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Why are the Microsoft Office file formats so complicated? (2008) joelonsoftware.com
227 points by diziet  8 ago   111 comments top 19
pipio21 12 ago 0 replies      
As someone with lots of experience reading Microsoft documents I disagree, in my opinion Microsoft was the worst company designing formats because:

1-Their programmers were terrible designers. Companies like Apple design first, program later. With Microsoft it was the opposite. I don't care how good a mechanic(programmer) you are if you are bad engineer(designer) and can't see the forest out of the tree.

2-They were experts breaking formats ON PURPOSE, it is proven that Microsoft actually introduced bugs to break compatibility on things like DOS(to combat competitors like DR DOS)or AVI format so people were forced to use their products.

3-There were too much programmers(most of them not so good). While Netscape put to work 20-40 people, Microsoft employed 1.000 to destroy competition with Explorer. When mission was accomplished and competition was destroyed(and nobody dare to enter the given marketplace anymore) all this people moved to other projects like Office.

4-Perversive incentives. The social promotion under Ballmer incentived people to create lots of bad code fast instead of little good code.

thr0waway1239 5 ago 5 replies      
I remember Joel himself mentioning in some article about how Excel suddenly became dominant over a competitor (Lotus spreadsheets I think) because you could not only open Lotus files in Excel, but you could also save the Excel back into Lotus format (two way compatibility). I am supposing this is because Lotus file format was not complete crap.

If that is true, then isn't it also very possible that MS had an incentive to keep building on top of its cruddy file format without rethinking the design at any point? Isn't it true that even today, there is no viable competitor to MS Office even on non-Windows OS because MS has made file format compatibility extremely difficult?

I am very glad that the latest and greatest features of Office automation after (and including) Office 2007 were mostly still-born and we could stop worrying about this issue and use MS Office as a tool and not as a "platform". It became too unwieldy even for hardcore MS supporters, and even though no good alternatives emerged, people generally decided that the programmability of MS Office had reached its limits - and moved away to other things like replacing them with browser based apps [1] I remember creating an Infopath "app" as a contractor around 2010, and wondering "what is this crap? Have these people never seen browser based apps?"

[1] This is probably a sweeping statement. I would love to hear from someone who is certain that Office automation was a superior technology for a particular use case.

glaberficken 1 ago 1 reply      
Laziest way to output an excel file:Write an html table to a file and make the extension ".xls"

This has the minor niggle that it will throw a warning to the user ("The file format and extension of *.xls don't match...")

But it has the "advantage" over the csv approach that you can include formatting via hmtl/css styles.

StillBored 7 ago 0 replies      
Mentioned only briefly, but the document format is potentially infinite because anyone can write an OLE/COM object that can be embedded in word (frequently done without even realizing it via a copy/paste job). The resulting object then gets serialized into the save file, which means that unless you happen to have an environment that can restart the COM object you cannot actually create something that can guarantee 100% compatibility unless you also implement most of the windows API.

And you say, so what, edge case, but i've yet to find anything that can import office documents with embedded visio, which seems to be all over creation in IT/etc documents, even though visio itself now saves in an OPC type format. This is one of the huge mac<->PC office issues and spawned a bunch of 3rd party visio clones. (which is its own set of problems).

anovikov 2 ago 2 replies      
I was running a team of developers who reverse-engineered Office and other popular file formats to recover data from damaged files (that was in the 3.5'' diskette era and hard drives were prone to bad sector failures back then too, so there was a sizeable market for that). And yes, file formats were really complicated, which helped our business: there was a really high entry barrier. I remember MS Exchange Server took two man-years to crack.
alexott 3 ago 0 replies      
Since that time, Microsoft had opened the documentation on all office file formats, and it's really good - very detailed. The documentation support team is very responsive when something isn't clear. Plus they provide quite many additional tools for work with binary files, and to validate them if you're implementing generation of these files.

But the formats themselves sometimes quite unlogical, especially when you embed one into another. And binary formats are very different for every office components. For example, PowerPoint - contains most of information in one big blob inside OLE, while Excel and Word tend to store smaller objects separately.

P.S. I've implemented data extraction for all MS office files for commercial products, and also participated in development of catdoc program about 10 years ago

taspeotis 7 ago 3 replies      
> Let Office do the heavy work for you. Word and Excel have extremely complete object models, available via COM Automation ... You have a web-based application thats needs to output existing Word files in PDF format. Heres how I would implement that: a few lines of Word VBA code loads a file and saves it as a PDF using the built in PDF exporter in Word 2007. You can call this code directly, even from ASP or ASP.NET code running under IIS. Itll work.

It'll work until it doesn't [1]. Like if you want to do two things at the same time.

> Considerations for server-side Automation of Office

> ...

> Reentrancy and scalability: Server-side components need to be highly reentrant, multi-threaded COM components that have minimum overhead and high throughput for multiple clients. Office applications are in almost all respects the exact opposite. Office applications are non-reentrant, STA-based Automation servers that are designed to provide diverse but resource-intensive functionality for a single client. The applications offer little scalability as a server-side solution ... Developers who plan to run more than one instance of any Office application at the same time need to consider "pooling" or serializing access to the Office application to avoid potential deadlocks or data corruption.

And if you want to use this functionality to service the requests of anonymous users, make sure to read up until "[u]sing server-side Automation to provide Office functionality to unlicensed workstations is not covered by the End User License Agreement (EULA)."

[1] https://support.microsoft.com/en-au/kb/257757

Klathmon 7 ago 6 replies      
I really enjoy this article. It's nice to see one thats not just bashing the format as bad or insulting the developers.

Did Microsoft solve any of these problems in their "newer" file formats (IIRC its something like .docx instead of .doc)? And are those as crazy after a few years or have things gotten better since then?

makecheck 3 ago 0 replies      
The problem is compounded by users not knowing exactly what it is that theyre storing/transmitting/archiving, and not caring enough to push for something leaner and more accessible.

It is also sad to see people deleting things to make space within some quota, when a massive amount of storage is clearly caused by unnecessarily-bloated files. How do you convince them to abandon the only editors that are familiar to them? How do you make plain text the new default?

People seem to like cracking open Word, typing a couple paragraphs and sending that to everyone. They dont realize the kitchen sink comes with it. In the old days, sending large file attachments to an entire organization could be a disaster. If the server wasnt very smart then it encoded and COPIED some monstrous Word file to everybodys Inbox. And copied it again for reply-all. Inboxes would run out of disk space because E-mail sizes were insane! It was really frustrating to see that the amount of useful content was so small compared to the footprint.

adsims2001 5 ago 2 replies      
"A lot of the complexities in these file formats reflect features that are old, complicated, unloved, and rarely used. Theyre still in the file format for backwards compatibility, and because it doesnt cost anything for Microsoft to leave the code around."

That's not really true. It is not free to leave old code around.

userbinator 6 ago 2 replies      
Are they really "so complicated", or is it just a large amount of options, many of which might actually be ignorable for the task you're doing, that contribute to such an impression of complexity?

They were designed to be fast on very old computers. For the early versions of Excel for Windows, 1 MB of RAM was a reasonable amount of memory, and an 80386 at 20 MHz had to be able to run Excel comfortably.

To me, this suggests the opposite --- a complicated format would be difficult to parse efficiently. I found this document:


...which shows that it's basically TLV, so for simple data extraction it doesn't seem so difficult after all. For example, if you're just after cell values, you don't have to care about fonts, printing, and other formatting info.

bitwize 6 ago 0 replies      
Because when you dump memory contents to disk, unswizzle the pointers, and call that your file format, things stop being simple.
artursapek 7 ago 0 replies      
Reading this makes all of the personal struggles I have had writing software seem so petty.
plorg 5 ago 0 replies      
It was difficult getting past the words Windows Meta File, the cause of one of my many software headaches in graduate school. I never found a way to export vector graphics from Matlab (admittedly not a Microsoft product) in a way that they could be embedded in LibreOffice (or any other open Office clone) to produce PowerPoint-compatible documents. But I certainly tried.

If the requirements were just to produce a document I could have generated PDFs, but my department head wanted PPT slides. Apparently there is no other vector graphics option that is compatible with both Matlab and Office, and there are zero useful tools for editing WMF files, save for the pathetic options available as part of the Office suite.

sidlls 7 ago 2 replies      
It might take thousands of work years to recreate Office from scratch and with an identical timeline but I categorically reject the notion that a clone from scratch without that historical constraint would take that long.
be5invis 3 ago 1 reply      
It reminds me the format of fonts. That is, your font is actually a program, a program used to draw shapes. There are even subroutine calls in it, and it is widely used to reduce file size.
mkhpalm 3 ago 1 reply      
You unfortunately cannot "just use csv" if you're dealing with modern tabular data. (non-ascii)

Here is an example of basic BOM ignoring and delimiter insanity demonstrated by SAP:https://wiki.scn.sap.com/wiki/display/ABAP/CSV+tests+of+enco...

Long story short, Excel is to tabular data as IE was to HTML/CSS/Javascript. Its headed for a cliff once people start realizing how bad it is as doing basic tasks.

dredmorbius 7 ago 1 reply      
How do MS Word and Excel file formats compare to the file formats of WordPerfect, AmiPro, WordStar, Lotus 123, Borland Quattro, etc?
flamedoge 6 ago 1 reply      
I don't understand why they have to be when w3c can get html right
Capn Proto capnproto.org
350 points by bleakgadfly  11 ago   89 comments top 17
kentonv 9 ago 9 replies      
Hi all, Cap'n Proto author here. Thanks for the post.

Just wanted to note that although Cap'n Proto hasn't had a blog post or official release in a while, development is active as part of the Sandstorm project (https://sandstorm.io). Cap'n Proto -- including the RPC system -- is used extensively in Sandstorm. Sandboxed Sandstorm apps in fact do all their communications with the outside world through a single Cap'n Proto socket (but compatibility layers on top of this allow apps to expose an HTTP server).

Unfortunately I've fallen behind on doing official releases, in part because an official release means I need to test against Windows, Mac, and other "supported platforms", whereas Sandstorm only cares about Linux. Windows is especially problematic since MSVC's C++11 support is spotty (or was last I tried), so there's usually a lot of work to do to get it working.

As a result Sandstorm has been building against Cap'n Proto's master branch so that we can make changes as needed for Sandstorm.

I'm hoping to get some time in the next few months to go back and do a new release.

Cyph0n 9 ago 3 replies      
For some reason, the banner (infinitely faster?), name, and introductory FAQ-style responses made me think the whole thing is a joke - similar to Vanilla JS [1].

Anyways, it seems like a cool project, so I'll be sure to follow its development closely.

[1]: http://vanilla-js.com/

throwaway13337 10 ago 3 replies      
To get an overview of the area of binary interchange formats that are language agnostic, the author of Cap'n Proto does a good job in this:


"Protocol Buffers" has been the go-to for a long time but there are more options now.

For uses where serialization/deserialization CPU time is a concern, it seems to really a question of Cap'n Proto versus flatbuffers ( https://google.github.io/flatbuffers/ ).

niftich 9 ago 2 replies      
I've always liked Cap'n Proto because it was (quite literally) the ideas behind Protobuf taken to an extreme, or, depending on your point-of-view, reduced to its most basic components: data structures already have to sit in memory looking a certain way, why can't we just squirt that on the wire instead of some fancy bespoke type-length-value struct?

