Thoughts and observations

20 August 2017

Week 33, 2017

The violent white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend set the tone for an awful week in American politics.

Vice News Tonight went behind the scenes in Elle Reeve’s piece Charlottesville: Race and Terror. It shows how tense and scary it was and makes it abundantly clear the violent rally was merely using the Confederate statue as an excuse to push their racist agenda.

Trump’s response was awful, and ultimately got even worse on Tuesday. It was best summarized by The New York Times:

President Trump buoyed the white nationalist movement on Tuesday as no president has done in generations — equating activists protesting racism with the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who rampaged in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend.

Never has he gone as far in defending their actions as he did during a wild, street-corner shouting match of a news conference in the gilded lobby of Trump Tower, angrily asserting that so-called alt-left activists were just as responsible for the bloody confrontation as marchers brandishing swastikas, Confederate battle flags, anti-Semitic banners and “Trump/Pence” signs.

Unfortunately and unsurprisingly few Republican’s have condemned Trump’s response. Democratic Reps. According to Think Progress only 28 of 292 congressional republicans have criticized Trump by name.

Jerry Nadler of New York, Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey and Pramila Jayapal of Washington have introduced a censure resolution. All members of congress who abhor racism, white supremacy and neo-nazi’s should put themselves on record by signing on.

Daniel Pfeiffer sums up on this week’s Pod Save America:

If you are so morally outraged by the President’s support of Nazis […] do something about it. Put yourself on record that you disapprove of what Donald Trump said–not the general concept of racism, but of the racist in chief.

Meanwhile in Silicon Valley, Cloudflare terminated the account of the Daily Stormer. This continues the discussion if tech companies can truly be neutral and the role they play in protecting free speech and protecting the vulnerable from violence and hate speech. Further reading at The Atlantic (ht Azeem Azhar

I hope to spend more time relaxing, reading and cycling this week, rather than anxiously keeping up with the news cycle.

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.