Sometimes I make bad decisions

May. 2nd, 2016 22:02
ysobel: (Default)
[personal profile] ysobel
So because I can't feed myself ice cream, and because I'm weird and awkward about asking other people for help, when I have a tub of ice cream it tends to sit around for a while before getting finished off.

Tonight I was still hungry after dinner so I decided to polish off the coffee ice cream that had been in there for a while. And, er.

It was liquid.

Not melted. Cold. It wasn't even in the freezer door where it might have been only semi frozen. It was in the middle of the freezer. Amidst frozen stuff. And it was cold the way just out of the freezer ice cream should be--

--and it was *liquid*. Runnier than milkshakes. The consistency of room temp ice cream.

I had a confuzzled, but ate it anyway. Because ice cream.

Now, a few hours later, I'm starting to get nervous about what if it had gone bad and that's why the texture was weird, what if I get sick from it, what if I wake up at 2am vomiting, what if what if what if. (The fact that it tasted fine doesn't necessarily mean much; once I drank an Odwalla beverage that was a few days out of date but refrigerated and normal tasting, and that evening was throwing up from it, because bacteria don't always taste bad.)

Googling didn't help. Googling rarely helps when the question involves getting sick.

Gah.

Review: The Effective Engineer

May. 2nd, 2016 20:59
[syndicated profile] eaglespath_feed

Review: The Effective Engineer, by Edmond Lau

Publisher: Effective Bookshelf
Copyright: 2015
ISBN: 0-9961281-0-7
Format: Trade paperback
Pages: 222

Silicon Valley start-up tech companies have a standard way of thinking about work. Large chunks of this come from Google, which pioneered a wide variety of new, or at least not-yet-mainstream, ways of organizing and thinking about work. The rest accreted through experience with fast-paced start-ups, engineer-focused companies, web delivery of products, and rabid turnover and high job mobility within a hothouse of fairly similar companies. A key part of this mindset is the firm belief that this atmosphere has created a better way to work, at least for software engineers (and systems administrators, although heaven forbid that one call them that any more): more effective, more efficient, more focused on what really matters.

I think this is at least partly true, at least from the perspective of a software engineer. This Silicon Valley work structure focuses on data gathering, data-based decision-making, introspection, analysis, and continuous improvement, all of which I think are defensibly pointed in the right direction (if rarely as rigorous as one might want to believe). It absorbs bits and pieces of work organization techniques that are almost certainly improvements for the type of work software engineers do: Agile, Lean, continuous deployment, and fast iteration times.

In other cases, though, I'm less convinced that this Silicon Valley consensus is objectively better as opposed to simply different; interviewing, for instance, is a puzzle that I don't think anyone has figured out, and the remarkable consensus in Silicon Valley on how to interview (basically, "like Google except for the bits we thought were obnoxious") feels more like a social fad than a sign of getting it right. But every industry has its culture of good ideas, bad ideas, fads, and fashion, and it's quite valuable to know that culture if you want to work in that industry.

The Effective Engineer is a self-published book by Edmund Lau, a Silicon Valley software engineer who also drifted (as is so common in Silicon Valley) into mentoring, organizing, and speaking to other software engineers. Its purpose, per the subtitle, is to tell you "how to leverage your efforts in software engineering to make a disproportionate and meaningful impact." While that's not exactly wrong, and the book contains some useful and valuable tips, I'd tend to give it a slightly different subtitle: "a primer on how a Silicon Valley software engineer is expected to think about their work." This is a bit more practical, a bit less confident, and a bit less convinced of its own correctness than Lau might want to present his work, but it's just as valuable of a purpose if you want to work in the industry. (And is a bit more honest about its applicability outside of that industry.)

