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Peter Kasting
Works at Google
Attended Harvey Mudd College
Lived in Akron, OH
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Education
  • Harvey Mudd College
    Computer Science, 1997 - 2001
    Concentration in music. Graduated with High Distinction.
  • Sequim Senior High School
    1993 - 1997
    Valedictorian.
  • Sequim Middle School
    1989 - 1993
  • Helen Haller Elementary School
    1988 - 1989
  • Firestone Park Elementary School
    1985 - 1988
Basic Information
Gender
Male
Relationship
Married
Other names
Zero|DPX
Story
Tagline
Christian, husband, engineer, musician, and many other hats
Introduction
In addition to the rest of the stuff on this page, I'm keyboard player and congregation president of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Mountain View.  I like listening to and (every several years) composing music, going wakeboarding and snowboarding, reading, playing games of all forms, drinking tasty beverages, arguing about random crap, and spending endless hours on the computer.  I have a beautiful wife, a dog and a cat, and a house in San Jose.  I'm far from perfect, but God has been good to me, and life has gotten better over the years.  If you're in the Bay Area, I'd probably be happy to hang out :)
Bragging rights
Chrome team founding member; designed and built the Chrome Omnibox.
Work
Occupation
Senior Software Engineer, Chrome UI team
Skills
Detail focus, doing grungy things, complaining and being grouchy
Employment
  • Google
    Software Engineer, 2006 - present
    Firefox 2: Find bar work, spellcheck attribute, "all tabs" dropdown. Chrome: design and implementation for omnibox, original (pre-Safari-for-Windows) scrollbars, BMP and ICO decoders; implementation for browser frame, fullscreen mode, content settings UI, other image decoder work; endless code cleanup, yak shaving, warning fixes, etc.
  • Green Hills Software
    Software Engineer, 2001 - 2006
    Owner, MIPS, SH, FR, CORE1 compiler backends. MULTI integration for ARC, TI.
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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
Previously
Akron, OH - Sequim, WA - Claremont, CA - Santa Barbara, CA - Mountain View, CA - San Jose, CA
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Peter Kasting

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Fascinating.

http://www.citylab.com/crime/2015/08/private-conflict-not-broken-windows/402059/

The article title is stronger than the article text (in a bad way; the text is more correct than the title).  A better title might be "study fails to support broken-window theory of crime".  Basically, the authors try to look for time-ordering in crime statistics to see if certain kinds of crime follow certain other kinds of crime.  Based on this they suggest that one common cause of crime might be the escalation of private disputes into larger, more public, and more violent acts.  They fail to find support for the so-called "broken-window" theory of crime, where public signs of neglect (broken windows, garbage, graffiti, etc.) lead other people to care less about acting in a wholesome way in what seems like a degraded environment.

The study doesn't definitively prove or disprove anything, but it provides a plausible theory that, if true, has implications for law enforcement, as private disputes would be more difficult to find, mitigate, and measure than the sort of trashed-environment factors emphasized by the broken-window theory, which has been key driver of police behavior in many areas over the past few decades.

It also suggests that perhaps other factors to mitigate private disputes -- more or better individual and group counseling, psychiatric therapy, arbitration, access to civil courts, and so forth -- might be good uses of public money, as an alternative to increased law enforcement.  This would correlate with something we've known about drug abuse for some time, where working to treat and prevent abuse is much more effective at reducing criminal consequences of drug trafficking than simply trying to arrest and incarcerate people.

