Assembling Hygiene Kits

Earlier this week Meghan and her cousin Mimi (who lives next door) saw a report on tsunami relief efforts on the news. They decided they wanted to do something to help.

Since neither one had more than a couple of dollars in their piggy banks, and just giving money didn't seem like actually doing much to them, they decided to try and gather supplies instead.

Mimi's mom Becca (my sister) helped them make up a postcard-sized flyer which they took around to all of the houses in our neighborhood (about 140 houses total), asking people to contribute items for hygiene kits. The flyer said to leave items outside Saturday morning (New Years Day) and they would come collect them.

Once they assembled the kits from the items donated Becca was going to take Meghan and Mimi down to Salt Lake to the LDS Humanitarian Center so they could be distributed globally where needed. The Humanitarian Centers guidelines for hygiene kits called for:

This morning they went around and collected the items people had left out for them. They managed to collect enough donations to assemble six complete kits and another twenty-two partial kits (soap was the most popular donation).

This afternoon Meghan and I went shopping for the items needed to complete the rest of the kits. We had fun searching for the best bargains so that we'd be able to afford to complete as many of the kits as possible. We went to at least ten stores, but we ended up finding a lot of good deals: two-pack of Vidal Sassoon combs for $0.69, 8.2 oz tubes of toothpaste for $0.69, six toothbrushes for $1.00, and 100%-cotton hand towels for $1.69 each.

We purchased all of the combs that one grocery store had and had to go to another to get the rest that we needed. It made me wonder—if you were going to assemble these kits in mass quantities, what kind of prices could you find online for bulk case-lot quantities?

The best single source I found in a half-hours worth of Googling tonight (or should I say Froogling) was DollarDays.com for case-lot purchases. If you visit their website directly you have to register in order to see any pricing information—but, if you go to Froogle, search for an item, and click through from their link, then you can see their actual pricing.

I also discovered that there are people who clip coupons, and then rather than using the coupons themselves, auction them off on on eBay! I admit I'd never stopped to think there might be a secondary-market for coupons...

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Exploring America 2005

Last year we decided the kids were getting old enough that they might actually enjoy taking a long-ish roadtrip to go somewhere. Caleb was the most interested in planning, so we let him pick where to go. He chose Mt. Rushmore, so we spent a week in the Black Hills (staying at The High Country Ranch in Hill City, SD) and had a thoroughly enjoyable time. We took a couple days going (by way of Colorado and Nebraska) and coming (by way of Wyoming).

This year Meghan is suddenly much more interested in planning the family trip. It looks like a summer roadtrip, to a destination selected by one of the kids (with parents retaining their veto perogative), will probably become a Cleverly family tradition.

A couple of weeks ago I helped her find the official State Department of Tourism websites for Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon so she could request free information packets. (It was really exciting when Caleb got a whole big envelope full of stuff from South Dakota last spring.)

Meghan announced this morning that we were going to go to Oregon and then come home by way of Northern California. I suspect she was swayed to Oregon by the fact that her good friend Dani recently quit working at Deseret Book and moved (back) to Portland.

Besides Portland and the beach (Astoria probably?), other possible destinations appear to include: Crater Lake National Park and Oregon Caves National Monument. Once we get to Northern California: Redwood National Park and Lassen Volcanic National Park.

We'll also stop by to see old friends from college who are living in the Bay Area (Karl & Jolene and PJ & Pili), I'm sure.

There is still a lot to research, plan and explore. Suggestions on things to see are always welcomed.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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I can see again!

I picked up my new Rose K contact lenses from Dr. Judy's Bountiful office this afternoon. Jacob (bless his little four year old heart) lost one of my gaspermeable lenses last fall, and I've been stuck wearing my glasses since then.

Because I have Keratoconus, glasses are not able to correct my vision to the degree that hard contact lenses can. I've been coping by setting application font sizes to be at least 24-27 points. No more of that (at least for the time being, knock on wood), yeah!

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Programming Microcontrollers

A comment on an Ask Slashdot article on how to introduce children to computers (& programming) pointed to Parallax.com as a good source for teaching kids about hardware and low-level programming.

I've always been more of a software guy than a hardware hacker, ever since I began programming at the age of eight. So, I'm intrigued somewhat by the BASIC Stamp microcontroller. It looks like people can do some pretty cool things with them, and they appear to have a lot of online documentation and other educational resources.

