Category Archives: Random

Complacency RE: TSA

This past weekend I was on a trip to San Francisco. I was only staying for the weekend and hadn’t packed much. Everything I needed fit into a carry-on. This also meant that everything I needed would have to be loaded onto the TSA conveyor-belt to ensure that I wouldn’t be bringing anything dangerous into the passenger cabin of the plane. To my surprise, my bag was flagged and my tube of toothpaste was deemed “too large” and had to be taken away from me.

Upon returning home a few days later, I relayed the story to a colleague, who said something along the lines of “The only one to blame is yourself.” After unsuccessfully trying to argue my point that the TSA should not be able to take away toothpaste that is obviously toothpaste [1], I realized that my colleague had simply grown complacent with the TSA.

I believe strongly that the TSA is a good example of the people giving up freedoms for “protection,” something that should not happen. [2] This blog post, therefore, serves as a reminder to the reader that the people should not be willing to sacrifice freedoms for safety. The people should only be willing to accept safety precautions that do not encroach upon their freedoms. The TSA and NSA, unfortunately, do not fall into this category and should not be accepted. [3]

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1. I had asked the TSA agent if I could squeeze toothpaste out such that, when folded, the tube would meet the maximum size restrictions. They said this was not allowed.
2. A fantastic explanation of this can be seen in Glen Greenwald’s TED Talk about privacy https://www.ted.com/talks/glenn_greenwald_why_privacy_matters?language=en
3. Unfortunately, I am not aware of a good way to fight the TSA. As a side thought, however, I wonder how many innocent tubes of toothpaste must be taken away until a tube of toothpaste is considered to be a safe item

Why I am Ditching Academia.edu

Over the past years, I have written several papers that I am proud of. I wanted to put all of these papers in a place where people would be able to find them and learn about the arguments I was making. I found academia.edu, which seemed to be exactly what I was looking for.

Since posting my papers to Academia, their views have skyrocketed. I have also been contacted by several people thanking me for my work. The interactions between papers, data, and readers that Academia provide are extremely interesting.

However, it seems that Academia has recently changed its mindset. When I first started using them, their landing page was a place to search for papers and see the most popular pieces of research. Recently, their landing page changed to something else: A simple prompt to register for an account.

Academia.edu's new landing page, emphasizing account-creation over paper-finding

Academia.edu’s new landing page, emphasizing account-creation over knowledge-finding

The new landing page sends a clear message: Academia.edu’s goals have changed. Instead of wanting their users to find free research in the quickest way possible, they want their users to make an account. They do not want to spread free knowledge, they want to increase the number of people who are registered on their website.

Further, Academia.edu now requires an Academia.edu account to download papers.

These are not values that I would like my papers to be associated with. Although Academia’s high search engine rankings are beneficial to the popularity of my papers, sacrifices must be made to ensure that my papers are free to access (Both in the sense of cost and in the sense of accessibility). Blocking curious minds behind an account creation process is not free.

In the coming days, I will be moving all of my papers to a specific “Papers” page of this website. Unless Academia changes its ways, I will no longer be using them to host my research.

The Importance of a Quality Office Chair

I write this as I sit in an office chair in a Bellevue hotel room. I try and try again to muster the mental strength to focus on the latest addition to the project I’m working on. However, for every bit of mental energy expended on the process of opening a new vim window, I spend about five seconds opening up a new tab and browsing to {unproductive site} [1]. This is an entirely unbalanced distribution of time, and after about an hour, I still haven’t added anything useful to the project.

Why is this? Out of all possible causes and correlations, I blame it on the chair I’m sitting in. The chair has a long base (The part that makes direct contact with the buttocks), meaning that in order for the back to be pressed against the back of the chair, the sitter must slouch or extend his legs in an uncomfortable fashion. Thus, I am slouching.

This slouching seems to make me inattentive and easily distracted. I am almost too comfortable to be focusing. If I wanted to focus, I would be sitting up relatively straight.

My theory about the chair reminds me of several different scenarios, which I will describe in a very Freudian fashion.

  1. The chair in my home office forces me to sit up straight. However, it lacks solid lower back support. Thus, I am able to focus for a good hour or so, but as soon as I feel back pain, I begin to unfocus and slouch. This slouching causes me to continue to remain inattentive to the task at hand.
  2. The seats of an airplane also force me to sit up straight. As much as people complain about the discomfort of airplane seats, I find them to be very comfortable. Albeit, I think people complain about the lack of respect for a “personal bubble” more than anything. While I’m in an airplane, I am able to focus very well. However, this may be due to my lack of accessible Internet connection.
  3. The chairs in my University library seem to encourage focus. However, there are chairs in which I do not focus – those that are the ones in which cannot reach the table comfortably.
  4. The chairs at my previous employment were very nice Steelcase chairs. While sitting in them, I was able to stay focused for several hours at a time without distraction. This could probably also be attributed to the work environment and the other focused workers who surrounded me.

Although causation is not clearly implied, it is clear that the chair I am sitting in has some sort of correlation with my level of focus. It is obvious that a good chair is necessary for back health, but a good chair may also be just as important for focusing on the task at hand.

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1. Usually Reddit, Hacker News, or Wikipedia

Twin Peaks

How can anyone possibly believe
that they are more than a speck?

Houses and buildings down below
with movement far from sight.

This is how it will be
when we fade away.
Life’s beauty is temporary.

When I sit up here, where the land seems to touch the sky, and the insignificance of life is made clear, I think about my goals. I only have so much time to experience and enjoy human life as it currently exists. With that being said, I think that the concept of “settling down” is reserved for a later time – for when my children need a stable place to grow and mature. Until then, while I have no obligations elsewhere, I plan to travel the world and absorb the human experience from many differnet viewpoints. I plan to work hard doing something that will help the advancement of humanity – not just on this planet, but hopefully on others as well. Only when I have satisfactory stability will I “settle down”, hopefully raising my children without at the same time struggling to meet standards set by society, as my parents struggled to do.

The last years of my life have been spent catching up with what humanity has accomplished in the past: The advancements made in mathematics, the sciences, and the arts. It is important to know how we made it to this point, so that we may humbly advance to the next. Every day, each individual aids in the advancement of the human species, each in their own way.

Summer of 2012 Book Quotes

This post was moved from the now no-longer-existent Brandonsoft developers blog and was originally written on August 11, 2012.

Over the summer, I have been busy reading various books. Of course, with all books, there are very memorable quotes within these books. Often times, I would post these quotes to Facebook and watch as hilarity ensues as my friends argue about the topic. Here are some of the quotes that I found particularly interesting:

What you alter in remembering has yet a reality, known or not.

-The Road by Cormac McCarthy

 

There is no God and we are his prophets.

-The Road by Cormac McCarthy

 

Only in the best of possible worlds is all for the best.

-Candide by Voltaire

 

These quotes are not only memorable because they address topics that are highly controversial, but they also do so very elegantly, giving them a profound sense of enlightenment. Plus, all three quotes contain very powerful messages.