The power of twitter!

I wanted to recall a book i read a few years ago. The trouble was, i remembered very little about it, but i think a friend of mine might like it. Google was proving absolutely useless. Time to turn to the power of twitter!

Ten minutes ago i posted a slightly jokey tweet:

i read a book a few years ago. it had a blue cover. any ideas, twitter?!

I got a few appropriately jokey answers:

did it have a man with a face in it? And that woman with a name?

Conservative Manifesto perhaps: amazon.co.uk/Invitation-Joi… ;-)

“Beautiful Code”?

it’s that one written by that author. He wrote all that stuff about things.

That last one reminded me that the book was written by a female author. I gave a few more clues:

the book had some kind of medieval/renaissance/inquisition theme, set in the south of france. author was female, i think.

i seem to recall some sort of circular symbol on the cover, and the title was one fairly long word. i think it’s historical fantasy.

in the book was some kind of weird cult that met in a room underground. people died in it. come on, someone must have read it!! ;) ;)

That was enough for mason to be confident enough to post a picture. In fact, mason had got it by the time i mentioned the theme and location.

if I am right, after all these sarcatic tweets I claim a prize.. (Please wait)

??? If I’m right then I’ll probably shit the very bed I just took this picture on. yfrog.com/h4chnuxyj

Indeed, mason was right! Labyrinth by Kate Mosse is the book that i was looking for! The power of twitter, hey?! :)

Exposing my ignorance

I have been encouraging my apprentice Rohit to blog about ignorance. It’s great to talk about what you know, and what you can do well, but for people to really trust you it’s important also to be honest about what you don’t know yet, and what you’re looking to learn.

As software crafters learning is part of what we do. There is always more to learn; it never stops. Personally i really enjoy learning. I love the feeling of new information going in and being absorbed.

Since i asked Ro to blog about exposing ignorance, i thought i should do the same. It’s good to start with a review of where you are now.

Where i am now

It’s fair to say my strongest language is Ruby. I’ve been programming in Ruby for about 5 years, i’ve seen my style grow and change a lot. I feel very confident in domain modelling and object orientation using Ruby.

I’m pretty confident with behaviour driven development for Ruby, using Cucumber and Rspec. I know a lot about Rails and a fair amount about Sinatra. I am comfortable using MySQL, PostgreSQL and MongoDB.

Exposing my ignorance

My biggest weakness at the moment is in having only one strong language. And here is where i expose my ignorance. I know a bit about a few other languages, but i’m not where i want to be. I feel embarrassed when people talk about Java, Haskell, Scala, Io, and i am unable to contribute due to my lack of knowledge.

Confronting my ignorance

Since thinking about this blog post, i have already begun confronting my ignorance: my first step was to contact Joel Gascoigne who develops Buffer – a simple tool for scheduling tweets. I wanted an easier way to use Buffer on my phone, so i offered to make an Android app. I saw this as a pet project to get me learning a bit more about Android development in Java.

The app is open source; you can check it out on github.com/bufferapp/Android. A simple working version is now available in the Android Market: Buffer for Android.

We have a few ideas for moving the app forward, but for now i’m happy that we’ve got something out there that works, and it has given me the confidence to develop more Android apps.

My next tactic will be to study the book Seven Languages in Seven Weeks: A pragmatic guide to learning programming languages, by Bruce A. Tate. This is an intensive study of Ruby, Io, Prolog, Scala, Erlang, Clojure and Haskell. By learning how to solve a non-trivial problem in each of these languages, we learn the unique strengths and weaknesses of each language.

I’m looking for other people to study along with me, so if you’re interested, let me know!

Once i’ve studied those seven languages, i want to learn some Python. I’ve been hearing a lot about Python lately, and it seems like a language i really want to know. I already have the book Learning Python by Mark Lutz and i look forward to getting to that.

So that’s me: i have listed my strengths, exposed my ignorance and outlined how i am confronting it to improve myself and learn more. What about you?

The things i believe now

TL;DR

Do i believe anything anymore? Yes i do. I believe in the wonders of science, and it makes me happy!

Preamble – my spiritual history

My supernatural and spiritual beliefs have gone through many phases. I was brought up Christian and i believed unquestioningly. The idea that my parents could be wrong was unfathomable to me.

