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Russian Multiplication: A Different Way to Multiply


I’ve loved math since I was a kid. One of the big reasons for this is that there’s always more than one way to solve a particular problem and in discovering those solutions, you learn something about mathematics and the nature of numbers.1

In this video, math fan Johnny Ball shows us a different method of multiplication. In Russian multiplication (also called Ethiopian multiplication and related to ancient Egyptian multiplication), you can multiply any two numbers together through simple addition and doubling & halving numbers. The technique works by converting the numbers to binary and turning it into an addition problem.

I loved learning about this so much that I scribbled an explanation out on a napkin at brunch yesterday to show a friend how it worked. We’re friends because she was just as excited as I was about it. (via the kid should see this)

  1. I’ve probably told this story here before, but for an assignment in a quantum mechanics class in college, we had to derive an equation using two different techniques. After much struggle at the whiteboard on a Saturday morning, a friend and I got the results of these two approaches to converge on the same answer and it felt like we had unlocked a deep secret to the universe.

Tags: how to   Johnny Ball   mathematics   video
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327 days ago
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Rob Manfred should resign

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Al Yellon

We used to have commissioners who cared about baseball. Now we’ve got a tone-deaf apologist.

Sunday, Rob Manfred held his first major news conference since the Astros punishment for their sign-stealing scandal was revealed.

He shouldn’t have bothered. All he did was make jaws drop with his stunning ignorance of how angry many people are about the scandal and the perceived lack of punishment for Astros players.

Check out this tone-deaf statement:

“Hurt”? Well, maybe, although listening to Astros players attempt to apologize over the last few days, I wonder how “hurt” they really are, and they continue to get paid millions of dollars to play baseball. No players were fined, just the team, and owner Jim Crane had to pay only $5 million (the maximum allowed by MLB’s constitution), about the cost of one year of a middle reliever.

There’s been much discussion about whether the Astros should have to vacate the 2017 World Series title since the punishment was announced. I’ve gone on record here as saying I don’t think that would accomplish anything. But after Manfred’s unbelievably ridiculous comment about that Sunday, I might change my mind:

Manfred defended his decision not to vacate the Astros’ championship, saying, “The idea of an asterisk or asking for a piece of metal back seems like a futile act.” The commissioner devaluing the meaning of a championship seems… not great? Counterintuitive, even? The “piece of metal” is literally called the Commissioner’s Trophy.

A “piece of metal”? That’s all, Rob? It’s not just a “piece of metal.” It’s what the “piece of metal” represents. You would think that someone leading the entire sport of baseball would not have to be told that, but here we are. Tell all the Cubs fans who lined up for hours during the winter of 2016-17 to have photos taken with that trophy that it’s just a “piece of metal.”

Maybe it is time to take that 2017 trophy back and simply declare that year’s title “vacant.” Yu Darvish had one of his usual cogent Twitter comments:

Back to Manfred: Not satisfied with simply being tone-deaf, the Commissioner took a swipe at reporters during his news conference regarding some excellent reporting done by Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal:

So a journalist was doing his job, finding out information, and the work done by Diamond in revealing the Astros’ “Codebreaker” system was one of the better pieces of reporting done on the scandal.

At best, Manfred’s comment was sarcasm. On its face, Manfred seemed to be telling Diamond he had done something wrong. There’s an old saying that resides right at the top of NBC Sports writer Craig Calcaterra’s Twitter account that seems relevant here:

Exactly. There’s been so much covering up here that it took the great work of Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich at The Athletic, and later the WSJ’s Diamond, to make the scandal public. Manfred does not seem happy at all about that.

Apparently tired of questions about the Astros scandal, Manfred tried to move on:

Then there were several more questions about the Astros scandal, but the whole thing can be summed up with this paragraph from NBC Sports’ Bill Baer:

All in all, this press conference could not have gone worse for Manfred. The press found it condescending and the comments he made rang hollow to the players. Manfred seemed on edge and unprepared addressing arguably the biggest controversy baseball has faced since the steroid era. This is a dark time for the sport.

