June 30, 2006

Script block

Reading some of the comments at /. covering GWT. Several posters bring up the opinion that toolkits are wrong because beginners will use them before first learning "the basics." This opinion has come up recently in different contexts--all presented as a grievous flaw that teaches bad habits to those kids (e.g. the Java-doesn't-have-pointers complaint that appeared a few months back). The problem presented with the GWT is that it generates JavaScript from the user's Java code in order to push HTML and JavaScript from the web developer domain to that of the application developer. This is also its benefit: working in one domain can simplify development.

Critics look suspiciously at the process of skipping the pain of hand-coded JavaScript (and HTML for that matter). Such a position stinks of an elitism that's been around long enough to evoke weathered jokes about programming with only zeros or about what language "real programmers" use. I remember interviews for Windows MFC development where I'd be grilled on the Win32 API. The interviewer would invariably mock the ineptitude of those who didn't cut their teeth on Win32. I'd counter that programmers coming from Win32 were inept in their understanding of vtables and templates. Snobbery should always be defused by an even greater snobbery.

And that gets to the core issues and differences. Is it a problem of language or framework? MFC is a C++ framework that wraps the Win32 C API (an addition to the C language). GWT is a Java framework that wraps a subset of the JavaScript language. Both MFC and GWT--as with all frameworks--reorganize a more raw, low-level domain in order to simplify common tasks. Frameworks are, in a way, narrower manifestations of relative language abstraction and whether you're working in a high- or low-level language. Frameworks are intermediate steps that a language can take to make it a higher-level language.

A well-written framework should strive to elide the necessity to use its lower-level components. Ruby programmers don't need to be conversant in the C language that it was written in, although it would help them understand garbage collection, reference management, etc. C programmers don't need to for Assembly (stretching the argument since most are probably written in C), although it would help them understand stack memory or thread management. That knowledge would always help--and many programmers will eventually dig deeper--but its absence doesn't imply ignorance.

posted by sstrader at 12:36 PM in Programming | permalink | comments (0)

June 29, 2006

I meant to do that

Go read about Geoffrey K. Pullam's experience on Talk of the Nation. It's sad but true (a caller mentioned hearing a student say "OMG" instead of "oh, my god", and everyone other than me thought that was fascinating) not everyone...). This is how snobbery goes so horribly wrong. One man's split infinitive, etc. Has it come to the point that even intellectual snobbery is suspect?!? Think of all of the Baby Geniuses and Mozart Children (TM)!

ToTN is an enjoyable and enjoyably informed show and yet it attracts snobs of the sort than get their cause for snobbery wrong. Is there any hope for this world?!?

posted by sstrader at 1:18 AM in Language & Literature | permalink | comments (0)

June 27, 2006

Truth

The AP has published a story that top climate scientists are giving Al Gore's documentary on global warming, five stars for accuracy. I wasn't surprized by this since the scientists over at RealClimate had already discussed it at length and given it (approximately) four-out-of-five stars. But now a Senate committe has come out debunking the AP report (originally from the WSJ). Last time I checked the Senate was suppressing science, so I'm not so sure how valid this information is. Wikipedia has wisely locked the article for the movie from anonymous editing and almost certain flame wars.

Many of the claims in the WSJ article are weak at best, as RealClimate quickly points out. Think Progress has also joined the fun of wading through the wreckage. To facilitate research, I've copied the two articles and Wikipediaed the links:

Continue reading "Truth"
posted by sstrader at 10:18 PM in Science & Technology | permalink | comments (3)

Morgellons continues

The Adrants thread continues to grow and gets weirder. First, Morgellons sufferers are banding together to chastise the insensitivity of those who would question their disease's existence. Then, there are accusations of identity deceit: "KC Ridgewalker"--the most voluminous poster and appears on only one other page, a web site that touts Better Living Through Atmospheric Engineering--is really "Karen Marsh." Their accuser "Jay Reynolds" is really "Ron" or perhaps a govt. spook and possibly the purveyor of a conspiracy (or possibly spoof-conspiracy) site that examines the evils of contrails (vapor trails).

Mind Hacks has also taken up the Morgellons question. Their conclusion is that it's too esoteric and imprecise to be viral marketing (Philip K. Dick's fictional descriptions of parasitosis have it manifesting differently). But then--get this--they state that Randy Wymore, a genuine professor of Pharmacology and Physiology at Oklahoma State University [emphasis mine] has made public statements on the disease. Mind Hacks link to their genuinity points to an okstate.edu page that lists 30 doctors in their biomedical sciences department: Wymore is the only one that doesn't have a bio/credentials link.

