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Andrew Reid
Works at NIST
Attended Queen's University
Lives in Washington DC
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Andrew Reid

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We have a "snow day" today in DC, and I've spent most of the afternoon so far in this amazing +Scott Aaronson paper.

It's been a long time since I worried about these kinds of issues, but the paper is very kind to me, it's a generous and well-written exploration of the issues that live at the intersection of AI, computability, complexity, quantum mechanics, and, of course, philosophy. It ties together a ton of stuff that's been rattling around in the back of my brain for decades (Penrose, Searle, Dennett), like hitting "Gödel, Escher, Bach" afresh.

Highly recommend for people who could double-check the spelling of "Dennett", as I just did, by turning their head about 60 degrees to get a better view of the bookshelf.

Via Hacker News.
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+George Phillips I hadn't seen that, thanks!

Also, no woo-woo consciousness stuff, and in fact a general lack of woo, which is a big part of why it's awesome.
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Here's another odd cultural cross-over I've just encountered.

I was reading the linked New Yorker article, which is a pretty good nontechnical treatment of this guy Zhang's background and amazing proof. The article included a brief aside, near the end, of what you might call "prime number culture", the various and sometimes whimsical sub-categories into which prime numbers are divided by those who study them. There's the "emirp", which is a palindromic prime, for example, and "plateau primes", which are strings of relatively high digits, bracketed on either end by lower digits.

And "Yarborough primes", whose digit sequences have neither a zero nor a one.

Not elaborated on in the New Yorker, but bridge players will recognize this immediately as a cousin of the "Yarborough" in contract bridge, which is an especially weak hand containing no card higher than a nine. The story is told that a 19th-century Earl of Yarborough offered odds of 1000 to 1 against getting such a hand -- pay him £1 for every hand you draw, and he'll pay you £1000 if it's a "Yarborough". According to Wikipedia, the Earl's game was actually whist, and the odds were in his favor.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_contract_bridge_terms#Yarborough
Unable to get an academic position, Zhang kept the books for a Subway franchise. Credit Photograph by Peter Bohler
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Come for "Yarborough", stay for the article.  Loved this quote:

Once Zhang heard from Annals, he called his wife in San Jose. “I say, ‘Pay attention to the media and newspapers,’ ” he said. “ ‘You may see my name,’ and she said, ‘Are you drunk?’ ”
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I hadn't heard this at the time, but apparently in October of 2014, another WWII-era Japanese "Balloon Bomb" was found in Lumby, BC. The article describes it as "250 miles north of the US border", but for the slightly more geographically ept, it's a few km east of Vernon.

The NPR article reads like a mix of news and cut-and-paste from wartime media, the bombs are "dastardly" and "ingenious" and exhibit "treachery".

A significantly calmer backgrounder can be found on Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_balloon

Another interesting side-light, which I did not previously know, is that the Japanese origin of the balloons was confirmed by a geological analysis of the sand in the sand-bags. This showed that the balloons were not being assembled in North America by fifth-columnists, which certainly seems like a useful thing to know.
During World War II, the Japanese aimed thousands of wind-borne explosives at North America. To this day, many have not been accounted for.
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Naturally this made the news here.

http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Military+unit+blows+WWII+Japanese+balloon+bomb+smithereens/10281138/story.html

Not that I advocate any eye-for-an-eye balance sheet, but hard to condemn these devices without mentioning the massive allied dalliance in bombing civilians.
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Andrew Reid

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Here's a nice bit of history about Midway Island, via the often-excellent BLDGBLOG.

Apparently Midway Island was ideally placed to be a staging point for the Commercial Pacific Cable Company. Initially surveyed in 1903 and found to be "unfit for habitation", the island group was subsequently practically terraformed -- it is an entirely built environment, virtually everything on it, most especially including the soil and plants, was imported. Later famous during World War II, the island group is presently a wildlife refuge under the direction of the US Fish and Wildlife service.

US FWS link here: http://www.fws.gov/refuge/Midway_Atoll/preserving_the_past/Cable_Company.html

Paging +Mark Locatelli -- is this in Christie's jurisdiction?
architectural conjecture :: urban speculation :: landscape futures
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While browsing some New Yorker magazine special collections, I ran across this surprisingly fascinating article about golf. Well, about a particular golf course, long-abandoned and recently restored on the Outer Hebridean island of South Uist.

Aside from the narrative about the course, I also learned that "links" or "linksland" is originally a geological term, referring to undulating land made up of wind-sculpted sand on former continental shelves exposed by the retreat of glaciers.
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Wind erosion has always been a problem at all the " links " especially in the outer islands with winter storms from the North Atlantic.
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The death of literacy, or the life of language?

