Saturday, October 31, 2009


I saw Sting on some talk show talking about his new song "Soul Cakes." He explained that it was the origin of trick or treats. People in England would put out cakes for the dead. The dead, of course, would not eat them and the poor would come and ask if they could have them if they prayed for the spirits of the dead.

That may be one of the nearer origins of trick or treat and Halloween, but putting food and drink out for the dead is a very ancient tradition. There is the medieval tradition of All Hallows Eve, the night when the dead are released for a moment from their graves. The Ancient Greeks would put bread and beer out for the dead. Placating ghosts with food is one of the oldest traditions of human kind. It probably goes back to at least neolithic times when the bones of the dead were often kept under the floor of the house and disinterred when the family moved. I would not doubt that it dates back farther into the paleolithic, back to when humans became aware of themselves as human as mortal.

It is part of our core humanness to be haunted by our dead and by the fear of death itself and to try to placate them and it. Food is a fundamental of life, a necessity and a comfort. Providing the dead food is a way of reminding the dead of what it was to be alive. Food is communal. To partake is to be a part of the community. By inviting the dead in, we ward of their anger at their separation. We let them know they are not forgotten.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Some Timely Notes

Mallarmé made a big point about the white (blanc) page, the blank, the virginal page. I don't have a white page, but I do have a white screen, a blank text box waiting for some input. Red October burns into a brown November. About a third of my sabbatical is over. That's the trouble with time. It keeps moving on.

I remember when I was very young how a day could seem to last forever. Now they seem to race by. I think the difference is how great a percentage a day is in your life. When you are very young each day represents a larger percentage of your total experience. As you grow older each day becomes a correspondingly smaller part of the whole. I am sure it could be expressed as a simple ratio: 1 day / total number of days. At six years old each day is 1/2191 or so of your total experience. At 54 each day is 1/19898 of the total. (The calculator in Windows 7 has some great new additions including a date calculator. This number is the difference between my birth date and today's date.)

As Andrew Marvell said

At my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Stray thoughts

Thinking about currents, eddies, surface tensions for my river poem. . .

Thinking about F#. I have been trying to write a small program that resolves the quadratic equation x|x>0 and x<42 where p= x*x-x+41. I found this equation in a novel by Arthur C. Clark, Rama 2. In the novel he uses it to trigger an atomic bomb. The unique thing about this equation is that it predicts a sequence of 41 prime numbers starting with 41. After the 41st prime the sequence falls apart. The equation is somewhat an anomaly, a curiosity. I see it as a metaphor for existence: a momentary expression of order in broader chaos. (I am writing a long sequence of 41 poems based on the equation called quadratic.) I have been having trouble with the syntax of the F#. Most examples show the syntax for the interactive interpreter, but I want to write it as a function in a program. I am sure I will figure it out eventually.

Thinking about my lawn which is greening in the gray light and the rain light. . .

Of such scattered things my thoughts consist these days . . .

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2 On-Line Trainings

Microsoft's channel 9 has a new and very extensive training course for Windows 7 and Visual Studio 2010. All for free.

Some of the new features for VS include extensibility management which allows you to create applications which can easily be extended by just dropping a dll in the directory, expanded parallel computing, expanded Windows Presentation Foundation (XAML), Silverlight programming, Azure for cloud computing, F#, MVC for the web (not sure of all that that contains but it seems to be a alternate platform for web development, Expanded ADO and data binding tools, Entity Framwork, UML support and more.

I intend to work my way through many of these tutorials between reading Hegel and working on my book. (Found a bit of a Zen moment in Hegel, actually, and unexpectedly. He was saying the usual image of infinity is a line stretching both directions into infinity from some arbitrary point on that line, but that the true image of infinity must be a circle with no beginning or end.)

No Seahawk game today, thankfully. But I must attend a funeral this afternoon The sister of one of my daugter's friends died of cancer. Sad, but they don't want any dark colors. She requested that everyone wear bright colors especially yellow and light blue.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Couple Links

I am perpetually amazed at what is available on the Internet. One of my favorite sites is Ereignis. This site contains everything Heidegger: texts, discussions, articles, etc. Interestingly, I have not found similar sites for other philosophers.

