Sound & Complete Recent content on Sound & Complete Hugo -- en-us Sat, 31 Dec 2016 19:19:57 +0100 Jazz Music in 2016 Sat, 31 Dec 2016 19:19:57 +0100 <p>2016 was, as The Verge <a href="">put it</a>, &ldquo;a good year for weird jazz.&rdquo;<sup class="footnote-ref" id="fnref:1"><a rel="footnote" href="#fn:1">1</a></sup> I&rsquo;d go even further: both 2015 and 2016 show that jazz is an evolving genre, and that it became more exciting than ever before. Influences of hip-hop and electronic music are becoming more visible, new artists pop-up in places you&rsquo;d never expect (I&rsquo;m looking at you, LA) and push music into new territories. So while I do appreciate The Verge&rsquo;s recommendations (especially <a href="">Shabaka and The Ancestors</a>),<sup class="footnote-ref" id="fnref:2"><a rel="footnote" href="#fn:2">2</a></sup> I had to add some of my own. All of them represent that very shift in jazz&rsquo;s esthetics, so if you&rsquo;re looking for a review of Redman &amp; Mehldau duo, you&rsquo;ll be a bit disappointed. If you enjoy fresh sound, however, read on.</p> <iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src=";color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false"></iframe> <p>My number one most-often listened to jazz album of 2016 is <a href="">&ldquo;Red Sky&rdquo;</a> by the Brooklyn band Moon Hooch. What Moon Hooch does is difficult to define. Sometimes you find their albums listed under &ldquo;jazz&rdquo;, other times under &ldquo;dance&rdquo; or &ldquo;techno.&rdquo; They got two saxophones (Mike Wilbur and Wenzl McGowen), a drum kit (James Muschler), electronic effects, and <em>tons</em> of energy. They are funky, and even though they don&rsquo;t improvize much, I&rsquo;d still say it&rsquo;s jazz. The right kind: weird, entertaining, new. Also the kind you can (have to?) dance to.</p> <iframe style="border: 0; width: 100%; height: 42px;" src="" seamless><a href="">Together, As One by Dinosaur</a></iframe> <p>My second recommendation is from the UK. It&rsquo;s <a href="">&ldquo;Together, As One&rdquo;</a> by a British quartet called Dinosaur. Dinosaur is a new band led by one of my favorite performers and composers, Laura Jurd (of solo-career <a href="">fame</a>). It features Laura on the trumpet, Elliot Galvin on keyboards, Conor Chaplin on the bass and Corrie Dick on the drums.<sup class="footnote-ref" id="fnref:3"><a rel="footnote" href="#fn:3">3</a></sup> All these artists are very young, and I think they are all somewhat associated with <a href="">Chaos Collective</a>—a label and, huh, a loose association of musicians. I don&rsquo;t know what else to call them, but the bottom line is, these people play together a lot in different bands, various configurations, and it&rsquo;s always at least intriguing, and very often excellent music. Dinosaur&rsquo;s debut is no different. An impressionistic, contemporary jazz with a lot of electronic sound, folk melodies and soul. I know it all sounds unlikely, but they pull it off.</p> <iframe style="border: 0; width: 100%; height: 42px;" src="" seamless><a href="">Channel The Spirits by The Comet Is Coming</a></iframe> <p>And finally, we come to the last recommendation, and we&rsquo;re back to square one, i.e., back to <a href="">Shabaka Hutchings</a>. For those of you who don&rsquo;t know, Hutchings is a London-born, Barbados-raised saxophonist mostly known for being the leader of one of the hottest new jazz bands, <a href="">Sons of Kemet</a>, where he plays crazy Caribbean-infused jazz alongside two drummers and a tubist. He is also the leader of the aforementioned &ldquo;Afro-futurist&rdquo; jazz band Shabaka and the Ancestors, and on top of all that he plays with the electronic jazz trio The Comet Is Coming. He is as restless as he is creative. <a href="">&ldquo;Channel The Spirits,&rdquo;</a> trio&rsquo;s debut, is a psychedelic album that takes inspiration from jazz, electronic and science-fiction (yup, you read it right). Much like Dinosaur&rsquo;s strange mixture of styles, The Comet is Coming manages to positively surprise. It can be slightly exhausting, but listening to it is a very rewarding experience nonetheless.</p> <p>So these are my three favorite jazz albums of the passing year. I&rsquo;m looking forward to seeing jazz evolve even more in 2017, and I&rsquo;m hoping it will be only musically, and not politically or economically surprising year. Have a great 2017, everyone!</p> <div class="footnotes"> <hr /> <ol> <li id="fn:1">Seriously, though, how is it that The Verge publishes articles about avant-garde jazz music? And that <a href="">recent piece</a> on Adam Driver? Unexpected. <a class="footnote-return" href="#fnref:1">↩</a></li> <li id="fn:2">There are only three compared to last year&rsquo;s six; I didn&rsquo;t really listen to jazz music much this year. <a href="">Whitney</a>, <a href="">Baroness</a>, Radiohead, Sleater-Kinney, Kendrick Lamar and <a href="">O.S.T.R.</a> dominated my iPhone in 2016. <a class="footnote-return" href="#fnref:2">↩</a></li> <li id="fn:3">It&rsquo;s worth mentioning that Corrie Dick recorded <a href="">a magnificent album</a> last year. I regret I didn&rsquo;t know it earlier, it would&rsquo;ve made the top of my list of best 2015 albums. <a class="footnote-return" href="#fnref:3">↩</a></li> </ol> </div> bora—an AWS Cloudformation wrapper Wed, 14 Dec 2016 21:42:23 +0100 <p>Last weekend I spent some time working on a small project: <a href="">bora</a>.