Sunday, January 28, 2018

The 3 Joys Of Self-Disclosure

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And has thou slain the jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.
 
’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

~ Lewis Carroll (from his poem Jabberwocky)
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Preamble ๐ŸŠ

 

One Fateful Sunday Afternoon…

As I waded through the outskirts of the marshy swamp one blustery Sunday afternoon, a boisterous bittern bit my butt off… While fleeting as fleeting could ever be, the experience was painful. Very painful. I’m telling you, it was a gangsta' bittern, a fleetin' gangsta, a thug! ๐Ÿ‘บ

It was almost as if the embittered bittern had been lying in wait for me, and then, sneakily using the element of surprise, pounced on me unawares as I enjoyed the Shrek's swamp. On top of that, having wrought irreparable damage to my rear, the gangsta' bittern darted away just as quickly as it had arrived on the scene, that bashful bittern did, leaving me disheveled and disoriented!

Alice in Wonderland Or Something!

Meanwhile, as I was lying supine on the barren heath at the edge of the adjoining marshy swamp, and no sooner had I finished licking my wounds, than I turned to my side that I fell into a… rabbit hole. And hey, I’m not talking about some proverbial rabbit hole; this was—read my lips when I say there's no fake news swirling around here—a legit, corporeal rabbit hole! ๐Ÿฐ

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What, You Started Smoking?!

Oh. My. God (See the pipe below? And I don't even smoke—never did and never will—so what's up with that!) ๐Ÿ’ฃ

Here's what: In brief, I draw your attention to the-schmancy smoking pipe below, otherwise known as The Treachery of Images—yes we have entered the realm of how things are sometimes (maybe often?) not quite what they appear to be—in the style of the Belgian surrealist artist Renรฉ Magritte. Keep this point in mind (as you read the remainder of the preamble) and you'll be good. I promise! ๐Ÿ˜ฝ

Your Blogger In Recovery Mode

When I came to, having clawed my way out of that labyrinthine rabbit hole—my harrowing encounter with the thug bittern slowly fading into the timeless horizon of pain and confusion—I found myself… dreaming ๐Ÿ˜ด

So there I was, dreaming (along with perhaps, and as best I can recall, the poetry of that big dawg, that fella', you know, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) in the refrains of The Slave's Dream like so, yo, beginning with some cafeteria talk of Uncle Ben's Rice or something. Check this out, rice bowl and all… ๐Ÿš
Beside the ungathered rice he lay,
His sickle in his hand;
His breast was bare, his matted hair
Was buried in the sand.
Again, in the mist and shadow of sleep,
He saw his Native Land
๐Ÿ‘€
Wide through the landscape of his dreams
The lordly Niger flowed;
Beneath the palm-trees on the plain
Once more a king he strode;
And heard the tinkling caravans
Descending the mountain road

Before him, like a blood-red flag,
The bright flamingoes flew;
From morn till night he…
๐Ÿฅ
Cut, cut! ๐ŸŽฌ

Yo, stop right there!! (Methinks I saw a reference above to some highfalutin pink birds or something, like… flamingoes? Arghh!!!).

I don’t want no mention of no bird around here no moh', Ann Lamott notwithstanding—and here I owe you the reference to a poem that sits atop an essay elsewhere—just having gotten my rear chewed by a cousin of the flamingo: dayum, the gangsta' bittern, you know! ๐Ÿ™
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Get Those Flamingos Out Of Here… Now!

Let’s take a deep breath now. Counting to 100… Whew, done! There, better? ๐Ÿณ

(And while all this talk of birds and fishes and surreal stuff may have come across as, um, fishy— by now you may have started noticing the fishiness already engulfing this essay what with the water splotches that I've added to the images on top of everything else going on—I urge you to carry on with the rest of the essay… Soldier on, only you can do what must be done!)

Remember how the mesmerizing movie The Highlander would seamlessly segue between past and present, foreground and background, reality and fantasy? Well, we are feeling bold enough to try some transmogrifying of our own! From the haunting heath upon which I had been waylaid by the bazooka-wielding bittern, we'll cut back in time to your blogger’s high school days… ๐Ÿ‘ฆ

Sailing to Byzantium now folks ⛵

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The Elements Of This Essay ๐Ÿ‘’


What’s going down? Here's what ๐ŸŽฃ

Without further ado, here then are the pit-stops in our semi-Kafkaesque ride that's about to commence. Buckle up and hang tight:
  1. The Joy Of Learning ๐Ÿ’‹
  2. The Joy Of Discovering One's Untapped Reservoirs ๐Ÿƒ
  3. The Joy Of Pushing Oneself To One’s Limits ๐Ÿ„
So there… ๐Ÿ‘ฆ
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1. The Joy Of Learning ๐Ÿ’‹


Yo, Memorize Yourself A Macbeth Soliloquy

This is what happened. Segue to modern times, Highlander-style of course…

There I was, a little wet behind the ears—and the wetness I'm talking about now has nothing whatsoever to do with the wetland outskirts upon which I had survived my bittern skirmish moments ago. Yep, so there I was, sitting all alert in my 11th grade English class in high school. Our teacher (I have yet to meet a stricter grammarian than him; more on that later!) announced on his arrival in the classroom that something urgent had come up so he wouldn't be able to teach our class that day ๐ŸŽ‰

No sooner had the first signs of euphoria begun washing across the parched landscape of our adolescent psyche, our English teacher announced—dude, without so much as missing a beat—that he needed for us to memorize a passage from Shakespeare's great tragedy Macbeth that day while he was attending to his emergency situation, or whatever had come up… ๐ŸŽญ

And all of us were like, "What a tragedy we 11th graders got on our hands, memorizing from a tragedy. Some self-referential mischief going on, too!" ๐Ÿ™ˆ

Shall We Do It?

Some muffled groans were discernible at the moment when our English teacher turned on his heels to walk away. Gawd, wherefore hath mercifulness departed? Left to our languishing condition—I was resigned to it anyway—the long minutes ticked away ⏰

As I sat there memorizing Macbeth’s soliloquy, I was jolted out of my reverie-like absorption by the sound—his voice tinged in equal parts by derision and curiosity—of a snide question from a classmate who was seated four columns to the right of my wooden desk: “Hey Akram, are you actually memorizing the passage?, he asked with incredulity as he looked up from the crumpled pages of The Enquirer magazine that was spread across his desk. And I was like, “Yes… Isn't that what Mr. Usmani had asked us to do for today's class?” (See, I was a little wet behind the ears, back in the day, knowing scant little about the ways of the world…) ๐Ÿ‘ถ
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Woohoo, I Done It!

