Monday, July 27, 2015

Links and quotes, June 2015

Paul Ford's monolithic essay for Bloomberg, What is Code?, is a tour de force across the world of computing, spanning from software engineering practices down to low-level assembly. It's an excellent guide for newcomers, and has just enough wry humour to keep veteran coders entertained, too. A must-read.

On a more algorithmic note, the Fibonacci heap ruins Mary Rose Cook's life. (And for good reason; functional data structures can be a pain to update.)

On working in the game industry:

If you’re anxious; depressed; if you’re mentally or chronically ill, it’s expected of you to adapt to a harmful work environment. But if you don’t – if you break – you’re just another expendable talent who burned brightly and quickly. In a way, you were the dream; someone who delivered high-quality work – or even perfection – without staying at the company long enough to get paid.

That feeling when the hitman you hired sells you out to the police.

A tranquil waterfall scene in Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan.

Source: Hideki Mizuta / National Geographic

Bad Horse writes on entropy(?) and art in Thoughts on listening to Mahler's Fifth Symphony three times in a row. They attribute the noise-like properties of many avant garde art styles to a fetishisation of randomness, per se.

This... is what happened to music. Composers internalized the theoretical belief that unexpectedness made music more complex and interesting, rather than just listening to it and saying whether they liked it or not."

Katherine Cross on the proclivity of mainstream cis-dominated media to treat trans women as a monolith:

The real double standard lies in certain cis feminists’ obsession with outward displays of femininity on the part of trans women. Elinor Burkett sees the death of feminism in the abyss of Jenner’s corset, but ignores Fallon Fox, a triumphant female athlete whose whole career is a spurning of feminine stereotypes. Were she white and cis she would be a cause celebre of people like Burkett. Instead, she’s ignored.

I’ve never found convincing evidence that bad grammar is actually indicative of poor ability outside of writing; the construction crew that put together my house probably don’t know when whom can be used, but my house is a lot more stable than it would be if Lynne Truss and I were the ones cobbling it together.

"The concept of pitch needing to be “correct” is a somewhat recent construct," writes Lessley Anderson, chronicling the history of Auto-Tune and asking exactly how ill its portent is.

Tadhg Kelly ponders what Patreon teaches us about the relationship between artist and viewer.

When the relationship between the artist and the audience loses its intermediaries then external ideas of integrity become irrelevant. Whether you’re crafting the most noble of interactive artworks or the most naked of real money bingo games, there is no standard by which to judge.

If brand recognition ads lure us into buying things by repeated positive conditioning, then why are there brand awareness ads for shoes but not for mattresses?

Surreal neural network feedback loop generated art.
Everyone's seen Deepdream by now, right? Right.

It's not the first time someone's spent column inches pondering what MOOCs tell us about the signalling value of university degrees, and it certainly won't be the last:

The only thing MOOCs provide is access to world-class professors at an unbeatable price. What they don’t offer are official college degrees... and that, it turns out, is mostly what college students are paying for.

Old news, still interesting: the political power granted to ultra-Orthodox parties in Israel ("the fulcrum of every single government coalition from 2006 until early 2013") has given them a great deal of leverage on domestic and social issues. The result: increasing state interference/restrictions towards women in public spaces.

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