Common Lisp, the one true religion!

82 views
Skip to first unread message

Richard Krush

unread,
Sep 7, 2001, 11:06:38 PM9/7/01
to
Hello!

Well, I guess I will post yet another article about this topic. I hope
I did not misinterpret anything, but if I have, please point that out
to me.

From reading this newsgroup for some time now (four or five months) I
have seen a lot of articles and ideas that treat Lisp like a religion.
I know Lisp is a great programming language and I personally would be
very happy to see it gain more popularity, but I do not think it is
right to think it is the one true religion and the unbelievers should
be converted.

In one of the recent post (by Lisa Fattner), I have seen the following
sentence: "So, help spread the word about Lisp!" I don't know about you,
perhaps it is completely normal and I'm just too young to understand
it, but to me it really sounds like some slogan of christian merceneries.
Why do people feel need to convert everyone else to something they found
useful or feel is right? It seems very similar to the way religios
fanatics think about their language, they do not comprehend the fact
that it's just their point of view.

What I don't understand even more is why I have the same attitude
sometimes and why I even study Lisp if it does not completely sattisfy
me. Perhaps all this is just the way human mind works -- everybody must
use whatever I find right to use!

Regards,
Richard

P.S. Please correct me if I'm wrong somewhere (or everywhere).

--
Richard Krushelnitskiy "I know not with what weapons World War III will
rich...@gmx.net be fought, but World War IV will be fought with
http://rkrush.cjb.net sticks and stones." -- Albert Einstein

Jochen Schmidt

unread,
Sep 7, 2001, 11:28:39 PM9/7/01
to
Richard Krush wrote:

> Hello!
>
> Well, I guess I will post yet another article about this topic. I hope
> I did not misinterpret anything, but if I have, please point that out
> to me.
>
> From reading this newsgroup for some time now (four or five months) I
> have seen a lot of articles and ideas that treat Lisp like a religion.
> I know Lisp is a great programming language and I personally would be
> very happy to see it gain more popularity, but I do not think it is
> right to think it is the one true religion and the unbelievers should
> be converted.

Hm... I'm not sure if it is that critical.

> In one of the recent post (by Lisa Fattner), I have seen the following
> sentence: "So, help spread the word about Lisp!" I don't know about you,
> perhaps it is completely normal and I'm just too young to understand
> it, but to me it really sounds like some slogan of christian merceneries.
> Why do people feel need to convert everyone else to something they found
> useful or feel is right? It seems very similar to the way religios
> fanatics think about their language, they do not comprehend the fact
> that it's just their point of view.

I understand "spread the word about Lisp" more as making Lisp as a versatile
tool for many problems a little bit more known. A generally good reputation
of Lisp would maybe make it easier to push it's use in more projects.

ciao,
Jochen Schmidt

--
http://www.dataheaven.de

Bulent Murtezaoglu

unread,
Sep 7, 2001, 11:33:14 PM9/7/01
to
>>>>> "RK" == Richard Krush <rich...@gmx.net> writes:
[...]
RK> In one of the recent post (by Lisa Fattner), I have seen the
RK> following sentence: "So, help spread the word about Lisp!" I
RK> don't know about you, perhaps it is completely normal [...]

It is completely normal I think. I suspect she's a marketing person.
This is one of the things marketing people are supposed to do IMHO. I
wouldn't read too much into that. Franz also coined the term
"evangelisp" which at least got a chuckle out of me.

RK> What I don't understand even more is why I have the same
RK> attitude sometimes and why I even study Lisp if it does not
RK> completely sattisfy me. [...]

You conversion is incomplete but nonetheless on the right track. Recite
a different click-path through the hyperspec every night, and your
doubts will disappear.

cheers,

BM

Kaz Kylheku

unread,
Sep 8, 2001, 12:17:12 AM9/8/01
to
In article <9nc1vu$6a2ng$1...@ID-60069.news.dfncis.de>, Richard Krush wrote:
>In one of the recent post (by Lisa Fattner), I have seen the following
>sentence: "So, help spread the word about Lisp!" I don't know about you,
>perhaps it is completely normal and I'm just too young to understand
>it, but to me it really sounds like some slogan of christian merceneries.

The big difference is that Lisp exists, and has some concrete,
demonstrable properties that can be translated into useful
advantages. It's possible to speak or write honestly and rationally
about these properties, and to make fair comparisons between Lisp and
other programming languages.

Spreading the word is one of the ways in which technical and scientific
knowledge is distributed. Distributing such knowledge is not the same
as blind evangelism.

>Why do people feel need to convert everyone else to something they found
>useful or feel is right?

``Convert'' means to drop something in favor of an
alternative. Encouraging people to learn about Lisp is not the same as
a demanding that they abandon every other programming language.

>What I don't understand even more is why I have the same attitude
>sometimes and why I even study Lisp if it does not completely sattisfy
>me.

No programming language can satisfy every conceivable need. So if you
reject them on that criterion, you end up with nothing.

Richard Krush

unread,
Sep 8, 2001, 1:55:19 AM9/8/01
to
Jochen Schmidt <j...@dataheaven.de> wrote:

> Richard Krush wrote:
>> In one of the recent post (by Lisa Fattner), I have seen the following
>> sentence: "So, help spread the word about Lisp!" I don't know about you,
>> perhaps it is completely normal and I'm just too young to understand
>> it, but to me it really sounds like some slogan of christian merceneries.
>> Why do people feel need to convert everyone else to something they found
>> useful or feel is right? It seems very similar to the way religios
>> fanatics think about their language, they do not comprehend the fact
>> that it's just their point of view.

> I understand "spread the word about Lisp" more as making Lisp as a versatile
> tool for many problems a little bit more known. A generally good reputation
> of Lisp would maybe make it easier to push it's use in more projects.

