the bipolar Lisp programmer

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Mark Tarver

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Apr 27, 2006, 9:17:08 PM4/27/06
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Having programmed in or around Lisp for nearly 20 years
now, and spectated a lot of Usenet postings and blogs
written by Lisp programmers, I have often wondered if there
was such a thing as a 'Lisp character', in the same way that groups
and nations have a national character.

After some thought, I decided there was definitely a Lisp
profile amongst the people using the language and that
this character was responsible for some of the interesting
history of this language and its peculiar strengths and
weaknesses.

So here is an essay which will no doubt annoy several
and lead to argument. Its called

The Bipolar Lisp Programmer

Any lecturer who serves his time will probably graduate
hundreds, if not thousands of students. Mostly they merge
into a blur; like those paintings of crowd scenes
where the leading faces are clearly picked out and the
rest just have iconic representations. This anonymity
can be embarrassing when some past student hails you
by name and you really haven't got the foggiest idea of who
he or she is. It both nice to be remembered and also
toe curlingly embarrassing to admit that you cannot recognise
who you are talking to.

But some faces you do remember; students who did a project
under you. Also two other categories - the very good and the
very bad. Brilliance and abject failure both stick in the mind.
And one of the oddest things, and really why I'm writing this
short essay, is that there are some students who actually
fall into both camps. Here's another confession. I've always
liked these students and had a strong sympathy for them.

Now abject failure is nothing new in life. Quite often I've
had students who have failed miserably for no other reason
than they had very little ability. This is nothing new.
What is new is that in the UK, we now graduate a lot of
students like that. But, hey, that's a different story and
I'm not going down that route.

No I want to look at the brilliant failures. Because brilliance
amd failure are so often mixed together and our initial
reaction is it shouldn't be. But it happens and it happens
a lot. Why?

Well, to understand that, we have to go back before university.
Lets go back to high school and look at a brilliant failure in the
making. Those of you who have seen the film "Donnie Darko"
will know exactly the kind of student I'm talking about. But
if you haven't, don't worry, because you'll soon recognise the
kind of person I'm talking about. Almost every high school
has one every other year or so.

Generally what we're talking about here is a student of outstanding
brilliance. Someone who is used to acing most of his assignments;
of doing things at the last minute but still doing pretty well at
them. At some level he doesn't take the whole shebang all
that seriously; because, when you get down to it, a lot of the
rules at school are pretty damned stupid. In fact a lot of the things
in our world don't make a lot of sense, if you really look at them
with a fresh mind. And generally our man does have a fresh
mind and a very sharp one.

So we have two aspects to this guy; intellectual
acuteness and not taking things seriously. The not taking things
seriously goes with finding it all pretty easy and a bit dull. But
also it goes with realising that a lot of human activity is really
pretty pointless, and when you realise that and internalise it
then you become cynical and also a bit sad - because you yourself
are caught up in this machine and you have to play along
if you want to get on. Teenagers are really good at spotting this
kind of phony nonsense. Its also the seed of an illness;
a melancholia that can deepen in later life into full blown
depression.

Another feature about this guy is his low threshold of boredom.
He'll pick up on a task and work frantically at it, accomplishing
wonders in a short time and then get bored and drop it before
its properly finished. He'll do nothing but strum his guitar and
lie around in bed for several days after. Thats also part of the
pattern too; periods of frenetic activity followed by periods of
melancholia, withdrawal and inactivity. This is a bipolar
personality.

Alright so far? OK, well lets graduate this guy and see him go
to university. What happens to him then?

Here we have two stories; a light story and a dark one.

The light story is that he's really turned on by what he chooses
and he goes on to graduate summa cum laude, vindicating his
natural brilliance.

But that's not the story I want to look at. I want to look at the
dark story. The one where brilliance and failure get mixed
together.

This is where this student begins by recognising
that university, like school, is also fairly phony in many ways.
What saves university is generally the beauty of the subject
as built by great minds. But if you just look at the professors
and don't see past their narrow obsession with their pointless
and largely unread (and unreadable) publications to the
great invisible university of the mind, you will probably conclude
its as phony as anything else. Which it is.

But lets stick to this guy's story.

Now the big difference between school and university for the
fresher is FREEDOM. Freedom from mom and dad, freedom
to do your own thing. Freedom in fact to screw up in a major
way. So our hero begins a new life and finds he can do all
he wants. Get drunk, stumble in at 3.00 AM. So he goes to
town and he relies on his natural brilliance to carry him through
because, hey, it worked at school. And it does work for
a time.

But brilliance is not enough. You need application too, because
the material is harder at university. So pretty soon our man
is getting B+, then Bs and then Cs for his assignments. He
experiences alternating feelings of failure cutting through
his usual self assurance. He can still stay up to 5.00AM and
hand in his assignment before the 9.00AM deadline, but what
he hands in is not so great. Or perhaps he doesn't get into
beer, but into some mental digression from his official studies
that takes him too far away from the main syllabus.

This sort of student used to pass my way every now and then,
Riding on the bottom of the class. One of them had Bored>
as his UNIX prompt. If I spotted one I used to connect well
with them. (In fact I rescued one and now he's a professor and
miserable because he's surrounded by phonies - but hey, what
can you do?). Generally he would come alive in the final year
project when he could do his own thing and hand in something
really really good. Something that would show (shock, horror)
originality. And a lot of professors wouldn't give it a fair mark
for that very reason - and because the student was known to be
scraping along the bottom.

Often this kind of student never makes it to the end. He flunks
himself by dropping out. He ends on a soda fountain or doing
yard work, but all the time reading and studying because a good mind
is always hungry.

Now one of the things about Lisp, and I've seen it before, is
that Lisp is a real magnet for this kind of mind. Once you
understand that, and see that it is this kind of mind that has
contributed a lot to the culture of Lisp, you begin to see why
Lisp is, like many of its proponents, a brilliant failure. It shares
the peculiar strengths and weaknesses of the brilliant bipolar
mind (BBM).

Why is this? Well, its partly to do with vision. The 'vision thing'
as George Bush Snr. once described it, is really one of the
strengths of the BBM. He can see far; further than in fact his
strength allows him to travel. He conceives of brilliant ambitious
projects requiring great resources, and he embarks on them
only to run out of steam. Its not that he's lazy; its just that his
resources are insufficient.

And this is where Lisp comes in. Because Lisp, as a tool, is to
the mind as the lever is to the arm. It amplifies your power and
enables you to embark on projects beyond the scope of lesser
languages like C. Writing in C is like building a mosaic out of
lentils using a tweezer and glue. Lisp is like wielding an air
gun with power and precision. It opens out whole kingdoms
shut to other programmers.

So BBMs love Lisp. And the stunning originality of Lisp is
reflective of the creativity of the BBM; so we have a long list
of ideas that originated with Lispers - garbage collection,
list handling, personal computing, windowing and areas in
which Lisp people were amongst the earliest pioneers. So
we would think, off the cuff, that Lisp should be well established,
the premiere programming language because hey - its great and
we were the first guys to do this stuff.

But it isn't and the reasons why not are not in the language
itself, but in the community itself, which contains not
just the strengths but also the weaknesses of the BBM.

One of these is the inability to finish things off properly. The
phrase 'throw-away design' is absolutely made for the BBM
and it comes from the Lisp community. Lisp allows you to
just chuck things off so easily, and its easy to take this for
granted. I saw this 10 years ago when looking for a GUI to
my Lisp (Garnet had just gone West then). No problem, there
were 9 different offerings. The trouble was that none of
the 9 were properly documented and none were bug free.
Basically each person had implemented his own solution and
it worked for him so that was fine. This is a BBM attitude;
it works for me and I understand it. It also the product of not
needing or wanting anybody else's help to do something.

