It’s that time for a reflective reviewing the previous year. On a personal level, it’s been an interesting year, a year of some changes with more ahead. I may (or may not) talk about that more down the road. I’ve already shared some of the more mundane ones. I’m still chewing on some of the more personal ones.
As a blog post, it makes sense to do a blog review, as self-indulgent as they are. This is more a milepost for me; a sort of year-end report to the board — see if it’s worth funding another year. (Technically, the Blog Year starts on July 4, with year zero being 2011. The blog is now seven-and-a-half; 741 posts tall. Plus it just grew one more.)
Stick around if you want, but it’s gonna be long, dry, and narcissistic…
A while back I realized I had an Engineer’s Mind. I’ve always had a sense of that. What I realized was the significance of the Engineer’s Mind category. And of other categories of Mind — for example an Artist’s Mind (which I didn’t discover I also had until high school; see My Life 2.0).
Having a given Mind doesn’t mean one is necessarily good at something (skill takes practice), but it does suggest a predisposition or talent for it. Our minds seem to come pre-wired in two ways: core wiring that makes us human; and “flavor” wiring that gives us (some of our) basic traits. For instance, some people have — or strongly do not to have — a Math Mind.
I’ve found Mind a useful metaphor as well as a game to play.
When I was a high school kid, my dad and I sometimes played a game where one of us would make up a secret code, write a message in that code, and the other would try to decipher the message. We generally used simple substitution ciphers, so it was an exercise in letter frequency analysis and word guessing.
There’s a cute secret code I found in a book back then that really stuck with me because of the neat way it looks. It also stuck with me because it’s so simple that once you learn it, you really can’t forget it.
So for some Saturday fun, I thought I’d share it with you.
One of those annoying-to-those-who-know-better shortcuts that movies and TV shows sometimes take is the visual trope of throwing a piece of wood (or a rock) at an “electrified fence” and producing an exciting shower of sparks. Typically, one character is just about to touch the fence, only to be pulled back just in time by another character who throws something at the fence to show the first character how they almost bought it.
It looks good — everyone loves a good sparking. In fact, you may have noticed how many action scenes take place in factories that seem mainly to manufacture sparks and steam. You may have noticed how often welders seem to be creating showers of sparks in the background of every action movie.
But this isn’t about our love of sparks.
Computer programmers, and others who work with languages, sometimes use the related terms: semantics & syntax. They are concepts with a specific application to language, but language is communication and there are many forms of communication. For example, when music is viewed as a language one can apply the concepts of syntax and semantics.
This article (in my queue for years) was meant to introduce those two concepts, but my vision for this blog has evolved in ways that largely moot those original intentions. Why write about topics no one is casually interested in, and which are already covered in exhaustive detail elsewhere for those with a serious interest?
Besides,… this one… turned out different…
It’s important to begin this with due proper credit. This is not my idea; I’m doing a bit of a riff on an idea that belongs to someone else. But it’s such a great idea that I think not only should it be shared but embraced. At the end, I will encourage you to do your own riff, your own version of the 960.
Science fans who spend a lot of time on the interweb (I’m sure there must be some who don’t) are familiar with Randall Monroe‘s outstanding über-geek web comic, xkcd. There is a lesser-known one, Abstruse Goose, that I think is in the same class and which has connected with me even more than xkcd has (which is to say: oodles). So far, for me no other web comics come anywhere close to these two.
This post is about 900+ little blobs, and it is an idea from Abstruse Goose.