Thoughts and observations

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.

25 June 2017

Week 25, 2017

Following the long journey back to NYC, my primary focus has been catching up on sleep and adjusting to the heat of the first days of summer.

I am currently reading Everything Is Obvious (Once You Know the Answer): How Common Sense Fails Us by Duncan Watts, and have enjoyed his observations about the prevalence of circular reasoning. He writes:

We claim to be saying that the Mona Lisa is the most famous painting in the world because it has attributes X, Y, and Z. But really what we’re saying is that the Mona Lisa is famous because it’s more like the Mona Lisa than anything else.

It’s a good to be reminded regularly that understanding the world doesn’t come naturally to the human mind. Answering ‘Why?’ is no easy task.

From the Department of Tooling, I customised my vim status line without resorting to custom fonts or vim extensions, and am trying to rely more on the command line for git and less on GitUp (the fastest, best git GUI for Mac OS).

18 June 2017

Week 24, 2017

I returned Sunday from two weeks abroad in Australia. The purpose of the trip was work but it was a wonderful chance to see friends and family. Although I’ve been back to Australia a few times since moving to NYC, this was the first time that arriving in NYC felt as if I were returning home.

While away, The Field Study Handbook by Jan Chipchase arrived. Jan’s writing is clear and engaging. I’m sure I’ll have more to share as I work my way through.

I’m experimenting with vimwiki for writing my daily to do lists and keeping my notes organized. It’s working well so far, but I doubt it will stick. For the last year I have used the Bullet Journal notation and have found it very practical.

7 May 2017

Week 18, 2017

A day late and brief because I spent the weekend cycling!

In the past few weeks I’ve been working on creating an environment for reproducible data analysis with Docker, Jupyter and R. What I thought would be a simple project turned quickly became complicated when I had to work out how to upgrade Java and R’s Java bindings to connect to AWS Athena. I hope to write a longer post about this project soon.

Last week Jan Chipchase released The Field Study Handbook which you should definitely read more about and probably back. I’m looking forward to spending some quality time reading it once it ships, currently estimated for June 2017.