Category ArchivePhilosophy



Philosophy 26 Apr 2008 10:55 pm

God Beats Up on People Who Ask Useless Questions

God Beats Up on People Who Ask Useless Questions: “Near the end of Questions of Faith, Peter Berger relates the story of Martin Luther’s reply to a young man who asked him how God occupied himself in eternity. Luther replied, ‘God sits under a tree and cuts branches and rods, to beat up people who ask useless questions.'”

Humor &Philosophy &Politics 24 Feb 2008 09:36 pm

Move over Brights, Facebook eases all

Bill Thompson of the New Humanist says, “Facebook knows I’m an atheist”.

“Perhaps Facebook will help, simply because it encourages us to treat religious views and sexual orientation as of no more significance than favourite movies or preferred pizza toppings. In the end this could matter more than any number of ‘Brights’ t-shirts or big red ‘A’s, because it will simply relegate religious belief to the level of other superstitions, habits and personal preferences. Where, of course, it belongs.”

Philosophy &Politics &Software &Words 23 Feb 2008 05:50 pm

The Future of Reputation

The Future of Reputation full text online.

Miscellaneous &Philosophy 13 Jan 2008 10:26 pm

Fwd: How to Enjoy a Convention [Phil Agre]

Fwd: How to Enjoy a Convention [Phil Agre]: “Think about this sociologically. You have a gathering of several
thousand people from one profession. Most of them work in middle of
nowhere places with two colleagues, one of whom they loathe. They spend
all year teaching the writings of other people (some of whom are their
heroes) to 19 year olds. Some of those heroes are walking around the
hotel. Of course they’re looking at the name tags.”

(Via Conference Presentation judo.)

History &Language &Philosophy &Politics &Programming Languages &Science &Software 02 Jan 2008 08:23 pm

Reading List that Inspired Smalltalk

Squeakland has a list put together by Alan Kay for his students that gives background on the ideas behind Smalltalk.

It looks like quite an interesting list.

Humor &Philosophy &Software 16 Nov 2007 01:06 pm

Rands In Repose: The Nerd Handbook

Rands In Repose: The Nerd Handbook is funny, though not completely accurate. Still, it’s funny and this bit is scary funny:

“Your nerd has built an annoyingly efficient relevancy engine in his head. It’s the end of the day and you and your nerd are hanging out on the couch. The TV is off. There isn’t a computer anywhere nearby and you’re giving your nerd the daily debrief. “Spent an hour at the post office trying to ship that package to your mom, and then I went down to that bistro — you know — the one next the flower shop, and it’s closed. Can you believe that?”

And your nerd says, “Cool”.

Cool? What’s cool? The business closing? The package? How is any of it cool? None of it’s cool. Actually, all of it might be cool, but your nerd doesn’t believe any of what you’re saying is relevant. This is what he heard, “Spent an hour at the post office blah blah blah…”

You can be rightfully pissed off by this behavior — it’s simply rude — but seriously, I’m trying to help here. Your nerd’s insatiable quest for information and The High has tweaked his brain in an interesting way. For any given piece of incoming information, your nerd is making a lightning fast assessment: relevant or not relevant? Relevance means that the incoming information fits into the system of things your nerd currently cares about. Expect active involvement from your nerd when you trip the relevance flag. If you trip the irrelevance flag, look for verbal punctuation announcing his judgment of irrelevance. It’s the word your nerd says when he’s not listening and it’s always the same. My word is “Cool”, and when you hear “Cool”, I’m not listening.”

And the real question: “what is your trip word?”

(Via Ranchero.)

Language &Philosophy &Programming Languages &Software 12 Nov 2007 11:35 am

Document the Difficult Stuff, not the Easy: Rails Tutorials

I found Rails Tutorials pretty handy. They are short and sweet focusing on only one particularly problem per tutorial. I also found some good discussion in the comments of each tutorial. With their help, I finally got my head around how to deal with creating complex relationships of objects and dependent objects so that they are put in the database atomically, and so that they are available for error correction on the form if there were validation errors.