Your blogger is happy to report that, having got the sordid Macbeth soliloquy down pat, when the time for final exams came around, the major essay-length question which was asked us adolescents—yay, for those rooting for me, and who had a premonition about where all this was going—to effuse on the philosophy of that very soliloquy (the one I had imprinted on my cranium, so to say, in literal-mindedly following Mr. Usmani’s directions on that fateful day earlier) ๐ŸŽƒ

Woohoo, I was off to the races! Dude, for one thing, and without so much wasting a minute, I eagerly took up my fountain pen—believe it or not, those relics were the required writing instruments back in the day—and even more eagerly committed to paper about 95% of Macbeth's soliloquy. Like, verbatim. And then… I effused mightily on what I had already written ๐Ÿ˜ผ

So it is not an idle boast as I tell you now—fast-forwarding by a few decades to the year 2018—with a certain amount of pride that I won the class prize for English that year ๐Ÿ†

There Ain't No Escapin' The Grammar Police

To keep my promise to you—juicy details about just how strict a grammarian my English teacher Mr. Usmani was—check this out: One day, and again taking you way back to my schooldays, one of my classmates returned to school, having recovered from a bout of the flu, and having missed a few days of school in that process.

Mr. Usmani, a great guy by the way, inquired into the welfare of my woebegone classmate, who, in a momentary lapse of remaining mindful of exactly who he was talking to, unwittingly replied—yeah dude, he forgot that he was testifying before the grammarian's grammarian—with the fateful words, "Sir, I had a fever" (O boy, am I glad he didn't add that his hands felt just like two balloons…) ๐ŸŽˆ๐ŸŽˆ

My mayne, the wording of that sentence—"Sir, I had a fever"—as you may have guessed, was way too much for the uber-refined, grammarian sensibilities of poor Mr. Usmani. Without missing a beat, he rhetorically asked my woebegone classmate, "Oh, so you didn't have two fevers or perhaps even three?" Clearly, our honorable English teacher hadn't been endeared much by my classmate's response in which he had (may the heavens forgive him for that) made the cardinal mistake of deploying an "a" right smack before the uncountable noun "fever" ๐Ÿ˜ฑ

Like, dude, classmate of mine—granted that you had managed to get past the delirious phase induced by your bout of influenza—what were you even thinking as you testified on high ground! Amirite? ๐Ÿ™Š

Oh. My. God (May the heavens bless his soul.)

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2. The Joy Of Discovering One's Untapped Reservoirs ๐Ÿƒ


This Is (Your) Spinal Tap

Before we move on to the third and final “joy”—and I had struggled with putting it right here instead, as the second joy, before cooler heads prevailed—do allow me to set your expectations regarding what the third “joy” will be about: covering the whole swathe of artificial intelligence (AI) in a single essay (Did anyone wish to enlighten their blogger about the fine art of tilting at windmills? Did anyone mention the name of Don Quixote? Did anyone now?)

Back now to the seamy details—shhh… this will be our secret, okay?—of how your blogger came to discover an inner strength (this will serve as a personal example of finding an untapped reservoir) that he scarcely could have imagined (Sigh, if only I could have been able to put it to regular use during my athletic career in school…)

Anyhow, this is what happened. Yo, this is what went down, bro' ๐Ÿ’

As a 10-year-old—clearly I’m taking you back to the Paleozoic era—what else  could have been on the mind of my neighborhood buddies and me but playing the fine sport of cricket and getting our grubby hands on all kinds of delectable stuff! Speaking of yummy things to eat, one sultry Sunday afternoon we all found ourselves all psyched up after an especially closely-contested cricket match in the neighborhood. We wanted to celebrate ๐ŸŽก

Wussup' with that? (Hang tight, because that exactly is that we're going to find out next…) ๐Ÿ”ฆ

Got No Money For The Fiscal Year

Reaching into our decidedly shallow pockets—not that we have deep pockets now in our present day dispensation—we were starkly reminded of our fiscal woes, of how remarkably impecunious we loitering lads all were… What to do? ๐Ÿ’ฐ

Somebody suggested that the berries—they grew luxuriously on the vine of the massive wall just three houses down from us—were ripe to eat! Brilliant idea, why hadn’t I thought of it earlier? In deference to our friend's brilliance, however, our motley crew wended its circuitous way to the ripe berries that were badly beckoning to us by that time.

We approached the wall through an empty plot of land, looking forward to the sweet feast of berries awaiting us! The berries on the vine were draped over wall, but out of reach. Luckily, there was a 5 inch-wide ledge along the perimeter of the wall, just high enough  to bring the delicacies within the reach of our grubby hands, still a bit dusty from the game of cricket (But who cared about the trifling matters of hygiene, back in the day!) ๐Ÿฝ

So we hoisted ourselves and, standing there on our toes, began our sumptuous feast ๐Ÿ‡

(Okay, now stay tuned, because this is where my literal-mindedness is about to come into its own in a blaze of glory and gold…) ๐Ÿ“บ ๐Ÿ‘‘

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A Gardener That Cared A Lot

As piano maestro Elton John once sang about the gardener that cared a lot and who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop, let's talk gardening. Actually not (basket-weaving is out, too, around here!)

No more than five minutes had passed when we heard a voice. It was the gardener of that house, coming in our direction, with—as best as I could tell—a rather grim and determined look on his face. With what I later realized was a scowl on the gardener’s face, he announced loudly, “I'm personally going to have you eat some of these berries!" ๐Ÿ‘บ

And I was, like, “What a great guy this kindly gardener is! He sure is going out of his way to help us lads out, down on our luck as I'm sure he saw all of us were, nice!!” (Little did I know…)

Well, after I took my eyes off the gardener, I noticed—as I quickly glanced around at my pals with whom I was feasting on the berries—that my cohorts were sprinting away through the empty plot of land. Why that was so (I mean, we had all heard this gracious gardener tell us a moment ago that he was personally going to have us eat some of the berries, hadn’t we? Amirite? What gives?) ๐Ÿ‘€
21 w d…signals of interrogation, friendship, threat and appeasement, instantly taken in, seldom, if ever, misread ๐Ÿ˜ณ
~ W. H. Auden

Yo, This Is What Went Down

This is what happened next: My entire life swam before me as the gardener came within 5 feet of yours truly. The scowl on his face had grown positively grimmer at that time. My instincts kicked in—all this transpired within a fraction of a second, largely unbeknownst to my conscious mind—and my alarmed amygdala told me to get my rear out of place in a jiffy! ๐Ÿš

19 w dI Sprint To Save My Life!

