Content from 2015-01

I have finally managed to plow my way through "Meditations" of Marcus Aurelius. People say that your experience of the book is largely dependent on the translation you get and it seems to be true. I have picked up my copy from Project Gutenberg and it was a rather tough read just because of the language used by the interpreter. The translation available at MIT seems to be much better.

The book is a series of thoughts, lessons learned and advice mostly about man's place in the universe and about his relations with other people and society in general. Marcus Aurelius apparently wrote it for his own use which makes it even more interesting, because it shows the world view of one of the most esteemed Roman Emperors who ruled "under the guidance of wisdom and virtue", as Edward Gibbon put it. Marcus' life was heavily influenced by Stoicism, which shows in the book a lot. Despite the "sub-optimal" translation and too many references to determinism for my taste, I liked it quite a bit. Definitely a recommended read.

Some quotes:

Thou must hasten therefore; not only because thou art every day nearer unto death than other, but also because that intellective faculty in thee,..., doth daily waste and decay or, may fail thee before thou die.

That which most men would think themselves most happy for, is to live again.

They grieved; they wondered; they complained. And where are they now? All dead and gone.

And if in every particular action thou dost perform, what is to the fitting of the utmost of thy power, let it suffice thee.

I have often wondered how it should come to pass, that every man loving himself best, should more regard other men's opinions concerning himself than his own.

An interesting critique of Eric Raymond's book 'The Cathedral and the Bazaar' and the bazaar approach to software development in general. The source build systems of today need to check for some pretty crazy stuff. If memory recalls, during its bootstrap process, CMake checks for which of around 25 different flavors of the gethostbyname (or whatever) function is present on the host system. As for autotools and friends: they are completely incomprehensible.

the generation of lost dot-com wunderkinder in the bazaar has never seen a cathedral and therefore cannot even imagine why you would want one in the first place, much less what it should look like. It is a sad irony, indeed, that those who most need to read it may find The Design of Design entirely incomprehensible. But to anyone who has ever wondered whether using m4 macros to configure autoconf to write a shell script to look for 26 Fortran compilers in order to build a Web browser was a bit of a detour, Brooks offers well-reasoned hope that there can be a better way.

I will most definitely read the book.

Read more here.

Elon Musk (of Tesla Motors and SpaceX) makes a case why it is an imperative for the Mankind to colonize Mars. This guy is awesome! :)

'I think there is a strong humanitarian argument for making life multi-planetary,' he told me, 'in order to safeguard the existence of humanity in the event that something catastrophic were to happen, in which case being poor or having a disease would be irrelevant, because humanity would be extinct. It would be like, "Good news, the problems of poverty and disease have been solved, but the bad news is there aren't any humans left."'

It's a funny reading too. In the context of NASA's progress with space exploration:

Watching NASA astronauts visit it [the ISS] is about as thrilling as watching Columbus sail to Ibiza.

The awarding of this contract became more urgent in March, after the US sanctioned Russia for rolling tanks into Crimea. A week later, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin quipped: 'After analysing the sanctions against our space industry, I suggest the US deliver its astronauts to the ISS with a trampoline.'

Read more here.