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Programming, speculative fiction, science, technology
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Creating a RESTful WCF service that returns JSON data

When I was looking for documentation or tutorials on how to create a RESTful WCF service that returns JSON-formatted data, I found lots of partial information and code examples, none of which completely worked. So when I finally figured out how to create it, I decided to write this article for those who may be in the same predicament as me.

This walk-through uses .NET 4.0, and Visual Studio 2010.

LINQ -- replacing loops with a couple lines of code

Recently I've been taking a closer look at LINQ, or Language-Integrated Query -- a set of C# and Visual Basic features that let you write SQL-like queries against data structures such as arrays or hashtables. I like how it lets you replace loops with just a line or two of code. I will illustrate it here with two simple exercises.

Richard Dawkins at UT Austin, March 2008

CIMG9042 Robin Elizabeth "Liz" Cornwell, a psychology professor at Colorado University Colorado Springs, and Richard Dawkins

On March 19, 2008 Richard Dawkins, the famous evolutionary biologist and popularizer of science, gave a public lecture at the University of Texas in Austin; it was preceded by a reception hosted by the Center of Inquiry Austin. Though I didn't have a chance to exchange more than a few sentences with Dawkins at the reception, I formed some kind of impression of him as a person. For example, he speaks in perfect phrases and is hip on technology. (Though I bet he would never use the word "hip". :-)) His lecture topics I found familiar, even though I haven't read his books where he expounds on them. I guess I've absorbed his ideas by osmosis. The questions the audience asked revolved around whether atheists should adopt an in-your-face or a conciliatory tone with general public; some of the questions were more unusual. (Would you ask a well-known skeptic to support his reasoning with astrology? :-)) Then someone asked what Dawkins thinks of transhumanist visions. Finally, a concept he wanted us to take away from this lecture, if it was the only thing we would take away: why evolution is NOT equal to random chance.

A script to reverse a file in Powershell

I was baffled to discover that it's actually not at all easy to reverse the rows of a spreadsheet in Excel. Extensive Googling lead me to some advanced commands where you really had to Know What You're Doing. Since I don't usually Know What I'm Doing in Excel, I wrote a Powershell script to do the same thing. Actually, this script takes any file, reverses it, and writes it to a different file.

Introduction to Powershell, a lightning talk

Recently I gave a lightning talk, Introduction to Powershell, at All Girl Hack Night, an Austin gathering of women developers. Here are my slides for it. It introduces some nifty features of Powershell by examining a simple use case.

Powershell scripts and command line arguments, with a sprinkling of Splunk

Passing arguments to a Powershell script caused me to pull my hair out... umm, scratch my head, lately. As with most technical problems, it appeared chaotic and intractable at first, and drew me into a black hole of spiraling confusion, where bugs mask other bugs; however, once I found a solution and tried to explain it to myself step-by-step, everything appeared orderly, even trivial. So now I don't even know why I'm writing this down. Actually, I do. It's so as not to go into the same black hole when I have to figure it again months or years from now.

Adventures in Powershell: you thought you could ignore that empty line

Powershell is powerful. But if you forget that it's a scripting language, and approach it as a programming language, you (like me) may be thrown off, time and time again, by its certain... literalness.

I have a script that reads Powershell variable / value pairs from a file we shall call foo.conf . In other words, foo.conf looks like this:

$var1 = "bla1"
$var2 = "bla2"
$var3 = "bla3"


After reading the contents of this file, it needs to execute those variable assignments. It does it all in this line:

When a skeptic's Sense Of Wonder meets the realities of science

P1120014 The dark ages: waiting for galaxies and stars - a slide from Center For Inquiry Austin cosmology lecture

What armchair "scientists" get out of reading popular science magazines or websites? Mostly they get excited about "out there" speculation that gets batted on wired.com or io9.com. Holographic universe. Preferred direction in the universe.

What a real astrophysicist's answer to "what do you think about this?" is: nothing.

Drupal Camp Austin 2010

IMG_1463 Jeff Robbins from Lullabot

There were presentations on everything Drupal-related, from module development to theming, to security, usability, or building large, yet scalable enterprise websites with Drupal. Each of the two days opened with a keynote speech that drew an audience over 300 people into the room. Organizer Todd Nienkirk greeted us with the news that the number of attendees made Drupal Camp Austin the second largest Drupal Camp ever; an hour later, a few last-minute registrations pushed us up to #1.

Center For Inquiry Austin discussion on technological Singularity, 11/09/2011

P1110959 Mike Ignatowski (right) was the moderator of the discussion on technological Singularity at the CFI Austin monthly disc

10 people were at the discussion. Some have heard more about the concept of the Singularity, others less. Moderator Mike Ignatowski described two common Singularity scenarios. They are:

-- "hard takeoff": a computer develops human-level AI, and then within a few hours doubles, quadruples it, etc., and very soon becomes intelligent beyond our comprehension and takes over the world;

-- "soft takeoff" -- technological advance is gradual enough so any given human does not lose comprehension of what's happening; however, in a few hundreds of years the society and technology nonetheless changes so much that it's incomprehensible to a modern-day human.

We examined some of those scenarios and objections to them.