Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Keeping up with Colony Collapse Disorder

It's now 10 years on, and we are still struggling to understand Colony Collapse Disorder.

Here's a Spring, 2016 update from a California-based honeybee expert, Elina L. Niño, who is Assistant Extension Apiculturist, University of California, Davis: Deciphering the mysterious decline of honey bees

Unfortunately, despite the article's optimistic title, there is not a lot of deciphering success to report. Parasites, viruses, and pesticides are all believed to play a certain role in the health of the honeybee ecosystem, and none of them are easy to fix.

Parasites are a big problem, literally:

Varroa feeds on hemolymph (the insect “blood”) of adult and developing honey bees. In the process it transmits pathogens and suppresses bees' immune response. They are fairly large relative to bees: for perspective, imagine a parasite the size of a dinner plate feeding on you.

Viruses are harder to study, but clearly important:

For example, deformed wing virus (DWV) causes wing deformities that prevent bees from performing normal work functions such as foraging for food. Viruses have been implicated as an important factor in honey bee health declines, but we are just starting to understand how honey bees' immune systems fight against them.

And pesticides have a significant role to play:

There are many gaps in our knowledge about neonicotinoids and other types of pesticides. We have little understanding about the impacts of pesticide combinations and how they affect developing bees and other pollinators. To fill some of those gaps, our lab is testing combinations of various agriculturally important pesticides on adult worker survival and queen development.

The U.C. Davis lab where Niño works is here: E.L. Niño Bee Lab (It's easy to remember, even if it has nothing directly to do with the movement of bodies of warmer-than-usual water in the Pacific Ocean.)

Way to go Alexi!

The ultra-achieving Girl Scout troop scores again: Alexi Pappas Seeks Competitive Opportunities As Greek Athlete

After her NCAA eligibility was up in 2013 at the University of Oregon, Alexi Pappas knew she wanted to continue running professionally. Her athletic goals have remained simple: to compete in as many major international competitions as possible and be at peak fitness for them.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Calling baloney

For whatever reason, I'm always tickled when somebody speaks up and says: "Hey, wait a minute, that's a bunch of hooey!"

So these all entertained me, more or less...

  • “Eat, sleep, code, repeat” is such bullshit
    It’s wonderful to be so dedicated to your craft that programming is all you ever want to do. I love that enthusiasm. It can carry you to great heights.

    But if you want to become the very best programmer you can be, make space for some non-programming activities. Let your brain stretch its legs and you might find a whole new level of flow.

  • Evaluating Delusional Startups
    If you’re in the market for a new gig at a hot startup, it’s worthwhile to spend some time thinking about if your sneaking suspicions are correct and the company you’re interviewing with might be full of pretty delusional people.
  • Myths of the Headless Company
    So when the founder tells you “nothing is going to change” it’s simply the guy who lacks enough business experience to actually run the business telling you his/her opinion.

    The reality is new CEOs are hired for a reason, they are hired to change things, that change typically involves a change in focus, and CEO changes are always risky. Sometimes they work out great. Sometimes the new person craters the company.

  • Don't quit that programming career yet because of AI
    Machine learning has been advancing at a tremendous rate, it's true. I hope it keeps up. But anyone who's dealt with ML in the real world can tell you that you're likely to spend more time cleaning and dealing with the data than the learning itself.
  • The fall of Rome and the ascendancy of ego and bluster
    Without measurement data researchers have to resort to bluster to hide the flimsy foundations of the claims being made, those with the biggest egos taking center stage. Commercial companies are loath to let outsiders measure what they are doing and very few measure what they are doing themselves (so even confidential data is rare). Most researchers moved onto other topics once they realised how little data was available or could be made available to them.
  • Proof of Concept Testing Should Never Happen
    If I am buying top quality equipment – why should I prove it works as its supposed to before I use the purchased product?
  • Can the Media Please Stop Referring to Company Size by Valuation?
    So why does the media do this? Why do they want to mislead readers by a factor of 20?
    • Because if makes the numbers bigger
    • And makes the headlines cooler
    • And increases drama
    In the end, because it (metaphorically) sells more newspapers.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Things I'm reading, late May edition

So little time, so much to read ...

  • The day Google Chrome disables HTTP/2 for nearly everyone: May 31st, 2016
    Upgrading OpenSSL packages isn't a trivial task, either. Since just about every other service links against the OpenSSL libraries, they too should be re-packaged (and tested!) to work against the latest OpenSSL release.
  • What we learned from Google: code reviews aren’t just for catching bugs
    We’ve found that the most powerful benefits of code review are the subtlest to measure and describe. Code reviews have many important side effects – arguably, primary effects – that we discovered at Google and have continued to evolve at FullStory. For us, the practice of code reviews is a “bionic cultural hammer.” It’s a “cultural hammer” because it’s a tool that strongly shapes the way we work, and it’s “bionic” because it is more powerfully self-perpetuating than any passive “coding standards policy” could ever be.
  • Start-Ups Once Showered With Cash Now Have to Work for It
    The balance of power is shifting across tech start-up land. Not long ago, entrepreneurs had the upper hand. With investors eager to get a piece of the next Uber or Airbnb, entrepreneurs often just lifted their little fingers to get financing. Some investors let the entrepreneurs choose their own terms, while others gave multimillion-dollar paydays to start-up founders long before their companies were a success.

    Now investors have the advantage. Instead of venture capitalists begging to be allowed to invest, entrepreneurs are coming to them begging for cash. Investors are exerting their newfound power by asking more questions about a start-up’s prospects and taking more time to invest. Some are pushing for management changes or for financing terms that would help cushion any losses they might face.

