1. 2020

    Christmas Song of the Day: Deck the Halls by Mannheim Steamroller

    Today marks the first of many appearances in this series from my hands-down favorite artist of Christmas music, if not of all time: Mannheim Steamroller. Deck the Halls is the first track from their first album back in 1984. It’s a classic carol, but Mannheim Steamroller’s take on it as a driving rock song is so different from any traditional version you’ll hear that it doesn’t feel old and overdone at all. They do indeed rock so hard and so festively that steam comes out of your brain. As it melts.

  2. 2020

    Christmas Song of the Day: Christmas Pipes by Celtic Woman

    My followup to yesterday’s song is a beautiful original offering from Celtic Woman, Christmas Pipes. I love this one for its catchy melody, which repeats throughout the song, as well as the exhibition of different countermelodies and backgrounds that are juxtaposed against it. Besides the eponymous (uilleann?) pipes, it takes full advantage of orchestral instruments over a wide frequency range, from bass strings to chimes, so if you have a good set of speakers, you’ll want to turn them up for this one.

    Shoutout to the composer Brendan Graham.

  3. 2020

    Christmas Song of the Day: Christmas Eve by Blackmore's Night

    I love Christmas.

    Not as a religious thing; for me it’s a chance to escape the troubles of everyday life and make some happy memories with friends and family. And music has always been a big part of that. Every year, from the day after Thanksgiving up through Christmas Day itself, I put aside my regular playlists and break out my favorite holiday songs, which I’ve accumulated a pretty substantial collection of over the years.

    This year, I want to share some highlights of that collection, so I’ll be posting 25 of my favorite holiday songs over the next 25 days. The first one is a recent discovery that I consider a perfect introduction to the season: Christmas Eve by Blackmore’s Night. It’s upbeat, festive, and full of anticipation.

    As a bonus, there are actually four versions of this song: the original 2013 version, and then three radio-edited versions in English, German, and an English/German “hybrid”. Try them all and pick your favorite!

  4. 2020

    November update: Fun with Docker

    In honor of November, which used to be my NaBloWriMo (“National” Blog Writing Month), I’m determined to exceed my usual output of zero posts per month.

    A haphazard introduction to Docker

    My latest hobby project has been changing this website to use Docker. For anyone who doesn’t know, Docker is a containerization system, which means that it lets you run programs in their own individual “containers” that prevent them from interacting with other programs running on the same computer (except when you specifically allow it). For example, a file stored in a container is typically accessible only within that container, each container has its own set of network ports to send and receive communication, and so on. Containers are a lot like virtual machines, but whereas a virtual machine runs an entire operating system — that includes a kernel plus any number of programs — Docker runs only one primary program in each isolated environment, and when that program needs a kernel to do something like reading data from a file, it uses the underlying host system’s kernel. So you might think of containers as “partly-virtual machines”.

    The isolated environment of a container works the other way around, too …

  5. 2020

    A late arXiv Fool's!

    For the past few years I’ve been maintaining what may be the most comprehensive list of arXiv joke papers on the internet. It all started a few years ago with an answer on Academia Stack Exchange, and it’s become an annual tradition for myself and other Academia SE users to update the list with the new discoveries each year, after which I mirror the changes here on my website.

    This year, just in time for it to not be April anymore, I’m pleased to share eighteen new papers being added to the list. Some were missed entries from previous years, but almost half of them are new to the arXiv, a very impressive showing. We’ve got a groundbreaking approach to achieving room temperature superconductivity, the extension of Godwin’s Law to the age of quantum computing, a progress report on the search for space vampires, and more. May they bring you much enjoyment!

    If you know of any papers I’ve missed that should be added to the list, please let me know. I’d like to thank Mike Lund and E.P. for their contributions to this year’s list.

  6. 2018

    arXiv Fool's!

    About a year ago, I posted a list of arXiv joke papers as an answer on Academia Stack Exchange. At the time, I was just going for a de facto “proof” that it’s okay to upload joke papers — after all, there have been so many of them, and some have been so famous, that if the arXiv moderators thought this was a problem they surely would have done something about it. (Which they haven’t.) But after the answer kind of exploded in popularity, I realized that (as far as I know) nobody else has bothered to list all these papers. So I’ve been keeping it updated each year.

