azureabstraction > out of the blue

Beware of Skimmers

April 7th, 2009

Watch out when swiping your debit card.


April 7th, 2009

This is sad. I feel like I haven't been very responsible today, like maybe I devoted too much time to blogs, or something. But I just counted up my time spent: 5 hours at work this morning, 3 hours devoted to our senior project this afternoon, and 2 hours studying tonight for a quiz tomorrow (by catching up on readings). That's 10 hours of work. What does that say about the days that I feel good about being responsible?

I can't wait to graduate. I don't ever want to be this busy again. It's not how I roll.

Justice League of Coders

March 30th, 2009

Josh recently asked me what I was doing. As is often the case, I said, "Oh, I'm just coding." He responded, "I very much doubt that." We came to the following conclusion:

I never just code, but I always code for justice!

Yes, the only reason behind this post is that "justice league of coders" returns no hits on Google. Nor does "justice league of programmers".

2009 Hugo Awards

March 24th, 2009

This year I've read every one of the Hugo nominees for best novel, and was excited in turn when each of them was published. Since April 2006 (via my book tracker), I've read 10 unique books by Neil Gaiman (13 total readings), 9 by Charles Stross, 6 by Cory Doctorow, 5 by John Scalzi, and 4 by Neal Stephenson. I read the blogs of Gaiman, Stross, and Scalzi, and follow, of which Doctorow is a founding member and constant contributor. I would read Stephenson's blog in a heartbeat, if he had one.

If I had to choose, I'd give it to either Anathem, by Neal Stephenson, or The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. I'm not sure which, because they have very different strengths. Anathem is an intricately-realized world that forces the reader to engage with the differences between it and our own. The Graveyard Book is both resonant and elegant, taking few shortcuts in its treatment of the process of growing up. Cory Doctorow's Little Brother comes a close third, especially for its engagement with copyright law and civil rights. John Scalzi's offering, Zoe's Tale, was good, but not groundbreaking (especially in the context of the rest of the series). Saturn's Children, by Charles Stross, is (by his own admission) one of the weaker of his recent Hugo-nominated novels.

I'm both excited and disappointed by this slate. Excited, because it gives recognition to many of my favorite authors, but also disappointed, because it doesn't point out any new novels that I should be reading. Not that I have any time to read novels right now. Soon.

Luckily there is a lot of unfamiliar stuff under other categories, and much of it has been placed online by the publishers. I've already listened to the StarShipSofa podcast of "Exhalation", Ted Chiang's nominated short story. It's an elegant tale well worth 45 minutes, by one of my favorite short story writers.

You should all be reading science fiction. It's important!

Microsoft Office on Ubuntu

March 21st, 2009

Well, I am quite impressed. Microsoft Office 2003 installed perfectly on Ubuntu using Wine 1.01. I would use OpenOffice or AbiWord (and I do, for some things), but their limited compatibility with Microsoft Office means that I can never quite trust formatting. I now have three installs of the same version of Office on this machine.

I followed these instructions, although I had to use "wine setup.exe" rather than "wine autorun.exe". The instructions are trivial, though: navigate to media/cdrom0 (or appropriate media/* location for the drive), and run "wine setup.exe" (see above). I left the file associations with OpenOffice, because it's trivial to "Open with > Wine Windows Program Loader".

Linux is more and more a viable alternative to Windows. Eventually it may be more useful, because of being able to run both Windows and Linux programs. Go open source!

Random Rant about Glasses, ca. 1957

March 18th, 2009

Funny what you come across while researching science fiction. This is from a 1957 article by Isaac Asimov:

This has happened over and over again. Betty Grable (or Marilyn Monroe or Jane Russell) is a librarian or a schoolteacher (the two feminine occupations that, by Hollywood convention, guarantee spinsterhood and unhappiness) and naturally she wears big, tortoise-shell glasses (the most intellectual type) to indicate the fact.

Now to any functional male in the audience, the sight of Betty Grable, or similar female, in glasses evokes a reaction in no way different from the sight of her without classes. Yet to the distorted view of the actor playing the hero of the film, Betty-Grable-in-glasses is plain. At some point in the picture, a kindly female friend of Betty Grable, who knows the facts of life, removes Betty's glasses. It turns out, suddenly, that she can see perfectly well without them, and our hero falls violently in love with the now beautiful Betty and there is a perfectly glorious finale.

Is there a person alive so obtuse as not to see that (a) the presence of glasses in no way ruined Betty's looks and that our hero must be perfectly aware of that, and (b) that if Betty were wearing glasses for any sensible reason, removing them would cause her to kiss the wrong male since she probably would be unable to tell one face from another without them?

No, the glasses are not literally glasses. They are merely a symbol, a symbol of intelligence. The audience is taught two things: (a) Evidence of extensive education is a social hindrance and causes unhappiness; (b) Formal education is unnecessary, can be minimized at will, and the resulting limited intellectual development leads to happiness.

The interesting question is whether I would think glasses are hot without that stereotype.

Recognizing Pi Day

March 17th, 2009

Belated, I know. The pictures themselves were more timely. Then on Monday, Sarah made key lime pie while I was at work. It is delicious, and two pieces remain in the fridge.

Winter thunderstorm!

March 3rd, 2009

It's raining, not snowing, but still. Pretty awesome. Never been in one of these before.

Good Old Days of '92

February 24th, 2009

Ah, for the good old days when Usenet users would mention FTP downloads of their research paper in TeX format. Incidentally, I found this in a record of a famous flame war that occurred between Linus Torvalds (chief architect of Linux) and Andrew Tanenbaum (author of MINIX) in 1992 on the relative merits of monolithic kernels vs microkernels. I wouldn't be too surprised if the file ( was still there (albeit in a different folder). Such persistence is an indicator of significant badassery.

Did you know that there was a research successor to Unix called Plan 9 from Bell Labs? How much geekier can you get? Too bad it never really made it into the wild.

It's funny how the early 90s seem like ancient history, when you're talking computers.

An Ordered List

February 22nd, 2009

Some bad things:

  1. When you are unable to sleep.
  2. When laptop battery indicator lights contribute to 1.
  3. When there are chocolate wrappers on your floor.
  4. When there are enough of 3 to be the most obvious solution to 2.
  5. When 3 is probably the biggest contributor to 1.
  6. When blogging becomes more reasonable than trying to solve 1.