Thursday, January 18, 2007

I want a new language

C was great. Then C++ was great. Then Java was great. (Along the way Lisp was neat, too.) Imperative programming, however, just isn't cutting it anymore. I need to make myself do some functional programming, the wave of the future I'm told. New wave or not, functional programming is interesting, and functional features are finding their ways into Java and C#. I propose that I should do something simple in Erlang, Haskell, SML or OCaml, Scheme, and maybe Ruby or Python. My friend René said he always wrote a Mandelbrot set generator on a new platform to get the feel of programming on it, so I'll do that.

Dumb Tag Clouds

The current version of Blogger allows labeling of posts with category tags, but to get a list of the tags on the Blogger-generated pages requires using the layouts template, which requires hosting one's weblog on Blogger's servers, which I do not do. I can live with that, and I might change my own template to include an up-to-date list of links to the label pages, which Blogger does generate. One might think linking to these would be easy, and it is, so there must be some private reason Blogger does not do it.

Perhaps one reason it is not supported is that Blogger would feel obligated to support dumb "tag clouds", (but even this feature does not require more than static HTML.) Tag clouds are cute page content areas that show some or all of the tags applied to weblog entries, but the size of the tag in the cloud represents its popularity. They're cute. They're silly. They're not particularly useful.

They do give an idea at a glance of the more popular tags, but that's the limit of their usefulness. Unpopular tags are invisible or illegible, making their presence useless, and also limiting the readers ability to see what they are or read about them. The space wasted by the popular tags could also be used to present something useful, such as a list of all of the tags, or maybe even the top twenty tags, and that list could be ranked, either ordered by rank or visually marked according to popularity, since that's all a tag cloud provides. For example, the redder a tag would be, the more popular it would be while less popular tags would be shades of blue. Just about anything would be more useful and informative that cute, silly, and dumb tag clouds.

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Season of Christmas

It's over. The War on Christmas has been won, and all we really had to do was wait it out. With the victory in hand, we're safe to discard our prized Christmas trees and wrapping paper. It's hard to see what the hubbub was about now that I've finished the eggnog and most of the ham. It seems now the War on Christmas could never have been lost. But how many people are still celebrating Christmas? In the Christian calendar, it's importance is second only to Easter. It's been said that it's "too big for just one day", so it seems right to continue to enjoy the celebration even into the new year. Traditionally, we're still in the Christmas season until the Epiphany on January 6th, so those enjoying Christmas should feel no need to undeck the halls just yet. Relax a little. Enjoy the spoils. The tree can come down next weekend. You don't have to be really big on church liturgy like an Anglican, Roman Catholic, or Orthodox Christian to enjoy the whole Christmas season, either. My Southern Baptist preacher neighbor seems to keep his decorations up, too.

I want to make a point to slow down. I like to relax and take some slient time to reflect during this time, and I do, but not enough. Leaving the decorations up lets me enjoy this time that's not the hectic preparation or celebration of Christmas.

A priest was telling me that he kind of liked the old penitential observation of the four weeks of Advent before christmas. It's not that he just likes the purple of Lent over the new Advent blue (even though he has a cherished purple stole he could wear), but that he liked the introspection and penitential focus more than what we do now. I couldn't help thinking that maybe twenty years ago, the Christmas marketing barrage was less intense than now, but that's just as likely false. I enjoyed the marketing aspect a lot then.