It's like people are injecting weirdness. I can appreciate this recent comment on Adrants:

What the heck happened to this thread? Is this some sort of college prank? It's degenerated from a thoughtful discussion to a spellcheck war, who can google better contest! ... these patient accounts are ridiculous! So, a person is spewing long fibers, using a whole roll of tape to extract them, and when they go to the doctor, all they have is a lesion with a little blacm speck that they're picking away at with a magnifying glass and tweezers??

Another poster from a Hondo's World entry on Morgellons points to an article on the Morgellons Watch blog that a few doctors are making money off of patients who may be delusional and will therefore require indefinite services. Comments ensued.

Continue reading "Morgellons continues"
posted by sstrader at 12:18 AM in Culture & Society | tagged philip k. dick | permalink | comments (19)

June 26, 2006

Weekend in Bethlehem

No photos! I'm such a slacker.

It was our long-lost friend Diane's wedding this past Saturday, so we flew up on Thursday to spend a long weekend in Bethlehem, PA. We'd first met the groom, Brad, when they came down for New Year's a couple of years ago. A group of us celebrated NY at a Georgia Tech venue just down the street. They had multiple DJs, bands, bars, champagne, etc. Tickets were all-inclusive and the whole affair was actually not sucky like those situations usually are. Brad and I closed out the evening, IIRC, drinking what was left at home and blasting Tales from Topographic Oceans (yes, it can "blast") to the neighbors. Lisa was thrilled.

The wedding was great but it and Bethlehem in general were bracketed by possibly the worst airport delays we'd ever experienced. Leaving on Thursday afternoon should have been uneventful, but we got delayed around 8 hours and had to pass the time with a Gate C Pub Crawl. By departure time at 12:30 that night Gate C had almost kicked our asses. Not to worry: after a quick AirTran Nap we were refreshed and ready for a scavenger hunt through the Newark airport to look for our lost luggage. The seats on our original flight were overbooked, but apparently the luggage compartment wasn't. Luggage found, a Dodge Neon upgraged to a Chrysler 300, and we were on our way.

An hour-and-a-half later, we arrived at the Sayre Mansion Inn. Hello there, 5:30 Friday morning. The B&B was dee-luxe and we were on vacation so it didn't matter how wretched flying on AirTran was (these kind feelings did not return when we had a similar delay on our return flight, getting home around four hours later than expected at 1:30 this morning).

The wedding had some minor dramas involving a DUI, vandalism, and hemorroids (thankfully none of these involved Lisa and I), but the wedding was otherwise perfect and Diane and Brad--apparently favored progeny of the whole of Bethlehem--had a packed reception with enough crazy goings on to last until the next wedding, which is only in a couple of months, but there were still copius crazy goings on all the same.

Some recommended restaurants: we had dinner on Friday night at The Inn of the Falcon, godawful slow service but good food and wine and a great atmosphere; and our last meal was lunch at Billy's Diner, a classic diner with the best breakfast sandwiches and home fries in all of Steeldome. Go Bethlehem!

posted by sstrader at 8:10 PM in Personal | permalink | comments (0)

June 21, 2006

Are we legal yet?

The assfucks known as AT&T are busy airbrushing out traitorous comrades. 1-2-3 and suddenly your Personal Information is now the latter but not the former. I heard about this from Marketplace on the way home (with the host doing his best I-can't-make-this-shit-up voice) and see that SFGate has taken note [ via BoingBoing ]. And while a non-insignificant proportion of scholars, lawyers, the American Bar Association, former CIA counsel, former FBI director, former NSA counsel, etc. denounce the NSA/AT&T collusion as unconstitutional, the administration's primary defense is that adherence to FISA is too difficult. They had successfully, and with ease, weakened aspects of FISA with the legislation of the Patriot Act, yet they now feel legal means are too difficult? Inconvenience trumps legality once again.

posted by sstrader at 7:42 PM in Culture & Society | permalink | comments (0)

June 20, 2006

Crosses

So, recently a friend pointed out that The Religious (that all-encompassing group that counters The Agnostic) are arguing that said agnostics wouldn't dare try to remove crosses from Alington Cemetery (in the same manner they're trying to remove them from other public grounds) because there would be too much backlash. Ignoring the fact that Arlington Cemetery was not the issue, I immediately responded to the argument's deflection. If religious branding of federal/state ground is wrong it's wrong no matter how much backlash it initiates. Avoiding that issue to bring up the other is like saying "we shouldn't give group X their freedom because then we'll eventually have to allow group X to vote." The more difficult fight shouldn't negate the more obviously unjust situation.

