Learn You a Haskell is Problematic

A couple of years ago I learned Haskell and to do that I read a book that is universally recommended for beginners and used to be available free online called “Learn you a Haskell for Great Good”.

The website seems to be gone at the moment: https://www.learnyouahaskell.com/

I didn’t think too much about it when I read it but after some other people were asking what they should use to learn Haskell I remembered these weird ‘jokes’ that are in the book to make the code a bit livelier.

Judging from the reviews online not that many people (in this case almost only men) have picked up on this. To be clear, it’s in extremely poor judgement to have picked these slurs in the first place and maybe you could get away with this stuff 5-10 years ago, that’s no longer the case.

I’ve screenshotted the examples below. There must be better books to learn Haskell with by now. I quickly switched to Clojure quickly for a bunch of reasons and you might do well not to take the detour that I did.

A really badly chosen and phrased BMI calculator
Not even clear what the point of this slur is
Is this a joke? Does the author have a girlfriend?

There could be more but I think you get the point.

There is a lot of truth to this Economist article about German humour and I refer back to it a lot.

Shortly after moving back to Germany in 2012 after decades of absence, mainly in Anglo-Saxon countries, I took my kids to the Berlin zoo. The children were two, four and seven at the time, and had already developed a keen sense of irony – or at least they understood that dad doesn’t always mean things literally, because, you know, it’s funny. So we queued for our tickets, trading silly jokes. Like me, the kids are dual citizens of America and Germany, though at that time, fresh from California, we still felt more American and more at ease in English. But we deliberately spoke German, to help us acclimatise to our new home. In a mood of levity, we approached the ticket window.

The lady behind it informed me that the price for the elder two was such-and-such and the littl’un was free. “What if I pay you a bit extra and you keep them?” I suggested. The kids chortled and started naming prices that might clear the market.

The lady stared back, horrified. Then, slowly, she leaned forward to look at my children, who stiffened. “Your dad does not really mean that,” she said. “He does not really want to sell you.”

That pretty much killed the mood for all four of us until somewhere between the giraffes and the polar bears. “Why did she say that?” my daughter asked, in English, as though out of an instinct for cultural self-preservation. As I pondered the question, I couldn’t help but think there was something peculiarly German about the lady’s reaction. First, Germans really, really struggle to grasp non-literal meanings. Second, Germans really, really can’t help but say when they think you’re wrong.


This opening story on literalism is great but there are more points in there, like the need to correct people and how isolating and grating this is for foreigners.

The point I take from it which also relates to the fact that street slang is segregated in Germany (as opposed to France). Educated Germans will not use words from the street register in normal conversation for fear of looking uneducated. You can see this for instance in the criticism Rezo gets for his use of mixed language in his serious videos. ‘Wrong’ use of language is used as an excuse to put people down. This happens to me as well every time I make a mistake.

The counterpoint is that anything said in High German is considered to be true or at least intended to be a statement of fact. The literalism is the baseline for all interactions at that level. They are literally incapable of feigning.

You can imagine the problems this creates and how unfixable they are because they are so deeply embedded in the culture. The only way out is through. The Rezo generation needs to create a new culture and the old needs to die off.

Leveled up in Turkish

Hanging out on Clubhouse from the beginning made me realize how lacking my Turkish was. I got on the app when Germany came online and I think Turkey launched shortly after that and only then did it kick off in the Netherlands.

That particular sequencing gave me an interesting perspective on how different cultures adopted the service. Germans went into panel hell. Most of the sessions were dominated by journalists and politicos and therefore were extremely boring. Turkey got online in no time and was dominated by influencers who launched all kinds of funky repeating formats and casual chatrooms where people were going until deep into the night (I would listen until 1-2 at night which in Turkey would be 2 hours later still). The Netherlands went into a marketing fervor with a strong showing of douchebags.

Clubhouse had its moment and fizzled, but tuning into the app again recently, I can say that it’s still there and with all the klout and hype chasers gone, things are again weird. Weird is good.


In the Turkish rooms I would hear words that I didn’t know every other sentence, sometimes entire concepts like kadının beyanı esastır. Finally, I had a situation where I was exposed to a high level of Turkish and I had the motivation to improve this.

I started noting these words down in Anki, which I had bought previously to study the HSK. Adding a word to my deck here and there was slow: switch to dictionary (now I use the official one), switch to Anki and write the card, switch back.

For some extra speed, I dug up a master word list I had made more than a decade ago. Back then I had read most of Orhan Pamuk’s then bibliography (Yeni Hayat, Sessiz Ev, Kara Kitap, Kar, Benim Adım Kırmızı) and then too found lots of words I didn’t know. I passed over them and wrote them down on a piece of paper. I transcribed these papers into a list and looked up some of the meanings. But this being before Anki, I had no real way to systematically learn these words and get better at Turkish. If I had, I would have improved steadily with each book I read and everything would have been great.

I went through this old word list letter by letter and over the course of a month made cards for all of the words in that list. The result of that effort is the 1000-word deck I have made available online now.

And now, after months of revising daily (life during the pandemic has been very exciting, why do you ask?) and also continuing to add words as I go—the recent events in Afghanistan made me add the half-Arab half-Farsi ridiculous Turkish word for charge d’affaires—I finally am out of “New” words. From now on it will just be polishing the lexicography of the deck, adding a word here and there and continuing to revise.

This also means I have capacity again to go back to studying HSK3. Or I might switch back to learning Japanese after all. Watching some anime recently and seeing Japanese speaking gaijin on Tiktok have revived this itch.