+Yonatan Zunger gave an excellent summary of this: "If there's one reliable pattern in sociological studies, it's that people don't become drug dealers, armed robbers, or junkies because they're stupid, inherently evil, or have some kind of cross-generational proclivity to do it; they do these things as fairly rational choices given an extremely limited set of options."  In a country wrestling with law enforcement overreach and questions of civil rights, I suggest we should be paying more attention to expanding the available options to people who today rationally choose to do the things mentioned above.

h/t to +Jeffrey Yasskin.
Why community policing should focus on helping to resolve personal and domestic disputes, not signs of physical decay.
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+Ray Cromwell Definitely -- it's sadly going to take a while, with some chaos in the interim. Still the right thing to do, though.
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Peter Kasting

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In which someone criticizes sexism in literature, but I'm not so sure they're Doing It Right.

http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2015/08/i-read-100-best-fantasy-and-sci-fi-novels-and-they-were-shockingly-offensive

Here we have an outraged author aghast at the "inability to imagine any world where women are involved in the derring-do" of NPR's list of "100 best sci-fi/fantasy novels".  I commend her for her vehemence, but based on her comments, I really wonder about some of her claims, which seem counterfactual in a number of places.  It really undermines one's argument when one's facts turn out to be... non-factual.

Let me throw out a disclaimer first: I don't actually disagree that a number of the books on these list are pretty sad when it comes to their portrayals of women.  I recall years ago when I read E.E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman series, which is widely acclaimed as an early sci-fi masterwork, and was stunned at how passively the women sat around and let the men do everything because the men were (apparently) the only ones capable of taking any serious action.  Much like watching educational shorts from the 50s, or old racist Warner Bros. cartoons, the experience was almost jaw-dropping in its ability to make me say "this didn't make anyone bat an eye back then??".

Having this experience, I'm not all that surprised if someone reads through a list of books that come primarily from decades ago and finds that many of the books discount or sideline female characters.  I'm not saying that the author of this article is wrong in her general claim.  And I'm not saying that we shouldn't notice sexism, call it out, and even more, recognize that it's usually a reflection of a generalized system of belief and behavior pervading our society.  Sexism is a serious problem, and it's good to challenge people to not simply apathetically observe it.

Indeed, when I started reading the article, I was inclined to agree with the author, and was expecting to read something which would highlight both cases of sexism I had recognized, as well as perhaps more subtle ones that I could ponder why I'd missed.  Unfortunately, as I read more, I found myself disagreeing more and more with the article's content, and it sabotaged my ability to learn from it.  Perhaps that suggests I should have more patience -- or, worryingly, that I'm more sexist than I recognize and am subconsciously becoming defensive.  You'll have to judge for yourself.

Let's take a look through the piece.  The author begins with a modified Bechdel test that's been significantly beefed up to require, not just female characters that talk about something other than men, but female main characters as interesting as the male ones.  There's nothing wrong with that, but failing that test isn't necessarily indicative of "misogyny" or other problems.  Take the recent (and acclaimed) sci-fi book "The Martian", for example.  There's really one main character, a man, who's alone for pretty much the whole book.  While there are other incidental characters male and female, 95% of the time is spent with the male lead.  This, of course, would fail the author's modified Bechdel test.  Yet I contend that The Martian isn't misogynistic, or even particularly sexist, in its portrayal of humanity.  It's just that it has only one main character.  I use this illustration not because the article explicitly names this book -- in fact, I don't think The Martian is even on the list in question -- but because I imagine a number of people reading this post have read The Martian and can judge for themselves whether it is inherently sexist and negative.

Now for comparison let's take one of the books the author does cite in the article, and which readers here are less likely to have read: "Out Of The Silent Planet".  It's been a while since I read it, but if memory serves, "Out Of The Silent Planet", much like "The Martian", is about a lone man isolated on another planet.  There's really one main character, who happens to be male, with a few very incidental male and female characters that get hardly any verbiage (in large part because we're rarely on Earth).

Unfortunately, since this book fails the author's litmus test, ding, the book is bad: she suggests that it needs "forgiveness" for its contents, which she then says one might bestow considering the book is from 1938.  This "forgiveness" comment is, in my mind, a pretty dismissive and undeserved treatment.  "Out Of The Silent Planet" isn't a sexist book just because it has pretty much one main character.  Furthermore, given her later lack of grace toward other books on this list, which are frequently also from decades past, it's curious why being from 1938 is somehow worthy of forgiveness but being from, say, 1958 isn't.  Even if we accept certain books as sexist, are we willing to consider them in the context of their time, or not?  It's no good to say that books from 80 years ago get interpreted in light of their contemporary societal mores but those from 60 years ago don't.

