Writing ... or Just Practicing?

Random Disconnected Diatribes of a p&p Documentation Engineer

  • Blog Post: my data are getting littler

    It looks like our Big Data is getting smaller. At least that's the impression I get from the exhaustive investigation carried out by the editor on our current project. Of course, "data" is actually a plural word so perhaps it's just that each datum is getting smaller. Or maybe there are fewer (not "less...
  • Blog Post: A Book By Any Other Name

    So last week saw the sad demise of Bruce Robertson, the managing director of the UK-based Diagram organization that specializes in artwork and design for books and other publications. While I'm sure he'd most like to be remembered by the great work his company has done, the somewhat unfortunate fact...
  • Blog Post: The Little Bang Theory?

    According to a news item this week it seems that both CBS television and the City of London may need to do some serious rebranding, and they might even have to rename the Hubble Space Telescope. Though mathematicians and physicists will no doubt be pleased because now they won’t have to invent...
  • Blog Post: Soft Drink Cans and a Man Named Norman

    So I finally got round to reading Bill Bryson's book "A Short History of Nearly Everything". OK, so it's not quite as entertaining as some of his travel guides, but it is amazingly full of things that make you go "Wow" and "Can you believe it?" I especially liked the bits about soft drink cans and a...
  • Blog Post: Warning! Warning! New Laptop Encountered!

    So at last my new company computer arrived. And, like all competent technology users, I carefully perused the operating manual before starting it up the first time. You never know, it might say something important. And what I found has made me wonder if I actually dare use it at all. For a start,...
  • Blog Post: Measuring Distance by Journey Duration

    At a meeting of our remote workers group the other day I noticed how competitive people are about how far they are away from their Microsoft office. It's almost like you get a prize for being the remotest (hopefully measured by location and not character trait). What set me thinking was how the different...
  • Blog Post: Evolution Through Technology Selection

    You have to wonder whether the increasing use of tablet computers and touchscreens means we'll soon be back to the equivalent of a world that depends on stone axes and making fire by rubbing two sticks together. At the moment I'm doing my utmost to hang on to some semblance of advanced device interaction...
  • Blog Post: Matrices or Mattresses?

    Nobody could accuse me of being posh, and compared to most of the developers I work with here at Microsoft I'm probably not the brightest button in the box. But I did study mathematics in the past, including matrix theory. I just never got to pronounce it right. It all came rushing back to me as I...
  • Blog Post: It's Not Intellectual Property - It's Just Cupboards!

    It's been a very long time since I exercised my DIY skills fitting out a kitchen and a bathroom during a hectic two weeks holiday. But the time has now arrived for an upgrade and, as I'm not getting any younger, I'm attempting to organize it so that someone else does the hard work. Preferably someone...
  • Blog Post: Brian Saved Four Hundred Pounds!

    There's an advertisement on the radio at the moment that explains how a guy named Brian saved four hundred pounds (in money, not weight) on his car insurance by using some price comparison website. Most people I know only pay around half that amount in premiums, so is this a realistic claim? Perhaps...
  • Blog Post: Meandering Meanings

    I bet you didn't know that the word "Wikipedia" actually means "fast child". And that the towns of Pendle Hill in Lancashire and Bredon Hill in Worcestershire both have names that mean "hill hill hill". No, neither did I until I bought Mark Forsyth's book "The Etymologicon" (which, incidentally, means...
  • Blog Post: The Rule of "It Depends"

    It seems odd that, in order for a rule to be valid, there has to be an exception. According to the well-known phrase "the exception that proves the rule", this must be the case. Yet watching a TV quiz show the other week, I was amazed to discover that one of the rules I've applied most days of my working...
  • Blog Post: So Where Does Stuff Come From?

    You regularly hear about the disconnect between real life and people's perceptions of it. For example, it seems that two thirds of inner-city school kids don't realize that the contents of their beef burger comes from cows, or that they make bread out of the tall, pale brown, grass-like stuff growing...
  • Blog Post: Prequally Empirical Numeric Confusion

    Our son went to the cinema this week to see Star Wars Part 1 in 3D, and I was tempted to go with him. I can remember seeing the original Star Wars movie when it was released in 1977, and I thought it would be fun to see it again. Except that it seems I'm out of touch with the way movies work these days...
  • Blog Post: What's The Point?

    My wife will tell you that I'm really not very good at getting the point of things. I mean, when it comes to making typically vital choices such as whether I want brown sauce or ketchup on my sausage sandwiches, I can't see the point of long-winded pondering and tortuous decision making. Just put brown...
  • Blog Post: That What Was Demonstrated

    It's been a long time since I studied particle physics in my spare time at university. However, as it looks like the clever people at CERN will soon be publishing photos of their new baby - the delightfully named Higgs Boson - I thought I ought to get caught up with some background theory so that I will...
  • Blog Post: Leaping To Conclusions - Predictions for Leap Year 2012

    After my resounding success predicting that 2011 would finally see the lingering and painful death of JavaScript, and that the interface of Windows 8 will consist solely of one large Flash animation, it's time to apply my unerringly accurate predictional capabilities to this squeaky clean New Year. So...
  • Blog Post: Observing Boxing Day (Twice)

    I just found out that, fifty years ago, somebody told me a lie - though I suppose I can't really blame him. Let's face it, when you ask your grandfather a question to which he doesn't know the answer, but he feels he really should (and you are of a suitably gullible age), making up something plausible...
  • Blog Post: How Much Is It Worth?

    I discovered this week that I was severely overcharged when I bought a new TV from our local branch of Comet (a national electrical retailer) some months back. According to a back of an envelope calculation, my TV was actually worth somewhere around one five thousandth of a penny. This must be true...
  • Blog Post: Optimistic Euphemisms

    Buried in a recent issue of my newspaper the other day, squashed into a corner between an advert for luxury cruise holidays and a delightful close-up photo of some newly-discovered bacterium, was a short item about a recall by a major UK-based motor manufacturer. It said that in some circumstances the...
  • Blog Post: Additional Integrational Hybridization

    For some unaccountable reason, my semi-coherent bluster a couple of weeks ago wandered across the topic of integration when discussing Windows Azure hybrid applications. Since then, I've been delving deeper into the whole area of hybrid application challenges as we fine-tune our thoughts on the third...
  • Blog Post: I Don't Believe It!

    So it's been an interesting week in the world of amazingly unbelievable new technologies. I can't make up my mind which is the most implausible: test-tube sausages, invisible military vehicles, or Boolean values that are only 70% true. It reminded me of the story about the young boy who asks his Grandfather...
  • Blog Post: Hello, Server 27 Here...

    The editions of my daily newspaper that I most look forward to are those when my favorite columnist, Bryony Gordon, is in attendance. As an example, in her Notebook column a couple of weeks ago she happened to mention that not only has her own cat posted a birthday greeting to her on her Facebook wall...
  • Blog Post: Should Blogs Have a Readme?

    Those of us who read the documentation for software before installing it (though we are, it seems, members of a pitifully small minority) know that the most illuminating part is the "Known Issues" section. It's here that, hopefully, you discover all the problems you are likely to face - and can make...
  • Blog Post: Does It Really Matter?

    Everybody loves a Terry Pratchett quote, so I'll start this week with "In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded". It came to mind as I read in the science section of the newspaper about how those amazing people at CERN in Switzerland have managed to create a (rather small) handful of hydrogen...
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