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Comment Journey to the Center of Dearth (Score 1) 156

My father taught me binary in the early seventies when I was still in elementary school, with black marbles and a grey egg carton. I got it right away. Numbers were one thing, representations of numbers was another thing, and these could be whatever you found convenient, so long as you obeyed certain rules (I wasn't so accelerated that I immediately started banging out Euclid's Elements on the piano).

Then I thought really hard one Saturday afternoon about fractions (on the unit interval, which I thought of as positive integers with the numerator greater than the denominator), and discovered that even though there are a lot of them, it is possible to enumerate them exhaustively, though not by the traditional "counting up" procedure, which got me hooked into the problem of the common divisor thing.

The next project I recall was to exhaustive write out the Tic Tac Toe game tree. Since I was a lazy bastard (always have been) this involving thinking very hard about something somewhat like symmetry groups.

Over the annual summer visit to my grandparents—small town prairie Badlands without the cool geography, though often we managed a trip to see the hoodoos—I played a lot of solitaire on the golden-green shag carpet which Puss Puss—the duodecarian house cat who lived in the shadows under my grandparent's bed (the short duration of our visits was probably for her sake)—sometimes preferred in her dotage over asking out into the Canadian winter. Quite undeterred by the sticky and/or stinky patches, I managed to clearly formulate the concept of a "decision procedure" and that such a thing could be unambiguously specified; furthermore, I worked out (at first empirically) that the greedy algorithm was provably not optimal for Klondike (for me at that time, all Solitaire was just "Solitaire", though I knew several).

At age ten, the boundary between empiricism and proof is still a fuzzy one.

In grade five, I spent a lot of time (by myself) trying to puzzle out the rate-limiting step in long-hand square root. I had by then also discovered E=IR and P=IE. Pretty soon I had determined that this generates 4 choose 1 times 4 choose 2 simple algebraic forms. But for an entire painful week, some kind of thick cloud entered my brain and I couldn't reliably write all the forms down without a lot of mucking around; this I knew to be completely bogus, and a permanent blot on my record. By the time the cloud passed, I was pretty good at substitution and gathering. Later, when I first encountered a matrix (don't recall), I immediately went to myself "oh, that's just algebra, better organized". At least something stuck.

Now, during this entire period of my life, I was in a constant state of deeply repressed rage about this thing called "school", with all the inherent stimulation of Puss Puss waiting out the daily bedtime / ultimate final departure of the grandchildren (geriatric cat yay!) from the furthest dark remove under the master bed.

Grade six came as a shock. For the first time I experienced a math teacher who believed in letting kids learn at their own natural rate. He quickly put four of us a private work program. We could go as fast as we wanted, but the rule was we had to do all of the tedious exercises at the end of every chapter. Many of these exercises were heavy on the pencil work, so I only made it through grades six, seven, eight, and nine. My fingers put in about 90% of the work (this is not actually a bad thing), and my brain put in the other 10% (this being 100 times more than 0.1%). Awesome!

So I was armed, locked, and loaded for bear when I showed up at the beginning of grade seven. I figured I could knock off ten, eleven, twelve by Easter, and still have a month left over for real math at long last.

Problem: my grade seven teacher thought my purpose in life was to sit enthralled by his boring lectures. Shields up! I don't recall a single thing he wrote on the board in math class the entire year, and I just sat there doing stupid pet tricks with numbers—no useful development whatsoever.

So eventually that year we have this weird event day outdoors, and one of the girls has been asked to demonstrate her figure skating. She was jumping! And spinning! And throwing one of her legs around without falling down! (On skates, I was still working my way from three legs to two.) Wow! Some adult somewhere actually gives a shit about her natural abilities, and gives her not only the opportunity, but also coaching, and even a pat on the back. How is this possible?

That was the day I realized I was a tent-camp refugee in the world of math phobia.

By this point, whatever natural ability I had was on a fast track to nowhere. My the miracle of moving from one province (relatively good school system) to another (not so good school system), it turns out that my grade nine school year is spent repeating my grade eight school year. Back in grade six, the grade-nine math book had only challenged my pencil, and this was now my third tour of duty.

My grade nine math teacher surely recognized that I was paying him 1% of my full attention, out of 1% of one corner of one eye. Sometime mid-year, I hear from a classmate that there's this thing called a "math competition". "Oh," I said, waking up from a long coma. "That might almost be interesting." Later that day I go up to my math teacher (this being our longest point of contact for the entire year) and say "I heard there's this math competition thing." He says, "there's no point bothering, you wouldn't be good at it." He wouldn't even tell me the room where it was held. Revenge? Or just a cockroach sucker?

Funny he should think that. Two years after my parents finally wake up and send me to a private school, I was ranked nationally. This after a four year hiatus with my parking brake engaged. So, while this is a story about opportunity wasted, it's not a story about being ruined—you can only be ruined if you let it happen.

But what did happen is that my ability, under my random self-tutelage, folded back in on itself. Lacking a curated challenge, I posed my own quirky challenges, and I spent a lot of time thinking about myself thinking about myself. I became very good at thinking about myself, and I finally matured into an adroit, adept, meta-cognitive gadfly. Substance about substance, not anchored to substance.

No worries. I figure this will all pay off at some point in my seventies, when the world is adrift with cognitive agents. "Somebody ... please! ... is there meta-cognitive specialist in the house? Our pets are running wild!" Well, had my early education gone a little differently (you know, with any structure at all), I could now be the guy building the metacognitive agents, instead of cooling my jets sitting around waiting to fix them.

