Walt Mankowski

All glory to the hypnotoad

Thanks, Past Me!

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Tonight was the second time in a week I’ve wanted to calculate something semi-complicated in SQLite for my dissertation, only to discover that I’d already done the work months ago for something else. The perl code I found tonight was written back in August and contained this amusing comment:

# I'm sure I could do this with a single SQL query, but I don't know
# how.  So instead I'm going to brute-force it with some perl.

That was exactly the conclusion I’d reached tonight before I found this code. Instead, all I had to do was a simple select on the precomputed results. Thanks, past me!

Computational Skeuomorphism

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John Siracusa’s Hypercritical has quickly become my favorite geek podcast. It’s primarily an Apple podcast, but the topic the last two weeks was file systems. Mostly they were about why HFS Plus sucks and ZFS is awesome. He also described SSDs as a “computational skeuomorphism”, which I think is nothing short of brilliant.

Obamaized Whoopie Pies

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I ran some errands earlier tonight, and when I got back home I rode up in the elevator with a neighbor who’d just returned from grocery shopping. This woman has lived in my building for years, and she’s always struck me as a bit crazy. She seems like she has a kind of reverse autism, in that her poor social skills manifest themselves in approaching anyone she sees in the building and talking nonstop about whatever happens to be on her mind.

What was on my neighbor’s mind tonight was the high price of whoopie pies.

“The whoopie pies at the Giant [a local supermarket] have been Obamaized,” she said as the elevator doors closed.

She was bringing in her groceries in a large wheeled suitcase. The whoopie pies didn’t quite fit inside and were sticking out the top. She’d bought half a dozen of them at the store’s bakery. The cake part was red velvet instead of the traditional chocolate. They looked pretty tasty.

“Obamaized?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she replied. “They used to be $5.99, but now they’re $6.99.”

“Let me get this straight,” I said. “You’re blaming President Obama for raising the price of whoopie pies at Giant?”

“Yeah, they’re so expensive now.”

With that we reached her floor, and she wheeled her suitcase of groceries out of the elevator.

My Brush With Oscar Greatness

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While I’m not a huge fan of the Academy Awards, I once rode on an elevator with an Oscar (and its winner, a documentary filmmaker). It was while I was an undergrad at Penn. They were screening the film (I think it was 1985’s Broken Rainbow) in a lecture hall in Logan Hall. I had a meeting with a professor on a different floor of the same building.

The film must have just ended when I arrived. I got on the elevator, went up one floor, and the doors opened up. In walked a group of people, one of whom was carrying a familiar-looking golden statue.

It’s shiny.

Fat Guy Stuck in Internet

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Recently over dinner I’ve been working my way through a backlog of free TV episodes I’ve downloaded from iTunes. Tonight I watched the first episode of something called Fat Guy Stuck in Internet, which might well be the worst 11:47 of TV I’ve ever seen. Imagine someone wanted to have Jack Black star in a low-budget remake of Tron. Only they couldn’t afford Jack Black, so they decided to hire some guy named John Gemberling instead.

Emacs for OS X 23.4 Is Missing LaTeX Packages

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I was excited to see that Emacs for Mac OS X 23.4 was finally released a few weeks ago. It’s my favorite build of emacs for OS X, but it’s got a few annoying little issues I was hoping they’d fix. The biggest is that it’s quite slow when saving files and doing git checkins. Each of these return nearly instantaneously on every other emacs I’ve ever tried, but in this version they take several seconds. That really seems to add up when I’m in the middle of debugging something and doing lots of saves.

But unfortunately, when I installed the new package, I was disappointed to discover that they’d removed all the LaTeX packages that previously came pre-installed. LaTeX support is really important to me these days as I finish up my dissertation, so rather than trying to get them working (only to find other packages I use were also missing) I decided to restore 23.3 from Time Machine.


Dartmouth @ Penn

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I was at last night’s Penn-Dartmouth game for the annual Penn Band Alumni reunion. It had one of the odder box scores you’ll ever see. Pick any column — shots, free throws, rebounds, steals — it’s one lopsided advantage after another. But somehow it all balanced out, and it took a 3 by Zach Rosen with 3.2 seconds left for the Quakers to eke out a 58-55 victory.

After the game saw an even rarer sight, as Quaker fans all pulled out their smart phones to check the score of the Princeton-Harvard game. Penn fans rooting for Princeton? Maybe the Mayans were right about this whole 2012 thing

No Mas

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As I was heading out to lunch today I noticed one of those mobile billboard trucks coming up Market Street. I crossed the street, and then turned around to see what they were advertising. Here’s what I saw:

In case there was any doubt that Eagles fans are crazy…

For the record, I’m still a supporter of Andy, but I’m in the minority in Philly these days. Still, you’ve got to respect the commitment of these folks, if not their intelligence.