In my late teens i read “Conversations With God” by Neale Donald Walsch and turned to more esoteric beliefs, ideas like: we’re all equal with God, we are creating our own reality as we go along, there is no absolute right or wrong, only that which serves us and that which does not. I ceased to believe in the devil and hell.

On holiday in Budapest in 2007 i came across the book “The Whole Shebang” by Timothy Ferris. I began reading it in the bookshop and i was drawn in straight away. Although quite an old book, it gave me a glimpse of the wonders of the universe, and a taste for science. I borrowed many scientific books from the library and i really enjoyed learning the things we can know about our world and this universe.

My opinions on God at this point were mostly agnostic. I didn’t feel any real need to contemplate anything spiritual when i had so much of a scientific nature to think about. I wouldn’t say i disbelieved in God at that time.

However, on two occasions i felt myself craving the kind of unquestioning belief in God that i had during my childhood. I suppose i missed the feeling that God was a friend whom i could trust. I thought that i had drifted away from God and it was my responsibility to go back. I tried returning to church, but on both times i very quickly found that my ideas had changed so much, i could no longer blindly accept what i was being told by the church.

On the second attempt, which lasted about two months, something finally pushed me over the edge. I was standing at the front and someone was praying for me to receive the Holy Spirit. I really wanted to be able to give up rational thought and just entrust myself to God … but nothing was happening. The longer this went on, the more embarrassing it became. I remember that something suddenly just clicked. I thought to myself, “I don’t think there is a Holy Spirit!” and immediately all these spiritual beliefs just tumbled down like a house of cards. I walked out effectively an atheist.

The first thing i did was read “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins. I needed to understand how my parents could believe something so strongly, if it wasn’t true. Dawkins explained to me the evolutionary advantage to believing what you are told, the power of group reinforcement, the self-delusion of only noticing things that support your beliefs while ignoring things that don’t. I learnt not to pity my parents for believing what they do, but i was no longer under the hold of their convincing influence. I was free to think for myself.

For a while i was a militant atheist. I think i rebelled quite hard against organised religion. Since then i have mellowed out a bit. I currently consider myself a humanist: i am more concerned with human welfare than i am with anything supernatural.

All of this is a prelude for what i really want to write about. Most people will have figured out that i no longer believe in God, and i have put aside all my supernatural beliefs, having become skeptical about anything that requires discarding rational thinking. I’ve not written about this in such detail before because i’ve had no need to. I try not to interfere with other people’s beliefs unless i can see that it has the potential to directly harm somebody. My dad and my stepmum are still firm Christian believers. My mum is mostly interested in new-age spirituality.

Getting to the point

This morning i received an email from my mum. It was something about the process of life, death, returning to the glory of Oneness, emerging as a new individual. My mum’s question: “this is reincarnation … do you believe this ? ( Or indeed do you believe anything any more !!)”

I was quite hurt by the question, do i believe in anything anymore? This is my response that i would have written in an email, but i decided it needed to be shared more widely than just with my mum.

What i believe now

I have come to believe in many wonderful things. Things that i knew very little about before i started reading and educating myself in science. Beautiful fascinating processes that can be explored, tested and verified. Things like evolution, natural selection, quantum physics, cosmology, the big bang, deep space, the fundamental forces of the universe.

Most importantly of all, i believe in the scientific method. It starts with producing a theory to explain the things we see … but unlike mythology and religion, it doesn’t stop there. It goes on to make predictions using the theory. Experiments are performed to test the predictions. Those experiments are repeated and verified by many people, and not just those with a particular interest in showing the theory to be correct. Any contradictions are welcomed and celebrated because it means the theory can be refined to become more accurate. This process never stops, and our knowledge about what is real gets more and more accurate over time.

Specifically on the question of reincarnation

I don’t specifically disbelieve in reincarnation, but i find it unlikely. You can make nice stories about it, which may be comforting to some people, but for me there is little point in dwelling on the theory since it makes no predictions that can be tested and verified by experiment. I prefer to spend my time finding out as much as i can about things that we know to be true.

Science has led me to believe that the most likely thing that will happen when i die is that i simply cease to exist. My body will decay and my consciousness will end there. Occam’s Razor tells us that given two possible theories, the simpler one is likely to be correct. I am not at all saddened by this conclusion, because there was no emotion or wishful thinking that got me there. It only makes me all the more eager to enjoy this one life that i know i have.

