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Archive for October 2010

Malleus Maleficarum: The Hammer of Witches

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Have you believed or have you shared a superstition to which some wicked women claim to have given themselves, instruments of Satan, fooled by diabolical phantasms?  During the night, with Diana, the pagan goddess, in the company of a crowd of other women, they ride the backs of animals, traversing great distances during the silence of the deep night, obeying Diana’s orders as their mistress and putting themselves at her service during certain specified nights.  If only these sorceresses could die in their impiety without dragging many others into their loss. Fooled into error, many people believe that these rides of Diana really exist. Thus they leave the true faith and fall into pagan error in believing that a god or goddess can exist besides the only God.  — Canon Episcopi ca 906 AD

Some Historical Perspective on Witches and Witchcraft

Halloween is a couple of days from now.  Before you send your daughter out dressed as a Witch be aware that at a certain point in history being suspected as a Witch was some pretty serious business.  The document quoted in part above is one of the earliest references to Witches that exist as part of the history of the Christian church.

The Hammer of Witches

Things really got going in the later medieval period with a fairly comprehensive text called Malleus Maleficarum.  Translated from Latin meaning “The Hammer of Witches”  This text written in 1486 by Heinrich Kramer, an Inquisitor of the Catholic Church, is a sort of handbook of the late medieval period defending the reality of witchcraft, describing the power of witchcraft, and giving step by step instructions on how to conduct a witch trial replete with a description of cases.

But by what authority could these trials and inquisitions be done.  Another pivotal point in history was December 5, 1484 when Pope Innocent VIII issued a papal bull ( Summis desiderantes affectibus )

Papal Bull of Pope Innocent VIII on December 5, 1484

This papal bull written in response to the request of Dominican Inquisitor Heinrich Kramer for explicit authority to prosecute witchcraft in Germany, after he was refused assistance by the local ecclesiastical authorities.  ( Read more here )

Here it is in part

… It has recently come to our ears, not without great pain to us, that in some parts of upper Germany, as well as in the provinces, cities, territories, regions, and dioceses of Mainz, Ko1n, Trier, Salzburg, and Bremen, many persons of both sexes, heedless of their own salvation and forsaking the catholic faith, give themselves over to devils male and female, and by their incantations, charms, and conjurings, and by other abominable superstitions and sortileges, offences, crimes, and misdeeds, ruin and cause to perish the offspring of women, the foal of animals, the products of the earth, the grapes of vines, and the fruits of trees, as well as men and women, cattle and flocks and herds and animals of every kind, vineyards also and orchards, meadows, pastures, harvests, grains and other fruits of the earth; …

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Written by frrl

October 30, 2010 at 12:16 am

Review of the TI-84 Calculator – Part I

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How to impress a kid

After playing with a virtual TI-84 calculator (read the posting) and with Xmas coming up I thought that a (real) TI-84 calculator would make a fine gift for a kid who will be going to college next year.  You can pick up a TI-84 Plus Silver Edition calculator for $115 on – no tax and free shipping.

I often wonder about the quality control of these calculators.  So as not to disappoint the recipient of this gift I decided to do a little QA testing.  Using an X-Acto knife you can carefully cut around 3 of the 4 sides of the blister pack that hermetically seals this calculator.  The blister pack is a clam shell once you get the welded plastic cut free.  If you are careful, you an put all the contents back, seal the clam shell  and no one will ever know.  Especially, in the heat of the Xmas gift-opening battle.

The by-product of QA testing is that you can become quite knowledgeable of the product.  Won’t that teen or pre-teen kid be impressed with the knowlege an adult has of these new fangled calculators?  “Here, let me show you how it work’s”.

What you get

Well, you get everything you see above.  You get the calculator, 4 decent AAA batteries (Duracell), two USB cables for file transfer, a CD full of software, and a Quick Start Guide.  Two USB cables are provided – one for connecting two calculators and the other for connecting the calculator to a PC.


I have not bought anything more than a $12 calculator over the past 20 years.  So, if you have fallen behind – as I have – on modern calculator technology, here is what’s new over the past 20 years and the advantage of these modern calculators over the $12 Wal-Mart special.

