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Posted by & filed under Books, Ideas, Programming, Science.

On Not Reading "The Pale King"

"The Pale King" is the third and final novel by American author David Foster Wallace. He was working on it when he committed suicide in 2008. It was compiled from incomplete notes and released posthumously in 2011. It deals with several characters around an IRS tax office in Peoria, Illinois1.

Cover of The Pale King by David Foster Wallace

I haven't read all of "The Pale King", just the first few pages. I think it might be too much for me to take on at the moment. This post though is not one about me not reading a book. I was struck by how well written it was, there's an amazing section near the start2 relating the thoughts of a character as he sits on a plane and stares at the ground below. The focus of these thoughts is split between revision for a tax certification exam and the memory of something going very wrong in a previous (tax-related) job.

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WalesWeekendHero

Posted by & filed under Wales.

Here are some photos from a recent weekend in Wales with my great friend Mim, who I met on the South America tour. The great weather meant we got out to see some beautiful places and had a wonderful time (even if we did manage an appalling joint-ninth place in the pub quiz).

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ADSept14

Posted by & filed under Album Digest.

Album Digest September 2014 contains four amazing albums, including the long-awaited return from the Aphex Twin, and an album from Cymbals Eat Guitars released about a week after I wondered what had happened to them. Spooky. Rounding out the selection this month are a cool punky-disco album by The Juan Maclean and a truly remarkable offering by Vessel.

  1. Aphex Twin SYRO
  2. Cymbals Eat Guitars Lose
  3. The Juan Maclean In A Dream
  4. Vessel Punish, Honey

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Hero image for post about how to generate random numbers in R

Posted by & filed under Mathematics, Programming.

This post deals with how to generate random numbers in R. It is good to know how to generate random numbers with a particular language or software package for at least one of the following three reasons:

  1. You want to test something that depends on a particular distribution.
  2. You’re running a stochastic process of some kind (Branching process, random walk etc) and you need random numbers for deciding whether an event occurs.
  3. You forgot to pick your lottery numbers this week.

Let’s step through doing each of these with R. Over time I will write this post out again for C++, Java, Python, and Ruby. This post is just a memory aid that I can use later on and is not meant as anything more rigorous than that. As such it is a living document, I will mutate this post in place as and when I need to. Memory aids are useful for when you haven’t used a particular programming language or software package for a while. Who knows, it might save me a couple of searches with DuckDuckGo.

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Posted by & filed under Quotes.

You will not fail if you stay the course and hold true. Don’t cede your values for temporary comfort or notional control. Don’t panic. Eventually great books are written, great cities are built, and difficult times are overcome.

History is filled with examples of people who pushed the order button too soon… but few instances where people stuck with their principles for too long.

Seth Godin

Read this quote in its original context: Seth’s Blog: Law and Order.

Posted by & filed under Website.

This site now uses the excellent WP-Bootstrap theme. The theme delivers the Bootstrap look via the Bones theme/framework. It’s responsive and scales well from mobile to desktop. This means that the site has a consistent and unfussy look no matter what device you’re using. It’s meant to be modified with child themes but I like the default look. I decided to change two things: the way the featured image of each post is cropped to 780 by 300, and the way that a custom gallery shortcode breaks the tiled galleries you get from JetPack.

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Hero image for review of All The Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

Posted by & filed under Books.

Cover of All The Birds, Singing by Evie WyldI recently finished reading All The Birds, Singing, the second novel by Evie Wyld. It’s about a woman called Jake who lives alone on a farm with a dog called Dog on an island somewhere off the coast of Britain. She has sheep to look after but something keeps coming in the middle of the night to kill them.

Meanwhile, as the narrative on the island moves forward in the present, a second narrative peels off backwards to explain her past. This takes place in Australia. Jake is still working with sheep but there is a confrontation with a fellow farmhand who threatens to expose a secret from her past. As this second strand unfurls, we begin to see why Jake is jumpy and convinced that the deaths of her sheep represent ill-portent. However, because this second story rolls backwards in jumps, we have to wait until the end for the terrible events that set her on this path.

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Picture of commuters at Shinjuku station used as a hero image in review of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki by Haruki Murakami

Posted by & filed under Books.

Cover of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki by Haruki MurakamiColorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage is the latest novel by Haruki Murakami. It comes with free stickers. Perhaps that tells you everything you need to know about this book, which is slimmer than Murakami’s recent efforts. The plot begins with an intriguing premise. Tsukuru is part of a group of close friends and is one day expelled from the group for no reason. Unfortunately, the development of the plot is uncontrolled and by the end of novel too many holes have developed for it all to hold together.

It is a pleasant read but a familiar one. You can play Murakami bingo with Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki. Will there be Jazz or classical music? (Or, potential spoiler, both?) Will the character at the centre of the action make pasta? Or drink Cutty Sark whisky? Will they have an infatuation from childhood that will haunt their adult life? Will a strange dream-like world enter into our reality at some point? Will the books that Murakami’s been reading all-too-obviously force their way in to the narrative at some point? Will there be an endearing cat simile?

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