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Monthly Archives: January 2011

What to waste time

Saving time is an odd tendency. It’s great to conserve time finishing a task and allocate the time elsewhere, but if you’re so concerned with keeping those tiny few minutes, it must mean that you are absolutely strapped for time. In other words, you are already using every minute of the day to its fullest possibility. But that’s not right. We spend time eating, showering, in commute, shooting birds in the backyard. That time could supposedly be spent on working, since at one point, you were so low on time that you had to intentionally think to conserve it. But because you still spend time on daily nonsense, you could not actually be wasting time! You might think leisure likewise contributes to overall happiness and therefore is a legitimate “time expense” equal to homework and project work. But come on, we… more →

Last resort publishing

WordPress has this interesting feature where you can publish posts to your blog by email. Then think: when would you ever use this? I thought maybe if you’re heading to an inevitable death and you want to get out one last message, to friends or family. You pull out your phone and decide email would be fastest way. Oh man, the car’s coming up fast and there’s nowhere to run/hide. (You’re in a tunnel or something.) “Bye everuo” crap, backspace backspace.. screw it, I’ll just leave it with “Bye”. You toss the phone aside, safe, where it can deliver your last message with confidence. Okay, perhaps that won’t happen. What if you’re a tech blogger at some big expo and you’re giving up-to-the-minute updates to your eager, drooling audience. But then, you would probably be using Twitter. Hey how about… more →

Weeping for an age

Why are streetlamps yellow? Perhaps it flows with white headlights, green traffic lights and red taillights. Maybe the lamps brighten the alleys to deter crime. Or maybe the most economic bulb available just happens to be naturally yellow. Someone, sometime ago, had to engineer this, and he certainly did it with brilliance because streetlamps are so widespread today. So why did his plan of action—yellow sodium street lights—succeed? It was because his idea worked. It was his engineering genius, diligence, and spot-on prediction of unintended consequences that gave him the power and influence to implement his idea. With the onset of this new age, that isn’t true anymore. Take the story of Mr. Streetlamp one step further: his idea became widespread because people listened. People, both technically educated and not, listened because his ideas made sense. But made sense to whom?… more →

A necessary reevaluation

If you genuinely hate school, I encourage you to rethink your views. There’s this peculiar, self-perpetuating idea that exists. It’s already so thoroughly analyzed and commonplace that it’s ridiculous, forbidden even, to speak about it. It is this: the entirety of education is great. While guys in other countries have to deal with real problems, we have our easy pretend-problems that surprisingly can be corrected, sitting at a desk. It’s disturbing how easy education is, away from any sort of trouble. Even more disconcerting is the complacency with which this gift is accepted. So much so, that people will complain about it. That is an undesirable extreme. There are few things in reality that search for moderation or some sort of middle-ground. Our culture excessively focuses on the few examples of supposed “balance” in nature because they are usually so rare: one… more →

Evidence of activity

Behold, the awesomest graph you will ever set eyes on. Ready yourself because you may soil your pants. Go ahead, click it and take it all in. Diaries and journals are troublesome to keep because they require daily effort to maintain them. They’re fun to reread and all, but most people decide it’s not worth the effort. All the problems are solved if you have an automatic journal thing. The computer is a central part of anybody’s life, some more than others. This graph visualizes how long I’ve been on my computer every day for the past year. And frankly, this is the best diary I could ask for. Event viewer ID 1531, 1532.

Abstraction

“And I have perhaps the world’s most magnificent tower of abstractions, starting with transistors and moving up through circuits, chips, processors, all kinds of hardware I know nothing about, operating systems, and a nice tall stack of increasingly abstract programming languages undergirding the famously friendly ones I use, Python and Ruby.” [source] I wish more articles were written like this. So concise yet so profound. “There is no doubt danger in all this abstraction–how easy it is nowadays to use a thing without knowing how it works–but it’s hard to complain when you’re playing in the clouds.” This is such a tumblr-esque thing to do. There’s a major flaw in the process of sharing things you find interesting. Eventually, it just turns into a list of links that people may or may not go through. It’s very reminiscent of the… more →

Cryptography

Programming is great in this situation. Read the gZip log, search for instances of “POST /love.php”, and output into MS Excel. And it’s entirely possible to get 100%. This combination was produced after ~15 second brute forcing random names. It is based completely on cryptography, but if you do enough math, it’s really like magic. (Hint: there is debug info in the AJAX response.)

Identification

I used to think that people were compensated for their deficiencies: if a person wasn’t too bright, he would have creativity and artistic talent to make up for it. So a week ago, Obama announced his plan to create a government-issued “Internet ID” for citizens. After only reading the title of the article, people scroll right down to the comment box and cry “omg government can control our internets” and “omg obama is taking away our freedoms blah blah socialists blah, blah blah 1984!”. Privacy is one of those things that people don’t understand, at all. The US Government is trying to tackle a problem that has existed for ages: identification. The password problem. What’s the password problem? Well, they exist. Now, I could write a whole lot about the ingenuity of memorizing arbitrary strings to prove your identity, but… more →

Stumbler

Hah, this picture probably makes no sense to you. It’s a calculator with 5 buttons, but no apparent significance. Actually, these functions are the only things a computer processor can do: add numbers, memorize numbers, and compare numbers. Yet, people build everything computer-related from this foundation. It’s like the feeling you get when you think about the mathematics-physics-chemistry-biology-psychology-sociology chain. I’m on StumbleUpon. It’s a very good example of good social networking principles: no obligation, no exit barriers, no fiery pits of infinite ignorance. I like it a lot.

Personas

They sent out the schedule for finals week during afternoon lab on January 3rd. It’s always interesting to see what they come up with. I bet some guy at the district office has to work out these schedules every time something weird happens. The times give priority to consistency for as many students as possible, which excludes periods 2-7 people. So, Mrs. Davies was the first to present the schedule. As a science teacher, she takes an holistic look at the schedule and is satisfied because, well, the data’s all there. What more does science require? Then Mr. Belcher shows it to us and even prints us all a copy, because apparently he likes doing that. He’s like “it’s very confusing, but it makes sense. the logic is there.” He shows us how we get review sessions the day before… more →

Grunt work

In the 1950’s, the United States and the USSR were both competing to develop the first nuclear fusion bomb. However, scientists in both countries faced a similar problem: you really can’t perform nuclear fusion experiments in a laboratory because it requires enormous amounts of heat and pressure (think: the Sun), so everything had to be calculated theoretically. So the USSR, being the USSR, decides to pull hundreds of thousands of their math professors and mathematicians and college math majors, and then give each guy a specific math/physics problem to solve. Colleges started accepting more physics and math majors, just so they could dedicate more of these idiots to their massive grunt-work operation. At the same time, there was no apparent link between problems to any larger goal because, well, they had to keep things secret. The US, on the other hand,… more →

Sloan

This just blew my mind. Take a good look before you read on. College admissions are an infinitely debatable topic. Who knows what goes on in the brief minutes that you spend years preparing yourself for. I realize dribbble gets some serious preview content, but nothing’s weirder than combining the all-too-familiar mainstream design with the pinnacle of scholarship. Oh hey, you can see the rest of the set here. You know, projects on dribble really put my “projects” into perspective. These pros spend months developing their projects that might not be successful. Man I hope I never have that kind of pressure.