A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing.
~ Oscar Wilde (Irish poet and playwright extraordinaire)
LISP programmers know the value of everything and the cost of nothing.
~ Alan Perlis (American computer scientist, and the first winner of the Turing Award)
Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. So it is with value: It’s all too easy to miss seeing the worth in a thing or things, even more so when it comes to grasping the worth get compounded when seemingly unrelated things are seen in the context of their interdependence. So let’s shed some cynicism and see how far it’ll take us 🚗
First, though, let us all rejoice in the knowledge that we have been given the lovely gift of three poems by a reader of Programming Digressions; plus, needless to say, you all needed a break from my ramblings anyway, didn’t you? So there you go, your wish has been granted and your dreams—for now anyway and until my next rambling-filled essay—have been realized 🎡
Before I introduce our benefactor who has given us this gift, allow me to answer a question which, dare I say—judging at least by the knotted brows on your forehead—is percolating right now in the nooks and crannies of the minds of many: Will this particular essay make me a better programmer, a better technologist, the author of beautiful code? 😲
The brief answer is: It depends.
For a slightly more elaborate answer, check the framed pic below…
Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.
~ Edsger W. Dijkstra (Dutch systems scientist, programmer, software engineer, science essayist)
— Reader: “Wait a second, Akram, what is that book (Algorithms, Languages, Automata, And Compilers: A Practical Approach) doing in the pic above? And are those tape flags you got plastered along the right-hand side edge of its pages?”
— Akram: “Yep, here’s the deal: Standing upright next to another fine book, that one all about poetry (The New Oxford Book of English Verse) is Exhibit A in my argument to demonstrate that it is unwise to circumscribe the branches of knowledge into a knotted ball.”
— Reader: “There you go again, Explaining metaphysics to the nation. I wish you would explain your Explanation! And yes, that’s straight from Lord Byron’s Don Juan: Dedication. So don’t you be fooling us now, Mister.”
— Akram: “Hey, hey, hey, easy now. What’s up with (the appearance of Algorithms, Languages, Automata, And Compilers: A Practical Approach in) Exhibit A is simply this: A memorable quote which can be found in its pages—one that fits the hand like a glove when it comes to our essay’s theme—left quite an impression on me when I read it a several years ago…”
— Reader: “And what might that quote be, Mister smarty-pants?”
— Akram: “Yo, what’s the deal about this smarty-pants? Anyhow, glad you asked. That quote helped tie several loose threads for me, especially as it pertains to the theme—that it is unwise to circumscribe the branches of knowledge into a knotted ball—of this essay. It goes like this: Studying the theory of computing will not make you a better coder in a matter of a couple of weeks, but understanding the foundations of computer science will certainly increase your problem-solving and programming abilities.“
— Reader: “Great, now everything is clear as mud. And the only knotted ball—turning the tables on you by using your own metaphor, ha!—that comes to mind is the anti-pattern, for crying out loud, and which we all know and dread as The Big Ball of Mud, so there!”
— Akram: “Gulp, this reader knows her stuff; no pulling wool over her eyes.”
— Reader: “What else you got for me, Akram? And hey, by the way, what are those three outlandish balloons in the pic at the top—the ivory unicorn, the Tigger-like Tiger, and the Winnie the Pooh-like bear—floating around for? Is this symbolism or something? Dang, Akram, you trying to pull wool over our eyes again?”
— Akram: “No, no, no, nothing of that sort. Symbolism notwithstanding, all I’m trying to do with those three fanciful balloons is to draw your attention, a tad subliminally, I must confess, to the three splendid points around which this essay revolves, locked in geosynchronous orbit.”
— Reader: “Geosynchronous, what?!”
— Akram: “Tell you what, for the sake of your sanity and mine, let’s postpone our discussion on that topic—along with the magnificent contribution by Arthur C Clarke in this area—to a later time, shall we?”
— Reader: “Sounds good to me. Plus, can we, like, get on with the essay proper?”
— Akram: “But of course, my lips are sealed from here on. Get ready for a treat to stellar poetry.”
With A Drum Roll, Introducing The Author!
With that, let’s introduce our benefactor, the giver of this gift: Kitty Fassett, a retired pianist and intellectual extraordinaire—her distinguished background and training in the art of music (Vassar College, and the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music) are important aspects of her brilliant career. She has a finely-developed ear for the well-turned sentence, and who has given me much encouragement and extensive feedback on (drafts of) the essays that you read around here 🎪
Yep, my essays are so much the better for her feedback! 🎯
(As a matter of fact, some of you may remember another contribution by Kitty—the oh-so charming essay entitled Pop’s War: My Father, the CIA, and the Green Death—grace our blog about a year ago. Word to the wise: don’t miss it!).
Oh, and since we touched on the subject of flight—remember those beguiling and blustery balloons, geosynchronous orbits, and stuff like that—it is only fitting that the very first poem by Kitty be all about space travel 🐝
Intrigued? (I am, for sure). Let’s get right to it!
A Warning To Space Travelers 🚀
at your own risk.