  1. Flashable Operating Systems.  The OS on the TI-84 and similar model calculators have an upgradable operating systems.  This means that once you have the underlying physical hardware (the physical calculator) you can layer on the factory operating system plus any upgrades to the OS that the vendor provides.
  2. Replaceable face plate to redefine keys for upgraded OS.  Each key on the calculator has about three functions.  The two additional functions other than what is stenciled on the key, accessed by pressing the 2nd key or the ALPHA key, gets you more functions.  The two additional functions are on the removable face plate.  This means that a new faceplate can be provided along with a new OS.  That is, if the OS provides new function the vendor can provide you the new OS plus a new faceplate that redefines any of the keys consistent with the new OS.  So, this strategy preserves, in some sense, your investment IF the vendor continues to upgrade and enhance the operating system over time.
  3. Real CPU’s.  The TI-84 is based on the Zilog Z80 chip.  This is a 8-bit processor similar to the Motorola 6502 that dates way back to the late 1970’s.  Believe it or not, this chip is still in wide use.  You can read more about the Z80 here.
  4. It’s programmable in BASIC and Z80 Assembler.  So, what you have in this modern calculator is an execution platform for running programs written in TI-BASIC and Z80 assembler language in addition to the native functionality of the base calculator.  There is plenty of support for software development from Texas Instruments as well as the TI Hacker community.  Using a PC-based TI-84 emulator and a development system you can write BASIC and Assembler plus debug it on a PC before you even load it on to a real calculator.  Some of the available emulators have decent debuggers where you can single step and watch Z80 assembler code run and inspect registers, memory as you go.
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Written by frrl

October 29, 2010 at 3:08 am

Quotable: My Presidency is ordained by God

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Remember that God ordained that I should be the next president of the United States. Neither you nor any other mortal or mortals could have prevented this.  — President Woodrow Wilson,

Quoted by Sigmund Freud in Woodrow Wilson : A Psychological Study

Read more on Woodrow Wilson

Written by frrl

October 28, 2010 at 4:47 am

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Notable: Being Steve Jobs’ Boss

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Steve, from the moment I met him, always loved beautiful products, especially hardware. He came to my house, and he was fascinated, because I had special hinges and locks designed for doors. I had studied as an industrial designer, and the thing that connected Steve and me was industrial design. It wasn’t computing…

Steve had this perspective that always started with the user’s experience; and that industrial design was an incredibly important part of that user impression…

An anecdotal story: A friend of mine was at meetings at Apple and Microsoft on the same day. And this was in the last year, so this was recently. He went into the Apple meeting (he’s a vendor for Apple), and as soon as the designers walked in the room, everyone stopped talking, because the designers are the most respected people in the organization. Everyone knows the designers speak for Steve because they have direct reporting to him. It is only at Apple where design reports directly to the CEO.

Later in the day he was at Microsoft. When he went into the Microsoft meeting, everybody was talking and then the meeting starts and no designers ever walk into the room. All the technical people are sitting there trying to add their ideas of what ought to be in the design. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Everyone around him knows he beats to a different drummer. He sets standards that are entirely different than any other CEO would set.

Read the full story from Bloomberg –

Written by frrl

October 26, 2010 at 6:55 am

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A couple of models for team membership assessment

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Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.   –Vince Lombardi

Companies are only as good as their leaders and leaders are only as good as the teams they create.  Some team gel and some teams don’t.  A collection of clever individuals does not necessary make a high performance clever team.  If fact, sometimes the opposite is true.  An assembly of clever people may be less clever than any single team member individually due to mis-matched personalities and the inability to get along and collaborate.  In many cases, a diverse set of complementary-skilled clevers is what is needed along with a clever leader that can orchestrate the collaboration to produce measurable results against a clarity of vision, mission, and goals.  It also requires the clever team leader to make changes to team membership as needed – without gettting caught in work avoidance (read What Makes Men)

Here is a start on making an assessment of each individual team member.  Many folks never take the time to make an objective, and perhaps brutal, assessment of who they have as team members and make adjustments as needed.  If you never do this, and wonder why the team or organization under performs against similar organizations, an industry benchmark, or some other criteria  then the answer could be as close as the composition of the team that you lead.

The model below is based on the work of  Howard M. Guttman. 

The Questions

Take a look around you and see who is on your team.  Ask yourself these two questions

  1. To what degree does the individual agree with the teams mission and/or what you are trying to accomplish?
  2. To what extent will this person support you as the leader and the other team members on the accomplishment of the teams mission and goals?

For each of these questions rank each team member on a scale  from 0-10.  Zero is low (or none) and 10 is high.

The Assessment

Based on your assessment, the individuals will fall into these categories along the dimensions of agreement and support.  Obviously, low agreement and low support – why do you have them on your team?  High agreement and high support – these are keepers.  But what about those who don’t fall at these extremes?  How would you describe or classify these team members?  What action do you need to take to ensure the mission and goals of the team, group, or organization are successful?  A team leaders, you take the blame for failure and share the rewards for success.

