Monday, December 29, 2008

Whose rev is it anyway?

Recently a teammate reported an inconsistency between our code and documentation: the cloud altitude in our rain model is supposed to be in units of meters with a default of 3km, but the default in the code was 10.

We checked both snapshots we thought they had, but both were in order. The last time the default changed in the trunk was over a year ago, and that was a change in units (i.e., 3.0 to 3000.0). 'Maybe they changed the code,' I thought but then remembered that the finger-pointing game is an evil at whose very root we must strike!

Principle is great — in principle — but now I had to hunt through more than a hundred tags to clear dB's name. That's a lot of clicky-clicky in the HTTP view. Instead, I could pull copies of rain_model.c from all hundred-plus tags and grep those.

Ugh. There ought to be a quicker way.

Then I remembered importing our Subversion repository into a Git repository using git-svn. With git-grep, searching through all those revisions is straightforward:

$ git grep 'cloud_altitude *= *[^3 ]' \
  `git branch -a | grep tags` -- \

The [^3 ] bit in the search pattern means find a character that's neither a 3 nor a space, the latter being necessary to prevent spuriously matching a space to the left of the value being assigned — effectively asking for all assignments in all tags to cloud_altitude. Not what we want.

Unlike Subversion, Git's operations are almost all local. That means fast! The above search ran in less than a quarter of a second.

Turns out the weird default was our doing after all, from a nearly two-year-old engineering release. Here's to keeping egg off our faces!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Friday, December 05, 2008


My son's basketball team has a game tomorrow at Mount Carmel — tipoff at 3pm, same time as the national championship game. Our people asked the other team to reschedule, but they refused — probably a bunch of bitter Aubies.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Affordable Places to Weather the Downturn

Judged by affordability, property taxes, and job growth, Alabama's Madison County — home to deciBel Research! — tops Forbes magazine's list of places to wait out the coming storm.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Mr. Obama, tear down this "PATRIOT" act!

Back up the campaign-trail talk about civil liberties with real action: demand that a repeal of this abomination be on your desk no later than the end of your first week in office. Given your party's control of the congress, you are the lone obstacle to blotting out this shameful spot.

If this is not an urgent priority for your administration, then congratulations for conning millions of Americans.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008

Accountability, one element at a time

At the end of September and beginning of October, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on a proposed bailo"rescue" plan for poorly managed Wall Street firms. HR 3997 was the first vote, and it failed so back to the drawing board! In the words of Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, "It’s amazing, you take a very, very bad bill, appropriating $700 billion, you can’t get enough votes to pass it so you take it back out, you make it much worse and take it up to over $800 billion." The "much worse" version was the one that passed, so the obvious question is which of our public servants made this possible? This post is a literate Haskell program: copy-and-paste it into a file with the extension "lhs" (say, turncoats.lhs) to get a working program! First, a bit of front matter to import libraries that we'll be using.
> {-# LANGUAGE Arrows #-}

