Aufrecht.org

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The only exception is 2 Chainz

S Aufrecht

Martinez has spent most of his 40-year career in Manhattan office buildings, sometimes coming in and out of meetings throughout the city three or four times a day. He always takes the stairs […] racing up them, as much younger security guards—mandated at times by the building’s bylaws to escort him—huff and puff behind. […]

[T]he city is full of office buildings with stairwells that, because of security concerns, open only outward. But Martinez clues me in on a little secret: a Michael Bloomberg–era health-conscious law that decreed stairwell access be provided to all in hopes of encouraging more New Yorkers to take the stairs. Ever since, whenever Martinez finds a locked door, he’ll call up his personal lawyer, who will then find the building’s managers, cite the legal statute, and force the managers to acquiesce under the threat of court action. (Once, Martinez did it to get to a job interview. His would-be employers were impressed. “They said, ‘Look what the fuck he did just to get up our stairs!’”)

[…]

When people try to cajole [former music publicist Nakia “Nikki” Hicks] into an elevator—to promise to look out for her—she’ll as often as not snap. “Do you really think your presence can counterbalance fucking three decades of fear?!” The only exception is 2 Chainz, the ultracharismatic Atlanta rapper. He has managed, with patience and true care, to keep Hicks calm in the box. He tells her, “It’s just you and me.” And he’ll actually stop any other passengers from getting on, to make sure Hicks has the personal space she needs. He tells her, “You with me—we’re together.”

—Amos Barshad, Topic 1


  1. Barshad, Amos. 2018-Oct. “The Elevator-Phobes of a Vertical City”. Topic, Issue No. 16, October 2018. Retrieved from https://www.topic.com/the-elevator-phobes-of-a-vertical-city

Valley Culture

S Aufrecht

We know that “if you aren’t the customer, you are the product” explains the awful design of most of the software, websites, and modern media we interact with. They aren’t designed to be great for you; they only need to be not-awful enough to keep you around while they squeeze all the money they can out of you. The erstwhile norm that, when you pay for something, you shouldn’t get advertising with it is eroding rapidly: cable television and Roku and other paid services integrate upsells and ads pervasively; Amazon now prepends ads to the beginning of otherwise ad-free media that you’ve already paid to access. And it was never that universal a norm (c.f. advertisements in newspapers, advertisements in movie theaters).

But even setting that aside, many of the computer tools we use are not very good. And if you ever suspected that one of the reasons is that the people creating them, or the people managing the people creating them, are terrible people who can’t even conceive of you, the hypothetical customer they’ve never met, as a real person with needs that should be respected, because they can’t even see the people around them, especially women, as real people, it turns out that your suspicion can easily be confirmed in this era of semi-transparency.

He was relatively charismatic. I remember him frequently flirting with the women on the team. Gave me a compounded horrible impression of him.

My desk was directly next to Vic’s glass-walled office. He would walk by my desk dozens of times during the day. He could see my screen from his desk.

During the 8 months I was there, culminating in me leading the redesign of his product, Vic didn’t say a word to me. No hello. No goodbye, or thanks for staying late. No handshake. No eye contact.

—Morgan Knutson 1

Same guy:

Rod Chavez is an engineering director at Google, he sexually harassed me, Google did nothing about it. Reprimanded me instead of him

“It’s taking all of my self control not to grab your ass right now.” VERBATIM quote from someone currently an engineering director at Goog

“He feels like you humiliated him in front of his reports.” Something HR actually fucking said to me.

“You look amazing in that bathing suit, like a rock star.” -Vic Gundotra, to me, when I was a junior engineer at Google. In Maui.

As of this morning, got password reset emails for a number of my accounts, along with several rape threats. Happy International Women’s Day!

—Kelly Ellis via BuzzFeedNews 2

Same guy:

In February of 2011, Google’s SVP Vic Gundotra’s Twitter account went silent as Google was planning to launch Google+.

Gundotra admitted that he was actually asked to stop tweeting by “his boss” (Larry Page)

[…]

Gundotra’s conversation with Sullivan revealed just how much Google controls its messaging, forcing consumers - and even the media - to read between the lines to find the truth.