A feeling for Turkish (and Arabic)

So now what? I am a lot more confident when it comes to my Turkish after having learned a bunch of the words commonly in use in the higher echelons of society. I can now look for and find complicated words much more easily. My usage will likely be incorrect often, but I should be able to get by with my sizeable intuition for what remains the first language I learned (and learnd to read in). I can also consume complex material far more easily than I used to.

I now realize how many loan words from Arabic Turkey has. The exact numbers are obscure, but almost every uncommon word either is of Arabic origin or has an Arabic equivalent. This also explains why after being in Syria for a while I understood what people were saying without knowing Arabic.

I’ve also been amazed by how overloaded the language is for certain concepts like disaster (afet, badire, facia, buhran), sorrow (ıstırap, üzüntü, matem, yas, kahır, hicran, gam, tasa, keder, nedamet, teessür) and many others. Also all of those words are Arabic in origin except if I had to guess by word shape: üzüntü (I guessed right!).

White Turks

Delving into this part of the language and the people who use it, I came across the concept of White Turks. The division between white and black Turks underlies a lot of the dynamics of the Turkey of the past decades.

The people who I was listening to and whose language I am now emulating are usually white Turks. Me and my family originally are black Turks.

I’m sure I’ll never pass as white, though I’m now in a socio-economically better position than most white Turks in Turkey and most black Turks in Europe. Language is a key aspect of this division and when people clash it is usually the first weapon that they resort to. Now that I have levelled up, I don’t have to be exclusively on the receiving end of that weapon anymore.

