# Philosophy Blogs

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Via this article in Newsweek, I found an interesting blog geared towards the professional philosopher but open to others with an interest.

Although some posts such as Are Deontology, Consequentialism, and Pluralism the only viable theories of ethics? will give you a headache just trying to decipher the title, many of the posts (the aforementioned included) ask very thought provoking questions such as “Who Would Suffer the Greater Misfortune?. It may not help you track down that elusive threading bug, but it may help you deal with it philosophically.

One of the contributors is a professor at my alma mater, Occidental college.

# The Monty Hall Problem and Monte Carlo simulations

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Ian Griffiths blogs about the Monty Hall problem.

The problem, named after the host of a game show on which it sometimes appeared, is as follows:

There are three doors, behind one of which is a valuable prize, but you don’t know which door. Choose a door. You are not told straight away whether you’ve made the right choice. Instead, the host of the game will then open one of the doors you did not pick, showing you that there is no prize behind it. You are now offered the chance to change your mind. This effectively narrows down your choice - the prize is behind one of two doors, either the one you picked, or the door that neither you nor the host picked.

What should you do to maximize the probability of winning the prize? Should you stick with your first choice, or switch to the other door? Or does it not matter?

I love this problem as an example of a very straightforward but non-intuitive result. I once presented this problem to a group of young kids who were in a summer math and science enrichment program. They were floored by the result. I demonstrated the proof to the kids via both the logical proof (as Ian does) as well as by running a Monte Carlo simulation. I had two teams play the game over and over, one choosing to switch every time, and one choosing to stay. Like mathematical magic, over a series of 20 or so trials it becomes quite clear that always switching is indeed the better strategy. Argue with me as they did, they could not argue with their own eyes.

Now, lest you think that this is only difficult for non mathematical types to grasp, I used to frequent the sci.math newsgroups and with a bemused grin read the long rants of Ph.Ds in mathematics argue over this problem when I now knew a group of 13 and 14 year olds who could demonstrate the result to them.

I’d like to point out that in the real game show, Monty didn’t always give you the option of switching. Sometimes he’d just open the door you chose. When you add that unpredictable human element, all bets are off.

# Four Inmates Flee Jail, Return With Beer

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Beer Run!

AP - With their cell doors accidentally left unlocked, four county jail inmates escaped only to return the same night — with beer.

[Via Yahoo! News - Oddly Enough]

# Burning Man Photopedia

burningman comments

I promised a friend I’d show him some pictures of the time we went to burning man in 2002. So of course, I figured might as well make a blog entry about it. For you geeks out there, the Playa (A nearly level area at the bottom of an undrained desert basin, sometimes temporarily covered with water) has a wi-fi network available. Every year, Black Rock City, a temporary city, is formed in the midst of the desert near Gerlach. This city is the host of the Burning Man festival. It’s about a thirteen hour drive from Los Angeles and the closest city is Reno, Nevada which is about 4 hours away.

Let me introduce you to the gang of burners (people who attend Burning Man) that we camped with. Here we are demonstrating the preferred method of locomotion on the Playa. This assumes you’re sober enough to ride correctly, which isn’t as much an issue during the day as it is at night.

Although the heat is oppresive by day, there’s plenty to see. One of my favorite installations is a replica of the Terror Dome from Mad Max movies. That’s Akumi and myself climbing on it. At night, the dome is covered with people cheering on epic battles as two would-be gladiators strapped with bungie cords swing around whacking each other with foam padded sticks.

The primary danger on the playa is overheating and dehydration, so be sure to bring plenty of water. That’s not to say that there aren’t other unexpected hazards on the playa.

Every year, Burning Man has a theme. The year we went the theme was “A floating world”. This explains the presence of dolphins.

Some of the installations on the playa are truly magnificent, such as the Temple Of Joy. The prior year, the artist who built this temple had built the Temple Of Tears as he had tragically lost a family member (I think his daughter). But in having overcome the pain and sorrow, he built this temple to celebrate the joy he had with her.

And then, of course, there’s the Man. At night, the Man is totally wired with bright blue neon lights. From any point in the camp, you can pretty much see him standing there as a beacon. Very useful if you happen to be trashed and have wandered off into the darkness of the playa. It’s nearly impossible to get truly lost out there, but people are resourceful and manage to find a way.

There are the occasional dust storms that can be downright aggravating. We only had to endure one or two. Huddling in the shade shelter we built in the middle of our camp site, we battened down the hatches and munched on snacks. Afterwards, a dust storm will leave a really beautiful sky in its wake.