Of course, the hardest part is convincing everyone that it's not your bespoke type-length-value struct, but that you have good reasons for what you're doing. I think the humorous, not-so-self-serious presentation has worked in its favor (but that's just a subjective opinion and I can't back it up with data).

Perceptes 5 ago 1 reply      
Big fan of what Sandstorm is doing, both with Sandstorm itself and this component. I really want to use this instead of gRPC, as it seems technically superior, but language bindings and adoption across language ecosystems are likely to be a big downside given that (as Kenton mentions in a comment elsewhere here) Sandstorm isn't really interested in Cap'n Proto being widely adopted. All my new stuff is built in Rust, so the Sandstorm team's interest in and use of Rust are a good fit for me. But when it comes to interoperability with other languages, this may end up being a concern compared to gRPC. In any case, I hope to see the Rust implementation eventually replace the C++ one as the official reference implementation.
zaptheimpaler 9 ago 0 replies      
Could this be used as an alternative to Apache Arrow[1]?

[1] https://arrow.apache.org/

setori88 8 ago 0 replies      
Fractalide (http://githib.com/fractalide/fractalide) is an implementation of dataflow programming (specifically flow based programming). Component build hierarchies are coordinated via the Nix package manager. Capnproto contracts are weaved into each component just before build time. These contracts are the only way compenents talk to each other. Thanks Sandstorm.io for this great software.
venning 9 ago 0 replies      
Correct me if I'm wrong, but some of this sounds like blitting, except optimized for the in-memory structure and not the on-disk structure.

In 2008, Joel Spolsky wrote about 1990s-era Excel file formats and how they used this technique to deal with how slow computers were then [1]. Same technique, new problem set.

[1] http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2008/02/19.html

wtbob 8 ago 2 replies      
> The Capn Proto encoding is appropriate both as a data interchange format and an in-memory representation, so once your structure is built, you can simply write the bytes straight out to disk!

Eh, I'd rather pay the cost of serialisation once and deserialisation once, and then access my data for as close to free as possible, rather than relying on a compiler to actually inline calls properly.

> Integers use little-endian byte order because most CPUs are little-endian, and even big-endian CPUs usually have instructions for reading little-endian data.

sob There are a lot of things Intel has to account for, and frankly little-endian byte order isn't the worst of them, but it's pretty rotten. Writing 'EFCDAB8967452301' for 0x0123456789ABCDEF is perverse in the extreme. Why? Why?

As pragmatic design choices go, Cap'n Proto's is a good one (although it violates the standard network byte order). Intel effectively won the CPU war, and we'll never be free of the little-endian plague.

It's all so depressing.

sandGorgon 6 ago 2 replies      
How do you pronounce the name? If libreoffice is bad.. This name is absolutely impossible.

Is it captain? Is it cap+n+proto?

A lot of collaboration is verbal - people sit around and talk about stuff. I don't know if it is a fun take on an American word... But it is impossible to use in the rest of the world.

I really wish you would call it something else... Unless it is personal for you :(

joshuawarner32 10 ago 0 replies      
Here's the discussion from a while ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5482081
flatline 9 ago 1 reply      
Interfaces! Inheritance! Looks promising. Protocol buffers are nice for their compact encoding and multi-language generator support but as a schema language they are really cumbersome. Composition is pretty much all you get, there are no longer required fields, you can't even use enums as a key type in a map. I'm sure their use cases are not necessarily the same as mine but sometimes I miss just using plain old XML.
mixmastamyk 6 ago 1 reply      
Apache thrift doesn't seem to be mentioned, how does it compare?
morecoffee 8 ago 1 reply      
> capability-based RPC system.

This sounds like a cool idea, but so far I haven't seen any good explanation of how it works, and why it will save me from rolling my own ACL system. For bragging about it in the very first sentence, there is surprisingly little detail about how it works.

imaginenore 9 ago 2 replies      
Is it faster than MsgPack?
matmann2001 4 ago 0 replies      
TazeTSchnitzel 9 ago 0 replies      
Blender's file format does something similar, it essentially saves a core dump to disk.
Why Im giving my company Election Day off techcrunch.com
28 points by _nh_  4 ago   31 comments top 4
kyriakos 1 ago 4 replies      
I think elections should be held on weekends giving the maximum number of voters the opportunity to vote. This is the case in most countries anyway.
spc476 2 ago 2 replies      
A nice gesture, but will the company also give the day off for local elections? Where I live, we just had an election on August 30th for a few very local offices. Local elections have more of an affect on our lives than national elections.
vacri 2 ago 2 replies      
> Interestingly, Morocco was the first country to publicly recognize the United States as an official state with the ratification of the Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship in 1786. Signed by Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, it recognized Moroccan ports as open to U.S. ships and is the longest-standing unbroken treaty relationship in U.S. history.

Within a decade of recognising the US, Morocco was pirating their ships again, and the US had to pay huge sums to the Barbary corsairs for safe passage - leading to the creation of the US Navy and the First and Second Barbary Wars in 1801 and 1815. Maybe the treaty was never torn up and discarded, but it was broken pretty quickly.

KON_Air 17 ago 0 replies      
All things aside who are the candidates? The joke that Hillary and Trump are seriously being candidates got old fast.
How to teach computational thinking backchannel.com
70 points by deepakkarki  6 ago   16 comments top 10
thinline 57 ago 0 replies      
I see there are lots of skeptics here. Well, as a developer with kids of 11 and 15 (who are not particularly attracted to the idea of programming, in general), I can say that the Mathematica environment/Wolfram Language is both fantastic and effective. So great that I'm willing to plug it despite not being on Wolfram's payroll.

After several years of trying to use this or that other language with the kids in an attempt to stir up some sort of longer term interest and to get them to begin thinking in a problem-solving way, the Wolfram Language is the only one that's managed to produce results and hold their interest.

Two of the most key features of the Wolfram Language, IMO, are the very high level of abstraction available through the many built-in functions and, as a result, the quick feedback given to the user. When I compare the reams of code that must be written in any other language to achieve only a fraction of what a Wolfram Language one-liner does, I cringe at the thought of trying to convince someone (who's point isn't to become a developer, but to simply find a solution to a problem) that they need to man-up and type a book before they can expect any appreciable results.

The book, An Elementary Introduction to the Wolfram Language, mentioned in the article, is also an amazing resource. It begins with no expectations of prior programming experience and progresses at a decent pace with captivating examples throughout.

So, yeah, I'd like an non-commercial (remember that there are free tiers and products) environment+language that's equal (in terms of being very suitable for kids up to domain experts) to what's available from Wolfram, but from what I've seen, there is nothing that comes close. Sure, people will point to the various notebook type environments out there, but these have got quite a ways to go before they reach the breadth and slickness of Wolfram's offerings.

nv-vn 3 ago 2 replies      
I can't help but feel that the Wolfram Language is less of a programming language and more of a DSL for querying a very precisely defined set of data. I think that the whole thing falls apart once you step outside the boundaries of the data they offer. In that sense, it doesn't seem very well suited for teaching computational thinking at all -- there's no logic involved in letting another person solve a problem for you. The examples show how computers can enrich the work of people in the future, but to me that's entirely different from computational thinking. What's going on here is little more than teaching kids how to use Google efficiently.
wz1000 10 ago 0 replies      
> Mathematical thinking is about formulating things so that one can handle them mathematically, when thats possible. Computational thinking is a much bigger and broader story, because there are just a lot more things that can be handled computationally.

This is a completely lopsided statement. Computation(via some automaton) is a small subset of what mathematics deals with.

It is possible to deal with concepts and objects mathematically a lot more often than computationally.

lacker 4 ago 2 replies      
Ive noticed an interesting trend. Pick any field X, from archeology to zoology. There either is now a computational X or there soon will be. And its widely viewed as the future of the field.

I was dubious about this particular example and searched for [computational zoology]. There's nothing really there, except for a Craig Thompson making a similar "X could be Zoology in Computational X" claim. Computational Zoology is certainly not viewed as the future of zoology.


Why make this precise claim without checking if it's true? Just an odd way to write an essay.

Overall this essay reads like a long, long, long laundry list of features of the Wolfram Language and the Many Wolfram-Branded Products With Many Features, rather than an explanation of "how to teach computational thinking". It's like I wrote an essay "How to use Google for Education", found a thousand educational pages on the internet, and wrote a story in which I googled each one.

nemo1618 3 ago 0 replies      
I think the author glosses over the issue of keywords. In order to be productive in the Wolfram Language (or any language), you need to build up an understanding of what operations it supports. There are thousands of such operations, neccesitating a method of looking up the correct operation for each task. And it's not always clear how to glue them together. What kid would think to type "GeoPlot" or "{n,20}" unprompted? In other words, people still need to build a mapping between their internal desires and valid syntax. We are still a long way from being able to compute in the language of thought.
giomasce 2 ago 0 replies      
This is not about computational thinking. This is about Wolfram advertising.
hasenj 4 ago 2 replies      
I might be in the minority here, but I don't think that 'thinking like a programmer' is something that everyone is capable of doing. I think there might be some kind of tyranny in trying to force it on everyone.
ankurdhama 4 ago 0 replies      
Real world problem -> Mathematical problem -> algorithm(computation) -> Mathematical solution -> Real world solution.

Teaching people only one part of this chain is just useless.

sverige 5 ago 0 replies      
I dunno. This seems a little like the "putting a GUI over the CLI" discussion.

> its intellectual core is about formulating things with enough clarity, and in a systematic enough way, that one can tell a computer how to do them.

I think the thing to teach is logic. (Make that Logic with a capital "L.") It covers all the basics: clarity of thought, language and its hidden dangers, definitions, systematic thinking, order, etc. Studying Plato and Aristotle is a great place to start.

vonnik 4 ago 0 replies      
the usual plug for wolfram...
Why Do Tourists Visit Ancient Ruins Everywhere Except the United States? priceonomics.com
123 points by ryan_j_naughton  6 ago   109 comments top 19
SwellJoe 6 ago 19 replies      
I'm often struck by how arbitrary our nation's tourists are. Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, etc.: packed with tourists every single day they're open; while dozens of surrounding National Monuments and National Parks and National Forests (mostly free to visit), are often nearly devoid of visitors.

I live in an RV and travel most of the time...I make it a point to visit any National anything (park, forest, monument, as well was BLM lands that seem interesting) and state parks, within 50-100 miles of my route (depending on my schedule and ability to go off the grid at that time). There are places where you'll see maybe a dozen people on your hike; while in the "big" parks, you can't spit without hitting somebody taking photos from an obvious vantage point. I've stayed in BLM campgrounds that are stunningly beautiful, and I may be the only person there for a week or more. These places often have historical significance; as much of the US does, since there were great civilizations that rose and fell here before Europeans arrived.

There's like a weird need for there to be a gate with a ranger taking entrance fees and such, for someone in the US to want to see and experience a place.

jefflinwood 5 ago 0 replies      
One particular reason is that historic sites that contain Mississippian culture mounds aren't that interesting - they are very hard to interpret, and there isn't much known about the underlying civilization.

I visit many of these sites when I can (for instance, Hopewell Culture National Historic Park, Emerald Mound, and Poverty Point), and there just isn't really much to really bring in tourists. There's absolutely no comparison to something like Tikal in Guatemala. I wouldn't recommend them to any casual tourists. The only reason I went to these sites is that I'm in the process of visiting all of the national park system units in the United States.