But perhaps the author was being sarcastic above, and actually intended that we never cut any book any slack for the societal context in which it arose.  She asserts a few times that most of the books on the list shouldn't be considered "great" and are only listed due to "nostalgia".  Besides being overly harsh (out of 100 books, she only lists two at the end which she thinks deserved accolades?  Come on), I think this view is naive, and indicative of bad criticism.  It's perfectly possible to understand a work as great in the context of its time while simultaneously evaluating it differently in our current context.  Any critic of any art should know this.  For example, many film critics call Citizen Kane a masterwork of cinematography even if, in an absolute sense, most of the things it does are now commonplace or have been done better since.  That's because, in the context of its time, it was incredibly innovative and influential.  Recognizing that isn't nostalgia, it's understanding history.

But apparently when it comes to something as fundamental as how we perceive sex and gender interactions, we're not allowed to apply the same nuanced view.  No, older books need to display our current sensibilities, or they can't be claimed to be "great".  It's no good to simultaneously say "wow, many things about this book were fantastic" and "but it sure shows you what a different world that was" and even "I'm glad things are changing, but I worry if some of these views are things we still hold".  That's too subtle.  The author's view, instead, is: "... many of the books ... may have once been groundbreaking but that doesn’t mean that they are now the best examples of the genre. They have been supplanted, hundreds of times over, by other authors that took similar themes but made them better and more inclusive."  Sure, later authors may have improved on earlier techniques, or may write with views more approachable to our current societal norms.  But a list of "great books" is rarely intended to be the same as "a list of the books you'd most enjoy reading now".  Often, things like innovation, influence, importance to the development of the art, etc. are factors.  The author just seems to fail to consider this, which I think is surprising.

Other parts of the article go further, and make me question not just the author's critical abilities but her basic reading skills.  I take great issue with the way she singles out Brandon Sanderson's "Mistborn: The Final Empire" as "the absolute worst offender" in her list, since of all the books she mentions, it has one of the most positive portrayals of women, and in general is the farthest thing possible from misogynistic.

Some background for those of you who haven't read the Mistborn series.  At the opening of the series, the world is completely screwed up, not only sociopolitically, but physically: the earth has somehow become too close to the sun, everything is scorched and dead, and the last vestiges of life on Earth seem to be proceeding toward an inevitable doom.  Meanwhile, society has split into what amounts to ruling and slave castes, and the ruling caste has incredible power, whether it be in regards to money, property, or, yes, physical sexual relations.  This is, of course, intended to be perceived by the reader as extraordinarily unjust, not as some kind of endorsement.

To this scenario -- and, as I read it, specifically to its social aspects, as the author singles out for disdain the description of how higher-class men sometimes rape and murder lower-class women -- the article's reaction is that the book is "unrealistic and ultimately unbelievable".  Uh... really?  You've never heard of ISIS, whose society seems to be engineered in precisely the way the book describes?  Or how about any of the many, many other examples through history of powerful people taking what they wanted from the poor by force, and using sexual conquest to reinforce their dominance?  "Primae noctis" doesn't ring a bell?  Surely the author must have some knowledge of world affairs and history.

But let's continue.  The lead character of the Mistborn series, Vin, is a woman from an abusive and terrible childhood.  Over the course of the series, she overcomes this background and her powerless place in society to become an incredible hero, believed by many to be a prophesied savior of the world.  To repeat: this is a book which uses, among other examples, the victimization of women to depict an utterly degraded society, which is then rescued by a woman who overcomes the depravity around her to be a hero. And this is the storyline that, for this author, qualifies as "the absolute worst offender" in its portrayal of women?  Were we reading the same book?  I really don't know how Sanderson could have written a story more aware of the value and potential of women.

