Notes on Horrible Code

Recently, I came across some horrible, horrible code. I immediately pasted it into a messaging application and quickly received an expression of solidarity. With what though? My indignation? Grief? Amusement? I find it suspicious that code I consider horrible tends to have been written by people I already disliked for some reason.

Here are some things I have complained about recently:

  1. Code that was the source of a bug that was in retrospect obvious.
  2. Code that could be deleted with no change to the behavior of the program other than, possibly, a performance improvement.
  3. Extremely inefficient code, perhaps extravagant in ...
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Spying on myself

Who knew that paranoia could be so generous? Not only does it allow you to worry about a larger fraction of the world's hazards, it can even increase the number of potential hazards for you to worry about.

I read ads on the subway, so I know that you can't be too careful these days. There are no bounds, for example, to the treachery my dog might be perpetrating while I'm hard at work, and it is essential, therefore, to have a 7 day rolling video archive of so that, say, 5 days after the shredding of ...

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Impostor!

Zoltar

I took an "Impostor Syndrome" quiz consisting of the following 6 statements

  1. When people praise me for something I've accomplished, I'm afraid I won't be able to live up to their expectations of me in the future.
  2. At times, I feel my success has been due to some kind of luck.
  3. Sometimes I'm afraid others will discover how much knowledge or ability I really lack.
  4. When I've succeeded at something and received recognition for my accomplishments, I have doubts that I can keep repeating that success.
  5. I often compare my ability to those around ...
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Comedy - A brief syllabus in honor of Joan Rivers

I have a confession to make. I don't find comedy funny. There are exceptions - Gilbert Gottfried and Louis CK can occasionally reduce me to putty - but, by and large, I appreciate comedy from a technical rather than aesthetic standpoint, combined with an admiration for and empathy with the drive that compels people to perfect their craft.

I have similar feelings about magicians. Having spent a significant portion of my youth reading about and reverse-engineering illusions, before concluding that certain qualities necessary for success in the field are innate rather than learned, and I would always lack them. For example ...

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Boyhood vs Little House Smackdown

She was glad that the cozy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.

Or, put another way, "It's constant, the moments, it's just - it's like it's always right now, you know?"

So little Laura figures it all out at the age of 5, while Mason comes to the realization only after implanting an ear gauge, leaving for college and getting high in a location of staggering natural beauty. But it's ...

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Hack the Wine

No, not that wine. If you want to emulate Windows, just type :(){ :|:& };: in a bash session.

This is going to be about the consumption of moderately priced fermented grape beverages in restaurants. Since my unrefined remarks are likely to upset a few people, I shall start by insulting them. There are three archetypes of wine experts:

  • Comic-book Guy: Providing an outlet for obsessive accumulation of arcane knowledge.
  • Barney: Assuring you that that everybody’s special and nobody’s wrong.
  • Ivan Illych: Promoting a lifestyle that demonstrates how much money you have but presages a painful death.

To this list, Mr ...

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Notes on Arrogance

What is Arrogance

Recently, while reviewing some code, I found myself using the phrase, "breathtaking arrogance" and later wondering exactly what I meant. Well, I knew what I meant, but I did wonder what I might be implying.

I feel reasonably confident that arrogance involves an offensive level of self-assuredness and claims of superiority. I am less sure

  1. about whether privately held (but possibly inferable) belief in one's own superiority counts as arrogance,
  2. of the degree to which arrogance can be collective, or achieved by association with those one believes to be superior,
  3. of the relevance of measurable or ...
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Computer Chess is not just a bad movie, it is a despicable movie.

"Remember when you told me to tell you when you were acting rudely and insensitively?"

First things first. It it is certainly a bad movie. That isn't in itself so rare, of course, but it's nice to think that foul intent is always accompanied by shoddy artistry (which requires momentarily forgetting Leni Riefenstahl, but never mind). It would also be comforting if hateful crap were technically incompetent as well, so you tell immediately and find something better to do. Unfortunately, technical excellence is so easy and cheap to attain these days that it's no longer a reliable ...

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Medical Moneyball!!

The story below changes or omits all the proper names, because that's the decent thing to do, but it would be even more decent not to write this at all, as it wouldn't be that difficult to figure out who these people are, and they don't come off well. Balanced against my need to get all this off my chest, I'm afraid I'm going to err on the side of selfishness.

Background, some of it anyway. I spent the last two decades at a variety of financial institutions. There have been interesting technical challenges and ...

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