Saturday, May 25, 2013

What Exactly Does a College Degree Mean?

On LinkedIn there's a post by Ilya Pozin (@ilyaNeverSleeps) titled Class of 2013: Your Degree Doesn't Mean Squat. Ilya appears to be a young, successful businessperson. With all due respect to his success, I have a lot of issues with what he wrote.

I'll ignore the provocative title and move to the statement "most employers could care less about your GPA or where you went to school." I'll assume he's commenting on the value of a degree from status schools - Harvard, MIT, Yale, etc. There's truth in that, especially for undergraduates. As long as you attend an accredited school you can get a solid undergraduate education that's valuable. I'm not pretending that all schools are identical. But a B.S. is more about the student than the school.

But on the topic of GPA I guess I'm not like "most employers." I do care about your GPA. GPA means two things: either you're intellectually gifted or you work hard enough to overcome your lack of gifts. Either is good. 

When Ilya writes "getting hired in entry-level positions requires experience and fine-tuned skills, not a 4.0 GPA" I find myself saying no, no, no. We hire aptitude, not skills. Skills can be taught. Skills are how to do a particular thing. A B.S. in engineering is not a trade school. I don't want you graduating with skills at running program X. I want you to understand the fundamentals behind program X and similar programs Y and Z.

So all of that is from Ilya's introduction. Now we begin his five main points.

"Your degree isn't a golden ticket." Agree. There is nothing about a degree unto itself which entitles anyone to anything. But Ilya pushes it a bit too far for my taste: "I’d much rather hire someone who has been freelancing as a web developer for three years than someone who has a master’s degree in computer science. They’re bound to be more passionate, driven, and profitable in the long run..." Hmm. No bias there, eh? As though getting an M.S. doesn't require passion or drive. I'm not really certain what kind of social statement Ilya's making.

"It's all about experience." (And one internship isn't enough.) Ah, it's the old Catch-22 - need experience to get hired, need to get hired to get experience. Ilya suggests freelancing and contract gigs as a way to gain the requisite experience. After all, he started his company when he was 17. Long ago I stopped underestimating what new graduates can do when given the chance. And not all new hires need to arrive full of entrepreneurial zeal - that's not for everyone. They may just want to write code or design wings or whatever - and that's OK.

"Passion will help you succeed." On the surface, I agree. But by this he means that the job candidate should use their cover letter, resume, and interview to demonstrate true passion for working for Ilya's company. In other words, Ilya wants candidates to suck up. C'mon, man. How is a new graduate supposed to have true, demonstrable passion for working for Company X as opposed to doing the same thing for Company Y or Company Z? The passion that new graduates have is for the work, or technology, or field - they lack the experience to know which employer deserves their praise. In fact, it's up the employer to earn the employee's passion.

Also, let's keep in mind that passion can only take you so far. You can be passionate about something but if you also suck at it, well that's too bad. Excellence in the end goal. Passion, like discipline, is a means to an end, not an end unto itself.

"Companies hire the person who is certain to cause the most positive impact." That requires perspective. If you're hiring for skills (see above), certainly someone who has written ten iPad apps can come in and have an immediate impact on your iPad app (especially if you haven't done any yourself). But what if you're looking for long term impact, after that iPad app is done? What if your horizon for positive impact is five years? Do you still hire the most proficient Objective C programmer today?

"Go the extra mile." Seems like we kinda ran out of steam by the time we got to point #5. Don't see how it relates to having a degree or not. Don't see how it relates to new hires versus experienced employees. Try hard. There, I can write that stuff too.

At the end of the article there's a question written in italics what makes me wonder whether it's from Ilya or part of LinkedIn's boilerplate. "What do you wish someone would have told you when you graduated college?" New graduates need to know that over the course of their career they'll derive most of their satisfaction not from the work nor from the employer but from their coworkers and all the other people with whom they interact.

The ability to quote...

Sam Reveles, North II, 2013
When you're rich - really rich like Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos - you spend your money on interesting hobbies. Like recovering from the ocean floor the F-1 engines from Apollo-era Saturn V rockets.

July 4, 1969. I was seven. Our street, a cul-de-sac, was preparing the annual 4th of July block party. At some point, looking up at the sky, it became clear that wasn't going to happen. I remember watching some of the proceedings from our back porch with my father. But memories are faulty and I had always recalled the event as a tornado when it really was only differential advection.

