So I've finally found a perk of having gotten my more-or-less faculty status: I qualify for a faculty office, at least for now, per my boss. 

Right now, I'm in an office of 4 (total), next to a window.  A fairly small not-quite-cubicle, natch.
My new office will be a single office, with no natural light at all.  (Actually, 1 of 2 such; I get to pick)
Of course, the office I would otherwise have been moving into has the same window (and desk space) as my current one, but is typically MUCH darker.

I'm excited about the private office, but somewhat depressed by the lack of natural light.  So, should I 
a) register my preference on the new office and move
b) express my reservations and take it, or
c) ask to just move to the other office with the window but less light?

I think the right answer is to just report which office I prefer and move; it's a nice little perk, and gets rid of some other annoyances (though introduces yet others).  And I certainly don't want to be or seem ungrateful.  But there's a small part of my soul rebelling....
Back before perl became such a big part of the web, the Perl book started out with several introductory chapters, all dedicated to Job (the Biblical character) and his resource-management problems.  So you got ways of writing small text-based databases, tracking children, camels, etc; there was the clay-tablet printer command, there were the pigeons carrying messages.  It was cute, well-done, and (relatively) memorable--I can't quite quote it verbatim any more, but the book has been out of date for nearly 10 years now.

Around perl 5, all that stuff vanished from the book.  Perl had become a Real Tool For the Masses, and I guess levity wasn't allowed anymore.

Luckily, the GWT isn't all that old yet.  From Add CSS Styling:

"Well, it turns out there's a special type of secondary style called a dependent style. Once you learn about dependent styles, young Padawan, you will understand."


When cloud computing (inevitably) meets leaky abstractions, it's rain computing.

It's awfully good for making unpronounceable acronyms suddenly pronounceable.  In particular, as used casually by a CA-based colleague, "the G. W. T." becomes "the goot" (rhymes with "boot").  Thank you, Welsh, for that vowel.  I know it'll save me precious microseconds in my speech.
Because, you know, the world really needed 12-sided dice printed with the names of notes.  Preferably associated (as these apparently are) with another bizarre system of mysticism. what you get when you recieve 4 months' worth of data files in 2-3 days, with a new file available every 5-10 minutes. 
Last week, I got the following series of alerts from the MBTA's T-alerts system:

1. Framnghm/Worc: All inbound trains experiencing over 30 min delays due to CSX radio communication failure. 11/6/2008 5:08 AM
 Sent: 11/6/2008 5:09 AM

2. Framnghm/Worc: #500 (4:45am inbound) experiencing 20-25 min delay from Ashland into Boston due to CSX radio communication failure. 11/6/2008 5:08 AM
 Sent: 11/6/2008 5:23 AM

3. Framnghm/Worc Line experiencing 15-25 min inbound delays due to CSX radio communication failure 11/6/2008 5:51 AM
 Sent: 11/6/2008 5:54 AM

4. Framnghm/Worc #504 (6:05am ib) experiencing 15 min inbound delays due to CSX radio communication failure 11/6/2008 5:51 AM
 Sent: 11/6/2008 7:15 AM

From this series of alerts, we can conclude that train #506 (6:30 am inbound) is:
a) between 15 and 25 minutes late, per #3, since it's an instance of an inbound train on the Framingham/Worcester line
b) on time, since specifying that #504 (the previous train) is 15 minutes late cancels any general statements about the line, or
c) we can draw no conclusion.

The answer, of course, was b.  Perfectly logical, right?  Perhaps someone could work this kind of inference into, say, the parser for t-tweet....


Nov. 4th, 2008 12:57 pm
As I await election results, I'm flashing back to the first time I watched election returns on the web, in 1994.  I'm pretty sure it was the very first chance; DEC (remember them?) partnered with the California Secretary of State's office to pioneer putting up election results (governor, mostly, but also ballot propositions and Congressional seats) as soon as they came in.  (I found a post-mortem article; I'd forgotten they had a gopher feed, too.)  Sadly, the results generally derailed that kind of civic-minded innovation--it was the beginning of the Contract [preposition] America.  I'm pretty sure we watched the Secretary of State who'd made the whole thing possible lose, and badly; we commented on it at the time.  Made for some *really* depressing watching. 

The technology was primitive as heck... )

but the interface was awfully similar to today's. )
But we kept wishing we had a web site that would let us see the rest of the country.  Now, of course, we do.  We've come a long way, baby.


Oct. 20th, 2008 08:52 pm
Untagged, but this looks like fun.

"Here are the rules: Grab the nearest book. Open the book to page 56. Find the fifth sentence. Post the text of the next two to five sentences in your journal/blog along with these instructions."

8 The catcher wears a ___ on his face.
10 The batter stands at home ___.

(Children's Word Games and Crossword Puzzles--J's, of course)

Except oops, this is closer (though under an old monitor):

Looking down, he saw to his horror that all the whitewash was running out of the bucket.  He felt the rope begin to mvoe again as the bucket got lighter, and then it shot past him again as he descended to land with a bump in the middle of a sea of whitewash.
    Even then his troubles werent' over.  As he tried to regain his balance on theslippery floor, he let go of the rope, and with a rushing noise the bucket shot downwards again and landed on top of his head, completely covering him.

Paddington Treasury, "A Spot of Decorating"

From which we learn that, um, I have too many kids' books lying around?