Condescending? Check. Unprepared? Check. Tone-deaf? Check. I have often said that I wonder if Rob Manfred is even a baseball fan. All that news conference did is confirm in my mind that he’s not.

In my view, this is more than the biggest controversy since the steroid era. The Astros’ sign-stealing scheme might be the worst thing to happen to baseball since the Black Sox scandal of a century ago.

I am well aware that the Commissioner’s role has changed much since the first Commissioner, federal judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, took office November 8, 1920 nearly 100 years ago. As you no doubt know, Landis was hired by baseball owners to help clean up the image of the sport after the Black Sox scandal. He did so, and swiftly, by permanently banning eight members of that White Sox team who were alleged to have thrown the 1919 World Series. (I say “alleged” because a legal case brought in 1920 resulted in acquittals.) Landis was given broad authority to work in the “best interests of baseball” and often did. We haven’t had a Commissioner like that since ... well, probably since Bowie Kuhn, at least, and Kuhn was regularly roasted by the general public for his own tone-deafness. Granted that MLB’s collective-bargaining agreement with players limits some of the powers of the Commissioner, Manfred has still done little to give the general public confidence in the sport.

But now, public perception of baseball now is heading toward that low reached after the 1919 World Series was thrown. I am well aware that Rob Manfred serves at the pleasure of baseball’s owners, and that his primary function is to help them make buckets of money. In that, he has certainly succeeded, even while angering many baseball fans with proposed and actual rule changes supposedly designed to improve “pace of play” (hint: they haven’t), and the recent proposal to contract up to 42 minor-league teams, which has resulted in outcries almost everywhere except owners’ suites. Baseball seems to be working for everyone but fans, the paying customers, for whom Manfred and team owners seem to have nothing but contempt.

Baseball needs a strong Commissioner who could help restore its tattered reputation. I’m not certain who that individual could be in the year 2020, but I do know this: It’s not Rob Manfred. Manfred should resign. If he doesn’t, baseball’s owners ought to realize how much damage Manfred is doing to their brand and fire him.

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334 days ago
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One Guy Gets Entire Park to Sing Bon Jovi

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(Wait for it, wait for it…) One guy, singing Bon Jovi’s Livin’ On A Prayer, gets an entire park to sing along with him. I know this was a tough week for many, but if this doesn’t brighten your day, I do not know what will.

See also Leadership Lessons from the Dancing Guy, which I swear is related. (via open culture)

Tags: Bon Jovi   music   video
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351 days ago
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351 days ago
One of my best memories was when I did something similar. Heading to a baseball game full of fans, the train car was packed. I started singing "Take me out to the ballgame," and the entire car started singing. It was a minute of smiles and laughter. I'm sure others have similar memories...
Washington, DC

Multitasking, windows, and the Mac

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When I heard about Front and Center, my first thought was “Why would anyone want their windows to behave that way?” But I didn’t write a post about it right away, because maybe my snap judgment was wrong. I read the release articles by Lee Fyock and John Siracusa and the initial posts1 by John Gruber, Jason Snell, Stephen Hackett, Ryan Christoffel, and others. And then I spent the next week using my Macs and thinking more about how I use them. I came to the (admittedly self-serving) conclusion that my snap judgment was right: what Front and Center does is at odds with my view of multitasking and would be a hindrance to my use of the Mac.

Here’s what Front and Center does:

In “Classic” mode, clicking on a window brings all the windows in that app to the front, just like it did in classic Mac OS. In “Modern” mode, only the clicked window comes to the front. In either mode, Shift-click on a window to get the opposite of the chosen behavior.

In my everyday use of the Mac at work, I have several windows open at once, all of them showing different views of the project I’m working on. Typically I have two or more Preview windows, a couple of Finder windows, a Terminal window, one or more graphics editing windows2, and a small handful of BBEdit windows. And as I work, I usually have to refer to one or more documents3 while I’m creating or editing another. Which means I am continually switching between those documents.

