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Author: Schimmy

Airports before 9/11

Airports before 9/11

We lost much in 9/11 and from our mistargeted responses to the event. Lives, loved ones, privacy, sanity, dignity, and even some of our nation’s morality. Those are many big things we lost during 9/11. We rightly focus on those a lot, and will teach these topics to future generations. We take care to collectively remember the before and after, and how our society has changed. However, there are a few smaller things that I’d like to mourn as well,…

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How large is 52!?

How large is 52!?

This Thanksgiving I was hanging out with my little cousin, who was dealing cards from a standard 52 card deck. I asked her the question: “How many times could you deal the whole deck and see a unique order of cards – different than every other time you dealt the deck in the past?” Or to put it another way, “How many unique deals (‘permutations’) of all 52 cards are there?” If you’ve done any number theory (or looked at…

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A Black Mirror thought experiment – what actually scares you about “Nosedive”

A Black Mirror thought experiment – what actually scares you about “Nosedive”

Is the Black Mirror episode “Nosedive” really just about social media? Other analysis suggests that is what makes “Nosedive” terrifying. Yet, I think if you look at it that way, you’re missing the real point of the episode. Warning: Full spoilers for S3E01 ! The new season of Black Mirror is out, and at least the first episode is as solid as the previous seasons. The episode is called “Nosedive” and it explores a world in which all of our various rating…

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No, you’re not moving to Canada, and you need to stop joking about it

No, you’re not moving to Canada, and you need to stop joking about it

Dear fellow privileged, progressive citizens of the US: I know you don’t like Donald Trump. My Twitter and Facebook feeds are positively on fire with your distaste. I understand it – I can’t stand the guy either, and believe him becoming president might be the worst disaster to befall America since 9/11. Some of you even draw comparisons with Hitler and think Trump would be as bad for America and its less-privileged as Hitler was for Germany. That seems like…

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Using yìdiǎn and yǒu yìdiǎn correctly

Using yìdiǎn and yǒu yìdiǎn correctly

Yìdiǎn is used in many ways, and just like “a little bit” in English it’s hard to figure out when you can use it and what it means. I’ve come across three uses so far, and I’ll update this page when I find others. I’m going to look at these 3 uses: verb + yìdiǎn = “verbing a bit more” yǒu yìdiǎn + adjective = “only kind of adjective” (negative connotation) adjective + yìdiǎn = “adjective to the extreme” (in…

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Three ways to fight climate change that Bret Victor missed

Three ways to fight climate change that Bret Victor missed

Bret Victor just put out a great post about various projects one could work on as a technologist to help with the climate crisis. Many of these are great suggestions for an individual’s ~5 year project, but it might be hard to see how a normal engineer working in the industry could start working on climate change problems. I’m here to show that you can help fight climate change even if starting a clean tech company or working on a…

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Ontario is different

Ontario is different

Last week I visited my sister and her fiancee in Kitchener, a little over an hour outside of Toronto. There were some things I immediately noticed when traveling around, for instance that: – Toronto doesn’t smell like urine or weed, which was strange to me – The chip-and-pin system for credit cards is way better than our swipe system – The American Dream is alive and well in Canada in a way that it is not in America. If I…

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Why Swarthmore Should Divest

Why Swarthmore Should Divest

Hi fellow Swattie, I’m glad you’re here. I know that you care about the world, and that you care about the well-being of Swarthmore. You’ve probably heard a bit about fossil-fuel divestment at Swarthmore, and it sounds like an issue you should know more about, but let’s be honest – it seems complicated and you’ve been super busy. Don’t worry, by the end of this post you’ll understand what’s going on and the arguments for either side. This is an…

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Proving cultural signaling – sometimes ads can be laughable and still be effective

Proving cultural signaling – sometimes ads can be laughable and still be effective

A few weeks ago I was in a bar and this ad came on: It’s a totally ridiculous ad, almost a parody of itself. How could it ever convince someone to buy the truck? Must the people who own that truck be total idiots if they fell for this advertising? How nakedly obvious is it? At first, this is what I thought, as we laughed at the ad. However, I now think I was wrong. All of those things are…

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Letter to Swarthmore’s Board Supporting Divestment

Letter to Swarthmore’s Board Supporting Divestment

Just sent this letter to Swarthmore’s board (managers@swarthmore.edu), exciting things are happening around divestment! For those interested, here is: An article arguing that divestment is fiscally prudent An article arguing that divestment is tactically useful A great article by Tim Burke arguing that divestment is not the right course of action for balance Dear Mr. Kemp and Swarthmore Board, I know you are busy people, and I will try to be brief. I understand your concerns and truly appreciate your…

