Blog: Humor

Most of these posts were originally posted somewhere else and link to the originals. While this blog is not set up for comments, the original locations generally are, and I welcome comments there. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Young coworkers

Last week the director of engineering sent email announcing prizes for an "improve our tests" hackathon. He labelled one prize (about finding and fixing the most bugs) as "write yourself a minivan".

Later, in response to questions, he sent a copy of the 24-year-old Dilbert strip.

Over the weekend our CTO, in response to questions, sent email explaining what a minivan was.

I'll be over here, weeping into my prune juice and yelling at kids to get off my lawn.

Purim Torah!

Purim Torah season started on Mi Yodeya tonight-ish. Here are a few questions currently on the front page (some new, some from past years):

There are more, and I'm sure there will be many more over the next two weeks. Look for "PTIJ" ("Purim Torah: in jest") at the beginning of question titles.

There's also this answer, which I can only kind-of sort-of read but I see my name in there (made the mishna, apparently!). Um, I hope it's good? :-)

And a couple from past years that I enjoyed: one about losing an hour of Purim because of DST, and one about accepting the messiah.

Link round-up

Some stuff has been accumulating in browser tabs. Some of it lost relevance because I waited too long (oops). Here's the rest.

This article explains the Intel problem that's going to slow your computer down soon. I don't know much about how kernels work and I understood it. I do have some computer-science background, though, so if somebody who doesn't wants to let me know if this is accessible or incoherent, please do. In terms of effects of the bug, you're going to get an OS update soon and then things will be slower because the real fix is to replace hardware, but you probably want to take the update anyway.

This infographic gives some current advice to avoid being spear-phished. It has one tip that was new to me but makes a lot of sense: if you have any doubt about an attachment but are going to open it anyway, drop it into Google Drive and open it in your browser. If it's malicious it'll attack Google's servers instead of your computer, and they have better defenses.

Sandra and Woo: what the public hears vs. what a software developer hears.

This account of one hospital's triage process for major incidents blew me away. I shared the link with someone I know in the medical profession and he said "oh, Sunrise -- they have their (stuff) together" -- they have a reputation, it appears. Link courtesy of metahacker and hakamadare.

I was one of the subject-matter experts interviewed for this study on Stack Overflow's documentation project. Horyun was an intern and was great to work with.

From siderea, the two worlds, or rubber-duck programming and modes of thinking.

The phatic and the anti-inductive doesn't summarize well, but I found it interesting. Also, I learned some new words. "Phatic" means talking for the sake of talking -- so small-talk, but not just that. Social lubricant fits in here too.

Rands on listening for managers.

From the same source as the "phatic" post, a story about zombies made me laugh a lot.

From Twitter:
Three logicians walk into a bar. The bartender says "Do you all want something to drink?"
The first logician says "I don't know."
The second logician says "I don't know."
The third logician says "Yes."

Embedded geek

A friend shared this with me earlier today and I literally laughed out loud:

Jeopardy board with columns 'shaka' and 'when the walls fell


The second-last column is about a famous Zulu leader. The last one is about walled cities under fire.

"Shaka, when the walls fell" is a key phrase in a rather unusual episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, named "Darmok". The famous universal translator doesn't work when the Enterprise encounters these particular aliens, because their language doesn't work at the word level. They speak in what the crew calls metaphor. I've seen discussions of this over the years ("could that really work?" "improbable, because..."). The post about the Jeopardy episode links to this Atlantic article about the episode that argues that we're looking at it all wrong. I found it an interesting read.

Also, Atlantic does in-depth articles about episodes of SF shows? Who knew?

Purim science?

One machine-learning technique is to pit evolving neural networks against each other in cage matches and then learn from the results. This is called Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs).

