On catastrophe

From the blurb of a book by John David Ebert

Disasters, both natural and man-made, are on the rise. Indeed, a catastrophe of one sort or another seems always to be unfolding somewhere on the planet. We have entered into a veritable Age of Catastrophes which have grown both larger and more complex and now routinely very widespread in scope.

The old days of the geographically isolated industrial accidents, of the sinking of a Titanic or the explosion of a Hindenburg, together with their isolated causes and limited effects, are over. Now, disasters on the scale of Hurricane Katrina, the BP oil spill or the Japan tsunami and nuclear reactor accident, threaten to engulf large swaths of civilization.

These efforts are breaking down. Nature and Civilization have become so intertwined they can no longer be separated. Natural disasters, moreover, are becoming increasingly more difficult to differentiate from “man-made.”

Flexibility vs consistency

The “tragic tradeoff” in programming languages:

I still remember a wonderful presentation by Damian Conway a number of years ago about all of the great ways Perl 6 could turn into whatever domain specific language you needed it to be. It was beautiful, I was awestruck. I’ve always enjoyed Perl as a language. But I walked out of that presentation thinking “That was so beautiful, and I don’t want it anywhere near my business.” Because the last thing I need is software written in a language I can’t hire anyone else to maintain.

At some level that’s what I think has happened to Perl in general. I never liked Python much, until I got forced to use it on a new team. Now I’m convinced that it has a really distinct advantage — there aren’t too many ways to write Python, so an experienced Python developer can figure out code pretty quickly. But Perl programs are frequently art pieces that take a lot of effort to truly grok.

From HN, “What happened to Perl 7

Yield curves

Playing around with Wolfram Mathematica again for a bit:

Notebook is viewable here.

Shen lives


I remember coming across “Qi” a long time ago, a work of brilliance by one Dr. Mark Tarver.

He happened to have a lot of quirky essays as well, and had … interesting interests.

Several years ago Qi morphed into Shen, a “kernel” that could be hosted on a variety of languages but exposed the ability to build


It seemed like something new was coming to pass, then … all of a sudden he deleted a bunch of web pages, stopped working, and I didn’t see anything new for a while, and … I lost touch.


Recently I wondered again (“what happened to that guy?“) and it turns out the project is very much alive and kicking!


  • The “Book of Shen” has been updated to a 4th edition
  • There is a new website that describes its unique features with examples

All this is encouraging, and worth checking into again soon.

Unix blues

From the foreword to “The Unix Haters Handbook” by Donald Norman, author of previous works like “The Trouble with Unix: The User Interface is Horrid“, and “The Design of Everyday Things“, and a fellow at Apple and IDEO.

(Narrator: “… the book didn’t kill Unix …”)

Simple web programming (in Common Lisp)

It can be really simple.

Stumbled across this …

… and (yes, questionable aesthetics aside) decided to recreate it:

Really does work as advertised:

One-time stuff I had to run:

(ql:quickload 'lass)
(ql:quickload 'spinneret)
(ql:quickload 'hunchentoot)

That’s it. Out of the box. Didn’t start any project, or any framework. Scales up and down, and starts small.

This was less than 10 minutes.

Monthly recap — April 2022

From a sculpture gallery in Los Cabos

Major updates

  • Trip to Los Cabos
    • Family pool time
    • Saw a bunch of whales
    • Lots of good food

Minor updates

  • Catching up with people after a long time, over lunch
  • Some family board game time
  • Some “science experiments”
  • Not doing well on sleep …


  • Finished reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (took a while …)
  • Watched Moonfall (wtf was the last half hour …)
  • Watched the Dropout (how many more cases like this exist, un-caught?!)
  • Watched the “new generation” my little pony (not a fan …)
  • Finished reading Fantastic Mr. Fox
  • Watched Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (resisted for a while, but …)
  • Watched more Scooby Doo

The solid world

Interview with Bertrand Russell, from 1952

Interesting perspective on the changes felt in the world, speaking a century ago, about the century before that.

The contrast, or irony, or whatever the feeling evoked by these contrasts was so strong that I couldn’t help myself, and took some screenshots of particular quotes.

Monthly Curations – April 2022

The airship U.S.S. Macon under construction, about a hundred years ago …

Note: as mentioned last time, this is now based on the “Curated” category in my micro.blog

Use an outliner

  • I’d say pick one of Workflowy or Roam
  • I’m biased towards Roam because
    • I already use it
    • It works for me
    • It has a lot of “power features” that go beyond jotting down thoughts
  • But … Workflowy is “good enough”, especially to get started somewhere with something, which is a whole lot better than what I did for a decade before, which is … nothing
  • Some nit-picking reasons I prefer Roam
    • Each “bullet” has its own timestamp and version: I use this to figure out things like “time taken”
    • Text can be formatted to have headers or separators: I find this useful
  • Pick one of them and start using them. If you’re totally new to this, I’d recommend Workflow to start with.
  • (Yes, I wrote this in outline form and am sharing it as such …)