Saturday, February 9, 2008

All Your Parenthesis Are Belong to Us

About the name. Just google it. You will find two kinds of mention. In one kind the author has never tried Lisp and is afraid of it and is trying to make Lisp advocates feel bad. In the other kind the author has tried Lisp and says no wonder Lispers are so smug.

OK, but why is it the name of this blog? Think of Queer Nation embracing the epithet. I'll have more to say another time about Turing who invented the computer just to prove a theorem, but long before Stonewall he refused to deny his affection for men at a time in my lifetime when England jailed people for whom they liked and got prosecuted for his courage even though he had single-handedly turned back the Nazis by parachuting onto an Enigma factory to steal one of the machines. I think I have that right. So much for courage -- they made him take hormones that gave him titties to stay out of jail and two years later he killed himself -- but I digress.

smuglispweeny you call me? Lessee...

Smug? "
marked by excessive complacency or self-satisfaction". Well, excessive does not work because I am if anything insufficiently complacent and self-satisfied about Lisp but that's a quibble and I hate quibbles so sure, color me smug.

Lisp? Duh.

Weeny? Sinking to the level of schoolyard name calling, are we? Super, that level is as far as I got. But you won't get an insult back, I am just standing here with this smug grin. What gives?

Easy. Lisp is that good. Call me anything you like as long as lisp is in there somewhere. No Lisper has any doubt that Lisp is far and away superior to everything else out there so if you call us names we are just gonna get it printed up on T-shirts. Before you argue read The Road to Lisp to hear what other weenies have to say. Quiz Friday. OK, now you can argue. Or download one free trial Lisp or another and maybe learn something. Or...

If you love the bleeding edge and want to join a brand new Lisp community consisting mostly of brand new Lispers, try Arc. Arc is the brandest newest Lisp and brought to us by Paul Graham, a better advocate for Lisp than I. I would link to Paul's specific page on Lisp if Firefox was worth a damn and I could see the navigation icons. Arc is Scheme with two fixes from Common Lisp -- unhygienic macros and NIL as false -- and small doses of syntax in return for denser code and fewer parentheses (but not so few as to lose the tremendous advantage (yep) they offer when thrashing code).

After Arc makes you fall in love with Lisp, take up Common Lisp. Not Scheme, a failed experiment in minimalism and purity and all sorts of qualities useless to Real Programmers, an experiment brought to you by academia -- nuff said?

Common Lisp resources: Paul Graham also wrote not one but two fine books On Lisp. The good news about On Lisp is that it is a free download, the bad news is that it is pretty advanced, save that till week two. Peter Seibel wrote the newest Lisp tome, Practical Common Lisp, comprehensive yet built around real-world projects hence the title. Available in print from Apress.

Your final great resource is Usenet, comp.lang.lisp to be specific. Read it daily once you have switched to Lisp for a continuing education in Common Lisp.

As for this blog, it will be about Lisp, application programming in general, dispatches from the trenches of my current application in particular, my Cells project (in a domain the grownups call functional reactive programming), RDF (my latest crush), and more Lisp because software matters and the world would be a better place with better software and that means Lisp.

Let us pray.

16 comments:

Geoff Knauth said...

Alan Turing did not parachute anywhere to capture an Enigma. Enigma machines and code books had already been captured by others. Turing's enormous contribution was to tell his fellow codebreakers to build a decoder built on mathematical principles to eliminate impossible solutions, thus greatly speeding the search for the correct decryption of messages. The PBS Nova program gives a nice account of Turing's insight.

Geoff Knauth said...

After Arc makes you fall in love with Lisp, take up Common Lisp. Not Scheme, a failed experiment in minimalism and purity and all sorts of qualities useless to Real Programmers, an experiment brought to you by academia...

What?? There is no need to slam academia or Scheme. Your beloved Common Lisp was created and refined by academics. Common Lisp is useful, mature and large. You can spend long happy days with CL as you can studying art in the Louvre or Hermitage, or writing the next War and Peace. Scheme, on the other hand, I would call an inventor's paradise. It is rumored that Eli Barzilay creates a new language with it every day.

Real Programmers can code in CL, yes, but a true Real Programmer also makes wise use of Scheme.

bruce said...

The correct spelling is "weenie."

Sohail Somani said...

Crap, another lisp blogger who blogs more than Lisps.

Sohail Somani said...

PS: Joking

Bruce -- said...

Welcome, brother!

Kenny Tilton said...

Haha, the world contains a supposed higher lifeform that worries about the spelling of weeny? Besides... http://wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=weeny

Kenny Tilton said...

I like my history of Turing better than Geoff's. We are the United States, we get to invent the truth. As for needing to slam academia, hey, I do it for fun, not out of need. But seriously folks, a recurring theme on this blog will be that there is something about actually having a job to do that makes things go better. Design something in the abstract and the wheels come off. Look at Steele's constraints language... well, that is a whole blog entry for another day. But apparently Graham agrees: he is developing the web stuff to "push down on the core language".

Kenny Tilton said...

Yeah, Eli seems to be having fun with Arc.

Kenny Tilton said...

Bruce was kind enough to remind me of a lonnnnggggg discussion of weeniness: http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?SmugLispWeenie

Leslie P. Polzer said...

Hey, congratulations on your new blog, old man. I added you to my weeny blog roll.

Anonymous said...

Six posts before you tell the entire world (your address book, at least) about your new blog? Looks good so far. . .

pef said...

Aha :) Why did you mention comp.lang.lisp ? You don't really intend to frighten every single newcomer, do you ? :)

Dow Jones Index said...

Hi Kenny,

I spent 3-6 months reading c.l.l. before I ever cracked a textbook, cutting and pasting stuff into CMUCL to poke at. That gave me plenty of insight and dreams of potential. Later the textbook was a fast read tying loose deduced bits together or fixing wrong ideas. Much better than constantly cross referencing a textbook trying to deduce what the author means in a paragraph. It is good to see the fire before you embrace it.

Academia "refined" Lisp? Nope, Xerox, TLM and DoD and other productive users did that...academia helped with spelling.

Oh, once you had a working Enigma machine, and code books, etc. off of U110, you really didn't need a Turing...who apparently showed up late.
"Decryption was made possible in 1932 by Polish cryptographers".
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultra_(WWII_intelligence)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enigma_machine
Fancy machines and stuffy people provide an excellent cover for other activities.

rsynnott said...

Apparently, he was caught because he didn't realise it was still illegal...

Is pointing people towards Arc as a starting point really such a great idea?

Kenny Tilton said...

Is pointing people towards Arc as a starting point really such a great idea?

Undecided, watch this space. Part of me says "There is no such thing as bad publicity" and part of me says "Cool, we finally found an example of bad publicity."