Archive for January, 2015

Computer Science Algorithms are way better than Mathematical Theorems

January 24, 2015

I see a great deal of beauty in mathematics. There is much beauty in a well-described, step-by-step proof of a theorem.

Lately I have been learning algorithms for parsing and compilers from a pair of marvelous books. [1] I think the author is one of the best technical writers in the world, which makes learning very enjoyable. As I learn the parsing and compiler algorithms described in the books, the same sense of beauty rises up inside me as with a good math theorem proof.

So both Mathematical theorems and Computer Science algorithms have tremendous beauty. Nonetheless, I think that Computer Science algorithms are way better than Mathematical theorems. Here’s why:

In Mathematics there is a tightly constrained framework in which one operates. There is a limited set of building blocks (axioms) and rules that one uses to perform work. Conversely, in Computer Science algorithms there is no such finite, well-defined set of building blocks and rules. Although there are commonly used techniques – recursion, closure, induction, etc. – there are an infinite number of concepts that may be used to create an algorithm. That infinite variety provides enormous power and complexity, and requires great creativity and ingenuity, and is why I think Computer Science algorithms are way better than Mathematical theorems.

[1] “Parsing Techniques” by Dick Grune et al, “Modern Compiler Design” by Dick Grune et al.

Get your reps in every day

January 18, 2015

I have noticed something interesting about the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. I have noticed that they continually practice throwing the football. Even after, for most of them, decades of throwing the football, they continue to get the reps in.

Just like the skiers who are constantly waxing their skis, these quarterbacks are greasing the groove so that, at a moment’s notice, they are ready to make a herculean effort and drill a long, laser throw.

A simmering pot of water can quickly roll into a boil.

I think the importance of getting the reps in cannot be overestimated. And I don’t just mean throwing footballs. I mean in any endeavor that you want to excel in.

My major as an undergrad was chemistry. I remember during the summers I would review over and over the material that I had learned that school year. And ya know what? I did really, really well. Now at work I teach several courses. Some of the courses I have taught many times. Is that a waste? No, I don’t think so. I am getting my reps in. At a moment’s notice I can solve any problem in my field of expertise.

Want to be a top-notch Olympic weightlifter? Then get your reps in. Lift every day.

Want to be a top-notch Web master? Then get your reps in. Review over and over the relevant technologies: HTML, CSS, JavaScript, etc.

Want to be a top-notch Fashion designer? Then get your reps in. Sew, sew, sew, design, design, design.

Get your reps in every day.

Your thoughts and beliefs matter

January 18, 2015

Your thoughts and beliefs matter. Your surroundings ― the people you spend time with, the places you frequent, and even the things you read ― all influence you. Even the words you use matters. The story you tell yourself shapes your actions, and when your story is only about limitations, failure, and doing less, that’s your world. That’s what your actions will reflect.

You might surprise yourself with what can happen when you get away from poisonous thoughts and poisonous people. Likewise, the best way to shape your beliefs is to hang around other people who believe and act the way you want to act. That means a team or training group or a good coach. At the least, it means immersing yourself in the activity, living it and breathing it.

Mathew Perryman

Relax, slow down, and let things take shape on their own accord

January 11, 2015

Wonderful advice from Matt Perryman:

Relax, slow down, and let things take shape on their own accord. There’s little use in forcing things out, and then stressing out when they don’t work out as you planned. Set ambitious goals, yes, but don’t let them own you.

It might help if you think of your life as more like a garden than a factory. If you try to manage your garden like a factory, you probably aren’t getting much of a crop. Gardens require tending rather than intrusive management. You pick the kinds of plants you grow , and pull out weeds, and make sure that light and water and even temperature are suitable for your flora. Contrast that to actual management, the belief that somebody has to be there overseeing and guiding every aspect of the process lest it collapse into itself. Tending a garden means guiding along processes which, for their intended purposes, are far smarter than you could ever be. Respect the garden’s nature as an organic, fluid, adaptable system and it will flourish. Your job is to guide the ship, so to speak, to provide direction.

Wonderful advice from Parker Palmer:

Periodically reflect on where your life has taken you (versus where you want your life to go).

A sad commentary on today’s culture by philosopher Alan Watts

January 11, 2015

A sad commentary on our culture by philosopher Alan Watts (read the following words as you watch this fabulous video Human Culture – Alan Watts):

We want to get everything done as fast as possible.

We want to convert the rhythms and skills of work into cash, which indeed you can buy something with it but you can’t eat it.

We rush home to get away from work and begin the real business of life, to enjoy ourselves.

For the vast majority of American families, what seems to be the real point of life – what you rush home to get to – is to watch an electronic reproduction of life (TV). You can’t touch it, it doesn’t smell, and it has no taste.

You might think that people getting home to the real point of life in a robust, material culture would go home to a colossal banquet or a riot of music and dancing. But nothing of the kind.

It turns out to be this purely passive contemplation of a twittering screen.

You see mile after mile of darkened houses, with that little electronic screen flickering in the room. Everybody isolated, watching this thing. And thus in no real communion with each other, at all.

This isolation of people into a private world of their own is really the creation of a mindless crowd.

And so we don’t get with each other, except for public expressions of getting rid of our hostility like football or prize fighting.

Even in the spectacles on sees on this television, it’s preferable and proper to exhibit people slugging and slaying each other. But not people loving each other.

One can only draw the conclusion, the assumption underlying this is that expressions involving physical love are far more dangerous than expressions of physical hatred.

It seems to me that a culture that has this sort of assumption is basically crazy and is devoted, unintentionally, not to survival but to the actual destruction of life.

Fitness versus sport … Fittest population this planet has ever seen

January 3, 2015

I found a fellow who has some fascinating ideas. [1]

Here’s a sample:

Sport is not the same as fitness. Sport is primarily an entertainment medium dominated by freaks.

The fittest population this planet has ever seen were the “early modern people” of the Upper Palaeolithic, also known as Cro Magnons. If skull capacity is a reliable indicator the Cro Magnons were also more intelligent than we are today. They were also taller. Today’s consumer culture is the culture of the quick fix and painless remedy. If you see the term “gentle exercise”, be on your guard! Cro Magnons had no need for gentle exercise!

[1] http://www.evfit.com/exercise.htm