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Archive for January 17th, 2011

First, of course, Happy Martin Luther King, Jr Day to everyone!  If you haven’t read it lately, I highly recommend your re-reading the “I Have A Dream…” speech.  I believe it’s one of the top 10 speeches in American history.  As a Christian, I revel in the fact that we have a national holiday for a minister who’s stated purpose in life was service to others.  That’s saying something as I also firmly believe in the separation of Church and State.
Exercise:
Went out for 35 minutes tonight.  Not really a jog, not really a walk, more of a shuffle-step.  It felt good to almost slow-jog.  (Remembering that last weekend I was in the ER for my heart makes that a whole lot easier to accept.   Pride goes before the heart attack!)  Anyway, I reckon I did between a mile and a half and a mile and three-quarters.   No pain.  No shortness of breath.  No chest tightness.  I didn’t feel “right” last night, so I skipped the walk.  I’m trying to err on the side of safety, if I have to err at all.
How I spent today:
Mostly, as you can tell from viewing today’s post, I spent the day just adding quotes to the blog.  I started a book about the lives of 15 of the greatest names in the field of Computer Science so I had a lot of little quotes to add.  The book (“Out Of Their Minds” by Dennis Shasha and Cathy Lazere) is excellent so far and I’ll be shocked if I don’t end up highly recommending it when I complete it and do the review.  I’m continuously amazed that most of the great discoveries / inventions / algorithms  have been made / created during my lifetime.  I went to get some blood taken for my cardiologist appointment tomorrow.  I also finished unpacking the last of my suitcases from the aborted trip to Baltimore.
Finally, I went through some photos and I have a bunch to add to the site.  Unfortunately, there is just so little time…  As a taste, here’s a photo of Hil’s mum with her mum (Hil’s maternal nana):
Hil's Mum and Hil's Grand-mum

Hil’s mum (as a little girl) and her mum at the beach.

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We all know that if you want to make something big, you have to compose it out of components — modules of some sort.  You must be able to isolate parts. . . .  It’s well known from programming, that this is not just a matter of division of labor because if you choose the wrong interface or an inappropriate one, the work explodes by a factor of ten — it’s not just a sum.
   —    Edsger W. Dijkstra
[Dijkstra doesn’t mention a “great” programmer is 10 times more productive (BY ANY MEASURE) than a “good” programmer, and good programmers can be 5 to 10 times more productive than “average” programmers.   —    KMAB]
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…Roughly 40 percent of all software projects are canceled.  About 70 percent of the rest are late.
    –-    Dennis Shasha and Cathy Lazere
Quoted from:  “Out Of Their Minds
[This means only 18 out of every 100 software projects are on time.  Note, the authors do NOT offer a number for how many of those “on time projects” are on or under budget.  This underscores the risk of software development.   —    KMAB]
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They had no sense of the significance of what was there — there was no tradition.  We didn’t do a good job preparing them.
Even if we had done a good job of preparing them, businessmen are more like engineers than like scientists.  They [businessmen] want to do more than understand.  At some point with new phenomena, you [scientists] have to spend some time understanding it, not just worrying about what are we [businessmen] going to do with it.
    —    Alan C. Kay
[This was Kay’s explanation for why Xerox failed to dominate the personal computer market even though the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) had a windows based, mouse-driven PC and demonstrated it to Steve Jobs and Jeff Raskin (from Apple Computer, Inc) several years before Apple came out with the Mac.    —    KMAB]
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All understanding begins with our not accepting the world as it appears.
    —    Alan C. Kay
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Progress in using logic to express facts about the world has always been slow.  …I think that we humans find it difficult to formulate many facts about our thought processes that are apparent when suggested.
    —    John McCarthy
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One of the primary virtues of commonsense reasoning is its resiliency.  It adapts well when confronted with new facts about a situation.
    -–    Dennis Shasha and Cathy Lazere
Quoted from:  “Out Of Their Minds
[The problem is too few people have developed commonsense and many of those who have don’t believe their eyes when confronted with new facts.   (See In Broken Images)   —    KMAB]
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All of our ideas in physics require a certain amount of common sense in their application; they are not purely mathematical or abstract ideas.  We have to understand what we mean when we say that the phenomena are the same when we move the apparatus to a new position.  We mean that we move everything that we believe is relevant; if the phenomenon is not the same, we suggest that something relevant has not been moved, and we proceed to look for it.
    —    Richard P. Feynman, Robert B. Leighton, and Matthew Sands
Quoted from: “The Feynman Lectures On Physics
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Most scientists are scientists because they are afraid of life.  It’s wonderful to be creative in science because you can do it without clashing with people and suffering the pain of relationships, and making your way in the world.  It’s a wonderful out — it’s sort of this aseptic world where you can use the very exciting faculties you have and not encounter any pain.  The pain in solving a problem is small potatoes compared with the pain you encounter in living.
Introspection is not a scientific activity: it’s not repeatable, there are no good theories about how to do it, what you expect to find.  It’s strange that by looking into yourself you really get an appreciation of the mystery of the universe.  You don’t by trying to find the laws of physics.
    —    John Backus
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Thinking

Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about.
   —    Benjamin Whorf
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As of the mid-1990s, programming costs are roughly fifty times hardware costs in most corporate software development settings.  So you set yourself two new goals: reduce the time required to produce the first version of a program and make the program easier to improve when customer request changes.
   -–    Dennis Shasha and Cathy Lazere
Quoted from:  “Out Of Their Minds
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We should give up the attempt to derive results and answers with complete certainty.
   —    Michael O. Rabin
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In the culture of computer science, an idea that works in one situation is called a hack, an idea that works twice is called a trick, and an idea that works often and pervasively is called a technique.
    —    Dennis Shasha and Cathy Lazere
Quoted from:  “Out Of Their Minds
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Computer science, I think, differs from other fields most in that it constantly jumps levels — from looking at something in the small to looking at in the large.
    —    Donald E. Knuth
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Destiny

It’s not true that necessity is the only mother or father of invention.  The other part is that a person has to have the right background for the problem.  I don’t just go around working on every problem that I see.  The ones I solve, I say, “Oh, man, I have a unique background that might let me solve it — it’s my destiny, my responsibility.
    —    Donald E. Knuth
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