January 2009 Archives

"Computer Science is not a science," proclaims a professor at MIT, drawing an X over the word. He's introducing an introductory course on Programming called » 'Structure & Interpretation of Computer Programs' .. aka SICP. (Watch the video yourself » HERE.)

The Wizard Book » Structure & Interpretation of Computer Programs, by Abelson & Sussman

Less than a minute into the lecture and already I'm curious. "If it's not a science," I wonder, "then...??"

"It might be engineering," he continues, as if reading my mind, "Or it might be art. We'll actually see that computer so-called 'science' actually has a lot in common with magic."

I smile at this point, having gained insight into the graphic displayed on the book's cover, understanding why some refer to it as » The Wizard Book.

Then he draws an X over the word 'Computer' and says, "It's not really about computers either." (Okay, now I'm really interested.)

"The reason we think Computer Science is about computers," he continues, "is for the same reason the ancient Egyptians thought geometry was about surveying instruments ..

.. » because, when a particular field is just getting started, and you don't really understand it very well, it's easy to confuse what you're doing with the tools you use."

So-called Computer Science (he explains) is really about formalizing intuitions & knowledge about » Process (a word he writes on the board .. he's a lefty, btw). He then clarifies himself by saying, "How to *do* things."

Quick shout-out to Peter S. (who lives in Baltimore). He helped me create a Perl script to change permissions (CHangeMODe) for the files-n-folders (located on the Rad server) that pertain to upgrading (actually installing) YaBB .. something that's been occurring with greater frequency.

YaBB: Yet aother Bulletin Board

Peter read where I wrote (on Jan 6th):

The worst part of "upgrading" YaBB (actually » installing) is chmod'ing all the files (setting file permissions .. to either 755 or 666). There are nearly a thousand files which need permissions set. Tedious maximus. Takes a while. (I hate it.)

I say "he helped me," but actually, he did most of the work himself, leaving only enough undone to help me learn some basic Perl scripting techniques.

We've been trading emails off-n-on (as time permits) the past few weeks. Now I have a script that works perfectly. It will save me untold hours of mind-numbing tedium. So I'm pretty stoked.

How to Design ProgramsBeen researching the best way to get my feet wet in the world of Programming .. and I think I might've found an answer » How to Design Programs.

More info about HtDP can be found at » Teach Scheme. It's based on the classic Structure & Interpretation of Computer Programs (SICP), which which Peter Norvig calls "probably the best introduction to computer science."

SICP was created by two professors at MIT. You can actually watch the SICP videos » HERE (very cool). Here, too.

Everything about both SICP & HtDP is free (freely downloadable) .. tho you can also purchase dead-tree versions of these texts.

HtDP, which is a watered-down version of SICP, even comes with a graphical "programming environment" called DrScheme, which offers 5 incremental language-functionality settings (to avoid overwhelming the n00b):

  1. Beginning Student
  2. Beginning Student with List Abbreviations
  3. Intermediate Student
  4. Intermediate Student with Lambda
  5. Advanced Student

Today is Martin Luther King day. I find it interesting (and coincidental) that the very next day we swear-in our first black president. What are the odds these two (seemingly unrelated) days/events would occur consecutively?

Martin Luther King Jr.

I've always been good in math. I got the highest grade, for example, in my (first) Calculus class .. even after I opted to skip pre-Calculus, and hadn't had a math class in/for 10 years. (Pre-Calc is now a mandatory prerequisite, I hear.)

I also got the highest grade in my Statistics class (taken the same semester as Calculus). The professor who taught my 'Stats' class taught two classes that semester. He told me I got the highest grade in *both* classes.

Depending on how you categorize the variables, the odds of these two days/events occurring consecutively..

.. would be between 1-in-365 (the number of days in a year) and 1-in-133,225 (which = 365x365, since each event could theoretically fall on any given day).

I could spend today's entire entry discussing the nuances associated with probability & statistics, but my point is » the odds are miniscule .. no matter how you dice the math.

My brain, for some reason, seems predisposed to identify the statistical curios associated with seemingly unrelated events ('coincidences'). It's not something I try to do, mind you. Just seems to occur on its own.

We know that the inauguration date would've been the same whether Obama or McCain was elected. And (we know that) MLK could've been born on any day. Moreover, his birth (which we celebrate with today's holiday) obviously had nothing to do with our presidential inauguration.

So the proximity of these two events seem totally unrelated (from a design standpoint). Yet in reality, and certainly in influence, they are obviously very much related. So much so that many feel the accomplishments of one man could not exist without the efforts of the other. (See my point?)

I'm not drawing any conclusions .. merely identifying a curious coincidence. And it's obvious the work MLK did back in the 60's preceded Obama's rise to the presidency (chronologically). So even the ordering of the consecutive days aligns correctly with historical events.

The Magic Words

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I like the coffee shop for its social aspect as much as I do for the caffeine. It's usually crowded, and there never seems to be enough tables. I've met many people there by asking, "Can I sit with you until a table opens up?" Nothing like sitting with interesting people, and hearing their stories while they're amp'ed-up on caffeine. =)

The Boy, the Bear, the Baron and the Bard

On days when I have the Bug, I bring along some children's books. (I've learned a lot about children's books over the years.) It used to be I was the only one, but now I see other parents doing the same.

