The Yoda of Silicon Valley ↬

When Knuth chooses to be physically present, however, he is 100-per-cent there in the moment. “It just makes you happy to be around him,” said Jennifer Chayes, a managing director of Microsoft Research. “He’s a maximum in the community. If you had an optimization function that was in some way a combination of warmth and depth, Don would be it.”

Imagine being described this way? Warmth, depth, and presence for me are about as elusive as shedding the extra pounds in my midsection. These are things I want badly and should strive for, but constantly fail at achieving. Still, the striving seems worth it because being that person seems worth it.

Who are the grown-ups in the room at tech companies? ↬

Now, as Facebook’s approach toward the world comes into clearer view, the story is changing. Sandberg isn’t the grown-up in the room the same way that Cook, or Nadella, or Smith are. To be fair, the definition of what it means to be the grown-up in tech has changed a whole lot since the Lean In days. But Apple and Microsoft figured it out quickly: It’s in the best interest of their business to recognize and respond to changing consumer expectations of a business. Now, consumers expect their companies to acknowledge their power and impact on the world. By contrast, Facebook’s engaging in an old-school playbook: Find a scapegoat, let the press run with that narrative, and hope people confuse their misinterpretation of the past corporate narrative for current corporate reform.

Facebook is bad. Some people have said it for years. Now people are waking up to that fact. One of the most interesting stories for the next ten years will be how the social web and its giants continue to shape our society now that they are no longer perceived as frivolous entertainment curiosities.

The Real Promise of Elon’s Hyperloop ↬

Shorter distances don’t lend themselves to the full 760-mph treatment. The Loop system, as Boring’s Chicago project is called, will top out at 150 mph. Musk has said, however, that it could eventually fit into a larger transit network. Likewise, Virgin Hyperloop One’s roughly 100-mile planned project from Mumbai to the Indian city of Pune has no intermediate stops planned, but they could easily be added, the company says.

This is a stupid article, just like pretty much every “hyperloop” article. Do you know what we call a tunnel that has vehicles that can travel at 150 mph along a fixed route? Fairly conventional modern subway/commuter rail technology. Look, it’s not like I have any interest in defending the sandhogs, but it drives me crazy when Americans pretend like we need exotic, new techonology to provide reasonble public transit. We don’t. Any article about a “hyperloop” that doesn’t compare the benfits to conventional, top performing commuter rail patterns around the world is hype instead of stubstance.

Here in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, we talk constantly about congestion and how either high speed rail or maglev or hyperloops are going to make for a faster ride between Baltimore City and DC. But the reality at the current distances, conventional electrified commuter rail could make the trip fast enough adn frequently enough that none of that technology provides marginal benefits even remotely close to the costs involved. The benefits of any technological change to transit won’t kick in unless you are headed to New York or Boston, and those benefits are worth persuing conventional HSR along the Northeast Corridor. But we could have fast, frequent services today without the costs or risks.

Overpromising has crippled public pensions: A 50-state survey ↬

Some good evidence that Rhode Island has bent the cost curve on pensions, slowing benefit growth dramatically and keeping it in line with GDP growth, which raises two questions. First, has the resulting slow down in benefit growth contributed meaningfully to improving the actual health of the pension system? It doesn’t seem so, since Rhode Island’s asset growth is also bottom of the heap. It would be interesting and important to see how this is related to exiting payments, bad portfolio management, or other problems. Second, is keeping liabilities for pensions inline with GDP growth an appropriate measure? I am not sure.

It is good to see that the pain felt by retirees in Rhode Island and the political cost at least resulted in reforms that have truly changed the trajectory of the system. Too often “reform” comes with massive costs and little practical change.

Dyslexia Style Guide 2018: Creating Dyslexia Friendly Content ↬

Good rules for legibility for all readers.