<sup class="footnote-ref" id="fnref:1"><a rel="footnote" href="#fn:1">1</a></sup> It&rsquo;s a simple wrapper around AWS Cloudformation, so obviously everyone&rsquo;s question is: why the hell would I want yet another Cloudformation wrapper? <em>tl;dr</em> answer is: because all the ones which are available suck. But let me elaborate.</p> <ul> <li><p><a href="">Troposphere</a>-based tools are inelegant. Troposphere itself is poorly documented, and I dislike how the Python code mixes with actual Cloudformation JSON code in it. It&rsquo;s also very often non-lintable (or gets unreadable after linting).</p></li> <li><p>I ❤️ Python just like the next guy, but it&rsquo;s not very well suited for things like CI/CD pipelines. I see this a lot in clients&rsquo; setups: first your jenkins job needs to pull the code, then create a <code>virtualenv</code> and <code>pip</code> the requirements, then lint (hah!), and then, hopefully, run. With compiled languages (and Golang especially), you only need to download a binary and run it. The only thing you have to care about is the underlying architecture and OS (which, in 99% of the CI/CD cases, is <code>elf x86_64</code>).</p></li> <li><p>I want to embrace Cloudformation&rsquo;s new neat &amp; clean <a href="">YAML capabilities</a>. JSON is ugly. Troposphere, as mentioned already, is ugly too. Combining YAML with some Jinja-like markup for variables and loops, we could end up with something very elegant and readable.</p></li> </ul> <p>With these requirements in mind, I began hacking, and I&rsquo;m happy to say that bora, even though it&rsquo;s in its earliest stages of development, fulfills all of them already.</p> <p>Bora is written in Golang, which makes it fast, cross-platform, and portable. While you do need to setup a build environment for Golang if you want your jenkins job to build the tool (not sure why, but whatever), you only need to build it once per version. Other than that, all you need to do is put it some place your CI/CD can <code>curl</code> from, <em>et voilà</em>, you&rsquo;re ready to run the binary. For pipelines that involve many Cloudformation runs, this saves a significant amount of time, and reduces run-time dependencies to a bare minimum.</p> <p>Furthermore, bora takes YAML templates as input, but also accepts YAML <em>meta</em>-templates augmented with Golang&rsquo;s <code>text/template</code> <a href="">markup</a>, which allows for setting variables and looping. It&rsquo;s especially convenient when you need to deploy, say, multiple EC2 instances that differ in some details.</p> <p>At this point bora is able to generate YAMLs, deploy, update and terminate stacks, and handle errors gracefully (you&rsquo;d be surprised how few Cloudformation wrappers do this). Assuming roles for multi-account deployment is coming soon, along with other neat features. Stay tuned!</p> <div class="footnotes"> <hr /> <ol> <li id="fn:1">Because <a href="">winds</a>, because clouds, because cloud formations&hellip; <a class="footnote-return" href="#fnref:1">↩</a></li> </ol> </div> “Between the world and me” Sat, 19 Nov 2016 21:31:23 +0100 <blockquote> <p>Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body—<em>it is heritage.</em></p> </blockquote> <p>My recent <a href="">disillusioning trip</a> notwithstanding, I am still very much in love with the US, but Ta-Nehisi Coates puts things into perspective. Much like sexism is often difficult to notice for males until a woman points it out, white people tend not to realize just how <em>huge</em> a problem racism in America still is.</p> <p>Coates&rsquo; book is bitter and sometimes hard to read (especially that it&rsquo;s in a form of a letter to his son), but you should read it nonetheless. It&rsquo;s one of the best books I&rsquo;ve read in a long time.</p> <p><small><em>(I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago, so please don&rsquo;t take it as a comment on recent presidential election)</em></small></p> AWS Cloudformation template for Counter Strike GO server Sun, 30 Oct 2016 23:31:23 +0100 <p>I spent an evening writing <a href="">a cloudformation template for Counter Strike Global Offensive linux server</a>. No, I don&rsquo;t have a life. Yes, you will thank me next time you play with your friends and the laptop cannot handle more than 5 players. (AWS <code>t2.micro</code> handles 6 players easily, and you can always throw a <code>c4.large</code> at the problem which is still about $0.13/hr and handles, well, just about anything).</p> <p>The template sets up a single EC2 instance of type <code>t2.micro</code> by default, uses the default VPC, and runs the server with &ldquo;Arms Race&rdquo; game in a free-for-all mode. Consult Valve&rsquo;s <a href="">documentataion page</a> if you want to run other games or reconfigure the server in any way. The template also sets up a CNAME record pointing to the instance&rsquo;s public DNS name, so comment the last section out if you don&rsquo;t have a public hosted zone in your Route53.</p> <p>Happy shooting!</p> iPhone 7 Plus and its Two Lenses Thu, 08 Sep 2016 00:00:00 +0000 <p>To some, Apple&rsquo;s yesterday keynote wasn&rsquo;t all that impressive. After all, the new <a href="">iPhone 7</a> doesn&rsquo;t look all that new, the new Apple Watch looks <em>exactly</em> like the old one, and minor improvements aside (water resistance, GPS for the watch, new processors), there wasn&rsquo;t really anything impressive shown in San Francisco last night. Except one small detail—the camera(s) on the upcoming iPhone 7 Plus.