This isn't the only case of the author flat-out misrepresenting something.  She claims she read "The Forever War" but then later claims that she didn't encounter any LGBT people in any books; in my memory, one of that book's plot points was how, over its vast future timeline, human society would keep swinging between having hetereosexuality and homosexuality as the "norm".  To my eyes, the book was trying to make an argument here that our social norms about sexuality are often mere constructs without underlying biological or moral imperative, an argument which in the context of the book's time I read as pro-LGBT.  Still, the bizarre description of "Mistborn: The Final Empire" stands out to me as the most egregious case of misrepresentation.

Once I reached this point in the article, instead of being willing to credit the author's views, I found myself distrusting every point she tried to make, because she'd demonstrated herself to be so untrustworthy.  In fairness to the author, I'll elide my reactions to much of the rest of the article; I think they became biased by my hostility.

But I do take legitimate issue with the author's closing argument.  She seems to conflate listing some of the books she didn't like as "great" with "defending the lack of women or minorities" in the books.  I don't think asking for some nuance in criticism is the same as "defending the lack of women and minorities" -- and I also think there can be "defending" as in my claims about "Out Of The Silent Planet" above versus someone saying "sure, books with fifteen male characters, of which all but one are guys and the lone woman just sobs about how much she needs a man, are perfectly fine".  I'm not trying to defend sexism, I'm trying to get the author to focus her argument better, and in my disagreement I feel like the author is tarring me with a broad brush.

So I think the article sets up a strawman -- and of course, once your opponent is a strawman, you can beat them up however you'd like.  Here we get arguments about how the "defenders" of sexism are trying to force a radical genre to become a conservative one, and the like.  These make for good sound bytes, but they're just empty words if the people who disagree with the author aren't arguing for what she claims they're arguing for.  For example: "They’re arguing on the side of repetition, terrible storytelling and awful characterisation."  Hmm.  My taste may not be infallible, but if you're so blinded as to believe that Mistborn is a horrible woman-hostile book, I can well believe that you'd see a lot of good books as having "terrible storytelling and awful characterisation".  Which is sad.  On reaching the end of the Mistborn trilogy, I wept openly at the simultaneous tragedy and beauty.  It's too bad the author here has denied herself that experience, but that denial on her part doesn't mean that I'm supportive of bad writing, much less bad treatments of women.

Perhaps the telling line is the last one: "We ... deserve to see ourselves reflected in the characters ...".   I'm not so sure about that.  For one thing, I thought that great literature often challenged you with characters dissimilar to yourself and forced you to get out of your comfort zone.  Certainly for me as a white person, books like "Roots", "Native Son", or "Cry, The Beloved Country" had that effect.  Or in a different vein, a book like "A Clockwork Orange" made me feel some level of sympathy for a former rapist.  In any case, I don't recall anyone ever telling me that one of the things I deserved in books was to have main characters I saw myself in.

Now, I can understand why a woman would tire of reading even innocuous male-led books (like Out Of The Silent Planet), especially when they are, as I said at the top, mixed with books that really are blatantly sexist.  If I reacted so strongly to the Lensman series, how would I have felt as a female, and after having read dozens of other stories with varying levels of sexism, and in general living in a society that is still sexist in so many ways?  It's impossible for me as a man to truly understand that, but I certainly don't blame the author when she says, "my book reviews contained more profanity and I became a much more harsh critic ...".  Probably mine would have, too.

