My Faults My Own

…beleaguered by the same

negation and despair,

show an affirming flame.

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

Reading Feed (last update: October 15)

A collection of things that I was happy I read. Views expressed by linked authors are chosen because I think they're interesting, not because I think they're correct, unless indicated otherwise.


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Is the World Bank lending too much to China? — "As I understand it, the World Bank makes money on these loans and there is a cross-subsidy of other Bank activities, most of all aid. A World Bank that stopped such loans would be poorer and less skilled, and over time could devolve into one of the poorer, less effective poverty-fighting parts of the United Nations, without much of a political power base at that."


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Blade Runner 2049 (some Straussian spoilers) — "It hardly makes any concessions to the Hollywood vices of this millennium and indeed much of the Tysons Corner


John Nash, 1928-2015

CNN | Mathematician John Nash, wife killed in car crash

John Forbes Nash Jr., the Princeton University mathematician whose life inspired the film A Beautiful Mind, and his wife died in a car crash Saturday, according to New Jersey State Police.

Well, okay, somehow the fact that his life inspired a Hollywood film made it into the obit before the fact that he won the 1994 Nobel Prize in Economics. (Note: "Nash called the film an 'artistic' interpretation based on his life of how mental illness could evolve -- one that did not 'describe accurately' the nature of his delusions or treatment.") But in actuality, it's enormously difficult to describe the impact that this man had on the field of Game Theory, which now underlies much of economics, politics, and has even been applied to describe the strategy of penalty shootouts in soccer (where it closely predicts the strategies that top


Lynn Conway

Happy (belated) seventy-seventh birthday to Dr. Lynn Conway, now emerita at UMich, who was dealt a really shitty hand in life and overcame it to revolutionize the field of electrical engineering, literally write the book on VLSI design (along with Dr. Carver Mead, of CIT), and, in the past fifteen years, become a outspoken trans-rights activist. She also rides motocross.

Photograph of Dr. Lynn Conway

When I'm calling out heroes in STEM, I usually say something about the sort of challenges they had to overcome to achieve what they did, but Dr. Conway's story takes the cake. She was born physically male, which, as it turns out, is a really, really shitty thing to happen to you if you're a girl born in 1938. She's written a memoir on her life, which traverses the painfully personal, the fascinatingly technical, and everything in between, in the arc from her early struggles with gender identity; to her career at IBM (cut short when they fired her for transitioning male-to-female); to her subsequent second career-from-scratch at, well, everywhere; to her coming-out and subsequent trans activism. I don't have the words to recommend it highly enough. It's honest, raw, and inspiring -- oh, just read it.

Conway's accomplishments include:

Ozy, of their blog Thing of Things, gets credit for bringing Conway to my attention, re: #RealLiveTransAdults, in their post of thoughts on Leelah Alcorn.



It's Jonas Salk's 100th birthday (as commemorated in Google's daily doodle, above, which, ironically enough, enjoys more patent protection than does the polio vaccine it commemorates), which makes for a fine reminder that you should get your annual flu shot! By doing so, you're:

  1. much less likely to get the flu
  2. decreasing potential anxiety as a result of experiencing flu-like symptoms, which, annoyingly, are highly similar to the early symptoms of Ebola every disease ever.
  3. protecting your friends, family, the elderly, babies, and the immunosuppressed through herd immunity.


On this last point (herd immunity), Vax is a neat online game where you try to shut down epidemics by vaccinating and quarantining people; my top scores are 94%/81%/76% in turn-based mode and 94%/91%/84% in real-time mode. It's addicting, but mercifully not that long, so you won't lose days of your life to it.

Anyway. Happy birthday, Dr.


Happy Ada Day!

For reasons which are pretty opaque to me, apparently today has been designated Ada Lovelace Day? Which is kinda weird, since "October 14" appears nowhere on her Wikipedia page, but well, okay. At least it makes a convenient excuse to write a blog post, since she was a pretty damn cool person.

If you've never heard of Ada Byron, Countess of Lovelace before, there are much better places to read about her life than on my blog. (Like what, Ross? Well, uh, this piece on The Mary Sue? Is kinda over-excited, or maybe just adequately excited. In any case, probably go read it and come back.)

So yesterday, when a friend asked me the other day what exactly "theoretical computer science" was, if not programming, I thought a little bit and said something like:

Well, imagine that, instead of actually sitting down and telling a computer to do something, you



Well, I'm in the middle of a 72-hour Topology take-home final and the run-up to the submission of a semester-long Operating Systems project, so I'll try to keep this one short. But I couldn't miss the opportunity to blog today about the intersection of two of my great interests: computers, and awesome people.

Today is the would-have-been-107th birthday of Grace Murray Hopper, 1906-1992. If you don't know who she was, then I assume you're capable of clicking the above link, and so you've now learned that she left an associate professorship at Vassar to enlist in the Navy Reserve (only after securing an exemption for being underweight at 105 pounds), co-authored papers with Howard Aiken on the Harvard Mark I, and later declined a full professorship at Vassar to remain a research fellow in CS at Harvard.

When Navy regulations forced her retirement at age 60, she was recalled to

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