In the spirit of owning my own words publicly, here are some thoughts I shared on a friend’s Facebook page about the value of my higher education degrees. My friend’s question: “Has anyone ever studied the attitudes of persons with bachelor’s degrees toward the value of a postsecondary education as it correlates with field of undergraduate study after 20 or 30 years? Are hard sciences graduates more likely than most to describe their undergraduate years as well-spent, or less? Liberal arts? Business administration?”
I am, in fact, a hard-sciences major with a liberal arts minor undergrad, and an MBA, so I am either supremely qualified or un-, depending on how you value the respondent’s ability to make up one’s mind in evaluating whether you want to listen to the answer.
Regarding physics, I have felt for the past twenty-five years or so a deep gratitude for what it taught me about approaching deep problems, learning by hypothesis and disproof, and the necessity of striking out beyond one’s comfort zone when it becomes clear that one has spent four years getting a degree whose value depends on one’s willingness to spend another twelve years in and post-school and embrace a life of poverty in government funded labs of uncertain stability. They don’t ask me to talk about the last one to modern SPS students.
Regarding my English minor, I believe it gave me a lifelong appreciation for the well-chosen word and for our bloody-minded language, as well as appreciation for history, philology, semiotics, and half a dozen other things I never studied but which were hinted at darkly among the edges of my curriculum.
And business? Little poetry in it, but considered as a sociological study for the alien tribes with whom I’ve spent my latter career, it’s been invaluable preparation.
So, no, none a waste of my time. But I’d argue that choosing any undergraduate major for preparation into a lifelong vocation is not only wrong-headed but shows a dangerous lack of imagination or a distressing naïveté, or both. (I really thought my father’s 30+ career at NASA was the norm when it came to the longevity of employment in the sciences.) But choosing majors that arm the mind with intrinsic skills for future battles—that’s different.
It’s been a while since I’ve spun the wheel. Here are the five tracks that came up this time:
- The Kingston Trio, “The Patriot Game” (Kingston Trio: Collector’s Series). From late in the original trio’s run, after Dave Guard had been replaced by John Stewart (the songwriter of “Daydream Believer,” not the comedian), comes this cover of Dominic Behan’s ballad protesting the murder of an IRA volunteer by another IRA member. It’s the same tune (“The Merry Month of May”) that Bob Dylan borrowed for “With God On Our Side.”
- Joan Baez, “Away in a Manger (French Version)” (Noel). Boy, we’re really mining the 60s folk vein here this morning. My mom had (and occasionally played) this Christmas album, but for me it’s best remembered for the instrumental arrangements by Peter (P.D.Q. Bach) Schickele.
- Polyphony, “II. In te, Domine, speravi” (Morten Lauridsen: Lux Aeterna). The most exquisitely dissonant movement of Lauridsen’s soaring setting of the Lux text.
- Bob Dylan, “I Shall Be Free” (The Bootleg Series Vol.9: the Witmark Demos). Dylan goofs on an old Lead Belly song.
- The Beach Boys, “Little Deuce Coupe” (Surfer Girl). Did you know that a “deuce coupe” was a 1932 Ford Model 18? Now you do.
New York Times: Oroville is a warning for California Dams, as Climate Change Adds Stress. We have, as a society, been neglecting maintenance – of our infrastructure, our code, our bodies. (Well, I have, anyway.)
Boing Boing: Anonymous infiltrated the KKK by friending Blue Lives Matter supporters on Facebook. So yes, the echo chamber thing works by reinforcing the connections you already have with more connections like them. But what happens if you choose a different starting point? You can end up unmasking a whole grand council of cyclopses.
The New Yorker: The Ninth Circuit Rejects Trumpism. The enumeration in the article of the constitutional principles challenged by Trump’s executive order on immigration, aka the “Muslim ban,” is long. The scarier bit is the repeated note that the administration was given every chance to argue in a serious way for its side and offered no more than “because I said so.”
I added eleven new albums to my iTunes library last month. Nine of those were vinyl rips.
Partly this was ongoing work from my ten-year-old, still not yet completed project to digitize all my vinyl. (Pro tip: don’t inherit over fifty records when you’re in the middle of a project like that. Or have two children.) But a big chunk of it stemmed from two record store trips, one to Harvest Records in Asheville, and one to Barnes & Noble, of all places.
Digital has gotten increasingly more prevalent and convenient. I can buy and download my friend Tyler’s band’s live shows within a few weeks of their performance, and you can pry my Bandcamp subscription out of my cold, dead hands. But I had forgotten how desperately I missed the physical act of browsing.
Which is why I love this development, the launch of a new state of the art vinyl record manufacturing machine, so much. Bring it on!
New Yorker: Václav Havel’s lessons on how to create a “parallel polis.” A perspective of hope drawn from Havel’s response to both Communism and Cold War capitalism:
The spontaneous and vigorous opposition to Trump, whether at the women’s marches the day after his Inauguration or at the protests at U.S. airports in support of a viciously demonized people, has already manifested many of the qualities that Havel wished to see in civil society: trust, openness, responsibility, solidarity, and love. Many more people realize, as Havel did, that arbitrary and inhuman power cannot deprive them of the inner freedom to make moral choices, and to make human community meaningful. They are shaping a redemptive politics of dissidence in the free world, nearly three decades after the fall of Communism. To measure the American dissidents’ success in electoral or any other quantifiable terms would be beside the point. For they are creating a “parallel polis”: the vital space where many, over the next four years, will find refuge from our age of anger, and learn to live in truth.
I like this perspective very much. Here dissidence isn’t just opposition to the actions of an “enemy,” it’s assertion of moral values and enacting positivity. Definitely a lesson here.
