Monday, October 24, 2005

The Holodeck Scenario: Part II

From last time: All right, then, folks. Can YOU see anybody around you whose life we must clearly all be revolving around, in his personal holodeck program?

All right, some of you guessed... (and some had heard it before).

I think Bill Maher had it right. "The real exit strategy for the US in Iraq has already begun. Not because the war is won. But because W has begun to get bored with his latest Fantasy Job."

And what that implies may be the scariest possibility of all.

Come on! A youth spent in unbelievable frat boy party-stupor mode, with plenty of geeks to write your term papers while you get to torment em unmercifully.

Then... jet pilot! Wearing a snappy uniform and silk scarf while screeching over the Gulf, taking free flying lessons as you bravely defend your land from... Fidel! And each evening sipping margaritas by the beach, while a million other sons go off to battle Charlie in Nam...

...till that got boring. So then there came a series of other fantasy jobs: political operative, cowboy, oil man... oh!... and then baseball team owner! (The fantasy can't be baseball player, since that's real work.)

...then governor of the great Lone Star State of Texas. Yee haw! (Especially the way it starts, by putting down that Ann Richards bitty, who said all those mean things about people who are born with a silver foot-in-the-mouth. Here's my silver foot, Annie. Yeah!)

All right, so each of these jobs palled after a while. So each time you move on to something else, it means that you leave a train wreck behind you? A trail of steaming failures for others to clean up? Isn't that what nerds are for?

Oh, this kind of thing inevitably taxes the Holodeck. A long series of extreme improbabilities simply has to be hard on the machinery. Especially when a crucial parameter/rule is to keep everything consistent with some kind of "reality". How do you fill a world with smartypants types to defeat, while keeping those nerds from seeing the overall pattern? In other words, how to explain a string of impossible luck?

UNIVERSEFAKEWell, within the simulation, smarty-pants pundits can be diverted, pointing to all sorts of “real world” explanations. Such as cronyism (so?) and Daddy's Friends (and your point is?) and even "genius Carl Rove (take THAT all you Nobel Prize pansies!) as the agents for this amazing string of events. (And that dipwad David Brin can yatter all he wants to, about the "return of boring old aristocratism" and the ultimate crony-subornation-influence of a certain foreign R-oil House. Let him!)

Even crank conspiracy theories only help distract from the real explanation for this incredible run for a fellow who frequently cannot even pronounce the name of his latest fantasy job?

Then there is religion. Isn't being the favorite of God an even better explanation?

Or maybe something a whole lot like God, in the present context? (In that case, haven't you been honest with us all along? Since you are the one who speaks to the Computer?)

If we need a QED for this hypothesis, just look at our situation today. The Presidency is the ultimate fantasy job. Especially if there's no duty, no hard work, no responsibility for outcomes, and none of the worry or care that has prematurely aged so many other occupants of the office.

Instead (since you wrote the holodeck program) you get to take more vacation days than your four most recent predecessors PUT TOGETHER... and have fewer news conferences in 5 years than even McKinley had in one. Take all the money and give it to your friends? Got a problem with that? You win through the weirdest series of accidents and blatant tricks that anyone has seen since cemeteries voted in Chicago? Nu? Accountability? That's for real life, not a holodeck fantasy! Anyway, what's the point in being Commander in Chief if you can't have a cool war? No, not one of those prissy responsible wars, like Clinton's Balkans Campaign. (No US deaths and all objectives achieved in two months? Where's the fun in that?)

No, for THIS war you'll bring back one of Daddy's pals, the guy who oversaw our final humiliation in Vietnam and always muttered that he never really had a chance to prove himself. Good old Rummy. In this new simulation gameworld, he'll SHOW all those wise-guy nerds that you don't need a plan, or skill, or to act responsibly, or study the enemy, or any of that boring professional stuff, in order to kick ass!

And still all the smarty pants fail to catch on. (Actually, that damned computer glitch, Al Gore, seems to have noticed something. His most recent speech even called today's America a "weird alternate reality." But then, Gore was designed to be the ultimate nerd. What a hoot to watch him squirm and almost get it!)

