Tag Archives: poetry

A reading of Tim Berglund’s “Oh, The Methods You’ll Compose”

Transcription: “Oh, The Methods You’ll Compose”.

When a coder sits down to start banging out code
The first thing to start crowding his cognitive load
Is whether his program will do what it should
Correctness, he says, is what makes my code good

It’s the function that captures the coder’s attention
Behaviors and inputs and outputs are mentioned
As if the one good that a coder can bring
Is to spin the right wheels on some Turing machine

And compiling and linking and running are great
(We need to do these to put food on our plate!)
But the shocker that might leave you scratching your head
Is that actual code is less written than read

We spend more of our time in maintaining our stuff
Than we ever spend writing the simplest of cruft
Which means that unless you’ve got something the matter
You’ll try to learn just a few code style patterns

So coders and countrymen, lend me your ears
As I teach you some lessons won hard through the years
From that Beckian book about implementation
And patterns that derail code suckification

Read the rest.

“Say what you mean. Bear witness. Iterate.”

I went on an interesting journey online last night that led me to the source of the above phrase, a poem on mortality, entropy, memory… and databases. Yes, you read that right.

I read Tor.com’s wonderful blog almost once a day to check up posts on books, favorite sci-fi and fantasy TV Series, and more. Yesterday they had a post featuring a striking photograph by Cat Valente of some haunting graffiti with the title of of this post scrawled out. She had recognized the line from an earlier post in Tor.com’s Poetry Month series, “John M. Ford’s sonnet ‘Against Entropy’”. Reading the comments in that post led to the original source of the poem, where it was written and shared for the first time.

In 2003 Patrick Nielsen Hayden posted about how moved he was by Andrew Brown’s writing about the slow and terrible death of a friend’s wife. He lamented, If I were a better writer I’d conclude by yoking the trivial to the tragic, relating the twin inevitabilities of death and database error by means of a rhetorical figure involving worms.. In the comments of that post, John M. Ford, the writer Neil Gaiman said of, my best critic … the best writer I knew, wrote the following:

The worm drives helically through the wood
And does not know the dust left in the bore
Once made the table integral and good;
And suddenly the crystal hits the floor.
Electrons find their paths in subtle ways,
A massless eddy in a trail of smoke;
The names of lovers, light of other days –
Perhaps you will not miss them. That’s the joke.
The universe winds down. That’s how it’s made.
But memory is everything to lose;
Although some of the colors have to fade,
Do not believe you’ll get the chance to choose.
Regret, by definition, comes too late;
Say what you mean. Bear witness. Iterate.

A poem, written in a blog post comment in 2003, shows up on a physical wall in 2012.

The poem speaks loudly about the ends of things, our role, and even the work I do, which has everything to do with building systems that can adapt and grow in the face of bit rot and lack of attention.

Damn it, I don’t care if it isn’t hip, I still love the Web.

For Whom The Bell Tolls

The famous quoted passage from John Donne below has been brought up a few times the past few weeks. Here is the whole: “Meditation 17″:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Emma’s first poem

My friend Howard Hall is a gifted poet who can coalesce a lot of truth in a few syllables. He’s been featuring among his poems handwritten pieces from others under the tag “secondhand haiku” on his blog (non-breaking space).

Emma has a way with words and stories which is just natural – all children have greater insight into the truth of our existence than we do I think. Over time, we simply forget, or we lose touch with it. I wondered if I could scribble down some sentences of hers, could they could be constructed into a haiku we could send? I had collected a pretty good list of sentences and phrases, but the eureka moment happened when I tried to share with Emma what a poem was. I don’t remember what I said, but when Emma explained it back to me, “When you draw with pictures and draw words, it’s a poem”, it was far better put then I had put it – I felt like I learned something from her. I retrieved “Color with crayons” from her list of sentences and phrases and read it back to her. I told Emma we were going to send it to Howard, that the two sentences were a certain kind of poem. She was pretty excited.

The next challenge was finding a way for her to write it. Emma can’t spell (except for a few words like her name, mommy and daddy) yet of course. She’s just 3 and 3/4 years old! But she can write each letter independently well. Richelle is very talented with visuals and Emma listens to her whenever they work on a project together, so she instructed Emma to write each letter of each word, reading them out as they went. Having her switch markers so that each line could be indicated by color was a smart idea. Emma drew some of her trademark characters (you gotta see the art all over the house!), and we scanned it in and sent it to Howard.

He featured it November 18th!

crayonpoem.jpg

Howard calls non-breaking space “a digital expression of an analog impulse”.

What better way to describe the core that drives so much of blogging, social networking, twittering, and just reaching out online? I can’t think of one.

Labor Day links

Salon.com: Who are the wealth creators?:

Material production is only one of many activities that enrich a society. Public goods like safety and utilities and infrastructure and parks are part of the wealth that we share in common. So are many private goods that sometimes are best provided by the public, like public education and inexpensive healthcare.

By all means, then, let us celebrate virtuous capital owners and visionary investors as “wealth creators” on Labor Day. And let us celebrate as well as the other creators of private wealth, on the assembly line and in the office cubicle and in the janitorial closet, and the creators of public wealth in the form of roads and subways and parks, and the police officers and soldiers without whom a high level of public and private wealth could neither be created nor preserved. There are criminals and parasites among all classes of society, but most of us are wealth creators, and we deserve to be recognized as such.

FT.com: US families turn to food stamps as wages drop

NYTimes: Surge in Homeless Pupils Strains Schools

Change.org: 5 Things You Absolutely Must Know About Homelessness

True Homeless Stories: HearMyStory.org

(via Susie Madrak)

Hope you had a good Labor Day!