Monthly Archives: February 2012

Comparing R to smoking

Francois Pinard comparing the R programming language to smoking: Using R is a bit akin to smoking. The beginning is difficult, one may get headaches and even gag the first few times. But in the long run, it becomes pleasurable

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Posted in Statistics

Opposite of YAGNI

There’s a motto in agile software development that says “You aren’t going to need it,” YAGNI. The idea is that when you’re tempted to write some code based on speculation of future use, don’t do it. (I go into this

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Posted in Creativity

Gilbert & Sullivan on Leap Day

For some ridiculous reason, to which, however, I’ve no desire to be disloyal, Some person in authority, I don’t know who, very likely the Astronomer Royal, Has decided that, although for such a beastly month as February, twenty-eight days as

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How to solve supposedly intractable problems

Contrary to semi-educated belief, NP-complete problems are not necessarily intractable. Often such problems are intractable, but not always. If a problem is NP-complete, this means that there is no polynomial-time algorithm for solving the problem for the worst case, as

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Posted in Computing, Math

It's not what you cover

Walter Lewin on teaching physics: What counts, I found, is not what you cover but what you uncover. Covering subjects in a class can be a boring exercise, and students feel it. Uncovering the laws of physics and making them

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Posted in Science

Stretched thin

Here are a couple quotes on being stretched thin. From Bilbo Baggins in Lord of the Rings: I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter, scraped over too much bread. From David Wells in God in the Wasteland: To stretch

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Audible confetti

“Audible confetti” is a striking metaphor for distracting noise. Here’s the context where I ran across the phrase this morning: The public sphere, dominated as it is by the omnipresence of bureaucracy, systems of manufacturing, the machinery of capitalism, and

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Julia random number generation

Julia is a new programming language for scientific computing. From the Julia site: Julia is a high-level, high-performance dynamic programming language for technical computing, with syntax that is familiar to users of other technical computing environments. It provides a sophisticated

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Posted in Software development

Playing with Eshell

I’ve been trying out Eshell lately. It’s a shell implemented in Emacs Lisp. Here I’ll mention a few features I’ve found interesting. The command M-x shell lets you run a shell inside Emacs. This is quite handy, but it runs

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Posted in Computing

Texas accents

The young lady who took my order at lunch today had a strong Texas accent. You might think this would be nothing unusual — I live in Texas — but it surprised me. Don’t Texans have Texas accents? Strictly speaking,

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Care and treatment of singularities

My favorite numerical analysis book is Numerical Methods that Work. In the hardcover version of the book, the title was impressed in the cover and colored in silver letters. Before the last word of the title, there was another word

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Posted in Math

Monday morning math puzzle

This morning Futility Closet mentioned that How common is this? In other words, what is the probability that a random set of digits ai will satisfy the following? How does the probability depend on n?

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Posted in Math

Thoughts on the new Windows logo

I appreciate spare design, but the new Windows logo is just boring. Here’s the rationale for the new logo according to The Windows Blog: But if you look back to the origins of the logo you see that it really

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Posted in Graphics

What's your backplane?

When I hear someone I respect rave about a software tool I’ll take a look at it. When I do, it often leaves me cold and I wonder how they could think it’s so great. Is this person just easily

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Posted in Software development

Would you rather serve a market or a boss?

Here’s an idea to chew on. Hayek argues that you either have to serve a market or a boss, and that the former is preferable. Man in a complex society can have no choice but between adjusting himself to what

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Posted in Business