Something to keep in mind, on the back burner, for the day when I find myself with copious amounts of spare time and no other projects to work on...

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Apparently I'm a nerd

Will Duquette (a fellow Tcl'er I first met at the 9th Annual Tcl/Tk Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia in 2002) is nerdier than 78% of all people.

I took the same test and found out that I'm nerdier than 80% of all people. I'm not sure exactly how I feel about that...

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Good book typefaces

I've been lurking on the alt.publish.books Usenet group for a while now. Going through my saved messages tonight I came across this post I'd saved from Stella Azbug.

Here is Stella's list of "good book typefaces:"

and her list of "good sans serif typefaces for heads etc.:"

For my Mormon's Book project, I've chosen Palatino. And many years ago when I compiled Final Teachings, I chose to set it in Bembo. (Sadly, Adobe's online store doesn't seem to remember my purchase—having been almost a decade now, I guess I can't blame them for purging old data—and the computer I had installed that font on has long since been turned into a boat anchor.)

Another source for typeface advice: the interactive Esperfonto Typeface Selection System.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Beginning yesterday, God's mail gets delivered in Holland

God's email, beginning yesterday, won't be returned to sender, at least not in The Netherlands:

AMSTERDAM—Dutch postal company TPG has decided to send all anonymous letters addressed to God to the country's evangelical broadcasting company. Up to now, the Deity's mail from the Netherlands has ended up in the wastepaper basket.

Members of the aftercare division of the EO broadcasting company will pray for the people who write the letters, clergyman Cees van Velzen, of the division, said on Monday.

And in case you were worried about people writing to different Gods:

The Christian broadcaster forwards letters addressed to Allah or other non-Christian deities to the appropriate organisation.

Source: Expatica: News and Information for Expats in the Netherlands.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Warm-chair attrition

Does this definition apply to people where you work?

warm-chair attrition (warm-chair uh.TRISH.un) n. The loss of workplace productivity due to employees who dislike their jobs and are just waiting for the right time to quit and move on to something better.

Source & example citations: The Word Spy.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Who writes this stuff? And who actually believes it?

Who writes for the Weekly World News, and more importantly (or scarily) who actually believes their nonsense?

Here's the first paragrpah from an article entitled "Clarence Thomas is a 'Black Power' Mole!"

Butt-Kissing Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is secretly a black power fanatic who has purposely built an "Uncle Tom" image to deceive his whitie Republican pals—like President Bush.

The article also purports to unmask Chief Justice Thomas's future agenda:

Hat tip to The Volokh Conspiracy.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Salary defines respect

David St. Lawrence has a blog, Ripples, that is chock full of good advice and interesting antecdotes. His post du jour is entitled "Get the salary you deserve."

It may be difficult for you to grasp this, but companies respect people in proportion to what they pay them. Actual performance is difficult to observe and is assumed to be proportionate to salary.

That rang especially true to me.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Goblin Valley State Park

I can't believe I've lived most of my life in Utah, and I've never been to Goblin Valley State Park. DeAnn goes on a yearly hike there with her brother, she says it is a fun place to visit, and that the kids would enjoy it.

Photographs of Goblin Valley from:

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Waiting for the bus

Since it's been snowing quite heavily this week I've been taking the express bus to Salt Lake each morning for work. This morning I was aiming for the 7:33 AM bus, but had to wait for a freight train crossing 2nd North, literally within eyesight of the Kaysville UTA park & ride lot just on the other side of the tracks.

By the time the train had passed, and the railroad crossing arms had gone back up it was 7:34 AM. I turned into the park & ride lot just as the bus pulled away from the stop. There wasn't time for me to find a parking spot and flag the bus down. So, I ended up waiting 23 minutes out in the cold for the next bus.

As I'm standing outside waiting, I consider how different waiting for a bus is in America as compared to Brazil (at least in the Amazon region of Brazil). There you don't really have a bus schedule. Just bus stops. If you want to catch the bus you go to the bus stop and wait. De vez em quando the bus comes by. You might end up waiting just a minute or two, or you could be in for a longer wait. It's anybodys guess. But since culturally Brazilians aren't as tied to a clock like a ball and chain, it's really no big deal. Plus, most any day in the Amazon is beautiful, even when it is raining.