Ok, I think I see where I missed the point. If I understand you correctly
(plus some overhead of my own), then you're saying that if Lisp gets more
popular among the companies, you/we as Lisp programmers will be able to use
the language of our choice?

If that is so, than I think I was wrong on most of my points...

Regards,
Richard

Lars Lundback

unread,
Sep 8, 2001, 3:57:29 AM9/8/01
to
On 8 Sep 2001 03:06:38 GMT, Richard Krush <rich...@gmx.net> wrote:

> What I don't understand even more is why I have the same attitude
> sometimes and why I even study Lisp if it does not completely sattisfy
> me. Perhaps all this is just the way human mind works -- everybody must
> use whatever I find right to use!

You are simply beginning to see the power of the language and maybe some
potential in yourself when you use it.

Knowing that other minds work in different ways usually comes with age.
:-)

Lars

Bruce Hoult

unread,
Sep 8, 2001, 7:57:35 AM9/8/01
to
Richard Krush <rich...@gmx.net> wrote in message news:<9nc1vu$6a2ng$1...@ID-60069.news.dfncis.de>...

> In one of the recent post (by Lisa Fattner), I have seen the following
> sentence: "So, help spread the word about Lisp!" I don't know about you,
> perhaps it is completely normal and I'm just too young to understand
> it, but to me it really sounds like some slogan of christian merceneries.

I don't know about anyone else, but *I* try to do my bit to spread the
word about my favourite dialect of Lisp (which doesn't happen to be
Common Lisp though CL is fine too) not for some sort of religious
reason but because I'm hoping that one day I can find actual paying
jobs for which I can use my favourite programming language instead of
merely:

- hacking on the compiler itself

- using it to win prizes in the ICFP programming contest [1]

- writing personal projects in it

- writing consulting projects in it where the client doesn't know C++
from x86 assembler

I don't know whether you'd consider that a valid reason, but it floats
my boat :-)

--- Bruce

[1] 2nd place in <http://cristal.inria.fr/ICFP2001/prog-contest>

Oliver Bandel

unread,
Sep 8, 2001, 6:15:52 AM9/8/01
to

Kaz Kylheku <k...@ashi.footprints.net> wrote:
> In article <9nc1vu$6a2ng$1...@ID-60069.news.dfncis.de>, Richard Krush wrote:
>>In one of the recent post (by Lisa Fattner), I have seen the following
>>sentence: "So, help spread the word about Lisp!" I don't know about you,
>>perhaps it is completely normal and I'm just too young to understand
>>it, but to me it really sounds like some slogan of christian merceneries.

> The big difference is that Lisp exists, and has some concrete,
> demonstrable properties that can be translated into useful
> advantages.

[...]

Yes. Lisp seems to be not the one true religion,
it seems to be the only true reality. ;-)

Ciao,
Oliver
--
You are looking for a good tool for typesetting your documentation?

Use lout: => http://snark.ptc.spbu.ru/~uwe/lout/lout.html

Erik Naggum

unread,
Sep 8, 2001, 1:03:59 PM9/8/01
to
* Richard Krush <rich...@gmx.net>

> I don't know about you, perhaps it is completely normal and I'm just too
> young to understand it, but to me it really sounds like some slogan of
> christian merceneries.

I think you mean "missionaries", although historically, I think your
version sounds a lot more accurate.

> Why do people feel need to convert everyone else to something they found
> useful or feel is right?

It is part of the human condition. Stupid people can only deal with
agreement in concrete terms. The more intelligent you are, the more
abstract the agreement can be that you need to feel part of a group.
E.g., "people should agree with me and use my conditionals" vs "people
should come to agreement through formalized diplomatic channels in a
large society and strive to find such compromises that the entire society
will use the same conditionals".

> It seems very similar to the way religios fanatics think about their
> language, they do not comprehend the fact that it's just their point of
> view.

Lots of things are similar to religions and most of the evil committed by
mankind has been committed in the name of some religion or religious
belief, so religions have so many obvious bad sides that some people feel
that it is much better to destroy someone's credibility by likening them
to religious zealots, for instance, than accusing them of being nazists
or racists, although the latter are slightly more honest and obvious
cases of rampant idiocy on part of the accuser and therefore less evil.
However, having something in common with religions is not sufficient to
make them religions. There are important aspects of religions that in
their absence should make such a comparison reflect very poorly on the
intelligence and intellectual honesty of the accuser. Instead, many
people tacitly accept such an accusation because who wants to fight such
a massively stupid person _or_ tackle the many intricate issues in what
makes a religion.

The opposite of "just their point of view" is obviously not "religion".
For one thing, that is just your stupid point of view and you should be
among the first to realize that as such it has absolutely no merit. But
you, too, want people to agree with your sentiments and convert people to
your view, right? How religious is that? In fact, most of the people
who see religions where other people see political parties or merely a
strongly-held belief with no irrational elements at all, are themselves
rebidly religious people, believing very strongly that other people's
attitudes are as irrationally and unintelligently held as their view that
those "other people" are religious. Witness the tremendous difficulty
you have getting a person who has decided (how?) that someone else is
religious that they are not. Such people are completely unreachable by
intelligent counter-arguments or counter-information, and hold on to
their irrational view, often the stronger the more their victims object.

So instead of being an accusation, "you are religious", _really_ says, "I
am a religious asshole". Americans in particular should really figure
out what the fifth amendment is all about and why it is so important in
matters of law to protect people who are so stupid they will gladly admit
to any hideous crime as long as they think they are blaming someone else.

