New algorithms could enable heaps of ‘smart sand’ that can assume any shape, allowing spontaneous formation of new tools or duplication of broken mechanical parts.
There’s also a very lucid video of the summary of the algorithm:
A couple of weird dreams recently.
The first was that I was at a Republican Presidential debate. And, apparently, I was a candidate, and was asked to speak to lay out my platform. But I didn’t realize I was a candidate up until that point, and I had nothing to speak about – no platform.
I went up to the podium and saw a few former and current bosses in the crowd – made eye contact with them, and they nodded approvingly. I tried to think of something to say, but nothing came out. When everyone realized I had no platform, the crowd started laughing. Even after I managed to blurt out something, the crowd refused to take me seriously after that. And it was frustrating.
Second dream is far more disturbing. There was a guy at this job I used to have who in many ways – at least in my mind – served as the strong moral compass for the company. Not that we were an unethical company – far from it – but he would often suggest sane and practical improvements to make sure we stayed rock-solid.
So, the dream was, several of my former coworkers and I were in the hot desert, in the afternoon, with a pine coffin. Inside the coffin was this man – my former coworker. He was still very much alive, and screaming, and pleading, for us to get him out. We were burying him, for some reason. “Please, this can all be worked out…” I never figured out what “this” was, but I definitely had the sense that he didn’t know I, in particular, was a participant in this activity, and I thought that he would be particularly horrified to learn I was (you know, in addition to being buried alive). I remember keeping quiet so that, in his final moments, he would not know.
It came time for me to start tossing the sand on the coffin – again with his pleading. I remember thinking, “we should not be doing this”, but I feared what would happen to me by my former coworkers were I not to continue…
And that’s all I remember.
On my way home from work today I happened to catch a remarkable story on NPR about a composer/improviser by the name of Keith Jarrett. Just blew me away. I guess he’s quite famous, which makes me a little ashamed to not have heard of him before. A brief excerpt from the article:
On April 9 of this year, the jazz pianist Keith Jarrett sat alone on the stage of an old opera house in Rio de Janeiro, his only company a piano — an American Steinway he described as “not perfect at all.”
For nearly two hours, Jarrett played — as he often does — without any idea of what was coming next. It was sheer improvisation.
He says the result, now available on the album Rio, was some of the best music he’s ever produced in a career spanning almost 50 years.
The results are pretty incredible. Check out the 5th track, available on YouTube:
I recently read a book called Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion, by Jay Heinrichs. Thanks to my sister-in-law’s husband (does that make him my brother-in-law? Always confused by that), Mike A.
The book is an informal but pretty comprehensive survey course on rhetoric, a subject once deemed a critical – a central – component of a person’s education in classical times, as well as in colonial America – but not so much now, as the author laments.
Cicero, the Roman orator who Heinrichs characterizes as the single most important figure in rhetoric, figures very prominently – but so do contemporary politicians – Nixon, Stalin and George W. Bush among them – as well as pop-culture figures such as Eminem and Monty Python. While not exactly a page-turner, I think that the author did as best as possible to make the subject as interesting in one can in written form. I think Heinrichs, in the end, achieved a really good three-way balance between identifying the hundred or so fundamental rhetorical concepts, actually applying the rhetoric in his writing (and helpfully identifying it for you), and illustrating them with examples that contemporary audiences – particularly people of my generation – could find purchase with.
Often with these kinds of books authors are tempted to suggest that their paradigm is a solution to all of life’s problems. Makes for a compelling read, and it may impel you to motivation (an extraordinary rhetorical feat in itself). I didn’t feel that the author was trying to do that in this book – there’s something very real here. Of course, Heinrich’s subject matter is based on profound insights stretching back to ancient times, which themselves have been vetted repeatedly over more than two thousand years, in many cases. I really did learn something here, and this is one of those 5 or 10 books that has earned a permanent position at the top of my bookshelf.
