Above all science was becoming religion; psychology was reducing metaphysics to experiment and a sociology of human action was planned. Fighting the vast concept of evolution, religion went into its heresy trials, its struggle with “higher criticism,” its discomfort at the “revised version” of the New Testament which was published the year I entered college. Wealth was God. Everywhere men sought wealth and especially in America there was extravagant living; everywhere the poor planned to be rich and the rich planned to be richer; everywhere wider, bigger, higher, better things were set down as inevitable.
– W. E. B. Du Bois
… who entered college in 1885
Actually, Chapter 3 of “Dusk of Dawn” describes a transition from the world Du Bois was born into of the latter 19th century:
“(As) a young man, so far as I conceived, the foundations of present culture were laid, the way was charted, the progress toward certain great goals was undoubted and inevitable. There was room for argument concerning details and methods and possible detours in the onsweep of civilization; but the fundamental facts were clear, unquestioned and unquestionable.”
In contrast with the “today” of 1940:
“TODAY both youth and age look upon a world whose foundations seem to be tottering. They are not sure what the morrow will bring; perhaps the complete overthrow of European civilization, of that great enveloping mass of culture into which they were born. Everything in their environment is a meet subject for criticism. They can dispassionately evaluate the past and speculate upon the future. It is a day of fundamental change.”
I feel my heart and mind whipsawing between a world culture which is on the cusp of some fundamental, unimaginable change, and a world in which we will pretty much keep doing what we have done, just bigger, bolder, better, faster, with nanites and a higher rate of return . . . I get dizzy thinking about this world I try to live in.
And Religionists and Conservatives keep shouting their objections to a changing world ever louder, ever more viciously. They’re still attacking Evolution, so the concept and theological implications of Anthropogenic Climate Disruption are even more of a leap . . .
But the today of 2012, when the big revolutions appear to be how the European Union will manage debt among member states, and whether Arab countries can successfully democratize, whether there will be regional wars on either side of Asia, and the capacity of fundamentalists to kill civilians . . . today’s world isn’t tottering as obviously as 1940′s “today.”
But it is the Big Things you don’t hear in the news every day; When will climate change trigger famine and mass migration? Will China’s rise be sustained to the point it becomes a world power or will it implode? When are we going to be hit by that asteroid that superheats the atmosphere? Just after the devastating global pandemic that trained against antibiotics and traveled everywhere on jet planes before we noticed it? Will nanofabrication make industry and perhaps agriculture obsolete? Will the Singularity bring upon us a supra-individualist world consciousness? Will medical science and DNA repeal the eternal inevitabilities of aging and death? Is that when we will feel comfortable encapsulating our bodies on centuries-long trips to distant star systems? The new Magellans will refer to centuries as we refer to decades. My thinking is so early 21st . . .
These are the things I tend to wonder about between meetings at work.
Last week I dug through several menus to try and unsubscribe from all the spam LinkedIn sends me. Today I got another email and at the bottom was an “unsubscribe” link that I clicked on. Here’s what I got:
Not only is this not an unsubscribe feature, LinkedIn gets bonus points for trying to sign you up for MORE e-mail.
Instead of screwing around with the half-dozen sub-menus again, I dropped them a feedback saying that this burns up good will, damages the brand, discourages me from engaging, and may in time lead me to delete my profile. There’s more than one way to search for resumes online.
My home town, Chicago, the city of broad shoulders and ambition, is where the wealthy have pushed the workers and the workers have pushed back. Jane Addams, as my memory serves, founded the Hull House back in the 19th century, to look after the needs of working people: meals, health care, education, general community services. At a time when class divisions were sharper than they are getting to be today, Jane Addams bucked the conventions of her time to push for the American ideal: that we all, regardless of class or wealth, merit a helping hand, a warm place to sleep, and nourishment for our bodies and our minds.
Growing up in Chicago, getting educated in the Chicago Public Schools, the sense of perpetual struggle for a better, more equitable future, I think it gets in to your blood. People come looking for a better life, and they find that sometimes they have to push a bit to realize that better life, if not for themselves then at least to give their children a shot. We’re all passing through those gates, at our respective levels of society, and the struggle never dies and the struggle must never be forgotten.
