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I’m looking forward to a 2012 that is just as fast paced as 2011. And for whatever it’s worth, I didn’t blog as much as I did last year which is something you will notice in this post of photos. Yes indeed, a picture is worth 1000 words.
In fact, we only made 12 posts for 2011 and in spite of this low showing, my faithful readers, according to a report WordPress sent me last night:
This blog was viewed about 9,700 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
I’m thrilled! Rock on!
Happy New Year Everyone! Let’s kick some more ass in 2012.
The J-community has really stepped up to the plate in terms of financial and in-kind labour for this documentary project. Let’s face it folks, unless you’re Fred Brooks, Arthur Whitney or Eric Iverson, or a dozen or so other stars, wanting to be in the documentary doesn’t do much for me.
I expect you noticed I was in Chapel Hill last month. Luckily, Roger Hui alerted me to the fact that The University of North Carolina has a programming gem in their freshman class who, at all of 18, has already made a splash in the J programming forums. Welcome Marshall Lochbaum, and his former high school math teacher Henry Rich (pictured above).
The main topic of November’s monthly J users group meeting (NYCJUG) was The Language Slapdown. Jedi Knight, Devon McCormick (in the photo on the right), agreed to represent the array programming language J in this battle of the brains. He called upon the group to provide feedback.
Sadly, the Slapdown was canceled, but not before I fell in love with the idea. Why? Because I can’t think of a better way to channel all that ferocious energy that separates programming language aficionados from each other.
The passion behind programming language debates is truly exceptional, and perhaps a little incomprehensible to the rest of us. I mean, really. To paraphrase Dave Thomas, It’s easier to work with someone in China than with someone who knows a different programming language.
I wish that I had a team of Neurologists at my disposal, because I’m starting to amass anecdotal evidence that one of the reasons the programming language debates are so strangely polarized is simply because the various languages reflect different modes of thinking. And these different modes of thinking loosely reflect a diversity of wiring in human brains.
One of the many reasons, both personally and politically, that I am publicly aligning myself with The Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership, Inc.(GRASP) is that it is an organization which publicly promotes awareness about a constituency of humans who are demonstrably wired in a unique way. It is a huge mental leap to figure out how to communicate when you can’t make assumptions about the other person in the conversation, based on your own way of thinking. The bottom line is that it takes education, awareness and practice to effectively communicate with someone who is wired differently than you are.
I challenge you to go think about this for a few moments.
So, the notion of a Language Slapdown should bring to the surface some different ways of thinking. And besides, it’s a Slapdown so everyone is there to get slapped.
I’ve pretty much decided that the acrimonious battles between programming language followers are a mild curiosity in general. When you dig down to the details, they border on tedious and boring, so for now, I plan to ignore them.
I will go to a Slapdown, though, given the opportunity. And that’s Kenneth Lettow on the left, listening to Devon’s presentation.
So, if I plan to sidestep the great programming language debates, what’s next? I’m trying to figure out, with the help of some guest writers in the pipes: How are the array languages being adapted to the modern world?
I really had a fantastic time in New York. Before the trip, my executive producer Barry Pearson gave me some sagely advice. Don’t forget you’re visually talented. He’s talking about what Ken Iverson once called, all that art school.
The truth is I can become unstitched by the way a ray of sun hits a single leaf and then spend hours taking photographs trying to catch it. Light can be elusive and as such, presents a great challenge.
So, with Barry’s advice in mind, I spent a good afternoon in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden chasing beams of light.
Indeed, I cannot resist saying, the squirrels are very friendly!
I’m back home and am burning to share another New York story. It starts like this…
On my way to lunch with Joel Kaplan, I’m getting into the elevator on the 27th floor of this absolutely stunning Park Avenue building. Along for the ride are Adam Jacobs and Robert “rOml” Lefkowitz, two veteran APL programmers from New York, both of whom I’m meeting for the first time. Joel launches into techno-talk, reminiscing about something or other. Then he stops and apologizes, he feels he’s being rude. I don’t know how much of the technical side you understand.
I explain that I worked as an APL programmer for years and then I say… Yes, I did technical work until 2001 when I ran off to join the circus.
Then, with complete and utter sincerity Robert says, Oh really, which one?
That stopped me.What just happened? I wonder.
Joel jumps to the rescue, I think she means it figuratively. And I do. He looks at me and says, he thought you meant it literally, his wife trains kids for the circus. At this point, the woman standing next to me isn’t even trying to hide that she’s laughing her head off.
Real life circus experience; and the guy even knows how to juggle! I’ll bet ten bucks that by the time I get to the principle photography on this bloody film, he’ll be doing that behind the back act he performed for us.
Ah… isn’t life sweet? A circus act for my film. Literally.
Picture this: a crowded reception at the American Folk Art Museum on West 53rd street in New York City. I am at an annual celebration and, so you get an idea of the atmosphere: close your eyes and name 3 New York investment institutions. They’re here.
