Monthly Archives: December 2011

Technological change is ecological

From Neil Postman: Technological change is neither additive nor subtractive. It is ecological. … One significant change generates a total change. If you remove the caterpillars from a given habitat, you are not left with the same environment minus caterpillars:

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Contentment

C. S. Lewis’ description of George MacDonald from his introduction to Phantastes: His resignation to poverty was at the opposite pole from that of the stoic. He appears to have been a sunny, playful man, deeply appreciative of all really

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Handyman lorem ipsum

This afternoon I ran across some leftover lorem ipsum placeholder text in a magazine. Family Handyman, February 2011, page 76. Here’s a similar instance of lorem ipsum text on a French wine bottle.

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Advantages of everything-is-text

In a typical Windows program, some output text can be copied as text but some is only an image. For example, the text in the body of a document is text, but the words on the menus are not. The

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Posted in Computing

Flannery O’Connor’s accent

When Flannery O’Connor went to the University of Iowa for graduate school, her mentor Paul Engle could not understand her Georgian accent. Engle later recalled his reaction when she asked to attend his workshop. Embarrassed, I asked her to write

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Most popular non-technical posts of 2011

These were my most popular blog posts this year that were not about math or programming. Coming full circle Music in 5/4 time Daylight savings time is a mess Why did we do this? Thomas Jefferson and preparing for meetings

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Maker’s desiderata

A few years ago Make Magazine posted The Maker’s Bill of Rights. I like the list, though I don’t like the name. Meaningful and specific parts lists shall be included. Cases shall be easy to open. Batteries should be replaceable.

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Propaganda and chocolate

In his book China Road, Rob Gifford mentions the odd mixture of government propaganda and commercial advertising he saw flashed on the side of a building in Shanghai every five seconds. Welcome to Shanghai. Tomorrow will be even more beautiful.

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By the nth day of Christmas

By the nth day of Christmas, my true love had sent to me n(n+1)(n+2)/6 gifts. Explanation and proof here.

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Posted in Math

Convention versus compulsion

An alternate title for this post could be “Software engineering wisdom from a lecture on economics given in 1945.” F. A. Hayek gave a lecture on December 17, 1945 entitled “Individualism: True and False.” A transcript of the talk is

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Posted in Software development

The importance of being textual

“When you feel the urge to design a complex binary file format, or a complex binary application protocol, it is generally wise to lie down until the feeling passes.” — Eric Raymond Taken from the section of his book entitled

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Posted in Software development

Use what strength you have

From On Old Age by Cicero: Nor, again, do I now miss the bodily strength of a young man … any more than as a young man I missed the strength of a bull or an elephant. You should use

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Followship

Many so-called leadership positions are followship positions. One way musicians learn to conduct is by conducting recordings. We did this at drum major camp back in the days of vinyl albums and cassette tapes. That’s OK for teenagers who are

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Posted in Business

Most popular programming posts of 2011

These have been my most popular programming-related posts this year. Why do C++ folks make things so complicated? Plumber programmers The myth of the Lisp genius How to delete pages from a PDF Programmers without computers My favorite on the

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How to know it all

The way to know it all is to change the definition of “all.” Schools do this, for example, by defining “all” to mean everything on a test. Then it’s possible for someone to know it all. Schools create the illusion

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Posted in Creativity