Jacob J. Walker's Blog

Scholarly Thoughts, Research, and Journalism for Informal Peer Review

Archive for December, 2014

Quick Guide to Writing “Cross-Versional” Python Code

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Python LogoWhile Carleton College has a good guide about the differences that new students will likely see between the two, and there is an excellent blog article about why Python 3 hasn’t been more widely adopted, and the official Python site tries to explain the differences between the two versions; I have not been able to find any guides on how to write code that will automatically work in Python 3.x and the latest version of 2.x.   This is surprising, because one of the ways to get past the “gravity” of Python 2, is for people to learn to code in a manner that works for both 2 & 3.  So I decided to write a short guide myself.

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December 30th, 2014 at 5:27 pm

Thought of the Day: Having Educational Standards are Good. Having Good Educational Standards is Better.

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I was watching an interview of Bill Gates on C-SPAN (Yes, I watch C-SPAN at times, and I think more people should!)  Most of his interview was about the Ebola outbreak, but he also was asked about Common Core.  His basic response was to give an analogy about how the U.S. would be if we didn’t have standards in voltage for power outlets, or different track widths in the railroads in each state.

His analogy has some merit on the surface.  But, he didn’t give the example about feet, inches, yards, and miles…  We have a U.S. standard for distances (and other measurements), that is different from nearly the rest of the world, and our standard has caused problems with engineering, lagged down our economy, and no one yet has found an effective way to change it.   The QWERTY keyboard is another example of a standard that no one has been able to effectively change on a widespread basis, despite being clearly a poorer standard.  (And no, I don’t buy the arguments made by “Reason” Magazine on this topic).

So with the standardization of educational outcomes from the Common Core and the Next Generation Science Standards, we should ask ourselves “are these the right standards”.   And, this is where there has not been enough work done to answer that question.

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December 9th, 2014 at 6:39 am

Thought of the Day: “When conducting research, often a week’s worth of work is ultimately used in only a single sentence or less”

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When conducting research, often a week’s worth of work is ultimately used in only a single sentence or less. – Jacob J. Walker

As I shared recently, I completed my initial proposal for my doctoral research, and I realized that through this process of learning a lot more about “best fit”, linear regression, non-linear regression, etc. that often things that took me a long time to understand, would then quickly get summed up in a single sentence, with a citation to the earlier research.  But without that work, I would not have understood the concept well enough to summarize it properly in that sentence.

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December 7th, 2014 at 11:54 am

Several of My “Crazy Ideas” coming to Fruition, but not from Me

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History is filled with the the multiple discovery effect.  And inventors have had a long history of battling over who invented something first, what ideas are stolen, and what can be considered novel enough to be protected by patents, and other intellectual property laws.

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December 6th, 2014 at 11:59 am

Thought of the Day: Pessimists have already lost

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Looking at the world as it stands, it is easy for one to ask, “Why be an optimist?” The answer is simple, a pessimist has already lost. – Jacob J. Walker

I was wondering to myself recently, if most cultures have come up with celebrations during the winter to help offset what we now label as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).  Because, with the rain and dark clouds of winter, it seems easier to look at the world and get down about our future.  And I think there is reason to be concerned, as even Stephen Hawking is warning us about the danger of humans creating technology that could wipe us out.  (And, by the way, with our existent nuclear arsenals, we are already and still at risk of near annihilation on a daily basis)

But a pessimistic attitude cannot solve this.  If we lose hope, we have already lost.  This doesn’t mean that we are guaranteed to win by being optimists.  But if we don’t believe we have a chance of human survival (and the ability for humans to thrive) then we will never be able to get there.   So today, amongst the clouds and rain, I will be grateful for the lessening of the California drought, and I will continue to work where I can to improve the world for tomorrow and encourage others to do so as well.

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December 3rd, 2014 at 11:59 am

VubuntuBox 0.1.0 Beta Released

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Thanks to help from Corbin, we have been able to release 0.1.0 Beta of VubuntuBox.  This is barely out of Alpha Stage, and has tons of known bugs and kludges, many of which we haven’t had time to document.  I know a few of my friends and colleagues have volunteered to help with this project, and I apologize I haven’t had time to take you all up on your offers.  Corbin has come into this with a lot of background with doing Linux work, which was exactly what was needed.  But don’t worry, I will be reaching out to my friends more soon 🙂

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December 2nd, 2014 at 11:43 am

Posted in Descartes' Daemon