Haupz Blog

... still a totally disordered mix

Squeaking Cellular Automata

2024-03-24 — Michael Haupt

My favourite programming language is Smalltalk, and I used to do a lot of work in the implementation of the language named Squeak, back in my post-doc days. Over the years, I’ve gone back to Squeak on and off, to do some little fun projects. Some time ago, I dabbled a bit with its low-level graphic operations to implement some machinery for playing with cellular automata (more precisely, elementary cellular automata).

Building this was a nice and refreshing experience applying TDD, die-hard object-orientation, some extension of the standard library (heck yeah!), and live debugging. Especially the latter is not easily possible in languages other than Smalltalk, where the IDE and runtime environment are essentially the same.

Eventually, I was able to generate some images for the rule 30 cellular automaton, which exhibits a nice dichotomy of order and chaos. Here are two examples, one for the standard initial generation with just one pixel set, and one for a random initialisation. It’s interesting to see how order seems to prevail on the left-hand side, while the right-hand side looks more chaotic (there are patterns there though, if you look closely).

The source code is here, in case you’re interested.

Tags: hacking, the-nerdy-bit

Getting to Measurable Outcome

2024-03-19 — Michael Haupt

Recently, I had written about the difference between outcome and output, and how “To what end am I doing this?” is the kind of question to ask to move from describing output to describing outcome - which is the right frame for describing goals.

In the true spirit of SMART goals, outcome should also be measured. There are two kinds of questions to get from output to measurements.

From the output perspective, what does it mean to implement the todo list? Asking “What change do I intend to achieve by generating this output?” implies that there is an observation that I’m currently making, and I want it to be different. Expressing that difference points to a possible measurement.

From the outcome perspective, I can ask “How would I notice the intended outcome is achieved?” to get to a similar response about the difference it makes.

The former question will likely yield measurements of a more internal nature, closer to the output. Conversely, the latter will more naturally lead to measurements closer to the customers the outcome is impacting. Both of these have a lot of value.

The necessary connection between both can be used to apply reality checks, too: if the internal measurement indicates success, but the external measurement doesn’t, I must’ve missed something. Such an insight is invaluable, too, because it helps to develop a deeper understanding of work on customers.

Tags: work

Solo Concertos

2024-03-16 — Michael Haupt

A piano concerto normally involves, of course, a piano (duh), and then, an orchestra. As nothing is impossible in art, some composers got ideas and wrote concertos for piano solo. The challenge with these is that the pianist has to play the solo part, which is usually complicated enough in concertos, while also emulating the orchestra. That makes for some pretty interesting music.

Meet Charles-Valentin Alkan, French late romantic pianist and composer. His Concerto for Solo Piano is a 50-minute monument of virtuosity. The incomparable John Ogdon here delivers it.

Tags: music

Engineering Managers' Rights

2024-03-16 — Michael Haupt

Engineering Managers (at all levels) are in an interesting position as they have to represent their team’s and team members' interests to the company, and the company’s interests to the team. This has always been a challenge, and the past few years - with increased demand for remote work possibilities - have intensified the challenge. The need for frequent application of non-technical, so-called “soft” skills (which are very hard) has significantly increased. In addition, a tough job market has let focus on individual contributors' interests grow. We cannot let attention to managers' needs slip.

Two articles describe an engineering manager’s “bill of rights” (and responsibilities) and some observations on what specifically contributes to managers' wellbeing at work. There is a lot of overlap: transparency, fairness, clear expectations, specific development opportunities, visibility, and so forth.

Food for thought.

Also, let’s not forget there is a corresponding engineer’s “bill of rights” (and responsibilities), which inspired the former of the two aforementioned articles.

Tags: work

Pinocchio for Adults

2024-03-10 — Michael Haupt

Guillermo del Toro, creator of such amazing masterworks as The Shape of Water, has made an adaption of the Pinocchio story. I came across this by chance, and was immediately captivated.

I have a soft spot for stop-motion animation, and enjoy it when the technique is applied to stories that aren’t meant for young children. Shaun the Sheep is awesome (as is anything coming from Aardman), but look at The Nightmare before Christmas, Corpse Bride, and Coraline.