The following 10 seconds are etched in my memory: As the gardener started hauling himself over the wall, I was sprinting in the other direction. So fast was I sprinting as I could never have imagined myself doing. This was the flight part—of the "fight or flight" equation of stress—as I had never experienced before. Ever ๐Ÿ˜น

And no, that was not the end of it either. As I glanced back over my pumping shoulders, with the gardener in my pursuit, I saw a 4 foot tall wall (marking the boundary of the empty plot of land) straight ahead. This was no time to slow down. No Sir! Without so much as slowing down a bit, I maintained my sprinting pace and literally high-jumped over that wall; the 400 meters hurdles race on the track-field anyone? ๐Ÿƒ

I made it to safety unscathed and caught up with my cricket posse. Goodness, it was quite the education I got that day! ๐ŸŽ“

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3. The Joy Of Pushing Oneself To One’s Limits ๐Ÿ„

A sentence uttered makes a world appear
Where all things happen as it says they do;
We doubt the speaker, not the tongue we hear:
Words have no word for words that are not true
๐ŸŽญ
~ W. H. Auden
 

An Interlude To Magical Numbers…

Before I ask you to visualize something, I want you to keep the number 41 in mind. Nothing magical about that number. But since I brought up the shtick of magic numbers, I might as well digress a tad—into the realm of functional programming, a field in which I profess a deep and abiding interest—to tell you about how some people get a little carried away when it comes to magic numbers: Take the case of computer scientist Miran Lipovaca (who is the author of a really cool book on the functional programming language Haskell, entitled Learn You a Haskell for Great Good!: A Beginner's Guide) who shares with the reader a bit of his background by divulging how
…[in] addition to his passion for Haskell, he enjoys boxing, playing bass guitar, and, of course, drawing. He has a fascination with dancing skeletons and the number 71, and when he walks through automatic doors he pretends that he's actually opening them with his mind ๐Ÿ‘ž
Now how about that? But the number I’ve got for you—plain old 41—is rooted in prosaic reality (Hang tight. More in just a bit…) ๐Ÿ€

20 w dAin't Gonna Let Nobody Push Me Around!

Let’s now talk in earnest about pushing one’s own limits…

Yep, the time has arrived for you to picture something, which is simply this: There I was—your loyal servant the blogger—in the fairly early phases of putting together an essay that became Why I Worry About AI (Artificial Intelligence). I had at my fingertips a wide swathe off (intellectual) material to work with:
  1. The June 2016 commentary entitled Should We Fear Supersmart Robots? By Stuart Russell, which appeared in the venerable magazine Scientific American ๐Ÿ‘Š
  2. The theme of the classic movie 2001: A Space Odyssey—the story takes place thousands of miles out there in space, and you can read up the chill' conversation between HAL (the antagonist, an artificially-intelligent, sentient, and synthetic life-form) and Dr. David "Dave" Bowman (the protagonist and commander of the crew aboard the spaceship faring through outer space, alongside HAL) from the movie directed by Stanley Kubrick and written by Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick jointly, based on Clarke's short story The Sentinel ๐Ÿ‘ป
  3. The placement of the Emily Dickinson poem entitled XV: THE INEVITABLE ๐Ÿ‘ท
  4. A boatload of public domain images that I had culled for their significance and relevance to the subject at hand, and last, but certainly not least  ๐Ÿš›
  5. A Modest Proposal inspired by the unparalleled genius of Jonathan Swift's satire ๐Ÿก
Now how about that for a tonne of things to corral in a doozy essay?! (And did I even make mention of another essay, also on super intelligence, that it, in turn, inspired?)

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Yo, What Went Down

So this is what happened. This is what went down, yo ๐ŸŽช

As I contemplated what I had just gotten myself into—throwing caution to the wind and pretty much locking myself into a situation that I couldn’t rescind—I found myself telling telling myself (hey, how about that for meta-recursion?) something like, “You get what you get, and you don’t have a fit!” If full candor, the stark message in my self-talk did little to comfort me; I was in cognitive dissonance central…

Should I, in the spirit of the French Foreign Legion, follow the dictum, "When in doubt, gallop!” No, that’s not quite going to work; I really can’t run away from you all, dear readers, now can I? So in a fit of literal-mindedness, I plunged into the task of assembling no less than 41—see, I had told you that my magic number is rooted in far prosaic reality—short commentary sections which would make up the bulk of the essay. Gulp. Fo-fo,fo-…Forty one? Yes, brutha, 41 to be sure—that's exactically what's going down in our hood' ๐Ÿ“ฌ

Cutting To The Chase

To cut a long story short—you can see the results for yourself right here—I did pull it all off, mostly… (In the grand tradition of writing software code, I put a handful of strategic markers, the TODO(s), across the collage, with the sincere intent of revisiting and fleshing out the TODO(s)).

When it comes to discovering the unanticipated joys of literal-mindedness, yours truly has been there, done that, and got the T-shirt! (And had a ton of fun doing it) ๐Ÿ‘•

Yo, check out the cool cat below—hey, any feline that yawns half as endearingly as this one gets registered as cool in my book—and let me know: Is that the enigmatic disappearing Cheshire Cat or something? (I’m tellin’ ya, as if you hadn't noticed this before, especially you longtime readers: I’m a stickler for detail. No fake news ain’t gonna fly around in this neighborhood. Uh-uh!) ๐Ÿฑ

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When I communicate my thought and my sentiments to a friend with whom I am in full sympathy, so that my feelings pass into him and I am conscious of what he feels, do I not live in his brain as well as in my own—most literally? ๐Ÿ˜˜
~ Charles Sanders Peirce

Detective, Will We Ever Find Out?

Sigh, as to why the bittern was embittered in the first place… ๐Ÿข

Darn, perhaps I’ll never find out: After our brief skirmish, it had instantaneously disappeared like the Cheshire Cat (yo, this cat lover’s telling you about the feline Lewis Carroll’s book so fine called Alice in Wonderland), except that the bittern didn’t leave behind so much as a smile, dayum—methinks it would more likely have been a scowl—by way of a signature trace or something (that I could have run my spectral analyzer on for some forensics, dude, you know, X Files and stuff…).

Dude, what a specter. And yo, Inspector Clouseau, you better remain on high alert—or at least on standby for crying out loud—so we can lean on your legendary detective abilities when the moment arrives for serious forensics. Cool? ๐Ÿ˜Ž
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A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican.
He can take in his beak
Food enough for a week,
But I'm damned if I see how the helican
๐Ÿณ
~ Ogden Nash

More Birds Fluttering Around? Arghh…

 — Stop!!! ๐Ÿšง
 — Look, whatever you do, remember this, don’t do this bird talk (pelicans and stuff, you know). Yo, read my lips: No more—forsooth I say, no more—bird talk (although Car Talk is just fine). Take this from someone with a scarred psyche… ๐Ÿ˜ญ
 — What you talking about, foo? ๐Ÿ™‰
 — For crying out loud, yours truly, as he emerged from his delirium, was truly talking about the gangsta' bittern—heck, for all I know, it might as well have been a barrista bittern—that had swiped mightily at my sorry ass! ๐Ÿต
 — Oh, I see… ๐Ÿ˜‡
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It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious ๐Ÿ”ฌ
~ Alfred North Whitehead (English mathematician and philosopher)

