Computer programming teaches you to think logically, optimize for speed, relevancy, etc., and structure your thinking within a world where there are set rules. (Incidentally, that previous link points to one of the most insightful articles I have ever read — it’s about who nerds are, and proper care/feeding of nerds. If you haven’t read it… seriously, man, read it. And technically, I should say “seriously, lady” because the article is most useful to a woman looking at a nerd or nerd-like significant other. Anyhow, let’s break out of this parenthetical statement. BUT, before we do, note to self: install footnotes on the next revision of the tumbledry formatting system. That way, diversions such as this will end up at the bottom of the article in… a footnote.) So, this endless logic game within a world where the entire system is known is an excellent exercise for the mind. Indeed, I enjoy the exercise. However, I’ve never quite been able to articulate why a profession (above and beyond a hobby) in the programming arena does not appeal to me. Thankfully, somebody spoke my mind on the issue in a comment attached to a recent Slashdot article entitled “Obsolete Technical Skills”:
Free programming tips - Really great advice on programming, including waiting to optimize until after you find the slow spots.
And don’t write longer, more obtuse code because you think it’s faster. Remember, hardware gets faster. MUCH faster, every year. But code has to be maintained by programmers, and there’s a shortage of good programmers out there. So, if I write a program that’s incredibly maintainable and extensible and it’s a bit too slow, next year I’m going have a huge hit on my hands. And the year after that, and the year after that.
In the past eight years, this website has evolved from an extremely simple, unchanging outline of an adolescent kid to a dynamic web of text, links, sights, and (at times) sounds chronicling a young adult’s life. All of this extra content has necessitated extra layers of complexity. As sections have been added, I’ve tried to keep it simple, but it has certainly been a challenge — and I haven’t always succeeded. So, for anyone new to tumbledry or curious how it all works, let’s run down the basics.
Computers are most useful when they get out of our way. I recently realized that when I say I work with computers, people automatically peg me as that computer geek who loves hardware, spec sheets, and processors. Thing is, I only know about them in order to get these blasted machines to do what I want to do. I spend an inordinate amount of time shoehorning machines into working the way I think, so (pardoxically) I can stop worrying about shoehorning the machines into working the way I think. I’ve always seen Windows as a respectable software tool to deal with, but I must liken the experience to taming a wild stallion (without any of the glamorous trappings inherent in the animal analogy). Windows has to be poked, prodded, altered, trimmed, augmented, and examined from the top to the bottom and up again, to get it to do what you want it to do … when you want it to do it.
We’ve completed another step on the journey to a better commenting system at tumbledry. There are now ranking icons that allow one to see, at a glance, the seniority of a tumbledry commenter. I decided to name these “irons.” It fits in with the theme of tumbledrying … see? However, it is rather difficult to make an 11 pixel high iron look like a nice stylized iron, so I have gone with some different icons to indicate status. The tumbledry commenter, after submitting 20 comments under the same name and email address, will find themselves awarded a gray bullet. This gray bullet indicates that the user has left between 20 and 124 comments. Upon leaving 125 comments using the same name and email address, the tumbledry commenter receives their first colored bullet. This is generally an occasion to celebrate. Rankings continue along these lines … another 125 comments earns another gray bullet and 125 more comments changes that second bullet to a colored one. Users are notified of the number of comments remaining until their next promotion when they visit the front page of tumbledry. When a user leaves one thousand comments, their bullets are condensed into a higher honor: the gray maltese cross. Feel free to throw a party for this occasion. 5000 comments and the tumbledryer (we’ve discussed the spelling of this term previously, I think) earns the highly prestegious red and blue maltese cross. These crosses are accompanied by the usual bullets that track the commenter’s progress towards another cross.
For the more prolific tumbledryers amongst you (I think it would be cool if that nickname for us caught on), opening many posts on which to comment on has been a nightmare. Even when you copied the letters in the security image very precisely, the code still said “nah nah nah try it again.” So, I have a gift for you (especially Dan, who was having commenting problems) - I have fixed some very pesky bugs in the commenting system that popped up when you tried to open a bunch of tumbledry pages and comment on each one. These were strange bugs - usually I work through them by coding on-the-fly, but I actually had to leave the computer and just concentrate hard on the problem to map it out on my head and figure out a fix. Hopefully, things are working better now. An outline of the patches/bug-fixes/thank-Gods follows.
For those of you using the “what’s happened since you’ve been gone” feature here, I would like to point out that it was working almost completely worthlessly. The code that made it go was all corrrect, but the conditions under which it worked were bizarre at best.
Think about it this way. Robert Frontpage had to talk to Sally Searchpage. Robert looked at you and decided if you were returning or not. If you were returning, he saved a bit of information about your last visit, and passed it over to Sally. Sally received this bit of information, and then did some quick librarian work: finding what had happened since you had last visited. Under some circumstances, instead of receiving the information from Robert, Sally was left with absolutely nothing to work with. The reasons for this are not completely clear to me. Suffice to say, Sally and Robert had some issues to work out.
Holy good lord. Tarnation. Yikes. Gosh golly. Good night that took a long time. I remember saying July 4th this would be done, a deadline I shamefully blew through and which Nils could have yelled at me for. At last, I don’t believe it (you most certainly do not, either), but it is done. The great tumbledry redesign of 2005 is ACTUALLY DONE. I’ve been spending so much time on this that its hard to know where to start. I can say: look forward to one image per day in the imageLog, actual updates, and more.