Another year, another foolhardy venture across mackerel-infested waters.
Mother Nature, always the trickster, loves to make folly of our predictions, to wit (from last year): “I hate to say it, but I think the days of wet suits in Blue Hill Bay are over. Pretty soon it’s going to be like the Bahamas up here.”
Oh, John, if only you’d knocked on some wood after writing that we might not have had such a spate of hypothermia this year.
This is all to say that the water was very very cold this year. Four swimmers pulled up short and shivered their way to shore on boats, while others of us that did make it shivered upon completion at the Becton’s dock. It was the Year of the Great Shiver. It was also the 25th ANNIVERSARY of the Granite, née Long Island, challenge. WOW! Congratulations all around! And it was a banner year in all respects other than water temperature. We had a large-ish complement of 10 swimmers, and 7 chase boats watching, ready to ward off any seal attacks. We caught a pretty good flood tide which got the first swimmer (yours truly, Mark Read) into the dock in about 01:20. Tricia Sawyer was leading the way but had to pull up short after an hour in the water due to the cold. It was a glorious morning of bright blue sky, strong sun, a light breeze, and camaraderie to spare.
This year the swimmers were:
Heather Dawn Jones
We also had help from an incredible support crew, including:
None of it would have been possible without the superior cajoling and organizing skills of Mary Clews, per usual. Much gratitude to her and to all the volunteers that help out. The Bectons were especially welcoming this year, with hot beverages and ample towels to warm the cold and weary swimmers. So thanks to them as well.
See you next year!
Photos courtesy of Christina Guinness, and Eliza Wilmerding. Thanks!
It happened again! thanks pretty much entirely to Mary Clews, who organized it this year.
This was the 24th annual event. Yikes. Next year will be a quarter century.
The water was really ridiculously warm this year. Also very very calm. I didn’t wear a wet suit this year either, and I hate to say it, but I think the days of wet suits in Blue Hill Bay are over. Pretty soon it’s going to be like the Bahamas up here; the algae in the water will all die, and it will be crystal clear. Can’t wait. (That was sarcasm.)
Ah, but… the swim! The swim went really well. Here’s who we had:
It turns out that this was the biggest swim ever, with 11 participants, topping 2013, when we had 10.
We also had help from an incredible support crew, including:
These photos are courtesy of Chris Guinness, although she’s in all of them, so I suppose she couldn’t have been framing the shots.
My name is John Clements. I’m a computer scientist and programmer, and quite frankly, it’s hard for me to remain civil in discussion of the Dickey amendment, one of the most pernicious pieces of legislative ledgermain it is my deep displeasure to be familiar with.
Since the Dickey amendment of 1996, the Centers for Disease Control—responsible for safeguarding the health of the American public—has been unable to perform research on the effects or causes of gun violence.
My government—the finest on earth—makes many decisions that I disagree with. Money is spent daily in ways that I am not in support of. However, when we institute a blanket ban on funding for research into particular topics, it sends a much stronger message; not only do we not want to spend money on this or that; we’re actually afraid to discover the truth. Senator Dickey himself—the author of the amendment—has since come out against the it1.
This tactic is one of a number of what I think of as “force multiplier” or “upstream” approaches to controlling society, and I think they’re all appalling. These tactics seek to change the rules of the game, to prevent our political system from working correctly. Gerrymandering is one such tactic. Allowing unlimited corporate donations—that is, the lack of campaign finance laws—are another. Rules such as this are similar; rather than trying to persuade the public that your point is correct, you simply prevent the truth from being discovered in the first place.
In my mind, this kind of ban seeks to prevent the free flow of information, tacks perilously close to freedom of the press, and can only come from a group that is frightened that the public might discover the truth.
On my way home from SIGCSE, I drew some more pictures.
This shows how each year of incoming students handles 357. Specifically, the x axis shows quarters since the students’ first one, and the y axis shows what fraction of the students have passed 357. Each line shows a different cohort.
Some of the lines are longer than others. This is because some cohorts that take a really long time to pass 357, and also because some cohorts haven’t yet had more than 6 or 9 or 12 quarters since entry.
There’s some sobering news here—since 2005, we’ve never managed to heave more than 75% of the students over the 357 bar.
However, looking more closely, we see that more recent cohorts—specifically, those since 2010 (a.k.a. “when we started 123”) look a lot better.
As part of our work on our recent SIGCSE paper (citation forthcoming), I took another look at our numbers of incoming students. The results surprised me. This table combines CSC, CPE, and SE students, and associates them with the quarter in which they first took a lower-level CS class.
The surprising thing about this—to me, anyway—is that our enrollments have actually been dropping over the past few years. I’m surprised.
I’ve been amused (not in an evil genius way) by the once-and-future popularity of the Rubik’s cube. Had one as a kid, memorized its method, got a couple of sub–2-minute times, put it down.
Fast forward 35 years; now my son is mildly amused by the Rubik’s cube (amused enough to let his old man persuade him to make a Rubik’s Cube Halloween costume, anyway), and I decide to learn a new method (currently Roux, but who knows if it’ll last).
Along the way, though, I start wondering: how do they make sure that “scrambled” cubes at speedsolving competitions are about equally hard to solve? What if Joe Plotnik just happens to get one that’s easy?
It turns out… that’s very unlikely, due to a kind of a cool property that Rubik’s cubes have. Specifically, given a random (reachable) position of the cube, there’s about a 94% likelihood that it requires either 18 or 19 moves to solve.
These numbers come from Cube20, a team that used lots of compute power back in 2010 to determine the distribution of “moves required.” One thing they didn’t do (erm, on their front page, anyway) was to show the CDF of these numbers. Here it is:
The cool thing about this is the incredibly narrow band of likelihood; if you simply generate a position at random from the set of all possible positions, there’s a rounds-to-zero-percent chance of it requiring 15 moves or less, 3% of getting 16 moves or less, and a rounds-to–100% chance of it requiring 19 moves or less. There’s more than a 93% chance that it will require either 18 or 19 moves.
So… cubing competitions are almost certainly fair. Neat!