Let's Do Trend-Spotting

By the way, it's trend-spotting that we are after; no train-spotting going on here… ๐Ÿš‚

See those tawny, spotted owls looking into the horizon in their selfsame act of trend-spotting? So what’s up with that? Yo, here's what’s happening: A good friend of mine, Edward, wrote up a book—Plato and the Nerd, published by The MIT Press in 2017—that has just a ton of things going for it. And FWIW, I’ve already written a ton about it. Here, though, I turn to an especially memorable thought, expressed quite musically, where Edward tells the reader how
Because our brains can only fit so much, specialization leads to fragmentation, where insights in one specialty become inaccessible to the others. It can be quite difficult for scientists and engineers to work across specialties. Wulf, writing about Alexander von Humboldt, points out that Humboldt’s integrative, cross-disciplinary approach to science went out of fashion (chapter 2), leading to Humboldt being largely forgotten by the scientific community. She observes that “this growing specialization provided a tunnel vision that focused in on ever greater detail, but ignored the global view that would later become Humboldt’s hallmark” 
With this tunnel vision, specialists know more and more about less and less, until they eventually know everything about nothing. Then they become professors, and the courses they teach become barriers, weeding out unsuspecting undergraduates who simply aren’t prepared for the sophistication of the specialty. The professors love their specialty, they want to teach it, and they cannot see that it is esoteric; the arcane and complex analytical methods they have developed are neither easily learned nor easily applied to practical problems. Their discipline fragments into further specialties, and each professor loses the big picture. None is qualified to teach the big picture, and anyway, his or her colleagues would consider any such big picture to be “Mickey Mouse,” too easy and unsophisticated to be worthy of their time.
Mayne, my mayne, what a gangsta' phrase that was now—that punchline you know, "With this tunnel vision, specialists know more and more about less and less, until they eventually know everything about nothing", to be precise—which methinks packed a walloping punch ๐Ÿ‘Š

Boom! Sucka, this is your main mayne in the hood, tellin’ ya, it sure got me down good, real good…
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Leveling With You

Let me level with ya: I’m all for reversing the pernicious trend of specialization (I’ve written some about it, as a matter fact, yo). Meanwhile, check out my friend Edward’s book. I’m telling you, it is—pardon my French—one helluva trip waiting for ya between the covers of zat book! Even moh’ meanwhile, and clearly my language is fast devolving—or dare I claim, evolving— into gangsta-speak… "Good grief!" as Snoopy would say to Woodstock ๐Ÿฅ

And say if I may—totally by the way—the jabberwock I did slay. Is that cool or what? Amirite? ๐Ÿ†

"So where’s the proof?," I heard someone ask… (Dang, some people just don’t take your word for it, now do they?) But hey, hey, check out what I got for you here now, yours truly about to slay the fiery dragon… ๐Ÿ‰
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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Krazy About Kafka!

Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself… ๐Ÿˆ
~ Douglas Adams (in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency)

 

Preamble ⛱


No doubt your mind is already reeling as you take in the admittedly enigmatic title of this essay—Krazy About Kafka—as you desperately try to get your bearings. And remember Dr. David "Dave" Bowman (the protagonist and commander of the crew aboard the forsaken spaceship faring through outer space, alongside HAL, the artificially-intelligent, sentient, and synthetic life-form) from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey? Yeah, so maybe you're even echoing his astonished ejaculation ("My God, it's full of stars!") as you frantically try to connect the dots. You’re, like… Arghh! ๐Ÿš€

Okay, let’s all of us take a deep breath now… Let’s size things up with a cool mind. For warm-up only, here's a starter-list of grievances that I've just been handed in a sealed envelope:
  • This blogger guy clearly doesn’t know how to spell (I mean, spelling the word “crazy" with a… “K” as in "Krazy" — Sheesh!) ๐Ÿ™Š
  • For crying out loud, like, we don't have even the foggiest idea whether this essay is going to be about Apache Kafka (the distributed streaming platform) or about Franz Kafka (the writer renowned for his visionary and profoundly enigmatic stories)? ๐Ÿ™ˆ
  • Did the blogger practically write this up on a sugar high at his local Krispy Kreme doughnuts shop or something? (It sure has been tasting pallid and sugary so far… All fluff, no stuff!) ๐Ÿ™‰
And the questions are piling on… You get the idea, right? Oh, you don’t! Well… ๐Ÿ˜น

Let’s do this: We will proceed with patching up the already-rocky start to our relationship by stopping at our nearest Krispy Kreme shoppe. Better still, let’s you and I head on over to the off-the-wall, monstrous doughnut joint below, which sure looks far more personalized and much less of a cookie-cutter doughnut shop than… ๐Ÿฉ

I mean, what better venue in which to cement our relationship, just you and me: Reader and Blogger, face-to-face!

(We’ll get this Kafka kraziness all sorted out lickety-split over some krispy doughnuts and maybe even sneak in a krafty slice or two of, what else, Kraft cheese! And hey, where's our Kool-Aid to go along with the munchies? Oh, and we will be sure to capture photographic evidence with, what else, a Kodak!) ๐Ÿ“ท
2 s

Enter The Antechamber ๐Ÿฉ

 

Having dunked a handful of chocolate doughnuts—yes, I do see the pile of glazed jalapeรฑo doughnuts so heaven help me with whatever sordid mess I’ve gotten myself into—we are talking freely like brothers in arms. So in full candor, then, here is what’s going to happen: We are going to have our cake and eat it too. Woohoo! ๐Ÿฐ

Now how about that? And we're going to have our cake and eat it while remaining comfortably seated in the ever-nutritious environs of our local doughnuts shop, even though I’m already beginning to miss the less seedy grounds of those Krispy Kreme shops! Anyhow, live and learn…
 — "Okayyyyy… How, exactly, do you intend to pull this off?”, I hear thou, dear Reader, asking of me, thine servant the Blogger, with more than a quizzical touch in your voice ๐Ÿ‘’
— "Are you trying to tell us—your long-suffering woebegone readers—that we can have our cake and eat it too by your somehow managing to create an admixture of two disparate elements (the two Kafkas) that our poles apart?" ๐ŸŽญ
— "Never a problem, always happy to solve the unsolvable”, I reply with perfect equanimity ๐Ÿ™
— “Hah, this one we’ve got to see to believe, Mr. Smarty-pants Blogger!" ๐ŸŒ
— “I mean, how can you possibly unify two elements that simply don't mix; they are like oil and water. Or—if you are into pets—ever tried to get cats and dogs along with one another? Hah, so there, Mr. Blogger-pants! (And don't forget to check out the selfsame, fractured-and-scattered-but-stitched-back-together Humpty Dumpty diaspora of sorts in the picture below showing the less-than-stellar results of attempts to get a cat and a dog to see each other in the eye. See their frosty-eyed glares? Yes, exactly those kinds of, um, results!)" ๐Ÿฑ ๐Ÿถ
— Without so much as breaking a sweat, I smile back and say “Be careful with your pronouncements now. Wait till you see what I've got for you next…" ๐Ÿ˜‰
17 s

