Friday, July 29, 2022

Some Wordles are strangely hard.

Steep, stamp, stump, stomp.

When you start out with 3 letters in the correct positions, you feel unreasonably aggravated when it takes you 4 total guesses to find the final word.

Then the very next day we caught a break and found the answer on the second guess (very rare for us, our average is about 3.5)

I find doubled letters very hard. Madam was one of our rare 6-guesses.

I also don't have a good understanding of Wordle's treatment of plurals. It seems like Wordle will very rarely choose a word such as 'nails' or 'belts' as the final word, but it will happily accept such guesses from us. So when we get an 's', we try to avoid guessing a simple 4 letter plural. If that's a true understanding of Wordle's behavior, it suggests that the game has two dictionaries, or at least some sort of additional logic in the selection of the daily word to downplay simple plurals.

After 190 games, we've never guessed the word on our first guess.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Dead and Company, June 17-18, 2022

I got a chance to hook up with my friends and make the Dead and Company shows in Boulder, Colorado, on June 17-18 this year.

Boulder is an unusually nice place to be, at any time of the year, but in early summer it is delightful. Gorgeous weather, the Rocky Mountains, and outdoor music: what more could you want?

This is the 50th anniversary of Europe '72, felt by many people to be the best Grateful Dead album of them all, and the two Boulder shows dipped deeply into that history, featuring 10 selections from that album, all told:

  • I Know You Rider
  • Ramble on Rose
  • He's Gone
  • Brown Eyed Women
  • Truckin'
  • Morning Dew
  • One More Saturday Night
  • China Cat Sunflower
  • Hurts Me Too
  • Mr. Charlie

The band also included many other fan favorites, both older ones (Viola Lee Blues, The Other One, Wharf Rat, Bertha) and newer ones (Althea, Terrapin Station, Let It Grow)

I particularly enjoyed a number of covers of other music that I hadn't ever heard them play in person, including:

  • All Along the Watchtower
  • Dear Mr. Fantasy
  • Hey Jude
  • Milestones

All in all, it's a remarkable catalogue.

Somewhere I read that Jerry Garcia was known to have performed over 1,000 different songs in his career (which wasn't all with the Grateful Dead). This First Monday essay states that the Grateful Dead are known to have performed over 450 unique songs.

I had a wonderful time, and I do hope I get the chance to do something like this again.

Hey! I still wasn't the oldest person at the shows, not by a long shot!

Monday, July 18, 2022

Cornell '77: a very short review

Cornell University Press published a serious book of history about the Grateful Dead: Cornell '77: The Music, the Myth, and the Magnificence of the Grateful Dead's Concert at Barton Hall

The concert in question was just one show in the band's 1977 spring tour; it happened to be on the campus of Cornell University and was organized by the students at the university.

I'm sure you have to already be a fan of the band (a "Deadhead") to really enjoy the book; certainly you have to be at least a little interested in the band to have any interest in the book.

I really liked the book and passed it on to my brother-in-law, who is also a Deadhead, and who even has a collection of CD's of recordings of other concerts on the same tour.

My guess is that: if you're a little bit interested in the band but not very knowledgeable about them, you'll learn a lot from Cornell '77, while if you're already very knowledgeable about the band, you won't learn very much. I guess I was somewhat in the middle, because I learned more than I was expecting to learn (including a little bit about Cornell University, about which I knew next-to-nothing).

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Apache DB is 20 years old

The DB project at the Apache Software Foundation was founded on July 16th, 2022, which means it's 20 years old.

The software that is maintained by the DB project includes work that was donated to the ASF, but was completed years before that, so some of this software is more than 25 years old and is still in regular use around the world.

Pretty good achievement.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Easy bus never comes around

Here's a really lovely short speech by Kara Lawson, Duke University women's basketball coach.


"We all wait in life for things to get easier. ... It will never get easier. ... What happens is you become someone who handles hard stuff better."

"That's a mental shift that has to occur in each of your brains. It has to. Because if you go around waiting for stuff to get easier in life, it's never going to happen."

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Release It! : a very short review

Michael Nygard's Release It! is now five years old, which seems like an eternity in the world of Cloud Computing, so I was prepared for it to seem stale and out-dated, but in fact it still feels fresh and relevant.

Nygard nicely describes the goal of his book in the very first paragraph of the Preface:

In this book, you will examine ways to architect, design, and build software -- particularly distributed systems -- for the muck and mire of the real world. You will prepare for the armies of illogical users who do crazy, unpredictable things. Your software will be under attack from the moment you release it. It needs to stand up to the typhoon winds of flash mobs or the crushing pressure of a DDoS attack by poorly secured IoT toaster ovens. You'll take a hard look at software that failed the test and find ways to make sure your software survives contact with the real world.

In this compact description, Nygard conveys all the reasons that I found his book to be well worth the time:

  • It's based in experience. Nygard shares dozens of real situations that he's encountered while building modern Internet systems, and isn't afraid to reveal his mistakes and how he learned from them.
  • It provides solutions, not just problems. Nygard survived his mistakes and kept good records about basic, solid approaches that he used successfully in his work.
  • It's lively and fun to read. If you've ever tried to spend time digging into Cloud Computing technology in areas such as networking, security, or resource virtualization, let me tell you: it is dry, dry, dry, full of acronyms and abstraction. Nygard's writing style is a bit breezy, but it's light and entertaining and he succeeds, for the most part, at taking some very dull material and making it, well, at least bearable.

It's probably worth comparing Release It! to a broadly similar book, Site Reliability Engineering, which I discussed about six years ago, briefly.

The Google SRE book is longer and more in-depth. It is also considerably harder to read, partly because each chapter of the SRE book is written by a different set of authors, all of whom are experienced in their subject matter, but each with a different writing style and approach. Moreover, the Google SRE book is focused on Google-specific solutions to problems.

Nygard's book is shorter and a lot more fun to read, making it more likely, frankly, that you'll get through it and actually learn things and remember them.

And Nygard doesn't assume you work at Google.

I'd suggest: read them both! Read Nygard's book first, to get a broad and readable grounding in lots of important subjects. Then, if you find yourself actively working in a particular area, dive into the particular subject matter in the Google SRE book as well, for additional depth and more detailed material.

Of course, neither of these alone will make you a successful Infrastructure Engineer at a Cloud Computing company. For that, you'll need a lot more study, a lot more practice, and the opportunity to actually work in such an environment and learn from your peers. None of this comes easy.