Monthly Archives: May 2011

Chainsaw on a rope swing

Here’s something I wish I’d understood early in my career. From Merlin Mann: If a project doesn’t have an owner, it’s like a chainsaw on a rope swing. Why would anyone even go near that? Related posts: Priorities Project management

Posted in Business

What was the most important event of the 19th century?

According to Richard Feynman, the most important event of the 19th century was the discovery of the laws of electricity and magnetism. From a long view of the history of mankind — seen from, say, ten thousand years from now

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Posted in Science

Friday miscellany

Photography Long-exposure photos of planes taking off and landing Japan in the 1920s Pop culture Christianized paganism Software development Architecture of open source applications Statistics Principles of uncertainty Lessons from the Victorian data revolution Business Paying students to drop out

Posted in Uncategorized

Software architecture as a function of trust

Discussions of software architecture give the impression that the only concern is the problem domain: how to structure a content management system, how to structure a word processor, etc. This leaves out the people who will be developing the software.

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Posted in Software development

Classifying errors

In the latest episode of EconTalk, Russ Roberts mentions Jens Rasmussen’s classification of errors into three categories: slips, mistakes, and violations. So, a slip is: you just do something you immediately realize wasn’t what you meant to do — pushed

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Advantages of crude models

One advantage of crude models is that we know they are crude and will not try to read too much from them. With more sophisticated models, … there is an awful temptation to squeeze the lemon until it is dry

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Posted in Math, Statistics

Sheet music, DNA, and source code

Beginning musicians think that sheet music contains more information than it does. It’s all they can do to play the notes on the page. Only later do they realize that sheet music is at best a good approximation of what

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Posted in Software development

Manga Guide to Relativity

A few days ago I got a review copy of The Manga Guide to Relativity. This is an English translation of a book first published in Japanese a couple years ago. I assume the intended audience, at least for the

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Posted in Science

Friday miscellany

Photography A Starry Night of Iceland 100 Incredible Views Out Of Airplane Windows Eiffel Tower Math Quaterninons and Quilts Mathematical dance moves Magic squares Dijkstra’s fusc function Ramanujan’s notebooks Music videos Mariachi Pink Floyd Six pop songs in unusual time

Posted in Uncategorized

3.5 ways to subscribe to this blog

Here are three and a half ways to subscribe to this blog. RSS. If you’re unfamiliar with RSS, here’s a video explaining what it is and how to use it. The video makes a nice analogy. Visiting blogs is like

Posted in Uncategorized

How to subscribe to a Twitter account via RSS

Update: This post is obsolete because Twitter ended their RSS support in June 2013. Here are new ways to subscribe to Twitter accounts via RSS as of July 2013. *** Twitter has recently made it more difficult to subscribe to

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Writing software is harder than writing books

According to computer scientist Donald Knuth, someone who has written numerous books, writing software is more difficult than writing books. The most important lesson I learned during the past nine years [1977 – 1986, when Knuth developed TeX] is that

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Posted in Software development

New Twitter account: RLangTip

I’m starting a new daily tip Twitter account: RLangTip. This account will have one regularly scheduled tip per day, Monday through Friday, on the R language and related topics. I’ll also throw in a few unscheduled tweets now and then.

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Bumblebee software

Some say that aerodynamics can’t explain how a bumblebee flies. Perhaps that was once the case, but as far as I know there are no difficulties now. The bumblebee story persists as an urban legend. And it makes a nice

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Posted in Computing, Software development

Theory and practice

Donald Knuth explains how he combines theory and practice: This has always been the main credo of my professional life. I have always tried to develop theories that shed light on the practical things I do, and I’ve always tried

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Posted in Creativity, Science