“The Smart Creative”

Posted on September 24th, 2014 by Sammy

When we contrast the traditional knowledge worker with the engineers and other talented people who have surrounded us at Google over the past decade-plus, we see that our Google peers represent a quite different type of employee. They are not confined to specific tasks. They are not limited in their access to the company’s information and computing power. They are not averse to taking risks, nor are they punished or held back in any way when those risky initiatives fail. They are not hemmed in by role definitions or organizational structures; in fact, they are encouraged to exercise their own ideas. They don’t keep quiet when they disagree with something. They get bored easily and shift jobs a lot. They are multidimensional, usually combining technical depth with business savvy and creative flair. In other words, they are not knowledge workers, at least not in the traditional sense. They are a new kind of animal, a type we call a “smart creative,” and they are the key to achieving success in the Internet Century.
From “How Google Works


Summer’s End

Posted on September 5th, 2014 by Sammy

July and August have been outliers for me blog-wise, having only posted a few times during these long summer months. They’ve also been outliers life-wise. Days have been so blissful, so ripe, so *abundant* — I’d have italicized that word were not everything already so important.

We’re facing changes expectantly, maybe even eagerly. For the first time in my life I am both excited about the future and in no hurry for the present to depart. I used to be restless in the bad way, always looking ahead for something better, always dissatisfied with the present state of affairs. But these days with you are magnificent. Though I am stoked for things to come I also can’t help wishing for things to stay the way they are, if only for a little while longer.

Last Friday evening Shannon and I headed straight after work to visit family in San Rafael. Northbound on I-280 she was reading to me, a story spun with colorful characters known only to herself, transferred only to me. I felt this tearing dichotomy inside: I wanted to tell everyone about this immediate beauty but I also wanted to keep it all for myself, every last fictional drop. “It’s made up, the hotel doesn’t exist.” Her words, and still the only thing I’ll tell anyone who asks.

It wasn’t long before 19th Ave became US-101 North and lofty matte-red love stood casting sunset shadows: the sky above the bridge dozed clear, a criminal view. I could drive across this bridge forever it’s so beautiful. Her hair was flying in streams behind her at 40mph, utterly lawless, and when we finally made it to the other side we were taken by looming haunts of towering earth.

Late Saturday afternoon we headed in the opposite direction, stopping short of the bridge crossing to detour through the Marin Headlands. She knew what she wanted to show me but we had to intuit the way: “I think it’s a left. Yeah just follow this I think…” My trusty navigator.

Over a hill her hands tighten around my arm, a sign of excitement I love. “This is it!! Saaaam!!!”

Parked. A few sips of Capri Sun. “Should we bring a blanket?” I don’t know where we’re headed. “No, let’s not bring anything.” Every other breeze on the plateau smells of manure, fertilizer for parts of terrain still in the domain of humans.

We’re leaving said domain, descending, and the cliffside is steep. She’s concerned for my left leg but I shrug it off, I’m growing more excited as we approach the bottom — the walkway is narrow and I have to let go of her hand a few times so that we can continue single-file to allow for passerbys. Halfway down we think of removing our shoes, but the sand turns again to scraggly rock and we have to put them back on.

A final flight of stairs before we hit the dark sands of the headlands. Off come the shoes, up roll our pant-legs, and we’re standing ankle-deep in ocean. Everything bites: the brisk air, the crawling water, the packed ground, the glaring sun. We back out of the water momentarily to take off our clothes…

And this was the moment of 2014, of my life till now, till ever maybe. Falling full-speed into the waves wearing nothing but our undergarments, tumbling in salt-splashed exhilaration, drowning in relentless joy.


“Your heart explodes, sometimes a million times a day.”

Posted on September 5th, 2014 by Sammy

When I was younger I used to think of that Breakfast Club quotation, “When you grow up, your heart dies.” Without shading John Hughes (I would never), I now find this is both melodramatic (obviously) and untrue. Your heart explodes, sometimes a million times a day. It is horrible, but it’s also a gift. The longer you remain in the world, regardless of whether or not you procreate, the larger your investment in it. It gradually feels more like it belongs to you, and you to it, and you are less of an outlier. You gain your footing and look around, and begin to actually notice and react to what you see. You have context. You become more powerful, and even when you know you can’t do much, you still feel very close to being able to do something.

The only thing that consoles you when everything is falling down around you is information, because now you know that the thing our generation has going for it is that we speak and we listen. The arrests of reporters in Ferguson is beyond unnerving, but the one thing that I find uplifting is that we’re evolving around these barriers. The brave journalists who have reported from Ferguson — several of whom have been arrested — are giving us a little power by igniting our consciences. We still have a long way to go, but we have a greater capacity for caring than we’ve ever had. Why would anyone ever hope to bring a child into this fucked up world? I suppose that it would be because he or she would hope that that child could change it. I do hope for that. Even — especially — now.
(via Tess Lynch)


Ch-ch-ch-changes

Posted on August 15th, 2014 by Sammy

Last night Shannon and I decided we might work on some joint art/passion projects of ours over the weekend. It’s been making me so excited I can’t sleep and I’ve been feeling all my creative juices coursing in the best (also most agitating) way. I kept thinking of names for things during work and late this afternoon I wrote a GroupMe chatbot out of sheer createyness, and this evening I sifted through my old web properties and servers performing much-needed maintenance. (So much to be done: apparently my Tarsnap account ran out of credits about a year ago so my primary server hasn’t actually been backed up for a year and I wouldn’t know because the notification email was buried meaning I should probably reorganize my email. This is all the wrong kind of reckless.)

