Friday, July 23, 2021

A surprisingly good talk ...

... on the Mandelbrot set (the poster child of fractals), aimed at the interested layperson. A vague memory of high school math will easily suffice.

I say "surprisingly" because this is a talk given by an out loud and proud fundie. It's a pity that he's such a god-botherer, because in the parts where he's not proselytizing, it's as good as any that I've seen on this topic. I actually learned a few things myself.

So, recommendation: skip the first few moments, and then watch up till ~22:00.

I watched a little beyond the recommended end point. I had to laugh at how this guy believes in atoms and Kepler's laws for describing planetary motion, not to mention his innate faith in the output of his computer, but nonetheless insists that "the planets were created on day 4," and that all of the amazing math he had earlier been talking about was "waiting for us to discover it for 6000 years."

I gave up at ~41:00, when it seemed clear that the downward trend had become monotonic. The True Believer's arrogance of certainty always grates. And when he started sniping about the theory of evolution, I found it about as impressive as what you'd find from the supporters in the comments section under a Ray Comfort/Kirk Cameron banana video.

In conclusion: Yes, there are things that amaze and astound us, in and about the world and the universe in which we live. I completely agree that we do not know how to explain many of these things. However, that is no reason not to try. Just throwing up your hands and saying "god did it" is nothing more than an argument from incredulity. [1] It is no different from the claim that volcanoes erupt because we haven't thrown enough young women into them.

(x-posted on the FB)


Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Pretty dumb that you can't do this on a smartphone

I would think, as a newbie owner of a smartphone, that it would be straightforward to assign one ringtone to everyone on my Contacts list, and a different one to every other incoming call.

Apparently, though, this is not possible. You can assign a ringtone to one person on your Contact list, and then to another, and then to another ... but that seems tedious. Granted, it's likely that I'd only need to do this for a small fraction of my Contacts list, for all practical purposes, but still, how is this not something that a smartphone can do, right out of the box? I mean, when I get an incoming call from a friend, it takes no discernable time for the phone to display that person's name and avatar, as obtained by a look-up from the Contacts list, so why can't this info be used to play a different sound file, as well?

And given that an incoming call from someone not on my Contacts list is at least 99% likely to be a scam, why wouldn't phone programmers jump all over this opportunity to make our devices safer, and then indulge in a big splash of self-congratulations? Not to be all cynical or anything.

If I'm wrong about this, please do not hesitate to correct me.

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Deep thought: An instruction I have never followed. And will never follow.

"Rinse rice thoroughly before cooking."

If being submerged for thirty-five minutes in boiling water ain't gonna do it, ten seconds of cold water beforehand sure ain't, either.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Geezer Alert! (Memories on a Tuesday afternoon)

DEC PDP-8 computer next to Blutarsky from Animal House, with pencils up his nose

I don't remember my first experience of programming computers. Close to the beginning, though, for sure, was a course I took in my junior year of high school (c. 1976), where we learned how to write BASIC programs that ran on a DEC PDP-8, I think it was. There was one terminal, which displayed both what you were typing and your program's output on yellow paper, a giant roll of which lived in a cardboard box, below the terminal.

I do vividly remember the first time I made money programming. It was right around that time, probably a school break six months later, when I was asked by my friend's father to put together something that would display bar charts and stuff like that. In this case, I was using his Apple computer (model number long since vanished from memory), which hooked into the TV and used a cassette tape recorder to store programs. He paid me $10 for four hours' work, which was a considerable bump from what I had ever made before that; e.g., about a $1/hr for a paper route, babysitting, and lawn-mowing, maybe $1.50/hr for caddying.

The money was nice, but it wasn't the most important thing. Computers were just ... pretty cool, and the thought that it was not inconceivable that I could someday get paid for playing with them? Well, as I said, still a vivid memory.

Fast forward to the time that they became magical.

After having been excused from further attendance after my sophomore year in college ("Mr. Blutarsky: 0.0"), I still hung around with my erstwhile classmates over the next few years. Mostly in bars, admittedly. But for some reason, one night, I went with one of them to a class, which was an introduction to Lotus 1-2-3. Looking at the Wikipedia article, I now realize that this must have been very near the initial release, well before it became the proverbial killer app. Anyway ...


To be able to put a number in one cell, and then a formula in another cell that referred to the contents of the first cell, and displayed the result in place, and then instantaneously updated when you changed the first cell? That was when I got hooked.

I said magical, but it was something else, too. It felt like I was privy to a sorcerer's secrets. I could make something happen that looked magical, but it was, behind the curtain, absolutely, 100%, purely logical.

What brought about these memories?

A fascinating article by Amy Peniston, posted just a week ago, in which she describes her observation of ...

... a radical shift in data analysis methodologies. Excel-based models, which had seemed top-of-the-line suddenly were too slow and too rigid; Integration with 3rd party data sources, which was once a luxury, became the norm; And analysts began to utilize scripts to accomplish many labor-intensive tasks typically performed by hand or in spreadsheets.

Enabling this change is a suite of accessible Python-powered tools.

I apologize if that punchline didn't knock you off your couch, or home barstool, or ergonomically correct desk chair, or what have you. So let me tell you that there's more! She observed these changes while working in ... wait for it ... the reinsurance industry.

Wait, what? Still not sold?

Ah, well. Such is the lot of the nerd. But thanks for reading all the way through.

(h/t: PyCoder's Weekly)