Stuff to Read from Hacker News, 12/14/21

Cosmo the Crow
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A friendly, if somewhat foul-mouthed, crow became a temporary mascot at Allen Dale Elementary School in November when the bird took up residence at the Grants Pass school.

uBlacklist (GitHub)
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Blocks specific sites from appearing in Google search results

Leaving Quora After 10 Years of Answering Questions (Phil Jones)
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If you are reading this, you probably know me from Quora where I spent over 10 years writing more than 11,000 answers. I'm writing this page because I will soon be gone from Quora.

What a Progressive Utopia Does to Outdoor Dining (Atlantic)
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In San Francisco and elsewhere in California, the red tape that prevented dining alfresco before the pandemic is starting to grow back.

Opt Out of Cynicism (D13V)
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Growing up in post-socialist-turned-cowboy-capitalist Bulgaria I grew up around a lot of cynical behavior and absorbed it deep into me. It was the water I was swimming in, and I knew no better. There was always this feeling that attempts at improvements are futile. If anyone tried to improve the system in any way, they will face a great opposition, and any value they bring forward will be immediately vultured away. This made it obvious for me to see how any changes will be abused and rendred futile. I also became good at rationalizing the existing status quo. There’s this example which stuck with me, that if someone created a coin operated parking meter, another one will quickly figure out how to steal the coins out of it. Thus, the attempt to bring order will fail, and the rationalization is that we are a motivated but backstabbing people which get in our own interest.

Aint No Party Like a 3rd Party (Adactio)
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’d like to tell you something not to do to make your website better. Don’t add any third-party scripts to your site.

Why Tacit Knowledge is More Important than Deliberate Practice (Commonplace)
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I want to spend an essay talking about tacit knowledge, and why I think it is the most interesting topic in the domain of skill acquisition. If you are a longtime Commonplace reader, you’ll likely have come across this idea before, because I’ve written about it numerous times in the past. But I think it’s still good idea to dedicate a whole piece to the topic.

Anatomy of a GOAT: What Makes Magnus Carlsen the world's best Chess player (ESPN)
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On Friday, needing just one point against Ian Nepomniachtchi to defend his world champion status, Magnus Carlsen closed the match out with three games to spare, 7.5-3.5. He's been the No 1 chess player in the world for a decade now and is in his eighth year as undisputed world champion.

Learn X in Y Minutes
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Take a whirlwind tour of your next favorite language. Community-driven!

Dive Into Deep Learning (ebook) (d2l.ai)
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Interactive deep learning book with code, math, and discussions. Implemented with NumPy/MXNet, PyTorch, and TensorFlow. Adopted at 300 universities from 55 countries.

I Have a Brain Injury (YouTube)
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I got hit in the head by a falling pipe while shooting a video in July, and haven't been the same since...

How to Train your Decision-Making AIs (Gradient)
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The combination of deep learning and decision learning has led to several impressive stories in decision-making AI research, including AIs that can play a variety of games (Atari video games, board games, complex real-time strategy game Starcraft II), control robots (in simulation and in the real world), and even fly a weather balloon. These are examples of sequential decision tasks, in which the AI agent needs to make a sequence of decisions to achieve its goal.

Advanced NLP with SpaCy (SpaCy.io)
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Chapter 1: Finding words, phrases, names and concepts
This chapter will introduce you to the basics of text processing with spaCy. You'll learn about the data structures, how to work with trained pipelines, and how to use them to predict linguistic features in your text.

Repulsive Surfaces (Keenan Crane)
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Functionals that penalize bending or stretching of a surface play a key role in geometric and scientific computing, but to date have ignored a very basic requirement: in many situations, surfaces must not pass through themselves or each other. This paper develops a numerical framework for optimization of surface geometry while avoiding (self-)collision. The starting point is the tangent-point energy, which effectively pushes apart pairs of points that are close in space but distant along the surface. We develop a discretization of this energy for triangle meshes, and introduce a novel acceleration scheme based on a fractional Sobolev inner product. In contrast to similar schemes developed for curves, we avoid the complexity of building a multiresolution mesh hierarchy by decomposing our preconditioner into two ordinary Poisson equations, plus forward application of a fractional differential operator. We further accelerate this scheme via hierarchical approximation, and describe how to incorporate a variety of constraints (on area, volume, etc.). Finally, we explore how this machinery might be applied to problems in mathematical visualization, geometric modeling, and geometry processing.

The Art of Repair (Traditional Kyoto)
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Kintsugi (golden joinery) is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. Lacquerware is a longstanding tradition in Japan, at some point it may have been combined with maki-e as a replacement for other ceramic repair techniques.

More Than You Want to Know About Gift Cards (Kalzumeus)
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There are few things comedians and personal finance writers agree on, but one comes up every holiday season: “Gift cards. For when you want to give someone money, except worse.” Like many topics in financial infrastructure, they’re a fascinating Gordian knot of user needs, business incentives, government regulation, and infrastructural weirdness. Let’s start unraveling it.

Spiking Neural Nets (Simons Institute)
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n August 2014, a significant advance in computing made the cover of the journal Science. It was IBM’s 5.4 billion-transistor chip that had a million hardware neurons and 256 million synapses. Algorithms running on this “neuromorphic” chip, when fed a video stream, could identify multiple objects, such as people, bicycles, trucks, and buses. Crucially, the hardware neural network consumed a mere 63 milliwatts, about 176,000 times less energy per synaptic event than the same network simulated on a general-purpose microprocessor.

The Invention of Chinese (History Today)
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Believing language would unify their struggling nation, Chinese officials began a project to create a national language and define what it meant to speak Chinese.

A Ghostly Galaxy Lacking Dark Matter (ESA Hubble)
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NGC 1052-DF2 resides about 65 million light-years away in the NGC 1052 Group, which is dominated by a massive elliptical galaxy called NGC 1052.

The Internet has a Rat Poison Problem (Audobon)
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My shopping spree was born out of boredom. On a lazy July morning I was in bed browsing Amazon when I decided to follow up on a tip I had received. I plugged the word “brodifacoum” into Amazon’s search bar, and a second later my screen filled with what are known as second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides, a class of rat poison so dangerous to humans and wildlife that the Environmental Protection Agency strove to keep them from being sold in consumer stores. After clicking around for a few bewildered minutes, I ordered something called Motomco D 31402 Jaguar Rodenticide Pail Pest Control. It cost $69.99, its delivery was free, and it had a 4.8-star rating. The top customer review said, “Kills them all, but the dead mice smells is not what I need,” which sounded like a solid testimonial.

log4j: between a rock and hard place\
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This is making the rounds because highly-profitable companies are using infrastructure they do not pay for. That is a worthy topic, but not the most interesting thing in this particular case because it would not clearly have contributed to preventing this bug. It is the second statement in this tweet that is worthy of attention: the maintainers of log4j would have loved to remove this bad feature long ago, but could not because of the backwards compatibility promises they are held to.