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Category: General

Notes: 2023-01-26

Mmm, a whole month’s worth.

Look! Finally an article about “the average rural voter” that doesn’t turn out to be about a local Republican activist!

I need to remember to check out this online course about modern Ukrainian history from Yale.

The trap everyone falls into with technical debt is basically the result of the fact that human instincts are terrible at risk analysis. “It’s been OK so far!” And then your entire airline stops being able to fly.

Have an excellent list of the best movie action scenes of 2022. Baby Assassins is so cool.

There’s some neat insight into Cronenberg’s process in this interview about Crimes of the Future. Also it’s hilarious that Ted Turner wanted to censor Crash because he was worried about kids having sex in cars.

Living on a boat, building new assembly languages by hand, the usual kind of thing. For my money this is somewhat more interesting than the guy who went off the grid in Manhattan, although that was neat too.

There is no way that Shopify will change underlying behavior with this much change in one shot, but good experiment, will come back and check it out in six months. I am working out of a Dublin office this week and the ability to have uninterrupted blocks of a couple of hours of time every single day is magical.

When thoughtful conservatives read about fascism, they produce one kind of reading list. When thoughtful progressives read about fascism, they produce another kind of reading list. Both have value but only one comes away thinking we’re not in danger of fascism because of, uh, feminized societies.

Pallet cleanser. (YouTube, music.)

Gretchen Felker-Martin pulls the old “I’m gently ribbing you, it’s not a micro-aggression” trick.

Good summary of what the 1/6 Committee learned about social media. You can also read the full report, which is wild, and not just because it tells us that there were Rumble employees worried about violence.

Have a decent summary of why each release of the Twitter Files has (mostly) sucked, from — of all places — TechCrunch.

And now S. and I are off to have pancakes.

Notes: 2022-12-04

Sarah Polley haș some absolutely wonderful thoughts about making a movie (Women Talking) with a mostly female crew. If you’re really fretful about assigning any behaviors to genders in particular, consider it as a piece about how much value there is in challenging norms. “They crafted a budget based on 10-hour days, shot in and near Toronto, so everybody could be home for bedtime.” Can’t wait to see this one.

EA patented a technique for detecting in game cooperation by mapping out of game social connections. Well, they say collusion, but I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work in the general case. Back when I was playing competitive Ingress, I could sometimes figure out which agents from other regions were close by paying attention to who followed up on whose Reddit posts. Lack of in-game communication between cooperating players is also a sign of an out of game communication channel. It’s not totally surprising that this can be automated, but it’s a good reminder that privacy is tricky.

See also this Bellingcat piece on identifying the location of a far-right extremist from a single photo plus knowledge of his allies.

Back to movies! In a previous notes post I linked to a Scott Adkins interview about direct to video action movies. As a follow-up, check out this article on French action thrillers and Sara May, the Netflix exec who acquires them. This is great stuff. When people complain about a lack of mid-budget and low-budget movies? This is where some of those movies are. It’s sort of a publicity article for Lost Bullet 2 but that’s OK, cause I liked Lost Bullet a bunch.

Radley Balko, my favorite libertarian, apologizes for a decade-old puff piece on Stewart Rhodes and explains why he made the mistakes he made. Good for him.

Tom Whitwell’s 52 Things I Learned In 2022 has at least one iffy lesson (dog buttons, come on, Clever Hans has some words for you) but overall it’s a fun source of trivia and interesting notes.

We’re gonna lose so much culture… well, no, that’s not the right lesson here. We’ve already lost immense amounts of culture. When I read articles about Syrian cassette tapes vanishing or lost movies, what I should remember is that this is still better than the days when nothing could be recorded. It’s like lost languages, right? We preserve them better now than we ever did.

Notes: 2022-11-23

Recovery from covid continues. Allow me to express the sentiment that wearing a mask is a very small price to pay for avoiding literally three weeks of reduced capacity, one week of which was complete downtime.

I installed an ActivityPub plugin for WordPress, so if you’re a Mastodon person you can effectively follow this blog at @Bryant@popone.innocence.com. This works very well for me, because it means I can easily put my longer-form permanent thoughts here and everything I post on my main Mastodon account (@BryantD@dice.camp) can be transient.

Tim Bray has an excellent article on practical uses of the blockchain. While he was at AWS, he was tasked with being part of a group that looked into whether or not AWS should provide blockchain services. Spoiler: they found no use cases that require a blockchain over a database. Distributed ledgers (which do not require blockchains) are handy.