The science of loneliness. tl;dr

A photo essay about building a monument to the victims of the 1989 crash of UTA Flight 772 in the middle of the desert.

NASA is funding research toward 3D printed pizza. I'm fairly certain when the federal government gets involved in food production, their pie will make Papa John's look like the Gramercy Tavern by comparison.

Proof #55 that innovation is not dead. The only thing strange about Beardvertising is that no one has thought of it before.
Two things caught my eye in this photo essay titled Ruins of Super Science (catchy, eh?). First, that's a B-1 bomber in the photograph of the ATLAS-1 EMP test stand. Second, Tesla's Wardenclyffe Tower shares a name with an album by guitarist Allan Holdsworth.

You can follow Starfleet Academy on Facebook. 

Let's get ready to rumble. In a geek-off between Star Wars and Star Trek nerds, which spaceships are faster?

To boldly go where no wurst has gone before. You must click through to see all the pictures.
If processed meats are too dangerous for human consumption, at least they're good for space travel (see above).

R'ha - 6 minute, scifi, animated video. Watch it.

For the vintage animation junkie, here's the GI Bill of Rights from 1946 including photos of the storyboards.

I really wanted to like SPIN's list of the 100 greatest drummers of alternative music. But the whole thing was meh punctuated occasionally by bleh.

The evolution of 007. See the animated version here.
In a case of chest-thumping ignorance that can only cause head shaking, the fine people of Portland (home of more strip clubs per capita than anywhere else in this fine nation and soon to be home of more strippers with bad teeth than anywhere else) rejected fluoridation of their water supply for the fourth time since 1956. Keep in mind that the CDC calls water fluoridation one of the top 10 public health achievements of the 20th century. (I suppose the "rationale" in Portland was that it's now the 21st century so we ought to move along.) This ranks right up there with parents who don't get their children immunized and the whole faux-panic about immunization causing autism. This, ladies and gentlemen, is why science knowledge is important. This is a case where politics trumped public service. Insert your favorite "purity of essence" joke from Dr. Strangelove.

Before the nut-jobs in Portland decide to ban chlorine for water purification they should read this study indicating that at least half of swimming pools (public and private) sampled in Atlanta tested positive for E. coli, the source of which is good ol' human poo poo. According to science, each person carries 0.14 grams of doodie into the cement pond.
Places where Soviets couldn't go when visiting the U.S. during the Cold War.
Wanna get scientists all frothy? Show them a big meteor impact on the moon.

I'm starting to love this guy: retiring Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis is quoted as saying "Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet."

A for effort, D for execution. But why should Taylor Swift have all the fun? Here's Daft Punk's Goat Lucky.

What do Kepler and Daft Punk have in common? How about Debussy and wind? I think this guy's on to something with music to visualize data by.

From goats to bears. Contrary to what you've heard, a bear did not eat a video camera it only chewed on it. So if you have a fetish for the inside of a bear's pie-hole, this video's for you.

Beer Mapper for iPad - mapping all the types of brew.
I suppose it's time to recycle the story about color associations and their use in marketing. Where's my purple robe?

Real world, real time statistics - Worldometers.

Why is it when you get older it seems hair grows everywhere except where it should?

How does a toilet work?

I started with a beautiful painting and I'll end with a painting of another sort. John Currin, Bea Arthur Naked, 1991. Recently sold for $1.9 million at auction. a serviceable substitute for wit. ~W. Somerset Maugham

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Whether you think that you can or you think that you can't...

Today's soundtrack is an excerpt from Gau by CMKK and an excerpt from Interstices III by Illuha.

In case you missed it, do a Google image search for "atari breakout" and enjoy their tribute to the classic game. I played this game a lot on the Atari 2600.

I'm glad to see that Texas Monthly's list of the top 50 BBQ joints includes Fort Worth's Cousin's Bar-B-Q, my personal favorite. Also on the list is Bartley's in Grapevine.

For my friends in NYC, you have until 02 June to see Brian Eno's 77 Million Paintings, a self-generating installation of images and sound, at the Red Bull Music Academy.

