maradydd: (Default)
According to the official channel on YouTube:

Justin Timberlake's Dick In A Box is a holiday favorite

(image links to page where I found it; let's see how long that lasts...)
maradydd: (Default)
Google Analytics does some pretty cool stuff, but has one major drawback for mobile web application developers: it's Javascript-based, meaning that hits from mobile devices that don't speak Javascript silently go untracked. Recently, the Analytics team released some code that does server-side tracking; the linked ZIP file contains source and examples in ASP, JSP, PHP and Perl. Why not Python, you might wonder? I wondered too, particularly since an AppEngine project I'm working on is at least somewhat intended for phones (hey, you never know when you might be away from your desk but really want to know if a certain BioBrick exists), so I did a little poking around to see if it was possible to instrument an AppEngine application using server-side Mobile Analytics.

The short answer is no. )
maradydd: (Default)
Oh, don't get me wrong, I laughed, but it's horrible:
I once saw a C++ filesystem driver that overrode the / operator to mean "append". So you could do something like:

directory = "/tmp/subdir1";
filename  = "myfile.txt";
full_path = directory/filename;

and end up with full_path being "/tmp/subdir1/myfile.txt"
And no, Stroustrup's not going to hell for designing a language that lets people do this. The sheer fact that people can do this means he's already there. And so are we.
maradydd: (Default)
When talking to certain people, "I'm buried in LaTeX" is the wrong way to tell them that you're busy working on a paper.
maradydd: (Default)
Dear everyone,

If you are planning on committing suicide via overdose, for fuck's sake do not do it with anticholinergics. Anticholinergics are otherwise known as "deliriants" for very, very good reason. If you want to die confused and terrified while your blood pressure pingpongs around out of control, anticholinergics are an extremely effective way of accomplishing that. If you're lucky, the rapid swings in blood pressure will trigger a heart attack (which is also not a lot of fun, especially when you can't tell what's real and what isn't); if not, you're likely to end up in a coma with a failing liver.

Seriously, just don't. It will suck for you, it will suck for whoever finds you while you are still alive and it will suck for the medical professionals who end up treating you. Do yourself a favour: call a friend, call a suicide hotline. You can even call me if you can deal with someone talking you out of it with logic and being pretty much entirely unemotional about the situation.

But yeah, fuck anticholinergics in the ear.

ETA: thanks [ profile] ephermata for just generally being awesome
maradydd: (fail)
[ profile] joedecker points out that Obama has asked SCOTUS not to hear a DADT case currently being considered for certiorari.

This annoys me, but Joe, as usual, has accurately captured my annoyance, so go read his post if you want that. Here's my thing. This is only one of several times in the last few weeks that I've read an article about Obama asking SCOTUS not to hear a case. We've got the administration asking SCOTUS not to hear appeals from Valerie Plame and her husband vs. several Bush II officials, families of people killed during 9/11 vs. Saudi Arabia and several Saudi princes (yes, that's a forum, but go read the brief), and some Uighur Muslim Gitmo detainees who want to be released into the US. He's also asked for an overturn of Michigan v. Jackson, which would allow police to interrogate a defendant who has a lawyer (or who has asked for one) without that lawyer being present, which of course opens up all kinds of nightsticky opportunities. (Yeah, [ profile] txtriffidranch, I know -- use a length of garden hose filled with lead shot and that nun won't have a mark on her. It's the principle of the thing.)

And, of course, despite having promised that, if elected, he would end warrantless wiretapping, he's already broken that promise (though, to be fair, we did see this one coming last summer when he was still a senator.)

What. The hell. Is up. With that? Historically, I know Presidents have clashed with SCOTUS before -- FDR, Nixon -- but since when does the President run around telling the court what to hear and not to hear? Was this just something that didn't get a lot of coverage the last few presidencies, or is Obama actively continuing the monstrous power grabs that eight years of Bush softened us up for?

(Yes, yes, I know the articles all say he's "asking", but really, grow up -- they're putting it nicely.)
maradydd: (Default)
Prosciutto is not bacon.
maradydd: (Default)
In which postmodernism and the decay of the modern university from the inside out drive a man to the brink of madness and ruin, and the one thing he has evaded for the whole of his academic career is the only thing that can bring him back.

Extended discussion later, maybe. I am tempted to start dissecting this beast right now, if only for the fact that if I go to sleep now I will likely have nightmares about it. This is horror of Lovecraftian magnitude, though it more properly follows in the footsteps of Poe. The young man from Providence wrote terror stories, in which the Unspeakable Elder Things are outside not only the ken of man but also of what man can know. In Kirn's tale, as in Poe, corruption and evil emerge from within -- they are born of man, they take root in the narrator, and they suffuse and pervert one of the greatest institutions of mankind. Yet these monstrosities are classic Yog-Sothothery, for they are demons of unreason, blind gibbering egregores that wreak havoc on the narrator's very grasp of sanity. Nyarlathotep walks the halls and eating-clubs of Princeton.

