Friday, April 29, 2005

A phone conversation with my nine-year-old son, just now:
Son: Hey, Dad, what're you doing?

Me: Writing some software.

Son: Can you train me how to do that?

Me: Sure. You want to be a programmer?

Son: If I can't be in the NFL or be a chef, yeah.

Me: Oh.

Son: Yeah, I could be a lineman and a programmer at the same time, and cook my own meals.

Me: That sounds like a good plan.

Son: And if I can't get in the NFL, I'll work the night shift at Wendy's.

Me: Why on earth would you want to do that?

Son: So I can cook!
I blame Kant.
Opportunity Mars Rover Stuck in Sand:
NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover has run into a sandy snag. All of its six wheels have sunk in deep into a large ripple of soil.

Rover operators are optimistic they can extricate the robot from its jam, having gotten dug in before. But ground controllers will need time to wheel back on top of the soil again.

Time will also be spent figuring out what’s different about the soil that has bogged down Opportunity, hoping to keep this problem from occurring down the road.
So yesterday I'm heading to my car in the Dillon's parking lot
and find that it's parked next to a car containing a husband, his wife and their 4-year-old-ish son in the back. The windows were down. I don't know what the husband did to deserve such ire, but the wife was waving her arms around in an aggressive manner and laying into her husband with an obscenity-filled verbal attack that would make Dennis Leary blush (or highly impressed, either way). I couldn't keep up with counting all the F-words she was using. Loudly. With her attentive kid in the back seat. What's this world coming to?
They can take my iPod from my cold, dead hands.
Europe! Agh.:
The charge will be levied against every MP3 player, and is effectively a tax on the MP3 format. Some efforts to place MP3 files under DRM protection will also mean that these will pay copyright twice over.

Levies are an outmoded and unfair way of rewarding existing monopolies and are only ever put in place to keep ancient publishing copyright agencies in business.

In almost every case the organization itself that carries out the collection is lavish and well funded, the proceeds are distributed only to large multinational music publishers, bolstering their revenues unfairly. It is little more than a club of companies that "have a right" to make money.

If this legislation comes into play, the surcharge will be as much as €3.28 ($4.3) per gigabyte. This might put €180 ($235) to the price of a top end iPod.

Already in Germany there is a levy on PC hard drives, that will soon become larger than the entire PC industry revenue if it is left in place. Within two years, as disk drive sizes move to terabyte class on notebooks, and petabyte levels on home DVRs, the tax will come to far outweigh not just the cost of the drive, but the cost of the device. Under this Netherlands law, if it were extended to the PC, the cost of 1,000 GB would be €3,280 ($4,300) and yet drives of this size will be delivered by 2007.
That place is nuts.
Live-blogging the President's press conference
over at QandO. A sampling:
Social Security:

—People are living longer, and taking more benefits. They're sucking the lifeblood out of the system. At the same time, there are too few young workers.

—Social Security will start spending more than it take in 2013. By 2040, it'll be bankrupt. Like, you know, it's not bankrupt now, really.

—Man, how 'bout that FDR. He was the bomb! Too bad his program is tanking though.

—So, here's some of the President's ideas.
1. Screw the rich (those bastards)! Poor people should make a better return than rich people (those bastards).
2. Younger people should get voluntary personal accounts. Not with a lot of options. Make it simple and easy to understand. Key word: voluntary. A lot of you seem worried about this. Wussies.
The trailer for Serenity,
quite possibly the most important film ever made, can be found here. I never watched the show while it was on TV because, frankly, I never knew it existed. But a coworker loaned me the 4-DVD set and after spending an entire weekend watching all of the episodes I went out and bought it for myself. The show was (is?) brilliant, and it helps that it speaks to my libertarian proclivities. I hope the film lives up to the show.

Here's the official movie site.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Kevin Smith (of Dogma fame) has seen Revenge of the Sith
and has written a fawning spoiler-laden review. Warning: he uses strong language.

Smith doesn't mention anything about Chewbacca's appearance. Is that because he doesn't give a darn about Chewie, or did he think that part was lame?

