Older blog entries for chalst (starting at number 70)

26 Mar 2003 (updated 27 Mar 2003 at 09:20 UTC) »
SyntaxPolice: Good pointer to the Haskell history page: I hope this grows into an excellent reference. A couple of quibbles:
  • Firstly, surely Common LISP is more widely used in industry than Erlang? A not-so-scientific datapoint: comp.lang.functional (which is where most Erlang discussion takes place) has 27500 threads according to Google groups, whereas comp.lang.lisp has 78600. Granted the cllers are generally a community that is traditionally quite USENET active, and also have a long history, but I think the numbers are pretty indicative of the relative size of the communities.
  • And second Haskell was not descended only from Miranda, but also there were other lazy FP languages among its ancestors, including the first functional language I learned, Phil Wadler's Orwell language (which was the language Oxford's Mathematics and Computation degree used for it's introductory course back in 1988, mainly, I think, because of it's support for natural equational reasoning about correctness and program transformations). They deserve credit.

Media Quality
One of the threads that I have found interesting here on recentlog is discussion of news sources. If discussion of political views proper causes more heat than light, perhaps discussion of which are the better news sources is more productive? Here's a suggestion: post links to the two or three most interesting articles on Iraq you have read this year; my choices would be:

  1. Blessed Are the Warmakers?, a debate between Richard Perle and Daniel Cohn-Bendit appearing in the most recent edition of Foreign Policy: for me, this really cast light on Richard Perle's position. I find Perle's optimism about the USA's ability to remould the region to be the most frightening and dangerous aspect of the gaggle of motivations that drive the GWB administration.
  2. Casuistries of Peace and War: an article at the London Review of Books that does an excellent job of summarising common pro- and anti- war positions.

Continuing in this vein, I'd like to recommend this book review by Orville Schell of Eric Alterman's "What Liberal Media", a rebuttal of conservative arguments that the USA media is dominated by leftists, conveniently summarised here. Alterman also runs one of the most interesting political blogs, altercation.

Postscript: Patriotism and Dual-loyalties
Well, I couldn't resist it for long: I am going to break my short-lived resolution not to write any political soapbox messages, and weigh in on a political issue. At the moment there is a lot of fuss being made in the USA about groups of citizens with "dual-loyalties", especially Jewish Americans whose patritoic feelings for the USA are "compromised" by their feelings of loyalty to Israel, so they advocate pro-Isreali policies that are not in the USAs best interest. I think this is a pernicious idea. Feelings of affection for your country and fellow citizens are a good thing, so to that extent I think patriotism is a virtue (those who doubt that patriotism is ever a good thing should read what George Orwell has written on Reverse Nationalism), but "absolute loyalty" to your country is an evil, rightly condemned by the infamous phrase "my country right or wrong". Divided loyalties are good: when one feels ones loyalties to different groups pulling in different directions, this should be a call for rational reflection and introspection. Most importantly, we should cultivate a sense of feeling for mankind in general, the virtue that Goethe called seeing yourself as a "world-citizen" above that of the citizen of any nation. The virtue of loyalty to what is good in your nation should be tempered by a feeling of shame for the particular evil deeds that each nation is guilty of.

18 Mar 2003 (updated 18 Mar 2003 at 18:17 UTC) »
Is the transatlantic alliance in danger?
There is a thought provoking article available online from the New York Review of Books (which has three other articles in this weeks edition). I think I don't agree with the conclusion: I don't think the damage being done by the GWB administration will be irreparable, but I do think that this administration's policy is very unwise.
17 Mar 2003 (updated 17 Mar 2003 at 13:51 UTC) »
RickMuller: Try the Financial Times (neutral), the Independent (somewhat anti-GWB), The Economist (somewhat pro-GWB), and the London Review of Books (polemically and brilliantly anti-GWB, currently being blackballed by a group of US professors...).

mglazer: Your definition of pattern (ie. " A pattern is matching elements repeated within the same string. ") doesn't specify if "testest" contains 1 or 2 occurrences of the pattern "test", which can potentially lead to subtle bugs.

davidw: Good luck with the move!

Thought for the day
Is today a good day to die?

I'm thinking about the ultimatum the gang of four have put to the UN, and the innocent victims war that would result from a war in Iraq. Perhaps more good than evil will be done by the coming conflict, but to revel in it, I think, is in the very worst taste.

11 Mar 2003 (updated 11 Mar 2003 at 08:51 UTC) »
garym: The key question is how is the originality of free software to be judged? My guess is that while the great mass of orginality software ideas (how on earth do you measure originality?) lies in proprietary software, in proportion to the time spent on it, free software is massively more original than proprietary software. One of the features of free software that hasn't attracted enough attention, I think, is just how efficient the best projects are in terms of getting maxiumum results from minimum effort. This property naturally fosters originality.

