The Captain’s Log

Pontifications of The Great and Terrible Captain Cucamunga.

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Sat, 25 May 2024 18:54:57 EDT

Ada

I recently read the bulk of John Barnes’ book on Ada 2012 intending to add a bullet point to my resume, but I dislike this language.

One of the amusing aspects of language communities is their prejudices.

The Ada community believes that their language has superior readability. Ada is one of the most unreadable programming languages because of its verbosity. The rest of the world abandoned ALGOL syntax for C syntax decades ago, and we are never coming back. The Ada people believe that the readability of their language means that they can return to old code and instantly understand it. This is not true of any sufficiently complex code written in any language. You must relearn what you wrote. The only way to shorten the curve is to insert detailed comments into the code.

The Ada community believes that its language does a better job of separating interface from implementation than other languages do. This enables the creation of reusable, replaceable modules. What programming language doesn’t support modular components today? What compiled language does not support separate compilation and static and shared libraries?

If I were doing high-integrity programming today, I would use Haskell, Erlang, or Rust.

Fri, 24 May 2024 22:14:39 EDT

Hamlet is not an action hero.

He is a momma’s boy living the extended youth of a university student instead of learning statecraft at the elbow of his father as a crown prince should. Hamlet is an ineffectual intellectual who has to grow up fast when his father dies. When he returns to Elsinore, Hamlet speaks of his father in hyperbole. We do not do this with people that we know well. Hamlet respected and feared his father, but Hamlet did not love his father. If he had had significant filial affection, Hamlet would not have found it difficult to avenge his father’s murder. Hamlet has only a weak intellectual obligation to avenge his father’s murder. Hamlet cannot live up to his father’s expectations when he is alive or dead.

To motivate and reassure himself, Hamlet has the players perform his play before Claudius. Hamlet seeks confirmation in Claudius’ reaction to the play that the ghost of Hamlet’s father is authentic and that Claudius is guilty of the fratricide of which the ghost accuses him.

When Claudius hurries to the chapel to pray for forgiveness, Hamlet follows, but he excuses himself from killing Claudius on the grounds that to do so would send Claudius’ shriven soul to heaven. The ghost of Hamlet’s father did not specify to which location his brother’s soul was to be directed.

Having confounded himself, Hamlet seeks his mother to perform directly for her. When he manages to work himself up to an excited state, he stabs Polonius behind the arras believing him to be Claudius. This cannon blows its wad. From Here on, Hamlet only blows smoke. When he is brought before Claudius, Hamlet shoots his mouth off, but he does not act.

When he is bundled onto the ship, Hamlet comes down from his heightened state, but the self-loathing returns. The paranoia returns redoubled. He must know his fate, so he opens the letters given to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. When he discovers that they are to be the means of his death, Hamlet overreacts and replaces the letters. In seeking to evade his inheritance of ruthlessness and paranoia, the inheritance of a crown prince, by feigning madness, Hamlet is driven by fear to act with the ruthlessness and paranoia of a tyrant. In an act of temporary madness, he causes the death of his friends and not his enemies, and he does so in the most cowardly way possible, the intellectual way, in secret with a pen. This is rock-bottom for Hamlet. He becomes the monster so that the monster will not destroy him.

When he returns to Elsinore, Hamlet is oblivious to the fate that awaits him.

Consider his return from Claudius’ point of view. Claudius knows that Hamlet knows that Claudius tried to kill Hamlet. Claudius knows that Hamlet knows that Claudius killed Hamlet’s father. Claudius knows that Hamlet killed Polonius believing him to be Claudius. Caudius knows that Hamlet is next in line to the throne. Hamlet has strong reasons to kill Claudius. Claudius cannot afford to let Hamlet live if he returns. Claudius is in for a penny, in for a pound. If he kills the father, he must kill the son. Claudius does not know that Hamlet has no desire to be a king nor to soil his mama’s-boy hands in the dirty business of kings.

When Hamlet returns to Elsinore, his internal struggle has ceased. His weak intellectual obligation to avenge his father’s murder has dissipated. He is oblivious that he has burned his bridges to Elsinore. The self-absorption of fear has made him blind to his effects on those around him. He believes that he can simply return without consequences. He blathers about mortality and the vanity of power with Yorick’s skull in hand. He reveals that the fool gave Hamlet the physical affection of a father that Hamlet’s father did not.