Of course i recognise that people like to believe their loved ones live on, and they may receive comfort from believing they are still in communication. I don’t really see anything wrong with that. I think of it more as recalling the memories of what those people were like, rather than their souls actually being present. Since there is no discernible difference in experience, it doesn’t really matter what you believe is going on.

Whew, nearly there …!

My journey of belief has shifted so dramatically in my lifetime so far. I would be foolish to assume that i have arrived at my final understanding. I accept that my beliefs will continue to adapt, but i suppose that from here on they will only change when presented with evidence that causes them to be reassessed. So, for example, if anyone can provide me with firm evidence for reincarnation, i will gladly accept it to be true and update my beliefs accordingly.

I am happy in my current understandings. I actually find that scientific knowledge is far more reassuring to me than any spiritual hypothesis ever was.

If anyone is unconvinced of the comfort that believing in science can bring, i recommend this wonderful video by Phil Hellenes: This Remarkable Thing.

Fight dyslexia with a Kindle!

Something that some people know about me, but by no means everybody, is that i have dyslexia. I don’t think i have it to a very strong degree, but i have it enough to find reading quite difficult, and it takes quite an effort to override my brain’s resistance to reading.

At school we read Jane Eyre for GCSE. I hated it. We were obliged to read a certain number of chapters per week, and we did all sorts of textual analysis, none of which i remember now. There was no joy for me in reading the book, only stress and pressure. I found it dull, and to be quite honest, i don’t think i made it past half-way through. I’ve no idea how i blagged my way through the exam; my memory is blank. Nobody knew i was dyslexic back then, so i had no help and i used to dread English lessons more than any others.

I am one of those stereotypical people who never read anything until i read Harry Potter. I remember the emotion at finishing Philosopher’s Stone was so overwhelming that i burst into tears on a train at the moment i finished it! I love the Harry Potter series so much because it showed me that reading could be enjoyable, and i have been able to read many more books since then.

Enter the Kindle

As i am travelling a lot more these days, i decided to buy a Kindle for the ease of taking books with me. The Kindle is very clear and easy to read, and actually turns out to be very good for dyslexic people, for several reasons …

Kindle changing font options

One of my biggest obstacles to reading is the moment i turn over each page. If i see a big block of text, my brain reacts strongly against it. Every neuron tells me “No, that’s hard! Don’t make me read that!”. It can be overcome by putting a bookmark under a line at a time, letting me focus on a small amount. But on a Kindle there is a better way. You can change the text size, font style, and line spacing. If i see too much text, i can just turn the size up and it’s instantly easier to read!

If that doesn’t work, i can always turn on text-to-speech and have my Kindle read to me whilst i follow along.

I have a bad habit of ignoring words i don’t know. I often just make an assumption of what it probably means, using the context to help me guess. Using a dictionary is terribly frustrating for me because it feels like a bombardment of information. It can take me up to 5 minutes to find something in a dictionary. But hooray! The Kindle has a built-in dictionary!

Kindle looking up a word in the built-in dictionary

All i have to do is move the cursor next to a word i don’t understand, and it looks up the meaning for me! I have often been surprised that the meaning i guessed was completely wrong! I have learnt many words this way. I can highlight the word and add a note for myself if i want to.

Kindle search

Another great feature of the Kindle is its search. I don’t remember character names very easily, but with the search i can easily find out where that character was last mentioned and refresh my memory. It saves so much time and frustration wildly flicking forwards and backwards taking random guesses and having to waste time reading unnecessarily.

With a paper book, i always like to turn it on end to see how far through i am. It’s a little motivator for me. With a Kindle i get even better feedback: a small progress bar on the bottom shows the percentage that i have read. It feels like an achievement every time i see that number increase.

Even a little thing like finding my place again when coming back to a book is easier with a Kindle. Sure, i use a bookmark for paper books, but they usually have so many words on a page that it’s hard to find the spot again. With a Kindle it automatically remembers where i got to. Since i have few words on a page, i don’t mind reading the whole page again, or even going back a page to remember where i was.