There is _obviously_ something between "my opinion" and "irrationally
held view believed absolutely without evidence or substantation". The
concept of an objective (or interpersonal, intersubjective, or what have
you) position that other people can (1) see the validity of, and (2)
perhaps agree to, _if_ they get (almost) the same information the person
who holds it has used to arrive at his view, is outside the reach of the
highly religious people -- their basic assumption is that everybody else
also arrive at their stupid opinions by a method known best as "guessing
and making things up". This is also how they arrive at their conclusion
that those who disagree with them are religious fanatics. Lacking the
intellectual rigor or simply _ability_ to think in terms of "what (kind
of) information must a person have received and _not_ have received in
order to arrive at such a conclusion", they view their _own_ conclusions
as mystically derived out of nowhere, and consequently that must be how
everybody else derive theirs. Hence, "you are a religious zealot" means
"I have lost my ability to think or probably never had any to begin with".

Even thinking in terms of religiously held beliefs implicates the person
who does so much more than anyone he might think of. Therefore, the only
solution is to completely disregard the nutballs who think in such terms
-- they have come out openly and argued very strongly that they are free
of all the responsibilities that come with intelligence and intellectual
honesty.

Instead, consider what positions and beliefs are also likely to be held
if you hold a certain view, like I have argued above against those who
invoke "religious". If you hold the belief that political compromise is
bad for a community and for each person in it, that is contradicting the
view that people are sufficiently different that the only way we can find
grounds for cooperation is to subjugate our personal needs to a _higher_
goal or value. To some people, the very concept of a "higher value" than
themselves and their immediate needs is completely alien and invokes the
"religious" response in them, probably because of an irrational rejection
because of lots of bad experiences and no willingness to accept good ones
to counter them, but the concept of a "higher value" is precisely what
makes it possible for people to form societies and formulate conditions
necessary to build them. The amount of compromise and subjugation of
individual will to collective good this involves is quite impressing,
actually, and the freedom we seek within such a framework must therefore
be protected vigorously and fought for diligently, which also means that
we must also be careful in which freedoms we choose to fight for. For
instance, is freedom to express yourself at the expense of readability
for others in the community worth more than the freedom move without
impediment and worries in a world of fully conforming implementations of
community standards such that you do not have to think about a large
number of issues? But I sort of digress.

Just as people who have never seen complex problems they think are not
solvable be solved easily with tools they do not know, tend not even to
understand how to appreciate such tools, people who have not been exposed
to larger issues than their own needs tend to fail to appreciate them and
only see the oppressive side of any compromise and therefore are likely
to invoke "religion" because it is one of the most oppressive and least
understood aspects of human existence, especially among those who have
rejected the prevailing religions in their society without rejecting the
religious way of "thinking" they have picked up along the way.

> What I don't understand even more is why I have the same attitude
> sometimes and why I even study Lisp if it does not completely sattisfy
> me. Perhaps all this is just the way human mind works -- everybody must
> use whatever I find right to use!

As long as you appreciate that some people's desire to see everybody use
the same thing as them embace such advanced concepts as whole standards
and community-building efforts, not just their individual pet operators
at the cost of whole standards and community-building efforts.

///

Steve Long

unread,
Sep 8, 2001, 2:51:33 PM9/8/01
to
One of the reasons for "spreading the word" about Lisp is to educate. Most
programmers
think of it as that "language with all the parentheses" and are not aware how
far it has
come since the days of dedicated machines.

SL

Erik Naggum

unread,
Sep 8, 2001, 3:39:17 PM9/8/01
to
* Steve Long <stev...@isomedia.com>

I think they think of what kind of benefit the programming languages they
are used to would have from being expressed with lots of parentheses. To
be honest, that would be incredibly hard to explain because what they
already have works just fine for them. The value of the parentheses are
seen only when you understand how you can read and process code as data,
which _only_ compiler freaks do in other languages. The ability to do
code transformations between source and compiler is something most other
languages would most probably consider _bad_, because of the horrible
experience most people have with trying to do such things in C's excuse
for a macro facility, and those who have seen m4 or troff or any of the
other disgusting macro facilities out there have reason to retch and puke
violently. Not to mention the fact that these guys are taught from day
one that they cannot be trusted to remember the types of their variables
and now they are asked to relinquish their one safety net: type checking
in the compiler. The value of Lisp is outside the reach of these guys.

///

Ray Blaak

unread,
Sep 8, 2001, 8:21:06 PM9/8/01
to
Erik Naggum <er...@naggum.net> writes:
> * Steve Long <stev...@isomedia.com>
> > One of the reasons for "spreading the word" about Lisp is to educate.
> > Most programmers think of it as that "language with all the parentheses"
> > and are not aware how far it has come since the days of dedicated
> > machines.

[...good stuff about value of parentheses, treating code as data, and the sad
state of code transformation abilities in other languages...]

> Not to mention the fact that these guys are taught from day one that they
> cannot be trusted to remember the types of their variables and now they are
> asked to relinquish their one safety net: type checking in the compiler.

Well, they can't be trusted. Or, if they can, other users of their code
cannot. Or, they do remember, but mistype things. The point is that mistakes
happen, and extra safety nets provide useful value in the appropriate
situations.

The issue of static type checking is orthogonal to the syntax style of
Lisp. One can easily imagine a Lisp extended to have decent static checking
(perhaps optionally) enabled for it (or at least a CL in which declare forms
could be relied on to give decent warnings or errors on mistaches).

That static type checking is not as necessary in Lisp as compared to many
compiled languages does not nullify its utility as another tool in the
programmer's toolkit.

Taken to the extreme, the "real programmers don't make mistakes" idea would
have us forgo language support for any error detection. I prefer to have the
computer slave away detecting as many inconsistencies as possible. The trick of
course, is to balance ease of use and flexibility with safety and correctness.

--
Cheers, The Rhythm is around me,
The Rhythm has control.
Ray Blaak The Rhythm is inside me,
bl...@infomatch.com The Rhythm has my soul.

Erik Naggum

unread,
Sep 9, 2001, 3:04:52 AM9/9/01
to
* Erik Naggum

> Not to mention the fact that these guys are taught from day one that they
> cannot be trusted to remember the types of their variables and now they
> are asked to relinquish their one safety net: type checking in the
> compiler.