I’m not very good in crowds, but having attended this event last year, I know a few people. Happily, this is a friendly gathering. Not only that, there’s a tremendous amount of excitement about my project; the folks here are almost as keen as I am about this whole thing.
I’m sailing through this trip like a dream. On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to meet the elusive and busy Joel Kaplan. One of the top ten scores of the year. I wanted to meet him because I need someone to talk about the rise and fall of APL in New York in the 80’s. Joel was right in there. So, of course, my game is to figure out what kind of film presence he is going to have. What luck! The guy is a natural. Confident, funny and expressive. This is going to be a riot! I have found the perfect representative, 100%. And now I can say I know Joel Kaplan. Ha!
Thank you Bubba, for the introduction!
So, here I am, at this fantastic party and I’m doing my best, but still struggling to feel comfortable. I see Joel, a bit away from the crowd talking with two really smart looking young women. Women! Apart from the crowd! I want to be over there!
True to my Canadian heritage, I make my way over to Joel and company: excuse me, I’m sorry, excuse me, please, excuse me, I’m sorry… hi.
Scanning their name tags, all I can read at first is Harvard. Ok. That’s not so strange, we’ve infiltrated Harvard before. I explain my mission in code, I’m working on a documentary about this technology.
Joel said, she knows about APL; which should have tipped me off. But, alas, it didn’t. The conversation still a bit awkward, I’m trying to decipher through the noise, what this 20-something woman is asking me, while at the same time wondering how on earth she knows so much about the array language community.
Finally, I reach over and remove the blond curl from her name tag. It’s Natasha Whitney. Natasha Whitney! Oh! Oh!
Well. Then. I apologize and start again.
Your grandfather, I tell Natasha, introduced my father to Ken Iverson in the 1960’s. Wow.
Of course I mention the J meeting I attended the night before. Natasha is curious about how J was started. And that’s a legendary story which involves her father, Arthur Whitney, so I ask Joel to tell his version. Everyone has a version of this legend, and I’m collecting them.
Then we walk into the crowd to hear her mother, Janet Lustgarten, give the keynote speech for the night; and I say, You know, your mother has the best how-was-J -invented story I’ve heard yet – and you should ask her about it, because, you are in it.
Congratulations Kx for another fine year, and thank you for including me in your celebration.
In 1983, with my hanky tied up on a stick and my white cat perched on my shoulder, I left Swarthmore, Pennsylvania to venture into the world. My first stop was Hampshire College located in Amherst, Massachusetts, USA.
Camp Hamp, as we fondly and irreverently call it.
That’s where I met Michael John Carley. At the time, everyone in my motley crew knew that Michael was destined to do great things. For one thing, he’s a bad ass poker player; and through the hazy eyes of 18 year olds, that’s a sure fire sign of success. Little did we know that he would eventually found an extremely successful peer support group for adults on the Autism spectrum. More to the point, we had no idea that he was on the Autism Spectrum. Not a freaking clue. And that’s the theme that keeps coming up in our side project. No one knew.
What side project? One of my sneaky plans is to get to know Michael again after all these years, so I volunteered my video production skills and we’re collaborating on a video for GRASP. For the last couple of days, I’ve been looking at the testimonials of the brave folks who stepped up to participate in our little production. It’s a treat and a privilege. It totally rocks. A great evil plan.
Meeting new people and learning about what cool things are happening now in the array language community after my decade hiatus is completely awesome.
And this picture has it all. Here you see Jordan Tirrell, an up and coming J programmer with veteran Jon McGrew, who I quote once and a while, especially when he makes a good joke about nothing.
Jordan is extra lucky, not to mention smart, because he gets to occupy the spot under Ken Lettow’s wing, after studying with Cliff Reiter at Lafayette College. This must be great fun, because Ken, who I also just met on this trip to NYC, rocks! Here’s what he wrote me about 10 days ago:
BTW, on Sunday I went to the bookstore and bought the book “The (mis)behavior of Markets, a fractal view of Financial Turbulence” by Benoit Mandelbrot & Richard L. Hudson. If you get to interview Mandelbrot you should definitely read this book beforehand. I could not put it down.
In addition to the main theme of the book, Mandelbrot drops little nuggets about his time at IBM which I think you might find interesting. Example:
It was 1961. I had been working a few years at IBM’s main laboratory up the Hudson River from Manhattan. It was a surprising place for a pure scientist. The company had re-tooled itself from a manufacturer of mechanical tabulating machines to a pioneer of electronic computers; and for that task, it had staffed up a large laboratory by including a number of brilliant misfits who were allowed to pursue every imaginable topic. Some were obviously related to computers, but many not. I, a recent arrival from France, was working on a new use for computers: economics.
Brilliant misfits! I love that description. It is mind bending to think of the talent that resided at IBM at this time, Iverson, Mandelbrot, Brooks, Backus etc.
I’m glad I don’t have to give an award to the most helpful on my trip to NYC because it would be a three-way tie between APL, Q and J folks. And this Totally Rocks!
And Ken, I love brilliant misfits too! The book arrived today! Hooray!
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