At yesterday's Purim festivities somebody described the following cutting-edge research, and I remembered just enough keywords to be able to find the paper later:

Stopping GAN Violence: Generative Unadversarial Networks Samuel Albanie, Sébastien Ehrhardt, João F. Henriques While the costs of human violence have attracted a great deal of attention from the research community, the effects of the network-on-network (NoN) violence popularised by Generative Adversarial Networks have yet to be addressed. In this work, we quantify the financial, social, spiritual, cultural, grammatical and dermatological impact of this aggression and address the issue by proposing a more peaceful approach which we term Generative Unadversarial Networks (GUNs). Under this framework, we simultaneously train two models: a generator G that does its best to capture whichever data distribution it feels it can manage, and a motivator M that helps G to achieve its dream. Fighting is strictly verboten and both models evolve by learning to respect their differences. The framework is both theoretically and electrically grounded in game theory, and can be viewed as a winner-shares-all two-player game in which both players work as a team to achieve the best score. Experiments show that by working in harmony, the proposed model is able to claim both the moral and log-likelihood high ground. Our work builds on a rich history of carefully argued position-papers, published as anonymous YouTube comments, which prove that the optimal solution to NoN violence is more GUNs.

I haven't read the full paper yet, but on a quick skim it does not disappoint. More info.

I'm delighted to see that the paper was submitted to SIGBOVIK 2017. I had no idea that Dr. Bovik had his own SIG.

ETA: Not only was that paper submitted to SIGBOVIK, but SIGBOVIK is a real thing. How did I not know about this gem from my alma mater? (Sadly, this year's conference starts at 5PM on a Friday, which would be challenging. Maybe I'll have better luck next year.)

Purim Torah

It's Purim Torah season at Mi Yodeya, where, in addition to the regular, serious questions, we also welcome parody questions. Our policy (yes, we have a policy) says:

It's gotta be distinctly "Purim" (not serious), distinctly Torah, and distinctly Q&A. Purim Torah questions that don't have all three of these qualities may be closed.

So, post sincere-looking questions (you know, the kind that invite answers) that:

  • misinterpret a real Torah concept or Jewish text, or
  • apply a distinctly Torah style (e.g. Talmudic analysis) to an irrelevant topic

Here's a sampling from this year:

There are a lot more, over 250 from this and past years.

How should a werewolf observe Pesach? (Purim Torah)

A Purim Torah question on Mi Yodeya asked: how can a Jewish werewolf observe Pesach and other holidays that fall on the full moon? I answered:

I've heard conflicting rumors about the characteristics of werewolves. For purposes of this question I'm going to go with the common modern-day interpretation: a werewolf undergoes involuntary transformation into wolf form at the full moon, losing most of its human instincts, and typically hunts and gorges on something before returning to human form in the morning with few if any memories. If you had some other kind of werewolf in mind, you should specify.

All of these holidays will pose problems for our werewolf because the full moon rises at sunset, which is before festivities can be concluded (or in some cases even started), but his transformation into wolf form commences with the appearance of the full moon. If you follow the minority opinion that it's the sight of the full moon that does it then you might be able to prevent transformation for a time, but the majority seem to hold that the transformation happens at moonrise with or without consent.

One possibility is that he's not obligated in mitzvot while in wolf form (because only human Jews are obligated). If he is obligated, though, he's going to face some challenges: Read more…

Purim Torah: why don't we accept Zaphod Beeblebrox as the messiah?

A purim torah question on Mi Yodeya asks what I think is a brilliant question. Due to the nature of purim torah I can't really summarize it, so I will quote it and then share my answer, which I had a lot of fun writing. Read more…

Doc Brown to the white courtesy phone, please

As part of a system upgrade at my shell provider, I'm now using Alpine to read mail instead of Pine. Pine showed me plain old dates/times in the list of messages, but Alpine tries to be clever and I haven't yet figured out how to turn it off. So instead of a date it'll say "Yesterday", or "Monday", etc. Very annoying, but it did produce a laugh:

I was unprepared for Alpine's treatment of the message I just got from somebody more than halfway around the world: "Tomorrow". Yes, tomorrow's mail today! Sadly, tomorrow's mail, so far, has not reported usable lottery numbers.

Added in a comment:

And the answer is... in the configuration options, set "index format" to "STATUS MSGNO DATE FROMORTO(33%) SIZE SUBJKEY(67%)" (from here, down the page some). Yeah, that was obvious. :-)

License plate

For those who remember this XKCD:

comic strip about license plate 1I1-III1

With the following mouse-over text:

The next day: "What? Six bank robberies!? But I just vandalized the library!" "Nice try. They saw your plate with all the 1s and Is." "That's impossible! I've been with my car the whole ti-- ... wait. Ok, wow, that was clever of her."

I saw this in the parking garage at work today:

license plate: 88BB8BB