Whatever. It all works out in the end.

Comment Re:Surprised? (Score 1) 566

In fairness, with enough resources, Vista didn't suck nearly as bad as people said it did .. I ran it on a quad core machine with 8GB of RAM until a year ago, and it was just fine.

Um Vista sucked pretty hard in the beginning. Of course after several years, MS was able to patch a lot of things. Some of the main problems with Vista was that MS lowered the hardware requirements so that Intel could sell more chipsets and computers that were not quite Vista capable ran it. And with most OS releases, everyone knows to wait to SP1.

Comment Re:Management structure and meritocracy (Score 1, Insightful) 267

what I read about their diversity and social impact team would certainly be enough to make me run, screaming

It's fundamentally driven by the desire of the VCs to establish a broader and ultimately cheaper labour pool, so they've hired themselves an SJJ (social justice jihadist)—white males not allowed to participate—to advance the backroom bigbucks cause of white-male sticker shock under the false flag of her own sincere yet progressive-at-any-cost value system.

Comment don't look down, coyote (Score 1) 331

At this point power consumption matters a heck of a lot more for ubiquity than pure performance gains.

I'm sure the fire-breathing dragster edition of current silicon technology (with a pin count to match) will continue to exist at an upscale price for those willing to pay for it.

That uncomfortable rush in your stomach? It's from clinging to yesterday.

Comment Re:What is this Kindle you speak of? (Score 2) 147

I have a Kindle Paperwhite 2 and I love the new upgrade. Not noticed changes to that font, but I only use Bookerly. The UI changed with this release; options like airplane mode is easier to get to, and everything looks more modern and less boring, without a single negative change to the important thing; reading books. Goodreads integration so it's easy to track what you're reading, have read and will read. It sucks if people are having problems reading a particular font but you can inject fonts into books if you like.

You probably can't get this upgrade if your kindle is that old. I upgraded from one bought around the same time to the PW2 just for the built in light, but between that, the touch screen and the new fonts it's a totally different device.

Comment Re:Why Ubuntu (Score 1) 58

I looked at debian and it looks tedious to install and i decided i could if i devoted time and energy to the project i could probably install it but would rather just install ubuntu and get on with it.

Mint is ok and i used it until I got fed up with the lack of support; it's easier to get help when you have ubuntu; also, when you install ubuntu you don't immediately get errors due to poorly configured software before you've even finished logging it. Unity may be shit but at the end of the day I'm not going to be spending a lot of time fucking around with the ui; as long as i can launch apps i'm happy.

Comment Re:Battery (Score 1) 92

You're missing out on a lot of really good phones if that's your main criteria. I've had my z3 for 18 months and it's great. I'm sure i'll get another phone in the next couple of years and this'll probably still be working then. Not sure what I could have got instead that has a replaceable battery. Why is it important? Have you had a lot of problems with batteries in the past?

Comment Re:SSD (Score 0) 92

One thing nobody wants is a microsoft tablet. I know they've put loads of effort into building and flogging them but were they to ever take off it would be despite, not because, of windows. Windows is that awful thing you used to have on your pc before you got a tablet, or that you're forced to use at work.

Comment so self-inflicted it isn't funny (Score 3, Interesting) 48

The stupid thing is that C++ name mangling would already catch this problem at link time, and every modern C/C++ compiler already has code to support this, except that it's only activated for the much loved/unloved function overloading.

If GCC/clang in C mode generated mangled names into object files when compiling C programs (as purely informative records), the linker could diagnose this kind of problem as optional linkage errors—mighty darn useful, optional linkage errors.

This is a violation of the type system pure and simple, but one that doesn't compromise any specific compilation unit. That leaves the linker as the next line of defense, but like to keep our C linkers in dark boxes full of trust-me horse shit.

Comment Re:OT Re:legalism is a crap philosophy. (Score 1) 579

the energy of a collision

Yes, but the energy/time (power) goes up closer to the cube, because the delta_t smunch (for a head-on collision, or large solid object) also diminishes with impact velocity (though, like a memristor, you can work up counterexamples).

Like the modern-day paleolithic societies that can only count "one, two, many" it goes "linear, quadratic, exponential" in the vocabulary of most STEM fugitives.

Comment three suggestions (Score 1) 1829

Story title (large font):

CDC: 1 In 10 Adult Deaths In US Caused By Excessive Drinking

The little statistical nodule in my brain that filters credible claims instantly exploded at first glance. Went off to fetch the long-handled mop so I could clean the ceiling, and for that reason I didn't even notice the three half-cap prepositions (does that almost count as shouting?)

First line of story (smaller font):

According to new research from the CDC, 9.8% of deaths in working-age adults (22-64 years old) in the U.S. from 2006 to 2010 were "attributable to excessive drinking." [my emph.]

If you've read anything about the average person's powers of mental discernment, you would know the the patently absurd title does a lot of subconscious damage. It's too freaking late to correct this a sentence later.

Now a few dud stories will probably make it through the firehose no matter what, but we really need some kind of moderation on the stories themselves once posted so that they can be down-voted to "-5 patently absurd" such as this particular submission warranted.

Another thing I would like is to have the subject line character limit increased by another ten characters or so. I've had many perfect subject lines ruined by the current parsimonious limit—and it's always by less than ten characters.

Oh, yes, and the hot pink "cat got your tongue?" dunning should actually show the preview which I might perhaps be using to look over what I've just written to find out whether any subject matter materialized out of my verbal fog, or not.

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When in doubt, mumble; when in trouble, delegate; when in charge, ponder. -- James H. Boren