Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

Reading Feed (December 2014)


Blog: Thing of Things | Leelah Alcorn -- Thoughts on a teenage suicide.


Blog: Shtetl-Optimized | "comment 171" -- The most profound description I've ever heard of what it's like to grow up as a shy, nerdy white male.

Blog: Shtetl-Optimized | What I Believe -- Further context on Comment 171, esp. re: feminism.

Self: Facebook is Not Your Friend -- I have things to say about Eric Meyer et al.'s criticism of Facebook's Year in Review feature.

News (to me): Charles Koch Wants To Change America's Criminal Justice System


Blog: The Future of the Internet | Everything You Should Know about Warrant Canaries -- "...some libraries came up with a potential workaround: they hung signs on their entrances stating, 'The FBI has not been here (watch very closely for the removal of this sign)'."


Blog: Shtetl-Optimized | Quantum Complexity Theory Student Project Showcase 3 -- Scott Aaronson shows off some of his students' final projects in 6.845, and I make an appearance!


Blog: Thing of Things | Merry Christmas!

Blog: JeffTK | We Haven't Uploaded Worms -- on c. elegans, uploading the mind of one to a computer, and how, despite breathless headlines, we haven't really done it quite yet.

Interactive: Parable of the Polygons -- A playable blog post about "how harmless choices can make a harmful world", written by Vi Hart and her friend Nicky Case.


Crimson-Ed: Dershowitz: The Case Against Boycotting SodaStream -- if you've been following the HUDS SodaStream affair; else you're missing the context, which I don't feel like going into.

Self: [Meta] A New Face -- front page re-themed!

The backlog-working-through continues, this time addressing the contents of my feed-reader, rather than my tabs-I-have-open-on-my-laptop.

Blog: Gates Notes | Good News You May Have Missed in 2014 -- highlights: big gains in child mortality, AIDS, rotavirus, TB, polio...

Blog: Thing of Things | Brain Chemicals Are Not Fucking Magic -- "I suggest an exercise. Every time you read something that mentions brain chemicals or brain scans, rewrite the sentence without the sciencey portions... If the argument suddenly seems way less persuasive, or the news story way less ground-breaking… well. Someone’s doing something shady."

Useful Things: Coffivity -- a slick site for just piping the basic white noise of a coffeeshop through your headphones, if that's the sort of thing that helps you work.

Blog: Ben Kuhn | Links IV -- Ben's linkwrap, which overlaps a bit with this one here, but also includes things like lifetime-warranty socks. (I won't link that; you'll have to click through to find them.)

Blog: GiveWell | Donor coordination and the “giver’s dilemma” – Part II -- in which GW, in typical GW fashion, talks candidly about their plans to manage donations earmarked for charities who have run out of room for more (efficient) funding.

Blog: GiveWell | Staff members’ personal donations – giving season 2014 -- & stay tuned in a day or two for mine(!)

Blog Slate Star Codex | Debunked and Well-Refuted -- Best quote: "One of these two things has been 'well-refuted'. The other has been 'argued against'." Inquire within to figure out what Scott is referring to.

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Beware the Man of One Study -- Long, so I won't try to summarize, but mostly is what it says on the tin.

Blog: Unequally Yoked | "I like to ask: What is my opponent in love with?" -- Highlight is a video where Leah talks "a little about my own conversion, and why my approach to argument resembles Ender [Wiggin]’s empathetic approach to a fight"

Blog: Unequally Yoked | Trapped by Torture in Enmity with the World -- "Undoing the brutality of torture requires amends. This is a project of restoration, as much as reform. We need to reacquaint both ourselves and our victims with the world-as-it-is, before we distorted it into a weapon."

Blog: Unequally Yoked | Torture Report Details Wounds to Prisoners and Guards -- "The victims of the abuses we’ve committed aren’t limited to the people who were tortured, though they are certainly the most grave examples..."


Hail the triumphant return from unannounced hiatus! I will begin by first updating the Reading Feed with the backlog of-- oh god, there are so many things here. Well...

(Good!) News: FDA Lifting Ban on Gay Blood Donors

Blog: GiveWell | Update on the Ebola Outbreak -- tl;dr The tens of billions of dollars already spent to contain the Ebola outbreak were probably reasonably well-spent (i.e. on par with the world's most effective charities), but additional donations probably won't be critical to stopping the outbreak (since current projects are already on track to do that), and so additional funds are probably more effectively spent fighting more prevalent diseases, like Malaria or Schistosomiasis.

Blog: CAH Blog | How is Cards Against Humanity bribing public officials with your money?

Quora: What is LaTeX? Why should I use it? -- Really only an answer to the second question; for the rest of you, LaTeX is a document-markup language for people who care about their documents actually looking nice.

Blog: Thing of Things | On Gendered Oppression -- "[T]he privilege/intersectionality model of how oppression works? Is a model... It is not the Ultimate Truth Of How Oppression Works Forever and Ever." (and then a few cases where the model doesn't work so well, and we need to think about

NYT: Upshot Blog | What 2,000 Calories Look Like -- Some of these...look like normal meals. Good grief, what's wrong with America?

Quora: What is the best comment in a source code that you have ever encountered? -- Costya Perpelitsa's "Safety Pig", which really just need to be seen to be believed.

News: U.S. Navy laser weapon performing beyond expectations: official -- The Navy literally has a laser turret operating on the USS Ponce. It's literally a laser turret.

(Good!) News: Halving of malaria deaths 'tremendous achievement' -- In the past twelve years, 4,300,000 lives were saved! That's like the population of Los Angeles...not dying painful, preventable deaths between now and 2027, so actually fantastic news.

NYT-Ed: Pardon Bush and Those Who Tortured -- Really, in what world does the sentence "...I have come to think that President Obama should issue pardons, after all -- because it may be the only way to establish, once and for all, that torture is illegal." need to be said?

Blog: Blogging While Blue | A Meditation on Ferguson, on America -- by Tony Jack, a PhD Candidate and Associate Doctoral Fellow at Harvard

NYT: Upshot Blog | The Special Powers of Super PACs, and Not Just for Federal Elections

Blog: Gates Notes | The Novel I Gave to 50 Friends -- continuing in the trend of Bill Gates book recommendations...

Blog: Gates Notes | Can the Asian Miracle Happen in Africa? -- When Bill Gates suggests that the entire Agriculture department at the Foundation read a book, maybe it's a good book to read?

Blog: Gates Notes | The Best Books I Read in 2014

Blog: Ars Arcana | Good Taste as a Feedback Mechanism -- "So if you’re new to a domain, one of the best things you can do is develop a sense of what really good work looks like... Ultimately you need the ability to recognize and critique work that’s substantially better than your own, so you can continuously move towards that standard."

Blog: GiveWell | How personal should your giving be? -- oldie that I just rediscovered

Satire: Minority Student’s Perspective Better Be Pretty Goddamn Diverse If He Wants Full Scholarship


Blog: Speaking of existentialist ennui... Gawker | My 14-Hour Search for the End of TGI Friday's Endless Appetizers

Audio: Thus Spoke Carly Rae -- A Nietzsche / Carly Rae Jepsen knock-off/parody/just listen to it, okay?

Blog: Good Ventures | Our Grants to GiveWell’s 2014 Recommended Charities -- More than $14M moved to the world's currently-believed-to-be-most-effective charities!

Blog: PostBQP Postscripts: A Confession of Mathematical Errors -- In which my final project gets scooped by my professor catching his own errors. Oh well; literature survey, here I come!