James Franco is starring in and directing a film adaptation of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, currently showing at the Festival de Cannes. How long before I can catch it on HBO?

Happy (belated) Mother's Day - source
<aviation pr0n>

Video of the X-47B UAV being launched from a carrier.

A photo essay of transporting the A-12 (predecessor of the SR-71) in secret to its testing site in the Nevada desert.

Video of the fantastic XB-70 landing with its gear on fire.

Aviation humor. Never fly with a pilot braver than you.

</aviation pr0n>

And here I thought I was the only one picky enough to complain about the filename of your resume. Don't send me "resume.pdf" - send "FirstnameLastnameResume.pdf." And absolutely don't send me "good-resume.pdf" or "resume-version5.pdf."

Mathematics eye candy in the form of animated GIFs.

In a case of archeology of the recent past, a Paris apartment that has been closed and unoccupied since 1939 when the owner fled at the start of WWII was recently reopened after her death.

Christie's sold themselves quite a bit of "post-war and contemporary" (aka modern) art this past week. So many great painters and paintings were included in this auction that I can't list them all here so I'll link to the auction results. Of course, Pollock's Number 19 (1948) set a record for any of his works at $58 million. Rothko's Untitled (Black on Maroon) from 1958 sold for $27 million.

Clyfford Still, PH-1, 1953 - Was expected to bring $15-$20M at Christies' auction but went unsold.
Mankind's smallest and most remote art museum is on the moon because of a tiny ceramic wafer smuggled onto the lunar lander with six drawings by Claes Oldenburg and others.

Mildly interesting: top 10 iconic moments in college football history.

A long article on who did what during the golden age of Disney animation. tl;dr

CS Principles is a pilot project to remake an AP course in computer science. In case you're curious, here's a list of the top principles of computing: computation, communication, coordination...

And now presented for your consideration: can Conway's Game of Life be adapted to a Penrose Tiling and related issues?

Git on yer retro geek: photos of famous scientists in their laboratories. Not to be outdone, checkout famous authors' handwritten notes for their books. And for you fans of classic scifi, here's a look at the Star Trek writer's guide from 1967.

Award-winning artist Richard Wright was commissioned to hand paint 47,000 stars on the ceiling outside the room in the Rijksmuseum where Rembrandt's Starry Night is displayed.
I have never watched the TV show Arrested Development but I know many people who love it so this is for them: every recurring joke in chart form.

Definitely worth taking 15 minutes to watch the sci-fi video Project Kornos.

A cloud is a lot heavier than you think.

Here's your weekly time waster: Eschersketch are usually right. ~Henry Ford


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Timebomb by Gerald Seymour

Gerald Seymour's Timebomb certainly isn't a James Bond thriller. Instead of banter, flash, and daring-do it's an unglamorous, realistic study in how many things can go wrong while still achieving the desired result.

Seymour brings the understatement of le Carré and the verisimilitude of Clancy to the tale of a Soviet nuclear warhead being brokered by the Russian mob to buyers unknown.

Every character in this tale is flawed. The MI-6 team leader is a universally disliked Cold War veteran who has to run this interdiction with a talented but minimally staffed team because only one other person believes this isn't a wild goose chase. The ex-Soviet military types, out to get their due after being rejected by the disintegrated USSR, are old geezers who hopelessly underestimate the job of transporting the device from its hiding place to the point of exchange. The mob boss is a soulless beast driven by tales of his grandmother's escape from Sobibor near the end of World War II. And MI-6's inside man is slowly reaching the point of psychological breakdown to the point where he begins to think the mob boss is his only true friend.

Any fan of John le Carré's work will enjoy Gerald Seymour's Timebomb.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Fiction gives us a second chance...

Today's soundtrack - EndlessCity/ConcreteGarden by the collaboration of Roger Eno and Plumbline.

Do you remember Geometry Daily? The artist behind it shares the story behind its first year, the site's popularity, and plans for the future. (Be sure to watch the video Gray Keys at the 2nd link.)

There must be something wrong with me. MIT Technology Review's annual list of 10 breakthrough technologies doesn't excite me much this year. 3D printing, OK. Temporary social media (e.g. SnapChat)? C'mon man.