That being said, although I agree that branding graves in a cemetery is different from branding public ground, an argument that relies on public intransigence in the face of change should reveal in and of itself that there's a problem with that argument. Or at least with the society that makes it.

posted by sstrader at 11:54 PM in Culture & Society | permalink | comments (0)

June 19, 2006

Where was I?

This past weekend was supposed to be Chuck Close and jazz at the High (their third Friday of the month event), but Lisa worked late so instead we met some friends at our new-favorite-bar, Ecco. Great restaurant and nice bar, aaaand immediately behind our building on 7th and Cyprus. Friday was a lot of coding at home (personal, not work) and then celebrating my mom's birthday and Father's Day at my brother's. My older niece was oddly quiet in nervous anticipation of a week away at summer camp. I'm sure she'll come back with several new stories.

Sunday, we finally watched A History of Violence. It had the halting momentum of a Jim Jarmusch flick. The ending in particular makes History worth watching. Most people I know loved it with only a few polar exceptions--some scenes are artfully affected, and those probably put them off of the film. I enjoyed it. And recommend it. And I hadn't realized that it was based on a graphic novel by John Wagner. Coincidentally, this weekend I received and finished volumes 1 through 7 of Y: The Last Man. I'd been itching for a good graphic novel, and this came recommended by many. It's very character-driven, and although the writer hits you with a lot of different themes it's more active than scholarly. An enjoyable ride that I'll have to wait a year or so (16 issues left?) to get to the end of.

On Thursday we're heading off to Bethlehem, PA for a friend's wedding. Woohoo, short work week! Nothin' better.

posted by sstrader at 11:20 PM in Where was I? | permalink | comments (0)

June 17, 2006

Jaron Lanier's got a (different) problem

That being: everyone (myself included) is mis-reading his essays. According to BoingBoing, Lanier never accused Wikipedia in his essay and in fact specifically exempted many internet gatherings from [his] criticism, including the wikipedia. His argument is more against how he feels that Wikipedia is perceived, not against how it functions:

No, the problem is in the way the Wikipedia has come to be regarded and used; how it's been elevated to such importance so quickly. And that is part of the larger pattern of the appeal of a new online collectivism that is nothing less than a resurgence of the idea that the collective is all-wise...

Yeah, Wikipedia may be overly-trusted by some, but isn't that a flaw of the whole internet?

posted by sstrader at 2:08 PM in Culture & Society | permalink | comments (0)

June 15, 2006

Pirate Bay's shiny metal DNS

As goes Lori, so goes the world.

She resparked my interested in opening up a CafePress shop, and although I had several original ideas I'd been sitting on Pirate Bay's recent Futurama reference seemed ripe for a CafePressing of my own. And we can all agree that there're not enough products in this world. Right?

posted by sstrader at 12:02 PM in Culture & Society | permalink | comments (2)

June 14, 2006

Bush's speech this morning

Only a quick listen, but it was unbelievably rife with SNL-quality reflexive-gaffes. Bush: "when Saddam was in charge, he siphoned money that belonged to the people of Iraq," (compare with "Where has all the money gone?" from the London Review of Books, detailing the siphoning of hundreds of millions caused by our government's mismanagement).

posted by sstrader at 11:07 AM in Politics | permalink | comments (0)

June 10, 2006

Rebel

In protest to Lisa going to the Tabernacle to listen to one-of-those-new-bands-that-sounds-like-all-of-the-other-new-bands (Arctic Monkeys), I'm cleansing the palette with: a 23-minute live version of Supper's Ready from 1973 (video via YouTube), paired with selections from The White Album, and finally selections from Don Caballero's wonderfully noisy What Burns Never Returns (I gotta get more of their music).

Ah! Creativity at last.

posted by sstrader at 8:38 PM in Music | permalink | comments (2)

June 9, 2006

Stewart and Bennett

What was amazing about Jon Stewart's argument with Bill Bennett was not so much Stewart's re-framing of the issue right under Bennett's feet (Bennett: Look, it's a debate about whether you think marriage is between a man and a women. Stewart: I disagree, I think it's a debate about whether you think gay people are part of the human condition or just a random fetish.) but what happened a little later. As Stewart brought up Cheney's position on a gay marriage ban (surprisingly con) and we all winced at Stewart's misstep, Bennett echoed our thoughts and warned him to avoid specific examples because examples in the opposite direction could just as easily be found. Anecdotal evidence is not absolute.