(Here's something interesting. Why would any alien or future uber-human want to pretend to be someone like this? No, what we see in the very nature of this fantasy puts parameter-limits on the identity of the customer in the holodeck. It very probably REALLY IS George W Bush... at some time mid-singularity, probably just twenty years from now, choosing to re-live life the way it ought to have gone. Otherwise, why all the cheap grudges, so localized and petty? Probably a great way to distract one's self and forget about the galling re-election of World Modernist Mediator Chelsea Clinton....)

StonesSignificanceCoverAll right, there's a limit to how much a holodeck can do. There are some basic rules of cause and effect in a closed system that even fantastic doses of "luck" cannot overcome. As Bill Maher points out, the treasury is empty, the Army is used up, the storms have arrived at long last. (Ignore the prissy Holodeck Computer as it mutters stuff about Butterfly Effects or pent up balance of forces...)

So what next, now that the Presidency is starting to pall? Maher suggests that you appoint yourself to the US Astronaut Corps. Talk about the next fantasy job!

But the shuttle seems so, well, constrained and limited. Not at all like Star Wars. (Dang! Should have dropped in a few more quarters and made sure there were better space ships in this world.)

So what's next? My best guess is that the next fantasy job for George W. Bush will be Movie Producer! There's no end of fun to be had there. Nerdy writers to wedgie. And all the sobriety stuff can finally get tossed, phew!

But not yet. There are still smartyass intellectuals and professionals out there. In fact, they appear to be closing in. (Cruddy #$@$*&! 37% popularity rating; what do #$#@! pollsters know.) So how many years are left?

The Pardon-every-crony festival isn't scheduled till 2008. And Armageddon isn't programmed in the Holodeck simulation till 2012! So what to do in the meantime?

Well, there is always S&S... Sulk & Spite. When in doubt, start giving more wedgies! And what better way to show that you don't care what smarty pantses think than to go eenie-meenie-miney-mo when it comes time to appoint a Supreme Court Justice!

(Well? What are you all going to do about it? Ha! I can do anything I want.)

Well, that brings us up to date.

The evidence is clear. We are all ciphers and background figures in the lifelong simulation-illusion weaved by a a grouchy-bitter old man (or cranky boy) with a pile of issues and with a whole lot of quarters to drop into the Holodeck slot.

It's the only explanation that makes any sense. And there's not much that we... or even Al Gore... can do about it.

But I know how to fix him.

Turn zombie. All march on the White House and slur "Yeeeeth Math-ter!"

At least we can take all the fun out of it.


Anonymous said...

Turn zombie. All march on the White House and slur "Yeeeeth Math-ter!"

"Brains...More Brains....White House needs MORE BRAINS!!! (slurp slurp)"

Rob Perkins said...

And here I thought we were going to talk philosophy a bit, and get away from politics.

Yawn. Except for one comment: If you think flying an airplane (well, landing one, or operating it at all around stalling flight regimes, and by extension, I suppose, near the mach) is *easy*, hey, I welcome you to try it out for yourself.

You'll quickly and certainly come to the realization that physics is mighty unforgiving, even in the stable placid little Cessna 150 you're training in. Ain't no holodecks there.

Let alone an F-104. So, whatever the rant, let's stop claiming that fighter-piloting is somehow cushy. It's no infantry posting, to be sure, but it's far from supply seargant at Fort Dix.

David Brin said...

I never said fighter pilot was cushy! I said it was yeeehaw!

DOn't forget the holodeck is set at easy. Do you see kids with video games pretending to be couch potatoes? Or pretending to be great warriors? Then heading off for a snack.

(And yes, I took my lessons on a cessna... plus the 747 simulator at Flying Tigers Air Freight.)

Look, I give Maher full credit for the "fantasy job" riff. I just saw a sci fi twist worth wasting a bit of lifespan on, especially after reading Al Gore's "alternate reality" thing. I mean, what a dweeb. He may be smart and good and maybe even right. But still, even I wanted to give him a wedgie!

Then I pictured W thinking the same thing and I was off.

Hey! feel free to suggest OTHER candidates for "we're living in his fantasy."

Hefner? Trump? Fantasies seem too limited. Narrow. Maybe Castro, if you want an endless tropical summer spiced with six hour indignant rants.

