Thursday, January 13, 2011

The pursuit of knowledge


But, you ask, what about the glorious pursuit of knowledge? Won’t you be dedicating your life to advancing the state of human knowledge? If you’re asking that, I guess you’ve never actually been inside a Western University: They are cesspools of mediocrity and ideological cant. The contemporary university is quite possibly the worst place in the world to actually think freely and come up with new ideas. As a career academic, you will frequently have to choose between honesty and your career. And remember, if you aren’t willing to make the “right” choice, there are a thousand others lined up behind you who will.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Excel gotcha

Just got bit by a... I can't call it "bug", but at least surprising behavior, in Excel 2007 (though I believe it is the same even in other versions).

I had a column of text (file names) in a csv document which was opened in Excel and re-saved as a regular Excel files. The recipient of that document asked me while some of the file names were in scientific notation :) It puzzled me for a bit, until I realized that a lot of the file names had the form 12E12345. When the part after the "E" was small enough (I didn't bother searching for the limit, but I'd make a wild guess and say below 300), Excel would interpret that string as a number in scientific notation - so 01E00212 became 1E+212.

The program I used to generate these csv documents knew to prefix strings made up of only digits and starting with zeroes with an apostrophe - like '00123. This one, however, caught me unprepared :)