The Anasazi ruins in the Southwest are much easier to understand - Mesa Verde and Canyon de Chelly have extremely striking settings, and the lack of vegetation means that the underlying structure is easy to see. When I visited Hovenweep, I found a pottery shard that rodents had dug up, and when I visited Mesa Verde, rodents had brought an ancient corn cob to the surface - so it's a lot more fun to visit these sites.

Also, Mesa Verde is pretty close to Durango, CO, and is on the "Grand Circle" tour of southwest US national parks, forests, and monuments. So it's going to get a lot more tourists than something like Chaco Canyon which is way off the beaten path, and doesn't have much infrastructure.

rdtsc 5 ago 2 replies      
I guess the conclusion is that because the history was rewritten to mean this content was mostly unpopulated, ready to receive the settlers, with some pockets of Indian tribes here and there.

Anything that contradicts it is difficult to accept.

Also most people don't know, and most importantly they don't want to know. The later is most important. I think even if told, or specifically taught in school, people will try to forget it quickly. It is uncomfortable to think of this country as great and glorious and then put the killing of all the Indians and slavery next to that. It just doesn't fit.

Even on a more superficial level, people don't care because they don't feel it is part of their ancestry.

It is a bit strange to me (but it is just me being weird) that a lot of Americans talk about themselves as Irish, Italian, or German. So I ask usually "so your parents are from Ireland?". And they'd say something like "Oh, no they came in 1850". Yet they have a kilt and go to "Irish" festivals. Nothing wrong with that, but I think it explains why on vacation they want to go to Europe to visit "history" and not to Cahokia.

eddieh 3 ago 1 reply      
Tourist do visit the ruins we have, Monk Mound, Mesa Verde, Montezuma Castle, Gila Cliff Dwellings just to name a few. I don't want to be culturally insensitive, but our ruins are not as impressive as the pyramids in Mexico, South America or Egypt for that matter. We have nothing that even comes close to ruins in Itally, China, Burma, Syria, or Iraq.

I've even been to a bunch of ruins and ancient dwellings in the US and I had to look up their names.

jaunkst 1 ago 0 replies      
I often spent time in New Mexico to visit family as a child and we would often find unmarked sites of Indian culture. I found them to be absolutely wonderful. Some where marked with little flags noting sites. I have never been to a place more exposed and ready for discovery in my entire life. Most place I have lived are overgrown and their secrets even more hidden. Getting to the point though, I feel that the most Americans have the perspective that cultured, and ancient sites are beyond America. America is something new and the rest of the world is older and more cultured. Sadly, we have hidden a lot of the culture and history that existed here before our country. We are not the same a civilizations that has been rooted in the land like China. They have 3,500 years of written continuous history. Our tourism in America is and has always been Westernized, not a continuation of something old but an idea of something new.
adiabatty 5 ago 2 replies      
I don't know about Cahokia, but the oldest ruins out West is Mesa Verde, and there's nothing touristy close to it other than Four Corners.

A buddy of mine from Toronto came to visit California and managed to hit SF, LA, and San Diego in the space of a week and two weekends, but seeing anything older than a mission[1] would've taken ten hours of driving one way to get to Mesa Verde.

Sure, you could see it if you're in the states as an outdoorsy type who wants to see all the majesty of the American Southwest, but this wasn't that sort of trip. Stonehenge, by contrast, ought to be less of a detour for someone who wants to hit all the UK highlights in a week or two.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_missions_in_California

sevenless 6 ago 4 replies      
Most countries founded on invasion and genocide don't want to think about the victims, or acknowledge they had a 'real' civilization. Especially when their nationalism and Constitution-worship glorifies the genociders.
adrianm 6 ago 2 replies      
Well, I can't speak for anyone but myself but I guess it's because I didn't realize ancient cities like this existed in the United States. Now that I know they do, I find myself wanting to visit and curious to learn more about the history.
acomjean 5 ago 1 reply      
my brother worked at Mesa Verde. That park is kinda busy.

On the way back east I met up with him and went to see the ruins at Chaco Culture national park (mentioned in the article).

its beautiful but not super popular. Its far away from things and marginally difficult drive. You can stay overnight at a camp ground on site. The ruins are really interesting, but they know very little about the people who made them, and the wildlife is less prevalent, so its not for everyone. All those reasons make it less popular.

I think wildlife is the big draw of the more popular parks.

The directions give some idea of how remote:https://www.nps.gov/chcu/planyourvisit/directions.htm


hugh4life 2 ago 0 replies      
I grew up a few hours away from St Louis and visited Cahokia a few times when I was young. I figure(though may be wrong) most people who grew up in south to central Illinois have been there at least once.

It was hugely fascinating and it does spark the imagination about how life would be living in such a community, but IIRC it was mostly a big mound and a museum which was mostly reconstructions.

And the big reason there's not all that much interest is that there was never any direct European contact and it was not as advanced as the Aztec/Maya/Incas.

shriphani 4 ago 1 reply      
An anecdote related to ruins. I made a pit-stop at the Timbisha-Shoshone tribe's reservation when visiting Death valley. They clearly had a long-running feud with the federal government about land (often mentioning that they felt like cattle when someone erected a fence around them).

I asked them where I could see some historic Indian artifacts in the area - paintings, burial grounds and the like and they were pretty offended that I had the gall to enquire such stuff.

I guess for most native Americans not enough time has passed for the wounds to heal and there is a sense of humiliation when folks show up expecting a good photo op as if they are some extinct civilization.

toodlebunions 5 ago 0 replies      
They do, and they bring a lot of vandalism with them. Rampant in the southwest, unfortunately. One of many very good reasons to support the creation of a Bears Ears national monument.
eternalban 5 ago 0 replies      
There are quite a lot of tourists in New York using our subway system, every day.
vvdcect 3 ago 0 replies      
I'm heading to new york,colorado and austin in october, are there anything under appreciated ruins/monuments/national parks to visit there? So far I'm only penciled in to visit dinosaur ridge in colorado. Thanks.
soufron 3 ago 1 reply      
That's what happens when you focus too much on STEMS education and forget about Humanities ;)
bdcravens 2 ago 0 replies      
Huh - about an hour ago I watched a show on Cahokia on the Smithsonian Channel, and I was amazed at how I had never heard of it before.
jimjimjim 5 ago 0 replies      
tourist attractions have fashions and trends.

places are popular because they are popular. either because of wanting to see what so many people have talked about or because they want to be able to impress people with where they have been.

davycro 5 ago 0 replies      
It's still possible, and relatively easy, to discover new ruins in the southwest. Especially around Cedar Mesa.
powera 6 ago 1 reply      
Because they look more impressive. Duh.
Videos of Evolution in Action theatlantic.com
46 points by tim_sw  5 ago   8 comments top 4
fasteo 1 ago 1 reply      
This reflects the importance of the dosage and duration when taking antibiotics.

This video shows hormesis[1] at its best: How bacteria is able to develop resistance over an increasing dose of antibiotic. I doubt that they would have been able to survive when exposed from 0 to x1000.

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2248601/

jaunkst 54 ago 0 replies      
Love it. One question, does the bacteria once it has conquered the known world does it begin to traverse backwards into the previous sectors?
kinkdr 2 ago 1 reply      
Is it really that easy to create super bacteria? What stops one from using something like this as a weapon?
Animats 3 ago 1 reply      
Wow. 11 days to develop antibiotic resistance.
How to Write Articles and Essays Quickly and Expertly downes.ca
395 points by bemmu  17 ago   61 comments top 18
tunesmith 15 ago 7 replies      
I think about presenting arguments a lot. Arguments are best represented in DAG form; mostly a tree structure, although some premises might support multiple conclusions so it's inherently graph-based (graphical data structure). Because some conclusions are often lemmas supporting further conclusions, arguments can go several levels deep.

I like envisioning them with the conclusion on the top and the premises on the bottom, although people often visualize them flipped in another direction.

But the trick comes in presenting the argument to someone else, verbally, in a presentation, or through writing. What is the best way to do it?

Because your goal isn't just to impart information; it's also to be convincing and to hope that your counterparts get invested in the conclusion.

I find that if the conclusion is counterintuitive, then starting with the conclusion can create resistance. People love to interrupt and argue against something they disagree with even if they haven't thought it through.

On the other hand, starting with a bunch of premises devoid of context can just feel unrooted.

I guess I generally try to analyze the argument to find the highest (closest to conclusion) points that are not controversial, start with those, and then try to talk about the surprising conclusion that they imply. It can be a real workout, though, trying to anticipate responses, being open to feedback while still working towards your conclusion.

I wonder if this sort of thing is related to any algorithmic concepts, like most efficient ways to walk a DAG.

idlewords 15 ago 2 replies      
The best guide I've ever read to writing nonfiction is William Zinsser's "On Writing Well". If you do any writing for work or pleasure, his advice is indispensable:


tikhonj 15 ago 2 replies      
The article provides four categories of essays: argument, explanation, definition, description.

Personally, I've found it useful to think of almost everything I write as a variation on "argument". Perhaps I'm also describing, defining or explaining something, but there's always a core substrate of persuading. A integral part of defining something well, for example, is to simultaneously argue for why the defined idea is interesting and useful; without that, it's all too easy to descend into abstract nonsense.

My approach isn't universally applicableit leads to a particular writing stylebut it certainly helped me in organizing my writing and organizing my thoughts. Whenever I write I'm always making a point even if I wouldn't classically think of it as a "persuasive" essay.

philelly 15 ago 2 replies      
this essay's style seems endemic in tech writing: logorrheic and trafficking in technical details/protocols in place of the underlying principles (cogency, brevity, a single unifying argument that can be simply stated).

i appreciate any tips to aid my writing, but i think very few match the tried and true approach of reading masters of the craft and revising one's writing, again and again, for brevity. i suspect that the blog format discourages the latter.

osteele 14 ago 3 replies      
Cf. Paul Graham's The Age of the Essay (2004) http://www.paulgraham.com/essay.html

Graham's essay is and describes a fifth category of essay. Graham calls this approach meandering; it might also be called exploratory.

WhitneyLand 10 ago 2 replies      
What is Stephen Downes primary job? He describes himself as a senior researcher and makes bold claims of pioneering and important work in the field of e-learning.

Maybe I'm missing his peer reviewed research, I don't see any. I read one unreviewed paper on "Learning Objects" and it had so much fluff it bordered on crankery.

Best I can tell he writes blog posts and articles for web sites.

joshmn 15 ago 0 replies      
I really like stuff like this. You know, where it's laid out in a straightforward, no-noise formula for doing something. Does anyone have any more of these types of things? Social interactions, design patterns, anything. I love them.
Spooky23 15 ago 0 replies      
If you focus on the basics, writing descriptive text is really easy.

Structure is important. First, be direct and make whatever assertion of statement that you are going to make. Next provide arguments, facts or other narrative that support the assertion. Finally close the narrative.

Avoid trying to be too clever. An essay isn't a conversation, and introducing conversational tone is confusing to the reader. Don't be funny. Edit mercilessly.

