Thursday, June 26, 2014

`Why is it so hard to learn programming?'

Today I finished this essay for my Coursera class in Python.  If you've got absolutely nothing better to do, or if you're really ``into'' language, or both, then go ahead and read it.

The problem I have had is realizing that some of the code -- representations of computer language -- I've seen so far has perplexed me with what are, to me, hidden and obscure meanings. Learning code became easier when I realized it contains those meanings.
By hidden meanings, I mean what's ``behind" functions such as try/except, type/int, max/min, etc. Just looking at them gives me no clue about their purpose. Purpose is therefore hidden. It's a lot like a encountering for the first time a human-language word of whose meaning I have absolutely has no idea. Just because I don't know the meaning, it still has a meaning and serves a purpose. To uncover the meaning of the word, and to use it effectively, I have to learn and memorize its definition or definitions.

But one difference of course between human language and computer language is the nature of their origins. The meaning of human-language words are most often determined and changed over centuries through the loose consent of many thousands of people. Computer languages are invented over minuscule spans by either an individual or a team. So learning Python has been hard for me because it is a de jure  language; while human language is formed by a vast and democratic consensual process, in which I can have a part, making it a de facto language.

So for example when I encountered the Python term ``except'' it didn't make intuitive sense to me. As a speaker of a de facto language (English) I understand ``except'' when it's used as a preposition. "I read all the books in the series except that one.'' In try/except it's meant as a verb (I think...), as in to identify an exception such as a string of letters when the is called for. (Get it?.) So now I have to memorize the use of ``except'' as a verb (which isn't hard) if I'm going to use Python effectively. Until I know what the term try/except does, it's purpose is hidden.

(The main reason I had a hard time comprehending  "except" in the Python sense is that I find the conversion of non-verbs into verb form distasteful. As examples: the use ``to partner,'' as in one person partnering with another, is awful. There is also our friend ``to access.'' I still prefer to ``gain access to'' things.)

Also, I think that it would be easier for me to learn programming if I were still young. It is well known that children have a much easier time learning language than adults.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

An outrage

This is a local price of political apathy.  The powers that be, aka the Granby Heights board of directors, has decreed that each and every flower and bush in front of all 76 units shall be removed to the rear of a dump truck.
This is what the crew had managed to accomplish after about four hours today.
In the photo beneath that one, we see the adjacent plants, which are mighty close to getting theirs.(Note: they were excavated June 18.)
Directors are elected by condo owners. The elections aren't vigorously contested, so we've been stuck with a board that does what it wants. Meetings are public, so this is perfectly legal, but there has been few chances for us to insist on decency.
In other words, since they run unopposed, they can do whatever the fuck they want.
In a memo, the directors ask residents to keep cars away from the work being done. "Allowing a clear work area will hopefully speed up this work," the syntactically challenged board says. Yeah, hopefully.
The board also notes the work will include "the relocation of the downspouts into the parking area.
"This is being done to improve our drainage and appearance."
Ah yes, I can see it now...

Friday, June 6, 2014

``We're not rugrats. We're people. Ordinary people.''

                                                       -- Una Darling, in Bainbridge, N.Y., the night of the rehearsal of the wedding of my brother Mark and Una's grandmother, Elizabeth Macduffie.

I took these on June 1, the day of the wedding. Una was one of the two flower girls. The other girl, her cousin Ramona MacDuffie, was too late for the rehearsal. So during the dinner -- by then Ramona had arrived with her parents -- Una walked up to me and informed me that we needed to rehearse Ramona. I told Una that Ramona would be OK, that during procession Una should just tell Ramona to do what she is doing.Very considerate of Una.

I didn't have a chance to talk to Ramona. She was rather shy.

I spent a lot of time wondering why Una picked me of all the people to consult. I had never seen her before. At one point I speculated that it was because I was the only guy wearing a tie. But that doesn't explain why she did not approach a woman instead.
Oona Darling

Ramona in her flower girl dress


More Oona

Monday, June 2, 2014

The scene at the Yaleville Inn in Bainbridge, the night of the rehearsal of the wedding of my brother Mark Alan Miller to Elizabeth Jane MacDuffie.
Upstate New York resembles the landscape of Richmond, Vermont,  where my father's parents last lived. Tonight my dad confirmed that impression.
In other news,  we're staying at the Algonkin Motel located on State Highway 7 in Bainbridge. Kinda rednecky. Earlier we stopped at Duane's diner in Duanesburg, I think the town was called.  The place was not at all busy. They told us to sit anywhere and then ignored us, so went to a nearby Dunkin' Donuts. Talk about keeping the money local.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

I grabbed this one of me and Sebastian before Mark and Elizabeth's wedding this evening. I figure this will be the last time we'll be dressed in the exact same getup. Too bad this photo doesn't show more of our tuxedos.
No great loss since I couldn't get the straps on my pants and vest to hold. Just before the cake I had to drive back to the motel and put on my chinos and belt. The next time, give me suspenders!
My brother Mark and his fiancee could not have chosen a more beautiful day for an outdoor wedding. For breakfast Sharon and I walked to The Cream of the Crop, a barn that has been renovated into a restaurant/bar. A grand big open room. This time they served us, unlike the folks in Duanesberg, N.Y. Gorgeous countryside,  although it must have been brutal here last winter.
The scene across the street from The Cream of the Crop

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Videos from Cape Ann, Massachusetts

A few weeks ago we went to Gloucester again. Same deal. Stayed at the Good Harbor Beach Inn, room 18. Only this time we went for four nights, which I don't believe we had done before. Also, for the the first time I am blogging sound and motion -- that is, video. In the past it has just been photos.

This first one I took at Halibut State Park in Rockport, which is the town along the shore north of Gloucester. (Both towns are in the Cape Ann area of Massachusetts north shore.) You'll have to pardon the wind, which makes kind of an unpleasant sound, bashing against the smart phone.

video

Some of my Facebook friends have already seen this video of Good Harbor Beach at night. In the distance you can see the signal from one of the two lighthouses on Thatcher Island. Again, this time it's about movement and sound. As I said on May 18, 2008: ``I could not photograph the smell in the air and the sound of the rushing of the water.''

video

The only bummer about this is the fact that the colors aren't true. The Samsung Galaxy Rush took the colors darker than they really were.

I've been dreaming about moving to somewhere in Cape Ann -- I'd settle for living in a hovel to start off -- for four years. Western Massachusetts has worn out on me. To paraphrase Ernest Hemingway, everything here reminds me of something. As of today I've lived in Franklin, or Hampshire (mostly Hampshire) and Hampden counties for 49.5 of my 53.5 years; the rest of the time I lived either in Indiana or in Jamaica Plain. To paraphrase D.H. Lawrence, western Mass. for me has become a room full of echoes.


Nice picture -- if I say so myself -- of Grace yesterday. Sharon and I were at a Memorial Day picnic at the home of Sharon's daughter Lindsey and her boyfriend, Eric.

This photo is similar to one I posted on Facebook yesterday.


Friday, February 14, 2014

Hey, long time! I don't have time to catch up now, but I wanted to post a video of Grace I made on the Sunday of the Super Bowl, which you can hear in the background. (And it is pass interference.) Although I don't think I can beat the profile photo on the right -- it was taken in 2009 -- and the dog has aged some. She's doing good, though. I mean, well. She's an out-and-out sweetheart. In fact there's something kinda perverse about watching and posting videos of a dog when the actual dog is laying down in the next room. We should be petting our companion animules, not digitizing them...