What this book does extremely well is present, in a condensed, straightforward, and fast-moving form, most of the highlights of how start-ups and web-scale companies approach software engineering and the SWE role in companies (SWE, meaning software engineer, is another bit of Google terminology that's now nearly universal). If you've already worked in or around this industry for a while, you've probably picked up a lot of this via osmosis: prioritize based on impact and be unapologetic about letting other things drop, have a growth mindset, reprioritize regularly, increase your iteration speed, measure everything constantly, check your assumptions against data, derisk your estimates, use code review and automated testing (but not too much), automate operations, and invest heavily in hiring and onboarding. (The preceding list is a chapter list for this book.) If you're working at one of these sorts of companies, you're probably currently somewhere between nodding and rolling your eyes because no one at work will shut up about these topics. But if you've not worked inside one of these companies, even if you've done software engineering elsewhere, this is a great book to read to prepare yourself. You're going to hear about these ideas constantly, and, if it achieves nothing else at all, The Effective Engineer will give you a firm enough grounding in the lingo and mindset that you can have intelligent conversations with people who assume this is the only way to think about software engineering.

By this point, you might be detecting a certain cynicism in this review. It's not entirely fair: a lot of these ideas are clearly good ones, and Lau does a good job of describing them quickly and coherently. It's a good job for what it is. But there are a couple of things that limited its appeal for me.

First, it's definitely a primer. I read it after having worked at a web-scale start-up for a year and a half. There wasn't much in it that seemed particularly new, and it's somewhat superficial. The whole middle section in particular (build tools for yourself, measure everything, be data-driven) are topics for which the devil is often in the details. Lau gives you the terminology and the expected benefits, but putting any one of these techniques into practice could be a book (or several) by itself. Don't expect to come away from The Effective Engineer with much of a concrete plan for how to do these things in your day-to-day software development projects. But it's a good reminder to be thinking about, say, how to embed metrics and data-gathering hooks into the software you write. This is the nature of a primer; no 222-page book can get into much depth about the fractal complexity of doing good, fast, scalable software development.

Second, there's a fundamental question raised by a book like this: effective at what? Lau tackles that in the first chapter with his focus on impact and leverage, and it's good advice as far as it goes. (Regular readers of my book reviews know that I love this sort of time management and prioritization discussion.) But measuring impact is a hard problem that requires a prioritization framework, and this is not really the book for this. The Effective Engineer is written primarily for software developers at start-ups, leaves the whole venture-capital start-up process as unquestioned background material, and accepts without comment the standard measures of value in that world: fast-deployed products, hypergrowth, racing competitors for perceived innovation, and finding ways to extract money. That's as deep into the question of impact as Lau gets: increases in company revenue.

There's nothing wrong with this for the kind of book Lau intended to write, and it's not his fault that I find it unsatisfying. But don't expect The Effective Engineer to ask any hard questions about whether that's a meaningful definition of impact, or to talk much about less objective goals: quality of implementation, craftsmanship, giving back to a broader community via free software contributions, impact on the world in ways that can't be measured in market share, or anything else that is unlikely to lead to objective impact for company profits. At best he leaves a bit of wiggle room around using the concept of impact with different goals.

If you're a new graduate who wants to work at Silicon-Valley-style start-ups, this is a great orientation, and likewise if you're coming from a different area of software development into that world. If you're not working in that industry, The Effective Engineer may still be moderately interesting, but it's not written for that audience and has little or nothing to say of the challenges of other types of businesses. But if you've already worked in the industry for a while, or if you're more interested in deeper discussions of goals and subjective values, you may not get much out of this.

Rating: 7 out of 10

good old Canada

May. 2nd, 2016 22:51
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
Apparently so many Canadians went online to fill out census, we crashed the servers.

A book list!

May. 2nd, 2016 18:59
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
[personal profile] firecat
"100 MUST-READ SCI-FI FANTASY NOVELS BY FEMALE AUTHORS" by Nikki Steele, who writes, "Do note that I’ve only listed the first book in any given series."

I think this is a very good list. I have bolded the ones I've read, check-marked the ones I own but haven't read yet, and starred the ones I especially liked. I'm feeling especially hard to please when it comes to fiction these days, and I want to reflect that, so I didn't give out very many stars. I don't mean to suggest the ones I didn't give a star to are bad, just that they didn't get me super-excited.

If you've read any of these authors, I want to hear what you liked by them!

1. Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce

2. The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia

*3. Among Others by Jo Walton

*4. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie


√5. Ancient, Ancient by Kiini Ibura Salaam

√6. The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich

7. Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey

8. Ash by Malinda Lo

9. Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

10. The Pyramid Waltz by Barbara Wright

11. Biting the Sun by Tanith Lee

12. The Blazing World by Margaret Cavendish

*13. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

√14. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

15. Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

16. Cast in Shadow by Michelle Sagara

√17. China Mountain Zhang by Maureen F. McHugh

18. Chorus of Mushrooms by Hiromi Goto

19. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

20. The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart

21. The Darkangel by Meredith Ann Pierce

22. Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

23. Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop

24. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

25. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris (Didn't finish the series.)

√26. Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

27. The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen

28. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin (Probably her most "important" book but not the one I would have picked as her best or my favorite.)

29. Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

30. Dragon Sword and Wind Child by Noriko Ogiwara

31. Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey

32. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

33. The Etched City by K.J. Bishop

34. The Female Man by Joanna Russ

35. Flesh and Spirit by Carol Berg

36. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip (Tried, bounced)

37. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

38. The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

39. Graceling by Kristin Cashore

40. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

*41. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling


42. The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington

*43. Her Smoke Rose Up Forever by James Tiptree Jr.

*44. Hild by Nicola Griffith

45. His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik


46. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

47. The House on the Lagoon by Rosario Ferré

48. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

49. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

50. Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulias

51. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

52. The Island of Eternal Love by Daína Chaviano

53. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

54. Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

*55. The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin (This duology is excellent but I liked the Inheritance series better.)

56. Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey

57. Luck in the Shadows by Lynn Flewelling

√58. Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link

59. The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

*60. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

61. Moving the Mountain by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

62. Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi

63. My Christina & Other Stories by Mercè Rodoreda

64. My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due (Haven't read this one. I liked Joplin's Ghost though.)

65. Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin

66. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

67. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

68. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

69. The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

*70. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (Really like this series.)

71. The Red by Linda Nagata

√72. Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord

*73. Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire (Really like this series.)

74. Salt Fish Girl by Larissa Lai

75. The Second Mango by Shira Glassman

76. Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold (Have read the whole series.)

77. Shikasta by Doris Lessing

78. The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge

79. Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh (Started, bounced)

80. So Far from God by Ana Castillo

√81. Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

*82. Soulless by Gail Carriger (Really like this series.)

83. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

84. The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon


85. Spirits of the Ordinary by Kathleen Alcala

86. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

87. A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar (Reading now)

88. Sunshine by Robin McKinley (Have read other good stuff by her.)

89. Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

*90. Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner

91. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

92. Valor’s Choice by Tanya Huff

93. War for the Oaks by Emma Bull

94. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

√95. Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

96. Wicked As They Come by Delilah S. Dawson

97. Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy

98. The Woman Who Thought She Was a Planet and Other Stories by Vandana Singh (I've probably read some of the stories in here.)

99. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

100. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
jesse_the_k: sign reads "torture chamber unsuitable for wheelchair users" (even more access fail)
[personal profile] jesse_the_k
Nineteen ninety-three: I got my first powerchair, my city began a growth spurt, and the ADA design guidelines had just been published. This should have meant smooth rolling: many new accessible buildings!
Yet many accessible locations are destroyed by deliberate barriers )

This is the continual battle against the normate space invaders. This is why accessible design and construction isn't enough.

If you think this barrier wasn't really created on purpose, that it's just the thoughtlessness of the ill-informed, I know that's not the case. I've visited this particular shop to inform them they've recreated barriers unnecessarily, and asked them to stop destroying the built-in accessibility. Their response is Oh, don't worry, we'll be happy to help if you just ask.

Nondisabled people may wonder, so what's so hard about asking? Great effort has been made to create accessible environments. Why should this thoughtless disablism require us to ask permission over and over? We are here; we are the public, as Dave Hingsburger put it so eloquently. When nondisabled people recolonize our spaces, we must regroup, react, and respond.