Finally, before you start writing, have a plan about what you are going to say, either in your head or in an outline. Don't let the mechanics of writing get in your way -- if you know what you are going to say, it will be easier to say it.

jcoffland 13 ago 1 reply      
Was anyone else bothered by the numerous type-os? I counted at least 10.
mgalka 1 ago 0 replies      
What a great post! Very clear and practically helpful. Thanks for posting.
bikamonki 14 ago 0 replies      
You cannot fake expert. You cannot rush expert.
dredmorbius 9 ago 1 reply      
This essay is a counterexample to its own argument.

It's poorly written, verbose, poorly organised, self-serving, and offers little in the way of solid advice.

An expert essay should have a point and purpose, and execute it with competence. This means a few things, but among others, it means having a grasp of your subject, an understanding of others' understanding or lack of it, a firm grasp of the boundaries of your subject, if those are salient, and the capacity to communicate clearly and with interest. Recognising that all writing is a favour to the reader and not the author is also key.

I'm contrasting this essay and its glib advice to Neal Stephenson's "Why I am a Poor Correspondent", in which Stephenson excuses his infrequent presence in email, online discussions and social media, and on interviews and conference panels: he requires long blocks of time, and days of them on end, to be able to produce his primary product, long and complex novels.

I've occasionally spilled out long essays in a single continuous pour with little further major revision necessary (though numerous fixes, corrections, and tweaks are virtually always needed). The experience is an exception, and almost always happens only on material I've been thinking over for a long time -- weeks, months, years.

I'm sitting on at least a half-dozen essays and reviews right now that I've been kicking around for most of the year, so nine months, simply because I've not had the time and space to organise my thoughts and secure uninterrupted keyboard time in front of a system at which I can call up and incorporate references, and do the topics in mind proper justice. It's frustrating, but as with David Byrne, when I've nothing to say, my lips are sealed. Or at least that's my goal.

There's a difference between firehosing words onto a page or into an edit-buffer, and actually writing a coherent, cogent, intelligent piece.

This piece fails at that, and fails (other than by contradiction) to show how.

lutusp 15 ago 2 replies      
Why am I not surprised at the poor quality of this writer's prose? An uncontroversial observation that's made worse by its intent -- to teach others how to write. Even the title --

"How to Write Articles and Essays Quickly and Expertly"

-- contains a contradiction: by definition, an expert doesn't require tutorial instruction (expertise is not a transferable consumer product). The essay goes quickly downhill from there.

One more example:

"But part of it is a simple strategy for writing your essays and articles quickly and expertly, a strategy that allows you to plan your entire essay as you write it, and thus to allow you to make your first draft your final draft."

The observation this sentence makes is self-falsifying. The sentence is too long and meandering and cries out for the compassionate intervention of an editor.

partycoder 13 ago 1 reply      
For some basic tips, I have found the site "foxtype.com" to be very good. It analyses your text for politeness and conciseness it asks you to rephrase text.

-- (now, this is the foxtype suggested text)

For some basic tips, the site "foxtype.com" to be good. It analyses text for politeness and conciseness and it suggests alternatives to phrases.

nxzero 10 ago 1 reply      
Citing authoritative sources is easily the easiest way to be seen as an expert. Next is having them cite you as an expert source, which is not as hard as it might seem.
nwatson 14 ago 0 replies      
Pragmatics ... en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pragmatics
curried_haskell 15 ago 1 reply      
bencollier49 13 ago 0 replies      
The Falling Man esquire.com
98 points by kareemm  8 ago   22 comments top 6
chiaro 5 ago 0 replies      
The so-called psychotically depressed person who tries to kill herself doesnt do so out of quote hopelessness or any abstract conviction that lifes assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fires flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. Its not desiring the fall; its terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling Dont! and Hang on!, can understand the jump. Not really. Youd have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.

- David Foster Wallace

jessaustin 6 ago 2 replies      
As a culture, we really have a misguided attitude about suicide, stemming largely from the insidious just-world fallacy. It's a comfort to many of us in this fucked-up world, to think that maybe it's not as unfair as it seems. As persistent as that warped logic is, it doesn't withstand suicide. We don't want to imagine we could ever face a truly intolerable situation, so instead we imagine a world that doesn't allow such, and we damn those whose deaths would contradict us.
Spooky23 6 ago 1 reply      
A former colleague was there and witnessed this. He struggles with it for a variety of reasons, including that he would have been inside a few minutes later.

The way he put it, which says it all for me, was that the jumpers were a sort of testimony to the fact there was no way out and no hope for the people trapped up there.

There's lots of cultural stigma to suicide, and one of the reasons for that is there is always reason to hope. The poor souls up there ran out of reasons.

Rhapso 6 ago 2 replies      
I've allways found it odd that a culture that so values personal freedom: "the right to choose what to do with your life" so activity denies the right to choose how to end it.
damienkatz 5 ago 1 reply      
One very morbid question I have is were some of the jumpers actually pushed? Some of the pictures you see people crowding to the few available edges, a crush of bodies trying to breath. Wouldn't some of the people on the edges have been pushed by those further inside?
nickthemagicman 5 ago 4 replies      
Why were there no parachutes? It would at least have given them a chance.
22nd Century C procedural.github.io
81 points by Procedural  8 ago   39 comments top 11
mieko 5 ago 5 replies      
I've spent two decades writing C and C++, but the last 8-9 years in really high-level languages (Ruby, Javascript, Python). From either end of the spectrum, I've never felt the need for such emphasis on fixed-sized numeric types.

I've commonly needed access to fixed size numerics, like when sending texture formats to the GPU, defining struct layout in file formats and network protocols, but I have never once thought: "You know what, I'd like to make a decision as to the width of an integer every time I declare a function."

"Just has to work" low level code was the norm during the 16-bit to 32-bit transition, so it was a fucking pain. Notice how smooth the 32-bit to 64-bit transition went? (and yes, it was smooth.) I credit that to high-level languages that don't care about this stuff, and people using better practices like generic word-sized ints and size_t's in lower level code. Keep that stuff on the borders of the application.

I've noticed a decent-sized emphasis on type size in both Crystal and Swift, two not-entirely braindead newer languages. I don't get it, it's a big step backward.

cperciva 3 ago 0 replies      
You can write C in any language. You can also write any language in C.

The fact that it's possible does not imply that it's a good idea. Some of the macros here are in common use (e.g., countof, although often with other names); some will make experienced C developers say "what's this? Oh, you mean <insert expansion here>; why did you use a weird macro?"; and some, like the redefinitions of case and default are actively hostile and are guaranteed to result in bugs when exposed to experienced C developers.

For more of the same, see "things to commit just before leaving your job": https://gist.github.com/aras-p/6224951

dikaiosune 6 ago 0 replies      

 fn main() { println!("hello, world"); }
I kid, I kid. This looks cool!

jdmoreira 1 ago 0 replies      
Maybe the author wanted this to be C99 compliant but a cool thing is that by using clang we even have lambdas. It's called blocks, the same as in Objective-C. http://clang.llvm.org/docs/BlockLanguageSpec.html

I've been using them in all my new C code, since I'm stuck to clang anyway, and it's awesome.

transfire 8 ago 0 replies      
Still using header files in the 22nd century?
em3rgent0rdr 6 ago 2 replies      
I don't get it. Could someone summarize/explain this.
alxmdev 4 ago 0 replies      
Very cool! I wasn't aware of the cleanup attribute, can't wait to try it out:

The cleanup attribute runs a function when the variable goes out of scope. This attribute can only be applied to auto function scope variables; it may not be applied to parameters or variables with static storage duration. The function must take one parameter, a pointer to a type compatible with the variable. The return value of the function (if any) is ignored.


dpc_pw 2 ago 0 replies      
That is very impressive. I really like the cleverness and cleanliness of these "hacks".

Still... I wouldn't introduce it into existing/shared codebase due to risk of confusing everyone, and I will never start my own project in C again.

microcolonel 5 ago 2 replies      
The "case" and "default" overrides seem kinda dicey.
generic_user 6 ago 1 reply      
I'm not sure that 'address' is desirable.

 int adress adress adress foo;

 int * * * foo;
Double pointers are extremely common and triple pointers show up now and then.

Also '__attribute__ cleanup' as far as I know only works with automatic variables that live on the stack. Mucking about with code execution and automatic variables as the stack unwinds is not a style I would like to see in general purpose C coding. Its the one type of automatic memory management that you get for free and can't really screw up.

The rest of the macro loops and so forth seem fairly standard. Its good to experiment and explore what you can do with the compiler and the preprocessor.

Mathnerd314 5 ago 2 replies      
Too little too late. Rust is already taking over, by the 22nd century C will be dead.
Rethink How to Pitch a VC. From Mark Susters Posts Series medium.com
4 points by gtabx  49 ago   1 comment top
mdda 18 ago 0 replies      
Since there's no link at the of Part 5 to part 6:

Part 6 : https://bothsidesofthetable.com/sorry-guys-it-s-the-size-of-...

Part 6cont : https://bothsidesofthetable.com/pitfalls-in-market-sizing-pa...

Part 7? : https://bothsidesofthetable.com/pitching-a-vc-dealing-with-c...

... and then the numbering / search functionality seems to hit a dead-end. Pointers welcome...

A star that has plutonium in its spectra wikipedia.org
63 points by sgt101  7 ago   17 comments top 3
tdy721 3 ago 3 replies      
Yes Yes Yes! There's the distinction of "Natural Elements" and I've always suspected that it was a somewhat temporal distinction. While I believe that the Periodic Table is a Universal Truth, "Natural" vs "Man-Made" elements always struck me as a Earthly way of looking at things. Not bad, just not the whole truth.
givinguflac 5 ago 1 reply      
Interesting. I wonder what elements are created when a rare star like this goes supernova. Though as this type is so rare, we may not know if they even do.
Stratoscope 2 ago 1 reply      
A star can't have have plutonium in its spectra. A single star doesn't have spectra, only a spectrum.

If you were talking about multiple stars, then yes, they would have spectra (the plural of spectrum).

To be clear, I don't mean this as a criticism of the submitter. :-) In fact, I appreciate that the title was changed from the original Wikipedia title to bring out the interesting part. Just wanted to note a little detail of spelling/grammar that is easily confused.

Plus, plutonium is only one of the interesting things about Przybylski's Star. It is a really weird star!

The biggest surprises from living in a simulated Martian habitat for a full year newatlas.com
51 points by curtis  8 ago   16 comments top 5
endgame 1 ago 0 replies      

I'm sure this is an interesting article but the only way we will stop this practice is if we stop giving user-hostile publications our eyeballs.

OneTwoFree 3 ago 5 replies      
They never talk about very important factors: relationship and sex. No one can expect that these people will just stop doing it, but it could cause serious issues as there's nowhere to go after a break up.So they will take drugs to suppress these emotions? What alternatives are there?
ebirebivbi 2 ago 0 replies      
Maybe I'm antisocial, but noise from housemates drives me up the wall. I can't relax or concentrate with the sounds of people doing things adjacent rooms, and headphones only mask certain kinds of noises, and sometimes you don't want to wear headphones. The hab's design would be better if it gave people more privacy and separated the rooms around the circumference, and had better soundproofing.
nylsaar 6 ago 1 reply      
To spend a year in such tight spaces is quite an accomplishment. I wonder what could have been accomplished if the mission included a goal of remote material manufacturing. It might answer can we survive together and can we thrive together while doing so. Plus, I'd love to see what material could be made using Unmanned Ground Vehicles.
reddytowns 5 ago 2 replies      
The very last sentence:

It's the whole thing about living in a common space where everyone has to share and it's difficult at times but we got through it, we're on the other side now.

was the only mention of personal friction. I admit that I might be over analyzing here, but it's such a strange cultural thing that we can't talk about anything except the most positive emotions when dealing with other people. Why is anger, hostility, annoyanceetc. so taboo to mention in public?