Now in contrast, the C/C++ approach is quite different. Its
so damn hard to do anything with tweezers and glue that
anything significant you do will be a real achievement. You
want to document it. Also you're liable to need help in any C
project of significant size; so you're liable to be social and
work with others. You need to, just to get somewhere.

And all that, from the point of view of an employer, is attractive.
Ten people who communicate, document things properly
and work together are preferable to one BBM hacking Lisp
who can only be replaced by another BBM (if you can find one)
in the not unlikely event that he will, at some time, go down
without being rebootable.

Now the other aspect of the BBM that I remarked on is his
sensitivity to artifice. To put it in plain American, he knows
bullshit
when he smells it. Most of us do. However the BBM has
much lower tolerance of it than others. He can often see the
absurdity of the way things are, and has the intelligence to
see how they should be. And he is, unlike the rank and file,
unprepared to compromise. And this leads to many things.

The Lisp machines were a product of this kind of vision.
It was, as Gabriel once said, the Right Thing. Except of
course it wasn't. Here the refusal to compromise with the
market, and to use the platforms that the C bashers were using
proved in the long run to be a fatal mistake.

And this brings me to the last feature of the BBM. The flip
side of all that energy and intelligence - the sadness, melancholia
and loss of self during a down phase. If you read many posts
discussing Lisp (including one here called Common Lisp Sucks)
you see it writ large. Veteran programmers of many years with
obvious ability and talent go down with a fit of the blues. The
intelligence is directed inwards in mournful contemplation of the
inadequacies of their favourite programming language. The problems
are soluble (Qi is a proof of that for God's sake), but when you're
down everything seems insoluble. Lisp is doomed and we're all
going to hell.

Actually one paper that exemplifies that more than any other
is the classic Lisp: Good News, Bad News, How to Win Big.
If you read that paper, you feel and see nature
of the BBM. Its unique because Gabriel acually displays both
aspects at the same time. The positive side, the intellectual
pride and belief in Lisp is there. But also in there is the depressive
'but its all going to go to hell' aspect is there too. This is
contained
in the message that Worse is Better.

So what's the problem with Lisp? Basically, there is no problem with
Lisp, because Lisp is, like life, what you make of it.

Mark

Eli Gottlieb

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Apr 27, 2006, 10:47:41 PM4/27/06
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You display a complete and utter brilliance in showcasing the Lisp
personality. This is not sarcasm.

Seriously, you're dead right. Lisp hackers are Hackers with a capital
'H', hackers who knew what they were long before hearing someone else
give that identity a name.

I have only one correction: Lisp hackers are, in fact, lazy. Why?
Programming, as a pursuit in life, encourages laziness, because the best
code saves you from having to write more code. Case in point: Macros.

And I certainly understand what your prototypical BBM feels like in
school. Thank Adonay that's over, just don't tell anyone I hack during
the day!

But onto your point for the community. What is it? My first guess
would be "We have to compromise our ideals of The Right Thing if market
share is really what we want." This is perfectly true. Only people
with a sharp mind and superb reason can grasp the Holy Truths (ie:
semantic core) of Lisp without years of previous programming experience
in lesser languages. I speak from firsthand experience, having come to
Lisp several months ago after having no idea what Touretzky's book was
talking about several years ago. Most people really do find it easier
to learn a less powerful language first: You must walk before running.

What can we do about that? After all, Scheme works as a teaching
language, so /somebody's/ been able to teach Lisp to even first-time
programmers! I, personally, feel that the core of the language should
be kept small. Currently, learning Lisp is too much like learning a
natural language: You need to learn grammar, syntax and some vocabulary
before you can add 2 + 2! Lisp is also utterly unlike a list of
instructions in a natural language (look in a recipe book if you doubt
me). Learning Lisp should be more like other programming languages:
Grammar + syntax + a few reserved words = programming.

Knowing I'm about to be flamed for that last paragraph (sorry, I was on
vacation for "How Common Lisp Sucks"),
Eli Gottlieb
--
The science of economics is the cleverest proof of free will yet
constructed.

Ken Tilton

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Apr 27, 2006, 11:20:00 PM4/27/06
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Mark Tarver wrote:
>
>
> The Bipolar Lisp Programmer
>
>

Nonsense. Most Lisp enthusiasts around here are very successful
developers in other languages, since that is where the jobs have been.

And Usenet is a great self-selected population of goof-offs. The more
tedious the work, the more I post. It has been very tedious lately. :)

otoh, I think you are right. But it is an illusion. It is not the
language, it is the fact that you are talking to mostly hobbyists. On
Usenet. Watch for Lisp to look more and more staid as it moves into the
mainstream.

ken

Raffael Cavallaro

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Apr 28, 2006, 12:31:06 AM4/28/06
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On 2006-04-27 21:17:08 -0400, "Mark Tarver" <dr.mt...@ukonline.co.uk> said:

> The Bipolar Lisp Programmer

A.K.A. INTP in Meyers Briggs personality types. Einstein, for example
is generally thought to have been one.

Specifically:
Introversion rather than extroversion makes them prefer thinking to
action and enables mental focus in depth for long periods of time.
Intuitive rather than sensing makes them prefer designing projects
rather than doing them.
Thinking rather than feeling makes them seek out rational explanations
and models for everything around them.
Perceiving rather than judging makes them likely to start many projects
some or all of which will remain unfinished.

see:

<http://www.personalitypage.com/INTP.html>
<http://www.knowyourtype.com/intp.html>
<http://shs.westport.k12.ct.us/jwb/Psychology/LearnIntell/MeyersBriggs.htm>

drrobot

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Apr 28, 2006, 5:32:22 AM4/28/06
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Speaking as a 24 year old grad student, what I'm wondering is how long
you have been spying on me, since you were able to write such an
accurate, albiet romanticised version of my high school and college
experience. Speaking from your own experience, I assume? Glad you can
still remember what college and highschool were like; most people
forget their past feelings so quickly.

Although, I don't know if I would call this personality type "bipolar",
as that seems to have a bit of ring of depression, at least to me.
Besides, all the smart people I know have quite varied personalities,
not just two. Maybe we're just moody and get annoyed with our
limitations?

It seems common to most artists of any sort that we can imagine things
much grander than are within our means to build. But not all of us get
depressed about this. And having periods of extreme activity and
periods of laziness seems natural to me; creative people have to rest,
and sometimes sitting on my bed and playing guitar seems as good a way
as any.

Sure, I bet most people are a bit depressed during the dark days of
high school, but by the end of college I bet most of us grow out of it
and realized that one's limitations are not really something to be
depressed about, but rather something that you should laugh at and tell
your friends over a beer. At least that's how it worked for me.

Lispers may just be the equivilent of the starving, but brilliant
"artists" of the computer science world, because nobody will buy our
brilliant-but-unfinished work. I'd wager Paul Graham thought along
similar lines, based on his latest book title "Hackers and Painters".

Juho Snellman

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Apr 28, 2006, 5:46:15 AM4/28/06
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Mark Tarver <dr.mt...@ukonline.co.uk> wrote:
> So here is an essay which will no doubt annoy several
> and lead to argument. Its called

I got bored and stopped reading about a quarter of the way through.
You might want to get to the point, assuming there is one, sooner.

--
Juho Snellman

Raffael Cavallaro

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Apr 28, 2006, 8:05:37 AM4/28/06
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On 2006-04-28 05:46:15 -0400, Juho Snellman <jsn...@iki.fi> said:

> I got bored and stopped reading about a quarter of the way through.
> You might want to get to the point, assuming there is one, sooner.

You forgot the smiley.

Just in case you're actually serious, the post is about students who
are so bright that they have little patience for traditional education
and bore easily.

Eli Gottlieb

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Apr 28, 2006, 9:41:02 AM4/28/06
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I dunno. I personally always tested an INTJ.

