Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Why don't I care?

I've written code in Java, C++, C, PL/1, Pascal, Wang VS Assembler (clone of IBM 360/370 assembler), Fortran, and Basic. And I'm sure I'll learn new languages soon, because, like many others, I'm sensing that Java's reign is waning.

I'm obviously not a compiler engineer, because when I look back at the code I've written, I don't really focus on what language it was written in, but what the program did, and how it made people's lives better in some small way. I can't really say I prefer any of the above languages, except maybe they're all faster than Assembler, as that could get tedious (though the tedium was sometimes rewarded by being able to do something with particular Yankee efficiency).

I get frustrated when reviewing resumes with people who say that the candidate "must have" Java. I'd far prefer a C programmer who writes clear and beautiful code than someone who knows Java maybe a bit too well and is focused on playing silly language tricks that obfuscate the code. Just as in human languages, it doesn't matter what language is being used to express the thought, it's the thought that matters. And in engineering, clear and simple thought yields (in my opinion) the best code.

I didn't always feel this way. Is it cynicism? I don't think so, but maybe. I used to worry that I'd be out of date, unmarketable if I didn't make the jump from PL/1 to C, and the other language transitions after that.

Or maybe it's just evidence of the subspecialties in software engineering. Some English majors specialize in linguistics; others in literature. I'm glad the linguists are out there, because someone needs to make sure these languages parse and make sense. If I have to learn a new language soon, ok, bring it on. But until then, I prefer the literature :-)

Monday, December 26, 2005

next year....

I will not wait until two days before Christmas to start shopping for Christmas. I will not wait for two days before Christmas to go out and get a tree.

I will try to balance things better between project deadlines and caring for my family. I will *enjoy* the holiday rather than approach it as a vast to-do list.

Amazingly, even with such a late start, we were in the end ready for Christmas. But I feel like I missed it for all the rush.

When I was a teenager, my mother and I would go to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, and I had a shearling muff that I would wear only that night - I suppose much of this is yearning for days of less responsibility, but I missed looking at the clear Christmas Eve sky with my hands warm in my muff. I missed the quiet and stillness of those nights.

The stillness is still there - I know it. I need to be still within, and that is so hard to do with all the commotion of a family and a career. I used to love Christmas Eve. I used to know how to relax and enjoy. This coming year, I will remember. I am going to find another muff. And this moment, I am going to close my laptop and bake Christmas cookies for my kids.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The world ain't slowing down....

The Google thing has bothered me for a while - one company having so much data - what we think (blogs), what we're looking for (search), our mail (gmail), where we're going (maps), etc. At first people thought I was crazy, after all their motto is don't be evil... But driving to Maryland, I was listening to NPR, and heard an interview with one of the authors of this amazing short video:


This is different from my worries in many ways. But you have to ask, what is the future we're asking for? We should be careful, because we may get it....