The Philosophy Behind Mixing (The Two) Kafkas ๐Ÿญ

 

And taking a cue here from the quote atop this essay—with Douglas Adams babbling, Babel fish-style of course, about getting ready “…to grapple with the ineffable itself"—we reveal here in full candor the oh-so-subtle and easy-to-miss nexus between the Kafkaesque philosophy ala Franz Kafka (i.e. individuals burdened with guilt, isolation, and anxiety making futile attempts at personal salvation) and the distributed systems world as symbolized by the Apache Kafka mindset (i.e. building real-time streaming applications that transform or react to the streams of data) ๐ŸŽญ
12 s

Entering The Chamber Itself! ๐Ÿฉ ๐Ÿฉ ๐Ÿฉ … ๐Ÿฉ

 

Which brings me to a lovely quotation— it appeared in an intriguing article called Love Is Not Algorithmic—from the marvelous magazine we all love and know as The Atlantic:
There is no higher praise these days than being data-driven. A person who is data-driven is free of bias, and cuts through arguments with a sword of truth. No longer do we need to fumble through life. The answers will come. We will know how to respond, just what to do. We will let the data tell us!
And so it goes with Christian Rudder’s new book Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking), a synopsis of insights he gleaned from analytics while working at the company he co-founded, OKCupid. His company, he tells us, could easily sport the tagline "Making the Ineffable Totally Effable"  ๐Ÿ™Œ
Now how about that? Ready to get yourself a subscription to The Atlantic like me? (In full disclosure, I have zero vested interests, monetarily, in the venerable magazine; I am, however, fully vested—or should I say fully invested—in soaking up the amazing writing which their writing staff churns out on a regular basis!) ๐ŸŽฏ
3 s

The Elements Of This Essay ๐Ÿ‘’

 

Without further ado, here then are the pit-stops in our Kafkaesque ride that's about to begin:
  1. Start With What Is Right ๐Ÿ™‹
  2. Transforming (Gasp! Into An Enormous Insect…) ๐Ÿ›
  3. Decisive Moments In Human Evolution Are Perpetual ๐ŸŽก
  4. Back The World ๐Ÿ˜
  5. Place Permanent Trust In Something Indestructible ๐Ÿฐ 
Seated in the salubrious environs of the cantankerous—and cavernous—boutique doughnut shop, the Blogger’s eyes are searching for the Reader’s, eager for the highly anticipated platonic rendezvous to begin… ๐Ÿ‘ฆ

Then somebody puts a fistful of quarters in the jukebox and the shop is filled with INXS music:
I
I was standing
You were there
Two worlds collided
And they could never tear us apart
๐Ÿ’ช
I told you
That we could fly
'Cause we all have wings
But some of us don't know why
๐Ÿ’

~ INXS (Lyrics from Never Tear Us Apart)
Wow, what a start—one surely mind-to-mind—to the part where the Reader and Blogger meet!

(And what do we get? The collage, of course, which  is coming right up!) ๐ŸŽ

23 s

1. Start With What Is Right ๐Ÿ™‹

Start with what is right rather than what is acceptable ๐Ÿ‘ฃ

~ Franz Kafka
Any time scientists disagree, it’s because we have insufficient data. Then we can agree on what kind of data to get; we get the data; and the data solves the problem. Either I’m right, or you’re right, or we’re both wrong. And we move on ๐Ÿ‘บ
~ Neil deGrasse Tyson
As we dunk our very first doughnut, I look at the Kafka quotation above one more time—don’t worry, I won’t spell quotation with a “K”, at least not for now—and couldn’t help but wonder whether Kafka perhaps did some software design on the side, moonlighting or something… ๐ŸŒ˜

Then again, maybe not; his wild imagination (conjuring up human-to-giant-cockroach transformations at the drop of a hat and stuff like that), after all, is way too pedestrian for us technology types. Hey hey, way too prosaic. We are, after all, known for taking on far heftier problems, and for grappling with mind-bending issues that mere mortals dread! ๐Ÿœ

Nonetheless, in advising us to "Start with what is right”, Kafka sure had the right sort of idea, an idea that lies at the core of the design of the eponymous software library: Apache Kafka. While there is a lot—and I mean a whole lot more—that I can say about this topic of going about making the right choices (in software design), specifically in the context of Kafka, suffice it to see that the following passage does a good job of capturing an especially important slice of design decisions:
In addition to adding consumers in order to scale a single application, it is very common to have multiple applications that need to read data from the same topic. In fact, one of the main design goals in Kafka was to make the data produced to Kafka topics available for many use cases throughout the organization… Unlike many traditional messaging systems, Kafka scales to a large number of consumers and consumer groups without reducing performance ๐Ÿš‰
~ Neha Narkhede, Gwen Shapira, and Todd Palino (in Kafka: The Definitive Guide — O'Reilly)
Meanwhile, we've got a decision of our own to make: Which doughnut will we have the pleasure of munching next as we get deeper into plumbing the depths of Kafka… So let's move right on to the next element in our collage!

2. Transforming (Gasp! Into An Enormous Insect…) ๐Ÿ›

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into an enormous insect ๐Ÿž
~ Franz Kafka (in The Metamorphosis)
[Extreme processing] …some processing of data is inherent to data pipelines. After all, we are moving data between different systems where different data formats make sense and different use cases are supported. However, too much processing ties all the downstream systems to decisions made when building the pipelines. Decisions about which fields to preserve, how to aggregate data, etc. ๐Ÿš
~ Neha Narkhede, Gwen Shapira, and Todd Palino (in Kafka: The Definitive Guide — O'Reilly)
As the INXS song died down, somebody else walked up to the jukebox as the two of us—Reader and Blogger—sat face-to-face with all our energies focused on an intellectually charged and eminently platonic discussion of all things Kafka. And then we heard the next song playing in the background…
I'm your messiah and you're the reason why
'Cuz U - I would die 4 u, yeah
Darling if u want me 2
U - I would die 4 u
๐ŸŽธ

~ Prince And The Revolution (Lyrics from I Would Die 4 U)
Exactly the right sort of theme to mirror the transformational aspects embodied by all things Kafka; messiahs and reformers are of course the ones who help bring about transformations and reformations!

