polemicist: a writer who argues in opposition to others 

20070507.0930 Civilization

 I have always defined civilization as a loose gathering of people connected by 24 hour convenience stores.

If you look at the noted "great advances" in history, they're almost never the things that really mattered.  The wheel was convenient but indoor plumbing was a survival strategy.  That we have antibiotics, running water and electricity 24 hours a day in this country puts us ahead of the curve of a great percentage of humanity.  This is not to be taken for granted!

Neither is the ability to buy band-aids, junk food and diapers at odd hours.  The daylight-centric schedule that our society largely adheres to is a throw-back to an agrarian society composed of farmers and hired hands that used candles, not halogen bulbs.  Rush-hour and peak train ticket prices are the side effects.  Clearly public transportation systems and roads would benefit more from people desynchronizing their schedules to that of the sun.  In the long run, skin cancer rates would fall also.

All of that being said - I just got back from New Orleans, which by this definition is in fact the most civilized city that I have ever had to pleasure to visit.  Convenience stores, bars, clubs and not a few restaurants never close.

So I admit that I was shocked and ashamed that after 18 months the storm damage from Katrina was still largely not addressed.  Outside of the untouched French Quarter, which is the highest land in the city, maybe 1 out of 3 businesses have reopened.  There's about the same number of homes that are occupied & repaired.  Everywhere else is blue tarps and plywood.

From what I'm told, the levees aren't fixed.  Even if they were - they're still only rated for a class 3 hurricane.  No one seems to think that the hurricanes are going to start quieting down in the coming years, so what exactly are we waiting for?

Simple.  Money.

All of the fortune 500 companies in New Orleans all pulled out.  The tax revenues have dried up and there's no money coming from the $multi-quadrillion federal budget.

This imminently civilized place, where so many cultures and races come together in harmony to produce the only unique bohemian culture in America that hasn't been rubber-stamped onto every strip-mall in the country, that predates this very country and not by a little bit mind you, and that has seen the best and worst of human experience in it's rich history, is a desperately endangered species. 

 One more class 5 hurricane & it's all over.  Go now, go often.  Spend money.  I guarantee you the best music, food, and drinks you will find anywhere in America.  No joke.  See it, live it, love it - before it washes away from neglect.

Rome isn't burning this time.  It's drowning.

20070501.0823 Programmer Heresy!

I have written a lot of code.  I know many many programming languages, scripting languages, formats, markups, etc..  Among them I think my two favorites are Perl and Java.  I've done well making a career using them both.  I chose to learn them because they were both "cross-platform" languages - so I could write my code once & run it on anything that supported those languages.  This is still a pretty neat idea, just like digital watches.

This being said - I'm finally going to play favorites.  After reading this article this morning it seems clear to me where the maturity level has risen to the higher level - and that's firmly in the Java camp.  The reason is clear - profiling tools.

It's a symptom more than a feature.  Java has opened up and been adopted, implemented, refined and expanded by several major technology corporations.  With Sun, IBM, BEA, and Oracle all pulling Java in different directions (not to mention Adobe, Apple, Red Hat, etc..) it has evolved over time.  That we can instrument the virtual machine to perform profiling to an advanced degree displays that evolution.

By contrast, Perl 6 is still demoware IMHO.  O'Reilly has a greater influence on Perl than any major technology corporation - that's both good and bad.  It's good because it's less likely to be used for evil - but it's bad because it's less likely to be used.

Chronologically speaking, Perl is older than Java.  But it hasn't kept up it's initial momentum.  There's a core community of brilliant hackers, but they are all facing inward now - hiding in the community that they have woven around themselves like a magic cloak.

Biographically speaking, I used to make money writing Perl, then I started making money writing both, then I was only writing Java & now I'm an architect & that's all I'm using.  We don't even prototype in Perl now.  These days I only really use it for sysadmin scripts and a MUD that I toy with from time to time.

Yes, Java is bulkier and uses different idioms than Perl.  This is confusing at first and seems wasteful until you realize that like XML, it's really intended to be manipulated by tools rather than by hand.  

Procedural programming is as possible in Java as it is in any other language, so the Object Orientation meme doesn't need to infect everything that you do.  (an often cited complaint)

So there it is.  Gauntlet cast.  I've had some fun with perl but it's not the path that I've chosen.  From now on, if I want to hack some deeply obfuscated code then I'll start using Lisp as a macro language for Java.  How the hell else am I supposed to use closures?