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Showing posts from 2015

Advice to programmers! And writers too!!!!!!!

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I saw a program save a file and then show this dialog:




That exclamation mark told me a whole history. It told me that the programmer had had a hard time getting the file saving function to work. In alpha and beta releases the program had crashed at various points during the process. The programmer had not slept wondering what was wrong. And he wanted recognition for his work.


So when he finally got it to work, he was surprised, hence the exclamation mark. And you, the user, should be grateful that the program has done what it has been designed to do. The correct functioning of the program is so rare that it is worthy of an exclamation mark.


Neither Word not AutoCAD tell you that the file has been saved (for example). These programs do what you ask obediently, and silently. It is not a surprise that they work properly.


If you ever use a program which puts exclamation marks in its messages, do backups of your data often.


And if you write programs which put exclamation marks in messages, ple…

Advice to programmers.

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When you have even a slightly difficult problem you should switch off the computer, get a piece of paper and a pen, go away from your desk and solve it "manually".

The temptation to code a vague idea you have in your head directly at the keyboard is difficult to resist. I was reminded of this as I sat waiting in a sport's center for my daughter to finish her kickboxing. There was music booming out of hall where the 40 something skeletons were maintaining their skeletoness, as well as a radio station talking at me from the ceiling. 
I was bored and thought I might as well try to solve a stupid little graphics programming problem that had been bothering me. So I found a free page in my diary, and in less than a minute it was done:

The point is that sitting in front of the computer is not always the best way to write computer programs. The computer screen, and the keyboard, distract you from the concept you need to implement.

Often the concept is independent ofthe computer lan…

All religions are death cults, but it is not the end of the world!

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All religions are death cults, but it is not the end of the world! 
All religions basically say: "Do what I tell you to do, and you will have paradise and eternal life."
Which leads to some people to  think that life now, here, today, is worthless. And death (by murder,  suicide or old age) will take you, via religion, to a better place.
But! There is something you can do! Support the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science...


...and if you do it before the 31st December 2015 your contribution will be doubled by Louis Appignani.


What have immigrants ever done for me?

Well, one immigrant gave me half my DNA. My dad came to the UK from "the continent" at the end of Second World War and met my mum – and here I am.
My parents were told by the teachers that I was not quite good enough to get into Grammar School. I would not pass the Eleven-Plus which was the exam which determined, in the UK, in those times, whether you went to a "good" school (Grammar School) or not. (Why someone's fate should be decided at 11 years old I cannot tell you.)
Anyway, when my parents (one native English and one a refugee immigrant), heard this, they sent me to a maths teacher to learn how to pass the IQ tests. And this maths teacher was a Polish immigrant. He taught me how to pass the 11+. This immigrant taught me how to pass an IQ test. And I did.
So, one immigrant gave me half my DNA, and another got me into a good school.

You just can't shut up can you Owen?

- You just can't shut up can you Owen?
- No.
- Even when no-one is listening?
- Even when no-one is listening.


Would you miss this?

Would you miss the blog? I've noticed that a large proportion of "viewers" are actually automated system trying to get me to click back to see where the link is coming from. So I have even fewer viewers than I imagined.

This blog is a good way for me to put down ideas and experiences, but if nobody is out there I may as well just talk to myself. Talking to myself I can be more honest about some things...

So, leave a comment if you would like me to carry on writing.




The VW trick is at least 30 years old

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I used to work for a company that designed and made graphics cards. In those days, the 1980s, there was a lot of competition. When you bought a PC you would, if you wanted to use play the latest games or use "high end" CAD, choose a better than standard graphics card. There were maybe 30 makers of graphics cards all competing on speed and price. And magazines, like PC World and Your PC, and so on would run benchmark tests on graphics cards to see which were the fastest, which had the most colors, which cost the least and so on. But above all, which graphics cards were the fastest. The results would be published in explicit tables of glory and shame.
In these days of high frame rate 3d animation it seems ridiculous. But in those days the speed of a graphics card it was important. It was what made your screen zip along and allowed you to work faster.
We could not understand how a competitor could always be rated fastest in one of the magazine's tests. We knew technically exa…

The strangeness of Sam Harris's support of Tim Ferriss ("The Four Hour Work Week").

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I like Sam Harris's books. He's an aethistic neuroscientist/philospher who writes plainly and clearly. I was curious about Tim Ferriss's podcasts. I did not know that the two were slightly connected. In one of the Ferris podcasts Sam Harris mentions that he wishes he could do all or some of the stuff recommended in "The Four Hour Work Week". This connection seems strange to me...


