On this day

This morning as a sort of experiment I decided to look back at all my blog posts written on May 30 each year. There’s nothing special about this date, so I thought it might give an eclectic cross section of things I’ve written about.

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Last year on this day I wrote about Calendars and continued fractions, based on a connection between the two topics I found in the book Calendrical Calculations.

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Two years ago on this day I wrote about Color theory questions. I’ve been interested in color theory off and on for a while. At one point I thought I might “get to the bottom” of it and figure everything out to my satisfaction. I’ve since decided that color theory is a bottomless well: there’s no getting to the bottom of it. I might pick it back up some day with the more modest goal of learning a little more than I currently know.

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I didn’t write a post on May 30 in 2014, 2015, or 2016.

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On this day in 2013, I wrote a riff on a quote from Matt Briggs to the effect that there are no outliers, only measurements that don’t fit with your theory.

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In 2012 on this day I posted Writing software for someone else. Most of what I’ve read about software development does not make the distinction between writing software for yourself and writing software for someone else, or at least does not emphasize the distinction.

When computer science students become professional programmers, they have to learn empathy. Or at least ideally they learn empathy. They go from completing homework assignments to writing programs that other people will work on and that other people will use. They learn “best practices,” best in this new context.

I made the opposite transition a few months after writing that post when I left MD Anderson Cancer Center to go out on my own. It took a while for me to decide what works best for me, mostly writing software for my own use. Sometimes I deliver software to clients, but more often I deliver reports that require me to write software that the client isn’t directly interested in.

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My post for May 30, 2011 was just a quote from Richard Feynman speculating that in the long run, the development of Maxwell’s equations will be seen as the most important event of the 19th century.

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In 2010 on this day I posted a quote from Paul Buchheit about the effect of suddenly acquiring wealth. For most people it would not be a good thing.

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The post for May 30 in 2009 was called Killing too much of a tumor. You can actually make a tumor more harmful by killing off portions that were suppressing its growth. Reminds me now of how in war you want to leave enough of the enemy’s command in tact that they have the ability to surrender.

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Finally, on this day in 2008 I announced that I’d started a web site at reproducibleresearch.org. I later gave the URL to people who had started a similar site with the same name, but ending in .org.

Promoting reproducible research seemed like a somewhat quixotic project at the time, but fortunately it has gained traction since then.

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Is there a common theme in these posts? They are all about things that interest me, but that’s necessarily the case since they’re on my blog. One thing that surprises me is that the posts are not particularly mathematical. I would have expected that a quasi-random sample of posts would have turned up more math. But I did write about cancer and software development more when I worked in a cancer center and managed software developers.

One thought on “On this day

  1. I’ve spent a great deal of my work life working in color theory and its practical application to camouflage. A few years ago, I was involved in the study that selected the color “Woodland Desert Sage” as the new color for the CH-47 Chinook helicopter for the US Army. The one thing that I’ve learned is that color and perception is stranger and more mysterious than you can imagine. Quantum mechanics was trivial compared to understanding color vision.
    Things became even stranger a couple of years ago when a medication I was taking had a strange vision related side effect. Whenever I was reading a book and started to doze off, I would develop color-grapheme synesthesia. I would begin to see colors on the black and white page. Sometimes, the lines or the words or the individual letters looked as though they had been highlighted with different color pens. It was as if I suddenly had access to the way that my brain was partitioning the visual field into a hierarchical structure of elements like an OCR program. The final stage seemed to be when the black letters on the page would suddenly turn blue with no highlighting.
    This suddenly made me realize that what we perceive as color is a very late step in the visual processing chain. (A fact that is supported by vision science.) The philosophical arguments about whether two people really “see” the same thing when they say something is red weren’t as silly as I once thought. Yes, a particular paint has a given spectral reflectance independent of my perception. But what the brain does with that information is awesome and mysterious.

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