Scarcity, abundance, and lost careers

Monday 29 November 2021, 09:42

How should institutions make hiring and promotion decisions, in theory? How do institutions make such decisions, in actual practice? What happens, and what should happen, when someone's career is interrupted? Is it possible to restore an interrupted career, and should that be done? What happens to institutions when society overproduces, or underproduces, elite individuals? This article looks at ways to understand these questions, starting from an historical episode.

Fixing cut-off margins and bad paper size in Okular printing

Saturday 31 July 2021, 13:22

Ever since a recent "upgrade," the Okular PDF reader on my Slackware Linux system has been printing pages with incorrect margins, adding extra blank space at the bottom of every page and subtracting it at the top in such a way as to cut off part of the print at the top. No configuration changes seemed able to resolve the issue, and it was hard to get any useful debugging information. Searches on the Net found many instances of people having similar problems, but no convincing solutions - and the KDE development team has a history going back at least 13 years of never ever acknowledging or fixing any problems with printing options, always blaming it on the users and erecting unreasonable procedural barriers to bug reporting. Here are some notes on how I was able to fix my problem; it's an ugly fix and may not be useful to everyone with similar issues, but the notes may still be of some use.

Tsukurimashou 0.11 release

Thursday 1 July 2021, 08:26

I've just posted the version 0.11 release of the Tsukurimashou Project - my parameterized font family for English, Japanese, and Korean, now with 2912 kanji including all those taught in the Japanese school system through Grade Five and more than half of Grade Six. This is the first release of the full project since November 2017, and the project began in 2010 - so it's kind of a big deal.

Range wars of the Net

Sunday 25 April 2021, 08:06

The beginning of the 2020s has seen a great acceleration in creeping attempts to co-opt the online world for the service of the USA's political tribes. The overriding principle seems to be that no space can be allowed to remain free of political charge. Neutrality is claimed to be impossible. Every community has to choose a side, any attempt to avoid taking a side is pointed at as supposedly a "dog whistle" of taking the wrong side, and which side everybody is on is more important than any other purpose the space could serve.

Notes on the plague year

Sunday 7 March 2021, 14:39

I don't remember exactly when I made a specific decision to start serious anti-COVID precautions, but it was very close to one year ago today. I work from home and I don't take all that many trips elsewhere anyway, so it's hard to say that a given day is exactly when I started "staying home" if I normally wouldn't have gone out the day before or after it anyway. I started keeping a near-daily journal on March 10. Here are some notes, going month by month.


Sunday 20 December 2020, 07:01

毎年日本語の練習のためにTeX & LaTeXのブログを書きます。 今年に#texadvent2020のテーマは「このパッケージもスゴイ!」とです。 さて、僕はqrcodeのパッケージがそれものです。 なぜと思いましょう。

It's so hard to find good help

Saturday 21 November 2020, 08:51

Your friend Andy tells you that he's planning to move to a new apartment next Saturday, and asks you to help. How do you help Andy? Maybe you'll show up at the old place on Saturday, help him load boxes onto the truck, and unload them at the new place. Helping Andy means participating in the achievement of his goal - actually doing some of the work yourself so that he doesn't have to.

The bridge across Avon Gorge

Thursday 12 November 2020, 10:45

The question has come up of building a bridge across the Avon Gorge. Davies, who manages the funds, says the project must be abandoned because it is technically impossible. Isambard, the engineer, says it can be done.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

The painting of Boyarynya Morozova

Monday 2 November 2020, 19:13

Since about 2016 I've been using this image as the banner on most of my social media profiles. It is a painting called Boyarynya Morozova by Vasily Surikov, depicting Feodosia Prokopiyevna Morozova (the term Boyarynya is a title of nobility similar to "Duchess") being dragged away in chains in 1671 at the order of Tsar Alexis I. She was tortured and imprisoned until dying of starvation on November 2, 1675; 345 years ago to the day, as I'm writing this. These events were part of an upheaval called the Raskol in the Russian Orthodox Church during the mid-17th Century, which led to Morozova's faction splitting off to become the group known as the Old Believers, who still exist, but are rather few and obscure, today.

Byarynya Morozova by Vasily Surikov

Pandemic: the reckoning

Sunday 2 August 2020, 18:33

The word "reckoning" came up a lot in discussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially early on as the world just started to realize the scale of the problem. I've seen a lot of people grimly commenting that "there will be a reckoning for this" in response to things like media dismissal of early warnings, followed by later media endorsement of exactly the positions they had earlier mocked. I've made such comments myself. It's human nature to hope for a reckoning, but at this point I don't think it's rational to expect one.