Highlights for Site Reliability Engineering

Traditional operations teams and their counterparts in product development thus often end up in conflict, most visibly over how quickly software can be released to production. At their core, the development teams want to launch new features and see them adopted by users. At their core, the ops teams want to make sure the service doesn’t break while they are holding the pager. Because most outages are caused by some kind of change—a new configuration, a new feature launch, or a new type of user traffic—the two teams’ goals are fundamentally in tension.
SRE is what happens when you ask a software engineer to design an operations team.
The use of an error budget resolves the structural conflict of incentives between development and SRE. SRE’s goal is no longer “zero outages”; rather, SREs and product developers aim to spend the error budget getting maximum feature velocity. This change makes all the difference. An outage is no longer a “bad” thing—it is an expected part of the process of innovation, and an occurrence that both development and SRE teams manage rather than fear.
When humans are necessary, we have found that thinking through and recording the best practices ahead of time in a “playbook” produces roughly a 3x improvement in MTTR as compared to the strategy of “winging it.” The hero jack-of-all-trades on-call engineer does work, but the practiced on-call engineer armed with a playbook works much better.
However, some systems should be instrumented with client-side collection, because not measuring behavior at the client can miss a range of problems that affect users but don’t affect server-side metrics.
Toil is the kind of work tied to running a production service that tends to be manual, repetitive, automatable, tactical, devoid of enduring value, and that scales linearly as a service grows.
At least 50% of each SRE’s time should be spent on engineering project work that will either reduce future toil or add service features. Feature development typically focuses on improving reliability, performance, or utilization, which often reduces toil as a second-order effect.
A product’s feature velocity will slow if the SRE team is too busy with manual work and firefighting to roll out new features promptly.
This kind of tension is common within a team, and often reflects an underlying mistrust of the team’s self-discipline: while some team members want to implement a “hack” to allow time for a proper fix, others worry that a hack will be forgotten or that the proper fix will be deprioritized indefinitely. This concern is credible, as it’s easy to build layers of unmaintainable technical debt by patching over problems instead of making real fixes. Managers and technical leaders play a key role in implementing true, long-term fixes by supporting and prioritizing potentially time-consuming long-term fixes even when the initial “pain” of paging subsides.
It’s easy to overlook the fact that once you have encapsulated some task in automation, anyone can execute the task. Therefore, the time savings apply across anyone who would plausibly use the automation. Decoupling operator from operation is very powerful.
The main upshot of this new automation was that we had a lot more free time to spend on improving other parts of the infrastructure. Such improvements had a cascading effect: the more time we saved, the more time we were able to spend on optimizing and automating other tedious work.
“Why don’t we gate the code with a flag instead of deleting it?”
If we release 100 unrelated changes to a system at the same time and performance gets worse, understanding which changes impacted performance, and how they did so, will take considerable effort or additional instrumentation. If the release is performed in smaller batches, we can move faster with more confidence because each code change can be understood in isolation in the larger system.
There are many ways to simplify and speed troubleshooting. Perhaps the most fundamental are: Building observability—with both white-box metrics and structured logs—into each component from the ground up. Designing systems with well-understood and observable interfaces between components.
Some on-call engineers simultaneously experienced what they believed to be a failure of the corporate network and relocated to dedicated secure rooms (panic rooms) with backup access to the production environment.
Google relies upon our own tools. Much of the software stack that we use for troubleshooting and communicating lies behind jobs that were crash-looping. Had this outage lasted any longer, debugging would have been severely hindered.
De facto, the commander holds all positions that they have not delegated.
It is important to define postmortem criteria before an incident occurs so that everyone knows when a postmortem is necessary. In addition to these objective triggers, any stakeholder may request a postmortem for an event.
Writing a postmortem also involves formal review and publication. In practice, teams share the first postmortem draft internally and solicit a group of senior engineers to assess the draft for completeness. Review criteria might include: Was key incident data collected for posterity? Are the impact assessments complete? Was the root cause sufficiently deep? Is the action plan appropriate and are resulting bug fixes at appropriate priority? Did we share the outcome with relevant stakeholders?
Make sure that writing effective postmortems is a rewarded and celebrated practice, both publicly through the social methods mentioned earlier, and through individual and team performance management.
one of SRE’s guiding principles is that “team size should not scale directly with service growth.”
Performance Data describes how a service scales: for every unit of demand X in cluster Y, how many units of dependency Z are used? This scaling data may be derived in a number of ways depending on the maturity of the service in question. Some services are load tested, while others infer their scaling based upon past performance.
When deploying approximation to help speed development, it’s important to undertake the work in a way that allows the team to make future enhancements and revisit approximation.
By working one-on-one with early users, you can address those fears personally, and demonstrate that rather than owning the toil of performing a tedious task manually, the team instead owns the configurations, processes, and ultimate results of their technical work.
Load test components until they break. As load increases, a component typically handles requests successfully until it reaches a point at which it can’t handle more requests.
If you believe your system has proper protections against being overloaded, consider performing failure tests in a small slice of production to find the point at which the components in your system fail under real traffic
Its authors point out [Bur06] that providing consensus primitives as a service rather than as libraries that engineers build into their applications frees application maintainers of having to deploy their systems in a way compatible with a highly available consensus service (running the right number of replicas, dealing with group membership, dealing with performance, etc.).
Regardless of the source of the “thundering herd” problem, nothing is harder on cluster infrastructure and the SREs responsible for a cluster’s various services than a buggy 10,000 worker pipeline job.
We don’t make teams “practice” their backups, instead: Teams define service level objectives (SLOs) for data availability in a variety of failure modes. A team practices and demonstrates their ability to meet those SLOs.
Google has also found that the most devastating acute data deletion cases are caused by application developers unfamiliar with existing code but working on deletion-related code, especially batch processing pipelines
The most important principle in this layer is that backups don’t matter; what matters is recovery.
Was the ability to formulate such an estimate luck? No—our success was the fruit of planning, adherence to best practices, hard work, and cooperation, and we were glad to see our investment in each of these elements pay off as well as it did.
In short, we always knew that adherence to best practices is important, and it was good to see that maxim proven true.
At first, this race condition may occur for a tiny fraction of data. But as the volume of data increases, a larger and larger fraction of the data is at risk for triggering a race condition. Such a scenario is probabilistic—the pipeline works correctly for the vast majority of data and for most of the time. When such race conditions occur in a data deletion pipeline, the wrong data can be deleted nondeterministically.
The Google Search SRE team structures this learning through a document called the “on-call learning checklist.”
When standard operating procedures break down, they’ll need to be able to improvise fully.
Because of the rapid change of production systems, it is important that your team welcome any chance to refamiliarize themselves with a system, including by learning from the newest, rather than oldest, members of the team.
At some point, if you can’t get the attention you need to fix the root cause of the problems causing interrupts, perhaps the component you’re supporting isn’t that important.
Once embedded in a team, the SRE focuses on improving the team’s practices instead of simply helping the team empty the ticket queue. The SRE observes the team’s daily routine and makes recommendations to improve their practices.
A default to ops mode usually happens in response to an overwhelming pressure, real or imagined.
Any serving-critical component for which the existing SREs respond to questions by saying, “We don’t know anything about that; the devs own it” To give acceptable on-call support for a component, you should at least know the consequences when it breaks and the urgency needed to fix problems.
Usually, the SRE team establishes and maintains a PRR checklist explicitly for the Analysis phase.
For example, SRE might help implement a “dark launch” setup, in which part of the traffic from existing users is sent to the new service in addition to being sent to the live production service. The responses from the new service are “dark” since they are thrown away and not actually shown to users.
What happened The effectiveness of the response What we would do differently next time What actions will be taken to make sure a particular incident doesn’t happen again

