August 13th, 2004

krazy koati

We're gonna have a good time

Today's my 200th essay, (200 essays, maybe twelve all that interesting). Still, seems fair to take a little stock:

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In other news I gave my first lecture, on the faintly philosophic topic ``why do we write computer programs'' -- as opposed to building physical models or custom circuits. My claim: programs are conveniences helping us to understand what (we think) we've told the computer to do and to experiment with those instructions, and as a consequence good code is written for humans to read and adapt. Seven students (of about 150) said they don't get it. It's going to be a fun term. This is a reason I only do ``why'' in the first class and ``what'' and ``how'' the rest.

Trivia: Two-fifths of U.S. soldiers headed to Europe in World War I travelled through Hoboken. Source: New Jersey: America's Main Road, John T. Cunningham.

Currently Reading: The Seedling Stars, James Blish. It's a set of four stories about the genetic-engineering of humanity to live on all the worlds of the galaxy, so old that I believe the chronologically first story was written before the link between genes and nucleic acid was clear. The first story in sequence is of the Adapted Men made of ice who settle Ganymede (which, in the 50s, had some water, useful chemicals, and basic life-forms). The second sees humans made into lemur-like creatures grabbing an existence out from under the dinosaurs of a Mesozoic rain forest on Tellura. Third, one of Blish's first and best stories, is of microscopic humans on Hydrot and their two-inch wooden ``spaceship'' ... impossible yet compelling. Fourth, an afterthought, is about the adaptation of humans to live on the desiccated far-future Earth, and the seal-men of Altair recognizing this will have social consequences for the all-too-smug Basic Humans. Everything great, and little of what was repugnant, about John W. Campbell-era science fiction.