February 11th, 2005


Stephenson Interview


Two cool snippets:

Speaking as an observer who has many friends with libertarian instincts, I would point out that terrorism is a much more formidable opponent of political liberty than government. Government acts almost as a recruiting station for libertarians. Anyone who pays taxes or has to fill out government paperwork develops libertarian impulses almost as a knee-jerk reaction. But terrorism acts as a recruiting station for statists. So it looks to me as though we are headed for a triangular system in which libertarians and statists and terrorists interact with each other in a way that I’m afraid might turn out to be quite stable.


It has been the case for quite a while that the cultural left distrusted geeks and their works; the depiction of technical sorts in popular culture has been overwhelmingly negative for at least a generation now. More recently, the cultural right has apparently decided that it doesn’t care for some of what scientists have to say. So the technical class is caught in a pincer between these two wings of the so-called culture war. Of course the broad mass of people don’t belong to one wing or the other. But science is all about diligence, hard sustained work over long stretches of time, sweating the details, and abstract thinking, none of which is really being fostered by mainstream culture.

Team America

Am finally going to make it to this at 8:45 at the UGC tonight. If any of you haven't yet seen it and want to, let me know...

The Thing That Should Not Be

Having now been using Java for 2 weeks I feel categorically able to make two definitive statements about terrible, terrible design decisions.

1) Case Sensitivity is a really stupid idea. When you're trying to debug your code the last thing you want to be doing is trying to spot which bit of a name you've miscapitalised. There's just no need for it any more - it's obviously a hangover from the days when the extra step of converting everything to the same case during compilation would have been an overload. Nowdays having to remember that MyPatternMatcher and myPatternMatcher aren't the same is just silly. Oh, and the fucking capitalisation of the built-in libraries, where everything starts with a lower-case character, but then has upper case characters for all following words (i.e. myList.getNextListEntry) is just plain fucked up - either words should start with a capital letter, or they bloody well shouldn't.

2) Zero Based Counting are just positively counterintuitive. I mean, yes, if you start counting at 1 then you might waste a teeny amount of storage, but it prevents the silliness that happens when you retrieve an array size and then access the contents of the entries up to _one less than that number_. Imagine trying to do this anywhere in life except in a computer program? Wait - we do! The British insist that there is a ground floor and _then_ a first floor, and look how stupidly confusing that is to everyone else. Again - back in the olden days this might have been acceptable, but it makes things actively less readable and is therefore BAD.

Thankfully it does have iterators, so I can live with that. And the latest version even has a ForEach statement, which is positively modern and useful.

From this week's TFT

On living in Palestine for three years.

'The first year you feel for the Palestinians. The second year you begin to understand why the Israelis are killing them. The third year you decide they rather deserve each other.'