Wednesday, July 21, 2021

DotNet BOTR

It's been a while (more than a decade, actually) since I worked seriously in C#, and so I had rather lost track of what's going on in that community.

But recently I stumbled upon BOTR, the DotNet Book Of The Runtime.

What a great resource! Each article is clearly written and useful on its own, but most of them lead further with many references to even far more detailed information about DotNet internals.

I have no idea if or when I'll ever be back in the C# programming world again, but it is certainly pegging my geek-o-meter to dig through this treasure trove of system programming details.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Wake: a very short review

After listening to an interview with the author on NPR, I picked up a copy of Rebecca Hall's Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts.

This is a very unusual book.

First of all, it is unusual because it is a graphic novel. I don't generally read many graphic novels, and it's been a while since I read one.

It's also unusual because it is, or tries to be, non-fiction. I guess the best way to describe it is as historical fiction. Hall, who is an academic historian and professor, wrote Wake as sort of a memoir of her work in trying to learn about the role that women played in slave revolts more than 300 years ago. The non-fiction aspect of Wake concerns Hall's efforts to uncover the truth about what happened during these incidents; the historical fiction aspect of Wake takes over when Hall, having reached the limit of what can be learned from the historical record, decides that, as she puts it:

It is time for a measured use of historical imagination in order to reconstruct a story.

Wake is simply remarkable, words fail me (which is why, I suppose, the graphical novel approach works so well). I found that I had to read through the book quite slowly, taking my time with the drawings, understanding the various perspectives that Hall was bringing.

Wake is not an easy read.

But I hope it finds an enormous audience, for surely it should.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Everything is buzzing, in the wrong way

These are NOT the headlines I wanted to see today:

  • L.A. County Sees Increased Spread of COVID-19
    The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) confirms a 165% increase of new cases over last week with 839 new cases of COVID-19.

    The County’s daily average case rate is now 3.5 cases per 100,000 people, an increase from last week’s rate of 1.74 cases per 100,000.

    Today’s daily test positivity rate is 2.5%, also an increase from last week’s rate of 1.2%.
  • Los Angeles County sees exponential growth in Covid-19 cases as Delta variant becomes dominant, worrying officials
    "We do continue to see an uptick in cases and hospitalizations," Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Thursday. "Deaths, fortunately, continue to be relatively low, but as hospitalizations continue to increase, we anticipate that deaths might also increase."
  • Average new COVID-19 cases double in Alameda County
    the county is experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases that could exceed the spring wave earlier this year.

    Officials said it’s more than doubled. The average number of new cases was as low as about 30 a day. Now the average is up to 70 a day.

    Health officer Nicholas Moss believes we aren’t seeing the impact of the 4th of July holiday just yet.

    “It takes a few days when you’ve been exposed to COVID to get sick.”

Sunday, July 4, 2021

The Marriage Plot: a very short review

Jeffrey Eugenides, famous for several books, was new to me when I picked up The Marriage Plot, a gift from my sister-in-law.

The Marriage Plot is sort of a romance, with a romantic triangle consisting of three Brown University students. One studies Biology, one is a Religious Studies student, and the third studies Semiotics. Madeleine, the Semiotics student, supplies the title for The Marriage Plot; she is writing her senior thesis on the marriage plots that underlaid the works of Austin, Bronte, Eliot, and other Victorian-era authors. Going into the book I thought this little detail was going to prove interesting and was greatly anticipating it, but it ended up being just a tossaway item, one in a fairly long list of tantalizing details of the book that only seemed to result in false hopes.

Our three protagonists finish college, travel the world, move on to graduate school, have adventures, yet somehow don't really seem to change terribly much, no matter how many earnest conversations on Derrida and Barthes ensue, or how many vivid encounters they have on their travels (one of them volunteers in one of Mother Teresa's convents in Calcutta).

One of my favorite parts of the book was an episode that occurred several times in which Madeleine experiences the odd feeling that she's somehow living out one of Ludwig Bemelmans's children's books:

On the day before they flew back to the States, Madeleine left Leonard in the room while she went out to buy him cigarettes. The summer weather was lovely, the colors of the flowers in the park so bright they hurt her eyes. Up ahead, she saw an amazing sight, a troop of schoolgirls being led by a nun. They were crossing the street, heading into the courtyard of their school. Smiling for the first time in weeks, Madeleine watched them proceed. Ludwig Bemelmans had written sequels to Madeline. In one, Madeline had joined a gypsy circus. In another, she'd been saved from drowning by a dog. But, despite all her adventures, Madeline had never gotten any older than eight.