</p> <p>This is the photograph Apple showed during the keynote, initially leading everyone to believe it&rsquo;s been taken with a &ldquo;high-end camera&rdquo;:</p> <p><img class="wide" src="" /></p> <p>only to later explain it&rsquo;s been shot with the upcoming iPhone 7 Plus, which features two lenses—one wide-angle, and one tele—that are then used by iPhone&rsquo;s software to infer the depth of field, and to create the <em>bokeh</em> effect. While far from perfect (there&rsquo;s something wrong with how the face of the model is separated from the background), this, to me, is a <em>major</em> breakthrough in smartphone photography. As the technology matures, we will see the &ldquo;bokeh software&rdquo; improve, and the dual-lens technology perhaps applied to other areas (VR?), but most importantly it&rsquo;ll render <a href="">cameras obsolete</a>, to most people at least.</p> <p>I can&rsquo;t wait for this day to come.</p> Hi, America Sun, 28 Aug 2016 00:00:00 +0000 <p><small><em>(I&rsquo;m biased towards everything American, so despite a relatively US-critical tone, you may be offended by this post if you&rsquo;re too European.)</em></small></p> <p>I remember watching &ldquo;The Cosby Show&rdquo; with my parents in the nineties. It was a crazy time of massive political change in Poland, and my parents were always pointing at the fictional Huxtables as role models. Me and my father were even replicating Cliff Huxtable&rsquo;s way of making chili, and we&rsquo;d make tons of inside jokes that we&rsquo;d always gladly explain to any guests we&rsquo;d be having. We didn&rsquo;t realize at that point how controversial The Cosby Show was in the 80s in the US. What was lost on Polish viewers was that the show&rsquo;s depiction of black people was atypical to say the least. The Huxtable family wasn&rsquo;t poor, hell, it wasn&rsquo;t even middle class. A lawyer (a <em>black woman!</em>) and a senior obstetrician, raising a family of 5 in a fantastic brownstone in Brooklyn Heights&mdash;that&rsquo;s how all well-educated Americans lived, right? We didn&rsquo;t see the controversy, and missed out on some of the social commentary, but we still enjoyed Bill Cosby&rsquo;s jokes, his colorful sweaters, his fictional family&rsquo;s great parenting advice, etc. Of course not only the Huxtables were our role models, but the US was depicted as the promised land, which in the 90s it clearly was. They won the cold war, they became the sole superpower, Fukuyama announced &ldquo;the end of history&rdquo;—no one had any doubts.</p> <p>Then at the break of the century, a new world begun. 9.11 happened, W.&nbsp;&amp;&nbsp;co. took power,<sup class="footnote-ref" id="fnref:1"><a rel="footnote" href="#fn:1">1</a></sup> the 2008 banking crisis hit the world hard, the US middle class shrinked, Wall Street was occupied, and, as a proverbial nail to the coffin, they now tell me that Bill Cosby, my beloved Dr. Huxtable, is (allegedly) a sex offender. America of my childhood is gone for good, along with the post-cold-war Reagan-Thatcher world order formerly known as &ldquo;new.&rdquo;</p> <p>Yet besides all that, there has never been a country I felt so emotionally strong about as the United States.</p> <figure class="wide"> <img src=""> <figcaption>Brownstones in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The Huxtables lived in a similar one in Brooklyn Heights. Sadly, they wouldn't be able to afford one these days. </figcaption> </figure> <p>I think the thing that I always found most attractive in the US is its inclusiveness. Yes, there&rsquo;s Donald and the Tea Party, and yes, my view as a white male is definitely biased, but I can&rsquo;t think of any other country in the world where you&rsquo;d be able to blend in like you can in the US.<sup class="footnote-ref" id="fnref:2"><a rel="footnote" href="#fn:2">2</a></sup></p> <p>I landed on JFK and took a cab to Manhattan from there, and my driver was Tariq, a Pakistani American. &ldquo;Immediately after 9.11 it was really hard for us here,&rdquo; he said while we were stuck in traffic on Grand Central Parkway, &ldquo;but now things have changed and in New York I don&rsquo;t really feel anyone would ever doubt I&rsquo;m as American as gooseberry pie.&rdquo; Tariq spoke very fondly of Europe, too, where some of his relatives live, and was very curious about how we&rsquo;re handling the migrant crisis. He was very happy to hear it&rsquo;s my first time in America, and wished me a great vacation, and in the end offered me his phone so that I could call my friends in East Village from a US number (sadly, there&rsquo;s no T-Mobile store on JFK and all the sim-cards available at the airport aren&rsquo;t exactly good value).</p> <p>It&rsquo;s a cliché to write it, but the cultural and ethnic &ldquo;melting pot&rdquo; you witness in New York is, again, incomparable to anything I&rsquo;ve ever seen, and I did quite some traveling. From African American Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn to Asian (mostly Korean and Chinese, I presume) neighborhoods of Flushing, Queens, New York city has it all. All races, all languages, all cuisines. And yes, America definitely has a problem with racism and class society, but from my perspective it seems they are better at acknowledging the problem and trying to do something about it. Can&rsquo;t really say that about, e.g., France or Sweden, or many other European countries.