One of Tim Ferris's ways of working less (according to Ferriss himself) was to set up a brain supplement selling site. The supplement is called BrainQuicken. Hmm. There have been no tests which proved it work. Ferriss claims to have made $40,000 a month from it. Those claims have been disputed.
So, Sam Harris support of Ferriss is a sort of testimonial. A testimonial of a person who claims to make money selling worthless pills. Is it worse or better that he makes $40,000 a month? Because if it is true then he is taking $480,000 a year from the gullible, some of whom probably can ill …

Self induced health-scare over...

...I stopped planning my own funeral.

(And listened, with a smile on my face, to Andy Narell's "Tatoom".)

Anyway I take comfort from my "moments"...

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I went for a walk the other morning, quite early, and had another of those "moments". The straight town road was in front of me, and at the end of it a cloudy horizon. Above me the sky was clear, slowly brightening. And behind me at about 40° elevation, a nearly full moon. The road ran East-West. There was a scattering of small long clouds just above the denser ones on the horizon. And there was Venus, above and to the right of where I imagined the sun would rise shortly. The light from the hidden (to me) sun hitting the moon's surface.


The moment that I had was that if we were not used to such sights (if we would not take them for granted), it would feel as if we were living on "another planet", or in a science fiction film maybe.


And inside that moment was another feeling of what I was really looking at. From space, and not to scale, it was this:


From space, and more to scale, this:




(I don't know what device you're reading this on but in the above image…

When I can't sleep...

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When I can't sleep I listen out for dogs barking in the night. 

I don't know why but it makes me feel good.


The train line from Gallarate to Milano is close by, and I listen out for trains too. The idea of mysterious voyages in the night can make me fall asleep. This is linked to Toranomon Station when I lived in Tokyo. It means "Tiger Gate". Romantic.

Planes are almost as good as trains, flying passed the Moon maybe.
Flying through the night as I lie in bed.


If those fail, then reciting poems I'm learning by heart can sometimes do it. And Death Shall Have No Dominion. Out Revels Now Are Over. She Walks In Beauty Like The Night. The Eagle. I Met A Traveller...

Three Places

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Sometimes, when studying for my A-levels years ago, in Bigglsewade, I'd go to the cemetery over the hedge. The hedge was at the end of our back garden. An unofficial path ran along that hedge, passed all the back gardens, to the small road which ran through the cemetery. The road was (is?) only opened for funerals. In the center of the cemetery is a building which looks like a small church, but I don't think ever was. It is a sort of storehouse for the grave diggers and gardeners.



In my last year of school, I'd go into the cemetery and study Physics or Eng. Lit. sitting on one of the benches, near evergreen trees under a blue sky. It was a pleasant place to stay, though not really very good for serious study. Too relaxing and the curved surface of the bench would make setting the books down and writing awkward.


In Yokohama, Japan, about eight years later, my teacher Hideko Imai Sensei took me to the British Commonwealth Cemetery. 
If is full of the graves of soldiers who died…

Poetry, Backgammon and Tension

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The third verse of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam goes like this:


And, as the Cock crew, those who stood before
The Tavern shouted--"Open then the Door!
You know how little while we have to stay,
And, once departed, may return no more."

It is one of the poems I'm learning by heart. (Not the whole thing, it is far too long, but the first few verses.) 
Anyway the second line has, to me, a sort of tension:



"Open then the Door!" Because it would be more natural to say say "open the Door then" but that would not rhyme. So "then" is put in the "wrong" place...

"Open then the Door!"
...and gives me pleasure. It happens in other rhyming poems. And I noticed that I get the same feeling of tension when playing backgammon.


If you don't know anything about backgammon you can go to Wikipedia. Like poker it is a game of chance where skilled players beat unskilled players, eventually. Like poker there are championships for money. You hav…

I Fell In Love With Those Curves.

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I saw the flower of the melissa plant on my balcony and fell in love with the curves. The flowers die pretty quickly and the one I wanted to look at with my Veho was a poor shriveled up thing by the time I got round to it. Luckily others had blossomed in the meantime, but even then it took me a while to find one which matched my inital impression.


Here are the first attempts, the width of each of these photos is about 1cm.



Then I found her:
A tiny thing but leaping up out of the green with a hairy tongue sticking out and a smaller spiral one almost hidden within the mouth.


Ah, those curves, those curves... especially the upper one going up at more than 45° then sloping over towards the mouth. Is it just me?

Of Socks and Sandals.

