Reader's Corner for May 2016

May 31, 2016

A new series of papers has settled a long-standing question related to the popular game in which players seek patterned sets of three cards.

"Now, however, mathematicians have solved the cap set problem using an entirely different method — and in only a few pages of fairly elementary mathematics. “One of the delightful aspects of the whole story to me is that I could just sit down, and in half an hour I had understood the proof,” Gowers said."

50onRed is a fixture in Philly’s tech scene. But there’s something the leadership didn’t talk about, even with some of its own staff.

"Gill tells me he doesn’t consider himself in the adware business. He prefers, instead, to describe 50onRed as a company that keeps content free for users."

Doesn't matter what you call it...

We have a few updates we want to share on our Basic Income Project: Our Research Director Elizabeth Rhodes is joining Basic Income Project as our Research Director. She recently...

"We think everyone should have enough money to meet their basic needs—no matter what, especially if there are enough resources to make it possible. We don’t yet know how it should look or how to pay for it, but basic income seems a promising way to do this.

One reason we think it may work is that technological improvements should generate an abundance of resources. Although basic income seems fiscally challenging today, in a world where technology replaces existing jobs and basic income becomes necessary, technological improvements should generate an abundance of resources and the cost of living should fall dramatically."

May 30, 2016

There has been an explosive new development in how scientific research is read and distributed. It’s name is Sci-Hub. Founded in 2011 by Alexandra Elbakyan (who was, at the time, a 22 year-old graduate student based in Kazakhstan), the site has seen a major uptick in the last year. In February 2016,...

About MeI’ve been working in software development for twenty-eight years. My current position is Senior Development Director at a software consulting compa…

An engrossing read on managing software developers.

"Even worse is when bug fixes are included in completed work item counts when those bugs are fixed by the software developers that caused them in the first place. For example consider a project that developer #1 is likely to complete in ten days with a low or nonexistent bug count vs. developer #2 who is likely to complete it in five days but the feature ends up with four bugs eventually being discovered, each of which take two days to patch. Not to mention the extra support costs and negative customer experience that will result from those bugs.
In this scenario developer #1 only completed one work item in ten days and developer #2 completed five work items in thirteen days. Which developer is more productive? Your own completed work item metrics are probably lying to you. Don’t trust them and absolutely don’t publicize them."

Poverty is measured on the basis of income, but that is often too one-dimensional for such a complex phenomenon. Researchers have developed better ways of defining who falls below the poverty line, but do those concepts stand up to the test?

Super interesting analysis with a human touch

Italian economists find access to books can materially affect earnings compared with those who grew up with few or none

May 29, 2016

In this article Andrew Sayer revives some concepts – ‘unearned income’, ‘rentiers’, ‘functionless investors’, and ‘improperty’ – to explain why the very rich are unjust and dysfunctiona…

May 28, 2016

Where do we draw the boundary between science and pseudoscience? It’s is a question philosophers have debated for as long as there’s been science – and last time I looked they hadn’t made much progress. When you ask a sociologist their answer is normally a variant of: Science is what scientists do.…

This is a story of an AIRBNB experience I recently went through. I met this awesome lady Crissie in my Facebook Group. Super nice lady…

"So I had a white friend book for my same dates and all of a sudden her plans changed back hahaha. Approved immediately! LOL"


Pretty detailed data set on crying

‘A “big data” approach to inflation is helping us understand the fundamental question of why recessions happen’ In the dying days of 2015 came news to set any geek’s pulse racing: the declaration o…

May 27, 2016

A computer cracks the Boolean Pythagorean triples problem — but is it really maths?

For the first time, researchers have found a person in the United States carrying bacteria resistant to antibiotics of last resort. CDC chief says this could mean "the end of the road" for antibiotics.

May 26, 2016

A cheating ring at the University of Iowa demonstrates the damage being done by a booming Chinese cottage industry to the U.S. higher education system.

Next level academic fraud

May 23, 2016

Allergies may have evolved as a way of protecting our ancestors by flushing out toxic chemicals.

Super exciting to hear a fresh view on allergies. I need to look this guy up.

"For now, however, Medzhitov would just be happy to get people to stop seeing allergies as a disease, despite the misery they cause. “You’re sneezing to protect yourself. The fact that you don’t like the sneezing, that’s tough luck,” he said, with a slight shrug. “Evolution doesn’t care how you feel.”"

Q: Dear Tom: A few years ago we automated a major process in our system administration team. Now the system is impossible to debug. Nobody remembers the old manual process and the automation is beyond what any of us can understand. We feel like we've painted ourselves into a corner. Is all operation...

Nigerian players are dominating Scrabble tournaments with the surprising strategy of playing short words even when longer ones are possible, in an extreme form of rack management.