One guy even shared saying, "My wife saw you reading to your son. Now she makes me bring books for our daughter." =)

Normally the Bug is friendly and engaging. Many have commented on his ability (for such a little kid) to carry on conversations with adults.

[One lady mentioned taking her similarly-aged son to weekly speech-development sessions after talking to the Bug .. cuz her son wasn't yet making full sentences.]

But during our reading-time, he doesn't want to engage with anyone, nor does he want me to converse with friends. He has even placed his hand over my mouth and said, "Don't talk, dada. Read!" (sounding more like 'ReeEEED!')

Of course, I feel bad for the nice folks who stop by our table, merely wanting to engage him for a minute and say hello .. especially after they haven't seen him for a while. They don't know it's not personal, but merely bad timing.

Earlier this week, I noticed a couple who seemed enchanted with him as he made the rounds, saying hello to different friends (seated at different tables), showing off his new pirate shirt (that his dada got for him).

Haven't seen the Bug for nearly a month. (Missed both his birthday & Christmas.) He's been back East with his mom for the holidays (.. and then some). When I arrived this morning, he came running out to the curb shouting, "Daddy! Daddy!"

Rad's Pink Cadillac That was a first. (Normally I have to park & knock before I can see him in the morning.)

Didnt even have a chance to turn off the car.

There he was. His eyes literally sparkled .. like sunlight dancing on water.

So excited was I to SEE him .. that I fumbled with the key .. unable to pull it out fast enough.

"Daddy! Daddy!" he said, glowing with anticipation as I approached, "I got a treasure chest!" "A treasure chest?" I repeated, picking him up. "Let's go see!"

"Momma! Momma!" he cried, yanking open the door and running inside, "My daddy's here! My daddy's here!" The excitement in his voice seemed to fill the whole house as it echoed outside. (I'm not welcome inside.)

It always strikes me the way he says, "My daddy's here," when I arrive .. instead of just (plain ol'), "Daddy's here." Is that possessive?

Little kids are so honest. If they like you (or not) .. you know it .. in no uncertain terms.

Rad Job Interview

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Had a job interview today. Haven't interviewed for a job since I got out of the Navy. Was kinda nervous. Wasn't so much the interview itself (cuz they were very cool), but rather the idea of interviewing that made me nervous. (Know what I mean?)

Job interview: What NOT to do

I dressed nice and wore a tie. Normally I only wear a tie to court (where I usually get killed by a system that is mom-biased). So the act of putting on a tie is normally associated with impending pain & suffering.

The position is with a software development group in a financial services company. They use bleeding-edge technology to develop cool software products, so I'm very excited about the prospect of working with them.

How it came about .. at the coffee shop last Friday, I ran into this guy who I've known for years (from the coffee shop), who has seen me there reading my books on XHTML/CSS and PHP. So he knows I'm into web development.

On Friday he says, "You looking for work?" (I originally thought he knew about a job .. not had one himself.) He checks his watch and says, "I gotta run, but give me a call later this afternoon and I'll tell you all about it." He hands me his card and runs off.

The boys at YaBB released a new version of their forum software » YaBB 2.3.1. I installed a copy of this new script to a temporary directory .. see here » Y.231 temp (« this link will go away when the upgrade is complete).

YaBB 2.3.1

I used a slightly different cookie at the new forum, so it shouldn't ruin your login at the current Rad forums.

The safest way to 'upgrade' the forums .. is to install a NEW copy of the most recent version (to a new/temporary directory) .. and configure everything at/for the new forum (.. while the old forum is running unaffected).

After everything at the new forum is hunky-dory, I'll put both forums in Maintenance mode (which takes them out of service), and then copy (via the cp command from the Linux shell) the files located in /Members and /Messages .. from old to new.

I think we have about 1,500 members and nearly 40,000 posts (in some 5,000 threads). Takes a while to copy all those files.

Statistics suggest 2008 was the worst year most Americans can recall .. with stocks posting their biggest annual drop since the Great Depression. (Only 1907 and 1931 posted bigger negatives.)

Family of the Great Depression, liberated from a sense of futility

People who work with such statistics seem to agree things will likely worsen before they improve. Exactly how much worse is, of course, the source of much speculation. (Because nobody knows for sure.)

From what I've gathered (in talking and listening), most people are hoping for the best, but "preparing for the worst," which means they're buying nothing but essentials (.. further depressing the economy).

Might be worth noting that the worst year most Americans will ever see would still represent the best year for people living in many other parts of the world. So the terms 'worst' and 'best' are relative. (Important we maintain perspective.)

Interesting that (as someone recently noted) bin Laden's aim in targeting the World Trade Center towers was to criple the US economy .. (cuz that's how they defeated the mighty Soviet Red Army in Afganistan).

Another thing I find interesting is that everybody now claims to have seen it coming. Even at the coffee shop, I hear people saying things like, "Everybody knew this was coming. No big surprise."

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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