Here in America the buses run (more or less) on a punctual schedule. I can look at the microwave clock in the kitchen and gauge whether I have time to make myself some breakfast or not. Syncronicity. Movement. Places to go. People to see. Too many things to do. Hectic. Frantic.

These were all the things I was ruminating over as I waited in the cold January morning air, feeling saudades for the saner pace of life in Brazil.

Imagine my complete confusion and momentary disorientation when the bus came, and as I boarded (being first in line), the bus driver says: "Bom dia!" and then adds (assuming, I guess that neither I nor my fellow passangers behind me would know): "that's `Good Morning' in Portuguese."

Yes... yes it is... é mesmo.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Ramble v0.1 released

Will Duquette has released Ramble version 0.1. Binaries are available for Macintosh OS X and Windows, as well as a tclkit.

Ramble is a retro tile-based aventure game Will is programming for his kids to play, in my favorite programming language, that he is also using as an opportunity to write a series of essays, The Ramble Chronicles, which explore issues behind the design and programming of tile-based games.

The first time I played, I lost. I won on my second try. Give Ramble a try and see how you do.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Playing world building

Came across Neel Krishnaswami's Lexicon role-playing game today. Here is his introduction:

The basic idea is that each player takes on the role of a scholar, from before scholarly pursuits became professionalized (or possibly after they ceased to be). You are cranky, opinionated, prejudiced and eccentric. You are also collaborating with a number of your peers—the other players—on the construction of an encyclopedia describing some historical period (possibly of a fantastic world).

The game has twenty-six turns (one for each letter of the alphabet). Read Neel's article for a full description of his original rules, but here is my summary of them:

Entry Cite
1stA,Cite: two entries B-Z
2ndB,Cite:one A entry & two entries C-Z
3rdC,Cite:one entry A-B & two entries D-Z
4thD,Cite:one entry A-C & two entries E-Z
: :etc.
23rdW,Cite:one entry A-V & two entries X-Z
24thX,Cite:one entry A-W & two entries Y-Z
25thY,Cite:two entries A-X & one Z entry
26thZ,Cite:three entries A-Y 

Probably best played on a private Wiki, in-person, or via email. Sounds like it could be a lot of fun with the right group of people...

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Usenet isn't dead

For a lot of people, Usenet is dead—rendered useless by spam (much as I find my personal email is becoming). However, there are still groups, such as comp.lang.tcl and comp.text.tex that are still vibrant and alive.

Last night I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why the LaTeX memoir class formatted poetic verse with a different amount of trailing vertical whitespace (by default) than the stock book class.

Finally in desperation I posted to comp.text.tex, and by today Dan Luecking of the University of Arkansas had posted a reply outlining what line to edit in the memoir class source code to correct a very obscure bug that I'd been tripping over, and also explaining the reason for the buggy behavior (which his change fixes—Thank You Dan!).

Incidentally, the memoir manual's first few chapters are a superb tutorial on the art of book design. I suggest anyone even remotely interested in the subject give it a read even if they'd probably never use LaTeX for typesetting.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Please dial * now

I've been looking at Asterisk this week—even before the Asterisk story on /. today.

At work I've built a fairly sophisticated online survey/research tool. Just last fall we used it to conduct various customer-related research projects that in the past we'd have paid an outside research firm on the order of $300,000 to do.

I've been thinking of how to broaden our reach. We can conduct customer satisfaction surveys online only of those customers who are online—which admittedly is most, but not all. And even among those who have internet access a web-based survey might not appeal to them because they don't like hitting [Submit] repeatedly or something.

Certainly not the only company that conducts customer satisfaction surveys by phone, but I was reminded this week that The Olive Garden restaraunts give some randomly selected subsection of their customers a 1-800 and a "survey code". If the customer calls in and completes the automated phone survey they'll get a coupon for a free dessert they can use on their next visit.

I'm especially intrigued of the possibilities because there are ways to program Asterisk in Tcl. One of Tcl's great strengths as a programming language is that you can develop working functional prototypes very rapidly. So it would be easy to experiment with a lot of different approachs in short order.

Cade points out that for less than $200 you can get some hardware to start playing with...

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Thirsty?

