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Showing posts from May, 2018

The most successful government program ever?

Libertarians are not talking out their arses when they note that government often does things very inefficiently, that government projects typically fall short of delivering on their promise, at far higher costs than initially projected, and so on. But...

There are exceptions. For instance, this program. The durned thing has now run for 55 times as long as was originally predicted. That's not too shabby.

Software Development as a Discovery Procedure

is almost complete.

Your comments are welcomed!
(And since rob got me all ssh'ed up and sh*t, his comments be especially welcomed!)

McCarthy's B.S.

"John McCarthy's B.S. was in mathematics... He is widely credited for inventing the term artificial intelligence and made many contributions to that field." -- Bjarne Stroustrup, Programming: Principles and Practice Using C++

Well, I'd say by far his most significant BS was the term "artificial intelligence"!

Succinct, Simple Semaphor Sought

I update my main repos when I log in anywhere. This usually works fine, but some logins kick off two terminals at once, and then the updates in one would fail while the other worked. (And often they alternate failing and working: you see why, right?)

This is really no problem... but it offends my aesthetic sensibilities. I should just be attempting these updates once, right? So I tried a very simple semaphor:
#!/bin/sh export REPO_SEM="repo_semaphore" # let's update our main repos: if [ ! -e $REPO_SEM ] then # set a semaphore: touch $REPO_SEM cd $GDIR/algorithms; git pull origin master # more updates done here... cd $HOME; rm $REPO_SEM else echo "$REPO_SEM exists: another processes may be doing the update." fi
This works... except when I really need it to, when the two logins kick off simultaneously. In the time between the existence test and the touch, both logins are able to proceed. What I would really need is for the if and the touch …

My hovercraft is full of eels...

and I have a disk in my Mac's DVD drive. My desktop tells me so.

The problem is, my Mac has no DVD drive.

I have discovered a new form of anxiety I can suffer from

I'm one of those people who, when I leave the apartment, am sure I left the burner / AC / lights on, and I have to run back and check. Or, at a show, I'm sure I have misplaced my ticket, and I have to check my pocket. And, most often, the fear proves groundless: the burner is off, and the ticket is right where it ought to be.

Well, tonight, I left the office, got two blocks away... and had to run back, because I was sure I had forgotten to push my code to my GitHub repo. (This was important because I needed to do more work from home.)

And, of course, I found I had pushed it.

So now I've got this as well.

Extreme Risk Analytics

Image
Spring 2018 party:


More Tyranny of Metrics

Another excerpt from my forthcoming review:


Another form of metric fixation that appears in higher education is the desire to have some sort of "measurement" for all aspects of student learning. Courses should set out a variety of goals, and have a numeric score for how far the course went in meeting the goal. These "measurements" are then compiled, averaged, their spread measured, and so on. The joke here is that the numbers used as input are not measurements at all: professors are simply asked to pick a number between one and five, or one and ten, as to how close the class came to achieving the goal. Rather than being an actual measurement, the "score" is simply whatever number the professor being asked wishes to pick! It as though quantum physics were done by asking a bunch of physicists "How highly would you rate the attraction of leptons?" and then running calculations based on the results. In fact, what usually happens is that everyone as…

Pessimistic Errors

As mentioned in a previous post, Israel Kirzner distinguishes between Type A and Type B knowledge problems. To quote that post:
Type A problems involve undue optimism, and are self-correcting: if I think I can sell my programming services for $1 million per hour, I surely will be disappointed, and, if wise, I will lower my price. My very attempt to act on my over-optimistic beliefs reveals their falsity.
Type B problems, on the other hand, involve undue pessimism, and are not self-correcting. I may believe that my current boss, who is paying me $50 per hour, is the best employer I can find. But, unbeknownst to me, just down the block is someone who would happily pay me $100 per hour, if he knew of my existence. And I would happily go work for him, if I knew of his. For type B problems to be "corrected" requires entrepreneurial action, perhaps, say, a job placement firm that will alert both the potential new employer and me to each other's presence in the market, for a f…

The Silliness of the "Moderns"

People who regard themselves as modern typically bang on about how "empirical" they are, and how they recognize the importance of "evolution."

