The Books Ngram Viewer from Google Labs provides a fascinating insight into language usage in the past 200 years. An Ngram is a series of one or more items from a sequence, in this case a word or phrase from a published text. Google’s viewer plots the frequency of occurrence for Ngrams found in books published since 1800. It is possible to narrow the search to specific collections of books or corpus. Available corpora include American English, British English, English Fiction etc. Researchers at Harvard University’s Cultural Observatory have put together some tips for using this data and have invented a new word
Culturomics – The application of high-throughput data collection and analysis to the study of human culture.
I have been experimenting with Python 2.3 and MySQL 4.0.13 recently and have been using a copy of my Movabletype 2.661 database as a sandbox. Before I started a spent a few minutes working out the structure of the database. This Entity Relationship Diagram is what I came up with. I expect version 3.0 of Movabletype is different, but just in case anyone else is digging around in Movabletype and could use a map here is a pdf version.
One day towards the end of 2000 my wife finally lost her financial patience with me. As she threw a pile of bills and receipts at me she screamed “That’s it! I’m never doing the accounts or paying the bills again. You never collect receipts, you never write a memo in the checkbook, and your work expenses are impossible to understand!” She then stormed out of the room. I was in no doubt that she meant it and she has remained free of the household accounting burden ever since. I unfortunately have not. It is true that until that day I had never balanced a checkbook in my life and habitually threw bank balances in the trash without even opening them – another contributing factor to my wife’s rant. In fact the only time I ever knew my bank balance was when the ATM refused to dispense cash. So it was with great trepidation that I began my fiscally responsible life. I figured that as I had designed and built large financial software systems I ought to be able to use a small one. So after some research I selected Quicken as they had a large share of the market and had a version for Mac.
The International System of Units (SI) [72 page pdf Brochure] is maintained by the Bureau International des Poids et Measures at it’s headquarters in Sevres near Paris, France. The Metric System as it is often known has a long history; supposedly invented in 1670 by Gabriel Mouton, a French clergyman, It was adopted by France in 1795 and by the United States in 1866. The system gained international status with the signing of The Convention of the Meter in Paris on 20th May 1875. The U.S. was one of the original seventeen signatory nations and is the only industrialized nation that still does not use the system.
A few months ago I had to setup a home office and decided I would take the opportunity to upgrade my home network. My Linksys BEFSR41 Etherfast Cable / DSL Router had never given me any problems and so I decided to upgrade to the Linksys BEFW11S4 Wireless-B broadband Router. I now have everything working reliably but getting to this happy state and resolving the problems took a lot of luck and in the end the solution was far from obvious. Judging by the bad reviews on Amazon and elsewhere it appears that many people have been unable to fix similar problems with this device. Below is my description of the problem and a solution that worked for me. Hopefully this will help others, but as always, your mileage may vary!
I recently had to setup a home office. The hardest decision to make was which desk to buy. Given that I will be sitting at this desk for many hours and I have lower back problems, from playing too much rugby, I wanted an adjustable desk to match the Aeron chair I already have. It’s surprising that while there are plenty of adjustable chairs around there are not that many adjustable desks. In the end it came down to a choice between the AdjustaBench from Anthro and the Personal Desk from Biomorph. The Biomorph won on price and looks. It came flat-packed in a huge wooden crate, construction took an hour or so and the engineering quality was evident from the precision with which the parts snapped into place. The best features are:
- The ergonomic shape – The split desk allows the back surface to be raised higher that the front surface and is robust enough to support the heaviest of monitors. The curve of the desk matches my arms-reach so everything on the back surface is within my grasp.
- The height adjustment – With a few effortless turns of the hand-crank the surfaces of the desk can be independently raised or lowered. I can even work standing up.
- The cable management systems – All the cables and transformers for charging the; cellphone, pda and laptop are held on a tray under the desk surface out of sight.
- The robust engineering – Living San Francisco means one is always looking for a place to hide during The Big One. I now know where I shall be.
I’ve been through so many airports recently I can’t remember which one this happen at. But I was waiting at the gate when this huge Viking of a guy came and sat next to me with what looked like a rifle case slung over his shoulder. My curiosity was aroused and as I checked out his case he caught me looking at it, so I felt it best to ask him about his Traveler Guitar to show I wasn’t just some loony staring at his baggage. He lit up with enthusiasm and proceeded to pull out the guitar and bolt on the arm support. Then he produced a digital sound processor the size of a cigarette pack, and some headphones. He plugged them all together and handed it to me. Cool! The thing was actually still in tune! He dialed in a nice funky sound and I was off, much to the amusement of the other passengers.
Joel Rosi-Schwartz once advised me that if I ever found myself solving the same problem for a third time I should stop and take the opportunity to improve my efficiency by thinking of a better way to do it. Joel was very disciplined about this and over the years had developed a big bag of tricks for solving common problems encountered during systems design and development. In many ways Joel was an inspiration for me and this is one of his traits I have tried to emulate.
In my career I have designed more than a few systems and reviewed the designs for many more. There were times when I reviewed two or three in a week and others when I went 6 months between reviews, but they have never stopped coming. Following Joels advice I have tried to incrementally improving my approach to both designing systems and reviewing others designs by developing a set of aphorisms that remind me what should be present in a good system design.
In July 1851 two mathematics teachers, Prof. Adolf Anderssen (1818 -1879) from Breslau, and Lionel Kieseritzky (1806-1853) from what is now Estonia, played a game of chess at Simpsons on the Strand, a London chess Salon. The game was so startling in its brlliance that in 1855 it was named The Immortal Game by the Austrian player Ernst Falkbeer. The chess Canon contains very few named games. This game is considered by some to be the greatest ever played. It has been been studied and replayed for over 150 years.