Efectos Especiales

Ramblings, rants, musings, ideas and observations. Topics include (but are not limited to): programming (especially Python), books, games (especially CCGs and board games), astrology, design, writing, painting, etc.

icon:books #849 (old comments) Knife of Dreams

Today I finished Robert Jordan's Knife of Dreams, the latest in the Wheel of Time series.

I think it was quite good. At least things get done. Long-standing storylines finally got resolved. A number of questions got answered (although maybe not "Who killed Asmodean" :-). In general, it was an enjoyable read, and except for in a few places, the pace wasn't slow.

I agree with Lannie that there seem to be too many remaining plot lines and unresolved issues to fit in one book, unless it's enormous. Of course, Jordan could decide not to spend too much time on Tarmon Gai'don, which would be kind of like an anti-climax.

Anyway, it was a good book, much better than the previous one(s).

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2005-11-10 21:45 */

icon:default #848 (old comments) Red paperclip

This is a really great idea. But I've seen it somewhere before. Look at this Donald Duck story from 1947:

The boys pull of the same trick again later in the story, going from a piece of pencil to a medallion, to a minah bird, to binoculars, until they end up with a cart with 500 pounds of cat food. emoticon:smile

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2005-11-10 13:27 */

icon:default #847 (old comments) SoC map

Everybody has probably already seen this, but here's a nice map of the Summer of Code students and mentors.

One thing is peculiar though... unselect all, then select Python. You'll notice that three Pythoneers (Andrew Kuchling, Ian Bicking and Paul Dubois) have moved to China. emoticon:smile emoticon:confused

My guess is that they entered their global coordinates wrong... longitudes in the western hemisphere are represented by negative values rather than positive. Or maybe China is the hot new place for programmers to go to?

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2005-11-07 17:17 */

icon:default #846 (old comments) And another dumb question...

Why is "Iraq" spelled with a q? In English that is; many other languages spell it Irak. Why is it not spelled with a k or even a c? The q doesn't seem a very obvious choice.

(I didn't find any information about this online, aside from people pointing out that it's spelled with a q, and others wondering why.)

Update: James Tauber knows more about this. Thanks James!

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2005-11-03 15:39 */

icon:idea #845 (old comments) Bad medicine

(See the previous post...)

What would be really nice to have is a Greasemonkey plugin (or something like that) that lets you right-click on a word or selection, and then opens a Wikipedia page with information about that word/selection. (In a new tab, of course... :-)

E.g. if I was reading a text containing the word "Marseille", then I would be able to right-click on that word, select "Look up in Wikipedia" from the menu, and then get a new tab with this content.

Does such a beast exist?

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2005-11-03 12:37 */

icon:default #844 (old comments) Repetitive Information Injury... sort of

So, yes, like everybody else, I saw this post too. Repetitive Information Injury. And yes, like many, I've been a long-time sufferer.

In my case, the problem isn't so much checking email, blogs or messengers. It's more that when I read a page about something, I tend to think, "gee, but what about X, Y and Z?" So I open new tabs and look up X, Y and Z. It's even worse if the web page already has interesting links, because I will invariably open new tabs for them, to be read "later". All those new pages may have interesting links themselves... you get the idea.

(With a separate window for each page, this would get unwieldy real fast, but thanks to modern browsers, having lots of pages open at the same time has become quite manageable. Damn you Firefox (and Opera)...)

Eventually I will get tired of reading all this stuff, and close a few tabs, to discover that I've just wasted two hours or so clicking on things and devouring the content. (But, like Simon says, how *else* will I manage to know everything? :-)

However, there's a simple solution. I made a folder that sits on my desktop. Whenever I see an article that looks interesting and might be worth reading, I drag it to the folder. (This will of course create a link, which I can click on later.) I can then close the page and come back to it later, when I have more time. If the article turns out to be valuable, I can bookmark it and delete it from the folder. . . . At least, that's how it should work in theory. In real life, I often end up reading it anyway, and blogging about it, and... emoticon:dizzy2

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2005-11-03 12:03 */

icon:science #843 (old comments) Why...

...do teeth have nerves? Talk about unintelligent design...

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2005-11-02 01:49 */

icon:python #842 (old comments) The Poignant Planet Python Puzzle! -- solutions

(original post)

  1. "JavaScript, as a language, gives you just about nothing useful. All you have are objects (little more than key-value bags, or null), extremely lame exception handling, and a few primitives (number, string, undefined, function). That means no classes, macros, continuations, coroutines, metaclasses, etc. Forget even thinking about overloading operators or inventing new control structures."

    -- Bob Ippolito, author of MochiKit

  2. "I can't for the life of me remember why I would prefer ABCs over interfaces! And even if I did remember, I believe I have changed my mind since then."