Adam Connor

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Apr 29, 2006, 7:21:57 PM4/29/06
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Mark Tarver wrote:
> So here is an essay which will no doubt annoy several
> and lead to argument. Its called
>
> The Bipolar Lisp Programmer

Thanks for the essay, I enjoyed it very much. Then again, I'm not
really part of the Lisp community.

psch...@uci.edu

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Apr 29, 2006, 10:00:19 PM4/29/06
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I think I speak for the community of people who are actually bipolar
when I say: shut the fuck up. If you want to talk about lazy people
call them lazy, not bipolar.

Raffael Cavallaro

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Apr 30, 2006, 10:03:22 AM4/30/06
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On 2006-04-28 09:41:02 -0400, Eli Gottlieb <eligo...@gmail.com> said:

> I dunno. I personally always tested an INTJ.

That's why you're actually *writing* your own lisp instead of just
talking about it on Usenet, or merely talking about the three half
finished homebrew lisps you've created in the past.

IOW, the difference between P and J is the difference between starting
projects (P) and actually finishing them (J).

Raffael Cavallaro

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Apr 30, 2006, 11:16:08 AM4/30/06
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On 2006-04-29 22:00:19 -0400, psch...@uci.edu said:

> I think I speak for the community of people who are actually bipolar
> when I say: shut the fuck up.

I think I speak for the community of civil people when I say your
response was excessive in the extreme. A polite correction would have
done the job.

Stefan Scholl

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Apr 30, 2006, 11:56:35 AM4/30/06
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Adam Connor <ada...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Thanks for the essay, I enjoyed it very much. Then again, I'm not
> really part of the Lisp community.

There is no Cabal^H^H^H^H^H^H Lisp community.

Jeffery Zhang

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Apr 30, 2006, 2:13:53 PM4/30/06
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Wow, your post hit the nail on the head. That describes my personality
exactly, My big moment of failure came in my junior year of college
when I proposed a really ambitious NLP project for my AI class. I even
asked my mom for sample reading material for elementary school kids
(she's a teacher) to use for training my program. I tried writing it in
Java and found that no matter how hard I worked I couldn't get it to
work. In the end I was crushed. Thankfully my parents were really
supportive and I resolved to work harder and keep trying.

The next year I took a course in NLP from the same professor, and this
time I was able to complete my final project (code wise) but then found
to my dismay that the algorithm I designed took so much memory that I
could only run 1/5 of the dataset. (again this was done in Java)

So the professor, seeing my frustrations, helpfully suggested that I
look into languages more amenable to rapid prototyping (so I'd see the
problems sooner) and pointed me toward Python. I looked into it over
winter break and one thing led to another, pretty soon I was studying
Lisp.

I started off in math and wanted to do automated reasoning. Then i
realized that I need to implement my ideas to really test them out.
This got me into CS where I realized that proofs alone aren't enough.
In math I was able to get away with being sloppy with homework proofs.
I was generally satisfied that I got the main idea and skimped on the
details. This meant I got A- instead of A+, but that was fine with me.
Then I came over to CS where sloppiness isn't tolerated. Being sloppy
means that your program doesn't work. I have the tendency to solve the
hard and interesting problems and skip the easy or mundane ones. I'm
also easily sidetracked. When working on research problems I have no
problem coming up with good ideas, but then I become distracted trying
to chase all of them. I came to Lisp because it promises rapid
prototyping abilities that will hopefully complement my working style.

It sounds like you have had plenty of experience dealing with students
like me. As I'm about to graduate, do you have any advice on how I can
do great work and not self destruct?

-Jeffery

On 2006-04-27 21:17:08 -0400, "Mark Tarver" <dr.mt...@ukonline.co.uk> said:

Mark Tarver

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Apr 30, 2006, 3:28:47 PM4/30/06
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> As I'm about to graduate, do you have any advice on how I can
> do great work and not self destruct?

That depends on what you want to do. If you go for commercial
programming, the chances are that your employers will have a
pretty clear idea of what they expect you to do and the time frame.
Hence you won't have much latitude for going off the track.

If you want to go for a research degree then you need to find someone
who matches your interests (AR & NLP) and understands your profile.
By chance that actually would be me, since I worked in both areas.
However I'm between jobs right now. Mail me if you're interested
in a few months time; things might change.

As a rough guide you can spend most of the first year of your Ph.D.
chasing interesting ideas around and reading into odd corners. The
second year you have pretty good idea of what you're about and
do the actual coding. The final year, you write it up and publish some
papers. If you can stick to that time frame, you'll be OK.

Since you're into NLP and AR you might look at Qi on my web site
www.lambdassociates.org. Its more powerful than even Lisp.The page
www.lambdassociates.org/yacc.htm will give you an entry to being
able to prototype NLP systems really quickly (i.e. your project may
be doable in hours not days). If you get stuck, then mail Qilang on
the News group.

Mark

Juergen Christoffel

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Apr 30, 2006, 3:51:42 PM4/30/06
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>So here is an essay which will no doubt annoy several
>and lead to argument.

Hi,

I enjoyed your essay but I disagree with most of your conclusions.

>But it isn't and the reasons why not are not in the language
>itself, but in the community itself, which contains not
>just the strengths but also the weaknesses of the BBM.

I agree that having an "easy life" at high school lures people into an easy
start at the university level as there's no constant control that they
proceed with their studies. That's a risk for clever people who never where
forced to systematic learning because they had this easy life at school.

But your "brilliant failures" are attracted to computers regardless of the
programming language used. That's because computers are the most advanced
intellectual tool and thus are very attractive to brilliant people.

>Now in contrast, the C/C++ approach is quite different. Its
>so damn hard to do anything with tweezers and glue that
>anything significant you do will be a real achievement. You
>want to document it. Also you're liable to need help in any C
>project of significant size; so you're liable to be social and
>work with others. You need to, just to get somewhere.

Sorry, that's a fallacy. You can find an abundance of unfinished projects
in any programming language. Just take a look at e.g. sourceforge.

>So what's the problem with Lisp? Basically, there is no problem with
>Lisp, because Lisp is, like life, what you make of it.

IMHO the "problem" with Lisp is that it's a rather high-level tool compared
to other languages. I always compare this to map making: you can ask almost
anyone to make a coarse map of a town with a metering rule but you'll need
highly skilled people to do this with a helicopter and a camera. Lisp is
much closer to the helicopter/camera stuff while C is much closer to the
metering rule (or your lentils ;-)

--jc
--
Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.
-- Charles Darwin

Juergen Christoffel

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Apr 30, 2006, 4:08:17 PM4/30/06
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In <1146216742....@g10g2000cwb.googlegroups.com> "drrobot" <drr...@gmail.com> writes:
>Lispers may just be the equivilent of the starving, but brilliant
>"artists" of the computer science world, because nobody will buy our
>brilliant-but-unfinished work. I'd wager Paul Graham thought along
>similar lines, based on his latest book title "Hackers and Painters".

As for Paul Graham's "Hackers and Painters" metaphor you might want to read
this[*] great essay by painter and former programmer Maciej Ceglowski for a
different opinion.

--jc

[*] http://www.idlewords.com/2005/04/dabblers_and_blowhards.htm

Eli Gottlieb

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Apr 30, 2006, 5:48:39 PM4/30/06
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Actually, his response was not at all excessive. Despite my suspicions
that many Really Good Hackers (who are well represented among Lispers)
are bipolar, the essay technically did misuse the word.

psch...@uci.edu

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Apr 30, 2006, 6:49:20 PM4/30/06
to
> Actually, his response was not at all excessive. Despite my suspicions
> that many Really Good Hackers (who are well represented among Lispers)
> are bipolar, the essay technically did misuse the word.