The key here is that while I work I switch between different sources of information. On my computer, the information is contained in documents, the documents are displayed in windows, and the windows are “owned” by apps. In one sense, the apps are essential for accessing and creating the information, but in another sense they are incidental. While I work, I am not thinking “I need to activate Preview” or “I need to activate BBEdit,” I’m thinking “I need to see the basement floor plan” or “I need to add a paragraph about the basement layout to my report.” And, significantly, when I need to refer to that floor plan, I don’t want my report suddenly covered up by all the other drawings I have open in Preview.

To me, this is the essence of multitasking. I am not multitasking, the computer is. I am focused on one thing. It just so happens that that one thing requires documents from several apps and those documents are continually changing as the work progresses. For the computer to help me with my work, it must pretend to be as focused as I am, and that means being able to switch focus to the documents I need (and only the documents I need) when I need them.

All of this is a long way of saying that I see the the current Mac behavior as correct.

But what about the classic Mac behavior? I am, generally speaking, a big fan of the original Mac UI design team. They got so many things right the first time, and they tweaked most of the things that weren’t quite right within a few years. But the UI for multitasking, which was introduced with MultiFinder in System 5 in 1987, was not one of those things.

I don’t think this was the UI designers’ fault. When the Mac was introduced, it was a single-tasking system. To switch to a second application, you had to quit the one you were in and launch another. And even after the MultiFinder came along, the underlying operating system retained a lot of that original design. The main thing it retained was that the foreground application was in control. Background applications ran only when the foreground app ceded them a time slice. This was called cooperative multitasking, or as I like to call it, not really multitasking.

This under-the-hood prominence given to the foreground app in classic Mac OS made it natural4 for all the foreground app windows to be in front of all the windows of the other apps.

Part of the reason Apple bought NeXT in 1996 was to sweep away the cruft left over from the Mac’s original OS design and give it a real multitasking operating system. With that came the window-first UI that John Siracusa dislikes and that I find perfectly suited to the way I work and, fundamentally, correct.

Obviously, not everyone agrees. From John Gruber’s post:

I never liked Mac OS X’s change in this regard, but I haven’t used a third-party utility to restore the classic style in at least 10 years. But now that I have it back, I realize I’ve missed it. When you switch to an app via the Dock, all its windows come forward. When you switch to an app via ⌘-Tab, all its windows come forward. It feels right to me that when you switch to an app by clicking one of its visible background windows, the whole app comes forward.

I would argue that just because Gruber misses the old behavior doesn’t make it right. When you switch to an app via the Dock, all its windows come forward because you have clicked on a icon for the app. Similarly, when you switch to an app via ⌘-Tab, all its windows come forward because you have selected the icon for that app. But when you click on a background window, you are not selecting an app, you’re selecting a window. So it’s the window that should come forward, not the app as a whole.

The main reason you might think all of the windows associated with an app should also come forward when you click on one of them is because you got used to that behavior. It’s familiar, which is important, but not necessarily correct.

Of course, I was quite familiar with the classic Mac OS behavior, having bought my first Mac in 1985. Why am I not as fond of it as Siracusa and Gruber? I can think of a couple of reasons:

  • First, I wasn’t a kid when I started using Mac. I was 24 years old and it was my third way of using a computer, coming after punchcards, timesharing on mainframes from terminals, and a Commodore 64. I definitely have Mac-induced habits, but they may not be as ingrained in me as they would be in someone who started using it at a younger age.
  • Second, and more important, I switched from the Mac to Linux in the late 90s and didn’t return until 2005. During that time I got used to the X Windows way of working, which is closer to the current Mac behavior. When I came back to the Mac, it was running OS X and using its multitasking was very much like what I’d been doing the previous eight years.

If you’re an app-centric sort of computer user, by all means get a copy of Front and Center, and do it before its price gets raised. But if you’re like me and think more in terms of documents and windows rather than apps, you might like Witch from Many Tricks. It lets you use ⌘-Tab (or another key combination—I use ⌃-Tab) to quickly switch between windows without bringing an entire app to the front.