That they are just paying lip service to certain shibboleths is demonstrated by how often they regard, as a conclusive refutation of some traditional practice or rule of morality, the "criticism" that "It's old-fashioned."

E.g., someone says, "Well, I think people should get married before they live together."

The "modern" person's response: "Oh, that attitude is so old-fashioned!"

And they think that is a criticism! Because a practice has survived for a very long time, and therefore the group that has adopted that practice has also survived for a very long time... therefore, it must be bad!

What a stunningly anti-empirical, anti-evolutionary claim!

Now, simply because some trait has been existence for a very long time does not necessarily mean it aids the survival o…

Kaizen and Skin in the Game

A key principle in DevOps is to not blame workers for failure. Instead, when failure occurs, the business is to identify the reasons behind the failure. (e.g. "Was the worker set up for failure? Or does the worker have defects that can be remediated?")

At first face, this idea of "no blame" runs contrary to the idea of skin in the game. For if I am not punished for my failures, how am I held responsible for my actions?

What actually happens is that DevOps redefines the game you have skin in. The game is no longer success, but improvement. So you are not held responsible for perfection, but for making things better.

An odd idea of how to hold a rally

CNN dumbwad editor-at-large Chris Cilliza here "refutes" President Trump's assertion at a recent NRA rally that "Can you imagine, if we ever called for a rally in Washington, DC? There wouldn't be enough room."

"DC is -- give or take -- 68 square miles large. Thanks to this Reddit thread, I calculated that you could fit 947,865,600 people in DC if they were standing shoulder to shoulder. So..."

So, apparently, Chris-the-brainless Cillizza thinks that the size of a rally that can be held in Washington is correctly determined by contemplating how many people could fit, "shoulder to shoulder," if we bulldozed the entire district and turned it into a giant rally site!

Because I've been in DC, and as far as I saw, a high percentage of those 68 square miles are covered by buildings. And a good bit more is taken up by public streets, which I don't think you are allowed to block with your rally. And another good chunk consists in people…

If I were Jason Day...

I'd be ticked off, because as he is on the verge of his second win of the year, the sports site headlines read things like:

"Tiger Woods cards 3-under 68, 9 shots back of Jason Day at Wells Fargo."

Hey, I'm rooting for Woods in his comeback -- I'm like Frodo rooting for Gollum: "I've got to believe he can come back" -- but the coverage has been ridiculous: why does Woods, 9 strokes behind Day, come first in the headline?

I'm back!

Assembly Language for the Web!

How many syllables in "mathematical"?

In my school years up the my first undergraduate "run," I never heard the word mathematical pronounced with 5 syllables: it was always said "math-ma-ti-cal."''Now, I hear it said with 5 syllables all the time. I don't know how that got going, but I imagine the people who do this think it is "correct": "Just look at the spelling!" they might say.

But I have never heard the word said with 5 syllables as it is spelled. Instead, people who say it with 5 syllables always say "math-the-ma-ti-cal": they double the 'th' sound.

Rationalism in Management

"The core of managerial expertise was now defined as a distinct set of skills and techniques, focused upon a mastery of quantitative methodologies. Decisions based on sleep numbers were viewed as scientific, since numbers were thought to imply objectivity and accuracy...

"Before that, 'expertise' meant the career long accumulation of knowledge of a specific field, as one progressed from rung to rung within the same institution or business... Auto executives were 'car guys' -- men who had spent much of their professional life in the automotive industry. They were increasingly replaced by McNamara-like 'bean counters,' adept at calculating costs and profit margins.

"[This trend] morphed into the gospel of managerialism. The role of judgment grounded in experience and a deep knowledge of context was downplayed. The premise of managerialism is that the differences among organizations -- including private corporations, government agencies, and univer…