I’ve been in the kind of mood that makes me reorganize. Currently thinking of converting this domain into a portfolio linking to things I make & write. One long-term goal is to separate my actual “writing” (if it can be called that) from daily drivel — while I’d like to re-establish my brain-dumping habit I’d also like to maintain a space for writing thoughtfully and I don’t think putting both things in one place is what I want.

To clarify: none of the content here will go away, it’ll just be held someplace else.

Speaking of making things it’s late but I’ll do a quick outline regarding YC Hacks — tl;dr it was a sub-par hackathon. Food was mediocre (not vegetarian friendly, not enough in quantity, generally awful) and judging was below-average (I attribute a lot of this to the “science fair” style they implemented). Science fair is not good for hackathons: after little/no sleep participants were expected to stand and repeat their pitches for almost two hours.

That said the event was fun in the way all hackathons are fun. For me it was an excuse to build something I’ve wanted for a long time — Karan and I created ShallowParse, a text editor for creative writing that profiles aspects of your prose as you write. There wasn’t anything complicated about what we built, it was just a fun idea. We integrated Noah Webster’s 1913 dictionary and prose-dating via the google ngram dataset though we had to take out the prose-dating after demos because it was causing our server to lag (not to mention eating up a ton of ram thanks to heavy in-mem caching). We’ll add things to this in the future but for now it’s a nice little toy.

It’s swell on all fronts. Nathan finally made it home tonight after spending most of this week away at work and it was nice to pause to catch up with him. Things in our lives are hurdling along and I’m trying my best to imbibe both the juicy newnesses and familiar steepings.


A quick update

Posted on August 1st, 2014 by Sammy

Hajduk reminded me this morning that I haven’t updated in a while. I told him this was because life has been generally busy in the terrific sort of way and he said “I figured things were either going awfully awful or awesomely awesome that you haven’t had the time for a post.”

Awesomely awesome as things have been, I’m going to try to get back into recording the small parts of my living. It’s been a long writing break and I need to stop neglecting this part of me.

This morning Nathan wandered around the living room a little, dat morning disorientation (he also got back pretty late from work). Unfortunately we haven’t hung out much because we’ve both been so busy but it is always good to see him, even if just for a few minutes. He informed me of some box wine in a lower kitchen cabinet. I’m probably going to have a little tonight before bed.

Mmm. Box wine.

I’ve been reading a little, mostly during breaks at work or in my car after arriving because I don’t feel like going into the office right away. Currently on “Slouching Toward Bethlehem” by Joan Didion, a book of essays borrowed from Shannon, perfect for punctuated reading since they’re a bunch of short essays. Oh and Shannon has acquired and started “Godel Escher Bach” and I kind of want to read it at the same time as her so we can talk about it (I’ve previously only made it to chapter 4 trying to deep-read it) but time for reading has been very hard to come by. I’m usually so wiped when I get home I just want to listen to music or watch something mindless on netflix as I pass out. Maybe I will try to be more disciplined with my time during the week / better prioritize reading.

I have to run out the door in 10 minutes to go ideate with KP — the gruesome twosome is back together for another hackathon (YC Hacks), our first in over a year / our first post-college. I took a look at the prizes and it seems maybe a hack involving music is the way to go, but I’ll have to see what KP thinks. I’ll probably write another post when the event is over detailing what we worked on. It starts tomorrow at noon (checkin at 10am) and judging is at 2:30pm the next day if I remember correctly.

Probably not going to pull an all-nighter at this hackathon, maybe I’ll bring a sleeping bag. “Too old for that.” #OG


Burn

Posted on July 10th, 2014 by Sammy

We, we don’t have to worry ’bout nothing
‘Cause we got the fire, and we’re burning one hell of a something


Just Enough Dark to See

Posted on July 9th, 2014 by Sammy

All love songs must contain duende. For the love song is never truly happy. It must first embrace the potential for pain. Those songs that speak of love without having within in their lines an ache or a sigh are not love songs at all but rather Hate Songs disguised as love songs, and are not to be trusted. These songs deny us our humanness and our God-given right to be sad and the air-waves are littered with them. The love song must resonate with the susurration of sorrow, the tintinnabulation of grief. The writer who refuses to explore the darker regions of the heart will never be able to write convincingly about the wonder, the magic and the joy of love for just as goodness cannot be trusted unless it has breathed the same air as evil – the enduring metaphor of Christ crucified between two criminals comes to mind here – so within the fabric of the love song, within its melody, its lyric, one must sense an acknowledgement of its capacity for suffering.

