Wednesday Links -- 19 August 2015

Here's some of the stuff I've read about this week that's worth a comment or two.
I dunno which is the more depressing scenario, that the New York Times exposé about (white-collar) working conditions at Amazon might be true, or that this Amazon manager-of-managers' rebuttal might be true.

The guy who invented Soylent (the food substitute) certainly has some... interesting ideas about his necessity to the species. If that doesn't sound cult-manifesto enough for you, check out this (long) piece about how one Silicon Valley thought leader literally wants to turn brands into cults.

Michael O. Church on the paradoxical usefulness of anger as a social motivator—paradoxical, since anger is rarely positive for the individual holding on to it, and yet is great for pushing for social change:
The reason, when I discuss Silicon Valley’s cultural problems, for me to mention Evan Spiegel or Lucas Duplan (for the uninitiated, they are two well-connected, rich, unlikeable and unqualified people who were made startup founders) is because they inspire resentment and hatred. Dry discussions of systemic problems don’t lead to social change; they lead to more dry debate and that debate leads to more debate, but nothing ever gets done until someone “condescends” to talk to the public and get them pissed off. For that purpose, a Joffrey figure like Evan Spiegel is just much “catchier”. This is why founder-quality issues like Duplan and Spiegel, and “Google Buses”, are a better vector of attack against Sand Hill Road than the deeper technical reasons (e.g. principal-agent problems that take kilowords to explain in detail) for that ecosystem’s moral failure. It’s hard to get people riled up about investor collusion, and much easier to point to this picture of Lucas Duplan.

The ultimate lifehack...? Bring back handwriting!

"No general procedure for bug checks will do./ Now, I won’t just assert that, I’ll prove it to you./ I will prove that although you might work till you drop,/ you cannot tell if computation will stop." A proof of the undecidability of the Halting Problem, in Seussian verse: Scooping the Loop Snooper

The Peanuts comic used to be really dark. Then Snoopy showed up and mediocritized it: How Snoopy Killed Peanuts

New user KGxvi at Little Green Footballs posts In Defense of Birthright Citizenship:
Eliminating birthright citizenship doesn’t make America better. In fact, it weakens our society. It would promote xenophobia and racism by allowing a certain segment of the population to hold everyone that doesn’t look (or sound) a certain way as suspect. It would create a costly new bureaucracy that would put the onus on ordinary citizens to prove something that we all take for granted. And, it would not solve any real problems.
Pretty darn awesome for a first contribution! Plus he has the legal knowledge to back it all up.

Markets are social constructs. Sometimes the rules we lay down naively have stupid, but competition-based (free market!!1!) consequences: How Free Competition Can Create Dumb Costs

Phil Gyford comments about yet another book I should probably read:
I’m fascinated by how societies change over time, and [The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth, by Steve Fraser] is about how everyone-for-themselves capitalism has become the only acceptable political position, when there used to be more alternatives.
In "human civilization, f*** yeah" news, the World Health Organization declares Africa(!) to be free of 'wild' cases of polio(!!):
Nigeria, the last endemic country in the African region, marked one year without a case of wild polio on 24 July 2015. If continued lab results in the coming weeks confirm no new cases in Nigeria, and if the WHO African Region then goes 2 more years without a case of wild polio in the face of strong surveillance, it could be certified polio-free by the Africa Regional Certification Commission.
More generally, Donald Prothero at Skeptic magazine's Insight blog sings the praises of "science affirmers," who definitely don't get enough appreciation compared to the (deserved!) lambasting of science deniers:
So it gives me great pleasure to praise public figures who stand up for science and science-based policy, and pass laws that benefit people and the environment, rather than powerful special interests and the science deniers of every stripe. Nowhere is this more apparent than my home state, California.
And speaking of science, this study in Nature of cephalopod genomes suggests that octopi are super weird in all sorts of ways, genetically. But more intriguingly, it seems that gene complexes connected to higher-order cognition may have evolved separately. Lots of fascinating implications there.

Wednesday Links -- 5 August 2015

Here's some of the stuff I've read about this week that's worth a comment or two.

Meet Rachel Paul, the Face of Juggalo Feminism. I... okay...?
Paul simultaneously resembles both a 1960s hippie feminist and a Juggalette. She wears wraps around her head. Walking around the Gathering, you'll see her in a wife-beater, but at night she wears long robes while working as a tarot reader in the Gathering's Bizzaro World tent.

"We don't turn people away [at the tarot tent]," Paul said. "It's important shit. We're like the camp counselors."
I... okay...?
Paul grew up as a "scrub" in inner-city Philadelphia. Today, she works a day job as an editor in publishing and uses her position to help young struggling ninjas and ninjettes. She recommends them for jobs and runs the Scrub House, a Detroit halfway house for Juggalos in need.

Paul clearly loves the Juggalos, but in 2013, she realized her family needed to grow up in some departments. The Gathering's annual Ms. Juggalette pageant devolved from a celebration of women's talents to an event focused on their bodies. Porn legend Ron Jeremy had started hosting the pageant, and according to Paul and several other Juggalos I spoke to this weekend, he dismissed contestants who refused to perform sexual acts on stage, like putting Faygo bottles in their vaginas.
I... okay...?

This week in Niche Online Dating Sites, a site for people to bond over conspiracy theories, witchcraft, faeries, Bigfeet (but only if they're into that), and alien abductions. But a good rule of thumb is still probably to run if your date expresses too keen an interest in cattle mutilation.

The comments sections of these Postmodern Jukebox videos—where quite a bit of talent gets put into covering contemporary pop songs in older styles—are rather interesting. I saw lots of "music was so good back in the 20s/30s/40s/50s!" style fake-stalgia, because most likely the commenters aren't collecting Social Security checks any time soon. The funny thing is, popular music (in my opinion) sucked more back in the 50s and earlier: sure, maybe Top 40 mass-market songs are sort of boring, but at least they're catchy-boring, because they're trying to appeal to easily-bored kids who'll just latch on to the next thing in a few days. Old songs from back then were just plain boring. Much better to get modern-updated versions of the old styles, than wish that the old styles still reigned.

In food news, eating chicken is morally fungible with luring, shooting, stalking, skinning, and exporting the skin of a prized and endangered lion out of its home country, while a moral philosopher is torn between his own veganism and his cat's obligate carnism, and nobody actually cares about GMO warning labels.

Skeleton jokes, because the ride never ends.

The original title to this amazingly conceited Slate "article" was "Grilling, Feminism, and Masculinity: A Grand Unified Theory," which was then changed to "Grillax, Bro" because I guess canning the whole thing wasn't an option any more. Thankfully the comments section seems to have banded together in denouncing this guy. I'm including it just so everyone can lament with me that somehow this passes muster on real sites that real people read.

A Google Chrome add-on that turns every instance of the word "Millennials" into "Snake People." I'm sure the analogous Firefox script wouldn't be that hard to cook up.

Because so many people read it and bought emergency kits, this blog has some much-needed factual amendments to the New Yorker earthquake story. Also: pictures and diagrams!

Not everything the Yorker puts out makes me frustrated: The Cicada's Love Affair With Prime Numbers

The name is dumb (and the price is steep) but the concept is neat—KnitYak is a Kickstarter-backed clothing project that produces randomly-patterned scarves using cellular automata. So the scarf pattern comes out all fractal-y and cool. And they're based in Seattle!