Friday Four

Friday, October 14, 2011

1. There is an amusing column in the Boston Herald about some Cantabrigians who came to "occupy" more of Boston than Principal -- I mean, Mayor -- Menino would permit them to, and ended up occupying jail cells instead:

Here's another lad, age 20, white non-Hispanic naturally, and he lists his address as 208 Lowell Mail Center, Cambridge. That’s a funny street address, no?

I Googled it and it came back to the Lowell House, on the campus of Harvard University. It's described on the Crimson Web site as a "lovely neo-Georgean building" with a tower that "contains a set of Russian Bells that come from the St. Danilov Monastery in Moscow."

Did I mention that "each suite has a 'private' bathroom." Unlike the Nashua Street Jail.
On a more serious and instructive note, I seem to recall, but not exactly where, off the top of my head, that Ayn Rand had noticed that, back in the sixties, many hippies were affluent and went to prestigious educational institutions.

Conservatives may like to laugh at leftists for being naive or merely immature, but many people this age aren't leftists and these protesters are well beyond merely clueless. There is much more going on here.

2. I always appreciate it when I read something that helps me better conceptualize a problem I am thinking about. Lately, I have become interested in what I'll call, for lack of a better term, the "online privacy debate". A security blogger adds what I think is a much-needed orientation to values by reframing the problem:
Currently privacy is conceptually the reverse. "What could it hurt to share x, y, or z?" we say, instead of "Why is the benefit of sharing x, y, or z worth the potential risk?" By changing the way the discussion is framed we see beyond the petty argument about if Facebook is really tracking you, and return to the real discussion of what information we give up and why.
Certainly, both being in favor of sharing everything, and being paranoid about sharing anything are ridiculous positions. Part of why each is ridiculous is that each discounts a different half of the cost-benefit analysis as less relevant than it is, if it considers that half at all.

3. I'll briefly recommend three beers and a tea I have enjoyed recently: Wachusett Green Monsta Ale, Great Divide Samurai Rice Ale, Great Divide Rumble Oak Aged IPA, and Tazo Cucumber White. I'm particularly looking forward to becoming acquainted with the other beers in Great Divide's lineup.

4. Dennis Ritchie, the man on whose shoulders Steve Jobs (and Linus Torvalds, and many, many others) stood, has died. Via HBL is a good article on the man in Wired magazine:
"Pretty much everything on the web uses those two things: C and UNIX," [Rob] Pike tells Wired. "The browsers are written in C. The UNIX kernel -- that pretty much the entire Internet runs on -- is written in C. Web servers are written in C, and if they’re not, they're written in Java or C++, which are C derivatives, or Python or Ruby, which are implemented in C. ...

"It's really hard to overstate how much of the modern information economy is built on the work Dennis did."

Even Windows was once written in C, he adds, and UNIX underpins both Mac OS X, Apple's desktop operating system, and iOS, which runs the iPhone and the iPad. "Jobs was the king of the visible, and Ritchie is the king of what is largely invisible," says Martin Rinard, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT and a member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. [format edits]
We all owe this man a huge debt of gratitude.

-- CAV


Realist Theorist said...

On privacy, ex-con Kevin Mitnick explains that there are some things that we assume are only known to "insiders". Though the information -- as such -- is harmless, it can be used by con-men who need to build trust. In his book he gives examples of all sorts of things people are willing to do, as long as he comes across as an insider.

On Dennis Ritchie: a good guy. Kernigan and Ritchie picked up Occam 's razor and gave existing languages the cleanest shave ever!

Gus Van Horn said...

"[I]t can be used by con-men who need to build trust.

That is an excellent, and oft-overlooked point.