Saturday, April 18, 2015

A hodge of podge

Boy, my mind has really been wandering recently.

Must be the weather.

  • The Town That Creep Built
    “Fault creep” is a condition that results when the underlying geology is too soft to get stuck or to accumulate tectonic stress: in other words, the deep rocks beneath Hollister are slippery, more pliable, and behave a bit like talc. Wonderfully but unsurprisingly, the mechanism used to study creep is called a creepmeter.

    The ground sort of oozes past itself, in other words, a slow-motion landslide at a pace that would be all but imperceptible if it weren’t for the gridded streets and property lines being bent out of shape above it.

  • Seveneves
    The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason. It was waxing, only one day short of full. The time was 05:03:12 UTC. Later it would be designated A+0.0.0, or simply Zero.
  • Linux 4.0
    But "Hurr durr I'ma sheep" trounced "I like online polls" by a 62-to-38% margin, in a poll that people weren't even supposed to participate in. Who can argue with solid numbers like that? 5,796 votes from people who can't even follow the most basic directions?
  • Linux 4.0 released
    Looking at just the statistics in git, this release is not just when we cross half a million commits total, but also cross the 4 million git object limit. Interestingly (if you look for numeric patterns), Linux 3.0 was when we crossed a quarter million commits and 2 million git objects, so there's a nice (and completely unintentional) pattern there when it comes to the kernel git repository.
  • Almonds in California: They use up a lot of water, but they deserve a place in California's future.
    The problem is that, thanks to the current drought, the water supply is going away faster than expected. The almond industry is an indicator of how difficult it might be to adapt to climate change, economically and environmentally.

    What we’re witnessing in California right now is a glimpse into the future. California has now endured drought in 11 of the last 15 years, and there’s every reason to believe this is just the beginning.

  • Math for eight-year-olds: graph theory for kids!
    This morning I had the pleasure to be a mathematical guest in my daughter’s third-grade class, full of inquisitive eight- and nine-year-old girls, and we had a wonderful interaction. Following up on my visit last year (math for seven-year-olds), I wanted to explore with them some elementary ideas in graph theory, which I view as mathematically rich, yet accessible to children.
  • Replicating SQLite using Raft Consensus
    I decided to build a distributed replication layer using the Raft consensus protocol, which gives me effective replication without the hassle of running a much heavier solution like MySQL. It provides all the advantages of replication, with the data modelling functionality of a relational database, but with the convenience of a single-file database.
  • A Million Little Boxes
    While crossword construction is unavoidably linguistic, constructors these days rely heavily on data and programming. Take, for instance, Puzzle 5, always the hardest of the tournament. This year, Jeff Chen was the sadist behind the curtain. An aspiring novelist from Seattle, he runs the crossword database XWord Info and has authored or co-authored 37 New York Times puzzles.

    Chen’s Puzzle 5 was titled “Attention, Newbies!” The conceit was adding new B’s (get it?) to familiar phrases. “Vocalist” became “vocab list,” “alloy” became “ballboy,” and so on. To find workable and interesting phrases like this, Chen wrote a Python script and applied it to his master word and phrase list. Using this program, he realized “caroms” could become “car bombs,” for example.

  • From the vault: Watching (and re-watching) “The Mother of All Demos”
    To give an idea of the scope of the demo, Engelbart demonstrated an early look at word processing, windowing, hypertext, and dynamic file linking, as well as using graphics in a computer program. It was also the first time many of the attendees had seen a mouse, although work on the mouse began in 1963.
  • Arcology: cutaways of the future city-hives that never were
    Soleri taught architecture at ASU, but his real classroom was Arcosanti: "an experimental town and molten bronze bell casting community" a few hours from Phoenix, which was supposed to have 5,000 residents by now, demonstrating "lean" city living in high-density complexes that combined super-efficient usage of space with stylized, naturalistic exteriors that made each building part of the landscape.
  • The Cult of Work You Never Meant to Join
    I take walks. I leave my phone in my pocket when I’m out with friends or eating my meals. I spend a fair amount of time on my hobbies, like writing and hunting for the world’s best cheeseburger.
  • Code Quality
    It's like a salad recipe written by a corporate lawyer using a phone auto-correct that only knew Excel formulas.

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