</p> <figure class="wide"> <img src=""> <figcaption>Flushing, Queens. You can have great dumplings around here. </figcaption> </figure> <p>I&rsquo;ve been living in different European countries for about 7 years now, and I felt welcome everywhere. People generally speak good English, and there are little to no bureaucratic or administrative issues moving around thanks to the miracle of the European Union and the Schengen agreement. But somewhere in the back of my head I know I will never be able to become German. Or Norwegian, or Dutch, or French. Probably not even British. Europe&rsquo;s tormented history and still largely national-centric politics take its toll, and it&rsquo;s just much harder, if not impossible, to &ldquo;fully integrate&rdquo; (which can mean different things to different people). US is much simpler in this regard. If you speak at least some basic English, respect American values, wave the flag on 4th of July and eat turkey on Thanksgiving, you&rsquo;re one of them. So much easier in a country built on immigration I guess, where around 80% of population <a href="">identifies with foreign ancestry</a>, and where millions of immigrant visas are issued and hundreds of thousands of immigrants are naturalized <a href="">every year</a>. It&rsquo;s funny that, it would seem to me, Americans are one of the very few nations that is able to reconcile this inclusiveness and multi-culturalism with national pride. In Europe, you&rsquo;re either a nationalist or left-wing, there seem to be less and less room for middle ground.</p> <figure class="wide"> <img src=""> <figcaption>American flags are everywhere. Here decorating a façade of a beautiful townhouse in Charlestown, Boston. </figcaption> </figure> <p>But no matter how much in love with the US I am, I must admit that after the initial elation at seeing the NBC studios building and traveling every day on the N line across Queensboro Bridge faded, disillusion kicked in.</p> <p>Greyhound express bus from Boston to New York goes through rural Massachusetts and Connecticut, which are relatively boring, but then enters the state of New York in Bronx county, and the first sight of glorious New York City are housing project high-rises. Plenty of these in Europe, too (though nobody calls them &ldquo;housing projects&rdquo;), but not like this, not like in South Bronx. You can really see the poverty there, although it&rsquo;s difficult to put a finger on how you&rsquo;re able to see it. It doesn&rsquo;t feel safe there, either.</p> <p>Crime in New York city and most of the US has been <a href="">in decline</a> for many years now, and nothing seems to indicate this trend would change. But income differences get bigger every year, especially <a href="">in New York</a>. The issue of America&rsquo;s shrinking middle class is <a href="">nuanced</a>, but from a European visitor&rsquo;s perspective the income differences are vivid. And if you have friends in New York, you know the dinner conversation will be mostly about the insane living cost in the city. The NY Times article I linked to above said that &ldquo;about 45 percent of New York City households said they spent 35 percent or more of their income on housing.&rdquo; Seeing how the new <a href="">432 Park Avenue</a> (with <a href="">One57</a> not far behind) rises like a middle finger towards all the poor in the center of Manhattan, I can see why so many New York residents opposed to its construction.</p> <figure class="wide"> <img src=""> <figcaption>View on Upper Manhattan, with super tall 432 Park Avenue prominently on the right, and One57 on the left. They were built so that all the billionaires could have a good view on those poor souls who were only able to afford apartments on the Upper West or Upper East Side. Have a look at the <a href="">full-size picture</a>. </figcaption> </figure> <p>But it&rsquo;s not only that the US Economy has been going through hoops since 2008 that the US became less attractive to us Europeans. It&rsquo;s also because Europe became <em>so</em> good that we take it for granted. That we have clean, cheap and reliable public transportation, that there&rsquo;s universal free (or very affordable) health care, that 25 days of paid leave per year is nothing special and that decent education is for everyone—we expect all that. From an Eastern European perspective the fascination with the United States is of course easier to explain. For decades, we were very angry with Western Europe, and we felt it&rsquo;s been looking down upon us, whereas the US was the land of opportunity. It still very much seems that way, because reactions to people hearing &ldquo;I&rsquo;m Polish&rdquo; are <em>very</em> different on both sides of the Atlantic. But it&rsquo;s us, Eastern Europeans, that especially forget how great Europe has become, and how vastly Poland itself improved compared to the country <s>our parents</s> we grew up in.<sup class="footnote-ref" id="fnref:3"><a rel="footnote" href="#fn:3">3</a></sup> So the disillusionment stems from a comparison between how &ldquo;sooper-freaking-awesome&rdquo; we expected the US to be, and how &ldquo;awesome&rdquo; it actually is.</p> <p>Because it still, undoubtedly, is.