Just What’s Going On Here?

Draft of 2016.02.01 ☛ 2016.06.30 ☛ 2016.07.02

May include: other&c.

My name’s Bill Tozier.

This isn’t a blog, it’s a game

At first glance you’d be tempted to call this my “personal web site”. But in these Postnormal days I no longer draw deep distinctions between “personal” and “work” life. This is my site, and it includes some science and engineering, and some art and literary stuff, a deal of fun and far too much self-important wit, a healthy dose of woe and a shit-ton of swears.

Some of it was was originally made for older blogs and projects. I’ve found a cache of things I made as far back as 1985. Select parts of even that are here.

I’m still available for occasional engineering research consulting. But building and sharing this website (and the code that goes with it) is my full time work.

Why does everything say “Draft”?

It says “Draft” because I decided, about the time I turned 50, that only printed works can afford to be called “finished”. Calling electronic works “done” is a consensual habit. I’m not intending to “finish” any of these pages labeled “Draft” “some day”; everything always and forever will be a draft, and might be changed and improved and updated at any time.

Think of this as more of a scrapbook. Or an interconnected suite of notebooks and sketchbooks, constantly under revision. Or perhaps a shoggoth of the mind: a living tool, crafted by an intelligence long gone, immortal and now wild because its foolish creator made it so cunning and feral and adaptive.

This may undermine your sense of how reliable the material is, and I think that’s probably a good thing. Life is change, and equilibrium death.

This machine kills archives. What it says when you read it is what was here when you read it. If at any particular moment you or I see a problem, or want to make a change of some other sort, then that might happen. If it happens, there will be no notice. It will say one thing before, and another thing after, and that’s fine.

Where’s the RSS?

The most recent few articles which have been added can be found via http://vaguery.com/rss.

How can I reach you?

I literally do not read my email. Twitter will do to get my attention, but I have become concerned about the political dynamics and influence of the site around the world, so be careful. I’ve recently settled in at several Mastodon accounts (with some redundancy): a primary account at octodon.social and a local account at a2mi.social.


I was a molecular and cell biologist for just long enough to get into trouble. My “fields” were molecular botany, systems biology and astrobiology, back in the day before you kids these days with your robot sequencers and bioinformatics algorithms and actual real-live exoplanets.

In my day we had to imagine all our exoplanets, and we were happy—uphill both ways.

I spent a long time working in Artificial Life and Complex Systems research within the Academy, and I spent many lovely months working at the Santa Fe Institute until my PhD thesis advisor (at the time) retired from the university where I was enrolled without telling any of his students that their funding would be cut off abruptly, and then soon after he was in a bad car wreck. Oh, and also my Dad died somewhere in there—real life intervened, in other words. So after seven years of working on that thesis project, under several “replacement advisors” and such, the graduate program asked me to consider whether what I was doing with multiobjective optimization and combinatorial chemistry might not really be Computer Science and not theoretical biology after all.

As it happens, getting bumped from a PhD program without getting sucked into the Academy at the end can be an excellent and healthy outcome. In the years since, I’ve mainly worked as an engineering and management consultant. My clients ask my help with machine learning and especially evolutionary algorithms projects, and I also provide project management support for teams doing computational science and engineering research more generally.

For three years my wife Barbara and I started a company to do high-speed automated trading with evolutionary computation—back in the days before “Big Data” was even a thing. We mothballed that company in 2002 when the government thought it was a good idea to use an eye in a pyramid as an honest-to-god unironic logo for their projects—in which they try to do technical stuff with high-density data streams that I actually know how to do.

I’m glad now that I didn’t start the company.

I spent a few years in a second PhD program in Industrial & Operations Research at the University of Michigan, working with Larry Seiford, who a great guy. But in the midst of that session, real life intervened again, more people I am related to died, and as a matter of course I left that program to take care of relatives again.

Nowadays I get to hang out a few mornings each week with Ron Jeffries and sometimes with Chet Hendrickson down at the book store, where we laugh about dumb (mainly consultant) people on the Internet, complain about software development—but only in vague terms; no names are ever mentioned—and write the occasional piece of software.

I helped launch (and then became an a co-owner of) Workantile, a coworking community for freelancers and remote employees based here in Ann Arbor. I am no longer affiliated, having counted it a successful experiment, but it’s going strong.

My wife and I both spent most of the last decade caring full-time for dying parents and friends in their final years. I sell my personal belongings and those we’ve inherited on eBay.