Worst Job Ever

I work for a somewhat large, publicly-traded company, and while I consider it the best job I’ve ever held — interesting work, great people to work with, and unusually smart management — there are still days that wish I was doing something else.

Nothing on the scale of what the guy in this short must feel, I’m sure. He’s got the worst job ever.

Tip of the hat to Brad Feld.

On the Advantages of Lisp Macros

My apologies for making two rather geeky posts in a row, but I just couldn’t help myself. Richard Cook dug up this delightful quote from Peter Siebel’s book, and I just couldn’t keep myself from sharing:

DOLIST is similar to Perl’s foreach or Python’s for. Java added a similar kind of loop construct with the “enhanced” for loop in Java 1.5, as part of JSR-201. Notice what a difference macros make. A Lisp programmer who notices a common pattern in their code can write a macro to give themselves a source-level abstraction of that pattern. A Java programmer who notices the same pattern has to convince Sun that this particular abstraction is worth adding to the language. Then Sun has to publish a JSR and convene an industry-wide “expert group” to hash everything out. That process—according to Sun—takes an average of 18 months. After that, the compiler writers all have to go upgrade their compilers to support the new feature. And even once the Java programmer’s favorite compiler supports the new version of Java, they probably still can’t use the new feature until they’re allowed to break source compatibility with older versions of Java. So an annoyance that Common Lisp programmers can resolve for themselves within five minutes plagues Java programmers for years.

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Verbs, Nouns, and the Current State of Programming Languages

I always enjoy reading Patti Digh’s weekly posts on life.

This week’s was no exception. In it she writes about the cultural differences in language teaching between americans and asians:

Studies have shown that in the U.S., children learn nouns much more rapidly than they learn verbs. (Nouns are easier to learn—they belong to categories, they’re unambiguous). Not so in East Asian countries where children learn verbs at a faster rate. Japanese mothers are more likely to ask about feelings, using feeling-related words when their children act up: “The toy is crying because you threw it.” “The wall says ouch,” Nisbett reports. By focusing on feelings, children are taught to anticipate reactions of other people… it’s all about the relationship, not the thing.

Her focus was on the importance of relationship over objects, and while it was meant to get us thinking about the connections between people, it got me thinking about the current state of the programming language world.

The dominant paradigm in programming languages today would be classified as western by the standards Patti writes of. It is heavily noun-oriented, or in tech lingo, object-oriented.

Object-oriented programs consist of descriptions of things. These things contain information (state) and can perform operations (methods). The key idea is that program are composed of many independent parts into something that does what it should. Just like Lego.

Relationships between objects of course exist, but they are peripheral to the central concept of objects.

It makes me wonder how the software we use today would be different if it was written with a relation-oriented paradigm rather than an object-oriented one.

Now before you accuse me of making things up, I’m not the first person to wonder about relation-oriented programming. Timothy A. Budd wrote a paper in 1994 on a relation-oriented programming language named LEDA that he invented.

So far, it has yet to catch on.

Us westerners, we like our objects.

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Geodesic Club House

Yes Mag has instructions for building a geodesic dome clubhouse out of paper and staples:

Geodesic domes are made of interlocking geometric shapes–often triangles. Because loads are spread over many triangles, these domes are especially strong. Often made of aluminum bars and plexiglass, they’re also light compared to ordinary domes.
Geodesic domes were popularized by an American inventor named Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983). Look for the distinctive Bucky-ball shape in museums, greenhouses, alternative housing, and science centres. Vancouver’s Science World is a 47-metre tall geodesic dome made of 766 triangles.

Why didn’t anybody tell me about stuff like this when I was a kid?

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How to Save the World

Dave Pollard:

Dick Richards’ new book Is Your Genius at Work? is designed for people contemplating a career change. Its focus is on helping people find their genius — the one thing they are especially and uniquely good at, and then finding application for that genius in the work world. Its audience is anyone who believes they are currently doing less than they could or should, both for their own fulfillment and to make a contribution to the betterment of the world. It’s especially valuable for those who are in need of an ego-boost — those who don’t believe they have genius, and don’t believe they are especially good at anything.

This is an excellent review of what sounds like an excellent book. It’s enough to convince me to add the the book to my wishlist.

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Rainforests Paying the Price for Biofuels

Fred Pearce reports for New Scientist:

The drive for “green energy” in the developed world is having the perverse effect of encouraging the destruction of tropical rainforests. From the orang-utan reserves of Borneo to the Brazilian Amazon, virgin forest is being razed to grow palm oil and soybeans to fuel cars and power stations in Europe and North America. And surging prices are likely to accelerate the destruction

How to Make People Appear Stupid on the Internet

Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame, lists seven strategies for making people sound stupid:

If you are new to the Internet, allow me to explain how to debate in this medium. When one person makes any kind of statement, all you need to do is apply one of these methods to make it sound stupid. Then go on the offensive.

As someone who used to spend lots of time lurking on Slashdot and Usenet, I’ve got to say that Scott’s nailed it.

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Administrivia: Switching to Feedburner

I’ve been using FeedBurner to manage my feeds on Startup Fever since I started it. I really like. It helps me understand how people are reading the blog in ways I can’t see just by looking in the server logs.

I’ve found it so useful, that I’m going to start using a FeedBurner feed as the main one for this blog. So starting today, there’s a new feed for this blog.

If you’d like to switch to it, you can find the new feed at http://feeds.feedburner.com/kendyck.

Here are a few buttons that may help ease your transition:

Subscribe in NewsGator Online
Subscribe in Rojo
Add 'Ken's Meme Deflector' to Newsburst from CNET News.com
Subscribe in Bloglines

If you’d rather not change anything, that’s fine, too. The old atom feed will continue to be available and will be updated with all the latest content.

Your choice: switch or stay. You shouldn’t notice any difference either way.

Louisette’s Legal Fund Website

Louisette Lanteigne, the Waterloo stay-at-home mother of three who is being sued for libel by Activa Holdings Inc. to the tune of $2 million for comments she made on her watchdog site (covered here), has set up a website to gather contributions for her legal defense. There she writes,

Currently I am in the process of aquiring a certificate from a lawyer to open up a Legal Trust Fund to assist in covering the legal fees in regards to this lawsuit from Activa Holdings.

If anyone is interested in contributing, I have opened this paypal account. All funds in this account as of November 14th will go directly into the Legal Trust Fund.

My paypal user id is butterflybluelu@rogers.com or you can just click the button below.

This was built in response many inquiries from folks who have emailed me wanting to help. Thank you.