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Pocket reading list : Week 3 of Jan

The missing 11th of the month : For those of you who read xkcd religiously, you would've come across this comic on the calendar of meaningful dates. (Those of you who don't read xkcd religiously should and those of you who dont read xkcd should start!). The article on the other hand does a brilliant job at understanding one peculiar feature of the xkcd comic - the fact that the 11th of any month seems to be less common in the literature than any of the other dates of the month! And the reason behind it is pretty interesting!

Minorities exploited by Warren Buffett’s mobile-home empire : So, apparently blacks and minorities are exploited in the United States. While this might not be news for most of you, this is just another example of how the mobile-home industry in certain parts of the US takes advantage of language difference or through hostile behavior lends blacks and minorities loans at higher-than-normal rate of interest.

The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare : A corporate lawyer takes on a case for the better good and goes against a chemical giant, DuPont. This is as real as it gets to a real life David and Goliath story. Also, note that DuPont knowingly used a material, PFOA,  in their manufacturing process that were harmful to humans and were later found to cause serious health problems for those who come in contact with the material. A must read.

The Most Amazing Lie in History : For those of you who are familiar with recent human history, you know that Hitler was defeated by the Allied forces, starting with the D-Day invasion on beaches of Normandy. There are a good number of movies, documentaries and TV series based on it (my personal favorite being Band of Brothers) but I digress. Apparently, the Allied commanders weren't so sure of the success of the invasion and tried throwing Hitler's army off their scent. This is the story of how a lonely spy helped saved the lives of millions of Allied soldiers, working as a double spy.

A Fighter’s Hour of Need : I don't exactly understand why boxing is such a huge commercial sport, on which a lot of bets ride. I mean I understand guys beating on each other till they're senseless or till one of them is on the floor. I guess people will hedge bets on pretty much anything. Again, I digress. Boxing, like american football, can cause serious head trauma to the players and the players in the games are, apparently, monitored for signs of concussion after the games. This is such a story which didn't work out so well for one of the boxers.

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Animation using GNUPlot

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I've tried doing this using the animate function in matplotlib, python but i wasn't able to make it work - meaning i worked on it for a couple of days and then i gave up, not having found solutions for my problems on the internet.
And then i came across this site, where the gunn-peterson trough and the lyman alpha forest have been depicted - in a beautiful manner. And this got me interested in using js and d3 to do the animations and make it dynamic - using sliders etc.
In the meanwhile, i thought i'd look up and see if there was a way to create animations in gnuplot and whoopdedoo, what do i find but nirvana!

In the image, you see 5 static curves and one dynam…

on MOOCs.

For those of you who don't know, MOOC stands for Massively Open Online Course.

The internet is an awesome thing. It's making education free for all. Well, mostly free. But it's surprising at the width and depth of courses being offered online. And it looks like they are also having an impact on students, especially those from universities that are not top ranked. Students in all parts of the world can now get a first class education experience, thanks to courses offered by Stanford, MIT, Caltech, etc.

I'm talking about MOOCs because one of my new year resolutions is to take online courses, atleast 2 per semester (6 months). And I've chosen the following two courses on edX - Analyzing Big Data with Microsoft R Server and Data Science Essentials for now. I looked at courses on Coursera but I couldn't find any which was worthy and free. There are a lot more MOOC providers out there but let's start here. And I feel like the two courses are relevant to where I …

On programmers.

I just watched this brilliant keynote today. It's a commentary on Programmers and the software development industry/ecosystem as a whole.



I am not going to give you a tl;dr version of the talk because it is a talk that I believe everyone should watch, that everyone should learn from. Instead, I am going to give my own parallel-ish views on programmers and programming.
As pointed out in the talk, there are mythical creatures in the software development industry who are revered as gods. Guido Van Rossum, the creator of Python, was given the title Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL). People flock around the creators of popular languages or libraries. They are god-like to most programmers and are treated like gods. By which, I mean to say, we assume they don't have flaws. That they are infallible. That they are perfect.
And alongside this belief in the infallibility of these Gods, we believe that they were born programmers. That programming is something that people are born wit…