teaching machines

Not Tree

Hoffman Hills is a park 30 minutes west of me. Some people like to trek up its meandering trails to an observation tower and soak in the fall colors from the surrounding countryside. I prefer to visit the not-tree:

Manual Bugs

Last October, I ran across this blurb in an article about the shooting in Las Vegas: As a software developer, the highlighted sentence puzzles me. As a human, the highlighted sentence puzzles me. The implication is that the report was incorrect because it was made by a human. Software is also made by humans. In […]


On our way back from visiting family for Thanksgiving, we found ourselves behind this truck: It’s probably one of those new Tesla trucks, given its builtin navigation buttons.

Naming Things

Often in my introductory programming classes I will share a snippet of code that is unnamed or vaguely named. I ask the students to interpret the code and choose better names. This past week I gave them this snippet: public static double ?(double x, boolean b) { if (b) { return x; } else { return x […]

On Data

People talk about all the stuff we’re going to be able to do once computers are fast enough and storage is cheap enough. Sadly, I don’t think technological advances will gain us much. Taken to the limit, the digital world of computers is just the analog world that we already have. And there’s nothing easy […]

The Programming Gene

My wife and I read to each other. We ran into this the other day in Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe: So I went to work, and here I must needs observe, that as reason is the substance and original of the mathematics, so by stating and squaring everything by reason, and by making the most […]

iMessage “DoS” Attack

I would be surprised if I’m the only student in this program who thinks small hacking pranks and minor harmless attacks on unsuspected folks are both fun and educational. This weekend I learned AppleScript, which for the Mac OS X-impaired folks, that’s a really nice scripting editor that comes standard on all OS X machines. […]


One of my colleagues has sparked our students’ interest in IRC. He and the students have been suggesting I swing by their channel, especially since I’m occasionally the topic of conversation. I applaud my colleague’s barrierlessness, but my dreams of things to do with my family and of things to code and of grant proposals […]

PHP Spotting

I saw this snippet of PHP on a window in a downtown business:

The Muppet Who Was a Computer

Our machines our unswerving. They do not judge our commands. Their faithful obedience is a feature and a bug.