—Kelly Clay, Forbes3

From the branches of the original Twitter thread, a different person, different abuser, different company, same theme:

Then I was hired by a credit union software company because they needed a ‘rockstar’ in PD (never, ever buy your own hype) to redevelop their consumer facing rewards program. I did. In about 3 months. Showed the prototype to the CEO in a meeting and he started yelling

‘Who told you to do that??’ And turned out, I wasn’t supposed to ‘do’ anything. I was to be ‘activated’ (like a drone, I guess) by a line item in a .ppt and only present a couple of lines in another .ppt at the next meeting. Everyone talked about ‘following the cadence’.

I had 5 different bosses while I was there. I was there for 18 months. Not going to lie, I had a mental breakdown.

—Twitter user MJ4

These stories are of course unverified, in the second case, pseudonymous. With that caveat, they are certainly completely consistent with all of the more thoroughly proven accounts of abuse, sexual and otherwise, in the industry.


  1. Knutson, Morgan. Thread by @morganknutson: “Now that Google+ has been shuttered, I should air my dirty laundry on how awful the project and exec team was. I’m still pissed about the ba […]“. Retrieved from https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1049523067506966529.html
  2. Hernandez, Salvador. (2015-Mar-08). Google Silent After Former Employee Tweets About Sexual Harassment From Superiors. BuzzFeedNews. Retrieved from https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/salvadorhernandez/google-kelly-ellis
  3. Clay, Kelly. (2012-Dec-7). Google’s Vic Gundotra Told To Stop Tweeting By His Boss. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyclay/2012/12/07/googles-vic-gundotra-told-to-stop-tweeting-by-his-boss/
  4. MJ. (2018-Oct-15). Twitter. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/Meldisny/status/1051811364342251521

Only

S Aufrecht

Most CPUs can only practically handle tens of billions of arithmetic operations per second

This was a ‘take a step back for a moment’ line to read.

Also, a densely informative paragraph:

One of the things I learned while unsuccessfully trying to sell to businesses during my startup career was that it was much easier to make a sale if there was already a chunk of money allocated to what you were selling. The existence of a budget line item meant that the hard battle over whether the company should spend money on a solution had already been won, now the only questions was which solution to buy. That’s one of the reasons why I think that ML could make dramatic inroads in this area, because manufacturers already have engineers, money, and silicon area earmarked for video and audio compression. If we can show that adding machine learning to existing solutions improves them in measurable ways (for example quality, speed, or power consumption) then they will be adopted quickly.

—Pete Warden1


  1. Warden, Pete. (2018-Oct-16). Pete Warden’s Blog. Retrieved from https://petewarden.com/2018/10/16/will-compression-be-machine-learnings-killer-app/

Don’t despair

S Aufrecht

The rights of working people, of women, of black people have not depended on decisions of the courts. Like the other branches of the political system, the courts have recognized these rights only after citizens have engaged in direct action powerful enough to win these rights for themselves.

Let us not be disconsolate over the increasing control of the court system by the right wing.

The courts have never been on the side of justice, only moving a few degrees one way or the other, unless pushed by the people. Those words engraved in the marble of the Supreme Court, “Equal Justice Before the Law,” have always been a sham.

—Howard Zinn1


  1. Zinn, Howard. (2005-21-Oct). Don’t Despair about the Supreme Court. The Progressive. Retrieved from https://progressive.org/op-eds/howard-zinn-despair-supreme-court/

Is you taking notes on a criminal fucking conspiracy? Baseball Edition

S Aufrecht

(Previously in the “Is you taking notes on a criminal fucking conspiracy?” series: “Is you taking notes on a criminal fucking conspiracy? Finance Edition”1)

Here are three interesting facts:

  1. The process of getting Cuban baseball players to MLB is so shady that it may amount to human trafficking.
  2. “The RICO Act … allows the leaders of a syndicate to be tried for the crimes they ordered others to do or assisted them in doing, closing a perceived loophole that allowed a person who instructed someone else to, for example, murder, to be exempt from the trial because they did not actually commit the crime personally.” —Wikipedia
  3. Modern baseball is increasingly driven by evidence-based decision making, which requires analysis, which requires data.