Oh, and by the way, it's nonfiction.

Pleasant dreams.
maradydd: (Default)
  1. config.log is your friend.
  2. If your build worked great, then you set up a cross-compile and ./configure failed in an AC_CHECK_LIBS, it's probably the linker.
maradydd: (Default)
Len's Principles of Programming #15: "Do not engage in edge play with the stack. The stack has no safeword."
maradydd: (Default)
This is entirely my fault. Feel free to throw tomatoes, but no rocks please.

(To the tune of "The Wild Rover". Apologies to Dennis Ritchie and people who don't like folk music. Also, the scansion and end rhyme go to hell in the third verse; sorry about that.)

Oh I've been a C coder for many an age
And I've spent all my free time on pointers and rage
But I like tail recursion much better than FOR
So I never will be a C coder no more.

And it's (cons car cdr),
Mapcar and lambda -- no more
Will I be a C coder, no never, no more.

I saw Dennis Ritchie one night in a bar
He had typedef'd his wallet to pointer to char
At last call he went to pay up for his friends
But he had no bounds checking and fell off the end

And it's (cons car cdr),
Mapcar and lambda -- no more
Will I be a C coder, no never, no more.

I first watched in silence, but I had a Scheme
So I thunked down my Visa and a small trampoline
At first no one there was quite sure what they'd seen
But the girls saw my Sexp and came home with me.

And it's (cons car cdr),
Mapcar and lambda -- no more
Will I be a C coder, no never, no more.

Feel free to add new verses.
maradydd: (Default)
As some of you know, I have a rather lengthy post in the works about the history of challenges to initiative amendments in California -- that is, constitutional amendments which are proposed by a petition of the people and decided by popular vote. It's 1500 words and counting, and will probably hit 3000 by the time it's done, but I wanted to make sure that folks who want to understand the precedents coming into play with Strauss v. Horton, the ACLU's challenge to Prop 8, have a good resource for that. However, the following came up on [ profile] theinated's journal, deep in a comment thread, and I think it's important enough to bring up here.

But first I'm going to talk about software engineering. I promise, it's relevant.

In the code-slinging trade, there's a concept called "shotgun debugging" which makes every seasoned engineer foam at the mouth. The Jargon File defines it as "the making of relatively undirected changes to software in the hope that a bug will be perturbed out of existence". "Relatively" is loosely applied here; typically the code you tweak has something to do with the problem -- if the problem is in your user interface, twiddling with interprocess communication usually isn't going to help -- but you're not sure where the exact problem is, so you poke at a bunch of different places and pray you got it right.

Don't do this. It's practically guaranteed that you will make things worse, most likely by creating new bugs that are subtler, more obscure, and will bite you in the ass for years to come. But keep the concept of shotgun debugging in mind, because we're going to talk about it again shortly.

Elsewhere, [ profile] lather2002 wrote:
There are ways for same sex couples to have rights that allow them basically the same rights as "Married Couples".
In principle, [ profile] lather2002 is correct. However, the institution of marriage is deeply embedded in the principles of English common law upon which our legal system is founded, and altering those principles to cover civil unions would involve a massive rewriting of the law which amounts to shotgun debugging of the very worst sort.

Looking only at statutes, we can easily find dozens of areas in which marriage plays a role: tax law, estate/inheritance law, family law, laws having to do with visitation rights (both for hospital patients and for prisoners), property law, insurance law, torts (e.g., wrongful death suits), and so on. Attempting to shotgun-debug the California code in an attempt to create parity between marriages and domestic partnerships is a fool's errand; there are just too many places where marriage is closely intertwined with statutory law to be able to do the job right. California tried to do it all in one go by providing that domestic partners are to have all the rights and responsibilities afforded to married partners, but the very bill that established this also carved out several exceptions. Establishing a domestic partnership requires different prerequisites -- among other things, the couple must live together before becoming domestic partners, which isn't required for marriage -- and it isn't possible to have a confidential domestic partnership (i.e., one that isn't a matter of public record), while it is possible to have a confidential marriage.

However, the matter gets fuzzier. In some situations, the principles of common law protect the institution of marriage in a way that isn't actually codified anywhere. A good example is the notion of privileged communication. There are certain types of communication, such as that between a lawyer and her client, a doctor and his patient, a priest and a penitent confessing to him, which are "privileged" in the sense that neither party can be compelled to disclose the contents of that communication. If a defendant admits to his lawyer that he committed the crime with which he is charged, the lawyer cannot be compelled to disclose this to a third party. Spouse-to-spouse communication is protected in exactly the same way: one spouse cannot be compelled to give evidence against the other (also known as "spousal immunity"), and in fact one spouse can prevent the other from disclosing information which was communicated privately between the two of them (also known as "marital privilege").

For what it's worth, the matter of privileged communication has a lot to do with why the right to marriage is viewed as derivative of the right to privacy -- which is expressly protected (in fact, it's inalienable) under CA constitutional law.