With this warning, it became obvious that Bill Bennett doesn't actually believe what he's saying, only that he knows how to frame limited facts to support his beliefs. Earlier in the argument, Bennett tried to say that allowing gay marriage was a slippery slope that would eventually allow polygamy. Both Stewart and the viewers were frustrated that Bennett willfully ignored the difference between a social choice such as polygamy and a biological assignment such as homosexuality. Does he doubt the scientific evidence? I suspect it's more that he's willfully ignoring it. He's smart enough to see through all poor arguments except his own.

posted by sstrader at 12:45 PM in Politics | permalink | comments (0)

June 7, 2006

Jaron Lanier's got a problem

His Edge essay is just really unsatisfying in both content and expectation. Content was skimmed from every anti-Wikipedia treatise that's been around for years: fear of lowest-common-denominator, accusation of narrow scope (doing only what it does best), and fanaticism (among others). Expectation is that such a "visionary" should have some greater insight into the collective web. And he, simply, doesn't.

This P2P Foundation essay gets deep into phenomenology and ontology, but I don't think we need to get too far into the ether to set the foundations for the difference between collectivism and socially constructed networks (Web 2.0). The editors of Wikipedia are not the collective, they are the part of the collective that self-select to edit. This is hardly communist. The system doesn't fail because a significant portion of the population refuses to contribute: it's best that they don't contribute to (probably) 90% of what's there. I won't touch the articles on Roman history and I sure as hell shouldn't be touching them. Those that care to edit them, will.

And, just as critical mass has threatened to muddy Wikipedia with ideological battles, it also provides greater attention to attract those who really love their subject. Editors who are knowledgeable will take ownership and nurse the arguments into qualified disputes within the text. Not all will be 100% successful, but neither is any static text 100% successful.

The greatest fear that people have, possibly, is that Wikipedia shows text for what it really is: living. We're proud of science when it adapts to change, and proud of laws when they are corrected and clarified by application: we should be as proud of our text that can correct itself and reveal that history of correction.

(Digression: Lanier had also claimed that much of the information is available elsewhere. Offline yes, but it's very doubtful that this is available online. And even when it is, it's not as organized. I spent quite a while trolling through discographies and recital programs to piece together a skeletal list of Lyadov's compositions. I don't have access to the Grove dictionary, so I otherwise don't have his catalog on hand. Now I and others do.)

posted by sstrader at 12:06 AM in Culture & Society | permalink | comments (2)

June 6, 2006

Courage

Just saw Caroline Kennedy on Jon Stewart speak about this year's Profiles in Courage awards. When she mentioned that a former general counsel to the Navy was one of this year's recipients, I remembered The New Yorker article that came out a few months ago on that recipient, Alberto Mora (John Murtha was the other recipient). The JFK Library site has a short description of Mora's actions, but The New Yorker article really digs in (aha, aparently I posted about it in February). Worth a duplication, and, as Ms. Kennedy said, it's kind of disspiriting that we're awarding--as unusually brave--the act of speaking out against torture. The act of someone associated with our government speaking against torture.

posted by sstrader at 7:58 PM in Politics | permalink | comments (0)

Movie weekend

Going to Matthew Barney's Drawing Restraint 9 at Landmark this Friday (should be similar to Irritant #4 and Here Child, Finish Your Nothing). I caught his complete Cremaster series several years ago there and a year prior saw the Cremaster installations at the Guggenheim. Both were very gooey.

Sunday is The Other Side via The Atlanta Film Festival. A gripping tale of a man who returns from hell to solve his own murder and redeem himself as Terminator-like bounty hunters chase him down. Filmed in Atlanta! (Not the hell part, the returned-from part.)

And this is sortof tempting: An Inconveniant Truth is at Tara this weekend--as anyone who's on the MoveOn mailing list knows. That may be a Saturday matinee thing if we're not movied out. It's going to be too science-lite for my tastes, but it's for a good cause. And that liberal media we all know and love has dubbed it 89% worth seeing.

posted by sstrader at 5:38 PM in Cinema | permalink | comments (0)

June 4, 2006

CO2 and you

On Ebert and Roeper's TV review of An Inconvenient Truth, Ebert criticized the media's reporting on the controversy of global warming where there is none. Roeper countered that the controversy is over whether it is caused by humans and that the movie should have admitted to that. He needs to read RealClimate's article explaining the correlation.

posted by sstrader at 1:15 PM in Science & Technology | permalink | comments (0)

Our country sucks

Rolling Stone publishes Kennedy's detailed summation of the lawlessness of the 2004 election (these facts were very well known and ignored in 2004 and 2005). A blogger at Salon points out that unless international observers are present, expect more and worse in future elections. Our best reporters are saying that it's impossible to report about what's really going on in Iraq. Our administration cozies up to murderous dictators far worse than Saddam, to terrorist supporters, and to human rights violators, then tries to drape itself in a morality it hasn't earned. Patriotism can go fuck itself.

posted by sstrader at 11:53 AM in Politics | permalink | comments (0)