Highlights for Radical Markets

Private property would become public to a significant extent and the possessions of those around you would, in a sense, become partly yours.
Although at first blush you might assume that the auction would allow the rich to buy up everything of value, reflect for a moment. What do you mean by “the rich”? People who own lots of businesses, land, and so forth. But, if everything were up for auction all the time, no person would own such assets.
George was more concerned about inequality than were the conservative followers of Smith, and he recognized that private property could stand in the way of truly free markets.
That paper was published in 1961. Its title, “Counterspeculation, Auctions, and Competitive Sealed Tenders,”
We were promised economic dynamism in exchange for inequality. We got the inequality, but dynamism is actually declining.
Because of these limitations, moral economies can feel constraining and antiquated when confronted with large-scale market societies. Unable to account for the needs of those far away, they may become hostile to outsiders and intolerant of internal diversity, fearing it will erode group values.
The economic wisdom of left and right did not cut to the core of the tensions in the basic structure of capitalism and democracy. Private property inherently conferred market power, a problem that ballooned along with inequality and that constantly mutated in ways that frustrated efforts by governments to solve it. One-person-one-vote gave majorities the power to tyrannize minorities. Checks, balances, and judicial intervention limited such tyranny, but did so by handing power to elites and special interest groups. In international relations, efforts to enhance cooperation and cross-border economic activity empowered an international capitalist elite that disproportionately benefited from international cooperation and faced nationalist backlash from the working class.
Joan Robinson
Beatrice Webb
the common ownership self-assessed tax
That is why governments often take the lead, using the power of eminent domain to create new commercial or residential districts. But eminent domain is often unfair and always politically controversial.
The wealthy were rewarded for doing nothing. Poor people who needed land had to pay vast prices to obtain it or else starve. Critics attacked these circumstances as perverse, and portrayed the rich, in fiction and nonfiction alike, as parasites (sometimes literally, as in Bram Stoker’s Dracula).
Walras believed that land should be owned by the state and the rents it generated should be returned to the public as a “social dividend,” either directly or through the provision of public goods.
Socialists agreed on only one point: that traditional private property and the inequality of its ownership posed significant challenges to prosperity, well-being, and political order.
In 1942, the prominent conservative economist Joseph Schumpeter predicted that socialism would ultimately replace capitalism.21 His view was that most economic activity in capitalist economies took place in corporations and that a corporation is just a bureaucracy in which “management” at the center issues orders to various workers. From this vantage point, it was a small step to an economy in which each industry was dominated by one or two gigantic corporations, with government regulation to ensure that they do not abuse their monopoly power, an outcome not much different from the central planning of socialism.
Most mainstream economists even today continue to assume that bargaining eliminates the monopoly problem.
Most of us think of the liturgy as the words chanted by members of a religious community. But the term originated in ancient Athens where it meant roughly “public works” and referred to the responsibility of the roughly 1,000 wealthiest citizens to fund the operations of the state, particularly the army and navy. How did the Athenians determine which citizens were the wealthiest? According to Demosthenes, any member of the liturgical class could challenge any other citizen he believed was wealthier to antidosis or “exchange.”36 The person being challenged would have to either assume the liturgical responsibility or exchange all possessions with the challenger. The system gives everyone an incentive to be honest despite the burdens of the liturgy. If you falsely claimed to be poorer than the top 1,000 so as to avoid the liturgical burdens, then you could end up being forced to exchange your possessions with someone who is poorer than you are.
Furthermore, control of everything would be radically decentralized; a COST thus combines extreme decentralization of power with partial socialization of ownership, showing that they are, perhaps surprisingly, two sides of the same coin.
As previously noted, our proposal would redistribute roughly one-third of the return on capital and thus would reduce the income share of the top 1% by 4 percentage points, or roughly half the difference between recent levels and the low points in the 1970s.
One cannot develop an attachment to a car that one uses for a few hours, and no one seems the worse for this. Fetishistic attachment to a privately owned automobile—an extremely expensive durable asset, which even enthusiasts seldom drive for more than an hour or two per day—is, thankfully, becoming a thing of the past.
As the economy grows, the revenues generated by the COST would be redistributed back to citizens, just as employees who own stock in their employers benefit when the employer’s profits increase. From Friedrich Engels to George W. Bush, commentators and politicians have argued that owning a share in the national capital stock, usually through the stock market or a home, could help stabilize politics and enhance support for policies that raise the value of the capital stock, a position supported by some research.
Building on Samuelson’s ideas, economist and political scientist Mancur Olson argued that small groups of well-organized special interests can use expenditures, lobbying, and other forms of political action to persuade the government to act in their interest rather than for the
public good.29 Much of the public ignores complex issues, like bank regulation, while the banks who can profit from government fund lobbying organizations that control the agenda. Many economists are cynical about collective decision-making because it seems so easy to manipulate. But not all of them view it this way. Again, enter our hero
First, a passionate minority can outvote an indifferent majority, solving the problem of the tyranny of the majority. Second, the outcome of the vote should maximize the well-being of the entire group, not the well-being of one subset at the expense of that of another.
Despite centuries of progress, markets for public goods are hopelessly deficient. If we are right about QV, then it should bring markets for public goods in line with markets for private goods, with incalculable benefits for all citizens.
QV would offer citizens the chance to feel their voice had been more fully heard, both helping them win on the issue most important to them and reconciling them to the losses they suffer. These features are much like the social effects of market economies for private goods. Because citizens tend to resent and feel coerced by rationing in planned economies, they experience the abandonment of planning as a blossoming of freedom, as was so clear with the collapse of communism in the 1980s and 1990s. When people have the freedom to choose what to spend their money on, they are afforded a sense of dignity and responsibility for the things they have and choose to forgo. A political culture based on such a market mentality could give people a stronger sense of dignity and responsibility in politics.
