure of their lives, and they came back to be the leaders of the next generation.
Sam and Frodo are the men who lived in the trenches for years. They walked through the craters of Verdun, slogged through the mud of the Somme, trudged up the ridges of Passchendaele. Their journey was through worst of the Great War. It wasn’t just the Ring that broke Frodo. And while Sam didn’t break, he certainly had deep cracks in him. Tolkien would have called it shell shock; today we’d call it PTSD. Frodo goes off into the west. His real world equivalents committed suicide.

16 April, 2019

The Father of the House loves the EU but doesn’t want another referendum, called Theresa May ‘bloody difficult’ yet backed her deal three times, and finds the political deadlock both annoying and ‘hugely entertaining’

Seriously, if he were in charge, what would he have said to the British electorate the day after they had voted for Brexit?
“Somehow I would have to say: ‘Well, it’s not quite as simple as that. Leaving the EU probably isn’t going to make the faintest difference to most of the things that so annoy you. What I will take on board is that you feel so angry about the ruling class and politicians, and the establishment and so on.’ Because anger was the main emotion let loose by the referendum campaign and since.”
Which is not to say he is dismissive of those who voted leave or what motivated them. He links the leave vote to “what’s going wrong in every western democracy: Trump, the yellow jackets, anarchists in Italy”. He explains: “We achieved considerable economic success from the 1980s, 1990s, onwards, which hugely advantaged the young, the educated and the entrepreneurial. We neglected that bulk of the population being left behind and living in post-industrial towns where their living standards were static or falling. And the new globalised economy, the rules-based order, the digital revolution meant nothing to them.


“The very same people who publicly applaud you for speaking up about bad behavior will never hire you into their own organizations because you are forever pegged as a whistleblower and a troublemaker,” said the woman, who sued a large corporation for sexual harassment. “On your deathbed, you will probably feel that you have done the moral thing by speaking up, but in the years you are alive, you are very cognizant of the toll your decision to come forward has taken on your life and your career path.” She was once a prominent television personality, but now is unable to secure a talent agent or an on-camera job.

The deadly truth about a world built for men – from stab vests to car crashes

But women are not scaled-down men. We have different muscle mass distribution. We have lower bone density. There are differences in vertebrae spacing. Even our body sway is different. And these differences are all crucial when it comes to injury rates in car crashes.

10 April, 2019

Andromeda321 on the black hole image

Now, on a more fundamental level than "it's cool to have a picture of a black hole," there are a ton of unresolved questions about fundamental physics that this result can shed a relatively large amount on. First of all, the entire event horizon is an insanely neat result predicted by general relativity (GR) to happen in extreme environments, so to actually see that is a great confirmation of GR. Beyond that, general relativity breaks down when so much mass is concentrated at a point that light cannot escape, in what is called a gravitational singularity, where you treat it as having infinite density when using general relativity. We don't think it literally is infinite density, but rather that our understanding of physics breaks down. (There are also several secondary things we don't understand about black hole environments, like the mechanism of how relativistic jets get beamed out of some black holes.) We are literally talking about a regime of physics that Einstein didn't understand, and that we can't test in a lab on Earth because it's so extreme, and there is literally a booming sub-field of theoretical astrophysics trying to figure out these questions. Can you imagine how much our understanding of relativity is going to change now that we actually have direct imaging of an event horizon? It's priceless!
Third, this is going to reveal my bias as a radio astronomer, but... guys, this measurement and analysis was amazingly hard and I am in awe of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) team and their tenacity in getting this done. I know several of the team and remember how dismissed the idea was when first proposed, and have observed at one of the telescopes used for the EHT (for another project), and wanted to shed a little more on just why this is an amazing achievement. Imagine placing an orange on the moon, and deciding you want to resolve it from all the other rocks and craters with your naked eye- that is how detailed this measurement had to be to resolve the event horizon. To get that resolution, you literally have to link radio telescopes across the planet, from Antarctica to Hawaii, by calibrating each one's data (after it's shipped to you from the South Pole, of course- Internet's too slow down there), getting rid of systematics, and then co-adding the data. This is so incredibly difficult I'm frankly amazed they got this image in as short a time as they did! (And frankly, I'm not surprised that one of their two targets proved to be too troublesome to debut today- getting even this one is a Nobel Prize worthy accomplishment.)

09 April, 2019

ilikesteel on anti-semetism

https://np.reddit.com/r/news/comments/b9gpkg/hospital_withdraws_job_offer_to_doctor_who/ek4ozp2/?context=1Most modern Western anti-Semitism has its roots in the Middle Ages in and the Middle East. Jews were a minority population in both places not allowed to work the land or own it or often to join guilds. They were relegated to trade, medicine, and moneylending. That's about it.
This last thing, moneylending, is super important. It was a key tenant of Christianity then, and is still a big factor of Islam in several places in the MENA, that moneylending is a sin. So, in order to extend and receive loans, the nobility of a city or country would allow Jews into a quarter of their city in order to be moneylenders. Desperate people took out loans from the Jews. The Jews, in return, were taxed at upwards of 90%. As a result, Jewish populations were villainized for their high interest rates, when in reality they made next to no money and the nobility made a fortune. Then, the nobility would borrow from the Jews to fund wars. If the nobility got into too much debt, they would often expel the Jews and seize their assets or call a progrom and kill/expel them by force.
Imagine what effect creating a whole social/ethnic class to be a scapegoat for high interests loans would have.

