Category: Links and Quotes

Shared from elsewhere.

Murderbot through new eyes

Murderbot: An Autistic-Coded Robot Done Right

…it feels deeply meaningful to me that Murderbot shows characters who can’t communicate with words and still treats them as people. When Murderbot hops on a bot-driven transport, it can’t talk to it with words, but it can watch movies with it. In real life, a non-autistic person may have an autistic loved one who they can’t communicate with verbally, but they can read the same books or watch the same movies and bond through them.

What the message of the story comes down to (in addition to the classic sci-fi “capitalism sucks” message that I love so very much) is “Machine intelligences are not human, they will never be human, they will always be different, but they’re still people and they’re still worthy of respect.”

I read and enjoyed the Murderbot series. I read it through my own eyes and lens on the world. It’s refreshing to see the story through the eyes of someone who connects more with Murderbot than the Preservation humans.

It makes me wonder what other media and arts contain different stories and lessons when viewed through other eyes. What am I missing because I see the world through my eyes? What do I read as a different character from “normal” and others see as reflections of themselves?

An Apple A Day

In other words, it’s not merely a policy that Apple will keep your health data — all of it — private on iCloud. If you’re using two-factor authentication for your iCloud account — and you most definitely should be — it’s mathematically secure via end-to-end encryption. Apple not only won’t hand it over in the face of a demand from law enforcement in a state where abortion has been criminalized, they can’t.

You can check which apps have access to what Health data in Settings → Health → Data Access & Devices.

Daring Fireball: Period-Tracking Apps and Data Privacy in Post-Roe America

My wife has been talking about getting an iPhone SE to have an Apple Watch since no Android watch has ever been worth the price tag nor experience.

While Apple is not a panacea of privacy as Gruber points out, now feels like too late the time to double down self-hosted solutions and on-device privacy measures.

Work Culture is expectations

In the most recent Culture Study, Anne Helen Petersen shares a talk she gave called The Librarians Are Not Okay. This talk sums up where we are as working adults. None of this is new and none of it has started with the pandemic. But it’s been exacerbated by it. It’s twisted the dials up to 11 as the machine that eats up people and spits out shareholder value continues to consume.

While this piece is focused on lLbrarians and by extension people who do care and passion work, it can be applied to anyone working today.

The librarians are not okay. The nurses are not okay. The teachers are not okay. The journalists are not okay, the clergy are not okay, the social workers are not okay. And we can’t start the long-term work of recovering from the burnout and demoralization of the last year until we acknowledgment as much.

The Librarians Are Not Okay

Though women, who are paid less because the of the circular logic of feminizing low-paid work to justify its low pay have to reckon with not being valued professionally while also performing the majority of the care work in their own lives and families.

The same is true, of course, for care workers, for educators, for nurses, and for so many people working in the non-profit sphere, and it’s such a convoluted logic that keeps it in place: the work is feminized, so it’s low-paid; the work is low-paid, so it’s feminized.

The part I’ve seen in my professional life most is picking up the work of more and more people. When I worked as a government contractor this was rampant through the government itself as positions would be cut and fewer people were left to do the important work.

The same thing happened in the IT space. Contractors are a staffed by companies bidding the lowest amount to get the same work done. So it’s going to lead a race to the bottom of pay and benefits and stability.

I talk about systemic problems with burnout, and exploitation, and overloaded jobs, I heard from a lot of librarians — people who really have absorbed responsibilities that were previously the work of three FTEs, if not more, and how they’re expected to just….have a better attitude about it?

I worked in one position for a little over three years. In that time, I was employed by no fewer than five separate companies. The final three were because they were generating shareholder value and would spin off, buy up, and generally screw every employee by saying “we can’t offer raises or reviews because we’re a new company” every single year.

Guardrails can be though of a “Work Culture.” That thing your company may be touting as the reason to return to the office amidst a pandemic.

Guardrails are things like: we don’t email when we’re off, and if you do send an email when you’re off, you’ll actually be taken aside to talk about why that’s not part of our culture here. Guardrails are: even if you, yourself, work really well at 11 pm at night, any communication you craft at that hour should be delay-sent to correspond with the start of others’ workday, so they don’t feel the need to be responding to work at that hour as well.

Guardrails are being very clear about levels of urgency: an email is not a five-alarm fire, and you shouldn’t train yourself to react as if it was, because that sort of vigilance is not sustainable.

This is the work culture that matters. How is time off treated? Is it something to be approved or acknowledged? When you’re off, are you really off or just working from a more fun location.

Culture can be devious. It may not be stated in the orientation or the handbook but as an expectation. Are you expected to be available all the time? Are you expected to be on call even if you’re not compensate for it or its stated as part of your job description?

Understanding the culture of where you work is looking at the unwritten expectations on your time, attention and life.

Why does turning a device off and on again fix most technical problems?

This is possibly the best answer to this question I’ve ever seen. Found via @SaraBWarf on twitter via the excellent Labnotes newsletter. Embedding the Reddit response below and the plain text in the event it disappears in the future below.

Imagine you live in a huge, ancient city with winding streets that have many twists and turns. You want to get from your house to the grocery store. Somewhere along the way, you aren’t paying attention, and take a wrong turn.

Now you’re lost. You don’t recognize any buildings. What do you think is more likely to help you — going around and around in circles, or magically teleporting back to your house and starting again from the beginning of the route you already know?

That’s what power cycling does. It takes a device that’s trapped in some kind of problem, picks it up, and puts it back down at the starting line again.

“Ah, the starting line,” it says. “I know what to do from here.”

KDY_ISD on Reddit

Two weird, wonderful newsletters I can’t miss

👋 Labnotes (by Assaf Arkin) and
Garbage Day | Ryan Broderick sit as sort of a Yin and Yang in my newsletter life.

I love Labnotes because it scratches a nerdy itch. Much of the developer/coder content goes over my head but there’s enough of that world I find enjoyable. I love reading this newsletter because it’s a fun mix of neat web sites, good jokes and interesting ways to think about tech.

Garbage Day is bathing in the weirdness of the digital world. The content farms and weird stories that resonate. It’s a toe into a pool in spots and other times a deep dive into an ocean of weird. It’s the best of weird Tumblr and weird Tiktok memes. It’s access to those who think deeply about the mechanisms of the world we are experiencing online.

I look forward to reading each of these newsletters because they scratch the same itch but in different ways.