Bemelmans, I think, made no bones about his Madeline: she was a child, and he was telling stories to children about children. But what sort of book is The Marriage Plot? At the end, it just sort of halts, having run out of steam more than anything else.

At some point, the voice also told Mitchell that, in addition to never living with Madeleine, he would never go to divinity school, either. It was unclear what he was going to do with his life, but he wasn't going to be a monk, or a minister, or even a scholar.

Eugenides appears to have just become bored of his three characters, and, having demonstrated that all failed to live up to their early promise, he washes his hands of them and walks away. The Marriage Plot seemed like an odd little book from an otherwise much-ballyhooed author. Probably I just didn't get it. Or maybe, it was just that sort of book.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

The ferries are buzzing, too

Today is the day the San Francisco Bay Ferries are back:

Yes, you read that right: more routes, more departures, lower fares.

Not often you see news like that.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Everything is just buzzing

It's been two weeks since the state re-opened, and everything is just buzzing. The roads are packed, as are restaurants, bars, etc.

And it's not just the retail world that's buzzing. Here's a thoroughly bizarre (paywalled, unfortunately) article, with a thoroughly bizarre headline: Alameda office building shopping spree widens in tech hub.

A shopping spree for office buildings in the tech and biotech hot spot of Alameda has widened with the purchase of another property on the island city by a Bay Area developer.

With the latest deal, Paceline Investors has now spent $69.3 million over the last few days for three office buildings in Alameda, focusing on an area whose tenants are primarily advanced technology and life sciences firms.

The buildings are all located in Alameda’s Harbor Bay district, an area dotted with an array of companies with cutting-edge products and services.

Real estate firms have undertaken property purchases or launched development efforts that indicate they believe the Bay Area economy will be fueled by the expansion of tech, biotech, and advanced manufacturing companies.

That neighborhood is not far from where I live, and I ride my bike through there several times a week.

Indeed, there have been a lot of development efforts in this business park.

But the buildings are standing empty!

There are at least 10 large office buildings, brand new, completely vacant. Many were built during the COVID shutdowns, but a number of them were built as long ago as 2019 and have never found tenants. Other, existing buildings are dotted with "For Sale" and "For Lease" signs.

There are two buildings that are fully occupied and very busy:

Of course, neither of these are "advanced technology and life sciences firms".

But they sure make very good coffee and wonderful bread!

I definitely don't understand how the Real Estate development world works.

Monday, June 28, 2021

TestU01

While doing a bit of browsing on the Internet, I followed some links and came to a (relatively) ancient document: Pierre L'Ecuyer and Richard Simard. TestU01: A Software Library in ANSI C for Empirical Testing of Random Number Generators: User's guide, compact version. Département d'Informatique et de Recherche Opérationnelle, Université de Montréal, May 2013..

I guess it's truth-in-labelling, but I must confess that it's a bit startling when the "User's guide, compact version" runs to 219 pages!

But if you're at all interested in Random Number Generators, this is some amazing stuff. From the prologue:

TestU01 started as a Pascal program implementing the tests suggested in the 1981 edition of volume 2 of “The Art of Computer Programming”. This was around 1985. Three or four years later, a Modula-2 implementation was made, in the form of a library with a modular design. Other tests were added, as well as some generators implemented in generic form. Between 1990 and 2001, new generators and new tests were added regularly to the library and a detailed user’s guide (in french) was kept up to date. The f modules, which contain tools for testing entire families of generators, were introduced in 1997, while the first author was on sabbatical at the University of Salzburg, Austria. In 2001 and 2002, we partially redesigned the library, translated it in the C language, and translated the user’s guide in english.

These preliminary versions of the library were used for several articles (co)authored by P. L’Ecuyer, starting from his 1986 paper where he first proposed a combined LCG.

I love the brutal honesty that, after 28 years of effort, they considered that they had only achieved a "preliminary version of the library".

Random Number Generation is deep indeed, perhaps among the deepest of modern intellectual studies.

Anyway, I didn't know about this amazing effort until now, so here I am, some 36 years later, sharing it with those few who might not yet know of its existence.