  1. I’m not sure they’re detailed enough to call them “reviews.” Then again, Front and Center is a very focused app—there aren’t many details to discuss. 

  2. These used to be Acorn and OmniGraffle, but lately I’ve been using Graphic and Affinity Designer instead of OG. 

  3. I’m using “documents” in a broad sense here, including not only files that are on my computer, but also web pages and the ephemeral output of Terminal commands. 

  4. And maybe necessary. I’m not enough of a programmer to know if it was even possible for Apple to have allowed the foreground app to leave some of its windows behind those of other apps. 

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364 days ago
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Back to windows after twenty years


Apple’s stubborn four-year refusal to fix the terminally broken butterfly keyboard design lead me to a crazy experiment last week: Giving Windows a try for the first time in twenty years.

Not really because I suddenly had some great curiosity about Windows, but because Apple’s infuriating failure to sell a reliable laptop reluctantly put me back in the market. So when I saw the praise heaped upon the Surface Laptop 3, and particularly its keyboard, I thought, fuck it, let’s give it a try!

Looks good, doesn’t it?

The buying experience was great. There was nobody in the store, so with four sales people just standing around, I got immediate attention, and typed away a few quick sentences on the keyboard. It felt good. Nice travel, slim chassis, sleek design. SOLD!

The initial setup experience was another pleasant surprise. The Cortana-narrated process felt like someone from the Xbox team had done the design. Fresh, modern, fun, and reassuring. Apple could take some notes on that.

But ultimately we got to the meat of this experience, and unfortunately the first bite didn’t quite match the sizzle. The font rendering in Windows remains excruciatingly poor to my eyes. It just looks bad. It reminded me of my number one grief with Android back in the 5.0 or whenever days, before someone at Google decided to do font rendering right (these days it’s great!). Ugh.

I accept that this is a personal failure of sorts. The Windows font rendering does not prevent you from using the device. It’s not like you can’t read the text. It’s just that I don’t enjoy it, and I don’t want to. So that was strike one.

But hey, I didn’t pluck down close to $1800 (with taxes) for a Windows laptop just to be scared off by poor font rendering, right? No. So I persevered and started setting up my development environment.

See, the whole reason I thought Windows might be a suitable alternative for me was all the enthusiasm around Windows Linux Subsystem (WSL). Basically putting all the *nix tooling at your fingertips, like it is on OSX, in a way that doesn’t require crazy hoops.

But it’s just not there. The first version of WSL is marred with terrible file-system performance, and I got to feel that right away, when I spent eons checking out a git repository via GitHub for Windows. A 10-second operation on OSX took 5-6 minutes on Windows.

I initially thought that I had installed WSL2, which promises to be better in some ways (though worse in others), but to do so required me to essentially run an alpha version of Windows 10. Okay, that’s a little adventurous, but hey, whatever, this was an experiment after all. (Unfortunately WSL2 doesn’t do anything to speed up work happening across the Windows/Linux boundary, in fact, it just makes it worse! So you kinda have to stick with Linux tooling inside of Linux, Windows outside. Defeating much of the point for me!).

So anyway, here I am, hours into trying to setup this laptop to run *nix tooling with Windows applications, running on the bleeding edge of Windows, digging through all sorts of write-ups and tutorials, and I finally, sorta, kinda get it going. But it’s neither fast nor pleasant nor intuitive in any way. And it feels like my toes are so stubbed and bloody by the end of the walk that I almost forgot why I started on this journey in the first place.

I mean, one thing is the alpha-level of the software required to even pursue this. Something else is the bizarre gates that Microsoft erects along the way. Want to run Docker for Windows on your brand new Surface Laptop 3? Sorry, can’t do that without buying an upgrade to Windows Pro (the $1800 Surface Laptop 3 apparently wasn’t expensive enough to warrant that designation, so it ships with the Home edition. Okay, sheesh).

