Old Software Never Dies…

…it just keeps byte-ing.  All of a sudden, with payroll and government financial systems being stressed, large institutions are desperate to find COBOL programmers.  Foolishly, they pensioned off all those crusty old codgers, instead of keeping a few on staff to tinker and optimize and untangle all the old code running payroll and inventory and scheduling and… I made Captain at SAC HQ wrangling a room filled with COBOL programmers back in the late 70’s.  Every n00b was given a stack of horribly-written report generators and tasked with (a) making the code beautiful and comprehensible and (b) making it modular … Continue reading Old Software Never Dies…

Holding Steady Will Not Sustain Us

Over at American Digest, Van Der Leun gives us a “view from the trenches” that tells us how to Reopen America: Holding Steady won’t be enough to save us. It won’t be nearly enough. To save ourselves we have to find a way to save that couple’s small restaurant. Their restaurant is one — only one — speck, one spark of a myriad. And those are the sparks, those are the embers that we must somehow tend until we can to free the flames we’ve imprisoned in our lackadaisical lockdown. Fail at that and the automobile food lines at Panda … Continue reading Holding Steady Will Not Sustain Us

Oh, and in my spare time, I invented TeX

Writing in Quanta, Susan D’Agostino has a fascinating interview with the computing-est of all computer scientists, Donald Knuth.  Who continues his Everest-like trek up his monumental Art of Computer Programming.  This (intrinsically) never-to-be-completed opus to the mathematics and techniques of algorithms was, for many of us, the first introduction to formal analysis of algorithms and Dr. Knuth.  But woven into the creation of ACP was the invention of TeX, the world’s most marvelous computer typesetting system. TeX was only supposed to be for my secretary and myself. Phyllis [Astrid Benson Winkler] was a wonderful secretary. She could read my handwriting … Continue reading Oh, and in my spare time, I invented TeX

Captain Tom Shows Us How It’s Done

Captain Tom Moore, HMRA (retired), cooked up the idea of a 100-lap charity fundraiser to celebrate his impending 100th birthday.  100 laps around his garden, with a walker (he IS 99). His goal was £1000 for the NHS. Word got out.  Right now he’s raised £13 million. In a just world, Captain Tom’s birthday celebration would be treated with a drop-in visit from the Queen. Tip from the outrageous KdT at Splendid Isolation. Update:  Captain Colonel Tom didn’t get a royal visit, just a birthday card.  And a call from PM Boris.  And a promotion.  And TWO flyovers.  And raised … Continue reading Captain Tom Shows Us How It’s Done

WuFlu and the Urban Chicken Movement

San Antonios have become chickenistas!  Lots of folks are hoping to avoid egg shortages by raising their own chickens. “When we get them in, it’s been a mad dash for the chickens,” said Cathy Sullivan, who works at Strutty’s Feed and Pet Supply store in Spring Branch. “We’ve had shipments of 300 to 350 per week, and everything is getting sold.” Turns out San Antonio was ahead of the curve in urban survivalist planning: The new zeal for backyard flocks comes at a good time here. San Antonio raised the limit of birds per household in the city limits from … Continue reading WuFlu and the Urban Chicken Movement

Slide Rules!

WuFlu isn’t the only virus in the air; I’ve been getting a lot of chatter and questions about slide rules.  Yes, partly because I’m old enough to remember them and remember (vaguely) how to use them.  But what’s going on? Never mind.  Here’s some great online resources for the curious and really curious History and tutorial in a set of…slides More of the same, in standard boring format, from Wikipedia An MIT student breaks it down for the mathematically inclined A More Complete Slide Rule Tutorial for the n00bs An astonishing gallery of slide rule emulators, like drinking from a … Continue reading Slide Rules!

Coronavirus Cumbia

Mexicans (and their Tex-Mexican cousins) can always turn tragedy into hilarity.  Check out these coronavirus cumbias: + Mr Cumbia does a great mash-up Grupo EL CAPI does a straight-up band performance with social distancing Ricardo Munoz does another over-the-top mash-up at ChinoVlogs Erik Arturo and buds ham it up to Mr Cumbia’s soundtrack My fave: Mexican health professionals showing how it’s done (handwashing si, cumbia, no) Continue reading Coronavirus Cumbia

(Clinical) Trial of the Century

The World Health Organization steps up to the coronavirus plate with what appears to be history’s most ambitious screening experiment. On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced a large global trial, called SOLIDARITY, to find out whether any can treat infections with the new coronavirus for the dangerous respiratory disease. It’s an unprecedented effort—an all-out, coordinated push to collect robust scientific data rapidly during a pandemic. The study, which could include many thousands of patients in dozens of countries, has been designed to be as simple as possible so that even hospitals overwhelmed by an onslaught of COVID-19 patients … Continue reading (Clinical) Trial of the Century

The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good

Many of us university instructors are scrambling to adapt our formerly face-to-face courses into online courses. This, to allow “social distancing” in response to the Wuhan Flu pandemic. Rebecca Barrett-Fox urges us “Please do a bad job of putting your courses online.” I’m absolutely serious. For my colleagues who are now being instructed to put some or all of the remainder of their semester online, now is a time to do a poor job of it. You are NOT building an online class. You are NOT teaching students who can be expected to be ready to learn online. And, most … Continue reading The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good