Benoit Clairoux has a very interesting collection of soft drink cans from around the world.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Installing additional fonts for LaTeX

At work today Jack Lyon, one of our editors, was asking questions about LaTeX and what I'd had to do to use something other than Computer Modern to typeset the book I've been working on.

Somewhere in my googling & reading various tutorials and books I learned that I could use Palatino simply by adding \usepackage{pxfonts} to my LaTeX document's preamble. Since Palatino is a good book typeface I decided to use it and avoid purchasing a font for now.

Since I'm still in the early stage of learning (La)TeX I didn't know what to tell Jack to do in order to be able to use any arbitrary (postscript) font. Using Google I found these instructions that look to be good guides:

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Benchmarks—the fourth kind of lie

In a thread on comp.lang.tcl Joe English had this to say:

Mark Twain is reported to have said "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics". He would have listed a fourth kind, except that programming language benchmarks hadn't been invented yet.

While Damon Courtney writes:

You know the one thing that never gets faster? Me. My time is precious. I don't have the time to write 100 lines of Java when I can do it in 10 or less lines of Tcl.

My time is too—since I'm not paid by the hour.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Marchetti's Constant

A book I've been reading, A Sideways Look at Time, makes reference, briefly, to "Marchetti's Constant":

Ceasere Marchetti, a Venetian physicist plotted what is called Marchetti's Constant, which argues that from Neolithic times to medieval and to the modern age, the time spent travelling by people each day has remained at a fairly constant one and a half hours; and though this time stays the same, the distance travelled has expanded dramatically...

A google search for "Marchetti's Constant" (currently) only turns up one article ("Why we're reaching our limit as a one-hour city" in the Sydney Morning Herald, April 2004).

I'm curious to read Marchetti's study, but haven't been able to find it (or much information about it) on the web. It might be "Anthropological Invariants in Travel Behaviour", but no electronic version is available, so it's hard to say for sure.

And, while you can apparently order a reprint from the foregoing link, the order form doesn't say how much it costs (so I'm a bit leery to fill it out with my credit card information). Google finds a dozen documents referencing this paper (mostly PDFs).

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Rambling about on a Sunday evening

Will has released Ramble v0.2. I spent some time showing Meghan, Caleb & Jacob how to play it last night. Even though some of their friends have xbox or Nintendos they are open-minded enough to be enthralled by the "retro" graphics.

Since Jacob isn't old enough to read yet, and Caleb's still learning (Meghan is already reading several grade-levels ahead of most kids her age), I decided to hack in speech synthesis via the OS X TclSpeech package. I discovered Will had some experimental code already stubbed in for speech, so I just fleshed that out some and sent him my patches.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Typesetting crossword & word search puzzles

Meghan wants me to help her make some crossword & word search puzzles from a list of words she prepares. (For example, names of US states, though her list is only up to fourty-four—not sure which six she is missing yet.)

While there are a lot of shareware programs to produce puzzles, I figure I'll enjoy it more if I learn how to create my own. A pretty basic (read naive) approach for placing words seems like it will be quite easy to implement, though I imagine there are semi-sophisticated algorithms for doing it fast and for producing the highest quality arrangements. I'll need to do some research in this area.

Here are three different TeX packages that simplify the typesetting of crosswords:

— Michael A. Cleverly

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How to manage your boss

Slacker Manager has a four-part series on The Secret Art of Managing Your Boss:

  1. Introduction to The Secret Art of Managing Your Boss
  2. Know Yourself
  3. Know Your Boss
  4. Understanding Your Relationship

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Food groups

I'm seriously surprised that there aren't already people in my neighborhood doing food groups (aka food swaps)...

— Michael A. Cleverly

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An abortion survivor's story

The Modesto Bee (California) newspaper has an eye-opening and touching story about Gianna Jessen who survived her mother's third-trimester attempt to abort her 27 years ago.

(Via Open Book.)

— Michael A. Cleverly

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The things people advertise for sale on Google...

eBay and Amazon are both advertising great prices on new & used orphans, corpses, assassins, etc.—get all of the details on Jeff Lindsay's Sanity Defense blog. Mormons are also for sale on eBay.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Becca Blogs

My sister Becca has started her own blog.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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A "checklist for justifying free software"

There is a good article in the inaugural issue of the Free Software Magazine entitled "Every Engineer's Checklist for Justifying Free Software."