Yet such large-scale services at present are either provided by monopolistic corporations or by dysfunctional public authorities. Fear of the failures of these providers often leads us to wastefully retreat from public life behind the walls of our homes, our gated communities, our private servers, and our individual cars.
Wealthy countries, by definition, have a greater relative abundance of capital as compared to labor than do poor countries. It is thus natural that trade and migration should both benefit capitalists in wealthy countries and laborers in poor countries at the expense of laborers in wealthy countries and capitalists in poor countries.
Often it is in the rural and economically depressed regions where few migrants reside that opposition to migration is strongest.28 Workers in such areas see migration adding to economic vibrancy in other communities, but not in their own. They gain none of the ancillary social and cultural benefits that dynamic city-dwellers gain from migration, of increased variety in food, color in urban life, or exposure to other cultures that can expand career opportunities. Instead, they see the rest of their country moving in directions that distance it from their experience in ways that increase their isolation and consignment to the cultural periphery.
While migration offers enormous advantages to the migrants themselves and their families back home, to employers and owners of capital, and to the high-skilled workers who they complement and live among, migration offers few benefits to and imposes some costs on most workers in wealthy countries, who are already left behind by the forces of trade, automation, and the rising power of concentrated finance.
A political backlash against massive migration is not inevitable. Even in closed societies, migration receives political support as long as its benefits are widely distributed in a visible way.
Many of the sophisticated cultural elites most likely to object to this sort of unequal relationship should contemplate their own relationships to migrants. In our experience, most people living in wealthy cities who consider themselves sympathetic to the plight of migrants know little or nothing of the language, cultures, aspirations, and values of those they claim to sympathize with. They benefit greatly from the cheap services these migrants offer and rarely concern themselves with the poverty in which they live. The solidarity of such cosmopolitan elites is thus skin deep. But it is better than the open hostility many ordinary citizens of wealthy countries feel toward migrants.
Yet economic research suggests that diversified institutional investors have harmed a wide range of industries, raising prices for consumers, reducing investment and innovation, and potentially lowering wages.
A law firm that sued institutional investors, on the other hand, would be bringing a case against capital as a class.
The primary difference between the scenario we describe above and present practice, other than some advances in chat capacities, is that in the world we imagine, Facebook is open and honest about how it uses data and pays for the value it receives with money. The user’s role as a vital cog in the information economy—as data producer and seller—is highlighted.
The inability to earn money in these environments undercuts the possibility of developing skills or careers around digital contributions, as technoserfs know any investment they make will be expropriated by the platforms.
However, they have attracted only a few users with an ideological attachment to the idea. Most users prefer a network that is used by most of their friends and that offers higher quality services.
Unlike traditional unions, they combine labor stoppages and consumer boycotts—because, as noted, data laborers are simultaneously consumers. During a strike, Facebook would lose not only access to data (on the labor side) but access to ad revenues (on the consumer side). It’s as if autoworkers could pressure GM or Ford not only by stopping production but also by refusing to purchase cars. Also unlike traditional unions, which must struggle to maintain solidarity during strikes, the data unions could enforce the “picket line” electronically.
She realized, too, that in many ways her new cause, fighting to get her old life back, had given her more meaning and not just greater wealth than the past she idealized. She started to wonder what else might supply that meaning and whether her whole movement was not ultimately some sort of self-serving charade.
A COST on human capital might turn out to be politically popular because it penalizes the highly resented educated class and lazy people of all types, while rewarding ordinary workers for their labor.
It would be a mistake, however, to think that the current system is not coercive. In our current system, there is a wide gulf between educated elites whose native or acquired talents are highly marketable and those who have been left behind by changes sweeping the economy. The talented enjoy a kind of freedom, as they can select from among a variety of appealing jobs. These jobs allow them to quickly accumulate capital that they can depend on as they age, if they do not like the jobs that are available, or pick and choose among different levels of labor (part-time, enjoyable or rewarding but low-paying jobs in the nonprofit sector, etc.). Those with fewer marketable skills are given a stark choice: undergo harsh labor conditions for low pay, starve, or submit to the many indignities of life on welfare. Yet the waste of social resources when a talented person fails to realize her potential are far greater, and arguably their failure to work should be punished more harshly.
By giving every citizen a share of national wealth, a COST could make voters attend to the consequences of policies for a nation’s wealth and create a more cooperative spirit across class lines.
Moreover, some scholars have argued that by encouraging selfishness, markets undermine the trust that is necessary for markets to function.
Shalizi considers an estimate by Soviet planners that, at the height of Soviet economic power in the 1950s, there were about 12 million commodities tracked in Soviet economic plans. To make matters worse, this figure does not even account for the fact that a ripe banana in Moscow is not the same as a ripe banana in Leningrad, and moving it from one place to the other must also be part of the plan. But even were there “merely” 12 million commodities, the most efficient known algorithms for optimization, running on the most efficient computers available today, would take roughly a thousand years to solve such a problem exactly once. It can even be proven that a modern computer could not achieve even a reasonably “approximate” solution
But if robots can drive cars, they can also make purchase orders, accept deliveries, gauge consumer sentiment, plan economic operations, and coordinate this activity at the level of the economy. At this macro level, the role of artificial intelligence in reshaping social organization has—bizarrely—received little attention.