There are many widely publicised good reasons for getting a Kindle, but i really think that more should be said about its benefits for dyslexia. These may only seem like small advantages to other people, but for me, anything that removes obstacles to reading means i have far more motivation to read, and i am much more likely to enjoy it.

I found that Jane Eyre is availably for free in the Amazon book store. I think most of the classics are free. I am amazed to find that i am really enjoying the story, it is far more intriguing than i remembered. I’m even reading the study guide that i got to help with my GCSE and now i find that, without the pressure of essays and exams, i am fascinated by the techniques of the author and how the story is put together. Who would have thought?!

Memories of BiCon 2010

London Docklands from the University of East London

BiCon 2010, the 28th annual bisexual conference/convention took place from August 26th – 30th at the University of East London, Docklands campus. It was combined with the 10th International Conference on Bisexuality, and the first international Bisexual Research Conference. About 450 people attended, from 28 countries!

I got up ridiculously early on Thursday 26th August in order to take the coach from Winchester to London leaving at 06:30. The journey was smooth and I was at UEL by 10am, in time to check in and drop off my suitcase in my accommodation.

The research conference was utterly brilliant, full credit to Meg Barker and Christina Richards for running it. Most of the talks were of exceptional quality, and i feel i learnt a lot. I enjoyed hearing about Helen Bowes-Catton’s research into how people perceive and visualise bisexual spaces. Kaye McLelland spoke about bisexuality in the works of Shakespeare, and i marvelled at how well my English teachers at school managed to hide it all from us!

Robyn Ochs at BiCon 2010

I was thoroughly inspired by a keynote talk from Robyn Ochs, a public speaker, writer, and long-standing bisexual activist. Robyn spoke of the importance of the impact that we make when we create space for people to be comfortably bisexual. I was touched by Robyn’s description of the reward when somebody tells us that we make a difference for them. I felt so proud at that moment that I helped to found Bi Wessex in Winchester: proud that people come along and gain something from the group, and that some of the members were there at BiCon.


Miguel Obradors Campos speaks at BiCon 2010

On Friday i bought Robyn’s book, Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World and attended the workshop where we heard from ten of the people who contributed to the book. They stood up and told us something about themselves and read an excerpt from the book. It gave such meaning to hear them speak personally, and when i reach their stories in the book, i will remember them. Their contributions will be particularly meaningful for me. I asked several of the contributors to write in my book, which they gladly did.


Sexual orientation self-definitions

I enjoyed hearing Heidi Bruins Green and Dr. Nicholas Payne speak about the results of a workplace survey on bisexuality. It was very interesting to hear the results analysed and validated from a mathematical perspective. Their results showed that bisexuality is not a phase on the way to something else, but a valid destination point, as are many other sexual orientations. They had some interesting data to show that happiness at work is directly correlated with LGBT support groups in the workplace, and anti-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

Saturday’s discussion about words and phrases for bisexuality in other languages was intriguing. I shared my Esperanto knowledge about the etymology of the word ambaŭseksema and the positive phrase borrowed from shipping terminology navigi per vaporo aŭ velo (to navigate by steam or sail). We learned phrases, both positive and negative in German, Dutch, Danish, Spanish, Italian, Sri Lankan, Welsh and Hebrew. Everybody contributed something, and the results will be published … somewhere.

Knitting a bi pride bracelet

I knitted a bi pride bracelet in the amazing craft room, and then on saturday afternoon i took some time out to visit Central London. I went to Covent Garden to visit the new Apple store (the biggest in the world) and enjoyed spending time by myself.

Saturday evening was the BiCon ceilidh which i enjoyed immensely. When it comes to dancing, i really like being told what to do! :) I made a new friend that night, somebody who i feel could become a very good friend. We danced together a lot and had some lovely conversations. Later on the music became too loud but i joined the Corridor Club upstairs where it was quieter and i enjoyed chatting to more people. We were actually the last to leave because we didn’t realise when the music had stopped and everyone downstairs had left!

Sunday was the disastrous “Bisexuality in Science-Fiction & The Future” workshop. It was marred by the speaker being late, a church group being in the room we were supposed to use, the laptop being broken, the projector refusing to work, and the speaker’s corny sense of humour which did not go down particularly well at 10am. I gave up and left after about ten minutes of technology fail, and went and joined the church, which i actually really enjoyed! Those who stayed said it only got worse, and by half way through several of them had started their own alternative science-fiction workshop out in the atrium!

