Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

October 31 Bucket o' Links: "Links, Explosions, and People Talking" Edition

Welp, Friday post goes out on Sunday NO shut up it's still saturday is that how this daylight savings thing works HRMPH. (It's not.)

Anyway, I'm in the middle of writing some stuff about a topic that's almost certainly going to end up being controversial, and I've decided to publish some of it, and I'll get around to doing the part where I actually say things later. Anyway, that's a work in progress; here's a finished linkwrap!

First, meta of metas, if you like my takes on (some subset of) the week, maybe also check out other people's linkwraps that have come out in the last day or so:

Vigrin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo [exploded in midair on Friday](http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-29861259), killing one of two test pilots. In [a press statement](http://www.virgingalactic.com/news/item/statement-from-virgin-galactic/), CEO George Whitesides says:

"Space is hard and today was a tough day. We are going to be supporting the investigation as we figure out what happened today. We're going to get through it. The future rests in many ways on hard days like this, but we believe we owe it to the team, that has been working so hard on this endeavour, to understand this and to move forward. And that is what we'll do."

Reminds me a quote from The West Wing, specifically, from C.J. Craig:

We have at our disposal a captive audience of schoolchildren. Some of them don't go to the blackboard or raise their hand 'cause they think they're going to be wrong. I think you should say to these kids, "You think you get it wrong sometimes, you should come down here and see how the big boys do it."

I think you should tell them you haven't given up hope and that [the lost probe, Galileo 5] may turn up, but, in the meantime, you want NASA to put its best people in a room and you want them to start building Galileo 6. Some of them will laugh and most of them won't care but for some, they might honestly see that it's about going to the blackboard and raising your hand. And that's the broader theme."

Speaking of speaking to audiences of captive schoolpersons, Bill Maher is slated to speak at UC Berkeley's fall commencement, there's an almost-5,000-strong [Change.org petition](https://www.change.org/p/university-of-california-berkeley-stop-bill-maher-from-speaking-at-uc-berkeley-s-december-graduation) asking the university to rescind the invitation, and [Berkeley refuses to do so](http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2014/10/29/campus-statement-on-commencement-speaker/):

The UC Berkeley administration cannot and will not accept this decision, which appears to have been based solely on Mr. Maher’s opinions and beliefs, which he conveyed through constitutionally protected speech. For that reason Chancellor Dirks has decided that the invitation will stand, and he looks forward to welcoming Mr. Maher to the Berkeley campus.

It should be noted that this decision does not constitute an endorsement of any of Mr. Maher’s prior statements: indeed, the administration’s position on Mr. Maher’s opinions and perspectives is irrelevant in this context, since we fully respect and support his right to express them. More broadly, this university has not in the past and will not in the future shy away from hosting speakers who some deem provocative.

I'm not completely convinced that the administration's "position on the opinions and perspectives" of its invited speakers are completely "irrelevant" (there are, after all, dangerous words which can be said from positions of power), but I think that Berkeley takes the right position here -- the growing trend of protesting against controversial speakers for the views they hold is, to say, the least, concerning. The school's insistence that they "cannot" rescind their invitation is, I think, right for an institution on the side of free speech.


In other famous-people-talking news, Daniel Radcliffe, in an interview about something which is not Harry Potter, has the best answer to the question "You're becoming a bit of a sex symbol; how do you feel about that?"

"Around the time of What If, the rom-com coming out, a lot of people were saying, 'You're really an unconventional romantic lead.' And so eventually I got bored of hearing that and I kind of picked someone up on it so I was like, 'What about me is unconventional, exactly? Like, tell me. And she said, 'Well, I think it's probably the fact that, you know, we associated you with playing Harry, the young boy, for so long.'

"And my immediate response was, 'Well, the male population has had no problem sexualizing Emma Watson immediately.'"


Scary movie...scary holiday...halloween...costumes! I'd like to informally award "Best Costume of 2014" jointly to Tom Burns (What's a dad to do when his daughter wants to dress up as Han Solo for Halloween?) and Ruth Baby Ginsberg. Honorable mention for Leah Libresco, who hacked together her own Arduino-powered motion-sensitive LED bracers.

Okay, let's go back to colleges: Harvard College's administration is [accepting nominations](http://honor.fas.harvard.edu/nomination-process) for students to serve on the to-be-instituted Honor Council. Now, I'm of the opinion that the renewed focus on "academic integrity", while perhaps politically unavoidable, is legally questionable, academically stifling, and pretty much pointless, but if you disagree and think that, by being involved in the process, you can make something good of it, then you should put your name forward. (I'd offer to nominate you if you ask nicely, but **(1)** I can't figure out _how_ to submit nominations, **(2)** don't care enough to figure out how to, and **(3)** apparently you can nominate yourself, so whatever.)

Facebook is running a (as far as I can tell, free) conference in Boston titled Data@Scale: Boston, featuring talks from engineers at ConstantContact, DataXu, Facebook, HP Vertica, Infinio, Oracle, Tokutek, TripAdvisor, Twitter, VoltDB, and Wayfair. Despite having sworn off Systems programming for life after two semesters of OS, I may beg off school for a day and go hear about interesting problems from people who build the things that make the internet work for people. Let me know if you're Boston-based and interested in joining me?


The ever-wonderful Vi Hart has a great video (it's old, but I only just found it, so nyah) about what to do when people make negative comments on YouTube videos you make. And, of course, in true Vi Hart fashion, it is relevant in many many many more cases than the one to which it is nominally germane. Either do watch it now or stick it in your pocket for amusement and distraction the next time you get angry/sad/incoherent from someone else's negative reaction to a thing you've done or both or neither or whatever makes you a better person.

In other news, I don't get nearly enough feedback on my own writing (which, if you didn't know, was one of things I wanted to get out of writing this blog). If you want to be an awesome friend, let me know what you think about the things I write! Do it in the comments below, do it by email, or do it to my face! Please? Even if I don't know you well (yet/any more/IRL/except for the incidental veneer that is human interaction), I almost certainly really would appreciate your advice/input/thoughts/praise/ramblings/nitpicks/ideas for future posts.

Also this other video by Vi:

The title doesn't say it all, but it says all I could say about it: "They became what they beheld: Medium, Message, Youtubery."