On the other hand, MIT Tech Review does tantalize with this article about the Tunguska explosion of 1908. You've probably heard about that - a blast about 1,000 times larger than Hiroshma that devastated a remote region of Siberia. The generally accepted theory is an atmospheric explosion of a comet or meteorite but no one has ever found a single fragment. Until now.

Speaking of meteorites, you gotta check out this animated timeline of all witnessed meteorite-earth impacts.

It's That Time of the Week 

The periodic table of elements but with flags of the country of discovery.
The periodic table of Star Wars episodes IV, V, and VI.
The periodic table of Middle Earth for all you LoTR fans.
The illustrated periodic table of the elements. (PDF)

Phew - That's Over

If you think those standing and walking desks are shitty ideas and if you realize that your best thoughts often occur on the throne, you'll love the CanDo Lavatory Workstation.
Flying car? The PAL-V.

Draw whatever conclusion you like but I've lived in two of the top 10 redneck cities: Fort Worth (#6) and Cleveland (#9). Cleveland? How'd it make the list?

And Now, A Refreshing Drink

A Baltic Porter made from seaweed? Quaff that, beer buddies.

Sierra Nevada (Brewing) meets Sierra Nevada (Corp. - the spacecraft people) and the result is the brewing of beer.

In a medical advance for the mouthless, here's how you drink beer with your ear.

Moving On

Aviation pr0n, video version. The X-51A scramjet-powered WaveRider achieves hypersonic speeds. And the X-47B UAV completes a simulated carrier landing.

More than you ever wanted to know about North American English Dialects.
Presentation tip #37: do not tell a female audience member she's a lying bitch while you're onstage.

If you believe that Walt Disney invented Mickey Mouse you'd better read this article about Disney artist Ub Iwerks and his many talents.

Moving forward in the animation timeline, here's an interview with Tom Sito who recently authored a book on the history of computer animation, Moving Innovation: A History of Computer Animation.

Pop Chart Lab brings us this visual history of video game controllers.
Take 8 minutes for a video about the art of data visualization

How about a color video of London in 1927?

Need blank sheet music for your band, chorus, solo, or ensemble? Look no further than Music Paper.

On the other hand, maybe musical notation needs to be a bit more freeform like Cycles 720 where music is defined by the interaction of shapes.
How many of the top 30 philosophers of all time can you guess before clicking the link? Hint: the most recent is Sartre.

Would you be surprised to learn that some atoms have pear-shaped nuclei? So what, you might say. Well, they may help explain supersymmetry by revealing an asymmetric distribution of charge inside a neutron.

Truly TL;DR but you movie fans might like it - Steven Soderbergh talks about the state of cinema.

Abstract art. Did it peak in the latter half of the 20th century? Or is now the golden age of abstraction?

I added that last part. source
What does it take to restore the shuttlecraft Galileo from Star Trek, The Original Series? Lot's of money and 2,000 hours (and counting).

This TL;DR article about "living in space" seems to compare reality with fantasy regarding human activity in space. It does contain this bit of self-delusion: "The business of getting people to and from orbital space is now largely routine, thanks in no small part to the retirement of the accident-prone Space Shuttle and a greater reliance on sturdier rocket-and-capsule technology." First, access to space is hardly routine. Putting humans and/or cargo into space is still a very risky proposition. Let's try to imagine the shitstorm in the wake of the destruction of a commercial launch vehicle and crew. Second, the Space Shuttle wasn't accident-prone. In fact, you could make an argument that it failed much less frequently than it should have (statistically speaking).

In the future, gray hair may be a thing of the past thanks to science. Now that we know that hairs turn gray from the inside out due to a build-up of hydrogen peroxide we can create something that offsets the process.

Can you believe an entire website dedicated to the original 1966 Batmobile?

Collectors Weekly takes us on a trip down memory lane as it considers the history of men's underwear. "Undergarments as we know them today were first sold to promote cleanliness and improve the comfort of wearing clothing. That they might one day be deemed fashionable was not even an after-thought." Uh, when did I miss this fashionable underwear bit? How can something unseen be considered fashionable?

If I can trust Google Translate, the mascot of Brazil's Assistant Association for People with Cancer is a giant, walking pair of testicles.
Think you're having a bad day? I was swallowed by a hippo.

