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Miller ’06 on Coronavirus

Evan Miller ’06 is one of the smartest Ephs of his generation. If you are interested in Coronavirus, there is no better source of information. Perhaps, in his next segment, Evan could address two issues:

1) If he were the president of Williams, what would he do?

2) What does he forecast that the president of Williams, and other elite colleges, will do?

I do not have strong opinions on either question. What say our readers?


Can’t Help Themselves

Evan Miller ’06 writes:

Every computer programmer ought to read Frankenstein. It is the story of Creation, with a capital C, and contains perhaps the best description of monomaniacal flow-state in the English language.

Frankenstein, as any decent pub-trivia player knows, is the name of the scientist, not the monster. Young Victor Frankenstein creates a horrible monster; the monster wants to know why he was born, and why so horribly. Reasonable questions, both. Can there ever be an answer?

Makers, of course, can’t help but to make things; ask a 10X engineer why they do what they do, and you won’t get a convincing reply. They get an idea and have to see it through, every night, until 4 or 5 in the morning. They just can’t help themselves.

Just like we bloggers!

Read the whole thing.


Sloppy Go

Evan Miller ’06 with a hilarious review of the Go programming language. A snippet:

Despite my misgivings over the absence of Sloppy Go, and the waking nightmares I have about the Go gopher wearing my Peter Pan pajamas and murdering me in my sleep, on the whole I’ve been enjoying my initial experiences with the Go language. I was surprised at how idiot-proof it was to build things — you just type “go build” and almost instantly have a self-contained executable. This does make me wonder how things went so badly with make, makemaker, autoconf, aclocal, and the rest of the Texas Toolchain Massacre.

The jokes only make sense to a technologist, but, trust me, they are great!


You Can’t Dig Upwards

Excellent essay from Evan Miller ’06.

In retrospect, learning stick shift was a prudent investment of time, even though I’ve never had to prove it to society by (for example) driving a stick-shift ambulance full of orphans while avoiding heavy gunfire. Driving stick is just a good skill to have. More people should have it, in my opinion.

The astute reader will have surmised by now that I am not telling you all this in order to establish my credentials as a driver of low-end convertibles, or to hinder the ineluctable onslaught of automatic transmission in the automobile industry. I bring it up because I see important parallels between the move to automatic transmission in cars and the rise of Python in the computing world.

Python is convenient, and in many ways, a great advance over the C programming language. However, just as teaching teenagers to drive automatic transmission is a practical guarantee that they’ll never learn stick, advising neophytes to learn Python is creating programmers who will never bother to learn how to code in C. And that, I believe, is a bad thing.

Read the whole thing.


Tragic figure

Evan Miller ’06 defends someone that, quite frankly, I didn’t expect to see anyone defending.


Scanning the CPD

Evan Miller ’06’s new iPhone app is featured in the Chicago Tribune:

Anyone with an iPhone or iPod Touch can listen to Chicago Police Department scanner traffic on their Apple device, from anywhere in the world. It’s a technological upgrade to a decades-old hobby.

Evan Miller, a 25-year-old University of Chicago doctoral student, created the iPhone/iPod application, which was released Sept. 27. It sells for $4.99 on iTunes and is the only application that allows users to exclusively tap into the Police Department’s 13 neighborhood dispatch zones, said Miller and other scanner experts…

“It can make for an action-packed listening experience,” said Miller, a former software developer. “It’s a great way to get a sense of how things are working in the city.”

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Want to know about the future of Ephs on-line? Go to Ephtown. Here’s how WSO alumnus and class speaker Evan Miller ’06 describes it.

I’m interested in making a sort of WSO for alumni. I didn’t appreciate the need for one until I graduated, but I’ve since come to believe that community in America is either dead or in a coma and it’s damn well difficult to solve life’s big problems without it (work that affects one’s friends and relations, love that doesn’t start in a bar). Anyway, I’m not writing you to preach, but to ask your help in establishing a site where Ephs can meet and help out other Ephs, discuss the issues of the day, and relish the small enjoyable things of life and of Williams.

Amazing stuff. The rest of the e-mail is below the break. Read it all. Twice.

Evan has now joined EphBlog as an author, the better to bring news of Ephtown to a wider audience. Our readers want to know more. (I wonder if the College will refuse to tell people about Ephtown in the same way that it never mentions EphBlog in any official communication.) Comments:

0) Know much about open source software? Start here and here. (Previous EphBlog discussion here.) Because I am involved with some open source projects, I am midway through Producing Open Source Software by Karl Fogel. In many ways, Evan is creating an open source version of Williams. You read it here first.

1) Williams College — the insular, technologically-backward and bureaucratic institution that we all love so well — needs to wake up! When someone as smart and talented as Evan Miller decides that he wants to make a site that Eph alumni will want to use as their homepage, then official college sites (e.g., here or here) are in big trouble. No matter how many thousands of dollars worth of checks you write to (incompetent) Harris Connect, your time has run out.

2) Evan was kind enough to listen to my hour-long rant about what Ephtown should be. I threw out a dozen crazy ideas. With luck, Evan will figure out which one of them was valuable and implement that one. Evan and I disagree about a lot of things, but we agree that there is a need for a single on-line location which brings together the community of Ephs. If the College refuses to make that location a reality, then we will do it for them.

3) I don’t want to be mean, but isn’t it a bit pathetic to imagine the Executive Committee of the Society of Alumni meeting this week-end, trapped in a cold and rainy Williamstown, learning about the latest “progress on our online communications strategies?” What progress? EphBlog has done orders of magnitude more for online communication among Ephs than everything that the alumni office has ever done. And now, Evan Miller (10 times smarter than me) is going to tackle this problem. The alumni office’s “online communications strategies” will soon be about as relevant as their ridiculous question of the day.

Now, I know, I know. The Executive Committee is made up of good people, dedicated to the betterment of Williams. I have many friends hard at work, everyday, in the alumni office. Shouldn’t I be nicer to them? Try to work with them? Try to explain how this whole internets thing works?

Yeah, I should. I should be a better person. But I have tried and tried and tried. And so have people like Ken Thomas and DeWitt Clinton and Evan Miller and so many others. At the end of the day, the College is a bureaucracy and the insiders selected for alumni leadership positions are unlikely to make trouble. The College is unable to make an online world worthy of Ephraim Williams and so we will make it ourselves.

4) How will history judge these efforts? We need look no further than Fred Rudolphs’s description of alumni efforts from page 207 of Mark Hopkins and the Log.

It would be incorrect to accuse the alumni of infiltration, for they had subscribed to the cult so well that they had not the slightest doubt that the college belonged to them. They were proud to be sons of Williams and sought, by demanding a role in controlling her destiny, to do their part in preserving her health, taking care of her in her old age, and seeing that her neighbors did not outdistance her. It was well that they thought as they did. The General Court in 1859 and 1860 passed legislation designed to test their manliness. Could the sons of Williams College manifest sufficient perseverance, devotion, and energy to send $100,000 home to Alma Mater to match the sums allotted by the Court? That was the test, and it was successfully met.

Those attempts to secure state funding almost 150 years ago seem far removed from the Williams of today. Yet the principle is the same. Too often, the College does not know what is best. We do. Following in the footsteps of David Dudley Field ‘1825, we will force the College to acknowledge and then embrace an online presence worthy of all the best that is Williams. Surely you know what Field accomplished, how he forced an insular College to recognize the importance of alumni, how he bent the leadership of the College to his will? Field is the patron saint of alumni trouble-makers.

Reading this from the alumni office on a sleepy Monday morning? Don’t know much about David Dudley Field, class of 1825? Time to learn some history. Those lessons will serve you well.

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