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Uncategorized 14 Mar 2005 11:27 am

SDWest Monday

SD West has started this morning. It is fun so far. I am attending the Enterprise AOP class.

It is very enlightening. You can use aspects for enforcing architectural constraints at compile-time. Also, the AJDT environment for Eclipse allows you to see the advise on your methods, and to debug into pointcuts. Also, it does the language support in the editor for aspects.

Uncategorized 16 Oct 2004 12:26 pm


National Novel Writing Month – National Novel Writing Month

Some friends at work have done this for the last few years. It sounds like a lot of fun and a lot of work.

I know several other people out there who might be interested in this, so here you go. If you decide to do it, let me know. Sign up ends at the end of the month (October).

As an amusing aside, here is a little story from the site, The NaNoLand Chronicles.

Uncategorized 08 Aug 2004 01:44 pm

CPU Architecture and Use of Natural Language

Ok, the following seems obvious now that I have put it into words, but I think it is fun and rewarding to think about anyway.

Recently, I read some advice on speaking and writing in the English language, and the gem that I took away was that it was best to use the smallest words possible to convey your meaning. The idea is that simplicity is best for communicating most effectively and to the largest audience.

As a child that grew up being drilled on ever more complex vocabulary at school, I have an inclination towards attempting to find the precise word for a meaning. That means that the arsenal includes a fair number of large words. The meanings for similar words are still subtly different.

I am not sure the subtlety gets across most of the time. There are some I meet who seem to pattern match against the gist of the conversation. To them the nuance or deviation from a simple word is lost, which means my meaning is lost. So, I started to think that the advice had even more weight.

Here’s another datum that confuses the issue. In computer architectures there were two schools of thought about cpu instructions sets. The CISC (complex instruction set) group believed that there should be an ever larger number of instructions available that do ever more complex things in the cpu. This makes it easier to program against with less code. The RISC school says that the number of hard coded instructions in the CPU should be small, and that longer combinations of those shorter instructions can produce the same effect as the single complex instruction. Actually, they claim that it will compute faster this way and be cheaper to make. In practice, today, most chips are a blend of both styles.

So, if we look at those instruction sets as our vocabulary, then maybe we should use small words in some situations and large words in others instead of always seeking to use small words.

Of course, making things simple is always harder to do. Guy Steele gave a great talk about building languages by starting with a very simple language and extended it by defining new, complex words in terms of the simple words. It is a very entertaining paper. So, it is probably a lazy inclination to use bigger words because they express more compactly, but you will be losing some percentage of your audience. Now in academic writing, which you find a lot of at the Arts and Letters Daily there is a high percentage of big words. It is interesting to contemplate how much of that is the need for precise meaning and how much of it is for unconsciously losing a percentage of the audience. Most of the time I think the goal is earnest precision. Sometimes, it seems like nonsense and snobbery is the goal. Definitely that causes some of us in the audience to walk out without the intended message.

Like I said, the observation seemed obvious once I made it, but the ramifications are still huge. There are lots of thought-provoking comparisons to be made that could enrich us everyday.

Here’s a fairly broad example. If you think of any human endeavor, there are some that are universal and some that are local. By universal I mean that the appeal is timeless and widespread. Being able to produce a universal work is a higher good than a local work becuase it touches more people. A key property of the works that are universal is simplicity. Local works tend to be “messy” because they require all kinds of knowledge about a particular place and time. Similarly, complex vocabulary requires the listener to have a bunch of specific knowledge in their head whereas simple language requires less from the listener allowing more listeners to be involved.

The trick is to get your point across. Hopefully, it can be beautiful too. I think the world has too much stuff that just fulfills the local need, and it is wanting for more of the universal stuff. Or maybe it is just me tired of reading drivel and wanting to be inspired by great reflection.

Uncategorized 14 Jul 2004 05:18 am

Long Time No Blogging

I’ve been really busy lately, and haven’t gotten to blog.

Things to blog about soon: ADC, TDD, LISP, APRICOTS, ALIEN BUGS, and more.

Uncategorized 04 Apr 2004 12:24 pm

17 year cycle

After 17 Years, They’re Back, and in the Mood for Love Your 17 year recurring primer on cicadas.

Uncategorized 05 Dec 2003 11:10 am

Sartre’s Insight into Terrorism

The Chronicle: 11/21/2003: Sartre Redux
is a review of current scholarship around the work of Sartre. It’s approrpriate now to look back at a recent thinker’s analysis of the human struggle for freedom and how violence helps or hinders that struggle. The big question being about where terrorism falls along that continuum. I fall firmly in the camp that violence only hurts freedom. I also realize that it is probably an impossible idealism to think that we can fully overcome our violent nature as a world.

I saw Bowling for Columbine recently. It was a very striking film. It brought up a lot of questions about the condition of being an American. Why do we have so much gun violence compared to other gun-toting countries such as Canada. H posits that we are a very fearful people made more fearful daily by our news coverage. In one part he shows the surveillence camera footage from Columbine. It was the most hideous thing I have ever seen. Other parts of the film are encouraging.

Moore and two of the victims of the Columbine shooting went to KMart’s headquarters and stood in the lobby until they were allowed to talk to the ammunition purchasing agent. They told him about the pieces of KMart ammunition still in the one boy because it was too close to his spine to be removed. The other boy, in a wheel chair for life, also talked to the purchasing agent. They managed to pressure KMart into ceasing ammunition sales. The PR rep for Kmart read a statement about it publicly. (On a side note, I went to the local KMart yesterday, and there was ammunition for sale in a glass case behind the counter in the sports section)

It is weird to see Moore employ a certain level of intellectual manipulation (I don’t know if I would call it violence, but it comes close sometimes) in his pursuit of lessening physical violence. He gladly bullies and confronts those propagating violence to realize the consequences of their actions.

We have to stand up to violence somehow I guess if we are to overcome it. The key is preserving human dignity. If we humiliate another human then we are just fueling the very cycle that we want to escape. According to the article, Camus held this belief, and it actually led to the demise of his friendship with Sartre. I think I need to go re-read Camus.

Uncategorized 05 Dec 2003 10:24 am

The Puritan Work Ethic is Dead | Economics focus discusses new research that suggests correlations between religiosity and economy.

It is fascinating to me particurly when you consider the seeming false religion espoused by Bush and the current state of our economy. Hmm.

Uncategorized 05 Dec 2003 10:17 am

Hi I am in Tahiti

Object Lesson: Disconnected Urbanism | Metropolis Magazine | November 2003. A well-written, but maudlin, look at the cellphone’s impact on urban culture.

Uncategorized 14 Aug 2003 06:33 pm

Ruby Class Hierarchy Pictures and ri Browser

Ruby Class Hierarchy and ri are two handy tools for learning ruby. The contrib directory for ri even has an emacs plugin that lets you examine the docs for a ruby function on point. Of course, getting the paths straight through windows, emacs, and cygwin seems tedious, hopefully it will work better on the Mac.

Uncategorized 12 Aug 2003 04:50 pm

Patterns Quiz

GoF design patterns quiz. Test your knowledge of the Gang of Four Design Patterns.

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