## Some Remarks: Essays and Other Writing by Neal Stephenson

What would your reaction be if you have seen the following on page 10 of a novel?

$\zeta(s) = \sum\limits_{n=1}^\infty \frac{1}{n^s} = 1 + \frac{1}{2^s} + \frac{1}{3^s} + \ldots$

Mine was along the lines of “we’ve got some interesting sci-fi author here, let’s go on!”. Or something close to that, as far as I can remember my first encounter with Neal Stephenson more than twelve years ago that started with Cryptonomicon and continued with titles such as Snow Crash and Anathem.

Stephenson never failed to satisfy and he has always delivered more than I expected as a curious reader. His latest book, “Some Remarks: Essays and Other Writing“, a compilation of his short, and some not so short, essays and stories, is full of little surprises and a lot of depth. For the reader, it is quite a remarkable experience to see how Stephenson’s style has developed throughout the years, the author of Anathem has notable differences compared to the author of Cryptonomicon.
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Posted by on June 15, 2013 in Books

## GNU/Linux command line tip of the day: sum of numbers in a column

More often than not, I need to quickly need to see the sum of a column of numbers when I’m doing some processing on the GNU/Linux command line. For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume that you have the following output from some command line pipe:
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Posted by on May 28, 2013 in awk, Linux

## Visiting the Royal Observatory of Belgium

Today was the ‘open doors day’ event of the Royal Observatory of Belgium. It was exciting to witness the history of modern astronomy in Belgium that went back to more than 100 years. I was also glad to see colleagues from Space Applications Services and examine the 1:3 scaled model of SOLAR, whose smooth 7/24 operation is ensured by some of those colleauges who go to work at B.USOC. (SOLAR deserved my special attention at this event because a subset of its telemetry data set is utilized in CUBIST project that I work on.)

You can enjoy the slideshow of photos I took today below:

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Posted by on May 26, 2013 in Science

## Results of the survey: Why don’t we have secondary school textbooks with source code in them?

As a person who has spent some years teaching children introductory programming, computational thinking and creativity, I have recently asked a simple question and published a very short survey: “Why don’t we have secondary school textbooks with source code in them?” I wanted to know what different people in different countries think and what their experiences were. I promised to publish the results after collecting a reasonable amount of data.

## Results

So far 43 people have answered, and I think it is time to look at the data briefly. One of the questions was related to the past experience of people. I wanted to know whether they used textbooks with software source in their secondary education:

Apparently, out of 43 people who have answered, only 2 of them had the chance to have used such textbooks during their education. The questions that followed were “What was the subject of the book(s)?”, “What programming language was used  in the book?”, “What year was that?”, “Who was the author?”, and “Who is the publisher?” Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on May 24, 2013 in Programlama

## How much Dutch do you know? Discover by playing a cool linguistic game

Apparently I didn’t think words such as gezwel, boombal, ejaculaat, reflatie, troela, and roro belonged to Dutch. That is, when I took a very interesting and simple test that asked to assess whether I thought the word on the screen is a valid Dutch word. You can try it out yourself simply by visiting http://woordentest.ugent.be and learn your score right after the test that you’ll complete in a few minutes. My result after the first take is 29%, in other words, I have recognized 76% of the words correctly, but unfortunately I have also claimed that 47% of the non-Dutch words to be Dutch. The interpration of the system is: “Dit is een behoorlijk niveau voor een Nederlandssprekende.” (This is a good level for a speaker of Dutch). My wife, a native speaker of Dutch, took the same test and her initial result was something close to 70%, and the system interpreted this as “possessing a very extensive vocabulary of Dutch”. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by on April 28, 2013 in Linguistics, Science

## Lean Text Editing with Emacs: Kanban Applied to the Process of Text Editing

The reader of this blog entry’s title might be ready for a long article, but sometimes the best things in life are very short and simple. Such as this subtle question and discovery of an Emacs user: Why don’t we eliminate waste of time by simply automating the white-space insertion after comma and most of the other punctuation characters?

Why, indeed? I’ve never thought of it before, yet, without giving it a single thought I’ve tortured my SPACE key millions of times. The solution? Simpy apply the following recipe to your beloved Emacs text editor, thereby adapting it to the Agile, Lean, and Kanban world of text editing by eliminating waste:

Posted by on April 7, 2013 in Programlama, Emacs

## Why don’t we have secondary school textbooks with source code in them?

One of the primary reasons I started programming was a textbook: When I was 12, back in 1988, we had a mathematics textbook that included short but self-contained programs. I and a few friends came together and tried out those programs. It made sense and was a lot of fun. We got into programming.

I don’t see such textbooks anymore. But I’m just one person with limited reach to many countries, their schools and books.

Why don’t you help us find out if there are such books, in any subject matter, that include short program source code samples at the end of their chapters?

Please fill in this short survey: “Where are the textbooks with source code?“; it will take less than 5 minutes, and the aggregated results will be published after a few hundred forms are filled in.