I just got back from San Francisco. This wasn’t my first time to the west coast, but it was my first time to Northern California. Overall, I had an amazing time.
Continue reading A New Yorker’s Take on San Francisco
I’m in San Francisco, will be back this Monday. Have lots to say. This trip has been… well, a trip.
I took a look at my WordPress calendar, and realized I haven’t written a post in over a month. A sad state of affairs — I guess my blog waxes/wanes in and out of popularity for me.
One thing I have wanted to do is to create a “schism” in my blog between the political and technological sections. I realize there is no sense forcing my audience to wade through technology posts to get to the political stuff they may be interested in, and vice versa.
The main thing stopping me from doing so is the fact that even as I have a single blog for these two topics, I hardly find the time to post to either of them. That isn’t to say I don’t have much to say. I’ve been reading quite a bit lately about Lisp (for the first time in my life), and have interesting ideas surrounding my use of Eclipse technologies and modeling tools at work. I have been following a lot on the political side of things, from Libby’s commuted sentence to debates over globalization, to WSJ’s potential new owner. And I’ve finished a slew of books, from John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Affluent Society to Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel.
But I just lack the time to write. I’m busy at work (at least 10-12 hours a day, when you include commute time), and the last thing I want to do when I get home is use computers some more. Which is sad, but an inevitable result of my situation.
I truly do not want this blog to die. How might I save it?
Lately, I’ve been very diligent about catching up on my reading.
I have been perpetually delaying a review of Capitalism 3.0 and Dreaming in Code, both of whom deserve it. But I promise one soon. I use Hofstadter’s Rule of Thumb lately for estimating time: however long you think it’s gonna take, double it and add a unit of time. So if you think it’ll take two hours, it’ll really take four days. If you think it’ll take five days, it’ll really take 10 weeks. And so on.
In the meanwhile, I’ve been busy at work — actually working on some cool stuff from a technology standpoint, mainly in the realm of hacking with pieces of the Eclipse Modeling Framework, and its related projects like GMF, RCP, Eclipse Core, etc.
On my commute, I’ve been enjoying reading Making Globalization Work by Stiglitz. Although one of my friends mentioned to me that this book would be quite boring, and for the most part he was right. Not the lofty stuff of Barnes in Capitalism 3.0; but perhaps Stiglitz’s recommendations are much more practical for ways to improve the current system.
The other book I started recently is a long, written interview with John Kenneth Galbraith (much in the style of Socrates) which is entitled, Almost Everyone’s Guide to Economics. What’s amazing is to see Galbraith, this towering (literally) Keynesian economic thinker, speaking in the 70s of the growth of corporate power, the undermining of labor, and the insidious nature of market fundamentalism. And yet, here we are, 30 years later, heeding none of his warnings, and entering into the new “global age” of “The World is Flat”.
Oh yes indeed, I do need to write some reviews very soon.
Overall, Dreaming in Code was an interesting book. For programmers who already are obsessed with the classics of software engineering (Mythical Man-Month and friends), you probably won’t learn much new stuff in this book. However, the personal illustrations using OSAF did lead me to some self-evaluation of the work I do. It was also interesting to see the internal workings of an organization which seems to be set up ideally for programmers — a good mission, an open source project, no real deadlines or users in the beginning, design-focused, etc. — and still see it run into the same issues traditional software shops run into.
I’d post a longer review, but I’m headed down to New Orleans today. Will post a longer review when I get back, hopefully also of Capitalism 3.0, whose ideas have been swimming in my head the last few days of commute. I think they really deserve to be summarized and presented here.
In the meanwhile, I’ve started reading Making Globalization Work by Joseph Stiglitz. This book, in particular, has been a kind of catharsis for most of my armchair ideas in economics, at least so far. It’s a very strange feeling to read the ex-Chief Economist of the World Bank explaining his own ideas about overcoming the zealousness of “market fundamentalism” prevalent in economic circles, while I, who never studied economics formally, think, “Why would anyone trained in this discipline actually believe that markets are a magic force that work on their own?” But I guess ideology always trumps rationality.
I finished reading Capitalism 3.0 a couple of days ago, and it was quite good. I promised a review, so that will be coming shortly. I also noticed that Joseph Stiglitz (ex-Chief Economist for the World Bank) wrote a new book as a follow-up to Globalization and its Discontents which is titled, Making Globalization Work, probably a nice follow-up to Capitalism 3.0.
Today after work I headed to NYU to hear Jimmy Wales give a talk on Wikipedia, but was dismayed to discover that the auditorium was packed and I couldn’t get in.
Then, I noticed that Ralph Nader was at the IFC Theater on 6th Avenue presenting the new documentary made about him called “An Unreasonable Man,” and I was about to go to the 4:55pm showing of that, but tickets sold out for that! Man, what bad luck!
At the end of the day, I ended up meeting Max for drinks at McSorley’s, so that’s not so bad. We talked a bit about Richard Dawkin’s book “The God Delusion,” and whether it’s a good thing that there is a zealous atheist roaming the streets of intellectual-dom.