The management assumes
in case you fall
passed its pallid perimeter
past the point of no return,
lured by the personal magnetism
of the beast at the bottom,
finding yourself spaghettified
and stranded in darkness
The Cat Lady* 🐈
* Now for something, as follows, on what inspired Kitty to write this poem, by way of personal communication: “The cat poem was inspired by my years in Puerto Rico, where we had always a multitude of cats—as many as 13 at a given time. They left us presents on our doorstep almost every morning: usually dead rats, because we had a lot of those nesting in the surrounding coconut palms until we had them knocked down.“
Speaking of Puerto Rico, anyone remember Castillo de San Cristobal? 🏄
A Moon Poem 🌛
in a ritual of adoration
remember that the moon
After beaming beguilingly
she retreats darkly betraying
a Byronic disposition
and though people say be patient
she’s just going through a phase
I say phooey she’s a phony,
just a glorified goddess
with a polarized
Sir Rider Haggard,
Was completely staggered
When his bride-to-be
Announced, “I AM SHE!“
~ W. H. Auden
And there you have it, poetic loveliness writ large by way of three splendid poems from a reader like you. Tag, it’s your turn now (Send in your contributions to me—prose, poems, whatever—and I’ll make sure they get fair treatment on their way to getting posted right here in our digs!) 🏃
These three poems, I must confess, and each in its own way, remind me a lot of the poetry of W. H. Auden, a sample of which, incidentally—in case anyone was awake enough—appeared recently in an essay by yours truly on the subject of my recent adventures with the practice of the Go programming language. 😴
Adios until next time!
Dear Akram Beta: What a joy to see myself bursting into print in the context of your inimitable style. As a newly budding poet, with only three poems to my name — and poems that can never find a way to rhyme, for that matter — I must say they look good to the eye, and even sound good, surrounded by your witty comments. You do me great honor and I thank you!
Kitty, Your poems… unrhythming they may be, are filled with meaning, choice words and wonder. Thank you for your gifts; all three!
Akram, Yet another excellent article for your blog where culture, software, technology, and engineering intersect. #ThumbsUp
– Dear Ami Kitty: Let me assure you that the honor is all mine. Readers like me (I just so happen to also read what I find on this, our blog, and even more so when the writing is by contributors like you) are delighted with the results!
– I've got exactly one word with which I can perhaps best capture the style of your poetry: mellifluous (I sure find myself being reminded of the poetry of W H Auden as I read and reread your splendid poems, all three of them!)
– By the way, I'm still working on reading yet another one of your gifts, that gift being the one you gave me last year, actually: the William H. Gass book (that guy sure writes densely, but spectacular so, making the English language do things it's not supposed to).
– For more context to some of the fun we all had (featuring William H. Gass and others), I am taking the liberty of gently reminding you and other readers of another essay that had appeared elsewhere on this blog: World's 10 Coolest Sentences Get Gangsta Treatment!
– Finally, if anyone was intrigued (and our multilingual society sure is an amazing thing) by the use of admittedly-unfamiliar words such as "Ami" and "Beta" (and no, I'm not in Beta Testing anymore, lol), I invite you to check out this response to reader comments: Hear ye, hear ye!
– And yes, dear Ami Kitty, you truly deserve to see yourself bursting into print. Looking forward to many more contributions from you, and which I'll solicitously look forward to featuring right here on our blog. Don't you now be sending them to any other blog!!
An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who had been doing a little homework on this.
And he actually ordered me dinner because I found it for him…
lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thanks for the meal!!
But yeah, thanx for spending some time to discuss this
issue here on your internet site.
– Hi Lex: I know full well that I'm out of my league when it comes to poetry, so I am going to let our resident poet (Kitty Fassett of course!) speak and reply for herself 🙂
– My own doggerel can only masquerade as verse, but FWIW, here is a brief sampling:
– Coordinates to -> On Writing: Or Now I Write
– And here be the coordinates to -> On Writing: Or A Row With How I Write
– Well said, Lex, and I couldn't agree more: Our resident poet has outdone us all for sure!!
– Oh, and how remiss of me to overlook sprinkling a reference (in this post) to another (spectacularly readable!) work as well (a beguiling and oh-so charming essay, actually) by Kitty Fassett.
– Here are the coordinates for that charming essay -> Pop’s War: My Father, the CIA, and the Green Death
– (All I did there, in presenting that particular post, the essay entitled " Pop’s War: My Father, the CIA, and the Green Death" was to embellish it with pictures, and that's about it. My deed (in merely presenting that piece) reminds me of a possibly apocryphal comment by a kid, who, when asked about his mother's clothing, darning, and mending talents, simply replied, "Oh, she just glues and staples.")
– So in full candor, all I do around here Programming Diggressions is glue and staple lol 😉
– Hey, thanks a ton for your nod of approval, Lex, in saying, "Akram, Yet another excellent article for your blog where culture, software, technology, and engineering intersect. #ThumbsUp".
– Thank you, thank you! (My readers make my day, every single day)
– I would like to part now, until next time, by leaving you with this inimitable observation, by way of a short poem, by the one and only Ogden Nash, America's poet laureate of light verse:
Some primal termite knocked on wood
And tasted it, and found it good!
And that is why your Cousin May
Fell through the parlor floor today.
– Okay, so I have been remiss today, two times already – For those of you who are not yet familiar with the amazing work of Lex Sheehan, software developer extraordinaire, allow me to introduce him and his work…
– Coordinate set #1 –> GooglePlus
– Coordinate set #2 –> Medium
– Coordinate set #3 –> Blog
– Yep, as you can tell from that, Lex is one prolific gentleman!!
Hey Akram! Thank you, so much, for the into 🙂
I can only dream of being as prolific as you, sir.
The way you intertwine culture with software development is extraordinary.
Just read this quote in one of your many intriguing articles, "Tell him night finished before we finished".
Though written before the advent of electricity and computers, that line immediately caused me to think of a number of a few conversations with fellow developers and project managers of past software projects 😉
Thanks for the treat Akram. I greatly enjoyed this one. I really enjoyed "A Warning To Space Travelers". It makes me think of the time I usually spend messing up with ML family languages and my *cough* editor dotfiles *cough*.
It's rabbit hole when you get addicted with those. Thanks for sharing these with us 😀
A Moon Poem…Yes!!!