...that life denies us. ~Paul Theroux

Saturday, May 4, 2013

It is easier to appear worthy of a position...

Giant. Inflatable. Poo.
Teh interwebs were made for this: a collection of bedpans.

This brief article about drummer Jerry Marotta and when he first met Peter Gabriel and Robert Fripp (Marotta, a blues and R&B drummer, clicked immediately with the enigmatic Fripp) includes a long video interview with Jerry about the Security Project, a tribute band of sorts that's touring with material from Gabriel's Security album.

Every Noise At Once is a map of every music genre with samples.

Are you starting a new job soon? This list of 10 tips will help you start things off on the right foot. #3 Build relationships based on performance, not conversation.

Congress continues to seek new things to screw up. A recently proposed bill would "replace peer review at the National Science Foundation (NSF) with a set of funding criteria chosen by Congress." That's like LiLo opening her own rehab clinic.

Things you wish you'd thought of. Mark Rothko, No. 14, 1960 done in toast and jam at the San Francisco MoMA.
Is the taxation of online sales inevitable? Read about the Marketplace Fairness Act.

SoundBrush looks like an interesting iPad app. You draw, it plays music.

Some cranky person isn't a fan of Silicon Valley and made a Tumblr to prove it: Jesus Christ, Silicon Valley.

Begin Video
Fin Video

Is that book small enough for you?
Comedian Louis C.K. is funny. He also seems to be a trailblazer in marketing.

Texas A&M is gonna spend $450 million to increase seating capacity at Kyle Field to 102,000.

They're making a movie of Ender's Game starring Harrison Ford and some kid named Asa Butterfield. The official trailer comes out on 7 May so I guess this clip is just a teaser. The book is good. I wonder if the movie will be.

How well do you know religion? Take this 15 question quiz from the Pew Research Center and find out. I got 13 correct and both of my incorrect answers were stupid mistakes about Christianity and Catholicism. Doh!

What are the best programming fonts? (I downloaded Source Code Pro but can't make vim use it. ;-(

A vintage photo of the exterior panel's of Spaceship Earth at Disney's Epcot, presumably during construction. From the Vintage Disney Parks Tumblr.
Here is a collection of vintage photos of German aircraft downed over England during WWII.

Has it really gotten to the point where we need Esquire magazine to tell us how to be gracious?

On the other hand, it's important to know about a good suit.

If you are a newspaper reader like me, you may find these past visions of the newspaper of tomorrow to be quaintly amusing.

Jackson Pollock, Full Fathom Five, 1947 (detail). Read about how understanding Pollock's process is crucial to conserving his paintings. His beautiful, beautiful paintings.
Don't know what kind of beer to have next? Try BeerMapper, the Pandora of beer apps.

This list of Cold War era government projects is labelled "ridiculous" but that not all of them are. Some are real. Some are horrific.

Heracleion found.

Regardless of your personal opinion of Jerry Jones or the Dallas Cowboys, their stadium's collection of 50 contemporary art installations is an impressive achievement. Tours are offered 3-times per day, Tuesdays and Thursdays. They even have a free iOS app.

Begin Big Thoughts

Students aren't being taught to read anymore. "...the foundational step of actually reading the words on the page is neglected often to the point that actually reading the assignment isn't necessary..." Read this and weep.

Lest we embrace solely the quantitative, consider the Pythagorean Temptation. "Too assiduous a delight in the quantitative may conceal our intellectual natures from us, and disfigure our lives."

When art meets law. Most of you will find this tl;dr but here's a summary of a recent, precedent-setting appeal courts ruling on fair use in the art world. 

Back to Little Thoughts

Feeling underappreciated? Give yourself an award with Thousands Under 90.
So, have you seen the Arby's commercial where that surfer dude guy says the sandwich is "ono" meaning delicious in Hawai'in? I wanted to know if that was true (it is) but a Googling tangent discovered this page of Canadian slang. Serviette? Really?

Proof that you can write a witty review of an all-vegan strip club. (No naughty pics, OK to read anywhere.)

Have you heard the story of beer bricks?
Women fine 10 day's worth of beard stubble most attractive on a man? C'mon ladies, pick a side - clean shaven or bearded, not this in-between crap.

Here is today. does not hold, than of the office one fills. ~Francois de La Rochefoucauld