A Year of Tanith Lee Extension

May. 2nd, 2016 19:32
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
Because I missed a week for the Year of Tanith Lee, I am extending the series until the end of 2016. This means I need ten more Tanith Lee title. Open to suggestion. The ones I am already planning to review are:
Read more... )
marnanel: (Default)
[personal profile] marnanel
[Alexander the Great is questioning some Indian philosophers, and has threatened to execute anyone who gives a wrong answer]

• The first one... being asked which, in his opinion, were more numerous, the living or the dead, said that the living were, since the dead no longer existed.
• The second, being asked whether the earth or the sea produced larger animals, said the earth did, since the sea was but a part of the earth.
• The third, being asked what animal was the most cunning, said: "That which up to this time man has not discovered."
• The fourth, when asked why he had induced Sabbas to revolt, replied: "Because I wished him either to live nobly or to die nobly."
• The fifth, being asked which, in his opinion, was older, day or night, replied: "Day, by one day"; and he added, upon the king expressing amazement, that hard questions must have hard answers.
• Passing on, then, to the sixth, Alexander asked how a man could be most loved; "If," said the philosopher, "he is most powerful, and yet does not inspire fear."
• Of the three remaining, he who was asked how one might become a god instead of man, replied: "By doing something which a man cannot do";
• the one who was asked which was the stronger, life or death, answered: "Life, since it supports so many ills."
• and the last, asked how long it were well for a man to live, answered: "Until he does not regard death as better than life."

-- Plutarch, "Lives", late 1st century

The problematical author

May. 2nd, 2016 16:15
wcg: (Default)
[personal profile] wcg
There is an uncomfortable truth that most worthwhile books were written by people who held ideas that are at odds with current views. One obvious case is Charles Darwin, whose Origin of Species is undoubtedly one of the greatest pieces of scholarship in human history, but who also held ideas about race and society which shock the sensibilities of the present day.

In the sciences, we've learned to separate the good work from the flawed ideas. Watson and Crick will always be acknowledged for their work with DNA (even as many of us also point out the critical contribution of Rosalind Franklin) while their unfortunate pronouncements on topics such as obesity, homosexuality, and religion remind us that even the most brilliant minds are still products of the societies from which they come.

I'm currently reading Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 chapters by Matt Ridley. My previous acquaintance with Ridley has been as a climate change skeptic, and because of that I hesitated to read his book about genetics. But as I near the end of it, I have to confess I've found very little to quibble with, and nothing at all concerning his subject matter of biology and genetics. It is a bit dated now, having originally been published in 1999 before the human genome was sequenced, and updated in 2006, but it is still very, very good.

I recommend it to anyone interested in genetics and/or good science writing.

They're not wrong

May. 2nd, 2016 14:41
telophase: (Default)
[personal profile] telophase
I found this photo on Tumblr with the caption "This is a wizard battle and you can't convince me otherwise."

Hands up! by Georg Charf )
redbird: London travelcard (travelcard)
[personal profile] redbird
I'm in Montreal for a long weekend with [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel and [livejournal.com profile] papersky; we have had lots of good food and good conversation. I'm flying back tomorrow around lunchtime, so when rysmiel and I came back from a walk, I logged into the Air Canada site and checked in for my flight. All very sensible; I changed my seat, paid to check my bag (I've bought a few things, some of them liquid), and printed my boarding pass. But it makes me feel a little bit like the visit is almost over, even though about a quarter of it is left, and we have actual plans for this evening.

The odd thing about visiting this time of year is that spring is much more advanced in Boston than in Montreal: a lot less is in bloom here (the forsythia are just starting, and they were close to done by the time I headed to the Boston airport Friday morning), and most of the trees are bare. (Montreal in January, or for that matter August, is probably going to be colder than New York or Boston, but it's not so visually different.)

Last night

May. 2nd, 2016 14:24
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
Because I was looking down at my phone to post something, I missed that the bus I was on was detoured and got very disoriented. Could not for the life of me work out where in downtown Kitchener I was. Didn't work it out until the bus got to Queen and Joseph.

