Graham Wheeler's Random Forest

Stuff about stuff

Building a Zite Replacement (Part 2)

In the previous post I gave an overview of what needs to be built for our Zite replacement. In this post we will look at how to load an RSS feed and generate key terms for each article. In order to fetch the feed we will make use of the feedparser package, so make sure to install that first with pip, conda, or whatever you use. Another thing we’re going to want is to strip HTML tags from the articles.

Building a Zite Replacement (Part 1)

The two most used apps on my phone are Zite and Pocket. Unfortunately last year Zite was bought by Flipboard and has slowly been getting worse. Recently the top sticky article on Zite has been a post on migrating your preferences to Flipboard, but suggests Zite is not much longer for this world. This would be okay if Flipboard was a suitable replacement, but it isn’t. It’s very flashy (which I don’t like), and just doesn’t seem to get things right when it comes to serendipitous discovery of interesting content.

A Clean Sweep

A long time ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth I was following an academic career. That got subverted but I enjoyed it while it lasted. Apart from graduate courses in compilers, I got to teach everything from computer architecture to assembly language programming to an introductory computing course for social science students. When teaching assembly language (in which I was lucky enough to be able to use the M68000, a dream of a processor), one of the samples I used to illustrate a number of topics like multi-dimensional arrays, recursion and function pointers, was a Mine Sweeper game.

Maslow's Hierarchy and your Team

I mentioned in a previous post that I would talk about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in relation to team health. Maslow described a set of layers of needs with respect to human motivation: physiological - the basic needs for survival (food, water, shelter, air, etc) safety - health, well-being, security love/belonging - friends and family esteem - respect of others and (more importantly) self-respect self-actualization - becoming the most you can be self-transcendence - altruism and given of yourself to others Maslow considered the first four to be necessary for mental health and a pre-requisite for self-actualization and transcendence.

1-on-1s can take a hike!

Are you a people manager? Do you enjoy doing 1-1s with your reports? No? Then you’re doing them wrong! 1-1s are a valuable and important part of both managing your team and becoming a better manager. You should see them as as much for your benefit as for your reports - arguably more so! Not only are you getting the opportunity to keep your reports on track and on a growth path, but it’s a great opportunity to get feedback yourself.

Simply Solving Sudoku

It’s been a long time since I last blogged. I’ve been meaning to for oh so long but you know what they say about the road to hell. For a while I maintained my math blog but even that has been fallow for some time. Fortunately, I stumbled upon Peter Norvig’s article about solving Sudoku, and that has provided the impetus. His approach is probably the most sensible I have seen for a while; there seem to be some really bad solvers out there.

Some Math Magazines

Quanta is really a science magazine but has good articles of interest to math fans. Mathematical Digest is a magazine that has been produced for nearly 50 years now by Professor John Webb of the University of Cape Town. I grew up on these in high school and along with Martin Gardner’s columns they fuelled my love of math. I was privileged to be instructed by Prof. Webb as an undergraduate math student as well; he was regularly awarded honors as a distinguished teacher and these were well-deserved.

A Christmas Carroll

On Christmas day, 1877, Lewis Carroll, author of the Alice books, entertained two bored young girls by inventing a new game that he called Word Links: given two words, change one word to the other by changing a single letter at a time with the intermediate steps all being valid words themselves. For example, to change “cold” to “warm”, one can use the steps “cord”, “card”, “ward”. Carroll later popularised this form of puzzle in a series of articles in Vanity Fair magazine, changing the name to Doublets - from the “double, double, toil and trouble” witches' incantation in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

The Gym Locker Paradox

It happens so often - you go to your section of the gym change room, and there is just one other person there, and they are using the locker next to yours and blocking the way. I noticed this a long time ago, and noticed that others noticed it too, referring to Murphy’s law, or “just my luck”, or some such explanation. Why does it happen so often? I call this the Gym Locker Paradox.

The Calculus of Democracy

Earlier this year I went to a “guys movie night” at a friends house. Before the movie we sat around drinking Croatian Schnapps and eating Chinese food, and the conversation turned to politics. There was general agreement that our various political systems were highly suspect and not very democratic, but Ray, the Texan lawyer with the Croatian wife who had provided the schnapps, explained the Australian system of instant runoffs and asserted that this was at last a fair system.