A relatively unsophisticated article on circumcision showed up on Salon a few days ago. It’s entitled “The Unkindest Cut” and is about the conflict of a Jewish father between his Jewish mother and his non-Jewish wife over the issue of whether to circumcise his newborn son. Although it mentions some of the history of circumcision in the United States, it doesn’t go into nearly enough depth about how strange and barbaric the practice is. A letter that came into Salon from a reader has some good points, however:
This is one of the hottest parenting issues (along with breastfeeding and sleeping). I am not surprised that Salon is already flooded with letters and the emotions are rising high on both sides. I am the mother of a 3-year-old boy. He is uncircumcised and the idea of having him circumcised never even crossed my mind. I am from Europe, therefore circumcision is not part of my culture. My husband is a Hindu from India, so it isn’t part of his culture either. There is more and more evidence that shows that circumcision is an unnecessary procedure. There are more and more organizations and individuals trying to educate the public about this. Two of my favorites are: www.jewsagainstcircumcision.org and www.nocirc.org.
There is lots of very useful information regarding this topic. There are a few points I’d like to make for the sake of argument against it. Some fathers say: I want my son to look like me. So if you had a finger, a hand, or an arm missing from birth or as a result of an accident would you want to chop off your child’s corresponding body part just to make him look like you? (Sorry this is not my own idea but I like it a lot). The other point is my original thought: we, as Western society are outraged by the practice of female circumcision (mostly practiced in Africa and some predominantly Muslim areas elsewhere). What is the difference? That female circumcision is not a tradition in our culture. So it’s O.K. to keep mutilating our boys as long as we leave our girls alone… How hypocritical! And on top of that both traditions originate on the same basis: to reduce sexual pleasure and the desire to masturbate and enjoy sex.
As per some first person accounts from men who grew into adulthood intact and then got circumcised, they tell exactly how much less pleasurable sex is afterwards… Do a search on your favorite search engine for more info on the topic.
So as a parent of a boy I will leave my son’ penis alone and will make sure that everybody else does until he is old enough to make a decision about having his own body part cut off (which I think would only occur if he ends up having problems with having foreskin and sex would be unpleasant or painful).
I am not condemning people who think differently. I simply feel sorry for their baby boys… I hope one day we’ll come to our senses about this painful and inhumane practice.
As for the author, I feel sorry for him too, that he had to go through this emotionally painful experience to come to understand that he made the wrong choice.
I have a lot more to say on this topic (in fact, in college I wrote long research papers on the topic, including some original research into grotesque Victorian age masturbation control techniques, which were the precursors to routine circumcision), but probably won’t get the time to write it up. If you’re wondering about it, drop me a line.
I gave another talk for CANYU and the emerging open source clubs at NYU about Linux on the desktop. Here is the synopsis:
LINUX AND FREE/OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE
The State of the F/OSS World Update
with talk/demo by Andrew Montalenti
December 5, 2006 @ 7pm
Room 813, Warren Weaver Hall
Open source software is now mainstream. Whether it’s the nearly ubiquitous Mozilla Firefox browser, the Azureus peer-to-peer client, the Eclipse IDE, or the Linux kernel, almost everything in the computer world has been touched by free / open source software developers collaborating across the globe.
Judging by the state of the community, this movement doesn’t seem to be losing steam. With Microsoft Windows Vista around the corner offering a potentially bloated and hardware-requirements-heavy experience, desktop Linux operating systems are taking aim at the big giant, with big support around Ubuntu, Fedora (Redhat), and SuSE (Novell), among others.
So, what’s next for the free / open source world? That’s what this talk is meant to help you find out. After explaining a bit of the history of free and open source software, and the history of recent community and corporate efforts to make it widely available, this talk will show off some of the new, cool technologies coming out of the open source community, such as 3D desktop effects, productivity tools, enhanced multimedia support, better support for laptops, and a full suite of industry-grade development tools. The talk will also discuss some of the legal and intellectual property issues facing the open source community, with a particular focus on the recent news coming from the Novell / Microsoft deal and Sun’s decision to open source Java.
Who is this talk meant for? Anyone who hasn’t tried out Linux on their desktop, or anyone who is at least mildly interested in the current and future state of the computer industry. Free / Open Source software has completely rocked the industry, changing every aspect of it from top to bottom, and this wave is only growing bigger every day. NYU students interested in copyright issues surrounding open source may also find this talk valuable.
In any event, this won’t be a boring lecture — it’s meant to be interactive and fun!
The speaker will be bringing free CDs of Ubuntu Linux, a community-driven desktop Linux operating system which you can install on almost any home PC! Come for the free CDs, stay for the revolution.
It went very well, with about 10 people in the audience. You can download the slides in OpenOffice or PDF. Admittedly, the slides aren’t as cool without the live demo of Beryl I did at the talk itself. Yay 3D desktop effects.
I never knew working all day would be so draining. Don’t get me wrong: I love my work, I love working on software projects with smart people, but I get home and just want to hack around on UNIX, read a book, or watch some Bill Maher and I haven’t even the energy for that.
Tonight I violated my own rule (hence the 2am post), but will probably pay for it tomorrow in coffee during the day.
I need a kick-ass job that’s only part time but pays full time salaries.
p.s. been using the Spring Framework extensively on a project at work. All I can say is, “Wow.” I’m finally enjoying Java development again. The framework truly rocks, but you just need to give it some time. Once it grows on you (I suggest Manning Press’ “Spring in Action”), it becomes like a fungus that permeates the way you think about software design. Really cool.
p.p.s. it fucking rocks, btw, that the Dems won the House and Senate. Bill Moyers 2008?
I got back from Argentina on Thursday. Not enjoying the New York summer, and missing my Buenos Aires lifestyle, but overall, happy to be home. Maybe now I’ll get back to my blog.