Monthly Archives: March 2010

Maintenance costs

No engineered structure is designed to be built and then neglected or ignored. — Henry Petroski The quote above comes from Henry Petroski’s recent interview on Tech Nation. In the same interview, Petroski says that a common rule of thumb

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Posted in Business

Estimating the chances of something that hasn’t happened yet

Suppose you’re proofreading a book. If you’ve read 20 pages and found 7 typos, you might reasonably estimate that the chances of a page having a typo are 7/20. But what if you’ve read 20 pages and found no typos.

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Posted in Statistics

The secret to understanding recursion

Recursion is the process of solving a problem in terms of smaller versions of the same problem. Since the problem gets smaller each time, the process eventually terminates in a problem (the “base case”)  that can be solved directly. Be

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Posted in Software development

I promise I’m not trying to learn anything

Medical experiments come under greater scrutiny than ordinary medical practice. There are good reasons for such precautions, but this leads to a sort of paradox. As Frederick Mosteller observed We have a strange double standard now. As long as a

Posted in Clinical trials

Weekend miscellany

Photography Houston public art Bus graveyard Twitter Learn emacs My six daily tip accounts Programming Five stages of programmer incompetence Interviews with average programmers Software Engineering Radio episode on Clojure Math Lecture note and ebook recommendations Math, physics, EE, CS,

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Confusing familiar with simple

Is Spanish simpler than Chinese? Most English speakers would think so, though that may not be true. Spanish is more familiar than Chinese if you’re an English speaker, but that does not mean the language is objectively simpler. In fact,

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A dozen posts on simplicity

Here are a dozen posts I’ve written about simplicity. Adding simplicity Simplicity in old age Three quotes on simplicity Simple legacy Software that gets used Conservation of complexity Perlis on complexity Abstractions are never perfect Conflicting ideas of simplicity Manual

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Ford-Chevy arguments in tech

If you’ve never heard a Ford-Chevy argument, you may find it hard to believe that such things exist. People actually get into arguments, sometimes violent arguments, over which trucks are better, Ford or Chevy. More generally, a Ford-Chevy argument is

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Weekend miscellany

Creativity You can’t become an expert in college Stigler’s law Tech Unicode codepoint chart PowerShell shortcut keys Mystery of the Fn key on laptops Math Math teachers at play #24 (K-12 level) Diagramming function spaces (graduate level)

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Four mechanical devices better than their newer counterparts

Here are four mechanical devices I prefer to their modern counterparts. French press. It makes better coffee than a typical coffee machine. Also, a French press work without electricity. Next time a hurricane comes through Houston and knocks out our

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Kiss me, I might be Irish!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone. They say everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve heard that I actually am part Irish (as well as Scottish, German, Cherokee, …) In any case, it’s nice of the Irish to share their holiday

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Emacs

Emacs is a text editor with ambitions to be an operating system. I do not use Emacs, though I once did, and I still find it intriguing. I’d like to find something similar that acts more like a Windows program.

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Posted in Computing

Adding simplicity

Simplicity is costly. You have to give up something to achieve it. You can’t just add it on top. William Bridges illustrates this in his book The Way of Transition where he describes his moving out to the country. …

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A sort of command line for your browser

Quix is a sort of command line for web browsers. It’s a bookmarklet, a piece of JavaScript you save like a bookmark. When you launch Quix, it opens a small dialog that lets you enter brief commands for common browser

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Weekend miscellany

Frozen baby woolly mammoth Top 200 blogs for developers Greece’s debt Code is expendable; developers are not Wanting it both ways Code bubbles Psychological disorder quiz

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