mindtangle

language

Liquor? I barely even know her! (jokes)

My friends and I have spent an embarrassing number of hours reliving our adolescent days, coming up with these groan-worthy puns. Occasionally, a few will touch upon the absurd and, very rarely, the sublime. After the jump I present to you the current, canonical list of Er-jokes. Add more in the comments or in emails and I’ll keep the list updated.

Update: The best ones from the comments have been added to the canon as of 10/21/2010.

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The State of Scripting Languages

Larry Wall offers some sage words on the nature of scripting languages, including what they are, the history of various languages, and how they’re likely to evolve in the future. Here’s a nugget:

The Present

When I look at the present situation, what I see is the various scripting communities behaving a lot like neighboring tribes in the jungle, sometimes trading, sometimes warring, but by and large just keeping out of each other’s way in complacent isolation.

I tend to take an anthropological view of these things. Many of you here are Perl programmers, but some of you come from other programming tribes. And depending on your tribal history, you might think of a string as a pointer to a byte array if you’re a C programmer, or as a list if you’re a functional programmer, or as an object if you’re a Java programmer. I view a string as a Text, with a capital T.

Text

I read that word from a postmodern perspective. Of course, the term Postmodern is itself context-sensitive. Some folks think Postmodernism means little more than the Empowerment of the Vulgar. Some folks think the same about Perl.

But I take Postmodernism to mean that a Text, whether spoken or written, is an act of communication requiring intelligence on both ends, and sometimes in the middle too. I don’t want to talk to a stupid computer language. I want my computer language to understand the strings I type.

Perl is a postmodern language, and a lot of conservative folks feel like Postmodernism is a rather liberal notion. So it’s rather ironic that my views on Postmodernism were primarily informed by studying linguistics and translation as taught by missionaries, specifically, the Wycliffe Bible Translators. One of the things they hammered home is that there’s really no such thing as a primitive human language. By which they mean essentially that all human languages are Turing complete.

When you go out to so-called primitive tribes and analyze their languages, you find that structurally they’re just about as complex as any other human language. Basically, you can say pretty much anything in any human language, if you work at it long enough. Human languages are Turing complete, as it were.

Human languages therefore differ not so much in what you can say but in what you must say. In English, you are forced to differentiate singular from plural. In Japanese, you don’t have to distinguish singular from plural, but you do have to pick a specific level of politeness, taking into account not only your degree of respect for the person you’re talking to, but also your degree of respect for the person or thing you’re talking about.

So languages differ in what you’re forced to say. Obviously, if your language forces you to say something, you can’t be concise in that particular dimension using your language. Which brings us back to scripting.

How many ways are there for different scripting languages to be concise?

How many recipes for borscht are there in Russia?

Wall goes on to describe a dozen or so “dimensions” in which scripting languages can vary in their expressiveness/conciseness. I found this to be the most interesting part.

I came across this piece on the Daring Fireball blog.

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Live Ink

Wow. John just sent me a link to Live Ink, a company that has cool text-formatting software. It’s analogous to code formatting, but for written language syntax.

Live Ink Example It looked gimmicky, at first, but then I started trying out the samples on the site. After a few pages, it started to click. I would read phrases of each sentence as a unit. Because the text is formatted somewhat like the outline of the parts of a single sentence, I’m able to quickly scan and jump to relevant clauses. The indentation also serves to bring several clauses into the eye’s fovea in parallel. In this way, it seems to gain some of the advantages of serial reading interfaces (i.e. eye movement over a small area), while still allowing for page scanning and variable-rate reading.

Too bad it’s a proprietary product, and too bad it’s Windows/IE-only. Because of this, I’m pretty sure it will never see mainstream development or use, unless the company somehow does extremely well with its software boxen business model (unlikely) or it goes under and opens the source.

The product itself seems to work as a hosted service. You download a thin client that sends clipboard text to a server to be parsed and formatted, and then the client displays the result. If they were smart, they would make this a web service. There’s an adoption curve that Live Ink has to overcome, and letting lots of uses proliferate (Greasemonkey scripts! WordPress plugins! A new version of Wikipedia!) would build a user base that would actually buy the product, or demand it from content providers.

(via John, who got this from Slashdot)

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verbosity has always been my vice

Well, the quarter’s about over, so it’s time for my favorite new-to-me words of Q3 2006:

07.07.2006: vetitive: 1. Relating to a veto. 2. Having the power to forbid. 07.20.2006: nescience: Lack of knowledge or awareness; ignorance 08.10.2006: ensorcell: To bewitch; to enchant. 08.17.2006: haruspicy: Divination by inspecting the entrails of sacrificed animals. 08.24.2006: phatic: Relating to a communication meant to generate an atmosphere of social relationship rather than to convey some information. 09.04.2006: palinode: A poem in which the author retracts something said in an earlier poem.