  • Introducing Helix: Rust + Ruby, Without The Glue.
    Just like C (and unlike Ruby), Rust is a compiled, statically-typed language. Before your code can be executed, you must first run it through the compiler, which checks for and prevents a large amount of programmer errors. Instead of allowing them to bubble up at runtime and potentially crashing your program, the compiler would just refuse to compile your code.

    Unlike C, Rust has a sufficiently advanced type system (and a carefully designed set of features), which allows the compiler to guarantee runtime memory safety.

  • Let’s Talk About Amazon Reviews: How We Spot the Fakes
    The compensated-review process is simple: Businesses paid to create dummy accounts purchase products from Amazon and write four- and five-star reviews. Buying the product makes it tougher for Amazon to police the reviews, because the reviews are in fact based on verified purchases. The dummy accounts buy and review all sorts of things, and some of the more savvy pay-for-review sites even have their faux reviewers pepper in a few negative reviews of products made and sold by brands that aren’t clients to create a sense of “authenticity.” In fact, for extra cash, a company can pay one of these firms to write negative reviews of a competitor’s product.
  • A fundamental introduction to x86 assembly programming
    In this tutorial, I will help you gain a solid understanding of the x86 ISA from basic principles. I will focus more on building a clear mental model of what’s happening, rather than giving every detail precisely (which would be long and boring to read). If you want to make use of this knowledge, you should simultaneously refer to another tutorial that shows you how to write and compile a simple function, and also have a list of CPU instructions open for referencing. My tutorial will start out clear and simple, and add complexity in manageable steps – unlike other documentation that tend to lay out the information all at once.
  • NFL star Patrick Willis is thriving in retirement as a Silicon Valley tech worker
    Monday through Friday, Willis commutes to work at a Silicon Valley office park. He's got a list of favorite lunch spots nearby. Sometimes he takes video calls from home, or instant messages with colleagues after hours.

    Like so many people who share his age range and geographic area, Willis now works at a tech startup.

  • The Puzzling Plummet of RGIII
    The story of Griffin’s exit from Washington is much more complicated than the they-had-it-out-for-him thinking that has pervaded the team’s fan base. “It’s not a single-sided issue of victimization of RG3,” said sociologist Harry Edwards, who has spent decades advising the San Francisco 49ers and observing the NFL. “It’s a much more complicated and complex issue"
  • A Historical Tour of Silicon Valley - Slide Show

    I guess my favorite picture is the original Peet's location.


  • Klinsmann Names 23 Player Roster for historic Copa America Centenario
    The roster includes 15 players from the 2014 FIFA World Cup squad, and a total of 18 who have already appeared in Qualifying for Russia 2018. Veterans like team captain Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey marshal the group boasting loads of experience. With an average of 37 caps, there are five players with 50 or more and an equal number with five or less. Meantime, John Brooks, Bobby Wood and DeAndre Yedlin lead a youth contingent that includes five players who are 23-years-old or younger

Lord Huron: a very short review

I wandered into Lord Huron the way many people probably have, via the soundtrack to A Walk in the Woods.

Trying to characterize them, I suggested that they were somewhere between Fleet Foxes and The Head and the Heart, with plenty of The Decemberists, some (early) Mumford and Sons, a bunch of The Lumineers, and perhaps even a little bit of Of Monsters and Men.

Anyway, even if it's well-trodden ground, Lord Huron do it well.

Quite well.

Cumulus: a very short review

I happened to pick up and read Eliot Peper's Cumulus.

For a book that is so trendy, so timely, so in-the-moment, it seemed somehow appropriate that I read it as an e-book. The transience, the evanescence of the e-book format just seems right for Cumulus. When everything is in the ("Cumulus") cloud, what even exists?

Anyway, back to the book.

Cumulus is set in Oakland, where Oakland resident Huian Li is the CEO of cloud computing giant Cumulus, Inc. She commutes to her office in the San Francisco Presidio by private helicopter, and lives in the "Green Zone," whose residents are transported, secured, monitored, landscaped, patrolled, and in general fully cared-for by its corporate owners.

Meanwhile, down in the Oakland flats, a loose collection of community organizers, hackers, artists, environmental activists, and others are trying to regain control of their lives in our modern over-surveilled world.

Like I said, it's trendy.

And it's written quite well, too. Here's a sample:

Vera still failed to understand how important Huian's mission was. The level of commitment required didn't leave room for fluffy concepts like work/life balance. Huian's calling wasn't a hobbyist fascination with macrame. Technology was the only scalable tool available to help shape a better future. The question was whether people chose to participate in that future or not. Huian was a harbinger of that new reality. She would stop at nothing to push forward the inexorable, beautiful, conflicted locomotive of human civilization. Dystopias were the province of the undisciplined.

"the inexorable, beautiful, conflicted locomotive of human civilization:" Peper's little capsule summary of Huian's motivation is actually a very nice assessment of both the appeal and the danger of the high tech lifestyle, and it well-encapsulates the addictive, seductive pull that Silicon Valley has upon the bright, young, aggressive, ambitious people who arrive here.

Being frank, Cumulus is a bit too pat. It follows a fairly obvious trajectory, with some other rather crudely-drawn characters who are not as interesting as Huian, and several times it seems to shy away just when it nears the brink of a true insight.

But Peper is talented, and alert, and interested in the ideas of the day. Cumulus is a fun and interesting start, and I hope he develops his story-telling skills in the future.

Friday, May 20, 2016

A catalog of potential hikes I'm investigating

There's never enough time to get up into the mountains, particularly since I don't get to go but once or twice a year.

So I spend a lot of my time dreaming about trips I might take.

I haven't taken any of these trips (yet), but I'm considering them.

If you know of anything about any of these trips, let me know!