Weekend Reading CIV

by uber

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.

http://www.washingtonian.com/blogs/bestbites/todd-kliman-otherwise/how-to-read-a-menu-like-a-food-critic.php


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.

http://woodtv.com/2015/06/11/1980s-computer-controls-grps-heat-and-ac/


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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qv6UVOQ0F44&feature=youtu.be&a.


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.

http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/the-existential-conundrum-that-is-the-american-waste-paper-basket/


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:

10 PRINT "TEXT ADVENTURE"
20 PRINT "YOU ARE IN A ROOM FILLED WITH CUBICLES"
30 PRINT "THERE IS A FAINT HUM OF A/C & SMELL OF STALE COFFEE"
40 PRINT "EXITS ARE NORTH, WEST"
50 INPUT A$
51 IF A$="NORTH" THEN GOTO 100
52 IF A$="WEST" THEN GOTO 200
53 GOTO 40
100 PRINT "YOU ARE NEAR A COFFEE MACHINE"
101 PRINT "THERE IS A CUP HERE, WITH * COFFEE * IN IT"
102 PRINT "EXITS: SOUTH"
103 INPUT A$
104 IF A$="COFFEE" THEN GOTO 110
105 IF A$="SOUTH" THEN GOTO 20 
106 GOTO 100
110 PRINT "YOU PICK UP THE CUP"
111 PRINT "ANOTHER DROPS OUT AND FILLS AUTOMATICALLY"
112 PRINT "YOU DRINK THE COFFEE IT IS TOO HOT AND WEAK"
113 GOTO 100
200 PRINT "YOU LEAVE THE OFFICE"
201 PRINT "YOU ARE DAZZLED BY THE LIGHT"
202 PRINT "DISORIENTED, YOU CAN'T SEE THE ONCOMING TRUCK"
203 PRINT "THE TRUCK CRUSHES YOU, YOU DIE"
204 PRINT "YOU DIE. THANKS FOR PLAYING"
RUN

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.

http://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-paul-ford-what-is-code/