All 9 entries tagged Bagatelle

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January 10, 2007

Clippy says it all

Writing about web page

It’s always comforting to have one’s prejudices confirmed.

Here is an excerpt from an interview with Charles Simonyi, Microsoft’s former chief architect, the tutelary genius behind its most famous applications, the inventor of the method of writing code that the company’s programmers have used for 25 years.

The excerpt explains why I hate software that intrusively imposes its idea of what I need and makes it hard for me to change it.

“On a gray afternoon last October, I sat down with ­Simonyi in Bellevue, WA, in front of two adjacent screens in his office at Intentional Software, the company that he founded after he left Microsoft in 2002 to develop and commercialize his big idea (meta-­programming). Simonyi was racing me through a presentation he was preparing for an upcoming conference; he used Microsoft Office PowerPoint slides to outline his vision for the proposed great leap forward in programming. He was in the middle of moving one slide around when the application just stopped responding.

In the corner of the left-hand screen, a goggle-eyed paper clip popped up: the widely reviled “Office Assistant” that Microsoft introduced in 1997. Simonyi tried to ignore the cartoon aide’s antic fidgeting, but he was stymied. “Nothing is working,” he sighed. “That’s because Clippy is giving me some help.”

I was puzzled. “You mean you haven’t turned Clippy off?” Long ago, I’d hunted through Office’s menus and checked whichever box was required to throttle the annoying anthropomorph once and for all.

“I don’t know how,” Simonyi admitted, with a little laugh that seemed to say, Yes, I know, isn’t it ironic?

It was. Simonyi spent years leading the applications teams at Microsoft, the developers of Word and Excel, whose products are used every day by tens of millions of people. He is widely regarded as the father of Microsoft Word. (I am, of course, using Word to write these sentences.) Could Charles Simonyi have met his match in Clippy?

Simonyi stared at his adversary, as if locked in telepathic combat. Then he turned to me, blue eyes shining. “I need a helper: a Super-Clippy to show me where to turn him off!” Simonyi was hankering for a meta-Clippy.”

October 04, 2006

Chain Reaction

Reading a personal statement for a university application which began

“I used to agree that ‘hell is other people’, but since leaving home and discovering Anthropology, I have changed my mind.”,

I was reminded of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Huis Clos and then of this nice crossword clue

Secret American resort (2, 6).

July 21, 2006

In the Manner of the Banner?

Follow-up to City slogans and climate change from Computer-aided assessment for sciences

City slogan time again. This year the bright cylindrical banners sheathing the lamp posts at the Gibbet Hill junction exhort me thus: Coventry Banner 2006

COV '06 — be part of it!

While I idle at the traffic lights, I am prompted to ask: when earning my crust on campus, am I part of it?

Geographically I am, because the Mathematics Institute in the Zeeman Building is on the north side of Gibbet Hill Road. But emotionally? Hard to say. I have more contact with Coventry University than I used to; I deal with a Coventry solicitor; my sons watch hockey and skate at the Planet Ice Arena, and swim at the Pool; but from my Leamington base I can't yet claim to feel deeply and meaningfully about Lady Godiva's city in the way I do about London, where I was born.

The University got off to a bad start by naming itself after a county town eight miles away. For decades many citizens of Coventry didn't know where our campus was. Culture vultures found out when the Arts Centre got going, as did some of the city's great and good on the University Council, which occasionally got embroiled in local politics. (Jolly Jack's acquisition of Westwood for the University might merit the attentions of a racy historical/political novelist.)

But here's something exciting to redress the balance: Every Wednesday lunchtime in term–time, buses (often bearing the U of W logo) roll up at Coventry schools to bring their mathematically–talented 6th formers to the University Maths Dept for an afternoon of intense teaching in A–Level Further Mathematics -- the standard A-Level Mathematics syllabus does not really stretch those with a flair for the subject.

Over 100 students from Coventry and Warwickshire are now registered with our Further Maths Centre, which started in a small way some 7 years ago. The success of its 3–year pilot phase was instrumental in persuading the Government to fund the creation of a national Further Mathematics Network which will cover the country. Students in state schools will no longer be deprived of the chance to develop their full mathematical potential simply because their school or college can't find a qualified teacher or because the class is too small to be economic.

So Warwick is changing lives in Coventry and we really are "part of it" after all.

March 20, 2006

Make yourself a Flickr logo

Writing about web page


neon c (wbrc)ABrought to you by the letter A




March 03, 2006

RU Autistic? The Eyes Have It

Writing about web page

Try this test (it takes about 10 mins). It is created with the elegant Flash-based software Question Writer see my earlier blog.

January 09, 2006

Volcanoes and Monkey Puzzles

This clue, which turned up recently in The Week, appealed to me:

Mount Vesuvius strikes, engulfing Naples, taking just seconds (4)

It seems to have appeared originally in a Listener crossword by BeRo which also included the novelty clue "H,I,J,K,L,M,N,O (5)" mentioned below; except BeRo noticed that adding "and P" to the clue provided a definition too! The puzzle was punningly called Pseudo-Clue because its grid includes a 9 X 9 Sudoku when the letters other than H — P are removed. (Who was BeRo?)

Just in case you haven't seen it before, here is one of the flashes of brilliance Araucaria (the sobriquet used by John Graham) is famous for:

Poetical scene has surprisingly chaste Lord Archer vegetating (3, 3, 8, 12)

The poet was Rupert Brooke.

November 21, 2005


My late colleague, David Fowler, told me these two super-cryptic gems many years ago:

h,i,j,k,l,m,n,o (5 letters)
heggs (11 letters)

November 11, 2005

Blogging Mathematics

Writing about Equations in blogs from Blogbuilder news

My thanks to those who have recently given us the abiility to render mathematics in Warwick blogs.

I can't resist the temptation to try it out. Tradition has it that the phrase "Let no-one ignorant of geometry enter" was inscribed on the door to Plato's academy. For a more modern mathematical motto one might choose Euler's identity:

e^{i\pi} + 1 = 0

linking in a surprising manner five fundamental, apparently-unrelated mathematical constants: 0, 1, i, e, and \pi. Hence the in-joke "We are number -e^{i\pi}" sometimes seen on mathematics students' T-shirts.

October 28, 2005

City slogans and climate change

In recent months, the tedium of the Gibbet Hill traffic queues reduces one to reading the banners fluttering from lamp-posts proclaiming that "Coventry is the hottest place to be this year". This year Leamington was quite hot enough, thank you very much; the nights were oppressively sticky and restless in our sultry top-floor bedrooms.

"Summer of Cov" states another suggestive slogan. Does anyone really call it Cuventry any more? Coventry may be trying harder, but Glasgow was miles better.

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