07 April, 2019

From Point A to Chaos: The Inversion of Information Economics

Historically, the composition and distribution of information took significant effort on the part of the message’s sender. Today, the collapse in cost of moving a message around has shifted the burden of communication from the sender onto the receiver.

I was a strong Brexiteer. Now we must swallow our pride and think again

Ask any psychologist when is the worst time to reach a decision.
They agree that it is when you suffer from exhaustion and emotional collapse. Speaking candidly, that is the state of mind in which most of our MPs and cabinet ministers now find themselves.
And now consider this very sombre thought. We are not talking about a normal decision.

05 April, 2019

They Had It Coming

Some of the parents—especially, in those days, the fathers—were such powerful professionals, and I (as you recall) was so poor, obscure, plain, and little that it was as if they were cracking open a cream puff with a panzer. This was before crying in the office was a thing, so I had to just sit there and take it. Then the admissions letters arrived from the colleges. If the kid got in, it was because he was a genius; if he didn’t, it was because I screwed up. When a venture capitalist and his ageless wife storm into your boss’s office to get you fired because you failed to get their daughter (conscientious, but no atom splitter) into the prestigious school they wanted, you can really start to question whether it’s worth the 36K.
Sometimes, in anger and frustration, the parents would blame me for the poor return on investment they were getting on their years of tuition payments. At that point, I was living in a rent-controlled apartment and paying $198 a month on a Civic with manual windows. I was in no position to evaluate their financial strategies. Worst of all, the helpless kid would be sitting right there, shrinking into the couch cushions as his parents all but said that his entire secondary education had been a giant waste of money. The parents would simmer down a bit, and the four of us would stew in misery. Nobody wanted to hear me read “Ozymandias.”

04 April, 2019

The Girl on the Train

This seizure plan paper is like an anchor. It says what to do, what not to do, how long seizures might last, what medication she takes if they last too long, what steps to take if she becomes non-responsive. She comes out after 3 minutes.
I tell her I’m just going to ride the subway with her to her stop, and if we miss it, don’t worry, I’ll sit with her until the end of the line if need be and we’ll just make the trip back together. She thanks me. I ask if she has her medication on her. She says she has one left.
She mentions that she needs to get a prescription refill. I say prescription refills are so annoying. She nods a bit, tells me a little bit about how the monitor on her finger works, and seizes again. I go back to reading the seizure plan. I’ve already read it but it’s an anchor.
It says she gets these seizures 1-4 times a day, and each episode lasts 10-60mins.

03 April, 2019

On Online Learning and Colleges

These companies are called online program managers, or OPMs, an acronym that could come right out of “Office Space.” They have goofy, forgettable names like 2U, HotChalk and iDesign. As the founder of 2U puts it, “The more invisible we are, the better.”
But OPMs are transforming both the economics and the practice of higher learning. They help a growing number of America’s most-lauded colleges provide online degrees—including Harvard, Yale, Georgetown, NYU, UC Berkeley, UNC Chapel Hill, Northwestern, Syracuse, Rice and USC, to name just a few. The schools often omit any mention of these companies on their course pages, but OPMs typically take a 60 percent cut of tuition, sometimes more. Trace Urdan, managing director at the investment bank and consulting firm Tyton Partners, estimates that the market for OPMs and related services will be worth nearly $8 billion by 2020.
What this means is that an innovation that should have been used to address inequality is serving to fuel it. Instead of students receiving a reasonably priced, quality online degree, universities are using them as cash cows while corporate middlemen hoover up the greater share of the profits. In a perfect twist, big tech companies are getting the spill-off, in the form of massive sums spent on Facebook and Google ads.

02 April, 2019

Why India is still called the "subcontinent"

Before airplanes, the easiest way to get from central Asia south to central India was to ride east to the freaking Pacific and take a boat.
It is THAT isolated from central Asia. (Less so from west Asia because the mountains and plateau only go so far west.)
And the reason it is isolated is the Tibetan plateau, whose southern edge is the Himalayan mountain range. There's another mountain range west of them as well.
The whole area is so unbelievably inaccessible that it is actually easier to travel to the south pole than it is to get to the center of the Tibetan plateau.
It is huge, incredibly high in altitude, dry as the desert that it is, almost completely unpopulated, and surrounded by the highest walls on Earth.
Understand that these aren't just mountain ranges; they're walls....