Thoughts and observations

12 August 2017

Week 32, 2017

Reading The Atlantic this week reminded me it is time I subscribed. If you love great journalism you should pay for it! Online advertising doesn’t work. The New York Times digital ad revenue in 2016 was $209M, while their monthly unique users grew to 92M in January 2017, which nets out to approximately $2.27 per unique user in 2016. In a year, you almost undoubtedly paid more to download the ads than they received from the advertiser for you viewing the ad. If you can spare half an hour, Scott Galloway’s Death of the Industrial Advertising Complex is entertaining and worthwhile.

I used my phone less while in Tasmania last week and it was a great feeling. Every time I reduce my usage I feel better for it. This week The Atlantic asks Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?. A tough headline to live up to, yet it came closer than I expected to making the case. Even if a generation hasn’t been destroyed, I do think society has a problem on it’s hands learning to manage the addiction of our digital devices and software which reduce the frequency and quality of our face to face interactions.

6 August 2017

Week 31, 2017

Last week was a lovely mix of family and cycling, the perfect way to decompress. I hope to spend more time reading this week, although I did read Tolstoy’s Happy Ever After last week. I’m planning a few long rides for next week to Ballarat and perhaps also from Ballan to Geelong.

This Is How Big Oil Will Die was an interesting read this week. The fact that electric vehicles have a much longer lifespan and lower cost of running is going to make the demise of combustion engine vehicles rapid. At this point, I’m not sure if I will ever own a car. Although, it isn’t clear to me how car sharing works when you have small children (car seats) or want to put a bicycle on the roof.

I switched back to vim, specifically neovim, last year. At worst I am equally productive and have enjoyed improved performance and battery life, particularly on my tired mid-2011 MBA. This article shows how poorly Electron based editors Atom and Code perform compared to vim on startup and memory usage.

Relatedly, Firefox 58 is due out later this year boasting better performance. I’ll certainly give it a good try but it’ll face stiff competition from Safari. I switched from Chrome to Safari for battery life, but have grown to really appreciate the iCloud integration between my phone and laptop. Although, with a newer laptop that supports Handoff, this might be mitigated.

From The List of Articles to be Read, Mary Cook’s article Git from the inside out is top of my list for this week. My understanding of git is primarily based on its API, and I am very keen to better understand its internals.

30 July 2017

Week 30, 2017

I am back in Australia concluding five and half years at Adslot. It was a great pleasure to work with and learn from many great people solving a challenging important problem. Online advertising and advertising technology is undeniably broken and few are working towards solving the underlying problems like Adslot has. I hope Adslot continues to grow and make online advertising better for advertisers, publishers and consumers.

I am looking forward to a few weeks vacation catching up with friends and family while we wait for new visas. Preparing for my departure I realised a proper vacation was long overdue.

I watched the film Land of Mine on the flight to Australia and found the narrative more interesting than I expected. We also watched the series War on Waste this week. It was thoroughly disturbing to see how much waste is produced before products even reach us, and how much we send to landfill.

Although recycling soft plastics—in which much of our food is packaged—is clearly better than sending them to landfill, the goods that can be made from soft plastics seem to of limited appeal. Instead significantly reducing the use of soft plastics is preferred. Eliminating the plastic bag is relatively straightforward in comparison to eliminating soft plastic films from packaged meat and small goods, or from breakfast cereals. I would be interested to know what a plastic free alternative might look like.

16 July 2017

Week 28, 2017

A quiet week of work, cycling and watching professional cycling. We’ve been preparing for a trip back to Australia next week. I am particularly pleased that we will be escaping the heat and humidity of August in NYC, I much prefer the cold of Melbourne.

Like many, I read the New York Magazine article When Will The Planet Be Too Hot For Humans? It paints a terrifying picture, but for those who’ve taken even a passing interest in climate change, it’s nothing new. And I think that’s the real problem here. Virginia writes:

… the message just is not reaching the people who have the power to vote out the craven motherfuckers who refuse to consider the state of the world beyond the end of this week.

It is mind bogglingly frustrating that the survival of our planet has become politicised, such that the existence of this problem spuriously remains open to debate. Maybe in part you and I am to blame. I can hardly think of anyone I know well who doesn’t think climate change is a serious and pressing issue. Isn’t it comfortable to surround ourselves with similarly educated, similarly successful and similarly minded. But is that good for our communities? Selfishly, deep down, is it good for me? I doubt it.

9 July 2017

Week 27, 2017

A very short week because of July 4th national holiday. We watched the fireworks over the East River with friends and enjoyed a trip to Rockaway Beach. Rather than taking the train to Rockaway, we took the ferry from Wall Street which is apparently a rather new option but undoubtedly the nicest.

From the Department of Tooling, Magic Wormhole is clever and useful. Before you try it out, watch Brian’s PyCon talk here to appreciate what is going on under the hood. Briefly, from the read me:

The wormhole tool uses PAKE “Password-Authenticated Key Exchange”, a family of cryptographic algorithms that uses a short low-entropy password to establish a strong high-entropy shared key.

Continuing my reading on inequality, I’ve started Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty. It’s probably going to take a month or two of reading to see it through.

A few weeks ago we came across a delicious cocktail, Vieux Carré. It’s boozy and absolutely delicious, but you’ll likely need to buy a few ingredients unless your cupboard is exceptionally well stocked.

4 July 2017

Week 26, 2017

Enjoyed fresh air cycling twice this week, getting out to Prospect Park for a few laps and up to Henry Hudson Drive for some vertical meters. Combined with more time reading, my mind is feeling much clearer at the moment.

We watched the first season of Broadchurch. I enjoyed it quite a lot and am looking forward to Season 2. Also Le Tour began July 1! Hopefully it will be as exciting as the Giro which was nail-biting!

I am reading Dream Hoarders. Reeves is pointed. He knows his audience are households likely earning in the top quintile, the ‘upper middle class’, as is he, and takes aim.

… that downward mobility is not popular is an understatement. We would likely be more relaxed if society were more equal, since the fall would not be so great. Likewise, if everyone was getting better off, slipping a quintile or two might not seem like the end of the world. But whatever we do, an inconvenient truth will remain. If more kids from lower-income quintiles are to move, more of those from higher up must fall.

The case made is that although the top 0.01% and top 1% have pulled away significantly, the divide between the top 20% and the bottom 80% is growing significantly. Most problematic is that relative mobility, the ability to move from one quintile to another, of the lower quintiles to reach the top quintile is decreasing. Reeves writing on opportunity hoarding and the construction of a glass floor to protect the next generation of the upper middle class is unsettling.

Undoubtedly this book focusses on the American context, but the broader questions it raises about how one thinks of merit and equality are broadly applicable. I’m interested to read any related writing from an Australian perspective.