Politics Free Zone revisited
cmm and raph both replied to my last diary entry, both being rather less positive about the community standards here on Advogato than I was. A couple of points:

  1. Raph thinks that the current anti-war movement is a general exception to the usual informal rule against talking politics here. I find this odd: why this conflict? Is it because he cares a lot, or because a lot of people care a lot about this conflict, or something else? The former is in effect a universal exception; in the latter case, shouldn't this mean that pro-war postings are as justified as anit-war postings?
  2. My own feeling is that one should be considerate of the general advogatan sensibilities when writing diary entries (which I'm afraid I am not always, looking back at my earlier entries), but beyond that there are no rules about what is appropriate. I don't think it is a problem if diary entries are not particularly free software focussed - my own experience is that writing "off-topic" entries seems to be a kind of therapy that helps keep up my motivation to work on free software projects.

While I'm thinking about the almost-certain-to-come conflict, this article at the London Review of Books is about the best article I have read on the divisions created by the conflict. Raph gives this article at interesting-people.org high praise: I have some reactions to it, but they will have to wait until I have more time.

Proof of Correctness Wars
This ACM article from last summer is required reading for the now rather dormant discussion on web-based proof assistants. I think it might already have been mentioned here on advogato, but it makes good points and I think folks interested in the issues might benefit by looking over it again. Serious point: I think if the not-too-clear ideas going around about web-based proof assistants come to something, then we will be revisiting this debate again. Not so serious point: Dijkstra's halo doesn't look so firm in this retrospective.

Postscript fxn pointed out only ACM Portal users can access the above article: I'd be grateful for any pointers to non-crippled URLs of the text.

Politics Free Zone?
kilmo wrote (30/1/2003):
I wouldn't enter into too much politics around here (I consider advogato to be an international server, with varying nationalities)...
I'm not exactly sure what kilmo disliked about my diary entry, I guess he thought it was ill-informed, but I think the important point is that kilmo feels that politics threatens the sense of community on advogato. I don't feel that way, in fact I would be delighted to hear more political views from around the world, especially from outside Europe and the USA.

I should qualify this I guess: I wouldn't like to see recentlog degenerate into a soapbox, but I find the free software community here on advogato to be a generally well-informed, diverse, and rational community; precisely these properties make me interested in hearing political views here. I'd be interested to hear more points of view from Israeli's in particular: what was behind Sharon's huge electoral gains?; what do Israeli's think of the new coalition?; how hopeful are Israeli's about the prospects for a workable peace settlement with the Palestinians in the next few months and years?

davidw: I'm ambivalent about the proposed war on Iraq, too, but my views haven't changed in quite a few weeks, which given how many new facts have come to light in that time means perhaps I have achieved a certain clarity on the question. It seems to me useful to distinguish two quite different questions: firstly, what difference will a war in Iraq make to the region; second, are America's reasons for proposing the war good ones? The first question is the difficult one; the second question it seems to me demands the answer "No, the Bush administration is providing clearly bad justifications for its proposed campaign."

SyntaxPolice: Ah, but category theory allows you to suddenly turn nice, concrete subjects like the differential calculus into generalised abstract nonsense. It is quite wonderful in this respect.

14 Feb 2003 (updated 23 May 2003 at 11:04 UTC) »

Off to Bonn tomorrow (actually today; it's 2am) for FotFS-4 (that's Foundations of the Formal Sciences IV), and I still haven't finished my slides...

elliot, allanf, benad, and digitect deserve to be certified as apprentice, IMO...

Postscript allanf still isn't certified, despite getting apprentice certifications from: salmoni, lerdsuwa, fxn, ploppy, myself and others...

12 Feb 2003 (updated 12 Feb 2003 at 12:38 UTC) »
Certifications, Centres, and Policies
I'm rather disappointed no-one commented on my idea of alternate centres for advogato's trust-metric. I've a few more ideas, but not really enough time to put them in a coherent form. Well, any comments on what I wrote before are welcome.

Working on John Harper's librep. Actually find I am using jade much more often than I use emacs, because:

  1. I like rep much more than elisp;
  2. It has a much smaller footprint/faster startup time on my underpowered laptop
  3. John Harper has shown a lot of good taste in the design of the system.
I'm surprised to be using it as much as I do: I'd developed something of a dependency on many advanced features of emacs, and I wouldn't have expected to do without them as well as I have. I still use emacs for auctex, though. At the moment I'm hacking hygienic macros for librep, but I'm finding it hard to make time for this.
28 Jan 2003 (updated 28 Jan 2003 at 10:34 UTC) »
zhaoway: Garbage collection *is* done at run-time. You may be thinking of region inference, where the compiler tries to figure out the mallocs and frees statically: this is an exciting field of research, but it is a much less understood technology than GC.

Does the USA think European foreign policy is too weak or not? On the one hand we have Washington politicians mocking Europe's foreign policy weakness in Bosnia and elsewhere. But, when serious efforts are made to try to strengthen Europe, we hear that the USA is trying to weaken the Franco-German alliance because of its fears of an independent European foreign policy.

zhaoway asks: why do functional languages have garbage collection? One reason is that that it is awkward to stack allocate closures in a functional language, and becomes impossible if you want to do tail-call elimination. Also if one has an anonymous lambda abstraction, how do you tell the memory manager you have finished with it? It isn't absolutely impossible to have functional languages without garbage collection, though, and Richard Kelsey's Prescheme language (which lies at the heart of the scheme48 system) is such a dialect, though arguably it isn't a full-blown functional language anymore (there are restrictions on the places one may create closures).

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