I understand how the Codensity operator optimizes a certain class of functions!

This is not the most useless thing I’ve ever learned, but it’s pretty close.


That game,

That game, where the first person to get emotional loses? It’s a shit game.

Put not your faith in heroes

Heroes never disappoint. But you can’t accept other people (or yourself) unless you can handle them disappointing you from time to time.

Heroes are flawless. But you can’t accept other people (or yourself) unless you can accept their flaws as well.

But worst of all, heroes imply villains. If you put your faith in heroes (or think of yourself as a hero) you’ll find yourself looking for people to think of as villains.

There are no villains, and no heroes. Because there are no sides.

I resolve

I resolve to be sincere, and not afraid to be sincere. Somehow we’ve inherited a culture that looks down on sincerity, that sneers at it and distrusts it. Enough of that.

I resolve to listen to something that makes me uncomfortable.

I resolve to not detach from those close to me, and not to hide one part of myself from another part of my life.

I resolve to admit when I’m wrong.

I resolve not to win.

And I resolve to come to terms with my anger: not to hide or suppress it, not to blindly express it, but to try and recognize the 99% of the time when it’s blinding me to the truth and the 1% when it’s capable of motivating change.

You will have to change.

I mention this because it seems to terrify people, so let’s get it up front and centre so we can get over it.

The world is not going to get fixed around you, with you sitting serenely untouched in the centre. Each of us is going to have to put our own house in order. Each of us is going to have to look inward, find those places where we are wrong, and root them out. Your heart and mind are the foundation. Without securing that foundation, we cannot build safely on top of it. And without recognizing it’s initial flaws, and seeing the effects of those classes on others, we cannot truly connect to others and move forward together.

(Topical example of the day: Darren Wilson. There’s a man who’s never looked inward or asked himself if he might be wrong. And that’s why he’s a failure, a coward, and a monster.)

Would it be uncouth to say today…

…that remembering is good and proper, but we also need to learn?

The joy of biting my lip.

I’m in line behind two chatty folk pining for the good old days. Apparently everything was better then and it’s worse now and it’s everyone else’s fault. Now you know.

My current good fortune

As of today, I’ve been working at Google for four years. It is officially the longest I’ve ever been at any one employer in my life. It feels good, but it’s the nervous kind of good, the kind where you wait for the other shoe to drop.

In my “plan” ten years ago, such as it was, I had a tenure-track job at a university ages ago. I’m mostly at peace with the failed state of my mathematical career, but there’s still a twinge of disappointment. What there also is, though, is the recognition that the bar for tenure-track jobs is much higher than I ever realized. I wasn’t looking at tenure correctly. I saw tenure in terms of its ideal benefit to society (academic freedom), while the people in a position to offer tenure-track jobs see tenure in terms of its benefit to them (perk to attract talent), and its inconvenience to them (can’t fire at will). As soon as the academic job market tipped in favour of employers, the inconvenience outweighed the benefit to employers and the principle of academic freedom didn’t matter worth a damn.

Problem is, this principle doesn’t just apply to academia, hence me waiting for the other shoe to drop. Google is flying high: they offer a great deal of job security at the moment. They also have a great many words to say about ideal benefits and principles. My task, right now, is to be damned sure I don’t value those words any more than they’re worth. Microsoft offered a great deal of job security once. So did IBM.

The mistake I made was believing I’d made a deal with society: pay your dues and get security. But society, by which I mean the interests of the powerful, will shiv you in a heartbeat if it can get a short-term benefit from your cooling corpse. I’m still getting off relatively easy; society’s barely noticed me yet. For that I feel truly fortunate.

I used to be a mathematician, and played in made-up worlds in my head. I still think it was useful but it takes me too long to explain why. It definitely wasn’t sustainable.

Now I’m a computer programmer. It’s far more sustainable, for me anyway. I still spend most of my time in made-up worlds. They’re less interesting than the other worlds.

What’s unfortunate is that I’m only now beginning to suspect that there are other, far more important worlds that I’ve never been a part of. Worlds that aren’t made up.

I’m too old to be a revolutionary.

What happens to other people, happens to me

One other thing as long as I’m feeling loquacious.

A month or two ago I saw a social media post by a coworker lamenting the amount of politics she saw online. She wanted to separate the personal from the political, and off the cuff defined political as stuff that happens to other people.

I realized at the time how backwards I thought that was. There is no division between the personal and the political. What happens to other people, happens to me. That’s the basis of empathy and I feel, strongly, that we’re all going to have to learn this if we’re going to survive the next century as a species.