New York Times from yesterday: Trump and staff rethink tactics after stumbles.
Mr. Bannon remains the president’s dominant adviser, despite Mr. Trump’s anger that he was not fully briefed on details of the executive order he signed giving his chief strategist a seat on the National Security Council, a greater source of frustration to the president than the fallout from the travel ban.
Read that again.
Trump demoted the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the US Director of National Intelligence to give Steve Bannon, a white nationalist, a seat on the NSC, then complains he didn’t know what was in the order he signed?
I keep missing blogging days, but not because things aren’t busy. Here’s a roundup of places where I’ve been talking in the press and other stuff for the past few months:
On the Veracode blog: Regulations like FS-ISAC and PCI are now looking at the security of open source components, are you ready?. Plus a three part series on the ransomware attack against the San Francisco MUNI and software composition analysis (one, two, three).
In the press:
And it looks like this year’s RSA will be pretty busy in a few weeks. It’s unfortunate that I haven’t wanted to write much about other things recently, but work is definitely making up for it.
XKCD nails it, as always. But there’s more.
My addiction was to Diet Coke, of which I was drinking two cans a day during the week. While the medical evidence on aspartame is pretty unanimous, I felt like I always wanted to eat more back then. And the constant caffeine infusions weren’t great for my heart health, either.
I quit Diet Coke cold turkey over three years ago, along with all other sodas. I rarely miss it.
Sorry for the unplanned radio silence on the blog. The combination of the horrific first week of the Trump presidency and a busier work schedule than normal has temporarily stopped my words.
At least here. For some reason, I can still write on Facebook. Here’s what I said recently about the immigration ban targeting Muslims:
The anesthesiologist from Iran who assisted with my heart surgery does not need to be banned.
My son’s best friend, a Sikh boy in kindergarten who played at our house yesterday, does not need to be banned.
Students who are legal residents, with full documentation and vetting, who went home to visit their parents for winter break and cannot return to complete their studies, do not need to be banned.
And don’t try to tell me that this is about terrorism, when Saudi Arabia, the country of most of the 9/11 hijackers who killed my friend Doug, my dear friend M’s husband, and thousands more, is not included in the ban. Nor are any other countries linked to Trump’s business interests.
This isn’t about terrorism. This is about unprecedented levels of institutional racism and bigotry in a country founded on religious freedom.
Boing Boing: Rep. John Lewis’ civil rights comic trilogy still at #1. Thanks Trump! Going to check this out and hope to share it with my kids.
Washington Post: ‘This is dangerous’: After D.C. protesters shout at ex-N.C. Gov. McCrory, lawmaker floats bill to protect him. Interesting: my initial reaction was a knee-jerk response that this is yet another demonstration by North Carolina lawmakers that they don’t understand the Bill of Rights. But the Post article (unlike the Boing Boing pointer to it) references a DC law that similarly protects current or former DC employees in the course of their duties. Very curious on the back story of that one.
I got upgraded at work from a late-2011 MacBook Pro to a late-2016 MacBook Pro—the kind with Touch Bar. I’m learning and relearning a lot of things that I had figured out how to do on the old machine as I set things up. Observations:
- The thing is fast. (Probably mostly because of the SSD drive, though the 3.3GHz vs. 2.4GHz processor may have something to do with it.)
- And so much more reliable. I was kernel panicking all over the place in the old machine.
- I hadn’t tweaked the old machine as much as I was afraid I had. After moving my home directory over, there were only a handful of apps I had to reinstall from scratch. I had also been smart enough to do most of my custom fonts in my user/Library/Fonts directory rather than in System, which made migration much easier.
- Speaking of migration, Thunderbolt really did the trick. I think moving all 300+ GB of stuff took about six hours, much faster than I remember when I used Firewire or Ethernet in the past.
- The keyboard is a non-issue. Feels great. Maybe a little loud but very easy to type on.
There are some things I’m still getting used to:
- I hit the Siri key by accident a fair amount.
- I really should have registered my index finger rather than my thumb on the fingerprint sensor.
- The touch bar is pretty cool, but not much uses it yet. I spend most of my day in Chrome and it’s got nothing there.
And the big thing I’m waiting for: better USB-C (Thunderbolt 3) docks. While I’d love something like the OWC Thunderbolt 3 dock, which has pretty much every port you’d ever need, they don’t ship until sometime in March, presumably thanks to the TI chipset issue. In the meantime, the only thing I’m really missing is an Ethernet adapter, and that’s just because it’s back-ordered.
(Also, it’d be great if I could get SheepShaver working, but that’s not required for work, obviously.)
busblog: a timeline of Donald Trump lying about releases his taxes. Yesterday was the most egregious, with spokesperson Kellyanne Conway flatly stating that Trump will not release his tax returns even after the famous ongoing audit is completed. (The White House later reversed this statement.)
I’m reminded of this Doonesbury strip from August 1974:
It’s been a great ride under President Obama. I’m not looking forward to what tomorrow will bring. Because tomorrow I have to stop ignoring the reality of last November’s election and dig in.
I was listening to Hamilton for the first time last week when I was traveling (I know. I’m the last person on earth to hear it), and when we got to George Washington’s farewell address, it got me thinking about Fortuna, the (lowercase-w) wheel of Fortune. How Washington set precedents for the peaceful transfer of power that all 44 presidents since him have followed, but that Donald Trump seems determined not to.
I think we’re going to find out in the next few years just how much that we take for granted in our public life—in the life of our Republic—is set by precedent rather than law, and how easily those precedents can be overturned.