From Blogger to GitHub Pages with Jekyll

After a few years of using Google Blogger, I decided to switch to a different on-line publishing platform. It is not that there is anything wrong with Blogger, I am just looking for a change; I also think that there is a chance that Blogger will be subsumed by Google+ someday, and that is not the platform I am looking for. Twitter is presently my social network of choice, but I periodically want a way to publish things which are longer than 140 characters. Prior to using Blogger I had my own Wordpress server, but I concluded that keeping a personal server up to date with all the latest security patches was not an effective use of my time, so I am not interested in going back to that arrangement. Besides, today there are so many cloud based solutions available that I see even fewer reason to invest in maintaining a private server. Tumblr has become a very popular platform, but I’m not sure what Yahoo’s acquisition of it will mean in the long run. I could switch to a hosted Wordpress service, but that seems to be more powerful than what I need. I mostly publish text with code examples and a few images, so I could use Panic Coda to publish a static website, but that would mean that for each post I would have to modify at least two pages: the new post and the index. I just need a simple text blogging platform, perhaps one that will accept Markdown and make it super easy to write a post.

iOS Snippet: Simple plist

For small apps you often need to store some basic settings, and using a plist file in the app’s document directory is an easy way to accomplish this. Below is a little snippet that I have used more than once for this purpose.

iOS Snippet: Using UITextView with the Keyboard

It would seem reasonable to expect that an on-screen keyboard would normally be used with a UITextView, but if the UITextView is full screen then when the keyboard displays the bottom half becomes inaccessible. It is easy enough to fix, but there seem to be more ways to get this wrong than there are to get it right. Below is the method that I have found (from examples on the Apple developer site) to work the best, so far.


MarkShown is a very simple iPhone app for quickly creating textual presentations which can be shown on an external display. A Markdown-like syntax is used to format presentation slides and presenter notes; the presentation slides will show on an AirPlay device, and the presenter notes will show on the local screen.

MarkShown is designed to make creating simple, text-based presentations easy, so it does not currently support images, slide transitions, or any other fancy features. If you need a more powerful presentation tool, then by all means stick with Powerpoint or Keynote.

MarkShown is available for free from the Apple App Store.

When Affirmative Action Was White

In When Affirmative Action Was White, Ira Katznelson contends that the modern economic disparities between black and white Americans were fueled more by New Deal era policies than by the long standing American tradition of white supremacy. New deal and fair deal policies, such as Social Security, Labor Reform, and the GI Bill of Rights, were written in ways which allowed for the outwardly colorblind laws to be administered in traditional, segregated fashion. This selective administration of progressive policies allowed for members of the white middle class to increase their socioeconomic status at a tremendous pace while blacks remained shackled in poverty. The differences in opportunities allowed for the socioeconomic gap between whites and blacks to grow at an accelerated rate. Taking this historical perspective into account, Katznelson further argues that present-day affirmative action was not a new social policy devised as a result of the civil rights era; it was a redirection of affirmative action policies already in existence that had favored whites from the 1930s through the 1960s.

When New Deal programs were being formulated the Roosevelt Administration had to get support for the radical legislation by pulling together groups with diverse interests. One of the groups whose support was required to pass the legislation was the Southern Democrats. The South had been solidly Democratic since President Lincoln, and this consistency led them to hold control of committees which were key to maintaining Jim Crow laws. These factors gave the Southern Democrats outsized control of the New Deal legislation, and they used that control to ensure that the social order they were accustomed to would be maintained. Their strategy was ensuring that federal programs be administered locally rather than at the federal level; due to the scale of the proposed legislation it was an easy concession to garner. Once local administration was ensured, the Southern Democrats could allow for the passage of legislation that was not explicitly discriminatory yet would result in the outcomes that preserved existing Southern social order.

Software as a 2.5D City in the Rust Belt

Software as a 2.5D City in the Rust Belt

Using Pseudo-3D and Micro-metaphors to Visualize Software

December 15, 2012

Abstract — By expanding the “software as a city” metaphor to take advantage of micro-metaphors while limiting the viewport’s range of movement, a breadth of disparate information can be conveyed in a compact, intuitive manner. This novel combination of focus and context could enable less technical staff and computer science students to more readily grasp complicated software engineering topics; it could also improve experienced staffs’ ability to visualize ever more complicated software applications.

Trouble Ticket Solution Provider

Using Natural Language Processing to Perform Information Extraction

December 13, 2012


Most large corporations provide various information technologies to their workers. To support the provided hardware and software they often have a help desk or service desk which is made up of people and software. Service desk employees are often entry level and have little understanding of the business and its specific technical problems, so software is employed to route tickets to the appropriate staff and record the knowledge which is learned along the way. For improved efficiency it is important to be able to access the information that has been amassed in the service desk software, but simple text queries often fall short. The purpose of this experiment is to use natural language processing techniques to extract information from a series of service desk tickets, then structure the information in such a way that it can be retrieved with more precision than is provided by simple text queries.

Race in Modern America & Big Data

Modern America is a divided society. Maybe it is a side-effect of our socioeconomic system, which prides itself at thriving through competition, or maybe it is natural. Whatever the cause, America must strive to identify and eliminate those division which have a net negative effect on its people. Of those negative divisions, race is probably the most pernicious. Scholars such as W. Lloyd Warner and Michelle Alexander have argued that the racial divide is so extreme that it almost resembles a caste system. Regardless of exactly how divisive race is, it is clearly still an issue in contemporary America, and it carries incalculable costs. As W.E.B. Du Bois said of racial discrimination, “[It] is morally wrong, politically dangerous, industrially wasteful, and socially silly.” (Katz and Sugrue 1998, 55) All Americans should support actions to reduce the burden of historical racism. Racial division was originally a direct result of laws created within the United States, so it should be possible to use the same system of laws to redress the issue of racial discrimination and division.