</p> <hr /> <p>This was a very personal trip to me for sentimental reasons (where sentiment comes from watching television and movies, of course), and it couldn&rsquo;t have been as <em>great</em> as it was if it wasn&rsquo;t for the many friends that made it such. Huge thank you from me and Karolina to Yvonne, Martijn, David, Karen, Friederike, McCoy Tyner, an anonymous fireman from Cambridge, MA (whom we exchanged opinions about firetrucks with), and the whole Cloudreach NY team.</p> <div class="footnotes"> <hr /> <ol> <li id="fn:1">As Polish neo-conservatists, my whole family was initially a strong supporter of both wars. I am ashamed of it now. We <em>all</em> are, right? <a class="footnote-return" href="#fnref:1">↩</a></li> <li id="fn:2">Except, perhaps, <a href="">London</a>. <a class="footnote-return" href="#fnref:2">↩</a></li> <li id="fn:3">Let me give some extra context for the non-Polish readers. Poland, these days a strongly anti-socialist country, has always been very close to the US in terms of political cooperation and general admiration. Polish political class has always been looking up to the US, the US has also been historically our strongest ally (or at least it is very often depicted as such). Polish political scene itself is very bizarre by European standards, because it lacks any sort of left-wing party (except for post-communists that don&rsquo;t have any credibility after numerous corruption scandals and young, new parties that haven&rsquo;t gotten much traction yet). So while Poles generally acknowledge higher living standards and better economic conditions in Western Europe, when it comes to socio-political issues they are much closer to the program of the Democratic party in the US (and much more on its conservative than the socialist end of the spectrum; no one would vote for Bernie there). After 50 years of communism the general distrust towards welfare programs and state-owned enterprises is pretty easy to understand, and as a side effect I&rsquo;d say most Poles esteem the US much higher than Western Europe, considering it a more &ldquo;noble&rdquo; emigration destination. <a class="footnote-return" href="#fnref:3">↩</a></li> </ol> </div> Dehydration—a cautionary tale Sun, 10 Jul 2016 00:00:00 +0000 <p>I&rsquo;ve been riding bikes for a very long time, and although I&rsquo;ve had breaks, I can safely say I&rsquo;ve been riding bicycles throughout my whole life. I am lucky to have never had any serious accidents or injuries while cycling, other than the occasional my-shoes-are-still-clipped-into-the-pedals thing,<sup class="footnote-ref" id="fnref:1"><a rel="footnote" href="#fn:1">1</a></sup> I&rsquo;ve never been <a href="">doored</a>, I never smashed with my bike into things that generally don&rsquo;t like being smashed into (that&rsquo;s a lie; it&rsquo;s just that injuries were never serious), and I was rear-ended by other bikers only on a few occasions.</p> <p>Today I went for <a href="">a quick ride</a>. It was a short one, but since I only got a non-city bike a couple of weeks back,<sup class="footnote-ref" id="fnref:2"><a rel="footnote" href="#fn:2">2</a></sup> I&rsquo;m still building up my strength and endurance, and, sadly, 50km-long rides are my standard for now. It&rsquo;s a sunny Sunday in Munich, with a temperature of about 31°C (this is like 88°F, &lsquo;Mericans), clear skies, and I decided to explore some trails around the Isar river. It was all going well, until I reached a part of the trail which was really more akin to a single track than a road of any sort. Riding there on my 32c tires, and climbing even small hills, <em>and</em> being in the proximity of a river which makes the climate hot-and-humid was <em>very</em> exhausting. When I reached the asphalt road and headed towards Neufahrn, I realized I&rsquo;m running out of water. By the time I turned into Olympiastraße, I was getting a bit weak, and about 10kms from Munich I had to stop.</p> <p>What do you do when you have no food, no water, there&rsquo;s little-to-no shade around, the temperature goes up to 32°C, and there&rsquo;s no shop or creek or anything like that within a kilometer?<sup class="footnote-ref" id="fnref:3"><a rel="footnote" href="#fn:3">3</a></sup> You <em>call your wife</em> and cry for help, that&rsquo;s what you do. You call her, apologize for being an idiot who only took one 500ml bottle of water (17oz, &lsquo;Mericans) and no food, and ask her to bring you some. And then you fall on the ground and just lie there, trying not to pass out. And then luckily a group of cyclists stops by seeing you dying, and they give you water and sport-bars (which are just like regular chocolate bars only more expensive and in a more shiny packaging), and you jump on your bike and slowly ride home, and you meet your wife on the way and everything is fine again.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s an embarrassing story with a happy ending, but I&rsquo;m sharing it here as a warning for anyone trying to be as stupid as I was. Dehydration in cycling is a serious problem; it actually is a direct cause of many deaths during famous road races, and should never be taken lightly. I got lucky, because some very good people stopped and helped me (even though I wasn&rsquo;t able to speak; I was in a really bad shape), and because I have a wonderful wife that rode to my rescue like a knight in shiny armor on a white horse. But I was lucky, and it could&rsquo;ve ended in a hospital.</p> <p>Stay hydrated, kids!</p> <div class="footnotes"> <hr /> <ol> <li id="fn:1">The thought process is always the same: &ldquo;Will I manage to clip-out on time? I surely will. Definitely. There&rsquo;s still time. Just a bit more. Oh shit.