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April 16, 2010

Aversion to white space

It is a habit that you pick up after working with Python for a while. I hate to say it but it is a good habit. As a C/C++/C# programmer for a long time, I have been brought up with the "curly braces" mentality. We learn it in school, we do it at work, we read it in other people's code. If you look at C/C++/C# code, you will see that programs tend to extend to pages and pages of code. But they don't do much since most of the pages are dedicated to whitespace. Sometimes it takes reading 2 or 3 pages (scrolling if you use an editor) to actually finally learn that this block of code does this (in one sentence). Urghh.....

I am currently porting a C# .NET application to Linux C++ for Intel. There is reams and reams of legacy C# code to wade through. Corresponding there is so much whitespace to slog through before you can figure out in your mind what it is doing. It is a process. It is work. But it is so unnecessary. I now refer to one item in the Zen of Python: Simple is better than complex. This little diddy should apply to all languages as well.

It's the "curly braces" that add so much whitespace. It is these necessary habits which we learned in school and in practice. Maybe it is time to unlearn them. I don't know if other C/C++/C# developers out there feel the same. So much of our work is wading through complexity. It keeps us busy but sometimes I wonder if we should stop and ask: "is all this complexity really necessary?"

April 28, 2007

Gilbert's death

    Fiddler's Green:  but then, if I have to die, I have 
                lived an interesting  life... and a varied one...
                and I... take with me the memories of all the things 
                that have moved me... told me that I was alive.  The 
                green play of sunlight through the birch leaves... a kiss...
                once.. on the cheek... from a friend..
                I suppose.. I had always hoped that I would die quietly, 
                on my own... or that I would die for a reason.
                It occurs to me now.. that only things that are truly
                unreasonable have reasons.. perhaps only the
                inconsequential need.. consequences.
Neil Gaiman from The Kindly Ones

April 26, 2007

love stinks... yeah yeah

    Rose: Have you ever been in love?
        D: you might say that.
    Rose: Horrible, isn't it?
        D: in what way?        
    Rose: It makes you vulnerable.  It opens your chest and it opens 
             your heart and it means someone can get inside you and mess 
             you up.
             You build up all these defenses.  You build up this whole 
             armor, for years, so nothing can hurt you, then one stupid 
             person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders 
             into your stupid life....
             You give them a piece of you.  They don't ask for it.  
             They do something dumb one day like kiss you, or smile at you, 
             and then your life isn't your own anymore.  
             Love takes hostages.  It gets inside you.  It eats you out and 
             leaves you crying in the darkness, so a simple phrase like 
             "maybe we should just be friends" or "how very perceptive" 
              turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart.
        D: How picturesque.
    Rose: It hurts.  Not just in the imagination.  Not just in the mind.  It's 
             a soul-hurt, a body-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart 
             pain.    Nothing should be able to do that.  Especially not love.
             I hate love.
Neil Gaiman from The Kindly Ones

February 09, 2007



Given a choice, would we consciously go down a path that is known to be a dead-end? I don't know about most of you, but my initial answer to this would be no . No one in their right mind chooses to go down a dead-end. It leads to no-where, there is no future, ya-da... ya-da... ya-da. Reasonable people choose a path for their lives; it is only when you are lost that you end up in a dead-end. Only losers choose paths that lead to nowhere. So stammers the indignation of the temple of rationality.

But as I reflect upon this and reflect upon my life, it comes to me that many of my happy moments only occurred because I "inadvertently" went down a dead-end. Many good things don't reveal themselves unless you travel down that road that most others ignore. Is that why happiness rarely stops at my door? Is it because I never choose to get lost? On the other hand, all my well-laid plans and meticulous dedication to constructing the future, all seem weirdly odd now. Unlike the swirls of paint that Picasso throws on his canvas, my visions of the future are always straight and narrow. And how many of them have turned out as expected? not too many. Reality always turns out distorted and just can't seem to be drawn with straight lines.

Now I am back to the question: would you consciously go down a dead-end path?