* Ray Blaak


> Well, they can't be trusted. Or, if they can, other users of their code
> cannot. Or, they do remember, but mistype things. The point is that
> mistakes happen, and extra safety nets provide useful value in the
> appropriate situations.

OK, I should have elaborated, but the point is that the appear to lose
their safety nets because all they know about is static typing. They do
not realize that when you have dynamic types, you cannot just use the
binary values, you have to do runtime type checking, instead, but to make
people with "binary" written on their foreheads understand this, you have
to tell them about how you represent your type-tagged binary values and
how inexpensive and painless your type checking really is on modern
hardware.

My underlying point was that to get a C head to think Lisp, you have to
give him a lot of nitty-gritty implementation details to re-establish his
feelings of safety and trust which you took away from him several times.

> The issue of static type checking is orthogonal to the syntax style of
> Lisp. One can easily imagine a Lisp extended to have decent static
> checking (perhaps optionally) enabled for it (or at least a CL in which
> declare forms could be relied on to give decent warnings or errors on
> mistaches).

I would just _love_ to be able to write code that used the hardware for
what it was worth in Common Lisp. In fact, I have been thinking about
this and implementing various things for this over many years. A friend
of mine took one of my embryonic sets of ideas at one time and tinkered
with the gcc backend, but by the time he was finished with it, it had
lost all its Lispiness, but at least it was quite possible to thinker
with the gcc backend. If this could be done well, it would be possible
to enter a new era of foreign-function interfacing and writing code in
Common Lisp that would be usable by other programs. Due to our very
different ABI, we live in a separate world, and using some other language
to do some of the work for us is way expensive compared to most other
languages that work well with each others, both in programmer time and at
runtime.

> That static type checking is not as necessary in Lisp as compared to many
> compiled languages does not nullify its utility as another tool in the
> programmer's toolkit.

Precisely. And since static typing is most frequently exloited to allow
compilation of code that uses hardware types efficiently, I think the
lack of direct access to hardware types is one of the things that make
the transition from other languages much harder. The types you are
taught to think in tend to influence how you think, to paraphrase the
Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.

> Taken to the extreme, the "real programmers don't make mistakes" idea
> would have us forgo language support for any error detection.

I have never even implied that real programmers do not make mistakes.
They just make _other_ mistakes.

///

Stephen Harris

unread,
Sep 9, 2001, 4:17:24 PM9/9/01
to

"Erik Naggum" <er...@naggum.net> wrote in message
news:32089574...@naggum.net...

> * Richard Krush <rich...@gmx.net>
> > I don't know about you, perhaps it is completely normal and I'm just too
> > young to understand it, but to me it really sounds like some slogan of
> > christian merceneries.
>
> I think you mean "missionaries", although historically, I think your
> version sounds a lot more accurate.
>
> > Why do people feel need to convert everyone else to something they found
> > useful or feel is right?
>
>
> > It seems very similar to the way religios fanatics think about their
> > language, they do not comprehend the fact that it's just their point of
> > view.
>
> ...To some people, the very concept of a "higher value" than

> themselves and their immediate needs is completely alien and invokes the
> "religious" response in them, probably because of an irrational
rejection
> because of lots of bad experiences and no willingness to accept good
ones
> to counter them, but the concept of a "higher value" is precisely what
> makes it possible for people to form societies and formulate conditions
> necessary to build them.

I find these discussions similar to which is superior: Mac, Unix or Windows.
It is difficult to weigh because there are objective superiorities
interspersed
with some kludgy stuff. So one needs to weigh the pros and cons and
evaluate.
Very often, the more experienced/educated evaluator is in a better position
to
render a judgment. You will get ego conflicts between people who each claim
to have the best credentials. This happens in mathematics also when you have
bright, well-educated experts who fail to share the same foundational views.

So each language has its adherents and zealots. Some languages like Python
have proselytizers but they will lack a dimension. Religions start off as
cults
and if they survive long enough and gain enough converts they gain the
status
of a religion. They have a history. Cults usually have a charismatic leader.

So a young programming language like Python is not going to have the history
to provide the conditions mentioned (seeping into the tradition) in the
topic:
"What I want from my Common Lisp vendor and the Common Lisp community"
started my Erik Naggum which elicited 146+ responses. I notice the
originator
of this thread, Richard Krush, was the second poster in that thread and I
think
that his perception that there was an unusual intensity and response to this
thread(an extra dimension) unlikely to be found in other comp.lang.* is
correct.

Twelve step groups look to a higher power. However, a group like Alcoholics
Anonymous is going to have a richer tradition and more experienced membersip
than a younger group such as Sex Addicts Anon. It has been my experience
that
people do like to believe they have the best solution, or highest truth and
often
that they have an "in" which most other ordinary folk have failed to find.
The
satisfaction involved spreads across more fields than religion. I think that
it
reinforces the feeling of self-worth and a sense of discovered meaning. The
problem of 'who judges the judge' (expert's expert) is related to what is
the best
form of government and how the best officials can be selected/elected or
born
to a higher destiny or even schemes on how to correctly apportion electoral
votes or Representatives to use an example 'centric to the US but I think is
covered under game theory. In summary, I think to label the content of such
philosophical lisp posts as motivated by mere enthusiasm is to be
euphemistic.

--
Self-referentially,
Stephen


Carl Gay

unread,
Sep 9, 2001, 6:53:21 PM9/9/01
to
Erik Naggum wrote:
>
> I think they think of what kind of benefit the programming languages they
> are used to would have from being expressed with lots of parentheses. To
> be honest, that would be incredibly hard to explain because what they
> already have works just fine for them. The value of the parentheses are
> seen only when you understand how you can read and process code as data,
> which _only_ compiler freaks do in other languages.

This doesn't really have anything to do with parentheses, though s-expressions probably make it easier to deal with code as data than, say, messing around with abstract syntax trees.