The highlight of Sunday was “Smutty Storytelling” which was very well attended, and the storytellers did not disappoint! The stories were well written, and delivered with humour and enthusiasm! There were cheers and a standing ovation by the end! I sat with my new-found friend and mentioned that I had “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” on DVD, which we watched later that evening.

Monday morning seemed to go quite slowly. Things were winding down but there were still a few workshops left. I went to one on sensual play, which was well facilitated, and led to discussions of how we might turn the results into an amusing website! Later i went to have my photo taken professionally, so that hopefully i will appear again on the front cover of Bi Community News and maybe in other publications about bisexuality.

Latimer "the buck" and a lion from BiCon 2008 share a hug

Before i knew it, it was closing plenary. Awards and thanks were given, we celebrated the success of this BiCon, and met the team of BiCon 2011 which will be in Leicester from September 1st – 4th. Registration is already open!

The bi community is amazing. So totally inclusive and unquestioning. I am so happy that i went, I am sad that it’s over, but writing this is my therapy: recording my happy memories and celebrating the joys of the last few days.

Thanks so very much to the BiCon 2010 organising team – you did an incredible job!

How long will humanity survive?

I’m reading a book called “The Goldilocks Enigma” by Paul Davies. It discusses why it is that the universe seems to be so finely tuned to life. It explains all the ‘coincidences’ that have turned up in cosmology and quantum physics, the constants that we experience such as the strength of gravity, the size of protons, the power of the electromagnetic force, etc, and describes what would happen if they were slightly different.

The book has pointed out the one glaring exception to the “principle of mediocrity” that says the universe is pretty much the same wherever you look: the exception being that we are here and we have never yet observed intelligent life elsewhere! Why should that be? It continued by covering in detail the theory of multiple pocket universes, perhaps an infinite number of them, creating a collective multiverse. I am just coming on to the part about simulated universes and whether we would even know if we were in a simulation. All this i find very fascinating.

One thing made me stop and think this morning. It was just a little aside to another point the author was making. I’ll quote the context and bold up the bit that interested me the most.

While the simulation argument was restricted to a single universe, it was always possible to wriggle out of the uncomfortable conclusion that this might be a simulation by arguing that no civilizations are likely to reach the point of achieving such stupendous computational power. For example, there are many reasons why humanity may not survive for more than a few centuries beyond the present, and that may not be long enough for conscious computers to be developed. If a similar fate were to befall any other intelligent beings who might be located elsewhere in the universe, then simulations, while still a possibility in principle, might never be achieved in practice.

Paul Davies, The Goldilocks Enigma, page 208.

There it is. Just a little snippet with no elaboration. Just a cold hint that our species might not be around for very much longer. A footnote references “Our Final Century” by Martin Rees. I think i should read that book soon!

The reason it caught my attention is that i have been thinking for a while that we might be heading for an early demise. A point made in “Conversations With God” is that our technological advances have now exceeded our sociological development. We have the ability to annihilate our entire species (and many of the others) if we misuse our technology. The scary thing is, all it takes is a few wrong decisions by a minority of people with great influence. Look at the Iraq war. I was one of 36 million people[citation] who protested against it before the war began. It did no good. We couldn’t change the minds of the people who decided it would happen.

If it’s not a devestating war it’ll be run-away climate change, or over-population leading to world hunger, or an asteroid will hit the planet and wipe us out. In the long-term i think the only way to ensure the prolonged survival of our species is to spread ourselves out across other planets in the galaxy. Of course, eventually we would have to do that anyway: in 5 billion years time the sun will run out of fuel. But how soon can we start migrating to different planets? Current estimates suggest not very soon at all!

This is the first hint i’ve come across that says our time left could be measured in centuries. In “Stardust”, Stephen Welch says that the average life-span of a land-based species is 5 million years. We humans have only been around for the last 200,000 years. It’s a terribly young age for a species to die!

