Monthly Archives: July 2008

Michael Brecker

When I was in college, my saxophone teacher recommended I study Michael Brecker. I enjoyed his music, especially his recordings with Steps Ahead, but for some reason I quit listening to Brecker sometime after college. Then earlier this year I

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Posted in Music

Unit test boundaries

Phil Haack has a great article on unit test boundaries. A unit test must not touch the file system, interact with a database, or communicate across a network. Tests that break these rules are necessary, but they’re not unit tests. With

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Posted in Software development

Three ways of tuning an adaptively randomized trial

Yesterday I gave a presentation on designing clinical trials using adaptive randomization software developed at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. The heart of the presentation is summarized in the following diagram. (A slightly larger and clearer version if the diagram is

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Posted in Clinical trials, Statistics

Why so few electronic medical records

Computerworld has a good article on why electronic medical records are so slow to appear. Many people I’ve talked to believe that medical data is just harder to work with than other kinds of data. They see the barriers to electronic

Posted in Uncategorized

Outlook hack: fixing useless subject lines

John Udell pointed out today that Microsoft Outlook lets you edit the subject line on mail you’ve received, changing it to the subject line you wish the sender had used. So rather than maintaining a mental dictionary mapping irrelevant email

Posted in Computing

Why heights are not normally distributed

In my previous post, I speculated on why heights are normally distributed, that is, why their statistical distribution is very nearly Gaussian. In this post I want to point out where it breaks down. I’ll look closely at an example

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Posted in Statistics

Why heights are normally distributed

The canonical example of the normal distribution given in textbooks is human heights. Measure the heights of a large sample of adult men and the numbers will follow a normal (Gaussian) distribution. The heights of women also follow a normal

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Posted in Statistics

Normal approximation errors

Many well-known probability distributions converge to the normal distribution as some parameter or other increases. In a sense this is not very interesting: All roads lead to Rome. But though destinations are the same, the paths to the destination are

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Posted in Math, Statistics

Writing ASP.NET pages in PowerShell

Steve at PowerShell Basics wrote a post about how to write ASP pages using PowerShell.

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Posted in PowerShell

Random number generation in C++ TR1

The C++ Standard Library Technical Report 1 (TR1) includes a specification for random number generation classes. The Boost library has supported TR1 for a while. Microsoft released a feature pack for Visual Studio 2008 in April that includes support for

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Posted in Software development

Scaling the number of projects

Software engineers typically use the term “horizontal scalability” to mean throwing servers at a problem. A web site scales horizontally if you can handle increasing traffic simply by adding more servers to a server farm. I think of horizontal scalability

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Posted in Business, Software development

Computer processes, human processes, and scalability

Jeff Atwood had a good post today about database normalization and denormalization recently. A secondary theme of his post is scalability, how well software performs as inputs increase. A lot of software developers worry too much about scalability, or they

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Posted in Software development

Getting to the bottom of things

In the article Neo-Amish Drop Outs, Kevin Kelly shares a quote from Donald Knuth explaining why he (Knuth) seldom reads email. Rather than trying to stay on top of things, I am trying to get to the bottom of things.

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Posted in Creativity

Accented letters in HTML, TeX, and MS Word

I frequently need to look up how to add diacritical marks to letters in HTML, TeX, and Microsoft Word, though not quite frequently enough to commit the information to my long-term memory. So today I wrote up a set of

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Posted in Typography

Was Einstein an atheist?

From time to time people speculate whether Einstein was an atheist. Richard Dawkins, for example, said in his book The God Delusion that Einstein was an atheist. However, Einstein addressed this point directly: I am not an atheist, and I

Posted in Uncategorized