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Category Archives: Commentary

Email surveillance

There’s a new article in the SF Chronicle that says the University of California, Office of the President (UCOP) has been monitoring emails going in and out of the UC system by using computer hardware. I wanted to give my personal opinion, as a computer programmer and somebody who has experience managing mail exchangers1. The quotes in the SF Cron article are very generous with technical details about the email surveillance system. Most of the time, articles about mass surveillance are dumbed down, but this one gives us at least a little something to chew on. Email was not originally designed to be a secure protocol. Over the three (four?) decades that email systems have been used, computer people have created several extensions to the original SMTP2 and 822 envelope protocol to provide enough modern security to make email “good enough” for modern… more →

What Google+ thinks about photos

Last year, I took some of the money I made from running this website and bought myself a dslr camera off of Amazon. It was the most money I had ever spent on anything for myself1. I couldn’t really say why I decided to buy a camera out of the blue, but I think I have a better grasp on the reasons now. First of all, I’ve always been sort of interested in photography and optics. I just liked taking pictures of stuff, even if it was with my pinhole cell phone camera or the webcam on my laptop. I knew a lot more about optical physics and lenses than most kids my age too. In college, I posted a lot of photos of architecture at Berkeley and things I saw at department stores on my status update blog. And before… more →

Trumpeting charity

One of our most bizarre social stigmas is against the trumpeting of good deeds. We are taught from birth that real charity shouldn’t bring attention to itself, that selflessness is somehow better when it passes undiscovered to all but oneself. But in a society of open-minded individuals, this paradigm may honestly be one thing holding back progress. This ideal which is taught across cultures and religions1 did apply at one time in the past when the world was not as connected as it is now. The advent of globalization has done wonders to the standards of the First World, primarily that an individual need no longer live walled in by the limitations of social and governmental precedents. The communities we build online transcend these historical boundaries and cultivate a generation of people in which Indians and Pakistanis can laugh and play… more →

On living among humans

Human beings are so bizarre. It took many years before I could grasp adequately the combinations of relations that can exist among numbers of sentiment-ridden friends. In my head, it’s all graph theory: vertices, formations in a ‘Z’, bridges and nodes with adjacency matrices and relational costs manifested in humans as motivation and want. I get the feeling that typical people come to the conclusions I have by experience alone, meaning trial and error in frequency, or perhaps it’s by upbringing. Thinking it out mathematically does take me a while longer, but I need more evidence than just the empirical. I’m convinced that the best of us enjoy living for amusement. The things that we as a species can plausibly endeavor to do, above any contempt, they are life’s profoundly cruel jokes on whatever existence we hope to find important. That… more →

Value in art

Given the final futility of our struggle, is the fleeting jolt of meaning that art gives us valuable? Or is the only value in passing the time as comfortably as possible? What should a story seek to emulate? A ringing alarm? A call to arms? A morphine drip? [The Fault in Our Stars, John Green] Before you write, before you speak, before you even think: you must establish one point of context. That is, abstraction. When you’re truly free to think as logically, as broadly and imaginatively as your endowed mind enables you to, there should be no boundaries, nothing irreverent or sacred above scrutiny. That is the naive but understandable way in which the rationalist and the realist perceive reasoning. But following this, all meaningful inquiry digresses into futile fundamentals—the point to it all. It is because of this… more →

Huddle now

It was such an idyllic scene outside the MPR today at 4:46pm. It was still raining slightly and I had my umbrella out. The umbrella blocks the upper part of my field of vision, restricting the foveal viewport to bounce around the boundaries of the lower latitudes in such a way that, when the veil is finally lifted, the extended range appears foreign and startling. Here around me existed a number of characters whose traits could be summarized in the color blue, deep with compassion and kindness. Perhaps this perception was one of circumstance—relative and not absolute, that is. But no matter, it remains that this was not an atmosphere of competition nor indifferent apathy. It was brotherhood in its purest sense, if the word can be applied to more than the masculine. Man with his technology—cell phones and heptagonal… more →