The picture that ties everything together:

Excel spreadsheet showing

From Eric Stephen on Twitter2, who in turn got it from the primary news source for this, a Sports Illustrated article3. I first saw it on FanGraphs4.

Key takeaways:

  1. Don’t rank your employees by level of increasing criminality
  2. If you do rank your employees by level of increasing criminality, regardless of your opinion about where the line of actual criminality is, don’t label any of the levels “Criminal”.
  3. If you do label any of the levels “Criminal”, do alert the appropriate legal authorities promptly.
  4. If you don’t alert the appropriate legal authorities promptly, or at all, at least don’t retain the employees you have described as criminal for another year.
  5. If you retain employees you have labeled criminal for an extended period of time, don’t write any of this down.

  1. Zeitlin, Matthew. (2013-Aug-29). “The Wire’s” Stringer Bell Has Some Advice For JPMorgan. BuzzFeedNews. Retrieved from (ttps://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/matthewzeitlin/the-wires-stringer-bell-has-some-advice-for-jpmorgan
  2. https://twitter.com/ericstephen/status/1047165887806038016/photo/1
  3. Wertheim, Jon. (2018-Oct-02). Exclusive: The Evidence That Persuaded U.S. Department of Justice to Investigate MLB Recruitment of Foreign Players. Sports Illustrated. Retrieved from https://www.si.com/mlb/2018/10/02/fbi-investigation-mlb-atlanta-braves-los-angeles-dodgers
  4. Ring, Sheryl. (2018-Oct-08). The Dodgers Might Be in Actual Legal Trouble. FanGraphs. Retrieved from https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-dodgers-might-be-in-actual-legal-trouble/

Visual Pollution Blockers

S Aufrecht

Their IRL Glasses, which launched on Kickstarter this week, block [video] screens. Put them on and the TV in the sports bar seems to switch off; billboards blinking ahead seem to go blank. … Right now, their lenses can block light emitted from LCD and LED screens, but not OLED screens. As for the design? Cash says they modeled the glasses after the 1988 film, They Live …

—Arielle Pardes, Wired1

The Kickstarter.


  1. Pardes, Arielle. (2018-Oct-07). These Magical Sunglasses Block All the Screens Around You. Wired. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/story/irl-glasses-screen-blocking/

π and the digital land rush.

S Aufrecht
graph of number of digits on the x axis and date registered on the y axis

A second-level domain name can be up to 63 characters long. If 3 is used as a sub-domain, and .com is the top-level domain, then http://3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592.com is the most digits of π that fit into a domain name. That domain name was registered in 2002. The next few shorter domains are also registered; the biggest unclaimed territory lies at 57 digits1. What about the rest of the domains in-between? And what about 314.com (no decimal place after the 3) and its series? And e? And the digits?

As you might guess from the graph2 at the top of this post, I’ve checked. I checked both versions of π, both versions of e, and all of the digits from 1 to 9. In the chart above, the smaller π and e indicate the inferior versions. I’ve ignored 0, for obvious reasons. You can see, for example, that 5555555.com was registered in mid-1996; that everything between 11111111111111.com and 111111111111111111.com was claimed in 2001, and that the maximum e was registered in 2010.

Here’s a table of the same information:

color-coded table showing when each domain name was registered

You can see that an absurd number of these are in fact registered. But 8 is the only fully claimed digit, presumably because it’s a lucky number in several Asian cultures. All of the single-digit domains were claimed at the opening of .com, but it took two decades for the land rush effect to fully reach the edge, and many gaps remain.