The Internet is amazing for what it has, but it can sometimes be as amazing for what is absent. My students, my son for that matter, rarely turn to books for information. The subject map of the Internet may be the map of tomorrow's knowledge. The idea does not put me into despair. Modes of literacy change. Once knowledge was what you and your neighbors had managed to memorize. (Plato was suspicious of writing because it would mar memory by making it lazy and replace living dialog with dead text.)

Whatever the gaps, the amount and variety of information available is infinitely richer than what I had available to me when I was young searching the Coeur d' Alene Library and the local Drugstore book rack.

A second link, this one more professional. It is a wonderful site with hundreds of articles for developers using almost any platform and language.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Windows 7 is released today. Somehow it seems like old news since I have been running it for almost a month now. Still I hope it does well.

Last night I worked on a translation from the Greek. I used to do a lot of translation, but haven't done any for a long time. I went to one of my favorite sites on the web. The site is amazing to me. It has hundreds of Greek and Latin texts, translations, grammatical and lexicography tools. (They also have Sanskrit, German and English Renaissance materials. It was the only place I was ever able to find Christopher Marlowe's translations of Ovid.) I realize others will probably not be as enthused, but I have spent years trying to collect classical texts. They are expensive and hard to come by. Perseus makes them available for free with a host of scholarly tools.

Despite my years of working with Greek and Latin texts, I am not that good at it. I call my efforts "Decipherments." So, last night I picked a short text, a fragment of Bacchylides, at random. It is about a formal request by the Greeks for a return of Helen before the Trojan war. There is a passage very typical of Greek sentiment:

Zues who dwells on high and sees all
is not to blame for the great sufferings of mortals
All men have it in them to reach
unwavering (straight) ἰθεῖαν justice, attendant
of holy Eunomia and prudent Themis.
Prosperous whose children live with justice.

Anyway, today I am going to work on another appendix and start making notes for rewriting the chapters.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2

I spent the morning uninstalling Visual Studio 2010 Beta 1 and then installing Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2. It went amazingly smoothly. My experience with Betas in the past did not lead me to expect that, but this beta one had a good uninstall utility, and the Beta 2 a good install.

I haven't actually played with it yet, but I will today.

I remember with the original SQL Server 2005 beta it wouldn't uninstall. I spent hours with the registry editor trying to get rid of every last trace of the beta, so that I could install the final product. If I was smart, I would only install betas into virtual machines. The problem with that is performance. At least on my machine, Visual studio crawls inside a VM.

Monday I had to take my son up to Puyallup to see a doctor. Yesterday I went into Seattle. Friday I have to go to Tacoma. The gist of it is, I am getting a little panicked about getting the writing done.

On the positive side, My lawn is turning green. It may actually be a lawn by spring.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Centennial musings

So, a weekend of centennial activities for Eatonville. Friday there was a Centennial Ball. (I hate dressing up). Saturday there was a parade. Today there is a dedication ceremony. And, since my daughter and grandchildren are involved in it all, I must attend.

100 years to grow to about 2000 people Still, survival is survival. Over a million people pass through here on the way to Mt. Rainier each year, though I suspect most don't remember that they did.

It is a long story how I ended up here, but I will spare you for now. Suffice it to say, for now, that houses down here cost around a quarter of what they cost in Seattle. There are other compensations. We can see the mountain from our back yard. Currently the hills around the town are gold with autumn leaves. When I commute, the first twenty miles or so consist of small farms, fields and trees. I often see deer or herds of elk. The drawbacks are the distance from work and other activities. (I am really sorry not to have made it to the PostGres Conference this weekend.)

I am starting to feel a mild anxiety about all I need to get done this sabbatical. There is really a lot to do on the textbook. So far I have only finished the appendix on Access. (I finished chapters seven, eight and nine, but that was officially between summer quarter and fall quarter, not on the sabbatical itself.) I need to finish 2 more appendixes and then rewrite all the existing chapters. That, plus all the other work I want to do.

This is the week to regain my focus.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

PostGres Access Centennial

There is a PostGres Convention with Seminars being held at Seattle Central this weekend. I had fully intended to attend, but unfortunately it falls on the same weekend as Eatonville's Centennial Celebration. There is a ball I am expected to go to Friday, a parade Saturday in which my daughter and my grandson are participating, and events on Sunday. Most weekends are free and would pose no conflicts, but it just happens they chose this weekend. . .

