Nov. 23, 2009

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8:33 pm

  • For example - if you came in here asking “how do I use a jackhammer” we might ask “why do you need to use a jackhammer”
  • If the answer to the latter question is “to knock my grandmother’s head off to let out the evil spirits that gave her cancer”, then maybe the problem is actually unrelated to jackhammers

The bash.org quotes database. (#)

Aug. 26, 2009

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11:36 am

Knowing the scope of the problem is more important than having what looks like a solution to the problem, and sometimes going through the effort of building a possible solution is the only way to truly understand the scope.

Google, from an article on how to tackle those massive programming projects. (#)

Aug. 7, 2009

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10:45 am

And people aren’t looking for a replacement for email, or instant messaging, or blogs, or wikis. Those tools all work great for their intended purposes, and whatever technology augments them will likely offer a different combination of persistence and immediacy than those systems. Right now, Wave evokes all of them without being its own distinctive thing. Which means it’s most useful in providing reference implementations of particular new features.

Anil Dash, on the key reason he believes the open standards for Google Wave will have a tough time being adopted and adapted. (#)

Jun. 19, 2009

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6:44 am

Calling Iranian politics “byzantine” doesn’t quite do the trick, because all Byzantium really had going on was palace intrigue. Tehran is that, plus Twitter.

Gabriel Winant, from a piece detailing the ins-and-outs of Iran's current political scene. I love Twitter and all, but ascribing this kind of importance to the service is just way over the top. (#)

Jun. 18, 2009

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6:52 am

When someone says “FAIL”, what they’re really saying is, “I’m failing to understand a creative person’s constraints.”

Anil Dash, on the death of FAIL. (#)

Jun. 2, 2009

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6:17 pm

If you review your first site version and don’t feel embarrassment, you spent too much time on it.

Reid Hoffman. (via 37signals.) (#)

May 1, 2009

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7:32 am

In order to understand recursion, one must first understand recursion.

Kai Diefenbach, quoting an unnamed source. (#)

Mar. 10, 2009

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4:12 am

We called it the Rubber Duck method of debugging. It goes like this:

  1. Beg, borrow, steal, buy, fabricate or otherwise obtain a rubber duck (bathtub variety).
  2. Place rubber duck on desk and inform it you are just going to go over some code with it, if that's all right.
  3. Explain to the duck what you code is supposed to do, and then go into detail and explain things line by line.
  4. At some point you will tell the duck what you are doing next and then realise that that is not in fact what you are actually doing. The duck will sit there serenely, happy in the knowledge that it has helped you on your way.

Works every time. Actually, if you don't have a rubber duck you could at a pinch ask a fellow programmer or engineer to sit in.

Andrew Errington, from an awk list-serv discussion on debugging. (#)

Mar. 8, 2009

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5:45 am

When you talk about how much you like a tune, you don’t say: “That’s a great MP3”. You say: “That’s a great song”. The MP3 is the delivery mechanism, not the creative work; just as in type a font is the delivery mechanism and a typeface is the creative work.

Stephen Coles, typography enthusiast and contributor to Font Feed, on the distinction between the terms "font" and "typeface." (via Jeff Croft.) (#)

Mar. 5, 2009

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6:59 am

We’re just a million little gods causing rain storms, turning every good thing to rust.

I guess we’ll just have to adjust.

Arcade Fire, from the song "Wake Up." (#)

Feb. 28, 2009

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3:09 pm

There is an unacknowledged war that goes on every day in the world of programming. It is a war between the humans and the computer scientists. It is a war between those who want simple, sloppy, flexible, human ways to write code and those who want clean, crisp, clear, correct ways to write code. It is the war between PHP and C++/Java. It used to be the war between C and dBase. Programmers at the level of those who attend Columbia University, programmers at the level of those who have made it through the gauntlet that is Google recruiting, programmers at the level of this audience are all people who love precise tools, abstraction, serried ranks of orderly propositions, and deduction. But most people writing code are more like my son. Code is just a hammer they use to do the job.

Adam Bosworth, from a 2004 speech on the primacy of simple, sloppy systems over rigid, perfect ones. (#)

Feb. 4, 2009

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8:08 pm

The bursting of the housing bubble caused the current crisis, but the underlying problem began much earlier—in the late 1970s, when median U.S. incomes began to stall. Because wages got hit then by the double-whammy of global competition and new technologies, the typical American family was able to maintain its living standard only if women went into the workforce in larger numbers, and later, only if everyone worked longer hours.