What are yours?

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So what?

Okay. So the indictments were delivered today. Press conference on Thursday. “Rumors” of up to 5 indictments. Fitzgerald spotted at Rove’s lawyers office this afternoon.

You know what? I refuse to be excited.

I simply cannot suspend disbelief anymore when it comes to the shit sticking to this administration. It’s been five years of non-stop fuckery: police records, army records, using tragedy for propaganda, ruining the careers of respected statesmen, hiring convicted felons to manage a centralized database profiling every single american citizen, hiring convicted felons to manufacture evidence for war while spying for Iran, paying off journalists to spread that evidence, making up journalists to attack its doubters, flat-out incompetence up and down the line, flat-out lying over and over until the lies become just the other side of the story, putting our soldiers, our nation, and our founding ideals in the shithouse for some neo-fundamentalist principles cooked up because a Chicago professor couldn’t handle seeing the sexual imagery on TV that he could never get in the bedroom. I don’t even need to link to those stories, because they’ve all been so widely reported, double and quintuple sourced, that they have finally trepanated our unbearably thick collective skull. But it hasn’t changed a single thing.

I’ve done my best to take a long-term view of things. It’s been bad before, but what’s eight years? Well, to me these eight years are more than just a rough patch, more than just squandering what will be remembered as an historic opportunity, possibly the last. This experience has shown me over and over that despite the best efforts of some of our most brilliant and well-intentioned individuals, the media-pandering, on-message political machines will always win, must always win, because those are the rules of the game. The rules of their game.

So right now I am not only an empiricist, but I am a skeptical empiricist. I will not even believe it when I see it. I will not believe it until Karl Rove and Dick Cheney are in handcuffs and entering pleas. And even then I just won’t be sure.

Because though they may not own the prosecutor, or the grand jury, or the judge, they’ve got the executioner by the balls. You’ve already heard the memes hovering, probing the surface, waiting to be unleashed: “Making it a crime to be conservative.” “Two-bit prosecutor looking for a name.” “Perjury isn’t a real crime.” They sound absolutely ridiculous right now, right? Make no mistake, the Lutz’s and Rove’s and the Ailes’s of the world, these are true masters of their craft. Let them whisper in our broadcast ear. Let them repetition prime us a bit. Watch the tide turn back yet again.

Familiarity to bias becomes a bias of its own. Only the black swan can save us now.

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Paul Hackett on being “Progressive”

postedby on October25th,2005 tagged language, politics

Paul Hackett is the Iraq war veteran from Ohio who challenged Rep. Jean Schmidt (R) in last year’s special election. He narrowly lost, surprising many pundits who assumed a Democrat had no chance in the Republican stronghold. Hackett is back, and this time he’s running for Senate against incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine (R).

Salon interviewed Hackett recently, and I thought he had an interesting comment on what being “progressive” means.

Salon: Do you consider yourself among the party’s progressives?

Hackett: Sure, if “progressive” means standing up for the things that made this country great. If it means fighting for working Americans, fighting for an economy that allows working Americans to survive and provide for their families, and if it means demanding a rational discussion about how our military is used or misused … If that’s what progressive stands for, yeah, you bet I’m progressive.

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shortlinks

Uprooting Nationalism

From Rhinocrisy:

Part of the project of overturning nationalism should involve moving away from ‘national histories’ told from the point of view of a single nation-state protagonist. Going from “this had nothing to do with us,” to “this was a tremendous tragedy for us” takes an important step: it broadens the meaning of us.

Brilliant.

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Government Services are Necessary for Competitive Business

In skewering the hapless George Will, Matthew Yglesias succinctly argues the emerging frame of strong government services as essential for the global competitiveness of US firms. This is a powerfully persuasive argument, and it has the added benefit of being completely right. Strong government services such as healthcare, unemployment insurance, and education have the effect of dynamic hedges against uncertainty in the shifting global marketplace, with benefits to both workers and firms. The Democrats would do well to begin picking up this frame and hammering it in while they have the chance.

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On the one hand, And on the other

postedby on October6th,2005 tagged language, politics

The use of “one the one hand” and “on the other hand” typically indicates a statement that has two differing, if not opposing, points. However, King George and the Bush, Inc. press machine expertly use these expressions to appear like they’re presenting two sides of a story, when in fact they’re doing nothing of the sort.

For example, Bush said today:

“On the one hand, we’re making progress when it comes to training Iraqis to take the fight to the enemy, we’re bringing the enemy to justice, we’re on the offense. On the other hand, democracy is moving forward in a part of the world that is so desperate for democracy and so desperate for freedom.”

See how the misuse of these expressions gives the appearance that he’s giving us the good with the bad? In fact, all he said was: On the one hand things are rosy and on the other hand, things are rosy too. Brilliant and terrible at the same time.

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