Personally, I think the ability to treat code as data is overrated. At least for the types of programming I tend to do. It's certainly not essential in order to see the huge benefits Lisp can give you.

> The ability to do
> code transformations between source and compiler is something most other
> languages would most probably consider _bad_, because of the horrible
> experience most people have with trying to do such things in C's excuse
> for a macro facility, and those who have seen m4 or troff or any of the
> other disgusting macro facilities out there have reason to retch and puke
> violently.

Some people have started referring to them as "syntax extensions", which may help prevent confusion by association with C-like "macros". Stressing the ability to do control-flow abstraction with them might also help.

> Not to mention the fact that these guys are taught from day
> one that they cannot be trusted to remember the types of their variables
> and now they are asked to relinquish their one safety net: type checking
> in the compiler. The value of Lisp is outside the reach of these guys.

Oddly, they don't seem to have the least aversion to scattering casts throughout their code...


Ray Blaak wrote:
>
> The issue of static type checking is orthogonal to the syntax style of
> Lisp. One can easily imagine a Lisp extended to have decent static checking
> (perhaps optionally) enabled for it (or at least a CL in which declare forms
> could be relied on to give decent warnings or errors on mistaches).

See Dylan, for example.

Erik Naggum

unread,
Sep 9, 2001, 8:26:12 PM9/9/01
to
* "Stephen Harris" <stephen....@worldnet.att.net>

> I find these discussions similar to which is superior: Mac, Unix or Windows.

Really? You do not see the difference between discussing which of three
_products_ is better and discussing principles that can be used to
determine whether a given set of configurations of hardware and software
meets user demands?

> I notice the originator of this thread, Richard Krush, was the second
> poster in that thread and I think that his perception that there was an
> unusual intensity and response to this thread(an extra dimension)
> unlikely to be found in other comp.lang.* is correct.

Sigh. Religion has passion. Passion alone does not a religion make.

Shallow people always find something to bring home. Deep people often
come up empty-handed.

///

Erik Naggum

unread,
Sep 9, 2001, 8:30:18 PM9/9/01
to
[ Please break your lines. ]

* Carl Gay <car...@mediaone.net>


> This doesn't really have anything to do with parentheses, though
> s-expressions probably make it easier to deal with code as data than,
> say, messing around with abstract syntax trees.

S-expressions are abstract syntax trees, for all practical purposes.

> Personally, I think the ability to treat code as data is overrated. At
> least for the types of programming I tend to do. It's certainly not
> essential in order to see the huge benefits Lisp can give you.

I think the middle sentence is true.

> Some people have started referring to them as "syntax extensions", which
> may help prevent confusion by association with C-like "macros".
> Stressing the ability to do control-flow abstraction with them might also
> help.

That would be a good thing for Scheme. Common Lisp is not Scheme.

> Oddly, they don't seem to have the least aversion to scattering casts
> throughout their code...

Huh? And what is non-static about casts?

///

Thomas F. Burdick

unread,
Sep 9, 2001, 8:39:50 PM9/9/01
to
Erik Naggum <er...@naggum.net> writes:

> * Carl Gay <car...@mediaone.net>


>
> > Oddly, they don't seem to have the least aversion to scattering casts
> > throughout their code...

I find it quite funny, actually. Or horrifying, depending on whether
I'm expected to fix their code or not.

> Huh? And what is non-static about casts?

Nothing. You wrote:

Not to mention the fact that these guys are taught from day one that
they cannot be trusted to remember the types of their variables and

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^


now they are asked to relinquish their one safety net: type checking
in the compiler.

And yet they feel perfectly comfortable breaking their previous
promises to the compiler, comfortable in the knowledge that they
remember the actual memory layout of the object pointed to, whatever
the compiler might think.

There are plenty of casts in my C code, but for those people who
really *can't* be trusted to remember the types of their variables,
they are sometimes a source of remarkably difficult to find and fix
bugs.

Erik Naggum

unread,
Sep 9, 2001, 9:08:31 PM9/9/01
to
* t...@famine.OCF.Berkeley.EDU (Thomas F. Burdick)

> And yet they feel perfectly comfortable breaking their previous
> promises to the compiler, comfortable in the knowledge that they
> remember the actual memory layout of the object pointed to, whatever
> the compiler might think.

But that is so different! A cast says "now I want this to be of type X",
not "tell me if this is not used consistently with its declared type",
which all the type checking is about. Ironically, a cast is like a type
declaration in Common Lisp, which says "you may assume this is of type X".

> There are plenty of casts in my C code, but for those people who really
> *can't* be trusted to remember the types of their variables, they are
> sometimes a source of remarkably difficult to find and fix bugs.

I believe the same is true for highly optimized, e.g., (safety 0), Common
Lisp code with declarations that are lies.

///

Stephen Harris

unread,
Sep 9, 2001, 9:15:34 PM9/9/01
to

"Erik Naggum" <er...@naggum.net> wrote in message
news:32090703...@naggum.net...

> * "Stephen Harris" <stephen....@worldnet.att.net>
> > I find these discussions similar to which is superior: Mac, Unix or
Windows.
>
> Really? You do not see the difference between discussing which of three
> _products_ is better and discussing principles that can be used to
> determine whether a given set of configurations of hardware and software
> meets user demands?

No, not much do you? There is a fairly long learning curve for a Windows
user
to switch to Linux. The user may not care about control of the operating
environment. For some people the difference in price would not produce
a cost effective reason. So Word2000 fulfills a need perfectly for some
users.
It integrates well with Excel and Access. IOW Windows still lead in having
software available for specific tasks and is ported sooner with priority.
Other issues like stability for one month versus three years may hardly
matter.

Likewise Perl is superior to Lisp for some simple jobs. In both cases it is
the
use that the product will be put to which determines the "best" x. This is
how
they are similar. You can of course select criteria for a comparison which
will emphasize differences which do matter. A criteria could be which
language
is best for a beginner to learn first. Probably Python is better suited for
this.