UPDATE: Alrighty! Darth Vader has his own blog. A sample:
One of these days, one of these days, Ozzel: bang, pow! Straight to the moon.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Father's day isn't that far off,
and my birthday isn't long after that. < Cough, cough. >
Today's message (again).
I think I've posted this before (too lazy to check) but it bears repeating:
Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum sonatur.
Whatever is said in Latin sounds profound.
Sorry to get kind of technical,
but this guide to writing terrible code documentation is hilarious. The truly evil suggestion:
On the Proper Use of Design Documents: When implementing a very complicated algorithm, use the classic software engineering principles of doing a sound design before beginning coding. Write an extremely detailed design document that describes each step in a very complicated algorithm. The more detailed this document is, the better.
In fact, the design doc should break the algorithm down into a hierarchy of structured steps, described in a hierarchy of auto-numbered individual paragraphs in the document. Use headings at least 5 deep. Make sure that when you are done, you have broken the structure down so completely that there are over 500 such auto-numbered paragraphs. For example, one paragraph might be: (this is a real example) - Display all impacts for activity where selected mitigations can apply (short pseudocode omitted).

then... (and this is the kicker [truly evil, yes]) when you write the code, for each of these paragraphs you write a corresponding global function named:


Do not document these functions. After all, that's what the design document is for!

Since the design doc is auto-numbered, it will be extremely difficult to keep it up to date with changes in the code (because the function names, of course, are static, not auto-numbered.) This isn't a problem for you because you will not try to keep the document up to date. In fact, do everything you can to destroy all traces of the document.

Those who come after you should only be able to find one or two contradictory, early drafts of the design document hidden on some dusty shelving in the back room near the dead 286 computers.
This is not a joke, this is real. There's some software widely used around here that can communicate with machinery and display the status on a computer (line speeds, pressues, temperatures, motor states, etc.). Typcially, the devices on the machine that provide this data have esoteric addressing schemes. For example, the line speed may be kept in address R123 and the motor state may be kept in an address like I5329.

Now, the software lets you call the variables anything you want, so you could define a variable called LineSpeed that is linked to R123 and another variable called MotorState that is linked to I5329. But what I see all too often are variables called - wait for it! - R123 and I5329. Ah! A crime punishable by death, I say, or at least a severe finger-wagging.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A glimpse of the next version of Windows
can be found here.
2005: Year of the Nerd.
So says one of Jonah's correspondents.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Domino theory:
LGF notes Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon.
The problem
with the sorting algorithm, David, is that it wouldn't really work well in my scheme of Random Mathematics. Problem is, you see, that the equation 9 > 2 could be true or false. It kind of depends. It's all random, you know.

From the website to which you linked, though, I thought this paragraph was great:
Since robsort nears order n factorial inefficiency, the amount of time required to sort an array depends drastically on the size of the array. Start with a small number of integers, say around 9, and work up. There is no limit, however scientists have currently been unable to sucessfully sort 17 or more integers using robsort due to its incredible inefficiency.
I saw news video
of this woman over the weekend and felt bad for her. I thought maybe here blanking out of the National Anthem was because she was in front of a large crowd, and she had stage fright. That might explain part of it, but the fact that she's Canadian (and therefore wouldn't have been singing the U.S. National Anthem her whole life) probably didn't hurt either.
Unlike some people I know and married,
I don't have an aversion to processed meat. I enjoy baloney (or bologna, whichever you prefer), but I don't like it this much.
Joe, to supplement your old Random Mathematics Theory:
a random sorting algorithm:
Robsort reads an array of integers and randomly arranges the order of those integers. It then checks to see if the array is sorted, if the array is sorted, robsort has done its job. If the array is not sorted, robsort ranomizes the array again. It continues this process untill it successfully sorts the array.
They say it's "claimed to be the world's least efficient sorting algorithm". Yippee!
I must see
this movie.

In a related matter, saw House of Flying Daggers this weekend. Short review: pretty good, but not as groovy as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Hero. For all the talk of how visually stunning HoFD supposedly is, I thought Hero was more interesting. I could have done without all the tearing-at-the-robes-while-mashing-faces stuff. Sayeth my wife to my son, "No, you wouldn't like it - too much kissing". Amen.
highlights a post by James Lileks that goes along with my general Best Buy experience: The endless questions and pressure to buy their service contracts.

