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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - I, Candy

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And yet somehow people who study economics seem to become less humble.


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Psst

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ssweeny
1 day ago
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Pittsburgh
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Facebook Has No Idea What Data It Has

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This is from a court deposition:

Facebook’s stonewalling has been revealing on its own, providing variations on the same theme: It has amassed so much data on so many billions of people and organized it so confusingly that full transparency is impossible on a technical level. In the March 2022 hearing, Zarashaw and Steven Elia, a software engineering manager, described Facebook as a data-processing apparatus so complex that it defies understanding from within. The hearing amounted to two high-ranking engineers at one of the most powerful and resource-flush engineering outfits in history describing their product as an unknowable machine.

The special master at times seemed in disbelief, as when he questioned the engineers over whether any documentation existed for a particular Facebook subsystem. “Someone must have a diagram that says this is where this data is stored,” he said, according to the transcript. Zarashaw responded: “We have a somewhat strange engineering culture compared to most where we don’t generate a lot of artifacts during the engineering process. Effectively the code is its own design document often.” He quickly added, “For what it’s worth, this is terrifying to me when I first joined as well.”

[…]

Facebook’s inability to comprehend its own functioning took the hearing up to the edge of the metaphysical. At one point, the court-appointed special master noted that the “Download Your Information” file provided to the suit’s plaintiffs must not have included everything the company had stored on those individuals because it appears to have no idea what it truly stores on anyone. Can it be that Facebook’s designated tool for comprehensively downloading your information might not actually download all your information? This, again, is outside the boundaries of knowledge.

“The solution to this is unfortunately exactly the work that was done to create the DYI file itself,” noted Zarashaw. “And the thing I struggle with here is in order to find gaps in what may not be in DYI file, you would by definition need to do even more work than was done to generate the DYI files in the first place.”

The systemic fogginess of Facebook’s data storage made answering even the most basic question futile. At another point, the special master asked how one could find out which systems actually contain user data that was created through machine inference.

“I don’t know,” answered Zarashaw. “It’s a rather difficult conundrum.”

I’m not surprised. These systems are so complex that no humans understand them anymore. That allows us to do things we couldn’t do otherwise, but it’s also a problem.

EDITED TO ADD: Another article.

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ssweeny
14 days ago
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1 public comment
j8048188
18 days ago
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This is why any code that claims to be "self-documenting" isn't.

CDC’s updated guidelines for living with the zombie apocalypse

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The fighting-zombies phase of the zombie war is over!
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ssweeny
20 days ago
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Dystopian nightmare! FBI obtains warrant, conducts search!

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If the most powerful are not above the law, who can be?
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ssweeny
20 days ago
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‘The Empire Strikes Back’ concept by Ralph McQuarrie

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‘The Empire Strikes Back’ concept by Ralph McQuarrie

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ssweeny
23 days ago
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Love this stuff
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Collier’s Weekly: At Last, Here Comes Pittsburgh’s Good Weather

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Fall Dicello

PHOTO BY DAVE DICELLO

As I write this, we are experiencing what I hope will be the final 90-degree day of 2022. (I know not to get my hopes up; the way the weather has been, we could get one in November.)

While the thermometer may still convince you that we are in the throes of summer — the dog days, I believe they’re called, though most dogs seem to like air conditioning just as much as we do — the undeniable signifiers of impending autumn are at hand.

No, not changing leaves — that comes later. I’m talking about Halloween candy on the store shelves, endless Steelers preseason analysis and the impending onset of rib festivals.

These, undoubtedly, are the best times to get outside in Pittsburgh. I’ve always been baffled by those who consider June and July Pittsburgh’s exciting months; have they not noticed that a Pittsburgh summer is, by and large, miserable? The sensation of being slowly cooked over a charcoal grill? Unbearable, sticky heat by day, interrupted only by a rolling mosquito assault at night?

“Oh, but Kennywood,” they say. Kennywood’s open in the fall, too. “Yes, but Pirate games,” we’re told. Despite an utter disappearance in media coverage the minute Saint Vincent begins setting up the training camp buffet, baseball continues until the end of September (and, I’m told, even longer in other cities). “But aren’t the parks lovely in the summer,” they ask? It must be nice to be so free of seasonal allergies.

Summer in Pittsburgh is, to use a simple expression, for amateurs. Summer in Pittsburgh is caravans coming in for a big concert on the North Shore, parents schlepping bored kids through Downtown and mostly disinterested parties seeing their constitutionally mandated one baseball game per year.

I’m glad for them: I’m glad that visitors get to see our city, if only from the parking lot outside Heinz Field; I’m glad that parents introduce their children to cultural attractions; I’m glad that people who don’t like baseball still eat hot dogs. This is all good news. I just don’t necessarily want to be around for it. So I wait until beautiful, glorious, more sparsely attended autumn.

(Late summer, technically, but let’s not get meteorological about this.)

Tickets for Pirate games and other typically outdoor events are widely available. Crowds at cultural institutions are smaller and more likely to be composed of quiet, curious types. Kennywood is positively pleasant — I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but a brick of french fries are more satisfying on a mild day than a sweltering one, unless you sincerely enjoy sweating salt out of your cheeks for the next six hours.

Speaking of the weather: Heading outside when it’s 90 makes as much sense as heading outside when it’s 10. Yes, I realize I’m particularly disinterested in the sun, which I consider something of a nemesis, but this never made a lick of sense to me: There are two extremes over the course of the year, the cold one and the hot one. Why bother with the open air during either?

That’s what spring and fall are for. And fall’s better, because it rains less.

To me, this will be the first great weekend of outdoor living in the city. The season wraps up at about Thanksgiving — even then, there will be some warmer-than-average days that demand we bundle up and once again enjoy the proper, temperate conditions.

Am I just being a jerk about the fact that I don’t like summer and sneering at those who look good while tanning?

You know, a little bit.

Even so, fall is great. And I haven’t even mentioned the haunted houses.

Categories: Collier’s Weekly

The post Collier’s Weekly: At Last, Here Comes Pittsburgh’s Good Weather appeared first on Pittsburgh Magazine.

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ssweeny
27 days ago
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A man after my own heart.
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