So we dunk our next doughnut, and talk some about extreme processing; how anticlimactic… ๐Ÿฉ

But then again, it’s data transformations that we are talking about—data pipelines too, for crying out loud! Visualize how, from nearly nothing (imagine the chrysalis in the picture above) we witness the unfolding of transformational beauty in the wings of a fully-formed Monarch butterfly. How beautiful is that? ๐Ÿ„

Indeed, while Apache Kafka is agnostic to whatever transformations we choose to apply to the data sitting in its wondrous topics, the beauty lies in the results obtained—think of all the delighted customers of our business—which enable end-users to do more with their lives!

It's all about data pipelines and, of course, connecting them—or wiring them if you will—to get out applications and our architectural designs to delight our customers. How we choose to aggregate data and, even more importantly, how we go about making sure that raw data—which I like to think of as the system of record—remains preserved in its pristine condition (right from the time we received it from our applications business transactions) ๐Ÿšƒ

Oh, by the way, we need to do all the above in a safe, efficient, and agile way! ๐Ÿ™€

3. Decisive Moments In Human Evolution Are Perpetual ๐ŸŽก

The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual. That is why the revolutionary spiritual movements that declare all former things worthless are in the right, for nothing has yet happened ๐Ÿ™†
~ Franz Kafka
Kafka has quickly evolved from messaging queue to a full-fledged streaming platform ๐Ÿ‚
~ Confluent (in What is Apache Kafka?)
I wonder what your reaction will be to the Kafka statue above

Meanwhile, perfect timing—as the song I Would Die 4 U was winding down—yet another doughnut aficionado walks up to the jukebox, feeds the insatiable dragon, and we hear…
Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide,
No escape from reality

~ Queen ( Lyrics from Bohemian Rhapsody) ๐Ÿ˜ต
Oh. My. God.

Coming on the heels of a princely song—I mean we had just finished listening to Prince And The Revolution—we are slightly unnerved as we try to absorb the uncanny coincidence of now being serenaded to queenly music (Queen’s good old Freddie Mercury about to sing what is probably their deepest song ever).

But we—Reader and Blogger—try our best to remain unfazed by the digital (anyone see analog or, dare I say, analogous?) gusts of probabilistic uncertainties buffeting us. We are brave souls and proceed intrepidly with dunking our third doughnut each. Yeah!! (Gotta' keep all these fabulous doughnut shops in business, after all. In full disclosure, we technology types are, at times, driven by the noblest of causes!)

Look, the animus of human evolution, as ever, remains in perpetual flight ๐Ÿ‰

Taking a cue from the world of academia— specifically the stark reminder to "publish or perish”—two of us get to talking about how Apache Kafka as evolved (with its latest stage being the cool work taking place at Confluent) to enable us technology types to take advantage of the ever increasing capabilities of Kafka. It’s a great story, and it’s awesome to be a part of it! That much we agree on; how we get from point a to point B is a different story…

Remember how the mesmerizing movie The Highlander would seamlessly segue between past and present, foreground and background, reality and fantasy? Well, we are feeling bold enough to try some transmogrifying of our own! Our hope in doing so is to find a nexus between the decisive moment in human evolution being perpetual on the one hand and Kafka having evolved (from a messaging queue) into a full-fledged streaming platform on the other ๐Ÿš€

And it's really not as complicated as it might seem at first blush: all we are really talking about is how messages are merely opaque byte arrays to Kafka itself even as we suffer developers remain tantalizingly beguiled by the likes of JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) and good—or bad old, depending on your opinion—XML (Extensible Markup Language) and stuff like that.

Did anyone see schema? And did I really hear some noise in the background about strongly typed data typing and schema evolution, not to mention the lovely concerns of compatibility—both backward and forward to be sure! (Apache Avro anyone? Yoohoo, anyone?) ๐Ÿ˜

(Meanwhile, the two of us can’t help but wonder what fate has in store for us next… We wonder which free song—Reader and Blogger are both confirmed cheapskates who would prefer keeping our hard-earned quarters in our wallet and purse—will one of our fellow doughnut patrons play for us next on the jukebox? More importantly, which kind of doughnut—cinnamon-sugar or Bavarian creme or apple-crumb or just plain old glazed—shall we treat ourselves to next? For anyone snickering at our priorities, allow me to solemnly remind you that our flights of intellectual virtuosity need to be fueled by that most refined of things: refined sugar, what else?) ๐Ÿฉ

4. Back The World ๐Ÿ˜

In the struggle between yourself and the world, back the world ๐Ÿšš
~ Franz Kafka
Data written to Kafka is written to disk and replicated for fault-tolerance. Kafka allows producers to wait on acknowledgement so that a write isn't considered complete until it is fully replicated and guaranteed to persist even if the server written to fails ๐Ÿง
~ Kafka (Online documentation)

And then the music stopped. It did. It just did ๐ŸŽถ

It was followed by… eerie silence. We politely cleared our throat wondering—in a fitful acuteness which seemed to grow by the second—which brave doughnut patron would step up to face the "dragon" (excuse me, I got a bit carried away there as all I had in mind was the "jukebox") and replace the steely quietness with the soft ambience of tunes? Anyone? ๐Ÿ‘น


Our prayers were answered as we heard quarters making rattling sounds on their way to being consumed by the fire-breathing dragon—darn those Freudian slips! You know the story by now, don’t you? Yep, exactly. As the quarters sank into the bottomless maw of the jukebox, we heard…
Stood there boldly
Sweatin' in the sun
Felt like a million
Felt like number one
The height of summer
I'd never felt that strong
Like a rock
Like a rock, I was strong as I could be
Like a rock, nothin' ever got to me
Like a rock, I was something to see
Like a rock


~ Bob Seger (Lyrics from Like A Rock)

There was no talk this time around. Instead, being the true techies that we are, the two of us—Reader and Blogger—sitting face-to-face (with a new doughnut each in our hands of course, what else did you think?), our mental energies remained, as ever, laser-focused on discussing ever-widening facets of all things Kafka ๐Ÿ‘ป

This time around, with the Bob Seger song playing in the background, on parts naturally turn to an especially important and rock solid aspects of Kafka: scaling out our application and enabling us to handle failures gracefully!

(The discussion was so heady that all I can recall is… Nothing! Clearly, more refined sugar is warranted: onto the next doughnut then?) ๐Ÿฉ

In the travails of fading retentiveness, the few wisps of memory that survive point in the direction, ironically enough, of surviving failures. Aha! That's got to be the stuff of—no, not magic, sorry, nothing as fantastical as that going on here—scaling our software applications even as we ensure their ability to gracefully handle failures. What to do, Scooby Doo? ๐Ÿถ

Not to fear, my dear, the solution's rather linear—Kafka to the rescue: It's highly available; in the face of application failure, a Kafka-based application can simply look up its last position in the stream (from Kafka) and continue processing from the last committed offset.

