so, the blog is functionally dead, which is a little unfortunate but likely a strong result of us (a) not being near each other and (b) intensely busy with our own lives and projects. That’s not a sad thing, but it’s worth reflecting on. I know I miss y’all dearly and would love chances to see and talk with you more often.

I intend for this blog to remain up for as long as we can afford to keep it up – the writings from my critical 19-21 year-old period are so so valuable to me.

I hope everyone who reads this is doing well. <3

quick analysis of “Breaking Through the Silence” video

My friend Alejo sent me this video interviewing four students with varying amounts of deafness who attend the University of Michigan. Both of my parents are deaf and I grew up speaking ASL, so this is something I’m interested in. Watch the video:


Overall I think it’s really valuable to go and learn about people’s experiences by *asking them directly*, and listening what they have to say, and so the video is *spot on* in doing this.

I made a few quick comments which I’m posting here just to share quickly:

from the first 6 minutes i note that there is no ASL (everyone is speaking), and so this is drawing from a group of deaf people who have a different experience from most of the deaf folks i grew up around

 within the Deaf world there exist the following divides (which correlate only a little bit):
 “hard of hearing” versus “fully deaf” (this is a physiological distinction)
 and “oral” versus “signing” (this denotes how someone was educated)
 (but also reflects how a deaf person chooses to communicate)
 this video samples an apparent spectrum of physiological deafness but focuses only on “oral” deaf, or at least only portraying that aspect
 (i’m not all the way through yet)
 but neglecting to interview students who were signing — perhaps because there were no Deaf students who were comfortable with ASL attending UM for this documentary — leaves out a big part of how Deafness is a cultural identity independent from “an obstacle one has to overcome”
 and so for this reason the video rubs me the wrong way a bit
 now, a caveat to *me* analyzing this video is that I have never personally experienced being deaf, and so it’s hard to critique
 and this does provide valuable insight into what it means to be “a deaf person interacting with hearing people”
 just, this is an incomplete picture of what it means to be a Deaf person
 also, on that topic, there’s a lot of use of the term “hearing impairment”
 deaf people among themselves use the term “deaf”
 looking on that article, i react immediately to this sentence
 “ASL users face stigma due to beliefs in the superiority of spoken language to signed language, compounded by the fact that ASL is often glossed in English due to the lack of a standard writing system.”
 and so that’s why i make such a big deal of the lack of ASL in the video
because, like, deafness is *not* just something that makes you talk funny and listen poorly and need to lip-read and that’s it

the videoblog: a dream

This is not a videoblog about a dream – this is a blog post about my dream of videoblogging.


I think I want to science-videoblog and get lots of views and be kind of awesome.

And I have been further inspired by things like Ira Glass’s interview:


and Wistia’s videoblogs about making high-quality effective videoblogs:



so let’s see if I ever get the courage to take this anywhere.

Top-notch essays, blogs, and other reading

UPDATED 16 Jan ’14


I really like reading certain blogs* online. Specifically, my favorites tend to be ones that (a) are written by a single author with a lot of life experience, and (b) where each entry is more or less standalone and about a topic, rather than a “life update”, “news update” or even an advertisement for some other thing (“hey look at this cool weight loss/time-saving tool”). I just finished a tech internship where I spent a lot of time reading such blogs. Here are some of my favorites:

Paul Graham: http://paulgraham.com/articles.html

Paul Graham’s famous in the Silicon Valley startup world, but I was only barely familiar with him when I moved out to San Francisco. I hear he’s really good at Lisp and at seeding startups via Y Combinator, but as far as I’m concerned, his biggest contribution to the world is through his essays. By this point, I think I’ve actually read all ~150 of his essays. A handful of my favorites: Writing, BrieflyHow to Do What You LoveYou Weren’t Meant to Have a BossHackers and Painters (I often underestimate how good this one in between re-reads) — Why Nerds are Unpopular  — Lies We Tell Kids — What You Can’t Say  — Good and Bad Procrastination

Joel on Software: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/

Joel Spolsky (Microsoft Excel, Fog Creek Software, Stack Overflow) is another big name in the software world after Paul Graham, but he focuses more on the nuts-and-bolts of how to make good software, how to build good teams, how to engineer things well, how to have a positive and productive environment. He doesn’t go into the history-changing stuff that Paul meanders into. He’s also a lot funnier! Some favorites highlighted:

The Joel Test — Getting Things Done When You’re Only A Grunt (SO useful in my current position, and I’ll look to it as I play the “long game”)– Strategy Letter III: Let Me Go Back —  Things You Should Never Do, Part I (a great treatise on a big software development mistake) — The Law of Leaky Abstractions — and many other good ones.

