Weekend Reading CIV
How to Read a Menu Like a Food Critic
I have found a lot of success in trying to suss out what the objective of a particular place is. It’s worth trying to work out whether a menu is really there to be eaten, or merely to provide vicarious experience for the steak/burger & sea bass crowd. If I don’t think the kitchen is up to the promise of adventure, I’ll go with the safety, and it usually pays off. Besides, there can be a lot of pleasure in well-cooked, simpler dishes.
Commodore Amiga from 1987 Controlling School HVAC
The Amiga 2000 in question was part of an interesting time in home computing, before PC dominance. The incredibly bitter fight at the end of the 8-bit era shows the challenge of what to do when a generation change hits your technology.
Neural Evolution of Mario
My personal opinion: take the bits about this being like biological evolution, and the human brain just being a question of computing power with a [very large] pinch of salt. That said, one of the fascinating aspects of computing is the way simple rules interact to form complex behaviours that appear centrally-planned (Flocking, Cellular Automata, painting the Mona Lisa, all for examples). It’s easy to be seduced into thinking that these things generalise, or to underestimate the challenge. A big part of it lies in the fitness function. Evolution is only a local maximiser, so in the Mario video, the winning instance misses out on all sorts of bonuses, and mashes the buttons horrendously. It solves for the problem it has, not necessarily taking into account longer-term concerns. Similarly, a beetle might be said to be as evolved as a person. An example of this is in Evolved antenna design, where some groups learned that they had to periodically move the test suite around the room, because otherwise the design might depend on the wall or a resonance in the building or some other factor, a bit like a symbiotic relationship.
The Existential Conundrum That Is the American Waste Paper Basket
For once, the comments section has a gem in it. The commenter, ‘Jack’ points out that not every message needs to endure past its reading. It was one of the annoying features of gmail, which would encourage me to ‘archive’ rather than delete notification mails and updates which I had read but no longer need. Probably to improve the amount of data for indexing.
What is CODE?
This is encyclopædic, interactive and brilliant. Too often people miss the point that most of the challenge in programming (or any engineering) is the people part: the users, the engineers, the managers, the designers, and so on. Modern computer applications require a huge mass of knowledge before you can do virtually anything. In fact, it’s been regarded as one of the reasons that programming saw a dip in adoption: when I had my commodore 64, I could write a BASIC program that took in text and output a phrase as a choose your own adventure:
Even the professional stuff was not light-years away. However, these days, getting even basic apps together takes a huge amount of effort to learn the background. Unity, or Web stuff give a lot of productivity, but even so the gap from basic to functional is enormously magnified.