[I]t seems that the only reason managers want free software is because it is free (as in free of costs). Thats not a good reason in itself: in the long run there are compelling reasons that robust, mission critical infrastructure software should be made free software.

My manager at my present employer wants justifications other than "the cost is free," so this checklist will come in handy.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Os Tambores de São Luis

An off-topic thread on the rec.puzzles newsgroup got steered back on topic with an ObPuzzle: "Are there other books where the complete story takes place in less than 24 hours?"

After returning from Brazil, and back in college, I read Josue Montello's novel, Os Tambores de São Luis ("The Drums of St. Louis"). Though the narrative arc covers several hundred years of history, the actual time elapsed is from one night to early the next morning, circa 1915.

This is one book I've always wished I owned (I checked it out of the library as a student). I wish there was an English translation—I'd recommend it to all my friends if there were.

I found the book again tonight on a Brazilian Amazon-like website. The ISBN is 8520902871. I used isbn.nu to see if it happened to be available via any US booksellers, but it wasn't.

The price is R$67,00. At current exchange rates that'd be just under US$25.00, which is a reasonable price for a book of this length. Guess I better look into what Submarino's shipping rates are...

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Upgrading your mission statement

Looking for vapid mission statements or HR propaganda announcements? Save the money you would otherwise spend on a consultant and use this software instead.

A few examples:

Also available: buzzword bingo cards.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Criticising OOP is like swearing in church?

My personal favorite programming language, Tcl/Tk, is sometimes criticized for not being or having "one true way" of doing Object Oriented Programming.

Tcl is such a more flexibile language than most (simillar in this respect to Lisp) in allowing the programmer to define his own control structures to fit the needs at hand (even so far as enabling radical language modifications). There isn't just one way to do OOP in Tcl, there are lots of ways.

Personally I quite like Will's snit, and XOTcl.

But, anyway, back to the topic at hand. Tcl sometimes gets flamed for either not having any OO-abilities (that are "built-in"), or for having too many. Seems a lot of people just want there to be one way to do something—which is a constraint that doesn't naturally fit well with a language that gives you so much power, freedom and flexibility.

I've started reading Lambda the Ultimate ("The Programming Languages Weblog") and a comment to a recent article linked to an essay, Why OO Sucks which begins:

When I was first introduced to the idea of OOP I was skeptical but didn't know why - it just felt "wrong". After its introduction OOP became very popular (I will explain why later) and criticising OOP was rather like "swearing in church". OOness became something that every respectable language just had to have.

As Erlang became popular we were often asked "Is Erlang OO" - well, of course the true answer was "No of course not" - but we didn't to say this out loud - so we invented a serious of ingenious ways of answering the question that were designed to give the impression that Erlang was (sort of) OO (If you waved your hands a lot) but not really (If you listened to what we actually said, and read the small print carefully).

At this point I am reminded of the keynote speech of the then boss of IBM in France who addressed the audience at the 7th IEEE Logic programming conference in Paris. IBM prolog had added a lot of OO extensions, when asked why he replied: Our customers wanted OO prolog so we made OO prolog

I remember thinking "how simple, no qualms of conscience, no soul-searching, no asking "Is this the right thing to do" ...

The rest of the article is an interesting rant to read. I personally believe OOP is over-hyped, and that too much of the world thinks that OOP means (just) the type of OO available in Java or C++, but that it is (like other methodologies) a good tool to have in the toolbox. Tcl just allows me to have a whole bunch of OO-tools in the toolbox, not just one.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Useless trivia: 11,982 is the unsolvable FreeCell game

A friend & coworker, Rose, has solved (off-the clock I'm sure), all but a half dozen of the 32,000 FreeCell games. It turns out 29,999 of them are solvable. Only game # 11,982 is not solvable. So Rose has five more to figure out still.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Learning something well takes time and practice

Common sense tells us that learning something (non-trivial) takes both time and practice. Yet walk into a bookstore which sells computer books and you'll see lots of books that purport to teach you how to program in this language, or all about that buzzword.

I suspect authors and publishers are catering to people who want to get rich quick. If I can learn Java in 24-hours, and hiring managers have a Java-buzzword prerequisite, then by shelling out $49.95 I can be on the path to a fabulous & wealthy career in a weekend.