The UnStudent: http://www.theunstudent.com/  

Mikhail Klassen has great ideas about how grad school is like entrepreneurship. See his manifesto: http://www.theunstudent.com/about/ and his summary on astrobetter: http://www.astrobetter.com/graduate-school-as-entrepreneurship/

Nomadic Matt: http://www.nomadicmatt.com/

For my 22 day trip to Europe, I depended on Nomadic Matt for all of my questions and intuition, and I was not disappointed. One good article of a jillion:  http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/things-id-tell-a-new-traveler/

Matt Might: http://matt.might.net/#blog

Perspectives on academia that I find really down-to-earth. Some favorites:

http://matt.might.net/articles/cripple-your-technology/ http://matt.might.net/articles/shell-scripts-for-passive-voice-weasel-words-duplicates/

Stephen Bond: http://plover.net/~bonds/

“Why I’m no longer a skeptic”: a really insightful analysis of unchecked privilege masquerading as solidarity.

“Ender’s game”: on gratification, and similar these as above.


Other Essays —

Atul Gawande‘s blogs are some of the best things I have ever read. Please sit down and read these two if you have gotten this far: Slow Ideas and Letting Go

A Mathematician’s Lament: http://www.maa.org/devlin/lockhartslament.pdf Paul Lockhart wrote this essay

Politics and the English Language, George Orwellhttps://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm

Cargo Cult Science, Richard Feynmanhttp://www.lhup.edu/~DSIMANEK/cargocul.htm

Edward Murrow‘s speech, 1958: http://www.turnoffyourtv.com/commentary/hiddenagenda/murrow.html

Mr. X (Carl Sagan) — interesting, but I can’t confirm any of it yet: http://marijuana-uses.com/mr-x/


I would love for the comments section to fill up with other readings that you have found meaningful. Please leave comments letting me know what you liked and what I might like!


* In this context, “blog” means any website that contains content that has been added to over time in discrete chunks, regardless of its platform or how it looks. Wikis, news aggregators, other things are excluded.

in situ

It’s been a while since any of us have posted so I thought I’d drop in and say a quick thing about myself.


I am in astronomy grad school, and there are two things I want to say about this.

one: A goal of mine is to remain conscious of the pitfalls and strange aspects of academia as a human institution, and to never forget what it’s like to be a human-who-is-not-an-academic. I think that the pressures and politics of the Academy have a way of warping people into forgetting what’s relevant or meaningful about academic study as it relates to the human condition, and I want to keep my perspective as broad as possible while being able to successfully navigate academia well enough to do good work.

two: Doing astronomy is so, so, so much better of a fit for me than working at LiveRamp that it surprises even me. Most of my complaints about grad school are oriented on (a) the cultural things I outlined above, which I feel sometimes get people to forget why astronomy’s cool or why people would care about it, and (b) how there is a bunch of stuff asked of me (classes, eventually teaching, etc) that gets in the way of me doing new astronomy stuff — the creation of new knowledge and whatnot. I think these are okay problems to have at this point.

Making sure I stay happy and well-balanced, and that my sense of purpose continues to carry me forward, is the main challenge, I think, at this point of my life.  Things are good.


PS — I love this:

Typical day

Good morning, world! Here’s a typical day in my life.


7:00A – get briefly woken by my roommate as she gets ready for work. Promptly fall back asleep.

between 8:00A and 9:00A – wake up, take a shower, grab a granola bar and my backpack, and head out. (~half hour). Ride public transit, and read a cool book the whole time. (~one hour)

between 9:30A and 10:30A – get to work. Have breakfast (cereal, and a cup of tea).

During the workday: Code some Java using the IntelliJ IDE, create or close tickets using JIRA, commit code using git. Occasionally have meetings or create google docs showing coworkers what I’m up to. My desk is pretty big, and I sit in a row of desks (there are no cubes or offices in my company) next to my mentor and near other members of my team.


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