Category Archives: Hearsay

Reflections on Pi Day, 2015

Pi-symbol.svgMarch 14 of each year is Pi Day, founded in 1988 by Larry Shaw and supported by a 2009 resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives. Those of us who use the date format like 3/14 can match up the digits with the first three significant digits of Pi, 3.14. I’m a number geek who enjoys a bit of silly fun with things like this.

This year brought a special treat because we could fit in more digits, aligning with the date 3/14/15. But wait, there was more! We could also determine the actual Pi hour, minute and second. So at 9:26:53 on that morning we had lined up the first ten significant digits of Pi, 3.141592653.

The Pi Moment

Astounding! But there are even more digits, and tinier bits of time! So, the actual Pi instant (Central Daylight Time) occurred within the 53rd second at 589 milliseconds, 793 microseconds, 238 nanoseconds (am I the only Bozo on this bus?), 462 picoseconds and additional minutiae. Twenty-two significant digits so far. You can take it further if you like. Others certainly have.


After writing out the Pi instant for myself, I prepared to celebrate and then moved on to other work. I tend to become very involved and focused on my work, so the next time I looked at the clock, it was 11:30 a.m. I had missed the Pi moment completely! Aagh! It is a good thing I had not invested in party hats, whistles and fireworks, let me tell you! The magical Pi instant had passed by me unbeknownst.

There is No “Now”

Reflecting back on the experience now, Continue reading


Simplicity Is Elegance, Not Stupidity

“Something that looks very simple indeed can be incredibly complicated, especially if I’m being paid by the hour. The Sun is simple. A sword is simple, A storm is simple. Behind everything simple is a huge tail of complicated.”Terry Pratchett

“Simplicity of reading derives from a context of detailed and complex information, properly arranged. A most unconventional design strategy is reveled: to clarify, add detail.—Ed Tufte

“God is in the detail.”—Mies van der Rohe, or Warburg, or maybe even Flaubert

“Simpleness is another aesthetic preference, not an information display strategy, not a guide to clarity. What we seek instead is a rich texture of data, a comparative context, an understanding of complexity revealed with an economy of means.”—Ed Tufte

“Ye said she’s a bit simple: find a teacher who can bring out the complicated in her. The girl learned a difficult language just by listening to it. The world needs folk who can do that.”Terry Pratchett

“The devil is in the details”—Common lore

“Confusion and clutter are failures of design, not attributes of information. And so the point is to find design strategies that reveal detail and complexity—rather than to fault the data for an excess of complication. Or, worse, to fault viewers for a lack of understanding.”—Ed Tufte

“If we’re going to be sapient, we might as well get good at it. Come on.”– Terry Pratchett 

Life & Plans, Part 2

“You try to make plans for people, and the people make other plans.” Terry Pratchett

“The planning fallacy occurs when individuals and groups try to plan complex projects and underestimate the true cost, expanse, and time of the project. Mario Weick and Ana Guinote found that people in a position of power are particularly vulnerable to the planning fallacy. Perhaps feeling powerful causes them to focus on getting what they want and to ignore hurdles, or having so much self-confidence causes them to avoid worst case scenarios.” – Michael A. Roberto, Transformational Leadership

“It is important that we know where we come from, because if you don’t know where you come from, then you don’t know where you are, and if you don’t know where you are, then you don’t know where you are going. And if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably going wrong.” Terry Pratchett

“Always remember where you are going and never forget where you’ve been.”  today’s cookie fortune

Dealing with Stupidity – Part 2

“No matter what, the operating moral premise of information design should be that our readers are alert and caring; they may be busy, eager to get on with it, but they are not stupid. Clarity and simplicity are completely opposite simple-mindedness. Disrespect for the audience will leak through, damaging communication.”

—Ed Tufte

So, in my interpretation, the best way to avoid stupidity is for oneself to not be stupid in the first place. That is, stupid is as stupid does. Or, in other words, acting stupidly invites further stupidity. 

Life & Plans

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” — John Lennon (1980)

“A life without plans results in aimless inefficiency.” – Waite Phillips

“Such plans got altered by events as often as not, but I’d found that no plan at all invited nil results. If all else failed, try plan B.” — Dick Francis

“Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.” — Allen Saunders (1957)

“Life was a process of finding out how far you could go too far, and you could probably go too far in finding out how far you could go.” – Terry Pratchett

“Information consists of differences that make a difference. A fruitful method for the enforcement of such differences is to layer and separate data, much as is done on a high-density map.” —Ed Tufte

“At the heart of quantitative reasoning is a single question: Compared to what?” —Ed Tufte

“There is nothing as mysterious as a fact clearly described.” – Garry Winogrand

“Most horses won’t walk backward voluntarily, because what they can’t see doesn’t exist.” – Terry Pratchett

Cultural Networking

An interesting bit of rapid cultural adaptation by Chinese to social media and smartphones has led to some unique communication shortcuts: 502 = ‘I love you’, 3q = ‘thank you’, 88 = ‘bye-bye’. It should be no surprise that many prefer memorizing numbers to characters or English words.