I've suddenly started noticing the word "hobbiest" appearing in various things I read, and have no idea if I've just been reading past it for years, or if it's a newly-popular misspelling/variant of "hobbyist". It's apparently not something that passes a spell-checker, it's underlined in red right now in the G+ composition window.

I first saw it while browsing around on the Adafruit site, and an explicit search for it there gives 605 hits (for "hobbiest site:adafruit.com"), and the admonition "did you mean hobbyist...". This is compared to 2710 hits for "hobbyist site:adafruit.com".

Since then, I've started noticing it all over the place.

I'm willing to believe that the Adafruit folks are hobbier than a lot of other places, but there's a lot of competition, I doubt very much of they're actually hobbiest.
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(...Though Googling for "point of you", using quotes because Google is clever enough to try to interpret the eggcorn otherwise, mostly gets you cutesy uses of the phrase as a pun on the first page of hits.)
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Andrew Reid

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Reaction to the reaction to the initial "changelog" post about whether modern Linux has lost its way. This is a really nice take, and speaks clearly to my concerns -- it's not just systemd, it's the confusion between "simplicity of interface" and "ease of use", and the additional and secondary confusion between "ease of use" and "ease of analysis". And it's not a mindless pean for the before-time, either, the author acknowledges the benefits of udev, and that integration has a place.

On the whole, nicely nuanced, do read the whole thing.

Initial "infamous" article is here, for those who'd like to start at the beginning:
http://changelog.complete.org/archives/9299-has-modern-linux-lost-its-way-some-thoughts-on-jessie
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As you can perhaps imagine, old-person-disease comes up from time to time in Linux conversations. I've thought about it a lot, it's a reasonable question to ask, those learning curves were a long time ago.

As it happens, I don't think it's the source of the discomfort for the changelog author, either, his focus on ease-of-analysis is the part that I really like to see.

Also, I sort of solved my can't-unlock-the-screen thing, it was a PAM config problem, but the config error has apparently been present for at least a year, whereas the system only started misbehaving today. So, it was definitely broken, it's definitely fixed, but Something Else Also Happened. Possibly the gnome-keyring update rendered it newly-intolerant to my config error.
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I learned from the linked-to article that there is a Venetian language, "a rich mixture of Italian, French, Greek, Portuguese, and other linguistic condiments." I had no idea, although I suppose I shouldn't be all that surprised.

According to Wikipedia, it's got about 2 million speakers, and is mostly used in informal contexts. Neat! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venetian_language
 
"Venice's strange, complicated, unfathomable beauty exerts a sort of ruthless enchantment," writes author Erla Zwingle. "But … I think it must be the most misunderstood city on Earth."
Living in Venice isn't Carnival every day. It's a vocation that requires stamina and conviction.
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From the current "New Yorker" magazine. I've had days like that.
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A conversation at work today reminded me of this "self-referential aptitude test", which made the rounds several years ago.

It is alleged that it has a unique self-consistent solution, although I've never verified this for myself. 

The parent page (with links to answers, other people's solution strategies, and similar other puzzles) is here: http://faculty.uml.edu/jpropp/srat.html
SELF-REFERENTIAL APTITUDE TEST, by Jim Propp (jimpropp at gmaildotcom) The solution to the following puzzle is unique; in some cases the knowledge that the solution is unique may actually give you a short-cut to finding the answer to a particular question. (Thanks to Andy Latto for bringing this ...
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I've been following this "Codeless Code" blog for some time, and today there was some wisdom about how to learn things from internet forums.
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A local restaurant near me has a bitcoin ATM. I'm not sure if this means bitcoins are going mainstream, or are on their way out.
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I note from the phrasing that it's clearly being run by the same sort of skanky bunch who run 'WE BUY GOLD' shops: i.e., brazen exploiters of the poor and financially ignorant. I expect the exchange rate is terrible.
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Work
Occupation
Scientific computing
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  • NIST
    Scientific computing, present
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Washington DC
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Canada - Calgary - Vancouver - Chicago
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Clever. Maybe clever enough.
Introduction
I studied computer science and physics at UBC, and have never really let go of either. I read a lot. Geeky, but not in a debilitating way.
Bragging rights
I know how much wood a woodchuck would chuck, but I'm not telling.
Education
  • Queen's University
    Physics, 1989 - 1994
  • University of British Columbia
    Physics, 1986 - 1989
  • University of British Columbia
    Physics and Computer Science, 1982 - 1986
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