Wednesday 20 October, 2021
Quote of the Day
“I used to believe that anything was better than nothing. Now know that sometimes nothing is better”
Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news
JS Bach | And At The Hour Of Death (Arr. Badzura) | Víkingur Ólafsson
Long Read of the Day
The Field Guide to Understanding ‘Human Error’
Last week Facebook, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger went down, for everyone in the world, for six hours. The services were unavailable not just to their ordinary users, but to those inside Facebook; there were stories of technicians sent to repair the damage being unable to access Facebook’s data centres, because the service that checked their badges and unlocked the doors was one of those that was offline.
After the collective global meltdown, the accounts of what happened began to emerge and coverage switched to how the problems had occurred.1 Predictably, virtually all of them contained the phrase “human error”. “It was simply human error,” said The Times. “The outage was caused by human error that occurred while an engineer was doing routine maintenance work,” offered USA Today’s fact-checking department.
If there’s anyone whose gears are ground by this invocation of “human error” to explain incidents, it’s Sidney Dekker…
Really illuminating and worth a read. Also led me to get Dekker’s book.
Tom Morey, inventor of the Boogie Board, RIP
Nice NPR obit:
Using his degree, Morey went to work for Douglas Aircraft as an engineer but left to start his own surf shop in 1964, according to the Post. By this time Morey had already begun experimenting with surfboard designs.
But it wasn’t until Morey left Southern California that he created the first Boogie board. In 1971, Morey was living in Hawaii when he cut a large piece of polyethylene foam in half. He then worked to shape the foam with an iron after putting pages of the Honolulu Advertiser on top. By the time he was done Morey had a short board with a mostly rectangular body and a rounded nose. It weighed around three pounds — a fraction of what traditional surfboards weighed at the time.
With his new creation in hand, Morey went to the beach to test it out.
”I could actually feel the wave through the board. On a surfboard, you’re not feeling the nuance of the wave, but with my creation, I could feel everything,” Morey said as he recounted his first ride to SurferToday.com.
I never used a Boogie board, but my kids did and got a lot out of it.
’Performative’: How the meaning of a word became corrupted
Lovely little disquisition by Wilfred M. McClay in The Hedgehog Review on misuse of the term ‘performative’ (a crime to which this blogger pleads guilty).
In defense of performative, it is a technical academic word that was invented to serve a particular purpose. The British philosopher J.L. Austin (1911–60) was an influential exponent of the view that our use of language must in some instances be understood as a form of action, and not merely as a system of signifiers that record and order the structure of reality. His most famous work, How to Do Things with Words (1955), is the locus classicus for the understanding of what he called a “performative utterance,” and he would go on to label such utterances “speech acts,” uses of language that are not describing something—indeed, are not even susceptible of being judged true or false, real or artificial—but doing something.
Chart of the Day
I know this is US only, but just look at the cost of university tuition.
Chart comes from a typically thoughtful post by Noah Smith.