I have been working on the appendix on Access. I was a bit surprised to learn that Access no longer supports user based security at all. (It makes sense, in a way, since user based security in older versions of Access was a nightmarish mess.) That makes it useless with my security chapter. I also realized that I will have to redo the whole ASP.Net application to work with Access since I can't use stored procedures. I was further surprised to find that the OLEDB provider doesn't work with Access 2007 but the SQL Client one does. (at least in the Wizard.)

Today, there is a break in the rain. There are tiny green shoots throughout my lawn. Maybe I will get some grass after all.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Neil Gaiman et al

This morning I was looking at Neil Gaiman's web site. I like the general layout and feel of it. I wouldn't mind something like that for my site. I am sure he isn't responsible for the site except for Blog. He is too busy and has people for that.

I just finished reading his The Graveyard Book. It is a children's book, but reads well enough for an adult. (In fact most librarians feel it reads a little too adult despite having won the Newberry award, and, fearing it might be too frightening for children, classify it as young adult. Much of his work is hard to classify, he writes everything form children's stories to books that are definitely adult. I could see children, exited by his works for kids, wandering into some of his more adult books such as American Gods. The difference is't so much the subject matter as the intensity of the violence and a little bit of adult language. ) Gaiman has a very unique sense of the world in his writings, a mix of myth and dream, nightmares and morality tales with a touch of the graphic novel or comic book (He did the Sandman series.) Very modern but very archetypal at the same time. It makes me think about my own fiction. Is there any unique slant I could develop? My stories, with a couple of exceptions, seem more Ray Bradburyish than anything.

Yesterday started with a dentist appointment and went downhill from there. Not that anything went horribly wrong. It is just that nothing really got started. I need to regain some focus today and going forward.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Getting Started: Another Week

Each day I have spent two or more hours outside watering the seeded lawn. 8500 square feet of dirt. There are some pleasures in it. I am too muddy to come back inside, so I stay outside and watch the leaves turn, and the crows, and the kids playing in their front yard a couple houses away. I work a bit on my poems and think about what else I need to do. Still, I am looking forward to the coming rain. It will be a relief not to have to water every day, not to worry about the dry spots that appear by afternoon. . .

Finished the fraction class. All the operators are overloaded. I added a ToString() method that outputs the fraction in "1/2" form. I added a constructor that takes in a string of that format and separates out the numerator and denominator. I decided not to deal with mixed numbers.

Now what I really need to do is to finish my appendix on Access. One of these days soon I will return to my more philosophic thoughts, but today needs to be practical.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Fractionally Better

Still working--or more honestly avoiding work--by working on the Fraction class. I found it much more complicated to overload the equality == operator than I thought it would be. First, you can't overload the == operator without also overloading the != operator. To make it work I also had to override the GetHash() method and the Equals() method. Though once I had done that, the operators were easy. It was also necessary to make sure I had a workable method to reduce the fraction, otherwise the comparison of say 1/2 to 2/4 would not return equal. Here are the methods

public static bool operator ==(Fraction f1, Fraction f2)

return f1.Equals(f2);

public static bool operator !=(Fraction f1, Fraction f2)

return !f1.Equals(f2);

public static Fraction Reduce(Fraction fr)
int i;
for (i=fr.Denominator;i>1;i--)
if(fr.Numerator % i ==0 && fr.Denominator % i == 0)


return fr;

public override int GetHashCode()
return Numerator ^ Denominator;

public override bool Equals(object obj)
bool result=false;
if (obj == null)

if (GetType() != obj.GetType())
result= false;

Fraction fr = (Fraction)obj;
fr = Reduce(fr);

Fraction fr2 = new Fraction(this.Numerator, this.Denominator);
fr2 = Reduce(fr2);

this.Numerator = fr2.Numerator;
this.Denominator = fr2.Denominator;

if (this.Numerator == fr.Numerator && this.Denominator == fr.Denominator)
result = true;

return result;