“Helicopter Story” was one of the best pieces of sci-fi I’ve read in a while. All the more galling that it was ripped apart in a culture war free-for-all.

I have a special amount of hate especially for those people who feel like they’re on the good side but have an understanding of literature that is too shallow to contain something like this. I blame MCU, games and Disney for letting these people believe that what happens there is what’s possible and allowed in fiction.


Highlights for The Provos

He believed that the ‘blood sacrifice’ of a few would regenerate the national consciousness and lead, by force of Irish arms, to the eventual withdrawal of Britain from Ireland.
MacSwiney took his place in history not just because of his sacrifice but because of his portentous words. ‘It is not those who can inflict the most,’ he warned, ‘but those who can suffer the most who will conquer.’
Eight months earlier, Lloyd George had likened the prospect of meeting Collins to that of meeting a murderer and had described the IRA as ‘a small body of assassins, a real murder gang, dominating the country and terrorizing it’. Now he described its commander as ‘one of the most courageous leaders ever produced by a valiant race’.
An armed struggle on its own was getting nowhere unless you had the political support of the population.
weeks. There were twenty-seven of us at the beginning. The recruiting officer was very resolute and he put the fear of God into you. He told you that if you’re joining the IRA, it was a total and absolute commitment. It required sacrifice and it required dedication and it required honour above all. He told us everything that was bad about joining: imprisonment, death, very little money in your pocket, very few friends; it was going to be a hard slog, and a long hard road ahead of us. So gradually people st
It’s a situation somewhat analogous to Israel’s West Bank. We’re part of a state which we never wanted to be part of.
The ultimate aim of the Irish nation will never emerge from the political or constitutional platform. Indeed one is now expected to be more conversant with the teaching of Chairman Mao than those of our dead patriots.
You’re all asking me to get the army in?’ And they all said yes. So I picked up the phone and rang him. I said, ‘I’m pleading with you, Jim. Send in the army.’ And I’ll never forget his reply. ‘Gerry,’ he says, ‘I can get the army in but it’s going to be a devil of a job to get it out.’
Seeing British soldiers on the street, I got this sense that there’s someone there now to protect us, to defend us against these incursions into our area.
he had never fully embraced Goulding’s policy of taking the IRA ‘into the never-never land of theoretical Marxism and parliamentary politics’.
We realized that the Dublin crowd and the Dublin leadership were nothing other than con-men. They were only using the North as a base, a springboard to help them in their left-wing political field.
Although republicans could stand in elections to the parliaments at Westminster, Stormont and Dublin, no successful candidate ever took his or her seat since to do so would be to recognize the legitimacy of these institutions. The IRA’s whole existence and self-styled legitimacy rested on its refusal to recognize these parliaments which, to republicans, had no moral or legal authority.
But the people who defended the street stood their ground. The following morning there was just sheer elation and relief that the IRA were there to deal with that situation.
The army had done exactly as the Unionists’ Security Committee had demanded four days earlier – it had got tough. The result was summed up by Gerry Adams. ‘Thousands of people who had never been republicans now gave their active support to the IRA; others, who had never had any time for physical force now accepted it as a practical necessity.’
They are terrorists and that’s the end of the story. No rank, no glamour. They are terrorists. What did we do in Kenya? We didn’t call them Colonels or Majors or Brigadiers. We called them terrorists and they were hung. Same thing in Palestine. Terrorists there were caught and they were executed. No glory. Nobody cries over a dead body too long. A couple of days and they forget all about it.
If any young men had previously held back because they felt morally uncomfortable about killing, ‘Bloody Sunday’ removed any lingering restraint.
Every day they passed the office as they passed by in a black taxi [the ‘People’s Taxis’ that provided cheap transport] up and down the Falls Road and people would say, ‘there’s the Sinn Fein office’. The incident centres gave the party a physical presence.
Scant progress was being made. The British were offering the release of more prisoners but this did not ‘begin to meet the minimum of requirements’.
But the Provisionals were not interested in public relations. They wanted to talk about the declaration of intent which, to them, was the whole point of the truce. Allan and ‘HM’ said the Government could not now give this for three reasons: the Convention ‘must be given a chance publicly’; the Government was waiting for ‘a consensus of opinion to emerge in Britain’; and there was the danger of ‘a Congo-type situation resulting’.
How they fight is a matter of tactics and conditions, but fight they must. There can be no question of that. The enemy allows us no choice. It is an armed struggle because the enemy is armed. Because he establishes and protects his vested interests by force of arms. The cabinet ministers, the politicians, the warlords, the business interests, the profit makers – the Establishment – have all agreed on their objects and the course they will follow. They are armed mercenaries. We must be armed revolutionaries. We must be Active Republicans.
The warning, it said, ‘proved totally inadequate given the disastrous consequences. We accept condemnation and criticism from only two sources: from the relatives and friends of those who were accidentally killed, and from our supporters who have rightly and severely criticized us.’
If you could, you saved a bit of margarine or butter from your breakfast that morning and took it with you when you were brought out of the cell. They took you up to a small room at the top of the wing and all the uniforms were lined up there. As soon as you got the trousers on, you ripped the bottom off them to expose your back-end. Before you went out to the visit, you rubbed a bit of the margarine or butter on your rear-end. So when you got the parcel on the visit, you had to get your hand in between your legs and pass the thing up your rear-end. That’s how most things came in. Radios came in that way. Everything came in that way. It took a wee bit of skill and sleight of hand to do it. And you had to be quick.
The hatred prison officers and prisoners felt for each other was mutual and lasting. Nothing brought it home to me more forcefully than a production of Bobby Sands’ epic ‘The Crime of Castlereagh’ which I watched in a parochial hall in West Belfast. It was staged by former prisoners and prisoners out on parole or home leave. One scene depicted a prisoner being turned upside down whilst a prison officer with rubber gloves gloatingly searched his anus. As the officer was walking off stage, a shot rang out and he fell down dead. It was a dramatic piece of theatre. The packed audience, among whom were many of the Republican Movement’s most prominent figures, including members of the leadership, broke out in spontaneous applause and cheering. It was a chilling moment.
Furthermore, by the mid-eighties, the intelligence on which such interceptions and ambushes were mounted was far more precise, with sophisticated electronic surveillance supplementing the information supplied by agents and informers within the IRA’s ranks.
Such operations were, on the whole, difficult to carry out in urban areas like Belfast and Derry because of the risk to civilians and extremely difficult in South Armagh where the locals knew every suspicious-looking hedge, barn and ditch. Under the right circumstances rural areas like Tyrone offered a perfect killing field.
The IRA took hostage the family of Patsy Gillespie, strapped him into a car loaded with a thousand pounds of explosives and told him to drive to the checkpoint. The IRA told his family he would be released when he had carried out their orders. Patsy Gillespie became a ‘human bomb’ and when he arrived at the checkpoint the IRA detonated the explosives by remote control, killing him and five soldiers.
Because I totally distrust the British Government. I’ve had too many experiences in the past to be so naive as to trust the British Government.
The final solution is union. It is going to happen anyway. The historical train – Europe – determines that. We are committed to Europe. Unionists will have to change. This island will be as one.