The Man of the Hole is an absolutely wild story. He was an indigenous native of the Amazon rainforest whose tribe was wiped out by Brazilian settlers sometime after 1970 or so. We don’t know what his name was, because Brazil successfully avoided disturbing his solitary existence for over two decades. He died this August. I can’t imagine how lonely his life must have been, but apparently he knew there were people keeping an eye out for him and I guess he never showed signs of wanting contact. Read the article. The Wikipedia page also seems pretty good.

Interesting Rian Johnson interview (by Walter Chaw, who is great). I liked what he had to say about the meta-textual layer of an all star cast: what expectations does that create in the audience?

I want to invent a tabletop RPG mechanic around the Go First Dice. Follow the link for a deep dive, but the summary is that it’s possible to number four 12 sided dice such that when four people roll them, there will never be a tie and every possible ordering of the results is equally possible. In other words, everyone has an equal chance to roll highest, second highest, third highest, and fourth highest. (Second place is a set of steak knives, of course.)

Phew. Lots of backlog today.

I knew that Lagos was one of the biggest cities in the world, and growing fast. I did not realize that it’s the east end of a 600 mile stretch of coast that’s quickly turning into a megapolis.

Disney Kremlinology, Part 2

Iger’s moving quickly. Kareem Daniel is out, not surprisingly at all. But what’s really interesting, from his internal email:

I’ve asked Dana Walden, Alan Bergman, Jimmy Pitaro, and Christine McCarthy to work together on the design of a new structure that puts more decision-making back in the hands of our creative teams and rationalizes costs, and this will necessitate a reorganization of Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution.

Pitaro and Bergman were on my short list of internal candidates for the successor job. I also mentioned competitive tryouts. Huh.

Or, mind you, he’s already decided on D’Amaro and he wants to focus on mentoring while his leadership team works out a new structure.

Disney Kremlinology

Predicting internal politics at Disney: always one of my favorite things. I haven’t worked there in years and I wasn’t in a position to have good internal scoops on this stuff anyhow, so that’s my disclaimer.

What we know for sure: Bob Iger just returned to Disney; it was announced late on a Sunday night. Bob Chapek is completely gone. He just had his contract renewed this summer. Iger has a two year contract and will explicitly be responsible for developing his successor. This is all very sudden.

What I think is probably true based on reporting: this was very sudden internally as well. The Board of Directors made the decision. They thought about a few internal candidates but decided it wasn’t fair to put any of them in that situation. No matter how bad it looks to pull Iger back in, he’s probably the only person who could hit the ground running and the Board clearly needs him.

I’m not really competent to talk about strategy. “Do something different than Chapek.” I don’t expect Iger to stop trying to wring money out of the parks; he did as much of that as Chapek did. He’ll probably sell it better.

What I’m really interested in is who his successor will be. The Board sounds like they’re not gonna let him make that decision all by himself. That’s fair; Iger has made three choices of successor already and none of them worked out. Disney has always preferred to find a CEO from within, but this may signal a change there.

Again traditionally, the next CEO has worked in several types of Disney business. Chapek, for example, went from Home Entertainment (media focused) through Consumer Products to the Parks before becoming CEO. Thomas Staggs, who was in line for the CEO job at one point, went from CFO to Parks to COO before he and Disney parted ways. You need the broad experience. The corporate culture says you should have worked at the Parks, which are seen as the beating heart of Disney.

Riffling through the current leadership team, few of the obvious candidates have the experience range. Josh D’Amaro is an obvious possibility but he’s been almost purely Parks. Kareem Daniel is closely associated with Chapek; his future, as CNBC says, is murky. Alan Bergman has been all Studios. Jimmy Pitaro? Rebecca Campbell?

Iger’s got two years, which is enough time to train any of those talented executives on the aspects of the business they don’t know yet. Everyone expects a reorg, because Iger didn’t like Chapek’s reorg much. They have to at least have a list of possible names for the next CEO. If any of those names are external, it’s going to be a while before they show up at Disney, since negotiations take time. If the list boils down to internal candidates, things may move more quickly. There might be multiple candidates, since Iger has done competitive tryouts in the past.

It’ll be interesting to watch how things develop over the next few months. Watch for people on the current leadership team who wind up managing a very different division.

Afternoon update: Kareem Daniel is gone. That was quick. I think on reflection this’ll be worth a new post tonight or tomorrow, there are some interesting nuggets in there.

Notes: 2022-11-16

Dave Troy is still killing me.

No, actually, I would not. I would expect Elon Musk (which is who he means) to maintain Twitter (which is what he means) in a functional state no matter how much it cost so that they could pile information chaos on top of economic chaos. Why would you stagger those two things? Blow up Twitter now and the world has time to recover.

Fucking terrible. At some point I’ll write up a general debunk.

