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Facts vs Cultural Identity

February 11, 2020

Thanks to Marc Verstaen for pointing me at this wonderful paper by Dan M. Kahan from Yale.

tldr: when it comes to answering questions on science, people can either tell you what they know, or which social group they belong to, but not simultaneously.

The paper posits that we have two, sometimes conflicting personas:

It is the dual nature of human reasoners as collective-knowledge acquirers and cultural-identity protectors.

Sometimes these two sides conflict. And when they do, people will choose to tell you which social group they belong to, even if they know the facts are not on their side.

Response to a question on evolution, disentangled by religious
affinity

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Do, or Do Not

January 31, 2020

Next time you have the urge to say “I’ll try to do that” to a work assignment, ask yourself if what you really mean to say is “No”.

“Yes, I’ll do it” is actionable; so is “No, I won’t”. But when it comes to planning, “I’ll try” is worth close to nothing, because it holds no one accountable for completing the task.

There are certainly times when exploration of the unknown is warranted. At those times, it would be entirely appropriate to schedule time for experimentation. But more often than not, engineers use “I’ll try” to overextend themselves while still having an out.

Say “Yes”. Or “No”. Or “I’ll need help doing that”. Just don’t say “I’ll try” and leave everyone hanging.

In Praise of Brute Force

January 19, 2020

My middle-schooler daughter loves Dungeons and Dragons. She, along with other players, co-DM1 an online version of the game.

She came to me with a question regarding a new game dynamic that she was considering. Here are its parameters:

  • There shall be 30 days in a month
  • There shall be two 12-hour periods per day
  • As each period arrives, there shall be a 50% chance of bad weather
  • During a period of bad weather, there shall be a 20% chance that an enemy NPC appears to attack your group

The question: Given the above rules, how many enemy NPCs can players expect to encounter in a month of play, and how would changing the various probabilities affect the outcome?

Although this is not a very difficult problem, I realized that in order to explain why multipyling numbers worked, I needed to explain the concepts of Expected Values and conditional probabilities. But I soon realized there was another way.

  1. Dungeon Master 

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10 Years at Apple

January 17, 2020

Photo of Apple’s 10 Year tenure award

10 years at Apple.

My anniversary was actually in Feb 2019 (I’m quickly approaching my 11th anniversary), but I received this tenure award only recently.

Headline features I substantially contributed to in the past decade:

  • Mobile Device Management
  • Photo Stream
  • Shared Photo Stream
  • File Provider
  • Universal Clipboard
  • Drag and Drop on iPad
  • Mac Catalyst

If you use any of this, you’re soaking in my code right now!

Made in the Shade

August 1, 2019

Photo of yellow BMW M4 in the shade

See this photo in my flickr album

Copyright ©2019 Dave Rahardja. All rights reserved.

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