The Book Meme

9 PM June 18, 2005

Chris tagged me for the Book Meme.

Total number of books owned:

Somewhere over 1900, including a hundred or so recipe books, but not including several boxes of books in the garage.

Last book bought:

Fermat’s Last Theorem by Simon Singh. Interesting read, more history than mathematics and just fine for a plane trip.

Last book read

Err… Fermat’s Last Theorem by Simon Singh.

Before that I’d just finished Sherri S. Tepper’s Sideshow/0553762893/qid=1119131393/sr=8–2/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/002–2888801-2480828?v=glance&s=books&n=507846, third in a set of stories that explore the moral tension between society’s rights and individual’s rights. Tepper’s other books in this set (Grass/055376246X/qid=1119131946/sr=8–1/ref=pd_bbs_ur_1/002–2888801-2480828?v=glance&s=books&n=507846 and Raising The Stones) are also very readable.

Five books that mean a lot to you

  1. The Bible. More than any other, this book has shaped my life and my thinking, both directly and indirectly.
  1. What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Phillip Yancey. Made me consider what is and isn’t important to God
  1. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. First long book that I read from cover to cover with my eldest son.
  1. Snow Crash. At the time, the first really good sci-fi I had read in many years.
  1. XP Explained by Kent Beck. Interesting bunch of ideas and, while the XP utopia will never be realised, the overall effect of the XP movement on the software development community was lasting and positive.

Tag five people to continue this meme

Five people? That’s a lot. You do realise that if all five participate, and they each tag five people who all participate, and so on, and so on, within 14 generations the entire population of the world will have done this survey?

By alang | # | Comments (1)
(Posted to Stuff)

The interview meme

1 PM June 2, 2005

I asked Richard to interview me. Responses are below. Instructions for furthering the meme:

  1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.”
  1. I will respond by asking you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
  1. You will update your weblog with the answers to the questions.
  1. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
  1. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

1. Java or Python? I jest. Done any Python coding lately?

I got paid to write Python code earlier this year. We needed to call the Windows Speech API (SAPI) from our Java application. SAPI is an ActiveX API, and I couldn’t find a Java-ActiveX bridge that looked to be up to the job. However, Java can call native executables, so I coded up the SAPI calls in a short win32 Python program and then turned that into a standalone Windows executable with py2exe. Underscoring Python’s brevity, the Java code needed to reliably call native executables is longer than the Python program it calls.

Aside from that, I have just been coding the odd script, and I am up to question 10 in the Python Challenge. (By “am up to”, I mean “am stuck on”.)

On the question of “Java or Python”, I’m hoping that Groovy will grow up to be nearly as programmer-friendly as Python, while still being acceptable to the Java crowd. Time will tell.

2. How neat are your children?

‘Neat’ as in cool? Mitchell (10) is in the Australian Youth Choir which will perform with the Vienna Boys Choir at the Sydney Town Hall in July. That’s pretty neat. Connor (age 7) said to me the other day, “If I grow up to be a computer nerd like you, I’m going to write a program that is a game.” That was pretty neat too.

‘Neat’ as in tidy? I’d say average. On the plus side, they clean away their own plates after meals, don’t drop crumbs on the floor and almost always take uneaten bananas out of their school bags. On the minus side, they have inherited their father’s handwriting and I despair of ever seeing the walls of their room again (although the floor now makes regular guest appearances).1

3. What’s the coolest sci-fi you’ve seen or read recently?

Battlestar Galactica, because:

  • The sets are big, solid and dirty. Just like a real spaceship.
  • Generally speaking, the scripts respect the laws of physics. (The main exception being that, in the Battlestar Galactica universe, you will probably survive if your spaceship is shot up several hundred kilometers over a planet, provided you have a Major Character on board.)
  • Acting, direction, lighting and camera work are more than competent. Better than most police dramas, and light years ahead of Star Trek TNG.
  • Best TV series space battles so far. I was in awe of the hundreds of ships, thousands of missiles and detailed smoke, but then I realised the ships having moving parts too. Also, whoever directs the battle sequences deserves an award for the way they direct the viewer’s attention – it’s like being on a theme-park ride at times. (Coming off an ad-break, Channel 10 once showed a title graphic indicating the show was broadcast in 1080i resolution – almost reason enough to buy a digital TV tuner before the next season starts.)
  • The characters are well thought out and balanced. They each started neatly pigeon-holed as standard sci-fi cliches, but over the course of the season we got to see all kinds of strengths and weaknesses, some quite subtle. I’m now pretty sure that Commander Adama is the wrong person to be in charge of humanity’s reserve of nuclear weapons.
  • Best of all, the over-arching plot is a good yarn. You know they’ll make it Earth, but you don’t know who will die along the way, you don’t know which Major Characters are actually bad guys in disguise and you certainly don’t know what the Cylons really want from mankind.

Mind you, if you had asked, “What are the ten coolest sci-fi’s you’ve seen or read recently?” I could have answered that too.

4. Are you coming to OSDC this year?

Yes, I plan to. Last year I came back to work bristling with ideas and enthusiasm. Partly that was from the great programme, but mostly from trading ideas with the people there.

This last week I started thinking about what I might submit. Perhaps something short on Groovy or Java. I’m definitely interested in doing a lightning talk this year.

5. What excites you about programming?

Programming gives me a buzz in three ways. First, I enjoy discovering how to make computers do things. The more tricks I can make a computer do, the happier I am. One reason I get a kick from Python is its ability to glue together all kinds of bits in new and interesting ways.

Second, I love the process of meeting people’s needs, from sitting down with them to understand their requirements, figuring out a solution that works for everybody, and – especially – delivering finished product that makes people’s lives better.

Third, I get warm, fuzzy feelings from expressing complex problems in simple code. The programming efforts I remember most fondly are those that took several days to produce a few dozen lines of really easy to read code. Reading other people’s simple-code-to-do-complex-things is just as enjoyable.

Thanks to Richard Jones for taking the time to think up five good questions.

1 Mum, I know you’re reading this. Before you comment, I would just like to remind you that Richard asked if my children were neat. He did not ask if I was neat as a child.

By alang | # | Comments (8)
(Posted to javablogs, Python and Java)

Bill Gates tries Firefox

1 AM June 1, 2005

Tim Weber of the BBC reporter rustles up Bill Gates’ quote of 2005:

Bill Gates is one of the people with Firefox on his computer, so I asked him for his opinion.

“I played around with it a bit, but it’s just another browser, and IE [Microsoft’s Internet Explorer] is better,” Mr Gates told me…

Mmmmm. Kool-Aid.

By alang | # | Comments (5)
(Posted to Software Development and javablogs)
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