Evernote sold itself to Bending Spoons. End of an era.

Still not totally recovered, so this is kind of low volume, but I wanted to get back on the horse.

Notes: 2022-11-08

Phew. No big Paxlovid bounce, thankfully.

This is what I thought of when I heard about Tesla engineers coming over to validate Twitter code. It’s both true that the author seems pretty savvy and that the culture over at Tesla is focused on velocity over anything. Good times.

Let’s get all the Twitter stuff out of the way!

  • Evelyn Douek has smart things to say about Twitter’s regulatory challenges. Not just in the US, not just in the EU — India’s going to be a huge headache.
  • This layoff guide for Twitter employees is worth reading for anyone who’s nervous about their job. Or anyone, really. Use your work laptop in a way which will enable you to execute on those precautions quickly.
  • One billion dollars in infrastructure cuts? This is already working out badly. Sympathies to the guy who just went on call for a bunch of systems he doesn’t know. Gergley has a good thread on the problems ahead. Here’s another SRE still employed by Twitter, and he thinks it’s gonna be ugly. Rakyll is a well-respected principal engineer in the reliability biz; she’s pessimistic and thinks people are leaving.
  • Tangentially related: Starlink is inevitably having to throttle bandwidth. Some math: Starlink wants $5K/month for 2 terminals with a total of 350 Mbps download. That’s cheap and cool but the existing mobile solutions can deliver bandwidth in the Gbps range.

OK, that’s enough horrified observation of the train wreck. Mastodon is treating me OK so far.

If I had to choose one word to capture the difference between engineering levels, I agree that impact is a good one. But there are a lot of different ways to have an impact. I kind of want to do career progression as a spider chart.

I like this story about enclaves and exclaves but what really caught my eye is the platform — this is apparently open to anyone to write this kind of post? In my copious spare time I wanna mess with it.

This program looks like a good entrance point to New Taiwan Cinema. I’ve seen Rebels of the Neon God and I liked it, although I’m not sure I have the right flavor of patience for this particular cinematic movement.

Notes: 2022-10-28

Back in 1905, before the city was annexed by Seattle, Ballard had different street names. Different and better.

This is OK as creepypasta but it’s great as a parody of forum culture. “Please keep all pet-related talk confined to the appropriate subforum! Thanks!”

For my own reference, this is where you express interest in Letterboxd features and this is where you express interested in TMDB features. Letterboxd has a tricky tightrope to walk: more social features are good but would require more moderation and I think it’s a little bit undermoderated as it is. There’s a very slight spam problem.

Elon Musk, bless his heart, has chosen to lie to Twitter employees about his plans to cut 75% of the workforce. Dude, the Washington Post has the presentations. You just took a ten million dollar hit by firing the CEO instead of sidelining him for a year and paying him to sit at home. Be brave, tell the truth.

Notes: 2022-10-25

The format of these is likely to change, but I do need someplace besides Twitter to dump random thoughts. We’ll see how this works. Thanks are owed to my pal Ginger for demonstrating the value of this sort of thing.

If you like music, Elizabeth Nelson’s piece on Marquee Moon is a must read. It’s such a perfect album made in such weird, imperfect circumstances. I learned not too long ago that those two “pantheonic instrumentalists of the 20th century” she mentions finally united on Matthew Sweet’s great three albums of the 1990s, starting with Girlfriend. Assuming that she meant Richard Lloyd as the first. It’s also worth checking out her band, Paranoid Style, which is as one might expect from the name.

My adolescent schooling trauma, such as it is (it’s not all that), was reawakened when I learned that a Sacramento teacher was just arrested for concealing a 15 year old kid for 2 years. Apparently she teaches at some kind of Waldorf-inspired public school? The lesson here is that you just can’t trust a Waldorf teacher’s judgement. I do wonder a bit if there’s not more to the story — real problems at home? But man, just letting a kid hide out is never going to be a wise solution.

I liked this interview with Scott Adkins. It serves as an introduction to the world of direct to video action movies, which is a pretty cool world if you ask me. I don’t care so much about whether or not John Hyams is an auteur; I just dig the never-ending stream of competent action movies with good fight scenes. It’s a bit like the hey day of Hong Kong action cinema.

Canlis Scavenger Hunt 2020

The fine folks at Canlis, the only restaurant in Seattle where you have to wear a tie, ran a scavenger hunt last week as part of their Canlis Community College project. Prize was a $5,000 gift certificate. This attracted the attention of some of my Ingress pals, since driving around the city trying to figure out someone else’s plan is basically our core competency. The first four challenges, we did relatively horribly. But the final challenge, the one for all the marbles, that went differently.