So if you get an alert saying that your train is running 20-25 minutes late, and a while later you get another that says, in its entirety,
"Framnghm/Worc inbound train#506 (6:25am) annulled," do you interpret it to mean that
a) the previous alert is annulled
b) the train is canceled, or
c) that the MBTA can't compose a coherent email to save its life?

I went for option a, and was correct, but for heaven's sake!  And the text message version didn't even show up all the way on my phone: that comes out as
"Framingham/Worc inbound train#506 (6:25am)A"

(Well, OK, I think option c is also correct.)

ETA: apparently, I need option d) all of the above.
The Worcester-based person I often walk in with said that, from her point of view, the train was canceled.  I guess they laid on another train in Framingham or something. 

Y'know, maybe the SMS could be that terse (or even terser), and the email could spell out what's going on.  Except that that would require, like, actual programming....  Sigh.
One of my co-workers put this together recently:

Apparently it's getting a bunch of press, too.

To complement the new walking directions in Google Maps, I'd love to have a query for walking directions from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine give you the Appalachian Trail.  (Right now, it gives you a backroads route.) 

a quibble

Jul. 2nd, 2008 10:12 am
I think Google uses words (or counts?) differently than I do.

From the Google Visualization Gallery:
"Most of the content in this directory was developed by other companies or by Google's users, not by Google."

If you look through the "All" list, you see 20 items, of which 17 are "By: Google", leaving 3 by others (well, one other group, actually).

15%?  Most?  Perhaps this is simply a meaning of the word "most" of which I was not previously aware.  Or perhaps simply written in the "hopeful past" tense. 

scarf story

Jun. 3rd, 2008 03:28 pm
I've been wanting to tell this story for a while, but it's taken a while to get a good picture.  Many of you already know it.

This winter, I made a scarf (below) for [profile] catalpa92.  When it was done, he took it into work, hung it near his desk, and eventually suggested that people figure it out.  Many of his coworkers did, taking from a few seconds to minutes (or even longer) to get the answer.    It apparently took over an entire afternoon.  When I came to lunch there for the first time, a week later, I got a sense of it all.  My officemate impressed everyone nearby by getting it within a minute.  And someone I met in the lunchroom said, after a bit, "Are you the one who made the scarf?  You know that stock dip last week?  That was you."

Now, my elder child had fairly recently finished reading (and very much enjoying) a certain book (thanks again, [personal profile] saxikath!).  Upon hearing about all this, J was very excited and amused, and then became thoughtful.  He looked at us, and asked an excellent question,  
Last Tuesday, the Administrator on Duty sent out email about flooding in my building.

On Tuesday afternoon, we got an update on the "water incursion", and indication that we'd likely be back in today.

Today it's a "water incursion event", and Wednesday.

I wonder what other nouns they can add, as they discover that they need even more time.

I realized that the situation is still so fluid that it cannot properly be termed an "event" at this point.  Instead, I suggest, we have a post-water incursion event situation.
That wasn't a flood, it was a "water incursion". 

Apparently my area will be closed for the next few days. 

Still need to get my backpack.  Whee.
I kind of like SEEDIE, the Society for Exorbitantly Expensive and Difficult to Implement EHR’s.  [Note for the non-initates: EHR = Electronic Health Record]  (Over a picture of a cute if overly-made-up girl: "What does this little girl have to do with selecting an EHR? Absolutely nothing! But it does register 10 on the warm and fuzzy meter!")

Also, of course, 

"Is interoperability a pipe dream? Absolutely not. Is interoperability expensive? We think it should be! " 

So there you have it.


May. 19th, 2008 09:04 am
We're getting a set of steps and decks installed in the back yard, to make it possible to get down the steep hill to the nice bit at the bottom.  We've run into an issue, though, that it looks like we need lots more railings than initially planned. 

The irony, to a software developer, of finding your spouse saying to a contractor "keep it simple" (with the unspoken "stupid" of "KISS: keep it simple, stupid" echoing in your head), and "do the simplest thing that works", is impressive.  (Software development was traditionally thought of as a building project, where requirements have to be nailed down first, resulting in a design that's carved in stone. So you get a plan that's as feature-rich as possible, from the start.  Agile software development processes brought in both sayings quoted above, as part of a rebellion against that building-project mindset.  Only, it doesn't work there, either....)

(Our contractor was also saying, again, that a project like this requires substantially more flexibility than he would have hoped, and repeatedly expressed gratitude that we're willing to work with him on sacrificing features, simplifying design, and staying flexible.  I wonder if being agile-oriented software developers helps. 

I'm also amused that I think (think?) we've FINALLY got them taking out a bench we never wanted but the designer put in.  This, I suspect, is very much like managing software developers.   sigh.)
The morning commute went something like this, taking a total of 2 minutes:

Anger: Announcement says the 7:25 train is running 20-30 minutes late.  I got 2 separate text messages about late trains, NEITHER about this.
Relief: Oh, here comes the train.
Anxiety: Wait! It's NOT STOPPING!
Confusion: There's a second engine, and a whole second train !?!?  Stuck to the first !?!?
Relief: Oh, THIS one's stopping.

Then we made, not one, but two stops at Yawkey, so that each train could unload passengers.  Never a dull moment.

I got a link to the Forecast Advisor from the Freakonomics blog.  Wow!  You have the forecast for today and the next few, but much more data as well.  Clicking on a day allows you to see previous days' forecasts for that day (indicating stability of forecast).  It also lets you know how accurate various sites have been for the last month and year.  And that's not all. There's all kinds of cool discussion on their FAQ. 

Data!  Geekery!  Wow!
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