Monthly Curations: August 2019

It makes perfect sense to say that the target demographic of English is English speakers—or more precisely, the target demographic of Modern English is Middle English speakers who wanted a few simpler rules, some continental vocabulary, following other contemporaneous European languages in not having þ and distinguishing i and j, etc. It was a relatively small change and very intentionally served a community of people who already spoke Middle English well. It was the Python 2-to-3 of English.

The target demographic of Esperanto, meanwhile, was the whole world: people who already had a language, people who already had a workable lingua franca in international contexts (French, later English), and in particular people who weren’t familiar with the European language patterns that Esperanto was largely based on. So it had limited success. A Japanese or Indonesian or Persian or Swahili diplomat not familiar with any European language would be better served learning French or English than Esperanto, because those languages are roughly equally foreign, there are many more resources for learning French or English, there is a larger community and more people to speak to, there is a larger corpus of works, etc. And an Anglophone or Francophone diplomat has very little incentive to learn Esperanto, either.

Modern Hebrew, on the other hand, had a well-identified target demographic: Jews from around the world migrating to the reestablished state of Israel who lacked a shared everyday language. Some liturgical Hebrew was already familiar to most of this population, and there was a strong cultural willingness to see a reestablished Hebrew language. So while it is in many senses a conlang, it was far more successful than Esperanto and now has a large community of native speakers.

So the question of whether a programming language—especially one that is so much like a conlang, not an incremental evolution based on use in practice (like the C standards committee accepting compiler-specific dialectal changes)—has a target demographic is a fair one.

Aerobie

Stumbled across one of these in a small gift shop and picked it up. I have to admit my ignorance at not coming across this before, but it flies amazingly smooth.

I mean frisbees fly too, but you have to flick it just right, and you have to teach kids how to throw it level. This in the other hand, flies pretty much however you throw it.

I was wondering why it does, and came across this old news article (1985, so 34 years old today!) about its invention.

As he looked into the Frisbee, Adler discovered that no one knew exactly why it flies as well as it does. The thick edges create turbulence which somehow makes the platter fly in a stable fashion (if you throw it correctly). But the edges also create considerable air resistance, or drag.

Apparently, The only way to fly straight and level is to get the center of lift over the center of the disk !!

The current form of the “Aerobie” is a later iteration of one big change: replacing the frisbee design with a shallow cone !

Interesting links: August 2019

Rubaiyyat illustration by Elihu Vedder (verses 37-39)
Rubaiyyat illustration by Elihu Vedder (verses 37-39)

Monthly recap (August 2019)

Sunset
Sunset

Major updates:

  • Towards the end of the month, we took a trip to Kauai
  • Got some work done in our kitchen (tiling the floor)

Minor updates:

  • Started out mildly embarrassing but ended rather well: treated myself to a Spa session (sauna/massage)
  • Met up with some friends of ours in Berkeley (and as a side effect, discovered the wonderful Berkeley Bowl market!)
  • My grandmother hasn’t been well 😦
  • Had a great view of the Milky Way on a cloudless night in Hawaii
  • Three birthdays this month

Watched/read/made:

  • Watched Angry Birds with Tara (we’re really getting into the “watching movies with her” groove this year!)
  • Also, Sacred Games and The Last Czars on Netflix

Smart TV adventures

We have an Android TV at home. Turned it on tonight to watch some Netflix in the background, get informed that “the network needs to be set up”.

Okie dokie … wait, the router isn’t scanned? We’ll enter it manually (already suspicious) … now I have to guess whether it has WEP or WPA or WPA2. Enter password. Sorry, “router not found”.

After a few rounds of this, I googled this error, found a rant by some guy who’d paid for “geek squad support”, only to be informed, when he had them on the line, that he should go buy a new router. After swearing a bit, he said, he’d calmed down and just turned the damn thing off and on again.

So I turned it off and on again. It worked.

On “old” songs

Obviously, my songs were new and my parents’ songs were old, but I found myself listening to some music today and suddenly realized all of it was around 25 years or more in the past, which is (just for perspective) older than some of the people on my team at work (!)

All of this is early-to-mid-nineties, and while I don’t want to go into the ”music was better in my time” mode, well …

Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah (Official Video)

Mad World – Gary Jules

The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony (Official Video)

Oasis – Wonderwall (Official Video)

Nirvana – The Man Who Sold The World (MTV Unplugged)

Guns N’ Roses – November Rain (Official Music Video)

Monthly Curations – July 2019

(yep, not a lot this month …)

The shrew-like networked GUI equipped microcomputers of Apple were released as products only two years after this central planning dinosaur was postulated. Eventually, decades later, someone built a mechanical golem made of microcomputers which achieves a lot of the goals of fifth generation computing, with independent GUI front ends. I’m sure the Japanese researchers of the time would have been shocked to know it came from ordinary commodity microcomputers running C and using sorts and hash tables rather than non-Von-Neumann Prolog supercomputers. That’s how most progress in engineering happens though: incrementally. Leave the moon shots to actual scientists (as opposed to “computer scientists”) who know what they’re talking about.