At night, as the temperature dives, the playa really comes alive. I unfortunately don’t have a lot of night pictures, but believe me when I tell you that anything and everything you’ve ever imagined in your sleep is crawling around. This place creates a bull market for the neon and glowstick industry. All the colored lights create a surreal nighttime wonderland. For example, as we walked about, we almost ran into this moving aquarium full of laughing people.

Every day on the playa is a build-up to the big day when they burn the Man. Preceding the burn is a parade of fire walkers, dancers, and mechanical fire-breathing dragons. It’s truly a pyromaniac’s wet dream. The intense heat of “The Burn” conjures up several dust devils with the appearance of sinister tornados dancing on the ashes of the Man. The following day, the Temple of Joy is burned, but we didn’t stay around to see that.

# We Found Bobby Fischer!

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We can’t find Waldo, we can’t find Osama, but we found Bobby. Hooray!

paulydavis writes “Former world chess champion Bobby Fischer, wanted since 1992 for playing a tournament in Yugoslavia despite U.N. sanctions, was detained in Japan for an apparent passport violation and will be deported to the United States.”

[Via Slashdot]

# References Feature Request for VS.NET

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Omer’s post (Hey, everyone! It’s the “Omer Asks For A Feature” time again!) reminds me that I have a feature request as well regarding references in Visual Studio .NET. I’d like to be able to reference an exe assembly. The C-Sharp compiler supports it, but VS.NET strangely does not.

The main reason I want this is it will help me keep my unit tests separate from the exe I’m testing as I talk about in this earlier post.

# Allowing Friends To Correct Typos

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I like this idea found on Boing Boing:

Whole Lotta Nothing has sent out a lazyweb request for a blogging plug-in that would allow a blogger’s close friends to correct typos in his or her posts. I sure could use something like this.

This would be great for friends of mine like Koba who has a horrible spelling problem. ;) I’m constantly sending him emails of his typoz. Then again, I’d love to let him correct my typos, like the one at the end of the previous sentence.

# 56 Deceits in Fahrenheit 9/11

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Earlier I posted the factual backup from Michael Moore’s website concerning Fahrenheit 9/11.

In an effort to be balanced, I present here a list of 56 deceits in Fahrenheit 9/11 from a person who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000. I mention that to point out that this is not a list from a rabid Republican. It’s a bit long, but a worthwhile read to gain some perspective on the movie.

So when are we going to get a documentary that provides a more balanced view of what went down?

Thanks to Adam Kinney for sending me this.

# Google's Mysterious Billboard

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Google apparently is behind this mysterious billboard that presents a nice number theory problem. I love number theory!

Of course, I could have written a program to sift through the digits of e to find the answer to this question, but I’m a pragmatic soul and figure why not just use Google since it’s 3 AM and I’m tired (I know, it’s cheating, but how good Google fault you for using Google?) The answer to this problem is also a website (7427466391) which presents a more challenging problem.

Congratulations. You’ve made it to level 2. Go to www.Linux.org and enter Bobsyouruncle as the login and the answer to this equation as the password.

``````    f(1)= 7182818284
f(2)= 8182845904
f(3)= 8747135266
f(4)= 7427466391
f(5)= __________
``````

Keeping in theme with Google’s love affair for the number e, I soon realized (by looking at this site that displays the first 2 million digits of e) that each of these numbers are consecutive 10 digit sequences of e.

I’ll give you a hint, if you sum the digits of each number (something I typically do to see if the numbers are divisible by 3), youll find an interesting result (other than they arent divisible by 3). That should lead you to the final answer with a bit of coding.

The final answer takes you to a recruiting page. What an ingenious and clever way to recruit talent, though I suppose by giving away the answer, I’ve defeated the purpose. How naughty!

# The Effects Of The Internet On American Community

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This stolen from Koba-san

Well, the jury is still out on the effects of the Internet on American community.  I thought the following clips from Putnam frame well the challenges that face those who wish to enhance social capital through the use of computer technology.