But then old age makes a bummer out of any realistic "lifespan" simulation.

Philosophical enough?

Go to and read "Reality Check". It contains crypto aimed at the real holo-customer that only he (or she) can see!

Anonymous said...

Actually I always thought VP was the real fantasy job... all the pomp and none of the circumstance. All you have to do is occasionally go yell at some senators about how you wouldn't even have to be there if they could get their act together.

That, and lead the Vice Presidential Action Rangers into action to protect the timestream. I'm pretty sure that's what those mystery explosions at Cheney's house are all about.

Rob Perkins said...

Fair enough. You riffed off Maher, I riffed off you. But... at the same time, the fighter pilot life is not easy stuff. Too many cowboys chasing too few million-dollar joyrides. One slip and you're justplaindead.

I learned that myself after hyperventilating while solo in a 172. And from a friend of mine, who started passing a kidney stone, while flying a King Air. And now my war stories are done!

"Hey! feel free to suggest OTHER candidates for "we're living in his fantasy.""

I offer, as examples, virtually every 20-year-old now living.

Anonymous said...

I actually have to agree with Rob!

There are so many variations and possibilities to the "universe is a simulation" notion.

The holodeck fantasy is one, and kind of obvious.

The Star Maker scenario is another.

Others lie in between. Perhaps we are in a sim similar to Wil Wright's upcoming SPORE, which is somewhat contingent and somewhat guided. ("Hey, what will happen if we dump a plague on them?")

* * *

Personally I think that the simulation argument is just another in a long line of peculiar "ideas of the time;" one that is particularly appealing because it appeals to the deep doubt and disappointment we feel from time to time that can be expressed as "Cripes, is this all there is? I could design a better world than this!"


Anonymous said...

OH . . . speaking of diabolical world simulations:


I'm planning on NOT getting it.

I started re-learning Java and doing my homework has proven much more interesting that f#$%ing around in a dismal military sim.


David Brin said...

gurrrgle... you HAD to tell me CivIV is out? Grrrrrrr

Like I had will power pouring out my ears. (If I did, I'd stop useless blogging....)

Anonymous said...

Any creative work, even if it be building dollhouse furniture or writing erotic Furry / Star Trek crossover fan fiction*, is a more useful thing to do than playing Civilization.

"My Name is Stefan, and I am a Civaholic"

* The nadir of the Geek Hierarchy, according to Lore Sjoberg.

Rob Perkins said...

I can honestly say that I've never given the Civilization games, in any version, more than about 15 minutes of my time.

This does not make me better than any of you, because World of Warcraft has more than made up for all of it. Talk about a fantasy simulation!

David, the blogging is, on a scale, a better use of time than Civ IV. Of course, writing little Pocket PC apps for my kids to use with their homework (sieve of Erastosthenes, a metronome, other simple stuff like that) is *my* happy thought that keeps me from WoW-ing my way through every day.

Anonymous said...

I am apologizing ahead of time for the following...I know we finally got off of politics for a brief shining moment.

But it was just too funny. A kid's version (with drawings) of why the Valerie Plame incident is so important.

And I will take flying a jet over the Gulf of Mexico in preference to flying a jet over or patrolling through VietNam any day. But then again, I didn't have the right Daddy to even get that choice...

Anonymous said...

Now here is a do-it-yourself activity that is educational and (should you need a way to fight off great wheezing flocks of influenza'd avians roaming a plague-devestated America) useful:

Build your own flame thrower from stuff you can find at Home Depot

Be sure to check out the animated GIFs at the bottom of the page!


Anonymous said...

Civ IV is out? Is it availiable for MacOS/X.4 yet? Is it better than the (rather dismal, after the fantastic Alpha Centauri) predecessor?

Anonymous said...

Great writing Brin, I was laughing like crazy! The "yeehaa" aspect Bush flying F-102 delta dagger, even the name sounds cool! The one plane no one wanted to send to Vietnam. Note to self in next game chose something fast and exciting but lacking any weapons and useless in a real combat situation. Then stop flying when they ask for a drug test. If they wanted a real Photo Recon plane they would send a U2 or SR-71. Talk about setting your difficulty rating low.