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers justice.gov
53 points by cinquemb  8 ago   13 comments top 5
neolefty 6 ago 0 replies      
> Furthermore, this case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes views on these types of infrastructure projects.

I find this whole statement strangely moving for a government memo.

I'm sure there will also be a popular cynical reading of this, and I can understand given the history, but hope springs eternal.

> Therefore, this fall, we will invite tribes to formal, government-to-government consultations on two questions:

mixermf 6 ago 0 replies      
"...construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time."
gragas 6 ago 0 replies      
I'm almost certain that construction will continue at some point in the future.
themartorana 6 ago 2 replies      
I'm not sufficiently versed to have this opinion probably, but why are we building pipelines all over the place? Isn't oil a dinosaur (heh heh) at this point? I mean, no, obviously the world runs on it, but I expect to in my lifetime see insane leaps in solar tech and rollout, huge jumps in the percentages of electric cars on the roads, driverless cars reconfigure if and how people buy cars, and so on.

Is the US really growing its oil use so much we need two or three new pipelines?

jnordwick 5 ago 3 replies      

Therefore, construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time. I hope this is the start of mineral and property rights for the land. We have people living and dying because they cannot use their land productively. This is socialism people. It kills people.

As a Sioux native, let us use out land white men do, collateral on loans, to build business, but you string us up telling us what we can and cannot do with our land. I why can we not be allowed to do what the white man does?

As a Sioux I approve.

When Will New York City Sink? nymag.com
42 points by prostoalex  7 ago   17 comments top 8
fennecfoxen 1 ago 1 reply      
> Jacob responded with a declaration that our urban planning is irrelevant and decried shortsightedness of decision-making. As an example, he cited the Hudson Yards development, just one of many waterfront megaprojects that the city has continued to enthusiastically promote, even after Sandy. He thinks that the government should instead rework its policies to relocate assets away from the water.

I think Jacob commits the opposite error, failing to discount the future. If Manhattan real estate is worth "hundreds of billions of dollars" as an asset, then it's worth tens of billions of dollars a year as a value-stream. If we're talking something like Hurricane Sandy causing $33 billion in property damage in New York, that's maybe one year of the property market's value. That's a quite small "weather tax" in the grand scheme of things, and if we're talking a multi-century trend, well, it might come time to contemplate taking down the skyscraper after a few hundred years, assuming the world hasn't perished in a global thermonuclear war where Manhattan was the first target and assuming that the city still prospers.

And remember that Manhattan is an island literally named "many hills". The Financial District is low-lying but only because it's artificial land. Midtown would be pretty solidly unaffected for a good little while.

rdtsc 4 ago 0 replies      
I got to see a small scale example of a city sinking when on vacation in some islands off of North Carolina's shore. Some of those islands experience pretty aggressive erosion. Streets simply appear and disappear during tides. Large chunks of asphalt sticking out on the beach were a street used to be. Yet people still live there (well vacation mostly) even though during high tide in part they can fish from their porch.

It was strange to see because that is not usually how homes and property are thought of. You buy, and hold on to it, and then sell it. There you buy and then the ocean comes and takes it, and it's gone. Most of those places were vacation homes, except for one where a little old lady was living permanently. We gave her all our groceries we had before leaving, She seemed rather grateful. I was wondering what her plans were for when erosion got to her house. I imagine asking that would upset her, so I didn't.

realusername 16 ago 0 replies      
Somehow related to this article, I recommend reading the interesting SF novel "Depth" by Lev Ac Rosen (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Depth-Lev-AC-Rosen-ebook/dp/B00XGXA...).

The novel takes place in a future where New York is underwater and life is now arranged on the skyscrapers that are high enough to step outside. The isolation of the city, culturally and physically from the mainland affected a lot the city and this aspect is highly detailed in the novel.

IANAD 6 ago 2 replies      
mgalka 2 ago 1 reply      
I've seen a lot of projections like this, showing areas that will someday be underwater when sea levels rise. But am I missing something? Why wouldn't people just build barriers to keep the water out?

That may be prohibitively expensive for some places, but for Manhattan, I have to imagine the cost would be small compared to the alternative.

shmerl 5 ago 0 replies      
sbmassey 5 ago 0 replies      
Some day a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets
Hondor 5 ago 2 replies      
Why any concern about private land being flooded? Landowners who are worries about it can sell it now, before anyone else has cottoned on or if they want to take a risk, they can keep it. It's an individual decision for each land owner, and they're the ones who'll suffer the effects of their own personal choice. Doesn't seem like something for anyone to really worry about.
Formidable Playbook: A practical guide to building modern applications formidable.com
25 points by yugoja  6 ago   5 comments top 4
diggan 1 ago 0 replies      
They should probably rename this to "A practical guide to building applications with webpack" instead, mentions nothing else but webpack and plugins for webpack...
the_duke 2 ago 0 replies      
Seems to be a very rudimentary work in progress.
pbreit 4 ago 0 replies      
The "modern application" development situation make this novice's head spin. Rails/Django/Express so much easier.
briandear 3 ago 1 reply      
Pales in comparison to Thoughtbot's https://thoughtbot.com/playbook
The Painstaking, Secretive Process of Designing New Money fastcodesign.com
44 points by lnguyen  8 ago   13 comments top 5
bane 7 ago 1 reply      
I have a small collection of banknotes, among which include occupation bills from various powers during WW2 and bills just before and after a major switch in governments (before/after Russian Empire/Soviet Union, before and after the Iranian revolution, etc.).

One thing that's always been interesting to me with the new bills is how quickly new governments (invaders or usurpers) put in place new, high quality, currency. It's almost like, along with the artillery and occupation force, engravers are the next to be flown in and put to work.

> "The issue for us is it needs to be a security document . . . [but] its also a cultural document,"

I find the cultural document the most fascinating thing about collecting money. Governments tend to put on bills the most important propaganda they can think of. Important buildings, people, public works projects, cultural activities and myths. I don't care much about the monetary value of what I collect, but the place in history that money represents.

This new currency is definitely going to be cool to add to the collection.

grecy 33 ago 0 replies      
Australia has had polymer banknotes for 25 years now. Canada just went polymer, using the same printing presses as Australia (the first Canadian 20s were actually printed in Australia until Canada could get their own printing presses)

As a world traveler, I'm always excited when I see countries that have gone to polymer notes - even poor ones - Guatemala years ago, Guinea now has a polymer note.

I'm still utterly shocked the US does not have polymer banknotes. Sometimes I think "because that's the way it's always been done" will be the end of moving forward in the US.

Animats 4 ago 2 replies      
Few in the US seem to know this, but all ATMs in China have been recording currency serial numbers for several years now. It's an option on US ATMs and currency counting machines.
ipsin 3 ago 0 replies      
Bill designs incorporate a lot of public features in order to help people figure out when bills are legit.

I do wonder how many non-visible features they hold back, in order to recognize the case when high-quality fakes have landed.

Does this actually happen, though? I mean, are there examples of hidden features on older currency?

homero 6 ago 4 replies      
What's the point when you can just counterfeit old ones?
How Pittsburgh Became Ubers Driverless Testing Ground nytimes.com
57 points by sethbannon  9 ago   33 comments top 8
jayjay71 4 ago 1 reply      
I can't tell from the picture, but their test track looks like where we used to test self-driving cars when I was a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon. Except when I was doing it, it was basically dirt (most of it not even roads) in a super-sketchy part of the city. The Roundhouse, where we kept the cars, looked like an abandoned building - in fact, and I am not exaggerating, 1/3 of the roof had collapsed in on the building.

It'll be interesting to see what impact this has on the city of Pittsburgh. Mayor Peduto is definitely a progressive guy who is very gung-ho about reinventing the city.

Here's another interesting fact - almost none of the initial 40 engineers that Uber poached from NREC had any previous experience with self-driving cars. Those guys mostly went to Google, and a handful created a startup called Ottomatika which was acquired by Delphi.

TheSpiceIsLife 8 ago 1 reply      
I wonder how people felt when the automobile revolution was taking place. Probably a mixture of all the same things people are feeling now, human nature being what it is. Could probably look up the newspapers of the time to get a feel.

I like that bit in the article where it says the local politicians have stayed out of the way - that's the sort of thing politicians mostly should do.

For me the real turning point will be when the first passenger hails an autonomous vehicle that doesn't have a human behind the wheel, I'll be satisfied with a remote operator, because that will be truly novel as current laws asume a human behind the wheel.

brandonmenc 8 ago 2 replies      
If a car can drive itself around Pittsburgh, it can drive itself anywhere.
Animats 5 ago 0 replies      
Singapore already has some autonomous taxis in test.[1] They have a backup driver on board, as do Uber and Google.

[1] http://mashable.com/2016/08/25/driverless-cars-starts-singap...

yari_ashi_zero 4 ago 1 reply      
I lived in Pittsburgh from 1989 to 1991, very close to Carnegie Mellon University. One of their technical departments (CMU) had a self-driving car (really a van like a UPS van) even back then ; we saw it driving around our neighborhood sometimes. I think it always had an operator standing by inside it, for override.
hprotagonist 8 ago 1 reply      
step 0: poach an entire department from CMU.
cmurf 7 ago 4 replies      
Why is it OK to protect American IT jobs with limited (or expensive) H-1Bs, but it's Ok to replace commerical drivers with autonomous vehicles? Why is one kind of protectionism Ok and the other overdue for being squashed?
The battle between Tesla and your neighborhood car dealership washingtonpost.com
29 points by eplanit  8 ago   19 comments top 11
techsupporter 6 ago 1 reply      
I am so opposed to walking into a dealership and buying anything that my last three vehicles were bought from private sellers on Craigslist. After the most recent crapped out, I gave up even on that and now use transit full time. The entire ecosystem around buying, owning, maintaining, and disposing of privately-owned automobiles is just...well, bad to me. And I'm tired of dealing with it so I won't. Instead, I give car2Go, ReachNow, and ZipCar around a hundred dollars per month, an insurance company under $20/month for a non-owner liability policy, and my employer gives me a transit pass as a benefit (though my household does have fare expenses for my spouse and kid).

(Offer does not apply to cities without a viable mass transit system. Your experience may vary. See a doctor for transit trips lasting more than four hours. Ticket vending machines on the upper level. Do not cross or stand in the roadway.)

linuxhansl 2 ago 0 replies      
Personally I will not miss the car dealer trying to pull every stunt on the planet to get me committed (having you wait around "We're trying the find a car for you", the "I want to help you, but I need to convince my boss", mingling the trade-in with the new price, etc, etc).

I have yet to see a single car purchase where the dealer added any value whatsoever instead of just being a nuisance in the way to buying a car.

Of course they are afraid. They should be. Deep down they know they're not needed.

henrikschroder 5 ago 1 reply      
> Legislatures want to open up markets for electric vehicles but are wary of undercutting dealers, which are local economic and political engines.

