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!