List of texts / podcast that caught my attention this year (2022).

JAN 2022

Ernst Jünger: our prophet of anarchy

  • Ernst Jünger: our prophet of anarchy - UnHerd
  • Jünger despised Celine because of the lack of the skin in the game

    A fêted intellectual, and a lifelong francophile, he befriended the city’s cultural elite, socialising with Cocteau and Picasso as well as the collaborationist French leadership and literary figures such as the anti-semitic novelist Céline, a monster who “spoke of his consternation, his astonishment, at the fact that we soldiers were not shooting, hanging, and exterminating the Jews — astonishment that anyone who had a bayonet was not making unrestrained use of it”. For Jünger, Céline represented the very worst type of radical intellectual: “People with such natures could be recognised earlier, in eras when faith could still be tested. Nowadays they hide under the cloak of ideas.

Steve Yegge, practicing programming

  • steve yegge - practicing-programming
  • an interesting comparison from brought from the (classical) music, but also reminiscent of the importance of code katas but also of the (absence of) historical consciousness. Imagine a crazy old excentric engineer doing something along the lines of Riccardo Muti (he is referring to events > half a century ago and considers them essential)

Riccardo Muti initially insulted and shouted at his successor Riccardo Chailly, who had given up his own private room to the distinguished guest. After the concert, he called for a microphone to address the audience and was ignored by stage staff. He proceeded to shout half-comprehensible and generally irrelevant comments about Toscanini’s return to La Scala in 1946.

Ben Thomson, The Relentless Jeff Bezos

Bill Gates Gets the Internet

On the value of in-house expertise

  • Luu, Dan. The value of in-house expertise
  • An argument for build in the build VS buy debate, claiming that in large-scale orgs there are highly specialized teams that are not directly related to a “core business”, that actually function as profit centers (Twitter’s kernel team). Always fun when Dan brings interdisciplinary examples, making his footnotes worth to pay attention to.

What America’s largest technology firms are investing in

  • What America’s largest technology firms are investing in - The Economist

    When the twin foundations of the computer age, the transistor and Claude Shannon’s theory of information, came out of Bell Labs in the mid-20th century, it was not because the labs’ owner, at&t, was facing lots of scrappy competitors. It was because it wanted to make and own the future. Rob Atkinson, head of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a think-tank, argues something similar is true today: the Big Five are “oligopolists which use their market power to win the next big thing.”

  • Combine with the foundational The End of the Beginning – Stratechery by Ben Thompson

Get ahead by not shooting yourself in the foot

The Biggest Mistake I See Engineers Make

I will continuously ensure that others can cover for me and that I can cover for them.

FEB 2022

Extreme Programming 20 years later by Kent Beck

Digital Advertising in 2022

  • Digital Advertising in 2022
  • In a dialectical conversation with past self from 6 years ago. Adding Amazon to Google and Facebook masters of digital advertising, making it a triumvirate. Witnessing this conversation from one own’s thinking of the past is another reason why longevity matters so much and as Malcolm Gladwell puts is

longevity, I have come to believe, is the most important and most often underestimated indicator of genius

Why Paul Simon? - Meta Bulletin

Cocktail party ideas

  • Cocktail party ideas - Dan Luu
  • Another contrarian piece. Dan seems to understand the old marketing adage that saying something like if you want an audience start a fight:

    To validate someone’s great idea see if they understand what subproblems need solution for the problem.

Stewart Brand on Starting Things and Staying Curious

I don’t think people know the extent to which the mob took over (Bay Area in the 1960s). At first pornography — there was some really, really creative pornography coming out of basically hippie artists having a good time and turning the camera on. Then the whole dope culture. “No hope without dope.” Everybody was selling or buying marijuana and these other drugs from each other. Then one of the guys, named Super Spade — his arms and legs cut off, and his torso was hung out by Ocean Beach from a tree. And this knowledge of, well, those amateur days of drug sales are gone now, and the big-time players are here in town, and “Do not f — with us.” That was the end of that. Everybody who had been selling dope and learned a little bit of business from doing it, then went into business — legitimate business — and they were good at it. Hippies became, basically, very good commercial startup folks, partly because of that sequence of experiences.

Nobody Cared About My Spreadsheets

  • Excel has been my passion and obsession and I consider the Excel bashing to be uninformed / opportunistic
  • …but always a great food for thought, here is a recent thread with Bryan Caplan’s compaining that nobody looked into his spreadsheets that served as an evidence for his Case against Education
  • No one cared about Bryan’s spreadsheets - Marginal REVOLUTION
  • No One Cared About My Spreadsheets - Econlib
  • On Bryan Caplan’s spreadsheets
  • I consider to be the final verdict this

    If the initial data set is small, and you don’t know that much about what kind of data you’re storing, use a highly flexible, easy-to-modify format to store it (Excel). When the data set gets bigger and/or your knowledge about the data starts to crystalize, then migrate it (Database).