Thank you, being bipolar is a serious condition, not something that
should be taken lightly. So using bipolar to describe people who
aren't actually bipolar, in a positive or negative manner, is much like
using the word "gay" to describe people who aren't in fact homosexual,
i.e. it's offensive to people who are bipolar.

Raffael Cavallaro

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Apr 30, 2006, 9:49:21 PM4/30/06
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On 2006-04-30 17:48:39 -0400, Eli Gottlieb <eligo...@gmail.com> said:

> Actually, his response was not at all excessive.

It has nothing to do with whether psychombe's point is correct or not -
"shut the fuck up" is the kind of utterance that one hears among street
thugs not in civil discourse, so yes, his response was excessive. The
fact that he was "technically correct" doesn't justify that response.

When in doubt, consider whether it would have been uttered to someone's
face. Saying that to the wrong person in the real world is the kind of
thing that can get your nose broken in a hurry.

psch...@uci.edu

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May 1, 2006, 1:56:21 AM5/1/06
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> not in civil discourse...

Making light of people's problems is not civil discourse either. And
yes, if you slighted bipolar people, or homosexuals, or jews, ect in my
presence I would tell you to shut the fuck up. And if you didn't maybe
I would just punch you in the gut first, I'm not exactly a tolerant
person.

David Sletten

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May 1, 2006, 2:18:22 AM5/1/06
to
psch...@uci.edu wrote:

Oh, how clever. You're willing to attack those you perceive to be
intolerant while reserving the right for yourself to physically assault
others due to your own admitted lack of tolerance. No doubt you've
missed the irony of your own statements, but at least you've given the
rest of us a chuckle.

David Sletten

P.S. I sure hope you have good health coverage. Believe it or not, there
are those out there even less rational than you who probably punch quite
a bit harder. Good luck.

psch...@uci.edu

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May 1, 2006, 2:30:56 AM5/1/06
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> Oh, how clever. You're willing to attack those you perceive to be
> intolerant while reserving the right for yourself to physically assault
> others due to your own admitted lack of tolerance. No doubt you've
> missed the irony of your own statements, but at least you've given the
> rest of us a chuckle.

There is a difference between defending a slighted minority and being
an agressor, and note that I would defend any group, even those I am
not part of, such as Jews, blacks, homosexuals, ect, from those who
would oppress them with their words or acts. I am tolerant of
differences of opinion, I am not tolerant of bigotry, as you are
apparently.

David Sletten

unread,
May 1, 2006, 2:43:42 AM5/1/06
to
psch...@uci.edu wrote:


>
> There is a difference between defending a slighted minority and being
> an agressor, and note that I would defend any group, even those I am
> not part of, such as Jews, blacks, homosexuals, ect, from those who
> would oppress them with their words or acts. I am tolerant of
> differences of opinion, I am not tolerant of bigotry, as you are
> apparently.
>

You seem to enjoy slathering yourself in tolerance. Why don't you try
spritzing on a little rationality. My response contained nothing
regarding my attitude towards bigots. You are simply using your
imagination.

Furthermore, the only discussion of any acts that has taken place here
concerns your flailing of fists. Hopefully once you grow up a little bit
you'll recognize that you have no right to impose your views on others
through violence. Then again, perhaps you won't. In which case I once
again extend my best wishes to you that whoever defends himself against
your assault stops beating you once you've lost consciousness. Good luck.

David Sletten

Bill Atkins

unread,
May 1, 2006, 2:41:01 AM5/1/06
to
psch...@uci.edu writes:

If Mark Tarver were using the term maliciously, then I could
understand your reaction. But that was hardly the case...

--
This is a song that took me ten years to live and two years to write.
- Bob Dylan

psch...@uci.edu

unread,
May 1, 2006, 2:57:53 AM5/1/06
to
> If Mark Tarver were using the term maliciously, then I could
> understand your reaction. But that was hardly the case...

Wwll, being bipolar has caused some serious problems for me, the exact
nature of which I'd rather not get into at the moment, although I'll
let you know that they did involve hospitalization, so as someone who
has to deal with this problem it hurts me to see people treating it
lightly. Imagine if you had aids or cancer and someone was using your
problem to describe lazy students.

Eli Gottlieb

unread,
May 1, 2006, 9:25:05 AM5/1/06
to
You ARE correct, but please, get out of your agitation cycle for a few
moments, will you ;-)?

drrobot

unread,
May 1, 2006, 11:06:13 AM5/1/06
to
Good point and a great essay; I had a good chuckle at myself. Maybe the
analogy is flawed. and we're taking ourselves too seriously.

Then again, I spoke from personal experience and not from "Hackers and
Painters", which I haven't read. My best friend for for over ten years
has been an artist, and while we certainly react to things differently,
there are times when it _is_ remarkable how similar our imaginations
are...just our training and the stuff we work with is different.

When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When you're an
artist, all you think about aesthetics; when a lisper, about building
programs. Everyone frames things in terms of what they know.

drrobot

unread,
May 1, 2006, 11:11:16 AM5/1/06
to
Whoops, posted in wrong place?

Was in response to the link and comment Juergen Christoffel posted:
http://www.idlewords.com/2005/04/dabblers_and_blowhards.htm

Mark Tarver

unread,
May 1, 2006, 1:21:59 PM5/1/06
to
> As I'm about to graduate, do you have any advice on how I can
> do great work and not self destruct?

Well for what its worth, here is my advice.

First, if you're a BBM then congratulations - because you're a member
of a small group of people who have been disproportionately
responsible for some of the greatest advances in arts and sciences.
You can shake hands with Dr Samuel Johnson, Einstein and Clive of
India (also possibly Alexander the Great). Also beware that life has
some interesting lessons for you.

If you think of life as a fight, as some people do, you've been born a
southpaw. You need to know yourself and box to your strengths.

Your strengths are that you are lot smarter than the average rabbit.
Your weaknesses are that you can lack staying power, self discipline
and tolerance of mediocrity. The last however is not a virtue, though
years of schooling conspire to convince you otherwise.

You're going to have a hard time when younger until you 'make it' and
then you can write the rule book to your advantage. Some tips.

1. The most important characteristic you need to acquire is
self-discipline. There is no substitute for this. Get used to
finishing things off properly. Don't go on to a new project
until you've finished off the old one. Don't always continually
flit from one thing to the next. Find at least one thing that
interests you and become an expert in it.

2. This also goes for emotional self-discipline. Learn techniques
for coping with the down phase. Moping is not one. Walk,
cycle, jog, do tai chi. Whatever it takes. Try to avoid
medication if possible.

3. Find a nice squeeze (i.e. female). Someone who believes in
you and has common sense. They do exist still. They
can act as a counterbalance to your swings. Avoid femininists
who lecture you and give you a hard time. You can do that for
yourself. If you're American don't be afraid to look outside
your own culture for the right woman.

Note BBMs are not necessarily male; but testosterone is the
Tabasco sauce of the human hormones - it hots up extremes
of all kinds.

Another relationship with a BBM can work and can be
inspirational - or lead to a lot of broken plates. Find what
works for you.

4. Working in any institution for anybody else will be a pain.
Management contains more than its fair share of self-seeking
idiots. Some measure their importance by their ability to waste
other people's time. Its hard to avoid telling them to piss off.

This however causes you to become unpopular and ultimately
unemployed. Which leads me to the last piece of advice.

5. Take as your life's objective the goal of getting money for doing
your own thing. You were born to do this. Never lose sight of
this and settle for second best because this is one compromise
that will guarantee unhappiness. Leave that kind of compromise
to others - they were born for it. You are not.

