Showing posts from July, 2018

Is it possible to use your calling software to... make a call?

I just got sent someone's Skype address, and I would just like to... you know, call them. Now, the number one thing people do with Skype is call other people . So the whole user interface should be focused on making it easy to call people. But instead we get: "Call" is grayed out, and there is no indication whatsoever of what one needs to do to ungray it. Yes, I know there is some way to do so, but this is about as bad as user-interface design can be.

The Origins and Spread of Anooranosism

There once were a people, the Carinaem, who found the sky and the objects they saw in it so beautiful that they worshipped it, and wove that worship throughout their culture, including their political life. In fact, for them, what we would call "religion" and what we would call "politics (as well as what we would call "culture") were not really separate things at all: they were just the people's social life, which was a whole. But gradually, a class of people, who called themselves the Narcien, raised themselves far above the common person of Carinae, instituting autocratic political rule as well as commandeering much of the wealth of the land. And naturally they used this worship of the sky to justify their position. So when a segment of the population finally became so fed up that they decided to overthrow the Narcien, they rejected everything associated with them, including the sky worship. They believed that all aspects of the society that had been

The strange nature of computer science education

The vast majority of students who go through computer science programs are training to be engineers, not academic researchers. And yet… I just had a masters student say how impressed he was that I was having my OOP students do C++ projects that stretch across more than one file . He said that in his entire undergraduate education, he had never compiled a program that used more than a single file. It is as though we were training civil engineers to build bridges, but only bridges that stretch across one-foot-wide ditches.

Our New Book

Critics of Enlightenment Rationalism , which should come out next year.

The Best Books for Inspiring a Software Engineer

I was just giving advice to someone who isn't sure software engineering is for him. My idea here was to send him to some of the books that inspired me to improve as a software engineer, and see if any of these authors enthusiasm rubbed off on him. Below is the list I came up with off the top of my head: Donald Knuth, Literate Programming P.J. Plauger, Programing on Purpose , Volumes I, II, and III Jon Bentley, Programming Pearls and More Programming Pearls Brian Kernighan and Rob Pike, The Practice of Programming Brian Kernighan and Rob Pike, The UNIX Programming Environment Brian Kernighan and P.J. Plauger, Software Tools in Pascal James Coplien, Advanced C++ Mary and Tom Poppendieck, Lean Software Development What else would you add to the list?

Two dolts...

recently tried to claim here that to admit that a being infinitely greater than oneself created the universe is an act of... hubris !... just the same as devotees of scientism claiming science is to get credit for the wonders of creation. (And of course, no devotee of scientism is actually going to outright claim that science created galaxies or deep sea fish or volcanoes. The way this sort of propaganda works is that they will continuously suggest that, but when challenged, will offer a shocked denial that they ever suggested any such thing. Just like my own dolts did.) Ed Feser nails such combox trolls: "Then there is the element of pride. You have to be smart to do natural science. Combox trolls usually are not very smart, but they think of themselves as smart, because they at least have the capacity to pepper their remarks with words like 'physics,' 'science,' 'reason,' etc. as well as to rehearse whatever science trivia they picked up from W

Well, Johan Is Running That Way with a Rifle, and...

Hans is running in the same direction with a rifle, and Eugen is also doing that. Methodological individualism says that is the way we have to explain Germany invading Belgium. But that is wrong. Sometimes explanations run in the other direction. A storm explains the movement of the molecules involved in the storm. And "Germany has invaded Belgium" explains what Johan and Hans and Eugen are up to.

“The Wonders of Science”

Under this heading, one will be shown things such as luminescent fish, volcanoes, stellar clusters, Saturn’s rings, the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly, etc. It is as though the person describing these things is trying to claim that these are the creations of science! These are not “wonders of science.“ They are the wonders of God’s creation. It is only the hubris of scientism that tries to claim them as our own creations!

Because it’s old, it must be dumb!

I recall Bryan Caplan deliberately (I believe) insulting Israel Kirzner at the NYU Market Process colloquium as follows: I had asked Bryan, "Well, according to your paper, a 'reasonable' conclusion depends upon what premises we start with. So if my initial premise is, 'The Bible is the word of God,' why should I not prefer scripture over scientific findings, when they conflict?" Caplan, knowing full well that Kirzner is an orthodox rabbi, responded, essentially, "Who could possibly pay any attention to such stupid nonsense written by a bunch of desert shepherds several thousand years ago?" At the time, I was so nonplussed by Bryan's response that I don't think I said anything more. But... What I ought to have said was, "The work of these 'ignorant' desert shepherds is still being read several thousand years after they wrote it: do you think anyone will be reading a single thing you wrote in 4000 A.D.?" What is amazi

OK, what do you call this? "Re-bugging"?

I typed in some C++ code from Stroustrup's programming book. It is supposed to be the naive, inadequate first cut at addressing a problem. He offers some input that will show the shortcomings of the naive approach. I type in that input and... It works perfectly! Now I have to "re-bug" my program to determine why it is not failing like it is supposed to!