Peter Norvig has written an excellent essay exploring this phenomenon (you don't, he notes, find books about "how to learn dog grooming in a few days"). I recommend anyone interested in programming or computers to read "Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years."

— Michael A. Cleverly

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New books on my wish list

I've found two new books I'd really like to own that I've added to my wishlist:

Both come highly recommended from various contributors to the Lambda the Ultimate blog.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Elections decided by lawyers

I just got done reading "The Damage Al Gore Has Wrought: The Washington Election Nightmare." How depressing.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Heimskringla: The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway

This evening Becca told me about Heimskringla or The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway by the medieval historian Snorri Sturluson (ca. 1179–1241).

We're distantly descended from Olaf Haraldson, hence her interest. Looks like quite interesting reading.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Ramble version 0.3

Ramble version 0.3 is out. Will's added quite a few new features (in addition to the speech synthesis support on OS X), so check it out.

As usual Windows starpacks are available (a single file install for all the unwashed masses ;-) and as a .App disk-image for all the enlightened OS X users. Everybody else can get a tclkit version for their OS.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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The pathalogical 2680 challenge

Andrew was sick today, so rather than taking him with us to Church this morning, Shauna had me stay home with him (I'm sure the parents of other nursery-age children would thank us if they knew of my selfless sacrifice to spare their children the germs ;-).

While perusing the rec.puzzles newsgroup this morning, I found the 2680 challenge posted by The Last Danish Pastry.

The question deals with this text file containing 2,680 lines. Each line lists five integers between 0 and 244. The question is whether it is possible to select just forty-nine lines from the file such that all 245 numbers between 0 and 244 are included in the result.

Now, a little bit of basic arithmetic shows that in picking 49 lines, which each contain five numbers, we'll end up with a total of 245 numbers (49 x 5 = 245). Since we need to have each of the 245 numbers included in our results, we obviously cannot ever repeat any number—each of the 49 lines selected must not share even so much as a single number with any of the other selected lines.

Just looking at the file there is obviously structure to it. I spent some time analyzing the frequency with which each of the numbers between 0 and 244 appears and discovered (independently) the same information that Patrick Hamlyn posted.

My algorithm (running in the background—and all the CPU crunching is heating up my lap!) goes like this:

  1. run out of further lines to check (and haven't selected 49)
  2. or, when we eliminate all the lines containing some number not already on a selected line (that would leave us with an unfillable gap)

The search space for a naive-recursion search is huge! What I'm not (yet) sure about, is whether my checks to backtrack early (avoiding persuing hopeless combinations to their ultimate depth) cuts the search space enough to make a solution practically feasible or not.

The fiendish detail to all this is that The Last Danish Pastry (the original poster) doesn't even know if a solution exists! So this could be a wild-goose chase completely.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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"Grandma" Allie Christensen (1914–2005)

Shauna's paternal grandmother, Allie Arnold Christensen, passed away 11:20 PM last Friday, just 24 hours & 40 minutes before her ninety-first birthday. Her funeral will be tomorrow.

Though we'll miss her now, the knowledge that families can be together forever brings us comfort and peace.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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SCO releases patches ten months late

The irony here is just too rich. Netcraft is reporting that SCO is only just now, ten months late, releasing patches to an OpenSSL vulnerability on UnixWare. (In comparison most major Linux distributions and the *BSD's had patches out within a day—or less—of disclosure of the vulnerability.)

My favorite line in the article is this: "Our January Secure Server Survey found only 70 SSL-enabled sites running on SCO Unix."

Considering SCO's propensity to sue their own customers I am surprised there are even 70 SSL-enabled UnixWare sites left on the Internet.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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How I'm related to Olaf

Yesterday I blogged about the Heimskringla and mentioned that I was a distant descendant from Olaf Haraldson (aka Saint Olaf).

Becca provided me with the line today, and by my calculations Olaf would be one (or more) of my (more famous) 8,589,934,592 thirty-second great-grandfathers.

