Monthly Archives: July 2018

An experiment is running while I write this.

A couple of bugs delayed me for about a week. Once those were fixed, setting up the experiment was easy. I did that yesterday, along with cleaning up some sloppy code. I did a test run and ended up with a stable population. I haven’t seen that many of them since I increased the population size, so I was glad to see it.
Continue reading An experiment is running while I write this.

Ep 183: Life rocks

Life rocks

To take a bit of a break from life and natural history, we talk about geology, which is part of natural history, and life, which is part of life. Specifically we talk about rocks that are formed by life.
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Hurray! Another bilious bug defeated!

Last time, we left our intrepid heroes—our desperate digital desperadoes—trapped—at the mercy of the extremely rare and apparently invisible 2,147,483,646! The villainous variable had been masquerading as 2147483, by all accounts a hardworking and kindhearted value, who wishes to say that she is in no way affiliated with that more nefarious number. 2147483646, at last unmasked, still holds the entire system in his iron grip. The Figures and their programmer must somehow find a way to deal with this invidious integer.

For background, checkout the previous post on this topic.
Continue reading Hurray! Another bilious bug defeated!

Ep 182: Cuddling Cretaceous dinosaurs

Cuddling Cretaceous dinosaurs

Today we chat about the Cretaceous period, when some of the most well-known dinosaurs appear. In this period, birds became much more like modern birds. Flowering plants spread across the land, along with new insects like ants and bees. The mammals began to diversify. Then, a rock hit the earth, and it all came to an end.
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Perceptions part I.

It was somewhere between first and fifth grade, closer to the former than the latter. Hanging around in the classroom, I was half listening to a couple of the teachers talking. One of them complimented the other on the decorations.

“thankyou,” she replied, “I like to have something with color… you know, something cheerful for the students”

“Then what’s with the upside-down smoke?” I asked. A moment passed, both teachers giving me quizzical expressions that I could only partly make out. I waved vaguely toward the back wall, where some of those colorful decorations were displayed. I could make out some of it—elephant, cheerful sun, friendly looking small cloud . Lost in a blur, most of the rest of it seemed a meaningless jumble, at least, from where I usually sat during class, and from the front of the room, where the three of us stood at the moment.

“What smoke?” the question stumbled over itself as they spoke in an awkward unison.

Using one hand, I shaped my fingers to indicate the part of the decoration I was talking about, almost like grabbing the image. “Right there, and then it curves up…?” I moved my arm to trace the arc. I’d been wondering what that thing was supposed to be a picture of. It looked like dark smoke rising in a column from a fire, curving to the side as though being gently pushed by a breeze, only it was upside-down. The bulbous top of the smoke was on the bottom, and the base up above it. The smoke, if smoke it was, curved down instead of up.

“That’s a rainbow.”
Continue reading Perceptions part I.

Ep 181: What did Jurassic dinosaurs taste like?

What did Jurassic dinosaurs taste like?

Today we cover the Jurassic period, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, growing large and being in charge. One group began, during this period, to evolve toward becoming birds, and we talk a little bit about some early mammals.
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On the practical application of artificial vision

My robo-eye is sitting in my desk at the moment. It’s a pair of smart glasses, with a camera built in. I put these things on and run the vOICe, an app that changes what the camera sees into sound. With practice, blind folk like me can use such a setup to help navigate the world. As it turned out, I found they could help me do that within a couple of days.
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Their nurture has become their nature

In posts on this topic, I keep saying I’m about to get to the interesting part…

posts, with optimistic titles like “Trembling on the verge.” Followed immediately thereafter by posts like, “How long has that been wrong?”

Bugs and issues keep dancing out from between my lines of code, and they all demand their share of time and attention. It’s reached the point where I’ve become superstitious about it, so I didn’t say any sort of fate tempting phrase like, “Almost there,” or “nearly done,” in the last post.

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That was scary!

There I sat, after longer than usual. I was waiting for the small population to stabilize. I’d just fixed a problem that had been there for weeks and months, a subtle bug I just hadn’t noticed. Fixing it meant that my little digital creatures, called “Figures,” would behave differently. Maybe the fix would break the system. Maybe they wouldn’t be able to stabilize anymore. Maybe the entire concept has been fundamentally flawed from the beginning. Maybe it’s all been a waste of time.

And then…
Continue reading That was scary!