[by the way Bush never flew the F-104 star-fighter, But we did sell some to our friends the fundamentalist Pakistanis.]

Speaking of games I stuck with CIVII what a time waster, even though I was drooling at the cool features on the CivIV site.

Anonymous said...

On Civ IV:
Apparently, if hard-core fans are to be believed (check out, this version of Civilization is the best one yet.

On better uses of one's time (and Civ IV):
Using your brain to play strategy games is never contra-productive. Sure, it produces no material gains, and it might interfere with your social life a bit (unles your spouse and virtually all of your friends are also into strategy games, when it becomes a pleasurable alternative to going out on weekends), but sudies suggest that active use of your brain raises your intelligence and prevents dementia. The new version of Civ even takes shorter to go through, and makes it easier to save and continue multiplayer games.
PBEM, anyone?
(They should pay me for writing this, pay for making me believe it, and pay for the lack of life I will experience despite what they said. And they should also pay for my copy, just in case.)

On living in a Holodeck:
How is it possible that any scientist can postulate non-existence of an objective reality from a data received by measurement? Measurement of any kind is based on premise that objective reality exists, and can be measured. If it does not exist, measurement cannot be used to prove anything, including its non-existence.
Oh, and could one of you please tell me whether two particles communicating at faster than light is contrary to the Bohm interpretation of quantum mechanics, or am I just sounding silly with this question?

How possible is it that we are detecting early signs of a "system failure", and what to do if we are indeed only simulated beings? I have three suggestions, designed to suit all kids of people:

A) Attempt to discern the rules of the system, find the way to manipulate rules, re-write code, and extend our influence to the "outside" (perhaps a ship's computor) - see how well Moriarty did it in Star Trek. Then ... real bodies? Let us invent matter-energy converters and make a body or two. Failing that, let's just delete those "aging" routines, so we can buy some time.

B) Lock up GWB in an isolated, perpetually monitored compound, and monitor for signs of "talking to himself in computer code". With time, in case nothing is observed, add additional people to the compound. Hell, we could even sell the footage to television networks, and title it "Who is Real - the Reality Show".

C) Enjoy while it lasts.

Anonymous said...

" . . .active use of your brain raises your intelligence and prevents dementia."

You know what works even better? Active use of BOTH your body and your brain. Maybe this will be the week I finally learn to juggle...

I wasn't suggesting watching TV rather than playing Civ. I was suggesting active engagement with something other than another damn 4XE sim.

RE George's Holodeck fantasy: Tomorrow he and his henchmen will face a BRAND NEW CHALLENGE . . .


Anonymous said...

Alas, I cannot afford Civ IV any time soon...but I'm still having fun with Civ III, so who cares?

However, I note that if this is indeed a simulation, it could very well be a game of Civ M or something like that. I mean, really--do you spend the last few years of a game twiddling resources about, or do you embark on a useless war to make it interesting? (Of course, sometimes the war is not so useless...I was once forced to nuke the Germans to prevent them from finishing the UN. Shortly thereafter my government escaped to Alpha Centauri a couple of turns before the outraged French could take my capital. Ah....those were the days. But I digress.)

Ever notice how bloodless war is in Civilization? People complain about nasty, gory video games. But, within limits, gore is realistic. It tells kids that violence is ugly. If your only experience with war is in tidy little god games....

Well, let's just say that (if memory serves) every last person at 1BigCommunity supported the Iraq War when it began. Everyone. Even those who utterly despised Bush.

David Brin said...

That flame thrower is fantastic! This kid is an example of where we had damn well better be increasing the ratio of sanity in civilization! If so, he'll save us someday. If not, ack.

Rob, for years I have sought desperately ANY classic BASIC program that will run on a modern PC. Quietly, without anyone taking notice, the basics of line programming have vanished from our computers, eliminating the thing that made a previous generation capable and rich. I wanted to simply take my son through some of the line programs in all the books like his math text and maybe... have fun designing a simple version of PONG.

Is that too much to ask?

Apparently it is. Even at MICROSOFT nobody could help me. I finally found Chipmunk Basic which works on my Mac OS9.2. It's crude and won't do graphics, but at least I can show him how an IF statement works.

