Archive for November 2010

Theme Thursday: Food   2 comments

This week’s Theme Thursday is “Food”.

Did you know that 17,400,000 households (not people, mind you, households) in the United States don’t put three square meals on the table, due to lack of resources?  And that this has been going on for two years?

Eighty-five percent of American households were food secure throughout the entire year in 2009, meaning that they had access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. The remaining households (14.7 percent) were food insecure at least some time during the year, including 5.7 percent with very low food security. In households with very low food security, the food intake of one or more household members was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for food. Prevalence rates of food insecurity and very low food security were essentially unchanged from 14.6 percent and 5.7 percent, respectively, in 2008, and remained at the highest recorded levels since 1995, when the first national food security survey was conducted.

These numbers are essentially unchanged for 2008 and 2009.  The insecurity numbers were 11.1 percent and 4.1 percent in 2007.  10.9 and 4.0 in 2006. The recession has clearly hit the poor pretty damn hard.  Remember that the next time you want to complain about how bad things are for you.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Posted November 18, 2010 by padraic2112 in food, Theme Thursday

Folksonomy of Programmers   3 comments

I don’t program for a living.  However, I know a bunch of programmers, as part of my job I talk shop with Computer Science people, and programming languages interest me from the standpoint of logical systems.

I was chewing the fat with one of those aforementioned Computer Science folk this morning, and I offered a classification system for programmers that he found entertaining.  Since I needed something to write about to get me back into the blogging gig, here it is for your consumption, with some embellishment.

Class One: The Directionless Hack

How to recognize them:

These people don’t know much about anything.  They’re the type who learned how to program by reading “Java for Dummies”, or by hammering away at their computer to get something specific done (like, building the web site for their band or their buddy’s motorcycle shop). Edited to add: as Corey points out in the comments, you can have a degree in Computer Science, from a reputable university, and still be a directionless hack.  How you learned what you know is less important than what you haven’t learned, and “just getting this next thing done” is a very common approach to formal education, too.

In and of itself, self-taught programmers aren’t necessarily a bad lot (many of the below classes started here), but these yahoos haven’t got an enormous amount of intellectual curiosity about how programming works and their “self-taught” skills stop precisely at the place where their current problem ends.  They generally keep solving the same problems over and over, as they fail to realize that the problem that they’re trying to solve is something that someone else already solved a couple of decades ago.

They program almost entirely in Perl, PHP, or JavaScript, because that’s what they can hack together with a minimal amount of abstract work, and they run everything over the web that they can.  They’ve built at least one database in their lifetime, and anyone who understands normalization will scream in abject horror if they see the database schema.  Generally, they need complete access to everything to get anything done, because they can’t explain what they’re doing while they do it, at least in part because they’re not sure what they’re doing.  Within a very short period of time after they leave their code up and running, it will collapse in a way that only the original developer can untangle.  They don’t use version control; or if they use version control a typical change comment will include, “Checking in some changes”.  Comments in the source code will be likewise either nonexistent, or include no useful information.  They don’t work well with systems administrators, DBAs, or networking folks.

Common statement: “Well, it works for me.”

Class Two: The Directed Hack

How to recognize them:

These are the people who know they need to get something done, but figured out somewhere along the line that it might be a good idea to pick up at least a couple of books about programming concepts instead of just “howto” manuals.  If they graduated with a CS major, they paid enough attention in their theory classes to grasp what “layer of abstraction” means, although they may not be able to explain it.  Like the directionless hack, they usually need full access to most things to get anything done, however unlike the directionless hack they’ll have learned enough about at least some things to know they don’t want to mess with it any more.  If they have more than 5 years of experience, they’ll have some comments in their code (precisely at the location where most of the bugs are), because they occasionally want to go on vacation.  They program in whatever language is currently en vogue wherever they are, or they will default to Perl or Python.  They will have an opinion on what the best language is, but their strength of their opinion will be directly correlated to whether or not they’ve worked primarily on writing their own code (in which case they will prefer an unstructured language), or supporting the code of someone else (in which case they will prefer a much more rigorously structured language).  Depending upon the stage of their professional development, they will work well with systems administrators, database administrators, or networking personnel, but never all three at the same time.  These people actually make up the bulk of systems administrators, industry-wide.  Programming editors vary wildly.