Double-dealer.  These folks agree with the team’s mission and goals but, for whatever reason, will not support you or the effort.  Don’t waste your time explaining the goals to these folks – they are already converted.  The key challenge is to win their support.  What are their concerns? Listen carefully.  Listen to what they do not say as well as to what they do say.  Look for hidden agendas.  As a team leader, this person will not advance your goals or the mission or goals of the team or organization that you represent unless you can gain their committment and support.

Foe.  Treat them as immovable forces in the work environment.  They neither agree with your goals, nor will they support you.  These folks, like the Double-dealer will not advance your goals or the mission or goals of the team or organization that you represent.  These folks might even try to actively undermine you or the teams efforts.  The diagram to the upper left does not show negative values but it’s possible – watch out.

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Written by frrl

October 25, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Quotable: Robert Moog on Ideas

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I can feel what’s going on inside a piece of electronic equipment.  I have this sense that I know, and to some extent, have control over what is going on inside the transistors and inside the resistors.  When I am thinking about how to solve a particular problem I can think about it for days and weeks and nothing will happen.  And, some day,  when I am cutting the grass, or having a hamburger, or I wake up in the middle of the night, the idea will be there.  I think it would be egotistical of me to say, “I thought of it”.  What happened, is I opened my mind up and the idea came through and into my head.  These ideas, I don’t have to dig up anything.  Sometime I don’t even have to be thinking of them  – and there they are.  It’s something between discovering and witnessing.

Robert Moog (Moog Foundation, Watch a Minimoog demo – It’s all Analog, kids)
Inventory/Creator of the Moog Synthesiser

Written by frrl

October 24, 2010 at 2:58 pm

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The World of Calculator Emulation – things to see and try

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Did you know that you can buy a brand new HP-12C calculator for $58?  The HP-12C.  If you were around back in the 1980’s you might know about the HP-12C.  Yes, Virginia, the HP-12C – the great RPN financial calculator in 2010 is the same HP-12C of 1981.  Nearly 30 years and this calculator remains, essentially, unchanged.  How can this be?  What’s the magic?  (Note: click any of the images to enlarge)


So what’s the big deal?  I don’t know.  I didn’t have a HP-12C back in the 1980’s.  But, through the magic of modern emulation we can find out about the magical HP-12C.  I checked the internet and in fact, there are quite a few HP-12C emulators out there that you can get for free.

Amazingly, I found a Windows 7 Gadget and a stand-alone application that emulates a HP-12C.  This is what the gadget looks like on the desktop along with some other gadgets.

On the web site where you can get this emulated HP-12C (see links below) it says that this is a toy.  Well, is it?    I spent about 30 minutes playing with this emulated calculator trying various financial calculations related to TVM (Time Value of Money), IRR (Internal Rate of Return), cash flow calculations, loan  payments, and a few more financial calculations.  The real HP-12C is programmable.  I did some simple programming on this emulated HP-12C and that works as well.  Also note, this is a RPN (Reverse Polish Notation) calculator.  So, if you have never done some basic arithmetic using RPN, well, here is your chance.

You can get the HP-12C Gadget and the HP-12C manual at these links

For Win 7, Mac OS, Stand-alone and Win 7 Gadget –
And you will need the manual from HP –

The World of Calculator Emulation

Now I was on a roll.  What other calculators can I emulate?  What about a high-end calculator like the Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus Silver Edition Graphing Calculator?  Feast your  eyes.  Here it is running on my Windows 7 machine.

I gave this calculator quite a workout including programming this emulated calculator in TI-BASIC.  The real version of this calculator can also be programmed in Z80 assembler language.  The real calculator has a USB interface allowing you to exchange programs between the calculator and a personal computer.  The emulated TI-84 to the left does not seen capable of this data transfer.  If it was, I would have tried some Z80 assembler code which I was able to snag on the Internet.

Someone put quite a bit of effort into writing this emulator.  In fact, the TI-84 is only one of a number of TI calculators that the underlying emulator can emulate.

What is questionable is that, it would seem, the ROM that the emulator needs to work would be Texas Instruments IP (Intellectual Property).

When installing the this emulator you have the option of getting the ROM from a real TI calculator or “Create a ROM image using open source software”.

You really need to use your own judgement on this.

You can get eveything you need to play “hands-on” with the emulator here – Read the rest of this entry »

Written by frrl

October 23, 2010 at 7:27 am

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