A couple of excerpts:
America’s forty-third president, George W. Bush, deserves a special place in the rhetorical pantheon owing to his particular talent for code grooming. Future candidates may be more articulate than Bush, but they still have a lot to learn from the man. Pundits love to talk about his Christian code, but religion forms only a part of his grooming lingo. He also has his male code, his female code, and his military code. Bush speaks a pure demonstrative language of identity, favoring the present tense and using terms that resonate among various constituencies. When he speaks to the faithful, for example, he prefers “I believe” to “I think.” In the summer of 2001 he used “believe” as a kind of fugue:
I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe and what I believe–I believe what I believe is right.
Believe it. His repetitive use of code language extends to women. Before his reelection, Bush appealed to women with sentences that began, “I understand,” and he repeated words such as “peace” and “security” and “protecting.” For the military, he used “Never relent” and “Whatever it takes” and “We must not waver” and “Not on my watch.” For Christians, he began sentences with “and,” just as the Bible does:
And in all that is to come, we can know that His purposes are just and true.
For men, he used swaggering humor that implied he personally pulls the military trigger:
When I take action, I’m not going to fire a two million dollar missile at a ten dollar empty tent and hit a camel in the butt. It’s going to be decisive.
So what? Every politician uses codewords. What makes Bush different is his masterful way of using codewords without the distraction of logic. He speaks in short sentences, repeating code phrases in effective, if irrational, order. “See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in,” he once said, “to kind of catapult the propaganda.”
Another that is especially resonant in our age of 99%-ers and occupiers:
The most important upgrade was an antidote for factionalism. What killed democracy in ancient Athens and destroyed the Roman Republic, they believed, was conflict between economic and social classes. Factionalism scared the Americans even more than kings did. So the founders established a system of checks and balances: The Senate would represent the aristocracy, being chosen by state legislatures. The “plebes,” as the Romans called common citizens, would elect the House of Representatives. And both groups would choose the president. Each faction would keep the other out of mischief.
Which begs the question: what with all that checking and balancing, how could anything get done? Their answer lay in rhetoric. The new system would “refine and enlarge” public opinion, Hamilton said, “by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens”–rhetorically trained citizens. The founders assumed that this natural aristocracy would comprise those with the best liberal education. “Liberal” meant free from dependence on others, and the liberal arts–especially rhetoric–were those that prepared students for their place at the top of the merit system. These gentlemen rhetoricians would compose an informal corps of politically neutral umpires. They would serve, Hamilton said, as a collective “impartial arbiter” among the classes.
Recently I’ve had the need to adapt a lot of data that resided in fixed-width and delimited formats into our data model (or, a precursor staging data model, to be precise). My colleague turned me on to SQL Server Integration Services, which is a great product, but there are some important things to note.
First, there are a couple of ways to create SSIS DTSX packages to import your data. One can do it through SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) via the Tasks >> Import command (assuming SSIS is installed). The second way is by launching an instance of MS Business Intelligence Development Studio – a separate product that integrates with Visual Studio. The former is quick and easy; the latter is much more feature-rich and robust.
My plan was to create the DTSX packages in SSMS and, if the need arose down the road, migrate to BIDS to flesh out the packages. Unfortunately, the migration doesn’t appear to be that simple. Yes, DTSX packages are compatible between the two environments, but I’m finding that the (simpler) SSMS package editing tool abstracted away a great deal of the important inner workings of the package without much explication. For example, if you create a package that puts data into a table and the table doesn’t yet reside in the destination database, it will create the table for you – or, to be specific, it will create a SQL task in the package that creates the table. If the table already exists, then no table-creating SQL task is added. So, when one runs a non-tabled package in an environment in which the table has not yet been created — obviously the DTSX package fails. This is difficult to reconcile with a tight code-run-validate cycle.
As I am constantly reminded, be aware of the characteristics of the tools you choose. Specifically, in cases like these, if your data load is likely to be a recurring thing rather than a one-off, it probably is worth investing the time learning the BIDS tools (which are really, really sexy, by the way) — otherwise you’ll probably end up recreating your packages by hand. :/
Hey! I’ve updated my blog (and started anew) after something like more than a year.
And wow, it has been so long since I’ve written anything in blog format… that I don’t know what to write.
So, have a picture of my son.
That is all.