Posted by Hoang at 11:18 AM | 2 Comments | Common Sense

December 22, 2006

wrestling with a thought

In the darkest of times, would you rather follow someone who is hopeful or someone who is realistic? Would you rather trust in someone who tells you that everything is good and will turn out well or someone who tells you things are the way they are? As a fellow human being, I have to admit to the desire to always want answers to nagging questions. But not only is that true, but there is a tendency to want the answers to be good ones, ones that we can readily accept into our frame of reference of the world. Maybe that is why religion is such a powerful idea. It lets us see into the future. It lets us feel comfortable with the unknown or the unknowable. (if I was truthful with myself) Until such a time when a time-machine can be invented, there is no way I will know for certain what would happen to me tomorrow.... or even the next hour....

but not knowing the answer is scary. Not knowing paralyzes me. And admitting to it, is terrifying .


May 21, 2006

in praise of love

Every once in a blue moon, we encounter something good in life. For a very brief moment in time, our life is enriched by its presence. We bask in happiness and everything is right in the world. Then the moment passes and the good thing is gone. And in its absence, we ache with the emptiness filling the hole which it leaves behind. The pain is so overwhelming and difficult to bear that (deep in our mind) we wish that the thing had never interrupted our life in the first place.

willow.jpg One such thing is love.
How easy it is to say "it is better to have loved and lost rather than to never have loved at all". He who said such has never experienced the gaping years of torture and loneliness. He has never felt the pain of yearning for that which he knows he cannot have. The hole never fills, it only widens.

Beware love, thou art a dangerous thing.

To fall in love takes only moments, to heal from love takes a lifetime. Would you love if you know in advance that it won't stay beyond the present moment?

Posted by Hoang at 02:45 PM | 4 Comments | Common Sense

April 29, 2006

Beauty in the Average

There is great beauty in the common everyday things within our lives. All the average little things that we take for granted are actually wonderful, if only we could slow down long enough to recognize them. The sages of the world have always known this.

  • The great scientists know this by realizing that the greatest advances are within the specialization of a field that no one is paying attention to at the moment.
  • Photography artists know this by concentrating their subjects on moments of average people within their daily lives.
  • CSIs (crime scene investigators) excel in their trade by noticing the small things that everyone else misses within the context of a crime scene.

compass.gif So before you go looking for the next great thing, realize that you have already seen it. But have you truly seen it? Take a moment. Adjust your eyes. And have another look.

Posted by Hoang at 09:46 AM | 1 Comments | Common Sense

April 05, 2006

An observation in Public

I see cell phone use everywhere: on the streets, in cars, in the gym, in public places. People aren't discreet with conversations either, they tend to be very loud. So much so that strangers 10 feet away can clearly hear the discourse. It is as if being engaged in conversations give people a sense of self-importance. This is increasingly or already have become the norm in our society.

Contrast this to my experiences of living in Paris many years ago. Back then, I would use the Metro ( RER ) as my main source of transportation in the city. There, the trains are so full of people that (what Americans call) personal space was non-existent. However, it is very common to have a sense of quiet in public. People keep to themselves mostly. Chit-chat tend to be very discreet and kept to a whisper. There is a sense that we share the public places with others. As such, we should be mindful of our own interruptions upon others who share the same space.

Americans visiting the European city are very uncomfortable with this behavior and immediately brand that the French are unfriendly. It is certainly not so, rather... it is just a different point-of-view. (I won't go into what the French think of Americans.... suffice to say that it is not complementary)

In short, I do feel that the loss of respect for being in public places as well as the loss of general courtesy in our society to be a sad state of affairs.

Posted by Hoang at 12:52 PM | 2 Comments | Common Sense

March 23, 2006

Less is More

As a follow up to The tyranny of choice, certain groups in Microsoft are finally keen on the power of simplicity. The link provides a list of articles that focus on Simple UI Design. This is the opposite movement of the current prevailing belief: more is better.

Posted by Hoang at 02:30 PM | 3 Comments | Common Sense , Wonderful Links
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