Technically, Internet Explorer is a superior browser than Netscape. But
there
are several ways to legitimately dispute that it is a "better" browser. And
I
happen to think SmallTalk has a special clarity of concept implementation.

It depends on how narrow your focus is,
Stephen


Erik Naggum

unread,
Sep 9, 2001, 9:57:29 PM9/9/01
to
* Erik Naggum

> You do not see the difference between discussing which of three
> _products_ is better and discussing principles that can be used to
> determine whether a given set of configurations of hardware and software
> meets user demands?

* Stephen Harris


> No, not much do you?

Was that "No, not much. Do you?" If so, yes, I most certainly do. The
difference is that between arguing over which political party to vote for
in an election and arguing over what democracy needs in order to work and
give people the opportunity to hold elections. I assume you do not see
any difference between these, either.

> It depends on how narrow your focus is,

It certainly does. If you cannot broaden your focus any more, you will
not see any bigger pictures than you already have seen. This is the
tragedy of dealing with people of very limited view.

///

Stephen Harris

unread,
Sep 10, 2001, 12:32:30 AM9/10/01
to

"Erik Naggum" <er...@naggum.net> wrote in message
news:32090758...@naggum.net...

> > It depends on how narrow your focus is,
>
> It certainly does. If you cannot broaden your focus any more, you will
> not see any bigger pictures than you already have seen. This is the
> tragedy of dealing with people of very limited view.
>
> ///

Yes, I guess this is what drives me to contribute a stream of didactic
dictums.

Relatively speaking,
Stephen


Carl Gay

unread,
Sep 10, 2001, 11:58:10 AM9/10/01
to
You're so combative. I think you may have "issues".

Erik Naggum wrote:
>
> [ Please break your lines. ]

No, sorry, but I intentionally don't break my lines. You're newsreader ought to be able to wrap lines to the appropriate width. If I break my lines then losing newsreaders like Outlook Express will break them again in inappropriate places. (Of course my tactic only delays the inevitable by one reply iteration.)

>
> * Carl Gay <car...@mediaone.net>
> > This doesn't really have anything to do with parentheses, though
> > s-expressions probably make it easier to deal with code as data than,
> > say, messing around with abstract syntax trees.
>
> S-expressions are abstract syntax trees, for all practical purposes.

Sorry to be imprecise. I think s-expressions are an easier way to deal with code as data than most AST APIs probably are. I could be wrong.

> > Personally, I think the ability to treat code as data is overrated. At
> > least for the types of programming I tend to do. It's certainly not
> > essential in order to see the huge benefits Lisp can give you.
>
> I think the middle sentence is true.

The first sentence is a fact that only I can confirm. The third is the only one about which there can be any useful debate. I don't particularly like your way of claiming the third is false. Are you going to say why you think it's false?

> > Some people have started referring to them as "syntax extensions", which
> > may help prevent confusion by association with C-like "macros".
> > Stressing the ability to do control-flow abstraction with them might also
> > help.
>
> That would be a good thing for Scheme. Common Lisp is not Scheme.

I don't understand. Why does this have anything to do with Scheme? Why did you get the impression that I think Common Lisp is Scheme?

Tim Bradshaw

unread,
Sep 10, 2001, 12:09:35 PM9/10/01
to
* Carl Gay wrote:

> No, sorry, but I intentionally don't break my lines. You're newsreader ought to be able to wrap lines to the appropriate width. If I break my lines then losing newsreaders like Outlook Express will break them again in inappropriate places. (Of course my tactic only delays the inevitable by one reply iteration.)

Oh wow. With an elementary grammatical error too. You really don't
need any help to feed yourself to the sharks, do you?

Kaz Kylheku

unread,
Sep 10, 2001, 1:13:31 PM9/10/01
to
In article <3B9CE2BD...@mediaone.net>, Carl Gay wrote:
>You're so combative. I think you may have "issues".
>
>Erik Naggum wrote:
>>
>> [ Please break your lines. ]
>
>No, sorry, but I intentionally don't break my lines. You're newsreader

An admission of guilt! You are deliberately disregarding a rule of
netiquette that intellingent people have respected and followed for years.

>ought to be able to wrap lines to the appropriate width. If I break

My newsreader simply cuts off the line, so I have to scroll horizontally
to read it. But in your case, it's not worth the bother, so *plonk*.

>my lines then losing newsreaders like Outlook Express will break them
>again in inappropriate places. (Of course my tactic only delays the
>inevitable by one reply iteration.)

Right, in other words, you are pushing editing work onto other people.
I had to do a few edits to break your line, and then insert the quote
marks. I could automate the process, but I find that it's more efficient
to just *plonk* idiots who can't follow the simple rules.

Erik Naggum

unread,
Sep 10, 2001, 1:49:27 PM9/10/01
to
* Carl Gay <car...@mediaone.net>

> No, sorry, but I intentionally don't break my lines.

Geez, is that what "having an issue" is like?

I intentionally skip poorly formatted articles, but do give people a
chance to clean up and follow normal protocol. Thanks for playing.

///

Carl Gay

unread,
Sep 10, 2001, 2:19:05 PM9/10/01
to
Okay Erik, you win. Here's my post, reformatted
and with the bile trimmed. I'm actually quite
interested in your answer to the last question
if you're still "playing".

In fact I used to be quite careful about wrapping my
lines manually before sending but I honestly thought
all newsreaders would wrap them if they were wider than
the screen these days. In using long lines I have been
trying to work around Outlook Express Disease, but if
the cure is worse than the disease for some people then
I'm happy to change back.

Kaz Kylheku

unread,
Sep 10, 2001, 2:34:46 PM9/10/01
to
In article <3B9D03BF...@mediaone.net>, Carl Gay wrote:
>Okay Erik, you win. Here's my post, reformatted
>and with the bile trimmed. I'm actually quite
>interested in your answer to the last question
>if you're still "playing".
>
>In fact I used to be quite careful about wrapping my
>lines manually before sending but I honestly thought
>all newsreaders would wrap them if they were wider than
>the screen these days.