And now, Pinocchio. The Disney adaption was, of course, family entertainment, with lots of singing and talking animals. Del Toro’s version has both of these, too: after all, a certain cricket plays a central role in the story. However, this new Pinocchio movie deliberately focuses on the darker sides and themes of the story. Geppetto’s loss of his son Carlo, his desire to carve a child out of the pine tree growing on Carlo’s grave, Pinocchio’s inability to die and subsequent encounters with Death … an amazing perspective on the story. Not for young children.

The music is, thankfully, of generally high quality. It serves the overall dark atmosphere whilst putting an accent of brightness here and there (Pinocchio is a joyful character after all). The cast of voice actors is well chosen. This film is a pleasure to watch.

Tags: the-nerdy-bit

Output and Outcome in Goal Setting

2024-03-09 — Michael Haupt

What is output, what is outcome? The difference is maybe a bit subtle at first, but of fundamental importance, and makes a lot of sense once you “get it”.

When setting goals, one will like to describe them as “things achieved”, and will write down items such as “implement this feature”, “update that library”, “migrate yon product to another infrastructure”, and so forth. These make sense, right?

Only that they’re not really achievements. They’re activities that are completed. Boxes ticked. “Things done”, rather than “things achieved”. The achievements are the things one would answer when asked “to what end do you do this?”

Things done are output - they have no value of their own. Things achieved are outcome - they have value.

A plain example: the lightbulb in your home office room is broken. You replace it so that you don’t have to work in the dark. The replacement is the activity, the output. Not having to work in the dark is the achievement, the outcome.

One should formulate goals in terms of outcome - it’s usually better to express them in terms of the value they add. Knowing that value and the scale on which it lies has the extra benefit of yielding a better measurement for success than “done / not done”.

So if you catch yourself formulating goals as completable activities, ask yourself: To what end am I doing this? What value do I hope to add?

Tags: work


2024-03-06 — Michael Haupt

In music, the concept of “parody” is a bit different from its use in everyday language: it can simply mean composers copying the style or parts of other composers' pieces. This also works across genres - here’s a small collection of pop/rock/whatever songs that were inspired by classical pieces.

Two songs by Eric Carmen make extensive use of material composed by Sergei Rachmaninoff. “All by Myself” is very clearly based on the slow movement from the Russian composer’s second piano concerto. It’s equally obvious how “Never Gonna Fall in Love Again” is inspired by the slow movement of the second symphony (but you’ll have to wait until the refrain makes its first appearance).

The great Alan Parsons has, on his latest two albums “The Secret” and “From the New World”, provided two songs that are direct rock adaptations of classical pieces. “The Secret” opens with Paul Dukas' “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, and “From the New World” aptly contains a song based on the slow movement of Antonín Dvořák’s symphony with the same name as the album. (Those slow movements seem to be popular.)

Polish jazz pianist Vladislav Sendecki has dedicated an entire album to Richard Wagner’s music, with every single song being based on some piece from the composer’s operas. There are bits and pieces of this available on the ‘tube. For example, here’s “Sunrise”, using the Parsifal overture. (I’m particularly happy about this video as I have fond memories of standing right where the orchestra is sitting now, being part of a choir performing Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Vergine - no video recording exists of that.)

Rap music uses samples a lot, so why not samples of classical music? Back in the Nineties, hearing Xzibit’s Paparazzi for the first time, I was immediately struck when I heard Gabriel Fauré's Pavane.

This list could probably grow. If you know any such relations, please let me know.

Tags: music

Growth Mindset Across Seniority Levels

2024-03-04 — Michael Haupt

Andreas Kling here shares one of the most fundamental differences between junior and senior thinking:

Junior mindset: This language/framework is part of my identity.

Senior mindset: This language/framework is part of my toolkit.

This is not about junior and senior career levels, although there may be an overlap: I’ve seen a lot of junior mindset in people in “senior” roles when it comes to being fixed on tools, frameworks, languages, approaches, …

Having a growth mindset - I believe that’s what makes the difference.

Tags: work