Highlights for Nine Lies About Work

And from that point on she micromanaged me, and I realized that she was fear-based, both in how she thought of her bosses and in terms of how she ran her team.
The good news in all this for you, the team leader, is that what people care most about at work is within your control.
The big thing is that only on a team can we express our individuality at work and put it to highest use.
performance: 1. I am really enthusiastic about the mission of my company. 2. At work, I clearly understand what is expected of me. 3. In my team, I am surrounded by people who share my values. 4. I have the chance to use my strengths every day at work. 5. My teammates have my back. 6. I know I will be recognized for excellent work. 7. I have great confidence in my company’s future. 8. In my work, I am always challenged to grow.
The amounts of time and energy it takes to make a plan this thorough and detailed are the very things that doom it to obsolescence. The thing we call planning doesn’t tell you where to go; it just helps you understand where you are. Or rather, were. Recently. We aren’t planning for the future, we’re planning for the near-term past.
Their underlying assumption is that people are wise, and that if you can present them with accurate, real-time, reliable data about the real world in front of them, they’ll invariably make smart decisions.
Planning systems take the interpretation of the data away from those on the front lines, and hand it off to a select few, who analyze it and decipher its patterns, and then construct and communicate the plan. Intelligence systems do precisely the opposite—because the “intelligence” in an intelligence system lies not in the select few, but instead in the emergent interpretive powers of all front-line team members.
Each check-in, then, is a chance to offer a tip, or an idea that can help the team member overcome a real-world obstacle, or a suggestion for how to refine a particular skill.
And their shared insight, across the span of sixty years, is that it is far more powerful for a leader to free the most information and the most decision-making power than it is for that leader to craft the perfect plan.
Self-evaluation of goals isn’t really about evaluating your work, in other words: it’s a careful exercise in self-promotion and political positioning, in figuring out how much to reveal honestly and how much to couch carefully.
The company has asked you to evaluate yourself against a list of abstract goals that were irrelevant a couple of weeks after you wrote them down.
These leaders strive instead to bring to life for their people the meaning and purpose of their work, the missions and contributions and methods that truly matter. These leaders know that in a team infused with such meaning, each person will be smart enough and driven enough to set goals voluntarily that manifest that meaning.
A strength, on the other hand, is an “activity that makes you feel strong.”
The simplest answer is that, though we are deeply aware that each of us is unique, and that no amount of training or badgering will remove that uniqueness, it is still quite overwhelming for a busy team leader to allow himself to come face-to-face with the fact that each of his team members thinks differently, is motivated by different things, responds to relationship cues differently, and gets a kick out of different sorts of praise.
that leaders can’t be in the control business and must be in the intelligence, meaning, and empowerment business—the outcomes business.
As the author and speaker Simon Sinek said recently in his spot as guest editor for Virgin’s workplace blog, “So here’s a way you can fulfill your potential in the workplace: negative feedback . . . Negative feedback is where it’s at . . . After every project or anything that I do, I always ask somebody, ‘What sucks? What can I do better? Where is there room for improvement?’ I’m now to the point where I crave it. That’s what you want. You want to get to the point where you crave negative feedback.”
The truth, then, is that people need attention—and when you give it to us in a safe and nonjudgmental environment, we will come and stay and play and work.
People don’t need feedback. They need attention, and moreover, attention to what they do the best. And they become more engaged and therefore more productive when we give it to them.
For a team member, nothing is more believable, and thus more powerful, than your sharing what you saw from her and how it made you feel. Or what it made you think. Or what it caused you to realize. Or how and where you will now rely on her. These are your reactions, and when you share them with specificity and with detail, you aren’t judging her or rating her or fixing her. You are simply reflecting to her the unique “dent” she just made in the world, as seen through one person’s eyes—yours. And precisely because it isn’t a judgment or a rating, but is instead a simple reaction, it is authoritative and beyond question.
If you see somebody doing something that really works, stopping them and replaying it to them isn’t only a high-priority interrupt, it is arguably your highest-priority interrupt. Get into this habit and you’ll be far more likely to lead a high-performing team.
We tend to think that subjectivity in data is a bug, and that the feature we’re after is objectivity. Actually, however, when it comes to measurement, the pursuit of objectivity is the bug, and reliable subjectivity the feature.
Only certain people have “potential”; everyone has momentum. One team member’s might be more powerful than another’s, or speedier than another’s, or pointed in a different direction, but everyone has some. The question isn’t whether you inherently possess a lot of it or not. Instead, when it comes to momentum, the question is how much of it you have at this very moment, right now.
namely, that the speed and trajectory of her momentum at this very moment are a) knowable, b) changeable, and c) within her control.
And if we then institutionalize this thinking through our people-management processes and systems in the name of bringing predictability and control to our organization, we find that we have sacrificed common sense and humanity at the altar of corporate uniformity, and we shouldn’t be very surprised if our people chafe at the result.
Obviously, triage can be necessary in life, but it surely is not enough—it keeps things at bay, but it takes us away from ourselves. And in the end, balance is an unachievable goal anyway, because it asks us to aim for momentary stasis in a world that is ever changing. Supposing we ever get things just exactly in balance, we know for sure that something will come along and unbalance them and that we’ll be back to pushing our balance rock up the hill again.
You—and your organization—get them only if you create them, and you create them only through love.
