I Need a [Web]Jobs

Once again, with the new formed buds of spring a-budding, it only natural for a young man’s thoughts turn to . . . WebJobs.  OK, probably not.  But this (not quite young!) man has a good reason to be thinking of such things: I’m giving a WebJobs presentation at Philly Code Camp 2016.1 later today.  The session will be more than a little hands-on, but I also have a smallish deck, with a number of highlights and resource links, that you can download: Batch Processing with Azure WebJobs.

For the uninitiated, WebJobs can be thought of the newish Azure tech that (most usefully!) enables workflow for the modern web.  Think image processing, shopping carts, database administration, Monte Carlo simulations, app “glue,” process control, AI, custom testing, IoT facilitation, site scraping, backups, pipelining, log ingestion and more.  Even better, WebJobs are super-simple.  You can be up and running in minutes, but more importantly, the “hard” stuff rarely takes more than hours.

If you work with the cloud: run, don’t walk.

 

Be Careful When You Feed the Lunatics

One of the hazards of being an outreach-minded astronomer is having to deal with a never-ending stream of lunatics.  Whether it be the overly-fervent gal who got supper-pissed when I failed to agree with her that asterisms were galaxy-sized corporeal beings or the octogenarian who called  out the cops because he was sure that I was using my telescope to peep at him through his solid walls, I’ve had more than my fair share of encounters with both the grossly misinformed and the all but barking mad.  As a rule, though, I tend to take such crackpots in my stride.

The people who drive me bonkers, though, are the supposedly sane and well educated; fellow citizens who hold the most outrageous and improbable beliefs even though a modicum of sense and introspection should serve to dispel them one and all.

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Koza’s Ant (A Modern Take on the Canonical Genetic Programming Problem)

Koza's Ant EvolverWe’ve all had those less-than-notable-at-the-time yet ultra-significant inflections in our world view that in later days loom large.

I had one of those “moments” in 1993, on an otherwise ordinary fall day when I’d squired my not-yet wife to an unmemorable building on the Northwestern campus, in Chicago.  Marie is a Set and Costume Designer so I have to imagine that we were there for some sort of rehearsal, or maybe a design meeting; something about Orpheus Descending at the Chicago Lyric Opera teases at my memory, although given the remove of 22 years the details have faded.

One thing I vividly remember, though, is reading Steven Levy’s “Artificial Life:  A Report from the Frontier Where Computers Meet Biology;” a book I picked up at the campus bookstore while waiting for Marie to finish whatever she was doing.  She must have been at it for hours because I managed to gulp down something like half of the thickish volume before she emerged from the building.

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An Open Letter to Nick Bostrom

Nick:

Let me start by complimenting you on a bravura performance.  I’ve read dozens of books and articles on ASI but Superintelligence is clearly in a category of its own.  I have no doubt that your work will stand as the definitive reference in the field for some time to come.

On the other hand, I do have a significant objection; if only to the work as a whole.  You make a compelling case for working together to mitigate the unprecedented peril of ASI—a sorely needed case, truth be told!—but I can’t help but think that, even so, your book is suffused with too much optimism.  To resort to bad haiku:

Fearsome ASIs
Can undoubtedly be tamed
We will make them safe!

At the risk of being a Cassandra, I fear that such optimism is entirely wrong!

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NoSQL? With DocumentDB, that ain’t quite true!

The Microsoft folks continue to beaver away in PaaS-land, serving up new Platform as a Service offerings on a seemingly weekly basis.  One of the best of these is the new pay-as-you-go DocumentDB service; a fully managed, highly-scalable NoSQL (JSON) document database service that provides:

  • Schema-free storage of arbitrary JSON documents
  • Automatic indexing that supports complex queries
  • Transaction support with ACID semantics
  • Service-side programmability with JavaScript
  • Write-optimized, SSD-backed and tunable via indexing & consistency
  • Open-source Client SDKs for NET, Node.js, JavaScript and Python (with C++ and Java on the way)

DocumentDB should be thought of as a complement to SQL Server, Table Storage, Blobs, etc.; not a replacement.  It’s a pretty new offering, but even so, there’s a fair amount of related documentation around on the net:

If you’re one of my fellow Neudesic-ies, I’ll be giving an in-depth DPG Presentation on the topic on Friday afternoon, at 1:00PM EST.  Please feel free to download my deck or clone the GitHub repository that contains the DpgDocDbDemo code that I’ll be showing in my talk.

Rigoletto In Seattle

Duke With DancersFor those of you who are yet to be in the know, it is my distinct privilege to be married to the wonderful and talented Marie Anne Chiment.  Among the many benefits that thereby accrue, I get to regularly jet off to far flung locales in order to squire my lovely lady to her latest openings.

This week, we’ll be attending the re-mount of Rigoletto, a show that she originally designed for the Seattle Opera in 2004.  Happily, Seattle Opera’s General Director Speight Jenkins liked the original so much that he decided to include the production in his “farewell” season.  Even better, the opera was directed by Linda Brovsky, an exceptionally talented director and dear friend.  Linda was our Maid of Honor, so you might imagine that we get to see her in person all the time, but given her world-trotting schedule, we have few such opportunities.  It’ll be a treat to see her in person.

Be sure to check out Marie’s Portfolio site (http://chiment.com) for a ton of Rigoletto renderings and production photos.