Mark

Eli Gottlieb

unread,
May 1, 2006, 1:59:45 PM5/1/06
to
Mark Tarver wrote:
>>As I'm about to graduate, do you have any advice on how I can
>>do great work and not self destruct?
>
>
> Well for what its worth, here is my advice.
>
> First, if you're a BBM then congratulations - because you're a member
> of a small group of people who have been disproportionately
> responsible for some of the greatest advances in arts and sciences.
> You can shake hands with Dr Samuel Johnson, Einstein and Clive of
> India (also possibly Alexander the Great). Also beware that life has
> some interesting lessons for you.

Damn straight, from first-hand experience.

>
> If you think of life as a fight, as some people do, you've been born a
> southpaw. You need to know yourself and box to your strengths.
>
> Your strengths are that you are lot smarter than the average rabbit.
> Your weaknesses are that you can lack staying power, self discipline
> and tolerance of mediocrity. The last however is not a virtue, though
> years of schooling conspire to convince you otherwise.
>
> You're going to have a hard time when younger until you 'make it' and
> then you can write the rule book to your advantage. Some tips.
>
> 1. The most important characteristic you need to acquire is
> self-discipline. There is no substitute for this. Get used to
> finishing things off properly. Don't go on to a new project
> until you've finished off the old one. Don't always continually
> flit from one thing to the next. Find at least one thing that
> interests you and become an expert in it.

I would note that, as mentioned in the small discussion of Myers-Briggs
personality types above, this mainly goes for those with a P in their
last letter. I can certify that so-called "bipolar" personalities (and
even actual bipolar disorder) occur in personalities other than INTP. I
again speak from first-hand experience.

>
> 2. This also goes for emotional self-discipline. Learn techniques
> for coping with the down phase. Moping is not one. Walk,
> cycle, jog, do tai chi. Whatever it takes. Try to avoid
> medication if possible.

Once again, damn straight.

>
> 3. Find a nice squeeze (i.e. female). Someone who believes in
> you and has common sense. They do exist still. They
> can act as a counterbalance to your swings. Avoid femininists
> who lecture you and give you a hard time. You can do that for
> yourself. If you're American don't be afraid to look outside
> your own culture for the right woman.

As an aside from the "bipolar" thing, feminists are actually better for
nerdy types, IMHO. A feminist enjoys being treated as an equal, but
anti-feminist (the oppposite of feminist, I know this is an
oversimplified dichotomy imposed on a broad spectrum of actual people)
women will want all sorts of special treatment that will boggle the sort
who don't understand people too well.

>
> Note BBMs are not necessarily male; but testosterone is the
> Tabasco sauce of the human hormones - it hots up extremes
> of all kinds.

But I like buffalo sauce!

>
> Another relationship with a BBM can work and can be
> inspirational - or lead to a lot of broken plates. Find what
> works for you.
>
> 4. Working in any institution for anybody else will be a pain.
> Management contains more than its fair share of self-seeking
> idiots. Some measure their importance by their ability to waste
> other people's time. Its hard to avoid telling them to piss off.
>
> This however causes you to become unpopular and ultimately
> unemployed. Which leads me to the last piece of advice.

No need to tell any real bipolar person that. We already /know/ we
can't stand the stupids.

>
> 5. Take as your life's objective the goal of getting money for doing
> your own thing. You were born to do this. Never lose sight of
> this and settle for second best because this is one compromise
> that will guarantee unhappiness. Leave that kind of compromise
> to others - they were born for it. You are not.
>
> Mark

Quite true. However, I wish to add a #6.

6. Learn the strategic use of moral compromise. The number-one thing
keeping bipolar types from success in proportion to their numbers is the
refusal to compromise a moral principle in the slightest.
Unfortunately, normal people are born with a disturbingly *high*
capability for moral compromise, and this leads them to more success
than us. To make an example: If I was offerred a job at Microsoft's
Research department, I'd take it. They're EVIL, but the Research area
devotes itself entirely to making cool things that don't get
commercialized rather than putting competitors out of business.

Eli

marc spitzer

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May 1, 2006, 4:28:52 PM5/1/06
to
On 2006-04-30, psch...@uci.edu <psch...@uci.edu> wrote:
>
> Thank you, being bipolar is a serious condition, not something that
> should be taken lightly. So using bipolar to describe people who
> aren't actually bipolar, in a positive or negative manner, is much like
> using the word "gay" to describe people who aren't in fact homosexual,
> i.e. it's offensive to people who are bipolar.


What about people who are very happy?

marc

--
ms4...@sdf.lonestar.org
SDF Public Access UNIX System - http://sdf.lonestar.org

psch...@uci.edu

unread,
May 1, 2006, 5:04:26 PM5/1/06
to
> What about people who are very happy?

you could be manic without being bipolar, if we are speaking in a
clinical sense, or I don't know, just plain ordinary excited. There
are a lot of adjectives to choose from, so there is no real need to
appropriate actual medial terminology. For example you could call them
"moody" programmers.

Eli Gottlieb

unread,
May 1, 2006, 5:55:08 PM5/1/06
to
He meant:

gay, adj - Very happy.

Larry Elmore

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May 1, 2006, 10:34:44 PM5/1/06
to

Nice. So being unintentionally (by all appearances) imprecise with
terminology is grounds for assault? It's not even an insult, for
crissake. Your reaction is inappropriate to the offense. Well, perhaps
not to the *perceived* offense, since having known some bipolar people,
I know that some can be raging assholes finding offense at truly trivial
or even totally mysterious stuff to anyone not in on their private
world. And I don't want to hear anything about my being insensitive to
the raging asshole community, even if you may be a part of it -- raging
assholes have no sensitivity and have no grounds demanding it from others.

Are your initials 'mbe', with 'pscho' being a slightly abbreviated
self-description?

--Larry

Larry Elmore

unread,
May 1, 2006, 10:41:15 PM5/1/06
to

Oh jeez, you mean like the 'cancer of low expections', or something? I
doubt that would elicit a violent response, nor would someone telling me
my choice of clothing was "gay". Your reaction is grossly over-the-top,
and itself symptomatic.

--Larry

Tim X

unread,
May 2, 2006, 2:36:47 AM5/2/06
to

An interesting thread at times. However, a question which I've never
been able to answer adequately - how do you identify the "stupids"?

My experience has been that I've not run across many really totally
stupid people where I have worked. I've certainly run into lots of
people who don't have the knowledge I have in some areas, but that
doesn't mean they are stupid. I've run into people I have written off
as stupid only to later find that the 'stupidity' was probably on my
part for not recognising they merely had a different agenda. I've run
across people which seem incapable of grasping something I think is
obvious, but only to find later they have remarkable understanding of
things in other areas which I find takes considerable effort to
understand.

I guess I'm playing devils advocate a bit here as to be honest I have
worked with people I think many would classify as stupid. However, in
fact these people tend to be non-thinkers. This is something I have
trouble in understanding as I cannot easily grasp the concept of not
thinking - if I'm awake, I'm thinking. I have trouble doing things like
watching TV because my mind just goes off thinking about some problem
or some interesting point etc. My biggest weakness is self discipline
- I have to really stop myself from initiating hundreds of little
projects and following through to completion (I tend to lose interest
once I've achieved/proven the bit I was interested in). I'm not BBM
and in fact don't believe I'm particularly brillliant at anything
(programming was something I found by accident and turned out to be
the easiest thing I've ever done - and most creative/rewarding).

So, are "stupids" merely people who don't think about things or are
they people incapable of deep thought and analysis? Is it something
you can't do anything about or is it possible to be tought not to be
stupid?

I have not been able to resolve these questions, but I have learnt to
be very careful regarding the labelling of someone as stupid as I
suspect this is often based on false perceptions and really marks the
one doing the labelling as stupid for not realising it. Interested in
what others think.