Common statement, in comments: “# I know this sucks, but it works.  Do it yourself if you don’t like it.”

Class Three: The Mercenary Professional

How to recognize them:

They know Java, ASP.NET, and/or C#.  They’re at least conceptually familiar with SOAP and/or Ajax.  They hate whichever database they’ve relied upon that had the least competent DBA, and like whichever database they’ve relied upon that had the most competent DBA.  They want version control, they want detailed specifications, they don’t want to have more than two meetings with the customer.  They regard most of what they learned in college (if they were a CS major) as useless and unnecessary.  These people want to get stuff *done*, and they don’t want another phone call about it afterward.  They regard systems administrators and networking staff as necessary evils.  They will love good DBAs, and set fire to bad ones.  They will have a love-hate relationship with XML.  They will likely prefer Waterfall development, and use NetBeans or Visual Studio IDE.

Common statement: “File that bug report with the maintenance team,” or “That’s not in the spec.”

Class Four: The Cabalist

How to recognize them:

They have a very, very strong opinion on which language is teh best evar, and the list of candidates includes Lisp, C, Modula-3, and Haskell.  They will be able to write up at least six different logical diagrams of any project before writing any code… although they probably won’t write up logical diagrams because they can move from one layer of abstraction to another, on the fly, in their own head (or at least, they think they can).  Their first approach to most software projects will be to suggest a complete re-write in a language that doesn’t suck.  They will hate most programming languages, including any language that is proposed by anyone on their programming team that isn’t a Cabalist or a Professional.  Good Cabalists will work well with good DBAs, but bad Cabalists will annoy the hell out of them by offering suggestions on how to improve the database.  They will often argue with systems administrators or networking staff about technical limitations (of the systems or network) as if problems with deviation from RFCs are the technical staff’s fault.  They will likely prefer some sort of agile programming methodology, and have a strong preference for their particular favorite incarnation.  Cabalists typically will use Emacs (and have a very strong preference for a particular incarnation of emacs), and sneer at any IDE.

Common statement: “Only a complete idiot would do it that way.”

Class Five: The Theoretician

Closely related to The Cabalist, the Theoretician goes one step farther.  They will have done one of the following: written a major software program in Assembly, written their own compiler in a language *other* than Assembly “just to do it”, written their own programming language, installed a C compiler on their HP calculator, contributed a driver or a chunk of the kernel to either the Linux, FreeBSD, or NetBSD projects, or installed and run Plan 9 on their home network un-ironically.  These people are nearly useless in a team environment as nobody else can understand them except a Cabalist, and Cabalists and Theoreticians rarely get along.  However, they also can be the sort of Free Electron that can re-write an entire application over a weekend.  Almost all Theoreticians use vi.

Common statement: “Yeah, I wrote about that in the 2001 issue of IEEE Interactions between Compilers and Computer Architectures”

Class Six: The Weary Wise One

These guys and gals used to be one of the above classes, but have passed into programming Nerdvana to Enlightenment.  They will have opinions, but no longer care about the strength of those convictions.  They will re-write the entire code base, but only if necessary, or hack it if that’s the best way to get the job done.  They will cheerfully reuse another programmer’s code (even bad code), or buy an off-the-shelf component if that’s legitimately the best way to get the job done nearly on time, basically on budget, and with quality good enough to make everyone happy.  They will hate most operating systems, programming languages, and programming methodologies equally.  Typically they will prefer vi or emacs over an IDE, but will use an IDE if it gets the job done.

Common statement: “This is still better than my dot-com days.”

Posted November 17, 2010 by padraic2112 in humor, software, tech, Uncategorized

Woodland, CA. March 5th, 1945   Leave a comment

Mrs. Telsch was the woman who ran the boarding house my grandfather Maurice stayed in prior to shipping out for the Philippines in 1941.  She wrote this letter to his parents, Ory and Lettie, on March 5th, 1945.

