Low Temperature & Computer Shmek

Freya’s day. Air temperature way down. Greater Metropolitan Arab weather station reports 32.2 degF. On the liquid side of the phase change. So no constitutional. Just a period on the stationary bicycle. And the morrow is foretold to be a bit lower. 

I do so detest winter. And the holidays, since they are the entryway of winter. 

Where is my suspended animation unit? I want to be able to skip forward in time over winter and summer, just enjoying fall and spring.

Speaking of enjoying, I ran across an article [Link] entitled “Tips To Make Learning Programming Easy” The tips are – I think – 

  • Commit to one programming language
  •      Java
  •       PHP
  • Break your learning into smaller goals
  • Language basics
  • Web framework
  • Using tutorials efficiently


I say think because the headings are identically formatted but a couple don’t make sense as tips. But then, most of them are rather ambiguously tips.

I’m not at all sure the first – one language – is a tip. Only an overdriven polymath would try to learn several languages at once. (It sorta works for Romance languages but going at, e.g., Latin and Mandarin simultaneously is going to almost always make sure you fail.

So while I agree with the dictum/tip/nugget/idea I think it’s so obvious that it either doesn’t need to be said or it says something for the stupidity level of people trying to learn how to code.

I started out with FORTRAN. In a college environment. Lectures and labs. And I dragged that model along with me through C and ADA and PASCAL and FORTH. Not necessarily the classroom formality, although that helps for me. But definitely the lecture and labs part. Which is hard, since learning a programming language is definitely a Type II course in Chad Orzel’s taxonomy.

(Incidentally, Chad recently lost a close adopted member of his family. [Link] Since FD SCP and I are sitting the grandog this week out, the wee hund and I sat a bit of Kaddish last night. Since a lot of what makes us human came through our long association, it seemed meet.)

As previously, JAVA and PHP are ambiguously tips. They seem to be recommendations of languages to begin with but neither strikes me as good. What I know about JAVA is that it is a necessary evil and PHP is unknown to me. Neither therefore is a real programming language in the sense of being fundamentally about number crunching. Real programming is all about number smashing and data handling and FORTRAN at least does the former fairly well.

Again, I admit I don’t do GUI. Command line and text files are more efficient and effective. Don’t need a thousand lines of interface code to implement a ten line integration approximation.

I won;t say GUI grappling isn’t a good business kill what with making APPs for Bogs, but that’s not what physics is about.

OK, I amend that a bit. Manuscript writing is a lot easier with pseudo-WYSIWYG.And graphification is necessary. But making pretty point-and-click is not the same as figuring out some whacked quadrature geometry and implementing it. I don’t want to do the GUI grappling and others don’t want to do the number bashing.

That pretty much retires the rest of the “tips”. I am not sure how you can program without learning how to partition the task, and I have never seen a tutorial that was either efficient nor effective. They often seem to be when compared to non-academic programming instruction. I once went to a noted vendor of computer training and found the information density SO LOW that I stomped out on the second day and initiated legal action against them for fraud and misrepresentation. 

The tuition was refunded along with the cost of my time. And they were blackballed for five years by the local training authority.

After that I stuck to real academics, mostly the U of Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill and my own, independent study. I found I learned more on my own.

One of the things I find distressing about this is how hard it is portrayed. When I started out all we had was main frames. The only textbooks were on COBOL and FORTRAN. Computer manuals were hens teeth. Today every language has a text and we all have PCs we can write code on. Lab exercises on our own. Without long queues and key punch machines. And today is hard?

Fear boys with bugs.