Sebastian Mallaby on Venture Capital

The first example of this is Yahoo, where Jerry Yang and David Filo were in their port-a-cabin on the Stanford campus. They thought they were building a hobby-type thing, and they were proud of Yahoo as a directory of the emerging internet. But Moritz showed up, listened, understood, and said, “This is the new Apple. You are going to make something with a quirky name. Apple was quirky, Yahoo is quirky. You’re going to have a brand, and you’re going to be the face of a new phase in tech history.” He enlarged their sense of themselves.

  • On Yahoo and early search engines, see the Chapter 4 of Internet History Podcast; also noting their rootedness in academia (internet before browsers was largely academic/unix-based and search algorithm is a major academic research problem in computer science)
  • Apart from interesting info about VC I fount it interesting how he plans his career in 5-year stints (5-year research dives into a topic followed by a book on the subject)

MAR 2022

What is the difference between str and repr? in Python

Let me come right out and say it — I do not believe in debuggers. I don’t really know how to use any debugger, and have never used one seriously. Furthermore, I believe that the big fault in debuggers is their basic nature — most failures I debug happened a long long time ago, in a galaxy far far away. This means that I do believe, with religious fervor, in logging. Logging is the lifeblood of any decent fire-and-forget server system.

Platformers About Page

Although I’ve always tried to keep up with the latest in technology, I am a firm believer that the most important trait for success in the tech industry is the same as any other endeavor: recognizing and affirming the dignity of every human person I interact with.

Choose Joy even in the Dark Ages

Choose joy. Choose it like a child chooses the shoe to put on the right foot, the crayon to paint a sky. Choose it at first consciously, effortfully, pressing against the weight of a world heavy with reasons for sorrow, restless with need for action. Feel the sorrow, take the action, but keep pressing the weight of joy against it all, until it becomes mindless, automated, like gravity pulling the stream down its course; until it becomes an inner law of nature.

One Way Smart Developers Make Bad Strategic Decisions

Cormac McCarthy Non-Fiction Writing Tips

Decide on your paper’s theme and two or three points you want every reader to remember. This theme and these points form the single thread that runs through your piece. The words, sentences, paragraphs and sections are the needlework that holds it together. If something isn’t needed to help the reader to understand the main theme, omit it

They Predicted the Ukraine War. But Did They Still Get It Wrong?

Historian Stephen Kotkin On Invasion

  • [A Scholar of Stalin Discusses Putin, Russia, Ukraine, and the West The New Yorker](https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/stephen-kotkin-putin-russia-ukraine-stalin)
  • Not only, but importantly on hubris within the Russian culture

Russia is a remarkable civilization: in the arts, music, literature, dance, film. In every sphere, it’s a profound, remarkable place—a whole civilization, more than just a country. At the same time, Russia feels that it has a “special place” in the world, a special mission. It’s Eastern Orthodox, not Western. And it wants to stand out as a great power. Its problem has always been not this sense of self or identity but the fact that its capabilities have never matched its aspirations. It’s always in a struggle to live up to these aspirations, but it can’t, because the West has always been more powerful.

Historian Timothy Snyder on Ukraine

Ancient Greece got grain from Ukraine. In the 16th century, Poland effectively colonized Ukraine during the Age of Discovery and sold grain from Ukraine around the world for gold and silver that came from Latin America. In the 20th century, Stalin also colonized Ukraine. And he actually used that language…Hitler is looking at Ukraine as a breadbasket. Hitler is looking at Ukraine as the last best opportunity for the Germans to create a colonial system, which he sees as like that of other countries, but coming in later, coming in harder and allowing Germany to catch up and become a superpower, like the British are, like the Americans are from his point of view…So it’s all about Ukraine. The Second World War, in Europe at least, is all about Ukraine. If not for Ukraine, if not for that vision, which we under the heading of “Lebensraum,” there wouldn’t have been a war.