The absence of any correlation between Internet usage and civic engagement could mean that the Internet attracts reclusive nerds and energizes them, but it could also mean that the Net disproportionately attracts civic dynamos and sedates them.  In any event, it is much too early to assess the long-run social effects of the Internet empirically… neither the apocalyptic “gloom and doom” prognosticators nor utopian “brave new virtual community” advocates are probably on target. \  \ – Robert D. Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, p. 171

Some of the allegedly greater democracy in cyberspace is based more on hope and hype than on careful research.  The political culture of the Internet, at least in its early stages, is astringently libertarian, and in some respects cyberspace represents a Hobbesian state of nature, not a Lockean one.  As Peter Kollock and Marc Smith, two of the more thoughtful observers of community on the Internet, observe, “It is widely believed and hoped that the ease of communicating and interacting online will lead to a flourishing of democratic institutions, heralding a new and vital arena of public discourse.  But to date most online groups have the structure of either an anarchy [if unmoderated] or a dictatorship [if moderated].” \  \ – Ibid., p. 173

In a particularly striking parallel to the use of the telephone, a careful study by sociologist Barry Wellman and his colleagues of the use of computer-mediated communication by research scholars found that

Although the internet helps scholars to maintain ties over great distances, physical proximity still maters.  Those scholars who see each other often or work nearer to each other email each other more often.  Frequent contact on the Internet is a complement to frequent face-to-face contact, not a substitute for it.

\  \ – Ibid., p. 179

[Via LostYouth]

# Out Of Town Guests

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Michael from London and Dave from New York dropped in unexpectedly this week at the same time. We had a fun time driving around nearly all of L.A. yesterday.

# Herd Of Elephants

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The production move went smoothly, but who sent the herd of rampaging elephants over to stomp on my head last night. Strangely enough, nary a hair on my wife’s lovely head was touched.

# Blogging While Buzzed

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I’m going to buck tradition and start a new craze just because I mean to. Let’s call it, blogging while buzzed. Perhaps it will be the next meme, fad whatever, but this won’t be the happy byproduct or unintended consequence of an event, but the sole purpose of this blog posting.

Yes, I know, I can’t be so pretentious to think that I can start a craze by just saying I’m doing so. But hey! I’m buzzed, I can do what I want! I can try to do all sort of impossible things. Requiring success is not on my radar. In fact, I’ll be right back in a few minutes while I find an elegant and simple solution to Fermat’s last theorem.

Everyone out there get buzzed and blog I say!

I’m back and man, I have written a fantastic solution in the margins of this blog, but I accidentally deleted it and wiped my drive with DOD level 7 erasing technology. Lots of 1s and 0s overwriting that bit of mathematical legendom. It’s rather freeing to take away all inhibitions and intelligence and just type words as they flow `System.IO.StreamOfConsciousness`.

As I mentioned earlier, I have a friend visiting from London. Let’s call him Michael (don’t let the fact that Michael is his real name bother you. We needn’t quibble over details).

In any case, since I have a production move at 2:00 AM (I’m just here to consult if things don’t go smoothly), I thought I might as well go out for a drink with my friend beforehand. So after a few dead-ends (it is a Monday evening after all), we end up at Temple bar where a very friendly band named Boku (meaning plenty) is playing.

I started the evening off with a Knob creek, moved to a whiskey sour, and ended up helping Michael and his friend finish their whiskey sour and mojito respectively. That leaves me quite loosened up for a 2AM production move that is currently moving along quite smoothly. We’re just waiting for the scripts to finish.

Yes, I do realize that any present and future employers will now consider me a loose cannon and will not want me near their production databases. But as I said, I’m only here on a consultory and supervisory role. I have no real access right now and am not a danger to our business (whew!). Besides, I’ve done production moves for a Fortune 100 client after several fine margaritas from El Cholo back when I worked at a Microsoft Gold Partner. I wouldn’t recommend that as a standard practice, but all went well. Till next time, over and out…

# A More Palatable Fahrenheit 9/11, Just the Facts...

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This may be a more palatable way to understand Fahrenheit 9/11 for many who are not fans of Michael Moore. His website has a list of the facts he presents in the movie along with the source.

Of course lacking from this list is a fact-checking list for each source. Also missing is what the significance of each fact is. Some may fall in the category “So What?” while (in my opinion) many others fall in the category “Hmmm… Time to vote Bush out.”

# The Rush Of Basketball

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Kurtis Blow once rapped

Basketball is my favorite sport,\ I like the way they dribble up and down the court,\ Just like I’m the King on the microphone, so is Dr. J and Moses Malone,\ I like Slam-dunks, take me to the hoop,\ My favorite play is the alley-oop,\ I like the pick-and-roll, I like the give-and-go,\ Cause it’s Basketball, uh, Mister Kurtis Blow,

I’ll be honest. Basketball is my second favorite sport, but by a slim margin to that sport of sports, soccer. Being 5’ 9”, soccer comes more naturally to me. I only made it to the JV level in high school basketball, but played at the Varsity and Division 3 college level in soccer, which is not saying much.