Here’s python code if you want to reproduce the results.

import re
import subprocess


def digits_generator():
    result = []
    for x in range(1, 10):
        for y in range(1, 64):
            domain = str(x) * y
            result.append((x, y, domain))
    return result


def irrationals_generator():
    result = []
    digit_list = ["1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693993751058209749445923",
                  "3141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592",
                  "7182818284590452353602874713526624977572470936999595749669676277",
                  "2718281828459045235360287471352662497757247093699959574966967627"]
    for x in digit_list:
        for y in range(0, 63):
            domain = x[0:y]
            result.append((x, y, domain))
    return result


def lookup(x, y, domain):
	# Determine the creation date of a specified domain, and print
	# a line of CSV-formatted report.
	#
    # The target line from WHOIS is 
    #     Creation Date: 1997-03-12T05:00:00Z

    try:
        command = 'whois {0}.com | grep "Creation Date"'.format(domain)
        result = subprocess.check_output(command, shell=True)
    except subprocess.CalledProcessError as E:
        print('{0}, {1}, {2}'.format(x, y, E))
        return

    # if it doesn't fail, the command may return one or more matching rows,
    # which may be byte or string.  handle both.
    try:
        first_date = result.split(b'\n', 1)[0]
    except TypeError:
        first_date = result.split('\n', 1)[0]
    try:
        parsed_date = re.search('Date: (.*Z)', str(first_date)).group(1)
        print('{0}, {1}, {2}'.format(x, y, parsed_date))
        return
    except Exception as E:
        print('{0}, {1}, {2}'.format(x, y, E))
        return


def main():
	# Print a CSV file of the registration date of various domains
	# column 1: the rational or irrational number being queried
	# column 2: number of digits in this query
	# column 3: creation date, or error text or blank if none.

    numbers = irrationals_generator()
    for thing in numbers:
        lookup(thing[0], thing[1], thing[2])

    digits = digits_generator()
    for thing in digits:
        lookup(thing[0], thing[1], thing[2])


if __name__ == "__main__":
    main()

  1. 1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693993751058209749.COM
  2. SVG version of the chart for high-resolution viewing.

The galloping hypothesis

S Aufrecht

In 1996, in what has become known as the galloping hypothesis, Chance argued that externalization of the testes was necessary when mammals started to move in ways that sharply increased abdominal pressure. … A survey of how mammals move reveals a good deal of variety. And when Chance listed animals with internal testicles, he didn’t find many gallopers. … Among mammals that have returned to the sea, the few that have retained scrotums are the only ones who breed on land, such as elephant seals, who fight vigorously to defend their territory during rutting season. The galloping hypothesis would be a case of evolutionary compromise—the dangers of scrotality being a necessary price for the greater advantages of a new and valuable type of movement.

—Liam Drew, Slate1

Ticketmaster Scum

S Aufrecht

Posing as scalpers and equipped with hidden cameras, the journalists were pitched on Ticketmaster’s professional reseller program.

Company representatives told them Ticketmaster’s resale division turns a blind eye to scalpers who use ticket-buying bots and fake identities to snatch up tickets and then resell them on the site for inflated prices. Those pricey resale tickets include extra fees for Ticketmaster …

So, for example, if Ticketmaster collects $25.75 on a $209.50 ticket on the initial sale, when the owner posts it for resale for $400 on the site, the company stands to collect an additional $76 on the same ticket.

—Dave Seglins et al, CBC1


  1. Seglins, Dave, Houlihan, Rachel, and Clementson, Laura. (2018-Sep-19). ‘A public relations nightmare’: Ticketmaster recruits pros for secret scalper program. CBC News. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/a-public-relations-nightmare-ticketmaster-recruits-pros-for-secret-scalper-program-1.4828535

Human Smell

S Aufrecht

It is commonly believed that humans have a poor sense of smell compared to other mammalian species. However, this idea derives not from empirical studies of human olfaction but from a famous nineteenth century anatomist’s hypothesis that the evolution of human free will required a reduction in the proportional size of the brain’s olfactory bulb.

—John McGann, Science1


  1. John P. McGann, John P. (2017-May-12). Poor human olfaction is a 19th-century myth. Science 356.6338 (2017). DOI: 10.1126/science.aam7263. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5512720/#!po=6.48148

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