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Software <-> Politics

Here’s an analogy that came up this morning.

Liberals (Democrats) are like new CS grads.  They are excited about writing new code (laws) and disdainful of the negative predictions others make based on their hard-earned experience (believe in the perfectibility of people/software).

Conservatives are like grim old maintenance programmers.  They have seen fads and standards come and go, and know that attempting to fix one thing might break something else and make the whole system worse.  Unfortunately this sometimes leads them to defend the indefensible (States’ rights objections to the Civil Rights Act).  They’re often infatuated with process at the expense of outcome (strict constructionism).

Both views offer valuable insights and visible pitfalls.  But where is the party of refactoring?

Less Fatal: Peptic Ulcer

People don’t die of peptic ulcers so often anymore.  Here’s a nice picture:

Relevant dates include 1982, which is when Marshall and Warren identified H. pylori.  It gets a bit steeper after 1994, when the CDC starts promoting antibiotic treatment of peptic ulcer disease.  By 2005, when Warren and Marshall receive the Nobel Prize, it’s down around 1 per 100,000.

I was unable to find Canadian data before 2000.  US data is stitched together from three different coding systems: 1968-1978 ICD-8; 1979-1998 ICD-9; 1999-2010 ICD-10.

Take away: Better supportive care cuts deaths by 40% from 1968 – 1980.  Better treatment cuts another 40% (or, 2/3 of remaining deaths).

The Future was Last Week

In the future, we will have roving autonomous self-assembling bioreactors which will take in cellulosic matter, and convert it to natural gas and bio-available nutrients including complex amino acid chains. Some units will allow on-line collection of liquid food product, which can either be transported as-is or condensed into various solid, more easily stored forms, while other units will have to be deactivated and disassembled in order to yield edible matter.

In this way, we will be able to harvest the solar energy dumped on vast portions of the North American continent, currently growing useless native grasses, and instead have useful industrial feedstocks such as methane, butyric acid and long-chain hydrocarbon carboxylates.

They might even look a little like this:



Also we’ll have minature flying drone robots that collect plant matter, process it into sugar, and store it in custom-sized 3D-printed wrappers.


My point: buzzwords make everything sound good.

Not actually one of the reasons why we homeschool

But hey, if school kids are a) seeing knife wielding bullies and b) getting told to “not get involved” and quasi-punished for intervening, then well, maybe there’s more reasons to homeschool than I think.

Of course, this is Calgary.

Links via Gawker

Prague Floods Again

Looks like some dimwit opened Flood Control Dam #3 again… Now we’ll see if flood management has improved since the 2002 floods. My prediction: no. Half the metro is already flooded, apparently.

Here’s the BBC article

Chai vs. Tea

Czech has ‘čaj’, Japanese has ‘お茶’ (o-cha where the ‘o’ is honorific, so ignore it).  But English has ‘tea’, French has ‘thé’, Finnish has ‘tee’.

WALS has a nice map of the differences between world languages.  The interesting cases are where there’s an isolated blue dot in a red field or vice-versa.  For example, Hebrew uses ‘te’ while surrounding languages have  ‘cha’; not too surprising considering the influence of European languages on modern Hebrew.  But Basque and Portuguese use ‘cha’ while all other Romance languages use ‘te’ – I understand that the Portuguese made independent contact with the Far East, but why the Basque?  And why does Lesser Antillean French Creole use ‘cha’ when French uses ‘te’?  Why do Polish and Lithuanian have their own words, not loan-words?  Must be some  interesting stories there…

Things I hate: Hypocrites

I hate hypocrites. Well actually, I can tolerate a fair bit of hypocrisy in myself; it’s just other people being hypocrites that I can’t stand.

Tagged ,

Spouses Should Not Strive For Equality

Don’t split tasks evenly, explains Noah Berlatsky, writing in Scientology puff-magazine the Atlantic:

 Housework isn’t a debt wives owe to husbands, nor one husbands owe to wives. It’s not a gift you give to make a slave. Rather, it’s the quotidian stuff of which the relationship is made. We’re married, so we help each other. And the helping isn’t to protect the marriage, or to keep the people in the marriage happy. The helping is the marriage itself.

Yeah, no kidding.

What if we tried to split all the tasks up equally?  She’ll breastfeed half the time, and …… what? the other half of the time.  I’ll hold the steering wheel, you shift the gears.  You go to your office Monday, Wednesday and come to mine Tuesday, Thursday…

Or maybe: sure, go to medical school — but make sure you’re home on time every day to take care of your twelve hours of the parenting.

Shyeah, right.

C++ for Bozos: Problems with const

Here’s how to handle problems with the const qualifier: remove it!

For example, if someone has declared a function to return a const object, and you want to use and modify that return value, just change the declared return value.


void myfunc( std::string s );

const std::string WToA( const std::wstring& w );

myfunc( WToA( w ) ); // will error unless you remove the const!

Pro Tip:

#define const


Arnold Kling is discovering John Holt

Arnold Kling, quoting John Holt on schooling:

Bryan’s view is benign compared with John Holt.

society demands of schools… that they be a place where… children or young people can be shut up and so got out of everyone else’s way…. They are a kind of day jail for kids. [elided much of this paragraph – Sam]

Apparently Kling was previously familiar with the work of Ivan Illich, who was a friend and colleague of Holt’s.

Since Illich and Holt were both more of the Left than the right (albeit, a liberty-celebrating Left that’s more like left-libertarianism than modern Progressives or even 1980’s liberal Democrats), I am curious to see how this influences Kling’s thinking.