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Matt Austern
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Attended Taylor Allderdice
Lives in Palo Alto, CA
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Matt Austern

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The book I finished today: Jo Walton, The Philosopher Kings.

This book takes place about 20 years after the events of The Just City, an attempt (sponsored by the goddess Athene) to set up a working city like the one Plato described in the Republic. The attempt wasn't completely unsuccessful, and by the time of The Philosopher Kings there are now several cities with competing ideas about what Plato and Sokrates would have wanted and what justice and the pursuit of excellence truly mean.

Some characters from The Just City have died or are otherwise absent, and some characters in this book are new (to the extent that there's a main character, it's Apollo's daughter Arete), and the overall themes of this sequel are different. The ending can only be called a deus ex machina, but in a book like this that isn't a bad thing.
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Matt Austern

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The book I finished today: John Scalzi, The End of All Things.

It's a sequel to The Human Division, and the conclusion of the story. Like The Human Division it was published as a serial, a sequence of four novellas; the book as a whole (i.e. the collection of the novellas) will be released in a month or so.

If you haven't read any of Scalzi's books, this probably isn't the one to start with. (Although The Human Division wouldn't be a bad start.) If you have, then you probably already have a good idea of whether you'd like this one. I did.
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Matt Austern

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This year's Hugo ballot is... unusual. There are several schools of thought about what voters should make of it. Depending on how you look at it, you might find the information in this guide useful when you're filling out your ballot. (Assuming you're a Sasquan member.)
This is the Hugo nominations excluding the Sad/Rabid Puppies Hugo Award nomination slate provided by Brad Torgersen and Vox Day.
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The book I finished today: Virgil, The Aeneid (tr. John Dryden).

Arms, and the man I sing, who, forc'd by fate,
And haughty Juno's unrelenting hate,
Expell'd and exil'd, left the Trojan shore.
Long labors, both by sea and land, he bore,
And in the doubtful war, before he won
The Latian realm, and built the destin'd town;
His banish'd gods restor'd to rites divine,
And settled sure succession in his line,
From whence the race of Alban fathers come,
And the long glories of majestic Rome.

I reread the Aeneid (I read it once before, in college, in a less quirky translation) for the obvious reason. One thing I'm still not clear about is to what extent the story is based on pre-existing legends and to what extent Virgil invented it as fiction.
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What I recall, from taking a course as a classics major 30+ years ago where we translated key passages, is that this summary in the wikipedia entry is fairly accurate:

"The hero Aeneas was already known to Greco-Roman legend and myth, having been a character in the Iliad, composed in the 8th century BC. Virgil took the disconnected tales of Aeneas's wanderings, his vague association with the foundation of Rome and a personage of no fixed characteristics other than a scrupulous pietas, and fashioned this into a compelling founding myth or national epic that at once tied Rome to the legends of Troy, explained the Punic wars, glorified traditional Roman virtues and legitimized the Julio-Claudian dynasty as descendants of the founders, heroes and gods of Rome and Troy."

So there were some pre-existing legends, but big chunks of it were invented by Virgil, and the whole thing was spun heavily in favor of the then-ruling dynasty in Rome.
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Yes, there was a horse on stage.
San Francisco Opera, one of the world's leading opera companies. Great singing, stirring productions, bringing opera to new audiences.
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But how was its singing?
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I like this document better than the comparable ones I've seen from the Palo Alto and Mountain View city governments, in part precisely because it's focused on the region as a whole instead of on a single city.
 
Very nice report about the current state of biking infrastructure in northern Santa Clara County (Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Los Altos), along with a vision for how the area could be so much better for bicyclists of all abilities and comfort levels. I especially like the North County as Copenhagen vision laid out starting on p. 24 of this PDF:

http://bikesiliconvalley.org/files/Google-Bike-Vision-Plan_high_res.pdf

I'm very happy Google commissioned this study, and I hope the city governments actually implement this.
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I think I was mostly sad it didn't continue down into San Jose. I understand why (the 10 mile radius thing), but ...
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The book I finished today: Erik Larson, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

If you're an American you probably remember the Lusitania as one of the events leading up to the US entering the war, along with, for example, the Zimmerman Telegram. True in a sense but misleading; the Lusitania was torpedoed in May 1915 and the US didn't declare war until two years later, April 1917.