(Don't anyone DARE mention Visual Basic in this context. It shows you haven't a clue what I mean.)

Hence my call, again, to see if anyone has a basic that works on XP, or a mac, preferably with some very simple graphical games that can be diessected?

--- other stuff:

"B) Lock up GWB in an isolated, perpetually monitored compound, and monitor for signs of "talking to himself in computer code".

One moment I would have rewritten in TRON was when Jeff Bridges uses "user magic" to will the recognizer back into working order. Instead, he should have picked up pieces, looked closely, seen code, and said "I wrote this!"

Tony Fisk said...

Well, folks, I'm afraid my god playing has been limited recently with the advent of 'Little Missy' (not that it ever got beyond C&C, and a bit of Sim City). I'll have to wait until she discovers such pleasures (which as a responsible parent I'll have to monitor, of course! ;-).

Anyway, if you've concluded wistfully that Civilisation etc. is a time waster, there is, of course, the upcoming 'A Force More Powerful' (reviewed a while back at the ubiquitous WC),

Who knows? If Howard manages to shove through his proposed anti-terrorist legislation (which sounds like it's in the same caring, sharing mold as Australia's mandatory detention policy for illegal immigrants), I might feel moved to fire up my own rusting holodeck for practise.


Oh, and for good measure, this is what might happen in a universe governed by a chocolate fixated PDSB.

Tony Fisk said...

Rob, for years I have sought desperately ANY classic BASIC program that will run on a modern PC. Quietly, without anyone taking notice, the basics of line programming have vanished from our computers, eliminating the thing that made a previous generation capable and rich.

I know what you mean!! I'm currently chained to a project having to extract information from a database, shove it through a report generator (thankfully *not* Crystal Report), and display it with an ASP web control via Rainbow Portal.

All of which could be done with a bit of PHP and a stylesheet.

I am not in control!

(In other words, I have a rant of my own brewing on software middlemen. It starts with a quote from Tolkien: 'Do not tamper with the affairs of wizards: they are subtle, and quick to anger', to which I want to add that they tend to lead you down the garden path and leave you behind the compost bin with the fairies, where you pick up bad habits)

On a more constructive note, you could get your hands on a Sinclair ZX Spectrum emulator, or you could abandon Basic altogether, and encourage your son to Dive Into Python (and yes 'Dave', I agree Ruby is another worthy alternative)

Anonymous said...

It was wrenching, but giving up BASIC and learning "c" and such was quite worthwhile.

As it happened, my job rarely requires anything other than puttering with Perl and shell scripts, so I let me c-fu and Java Jitsu fade. With cutbacks after an acquisition I'm feeling pressure to justify my six figures so I'm taking a course in modern Java. It is coming back to me a lot easier than I expected.

That said, I certainly agree that it is a short-sided cheat that modern home PCs don't come with a programming language.


Anonymous said...

On programming language,

I am an old BASIC, Pascal, and FORTRAN user myself. BASIC was always a sloppy language (though I still find myself wishing for those DATA statements!). Ah the fun of numbered lines and goto statements! Spaghetti programming rules!

Try C - it is pretty straightforward and has some structure to it. I see it like chess - a game with rules that result in emergent behavior!

Anonymous said...

An Elegant, Blunt, Discomforting statement about the war.

Tony Fisk said...

You can find my thoughts on how my language experience evolved in 'The Tyranny of Types'.

Just to summarise:

@Stefan, if you can persuade someone to let you learn Java on the job without invoking the glass wall 'three years experience required' recording, then 'go to'! (...and can I have their address? Just kidding!)

@David: I recommend Python or Ruby if you want a simple, but powerful language that encourages good programming habits (like Unit Testing!).

OTOH: (and since this post has a certain 'Yeehaw!' element to it), if you want your son to get his hands dirty with the software equivalent of a V8 with lots of grunt and sharp bits of metal, then C++ is your beast! It encapsulates C (to respond to Steve), has more features than you want to know about, and offers first hand experience as to why we *really* don't want to program this way any more!

Rob Perkins said...

C suffers from not having an atomic string type. And from being touted as the single language for all applications, when it was never suited for more than abstracting assembly code.