"Across the developing world, more governments are funneling money and organization into the sport. In Pakistan, 700-plus people competed in last year’s national championship, which was televised live. A Gabonese man’s second-place finish in the French-language world championship sparked a national Scrabble league in that African state."

The Great Enrichment of the past two centuries has one primary source: the liberation of ordinary people to pursue their dreams of economic betterment

"Rep. Thomas Massie, a Republican from Kentucky, had the right idea in what he said to Reason magazine last year: “When people ask, ‘Will our children be better off than we are?’ I reply, ‘Yes, but it’s not going to be due to the politicians, but the engineers.’ ”"

May 21, 2016

Over the last few months, Pakistan's Internet community has been fighting to stop the passage of one of the world's worst cyber-crime proposals: the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill (PECB). Thanks in part to the hundreds of messages sent to Pakistan's senators, they secured a major victory this…

I didn't know the EFF supported non-US causes too

Bill Gates reviews the book ”Seveneves” by author Neal Stephenson.

Time to read Seveneves

Sometime in 1882, a skinny, dark-haired, 11-year-old boy named Harry Brearley entered a steelworks for the first time. A shy kid—he…

"What’s more, Harry Brearley didn’t know it then, but the stuff he cast from the electric furnace at Firth’s on Aug. 20, 1913, was nothing new. At least 10 others had created it, or something like it, before; at least half a dozen had described it; and one guy even explained it, and explained it well. Others had patented it, and commercialized it. Before Brearley got around to it, at least two dozen scientists in England, France, Germany, Poland, Sweden, and the United States were studying alloys of steel by varying the amounts of chromium, nickel, and carbon in it. Faraday had tried as much nearly a century earlier. It’s not like Brearley was exploring unknown territory. That he is credited with discovering stainless steel is due mostly to luck; that he is credited with fathering it is due mostly to his resolve."

This week's episode of Family Guy included a clip from 1980s Nintendo video game Double Dribble showing a glitch to get a free 3-point goal. Fox obtained the clip from YouTube where it had been sitting since it was first uploaded in 2009. Shortly after, Fox told YouTube the game footage infringed it...


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"And as if that were not enough, here’s the kicker. This was not some kind of massive high-throughput screen of the kind we so often hear about in biomedical research these days. The researchers tried this approach just once, in essentially their back yard, on a very small scale, and it STILL worked the first time. What that tells us is that it can work again—and again, and again."

Super well written, and extremely scary. I also had no idea google had a design ethicist.

"We need our smartphones, notifications screens and web browsers to be exoskeletons for our minds and interpersonal relationships that put our values, not our impulses, first. People’s time is valuable. And we should protect it with the same rigor as privacy and other digital rights."

Cedar trees living on steep cliffs were centuries old, and no one knew.

May 19, 2016

Yesterday, I had an opportunity to meet with some of the senior staff at Facebook, including the CEO and COO. I found the meeting deeply disturbing — but not for the reasons you might think. Before I dig in, since I’ll be talking about bias, let me share a bit about mine. I have been an avid Faceboo...

Can't help but say I agree with Glenn Beck

Evaluating the Political Chess Board Posted May 19th, 2016 @ 10:38am in #Trump #clinton2016 Trump has pulled ahead of Clinton nationally in both the new FOX poll and the Rasmussen Poll. And Trump passed Clinton in favorability according to the newest national poll on that topic. The Megyn Kelly inte...

"I’m teeming with confirmation bias, but from my kitchen counter, I don’t see how it can go any direction but a Trump landslide from here."

It can only go downhill from here

From time to time I’m toying with the idea to give a lecture to newcomers in the  IT industry (systems or software engineers). Here are some of the points that I would include in it: Human fa…

After reading about the Oracle v. Google trial I looked up the famous 9 lines of code that Google allegedly stole from Oracle, which implement the rangeCheck method for arrays. Note that arrays and…

Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed sweeping statewide legislation that would allow new market-rate projects with at least some affordable housing onsite to be approved "as of right," with big ramifications for the Bay Area.

Theranos, led by Elizabeth Holmes, voids two years of Edison blood-test results and issues tens of thousands of corrected blood-test reports to patients and doctors.

Ouch indeed

May 18, 2016

An experiment claims to have invalidated a decades-old criticism against pilot-wave theory, an alternative formulation of quantum mechanics that avoids the most

“I hope something goes wrong tonight,” said Tom, as he met my eye. He’d just finished petting my dog, and he was on his way out the door. “Well, not really, but you know wha…

May 17, 2016

This post is part of My Career Series. Here is the Chinese translation of this post. 本文之中文翻譯在此 Now that Uncharted 4 is released, I am able to talk about what I worked on for the project. I mostly w…

This is awesome

"To resolve the issue, do not create a user account contains the string "user" on the computer."

*sigh*, remote code execution in an antivirus

May 16, 2016

In 1944, the Office of Strategic Services—the predecessor of the post-war CIA—was concerned with sabotage directed against enemies of the US military. Among their ephemera, declassified and published today by the CIA, is a fascinating document called the Simple Sabotage Field Manual (PDF). It's not…

Journalists in San Francisco, frustrated at inaction over the city’s homeless crisis, are planning coordinated coverage on the issue.

May 15, 2016

A clandestine government surveillance program that has been operating around the Bay Area is being exposed.

"Imagine standing at a bus stop, talking to your friend and having your conversation recorded without you knowing. It happens all the time, and the FBI doesn’t even need a warrant to do it."

May 12, 2016

Minuscule incremental changes are the atoms and cells of Civilization games, which are made up of tiny elements, each made one after another.

Super exciting

The NYPD Was Systematically Ticketing Legally Parked Cars for Millions of Dollars a Year- Open Data Just Put an End to It New York City is a complex place to drive. And when it comes to parking, there...

May 11, 2016

I live a strange life - due to a funny life situation, I travel regularly between India and the US. One of the starkest differences is observing how many jobs machines have taken in the wealthy US, leaving the US with a dire surplus of labor. A day in the life ...

Author makes some valid points

May 10, 2016

Introducing WhatsApp's desktop appToday we're introducing a desktop app so you have a new way to stay in touch anytime and anywhere - whether on your phone or computer at home or work. Like WhatsApp Web, our desktop app is simply an extension of your phone: the app mirrors conversations and messages...

This is pretty cool; I've been using it for a few months with no complaints

PPP's new national poll finds that Republicans have quickly unified...

Even Lice beats Trump. Some of these results are quite interesting.

"Bernie Sanders continues to do the best in general election match ups, leading Trump 47-37 with Johnson at 3% and Stein at 1% in the full field, and leading Trump 50-39 head to head. The difference between how Clinton and Sanders fare against Trump comes almost completely among young people. "

What made breakfast into a distinct meal dominated by cold cereal? Ad campaigns like the one that coined the phrase "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" in 1944.

Engrossing read. I had no idea about the first part, which seems to be treated as gospel by a lot of folks in health too

"You’ve probably heard that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”

What you may not know is the origin of this ode to breakfast: a 1944 marketing campaign launched by Grape Nuts manufacturer General Foods to sell more cereal. "

"It’s always a good idea to remain skeptical of the claims made in advertisements and the ideas expressed by organizations with vested interests. But with breakfast foods, skepticism is particularly necessary. Since advertising is the foundation of the entire ready-to-eat industry, the incentives for deception are strong.

Be vigilant. Breakfast is the most marketed meal of the day. "

A game of interstellar empire-building from the creators of Crusader Kings 2.

This looks to be the only review bashing it a bit, which makes me think it's the only honest one. Sigh.

May 9, 2016

How I got around one of the most obscene examples of Big Pharma overreach.

Why do we follow digital maps into dodgy places?

Super scary

May 8, 2016

Hi, I have never liked to admit that I need help, especially if it’s personal on some level but this is for one of my relatives. My Aunt who is a single mother (widowed) in Pakistan needs donations for a liver transplant. She’s been fighting a severe case of Hepatitis-C for almost 15 years. At t...

A friend is collecting donations for his aunt's medical bills, every little bit helps.

Dropbox is just one of the many startups bracing for the wind to turn in Silicon Valley.


Source known only as John Doe says income inequality

This is a pretty deep statement.

"Banks, financial regulators and tax authorities have failed. Decisions have been made that have spared the wealthy while focusing instead on reining in middle- and low-income citizens.

Hopelessly backward and inefficient courts have failed. Judges have too often acquiesced to the arguments of the rich, whose lawyers—and not just Mossack Fonseca—are well trained in honouring the letter of the law, while simultaneously doing everything in their power to desecrate its spirit."

"That being said, I have watched as one after another, whistleblowers and activists in the United States and Europe have had their lives destroyed by the circumstances they find themselves in after shining a light on obvious wrongdoing. Edward Snowden is stranded in Moscow, exiled due to the Obama administration’s decision to prosecute him under the Espionage Act. For his revelations about the NSA, he deserves a hero’s welcome and a substantial prize, not banishment. Bradley Birkenfeld was awarded millions for his information concerning Swiss bank UBS—and was still given a prison sentence by the Justice Department. Antoine Deltour is presently on trial for providing journalists with information about how Luxembourg granted secret “sweetheart” tax deals to multi-national corporations, effectively stealing billions in tax revenues from its neighbour countries. And there are plenty more examples."

