Archive for September 2013

#  Bill Gates at Harvard →

September 30th, 2013 at 18:54 // In Worth Reading 

I really enjoyed Walter Isaacson’s story of the details of Bill Gates time at Harvard. I’d known the outline for decades, but the details are interesting:

Gates’s case [before Harvard’s disciplinary committee] arose when auditors from the Defense Department decided to check the use of the PDP-10 that it was funding in Harvard’s Aiken lab. They discovered that one sophomore—W.H. Gates—was using most of the time. After much fretting, Gates prepared a paper defending himself and describing how he had created a version of BASIC using the PDP-10 as a simulator. He ended up being exonerated for his use of the machine, but he was “admonished” for allowing a non-student, Allen, to log on with his password. He accepted that minor reprimand and agreed to put his early version of the BASIC interpreter (but not the refined one he and Allen were by then working on) into the public domain.

#  Rat Park & Addiction →

September 28th, 2013 at 18:27 // In Worth Considering 

A really interesting compilation of anecdotes by Garry Tan about someone who questioned this old story:

We all learned this in DARE class. About the rats in a cage who can self-administer morphine who get addicted to the stuff, and then just hit that lever until they die. A seemingly keystone argument in the war against drugs.

Turns out, the story it tells about addiction isn’t all that scientifically sound.

#  Subsidized Sports →

September 26th, 2013 at 21:09 // In Worth Knowing 

This article is about all the bogus benefits the NFL has, but it’s approximately true of all major sports leagues in the United States, and the mentioned tax incentives are realized by copious other businesses at smaller scales. Still, if you’re unfamiliar with the whole political structure of it, it’s hard not to be incensed by a summary like this:

Taxpayers fund the stadiums, antitrust law doesn’t apply to broadcast deals, the league enjoys nonprofit status, and Commissioner Roger Goodell makes $30 million a year. It’s time to stop the public giveaways to America’s richest sports league—and to the feudal lords who own its teams.

(via kottke)

#  Ivy League Admissions Bias →

September 24th, 2013 at 17:12 // In Worth Knowing 

Instapaper added a sort by length feature recently, and I’ve got a big backlog in there, so when I ordered by length descending this whopping takedown of the massively broken Ivy League college admissions processes came to the top. I read a fair amount, but not even I could slog through the whole thing — the Instapaper reading time estimate is 94 minutes — but I got a really interesting perspective from what I made it though. Including this theory that had truly never occurred to me:

Obviously, anti-Jewish discrimination in admissions no longer exists at any of these institutions, but a roughly analogous situation may be found with a group whom Golden and others have sometimes labeled “The New Jews,” namely Asian-Americans. Since their strong academic performance is coupled with relatively little political power, they would be obvious candidates for discrimination in the harsh realpolitik of university admissions as documented by Karabel…

To summarize, the case Ron Unz presents leaves little doubt that this and other softer forms of discrimination in the Ivy League admissions processes have been going for decades.

#  Lincoln’s Pocket Watch →

September 22nd, 2013 at 17:13 // In Worth Reading 

This is a neat little historical anecdote:

On April 13, 1861, Irish immigrant and watchmaker Jonathan Dillon, working for the M.W. Galt and Co. jewelers in Washington, D.C., was repairing President Abraham Lincoln’s pocket watch, when he heard of the attack. Forty-five years later, Dillon told the New York Times what he did that day.

“I was in the act of screwing on the dial when Mr. Galt announced the news. I unscrewed the dial, and with a sharp instrument wrote on the metal beneath: ‘The first gun is fired. Slavery is dead. Thank God we have a President who at least will try.’”

But it gets neater when you read the rest of the (quite short) story.

(via, of all things, the Mac Power Users podcast)

#  Collecting vs Connecting →

September 20th, 2013 at 18:58 // In Worth Knowing 

Venkat Rao can sometimes get too theoretical for my taste. But the idea at the heart of this essay was quite novel to me, and worthy of thinking about:

Collecting [people] is an unfamiliar behavior to connectors. When you connect with someone, the definition of the relationship is arrived at via consensus. Following is in most cases a degraded form of connecting — a partially defined asymmetric relationship that aspires to full-relationship status.

Collecting though, is a mode of relating that does not recognize or value the mutuality of relationships. Collectors do not see the philosophical point of arriving at a definition of a relationship through consensus unless there is a material reason to do so. At best, they are able to recognize the practical costs of non-consensual definitions and the computable utilitarian potential of “win win” frames.

I think the thing I’ve always loathed about the idea of “networking” — a talent I’ve long thought I completely lacked in life — is that it’s a “collecting” frame and mode. I don’t have anything against meeting people; I  enjoy it. But it took me realizing that “networking” and “meeting people” can be the same thing for it be something I could do.

#  Natural Gear →

September 18th, 2013 at 19:12 // In Worth Knowing 

Sound like a robot?

With two diminutive legs locked into a leap-ready position, the tiny jumper bends its body taut like an archer drawing a bow. At the top of its legs, a minuscule pair of gears engage—their  teeth interlocking cleanly like a zipper. And then, faster than you can blink, think, or see with the naked eye, the entire thing is gone.

Actually, its a small insect called the issus. And only adolescents have these gears for reasons we’re still not confident about. The world is awesome!

#  Girlfriend-zoned →

September 16th, 2013 at 17:29 // In Worth Considering 

I was digging through my backlog of stuff to read when I found this nice little essay about how annoying it is to always have guys want to date you instead of be their friend. A well-executed inversion of a common topic to keep at hand.

You know how it is, right, ladies? You know a guy for a while. You hang out with him. You do fun things with him—play video games, watch movies, go hiking, go to concerts. You invite him to your parties. You listen to his problems. You do all this because you think he wants to be your friend.

#  Object Lessons →

September 14th, 2013 at 16:25 // In Worth Knowing 

I was rather charmed with this piece about jet bridges, a small piece of everyday technology I’d never given a second thought. (Found it via The Browser, which you shouldn’t ignore.) But I was even more charmed to realize that it was part of a project from that The Atlantic, a book publisher, and a few educational institutions.

#  Pico Iyer on India →

September 11th, 2013 at 17:26 // In Worth Reading 

I worry about the cliche of calling a writer on his home-country “poetic”, but I can’t think of a better way to explain why I enjoyed this essay from Pico Iyer about his visit to Hyberbad, India’s growing technology hub:

The beauty of India, I thought, lies in how little it ever changes, deep down; it clings to the ways of a thousand years ago, and to the multifarious customs it has adopted in the centuries since, with an intimacy that many a neighbor might envy. No one in search of the old in India ever comes away disappointed.