  1. Hazel Jane Lee (great-grandmother, 1894–1993)
  2. Orrin Strong Lee, Jr. (2nd great-grandfather, 1862–1948)
  3. Orrin Strong Lee, Sr. (1835–1919)
  4. Dr. Ezekiel Lee (1795–1877)
  5. Rhoda Keith (1768–1854)
  6. Martha Littlefield (1750–1836)
  7. Rebecca Williams (b. 1715)
  8. Josiah Williams (1692–1770)
  9. Benjamin Williams (b. 1651)
  10. Frances Deighton (b. 1611)
  11. Jane Bassett (1584–1634)
  12. Elizabeth Lygon (b. 1562)
  13. Elizabeth Berkley (b. 1512)
  14. Elizabeth (Isabel) Dennis (b. 1485)
  15. Ann Berkley (b. 1474)
  16. Maruice de Berkley (d. 1506)
  17. Lord James de Berkley (ca. 1394–1424)
  18. James Berkley (d. 1405)
  19. Sir Maurice Berkley (1330–1368)
  20. Margaret Mortimer (1308–1337)
  21. Joan de Greneville (ca. 1285–1356)
  22. Sir Piers de Geneville (d. 1292)
  23. Sir Geoffrey de Geneville (1236–1314)
  24. Beatrice d'Auxonne
  25. Beatrice de Chalons
  26. Beatrice of Germany
  27. Frederick Barbarossa, Emperor of Germany
  28. Judith, Duchess of Swabia (ca. 1101–1131)
  29. Wulfhild, Duchess of Baveria (ca. 1075–1126)
  30. Magnus, Duke of Saxony (ca. 1045–1106)
  31. Ulfhild, Princess of Norway (b. 1020)
  32. (Saint) Olaf Harldson, King of Norway (ca. 995–1030)

Updated February 26th to include timeframes for each ancestor, where known.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Automating system administration on Windows with TWAPI

Patrick Finnegan points to various example Windows SysAdmin tools written using Tcl and the TWAPI extension that he has contributed to ActiveState's Tcl Cookbook.

TWAPI is a great extension, and Patrick's examples look like useful examples to study.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Stella Awards and Urban Legends

A Bird's Eye View has a post up about an email going around detailing the [purported] 2004 Stella Award winners. Sadly they do all sound quite plausible considering the litigious society we live in.

While there are Stella Awards (for 2002 & 2003), the 2004 awards haven't yet been published (but will be sometime on or before February 1, 2005).

StellaAwards.com claims that the cases listed in the email circulating the Internet are bogus urban legends.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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More on the 2680 challenge

Sunday I blogged about the pathalogical 2680 challenge. Risto Lankinen identified the true nature of the problem as:

This is a well-obfuscated way of asking if 5x7x7 box can be packed with the F-pentomino. To see what is an F-pentomino, convert any line of the text file into base-7 and plot the (three) resultant 7:ary digits in 3D.

There are 2680 orientations of an F-pentomino within a 5x7x7 box, and a quick (sample-based) check suggests that they are all represented in the text file. Selecting a set of 49 non-overlapping integer lines hence is equivalent to finding a set of 49 F-pentominoes that fill the box.

Quick scan of the net indicates that this may be an open problem in the art of packing theory...

In case (like me) you don't know what an F-pentomino is, the Wikipedia entry on Pentaminoes has explanations and images.

The original poster, "The Last Danish Pastry," confessed that Risto had spotted what he was really asking, and that he'd hoped that posing the question in the way he did might lead to the discovery of new approaches to this open problem in packing theory.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Tcl's advantages over Lisp?

Salvatore ("antirez") Sanfilippo explains what he thinks are the advantages of Tcl over Lisp.

I agree with him on every point mentioned, though I do hope Tcl someday gets automatic tail-call optimizations, proper lambas, and first class continuations. (Feather perhaps?)

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Attempted suicide a capital crime?

A terrible accident occured this morning when a suicidal man left his SUV parked on the tracks in front of a commuter train in Los Angeles.

The man "changed his mind" and got out (safely) in time, but ten people onboard the train were killed. Police Chief Randy Adams is quoted as saying that "the [SUV's] driver is in custody, and police will charge him with 10 counts of murder." Perhaps this will be a (failed) case of attempted suicide that might lead to a death-penalty conviction?

