An Element Which Is Nameless

I had always thought Twilight Sparkle was the pony that best exemplified the spirit of epistemic rationality. If anypony should possess the truth, it must be the ones with high p (p being the letter used to represent the pony intelligence factor first proposed by Charles Spearpony and whose existence was confirmed by later psychometric research by such ponies as Arthur Jenfoal) who devote their lives to tireless scholarship!

After this year, however, I think I'm going to have to go with Applejack. Sometimes, all a pony needs to do to possess the truth is simply to stop lying.

Just—stop fucking lying!

Ideas Have Expirations

One often-overlooked aspect of the crime of not-writing is that the harm isn't just about the things that deserve to be said that you never get around to saying because you don't put in the time and effort. It's also about the things that you can't say anymore even if you suddenly had the will, because the opportunity to say it was bound to a particular time, and trying to recapitulate the thoughts months or years after the fact would be irrelevant, or impossible.

This phenomenon comes in degrees. Start with irrelevance. Often the inadmissibility of tardy words isn't absolute: you could say things late, but the product would be less valuable than if it were timely—especially in a medium like blogging, where the posts being dated and displayed reverse-chronologically creates an expectation that the entries are associated with a particular point in time—at least, that they were written not too long before their publication date, even if the actual content isn't about the ephemera of the day or season. This has contributed to An Algorithmic Lucidity not being as good of a blog as it could be.

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Monthly Favorites, September 2015

Favorite commit message fragment: "it turns out that it's `\d` that matches a digit, whereas, counterintuitively, `d` matches the letter 'd'."

Favorite line of code: a tie, between

    let mut time_radios: Vec<(Commit, mpsc::Receiver<(Option<Commit>, f32)>)> =


        for (previous, new), expected in zip(
                itertools.product(('foo', None), ('bar', None)),
                ("from foo to bar", "from foo", "to bar", "")):

(Though both of these contain at least one internal newline, it's only for PEP 8-like reasons; they're both what we would intuitively call one "logical" line of code.)

Favorite film: My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Friendship Games. (Poor plotting even by Equestria Girls standards, and it could only have been because of magic that I didn't get semantically satiated on the word magic during the climax. Alternate-Twilight's idiotic decision to withdraw her application to the Everton independent study program in favor of transferring to the Canterlot School of Mediocrity and Friendship in order to be closer to the Humane 5+1 was as predictable as it was disappointing—though I do credit the writers for at least acknowledging the existence of alternatives to school. And what was up with that scene where we're momentarily led to believe that alternate-Spike got switched up with Equestria-Spike in a portal accident, but then it turns out that, no, alternate-Spike just magically learned how to talk? Is it that there was no time in the script to deal with the consequences of swapping sidekicks across worlds, but that Cathy Weseluck's contract guaranteed her a speaking role? Despite being the weakest film in the trilogy (far worse than its brilliant predecessor, My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks), Friendship Games is still a fun watch, and an easy favorite during a month when I didn't see any other feature-length films.)

Friday Night Lies

"I am a practical man," I said calmly and confidently to no one in particular while sitting down to an easy-mode round of the new tower defense game where the bad ponies are the good ponies and the good ponies are the bad ponies, "I have created no less than X times 276 divided by 365 dollars of economic value this year, and I don't believe in karma, sin, or willpower depletion."

Pumpkin Spice!

It's September in the first year of my life (that I feel comfortable admitting to), and I feel great—the mounting success or arguably-not-yet-failure of my professional, intellectual, and—other goals is complemented splendidly by a muted but nonetheless genuine appreciation of the subset of nature's cyclic harmonies that I'm capable of perceiving: the air is getting slightly less warm, the sun is setting slightly earlier, and the hacks by which the retailers separate us from our money have changed completely.

In particular, the American coffee hegemon has started offering its "pumpkin spice" medicinals again, and my esteemed colleague Alexander Corwin has been blogging about drinking them despite/because hating them, so as a loyal client of the hegemon (measured by spending habits; the market gods only accept sacrifices of time and money, and don't care what you say or believe), of course I have to accompany him to the hegemon's outpost on fourth street that I go to frequently (typically bringing the personal cup I got at BABSCon, and the barista H. insists on giving me a brohoof every time), but the day before was no good, because Alexander apparently needed his sweetener/caffeine medicinal while I was busy pairing with our CEO on our new lead pipeline and bought his traditional Diet Coke instead.

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Twilight Sparkle Is a Disaster Waiting to Happen

I swear to Celestia, one of these days that mare is going to get somepony killed or worse. I almost suspect it's already happened and Hasbro is just sitting on the footage.

Seriously. Levitation or teleporting is fine, but you do not buck around with mind control or transformation spells unless you are absolutely sure that nothing will go wrong and that you can fix it when it does anyway. You'd think she'd learn after, I don't know, accidentally brainwashing pests into destroying the town, or unleashing a transmissible-by-sight plague of madness that wasn't stopped until Princess Celestia herself intervened, or accidentally swapping parts of her friends' souls, or accidentally transforming her friend into a horrible bat-pony abomination, or transforming herself and her friends into tiny vaguely-insectoid creatures and venturing through a closing portal to another world and only barely making it back in time.

Even plot armor isn't infinitely thick. Someday it's going to break, and I don't want to be watching when it happens.

Quicksort in FIM++

Dear reader, I have got to tell you, fandom is intense. One day last October Equestria Daily (internet clearinghouse for fans of the animated series My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic) posts a joke proposal for a programming language (FIM++) based on the show, and within the week there's a working interpreter for it. What does it mean to model a programming language after a cartoon, you ask? Well, in the show, episodes typically end with our heroine Twilight Sparkle (or after Season Two, Episode Three "Lesson Zero", one of her friends) writing a letter about what she's learned about the magic of friendship to her mentor (and God-Empress of the sun) Princess Celestia. So, then, why not have an esoteric programming langauge where the source code reads like a letter to Princess Celestia? Adorable, right?

So, this gift having been provided to us courtesy of Karol S. and the brony community, let's do something with it! More specifically, how about we implement quicksort?—that is a classic. What's quicksort? Well, we want to sort a list, right? So—bear with me—we define this partitioning procedure that, given indices into an array, partitions the subarray between those indices into a subsubarray of elements less-than-or-equal-to a given element dubbed the pivot, then the pivot itself, then a subsubarray of elements greater than the pivot. How do we do that? Well, let's designate the last element in our subarray as the pivot. Then we're going to scan through all the other elements, and if any of them are less-than-or-equal-to the pivot, we swap it into our first subsubarray and increment a variable keeping track of where the first subsubarray ends. Then, we swap the pivot into place and return its index. In Ruby—

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Supermarket Notes I

I think I like the store-brand "sparkling water beverages"; they fill a similar niche as soda (which I never buy at the store, but have been known to occasionally consume at parties or restaurants), but seem like they ought to be less deadly.

I think the "More grains. Less you!" slogan on this box of cereal sounds sinister. I mean, they're probably just talking about weight loss, but still ...

I'm suspicious of processed food products shaped like cartoon characters, as if there are highly-placed cannibals at General Mills plotting to train children that it's okay to eat creatures that can talk. On the other hoof, these fruit-flavored snacks are delicious.