Interesting discoveries #01

I wrote on a set of interesting discoveries I made in this week. It’s somewhat inspired by Sayanee Basu’s Build podcast, you can check it out on iTunes by searching “build podcast” where she introduces different tools to build applications.

1. John McAfee

First is John McAfee, the McAfee in the anti-virus software of a similar name. You can read more in this WIRED article. McAfee, 67 years of age, is wanted for murder in Belize — a murder he claims he did not commit. The homicide victim is McAfee’s neighbor, Gregory Faull, who was killed by a gunshot wound in his head. I read the full account through this Amazon Kindle Single. Through that I came to learn how McAfee started his business by giving the antivirus software for free until companies felt compelled to be paying his company a fee. I shan’t spoil it more.

2. Organizational Structure That Supports Your Digital Presence

Also interesting is Paul Boag’s write up on a simple organization structure to support a digital presence featured in Smashing Magazine. It’s an accessible read with good examples to illustrate how it could be done.

3. Dumb Ways To Die

Madelyn shared this with me the other day and it is quite possibly the best video I watched all week. Dumb Ways To Die is a Melbourne Metro viral video, you can read more about it here. I love the song and video. Please watch it here:

4. The David Petraeus Scandal

What? David what? Really it doesn’t matter at all. It’s such a non-issue in fact that making it an issue all over news websites becomes the issue itself. Short story — David Petraeus, director of CIA, has an affair with his biographer could have possibly put the country at risk. Did Pertaeus reveal anything then? Nobody knows, but a scandal’s a scandal and Americans are concerned anyhow. John Prados’ Washington Post article cannot have articulated this better.

5. The issue with unions

The death of Twinkie is imminent anyway but the reason as to way it died is partly due to unions. Previously the troubled company behind Twinkie, Hostess Brands, declared bankruptcy to save itself some money, after which employee wages and benefits were cut. The union organized a strike and Hostess claimed that it is unable to operate in such circumstances and shut its operations. Unions which supposed to help workers didn’t this time around. The New Yorker has a good overview. This also reminds me of how Caterpillar manages to make unions ineffective but continuing operations during strikes by hiring temporary workers and not bowing down repeatedly. The concept of unions might be in need of a change for good.

6. Romney supporters looking for agent to blame — Orca

So Romney lost as we learnt last week. Supporters have switched to pointing fingers. One interesting agent to blame is Romney campaign’s Orca project. Ars Technica initially wrote that Microsoft is responsible for Orca but has since reverse that claim. Now no consultant seems responsible for Orca, claims Ars Technica again. There’re so little news of Romney’s Orca project who that the presidential candidate has dismantled his campaigns, you know, bury it under the carpet, and try again four years later. Orca is in response to Obama’s Narwhal project which isn’t exactly a software but more of an emphasis towards real time campaign data analytics. I can’t forget Orca though, nothing is clear at all and it annoys me so little is being mentioned on it.

7. On Gong Li

I’m back to watching movies and this week I caught Zhang Yimou’s Red Sorghum. My favorite parts of the movie is its cinematography and Gong Li. The whole film is a visual treat and yet it’s so simple. There’s also something about Gong Li that makes her so mesmerizing and she is undoubtedly one of the most consistently good actresses I have watched.

8. Tower.js

Not really a new discovery but I am amazed by how fast Tower.js is moving. Lance Pollard’s Tower.js is a relatively new web framework that is build on JavaScript, Node.js platform. I haven’t done any actual projects on it but it’s something I am loving. The fact that they chose CoffeeScript makes things really appealing. The only downside is the MongoDB support which is still hard for me to change. This increases the learning curve but I fancy the idea where web developers only need to essentially know CoffeeScript/JavaScript to could a web application in both client and server side. I’ll definitely be exploring more and I can probably write some getting started guide soon.

9. Euthyphro dilemma

In its modified form: “Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?” You can read more in Wikipedia about this. Refrain from making a conclusion too fast.

End note

It’s been a short week. I haven’t done as much reading as I hope. I’m making a transition out of the company I worked for — Cherry Credits. It represents a key change of direction for me. It will have no more PHP, will be moving to somewhere with much more JavaScript. I’ll share more when the time is right.

Define your terms

What do you think of Voltaire’s quote?

“If you wish to converse with me, define your terms”

— Voltaire

My take is, yes, you should define the terms, it does help in the discussion. But it still doesn’t stop terms from being redefined in the middle of the discussion. Presumably, as discussion continues, in the long run, there should be sufficient consensus in the terms to both parties. However that is hardly in my case.

A strange mystery on nature

“A strange mystery it is that Nature, omnipotent but blind, in the revolutions of her secular hurryings through the abysses of space, has brought forth at last a child, subject still to her power, but gifted with sight, with knowledge of good and evil, with the capacity of judging all the works of his unthinking Mother.” — Bertrand Russell

Is pure altruism possible?

On altruism, Professor Judith Lichtenberg (Philosophy at Georgetown University) explains…

Common sense tells us that some people are more altruistic than others. Egoism’s claim that these differences are illusory — that deep down, everybody acts only to further their own interests — contradicts our observations and deep-seated human practices of moral evaluation.

Altruists should not be confused with people who automatically sacrifice their own interests for others. We admire Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel manager who saved over 1,000 Tutsis and Hutus during the 1994 Rwandan genocide; we admire health workers who give up comfortable lives to treat sick people in hard places. But we don’t admire people who let others walk all over them; that amounts to lack of self-respect, not altruism.

Altruism is possible and altruism is real, although in healthy people it intertwines subtly with the well-being of the agent who does good. And this is crucial for seeing how to increase the amount of altruism in the world. Aristotle had it right in his “Nicomachean Ethics”: we have to raise people from their “very youth” and educate them “so as both to delight in and to be pained by the things that we ought.”

Source: New York Times

Slavoj Zizek touches on implications of charitable giving

Renowned philosopher Slavoj Žižek investigates the surprising ethical implications of charitable giving.

RSA Animate – First as Tragedy, Then as Farce

“The proper aim is to try to reconstruct society in such a basis that poverty is impossible and the altruistic virtues have prevented the carrying out of this aim. The worst slaves owners are those who are kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system from being realized by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it,” he says, partially quoting Oscar Wilde.

Interesting talk. Watch it if you have the time.

Steve Wozniak talks on iPhone antenna and more

Steve Wozniak on iPhone antenna issues, Google taking over, and Steve Jobs. (via Jeremy or @echoz on Twitter)

Steve Wozniak talks iPhone problems, Apple, Google, Steve Jobs and youthful idealism

Always like Steve Wozniak. Seems like one of the nicest people in the tech industry. When placed next to Steve Jobs, he seemed extremely humble.

Discussing moral philosophy

Jonathan Peter Dancy (born 8 May 1946) is a British philosopher, working on epistemology and on ethics. He is currently professor at the University of Reading and at University of Texas at Austin. He appears with Craig Ferguson on April 1, 2010.

Jonathan Dancy on Craig Ferguson HD 1080p

Sam Harris discusses morality

Questions of good and evil, right and wrong are commonly thought unanswerable by science. But Sam Harris argues that science can — and should — be an authority on moral issues, shaping human values and setting out what constitutes a good life.

Sam Harris: Science can answer moral questions