Some states have passed statutes which restrict privileged communication in some form; for instance, Washington state has made attorney-client privilege a one-way street from client to attorney (the client can be compelled to testify against the attorney on matters of communication that don't have to do with the client's communications). California has codified attorney-client privilege the opposite way, protecting all attorney-client communication regardless of subject, but that merely reinforces the common-law definition; it does not expand it. I can't find an example of a law which creates a new class of privileged communication. Expanding privileged communication to domestic partnerships is thus quite difficult, and privileged communication isn't the only area of common law where marriage comes into play.

Shotgun-debugging a body of statutory law is hard enough; how do you shotgun-debug hundreds of years of tradition? Under the principle of stare decisis (literally "to stand by and adhere to decisions"), which obligates judges to follow the precedents established in previous case law, you can't. Only marriage is marriage, and there is no precedent for "domestic partnership immunity"; in this respect, the court's hands are tied. Even if statutory law mandates equal treatment before the law for domestic partners, the court cannot magically create privilege where none exists. There can be no parity between marriages and domestic partnerships.

I'm going to turn back to the Jargon File, now, to address the topic of elegance: "Combining simplicity, power, and a certain ineffable grace of design." Software engineers love elegant code: it's easier to understand, easier to work with, and it's aesthetically pleasing. Linguists adhere to the principle of elegance, too: given two sets of rules which describe the exact same grammar equally well, the one with fewer rules is to be preferred, as complicated rules are difficult to apply and lead to errors.

I'm not going to pretend that law adheres to the principle of elegance -- the sheer size of the California constitution, much less the California code, is testament to that -- but in this instance, we would do well to observe it. If we wish to establish parity between same-sex and opposite-sex couples, the simplest, least confusion-causing, most elegant solution is to legalise marriage between both same-sex and opposite-sex partners.

(This is, incidentally, the fundamental flaw I see in the "then let's make everything a civil union" argument. Taking away spousal privilege is a horrible, horrible idea that would remove the protections of hundreds of years' worth of important, rights-preserving court decisions which hinge on spousal immunity or marital privilege. Please take a look at the bigger picture here; let's not cut off our noses to spite our faces.)
maradydd: (Default)
Tuesday night: sat down in a chair on a somewhat slippery patio without looking back to confirm that the chair was actually there. Chair was not there after all. Lost balance, fell into brick windowsill, scraped hell out of right shoulderblade. (Happily, did not rip shirt.) Back muscles now all knotted and achy.

Wednesday night: was carving a piece of Mexican kingwood with my brand-new set of chisels, wood rotated unexpectedly in my hand, chisel slipped. Carved inch-long gash into the base of my left thumb. Did not sever anything important, and bleeding stopped after less than five minutes of direct pressure. Was able to see the underside of my own skin, which is pretty neat-looking; did not, alas, take photos. About then, the burgers came off the grill, so I ate dinner with my left hand on top of my head and then went to the emergency clinic about ten minutes before it closed. Three stitches. Left hand now sore and a bit itchy.

Today: slept a lot.

I'll be in Houston through Saturday afternoon if anyone still wants to get together or anything. Dallas, alas, is probably not happening. Sorry guys. :(


Jun. 27th, 2008 12:07 am
maradydd: (Default)
A 3'x4' whiteboard fell on my neck about half an hour ago.

I have ice on it, I can walk without running into things, and my vision isn't blurry, but man, have I got a headache. Neck not so happy either. I am not taking the bus home tonight.
maradydd: (Default)
Who made me the genius I am today,
The mathematician great politician that others all quote?
Who's the professor that made me that way,
The greatest that ever got chalk on his coat?

One man deserves the credit,
One man deserves the blame,
and Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is his name. Oy!
Nicolai Ivanovich Lobache... Vladimir Vladimirovich Pu...

I am never forget the day I first meet the great Lobachevsky Putin.
In one word he told me secret of success in mathematics economics: Plagiarize!

Let no one else's work evade your eyes,
Remember why the good Lord made your eyes,
So don't shade your eyes,
But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize...
Only be sure always to call it please, "research".

(article by way of [ profile] grepmaster)


May. 23rd, 2008 06:31 am
maradydd: (Default)
If that was you calling me collect (three four times!) from the Baldwin County Jail just now, fucking state your name intelligibly so that I can decide whether I'm going to pay $4.84 plus $.89/minute for the privilege of finding out what landed your ass in the hoosegow, kthx.

I don't think I know anyone who (a) has my landline number and (b) is likely to randomly be imprisoned in Alabama or Georgia, but I'm not going to block collect calls on principle, because for all I know, someday one of the approximately five people who does know my landline number might be locked up for something absurd (e.g. Being Transgendered While In Alabama) and need my help. But if I can't make out your name, I'm going to assume you picked ten digits at random and somehow ended up with me, and won't answer. YHBW.


maradydd: (Default)

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