My Faults My Own

…willing to sacrifice something we don't have

for something we won't have, so somebody will someday.

IN WHICH Ross Rheingans-Yoo, a sometimes-poet and erstwhile student of Computer Science and Math, oc­cas­ion­al­ly writes on things of int­erest.

Review: Ready Player One

tl;dr: For yet another techno-corporatist dystopia, I found Ready Player One a surprisingly refreshing, hopeful, humanist story about uncynical protagonists whose only superpowers are earnestly caring about something. The visual effects are pretty well on-point, the action is well-done, and the dialogue is inconsistently but occasionally witty. I went in expecting the most vapid of action movies, and was pleasantly surprised.

I'd read plenty of thinkpieces explaining ways that Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One was shallow, bad, and/or problematic, but I had an evening to burn, so I went to go see it with a friend of mine.

I'm glad that I did; I enjoyed it a lot. (I'm going to say ~nothing about the 'and/or problematic'; just not going to go there today.)

spoiler note: Mild spoilers for references, worldbuilding, and visual style. No significant plot spoilers.


On its face, it's a effects-rich action-romp. And in that genre, it felt reasonably well-done, if not particularly deep (though it had its thematic notes, see 2A below)


Review: Terra Ignota

i. e., Too Like the Lightning, Seven Surrenders, The Will to Battle; excluding Perhaps the Stars

I have many wonderful friends who consume far more media than I can ever hope to keep up with, so I'm pretty much always inundated with recommendations that I know I'll never get to. But when the same book is independently recommended to me by a (grad student in philosophy) old friend from college and a (mathy, rationalist-y) work colleague, I'll sit up and listen. And shortly thereafter, buy the entire trilogy on my Kindle for airport reading almost on the spot. Which turned out to be a good choice.

My spoiler-free recommendation is that the trilogy is extant first three books of the quartet are a brilliant feat of worldbuilding with a triple-helping of shockingly clever philosophy stirred in, clearly pitched at nerds by a dyed-in-the-wool nerd sci-fi fan. Its stylistic quirks are sometimes charming and


Onward, Abroad!

attention-conservation notice: short personal-update post

Well, I've finally told everyone I wanted to tell in person, so here goes:

Tomorrow, I'll be moving to Hong Kong (for at least a few years). I'll be working for the same firm I've been working for in New York, doing roughly the same things, and still earning to give. Most of my worldly possessions are already on the slow boat to China, so there's no going back now...

I expect to be thrown back into learning-things mode for a while, but after that to have time to travel, to live in a new place, and spend some time off the well-trodden path. Expect either more blog posts, or fewer; I'm not yet sure which.

Meanwhile, feel free to send any travel recommendations my way, or let me know if you'll be in that part of the world anytime soon -- I honestly don't know when I'll be back in the New York/Boston area next!


Donations 2017

I don't write about it much on this blog, because it it's slightly awkward to talk about, and I'm a small little mind that isn't used to fighting against hyperbolic discounting. But I remain committed to donating at least 10% of my income to the organizations that I think best make the universe a better place, and to talking about it on this blog. Here are my thoughts for 2017.


These reflect a relatively small amount of thought, reading and discussion with people in the Effective Altruism community, and effectively no independent research. I don't expect that I'm particularly advantaged in evaluating charities, and so my opinion-forming strategy this year has mostly been to seek out the opinions of better-advantaged friends who I believe share my values, ask for their thoughts and reasons, and attempt to understand them.

However, I want to support a culture of sharing and building on each others' opinions, and to that end, I'm sharing my thoughts on my donations for this year, to create


Congratulations, Margo!

It's outside my typical poetic gamut, but as tradition dictates, and with apologies to Dr. Seuss...

She's got courage and brains
and a heart of great size,
and she's witty and clever
and patient and wise.
No fictional hero (though no challenge melts her),
she's our one and only Margo Ilene Seltzer!

She's taught 61, 161, and its 2---
she's taught so many courses, and flipped quite a few, too!
She's taught 50 and 51 -- really, it's true!
But really the one thing that matters a lot
is the incredible love for students she's got,
for it's no good at all to take a genius rare
and put them in a class for which they don't care.
But that's not our Margo!
No, our Margo gives
cooler lessons than any professor that lives.
And though it's said lecturers pump into sieves,
it's the flippers that give teaching new perspectives!

Though her thesis was on file systems to start,
she's a wizard with databases as an art:
Databases for graphs


What I found in the desert

A month and a half ago, I took a plane to Reno, a bus out into the desert, and spent a week at Burning Man. This is an attempt to order some of my thoughts about that week.


Surviving (even in relative comfort) wasn't as hard my pre-trip reading billed it as. Of course, it helped that I was camping with engineers who could reliably make a plan, ask themselves what would cause it to go wrong, fix that, repeat -- and then problem-solve when something unanticipated broke. Basic competence, responsibility, and leadership -- together with a well-adhered-to norm of "make sure you have everything you personally need, even things the camp has plans to provide" ('radical self-reliance' is the usual term) -- left us with a lot of slack.

From there, it was mostly just a matter of drinking enough water / electrolytes, noticing when I needed to eat, remembering sunscreen and moisturizer and lip balm, wiping my hands and face and feet for dust, and using earplugs, a


Chelsea Manning / HKS IOP / "Visiting Fellowship"

Here are some Harvard Crimson headlines from this week:

So here we go...


One of the more annoying things about this affair has been the way the discussion has chased a dramatized, misleading version of the facts. To borrow a phrase, the commentators (in my social bubble) seem content with -- if not actively interested in -- framing the matter to produce heat, instead of light.

The easiest antidote for this is actually to read Dean Elmendorf's statement announcing and explaining the withdrawal of the IOP's Visiting Fellow appointment. I say this not because I agree with the decision or Elmendorf's justification, but because it at least explains what the decision was:

Some visitors to the Kennedy School are invited for just a few hours to give a talk in the School’s Forum or in one of our lecture halls or

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