Which, if you think about it, means that the local community is overpaying for their cars, and this money funds the dealers. We're generally ok with middlemen taking a cut if they add value, but I don't know anyone who thinks car salesmen add any value whatsoever, they're just an annoying hindrance between you and the car you already researched and wanted.

If everyone was super happy about car dealers, allowing some manufacturers to skip the dealerships wouldn't be an issue, because people would still use the dealers for the value they add.

But people aren't, which is why only the dealers themselves, and the politicians they've bought are fighting to keep them around. Everyone else just wants them gone.

c3534l 3 ago 0 replies      
It seems to be a recurring theme that policies meant to protect special economic interests from things like prices and competition might seem good in the short-term, but over time are bad for everyone. Except government seems to follow a law of bureaucratic entropy: policies, exceptions and departments are a lot easier to expand than take-back.
Agustus 6 ago 0 replies      
I cannot wait until the day I do not have to step into a car dealer and deal with the slimiest of the slime and feel of taken advantage of.

I was for Chris Christie until he gave in to the lobbying of the car dealers and stopped Tesla from selling directly to the customer. The front end aggrandizing is great, but when you have the choice to help the consumer and you whiff, say good bye to support from me.

LanceH 6 ago 0 replies      
"...persuading an increasing number of states to allow it..."

I would love to see this covered as, "...persuading an increasing number of states to not prohibit it..."

savrajsingh 4 ago 1 reply      
It's almost funny how the car dealers realize they provide no value to customers.
madengr 5 ago 0 replies      
Screw car dealers, screw them.I'll also be happy when those eye sore dealer lots wither up. Nothing more hideous than gobs of cars packed together in sprawling lots with cars on ramps, gimmicky billboards, and massive light pollution at night.
rdtsc 3 ago 1 reply      
So if legislators with their car dealer friends ban Tesla from selling directly to consumers, could Tesla do something like "We'll pay for your flight out to nearest place you can buy a car and drive it home. You'll get free nice hotel stays on the way home?" I can see that for someone buying a Model S or Model X. The sale was not made in that state so it should be fine.

What would the states do then? I am guessing force buyers to pay a steep registration tax, but they'd just have to word in a very strange way. Can't people then just register the car quickly out of state and then re-register it locally so it looks like "a move" legally and not a sale? It seems for any trick these states can come up with, the other, Tesla friendly, states can come with an alternate trick to counter it...

ars 3 ago 1 reply      
Isn't there a federal law about states not being allowed to interfere in interstate commerce?

What could they possibly do to ban internet sales?

How to Become a C.E.O.? The Quickest Path Is a Winding One nytimes.com
117 points by hvo  14 ago   61 comments top 10
hluska 14 ago 2 replies      
A guy I used to work for once described his path to the top of a large company as, "being lazy enough to want to delegate everything, having enough experience in enough fields to know who to delegate to, and being smart enough to know what tasks are worth your time."

(That's paraphrased slightly)

godzillabrennus 14 ago 3 replies      
Ben in the book "The Hard Thing About Hard Things" summed up how one becomes ready to be CEO of an early stage company nicely. You become trained to be a CEO of an early stage company by becoming the CEO of an early stage company.

It's not a defined role, its deserved by someone who is capable of pulling off success in business by controlling anarchic situations. It's not like they can teach the skills to do that in school.

seattle_spring 10 ago 1 reply      
Huh. If I were to go off of all the resumes that come across my desk, I would have thought the quickest way to becoming a CEO is to:

1) Go to a hacker school like Hack Reactor

2) Start a website that takes you ~8 weeks of spare time to build

3) Call yourself CEO of that website and ask for $180k salary!

ajeet_dhaliwal 12 ago 3 replies      
The answer isn't quite technically correct. The absolute quickest path is to incorporate a company and then make yourself the CEO.
hodgesrm 5 ago 0 replies      
The more interesting question is how to become a successful CEO. One thing I have noticed is that good CEOs can frame important problems in a way that allow other people (ideally good ones that the CEO hired) to solve them.
hammock 11 ago 1 reply      
On the interactive chart- why does the likelihood of BECOMING a CEO go UP with greater experience? Wouldn't it go down over time, as in, if you haven't made CEO yet you never will?
yuhong 7 ago 0 replies      
As a side note, I have been thinking of Yishan-style CEOs for a while now, with board of directors tweeting often too. Twitter itself would probably be a good candidate for such a public company.
xyzzy4 13 ago 2 replies      
The quickest path is to be born into a rich family with connections.
20yrs_no_equity 13 ago 3 replies      
This is based on a survey of Management Consultants. For those who have not worked with Management Consultants, or seen the Showtime series "House of Lies", these are not the guys you want to be your CEO. (The TV show is fictionalized, of course, but it's based on a book written by a management consultant.)

Their characteristics are rapaciousness, self focus, political and emotional manipulation and greed. They do well for themselves, not so well for the company.

So, I question the premise of this article from the beginning as its source material is not successful CEOs who spent more than 10 years at the company in question or in the CEO role.

Edit: I see I'm being buried. To be fair, there's a difference between a "management consultant" and an consulting engineer. consulting engineers get stuff done. Management consultants can also come up with great ideas (as shown in the show I referenced above) and can legitimately add value. But they are best as consultants, not employees and not CEOs. Of course generalizations are false if applied strictly- there are exceptions.

I just think that a better survey of successful CEOs would be necessary to draw any serious conclusions.

AND - more specifically- having worked with management consultants and a variety of CEOs of startups who didn't have startup backgrounds, for a startup you generally don't want a management consultant as your founding CEO.

myf01d 11 ago 1 reply      
1. Be born to the right family.

2. Be asshole enough to manipulate people working for you and get credit for their work.

3. Be a good actor and convince others that you really know what you are doing.

4. Be smart enough to not get into details.

Newly Discovered Optical Vortex Was Never Noticed Before aps.org
26 points by jwfxpr  8 ago   5 comments top 4
biot 1 ago 1 reply      
If the main light pulse is traveling at the speed of light and the vortex travels with it, that implies that the vortex must have one edge traveling at 2x the speed of light... but that's not possible. How does this reconcile with relativity?
ChuckMcM 4 ago 0 replies      
Ok, that is pretty cool, the paper is here: http://journals.aps.org/prx/pdf/10.1103/PhysRevX.6.031037

I'm still trying to get my head around the idea of a wave propagating in such a way that it imparts an angular momentum on things.

rcthompson 6 ago 0 replies      
I think the most intuitive explanation from the article was the analogy of a laser beam blowing smoke rings with light.
DebianDog A small Debian Live CD debiandog.github.io
58 points by dragonbonheur  11 ago   27 comments top 7
keithpeter 18 ago 0 replies      
Runs like Puppy (copies image to ram so very fast UI and logs in as root user) which is why I imagine the author is explaining that although it shares the puppy linux approach to things, it uses Debian native package management.

Networking does not appear to use the network manager, wpasupplicant is installed. There is a tray icon for managing network configurations (right-click) but it did nothing at all until I dropped into terminal and ran 'ifconfig wwlan0 up'. Then it attempted to scan for network but found none. Running lsmod suggests that the iwlwifi modules are loaded. I will have to actually read the documentation/google to work out what to do to get wifi working. It might be a firmware thing, so I'll try it on an old Thinkpad that has an atheros wifi card.

Looks nice with good font rendition &c. No office suite at all. I suspect that this is aimed at older desktops for music/browsing &c.

Food for thought: if planning a small live image like this, spend a lot of time and testing making sure that wifi will work in a logical way with graphical UI straight out of the box. Even for broadcom/intel &c adaptors unless no-proprietary-wifi is part of the deal.

dewiz 9 ago 1 reply      
I've been looking for super minimal Debian images as docker baselines, perhaps someone could marry the two ideas of quickly testing Linux distros with docker and live distros on CD/USB.

On an unrelated note, the web site is unreadable on my smartphone (androids chrome), and I'm quite fed up with web sites that are either superslow or unreadable on small devices...

harikb 8 ago 0 replies      
> Downloading DebianDog be ready to learn different package manager and different system setup in Debian manner.

Is this a typo?

Edit: I guess he meant different from Puppy Linux. Confused me since I had no idea what is Puppy Linux

unicornporn 10 ago 6 replies      
Looks awesome. But who really uses a CD for live distros in this day and age? A flash drive would be more apt example. This made me think about how traditionalist large parts of the linux community is. :)
sunstone 10 ago 0 replies      
angry-hacker 9 ago 0 replies      
Author took the time to make the site take the with port width on small devices but hides the content with that ugly sidebar menu... I'm not sure about this. It would make more sense to leave it as it is for mobile.
networked 10 ago 1 reply      
>[DebianDog] is not Puppy linux and it has nothing to do with Puppy based on Debian.

Even though https://debiandog.github.io/doglinux/ states the same prominently, this should still be emphasized on the linked page.

Why Ruby is an acceptable Lisp (2005) randomhacks.net
123 points by behnamoh  13 ago   88 comments top 15
ekidd 12 ago 2 replies      
Author here. Let me explain where this article came from, since people keep digging it up every few years to discuss it. :-)

I spent some time during the late 90s learning all kinds of cool ways to use Lisp, courtesy of a couple Boston startups, including IS Robotics (now better known as iRobot). And I'd helped introduce Scheme to another employer. Scheme made it ridiculously easy to create domain-specific languages, but it was obviously a niche technology.

Around the same time, I'd heard Matz speak to a room full of Lisp hackers at the Lightweight Languages conference. He'd elegantly explained why Ruby was cool several years before Rails became widespread. But I don't think many of us understood what he was saying until later.

When I finally realizedthanks to Railsthat Ruby could mimic many of the most common Lisp metaprogramming tricks, I mentally kicked myself and wrote this blog post. There were a lot of great responses from other bloggers, too. My goal was to help make other people aware of some fun new possibilities.

Anyway, if anybody has any questions, I'll try to answer them later this evening when I'm back online. It's fun to remember when this stuff was so new.

KeatonDunsford 12 ago 2 replies      
For a 2005 article, this is totally awesome, as well as that Steve Yegge response. But in 2016, it's hard for me not to get excited about what's seeming like Clojure's upward trajectory into the mainstream and want to jump on board 100%. To paraphrase Rich Hickey, Lisp and immutable functional programming totally rock, and the JVM and Javascript just reach (ClojureScript). As our systems get bigger and more quality is demanded from our software, it'd be so cool if we could get behind this as a standard, in all the growing technology fields -- web and mobile (Om.next for React and React Native), big data, AI/machine learning, Dockerization/containerization and even decentralized stuff (Pelle Braendgaard's Cloth library for Ethereum is a start, and I was just talking with some awesome people in the Clojure Slack channel working on Boot tasks for IPFS, and soon the Golem Network project will be launched which will be super dope). Hell, even designers can start designing in Clojure now. It's just Simple, and as the community grows, rallying behind it is only going to get Easier. People were raving with React Native about how JavaScript developers could now all the sudden start coding mobile apps. How cool would it be if there was just one awesome language, the one true immutable functional Lisp, where everybody in tech could understand each other and collaborate? I genuinely think this is Lisp's revenge (shoutout David Nolen!).

It's been tough for me as a new developer to learn this stuff without nearly as many resources as there are in the Python and Ruby communities for beginners, but there's no question this is the (near-term) future. Plus, a lot of that stuff just complects everything anyways and doesn't have to apply anymore (read: mutable state, no Value on Values).

