Monthly Archives: April 2011

Curious, exciting, and slightly disturbing

This weekend I’ve been wrapping up unfinished projects. One of those projects was reading Kraken: The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of Squid. The book is exactly what you might expect from the title: a quirky little book about

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Weekend miscellany

Techno life skills C. S. Lewis on humility Lessons from a social media fast Mathematical tombstones The human spirograph @SansMouse starts over with basic Windows and Ubuntu keyboard shortcuts on Monday, May 2.

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Scripting and the last mile problem

From Bruce Payette’s book Windows PowerShell in Action: Why do we care about command-line management and automation? Because it helps to solve the Information Technology professional’s version of the last mile problem. The last mile problem is a classical problem

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Where OO has succeeded most

Eric Raymond makes an interesting observation on where object oriented programming has been most successful. The OO design concept initially proved valuable in the design of graphics systems, graphical user interfaces, and certain kinds of simulation. To the surprise and

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Numerical exceptions

Someone sent me a question yesterday that boiled down to the difference between kinds of numeric exceptions. I’ll give my response below, but first a little background. Numeric exceptions occur when a computer does some operation on a number that

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Posted in Software development

The myth of the Lisp genius

I’m fascinated by the myth of the Lisp genius, the eccentric programmer who accomplishes super-human feats writing Lisp. I’m not saying that such geniuses don’t exist; they do. Here I’m using “myth” in the sense of a story with archetypical

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Small concepts with enormous implications

Interesting philosophical aside from a technical book: The software field — really, any scientific field — tends to advance most quickly and impressively on those few occasions when someone (i.e., not a committee) comes up with an idea that is

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How much time do scientists spend chasing grants?

Computer scientist Matt Welsh said that one reason he left Harvard for Google was that he was spending 40% of his time chasing grants. At Google, he devotes all his time to doing computer science. Here’s how he describes it

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Weekend miscellany

Easter Was Easter originally a pagan holiday? Holy Week timeline Mark Tarver essays Hackers and fighters Why I am not a professor Interview Humor Douglas Adams’ cookie story How to fix any computer Math The Euler Archive Leonardo da Vinci’s

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History is strange

From historian Patrick Allitt of Emory University: History is strange, it’s alien, and it won’t give us what we would like to have. If you hear a historical story and at the end you feel thoroughly satisfied by it and

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Teaching Bayesian stats backward

Most presentations of Bayesian statistics I’ve seen start with elementary examples of Bayes’ Theorem. And most of these use the canonical example of testing for rare diseases. But the connection between these examples and Bayesian statistics is not obvious at

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The first FORTRAN program

The first FORTRAN compiler shipped this week in 1957. Herbert Bright gives his account of running his first FORTRAN program with the new compiler here. (Bright gives the date as Friday, April 20, 1957, but April 20 fell on a

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Learn one sed command

You may have seen sed programs even if you didn’t know that’s what they were. In online discussions it’s common to hear someone say s/foo/bar/ as a shorthand to mean “replace foo with bar.” The line s/foo/bar/ is a complete

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Third-system effect

The third-system effect describes a simple system rising like a phoenix out of the ashes of a system that collapsed under its own complexity. A notorious ‘second-system effect’ often afflicts the successors of small experimental prototypes. The urge to add

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Posted in Creativity, Software development

Weekend miscellany

Typography Two sites for identifying fonts in images The Olivetti typewriter Software development Living in the zone The Lisp Curse Introduction to computer science with Minesweeper Preserving (the memory of) documents Math and statistics Eigenfeet, eigenfaces, eigenlinguistics ATLAS: Automatically tuned

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