When even these coping mechanisms were exhausted, families went into debt—a strategy that was viable as long as home values continued to rise. But when the housing bubble burst, families were no longer able to easily refinance and take out home-equity loans. The result: Americans no longer have the money to keep consuming. When you consider that consumers make up 70 percent of the economy, the magnitude of the problem becomes apparent.

What happened to the money? According to researchers Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, since the late 1970s, a greater and greater share of national income has gone to people at the top of the earnings ladder. As late as 1976, the richest 1 percent of the country took home about 9 percent of the total national income. By 2006, they were pocketing more than 20 percent. But the rich don’t spend as much of their income as the middle class and the poor do—after all, being rich means that you already have most of what you need. That’s why the concentration of income at the top can lead to a big shortfall in overall demand and send the economy into a tailspin. (It’s not coincidental that 1928 was the last time that the top 1 percent took home more than 20 percent of the nation’s income.)

Robert Reich, on the root cause of current economic woes in the US. (#)

Jan. 19, 2009

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2:31 pm

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will bless us with tears—tears for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women in many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless this nation with anger—anger at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort at the easy, simplistic answers we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth about ourselves and our world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be fixed anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility, open to understanding that our own needs as a nation must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance, replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences.

Bless us with compassion and generosity, remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable.

And God, we give you thanks for your child, Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, inspire him with President Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for all people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our ship of state needs a steady, calm captain.

Give him stirring words; We will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking far too much of this one. We implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand, that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity, and peace. Amen.

Episcopal Bishop Gene Robison's prayer opening the "We Are One" concert that kicked off the festivities for President Obama's inauguration. (#)

Dec. 19, 2008

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7:38 am

Stress comes from dissonance. When two things in your mind can’t be resolved and you start thinking you’re going to be stuck with the incongruity forever, you stress.

But, as much as our minds and our hearts encourage us to believe the fault goes to our will or our lack of industry – rather than our thinking and cognition – the true cure for stress is to cut the Gordian Knot. To change your mind about at least one thing you think you’re not allowed to change your mind about.

Merlin Mann, on relieving stress through the practice of total honesty. (#)

Nov. 21, 2008

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9:26 am

There’s no difference between a bug and a feature request from the user’s perspective.

Jeff Atwood, on the sometimes arbitrary distinction between software bugs and feature requests. (#)

Nov. 1, 2008

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12:06 pm

While luck may be more appealing than effort, you don’t get to choose luck. Effort, on the other hand, is totally available, all the time.

Seth Godin. It's self-help Saturday, everyone! (#)

Oct. 23, 2008

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10:05 am

He’s working now to represent more people, to be more broadly inclusive in his representation. He can’t really afford to think, “Who am I?” Now, it’s more like, “Who are we as a nation? Or who do we want to be? And how can I help facilitate a stronger, broader, unified identity?”

Maya Soetoro-Ng, on the evolution of her brother Barack's political focus. (#)

Oct. 14, 2008

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1:53 pm

Of course, building only one part creates its own set of challenges. When you have multiple parts that are fastened together, tolerances don’t need to be perfect. You have wiggle room, both literally and figuratively. But when one part is responsible for many functions, it’s critical to manufacture that part with absolute precision, down to the micron. Every time. Millions of times over. There was only one way to achieve this level of precision: mill the unibody from a solid block of aluminum using computer numerical control, or CNC, machines – the kind used by the aerospace industry to build mission-critical spacecraft components.

Apple's design page for the new MacBook. DO WANT. (#)

Oct. 10, 2008

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12:27 pm

Describing a world in which wholesale money markets were now refusing to lend to banks, even overnight, the UK authorities warned that the world was on the edge of a collapse of the financial system.

Chris Giles, Financial Times editor, clearly trying to scare me outta my britches. (#)

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10:31 am

A “perfectionist” and a “purist” are not the same person. The perfectionist seeks to do everything to the best of their ability against standards that are often set higher than average. The purist, on the other hand, seeks to adhere to some set of rules that are written for conditions in a world wherein Tom Cruise is taller and a lot less creepy, and every morning the box of Trix is full and fresh without all those lame crumb particles at the bottom of the box … Clients, supervisors, vice presidents, and so forth—they don’t want the purist. Purists freak them out. While they might make for interesting subjects on the Discovery Channel, purists aren’t the best fit in the business world. Purity costs money and dedication to a path that often leads to even more unwanted or unnecessary expenditures.

Greg Storey, on lessons learned from a recent run-in he and Cederholm had with an asshat xhtml fundamentalist. (#)