Predicting the Future

"Don't worry about what anybody else is going to do. The best way to predict the future is to invent it. Really smart people with reasonable funding can do just about anything that doesn't violate too many of Newton's Laws."

— Alan Kay, 1971 Xerox planning meeting



Hint: Its alimentary.

Comma Chameleon

This Perl fragment does not do what you might think:

  use constant foo => 'BAR';
  my $hashref = {
    foo => 43
  printf "%s: %s\n", foo, $hashref->{foo};


Quantitative Cliodynamics

The term is coined in section 10.4 "Toward Theoretical Cliodynamics?" in Historical Dynamics : Why States Rise and Fall by Peter Turchin, where he defines cliodynamics...



Hint: It is not "The look of a person who has eaten too much chocolate for too long". Still, you may want to think twice before telling your lady friend that she has an "ample portion of sagacity" unless you are confident she knows what it means.


The Full Monty (Hall Problem)

It is very easy to get the wrong answer to The Monty Hall Problem. I'll quote an excerpt of the above referenced page at MathWorld without spoilers so you can have the fun of trying to spot the error as you follow along:

The Monty Hall problem is named for its similarity to the Let's Make a Deal television game show hosted by Monty Hall. The problem is stated as follows. Assume that a room is equipped with three doors. Behind two are goats, and behind the third is a shiny new car. You are asked to pick a door, and will win whatever is behind it. Let's say you pick door 1. Before the door is opened, however, someone who knows what's behind the doors (Monty Hall) opens one of the other two doors, revealing a goat, and asks you if you wish to change your selection to the third door (i.e., the door which neither you picked nor he opened). The Monty Hall problem is deciding whether you do.

Here is my exploration of why it is so easy to get wrong.



I have turned off the abiility to post comments, because I've had a number of cases now where someone has posted SPAM-like and/or offensive material to one of the weblogs I host. I'm not willing have people come to my site and find junk like that.

This makes me sad, because I've enjoyed the few comments I have had on the blog, and I think the feedback aspect makes it more interesting, but alas the few have spoiled it for the many.



Note: This week's entry is brought to you by the City of Seattle, Washington, which we now call home.



This week's entry is brought to you by Sharon Purdy (hi, Mom!).



My typical daily spam load has been steady at a couple hundred messages a day for some time now. However, yesterday I had approximately 1500 messages, all but a hundred or so spam. This morning, I had over 14,000 messages!

I haven't changed my net behavior recently, so apparently there is something new in spammer behavior.

My previous volume was handled nicely by getting SpamAssassin working. Now that I'm getting enough spam for 100 people, it looks like I'll have to do something more drastic...

UPDATE 2003-08-21: It looks like this volume increase could be due to the SoBig worm's recent activities...



Language and Limits on Thought

"Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about."

— B. L. Whorf


Heck, sedecimal

There are two reasons for this entry: (i) it is an excuse to use the pun appearing in the title; and (ii) it is a lovely example of geek linguistic analysis. Enjoy.


Groping grops

My RedHat systems have been misbehaving for quite some time when I tell them to print manpages on my printer. For example, if I were to tell one of them to man -t cp, then I'd get a page with too much bottom margin and not enough top margin.

Today I couldn't take it any longer, so I spent a few minutes to track down the problem. It turns out that the default configuration of the grops utility on all of my RedHat machines was set for A4 paper, not US Letter paper, which caused the rendered PostScript to appear offset when printed on my US Letter printer.


sic vos non vobis

NOTE: This week's word brought to you by the United States Internal Revenue Service.


Computer Husbandry and Reticulture

The field is most generically "Technology Husbandry" for those people involved in managing technological artifacts through their life cycles (by analogy with Animal Husbandry). Among the branches of the field are Mechanical Husbandry, Electronic Husbandry, and more specifically Computer Husbandry.



HINT: It is not "a poisonous substance causing an inability to write".



HINT: It is not "an iceberg that has managed to wander near the equator."



Wind breakers

Why is it that its OK to buy a wind breaker... and its OK to wear a wind breaker...but, if you ever actually manage to break wind, its no longer OK?


The Universe is a two’s complement machine

What follows is a transcription of Item 154 (by R.W. "Bill" Gosper) of HAKMEM, a 1972 memo from the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

HAKMEM is full of interesting tidbits (some others are pointed out in The Jaron File).


The trouble with triples (and other tuples)

Ever since I first studied discrete mathematics and read Paul R. Halmos' Naive Set Theory, I've been bothered by the conventional definition of tuples in terms of sets.

Perl Shell mentioned in Linux Journal

In the 2003-04 issue of Linux Journal, David A. Bandel mentions The Perl Shell (psh) in an item of the UPFRONT department on page 12.


Hubble, Hubble toil and trouble

(With apologies to Shakespeare)

"Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble."

William Shakespeare, Macbeth (1606) act 4, scene 1, line 14

The 2003-02-15 issue of NewScientist has an article titled "Our Universe in glorious detail" on pages 12-13, about results from the Microwave Anisotropy Probe (MAP). On page 12 is a small sidebar "Our Universe: The Facts", which contains (among others) the following two items:

  • Age: 13.7 billion years
  • Hubble constant (expansion rate): 71 km/sec/megaparsec

Since I'm interested in pregeometry (a term coined in the 1977 paper "Is physics legislated by cosmogony?" by J. A. Wheeler and C. M. Patton, and meaning "...something deeper than geometry, that underlies both geometry and particles."), I wondered what the above would entail at the Planck scale.


Python::Bytecode::SAX Version 0.1 Released

I just released version 0.1 of the Python::ByteCode::SAX Perl Module.

@INC hooks: there should be two kinds (IMO)

Seems like there are two different ways one might want to hook into @INC. The first is to provide an alternate location (see my Import Subversion example). This works fine by allowing coderefs in the @INC array.


The Peer Theorem

The Peer Theorem states "Other people are my peers". It is the fundamental underlying organizing principle of social interaction. Without some form of the Peer Theorem with reasonably wide acceptance, there can be no persistent social arrangement among people.

NOTE: This is a followup to People Are Not Commodities! and UPDATED: People Are Not Commodities!.


Great Spirits

"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds."

— Albert Einstein (1879-1955)


POD Text Formatter Plugin 0.1 for Movable Type Released

NOTE: Since Gregor's World is no longer implemented with Movable Type, this article has been edited to show first what the rendered output used to look like, then what the input that generated it looked like.



France and Germany on Iraq — Diagnosed

I've been looking for a place to use this line since 2001-10-03...

France and Germany are failing to think straight about the Iraq situation because they are suffering from a Euro-Logic disease.

UPDATED: Hey! I’m Talkin’ Over Here!

UPDATED: People Are Not Commodities!

The original entry is worded strangely, but it does still ring true (or at least possible) to me. In contemporary American society, one tends to encounter many people in a day, but without much real interaction with them (ordering fast food or checking out at the grocery store doesn't count as real interaction). In most of these encounters, the other person is performing a function and could just as well have been any of a number of other people. Their unique character doesn't matter (and in some cases is obscured by their robot-like behavior anyway, but I digress...).

Getting Things Done

Nothing is ever done in this world until men are prepared to kill one another if it is not done.

George Bernard Shaw, Major Barbara (1907), act 3.