Easy as pie! ๐Ÿฎ

5. Place Permanent Trust In Something Indestructible ๐Ÿฐ

Man cannot live without a permanent trust in something indestructible in himself, though both the indestructible element and the trust may remain permanently hidden from him๐Ÿ’‹
~ Franz Kafka
[Immutable data records]… Events, once occurred, can never be modified. A financial transaction that is cancelled does not disappear. Instead, an additional event is written to the stream, recording a cancellation of previous transaction… If you are familiar with binlogs, WALs, or redo logs in databases you can see that if we insert a record into a table and later delete it, the table will no longer contain the record, but the redo log will contain two transactions—the insert and the delete ๐Ÿ“•
~ Neha Narkhede, Gwen Shapira, and Todd Palino (in Kafka: The Definitive Guide — O'Reilly)
Something magical happened. Making a clean break with years and years of cheapskate habits, I stood up and walked to the jukebox (Remember now that I'm a regular at this—and pretty much all other—doughnut shops where I'm on a first-name basis with everyone!)

Everyone gasped… ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Witnessing a sight—your Blogger actually plunking down his own money to get the jukebox to play a song—that no one, myself included, had witnessed before, I reached for quarters in my pocket and… I came up empty. Panic started to grip me ๐Ÿ˜ง

Detecting telltale signs of defeat in my eyes, my loyal Reader stood up and, without skipping a beat, graciously came to my rescue. Woohoo!

Gotta’ love my readers ๐Ÿ’

Reaching into her purse, she deftly fished out the exact number of quarters (clearly, the alien act of using one's own money for a jukebox wasn't alien at all to my comrade, the Noble Reader) that would make the dragon (correction, the jukebox!) cough up another song to fill the solemn hush that had descended on the doughnut parlor right at the moment when we were feeling emboldened enough—having of course just listened to Bob Seger’s rock solid song—to pursue one final element of Kafka coolness before bidding our farewells, the Reader and I… ๐Ÿ‘‹

As the quarters sank in—not from the Blogger’s pocket to jukebox but from the Reader’s purse to its maw though I wouldn't quite pronounce chivalry dead yet—we heard an oldie goldie… ๐Ÿ†

Oh. My. God (Doing a double take, times two!) ๐Ÿ‘€
So, if an old friend I know
Drops by to say hello
Would I still see suspicion in your eyes?
Here we go again
Asking where I've been
You can't see these tears are real
I'm crying
We can't go on together
With suspicious minds
And we can't build our dreams
On suspicious minds ๐Ÿ˜ผ

~ Elvis Presley (Lyrics from Suspicious Minds)
A flood of thoughts cascades in our minds, and we are left wondering if we are perhaps owners of suspicious minds… I mean, that oh-so-crucial quality of placing our permanent trust—the absence of which of course is the motif we were hearing the King cry about plaintively in his lovely song: suspicion.

On the one hand, listening to Kafka, we feel pulled toward his pronouncement that humans “...cannot live without a permanent trust in something indestructible in himself, though both the indestructible element and the trust may remain permanently hidden from him.” On the other hand, knowing full well, as technologists, the criticality of immutable data records, we feel pulled in a different direction. The result: cognitive dissonance <insert one primal scream here!> ๐Ÿ˜ฑ

What happened next? How did we—who else but us, Reader and Blogger, still sitting face-to-face with another delicious doughnut each in our hands—manage to reconcile the conundrum in which we found ourselves?

Sigh… While all is good, and even though the outcome was great, the ensuing discussion took up  another full two hours. And yes, as you may have guessed by now, there lies the rub: our discussion was extensive enough, and then some, to the point. It’s simply impossible to even begin summarizing the high points. Basically, trying to catch the deluge in a paper cup has been tried before—with scant meager success—so I'm not going there… ๐ŸŒŠ

This point was doubly hammered home for us revelers when—completely oblivious to our surroundings as we had become by that time—the neighborly owners of the doughnut shop stopped by our table and told us, in the gentlest of words (knowing full well, what’s more, that they wanted us to remain their loyal customers forevermore) that the doughnut shop, um, needed to close for the night… ๐Ÿšง ๐Ÿฉ ๐Ÿšง

The rest, as they say, is history. Speaking of which, I remind us all of the marvelous message in the words—and here I’m paraphrasing from memory—of American philosopher George Santayana that
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it ๐Ÿ—ฟ
At this point, we knew that if we wanted to come back the doughnut shop—and we certainly did—we decided not to run the risk of getting kicked out. So we politely stood up with an all-knowing look in our eyes that told everyone that we, of course, knew what we were doing all along, we departed our own many ways. Of course we knew that the shop was about to close. Of course we were about to head out anyway. Of course… ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Before we head into the sunset, let's have a listen to these eloquent words:
I thought that since Kafka was a system optimized for writing, using a writer’s name would make sense. I had taken a lot of lit classes in college and liked Franz Kafka. Plus the name sounded cool for an open source project. So basically there is not much of a relationship ๐ŸŽŽ
~ Jay Krepps (Lead designer of Apache Kafka)
A tad anticlimactic—we were expecting the origins of  the name chosen for what became Apache Kafka to be a bit more dramatic—but pretty cool on the whole eh? ๐ŸŽ 




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Dedication ๐ŸŒน

 

I fondly dedicate this essay to my muse. I revere her; my very DNA undeniably reveres her ๐Ÿฑ

(No muse, no essay; all I would otherwise do is sachet, and you ain't gonna get no essay that way!)

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The 5 Most Valuable Lessons For Programmers

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word ๐ŸŒน
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

1 f 

Preamble ๐Ÿ˜—


Boiling The Ocean

If I had to distill what I’ve learned in my programming career that spans over two decades now—and going strong—it would boil down to the following five lessons:
  1. Diversify ๐Ÿ’ฐ
  2. Read ๐Ÿ“•
  3. Write ๐ŸŽจ
  4. Seek Mentors And Mentor Others ๐ŸŽ“
  5. Find Your Passion ๐Ÿ”ฅ
Why five? Why not 10 or 15 or more? you might well ask… Fair questions both ๐Ÿ‘€

First, in asking me to share more than five lessons—trust me, I’ve got plenty more that I could share—you run the risk of opening Pandora’s Box because of my well-known propensity (notoriety, in the mind of some) for exploring ever-widening swathes of related ideas.

Second, this is the age of the soundbite, one to which I could have remained immune for only so long… (Trust me, I can write plenty more, secure in the knowledge that many of you will enjoy it, but acutely aware at the same time that some of you might find your eyes glazing over at my whale-like paragraphs) ๐Ÿณ

Third, a happy medium of five lessons suggested itself to me; not too little, not too much. So that’s what you get this time around (Should you wish for more, simply ping me and I’ll be happy to share more!)

