Wednesday, July 27, 2011

HumbleBundle is back again!

And this time, I am not late!

Err ... not very late anyhow. I did miss the action for the first $40,000 but got around to collecting data much faster than the last time around. If you do not know what a HumbleBundle is, read the wikipedia entry, or just visit their website here.

The start of the action is explosive!
The amount raised by the Humble Indie Bundle 3 so far, in minutes since my 1st data reading
(14 more days to go)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cleaning up my mouse

I accidentally spilled cranberry juice all over my table, including my mouse.

I managed to clean most of it away from my table:
My workstation
which was not easy in itself.

UI design for TOEFL username retrieval

HCI Design principle 0: Make it easy to use.

How not to do it:

  1. By asking for the user's street address. 
  2. In multiple lines of unformatted text.
  3. Making it a compulsory criterion.
Verdict: Fail.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tough times for Geneva

Lurking though the data for number of companies which declared bankruptcy in Geneva (data available from here), I noticed something:

So, as soon as I left for my internship in Japan in July '10, things headed down. They hit rock bottom in October 2010 and improved spectacularly in March '11, the month I landed back in Switzerland.

Something was up in Geneva while I was not here (July '10 - Feb 11).

Just sayin ...


PS: I was a little sad to see 27 business close doors on 24th December, 2010 and 15 businesses on 23th December, 2009.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Review: Dew Breaker

First, my biggest disappointment with the book: it could have started better.
Much, much better. Apart from that, the book is very well written, even bordering on downright outstanding.

When I read the description on the back, that The Dew Breaker is a man who is repenting his sins of past, and with some background on Haiti's history with dictatorship and atrocities, I pretty much had an idea of what I was buying into.

And I was correct, no great surprises there. However, I cannot say that I knew it all along. The book made sure that I did not suspect a thing till it actually happened.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Debugging puzzle in R

Here's a small debugging puzzle in R. I recently came ran into it and thought that the bug was rather elegant. I have simplified down the problem I faced, but not all the way to keep a little fun in.

Explain the output
>> # a is a (large) vector with numerical elements
>> any(is.nan(a))

>> any(is.nan(exp(a)))

>> any(is.nan(exp(1.0 * a)))

>> any(is.nan(exp(0.0 * a)))
[1] TRUE

See something surprizing? Suddenly a NaN where there was none before?

Can you think why this is happening?

If you give up, then click-and-drag to select and see the hint below:

>> # Multiplying an Infinity with zero gives a NaN
>> Inf * 0
[1] NaN


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Review: The year of silence

The year of silence
(Madison Smartt Bell)
When I started reading this book, I was hoping to find a sad story about a young girl who died of an overdose and not much else. However, the book took me by surprise. It is about Marian, but it only revolves on the periphery. It starts furthest away from the focal point, converges to Marian and then recedes again.

And for a short book, it is fairly patient about the business. It reminded me about the movie Crash with a slightly fractured timeline. Towards the end, all the ruffled edges start coming together again. The book feels like a house of cards, very delicately put together, adding weights and then counter weights to keep the narrative balanced. The narrative itself is beautifully constructed with vivid imagery. The underlying theme of the book, Marian's life, is woven intricately like a thread through all the pages, keeping the book intact. The genius of the book lies in the narrative, in the small nothings that keep the other characters alive in our mind as we get to know Marian better.

All in all, a book I liked and enjoyed reading, albeit with a hint of sorrow.