My Dear Folks

At last I can say were are a very happy family and I know you folks must be too. Maurice arrived in good old U.S.A. Thursday, March 1 evening late and Friday they took him to a San Francisco Hospital. Saturday he called you folks and us up on the phone. My it did seem good to hear his voice. We were so overjoyed and excited.

Then Maurice called a friend of ours in San Francisco and he and his wife came to the hospital and got Maurice and brought him to Woodland Saturday afternoon in there car wich is about 75 miles from here. We had a very nice visit with him in the short time he was here. As he had to be back at the hospital by twelve o’clock that night.

I had a nice dinner for them and it seemed so good to have him at our table again, and that big smile on his face again. Maurice looks good, considering what he has gone through with. He is thin but has gained fifteen pounds in one month which shows he is in good health and another month or so he should be fine.

His mind is good and he is not shelled shocked at all and nerves seem to be very good which is wonderful. He does not look a bit older than when he left here.

I told him it did not make any difference how much the war had messed him up. As long as we had him back, and he could have come back much worse off. But I am sorry I half to tell you he has lost both of his Legs. He did not have the heart to tell you on the phone that day and asks me to tell you.

They took his legs of just between the knee and the hips about halfway. This why they are sending him back East to Washington D.C. to a hospital that makes the artificial limbs and fit them and then teach him to walk. When this is done he will be as good as new. I do not have any Idea how long it will take.

He left yesterday and I guess he is back there by now. He will send you his adress and you can go see him as he is only 300 miles from you. He bought himself a Wheel Chair and he gets arouond very good in it. It folds up and you can put it in a car. Very nice.

This is why he can not come home until he gets fixed. But they are feeding him good and doing every thing they can for him.

So I do hope you will understand and being good Christian people will not take it too hard. It did him a lot of good to visit us while he was here.

Yes I had to break the news to him about Marie getting married which was the hardest thing to do. She and her husband came over to see him while he was here. I thought she treated him very cold did not even shake hands with him. But her husband did when he did I could see Maurice wanted to haul off and let him have it. But he tried so hard not to let on he cared. But I could see it hurt just the same. But my girls helped to cheer him and he soon forgot about it. He has gone through so much I guess nothing matters any more. When I ask him if he wanted to see them he said “Hell I guess if they can stand it I guess I can”. But I wish she had waited until he came home. But that is the way life is, I guess.

I read your letter to Maurice and will forward it to him as soon as I get his address.

Yours Sincerely,

Mrs A.C. Telsch

On the 28th of January, 1941, my grandfather enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps at the age of 19 at Fort Macarthur, San Pedro.  A year and two weeks later, he was wounded in action during the battle of Bataan, on February 9th.  His parents were informed of his wounding via a letter from the War Department on February 23rd, 1942, but no details were available.

On April 9th of that year, he was taken prisoner by the Japanese, and participated in the Bataan Death March.  During the three years of his internment, he sent a few form postcards through the International Red Cross to his parents that provided no real details of his situation other than the fact that he was alive, and once participated in a Japanese radio broadcast during which he was allowed to read a short message which also included no details.

On the 19th of February, 1945, he was officially logged as repatriated to the U.S., less the legs he used to walk into the enlistment office.  This letter above was the first notification his parents received with verifiable news of the actual extent of his injuries.

Just two weeks prior to this letter being written, on February 22nd, Ory and Lettie had received a previous letter from Mrs. Telsch, which mentioned that Maurice had been in Bilibid, a POW camp that had been liberated 16 days before.  There were 1,200 prisoners at Old Bilifid, about 1,000 civilians and 200 military personnel, most or all of whom were amputees of one sort of another.

“Grandpa Moe” died in 1988.

Today’s for you, Grandpa, and the 22 million veterans still alive in the U.S., and the millions more who have died since 1776.

Posted November 11, 2010 by padraic2112 in family

The Greatest Game   Leave a comment

Every year, something new happens in baseball. And it’s always a really *interesting* new thing. Something happens that’s never happened before.

Tonight, something happened that had never happened before… the San Francisco Giants won the World Series. The Giants had won it before, but not since they relocated to San Francisco. Not since well before I was born.

Congrats to the players. You’ve given three generations of baseball fans something to remember.

Posted November 2, 2010 by padraic2112 in Uncategorized