&rdquo; <a class="footnote-return" href="#fnref:1">↩</a></li> <li id="fn:2">There&rsquo;s a post about the bike coming. <a class="footnote-return" href="#fnref:2">↩</a></li> <li id="fn:3">In my defense, years of cycling in Western Norway don&rsquo;t really prepare you for riding in the heat. <a class="footnote-return" href="#fnref:3">↩</a></li> </ol> </div> MFA tokens in your terminal Sun, 26 Jun 2016 00:00:00 +0000 <p><small><em>All the stuff described here I learned from my dear colleague <a href="">Giulio</a>. I&rsquo;m sharing it here because it&rsquo;s cool, and because I don&rsquo;t think he&rsquo;d share it anywhere other than our internal mailing list.</em></small></p> <p>Do you use MFA a lot? Are you tired of reaching for your phone to check those codes on Google Authenticator app? Perhaps you&rsquo;ve been logging to too many different AWS accounts because your work requires that? 😔 Here&rsquo;s a couple paragraphs of advice that will ease your pain.</p> <p>First, install <code>oath-toolkit</code>. On OS X you can get it with <a href="">homebrew</a>. Once it&rsquo;s installed, you&rsquo;d want to define a function for your shell, like this perhaps:</p> <div class="highlight"><pre><code class="language-sh" data-lang="sh"><span></span><span class="k">function</span> mfa <span class="o">()</span> <span class="o">{</span> oathtool --base32 --totp <span class="s2">&quot;</span><span class="k">$(</span>cat ~/.aws/<span class="nv">$1</span>.mfa<span class="k">)</span><span class="s2">&quot;</span> <span class="p">;</span> <span class="o">}</span> </code></pre></div> <p>This specifies an <code>mfa</code> alias which calls <code>oathtool</code> and expects one argument: name of a file (sans extension) inside your <code>~/.aws/</code> directory which contains a string that is the base for computing your <a href="">time-based one-time passwords</a>. To continue the AWS-based example, you can find the code in the AWS console while setting up a new virtual MFA device.</p> <p><img class="wide" src="" /></p> <p>Once you click on &ldquo;Show secret key for manual configuration,&rdquo; you&rsquo;ll be presented with a 64-character string, which you&rsquo;ll need to put in a <code>~/.aws/account-name.mfa</code> file. After that, whenever prompted for the MFA token, type <code>mfa account-name</code> in your terminal.</p> “Hunger makes me a modern girl” Thu, 23 Jun 2016 00:00:00 +0000 <p>I know Carrie Brownstein through &ldquo;<a href="">Portlandia</a>,&rdquo; a quirky sketch show she&rsquo;s been doing with Fred Armisen for the last couple of years. I&rsquo;m a huge fan of how accurately &ldquo;Portlandia&rdquo; pokes fun at alternative-culture so commonly associated with Pacific Northwest.<sup class="footnote-ref" id="fnref:1"><a rel="footnote" href="#fn:1">1</a></sup> What I learned later, only after doing some research on Fred and Carrie, is that they were both well-known before the show even started. Fred, to a perhaps lesser extent, through SNL, and Carrie, probably to a much greater extent, through <a href="">Sleater-Kinney</a>.</p> <p>SNL is obviously not very popular in Europe, but the fact that during my teenage years I have never heard about Sleater-Kinney was always a bit surprising to me. Sure, alternative-scene rock bands from Seattle like Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam made its way to (even Eastern) European radio stations, but the much larger phenomenon of what&rsquo;s known as the &ldquo;Pacific Northwest scene&rdquo; remained rather unknown, or at least not commonly known. This way one could, as it turns out, live one&rsquo;s life all through the crazy 90s and only discover Sleater-Kinney in 2012. Oh, and what a fantastic discovery that was.</p> <iframe src="" width="100%" height="80" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true"></iframe> <p><a href="">&ldquo;Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl&rdquo;</a> is Brownstein&rsquo;s <em>memoir</em>, but really it&rsquo;s a book about Sleater-Kinney, and what it meant being an indie-rock band member in the 90s US. It&rsquo;s full of personal stories of struggle, yet written in a way that is neither pretentious nor self-loathing. Carrie Brownstein is a very natural and genuine writer, insightful and funny. &ldquo;Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl&rdquo; is obviously a book aimed at Sleater-Kinney fans, and as such is most enjoyable for readers familiar with the band, but anyone curious about the independent rock scene of the 90s will find it interesting. I certainly did.</p> <div class="footnotes"> <hr /> <ol> <li id="fn:1">Ok, so this blog entry really isn&rsquo;t about &ldquo;Portlandia,&rdquo; but please go watch it. It&rsquo;s absolutely brilliant in every way possible. <a class="footnote-return" href="#fnref:1">↩</a></li> </ol> </div> How are zlib, gzip and Zip related? Tue, 21 Jun 2016 00:00:00 +0000 <p><a href="">Abhishek Jain asks</a> Stack Overflow about the differences between zlib, gzip and Zip, and gets a fascinating and very insightful response from none other than <a href="">Mark Adler</a>. I particularly like <a href="">the comment</a> Adler made when the OP asked about referenecs for his answer.</p> <blockquote> <p>I am the reference, having been part of all of that. This post could be cited in Wikipedia as an original source.