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McCarthy's B.S.

"John McCarthy's B.S. was in mathematics... He is widely credited for inventing the term artificial intelligence and made many contributions to that field." -- Bjarne Stroustrup, Programming: Principles and Practice Using C++

Well, I'd say by far his most significant BS was the term "artificial intelligence"!

Succinct, Simple Semaphor Sought

I update my main repos when I log in anywhere. This usually works fine, but some logins kick off two terminals at once, and then the updates in one would fail while the other worked. (And often they alternate failing and working: you see why, right?)

This is really no problem... but it offends my aesthetic sensibilities. I should just be attempting these updates once, right? So I tried a very simple semaphor:
#!/bin/sh export REPO_SEM="repo_semaphore" # let's update our main repos: if [ ! -e $REPO_SEM ] then # set a semaphore: touch $REPO_SEM cd $GDIR/algorithms; git pull origin master # more updates done here... cd $HOME; rm $REPO_SEM else echo "$REPO_SEM exists: another processes may be doing the update." fi
This works... except when I really need it to, when the two logins kick off simultaneously. In the time between the existence test and the touch, both logins are able to proceed. What I would really need is for the if and the touch …

My hovercraft is full of eels...

and I have a disk in my Mac's DVD drive. My desktop tells me so.

The problem is, my Mac has no DVD drive.

I have discovered a new form of anxiety I can suffer from

I'm one of those people who, when I leave the apartment, am sure I left the burner / AC / lights on, and I have to run back and check. Or, at a show, I'm sure I have misplaced my ticket, and I have to check my pocket. And, most often, the fear proves groundless: the burner is off, and the ticket is right where it ought to be.

Well, tonight, I left the office, got two blocks away... and had to run back, because I was sure I had forgotten to push my code to my GitHub repo. (This was important because I needed to do more work from home.)

And, of course, I found I had pushed it.

So now I've got this as well.

Extreme Risk Analytics

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Spring 2018 party:


More Tyranny of Metrics

Another excerpt from my forthcoming review:


Another form of metric fixation that appears in higher education is the desire to have some sort of "measurement" for all aspects of student learning. Courses should set out a variety of goals, and have a numeric score for how far the course went in meeting the goal. These "measurements" are then compiled, averaged, their spread measured, and so on. The joke here is that the numbers used as input are not measurements at all: professors are simply asked to pick a number between one and five, or one and ten, as to how close the class came to achieving the goal. Rather than being an actual measurement, the "score" is simply whatever number the professor being asked wishes to pick! It as though quantum physics were done by asking a bunch of physicists "How highly would you rate the attraction of leptons?" and then running calculations based on the results. In fact, what usually happens is that everyone as…