Four short links: 1 Apr 2009

No April Fools jokes because I’m a Grinch. Instead you get architecture, research, visualization, and pain:

  1. Stacks, Readers, Staff–Building the British Library is an overview of what a momentous accomplishment the British Library was. And a reminder that no matter how gorgeous, loved, and inevitable the final product seems, there’s always a pitched battle to get it made. Architect Sir Colin St. John ‘Sandy’ Wilson used to refer to the project that took up the bulk of his professional career as ‘the thirty years war’. There was no overall budget, and so from year to year, the architects never knew how much was going to be available for construction. That meant a constant process of re-design and re-assesment of priorities, as the eventual shape and size of the building always seemed to be in flux.
  2. Richard Hamming: You and Your Research (Paul Graham) — transcript of a talk Hamming gave at Bell Labs in 1986, talking about how to do great research. Many a second-rate fellow gets caught up in some little twitting of the system, and carries it through to warfare. He expends his energy in a foolish project. Now you are going to tell me that somebody has to change the system. I agree; somebody’s has to. Which do you want to be? The person who changes the system or the person who does first-class science? Which person is it that you want to be?
  3. CS171 – Harvard course on visualization, with links to video, slides, etc.
  4. Carpal Tunnel Exercises That Really Work (BoingBoing) — no idea whether they do or not, but I know enough people who are looking for something that does that I’m posting this. If you recommend a book or program that’s worked for your Carpal Tunnel, please post in the comments.
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  • When working on carpal tunnel, don’t neglect sleep. My physician said yes, too much typing can be damaging and stretching and rest are called for. But working on how you position your wrist during sleep can be a big factor. Keeping the wrist strongly bent toward the inner forearm for hours a time may be contributing.

  • Carpal tunnel recommendations:

    I recommend a keyboard from (I’ve no affiliation with them). I keep the halves of my keyboard pretty close to vertical (about 80 degrees). That kind of set-up with the keyboard at a proper hight relieves the strain of radially rotating your hands and helps to achieve proper posture. Those keyboards are expensive but they are built like tanks.

    Frequent breaks help.

    One big thing I’ve learned over the years is that you start getting tingling, numbness, or pain: STOP. It sounds obvious, right? No, I found myself constantly, unthinkingly, “playing through the pain” and learned that it’s a very bad idea.

    Another big thing I’ve learned over the years: trim your nails, especially when you notice things starting to hurt. It makes a surprisingly large difference, in my experience. In fact, as I write this, I’m becoming conscious that mine are a little overdue.


  • Falafulu Fisi

    Aha! Richard Hamming, eh? The guy has made a huge contribution to information theory. I myself, do use Hamming filter (window function) for data pre-processing for use in digital filtering. My current application of hamming window function is to pre-process stock-price time-series, which they’re generally digital signals (not in milli-volts but in $). Some do use hamming window function in ANN (artificial neural network) learning.

  • @Bill: good point! I know my wrists often grumble at me when I’ve had little sleep. (wife’s comment: hey numbnuts, when you don’t get much sleep it’s because you’ve been UP LATE TYPING)

  • Fred Simpson

    Looks like the CS171 videos are all password protected and you need a Harvard login to access it.

    Or am I missing something?

  • “No April Fools”

    Thank you so much!

    I hate how everybody jumps on that damn bandwagon and just waste my time!