</p> </blockquote> <p>This, to me, is a perfect example of the <em>enormous</em> impact of open source and free software libraries developed in the 80s and 90s have on modern-day computing. All these small components of Linux or *BSD systems that were developed over the years now play such crucial parts in <em>so many</em> complex systems we rely on every day.</p> <p>Free/open source software developers are the heroes of the internet era, and as such should have monuments built to their glory and schools named after them.</p> Married Mon, 30 May 2016 00:00:00 +0000 <p><img class="wide" src="" /></p> <p>After many, <em>many</em> years of careful consideration, my lovely <a href="">fiancee</a> and I decided to get married. I&rsquo;m posting this with a 1-month delay, because we were busy with <a href="">climbing</a>, working and traveling a lot.</p> <p>So far being married has been great, I recommend it to everyone.</p> <p><small><em>Photograph by <a href="">Konrad Ciok</a></em></small></p> AlphaGo wins with Lee Sedol Thu, 10 Mar 2016 00:00:00 +0000 <p>Google <a href="">Deep Mind</a>&rsquo;s AlphaGo won <a href="">two</a> <a href="">games</a> against the world go champion, <a href="">Lee Sedol</a>. This is a <em>ginormous</em> triumph of statistical methods in general and machine learning in particular over &ldquo;symbolic AI.&rdquo;</p> <p>I remember writing an essay for a class in philosophy some years ago about the progress of AI game engines and the somewhat unimpressive <a href="">achievements of Deep Blue</a>. It was of course exciting to see a computer beat a reigning chess world champion, but underneath all the heuristics IBM implemented for chess, it was all &ldquo;brute force.&rdquo; Chess has a <a href="">game tree complexity</a> of 10<sup>123</sup>, which is huge, but still &ldquo;traversable&rdquo; by modern computers using good heuristic functions. Go, on the other hand, was deemed unsolvable by any &ldquo;brute force&rdquo; methods, because its game tree complexity is 10<sup>360</sup>—far too big. I don&rsquo;t think anyone in 2006 expected that within ten years a computer program will beat the best Go player (I know I didn&rsquo;t), yet it just happened.</p> <p>And most importantly, it happened in a more, hm, &ldquo;intelligent&rdquo; way. AlphaGo doesn&rsquo;t just search the state space, it analyses patterns and <em>learns</em> how to play. Again, I cannot stress this enough what an incredible achievement this is for deep learning (aka neural networks). The fact that Google Photos can quickly learn what my photos contain so that I can search for &ldquo;mountains&rdquo; even though I didn&rsquo;t tag/categorize anything in my photo library is very impressive. But the fact that AlphaGo can learn patterns of the most complex board game is just mind-blowing.</p> <p>All this is not to say that logic-based AI is without merit. Yoav Shoham <a href="">is right</a> that what he calls &ldquo;applied philosophy&rdquo; is an underrated branch of AI these days, but I think the success of machine learning is astonishing in how much it can deliver vs. traditional, logic-based methods, and I don&rsquo;t agree with Shoham when he says that the &ldquo;the pendulum has swung too far,&rdquo; and that there&rsquo;s too much emphasis on ML in AI research. Given how much ML can deliver, I think the emphasis is well justified.</p> <p>I, for one, welcome our future AI overlords.</p> <p><strong>update, Mar 15, 2016:</strong> AlphaGo <a href="">won</a> the match 4:1.</p> Apple's letter about the San Bernardino case Wed, 17 Feb 2016 00:00:00 +0000 <p><a href="">lazaroclapp:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>There are basically two groups of large software companies around right now: those which make their business by collecting data, and those which make their business by licensing software. The first group has an overwhelming incentive to not support privacy too strongly. The second group has an overwhelming incentive to not allow too much openness. Until a better business model (or zero-knowledge machine learning) is found, no large for profit company can support both goals to their final conclusion. So we are left choosing one evil or the other.</p> </blockquote> <p>Apple published <a href="">a &ldquo;message to customers&rdquo;</a> today, and while there&rsquo;s a lot of questions this letter raises,<sup class="footnote-ref" id="fnref:1"><a rel="footnote" href="#fn:1">1</a></sup> the above HN comment (<a href="">full thread</a>, definitely worth reading) captures the essence of the issue at hand when it comes to computing these days. You either sell software/hardware/licenses and create incentive for the general public to pay you more money by <em>selling things</em>, or you give stuff away <em>for free</em>, and your users become the product. It appears that the situation didn&rsquo;t really change much for the last couple of years, and in the end we choose what we <a href="">are willing to tolerate</a>.</p> <p><strong>update, Feb 22:</strong> Apple published some <a href="">more details</a> about the case today.</p> <div class="footnotes"> <hr /> <ol> <li id="fn:1">What kind of backdoor does Tim Cook have in mind exactly? If it could be implemented, then how? Are other companies complying with such requests from the FBI or other agencies (wikileaks and Edward clearly point to some evidence that they do)? <a class="footnote-return" href="#fnref:1">↩</a></li> </ol> </div> Go vs. Scala Sat, 16 Jan 2016 00:00:00 +0000 <blockquote> <p>One of Go&rsquo;s features is that it doesn&rsquo;t have an excess of features, and frankly, I think that feature is undervalued.