Incorrect Spam Designations

A few comments, especially from Prateek and Ken B, were being automatically marked as spam. I just went in the Blogger spam bucket for the first time in several months and found them. My apologies.

"The sun is a symbol...

of the risen Christ." Response A: No it isn't! It is a ball of flaming hydrogen! "The Mona Lisa is a symbol of the mysteries of feminine beauty." Response B: No it isn't! It is a bunch of pigments spread across a canvas! Response A makes no more sense than Response B.

Who Am I?

Pretend you are on one of those Guess-My-Line- style gameshows. Could you name the following person? "I have been referred to as inarguably 'the most original and the most versatile intellect that the Americas have so far produced... because any second would be so far behind as not to be worth nominating.' I was accomplished as a mathematician, astronomer, chemist, geodesist, surveyor, cartographer, metrologist, spectroscopist, engineer, inventor, psychologist, philologist, lexicographer, historian of science, mathematical economist, book reviewer, dramtist, actor, short story writer, phenomenologist, semiotician, logician, rhetorician, and metaphysician. I developed a cardinal arithmetic for infinite numbers years before Cantor, axiomatized natural number arithmetic before Dedekind and Peano, and set out axiomatized set theory before Zermelo. Fifty years before Shannon, I described how Boolean logic could be implemented in electrical switches. "Karl Popper descr

"He isn't college educated."

So often I've heard this euphemism for "he's not very bright." As though a smattering of introductory courses plus a concentration, most of which are evaluated en-masse, are to bestow intelligence or wisdom.

Algocynfas advances!

We can now do minimum spanning trees . Next up: binary search trees.

David Attenborough, empty posh accent

I was alerted to the fact that this "naturalist" apparently doesn't care what nonsense they give him to read when I was binge-watching the "Wild [X]" (where X = "India" or "China" or "Indochina") series, and heard him describe a encounter between two red pandas as "a male driving off a male intruder," and in a subsequent episode, describe the exact same footage as "a male trying to attract a female." (I actually went and re-played the earlier episode to make sure.) In Blue Planet , Attenborough treats the viewer to such gems as: "Spring comes as the sun begins to climb higher in the sky." Nope, by the time spring comes, the sun has been climbing higher in the sky for three months! "It is now mid-summer, and the days are getting longer." No, mid-summer's day is when the days begin getting shorter. And if he means "the middle of the summer," the quote is even worse.

Great paper on computer science education

Here .

Racist dog whistles

These days the progressive left talks continually about "racist dog whistles" being sounded by... well, any figure they don't like. Here's the thing about dog whistles though: only dogs can hear them! And that is the idea behind the "racist dog whistle" meme: this is secret, coded language that only racists can understand. But... That means the progressives pointing out these "dog whistles" would have to be... racists! Or else they couldn't hear the whistle, they wouldn't understand the code. Of course, what the charge really amounts to is, "I don't like that person's preferred policies, and while I can't point to anything explicitly racist that he said, I can instead smear him by claiming he's speaking in a secret racist code."

More sportswriter math silliness

Here , from Zach Lowe: "There is no shame in that. Cousins can't make the Warriors much better because it is mathematically impossible for a team this good to get much better." Mathematically impossible? Does Lowe not realize there are an infinite number of positive integers, all of which it is mathematically possible for the Warriors to score? And that all of the Warriors opponents scored more than zero points in every game they played, so they could do much better on defense as well? I think what Lowe really might have meant was "statistically unlikely," but that doesn't sound as dramatic, does it?


Sports announcers current infatuation with statistics and probabilistic reasoning is only matched by their ignorance of any fundamental statistical principles. Consider this passage , answering how many championships LeBron James will win with the LA Lakers: " Pelton : If I had to bet on one outcome, I'd probably say zero. The Warriors are still around, and other challengers are forming. I still think going to the Rockets or the 76ers would have given James a better chance of winning a championship. That said, the average outcome for James is probably closer to one championship than none." So this gut thinks the "average" number of championships James will win is closer to one than zero, but he will "bet" on zero. You can bet he won't bet on this at all, and that he cites "statistics" just to look like a "modern" sportswriter who is all probabilistic and whatnot.

Back to PropArgs Again

This was an early instance of "infrastructure as code." I am now rebuilding "PropArgs" in a new context, that of agent-based models . Here is the order I think we want properties to have precedence, from lowest to highest: The database: this is where to store fairly static info on the model being run, as well as server names, etc. Environment variables: allows overriding DB settings for dev / prod servers, or particular runtime environments, such as web, GUI, or command line. A stored property file: can create settings for particular runs, e.g., to do big batch runs of a program with specific settings. The command line: can override previous properties by invoking the program with a novel setting. Asking the user: the ultimate authority on what parameters to use for a model. Any thoughts? Any place to set these parameters that we've missed?