Now I live in the Silicon Valley, where people struggle and strive, and while the ultimate aim is to make the world more comfortable and efficient, the focus is pretty far removed from the front lines of class warfare. Even so, I ride the train every day past miles of walled mobile home parks, and I wonder if there’s more going on beneath the surface than us privileged IT folk know.
“In her book A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century, Barbara Tuchman writes about a peasant revolt in 1358 that began in the village of St. Leu and spread throughout the Oise Valley. At one estate, the serfs sacked the manor house, killed the knight, and roasted him on a spit in front of his wife and kids. Then, after ten or twelve peasants violated the lady, with the children still watching, they forced her to eat the roasted flesh of her dead husband and then killed her. That is class warfare. Arguing over the optimum marginal tax rate for the top 1 percent is not.”
Arguing over the margins, in the grand scheme of things, describes my day job.
and we need heroes
who stand up to giants
who carry a big bat to home plate
though the pitcher is throwing money
balls and the umps are in on the fix.
I’m no hero and my bat is nothing to brag about, but I relish those occasions when I do get to step up to the bat and swing, however ineffectually, at a ball I’m not allowed to hit. Its the Chicago in me. I owe more.
Yesterday I got Dr Sick Wife to drop me off at the Santa Clara Convention Center so Mr Sicker Light-Headed Husband wouldn’t miss any PYCON. After an awkward twenty minutes of asking people there for the lighting and LED conference where the Python was, I checked my smart phone and noted that … PYCON is *MARCH* 7th.
So I took the light rail home and told $BOSS I was on PTO (well, I call it MLK day due to Puppet Training) I then slept a lot, and did other things sick people do that don’t bear repeating in a professional context, and watched Dr Who save the Earth on TV, slept some more, and I am feeling way better today, which means I feel regular sick, not super sick.
So, I’ll be WFH today. Trust me, whatever this is, you’re lucky to miss out! I don’t normally get sick so this is a novel experience … I’ll likely be seen in the office next week, though if I’m coughy or sneezy I’ll keep that train wreck at home, because, as you might gather, you don’t want a piece of this!
If you’re attending PyCon, I look forward to seeing you there … next month! Hopefully I won’t be light-headed!
I was poking around my CloudFlare Control Panel, and pulled up stats for the past month, from Oct 11 to Nov 11. It says it had blocked a bunch of attacks on my site, and consequently saved me over 5GB in bandwidth.
I said to myself, "I pay for bandwidth! Maybe this free service is saving me money?!"
“Really,” I said, “I pay for bandwidth, so if CloudFlare is saving me bandwidth, it is saving me money!”
But 5GB seemed kind of high. So, I checked my invoices from RackSpace. Here is the outbound bandwidth I have been charged for this year:
RackSpace charges me on the 11th of the month, and, conveniently enough, I started using CloudFlare around October 11th. The highlighted line above is my first month on CloudFlare. It is my lowest number of the year, and it is conceivable that I could have totaled 9.5 GB in October since I pushed more than that in February. I’m skeptical that they are saving me as much as they claim to be, but for a free service to speed up my web site and save me even a little money . . . that is a good deal in my book!
Note to modern web designers: since the displays are becoming wide and short, please do not squander vertical screen space. Here’s a good example of what not to do:
Viewed full size, you see a window that is 705 pixels tall. The OS claims 24 pixels, the web browser claims 90 pixels, and the web application claims 250 pixels. So, by the time you hit the actual content, 50% of the window has been wasted!
Squinting into a tiny pane to read news makes me angry. Google, you can do way way better than this!
Leonard Kleinrock tells the story of the Internet’s birth. First word was LO:
And then, he shows us the world’s first router, which they were going to throw out:
My first experience of the Internet was a 1200 baud dialup connection to a USENET host that connected upstream twice a day at 2400 baud. That would have been around 1992 or 1993. (I was a broke highschool kid who couldn’t afford the $30/mo+ for a proper Internet connection.) My first email address was firstname.lastname@example.org, and I lost that address when my network uplink failed to pay his phone bill. Oh well!
When I started college in January, 1995, and had access to labs and labs and labs of computers directly connected via Ethernet, with Mosaic and Netscape installed, it was like I had found my Nerd Nirvana! It only got better when I took a C programming course on the Sun workstations in the basement of the DCL . . .
A friend posted a link about some iPad App that will show you recipes. My reaction was one of being condescendingly underwhelmed, and here’s the gist of what I’d really like to see in a “cookbook app”:
“Will it plan a week’s menus based on seasonal ingredients and give you a shopping list? Because that’s the fucking time-consuming part the computers need to fix.