</p> </blockquote> <p>There&rsquo;s an interesting <a href="">discussion on Quora</a> about the differences between Golang and Scala.</p> <p>As a former academic with tendencies towards functional programming, I used to be very tempted by Scala.<sup class="footnote-ref" id="fnref:1"><a rel="footnote" href="#fn:1">1</a></sup> It offers all the functional goodness without the exoticism of Haskell, and came with reasonably good tools and frameworks. Like Clojure, it&rsquo;s a functional language you can actually do some work with.</p> <p>The problem with Scala is, the more advanced you get, the more complicated (unreadable?) your code becomes. I remember that back in grad school the dude who was able to doodle the craziest and mathematically most challenging solution to some problem in Haskell was someone everyone looked up to. But it turns out in the &ldquo;real world&rdquo; simplicity <em>always</em> trumps virtuosity and sophistication, which is one of the many reasons I love Golang so much. A language with no &ldquo;magic,&rdquo; good concurrency support, great documentation and community that compiles into machine code and runs faster than Python? Yes, please.</p> <p>Read the whole Quora thread, though, there&rsquo;s a lot of interesting stuff there.</p> <div class="footnotes"> <hr /> <ol> <li id="fn:1">This is not to say that I don&rsquo;t like Scala. I <em>really</em> do, it&rsquo;s just that my love for it is, hm, not as unconditional as it used to be. <a class="footnote-return" href="#fnref:1">↩</a></li> </ol> </div> No more LaTeX Sun, 10 Jan 2016 00:00:00 +0000 <p>I made <a href="">jokes</a> about this before, but it actually happened: since I no longer use LaTeX, I removed it from my laptop and got rid of the config from my <code>.vimrc</code>. It&rsquo;s nothing unusual, but I somewhat feel that the departure from LaTeX marks an important <em>(sic!)</em> moment in my life.</p> <p>LaTeX was my &ldquo;gateway drug&rdquo; to programming. I kid you not. Since I was interested in publishing as a teenager (even ran a small but successful magazine for a while), got very disappointed in MS Word&rsquo;s DTP capabilities, had no money or supported OS to run Adobe or Quark, LaTeX was for me, sadly, the only option to put my magazine together. A Polish magazine called Linux+ published an article about LaTeX, I went through the tutorial, then through <a href="">lshort2e.pdf</a>, and got hooked. I was of course impressed by the quality of the output, but most importantly I understood the powerful concept of source code and compilation. LaTeX is of course technically <em>markup</em> and not <em>code</em>,<sup class="footnote-ref" id="fnref:1"><a rel="footnote" href="#fn:1">1</a></sup> and it&rsquo;s not exactly <em>compiled</em> but <em>parsed</em>, but still the process and concepts are easily translatable to programming. So then came going through <a href="">AWK</a> tutorials, and later came C and Perl. And much later came a lot of other stuff, but it all started with LaTeX.</p> <p>I owe LaTeX a lot. It made my silly little magazine look <em>good</em>, impressing people at the printshop and everyone else who had the slightest idea about publishing. It made writing technical notes on formal logic for my classes in philosophy so much easier. I wrote my master&rsquo;s and my doctoral theses using it. And yeah, it also made my blog&rsquo;s most popular blog post.<sup class="footnote-ref" id="fnref:2"><a rel="footnote" href="#fn:2">2</a></sup> It is then with a heavy heart that I am writing that I really, really hate LaTeX and am very happy that I don&rsquo;t have to use it anymore.</p> <p>I&rsquo;m not saying <a href="">&ldquo;switch to MS Word&rdquo;</a> or something silly like that, no. But it saddens me that after so many years the open source/free software community did not produce anything more modern, easier to use<sup class="footnote-ref" id="fnref:3"><a rel="footnote" href="#fn:3">3</a></sup> and simply more elegant. LaTeX is a mess, and the underlying TeX typesetting systems dates back to the 70s. It comes in <em>huge</em> tarballs or installers. It has an annoying syntax. Its fonts are as beautiful as they are painful to install. Its error messages are cryptic. The list of problems goes on.</p> <p>I was actually hoping that the academic community would adopt <a href="">Pandoc</a> and restrict LaTeX usage to its math formulas syntax, but that didn&rsquo;t happen. And I suppose Matthias Ettrich hoped the academic community would adopt <a href="">LyX</a> (which is actually surprisingly good), but that didn&rsquo;t happen either.</p> <p>I guess the beauty of leaving the world of academia is that I no longer have to care.</p> <div class="footnotes"> <hr /> <ol> <li id="fn:1">Or rather: it&rsquo;s most commonly used as a markup language, but is in fact a <a href="">Turing complete</a> programming language. <a class="footnote-return" href="#fnref:1">↩</a></li> <li id="fn:2">It is actually <em>astonishing</em> how many people read and share this howto. I never expected to end up in lecture notes for CS and physics classes in places like Colorado State, not to mention reddits and HN of course. <a class="footnote-return" href="#fnref:2">↩</a></li> <li id="fn:3">By &ldquo;easier to use&rdquo; I don&rsquo;t necessarily mean a GUI. Having a markup language is good. <a class="footnote-return" href="#fnref:3">↩</a></li> </ol> </div>