This Week In Zoe News

The Hits Daily Double:

Baez recorded Whistle Down the Wind in 10 days with Grammy-winning producer Joe Henry. You can check out one song from the new set, “The President Sang Amazing Grace,” below. You may want to have a Kleenex or two handy.

Work on the book proceeds with Zoe having to send in an author statement and score. It’s my observation that it’s hard for artists to write about their art. My advice: let other people help!



I don’t teach methodology per se in my software engineering class, at least not the explicit sequence of waterfall, iterative, and agile. I do discuss a bit about sequencing activities, the notion of a wicked problem, etc. We, in fact, iterate a piece of software.

But as with the idea of a software crises, I’m worried about our standard narratives. This blog post points to discussions of how waterfall was ever a thing and how iterative methods were proposed very early on.

I suspect that some of our hoary old narratives are just things we say. I’m not sure software is all that different from buildings or that other sorts of engineering have all that easy a time.

May Survives, Sort Of

May beats back a leadership no confidence vote 200-117 and the reaction is mixed. That’s one more vote than she got to ascend in the first place (from a larger parliamentary party). She’s now immune to a leadership challenge for a year (though her government could face a vote of no confidence).

It was a weird thing. It gave us very little new information either about the preferences of the Tory MPs or about what will happen next.

I mean that a third of the MPs would vote against the PM is, in normal times, rather surprising but it’s not like it hasn’t been clear that a big chunk of the MPs dislike her and her direction. The main reason the earlier threats didn’t materialize is the correct calculation that the Tories literally have no alternative. There are plenty who would like to take over but they are clearly far far worse than May in basic competence.

I think Jacob Rees-Mogg miscalculated. This seems more design to give her the defeat she avoided by posponing the deal vote. And who knows, maybe he’ll win the spin war. But substantively, he wasn’t remotely close.

Moreover, it was an even worse look for the Tories (and given that we’re in a month that saw the government found in contempt and a last minute critical vote delay, that’s saying something). I’m not sure why May is acting so wimpy: it would seem that going on the offensive against these schmoes would be wise. Of course, they could cause her government to fall but so what? The gain is worth the risk. Attack these guys as fantasists and saboteurs. It has the advantage of being true and it might weaken them enough that she could make some sort of progress.

The Brexit brigade really needs to be destroyed. Like the Republicans, they are complete lying vandals. Unfortunately, they are secure enough right now that they can keep wrecking for quite some time.

All the more reason to take them on instead of fruitlessly trying to win them over.

Fail Fast Textbook Selection

I’m strongly considering changing my reading material for my software engineering class. I like Code Complete in a lot of ways, but it really does feel a bit old and a lot of bits are not super well organised or presented. And it’s big without being super nicely modularised. It’s not really a textbook. I’m planning a pretty significant reworking of the course (to consolidate some stuff) so this is the time to change.

I was looking at a text that has some good reviews and decent presence on Open Syllabus and a metric ton of supporting material. I’ve never used supporting material but one can see the attraction!

I’m skimming a copy starting with the intro. The intro of text tends to be a really weak bit especially if it’s didactic instead of tutorialesque, so I forgave the cutesy intro dialogue. There were some helpful fake graphs about characteristic error rates which seemed fun. Then I hit the following description in a list of “kinds of software”:

Artificial intelligence software—makes use of nonnumerical algorithms to solve complex problems that are not amenable to computation or straightforward analysis. Applications within this area include robotics, expert systems, pattern recognition (image and voice), artificial neural networks, theorem proving, and game playing.

Say what? “Nonnumerical algorithms”?!?!?! Right before talking about artificial neural networks??!?! Maaaaybe there’s a specialised enough variant of “numerical algorithm” (written primarily in Fortran?!?) where this is technically not wildly false, but it sure the hell is misleading here (given the standard distinction between symbolic and non-symbolic AI). Seriously bonkers.

But…ok. Does one extremely boneheaded bit of a sort of throwaway warrant tossing the whole thing? Maybe? I want to be fair. I can always guard against this in lecture…I guess. Then I hit:

  • Software has become deeply embedded in virtually every aspect of our lives, and as a consequence, the number of people who have an interest in the features and functions provided by a specific application has grown dramatically. When a new application or embedded system is to be built, many voices must be heard. And it sometimes seems that each of them has a slightly different idea of what software features and functions should be delivered. It follows that a concerted effort should be made to understand the problem before a software solution is developed.

Oy. I mean, the dude has chapters on iterative and agile processes, so there’s some course correction. But. Come. ON!

Ok, now I dump it from the list.

Sunday Baking: Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies and Honey Snaps

I managed to bake something on my last Sunday of the semester. Of course lots of things went wrong. 1) I broke one of our more useful bowls and 2) misread tablespoons for teaspoons for one of the cookies.

Plus I had some temperature control issues and things got a bit toasted.

But they seem ok!

Butterscotch oatmeal aka “crack” cookies:

Honey lace cookies which were supposed to be a lot smaller and numerous:

They have a nice ginger kick due to some awesome ginger powder I got. I used Kilburn honey as well. They are yummy.

This Week in Zoe News: The 2019 Grammys

To my disappointment, “The President Sang Amazing Grace” was robbed of a best song nomination or even a best Americana song nomination BUT Whistle Down The Wind did get a nomination for best folk album! Here’s the list:

For albums containing at least 51% playing time of new vocal or instrumental folk recordings.

    Joan Baez
    Dom Flemons
    Mary Gauthier
    Iron & Wine
    Punch Brothers

So, this isn’t quite as adrenaline producing as a song nomination, it’s still very very very cool!

And Grammy organisers! Be part of the resistance! Get Joan and Zoe to sign “President” during the show!!!