First, the request for your phone number. Why? To send me junk mail, I imagine. If they have my phone number, reverse look-up directories can peg my address. Asking for my ZIP is one thing, since one could say its for marketing purposes, with no additional junk mail (hard to get an exact address from the ZIP only). But phone number? Bah. I'm tempted to starting saying, "Sure, it's (913) 555-0012," or maybe just, "No." I wonder what the clerk would do.

Second, the service contract. If I'm buying a $4,500 television, I might consider it. I say, might. I know these are Best Buy's bread and butter, the way they really make money. But, come on, I bought a $50 boombox, and they asked if I wanted one. I said, "No." The clerk began to denigrate the product, telling me "the speakers are sensitive; they might blow out." I didn't budge.

A former manager of mine once related how he was making a gigantic purchase at Best Buy, that $4,500 television I used as an example, and he was confronted with the same pressure to buy the service contract. When he balked, the clerk told him how the T.V. could fail, and how various components could create problems, etc. My ex-boss told the clerk that if the T.V. was that bad, he wasn't going to buy it, and left.

He went to Circuit City and got a better deal.
Argh! To be a parent!
Gil Reavill:
That specific day was not atypical. My family has been treated to X-rated movies on the DVD screens of cars in the lanes next to us. The Howard Stern radio show has boomed out of what seemed like nuclear-powered car stereo speakers when we were attempting to enjoy a morning in a riverside park. Now as I watched her gazing out at Larry Flynt's smut emporium, I realized the degree to which we have failed our children.

In a political sense, the young are powerless, voiceless, totally reliant on adults. In myriad important ways, in providing them with health insurance and legal protection, our record as a society is spotty at best.

But we also have left unfulfilled our function as guardians of their cultural environment. The boundaries of their world have been repeatedly breached, many times by people interested in making money and dismissive of all other considerations. All too often, our children are exposed to the loud, frenzied, garish spectacle of adult sexuality. They get their faces rubbed in it. So within the course of one hour of one very ordinary day, I had been treated to a vision of twin seven-year-old fanny slappers, a sex professional taking up neighborhood residence, and groupies begging for oral sex. I didn't like it. It made me mad. What had happened to my family that day was that we had been "culture-whipped," a term that measures the gulf between the expectations of the viewer (or listener) and the content of the media. When you whip your head around, asking "What was that?" not believing your eyes and ears, you've been culture-whipped.
The other day my son asked me what prostitution is. What do you say to a nine-year-old that doesn't need to know such things? I think I mumbled something about kissing for money - I just couldn't get into the details. We pulled my daughter out of a so-called ballet class because their next project was to learn a hip-shaking naughty cheerleader routine. Sheesh, she was only five at the time! Ah!
For the record, if I made $700,000 a year
I would live like a king. Literally like a king. Jance Galt may be worried about the poor sods in New York City, but here in Joplin, MO, $700,000 is enough to establish a feudal system. I'd have vassals. Oh, and one of these. Or two. My wife would have one of these. Or two.
It looks like I'm gonna live forever!
Super-health-conscious people die sooner:
Mother Nature, we now know, is a saucy wench, who likes to play cosmic tricks on humanity. If the report from researchers at the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is correct - and it is the most thorough done to date - then it seems that Mother Nature has built a little Laffer curve into the fabric of reality: health-conscious people can hit a point of negative returns, so the more fit they are, the quicker they kick the bucket. People who work out, eat responsibly and deserve to live are more likely to be culled by the Thin Reaper.

I can't tell you how happy this makes me. Since I read about this report a few days ago, I haven't been able to stop grinning.
Hat tip to Instapundit.

This explains those stories you here about the jogger that drops dead in the middle of his run. "How could this happen, he was in such good shape!"
There'd be less confusion if my name was Squeezix McJohnson.
I read this:
Per usual, David Anderson has been a prolific blogger...
But alas! Different David Anderson. And what the cobb is an attitudinal? Sounds like the funk my daughter gets in when she's tired. "Hey, now, don't get attitudinal on me, little girl!"

UPDATE: Heh, I assumed an attitudinal was something technical, but it is exactly what I was joking about. A new buzzword!