Showing posts from September, 2011

Science vs dogma

Two hypotheticals: 1. You (common, everyday man) observe something occurring in nature. Every time it happens, you figure out that a specific something causes it. You emit the hypothesis that "A causes B" and devise a number of experiments to disprove it. You fail, and as far as you know everyone else also fails to disprove your theory. You tentatively accept the theory. 2. You observe something occurring in nature. It violates accepted dogma. You note that there is no known case where the alleged cause is known to actually produce the observed effect and, in fact, there is no actual proof that the cause even exists. You are told that you lack the inner grace that allows the high priests to verify that the cause does indeed exist; that there are secret rituals you're not privy to that they have used to confirm the truth of the dogma, and you're better off just accepting it as fact. The first paragraph describes, for example, the idea that complex information is overw…

Thou shalt not steal

Jimmy was quite good at his craft, and that made him proud. His Pa, though – his Pa could never find out; he was a big stickler for that “honest work” bull, his Pa was. Jimmy was big for his fourteen years, so his Pa had started to bug him more often lately – “it’s time to start earning your keep, Jimmy”, “come work with me at the farm, Jimmy, we could use someone like you”. It was very annoying, even more so because Jimmy did want his Pa to be proud of him, but he wanted to get there his own way. No, his choice of craft was not that of a farmer, or a carpenter, or anything like that. Jimmy was a pickpocket – a good one, if he said so himself. Minor stuff for now, but he had never been caught – the very thought of what his Pa would do to him if he found out about it gave him shivers – and he was hoping for a big score. Jimmy was sure that his big score was close – didn’t his Ma tell him that “good things come to those who wait”? So Jimmy waited, and practiced. His Pa was also annoying…

TDD by example

I intend to start a series of short "booklets", for lack of a better term, on the same idea of Growing Object-Oriented Software, Guided by Tests - show how a test-driven design process works for writing an application, from beginning to end. I realize I have hardly any readers, but is anybody interested in something like that? The articles will be free on my blog, of course, but I intend to also make them available for sale on Amazon. I thought of stuff like writing an expression evaluator - 2 + 3 * 5 / (1 - 7) - and a postfix expression evaluator - 7 2 3 + * - but I tend to jump to math problems. On one hand, I need relatively simple problems, as I want to emphasize the TDD part; on the other hand, I don't want to write the next Stack implementation. Can anybody suggest topics? Edited: follow-up at

Flash fiction

My house stands at the edge of the Earth. It didn’t use to. Earth was a normal planet, a planet-sized planet as it were. Round. Not as big as Jupiter, of course, but not so small as to see its edges. I’ve been to cities that were bigger than what Earth looks like now. There are only a few thousands of us left. We can’t say we’re alive, really – we’re almost zombies. Everybody that’s still here lost family and friends. We’re in the acceptance stage now… there was fighting, and incredulity, and mass suicides, but everybody seems to be resigned to whatever fate we have. Nobody has a clue what happened. It doesn’t even make any sense – no celestial body this small should have an atmosphere, and yet the air is perfectly breathable. A lot more breathable than it used to be, in fact – there’s no industry left on Earth, nothing to pollute. I think all the animals are gone too, except for a few pets. Oh, and lots of insects. The scientists were right; the cockroaches will inherit the Earth. Wh…
“The fact is that the average man’s love of liberty is nine-tenths imaginary, exactly like his love of sense, justice and truth. He is not actually happy when free; he is uncomfortable, a bit alarmed, and intolerably lonely. Liberty is not a thing for the great masses of men. It is the exclusive possession of a small and disreputable minority, like knowledge, courage and honor. It takes a special sort of man to understand and enjoy liberty–and he is usually an outlaw in democratic societies.”
— H.L. Mencken, Baltimore Evening Sun, Feb. 12, 1923

Johnny Got His Gun

I don't believe in Hell. Several years ago I decided to fully accept the preterist theory (short version: everything in the Bible has already happened); this has led me to universalism - everyone goes to heaven. I've held this belief for quite a while now. I just changed it - somewhat. I suddenly believe in Hell, a place of such misery and torture that people can't really imagine it. A horrifying place. I also believe I'm in it right now, I just found a tiny bit which is somewhat less horrible. (I try not to make too many waves so I don't get moved to a more horrible part.) This movie is why I think so - Johnny Got His Gun. It made me realize that politicians and soldiers are, if not the Devil, then something very close to it. They do their best to make other people's lives and homes a Hell. Hiroshima and Nagasaki might have been the clearest example, but read this description of the carpet bombing of Tokyo from Wikipedia: On March 9 and 10 1945, B-29 Superf…

On science, peer review and consensus

I find myself searching for these two articles a lot, so I thought I'd save them here. I can't recommend them enough.