    -- Guido van Rossum, on abstract base classes (ABCs) vs interfaces

  3. "If you've spent any amount of time trying to "improve yourself" in any way, you've undoubtedly experienced some frustration, in that you discover your "self" isn't as much of a part of you as it would appear. It seems bizarre - "you" want "yourself" to do something (or refrain from it), but "yourself" goes ahead and does whatever it wants. Often, "you" may rationalize your behavior in context, only to be later exasperated by your lack of "willpower"."

    -- Phillip J. Eby's popular article about the "multiple self"

  4. ""Pythonic" is a vague concept, but not necessarily that much more vague than concepts like "intelligence" or "life", which, when you try to actually define them, tend to be slippery. That they're hard to define doesn't mean that they're useless though; humans work well with messy definitions. "Pythonic" means something like "idiomatic Python", but now we'll need to describe what that actually means."

    -- Martijn Faassen on the meaning of "Pythonic"

  5. "We're also finding that this new-think will not be accepted by the mainstream analyst firms, tech publications, and vendor powerhouses on simple merit. Pimping the latest acronym from the latest vendor with the latest money is a much easier way of bringing in stupid amounts of cash than is trying to move an industry forward in providing real value to actual people. So screw you guys - your goals are in direct competition with those of my customers."

    -- Ryan Tomayko in his announcement of lesscode.org

  6. "OK, enough wedding stuff. Back to Python. I'd like to suggest that we should retarget Python's development, away from interpreter hacking and toward enhancing and expanding the standard library. The idea is simple, but has far-reaching consequences for the development process; I think that on balance the consequences would be positive. The proposal: We should deflect effort away from language changes and redirect them toward the standard library."

    -- Andrew Kuchling

  7. "A few other people were interested in the PyPI development - though there's still a huge number (most likely a comfortable majority) of people at the conference who don't even know it exists. I've lined up another Lightning Talk entitled "PyPI: Python's CPAN" in which I'll give a demo."

    -- Richard Jones, author of PyPI

  8. "my nottodo.txt list is a lot more important than my todo.txt. (I've also started using a list of keywords, phrases, and individuals that make me reach for the back button. let's call them "stupid tags", like in "if I keep reading this, I'll end up with stupid all over me". no, I won't post that list. not yet.)"

    -- Fredrik Lundh

  9. "How well do you know python, part 8: Here is a mostly-functioning class that facilitates writing producer / consumer algorithms. It is designed to support a single producing and multiple consuming threads, i.e., scenarios where consuming involves some blocking operations such as communicating over a socket."

    -- Jonathan Ellis

  10. "An email I sent Tim was scored as 100% spam by his Spambayes filter. The email contained lots of charts and text graphics summarizing the contents of a Zope database. Most of the numbers were spam clues."

    -- Jeremy Hylton. (This one was less obvious, but it does have the hints of Zope and Spambayes involvement.)

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2005-10-28 20:55 */

icon:console #841 (old comments) Console vs PC, again

"Another important factor is the innate upgradeability of PCs vs. consoles. The fact that you can still have a viable machine two years after it has been on the market, by simply adding RAM or a new video card is priceless."

I think that the machine that is still viable after two years is the console. It's viable as long as there are games coming out for it. Heck, as long as it doesn't break or anything, it's still viable ten years later; after all, I will still be able to play my old games on it.

(The same is basically true for a PC. But who keeps a 10 year old PC around? They're big and clunky, so it's much more likely that you upgrade, or better yet, replace it with a newer model. Which often means that you cannot play older games.)

One of the main reasons that consoles win out over PCs is that PCs often aren't capable of running game X to begin with. Wrong video card, not enough RAM, wrong operating system, wrong version of dependent software, etc. Being able to upgrade is nice; *having* to upgrade because a program won't run otherwise is, um, less nice. I've said this before: with a console, I can just pop in the game and it works. With a PC, whether it's going to work is anybody's guess.

Will Civ4 run on my PC? I don't know. But if it was released for, say, the Gamecube, then I would be sure that it worked. For this reason, the last 20 or so games that I bought have all been console games. I don't buy PC games anymore, because I simply cannot be sure if they work.

What I do miss on consoles is the ability to cheat. I love to run Doom or Quake (fortunately some kind souls made Windows versions available for these games, otherwise I *would* need a 10 year old computer) and being able, in a pinch, to enter the cheats for god mode or al weapons or whatever. And if such "debug modes" aren't built into the game, it's still possible to run other programs that change in-memory locations (e.g. for Diablo). While it is possible to use cheats on consoles in certain situations, it nowhere near as easy as this.

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2005-10-27 20:28 */

icon:language #840 (old comments) Long words

I didn't know that floccinaucinihilipilification was really a word... according to Wikipedia, it means "the act or habit of esteeming or describing something as worthless, or making something to be worthless by said means".

Another nice word is honorificabilitudinitatibus. emoticon:smile

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2005-10-23 12:10 */