Organizations are not powerless, but their power (and their name) comes from their ability to organize what is already there in plain view. Your organization, if it is careless, can crush your spirit, can diminish or ignore your daimon. But only you can animate it. Only you can bring love into your world at work.
This person didn’t find this work—she didn’t happen upon it, fully-formed and waiting for her. Instead, she made it. She took a generic job, with a generic job description, and then, within that job, she took her loves seriously, and gradually, little by little and a lot over time, she turned the best of her job into most of her job. Not the entirety of it, maybe, but certainly an awful lot of it, until it became a manifestation of who she is. She tweaked and tweaked the role until, in all the most important ways, it came to resemble her—it became an expression of her.
The same is true for you, of course. You have a unique relationship with the world, a relationship that reveals to you things that only you can see. It offers thread-weaving opportunities all the time, but the only person who knows if those threads are red is you. The world won’t do your weaving for you—it doesn’t care about your red threads. The only person who can stop and be attentive enough to identify these threads, and weave them intelligently into the fabric of your work, is you.
Ballet, as you know, is an unremittingly technical and demanding craft, but if you build technical craft on a loveless foundation, you net only burnout, because technical mastery absent love always equals burnout. Burnout isn’t the absence of balance but the absence of love.
If the people coming to work on your team could feel more like this, if you could help them take their red threads this seriously—not to make your people feel good about themselves, although that helps, but so they could share more with the world—what a beautiful and lasting contribution you and your team would make.
And yet these characteristics are curiously circumscribed: authenticity is important, right up until the point when the leader, authentically, says that he has no idea what to do, which then fractures his vision. Likewise, vulnerability is important until the moment when the leader’s comfort with her own flaws causes us to doubt her, and to question whether she is sufficiently inspirational. Apparently, we require authentic sureness and reassuring vulnerability, however contradictory those things may be.
If leading were easy, there would be more good leaders. If there were more good leaders, we might be just a little less focused on it.
The only determinant of whether anyone is leading is whether anyone else is following.
More specifically, we follow leaders who connect us to a mission we believe in, who clarify what’s expected of us, who surround us with people who define excellence the same way we do, who value us for our strengths, who show us that our teammates will always be there for us, who diligently replay our winning plays, who challenge us to keep getting better, and who give us confidence in the future.
Your ability to create the outcomes you want in your followers is tied directly to how seriously and intelligently you cultivate your own idiosyncrasy, and to what end. The deeper and more extreme your idiosyncrasy becomes, the more passionately your followers follow—and while this is frustrating to us when we happen to disagree with the ends of a particular leader, it is so nonetheless.
As a leader, you can’t be dismissive of this fear. You can’t tell your people to “embrace change” and to “get comfortable with ambiguity.”
We follow people who are really good at something that matters to us. We follow the spikes.
The truth that no two leaders do the same job in the same way. The truth that as much as we follow the spikes, they can also antagonize us. The truth that no leader is perfect—and that the best of them have learned how to work around their imperfections. The truth that leaders are frustrating—they don’t have all the abilities we’d like them to have. The truth that following is in part an act of forgiveness—it is to give our attention and efforts to someone despite what we can see of their flaws. The truth that not everyone should be, or wants to be, a leader—the world needs followers, and great followers at that. The truth that a person who might be a great leader for me might not be a great leader for you. The truth that a person who might be a great leader for one team, or team of teams, or company, might not be a great leader for another. The truth that leaders are not necessarily a force for good in the world—they are simply people with followers. They aren’t saints, and sometimes their having followers leads to hubris and arrogance, or worse. The truth that leaders are not good or bad—they are just people who have figured out how to be their most defined selves in the world, and who do so in such a way that they inspire genuine confidence in their followers. This isn’t necessarily good or bad. It just is. The truth that leading isn’t a set of characteristics but a series of experiences seen through the eyes of the followers. The truth that, despite all this, we reserve a special place in our world for those who make our experience of it better and more hopeful. And the truth that, through it all, we follow your spikes.
When we feel a fresh rush of energy after talking with someone, we need to stop and ask why. When we feel, in response to another human being, that mysterious attraction tugging on us—like a fish on a line, or like a needle twitching in a compass, an attraction that says Here, something is happening, something true and visceral and substantial, something that will change, however slightly, the arc of our future—we need to stop and ask why.
Rather, there was a clarion vision—“let freedom ring”—and then an unswerving commitment to intervene whenever and wherever progress toward that vision could be made, and to do so regardless of the personal or physical risks that any such action entailed. His approach was contingent, opportunistic, and incremental. It focused on imagined change, not on predictable execution.
Leading and following are not abstractions. They are human interactions; human relationships. And their currency is the currency of all human relationships—the currency of emotional bonds, of trust, and of love. If you, as a leader, forget these things, and yet master everything that theory world tells you matters, you will find yourself alone. But if you understand who you are, at your core, and hone that understanding into a few special abilities, each of which refracts and magnifies your intent, your essence, and your humanity, then, in the real world, we will see you. And we will follow.

A lovely interview about the magic bus and the hippie period in Istanbul revolving around the Lale Pudding Shop which is still in business.