My physical screen can show a good 200 characters across, if not more. I'm
not willing to read 200 character long lines. Go to a library and find
a book which is typeset with such long lines.

People nowadays are often found using windowed displays. A window-based
newsreader may occupy only a portion of the screen ``real estate'',
as determined by the user's preference, not necessarily the entire
screen. Users do not necessarily want to maximize their newsreader
to accomodate long lines. So the widespread use of high resolution
windowed displays has not led to the obsolescence of the 79 column rule
of Usenet. This rule allows one to resize the newsreader window once to
accomodate the longest line, and then never have to play with the size
again. The specific number 79 is not as important as the existence of a
standard number that everyone agrees upon. The choice happens to coincide
with the limitations of certain character-based display hardware that is
still in wide use. It also happens to be a good width for readability;
it's not so wide that the eye has difficulty advancing from the end of
one line to the start of the next, yet not so narrow that the scan is
distracted by too many eye movements. It also leads to a reasonable
window size that leaves lots of space for other things on a modern
graphical desktop.

>trying to work around Outlook Express Disease, but if
>the cure is worse than the disease for some people then
>I'm happy to change back.

People using Outlook Express to emulate the functionality of a newsreader
are morons. There are actual newsreaders available for the Windows
platform, so there is no need for the rest of Usenet to cater to any
real or imagined problems experienced by Outlook Express users.

Erik Naggum

unread,
Sep 10, 2001, 2:37:44 PM9/10/01
to
* Carl Gay <car...@mediaone.net>
> Okay Erik, you win.

Yeah! I love winning!

> In fact I used to be quite careful about wrapping my lines manually
> before sending but I honestly thought all newsreaders would wrap them if
> they were wider than the screen these days. In using long lines I have
> been trying to work around Outlook Express Disease, but if the cure is
> worse than the disease for some people then I'm happy to change back.

Tell Outlook Express victims that they can turn off this misfeature and
if they refuse to do so, just ignore them.

> Are you going to say why you think it's false?

It is inherently self-limiting in scope and therefore irrelevant.

> I don't understand. Why does this have anything to do with Scheme? Why
> did you get the impression that I think Common Lisp is Scheme?

Because your view of what macros can do is also self-limiting, just like
Scheme is. Keep an open mind to what macros can do and do not think of
them as merely "syntax extensions". They are that, too, of course, but
not only that.

///

Carl Gay

unread,
Sep 10, 2001, 2:59:50 PM9/10/01
to
Erik Naggum wrote:
>
> * Carl Gay <car...@mediaone.net>
> > In fact I used to be quite careful about wrapping my lines manually
> > before sending but I honestly thought all newsreaders would wrap them if
> > they were wider than the screen these days. In using long lines I have
> > been trying to work around Outlook Express Disease, but if the cure is
> > worse than the disease for some people then I'm happy to change back.
>
> Tell Outlook Express victims that they can turn off this misfeature and
> if they refuse to do so, just ignore them.

The last time I looked there was no way to turn it off. (Though that
may have been in Outlook, not Outlook Express.) There are people who
use Outlook that I can't afford to ignore. They also aren't morons,
as Kaz Whozy would have us believe.

> > Are you going to say why you think it's false?
>
> It is inherently self-limiting in scope and therefore irrelevant.

You really _are_ just playing a game here, so I guess
there's no point in continuing.

Erik Naggum

unread,
Sep 10, 2001, 4:10:05 PM9/10/01
to
* Carl Gay <car...@mediaone.net>

> The last time I looked there was no way to turn it off.

There is. Outlook Express users can fix this problem easily, it just
takes wading through the enormous set of options that its users can
customize to get non-standard behavior. There is no one option that can
restore conforming news behavior, but a billion ways to break it.

> There are people who use Outlook that I can't afford to ignore.

Outlook? Sure. Outlook Express? Well, I have just set up a private,
secure news system for collaboration on a legal project and we asked
people what kind of clients they were using. Outlook Express had less
than half the users. Those who suffer this terrible software affliction
have to be taught several things: Do not leave the message you reply to
on the bottom of your article, but actually insert your responses where
they indicate what they are in response to; turn off the goddamn line
breaking mishabit; quit posting HTML; and more...

> > > Are you going to say why you think it's false?
> >
> > It is inherently self-limiting in scope and therefore irrelevant.
>
> You really _are_ just playing a game here, so I guess
> there's no point in continuing.

No, I am not. That you think so would have been frustrating if I cared,
but you are dead set on telling me and everyone else how I think, so I
have no interest in playing along with your silly mind games. Go away.

///

Carl Gay

unread,
Sep 10, 2001, 4:19:46 PM9/10/01
to
Erik Naggum wrote:
>
> No, I am not. That you think so would have been frustrating if I cared,
> but you are dead set on telling me and everyone else how I think, so I
> have no interest in playing along with your silly mind games. Go away.

Odd, this is exactly the way I felt about your responses to my posts.
I guess we were just not meant to play together.

Erik Naggum

unread,
Sep 10, 2001, 7:01:52 PM9/10/01
to
* Carl Gay <car...@mediaone.net>

> Odd, this is exactly the way I felt about your responses to my posts.
> I guess we were just not meant to play together.

How the hell do I tell you what you think? Geez, dude.

///

Espen Vestre

unread,
Sep 11, 2001, 4:44:01 AM9/11/01
to
"Stephen Harris" <stephen....@worldnet.att.net> writes:

> So Word2000 fulfills a need perfectly for some users.