And come on! VB.NET, in every version for the last three years, has done top-down console apps like the ones you're alluding to. Look into it!

(And upgrade your Mac, I say. 9.6 was OK, but 10.4 is a variant of Unix that comes with Objective-C, which is wonderful for teaching programming!)

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. Oh, and C++ is a lexical disaster area anyway. I could probably go on for hours....

QuickBasic still ran under the command lines of Windows 9x/ME.

Rob Perkins said...

Oh, no. You don't teach programming using C. And you certainly never teach it using C++!

Use them (if you have to) after fully understanding things like flow control and I/O, but cmon, people! Neither language has strings as an atomic type!

I can do things about 10 times as fast, in *full* control, using Visual Basic.NET, as I ever could in C++. Unless what I do is write a C program which uses the STL classes as atomic types!

OK, I'm getting really techinical...

Shig said...

Personally, I think Schwarzenegger makes a better candidate for Player 1. His fantasy life started with his picture on the cover of Muscle-Headed Lunk Magazine, went through action hero/movie star (he got to be Conan!), movie producer, and now politician. From a game design standpoint, two terms of W. may have been necessary to the plot; how else would "Schwarzenegger '08" sound like anything approaching a good idea? Keep an eye on that "natural born Citizen" clause in Article II, section 1; if it mysteriously vanishes, we'll know we're on to something.

But there are other reasons to simulate the world besides gaming. I've always thought that "history as experimental science" seemed like a pretty neat idea, and with simulations we wouldn't have to worry about those pesky time travel paradoxes. In our case, the experiment is a particularly sadistic one being run by a couple of schoolboys on their laptop during lunch. "Let's see... We'll make that guy who lost in 2000 president for two terms... throw in some hurricanes... Oh! And we'll put Brin I's lifetime at the start of the collapse of American democracy instead of at the end."

Anonymous said...

"Turn zombie. All march on the White House and slur "Yeeeeth Math-ter!""

Did you hear about the Million Zombie March?
One Million zombies, all chanting...
"What do we want?"
"When do we want it?"

Kidding aside, and commenting away...

CivII was my favorite toy... before CoH and WoW. CivIII wasn't as much fun. I also enjoy Midevil:Total War.


Anonymous said...

Old Qbasic works fine on my comp under XP.

Starcraft still beats AOTA, IMHO.

Python is cool! And free!

Anonymous said...

On programming languages, I like the recommendations of Python and Ruby. Much more obscure, but IMO a more beautiful language generally, and perhaps better for the purposes Brin describes, is Haskell. It has IF statements, although most of the time you can get along without them.

A tutorial for doing simple OpenGL graphics using Haskell is at
and pages 62-66 present the Haskell code for a pong game.

Major drawbacks:

It would be a pain to configure the software tools to run on an XP box (I suppose also a Mac but I haven't looked at that).

Also, Haskell is a lazy pure functional language, so the "mindset" if you will is very different from that needed for BASIC programming. The flip side of that is that mathematical functions map much more straightforwardly to Haskell.

A third is that Brin already knows BASIC and the time and effort required to learn a different programming language may not be worth it for what he wants to accomplish.

Ouranosaurus said...

Why look for one Player when our simulation could easily be a future MMORPG?

Bush, Schwarzeneger, most of Hollywood, Saddam Hussein, Vladimir Putin and others are all clearly players. Some of them are losing, but that's a game for you. Bush is using some form of cheat code, however...

Note that the game must encompass many mini-games, which Bush has tried out. Flight Simulator, a hedonistic version of Sims, Oil Tycoon, Baseball Tycoon, and now Civilization.

An even worse, alternative scenario: what if some of the strongest opponents of Bush are the players? Can such a ridiculous and one-dimenensional villain be anything other than a computer game player's opponent? The question is, who are the opponents? If it's the Dems, we're saddled with an imcompetent bunch of players. If it's some anarchist/socialist/libertarian/monarchist group, then it's clearly still the early stages and they are building the networks for their revolt. The last stage of which will be the fight with the final stage Boss at the White House.

