Thursday, January 4, 2024

 Lost Horizons by Larry Becker

Where are you now oh friends of youth?
I wonder in sad reflection.
Have we lost the key that we once used
to open the doors-of-perception.
Remember when we saw the world
in colors without names,
and looked into eternity
inside the campfire's flames.
What merry pranksters we were then,
and what experiences we knew,
as we saw the worlds that might-have-been,
like stars in a drop-of-dew.
But somewhere down some forest path
where the road had forked-in-two,
we missed the one that might-have-led,
us to Xanadu.
But sometimes when the night is dark 
but the moon is shining clear,
I feel like the ancient's wedding guest 
who 'cannot choose but hear',
or like some westward pioneer
who first viewed the great herds of bison.
Then do the mists roll up again
and I glimpse the Lost Horizon.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020


by Larry D. Becker

I awoke to a morning so crisp in its borning
   that icicles hung in the air
But what it inferred I deftly deffered
   and remained quite snug in my lair
Fate's providence and habitual slovenliness
   have conspired with unnatural care
To produce an obtuse and ridiculous excuse
   to sleep on a morning so rare
So up I did spring and commencing to sing
   a ballad quite passably fair
I sprang to the shower and dialing full power
   I continued my singing with flair
But needing some soap and searching with hope
   in a cupboard under the stair
I looked once again but to my chagrin
   I saw that the cupboard was bare
Except for some documents left by previous occupants
   and a can of something called "Nair"
The product's instructions were obscured by reductions
   in price, but the purpose was there
It seems that in some way, the use of this spray
   was something to put on your hair
So lacking shampoo, I used that witches' brew
   (I'm telling this now with despair)
That's how on the morrow, with parting's sweet sorrow
   I bid farewell to my hair

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


If you can keep your job when all about you
 Are losing theirs and blaming it on (downsizing,
outsourcing, technology, globalization, the fed, Obama, you?)
If you can build a reputation on a forum,
  And dispense advice for free and not be snide;
If you can educate and not just bore 'em,
  And take all the ingratitude in stride,
Or being hated, don’t post "haters gonna hate",
  And yet don’t post too often, nor too wise:

If you can daydream—and still type all the faster;
  If you can code—and not make code your aim;
If you can draw with vector and with raster,
  And treat those two abstractions just the same;
If you can bear to see the code you've written,
  Twisted by knaves to make a hack for fools,
Or watch the software you gave your life to, broken,
  And reboot and build ’em up with trial-ware tools:

If you're fluent in both windows and ubuntu,
  Or work with macs—nor lose the common touch,
If neither Haskell, Bash, nor Java code can faze you,
  If all registers count for you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving nano-sec,
  With sixty cycles’ worth of CPU,
Yours is the net and everything that’s in it,
  And—which is more—you’ll be employed, my son.

with no apology to Rudyard Kipling

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

E. W. Dijkstra

"If academic research is often astonishingly successful, it always is because the researchers had the wisdom and the opportunity to avoid both the trivial and the impossible, and to follow the very narrow path in between. It is that narrow path in between that defines the intellectual autonomy of successful scientific research."

"The second reason is that what society overwhelmingly asks for is snake oil. Of course, the snake oil has the most impressive names —otherwise you would be selling nothing— like "Structured Analysis and Design", "Software Engineering", "Maturity Models", "Management Information Systems", "Integrated Project Support Environments" "Object Orientation" and "Business Process Re-engineering" (the latter three being known as IPSE, OO and BPR, respectively)."

prof.dr. Edsger W. Dijkstra

Going back to origins

Here is a poem that describes the future shock felt by we lucky few who first encountered the phenomenon that would become the world wide web:

World Wide Web

Robert Thibadeau 
November 30, 1993

I never thought I would see the day
When books looked superfluous.
I saw, the day before yesterday,
The world.

I leapt about, from Japan, to Here, to
To Finland,
To Italy.
Like it was nothing.

And I got deep
Into people
What they were thinking and doing
What they wanted and thought
I might like.

This is what a book
Was supposed to be.
But this was much better.
I made up the plot,
And I discovered the real story.

All right there. Right then. And,
Like the world,
It would never repeat again.

I really would like to have books
With their tree paper
Go the way of the dinosaur.
This is nearly it.
It is a place to really learn.

Will Internet become the dragon?
You know, the house dragon.
The oldest dragon. From China.
You know, the
Dragon of Peace holding
The Pearl of Everlasting Life.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Computer Science is really about managing complexity

The process of developing a software application is approximately as follows:

1. Write a bunch of functions that do useful things.
2. Package them in a container with an interface.
3. Organize the interface around some logical scheme.

In subsequent versions:

1. Fix a few bugs.
2. Add a few more functions.
3. Randomly reorganize the interface around some other logical scheme, because hey, the old one wasn't working since users couldn't find the functions they needed.
4. Rinse and repeat step 1.

Any reasonably large application is impaled upon the horns of the following dilemma: old users don't want the interface to change because it took so long to learn, however new users do want change because the current interface takes a long time to learn.

The problem is not with our methodology, or our programming languages, or even our interface technology. Some of you may take exception with that last one, but imagine that we have just invented a voice recognition system with an AI smart enough to understand our every request. Like Alāʼ ad-Dīn and his magic lamp, we would still not know what is possible unless we commanded the genie to list all of the possible wishes (which may be an infinite number).

The problem comes down to anticipating what the user wants. This is the basis of all user interface "improvements". We are all looking for the "easy button" that will just do whatever needs to be done, without any need to specify how or even what.

Begin a discriminating user of software is no special qualification to design user interfaces, in the same way that being a gourmet does not confer any special powers of cooking. And yet, need is at the heart of user interface design. Users want the functions that they perform with the software to be simple and straightforward and require the minimum of clicking and navigation. The ideal scenario is for the software to act like a surgeon's assistant, always standing ready with the appropriate tool at hand, and gently reminding us when we miss a step due to over concentration on the task at hand.

Building a great user interface then, requires not only study of UI concepts, but also study of usage patterns by the target audience. This in turn leads to dipping one's toes into the waters of operations research to determine if the entire process has been optimized from a global perspective.