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Are you one of those mediocre minded sheep humans who thinks that people who wear sandals with socks are sexual perverts (at worst) or unimaginative techies (at best)? If so, switch off your brain (already in standbye it seems), stop reading this and get back to posting photos of your latest meal on FaceBook.
I've decided that instead of staying in the summer office all day with steaming sweaty smelly feet it would be best to wear sandals, with or without socks. But since I live in a fashion dictatorship (where fat girls show off rolls of flesh above tight jeans and thin women clump loudly and clumsily around on shoes that make them look as if they have two wooden legs and men wear long floppy knitted hats because, because, well, because, why???)... Hmmm. Got distracted. Anyway. As I was saying since I live in a fashion dictactorship I have to wear sandals with socks, secretly. So I have to find black sandals and always were them with black socks.
Well Owen, I can hear you say, tha…

Nostalgia

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Nostalgia is not necessarily for a long time ago. I'm oddly nostalgic for last Christmas. Christmas 2014. The cat had an ischemia the day before Christmas Eve. I could not believe it, suddenly his back legs just went floppy. Within a few seconds. He started to drag himself around the room, back legs laying out behind him like two extra shorter tails. It was horrible and sad to watch.
So Christmas Eve was spent at various vets, and the conclusion was, that he'd probably regain some control and power in his legs, but not be as he was before. I did not believe them. We were told to help him regain this power and control by lifting his back end up with a scarf under his belly and accompanying him on his walks around the garden. Only using two front legs fo 90% of the work.
It was a terrible time. Ok, not terrible like being in a country invaded by ISIS, or having a nearest and dearest being diagnosed with incurable cancer. I know, I know, but I have got it all in perspective, don&#…

Spider on Mint

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I've already blogged about how much I like my Veho (and how to get 200X magnification out of it) so when I saw a tiny spider on my mint plant I decided it was time to get the USB microscope out again.

I brought the mint plant into the house onto the computer table, but as usual getting things into focus and at a decent magnification is a bit of a struggle. I managed like this:


You can see the tiny dot of the spider in real life and its image from the Veho on the screen. It is about 1mm large. I balanced the microscope stand on a book and a box and was careful not to break the web of the spider:
It was disturbed by me poking around in its jungle and started to run around a bit. I managed to get a few more nice shots:

The motion blur below was caused by the spider running around too much.



Aren't nature, science and engineering wonderful?

Credits.

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Nice photo eh? Who should get the credit? I think credit should be given to...
The universe for being so strange and beautiful.The designers of the optics of the camera.The designers of the electronics of the camera.The programmers who wrote the software inside the camera.The production engineers who put it all together so reliably and cheaply. The photographer did 0.0001% of the work compared with those above.

Scary Chewing Gum – The Super-People

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I was chewing away on some gum when I suddenly noticed the picture on the box...


… I mean just look at those people! Don't they seem like super human giants just ready to take over the world?
It looks like the designer found a stock photo of some healthy Scandinavian blue-eyed blondes and added extra-big teeth. The image scares me. And it is false advertising, I've chewed through a ton of this stuff, but my hair is still grey, my eyes are still grey and I still don't smile wildly like they do.

And what are they looking at? The universe and beings they dominate?

Intelligent women and stupid men

She was young and intelligent, and because she was intelligent she had doubts.

He was young and stupid, and, because he was stupid, he had no doubts.
When she suggested that she'd like to become a doctor, maybe even a medical researcher, he smiled down at her, full of love and condescension, and told her that women were not made for that sort of thing. Women were too delicate and not intellectually capable of the effort required. He was very sure of what he said. She was full of doubt, and accepted his clear conviction of his own rightness.
It was that sort of culture.
Over the next fifteen years she came to understand (without a doubt) that he really was stupid. And realised she'd wasted her life because of him.

Is dopamine what makes me write this blog?

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I have so few readers, why do I carry on with this blog? My best so far is 60 readers in a single day:


Is it a tiny amount of dopamine which gives me pleasure as I see that I did better today than yesterday?
An experiment in the 1950s showed that rats contained in a cage continually pressed a lever which resulted in a them getting a dose of dopamine. Pushing the lever closed an external electronic circuit which stimulated electrodes embedded in the rat's brain, and this caused the dopamine release. The rat preferred pressing the lever to exercising, eating, or even sex.
This wikipedia article explains more.
But I heard about this on a radio program and it occurred to me that even a doubling from 7 to 14 readers may provoke a tiny release of pleasure giving chemicals in my brain. So I write yet another blog post in the (unconscious?) hope of getting another dopamine release the following day.
I mean to say, I could be doing more ambitious things. I could (slowly) write the greatest E…