    Starting this year, I’m going to mirror the list here on my site. If you know of anything I should add, let me know!

    And I’d be remiss not to mention this year’s entry, “Sitnikov in Westeros: How Celestial Mechanics finally explains why winter is coming in Game of Thrones”. This paper actually does have a real scientific explanation for the bizarre patterns of seasons in Game of Thrones.

  7. 2017

    Hello SoundHound!

    I’m not a fan of the phrase “dream job”, but if I were ever to use it, I think this would be the time: I’ll shortly be starting work as a software engineer at SoundHound! This is a company that got its start with music recognition — the app where you can hum a song and it’ll recognize it from the melody — and is now working on a state-of-the-art voice assistant, Hound.

    I’m really impressed with what I’ve seen of the company: I get to work with a bunch of smart people on a challenging problem, exactly where I wanted to wind up (the SF Bay Area). And the best part: they seem impressed with me and my programming skills as well. I gotta say, it feels strange to be appreciated. I kind of like it.

    More news to come as I gear up toward starting the new job!

  8. 2017

    My Comment to the FCC

    It’s finally time. After reading through something like a thousand pages of FCC filings, laws, court judgments, and other assorted documents, writing a thousand lines in the first and second parts of this series, and missing about a thousand hours of sleep over the past week, I am, at last, at the end of my quest to compose a comment on the FCC’s proposal to gut net neutrality. (The comment itself is at the bottom. I wouldn’t make it that easy on you!)

    Filing a comment

    I’ll be using https://www.battleforthenet.com to file my comment, because the form there also forwards what I write to my Congressional representatives and Senators. They’ve written a default comment for people who don’t want to craft their own, and it reads as follows:

    The FCC’s Open Internet Rules (net neutrality rules) are extremely important to me. I urge you to protect them.

    I don’t want ISPs to have the power to block websites, slow them down, give some sites an advantage over others, or split the Internet into “fast lanes” for companies that pay and “slow lanes” for the rest.

    Now is not the …

  9. 2017

    On Restoring Internet Freedom

    Since my post a few days ago on the modern history of the net neutrality debate, I’ve been poring over the latest step in that filing: the FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom initiative. These people at the FCC write a lot. But I’ve finally made it through the new proposal.

    In this document, the FCC’s main goal is to justify classifying broadband internet service as an “information service”, not a “telecommunications service” which it currently is. Like I explained in my last post, information service providers are only minimally regulated by the government, whereas telecommunications service providers, or common carriers, are strictly regulated by title II of the Communications Act — in particular, they can’t block or discriminate among the traffic they carry based on content.

    The FCC’s reasoning breaks down into three areas:

    1. How existing laws apply to the technical functionality of the internet
    2. Precedent set by previous rulings of the FCC
    3. How the deregulation of broadband internet service will affect consumers

    Technical arguments

    The first main content section of the proposal sets out to show that the way the internet works “under the hood” matches the legal definition of an information service, not of …

  10. 2017

    Modern history of net neutrality

    Think of a website you like.

    What do you get from that website that makes you like it? TV shows? News articles? Email? Porn? Cat GIFs? (I’m not here to judge.)

    Now, think about this: how much are you willing to pay to use that website instead of its crappy competitor that your internet service provider made? When Google started Gmail, imagine AOL saying “you can access to this site for only $50/month”. I’d be displeased.

    How long are you willing to wait for your website of choice to load, rather than going to the crappy (but quickly-loading) competitor your ISP runs? Imagine watching Orange is the New Black on Netflix and having to wait two hours while it buffers, even though the bland reality shows and sitcoms on Comcast’s video site stream in real time full HD. I’d be mad.

    Net neutrality guarantees this will never be a problem. It means Gmail will be free, Netflix will be fast, and you can giggle at all the cute cat pictures your heart desires.

    Whenever a legal issue comes up that I feel strongly enough about to make a blog post on, it’s already seen …