A big part of the problem I was having is that there are a million tutorials on the simple stuff in Rails and ActiveRecord, but very few on doing real work. There are many features of the Rails framework that I have just happened across accidentally, or that I had to scour the net and books looking for examples.

The one particular bug, err… feature, that has been haunting me is how to create an object that has a complex join model, and have all the other objects in that model get created automatically.

It is obvious enough for me to do it by hand. For example, creating a Registration for multiple People for multiple Courses, with other related information like Payment choices and related details to the Registration. When I get back a form, I could pick out each parameter set in my form fields. I could then create each object, Registration, People objects, Payment details, etc.. and then set them on the Registration object.

@registration = Registration.new(params[:registration])
new_payment = Payment.new(params[:payment])
@registration.payment = new_payment;
@registration.people = params[:people].collect { |[], person| Person.new(person) }
@registration.save

But rails should be able to do all this automatically since I already specified the relationships in the model objects. Well, turns out it can. You can use the build method on the model objects.

params[:people].each {|person| @registration.people.build(person) }

However, this doesn’t work for has_one or belongs_to objects, for those you have to call

@registration.build_payment(params[:payment])

Notice that this seems to be some sort of method_missing magic. I haven’t hunted down where this gets handled, but more troubling to me is that I never knew it even existed. I am glad I found it of course, but it is the first time in Ruby I have had the feeling that dynamic features could be bad.

I know the horror stories of dynamic languages and the claims for static typing and so on, but by and large I have not had this problem with Ruby, and I have probably written about 15-20kloc of Ruby now. Not a great amount, but not a trivial amount either given the expressiveness of the language.

Maybe I should have learned Rails by looking at the test suites. Perhaps within that code I would’ve found examples of build_x and that would have clued me in. I don’t know if those tests exist, but still I think that tutorials can be more efficient communication than test suites.

Of course that depends on what tutorials get written. My Request:

When writing tutorials for programmers, just write the tutorials for the hard stuff.

This should be the priority. Assume that programmers can figure out the obvious stuff, and spend your time on explaining the hard, hidden parts of the framework.

Humor &Language &Philosophy 11 Oct 2007 10:00 pm

How Brilliant is Pinker’s Article? Fucking!

Why We Curse. What the F***? by Steven Pinker. Leave it to a linguist to write such a filthy provocative article.

(Via TNR Online.)

History &Philosophy &Politics 06 Oct 2007 12:05 pm

The Responsibility of Intellectuals, by Noam Chomsky

The Responsibility of Intellectuals, by Noam Chomsky, is a deep analysis of 1960’s hypocrisy by intellectuals, and a call to expose lies by all those trained to seek truth.

Chomsky does a brilliant job at critiquing power in this essay, particularly the power of intellectuals who have ensconced themselves in Western society. Ultimately though, as we, in America, all live in a democracy, we all have power to expose lies. He further states that ultimately we have to ask ourselves, “What have I done?”, when asked about our government’s actions.

It seems unavoidable that the American citizens as a whole are responsible for their government’s actions, either by intention or neglect. Obviously, no one talks about this on the news or on talk shows (I suppose, since I quit watching them. I am glad to learn otherwise).

So, how will a nation that does not recognize it’s own responsibility, let alone discuss the exigencies in fulfilling that responsibility, keep from being abused by a small minority intent on installing a kleptocracy?

(Via Wikipedia entry on Arthur Schlesinger, Jr..)

Philosophy &Science 13 Jul 2007 12:24 pm

American Scientist Online – Evolution, Religion and Free Will

American Scientist Online – Evolution, Religion and Free Will surveys eminent evolutionary biologists on their beliefs about religion, evolution and free will.

Quite an interesting read. I particularly like two ideas in the article. One reveals that most surveyed believe religion is a product of evolution and see no inevitable conflict between the two. The other idea is that having choice is not free will, because the choice is still predetermined. This is obvious, but I had been looking for a good way to describe this situation. Also, like most surveyed, I still conflate choice with free will. I may change this opinion if I ever get proof otherwise, until then my genetics demand that I assert my possession of free will.

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