On this day

I looked back to see what posts I had written on this date in years past. January 14 doesn’t have any particular significance for me, so these post are a representative cross section of the blog.

Some years I didn’t write anything on January 14, and some years I wrote posts that are not worth revisiting. Here are some posts that have held up well.

On this day in 2008 I wrote about four tips for learning regular expressions. I keep writing about regular expressions occasionally. Readers find them interesting, in part because they’re useful, but perhaps also because they’re fairly simple but not trivial. There are little complications and subtleties in how they’re used.

On this day in 2009 I wrote about how to display figures side by side in LaTeX. I often get one of two responses when I write about LaTeX. The first is “Thanks. That’s what I needed. Now I can get on with my work.” The other is “That’s not the latest way to do things!” I have updated my LaTeX habits over the years, but I’m not ashamed to use older syntax if it produces the same array of pixels in the end.

On this day in 2011 I commented on conversations that can be summarized as “Your job is trivial. (But I couldn’t do it.)” The explicit message is “I could do this myself” while the implicit message is “There’s no way I could do this myself, and so I desperately need you to do it for me.”

(You’ll find several older posts on the frustrations of working inside a large bureaucratic institution. These posts stopped suddenly around the beginning of 2013 for some reason.)

On this day in 2013 I riffed on a line from Dune about adaptive decision making. The next day I announced here that I was leaving my job to start my consultancy.

On this day in 2015 I elaborated on a someone’s remark that “the result of striving for ultimate simplicity is intolerable complexity.” I’ve seen that over and over, especially in software projects. A moderate desire for simplicity makes things simpler. But when people obsess on a particular notion of simplicity, they can make things horribly complex. These are often very smart people; they make things difficult in a way that less intelligent people couldn’t pull off.

On this day last year I wrote about algorithms for multiplying very large numbers. This is a practical question in cryptography, for example, but there have been recent theoretical developments which are interesting but as yet impractical.

I wonder what I might be writing about this time next year, assuming I’m still around and still blogging. Probably something about applied math; I write about math more often than the sampling above would imply. Maybe I’ll write something about computing or privacy, topics I’ve written about more often recently.

Thanks for reading.

2 thoughts on “On this day

  1. David J. Littleboy


    Thanks for writing. Really. Your repeated use of Python got me off my duff (well, back onto my duff, but…) and started on my programming project*. And the math stuff is interesting. Anyway, thanks.

    *: Trivial and boring stuff, really. Counting kanji and word usage in prewar literature, maybe automating some flash card production. But the lack of the ability to deal easily with Unicode in C++ had me stopped dead. It’s freaky writing in a language in which X = A + B takes thousands and thousands of machine cycles**, though…

    ** I spent 20 years in comp. sci., during which clocks speeds went from .3 MHz or so (PDP-6***) to 3 MHz (i386). So I’m overly sensitive to inefficiencies.

    JRST . + 1203

    David in Tokyo, where even the footnotes have footnotes…

  2. With regard to multiplying large numbers, is this a task that effective quantum computing would have a major impact on?

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