Any clown can convert a menu book to an App . . . and any clown can find a recipe, drive to the store, spend 45 minutes trying to find some ingredient they don’t know about which is out of season, pay a bunch of money, get home, if they still have the energy maybe cook something sorta edible . . .
. . . but this being the 21st century, an electronic cookbook ought to be able to suggest recipes for you based on the ingredients you have ready access to. (In your pantry, in your growing region, partner with a supermarket…) I have found a website that does a mediocre job of this. This thing is begging to be invented.
Anyway, what I’m saying is–cookbooks in an app–that’s like lets transcribe 15th century technology into silicon. I say hell no, with all this information technology let’s leverage the information to really make it easy for the people to cook healthy, inexpensive meals at home. THAT is the revolution that will make us all better off.”
JIRA is an issue tracking system that is really flexible, but sometimes presents irritatingly arbitrary limitations.
I have been working on a screen which uses multiple tabs. The tabs are there to make it easier for the user to find the fields they want to edit, without scrolling through a single long, complex issue. But every tab has a Comment field rendered on it, which makes things confusing, and makes each tab look like it needs scrolling.
So, just remove the Comment field from the Screen, right? No, it isn’t in there. So, can I remove Comment via the Field Configuration Scheme? No, it is mandatory. Damn your arbitrary limitation, JIRA!
What is a CDN? A Content Delivery Network is a service that caches parts of your web site at different points around the world. This makes your web site load faster in foreign countries, and it reduces load on your server, which is really useful if there’s a traffic spike.
Why is it free? Apparently, they started as a honey pot. A honey pot is a trap where you leave something sweet out for spammers and hackers, who will come and try to taste your honey. The honey pot keeps track of where the bad guys are coming from and what techniques they are using, and this data is then analysed to improve security. They also have a bunch of apps they can sell you, and honestly when you’re looking for a paid service for your company, the first thing that will come to mind is the service you already use for your personal stuff.
I personally have never set up a CDN before, but it has always sounded like a pain in the rear. So, I was pleased to see that Cloudflare made it braindead simple: they did a pretty good job of guessing out the contents of my DNS zone file, which I was later allowed to upload in full, then a quick update of my registrar’s NS records and yes, I was using Cloudflare inside of 5 minutes.
How does it work? It basically replaces your world-facing, web-serving A records with its own IPs, which it then answers HTTP/1.1 style. If you need dedicated IPs for SSL, that costs money. You set some A records to go straight to your server, so you can, for example, use SSH. It hands out the same IPs around the world, then magic network routing that I haven’t learned about takes care of the rest.
You're sharing IPs now, so HTTP/1.1 will work fine, but you'll need to set aside an A record if you need direct access.
Configure your A records: orange clouds will be fronted by CloudFlare, grey clouds will go straight home.
So, is it faster? Results from just-ping.com look very promising. I see an average latency of 62ms for CloudFlare versus an average latency of 144ms for direct access to my server in Chicago.
This shows two things. First, CloudFlare thoroughly reduces my latency anywhere outside Chicago. Second, and really just interesting for the biggest nerds, just-ping’s first Chicago node is closer to CloudFlare’s Chicago node, and just-ping’s second Chicago node is closer to my RackSpace-hosted Chicago node.
Okay, what about actual page-loading time? Well, I just happened to be doing some basic latency testing last month. Here’s what page load looked like in Google Chrome then:
Google Chrome's Developer Tool Network view last month.
Here’s what a page load from California looks like just now:
Page load time from California with CloudFlare enabled.
So, a basic test shows that the initial round trips go from 275ms to 136ms, and the total page load time is reduced by about 1/3. Now, the difference between 750ms and 500ms isn’t a huge deal, but the second you step overseas it makes a big difference. Above you see that the latency from my server in Chicago to Lison is 150ms, and 165ms to Nagano, and 290ms to Mumbai. With the latency goggles cranked to 200ms my page load times went from .75s to nearly 2s. So, my web site feels sluggish for people in Europe or Japan, and frustratingly slow in India. CloudFlare removes that frustration. Now, Mumbai can browse my site as comfortably as I could from California the day before. (Mumbai should be even faster once Cloudflare adds a node in India.)