I’ve started playing basketball at the Y in the morning before work. It was a slow start, but today I had one of those games that reminds me why I love this game. I felt like I was firing on all cylinders.

When you take a moment to think about it, the computational output of your brain while playing sports is amazing. It will take a loooong time before a robot comes anywhere close. Think of all the unconscious calculations you make in a split-second play.

The ball is in the air, watch its trajectory and make sure to precisely cushion its landing in your hands. Avoid being called “Butter Fingers” for the third time today.\ \ Meanwhile, react to the defender on your left. He’s bumped into you slightly taking you a bit off-balance, so make sure to keep your balance, brace your leg to support the extra weight, and take a dribble. Oh, and don’t forget to keep the dribble away from his hand reaching in. He’d like to get his hands on the ball you know.\ \ As you are half falling, half stepping, be aware of the other defender closing in, he wants the ball too. There’s a gap between the two defenders and one of your teammates is cutting to the basket. About time he figured that out. He’s got a defender reaching in on his back. Is the gap wide enough? Wait a split second, take another dribble, hear the footsteps of another defender closing in, hear your stomach growl and wonder what you’re going to have for breakfast.\ \ There! The gap is just wide enough. Avoid the hands reaching in and throw it off the ground at just the right angle and just slightly in front of your teammate so it lands right into his hands, but away from his defender. Perfect! A perfect layup. Now enjoy the rush of adrenaline and go accept the high-fives and accolades from your teammates. Don’t trip on the court.

This entire thought process occurrs in about a second. That’s the rush of basketball my friend.

# Pot gives you unstoppable night vision powers?

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Which is perfect for finding that bag of chips in the dark. Found this gem on Boing Boing about a recent scientific study that indicates puffing a joint can improve night vision. Of course this won’t help you with the “beer goggle” effect.

Their results backed up claims by the Observer columnist Sue Arnold, who suffers from retinitis pigmentosa and is officially registered blind. She noticed several years ago that drawing on strong Jamaican skunk suddenly and temporarily enabled her to see things clearly. But Ms Arnold has since warned of side-effects that could impede night-time navigation. “Only trouble was,” she said, “I couldn’t stand up.”

[Via Boing Boing]

# Jeff Richter's First Blog Entry Ever

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The blog you’ve all been waiting for, Jeff Richter is keeping a blog. Well actually, it’s a Wintellog!. Several members of the Wintellect team have formed a group blog. It seems Jeff Prosise is holding down the fort as the most prolific blogger of the bunch.

I first met Richter (not that he’d remember me) in September of 2000 (or something like that) around the time when .NET was entering the beta phase. I attended a four day class in Redmond taught by him, with Dr. GUI in attendance. I also met John Robbins as he came out to dinner and a movie with the group. We went to see Charlie’s Angels.

I can summarize Richter’s teaching style in one phrase, “Ok, we’ll just bust out ILDASM and take a look at…”. Seemed like we were looking at ILDASM every five minutes, getting a sense of what was happening under the hood. It was great, though Reflector has taken ILDASM’s place in my tool of choice.

In any case, Richter’s book, Applied Microsoft .NET Framework Programming remains my favorite .NET book to date. Glad to see you in the blogosphere.

# Event Handlers, Circular References, and Alleged Memory Leaks

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Ian Griffiths wrote this informative follow-up to my question on delegate references. The .NET framework definitely does not use Weak References to implement delegates.

# Does Holding A Delegate Reference Keep The Owning Object Alive?

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I have a big question that can probably be best elucidated via some code:

``````public class SomeClass
{
// This guy will raise an important event.
private EventSource _source = new EventSource();

public void AttachEventHandler()
{
// This guy will handle an important event...
BigEventListener listener = new BigEventListener();
_source.BigEvent += new EventHandler(listener.OnBigEvent);

//What happens to listener instance here?
//Will it be garbage collected?

}
}
``````

So what happens after the method `AttachEventHandler()` is called? I am assuming that the EventHandler delegate’s reference to the OnBigEvent method of the listener instance is a hard reference. In other words,even though listener is a local instance and would normally go out of scope when AttachEventHandler ends, that the listener instance is not collected because of the delegate reference. Is this correct?