But if we are wiped out, what happens next? I believe that life will go on in some form. Life is very resilient, once started, it’s very hard to kill it. No matter what happens to the planet, even if we can’t survive, something will. But then what of all our culture, our literature, our art, our technology? Everything that we’ve produced will eventually fade and crumble without us here to preserve it. Does that matter? Wouldn’t it be a shame if another intelligent species were to come to our planet in a million years’ time and find no trace of our existence?

What are we really trying to achieve here, anyway? I mean really long-term. Eventually our entire universe will freeze out as the last stars extinguish all the available fuel. We know that the human race cannot survive indefinitely, at least, not unless we can figure out a way to jump to a different universe, all of which (if they exist at all) are probably receding from us faster than the speed of light! Even if we put our consciousness into a simulated reality, it cannot outlast the life of the universe. Everything needs energy, and the second law of thermodynamics will be our ultimate downfall. “The Last Question” by Isaac Asimov, written in 1956, makes this point profoundly. It’s a good read; i enjoyed it recently.

Ah, where am i going with this? I know we as a species won’t last forever, I don’t want our entire existence to be meaningless in the end but i can’t work out what it would take to make it meaningful on a cosmic scale. I think that a few hundred years is not a long time for homo sapiens to have left, and i hope we can get past our selfishness and childishness. I hope that our final end isn’t caused by our own silly fault.

CouchDB and data storage

Alexander Lang has written a great article about why CouchDB is not compatible with ActiveRecord, and why you should not try to coerce CouchDB into mimicking a relational database. It really is a very different thing altogether: The case of ActiveRecord vs. CouchDB

In my experience of CouchDB i first tried out ActiveCouch because of my familiarity with ActiveRecord. I soon came across problems because it was trying to make CouchDB something that it is not. As i exclaimed at the time, “LOL. ActiveRecord this is not!”

I had far more success with couchrest which is a much closer CouchDB wrapper, enabling CouchDB to be used as it’s intended: as a RESTful interface with map/reduce views.

Domain-Driven Design

Recently i have been reading Domain-Driven Design by Eric Evans. Through reading it my understanding of Rails – and web programming – has completely turned around. My thinking used to be entirely database-centric. I saw Rails as little more than an easy access into the database. For ages i didn’t even realise that you could have models that weren’t connected to a database table!

Now my thinking has changed and i consider the primary focus to be the domain model. I think about the classes and the design patterns that apply to them. I consider how they fit together, how they communicate with each other, and the boundaries between the core domain and subdomains. In my mind, the database has gone from being the most important thing to being just a method of persistence for the data in the domain model.

When you think of things this way round you are less likely to get hung up on the differences between ActiveRecord and CouchDB. You work out your domain, design the classes and then think about the most appropriate database platform to support your model.

Update: I’ve just come across a useful article that provides three methods to achieve a has_many relational structure in CouchDB. CouchDB “Joins” by Christopher Lenz.

Better blogging

So yesterday’s post was actually not the last post of the year! :)

A few nights ago i saw somebody’s blog had little icons next to comments, showing the country, browser and operating system of each commenter. I found that quite interesting and decided i wanted the same on my blog. I discovered that it is part of the FireStats plugin and so i installed it. Little did i know the impact that it was about to have on me!

FireStats reveals a whole lot of fascinating information about who is visiting your blog. Suddenly i can see the most popular posts, find out the search terms that people used to get here, or the referrer page that sent them here. I used to think i was just writing my blog for a few friends, but now i see that people are coming from all over the world, mostly for information about CouchDB and … Caturday! HAHA! I haven’t done a Caturday post for ages! Perhaps i should start doing them again!

So i put up the “Currently popular” widget in the navigator. It’s pretty nifty because it changes every day. I also installed a few more plugins and made a few tweaks:

  • I enabled title slugs in the URL for all my posts. The old URLs still work, however.
  • Yet Another Related Posts Plugin puts links to related posts at the bottom of each post. It calculates ‘related’ by category, title and content. It’s pretty good! I have been reminded of old posts that i’d forgotten about!
  • Unfancy Quote Plugin has removed the so-called curly quotes that were appearing where i did not want them – ie in example code
  • WP Super Cache ensures speedy rendering of pages, particularly if hundreds of people were to look at a page all at once. Instead of continually querying the database, once it knows the content of a particular page, it can just display the cached version.

WordPress plugins are so for the win!

