Friday, January 21

Vincit qui patitur

A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt...If the game runs sometime against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake.
— Thomas Jefferson, 1798 (quoted by Paul Glastris)

Thursday, January 20

Five or better

My Erdös number, that is. It took some thinking and use of the Erdös Number Project Data Files.

Rivest (E=2) → Lampson → Deutsch → me.

That's not so great, actually. Got to co-author a paper with Odlyzko, get me a three.

Update (1/30/05): Phylis notes she can now determine that her Erdös number is six.

Sunday, January 16

They just don't get it

The Washington Post (registration required) ran their exclusive interview with Bush today. I guess reporters Fletcher and VandeHei were so excited to be on Air Force One that they didn't have a chance to think about what Bush actually said.

In their analysis article the reporters say:

And he said he has no plans to cut benefits for the approximately 40 percent of Social Security recipients who collect monthly disability and survivor payments as he prepares his plan for partial privatization.

But in the interview transcript, after he makes a "no plans to cut" remark, Bush says:

Frankly, our discussions in terms of reform have not centered on the survivor/disability aspect of Social Security. We're talking about the retirement system of Social Security.

That puts a different spin on "no plans" to cut survivor/disability benefits, doesn't it? These people just don't think those benefits (which are 40% of the program) are worth discussing much. I don't know about you, but this implies to me that in the end, they're very likely to get cut.

Addressing a problem of their own devising

By all means, if you are foolish enough to use Windows XP (like me), install Microsoft AntiSpyware. It sucks less.

Thursday, January 13

Oh, so that's why its got bugs!

Charles Simonyi, writing in Edge, likens programming to encryption. Encryption without benefit of automation, because programming is largely done manually.

The plaintext in this case is the notional specification (of a problem and how it is to be solved). The encryption process transforms this specification into the chunks of gibberish we call programs.

This nicely highlights the difficulty of changing software when the problem (or solution) specification changes — since we've invested so much manual labor "encrypting" the specification, we invariably choose to edit the cyphertext.