Personal media summary, August 2015

In no particular order:

  • Roughly halfway through “Gravity’s Rainbow”, have rarely enjoyed a book this much.

  • Came across some of the best surreal art I have ever seen, in an art gallery in Maui, by Vladimir Kush (see a bunch of examples here, one of my favorites is above)

  • Saw “Words and Pictures” (because Juliette Binoche), split between good and meh.

  • (funny Youtube stuff) Stumbled on this olden goldie: two Chinese kids lip-synch to Backstreet Boys in their dorm (remember watching it way, way, way back)

  • Watched “The Prestige” again (because it never gets old, it might just be my favorite movie of all time)

  • I like soundtracks, and “Interstellar” was just … exceptional. Here’s something to sample if you’re interested

  • Saw a few videos of Zizek analyzing movies: absolutely brilliant and now I want to watch all the rest. For one that I particularly liked (and in fact, the first one I stumbled across by accident, see this one for “Solaris”).

… we want lots of cool products “in the cloud.” But the cloud isn’t an amorphous collection of billions of water droplets. The cloud is actually a finite and knowable number of large companies with access to or control over large pieces of the Internet. It’s Level 3 for fiber optic cables, Amazon for servers, Akamai for CDN, Facebook for their ad network, Google for Android and the search engine. It’s more of an oligopoly than a cloud.

The Three Laws of Programs

(As seen here)

  1. A program must not be hard for a human to understand, nor though lack of clarification allow a misunderstanding to take place.
  2. A program must be fast and concise, unless it conflicts with the first law.
  3. A program must be easy for the computer to understand, unless it conflicts with first two laws.

Type Checking. This is a group of zealous academics (and their groupies and/or grad students) who believe that they can write programs that are smart enough to figure out what your program is trying to do, and tell you when you’re wrong. They don’t think of themselves as AI people, though, oddly enough, because AI has (wisely) moved beyond deterministic approaches.

This camp has figured out more or less the practical limit of what they can check deterministically, and they have declared that this is the boundary of computation itself, beyond the borders of which you are crossing the outskirts of civilization into kill-or-be-killed territory, also occasionally known as The Awful Place Where People Make Money With Software.

Whenever I gave even a moment’s thought to whether I needed to learn compilers, I’d think: I would need to know how compilers work in one of two scenarios. The first scenario is that I go work at Microsoft and somehow wind up in the Visual C++ group. Then I’d need to know how compilers work. The second scenario is that the urge suddenly comes upon me to grow a long beard and stop showering and make a pilgrimage to MIT where I beg Richard Stallman to let me live in a cot in some hallway and work on GCC with him like some sort of Jesuit vagabond.

Here’s what I thought when I took it back in 1991. See if it sounds familiar. I thought: a compiler is a tool that takes my program, after whining about it a lot, and turns it into computer-speak. If you want to write programs, then a compiler is just one of those things you need. You need a computer, a keyboard, an account maybe, a compiler, an editor, optionally a debugger, and you’re good to go. You know how to Program. You’re a Programmer. Now you just need to learn APIs and stuff.