Let's keep it Lispy. ;)

lispm 12 ago 0 replies      
> The most common use of LISP macros is to avoid typing lambda quite so much


 CL-USER 1 > (let ((n-macros 0) (n-with-macros 0) (with-macros nil)) (do-all-symbols (s (values n-macros n-with-macros)) (when (macro-function s) (incf n-macros) (let ((name (symbol-name s))) (when (and name (> (length name) 4) (string-equal name "WITH" :start1 0 :end1 4)) (incf n-with-macros) (push s with-macros)))))) 1186 ; macros 182 ; with- macros
Note also that

 (with-slots (a b) foo (+ a b))
is not the same as:

 (call-with-slots foo '(a b) (lambda (a b) (+ a b)))

kevin_thibedeau 13 ago 3 replies      
Tcl is a better lisp than Ruby. Homoiconic. Yield and tailcall make it easy to implement FP idioms. Macros available if needed.
white-flame 9 ago 0 replies      
1) "Ruby is a denser functional language than Lisp"

Lisp is a regular, explicit language. It does not strive for micro-density, but rather tends to achieve macro-density by allowing more expressive abstraction and transformation in the larger componentry of your projects. Its regularity around parenthetical s-expressions is the source of its expressive power.

Things like "(+ (aref x 3) 4)" are larger than "x[3]+4", but the operations and source code representation in Lisp are directly accessible to matching and transformation without having to go through extra rigmarole to deal with classes of AST node objects or whatever. This makes the usefulness of these features immediately accessible for everybody, and useful for quick utility, not just major undertakings.

2) "Ruby gives you about 80% of what you want from macros"

I'm sorry, but this section is simply ignorant of what Lisp macros are for. Simple syntactic sugar is obviously possible with macros, but certainly not its major use. Providing abstract constructs that require custom code generation, creating lower-level boilerplate (like auto-creation of introspective data structures and customized support functions), and wrapping custom behavior around inline scopes are the primary uses I've seen and used. Ruby can do a little of it, but I see no "80% of what you want" there.

3) "Ruby's libraries, community, and momentum are good"

Quicklisp was created after this article was written, and has been a godsend to the community. Lisp tends to develop a very roll-your-own culture because of its quick accessibility of creating abstractions, but the ease at which you can publish & reach for libraries with QL has brought a lot of cultural shift towards reuse. There are a ton of both esoteric and practical libraries out there, and common libraries for threading, networking, OS interaction, etc, are the common case now (and actually have been for quite a while before Quicklisp as well).

There's tons of interoperating flexibility because the language provides a huge baseline (especially its object system), so it doesn't all need to lock into an on-top-of-Lisp infrastructure that would constrain the programmer's options. It's a good time to be in Common Lisp.

hyperion2010 10 ago 0 replies      
I have read the point about hygienic macros before. I have been working with racket and common lisp and I cannot tell you have annoying it is to be trying to learn macros and continually having to fight racket to let me do what I want. CL on the other hand seems to get out of the way and let me shoot myself in the foot just fine. I'd say that from a learning standpoint hygienic macros (ala define-syntax) are a roadblock because they introduce a whole bunch of hidden state which is hard to build a mental model of until after you have encountered regular macros.
ufmace 12 ago 5 replies      
I'm glad to see this, and even more interested that it was written in 2005. I've read lots of rants about how awesome Lisp is supposed to be from Paul Graham and Steve Yegge and all. But I never see anything significant being written in it or using it, so I haven't felt all that tempted to try learning it.

Meanwhile, I've been using Ruby for a while, and the metaprogramming capabilities are pretty cool. It sounds a lot like what all of the Lisp enthusiasts are saying is so awesome about Lisp to me. So I've always wondered what it is that's so awesome about Lisp that Ruby doesn't already have.

nabla9 11 ago 2 replies      
>But, for the sake of argument, I'd like to boil them down to two things:

> LISP is a dense functional language.> LISP has programmatic macros.

First of these is wrong and second is just picking something from feature list without any concern of practicality.

When someone writes Lisp as LISP and speaks about functional programming, I get the feeling that the author has not programmed with Lisp outside school (or knows only Scheme). Using toy examples don't help.

There is also problem with treating Lisp as a single entity. It's like Treating C++ and JavaScript as the same language because their syntax looks similar to someone who is not actually programming with them.

There are at least two major "schools" of lisp. Traditional Lisp style with Common Lisp as it's main representative, another being Emacs Lisp. The another is Scheme & Clojure camp that goes towards different goals.

Dangeranger 12 ago 0 replies      
Eric did a very good job predicting the direction of Ruby and Rails back in 2005, as well as the reasons why people chose them as tools over what existed at the time.
RangerScience 12 ago 1 reply      
The poingant guide link (implimentation of the "belongs_to" class function) is a string of redirects. Anyone have a copy of the original?
steveklabnik 13 ago 2 replies      
pjmlp 12 ago 1 reply      
I fail to see how it can be an acceptable Lisp when it lacks the AOT/JIT compilation as part of the standard toolchain and the development productivity of Common Lisp environments.
Grue3 11 ago 1 reply      
This is a pretty bad article. The part that makes Lisp unique is hardly lambdas (every language has them, even Javascript), or being functional, but rather stuff like homoiconicity (and therefore macros). And once one scrolls down to that part, it's full of ignorant statements like "the most common use of LISP macros is to avoid typing lambda quite so much". It demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of macros, because they're executed at the compilation step, before the program is run. It's a zero-cost abstraction (wrt performance). Not that anyone writing in Ruby cares about that.

Look at this example from the article:

(defmacro with-each-natural-number (n expr) `(each-natural-number (lambda (,n) ,expr)))

It assumes that the programmer already wrote a function each-natural-number that does the required functionality when another function is passed into it. That's the Ruby way, because it only has functions, not macros. A good Lisp programmer would never write such inefficient code. Why create a local function here when you can easily write a macro that expands into a loop with expr as its body?

So, indeed, if you write in Lisp as if it were Ruby, then Ruby is an acceptable Lisp. If you write in Lisp as it's supposed to be written, then Ruby is ridiculously restrictive, and slow.

LaPrometheus 10 ago 0 replies      
No, It is not acceptable.
What China Has Been Building in the South China Sea (2015) nytimes.com
49 points by tmlee  10 ago   6 comments top 3
teh_klev 5 ago 0 replies      
rasengan0 1 ago 1 reply      
China has every right to protect their potential $5 trillion in trade. International law does not matter. No one else will fight them for it. To do this, requires lots of sand, casinos and go go dancers. Capital flight from corrupt officials' relatives will feed lobby machines and eventually quell these Western Dalai Lammy cliques worldwide
hoodoof 4 ago 1 reply      
This is not the end game of China's ambition, its just the start.
Six big economic ideas [pdf] economist.com
204 points by denzil_correa  19 ago   50 comments top 7
eternauta3k 18 ago 6 replies      
If this sparks your interest in economics, I highly recommend looking at Econtalk: http://www.econtalk.org/archives.html

I love the episodes with Mike Munger, because they usually cover basic economic concepts (and also Mike has a great rapport with the host Russ).

thr0waway1239 17 ago 2 replies      
Thomas Sowell [1], an almost-published novelist turned hard core economist (i.e. got his Ph.D. in Economics) is one of the best writers of economics books, many having a libertarian slant.

I recommend the following books especially - 1. Basic Economics 2. Applied Economics and 3. Knowledge and decisions.

He also produced a crazy detailed trilogy about culture and has written an autobiography which might read a bit like the written version of Mad Men. He often remarks that he is 1/3rd as old as America itself.

And even if you end up completely disagreeing with his opinions, it is worth it to check out at least one of his works to see that it is possible to write economics books which are not utterly boring.

[1] After 9/11, he turned into a slightly loony war hawk. But his best work was produced before that.

nl 17 ago 1 reply      
If you want to read one of these, read the Hyman Minsky one. Minsky spent his career explaining the 2008 financial crisis, even though he died in 1996.

Libertarian will hate him (he supported Keynesian economic intervention) and yet neo-Keynesians will hate him too (he thought HicksHansen model was oversimplified to the point it wasn't worth using).

But his predictions came true. That's pretty rare in economics, so people were forced to pay attention.

rer 10 ago 0 replies      
Can anyone summarize these six big economic ideas?
thr0waway1239 17 ago 2 replies      
We could create 6 TLDR threads for the 6 ideas so we could discuss them in their own branches. Any TLDR volunteers? :-)
neom 17 ago 0 replies      
Seeing as this has turned into book club. Highly recommend two books, neither of them are pure economics, however combined they give a fascinating overview of the last 70 years of the american economy, as well as some really interesting ideas for what the future might look like:

Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business Hardcover May 17, 2016by Rana Foroohar (Author)

Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier Paperback January 31, 2012by Edward Glaeser (Author)

zumu 15 ago 7 replies      
I am admittedly woefully uninformed about the topic, but why is it discussions of economics seem so much more verbose than those of math and science? Perhaps it's just this article, but all this flowery language and backstory should be optional.
FlyWeb Pure Web Cross-Device Interaction mozilla.org
122 points by siavosh  15 ago   25 comments top 8
digi_owl 13 ago 2 replies      
Could make IoT make sense after all, if each device come with their own switches across an open protocol rather than rely on proprietary apps.
luney 14 ago 1 reply      
This is a cool idea. I'd love to see it easy to create apps that can communicate using something like this and/or Bluetooth mesh networks
williamle8300 8 ago 1 reply      
This is nice, but let's not get our hopes up. It could have the same fate as Mozilla's Persona that was released couple years ago.
BHSPitMonkey 11 ago 1 reply      
How is this different than just an ordinary old http service advertised on mDNS? Is it just the idea of listing nearby ones in a browser's UI?
giosch 12 ago 1 reply      
This is the next step after cordova-like development tools to create networking crossplatform web app. I like it. My only concern is about security
jsprogrammer 9 ago 0 replies      
I wonder why this doesn't use WebRTC (at least it wasn't mentioned)?
egfx 5 ago 0 replies      
This is a repackaged idea that has many incarnations including one I built. People have been thinking about this sort of thing for years.
Sanddancer 11 ago 2 replies      
This is a security nightmare. You now have an application -- a web browser -- that can be turned into a server by any malicious person with even a modicum of skill. It means that any other part of the payload no longer has to worry about setting up services, etc to covertly communicate back to the main site, that's all handled by the browser, which now has all the proxy settings and all of the keys to do so like any other traffic. This is just a terrible idea for very marginal benefit.
HTSQL A comprehensive navigational query language for relational databases htsql.org
57 points by networked  11 ago   13 comments top 4
seibelj 9 ago 1 reply      
This tech / company was profiled a few years ago in the NYT http://mobile.nytimes.com/2011/03/24/business/smallbusiness/...

Essentially no way to profit from it, so the founder gave up

Twisell 3 ago 2 replies      
This could have been great but to be useful to me it would need to have a way to use parameters in DB functions.

I know this is specific so here I go to find the source code and see if it's possible to add this... After 5 pages... No clear way to source code... Meh...

>For works that we would incorporate into our repository, we do require intellectual property assignment. In exchange, we give our word as a open source covenant that we will maintain this work and not take it soley proprietary with your contributions; else, we will release this entire work under the Apache license if future support is not forthcoming. We do not have a contribution agreement yet prepared, but when needed, we intend to model it after the Contributor Agreement, described by Bruce Perens The Covenant - A New Approach to Open Source Cooperation.