"Perfectly" is not the word: For most of the users where Word2000
fulfils a need, there were much more appropriate (easier to learn,
simpler to use) wysiwig editors (including early versions of Word
itself) 15 years ago.
--
(espen)

cbbr...@acm.org

unread,
Sep 17, 2001, 12:08:36 AM9/17/01
to
Carl Gay <car...@mediaone.net> writes:
> You're so combative. I think you may have "issues".
>
> Erik Naggum wrote:
> >
> > [ Please break your lines. ]

> No, sorry, but I intentionally don't break my lines. You're
> newsreader ought to be able to wrap lines to the appropriate width.
> If I break my lines then losing newsreaders like Outlook Express
> will break them again in inappropriate places. (Of course my tactic
> only delays the inevitable by one reply iteration.)

We read instead: "Sorry, I intentionally break the RFCs."

Why on earth should anyone want to be cooperative with someone that is
intentionally refusing to conform with public standards?

> I don't understand. Why does this have anything to do with Scheme?
> Why did you get the impression that I think Common Lisp is Scheme?

Well, you demonstrably don't care about news standards, so why should
anyone expect that you'd be interested in conforming with language
standards?
--
(concatenate 'string "cbbrowne" "@acm.org")
http://www.ntlug.org/~cbbrowne/lsf.html
Q: Can SETQ only be used with numerics?
A: No, SETQ may also be used by Symbolics, and use it they do.

Carl Gay

unread,
Sep 17, 2001, 9:35:08 PM9/17/01
to
cbbr...@acm.org wrote:
>
> Carl Gay <car...@mediaone.net> writes:
> > You're so combative. I think you may have "issues".
> >
> > Erik Naggum wrote:
> > >
> > > [ Please break your lines. ]
>
> > No, sorry, but I intentionally don't break my lines. You're
> > newsreader ought to be able to wrap lines to the appropriate width.
> > If I break my lines then losing newsreaders like Outlook Express
> > will break them again in inappropriate places. (Of course my tactic
> > only delays the inevitable by one reply iteration.)
>
> We read instead: "Sorry, I intentionally break the RFCs."

Actually I don't, but even if I did "break the RFCs" the idea
that everyone must read the RFCs before posting to newsgroups
is ludicrous anyway...

> Why on earth should anyone want to be cooperative with someone that is
> intentionally refusing to conform with public standards?

Personally, I don't think many people who post to this newsgroup are
interested in being cooperative or even non-confrontational.

> > I don't understand. Why does this have anything to do with Scheme?
> > Why did you get the impression that I think Common Lisp is Scheme?
>
> Well, you demonstrably don't care about news standards, so why should
> anyone expect that you'd be interested in conforming with language
> standards?

My question had nothing to do with language standards.

Erik Naggum

unread,
Sep 17, 2001, 11:01:32 PM9/17/01
to
* Carl Gay <car...@mediaone.net>

> Actually I don't, but even if I did "break the RFCs" the idea that
> everyone must read the RFCs before posting to newsgroups is ludicrous
> anyway...

Whoever raised this idea before you now try to refute it? Such strawman
arguments are pretty solid signs of a dishonest or combative personality.

> Personally, I don't think many people who post to this newsgroup are
> interested in being cooperative or even non-confrontational.

This attitude of yours has certainly shaped your own behavior and you
seem to get precisely what you want, like every other moron who comes
here with a combative personality disorder where the primary concern is
to express objection to any real or perceived authority, from RFCs via
tacitly accepted conventions to people who know what they are talking
about. Why are you not happy getting what you seem to want? Perhaps
_you_ are mistaken about other people and _you_ cause them to behave
towards you in ways that _you_ invite them to, but would not if you had
been showing at least _some_ signs of being a reasonably good person?

Now, chances are very good that you will not be able to see through your
own attitude problem, but will instead consider this message proof of
everything you believe. You have posted some highly annoying and false
claims about other people and you get a hostile response, which you
_deserve_, but you take it as evidence of your initial assumption. Now,
if your goal is to find out if other people are violent, is the best way
to do that to provoke them by stabbing them in the eye in the interest of
"behavioral science research" or to deal with people on non-violent terms
first? It is actually your choice, and let me just remind you that _I_
dealt with your "fuck the news conventions" attitude by asking you to
please break your lines, and your response was "You're so combative. I
think you may have "issues"." I think we now know who has "issues" and
what they are: An irrational rejection of _any_ authority. The question
is: Can you discard your issues and just talk about what you think is
worth your while talking about instead of being a combative jerk? Or
will you now respond childishly with rejection of the perceived authority
who tells you to behave? Again, it is actually your very own choice, but
I am of course making it harder for you to do the right thing, because it
would not be showing any character on your part to behave well if _you_
were treated nicely first. However, considering your behavior towards
me, I would like to see if you can behave yourself or will remain a
combative jerk towards anyone who tells you to can it.

///

Alain Picard

unread,
Sep 18, 2001, 4:57:45 AM9/18/01
to
Carl Gay <car...@mediaone.net> writes:

>
> Actually I don't, but even if I did "break the RFCs" the idea
> that everyone must read the RFCs before posting to newsgroups
> is ludicrous anyway...

Try http://www.dtcc.edu/cs/rfc1855.html.

Perhaps news.announce.newusers would be a good place to start.

--
It would be difficult to construe Larry Wall, in article
this as a feature. <1995May29....@netlabs.com>

Bijan Parsia

unread,
Sep 18, 2001, 1:03:51 PM9/18/01
to
On Tue, 18 Sep 2001, Carl Gay wrote:
[snip]

> Personally, I don't think many people who post to this newsgroup are
> interested in being cooperative or even non-confrontational.
[snip]

...with non-cooperative, confrontational people. That's still may be a
failing, but hardly the same sort.

BTW, goolge doesn't wrap lines, so your unwrapped posts are a pain in the
rear to anyone who doesn't personally archive every message, or likes to
be able to discuss a message with other without haveing to forward.

Cheers,
Bijan Parsia.

Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages