Thursday, January 11, 2007

 

Political Symbolism



In an earlier post, I reacted to the New Year's wishes from two French presidential candidates. I missed a possibly crucial element in Ségolène Royal's video. In the U.S., a few decades ago, presidential candidate Richard Nixon announced that his wife Pat wore a "Republican cloth coat"; times have changed. But can the 21st century French Socialist really consider it more appropriate to wear a jacket trimmed with fur, as the fuzzy "braid" trimming her jacket lapel and cuffs looks to be? Is it possible?

Perhaps it is New Zealand opossum, or Australian rabbit--surely not Easter Island rats; some such fur which could be argued to come from invasive rather than endangered species, and not farmed or otherwise produced in conditions worse than those in Gitmo. But hopefully not trapped, either.





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Friday, January 05, 2007

 

Visual Esperanto




Among my recurring New Year's Resolutions is to learn another programming language.  Actually, I consider this much more often than annually; this is not only a recurring resolution, it is a chronic interest.  Like a surfer searching for the
perfect wave.  The problem remains, which one?  The answer probably is "more than one".  If there were a "Visual Esperanto" programming language, it would probably be as popular as Esperanto.

In an article in the American Scientist last summer, The Semicolon Wars by Brian Hayes, the author notes that collectors estimate the number of programming languages between 2,500 and 8,500! Diarmuid Pigott, the curator of the Encyclopedia of Computer Languages (the one with over 8,500), lists his favorites--about 70 of them! Among those I've known (at least a little), Algol 68, APL, and REXX are included; Fortran, BASIC, VBA, php are not, nor are Java, JavaScript, or XSLT.  I suppose he has his reasons.

Of course, I am not choosing a first language; to the ones I mentioned above, I should add SQL, Lotus123 and Lotus Symphony macros, Express and Acumen (mainframe proto-olap languages), CML (a simulation language written by a PhD student), and a matrix generation and report writing language for linear programming.  Of them all, I most enjoyed APL.  Much as "the determined Real Programmer can write Fortran programs in any language"(see link below), I am inspired by the APL-style in whichever language I use.

For perspective, I did some research to see what a couple of sources "recommend" (and why): one celebrity hacker and one recommendation for work-seekers.  I also had another read of some humorous "comparisons", including the classic "Real Programmers Don't Use Pascal" (quoted above), "99 Bottles of Beer: one program in 1046 variations", and "Shooting yourself in the foot in various programming languages."  For good measure, and although it is not language-specific, I re-read "How To Write Unmaintainable Code" and had some (more) very good laughs.

What they recommend:
Overall, they mostly agree. Perl; c; C++, Java/C# (said to be Microsoft's Java for .net); Python.  VB.Net is Microsoft platform specific (as is C#, isn't it? Yet the table on Wikipedia says it it "multi-platform".) so there are some jobs but not open source community interest. I'll drop Ruby and Rails, or save it for next year or the year after, when we can judge whether they have staying power or not. So that slightly shortens my list of candidates, but it is still pretty long, and I think XSLT should be added.

To shorten the list, I now turn to the programming style or paradigm aspect of the languages.  My past favorite is APL, which is a functional language. If I make "functional" a requirement, that eliminates c, C++, Java (and C# and VB, which were already eliminated), plus php (which I do already know and use somewhat anyway).

Lisp (Common Lisp) is tempting because of its long history in artificial intelligence and similar endeavors, but I suspect it would have limited commercial acceptance.  Now the list is: JavaScript (or ECMAScript in its official specification), Python and Perl. Plus XSLT. Perl and Python seem to have similar uses and performances (and they both clearly outperform JavaScript): I'll toss a coin and probably pick Perl, and continue with XSLT and ECMAScript in parallel.


P.S. Personally, I've already "learned" Java several times.  I just don't like to use it; I'll learn it again when I have a use for it, if that ever is the case.

P.P.S. "J", the new improved "APL", looks pretty interesting,too, so I may reconsider, ignoring the above-cited "advice".




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Monday, January 01, 2007

 

French Candidates' Wishes for 2007

The two front-running-so-far candidates for president of France (election to be held in April/May 2007) addressed their wishes for 2007 to the French people. As the French press has pointed out, the two are an interesting contrast. What they have in common, of course, is the "and I wish the majority of you will elect me president", even if they do so with restraint and "humility".

Ségolène Royal, Socialist candidate, used an interesting medium for addressing her New Year wishes to France: she uploaded it to Dailymotion--a French video-sharing web service like youtube-- and posted the markup to her forum Désirs d'avenir as I have done below.



Segolene - Voeux 2007
envoyé par da93

It was a good idea: it is very state-of-the-people, it is something "just folks" can do without the backing of a wealthy political party. So it is good for credibility as a center-left not-too-radical Socialist. But it was also a bad idea: the white wood panel wall, high ceiling, and ritzy floor lamp don't look so "just folks"; the lighting is poor (lots of amateurs do better). And the clincher: the sour puss expression on the static screen gives a really poor first impression! Not to mention the content of her speech, in which she continues to reinforce the perception that she lacks vision and leadership abilities.

Les vœux de Nicolas Sarkozy, on the other hand, are a highly professional wmv production streamed in mms: protocol by a paid-for-performance server. He almost seems not dangerous! But when he says, "get me elected president; it is not important for me, nor for you, but for France", he blows the credibility of everthing else he has said.


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Annual Arson in Strasbourg

That is not a spelling error in the title: the subject is not Strasbourg-born soccer celebrity Arsène Wenger, although he may have been in town, I really don't know.



Le Figaro reports that the number of automobiles set fire in the Bas Rhin department (where Strasbourg is situated) rose to 43 from 22 last year, of which 28 were in Strasbourg, up from 11 last year. They do not say how many had been burned ahead of the season (New Year's Eve) in 2005 during the November unrest. Why no annual totals? And will this be reflected in higher new car sales in January?



43:22 = + 95% Total Bas Rhin

28:11 = + 155% Just Strasbourg

15:11 = + 36% Other areas of the Bas Rhin



No report today in the DNA, the regional newspaper. We take our holidays (and blue laws) seriously in Alsace, but I'll look for the local version in their columns tomorrow.



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Handsome Dwarf Born!

That is a litero-phonetic translation of the French salutation "Bonne Année" (beau nain né).





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