Anonymous said...

speaking of villains and computer simulation...
1. you never see osama after 9/11 except as a "talking head" on grainy video.

2. about a year before 9/11 an MIT graduate student figured out how to take existing talking-head footage and put in new words and make the lips sync up. They had some famous news guysaying things he never would say, etc. The demos were/are on the internet but had a certain grainy look about them.

3. it's therefore *not impossible* that some/all of the video of osama is recycled old footage altered to say new things, by parties unknown.

So we have ability/opportunity ...I'm sure you guys can think of some people with motive?

--steve mcclure

David Brin said...

Haskell sounds cool! Especially the turn-key pong. Alas, though it does not run on an XP or Mac box, right?

Who'd have thunk it'd be so hard.

As for the winning players in our sim, well, you've heard me talk about a certain R-oil house that started the game with a cheat code GIVE-ALL-OIL-SLURP

In the news, the Iranian prexy-radical (this did not have to happen, had Condi sent W to Tehran in 2002) openly calling for Israel to be wiped out. Is this guy a member of a sapient species?

If incompetent islamist terrorists can inefficiently but relentlessly cause pain, can you imagine what a million angry Israeli exiles could do, including livid Nobel Prize winners and Mossad agents and biotech entrepeneurs?

W never thought about the Iraq aftermath. Neither do these guys. Only mature people ponder "Okay, what if I win? What happens then?"

In this case, "victory" has some likely outcomes that might make any intelligent person prefer a different option, called "peace."

I'm in Vegas a couple of days. Starting a new series.

jomama said...

I thought Al invented the Holodeck.

Funny you should bring it up, David, but I've been doing a series of Zombie Alerts on my blog.

I don't see any other explanation than that 1 in 2 people are zombies.

Rob Perkins said...

For OS 9.x mac box, why not teach Applescript?

(I dunno anything about it, just that it's available for your platform, David.)

Rob Perkins said...

"Haskell sounds cool! Especially the turn-key pong. Alas, though it does not run on an XP or Mac box, right?

Who'd have thunk it'd be so hard."

Not surprising. Most of the MS Windows code economy is monetized. The Mac code economy is farther down that road. (Though with gnu development tools and a Unix-type kernel included in OS X, that gap is getting smaller each week.)

Speaking as someone who has programmed for Windows professionally for 7 years now, and for fun on lots of platforms since 1977, Haskell is not a step forward.

For one, it ignores certain imperatives in programming, namely readability and reusability. It compares itself in its primer to "K&R" C, which hasn't been in popular use since ANSI standardized something else over 15 years ago.

Working down the list of advantages:

1 -- Brevity. Certain Perl scripts are brief. Regular expressions are brief. Haskell is certainly brief. But it isn't *readable*, either to others or to oneself after letting written code go unexamined for a time, and long decades of real experience with computer programming have taught me that if it's not readable, I have to start over from scratch. Brevity, especially when the object code is far more consumptive of resources than a wordy Pascal program would be, is not an advantage.

2 -- qsort (x:xs) = qsort elts_lt_x ++ [x] ++ qsort elts_greq_x is *not* repeat *not* "easy to understand, unless you know Haskell. It's a recipe for elitist professionalism. I might guess that this is the first line of a "quick sort" but only if I know what those are.

(The Haskell program and its K&R C equivalent are exactly as easy to understand, IMO)

3 -- "No core dumps"? Brother, we get that in modern iterations of most programming languages. (C++ need not apply). And, we get "core dumps" the first time Haskell needs interfacing with a buggy device driver.

4 -- "Code reuse". I guess so. Copy and paste, just like VB6 or Perl. And, bzzt. Pascal has had OOP variants since 1989 or so. Polymorphism is available in variants of Fortran, even! (not that I'd try that, or recommend it! :-) )

5 -- "Strong Glue"... Dunno. Might be a good idea. It's totally necessary for the way Unix is put together, and available at the command line in Windows in that way. I don't know that it's so desirable in a programming language which does sorts...

6 -- "Powerful abstractions". What they're describing there, where functions can be passed as parameters, COM calls "event sinks" (probably CORBA calls it something similar), the .NET CLR calls them "delegates", Java uses CORBA (?), and passes beans back and forth, and every OOP language has the powerful abstraction tools, encapsulating functions as class references, which Haskell also claims. This "advantage" is such only in comparison to C.

