teaching machines

Funeral of Trite Ideas

The art teacher at my son’s elementary school once held a special ceremony called the Funeral of Trite Ideas. My son and his classmates said goodbye to some friends that they had known for years in their drawings: stick figures, flat outlines of cars, suns with smiling faces. I am considering holding my own Funeral […]

Debugging Secret Coders

My sons have thoroughly enjoyed Gene Luen Yang’s six Secret Coders books. They are graphic novels about three teens who fight evil with programming, and their weapon of choice is the Logo programming language. Last summer we were reading the fifth book in the series. It ends with this challenge to complete a code snippet […]

Fixing Our Bugs

As a kid, I played many Japanese video games. In high school, I got a permanent release from study hall to teach myself Japanese in the computer lab. I chose the college I did because they offered Japanese courses. (At least they did at the time I applied. But they were cancelled before I got […]

Wolf Hollow Virus

My children and I just finished reading Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk. As I closed the book, 9-year-old Lewis said that books that win awards are always sad. This book won an award. I won’t go into any of the book’s merits. Rather, I will focus on one non-essential part of it that has been […]

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 […]

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