— Michael A. Cleverly

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A Gentle Introduction to Haskell

I've been slowly working my way through A Gentle Introduction to Haskell and find that a lot of it is actually making sense to me.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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buy-traffic.net and friends are gaming Google

Shauna's bookclub is meeting tonight at our house to discuss John Grisham's Skipping Christmas. She wanted me to see if there were any lists of discussion questions I could find online for her. I went to Google expecting to find something relavent...

Do a Google query on "skipping christmas" "book club" questions. As of today, five of the top ten results are from:

Amazon.com's product page on the book doesn't even make the first page of results.

Let's try a slightly more specific query and with a -site:.ru to get rid of the Russian sites. There are sixteen results. Some .com friends of our Russian .ru sites show up:

Each of the aforementioned websites, when you link through to them, redirect you to buy-traffic.net. (I'm not linking directly to avoid helping their Google PageRank in any way.) The destination page on buy-traffic.net lists a number of affiliate links to various online merchants.

At the bottom of the buy-traffic.net page is a copyright notice of SearchMeUp.com Inc. That website, in its footer next to it's contact link points to umaxlogin.com for it's "affiliate program."

umaxlogin.com purports to offer "the highest paying solution for your search traffic." Their "contact us" page lists (soley) a yahoo.com email address.

A whois lookup of searchmeup.com is registered to a company in Seychelles (a group of islands in the Indian ocean northeast of Madagascar, according to the CIA World Fact Book).

buy-traffic.net, meanwhile, is registered to a Javon Lockley, who ostensibly lives in Muskegon, Michigan.

umaxlogin.com is registered to a company in Cyrpus.

A little research turns up The Russian Institute for Public Networks Whois Service. All the Russian sites listed above are "Corporate" sites registered by one Eduard P Mashkin.

The two .com's, adnaver.com & artnetcn.com, are (at the time of this writing) mysteriously missing their "registrarname" attribute, so no information is available. Very very strange, no?

Quite the global little group, all working together, no doubt, persuing the holy grail of search engine optimization.

I hope Google fights back and bans all these websites from their search results. They are obviously feeding the GoogleBot different content and redirecting all the unsuspecting web searchers to their partner sites for their own pecuniary gain.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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OCaml Tutorial

When I finish working through the Haskell tutorial I plan on going through "Learning OCAml, for C, C++, Perl and Java programmers."

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Why this blog?

Many of the blogs I read tend to be devoted to one, sometimes two, themes. I don't pretend to have experienced enough of the blogosphere to know whether this is generally the case or not.

I haven't found a single theme yet. And I don't know that I'm even looking or trying. My interests are too varied.

Some of the things I'm interested in:

I'm also interested in politics, religion, and family, but to date I've decided largely to keep those areas private from my online life.

So basically lacking a cohesive overriding theme, this blog exists for me to record and share my thoughts and findings in the ecclectic mix of stuff that I enjoy.

In that regards, I feel my objective is simillar to Kevin Walzer's—I'm doing what I want.

I haven't enabled comments on this blog. Why?

  1. It eliminates the nuisance and clutter with having to deal with spammers
  2. I wouldn't want to stare everyday at a bunch of "0 comments" links (how depressing!)

In the unlikely event that anyone reads this blog and would like to comment on something, email works. The best address to use is: cleverly @ gmail.com.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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The Iraqi Election

"The day after," an essay definitely worth reading today from this Iraqi blog.

(Via Kevin Walzer)

— Michael A. Cleverly

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St. Olaf's Ahnenreihe Number

I came across reference to the Anhenreihe system today, which I previously wasn't familliar with. This system assigns a unique number to each ancestor.

The cool (to me) feature—which isn't explained in the Anhenreihe Wikipedia article—is that if you write the Anhenreihe number in binary it trivially encodes the generational relationships all the way back to the n-th ancestor.

The first digit is always a 1. It represents the child. Then, tracing backwards to the parent, then grandparents, and so forth, a 0 represents a father, and a 1 a mother.

By my calcuations, the Ahnenreihe number for my relation to St. Olaf is 23,865,465,306.

In binary that number is 10110001110011111100001100111011010, which can be then be read in English: St. Olaf is my father's mother's mother's father's father's father's mother's mother's mother's father's father's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's father's father's father's father's mother's mother's father's father's mother's mother's mother's father's mother's mother's father's mother's father.

Got that?

— Michael A. Cleverly

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