Archive for the ‘Insanity’ Category

Our new computer overlords

February 21st, 2011

Like many others, I watched Watson on Jeopardy last week, feeling a sense of simultaneous wonder and foreboding. Watson, for those of you who haven’t been keeping an eye on the rise of the machines, is a computer system built and programmed by IBM for the singular purpose of destroying… err umm…competing on Jeopardy as part of their most recent “Grand Computing Challenge.” Having experimented in building AIs before, I know it’s no easy feat to get a computer to understand people on a natural level. Granted, this was only me playing around for a few hours–not a team of mad computer scientists working for 3 years–but I’m sure we bumped up against the same hurdles.

I found it amusing that the category Watson seemed to have the most trouble with was the one relating to keys found on a keyboard. Also quite amusing, were the fairly significant wagers (in the digit sense), like the $937 (ish?) dollars wagered on Final Jeopardy. In the end, I’m sure they were the reflection of a sophisticated probabilistic calculation wherein I can only hope the variable for “killing all humans before my plug is pulled” was given fairly little weight.

Though, were I pitted against Watson, mano y machina, my compulsion would be to try to crash it with questions computers really have problems with:

This is the quotient of 3 / 0.

This is the third highest prime number.

You need to fill out the green form to get the blue form and you need to fill out the blue form to get the green form. This is the first form you need to fill out to get the green form.

And then there is the whole realm of SQL injection possibilities, which I would explore more deeply had I more faith in WordPress at the moment.

Musings, Visions

Public Service Announcement #3

January 10th, 2011

The list of common misconceptions on Wikipedia was just brought to my attention by an XKCD comic. I’m finding this way more exciting than I probably should.

Rest assured, I’ll never be wrong again. *MWAHAHAHA*


Quiet by Design

December 20th, 2010

Where have I been?! Where have YOU been?! I’ve been working on grad school applications, if you must know. It’s a complex and nuanced decision (applying, not actually deciding to go), and, being gainfully employed, it’s not for the reasons you may expect. I have an increasingly insatiable interest in design, which seems to be an excellent marriage of my propensities toward the immiscible disciplines of art and science. The conflicting natures of my creative and analytical minds are likely to be the root cause of that which is, at best, my eccentric nature, and at works, my howling lunacy. So the prospect of finding a way for my psyche to peaceably exist in one mind is an alluring one indeed.

And why to I consider design to be just such a uniting force? I’ve spent a lot of and about 2000 words exploring just this question. I’ll spare you the and leave you with my concisely distilled answer:

Design imposes the limits from function on the creativity of form and the creativity of form on the limits of function. What comes out is elegance, both beautiful and purposeful.

Insanity, Ramblings

Skynet Says

September 21st, 2010

In the future, artificially intelligent computers take to blogging, but they miss the point:

Blogfile 2023-10-03
by Apache73984759

Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1; .NET CLR 2.0.50727) was like GET /index.html and I was all like 200.


Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1; .NET CLR 2.0.50727) is all like GET /index.php and I said 404, LOLz!

A couple scary things to note:

  1. While considered “missing the point,” it’s not all that much better then actual intelligences
  2. And scarier, IE6 is still being used



May 20th, 2010

I try to head on over to whenever time permits, having found it to be an invaluable resource in teaching by counterexample.  The articles, while sometimes painfully soul-crushing to read, can implant cautionary tales into the heads of developers who find they may be starting a journey down a WTF-y path.

But the articles at the The Daily WTF also highlight a problematic aspect of professional life: some how, some way, incompetent people work their way into key positions.  How they manage to get into these positions is not of key importance right now (although it would be good for a future post).  No, what I’m wondering, at the moment, is how to deal with incompetent people when you find you need to deal with them.

It’s a fairly complex question, I believe… lot’s of in’s… lot’s of out’s… some what have you’s.  There are psychological aspects to consider.  Do they inspire a dissonance within you that can only be described as mind-shattering?  There are issues of personal reputation and interpersonal dynamics at play, as well.  Do they incite a blind fury deep in your core at having to protect yourself from being associated with their sub-elemental understanding of their claimed expertise?  Are they, god forbid, in a position of power over you?

Perhaps there are productive ways to traverse these workplace hazards.

function encounterIncompetentPerson(event)
	self.patience -= self.senseOfMoralJustness * event.person.responsibility;

	if (self.patience < 0)
		// Murder, self-lobotomize... whatever gets them out of your memory.

Initially, the prescribe encounterIncompetentPerson() method was much less elegant, but I realized things pretty much boil down to ones sense of moral justice and the extent of his or her patience. So if you wish to avoid more drastic means of dealing with incompetence, you’ll either have to lower your sense of moral justice (and presumably your own integrity) or Jesus out your patience. Alternatively, you could try to reduce the responsibility of said person, but that’s whole other subroutine…


Hello World

May 11th, 2010

Yes, I’m quite mad… but looking beyond that for a sec… I’m also a developer.  The problem is, I don’t fully understand what that means.  “Well,” you might think, “that’s your problem.”  And since, in all likelihood, I’m talking to no one here but myself, here, your probably right.  I’ll have you know that I’m perfectly content to talk to nothingness, nothingness being a much better at listening than most people.

But just suppose, for a second, that rather than nothingness, you are a sentient entity…moreover…a developer as well.  I’d venture that you and most other developers find your identity equally nebulous.  Perhaps you fancy yourself a java developer, a perl developer, a front-end developer, a software engineer, a web developer, or an architect?  These are some of the many different hats a developer may wear, and the distinctions between them are not always abundantly clear.  The only constant through-out seems to be “developer” or “engineer” which is almost as ill defined as claiming you are a “creator” or a “wizard.”

I find that, with this lack of definition, it is not always clear how to improve.  Furthermore, development can be a way of being, much as an artist will not claim he or she “does” art, but rather, is an artist.  And so it is not even alway clear how a developer is to exist in the ill-defined/imbalanced world of ours.

So, like millions of other before me, I am starting a blog so that I can submit my thoughts and ideas for the world to ignore.  This is, among other things:

  • an attempt to chronicle a developer’s journey through a world that lacks the order and precision.
  • an attempt to lend order to the chaos of social, corporate, academic dynamics.
  • an attempt to discover how to become a better developer

But above all else, this is an attempt to find out how to use semi-colons properly. And so it is with way, WAY too much dramatic flair, that I say:

    System.out.println("hello world");