With that, let’s dive right in to the top five lessons that came to my mind unbidden, almost subliminally. See, this is what happens—subliminal stuff and somnambulism and scorching metaphors and whatnot—when one starts quoting Edgar Allen Poe and his squawking raven as I have in recent essays! ๐Ÿง

My Use Of The Term “Programmers"

It seems pretty reasonable to say that the image which the term "programmer" will conjure up in your mind is one of “software designers”, “software engineers”, “ computer scientists”, and such. This group of  practitioners—of which as you know I am one—lies on a spectrum so I feel comfortable in generalizing (the term "programmer") to the even broader spectrum of technologists and, frankly, all practitioners who are looking to raise the level of their game ๐Ÿ„

2 f
Yes, the diving board above is there for a purpose now: to launch you into the deep blue waters of the inviting swimming pool above for some free—yes, free as in air—lessons on the practice of programming ๐ŸŠ

Ready to dive right in? (Our craft is vast, and our lifetime all too brief) So let's go! ๐Ÿš•

3 fDiversify ๐Ÿ’ฐ

See the Saturn rings in the picture above? And no, we are not entering the twilight zone of diversifying financial portfolios and bean-counting either—stuff best left to financial wizards. We are, however, very much diving head-first into the ocean that is the realm of a (sustainable) career in the world of programming. More specifically, think of this dive as an exploration of the wellsprings that can fuel your passion over the long haul ๐Ÿš€

First, though, let me tell you about the wellspring of my inspiration for choosing “Diversify” as the very first lesson that I want to share with you… It goes back to an article in a programming magazine by one of my programming heroes, the late John Vlissides. Way back then, when I was designing programs in the C++ programming language, I read an article by Vlissides that was intriguingly titled “Forget C++!” I did a double take, as you can imagine, before settling down to devour the new nuggets of wisdom which Vlissides was about to share… ๐Ÿ’ฐ

In a nutshell, his message was this: Diversify—never allow the narrowing of your vision. And to which I would like to add that the narrowing of one's vision is right up there with the clogging of one's arteries. You'll want to avoid both! ๐Ÿ’”

4 fRead ๐Ÿ“•


As they say, a nation of readers is a nation of leaders. Closer at hand—as I’ve come to understand how this advice applies to the world of programming—read programs written by great programmers, programmers whose work you admire. All great writers were readers once. And while the reading process, once begun, should never really end, it simply has to begin. It is through exposure to great programs that (and this is where the lesson to read comes in) you learn how to write great programs.

I can trace this priceless listen to a piece of advice from The Pragmatic Programmers: the duo of Dave Thomas and Andy Hunt… ๐Ÿ‘ฌ

In the end, and even if you forget everything else, please remember this: Taking a leaf from the gardeners and farmers of the world, let us—after of course taking a cue from my nemesis the Bard to get rid of all the language lawyers—go out in earnest and Read The Farming Manual (I mean, our brethren the UNIX gurus have exactly the right sort of idea in admonishing us all to RTFM) ๐ŸŒพ ๐ŸŒพ

5 fWrite ๐ŸŽจ


Lest you jump to the conclusion that the tools in the picture above are what I use for writing, I should hasten to add that—much as I wish they were—they are not. Alas, and this is a long story, we stopped writing (I imagine this applies to the vast majority of fellow humans on planet Earth) in longhand. Sigh…

But all is not lost; we have at our disposal a reasonably good set of alternate tools to ply the craft of writing (both prose and programs). Yay! ๐Ÿ‘“ ๐Ÿ“˜ ๐Ÿ’ป ๐Ÿ“Œ ๐Ÿ“— ๐Ÿ“™ ๐Ÿ“•

"No impression without expression", so goes an intriguing adage that I came across in the pages—gulp, I do confess to having been a fan boy, decades ago—of the once-venerable Readers Digest magazine. So what does this have to do with programming? Nothing, and everything! Let me explain…

Tying this lesson back to the previous one—the advice to “Read”—while reading is a great start, it is just that: a start. To get anywhere, you simply have to take the next step, which is to write your own programs and thereby hone your proficiency at writing programs (Should you ever start forgetting, remind yourself that programming is not a spectator sport!). Other things remaining the same, the more you write, the better you get (within reasonable limits such as taking crucial aspects of, for example, feedback and quality) ๐Ÿ‡

6 fSeek Mentors And Mentor Others ๐ŸŽ“


See the warrior in the image above, fearlessly standing his ground even as he wields his weapons to slay the complexity monster? He is doing it alone. However, much as there is a rightful place for heroics, it doesn’t have to be that way—there are saner approaches to taming the green-eyed monster that is the sprawling expanse of software writ large… ๐Ÿ‰

Everyone was a beginner once, on their way to becoming a journeyman, and then an expert. And this is where mentoring comes in: seek mentors, and once you become an expert yourself, please make sure to keep the virtuous cycle going by mentoring others!

7 f

Find Your Passion ๐Ÿ”ฅ


As you take in the time-lapse photography in the lovely picture above, I want you to keep in mind the overarching, all-encompassing slant that I hope you will see permeating the ethos of the picture…

If I had to boil down all the lessons I’ve learned in the practice of programming—distill everything down to an uber lesson—this would be it: Go and find your passion… ๐Ÿ”ญ

And I’m not talking about some fairy-tale romance or arabesque musings. No, nothing of that sort; well, mostly nothing of that sort. After all, passion and prose do have to connect somewhere, they do have to intertwine something… ๐Ÿ’

But what I have in mind, and what I want to share here—without this particular lesson turning into a whole new essay of its own—is far more workmanlike (and work-woman-like, to be sure!) It is simply this: motivation is hugely important, so take up this business of finding your passion in great earnest! Let me share a pointer or two in this connection:
Good enough for now?
8 fEvery book, remember, is dead until a reader activates it by reading. Every time that you read you are walking among the dead, and, if you are listening, you just might hear prophecies.
~ Kathy Acker ๐Ÿ˜ฝ
9 fIt is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.
~ Ernest Hemmingway  ๐Ÿš‚

11 fTo honor the overarching (undercurrents of the) theme of the oneness of humanity which I've done my best to honor in this essay, and the imprints of which you may well have discerned in the images I’ve carefully chosen, let’s bring this essay to a close with the following two memorable sets of words, lyrics really—the first set from Pink Floyd and the second from U2—which reaffirm that the most important lesson of all is to keep our faith in the oneness of humanity as the basis for what is the very best of spending the fleetingly little time we've been given on the wondrous planet that we call Earth… ๐ŸŒ
Hey, you!
Don't tell me there's no hope at all.
Together we stand,
Divided we fall.

~ Pink Floyd (Lyrics from Hey You)
๐Ÿ’
One love
One blood
One life
You got to do what you should
One life
With each other
Sisters
Brothers
One life
But we're not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other
One...life
One

~ U2 (Lyrics from One) ๐Ÿ‘ซ
12 f