Crowd sourcing 1

I saw a dead dog on Brea Canyon yesterday night. It was small and had these fair chestnut curls, suggesting that his owners had taken great care of him1, well at least until he was ran over. I’m not even know if he really was dead. The body was in the intersection, but located in such a way that it would only bother you if you wanted to branch off into one of the side roads, where all the warehouses are. Ha, bother. That’s all it really is. Naturally, nobody could be bothered to get out of their car and check, at the risk of holding up traffic and feeling the stigmas of the nonconformist. Whether he got to his safe spot in the road because somebody moved him, or because cars gradually knocked him out of the way, I hope it was… more →

Kindle reading

Ever since I got my Kindle, it’s just been reading and reading all the time. It’s tough to describe in words, why it has such a profound effect, why I prefer it to a DS or a tablet1 or even a real paperback. Part of it is the form. It doesn’t smell like library books do. I don’t have to crease the page, holding it open. Part of it is having so many books with me where ever I go. Above all, it’s probably the associations attached to reading: intelligence, culture. But really, this is all it took? Reading is so much enjoyable with the device. If I didn’t have one, I likely wouldn’t bother reading much. I can freeze the oceans, fly to Titan, and ha, I can learn C on this thing. All the nonsense coming from the… more →

Footnotes and formatting

When it comes to extraneous information, people do the stupidest things, and I swear, this sort of idiocy knows no bounds. Even on History IB/SL Internal Assessments, you’ll get parentheses intermixed with em dashes and [brackets] partitioning off some irrelevant information about Joseph Stalin’s economic policy1. You may scoff in wonder at my use of footnotes on RogerHub, but let me give you the full story before you dismiss them as a pretentious show of unnecessary formality. Often times, there’s information that’s not pertinent to a narrative or argument, but I want to include it for some reason, be it self-justification, disclaimer, literary citation, or further reading. Conventionally, I would wrap keywords in a hyperlink, or I would set aside an explanatory paragraph enclosed in brackets and italics. But in the spirit of a semantic web2, that just doesn’t feel… more →

(Foo)d (bar)

It always surprises me that there are people on television who are paid to talk about good food. There’s a middle-aged chinese lady who could pass for your neighbor’s real estate agent, in a crowded restaurant at a table for 4, talking to her similarly-dressed companion about how onions stir-fried rapidly over high heat are more appropriate for certain dishes, something like that. Whether it’s out of insight or ignorance, I don’t understand how there could be so much room for discussion. In America, where extreme poverty is lacking a refrigerator in your home, I need look no further than the salted peanut and pickled cabbage appetizer at a local chinese restaurant for the best taste I could ask for. Most food already hits this imaginary ceiling of maximum tastefulness, and there’s nothing1 appreciably better, in my perspective. Maybe it… more →

On the number of orders for water

I was at New Capital last night with my family, and Zaneta was about to order some water. I’m okay with tea, because I just don’t like cold drinks with Chinese food. But if everyone was getting a water, I wouldn’t bother raising my opinion. Then I noticed: I could prevent just one number. I could prevent an order of 3 waters, because the plan that I had formed in my head ensured that an order of 3 would be unreasonable1. What if decisions were made this way? Let’s say there is a governing council of some 79 men2. A resolution is introduced to the council, and groups of councilmen deliberate. Each man has his own special interests, and no one can come up with a compromise that suits them all. They amend the resolution multiple times and end up with 7… more →

Compulsory arguments

In the Civics Online course, Seawright makes us debate with one another about political issues. Who knew people could become so bitter over things they cared naught about? Why is voting just a yes or a no? What if we had like an optional double-vote where you could vote twice for things you cared a lot about? And if you think double-voting would just cancel itself out and be ineffective, consider this: people who are indecisive will not opt to vote twice. By doing so, it increases the power of his1 own double-votes and it lessens the responsibility/guilt of a bad decision. In other news, I just opened the code to my 3rd open-source project on GitHub. Too bad nobody ever follows my crap repositories. But I swear, I’ll keep this one updated and continue to work on it. If… more →