Tim

--
tcross (at) rapttech dot com dot au

Tayssir John Gabbour

unread,
May 2, 2006, 7:49:36 AM5/2/06
to
Tim X wrote:
> I guess I'm playing devils advocate a bit here as to be honest I have
> worked with people I think many would classify as stupid. However, in
> fact these people tend to be non-thinkers. This is something I have
> trouble in understanding as I cannot easily grasp the concept of not
> thinking - if I'm awake, I'm thinking. I have trouble doing things like
> watching TV because my mind just goes off thinking about some problem
> or some interesting point etc. My biggest weakness is self discipline
> - I have to really stop myself from initiating hundreds of little
> projects and following through to completion (I tend to lose interest
> once I've achieved/proven the bit I was interested in). I'm not BBM
> and in fact don't believe I'm particularly brillliant at anything
> (programming was something I found by accident and turned out to be
> the easiest thing I've ever done - and most creative/rewarding).

(Hi Tim, I feel bad about saying anything on this thread, as "Lispers
are brilliant" is uncomfortably self-serving to me. But I like your
post and with that caveat in mind...)

I believe the issue is of systematic stupidity, not of particular
individuals. Many of us are trained to accept passive roles in our
educations, and those of us who can't take this dependency on central
teachers are often weeded out. (And become taxi drivers or something.)
I believe that when people study the context and goals of education,
they may find that systematic stupidity is not a bug, but rather a
feature.

There's this one award-winning teacher from NYC, who after winning his
latest award, resigned and explained to the Wall St. Journal that he
was tired of damaging young minds for a paycheck:

"David learns to read at age four; Rachel, at age nine: In normal
development, when both are 13, you can't tell which one learned
first-the five-year spread means nothing at all. But in school I
label Rachel 'learning disabled' and slow David down a bit, too. For a
paycheck, I adjust David to depend on me to tell him when to go and
stop. He won't outgrow that dependency. I identify Rachel as discount
merchandise, 'special education' fodder. She'll be locked in her
place forever.

"In 30 years of teaching kids rich and poor I almost never met a
learning disabled child; hardly ever met a gifted and talented one
either. Like all school categories, these are sacred myths, created by
human imagination. They derive from questionable values we never
examine because they preserve the temple of schooling.

"That's the secret behind short-answer tests, bells, uniform time
blocks, age grading, standardization, and all the rest of the school
religion punishing our nation."
http://www.rit.edu/~cma8660/mirror/www.johntaylorgatto.com/underground/toc1.htm

(None of this is a "conspiracy theory", as I'm sure all of us know that
the real Microsoft is something different from what its commercials
claim about itself, for example. We're used to the fact that
institutions have deceptive faces they show to the public, and the
reasoning is entirely obvious.)


Tayssir

Pascal Bourguignon

unread,
May 2, 2006, 8:17:25 AM5/2/06
to
"Tayssir John Gabbour" <tayss...@yahoo.com> writes:

> "That's the secret behind short-answer tests, bells, uniform time
> blocks, age grading, standardization, and all the rest of the school
> religion punishing our nation."
> http://www.rit.edu/~cma8660/mirror/www.johntaylorgatto.com/underground/toc1.htm
>
> (None of this is a "conspiracy theory", as I'm sure all of us know that
> the real Microsoft is something different from what its commercials
> claim about itself, for example. We're used to the fact that
> institutions have deceptive faces they show to the public, and the
> reasoning is entirely obvious.)

This is no conspiracy, but this is designed and theorized to work this way.
There are historic documents proving it.

--
__Pascal Bourguignon__ http://www.informatimago.com/
You never feed me.
Perhaps I'll sleep on your face.
That will sure show you.

Jeffery Zhang

unread,
May 2, 2006, 11:01:46 AM5/2/06
to
But no one said that school has a monopoly on education. I learned most
of the stuff I know by doing stuff outside of school. In this sense our
school system is better than some in the world that kill their students
with homework. We at least have the free time to learn things outside
of school.

-Jeff

Jeffery Zhang

unread,
May 2, 2006, 12:07:16 PM5/2/06
to
> 1. The most important characteristic you need to acquire is
> self-discipline. There is no substitute for this. Get used to
> finishing things off properly. Don't go on to a new project
> until you've finished off the old one. Don't always continually
> flit from one thing to the next. Find at least one thing that
> interests you and become an expert in it.

I've recognized this problem from my summer research project. I
seriously need discipline. That's why I decided to postpone going to
grad school for my PhD to work for 2 years first. I need some time to
figure this one out. Do you think a school environment where you always
take 3-4 classes a semester and therefore are juggling 3-4 projects
simultaneously is bad for focus? I was thinking that maybe a work
environment where I just work on 1 project will help me with focus. I
hope it will help me develop new mental habits. Part of the problem is
that I work best in short bursts. I can really focus and work hard for
2-3 days or up to a week but then I need some down time. I can't just
work on one thing constantly. Do you know any good ways to not be
tempted to start new projects on my down time from what I'm doing
currently?

> 2. This also goes for emotional self-discipline. Learn techniques
> for coping with the down phase. Moping is not one. Walk,
> cycle, jog, do tai chi. Whatever it takes. Try to avoid
> medication if possible.

I usually just rant and complain to people how much X sucks. I'd call
up friends at 4AM in the morning and be like this university sucks, why
didn't they teach us X freshman year? I think I also have a problem
with seeing flaws in things. Every programming language I use I get
frustrated because there is something that isn't quite right. This
leads to a lot of jumping between programming languages.

> 3. Find a nice squeeze (i.e. female). Someone who believes in
> you and has common sense. They do exist still. They
> can act as a counterbalance to your swings. Avoid femininists
> who lecture you and give you a hard time. You can do that for
> yourself. If you're American don't be afraid to look outside
> your own culture for the right woman.
>
> Note BBMs are not necessarily male; but testosterone is the
> Tabasco sauce of the human hormones - it hots up extremes
> of all kinds.
>
> Another relationship with a BBM can work and can be
> inspirational - or lead to a lot of broken plates. Find what
> works for you.

I have thus far only met one person who I can connect to on the I want
to create stuff level, and it's another guy and he transferred out to
an art school. I can't even talk to my friends about this stuff, it
just blows over them. They think I'm some sort of robot because I'm
always doing stuff that seems like work to them. I don't understand how
getting drunk, doing stupid things, and random hookups are fun.

I don't know if it's just people like me are naturally rare or our
culture just brow beat them into conforming and pretend to be someone
they're not. The joy of creating things and solving hard problems can't
easily be glamorized on TV, because it's a deeply personal experience.
In some sense it's like a religious experience. But in my opinion it's
also the most satisfying kind of experience. This is what leads to
fulfillment. It seems to me that the kind of experiences that pop
culture promotes are the shallow, unfulfilling kind. It's like drinking
salt water to quench thirst, your thirst is never quenched, you just
want more and more. All it leads to is more and more consumption, but
never fulfillment.

Eli Gottlieb

unread,
May 2, 2006, 12:59:58 PM5/2/06
to
*Keep the flames down. I may not be able to do anything to you, but
that doesn't mean you should simply provoke pschombe to your heart's
desire.*

Having known plenty of bipolar people myself, I can say that they do
not, under any circumstances, constitute a community of raging assholes.
However, a proportion of every grouping of humanity are indeed raging
assholes. Don't funge the statistics.

Eli Gottlieb

unread,
May 2, 2006, 1:07:43 PM5/2/06
to
stupids, noun - People who have every capacity to think (about hard
problems, about the world they live in, to think in general), but
voluntarily choose not to. The antipathy between them and thinkers of
all sorts is never ending, because the stupids feel threatened when
shown something which doesn't conveniently fit into their mental models
of How Things Should Be.
Message has been deleted

Eli Gottlieb

unread,
May 2, 2006, 1:09:09 PM5/2/06
to
stupids, noun - People who have every capacity to think (about hard
problems, about the world they live in, to think in general), but
voluntarily choose not to. The antipathy between them and thinkers of
all sorts is never ending, because the stupids feel threatened when
shown something which doesn't conveniently fit into their mental models
of How Things Should Be.