The default Edge browser that ships with Windows 10 is also just kinda terrible. I clocked a 38 on the Speedometer 2.0 test, compared to the 125 that my MacBook Pro 13 ran with Safari. (But hey, there’s another beta version of Edge, the one that now uses the Chrominum rendering engine, and that got it to a more respectable 68.)

Anyway, I started this experiment on a Monday. I kept going all the way through Friday. Using the laptop as I would any other computer for the internet, and my new hobby of dealing with the stubbed toes of setting up a *nix development environment, but when I got to Saturday I just… gave up. It’s clearly not that this couldn’t be done. You can absolutely setup a new Windows laptop today to do *nix style development. You can get your VS Code going, install a bunch of alpha software, and eventually you’ll get there.

But for me, this just wasn’t worth it. I kept looking for things I liked about Windows, and I kept realizing that I just fell back on rationalizations like “I guess this isn’t SO bad?”. The only thing I really liked was the hardware, and really, the key (ha!) thing there was that the keyboard just worked. It’s a good keyboard, but I don’t know if I’d go as far as “great”. (I still prefer travel, control, and feel of the freestanding Apple Magic Keyboard 2).

What this experiment taught me, though, was just how much I actually like OSX. How much satisfaction I derive from its font rendering. How lovely my code looks in TextMate 2. How easy it is to live that *nix developer life, while still using a computer where everything (well, except that fucking keyboard!) mostly just works.

So the Surface Laptop 3 is going back to Microsoft. Kudos to them for the 30-day no questions return policy, and double kudos for making it so easy to wipe the machine for return (again, another area where Apple could learn!).

Windows still clearly isn’t for me. And I wouldn’t recommend it to any of our developers at Basecamp. But I kinda do wish that more people actually do make the switch. Apple needs the competition. We need to feel like there are real alternatives that not only are technically possible, but a joy to use. We need Microsoft to keep improving, and having more frustrated Apple users cross over, point out the flaws, and iron out the kinks, well, that’s only going to help.

I would absolutely give Windows another try in a few years, but for now, I’m just feeling #blessed that 90% of my work happens on an iMac with that lovely scissor-keyed Magic Keyboard 2. It’s not a real solution for lots of people who work on the go, but if you do most of your development at a desk, I’d check it out. Or be brave, go with Windows, make it better, you pioneer, you. You’ll have my utter admiration!

Also, Apple, please just fix those fucking keyboards. Provide proper restitution for the people who bought your broken shit. Stop gaslighting us all with your nonsense that this is only affecting extremely few people. It’s not. The situation is an unmitigated disaster.

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439 days ago
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Cream Drummer Ginger Baker Has Died at 80 Years Old

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Ginger Baker, a founding member and drummer of the legendary rock band Cream, has died at 80 years old.

In a statement to CNN, his daughter, Nettie Baker, said, “Dad passed away peacefully. He was in no pain and had recently been able to see and speak to his children, close family and special friends.” She said her father suffered “from many long term conditions,” including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Baker started playing drums at 16 years old, and became a fixture of the London jazz scene in the 1950s. He formed Cream with guitarist Eric Clapton and bassist Jack Bruce in 1966, and the group’s track “Sunshine of Your Love,” propelled by Baker’s fierce, hard-hitting playing style, would become one of the most well-known rock songs in history. Baker formed Blind Faith with Clapton after Cream’s demise, later moving on to Ginger Baker’s Airforce, an outfit that combined rock, jazz and African influences. Baker would spend several years living in Nigeria and collaborated with famed Afrobeat musician Fela Kuti. Later, he played with Public Image Ltd, the band of former Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten. Throughout his career, Baker also collaborated with Hawkwind, Masters of Reality (with Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri of Queens of the Stone Age, among others) and many more.

On behalf of everyone at MetalSucks, we wish Baker’s family, friends and bandmates all the best.

The post Cream Drummer Ginger Baker Has Died at 80 Years Old appeared first on MetalSucks.

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469 days ago
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