The most interesting question the book raises is why the British Admiralty didn't do more to protect the Lusitania: why it didn't send a destroyer escort, or even send a telegram with unambiguous advice about which course to take. The author suggests conspiracy, probably involving First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill, in the hope that a torpedoed passenger liner with American passengers (or, better yet, a neutral ship) might help bring the US into the war. There's no evidence against that idea, and Naval Intelligence definitely was secretive and even conspiratorial at times, but there's also no evidence for it. The known facts can also be explained by blunders and poor communication, and all of the combatants in the war can furnish plenty of examples of those things.
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Matt Austern

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The book I finished today: Jo Walton, The Just City.

A thought experiment about a thought experiment: an attempt to set up a working version of the city that Plato imagined in the Republic, with time travel, robots, and divine intervention by the goddess Athene. A wild premise, but surprisingly moving.
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Oh, the usual! My choices are pretty random, and depend on what I happen to be thinking about at any moment, what other people around me are reading, and so on. I picked up The Just City partly because the sequel is coming out soon, partly because my wife read and liked it. Your post reminds me that I'd been meaning to reread Gravity's Rainbow, and of course The Just City reminds me that I haven't read any Plato for a while.
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The book I finished today: Captain America vs. The Red Skull.

A selection of classic Captain America comics, from 1941 through the mid 90s.
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+Lee Schumacher Lady Bitch
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Normally they do lower the curtain between acts. This was one of two or three "open curtain intermissions" that they scheduled specially, complete with livetweeting.
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Google's networking technology is amazing, and the fact that we're talking about the details in public is exciting. (Especially if you're the sort of person who think that a phrase like "1 Petabit/sec of total bisection bandwidth" is impressive.)
 
Today at the Open Network Summit we showed how we've been running our datacenter networks for the past decade.  (For full details you'll have to wait for a paper we'll publish at SIGCOMM 2015 in August.)  

Great networking has long been a key ingredient in having a great cloud platform, and of course you get to use these same networks on +Google Cloud Platform. 
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Matt Austern

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Water law in the American west establishes a complicated system of property rights for surface water; whether you have the right to use water has next to nothing to do with whether it flows on your land. Here in California, though, ground water is the exact opposite. There's no notion of regulation or property rights for mined water; you're free to dig as many wells and install as many pumps on your land as you'd like. In a time of scarcity, whoever has the deepest hole wins. The predictable arms race is now happening.

It's obvious to most people that this system (or lack of a system) can't continue. It's less obvious what to replace it with, or when. There's now a plan in California to phase in controls over ground water use starting some time in the 2030s. We probably don't have that long.
Early one morning in late April, Parvinder Hundal stood beside a hole in the ground at the edge of his almond farm near Tulare in the Central Valley of California. The hole, which was about the size of a volleyball and was encased in a shallow block of concrete, was the opening of a well, ...
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The groundwater is just gone.  No point in wishing for something different.  It would have been better not to have squandered this valuable resource, but our society squanders lots of resources.  It's "water under the bridge" now.

Personally, this whole drought thing (fancy name for "we have plenty of water but we're wasting it doing stupid stuff) makes me want to open all of my faucets and leave them open all day.
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Have him in circles
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Education
  • Taylor Allderdice
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Physics, Math
  • University of California, Berkeley
    Physics
Basic Information
Gender
Male
Other names
Matthew Austern
Work
Occupation
Software engineer
Employment
  • Google
    Software engineer, 2005 - present
  • Apple Inc.
  • AT&T
  • Silicon Graphics, Inc.
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Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
Currently
Palo Alto, CA
Previously
Alameda, CA - Menlo Park, CA - Berkeley, CA - Cambridge, MA - Pittsburgh, PA