Note that people without the capacity to think are not stupids at all.
In the fairly rare case that such a person actually lacks the capacity
to think (rather than being told by a standardized test they lack the
capacity to think), they should be treated like any other handicapped
person.

Juergen Christoffel

unread,
May 2, 2006, 4:41:32 PM5/2/06
to

>Good point and a great essay; I had a good chuckle at myself. Maybe the
>analogy is flawed. and we're taking ourselves too seriously.

We definitely do take ourselves too serious. Sometimes at least, most often
with this hacker cult stuff.

>When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When you're an
>artist, all you think about aesthetics; when a lisper, about building
>programs. Everyone frames things in terms of what they know.

I fully agree that Lisp gives you a special perspective. But I might be
biased as Lisp was my first major programming language which I still like
best among the languages I know ;-)

As it is said that "you can program Fortran in any language" so you can
think Lisp in any language. And this seems easier to me as starting with C
or some other language where you have to care about the gritty details of
memory management etc.

I did teach a number of Perl classes in the last few years. Perl is only
second to Lisp but has a large number of nice, abstract concepts too. And
here too you get a different perspective as you think in regular
expressions and chunks of text of arbitray length. And these concepts
weren't easy to understand for a lot of these C type people.

So, yes, programming languages with more abstract concepts encourage a
certain kind of programming style which might be more artistic than the
bits and pieces style forced upon a C programmer.

--jc
--
Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.
-- Charles Darwin

Juergen Christoffel

unread,
May 2, 2006, 5:12:08 PM5/2/06
to
In <e38035$ruq$1...@ruby.cit.cornell.edu> Jeffery Zhang <jz...@cornell.edu> writes:

>> 1. The most important characteristic you need to acquire is
>> self-discipline. There is no substitute for this. Get used to
>> finishing things off properly. Don't go on to a new project
>> until you've finished off the old one. Don't always continually
>> flit from one thing to the next. Find at least one thing that
>> interests you and become an expert in it.

>I've recognized this problem from my summer research project. I

>seriously need discipline. [...]


>work on one thing constantly. Do you know any good ways to not be
>tempted to start new projects on my down time from what I'm doing
>currently?

Acquiring self-discipline is important. What helps is trying to get
organized. The best thing I learned (and still try to adapt myself to) is
the methods layed out in David Allens book "Getting Things Done" (or GTD).
It's no psychological miracle cure but "just" a great, down to earth set of
methods for organizing one's stuff.

Getting organized really is an important part of self-discipline. It would
have been nice if I'd learned that earlier myself ;-/

Some links:

http://www.davidco.com/ David Allan's own site
http://www.43folders.com/ good site about personal productivity
http://del.icio.us/tag/gtd lots of links to GTD stuff, for later

But don't surf the web for too long, just get the book and read it. Working
offline (no TV, no Usenet, no Web) for some hours per day is helpful too as
all this online stuff distracts from the things you're supposed to do.

>I usually just rant and complain to people how much X sucks. I'd call
>up friends at 4AM in the morning and be like this university sucks, why
>didn't they teach us X freshman year? I think I also have a problem
>with seeing flaws in things. Every programming language I use I get
>frustrated because there is something that isn't quite right. This
>leads to a lot of jumping between programming languages.

All computer languages are compromises of one kind or another. But learning
the concepts behind them helps to get a feeling for their capabilities,
just as you have to learn what to do with which tool in real life. And
having a good assorted toolbox helps in both cases.

Mikalai

unread,
May 2, 2006, 8:33:13 PM5/2/06
to
Jeffery Zhang wrote:
>
> It sounds like you have had plenty of experience dealing with students
> like me. As I'm about to graduate, do you have any advice on how I can

> do great work and not self destruct?
>

My personal way is to nail down the wings when they are in the upper
position. Then you use those nails to actually climb were the wings of
your idea were. You do painful nailing instead of bear or guitar, etc.

As an example in programming, do prototyping, and nail it with
gazillions of tests. After the depression period, you may be amased how
higher will you get further using strong, nailed almost marvelous
creation.

About other sides of life -- tests are the reality checks and an
*outside* measure, which you use to go forward. Note, you set the
measure yourself, so it is *your* measure.

The mind is a tool. The sharper tool needs some more attention. There
are dry methodas in computing, like TDD. There are methodas in
psychology for using a sharper tool. Do not discount these.

Else, call this a crap, if you wish :)

Larry Elmore

unread,
May 2, 2006, 8:51:07 PM5/2/06
to

Yes, I thought this morning that I should've cancelled that. A bit
late, then.

> Having known plenty of bipolar people myself, I can say that they do
> not, under any circumstances, constitute a community of raging assholes.
> However, a proportion of every grouping of humanity are indeed raging
> assholes. Don't funge the statistics.

No, bipolars certainly don't constitute such a community, but *some* of
them do, even if only some of the time. And if you're in a position
where you *have* to deal with them, whether they're following the
program or not, it's not always pretty.

That said, I'm apologize to pschombe for baiting him (and hope I'm not
now demeaning the worm and fly community with that choice of word).

--Larry

Tim X

unread,
May 3, 2006, 5:25:46 AM5/3/06
to
Eli Gottlieb <eligo...@gmail.com> writes:

That sounds very much like the "mappers and packers" classification in
which you have two types of people, those who are able to take past
experiences and knowledge and map that to new problems or experiences
and those who can only deal with experiences which fit with the models
they have already packed into their consciousness (I think I've got
that around the right way - it was a while ago I first read about
this). Essentially, packers are those who work well on assembly lines
and mappers are those who work well with new problems which someone
hasn't already defined a process for dealing with.

Tim X

unread,
May 3, 2006, 6:02:09 AM5/3/06
to
Jeffery Zhang <jz...@cornell.edu> writes:

>> 1. The most important characteristic you need to acquire is
>> self-discipline. There is no substitute for this. Get used to
>> finishing things off properly. Don't go on to a new project
>> until you've finished off the old one. Don't always continually
>> flit from one thing to the next. Find at least one thing that
>> interests you and become an expert in it.
>
> I've recognized this problem from my summer research project. I
> seriously need discipline. That's why I decided to postpone going to
> grad school for my PhD to work for 2 years first. I need some time to
> figure this one out. Do you think a school environment where you
> always take 3-4 classes a semester and therefore are juggling 3-4
> projects simultaneously is bad for focus? I was thinking that maybe a
> work environment where I just work on 1 project will help me with
> focus. I hope it will help me develop new mental habits. Part of the
> problem is that I work best in short bursts. I can really focus and
> work hard for 2-3 days or up to a week but then I need some down time.
> I can't just work on one thing constantly. Do you know any good ways
> to not be tempted to start new projects on my down time from what I'm
> doing currently?
>

I think you will definitely need lots of self discipline to complete
the Phd. One of the things I noticed when doing mine was that unlike
undergraduate work, it doesn't end after a semester and you have to
push yourself for (usually) 3 to 4 years. This is very hard and then
at the end, you have the hardest part of all, writing the whole thing
up.

Don't even consider doing a Phd unless you have a topic which intrests
you and has some scope for original work. At the beginning, lots of
your time will involve research and getting to know the field,
partially to be certain your work will be original. Make sure you get
the right supervisor and try to get as many articles published before
you submit as you can - this allows your peers to determine if what
you are doing is really original and provides a good sanity check.