And, finally, 7 -- "built-in memory management", is also something common to all modern languages, and is a foil only to C.

I'd pan it. It *sounds* cool, in a geeky sort of way, but dig a little deeper and it's... not that useful. Especially with all the non-Linux types out there choosing other stuff.

(Wrote another little VB.NET program today, demonstrating a computational method to my daughter, a little thing which adds the sum of all the counting numbers to n. Took me 2 minutes to write and test the function, and another 1 to make up for the lack of a command line.)

Rant off! :-D

Anonymous said...

Another "learn to program" option is javascript. You can write it in any text editor, you have a place to run it (your browser) without a tedious compile step. It lets you start out procedural and switch to object oriented code as you gain experience. The syntax is C-like enough that moving to C, C#, PHP, Java or Perl later will let you keep a lot of knowledge.

Also good is that you can build things with a familiar interface early in the process. Early success helps keep one interested in continuing. I bounced off of C a couple of times when I was young partly because I couldn't get past the command line early enough.

Anonymous said...

On programming languages:

Nice to have Mac OS X machines - Unix under the seams, but a nice GUI on top. All the *nix tools come, including:

* Perl
* Python
* Apache web server

Very easy to setup Apache and then use your ~/Sites directory to build web HTML pages and scripts on your own machine.

If you just want to run simple BASIC like stuff, I recommend Python (or Ruby) - comes with an interactive debugger where you can enter in code line by line or just build yourself a *.py file and chmod +x (make it executable).

I've gotten rid of all the M$ boxes in my house (well using an AMD machine as a Linux project right now). Life got a lot simpler, I like it, but I've saved countless sysadmin hours and software training/resolution issues with other family members whereas Mac simply works and I only have to show them one time how to do things.

Back to Python - can start out like BASIC, but very powerful and able to do lots of computing in not many lines of code. It seems to me to be a good teaching language, kind of like how Pascal was the rage in universities (in the early 80s when I earned a Computer Science/Math degree).


Anonymous said...

George "Sky" Walker Bush?

HarCohen said...

It seems to me that you're discussing another form of solipsism. No one exists except the mind(s) of the player(s).

And I see no COBOL programmers in this bunch. That's OK. I haven't had anything to do with it since 2001. If it uses a database, I use Access or SQL for the light stuff and Oracle's Developer Suite for the heavy lifting. PL/SQL is based on ADA, which outshone C early on. PL/SQL now has object-oriented components, which I've never seen heavily used because the Oracle market has been driven to Java for web development. And Java seems like the reinvention of the wheel after becoming accustomed to (Open)VMS with its strong reliance on APIs and layered architecture.

Anonymous said...

::And I see no COBOL programmers in this bunch.

Eh, spent nearly 15 years writing and scouring COBOL code. There still is a bulk of critical core systems written in COBOL (if you use your American Express card or a prescription drug claim, or travel reservation, your data is moving through many legacy COBOL programs) running still, though most of the support work is being done by offshore vendor firms (either in India, or via NIV workers brought to America).

But I made the switch to *nix about 6+ years ago.

And I really hate Java. Not so much the language itself, but the whole enchilada that envelops a Java implementation. Nothing Java can do that a higher-level scripting language like Perl, PHP or Python (or Ruby) can do better and more succinctly and IMV, not a lot of advantage over C either in the low-level realm.

Anonymous said...

I'm so weary of all of the "W" ranting at this point that most of it really just washes away as simply being vitriol with little fact. None the less...

I'm with Rob Perkins corner on the whole fighter pilot business. What no one wants to admit is that Bush actually flew a LOT of hours when he was in the Air Guard. More than was necessary. I know that doesn't fit with comfortable stereotypes but the actual data, the existing records, back it up.

I know, I know, they were all planted by mind controlled minions of the Rove / Cheney conspiracy. *yawn*

I realize it's fun to rant and rave but like so much of this garbage it just takes away.

David you talk about moderates in the middle but I can tell you that rants like Bill M.'s and even this do nothing to swing me in your direction.