Category Archives: Uncategorized

Go home, JavaScript, you are drunk

Using rhino, the command-line JavaScript interpreter:

mike@brach:~$ rhino
Rhino 1.7 release 3 2012 02 16
js> []+[]

js> []+{}
[object Object]
js> {}+[]
js> {}+{}

From Gary Bernhardt’s classic lightning-talk, Wat, which is very well worth five minutes of any programmer’s time.


Saying goodbye to the first two charity spammers

I said last week that from now on, when I get spammed with physical begging letters, I will send the junk back to the originator in the pre-paid envelope, with a big STOP SPAMMING ME message scrawled over it. Here’s the first batch:


These are the first new charity spams to arrive since I did the big clear-out when I just junked the 40 or 50 that had accumulated. The one on the left (Carer’s Trust, rather irritatingly styled carerstrust) I’d never even heard of before. The one on the right I do have involvement with; but that is very specific and constrained, and they should never have used that as an excuse to send me unrelated junk mail.

I put there in the post a couple of days ago. The beatings will continue until morale improves.

Singing and playing guitar again

Because a lot of other things came up — including summer, this conference and this paper that I wrote in its aftermath — it feels like it’s been ages since I played and sang songs at a folk club or similar. Checking my notes, I see that the last time was in fact right back in May, which is much too long.

Happily, I fixed that on Friday night, where I had a chance to play four songs at the Cross Keys Inn in Goodrich. One of them I’ve done before: Crosby, Stills and Nash’s cheerful travelogue Marrakesh Express. But the other three were all new additions to the repertoire: Paul Simon’s downbeat three-act short story Slip-Slidin’ Away, the Beatles psychedelic epic A Day in the Life, and Joni Mitchell’s heartbreaking but emotionally cold A Case of You. (I know you need a band, a symphony orchestra and three grand pianos to do A Day in the Life properly, but we make do and mend.)

That brings my repertoire to 45 songs. When I hit fifty, I’ve have to start looking around and seeing if I can find some actual gigs, or at least support slots.

Also on the agenda: it’s to my enduring shame that I’ve never written a song of my own. I like interpreting others’ work, but it does feel like that’s only half of the job.

What is the opposite of “man”

Here is a linguistic oddity that I’ve been aware of for some time. What is the opposite of “man”?

  • Boy (because he’s immature)
  • Woman (because she’s female)
  • Robot (because it’s artificial)
  • Animal (because it’s not rational)
  • God (because he’s not mortal)

All equally valid answers, because a man is an adult male natural rational mortal.


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James Bond movies, part 4: Sean Connery returns again

As Roger Moore’s sequence of Bond Films settled into its increasingly frivolous nature, Sean Connery — who has famously said “Never again” after filming his comeback Bond-movie Diamonds Are Forever — was persuaded to return once more twelve years later.

Never Say Never Again (1983)

This came out in the same year as Octopussy, which I consider the nadir of Moore’s efforts. Tiring of Moore, I watched Never Say Never Again between For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy, and found myself liking it a lot more than I expected to. Connery is clearly too old for role at 53 — but that’s still three years younger than Moore was in his offering of the same year. More importantly, Connery had retained his charisma — if anything, he emits even more of an alpha-male vibe in 1983 than he had in 1971. And that alone makes the film work.

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Free Speech in the UK

British people have the right to use “satirical, or iconoclastic, or rude comment” and to engage in

“… the expression of unpopular or unfashionable opinion about serious or trivial matters, banter or humour, even if distasteful to some or painful to those subjected to it. We should perhaps add that for those who have the inclination to use Twitter for the purpose, Shakespeare can be quoted unbowdlerised, and with Edgar, at the end of King Lear, they are free to speak not what they ought to say, but what they feel.”

According to Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, in charge of the Twitter Joke Trial.

Could we, as a country, please remember that?

Mushroom soup

Following on from the mushroom pasta recipe last time, here is a very simple but delicious mushroom soup that I’ve been making a lot recently.


  • One large onion
  • A good-sized knob of butter
  • Plenty of mushrooms — I use one or two complete 250g tubs.
  • Flour — maybe about four heaped teaspoons
  • About two litres of real chicken stock, simmered from a carcass.
  • A dash of cream — maybe 50 ml or so
  • Salt and pepper

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The scandal of academic publishing

Sorry it’s been so quiet here recently.  I’ve been taken up with writing about the extraordinary exploitative system that is modern academic publishing.  I’ve written lots about it over on my other blog, and also a few articles in non-technical outlets:

But if you only read one article about this issue, I have to recommend quantum physicist Scott Aaronson’s review of The Access Principle, which opens with a devastating metaphor.  Seriously, go and read it.  It’s brilliant.  Also, it will make you furious.

I’ve also been tweeting about this issue a lot: follow me on @SauropodMike if you wish.

Sushi photo by Mike Saechang

Farmers, miners and investors

A colleague (and occasional TRP commenter), Dennis Schafroth, pointed me at a rather good article on Wil Shipley’s blog entitled Success, and Farming vs. Mining.  You should read it for yourself, but in summary his point is that a software house — or anything else, really — has a choice to make, and will always make it whether consciously or unconsciously: it can set itself up either as a farmer (slow but continuous productivity) or a miner (explosive, exploitative profit).  Specifically, “You can either see founding a company as something you’re doing because you want to produce good software, or you can see it as something you do so you can sell your stock and make a killing and move on.

(Yes, there is a Danish pun in the traditional Irrelevant Sushi Photo.)

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I just named a new dinosaur!

It’s true — when I am not programming, one of my other passions is sauropod dinosaurs, and I’m a part-time palaeontologist.  Today, the paper describing the new sauropod Brontomerus came out; I’m the lead author on the international team of three.  Read all about it over on my other blog, Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week.