Hamlet blindly stumbles into a deadly trap. Only after he has been fatally stabbed with Laertes’ poisoned sword does Hamlet finally use that sword to kill Claudius. Only when his life is ending does Hamlet escape being the ineffectual intellectual.

In your 1948 movie of the play, you, Sir Laurence Olivier, left out Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. You made Hamlet into an action hero. For your literary treason, all photos of you must be photoshopped so that you appear to wear a t-shirt that reads, “The captain is disappointed with me.”

In your 1996 movie of the play, you, Sir Kenneth Branagh, had Hamlet swing from a chandelier. You made Hamlet into an action hero. For your literary treason, henceforward you must wear a t-shirt that reads, “The captain is disappointed with me.”

Fri, 24 May 2024 19:52:34 EDT

At the end of David Copperfield,

“Dumb Dora” conveniently dies just as David understands that she is not a thrifty housekeeper nor his intellectual equal. Just as he realizes that he is trapped in a unsatisfactory marriage in a time when divorce was virtually impossible and separation scandalous, Dora’s death frees Copperfield. He subsequently realizes that Agnes, whom he has theretofore considered a sister, is his true lifemate.

Trapped in a zombie marriage, Dickens transparently rewrites the first stage of his adult life to avoid the unsatisfactory outcome that he then lived. He fantasizes that his wife Catherine had died in his arms in their house on Doughty Street in 1837 and not her sister Mary thus freeing him of the mistake of marrying the wrong sister. Dickens told his wife that, as a memorial, he named Dora after their ninth child who had died in infancy. To believe that Catherine would not see through this charade, Dickens must have believed her to be as vapid as the fictional Dora. Catherine’s correspondence and the descriptions of third parties indicate that she was a warm and intelligent woman who did not share Dickens’ performative, high-energy temperament nor his ambition.

When the seventeen-year-old Mary died, Dickens missed a deadline for the first and only time. He took a ring from her finger and wore it for the rest of his life. He kept a lock of her hair in a locket that he had given her. He kept her clothes as mementi mori. He paid to have her buried in the then-new Kensal Green Cemetery. He dreamt of Mary throughout his life.

Eight years after the publication of David Copperfield, when Dickens was forty-five, he met and became infatuated with Ellen Lawless Ternan, an eighteen-year-old actress known as Nelly to her family. After having transferred his affections to Ternan, he had the door to his dressing room closed over to form a separate bedroom for himself. In the following year, he would force a separation on Catherine providing her with a house and income.

Dickens and Catherine remained on civil if not friendly terms until she said something that caused him, “unspeakable agony of mind.” What she said, we do not know, but I suspect it had something to do with Mary. Perhaps Catherine advised Charles to make sure that he chose the right sister this time because there were three Hogarth sisters and three Ternan sisters. Subsequently, Dickens only communicated with Catherine through intermediaries.

Dickens successfully wooed Nelly and lived a double life until his death. Dickens’ daughter Katie said that the couple had a child, a boy that died in infancy. Scholars have not been able to confirm this as the birth is likely to have happened in Paris, and records from the time were destroyed during subsequent civil unrest.

Dickens kept Nelly and his family in separate homes, but her existence was an open secret to those who knew him. The affair was not discovered by scholars until the 1930s.

Thu, 23 May 2024 14:33:32 EDT

Consider This Sentence

The following sentence occurs in The Guardian on Apple News. “‘I’m the king of a lost world! I’m the king and I will destroy you!’ Javier Milei bellowed into the microphone on Wednesday night as Argentina’s showman president took to the stage for his first stadium gig since his election last year.”

The use of as to join the clauses implies that the speaker of the quote and the president are two different people.

This sentence should be broken in two, and the order of the clauses should be reversed. The punchy quote wants to come first, but it doesn’t work there.

My rewrite: “Javier Milei, Argentina’s showman president, took to the stage on Wednesday night for his first stadium gig since his election last year. ‘I’m the king of a lost world! I’m the king and I will destroy you!’ he bellowed into the microphone.”

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