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Schimmy’s Hierarchy of Jobs

Schimmy’s Hierarchy of Jobs

Imagine your ideal job. No, really – give it a shot… I’ll bet more than a few of the people reading have imagined being a scuba instructor in the caribbean, or just being paid to play Super Smash (which I still can’t believe is now real job – I love the internet!). While it might be an improvement from your current position, I believe the job you imagined wouldn’t keep you happy for long. After three full-time jobs and five years…

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Clever (YC 12) is hiring

Clever (YC 12) is hiring

This one will be brief: the company I’ve been at for the last year, Clever, is hiring like crazy after getting a series B. We’re doing ambitious things in the education space: tech in schools has been very broken for a very long time, and way too much class time is wasted on logins. We’re inviting you to help us – come join the team! Drop me a line if you want to know more. – Schimmy

The different social yardsticks of American cities

The different social yardsticks of American cities

When comparing different cities, I like to bring up this little shortcut in how people in different cities seem to compare each other: In New York City it’s: “How much do you make?” In Boston / Cambridge it’s: “What do you know?” In San Francisco it’s: “What can you make, and how many people think it’s cool?” In DC it’s: “Who / how powerful is your boss?” In LA it’s: “What powerful people / how many people know who you…

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Divest not for them, but for you

Divest not for them, but for you

The latest debate about divestment in the New York Times brings up some very familiar points. However, there is another reason divestment is powerful and useful, and it relies on our weakness as humans. We should divest not to force a corporation into action, but instead to clear our own minds on the issue. Humans are notoriously afraid of loss. When those invested in the university (via having attended and donated, or by receiving monthly paychecks) have an opportunity to…

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Are transit-first policies bad for poorer residents pushed out of the urban core?

Are transit-first policies bad for poorer residents pushed out of the urban core?

TL;DR: Like every other article who’s title is a question, the answer is no – we have a skewed view of cars and transit. When you look at the issue, increasing road capacity doesn’t help, and transit is proven to make a city more affordable. Recently I was discussing my Limits of Acceptable Terribleness post with a coworker and we disagreed about my assertions about highways. My argument there is that building more highways with the goal of decreasing travel…

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Schimmy’s guide to personal finance

Schimmy’s guide to personal finance

So I think about personal finance a bit more than most people, which you can tell if you look through the archives on this blog. Because of this, sometimes people ask me for advice, and instead of copy-pasting the same email over and over again, I’m just going to link to this post: First, there’s a mindset Which I think is more important than anything else. That is: Humility in being able to beat the market / everyone else with…

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Music that is ironically good to code to

Music that is ironically good to code to

I was chatting with someone the other day who loved the soundtrack from TRON: Legacy. (This person is awesome, he is part of the amazing band Knower and creates their very-TRON-inspired visuals). He got a kick out of how I will sometimes put on that TRON soundtrack when I really need to crank out some code. This is ironic, as the main plot point relies on a computer-programmer protagonist getting so wrapped up with what he is doing that he ends up in…

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Blame, root causes, and the Isla Vista Tragedy

Blame, root causes, and the Isla Vista Tragedy

It’s hard to ignore the news from Santa Barbara. It’s also hard to emotionally deal with not ignoring the news from Santa Barbara. And while the internet probably does not need more words on the subject, I find writing this to be cathartic and hope that it adds to the conversation. I’m going to talk about blame, and root causes instead of symptoms. People are looking around for something easy that can be done, and I don’t think they will find…

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Why I’m Irrational About Repaying Debt and Why It’s Actually Rational

Why I’m Irrational About Repaying Debt and Why It’s Actually Rational

(or at the very least, this is an explanation of how I rationalize my own irrational behavior) At Clever, we have ‘Clever Talks’, where we learn from one another about exoplanets or Magic the Gathering or bike maintenance – anything that someone at the company knows about which others find interesting. This week we had a guest, Amil Bera. Amil is a Registered Investment Advisor and was going over basic personal finance – a great talk. I would definitely recommend…

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The Limit of Acceptable Terribleness (and coding)

The Limit of Acceptable Terribleness (and coding)

This article about how awful programming is has been making the rounds, amongst my non-coding friends as well. It’s a great article, using witty analogies to describe the absurd underpinnings of the technical systems we take for granted. For instance: “Not a single living person knows how everything in your five-year-old MacBook actually works. Why do we tell you to turn it off and on again? Because we don’t have the slightest clue what’s wrong with it, and it’s really…

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