More scary robots

Boston Dynamics, whom I've mentioned before, have created a pole-climbing robot:


Veckans ord: snöras

Tala inte om snöras i hängd mans hus.
Gammalt djungelordspråk



I had planned to snark about the French burka law proposal, but I've had a bad day and can't be arsed, so instead I console myself (ha ha) playing with an ancient programming language.

SNOBOL is one of those languages developed in the 1960s when not all languages had to look like a clone of C and GOTO was not yet considered harmful. SNOBOL is a pattern matching language, which you can use for rewriting strings, much like what you'd do with, say awk, but without the benefit of loop statements or proper functions—all these are instead achieved through labels, each statement optionally containing a GOTO.

There are modern implementations of SNOBOL, so I downloaded one. It compiled nicely and as a test I wrote my favourite test application, the Hailstone program, even though it makes no use of the pattern matching functions. Viz:

EQ(I , 1) :S(END)
K = I / 2
EQ(2 * K , I) :S(EVEN) F(ODD)
EVEN I = K :(DO)
ODD I = 3 * I + 1 :(DO)

As you see, we have labels in the left column, the code in the middle, and then the GOTOs in the rightmost column, preceded by :. S indicates a conditional jump if the matching succeeded, F if the match failed. The rest should be pretty obvious.


Word of the week: electrocity

For both moral and electric safety reasons I consider the electric chair to be an electrocity.


States of matter matter

I washed my quilt, a Mysa Gräs from IKEA, a very synthetic thing that crackles with electricity when pulled out of the cover. Wash at 60°, tumble dry. When I took it out of the dryer it felt strange to the touch—the polypropene surface had partially melted. A complete write-off.

Apparently immersion in liquid at 60° is not the same as being blown through by air at 60°.


Veckans ord: missförstånd

En klassiker: Miss Teen South Carolina uppvisar sitt missförstånd.

Discard this card

Sending out invitations for a conference, I went through the stack of business cards I’ve collected over the last twenty-odd years. There’s always a few that need to be pruned because email addresses are no longer valid or the persons have moved on to new lines of work. This year I was casting the net wide, looking for participants from all countries, and got to look at cards I don’t often consider, some of them old enough that they didn't have web addresses on them, some even so old they didn’t have email addresses on them.

I could see the cycles of IT booms and busts, some companies had hardly registered in computer history at all, some subsidiaries were brief footnotes in corporate histories from when the European market was thought to be larger than it ended up being, some did still exist, but my contacts were long gone. Web sites were nonexistent, or parked with domain name suppliers, or in some cases taken up by completely different companies who had quite independently, much later dreamt up what they thought was a witty and creative name. Then again, there were small companies who had weathered all upheavals, and still sat on email addresses with names reminiscent of dial-up connections and 2400 baud modems.

In the end I ended up with a small stack of cards whose historical value I briefly considered, but that I finally tossed in the recycling bag. Probably I will collect new cards at the conference, the little physical tokens still seem to be popular, even though I have long had electronic business cards to be Bluetoothed or IR-linked away.



An unexpected effect of the recent cold snap is that all valve aeration wrenches (for letting any air out of hot-water radiators) are sold out.
Long underwear? Hah! But I did get the last pair of woollen ladies’ tights in my size.


Saving water

The loo in Honebuns’ flat is “broken”—it only flushes as long as you hold the lever down. After getting used to it, I’ve decided it is actually a much better solution than automatic flushing: I get exactly the amount of water needed to flush the current contents of the bowl and my outlay in time is on the order of two or three seconds longer. I’m now peering at my own toilet seat, wondering if it could be modified to work the same.


Veckans ord: Stilleben

Det här är Randy Stilles högra ben:


Fractional post

In retrospect I shouldn't have been, but I was still a bit surprised to find that the Romans did not deal in integers only, but also used a form of fractions. In order to support Western Cultural Heritage there is a tool to help you convert terrorist Arabic fractions to Roman ones.


Veckans ord: fortdon

Sebastian Vettel i en RB5Racerbilar är fortdon.