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The Top Scores for Canabalt, Take 2

Introduction As promised on Thursday, here’s my second pass at a statistical analysis of Canabalt scores. There are some useful results I’ll present right at the start, and then there are some results that are more or less worthless, except that working through my own mistakes helped me to think more clearly about statistical modeling […]


At the office today, I got into a discussion with two of my fellow graduate students about the distribution of scores you can get while playing Canabalt. Because (1) the layout of the levels in the game is fully randomized and (2) the difficulty of certain actions (specifically jumping through windows) is exceptionally high, we […]

Two of Unison’s Quirks

As many people know, I adore the program Unison. That said, Unison has its fair share of quirks. Today I found myself confronting one that I had spent a whole day confused by about a month ago. Unison stores a cache of information about the file system for every directory that it synchronizes. On Macs, […]

Tunnel Vision

What made his company so unpleasant was not simply that he was unable to see the forest for the trees, but that he went about like some evangelizing atheist informing everyone he met that he did not even believe in forests — that these mythical forests were, in point of fact, some vague nonsense born […]

Coase and Literary Talent among Scientists

There is no reason to suppose that most human beings are engaged in maximizing anything unless it be unhappiness, and even this with incomplete success.1 Why can’t more scientists write like this? I have the sad impression that most scientists view wit and spirit of this sort as signs of intellectual weakness rather than as […]

iPhone SSH Clients

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of my work over an SSH connection. I therefore decided that I should finally invest in an iPhone SSH client. After looking at pTerm, TouchTerm and iSSH, I decided that I should purchase iSSH. I have to say that this was one of the better app purchases I’ve ever […]

Risk Aversion in Action

From Pew Research, here’s a gem for those interested in real world examples of risk aversion:there are two people who prefer a secure job that pays less well for every one person who prefers a higher salary with the risk of job loss. Of course, you’d want to know what all of these people assume […]

Nietzsche’s Formula for Happiness

My formula for happiness: a Yes, a No, a straight line, a goal.1 It amazes me that nearly all of Nietzsche’s philosophy is implicit in this single maxim, which is plainly a statement of the motive that singularly defined his personality. What is the madman of The Gay Science’s fear when he says, “what were […]

Hating on Norman Mailer

This assault on Norman Mailer impresses me more the more times I read it. I’m not familiar enough with Mailer to judge its accuracy, but the tone is perfect for my taste: His vulgarity was a more significant factor in his allure than whatever he possessed of high aspiration. The way his most serious ambition […]

Paul Graham on Determination

Paul Graham just posted a new essay on determination. It is probably my favorite of his essays so far. I particularly like this paragraph: That word balance is a significant one. The more willful you are, the more disciplined you have to be. The stronger your will, the less anyone will be able to argue […]