I guess it's time to go Apache don't you think? You gave you word ;)

DEinspanjer 9 ago 2 replies      
Interesting and powerful looking, but no releases or significant community activity since 2013? There are some answers in StackOverflow, so it doesn't seem to be dead by any means, but worrisome.
noisy_boy 5 ago 0 replies      
I was wondering if for a REST api, it might be a good idea to provide a htsql endpoint beside regular REST endpoints. E.g. a /htsql/<htsql_expression>; what do people think?
Read Scheme Resources for Functional Programming readscheme.org
50 points by michaelsbradley  12 ago   3 comments top
Edmond 7 ago 1 reply      
if anyone is looking for a quick Scheme environment to play with try letzcode.com, I built it as an EdTech project. It is basically a REPL as a messaging app.
Ants are destroying plants by nurturing perfect aphid colonies arstechnica.com
71 points by em3rgent0rdr  14 ago   18 comments top 7
Hydraulix989 4 ago 0 replies      
For months, I've had an Argentine ant problem, as in an infinite side-by-side congo line of them marching from my living room to my kitchen.

I tried a bunch of things; the number #1 liquid ant borox bait trap killer gizmo on Amazon just made a bunch of them die, but it didn't kill the colony. I just kept laying out more and more traps, but the ants would just die and fill up the trap, then the other ants would somehow learn that the trap was bad, and never touch it again, but interestingly enough, they would go in, and carry away their dead comrades.

Apparently, because Argentine ants have multiple queens, forming a giant macro colony that vertically spans the entire state of California. You get one queen, and they won't be down for the count, they'll just come right back. These are stubborn, resilient little buggers.

I then tried caulking the cracks along the bottom of the sheetrock next to my windows that they would keep coming out of, and I sealed that whole thing up good; it worked for about a week, and then the ants managed to eat through the caulking!

Anyhow, there were aphids were all over the vines(?) going all the way up the side of my house and up over my window. Once we removed the vines entirely, the ants were gone for good.

Sorry about the incomplete sentences and run-ons, I'm tired...

larubbio 10 ago 1 reply      
Aphids are fascinating (if annoying in the garden). They are capable of telescoping generations [1] which means an aphid can be pregnant with an aphid that is also pregnant.


They also can grow wings if the colony gets overcrowded or the plant they are on is starting to die.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telescoping_generations

Alex3917 12 ago 1 reply      
Mugwort is invasive, causes allergies, and is probably the single most-common street weed growing in NYC. So probably not a huge problem for the aphids to kill as much as they can.

The cooler story about aphids though is the dancing wooly aphids, which should be starting to colonize beech trees right around now. In addition to dancing when you shake the tree, there is an entire species of fungus that grows only in the honeydew left by the aphids. These are the black masses that you see on pretty much every single beech tree:



Fortunately they don't harm the beech trees, esp. since they're mycorrhizal with chanterelles and black trumpets.

M_Grey 12 ago 1 reply      
Ants are incredibly impressive creatures, that appear to have been engaged in activities we usually consider to be uniquely human. Their history of agriculture, "animal" husbandry and city building, not to mention some clever air conditioning solutions predates our existence as modern humans.

Impressive little creatures when you get them in a group, and they're almost always in a group.

reitanqild 12 ago 0 replies      
As someone who now finally have conquered the aphids in my plum tree after destroying the ants nest next to it this rings true.
jcoffland 11 ago 3 replies      
I've been battling aphid farming ants in my garden for years now. It's kind of fun to watch them tend their aphids but they wreak havock on plants. I've used diatomaceous earth to repel the ants. It acts like tiny shards of glass that gets caught in exoskeletons. The ants hate it. But it's ineffective of it gets wet. I'm interested in trying Tanglefoot. Anyone have experience with this product?
bikamonki 10 ago 0 replies      
I feel like going back to read GEB, see if this time I get it...
In the Beginning Was the Command Line (1999) inria.fr
129 points by ohjeez  17 ago   43 comments top 14
leoc 14 ago 2 replies      
Reproducing an ooold comment from elsewhere https://www.reddit.com/r/programming/comments/hwnm/unix_the_... :

The real problem with Stevenson's account is that the command line is no more the True Reality Behind Appearances than the GUI is; it's just another shadow on the cave wall. (Especially on Unix, where the shell is just another user-space program.) Eben Moglen identified the problem with the GUI (as we know it) http://www.cabinetmagazine.org/issues/1/i_moglen_1.php more precisely:

> What I saw in the Xerox PARC technology was the caveman interface, you point and you grunt. A massive winding down, regressing away from language, in order to address the technological nervousness of the user. Users wanted to be infantilized, to return to a pre-linguistic condition in the using of computers, and the Xerox PARC technology`s primary advantage was that it allowed users to address computers in a pre-linguistic way. This was to my mind a terribly socially retrograde thing to do, and I have not changed my mind about that.

(Which seems a fairer comment on the Lisa or Macintosh than the [2016 edit: LRC work] at PARC, where they were trying to teach children to program http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=155364&dl=ACM&coll=por... .)

In Doug Engelbart's words http://www.technologyreview.com/read_article.aspx?ch=infotec... :

> Here's the language they're proposing: You point to something and grunt.

chias 14 ago 1 reply      
This is wholly tangential to the thesis, but

When Ronald Reagan was a radio announcer, he used to call baseball games by reading the terse descriptions that trickled in over the telegraph wire and were printed out on a paper tape. He would sit there, all by himself in a padded room with a microphone, and the paper tape would eke out of the machine and crawl over the palm of his hand printed with cryptic abbreviations. If the count went to three and two, Reagan would describe the scene as he saw it in his mind's eye: "The brawny left-hander steps out of the batter's box to wipe the sweat from his brow. The umpire steps forward to sweep the dirt from home plate." and so on. When the cryptogram on the paper tape announced a base hit, he would whack the edge of the table with a pencil, creating a little sound effect, and describe the arc of the ball as if he could actually see it. His listeners, many of whom presumably thought that Reagan was actually at the ballpark watching the game, would reconstruct the scene in their minds according to his descriptions.

I'll be damned if Ronald Reagan wouldn't have made an amazing Dungeon Master.

qwertyuiop924 14 ago 0 replies      
IBWCL is dated, true, but it's still an excellent essay, and I would argue required reading for anyone learning about programming, computing, and/or UX/UI. If nothing else, it provides an excellent understanding of what abstractions are, and what sort of tradeoffs you make by using one, while still being more or less comprenhensible to the layman, unlike Steve Yegge, who covers more programming-specific topics, although often of the same nature.

Knowing this stuff is important, because in computing, abstractions are pretty much what we do. We build them, manipulate them, argue about them, consider them harmful, and continue to travel up and down the endless stack of turtles. Knowing why the endless stack of turtles exists is important and useful, and that's part of what this essay provides.

Kadin 15 ago 0 replies      
I actually find this version, with commentary added in 2004, somewhat more interesting than the original:


The 2004 comments are now of course 12 years old, so they're not much newer than the original text, but it's interesting to have two datapoints to draw a line between (1999 and 2004) and see where the trajectory of the future seemed to be headed over that period, versus where it actually landed.

krylon 14 ago 1 reply      
The description of emacs never fails to make me smile: "emacs outshines all other editing software in approximately the same way that the noonday sun does the stars. It is not just bigger and brighter; it simply makes everything else vanish"
zwass 8 ago 1 reply      
This essay set me off on an Odyssey of discovery and exploration. I learned emacs, Bash, gained an appreciation for abstractions in a mindset strongly influenced by this philosophy.

If you enjoyed his essay, it is well worth reading Neal Stephenson's novels. I would start with Cryptonomicon or Snowcrash.

oliv__ 1 ago 0 replies      

 This is exactly how the World Wide Web works: the HTML files are the pithy description on the paper tape, and your Web browser is Ronald Reagan
This is hilarious.

GrumpyYoungMan 10 ago 2 replies      
From a Slashdot interview with Neal Stephenson in 2004:

"I embraced OS X as soon as it was available and have never looked back. So a lot of 'In the beginning was the command line' is now obsolete. I keep meaning to update it, but if I'm honest with myself, I have to say this is unlikely."


phjesusthatguy3 13 ago 0 replies      
I first read this essay as an ebook on my Newton (what was the 3rd party tool? Paperback?), and the title mislead me to believe I was reading Cryponomicon, so I was highly surprised when I read the actual Cryptonomicon.

Man, this Android phone I'm carrying around now is such a step down from that Newton.

gopher2 6 ago 0 replies      
Dang. What great writing! Descriptive, interesting, inspiring. It just makes me smile and I'm glad this was shared. It seems like a classic that lots of people are familiar with, but I've never read it before.
hossbeast 7 ago 0 replies      
Quoting from the end,

I think that the message is very clear here: somewhere outside of and beyond our universe is an operating system, coded up over incalculable spans of time by some kind of hacker-demiurge. The cosmic operating system uses a command-line interface. It runs on something like a teletype, with lots of noise and heat; punched-out bits flutter down into its hopper like drifting stars. The demiurge sits at his teletype, pounding out one command line after another, specifying the values of fundamental constants of physics:

universe -G 6.672e-11 -e 1.602e-19 -h 6.626e-34 -protonmass 1.673e-27....

coldcode 14 ago 0 replies      
What I think in the beginning was a stack of cardboard with holes in it. I remember talking with old programmers in my first job who started out programming with switches, who by that point in the early 80's were using terminals to write batch programs with one compile-run cycle per day (they usually worked on multiple apps at a time this way). You won't catch me lamenting progress.
Esau 14 ago 0 replies      
I remember this essay fondly because, at the time, I was using BeOS. Seems so long ago now.
dang 16 ago 0 replies      
Lots of submissions: https://hn.algolia.com/?query=In%20the%20Beginning%20Was%20t...

But no major thread in a long time, it looks like: https://hn.algolia.com/?query=In%20the%20Beginning%20Was%20t....

So by HN's standards this isn't a dupe: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsfaq.html.

22-year British student invents a mobile fridge that could save many lives bbc.co.uk
46 points by denzil_correa  11 ago   27 comments top 6
userbinator 9 ago 2 replies      
It works by heating ammonia and water to create ammonia vapours, which are then released into its main chamber when cooling is needed.


This does not seem particularly novel, just a miniaturisation of a very old type of refrigerator.

BetterThanYou 9 ago 1 reply      
Nothing new about this. Only thing "new" is the attempt to virtue signal with old technology. No, wait, that's not new either.
maxerickson 9 ago 0 replies      
The project page on the Dyson Awards site manages to admit that it's based on old technology that Einstein thought up:


I guess the proposed novelty is that it can be carried in a backpack and would be designed specifically for cooling vaccines. My reading of it suggests that there isn't much in the way of a practical model just yet (they show pictures of a prototype, but I wonder how long it has sustained cooling).

Dylan16807 10 ago 4 replies      
So what's the new part? We have portable propane fridges. Is it cheaper? More efficient?
rascul 7 ago 0 replies      
Doesn't look like it would hold many beers.
tomohawk 10 ago 5 replies      
Foolish not to get a patent or control the intellectual property. Without that control, someone else will, possibly to the detriment of the intended purpose.
       cached 11 September 2016 10:02:02 GMT