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  • Blog Post: High Altitude

    No computer programming stuff today; just some fun for Friday. As I'm writing this Felix Baumgartner's attempt to set the world record for skydiving height by diving from a helium balloon has been scrubbed due to bad weather . This attempt has got me thinking of my good friend JB, who back in 1982 set...
  • Blog Post: Fabulous Adventures In Casting

    I've written a lot about casting over the years in this blog , but always in the context of the "cast operator": the operator that instructs the compiler to make an explicit conversion from a value of one type to a value of another type. I have recently taken up a new hobby that is casting of an entirely...
  • Blog Post: What's the difference? Trenchcoat vs Duster

    Today, yet another episode in my ongoing series " What's the difference? " This time, a non-computer-related topic . I am often complimented on my choice of outerwear in the Seattle rainy season, and I hate to respond to a well-meant compliment with a correction. So I usually let all those "Nice trenchcoat...
  • Blog Post: Roguelike people

    No technology today. Rather, some advice. I don't know if there's some sort of grifter convention going on, but I have seen four different short-con artists operating in Wallingford, the neighbourhood of Seattle where I live, in the last three days. Though that might be a slight mischaracterization....
  • Blog Post: Funniest Hungarian Joke Ever

    I'm back from my fabulous adventures in Austria, Romania and Canada and I had a fabulous time, as you might imagine. We were in Romania for a wedding of some close personal friends who live here in Seattle; much of the groom's family escaped from Romania during the Communist period and settled in Austria...
  • Blog Post: I'm glad and sad that that's over

    No computers; high technology of a different sort today. Shuttle Atlantis has safely returned to earth for the last time ; the Space Shuttle Program is over. Which both makes me sad, and makes me breathe a huge sigh of relief. Thank goodness that is finally over. As you might have gathered, I am highly...
  • Blog Post: My Buddy Neil Totally Agrees With Me

    [No computer stuff today; just some fun for a Friday.] British fantasy author Neil Gaiman was in Seattle recently. I was so disappointed that I did not find out about it until it was too late to attend his event. It's a pity I missed it because I've been wanting for years to ask Neil Gaiman if he likes...
  • Blog Post: Enormous Explosions

    Welcome to 2011 everyone; I hope you all had as restful a time as I did over the winter break. We’ll get back into language and tools design next time; today’s post is dedicated to the memory of my friend Frank, an old and dear friend of my whole family who passed away shortly before Christmas. As long...
  • Blog Post: Eric Lippert, from Microsoft?

    No technology today, just an amusing story from a couple summers ago. Leah and I rent out a room in our house; I find it quite pleasant to live with a friend who pays my mortgage for me. One day a couple summers back our housemate K had her parents visiting from California. She and I were cooking...
  • Blog Post: Murky Research

    No computers today, but some interesting - and important - math. (And, happy Canada Day, Canadians!) " Car Talk " is a popular weekly phone-in program that has been on National Public Radio for several decades now, in which Bostonian brothers Tom and Ray crack wise and diagnose car (and relationship...
  • Blog Post: Continuous as the stars

    No computer stuff today. Martin Gardner - writer, skeptic, recreational mathematician - died recently. As a teenager I would scour the back room of Casablanca Books looking for back issues of Scientific American for interesting Mathematical Recreation columns. Martin Gardner was one of the people...
  • Blog Post: First Cousins Once Removed

    Happy New Year all, and welcome to 2010, or, as my friend Professor Orbifold prefers it, MMX. I hope your festive holiday season was as festive and enjoyable as mine. The extended Lippert family continues to grow; this year at the annual Boxing Day party we needed two overflow tables for dinner instead...
  • Blog Post: The correct answer is "no"

    No technology today. I have not done a post on relationship advice in ages! Compare and contrast these two conversations: ****** Version One: Alice : Thanks for having lunch with me. I suppose you know what I want to talk about. Eric : Yeah, I do. I think you shouldn't jump to conclusions...
  • Blog Post: What are the horns for?

    (Technology of a different sort today, just for a change of pace.) The first time I saw a picture of the Falkirk Wheel -- the world's only rotating boat lift, in Scotland -- I thought that it must be a really nice computer-generated landscape. It looks like something you'd see in Halo. But it's real;...
  • Blog Post: Customer Service Is Not Rocket Science, Part Two

    I find it irritating, but not surprising, when I get absurdly bad customer service from a business whose business model is based on volume and high margins. But I find it quite surprising, and indeed, greatly amusing , to get absurdly bad customer service from a business whose business model is entirely...
  • Blog Post: Talking About The Weather, Part Two

    What we’re missing is a phenomenon that probably was described correctly by your high school science teacher, namely, the phenomenon of “ latent heat ” (which is what I was taught, though “enthalpy” would be the more modern term.) I said that the temperature of a substance is the average amount of...
  • Blog Post: Talking About The Weather, Part One

    No technology today; just talking about the weather. I love talking about the weather. I mentioned the other day that I had just returned from my ancestral homeland on the shores of Lake Huron, the great inland sea of southwestern Ontario. We got some rip-roaring thunderstorms this year. I love...
  • Blog Post: The horror! The horror!

    Jeff "Coding Horror" Atwood has many nice things to say about my blog and one not so nice thing. Thanks Jeff! Much appreciated. And thanks for the links. (Jeff did not link to my most popular post ever , but he's probably not an eleven year old girl.) A number of people have noted over the years that...
  • Blog Post: "Boolean or" or "boolean or"?

    I was writing the text for some new error messages for the expression tree library the other day. When I ran them past our user education specialists (that is, the people who will be writing the documentation to explain the error messages), one of them pointed out that “Boolean” is an eponym -- a word...
  • Blog Post: How to make little girls scream like… well, like little girls

    [No technology today, so if you're only here for the witty banter about programming languages, skip this one.] Leah and I spent the week before Halloween volunteering at Nightmare At Beaver Lake , a haunted-house-style attraction that runs along the trails in Beaver Lake Park, just on the other side...
  • Blog Post: Through the Looking Glass

    I'm back, I'm married, we had a fabulous time, and now I'm setting up new machines and figuring out what the heck I'm doing on the C# team. Today, we'll get back into it with some non-tech fun. A regular flat mirror seems like it ought to be perfectly symmetrical in its operations. So why is it that...
  • Blog Post: Eric's Advice For First-Time Technical Presenters

    A few months ago an old friend had to give her first talk at a conference. Now, she used to do community theatre back when we were in school together, so she’s no stranger to standing up in front of a bunch of people and acting goofy. However there are at least a few differences between Whose Line Is...
  • Blog Post: The Answer To Last Week's Puzzler

    Clearly I was looking for a leak in something, but what? The hard part is figuring out what the plumbers' putty is for. Plumbers' putty is like plasticene -- it isn't very sticky but you can mold it into any shape. I was looking for the leak in my fiberglass sailboat, along the seam where the decking...
  • Blog Post: A Puzzler

    Some fun for the Friday of a long weekend. And a true story to boot! I had a job to do last Tuesday night that required the purchase of a few tools. As I was driving home from the store I took a look at the pile of stuff in the seat beside me and was quite amused – it all made perfect sense to me...
  • Blog Post: If so smart Yoda is, why does not words the right order in his sentences put?

    Part three of my series on the impact of high-dimensional geometry on search algorithms will have to wait at least until after the Victoria Day weekend -- I'm crazy busy getting wedding invitations out, working on last-minute book edits and, oh yeah, that Whidbey thing. However I will take a couple...
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