Coding in Python, cheating in LetterPress

I’ve been trying to hone some web-development skills the last few days, and yesterday evening I read about a particularly elegant Python microframework called Flask. I read the tutorial, did some stackoverflow searches and hacked a very simple (borderline trivial, actually) app for cheating in LetterPress in just a few hours. The code that runs the whole application is merely 50 lines long, and that’s only because I’m adhering to PEP8’s blank lines policies. Karolina contributed some CSS code and a logo, and we deployed it to Heroku in a couple of minutes. As a web-development newbie I have to say I’m amazed by how quickly and easily one can learn writing simple applications from scratch these days. And Heroku deployment can be done (for free!) by just one git push. Amazing stuff, especially if you remember coding PHP in 2004.

“Under the skin”

In the spirit of 2014-summaries I’d like to mention Jonathan Glazer’s film “Under the skin”, which was definitely one of the best movies I’ve seen this year, and one of the very best sci-fi movies I have ever seen. If you have some winter holidays now, rent it on iTunes or Amazon or something and watch it. It’s very disturbing, but great.

(Also I think it’s a perfect example of that new video Mitchell Stephens talks about.)

“The rise of the image, the fall of the word”

I’ve been trying to read as many books as I can these Christmas holidays since I have plenty of free time and the weather outside is particularly cold,1 so another book that I’ve read is Mitchell Stephens classic: “The rise of the image, the fall of the word.” It’s obligatory reading for anyone studying journalism and new media these days, as it tries to argue for cultural significance of television, or specifically something that Stephens calls the new video. A very interesting book indeed, and although I don’t quite agree with some opinions about montage and fast cutting, Stephens’ book is well worth reading if only for the very insightful analysis of history and significance of the written word, and then later development of film and video. Continue reading

Stop using LaTeX, switch to MS Word

A hilarious article appeared in PLOS ONE recently (thanks for the link, Pim). StackOverflow already made some good comments, but here’s my two pennies’ worth.

While I find the study methodologically flawed1 and I have a strong dislike for MS Word for numerous (un)sentimental reasons, I cannot disagree with the fact that LaTeX sucks. It has a complex syntax (take a look at Markdown or reStructuredText for comparison), meaningless error messages, it comes as a ginormous zip file full of obsolete stuff and it’s not exactly easy to customize (even installing new fonts is non-trivial). Yes, it has great syntax for mathematical symbols, very good output file quality by default and good default typographical settings, but it doesn’t stop to amaze me that it’s been around for so long and no one has come up with a better alternative.

Well, I guess we should just embrace MS Word and stop wasting taxpayers’ money, as Markus Knauff and Jelica Nejasmic suggest.

update, Dec. 29th: Also, this:


  1. Copying an already written text is waay different than writing it from scratch, tables are notoriously LaTeX’s weakest point, as is customizing anything, the article doesn’t even touch upon the topic of editing long, complex documents, the list goes on… 

“Where the Conflict Really Lies”

Since it’s Christmas, I feel it’s only appropriate to share some thoughts about a book on philosophy of religion I recently read.

Written by contemporary analytic philosophy’s chief theist and protestant, Alvin Plantinga, “Where the Conflict Really Lies” is a careful and systematic study of the (alleged) conflicts between science, naturalism and religion.1 As far as I am aware, this book is the only such comprehensive and earnest account of what exactly Christianity says about, e.g., theory of evolution and natural selection, among other controversial topics. I don’t feel competent enough to argue about some points and original arguments Plantinga makes about naturalism, I think it’s best I refer the interested reader to a long review by Thomas Nagel, but at the same time I can wholeheartedly recommend Plantinga’s book to atheists and theists alike—to the former, because it’s good to know what you’re fighting against, and to the latter, because it’s good to know what it is exactly that you believe in. And it really is surprising to see how poorly researched are the many arguments made by scientific, militant atheists of Dawkins-kind. Actually, regardless of whether you agree with Plantinga’s religious stance and his strongly theistic point of view, you have to give him credit for defending theism and Christianity in a strongly atheistic environment which analytic philosophy most definitely is. It really is a shame there’s so few serious religious analytic philosophers.

So, whether you want to feel stronger about your atheism or want to get better at fighting off those pesky atheist’s attacks, read Plangina’s book. What better time to do this than Christmas holidays?

Merry Christmas everyone!


  1. Plantinga argues that his points are not Christianity-centric and can be applied to theism in general, although he stays away from “indecisive deism” or agnosticism. And he is himself a Christian, and can’t speak for Muslims or Buddhists, or others. 

The Economist Espresso

In the era of amateur-written “free” news and the terrible decline of quality journalism, The Economist’s new Espresso app is a real gem. It’s an iOS/Android app which delivers a digest of news stories to your phone every morning, kind of like circa or TL;DR, but curated and written by The Economist’s journalists. Top quality short stories with links to longer pieces in the magazine every now and then. Fantastic.

Now I know this sounds like a paid advertisement but no, The Economist doesn’t pay me. In fact I pay them by subscribing to their magazine knowing very well I will never be able to read all the contents every week. Yeah, I’m one of those snobs, but I like to think it’s a relatively easy way of supporting good journalism, which is dying out these days. And if you think about it for a second, it’s not really expensive. Digital subscription to The Economist costs €47 for 12 issues (how much are you paying for your mobile phone subscription again? €30/month? €50?). The New Yorker’s digital subscription costs $60/year, so, ~€48.

Food for thought.