Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Green New Deal Costs

5 September 2019

You think a green new deal will be expensive? Try not doing anything about climate change.

I Took a Dump the Same Way the Apollo Astronauts Did—and Dear God Was It Awful

25 July 2019

Unsung virtues

22 July 2019

If you sing my virtues, you destroy them.

19 July 2019

19 July 2019

The more unequal a context/situation is the harder to referee it becomes. The theory is that inequality erodes trust in authorities (makes sense) and so people/players become much more likely to dispute a referee’s calls –

You want to fulfill the Canadian mantra of “Peace, Order, and Good Government”? You want us to have some trust in you as an authority? Reduce inequality.

When bad things happen

18 July 2019

We all have this conceit that life is supposed to happen on our own terms. When things go wrong, that conceit is violated and we feel hard done by. Disease, financial or natural disaster, deprivation of one kind or another etc. These are the things that can go wrong.

The Buddhist spirit says that we can only achieve some peace if we can come to accept that life does NOT happen on our terms. We can’t control the emotions we feel. We can’t prevent disaster. We can’t, as the saying goes, cover the whole world with leather to stop the stones from burning our feet.

The things that other people do to us and the ways in which they act that hurt us are just as much part of life not happening on our terms as hurricanes and cancer. I think we should look on them the same way. Someone’s abuse towards me is not inherently different (or shouldn’t be seen as inherently different) than getting cancer or having a tornado strike.

What makes the actions of people seem like they should be an exception is our notion of justice. It is unjust for them to act this way and our sense of justice demands that they not do so. A person is unjust, on this way of thinking, in the way that a tornado cannot be because the person chooses to act this way. The tornado cannot so choose. A person has agency (is an agent?). A tornado has none. 

There are many notions tied up with this idea of agency. The agent wills the action and can thus be held responsible for it.Maybe the desire for justice is a block to our chances for peace. OTOH, who wants to live in a world in which we do nothing to strive for it? BUT, we do not let the fact that natural disasters occur prevent us from responding with compassion to their victims. Nor do we (wearing our buddhist hats) fail to prepare for them. The point is, that we work to not take them personally.

Python vs Java

9 August 2012

I have to think about whether we’re going to use Python again next year for ICS3U or whether we’re going to revert to Java. The move to Python was initiated by Boy. He had polled some Comp. Sci. profs at Carleton U. They were pretty clear that they would prefer to see students coming in with Python. I was crazy busy at the time and just said  “Go ahead. Whatever.” I came to regret that (non) decision, however, when I was subsequently teaching the course myself and had to re-work all my powerpoints and assignments into Python – not to mention learning the language on the fly as I taught it. But that’s mostly done now. The only gaping hole in my Python understanding is in GUI stuff. That shouldn’t be too hard to remedy.

OK. So where do I stand on all this?

I can see why Python is a good intro language for programming. Students can get up and running pretty quickly. If they have a moderate degree of aptitude, they can do stuff fast. And that’s a good thing. Why should they be hobbled by the grunting mechanics of a language (declare before use, rigid data typing, etc.) when that’s not necessary.

Still, I ran into some problems going through the course for the first time in Python and they didn’t have anything to do with the P.I.T.A. of converting my stuff to Python and personally having to learn the language. In a way, Python is too powerful. It’s like teaching someone to drive in a Ferrari. They can do a lot quickly. That’s for sure. But they can go too fast, too quickly. I spent a lot of time sorting out issues having to do with data typing. Students create a variable that they intended to be an int but they would get a value for it from stdin using raw_input. Fair enough but you can’t then turn around and use the variable as an int without converting into an int first. (raw_input always returns a string.) In v. simple problems this wasn’t much of a problem to figure out. When the programs started to get longer then tracking down what was going wrong could get difficult. They wouldn’t have had this problem in Java. The compiler would have flagged  the issue right away.

The other big issue I had was that Python made it really easy to write disorganized programs. Liberal declaration rules made scoping problems easy to miss. Students had a really hard time seeing that myInt in the main program was different than myInt in a function they had written. And Python’s use-right-away declaration policy meant that initializations were spread all over the place. Indeed, the whole notion of initialization was fuzzy. Even in Python it helps to make a point of initializing variables  and using them later but it takes a lot longer to see the value of it.

The Watcher

22 February 2010

When I wake up in the morning I can often feel or observe my ego-mind kicking in. I tense up as that part of me swings into action, criticizing something I’ve thought or just remembered that I’d done or worrying over something that’s going to be happening in the upcoming day.

It happens most clearly on Monday mornings, when the school week is about to start.

It seems to be the case that the job of this part of me is to pre-plan how I’ll deal with problems. This sounds productive but the end result is that scenario after scenario gets pre-filtered and pre-pared and pre-chewed and that I’m never comfortable just encountering my life. Even the part that deals in extensive self-criticism is involved in the this management task. I criticize myself so that I can be prepared for the criticism that I fear might be directed at me.

Philosophy; definition of

7 December 2009

Philosophy is the radical pursuit of the reality masked by convention. From 3quarksdaily.

Security and Surveillance

18 August 2009

“It’s bad civic hygiene to build technologies that could someday be used to facilitate a police state. No matter what the eavesdroppers and censors say, these systems put us all at greater risk.  Communications systems that have no inherent eavesdropping capabilities are more secure than systems with those capabilities built in.” – Security Expert Bruce Schneier.