Sunday, November 24, 2013

In a better world, just saying "context matters" would suffice

Of course we do not live anywhere near that world. On the upside, we have Ta-Nehisi Coates, who has the patience to elaborate and the chops in so doing to make me say, for only about the 4,037th time, that's what I think, and that's what I would have said, if only ...

Minor point of disagreement, with one of TNC's examples: I'm fine with Matt Barnes's use of "niggas" in the context of his tweet. I don't expect that I'll ever use the term, being white, and I have no problem with that (as all too many seem to). In fact, I think TNC's call of "inappropriate" on this one contradicted the thrust of his argument. But no biggie: he's entitled to judge differently, and I can imagine why he might. And, in fairness, he was contrasting "inappropriate" with some far more heinous events.

On a thoroughly unrelated note, I happened to have been watching the game that led to the tweet, and I thought Barnes deserved to be the only player booted. The third man into a transient exchange of shoves between a pair of NBA players never, to at least three decimal points, has any business being there. Save that "enforcer" nonsense for the NHL and pro wrestling, if you'll pardon the redundancy.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Oh, this is such a good read

Frank Chimero has written up and posted a version of a talk he recently gave, called "What Screens Want."

His talk was (ostensibly?) aimed at web developers, but there's no way you need to fit into that slot to follow it, or to love it.

Just for example, how's this for empathy, for every plain ol' computer user out there?

Computers, after all, are just shaky towers of nested abstractions: from the code that tells them what to do, to the interfaces that suggest to the user what’s possible to do with them. Each level of abstraction becomes an opportunity to make work more efficient, communicate more clearly, and assist understanding. Of course, abstractions also become chances to complicate what was clear, slow down what was fast, and fuck up what was perfectly fine.

And this?

So what is the answer? I found this quote by Ted Nelson, the man who invented hypertext. He’s one of the original rebel technologists, so he has a lot of things to say about our current situation. Nelson:

The world is not yet finished, but everyone is behaving as if everything was known. This is not true. In fact, the computer world as we know it is based upon one tradition that has been waddling along for the last fifty years, growing in size and ungainliness, and is essentially defining the way we do everything. My view is that today’s computer world is based on techie misunderstandings of human thought and human life. And the imposition of inappropriate structures throughout the computer is the imposition of inappropriate structures on the things we want to do in the human world.

Emphasis mine. [...]

Also, to illustrate some of what he's saying, Frank has clips from James Burke's Connections, Eadweard Muybridge's work with horses, and The West Wing. Featuring CJ. I mean, the shared nerd porn interests alone ought to do it, don't you think?

Go, and enjoy.

(h/t: Jenna Wortham, via a Scuttlebot post which was presented as a sidebar on the NYT's Bits blog, which I saw while reading a note about Twitter and Perfect Forward Security, and omg, when the h/t is getting to be longer than the post, it is waaay past time to click the Publish button)


[Added] Of course the first blockquote above reminded me of one of the classics from the mesozoic (when we had just evolved from hamsters running along wires strung between tin cans, and thence onto typewriter keyboards, and were suddenly able to sign up for Automatically Delivered Email Newsletters), Joel Spolsky's post "article," The Law of Leaky Abstractions. Joel does eventually get into specific programming examples, but don't let those throw you, if you're not a programmer. The opening, the general ideas, and most importantly, the view of what today's programmers face when trying to relate to non-programmers are well worth your time, especially if you liked Frank Chimero's piece. Even if the words are more than *gasp* ten years old.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Stool seeks pigeon

$29.95 for that piece of crap?

(Seen on Wonkette, I'm sorry to say)

Saturday, November 09, 2013


From a short interview of Bjarne Stroustrup, the creator of the C++ programming language (emph. added):

C++ was and is meant to be a tool for professionals and for people who takes programming seriously. It can and is used by novices, but the too often heard complaint that “C++ isn’t for everybody and not every project is easily done using C++” is based on a seriously miscomprehension. There can be no programming language that is perfect for everybody and for everything. C++ doesn’t try to be everything for everybody, but it is rather good at the tasks for which it was designed – mostly systems programming, software infrastructure, and resource-constrained applications. C++ dominates the fields where its strengths are needed. The fact that you can write a simple web app easier using JavaScript or Ruby does not bother me. Basically, C++ was not primarily designed for tasks of medium complexity, medium performance, and medium reliability, written by programmers of medium skills and experience.

So he says now.

There are many ahems one might link to. Since he is a hero of mine, I'll be kind and leave it at this "How long" question.

(h/t: StatusCode issue 45)

Friday, November 08, 2013

From the Department of Better You Than Me

Or, First Thing We Do, Let's Kill All The Lawyers, Chapter 4927.

But whatever the case, all hail condolences to Dan Amira of New York mag's Daily Intelligencer blog:

For religious conservatives, howling over the so-called "war on Christmas" has become an annual holiday tradition almost as enjoyable as Christmas itself. On Tuesday, Sarah Palin seeks to capitalize on the phenomenon with the release of her newest book, Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas. Daily Intelligencer purchased the Palin-narrated audiobook from a local bookstore, where it was on sale early, and listened to all four-and-a-half hours, which is technically not a violation of the Geneva Convention if you're getting paid to do it, New York's legal team insists.

At the link is a Christmas tree, whose ornaments are themselves links to "some of the book's more memorable lines."

I myself have clicked none of them. Self-loathing only goes so far.