I actually never completed my Phd. A little over half way through, I
had some unfortunate luck which resulted in me losing my sight. By the
time I had re-trained myself and acquired the necessary living skills
and learnt how to work with screen readers etc, over two years had
passed. In comp. Sci, this can represent a lifetime. Significant parts
of my original work was not only no longer original, aspects of what I
was doing were now being incorporated into languages like Java (my
research area was in autonomous mobile agents, executable conceptual
graphs and techniques for programs to save state, serialise its
objects, transfer the object to a remote system and start re-excuting
etc). I started again, but to be honest, had lost momentum and was
already in a job which paid more than I would get after around 10 more
years of study and post-doctoral work. Although I had a research
council scholarship that was quite generous, it didn't compare to what
I was already earning, so basically I just gave up.

>> 2. This also goes for emotional self-discipline. Learn techniques
>> for coping with the down phase. Moping is not one. Walk,
>> cycle, jog, do tai chi. Whatever it takes. Try to avoid
>> medication if possible.
>
> I usually just rant and complain to people how much X sucks. I'd call
> up friends at 4AM in the morning and be like this university sucks,
> why didn't they teach us X freshman year? I think I also have a
> problem with seeing flaws in things. Every programming language I use
> I get frustrated because there is something that isn't quite right.
> This leads to a lot of jumping between programming languages.
>

Settle on something early and stick with it despite its flaws. The
world is a flawed imperfect place and you have to learn to live with
it. I think part of being really creative and intelligent is knowing
how to work with the imperfect - anyone can achieve wonders with the
perfect tool in the perfect envrionment. Only the truely talented can
achieve wonders with imperfect tools in an imperfect environment.


>> 3. Find a nice squeeze (i.e. female). Someone who believes in
>> you and has common sense. They do exist still. They
>> can act as a counterbalance to your swings. Avoid femininists
>> who lecture you and give you a hard time. You can do that for
>> yourself. If you're American don't be afraid to look outside
>> your own culture for the right woman.
>> Note BBMs are not necessarily male; but testosterone is the
>> Tabasco sauce of the human hormones - it hots up extremes
>> of all kinds.
>> Another relationship with a BBM can work and can be
>> inspirational - or lead to a lot of broken plates. Find what
>> works for you.
>
> I have thus far only met one person who I can connect to on the I want
> to create stuff level, and it's another guy and he transferred out to
> an art school. I can't even talk to my friends about this stuff, it
> just blows over them. They think I'm some sort of robot because I'm
> always doing stuff that seems like work to them. I don't understand
> how getting drunk, doing stupid things, and random hookups are fun.
>

Don't discount them! Experiences are fun, the catch is to get the
balance right. You can be amazed at the things that can occur and the
thoughts which can come about after a drunken, passionate
discussion/argument. A friend of mine actually developed an amazing
code cracking system based on simulated annealing from a discussion in
a pub with a physics student. I'd say many of my more creative ideas
actually occured to me when I wasn't even thinking about problems or
computers and programming. Don't forget there is a difference between
being a little drunk and so drunk you can't walk. Ideas often come
from the weirdest places and often don't happen from disciplined hard
thinking. Creativity often follows from letting your mind just go
where it wants to and letting the subconscious have a little more freedom.

> I don't know if it's just people like me are naturally rare or our
> culture just brow beat them into conforming and pretend to be someone
> they're not. The joy of creating things and solving hard problems
> can't easily be glamorized on TV, because it's a deeply personal
> experience. In some sense it's like a religious experience. But in my
> opinion it's also the most satisfying kind of experience. This is what
> leads to fulfillment. It seems to me that the kind of experiences that
> pop culture promotes are the shallow, unfulfilling kind. It's like
> drinking salt water to quench thirst, your thirst is never quenched,
> you just want more and more. All it leads to is more and more
> consumption, but never fulfillment.

Be careful of being too judgmental or narrow of thought. The pop
culture has created some pretty amazing things - you may not like them
all or may not be able to see the value, but its important to
recognise there can be something to be learned from them, even if its
just how things could be done better or what not to do. I feel its
better to reject things after you have tried to understand them rather
than reject them simply because they don't fit with your
tastes/desires/understanding. Its important to be open to new ideas
and thoughts.

Christian Lynbech

unread,
May 4, 2006, 4:11:09 PM5/4/06
to
>>>>> "Mark" == Mark Tarver <dr.mt...@ukonline.co.uk> writes:

...

Mark> Now in contrast, the C/C++ approach is quite different. Its
Mark> so damn hard to do anything with tweezers and glue that
Mark> anything significant you do will be a real achievement. You
Mark> want to document it. Also you're liable to need help in any C
Mark> project of significant size; so you're liable to be social and
Mark> work with others. You need to, just to get somewhere.

To me, this seems to imply that lisp projects ends up half-done with
mediocre documentation while C and C++ projects runs to glory
conclusion.

This isn't quite the impression I get from browsing over sites like
sourceforge or the stuff I run on my Linux box. In fact, I'll venture
the claim that the are many many more half-completed burned out C
wrecks than lisp, at least as far as the open source scene goes.

Mark> The Lisp machines were a product of this kind of vision.
Mark> It was, as Gabriel once said, the Right Thing. Except of
Mark> course it wasn't. Here the refusal to compromise with the
Mark> market, and to use the platforms that the C bashers were using
Mark> proved in the long run to be a fatal mistake.

In what way wasn't the Lisp machines not the right thing? Is it not so
that several C bashing platforms have bitten the dust since the 80's?

There is, I think, a great tendency to see what has and is happening
to lisp as something completely unique and due to this and that
problem with lisp, the standards and/or the people surrounding. But
lots of once promising languages have shrunk to mere shadows of the
once great aspirations and the same goes for hardware. In the mid-80's
is was not that clear that the PC would grow to such a dominion of the
world.


------------------------+-----------------------------------------------------
Christian Lynbech | christian #\@ defun #\. dk
------------------------+-----------------------------------------------------
Hit the philistines three times over the head with the Elisp reference manual.
- pet...@hal.com (Michael A. Petonic)

numeromancer

unread,
May 4, 2006, 4:30:49 PM5/4/06
to
Thanks for this link! I shall read it with relish.

I had wanted to leave professional programming to teach mathematics. I
spent some time in a teacher training mill before I gave it up. The
classes were invariably some combination of uselessness and hostility
to rational thought. From professors of "Mathematics Education"
telling me that students do not need to learn proofs in Geometry, to
classes in "Action Research" (a horrible misapplication of scientific
method), to immoral test down-dumbing in the name of "individualized
learning", to horrible parents, to fundamental mistakes in the Ohio
state math standards used as the curriculum bible here, to innumerable
other assaults on the intellect, I decided it was not for me. And that
I will never send my children to a public school in the United States.

To paraphrase Tom Paine, too much time in not thinking a thing wrong
gives it the superficial appearance of being right (hence C, C++, et
alii---but there are far greater horrors than these; try Pick BASIC
8^@ : I am currently steeped in its petulent darkness. Vae Mihi. ).

While I can take some pride in being to pure for the sordid tastes of
that beast (teacher school), my not finishing it (and not finishing
other things) does seem to inculpate me as an object of this thread. Oh
well.

Tim S.

numeromancer

unread,
May 5, 2006, 10:52:14 AM5/5/06
to
Carelessness. Tsk, Tsk.

> to rational thought. From professors of "Mathematics Education"
> telling me that students do not need to learn proofs in Geometry, to
> classes in "Action Research" (a horrible misapplication of scientific
> method), to immoral test down-dumbing in the name of "individualized
> learning", to horrible parents, to fundamental mistakes in the Ohio
> state math standards used as the curriculum bible here, to innumerable
> other assaults on the intellect, I decided it was not for me.

From..., to..., to..., to..., to..., to...
Would be better as
After, ..., after ..., after ..., after ..., after ..., after ..., ...


> While I can take some pride in being to pure for the sordid tastes of

... too pure ....

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