Still, if articles like this are to resonate with readers -- especially us male ones, who are more likely to need our noses rubbed in sexism to see it -- they need to be strongly and coherently argued, not constructed from what seems like low-quality criticism, factual errors, and bad argumentation.  The author may well have a good point, but it's buried in bad writing.  Kind of ironic, I guess.
Why are so many of NPR's list of best science fiction books so misogynistic, and why can't we move past our nostalgia for them?
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I would make the subtle distinction that the problem in that case is the aggregate, not the individual book itself.
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Peter Kasting

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Amazingly well done.
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Peter Kasting

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I don't know why I found this hilariously fascinating.

https://storify.com/halfcadence/ryan-north-s-thrilling-adventure-in-a-hole

Hole Quest: the new adventure game from Ryan North Enterprises
@ryanqnorth got stuck in a hole with his dog.
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Peter Kasting

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Old, but I didn't see it until today.

https://twitter.com/MSEdgeDev/status/626557959905091585

Looks like the longstanding informal tradition of browser teams sending each other cakes is still alive.  (This goes back many years, and yes, Microsoft has sent the Chrome team cakes too.)
“Thanks to @googlechrome @ChromiumDev for helping us celebrate shipping Microsoft Edge with this nice cake!”
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Peter Kasting

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#politics  serves up protectionism at its finest.
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Peter Kasting

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AT&T :(

http://webpolicy.org/2015/08/25/att-hotspots-now-with-advertising-injection/

(Edit: According to Ars Technica, AT&T claims this was a "trial" that has now ended.)
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I am always interested to see if a site could sue (ATT, in the example) for brand dilution based on these additional ads.
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Peter Kasting

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Imgur: The most awesome images on the Internet.
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Peter Kasting

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Oh right, it's a story about removing links to stories about removed links.

The hammer hasn't quite gotten that meta yet...
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Peter Kasting

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TLDR: Don't comment on closed bugs to say that they're not fixed; file new bugs.

http://www.gijsk.com/blog/2015/08/why-you-might-be-asked-to-file-a-new-bugissue-instead-of-commenting-on-old-ones/

This post pretty much entirely applies to Chromium as well.  For someone who spends his life working with bug trackers it's easy for me to forget that it's not intuitive to everyone that they shouldn't post "hey, this broke again" on old, closed bugs, so this is a nice post to be able to link to when I ask people to file new bugs instead.
Sometimes, after we close a bug because we fix it, or because it is a duplicate of another bug, or because the symptoms have gone away — invalid and wontfix bugs are a little different — people come along that have a problem that they believe is identical to the original bugreport.
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Also, when in doubt - file a bug.
If someone else already filed one with the same repro steps, it can be easily marked as duplicate (plus raises general awareness too!)
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Peter Kasting

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FYI Shaun The Sheep Movie was really, really, REALLY good.  Probably the funniest movie I've seen since UHF.  I basically laughed near-continuously.

I mean, the TV episodes are kind of amusing and all, but this was just completely on another level.  Highly recommended.
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Since UHF? I see we share some tastes. Putting this one on my list.
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Peter Kasting

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Last time I wrote about Chrome performance, many commenters noted that Chrome's memory use could use some slimming down.

It looks like the V8 team has been working some magic lately.  In https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ij-AFUfqFdI , you can watch what happens to Gmail's memory usage while the tab sits idle in Chrome 45 (on the left) versus 43 (on the right).  Skip ahead to 0:45 to immediately see the difference: the JS heap size drops by about 45% (!) in Chrome 45.

More details are at http://v8project.blogspot.com/2015/08/getting-garbage-collection-for-free.html , which also talks about how changes in this area improve animation and scrolling smoothess/responsiveness.  Yay V8 team!
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I have to say I have missed Chrome and have switched back to it as my default. It just feels like home.
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Peter Kasting's +1's are the things they like, agree with, or want to recommend.
The Greatness of Ron Paul
www.theatlantic.com

By introducing moral imagination to the foreign-policy conversation, the Republican candidate is doing the nation an important service.

Public - 3 years ago
reviewed 3 years ago
Public - 3 years ago
reviewed 3 years ago
Public - 3 years ago
reviewed 3 years ago