For Derrick: “The source of the exhilaration is the explosion of perception.”

So I am reading MIT’s first year computer science textbook from the early 80s and the foreword is by Alan Perlis, the first recipient of the Turing Award. It is full of the kind of thing I am thinking about when I wonder if computer programmers have always had a quasi-poetic streak.

Every computer program is a model, hatched in the mind, of a real or mental process. These processes, arising from human experience and thought, are huge in number, intricate in detail, and at any time only partially understood. They are modeled to our permanent satisfaction rarely by our computer programs. Thus even though our programs are carefullly handcrafted discrete collections of symbols, mosaics of interlocking functions, they continually evolve: we change them as our perception of the model deepens, enlarges, generalizes until the model ultimately attains a metastable place within still another model with which we struggle. The source of the exhilaration associated with computer programming is the continual unfolding within the mind and on the computer of mechanisms expressed as programs and the explosion of perception they generate. If art interprets our dreams, the computer executes them in the guise of programs!

Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs

Relationships all the way down

I really like Bharat’s thoughtful post about talking to his morning bus driver about climate change.

So, as someone who thinks climate change is a serious issue, is it not my responsibility to jump into this debate? Here’s an otherwise stand-up guy who appears to be very misinformed and misled on basic climate change facts, good opportunity to change minds, right?

I am not so sure.

He points to research showing that “more science” doesn’t cure climate skepticism, and proposes that the hard work of building trust is more effective than sharing the best facts. B, I’m so curious to hear how that goes on your bus rides.

This relates to a theme I have been pondering in many areas, which is that change doesn’t happen when we have the best arguments; change happens when we build positive relationships. Simple idea, endlessly challenging.

Here is someone talking about the pointlessness of having logical debates about queer rights in faith communities and other religious issues.

Every poll and every wise observer points out that gay-affirming folks have not been winning on account of superior arguments, whether arguments from the Bible or theology or science. They aren’t winning on account of their superior debating skills. They’re winning by being present and visible in faith communities: by coming out in ways that clergy and congregations can’t ignore. Gay people are winning because straight people who love and respect them are coming out right along with them.

The classic instance is the faithful older church woman—a devoted and beloved member of the community—who, at just the right moment in a congregational meeting, stands up and says, “Well, friends, I guess we can argue about all of this until the cows come home. All I know is that ________, my ________, is as dear a child of God as I will ever hope to be.” She then goes on to tell the story of she found out about ________, how they stayed close, and how her heart was changed. Bingo. Are we ready for the vote?

And if you squint, I think this example is related too. Here is someone observing that designers are dismissive about the time they put into building relationships with their clients.

While they see client meetings are important, many designers don’t see them as integral to the craft and discipline of interaction design. For them, the “real work” of interaction design is the work of creation… So, despite the unavoidable necessity of communicating with clients, designers don’t seem to talk much about hand waving as a part of interaction design as a profession.

However, with more than 100 hours of project work analyzed through video and audio, I’d say that successful hand waving looks more and more like an important and hard-won accomplishment.

I think relationship work gets dismissed in a lot of areas, while ideas and intellectual work get called “real”. When people talk about unpaid work, it is often focussed on the massive unpaid caregiving labour that women and girls do. I wonder what it would mean to also account for the dismissed relationship-building work that supports other work?

For Perseid season.

Anyhow – I sat by your side, by the water
You taught me the names of the stars overhead that I wrote down in my ledger
Though all I knew of the rote universe were those pleiades loosed in december
I promised you I’d set them to verse so I’d always remember

That the meteorite is a source of the light
And the meteor’s just what we see
And the meteoroid is a stone that’s devoid of the fire that propelled it to thee

And the meteorite’s just what causes the light
And the meteor’s how it’s perceived
And the meteoroid’s a bone thrown from the void that lies quiet in offering to thee

Anonymous robot lover, misread quotes, sometimes we see what we want to see.

Rivest spent much of his time at Stanford’s cutting-edge artificial intelligence lab, helping with a fairly quixotic project involving an autonomous robot rover. The idea was to get the electronic beast to roam the parking lot with no human intervention, a typical overly optimistic task for AI workers in the 1960s.

Oh, rover. Rover. I see.

Reading Crypto, by Steven Levy, a history of public cryptography. Halfway thrilling, even though I know approximately how it ends. I’m trying to fill in the gaps, see if I can finally learn the pieces in a way I will remember. “Rivest” gave me an itch about the math for PGP, but I had to look up the name. RSA. Rivest is the R in RSA encryption.

Surprising inspirational aspect of the Chernobyl “Zone Of Alienation”

There has been an ongoing scientific debate about the extent that flora and fauna of the zone were affected by the radioactive contamination that followed the accident. No scientifically documented cases of mutant deformity in animals of the zone were reported other than partial albinism in swallows and insect mutations. There have been individual eyewitness reports of other animal mutations but no comprehensive statistical analysis has been completed to date. The cloud of heavily polluted dust left the Red Forest (Rudyi Lis)—a strand of highly-irradiated pine wood near the plant which was subsequently bulldozed.

There have been reports that wildlife has flourished due to significant reduction of human impact. For this reason, the zone is considered by some as a classic example of an involuntary park. Populations of traditional Polesian animals (like wolves, wild boar and Roe Deer), red deer, moose, and beaver have multiplied enormously and begun expanding outside the zone. The area also houses herds of European wisent and Przewalski’s Horses released there after the accident. Even extremely rare lynx have appeared, and there are reports of tracks from brown bears, an animal not seen in the area for several centuries. Special game warden units are organized to protect and control them.