Bookvine.io

  • A project of a 13-year old boy assisted by his developer dad, listing 300 books listed per-category. I am on the opposite side of the world and needed this, too for my kids.
  • https://www.bookvine.io/

The modern data stack in 2021

  • The modern data stack in 2021
  • My colleague Archit summarized 3 major technological breakthroughts of the early 21st century which enabled the universal use of business inteligence methodologies freed from the older constraints (large investment and huge compute demands)
    • 2006 Apache Hadoop (distrubuted big data framework enabling horizontal scaling)
    • 2006 AWS (cloud, no comment)
    • 2012 Redshift (data warehouse in-the-cloud)
  • Can be combined with Storm in the stratosphere: how the cloud will be reshuffled · Erik Bernhardsson which claims memorably

Redshift is a data warehouse (aka OLAP database) offered by AWS. Before Redshift, it was the dark ages. The main player was Teradata, which had an on-prem offering. Startups said no to SQL and used Hadoop—SQL was kind of lame back then, for reasons that in hindsight appear absurd. I’m very happy we’re out of this era. Anyway, one vendor was a company called ParAccel. AWS licensed their technology, rebranded it Redshift, and launched in 2012. Redshift at the time was the first data warehouse running in the cloud. It was a brilliant move by AWS, because it immediately lowered the bar for a small company to start doing analytics. You didn’t have to set up any infrastructure yourself, or write custom mapreduce and reload the jobtracker all day. You could spin up a Redshift cluster in AWS, feed it humongous amounts of data, and it would … sort of just work.

APR 2022

How Microsoft hired Jim Allchin and destroyed Banyan VINES and created LAN for Enterprise

Yet, with incumbents like Banyan VINES and Novel Netware, this is another one of those times when Microsoft saw an opening for something better and just willed it into existence. And the story is similar to that of dozens of other companies including Novell, Lotus, VisiCalc, Netscape, Digital Research, and the list goes on and on and on. This kept happening because of a number of reasons. The field of computing had been comprised of former academics, many of whom weren’t aggressive in business. Microsoft ended up owning the operating system and so had selling power when it came to cornering adjacent markets because they could provide the cleanest possible user experience. People seemed to underestimate Microsoft until it was too late. Inertia. Oh, and Microsoft could outspend on top talent and offer them the biggest impact for their work. Whatever the motivators, Microsoft won in nearly every nook and cranny in the IT field that they pursued for decades. The damaging part for Banyan was when they teamed up with IBM to ship LAN Manager, which ultimately shipped under the name of each company. Microsoft ended up recruiting Jim Allchin away and with network interface cards falling below $1,000 it became clear that the local area network was really just in its infancy. He inherited LAN Manager and then NT from Dave Cutler and the next thing we knew, Windows NT Server was born, complete with file services, print services, and a domain, which wasn’t a fully qualified domain name until the release of Active Directory. Microsoft added Windsock in 1993 and released their own protocols. They supported protocols like IPX/SPX and DECnet but slowly moved customers to their own protocols.

The Current Thing

sure, the Internet makes possible a wide range of viewpoints — you can absolutely find critics of Black Lives Matter, COVID policies, or pro-Ukraine policies — but the Internet, thanks to its lack of friction and instant feedback loops, also makes nearly every position but the dominant one untenable. If everyone believes one thing, the costs of believing something else increase dramatically, making the consensus opinion the only viable option; this is the same dynamic in which publishers become dependent on Google or Facebook, or retailers on Amazon, just because that is where money can be made.

What hacking AOL taught a generation of programmers

Demographers use it to begin a conversation about the changes around us. While a birth range doesn’t guarantee an outlook, the demographics and cultural shifts that a group shares tell us a lot about how they might see the world.

— from Generation C - Seth’s Blog

  • This essay is about a formative coming-of-age experience of US-based software engineers experiencing IRC/AOL-hacking/empowering prog-culture as an imprinting one

Inside the Longest Atlassian Outage of All Time

We are in the middle of the longest outage Atlassian has ever had. Close to 400 companies and anywhere from 50,000 to 400,000 users had no access to JIRA, Confluence, OpsGenie, JIRA Status page, and other Atlassian Cloud services….having started on Monday, 4th of April 2022… A script was supposed to delete all customer data from a plugin but accidentally deleted all customer data for anyone using this plugin.

Coiling Ropes

Professionals put things away slowly so that they’ll be ready quickly when needed Investing time now for time later.

— https://seths.blog/2022/04/coiling-ropes/

1x Programming

Your team isn’t going to have fewer priorities next week or next month. There will not be an opportunity to do the wholesale rewrite that the code base deserves. The only way to improve a code base is incrementally.

How I Got a Computer Science Degree in 3 Months for Less Than $5000

MAY 2022

Half Baked

SRE Series

On repl-driven programming

I spent 2 years launching tiny projects

JUNE 2022

Paul Graham: Beyond Smart

  • Similar to Stratechery, it is inspiring to see how thinkers build on previous work and how internet allows linking to previous essays of the same author
  • Beyond Smart

There are general techniques for having new ideas — for example, for working on your own projects and for overcoming the obstacles you face with early work — and these can all be learned. Some of them can be learned by societies. And there are also collections of techniques for generating specific types of new ideas, like startup ideas and essay topics.

How To Remember Anything Forever-ish