> module Main where
> import Control.Monad
> import Data.List (groupBy, intercalate, sort)
> import qualified Data.Map as M
> import System.Environment
> import Text.XML.HXT.Arrow
The House makes available on the web results of recorded votes:
> hr3997 = ""
> hr1424 = ""
Despite the way they look in your browser, the resources linked above are XML document instances — verify for yourself with View Source — that we can use for a little accountability. The agenda for our program is straightforward: pull the results of the votes, extract the votes from each, and output the flip-floppers. As a bit of lagniappe, we group the principled stalwarts into classes according to how they changed their votes.
> main :: IO ()
> main = do
>   a <- runX $ readDoc hr3997 >>> votes
>   b <- runX $ readDoc hr1424 >>> votes
>   let turncoats = flipFlops a b
>   forM_ (groupBy same (sort turncoats)) $
>     \ xs -> do
>       let (v,v',_) = head xs
>           n = show $ length xs
>       putStrLn $ v ++ " -> " ++ v' ++ ": (" ++ n ++ ")  "
>       putStrLn $ intercalate ", " (map name xs)
>       putStrLn ""
>   where
>     a `same` b = before a == before b && after a == after b
>     before (v,_,_) = v
>     after  (_,v,_) = v
>     name   (_,_,n) = n
>     readDoc = readDocument [(a_tagsoup, "1")]
We'll represent each vote by pairing a representative's name with his yea-or-nay:
> type Name = String
> type Vote = (Name, String)
For a baseline, we use HR 3997 to build a hash table whose keys are representative names and whose values are the corresponding votes. Then for each vote from HR 1424, we compare the latter vote against the former, making note of those members who changed their votes. As the type of flipFlops indicates, the result is a list of tuples of the form (former-vote, latter-vote, rep-name).
> flipFlops :: [Vote] -> [Vote] -> [(String, String, Name)]
> flipFlops before after =
>   let prev = M.fromList before
>   in after >>= ff prev
>   where
In cases where a member did not vote on the earlier issue, lookup produces an error value, which is Nothing inside the Maybe monad. In Haskell, we don't get NullPointerExceptions. The astute reader will note that flipFlops is not fully general: it doesn't report cases where representatives voted on the former question but not the latter.
>     ff prev (name, latter) =
>       case M.lookup name prev of
>         Just former -> if former == latter
>                          then []
>                          else [(former,   latter, name)]
>         _           ->        [("<none>", latter, name)]
These are the bits that worry about slogging through the XML, but XPath makes it straightforward: the expression below says we want all recorded-vote elements, and those are children of the vote-data element, which are children of the rollcall-vote element at the document root.
> votes :: ArrowXml a => a XmlTree Vote
> votes = getXPathTrees "/rollcall-vote/vote-data/recorded-vote" >>>
>   proc rv -> do
>     name <- getName -< rv
>     vote <- getVote -< rv
>     returnA -< (name, normalize vote)
Consider the structure of a recorded-vote element:
So for each recorded-vote, we extract the inner-text of the legislator and vote child elements.
>   where
>     getName = getChildren >>>
>               isElem >>> hasName "legislator" >>>
>               xshow getChildren
>     getVote = getChildren >>>
>               isElem >>> hasName "vote" >>>
>               xshow getChildren
Due to supremely lovely irony, yea is not yea nor nay nay in the recorded votes, so we have to normalize.
>     normalize "Yea" = "Y"
>     normalize "Yes" = "Y"
>     normalize "Aye" = "Y"
>     normalize "Nay" = "N"
>     normalize "No"  = "N"
>     normalize v     = v

Finally the output:

N → Y: (58)
Abercrombie, Alexander, Baca, Barrett (SC), Berkley, Biggert, Boustany, Braley (IA), Buchanan, Carson, Cleaver, Coble, Conaway, Cuellar, Cummings, Dent, Edwards (MD), Fallin, Frelinghuysen, Gerlach, Giffords, Green, Al, Hirono, Hoekstra, Jackson (IL), Jackson-Lee (TX), Kilpatrick, Knollenberg, Kuhl (NY), Lee, Lewis (GA), Mitchell, Myrick, Ortiz, Pascrell, Pastor, Ramstad, Ros-Lehtinen, Rush, Schiff, Schmidt, Scott (GA), Shadegg, Shuster, Solis, Sullivan, Sutton, Terry, Thompson (CA), Thornberry, Tiberi, Tierney, Wamp, Watson, Welch (VT), Woolsey, Wu, Yarmuth

Not Voting → Y: (1)

Y → N: (1)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Friday, July 04, 2008

What could have been

As Doug Newman put it, "I write this on July 4, when we celebrate the ouster of a 'tyrant' who taxed his subjects at the rate of about three percent."

Today, Gary North wrote, "When Jefferson wrote [the declaration of independence], the British were extracting approximately 1% of national income from the American colonies. For the southern colonies, it may have been 2.5%. If we could somehow get back to the tyranny of Great Britain in 1776, I would be willing to celebrate the Fourth of July with greater enthusiasm. But that would take a revolution."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dear Coach Saban

After the latest disaster, please consider radical action: tear up the scholarships of all players who signed with your incompetent predecessor. He didn't look for character and heart in his recruits, and it shows on and off the field. Before more of his deadwood falls and does further damage, get out in front of the problem.

Yes, that will make for a rough couple of years, but after the torture we've taken since Coach Stallings left, we can tough it out a little while longer.