* * *

In other news, i finished reading Design Patterns today. It wasn’t such a hard read as i thought it would be; it’s actually quite easy to read one or two patterns at a time. The summaries are also very useful, for comparing and contrasting different patterns.

The State and Strategy patterns were quite obvious. Mediator seems almost the same as Observer to me. No matter how many times i read and understand the difference between Adapter and Bridge, i cannot seem to remember it long-term. Memento is my favourite pattern. It’s like asking someone, “Please remind me of this in a minute!” and they say, “Oh, okay” even though they have no idea what it means!

Visitor seems to me like the stupidest pattern ever, but maybe i have misunderstood it. It seems to contradict everything that makes sense about object-oriented programming, to have something that goes around doing things to other objects, violating encapsulation, and it has to be hard-coded to deal differently with different objects. It makes me think of Aspect-oriented programming actually.

I went to the library and borrowed a book for the holiday: Why Is Uranus Upside Down? And Other Questions About the Universe by Fred Watson. A nice bit of light reading, i think! ;)

Awakening

Now something inside is awakening,
Like a dream I once had and forgot.
And it’s something I’m scared of
And something I don’t want to stop.

Sara Groves – Awakening

Stealing other people’s lyrics in order to convey your own feelings == WIN.

Lately i keep getting calling cards from God. Sometimes it just happens like that – a whole stack of coincidences arrange themselves to make an impression on me. I feel a spiritual hunger. I miss something about church, and christian music, and collaborative worship. I suddenly find myself surrounded by Christians and admiring the things they are doing.

My attitude is shifting ever so slightly, from “I don’t think i can ever be sure whether or not there is a God” to something more like, “I am willing to entertain the possibility there might be a loving God”. I realise there’s not a great deal of difference, but to me it feels different. One says there is no point even bothering to contemplate God, and the other says there is every reason to explore the possibility of a personal relationship with God.

Something is stirring within me, but i am very conscious that i have been at this point of “Awakening” many times before. What usually happens is one or two Christian friends give me some encouragement, and then a whole load more Christians put me off.

Christians, let me give you a clue: telling me i should not do yoga does more harm than the yoga itself would do. Telling me not to read certain books does more harm than the reading of those books. Condemning me for my sinful lifestyle does far more harm than my living with my loving partner (to whom i was not married) for four years. Thankfully we have now absolved ourselves of that particular ‘sin’ by getting married! :)

Today i encountered some Christians from various churches in the centre of Winchester. They call it “Healing on the Streets”. I received some prayer for healing for my shoulders, neck and jaw … which are always tense due to stress and grinding my teeth at night. They were very kind and i enjoyed to be prayed for. I met someone who attends the Harvest church, which i have been vaguely thinking about trying out. I didn’t make any promises, but i might visit tomorrow.

In wonderful contrast to Christianity, i also bought a book today called Fuck It. The Ultimate Spiritual Way. I have just started reading it, and i’m quite enjoying it. It’s an amusing little book that could teach us all to just lighten up, relax, let go, stop making everything so meaning-full. It’s the western equivalent of all that mystical eastern teaching, but without any new-age esoteric complications. It’s so simple! Just try saying “Fuck it” to something that’s bothering you, and see if you enjoy the freedom that results!

A post of many dimensions

I am currently reading Hyperspace by Michio Kaku, and absolutely loving it! So fascinating, and so well explained. Who would have imagined that the physical laws of the universe become simpler and fit together better in higher dimensions?! Just getting on to superstring theory, and actually understanding it!!

I have just found a wonderful video that enables a way of conceiving ten dimensions … anyone interested in higher dimensions should absolutely definitely watch this video! I have also been watching video trailers of Flatland the movie, and i am looking forward to reading the book.

Oh my gosh, youtube is great for explaining scientific theories! Here is an amazing program by none other than Michio Kaku, explaining superstrings, the nature of the universe, the search for a unified theory of forces. Its a half-hour program in four parts – just search for Michio Kaku on String Theory. WOW.

There was something else i wanted to mention: Buy Nothing Day is coming up on Saturday. I am going to challenge myself not to spend any money at all for the whole day. Not only is it a personal challenge (not too difficult i hope!) but also it is a message to the retail industry that we will not get drawn into this world of consumerism and shopoholicism.