May 7, 2016

It's pretty sad no one is going to jail for this

Move over, Clock Boy. Another swarthy-looking nerd is alarming the authorities.

"In this true parable of 2016 I see another worrisome lesson, albeit one also possibly relevant to Trump’s appeal: That in America today, the only thing more terrifying than foreigners is…math."

May 6, 2016

Reading applications to Y Combinator is like having access to a crystal ball. Twice per year — once in the winter and once in the spring — thousands of men and women apply to Y Combinator. Each of these bright minds has his or her own vision of the future of technology. They pitch ideas related to B...

The federal government’s fictitious University of Northern New Jersey was aimed at dishonest recruiters, but foreign students who signed up lost thousands and face deportation.

A growing movement of sex workers and activists is making the decriminalization of sex work a feminist issue.

Pretty interesting points, though I have to admit I haven't read it in full yet

Believe it or not, almost everywhere in the country, people are not paying for the cost of the street right in front of their own properties. I made a map of my home town to illustrate – you can hover over any property and see for yourself (click on the image below to open). I was recently interview...

" First and foremost, we need to abolish the laws that caused
this all to happen. Yes, that’s right – all of this was
required to happen, by law. Many people think that sprawl is
a free market phenomenon, and they are exactly wrong. Sprawl
is caused by the following policies – I call these Sprawl
Laws; you can find them for yourself in your local city code
(for the most succinct explanation, see this paper[1]):

* Zoning
* Setbacks
* Minimum parking requirements
* Minimum lot sizes
* Maximum units per lot
* Minimum road widths

30 years later, QBasic is still the best (5 minutes read) My oldest son Noah turned 7 three months ago. If he could trade his family for a 2 hour session of playing minecraft, he would do it in a heartbeat. The other love of his life is Super Mario Maker, and it’s been a thrill to see him play the s...

“The software is functioning as intended,” said Amber. “Wait,” I asked, “so it’s supposed to delete my personal files from my internal hard drive without asking my permission?” “Yes,” she replied. …

"For about ten years, I’ve been warning people, “hang onto your media. One day, you won’t buy a movie. You’ll buy the right to watch a movie, and that movie will be served to you. If the companies serving the movie don’t want you to see it, or they want to change something, they will have the power to do so. They can alter history, and they can make you keep paying for things that you formerly could have bought. Information will be a utility rather than a possession. Even information that you yourself have created will require unending, recurring payments just to access.”"

May 5, 2016

The recall now affects 358 products sold under 42 separate brands.

Uh oh

May 4, 2016

John Kasich suspends campaign for Republican nomination, leaving Donald Trump sole candidate in race, US reports say

Uh oh. UH OH.

Yay for more security issues (not)

TL;DR asyncio is an asynchronous I/O framework shipping with the Python Standard Library. In this blog post, we introduce uvloop: a full, drop-in replacement for the asyncio event loop. uvloop is written in Cython and built on top of libuv. uvloop makes asyncio fast. In fact, it is at least 2x faste...

super exciting

May 2, 2016

Representatives from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently revealed to members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) that USCIS adjudicators have been "… testing social media review in adjudications." They further indicated that the agency is reviewing socia...

Uh oh

A year after narrowly avoiding relegation, Leicester City is on the verge of a Premier League title.

I haven't been following the premier league this year but this is kind of crazy

Fewer T.S.A. screeners, tighter budgets, new checkpoint procedures and growing numbers of passengers have led to epic security lines, and there’s no end in sight.

"While the T.S.A. says it is hiring and training hundreds of additional screening officers, matters are not likely to improve anytime soon. Airline and airport officials have said they fear that the current slowdown will last through the year and could cause a summer travel meltdown when travel demand peaks."

Physical activity may have less to do with weight loss than we think.

If you have lots of money, Tuesday, April 17, was one of the best tax days since the early 1930s: Top tax rates on ordinary income, dividends, estates, and gifts remain at or near historically low levels. That’s thanks, in part, to legislation passed in December 2010 by the 111th Congress and signed...

From 2012 but still kinda relevant

When writing performant code, we are careful to avoid cache misses when possible. When discussing cache misses, however, we are usually content with counting the number of cache misses. In this post I will explain why this is not sufficient, as data dependency also make a huge difference.

A quick scan of LinkedIn for former employees underscores the point. Of Uber’s roughly 6,700 employees, only a tiny fraction have left, and in most cases,..

Golden handcuffs

Airbnb's offerings in the city dropped 40 percent in a month, even before the laws take effect.

May 1, 2016

Surprising Changes to Google Maps's Cartography Browsing Google Maps over the past year or so, I've often thought that there are fewer labels than there used to be. Google's cartography was revamped three years ago – but surely this didn't include a reduction in labels? Rather, the sparser maps appe…