Now I just have the > and < operators to do, and to develop a good ToString method. I also want to overload the constructor.
As for the rest, I have been watering the lawn and looking forward to next weeks rain. The river poem flows on, approaching 20 pages.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Fraction Class

So, last evening, with nothing on TV, I worked on developing a C# class called "Fraction" that will add, subtract, multiply, divide and compare fractions. This involves overloading several operators specifically (+,-,*,/,==,>,<,!=). The class has two integer fields, "numerator" and "denominator." Here is the Use Case diagram for the class:

Here is the code for overloading the addition operator:

public static Fraction operator +(Fraction F1, Fraction f2)
if (F1.Denominator != f2.Denominator)
F1.Numerator = (F1.Numerator * f2.Denominator);
f2.Numerator = (f2.Numerator * F1.Denominator);

F1.Denominator = (F1.Denominator * f2.Denominator);
f2.Denominator = (F1.Denominator * f2.Denominator);

Fraction F3 = new Fraction();
F3.Numerator = F1.Numerator + f2.Numerator;
F3.Denominator = F1.Denominator;

return F3;

I would like to refactor the greatest common denominator code into a separate method since I also need to use it for subtraction, but I am not sure how to return the results I need to the operator method. I also intend to add a method to reduce the fraction, and a ToString() method that will output the fraction in a form like "1/2" o r"2 1/3."

This program isn't purely for my own amusement. It occurred to me some time ago, that this would be a great class to give to students to test. Each operation would need testing, and with a variety of inputs. Students could design a testing schema, conduct all the tests and document the results. It might make for a good special topics sometime.

On my book, I am almost finished with the Appendix on using Access with the book instead of SQL Express, though the hardest part is still to come. Security. Access security is nothing like SQL Server's security. I am tempted to just say, if you are using Access skip that chapter. But I will try to recreate the security measures in Access.

Now to water the lawn (a two or three hour task.)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Yard Work

The last two days I have spent entirely on the lawn, preparing the dirt, seeding and watering. I still have some of that to do today. This autumn weather is lovely, but I actually wish it would rain so I could water less.

Reading Hegel before bed. (It does help hurry sleep.) The first principles of his logic are Being, Nothingness, and becoming. Interesting the poem IT begins in an almost identical place:

"It. That's it. That started it. It is. Goes on. Moves. Beyond. Becomes."

In terms of computers, I was looking at F#. It is a new language included in Visual Studio 2010. It is a function based language, especially useful for math intensive applications. I have played with it some but my math skills are not sufficient to take full advantage of it.

So, back to the yard. I really hope it grows.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Parallel Programming

Reading MSDN magazine: Another new topic to explore is parallel computing. The growth in the power of individual processors has slowed. Computer manufacturers have made up for it by adding processors. In order for a program to take advantage of multiple processors it must be broken into separate threads that can be directed to the various processors. To do this requires a whole new set of fairly low level and complex concepts. You have to be aware of what's happening at the CPU and memory level. Most difficult of all is controlling the concurrency and synchronization of threads.

The question is, I guess, is this something we need to teach? Very few of our classes get beyond intermediate programming concepts. Yet, I suspect this is something that employers will be expecting of new hires in the future. Visual Studio 2010 includes some enhancements for parallel computing, such as PLINQ, that help abstract it some. Still, I really can't see, any but a very few students, being able to master these skills.

Something to think about.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Brize Marine

Cool morning. Autumn in the air. Time to get the grass seed on the lawn. I started the appendix on Access. I have recreated the database from the book. Next I have to test the SQL statements. I also worked on a short story called Brize Marine after a poem by Mallarme. It is an old story, but I am reworking it, trying to make it more in my current voice. Here is a paragraph from the story:

His mind resembles an ancient Greek papyrus. It is spotted and stained with old wine spills. Holes have been burnt, corners charred by the flame of certain searing events. Pieces have molded with damp misuse, collapsing into a leprosy of paper flakes each with less than a word. Insects have gnawed at the edges. Gaps. Lacunae. Often it is the essential piece that is missing. The subject of the sentence, the object of the verb. What are left are modifiers that modify nothing, subjects without actions, actions that act on nothing. He remembers a pattern, a direction, a gist, but teeters perilously at the edges of the absences, the unbridged abysses.