Nick Cave


The Navigator

Posted on July 7th, 2014 by Sammy

I’m on my back staring up at her and an uncharacteristic tear falls past the left side of my face. Her expression is one of relief, “You’re back.” My eyes say more than I can with words; I tighten my grip on her hand. The sun is coming through in bunches past her hair, glancing and ricocheting in right angles. She’s aglow and I’m so relieved.

I feel as if my soul has finally returned to its body.

Earlier in the week she had arranged with love the most delicious breakfast: savory biscuits made from scratch, dark red cherries in a bowl, two tall glasses of tart orange juice (my favorite), coffee. I was running eight minutes late though we try not to rush: it’s one of those pacts we’ve made. The audible part of the pact goes something like “Don’t rush when you’re with me,” but the other part is “I love you.”

A lot of our unsaid pacts are the same.

I’ll never forget that Wednesday morning as we sat next to each other and waves of silence between us became still lines of quiet. Up until that moment I’m not sure we’ve ever had real quiet between us. Our channels were so filled before but suddenly, unexpectedly, they were dry and our sensitive ears were full of that deafening nothing.

On Thursday morning I took the length of string she had once used to secure her banana heart and brought it to lunch.

There was a time when it wasn’t uncommon to use a piece of string to guide words that otherwise might falter on the way to their destinations. Shy people carried a little bunch of string in their pockets, but people considered loudmouths had no less need for it, since those used to being overheard by everyone were often at a loss for how to make themselves heard by someone. The physical distance between two people using a string was often small; sometimes the smaller the distance, the greater the need for the string…Sometimes no length of string is long enough to say the thing that needs to be said. In such cases all the string can do, in whatever its form, is conduct a person’s silence.
Nicole Krauss

At its end I attached a heart of my own — red, blown glass, a souvenir from my loneliest trip outside the country. It was one defined by longing fireworks on the beach.

The Beach: I headed the wrong way for too long; my navigator felt then so far from me and only farther as we found ourselves thick in southbound traffic with one hour of driving ahead. For the longest time she sat grasping her legs and my right arm folded helplessly behind the driver-side headrest. What was meant to be an hour in heaven, “Lost in the Dream,” became just track 03, the song entitled “Suffering.” I do actually like the song but in that moment his anguish felt nothing like release.

After thirty minutes the traffic receded and we snaked more rapidly through the deciduous forests of CA-17. In those paces her heart wafted more strongly and I filled my lungs with her uniquely coniferous emanations. Every scent that afternoon floated in uneven patches buffeted by sea drafts; the smells in Charlie’s Hong Kong were so home and sitting close to you I didn’t ever want us to leave.

Fireworks: on Saturday we went to celebrate the 4th with her family. Morning contained measured uncertainty but we were brave in the way lovers need to be, and she intuited the way: to Trader Joe’s, to her grandmother’s house in Foster City, to our heartstrings.

If you’re out there in the cold,
I’ll cover you in moonlight
If you’re a stranger to your soul
I’ll bring you to your birthright
I want the storm inside you awoken now
I want your warm bright eyes

Garrett dropped us off near the waterfront. Shannon then weaved us through the living collage: young adults blasting music from a coachella-branded amp, older folks sitting on picnic blankets, young children and dogs running restless circles.

Legs dangling at the edgewater; a boat that is our namesake; some happy family smiling at us as we pop them a wave. Bright moonlight pulled the tide that night and when the evening was over she knew the way home.

I haven’t written here in a long time and though you tell me I don’t have to, it’s important for the reason we love words: I must not let you do all the navigating. Here is the shore, the solid land, and here am I with you. (145:1:1) (146:14:4) (146:26:4)


Risky Business

Posted on June 19th, 2014 by Sammy

We examine the cost for an attacker to pay users to execute arbitrary code—potentially malware. We asked users at home to download and run an executable we wrote without being told what it did and without any way of knowing it was harmless. Each week, we increased the payment amount. Our goal was to examine whether users would ignore common security advice—not to run untrusted executables—if there was a direct incentive, and how much this incentive would need to be. We observed that for payments as low as $0.01, 22% of the people who viewed the task ultimately ran our executable. Once increased to $1.00, this proportion increased to 43%. We show that as the price increased, more and more users who understood the risks ultimately ran the code. We conclude that users are generally unopposed to running programs of unknown provenance, so long as their incentives exceed their inconvenience.

(from this paper via Marginal Revolution)


Grounding

Posted on June 19th, 2014 by Sammy

It’s too easy to fall into the first-world trope of “all the poor need is a little sprinkling of silicon and then everything will be fine.” It’s never that simple. Technology is, at best, the tip of the iceberg. A very tiny component of the work that needs to be done in the greater whole of reforming or impacting or increasing accessibility to education, first-world and third-world alike. Technology deployed without infrastructure, without understanding, without administrative or community support, without proper curriculum is nearly worthless. Worse than worthless, even — for it can be destructive, the time and budget spent on the technology eating into more fundamental, more meaningful points of badly needed reform.

(via Ebooks for All)


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