(no subject)

May. 2nd, 2016 08:49
telophase: (Default)
[personal profile] telophase
Squirrel that gives no fucks and Sora.

cut for pics )
synecdochic: torso of a man wearing jeans, hands bound with belt (Default)
[personal profile] synecdochic
Every week, let's celebrate ourselves, to start the week right. Tell me what you're proud of. Tell me what you accomplished last week, something -- at least one thing -- that you can turn around and point at and say: I did this. Me. It was tough, but I did it, and I did it well, and I am proud of it, and it makes me feel good to see what I accomplished. Could be anything -- something you made, something you did, something you got through. Just take a minute and celebrate yourself. Either here, or in your journal, but somewhere.

(And if you feel uncomfortable doing this in public, I've set this entry to screen any anonymous comments, so if you want privacy, comment anonymously and I won't unscreen it. Also: yes, by all means, cheer each other on when you see something you want to give props to!)
azurelunatic: Danger: High Energy Magic Use Area. Stick figure firing wand; pentagram.  (high energy magic)
[personal profile] azurelunatic
* You do not do a smol summon to all the trickster gods you can dig up sigils for simultaneously and go "HAAAYYYY I'M A SEEKER" for similar reasons to why you do not post publicly to facebook, twitter, and 4chan simultaneously going "HAAAYYYY PARTY AT MY PLACE HERE'S THE ADDRESS" while @-ing a few choice contacts. That is how you get more infosec d00ds than you know what to do with on your lawn and hacking your launderizer; similarly, you don't necessarily want a certain redhead and a certain fan of well-targeted fruit to take up camp in your pineal gland without that you thought things through very, very carefully beforehand.

* I can, in fact, still use coffee as a divination aid.

* Does anyone know a deity or two who might be associated with shit sandwiches and/or lemonade? No, seriously. The deity who is your boon companion when you go "Well, this is certainly a shit sandwich that I have here!" and/or also the entity for "Welp, these are some lemons; I guess it's time to find a big pot and some sugar." Asking for a friend.

* Tumblr is great for creating new mythology. However, anything that tumblr says are true historical fax, double-check that with other sources.

* 90s web design is not an immediate disqualification for a pagan informational website. Presence of information which can be easily debunked via actually qualified historical sources, however...

* Libraries are a thing.

* Divination can be super helpful at some things, but when you're doing it for yourself, you're going to get a lot of internal noise from what you're wanting to happen. Thus, divination is a reasonable way to explore what you personally in fact actually want...

* For fuck's sake, do not get a tattoo on your actual body honoring Bacchus without thinking things through super carefully.


or, in other words...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Why_Don%27t_We_Get_Drunk
http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/deadkennedys/toodrunktofuck.html

PacktPublishing sale

May. 2nd, 2016 11:38
green_knight: (Peregrinos)
[personal profile] green_knight
They're celebrating the International Day against DRM (yay!)


https://www.packtpub.com/packt/offers/day-against-drm


This means that until Wednesday, all of their books are on sale for $10 (£8 in old money), which is a considerable saving compare to their usual offers (list prices tend to be £25-£30, there are plenty of half-price offers to be had, but this is better.

As programming books go, the ones I've read were fine. Not the greatest evar, but fairly solid. At this price, if you've been thinking of picking up the odd one or two, now is a good time.

Testing

May. 2nd, 2016 06:21
supergee: (football)
[personal profile] supergee
Back in the 60s, education radicals said that the school system was merely a matter of teachers telling the kids Revealed Truths and then grading them on how correctly they regurgitated those doctrines on an exam. Oversimplified, of course, but yesterday’s satire is today’s news, and we now have a perfect example.

The NFL draft has just concluded. Alleged experts told us who should draft whom, and now they are grading the teams. But of course, no one knows anything about how well the teams drafted until actual games are played. After the season, a preliminary evaluation can be made, but it’s probably best to wait several years. So the experts are grading the teams on how correctly they regurgitated what the experts told them.

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