Abstractions, abstractions, abstractions

An abstraction is a boundary with two sides. On the top side, the abstraction presents a simplified view. Below, there is something more complex and more real. The purpose of the abstraction is to obscure what is really going on.

The world hidden underneath an abstraction is quite likely to be yet another abstraction. In fact, it is typical to have many abstractions stacked together, each one attempting to present an illusion which is even further from the truth. If you stack them up vertically, the ones at the bottom are more real than the ones at the top.

This is what programmers do. We build piles of abstractions. We design our own abstractions and then pile them up on top of layers we got from somebody else. Abstractions can be great. We use them because they save us a lot of time. But abstractions can also cause lots of problems.

So begins a great essay on the programmer practice of building abstractions and using them. Like Rafe I’m disappointed he ends such a great piece with evangelism (.NET over Java), but again, like Rafe, I feel you can ignore it. A good read.

Apple gets it

The iTunes Music Store is launching with a library of 200,000 tracks, with participation from all five of the major record labels. In addition, the store will list exclusive tracks from 20 artists, including Bob Dylan and U2.

The songs cost 99 cents to download, with no subscription fee, and include the most liberal copying rights of any online service to date.

CNET: Apple unveils music store. Look’s like my wife’s iBook just became more valuable to me 🙂 I wonder if they will open this service to independent artists? Maybe at a special rate?

Update: Salon: I have seen the future of music and it is iTunes.

The New Normal

…”let’s be clear: The ’90s were not normal . The thing I am most certain of in this world is that the technology universe will not see that ’90s type of growth explosion again — not in our lifetime. This is the New Normal, and it’s about the rest of your life. So the first piece of advice is, Let’s move on.”

Read the rest in Fast Company.

A Reason to Vote

“People don’t need more opinions, we already drown in data. People need clarity. Drill down.” That’s from my mission statement. This is a perfect opportunity to put that to practice and give you cynics out there a civics lesson.

What Senator Santorum said helps you to realize there are differences between the political parties. Pay attention to the related court case which will help define – constitutionally – many important questions, and is a demonstration of how important our choice of President is for whom he or she nominates to the Supreme Court.

Think about what the Senator said. What it says about him, his party, it’s leadership’s silence, and the questions poised by the court case.

For or against – think deeply about it.

Cynics shrug their shoulders and don’t vote.

It’s for reasons like these that exemplify why you must.

Register to vote . Make your opinion known when it counts – on election day.

“Urbi et Orbi”

“It’s not your standard bus tour. For three hours, passengers on the Drug War Reality Tour ride through North Philadelphia’s neighborhood of Kensington, seldom disembarking to see the sights on this trail of smuggling and addiction.

A short ride from Philadelphia’s Center City, the neighborhood has come to be synonymous with extreme poverty, drugs, the sex trade, and violence in the minds of many in the city.

Local textile jobs have long since gone to cheaper labor in the South and abroad. Boarded-up houses line the streets, lots stand vacant, and shops string razor wire along their rooftops to ward off burglars. Most of the businesses – liquor stores, pawnshops, check-cashing offices, and inexpensive Latin American or Chinese eateries – cater exclusively to the very poor.

But there’s another local economy in Kensington, though it’s an illegal one. The drug trade, says bus-tour organizer Arun Prabhakaran, is second only to public assistance as the major source of income in the neighborhood.”

CSMonitor, on Kensington, about the neighborhood and those fighting to change things.

I have a personal history here. It drove me to write this song. I wrote a letter to the CSMonitor, thanking them for the story. In it I told them that those who work to bring hope to such a dark place are fighting the good fight.

It’s something to consider for the local mayoral elections ahead. While I have issues with many Mayor Street initiatives, the Safe Streets program is helping to make Philadelphia a safer place. I think we are due for a party change for mayor. 50 years is long enough. But will Sam Katz keep this valuable, if expensive, program going? He mentions the scant evidence of a rise in arrests. But it’s not about arrests. It’s about kids being able to play on the streets. It’s about neighbors being able to linger on their front porches and talk to one another. It’s about being able to walk to school and fear your grades more then getting shot! That is the greatest achievement of the Safe Streets program. That’s no small feat. No small feat at all. It deserves recognition.

“Urbi et Orbi” – “(May there be) peace in other parts of the world, where forgotten wars and protracted hostilities are causing deaths and injuries amid silence and neglect on the part of considerable sectors of public opinion” Pope opens Easter Sunday mass with call to work tirelessly for peace. A message just as well for Kensington as for the Middle East.

May you have a happy, and reflective, Easter.

Last week was a great week

You had to be moved by what was accomplished last week. Those on the far left and far right need to re-think things.

Salon: Liberation Day and “It’s a catastrophe for tyranny. It’s a great day”.

USAToday: Iraqis share graphic tales of regime’s torture chambers.

But how are we doing with who we liberated a year ago? Salon: The last place we liberated.

We should support our troops and their families. It is an outrage to cut their benefits (read the story).

Keep in mind there are two kinds of influencing power: Hard power and soft power (link). When Teddy Roosevelt said “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.”, he was ment this. Doing both is considerably harder then walking and chewing gum at the same time, but you purests out there…

Site to watch: Draft Clark.