June 22-27, 2007

   In general, I'm a
   hyper-critical person --

   I don't like to believe
   anything I'm told, even
   when it's by obvious

   I like to understand the evidence and
   reasoning behind every conclusion... and
   even then I keep looking for ways the
   conventional interpretation might be wrong.

   Does that sound like a pack
   of self-flattering, pretentious,
   noble sentiments?

       But really being a person
       like this -- as opposed to
       being a person who (when
       convenient) claims to be
       one -- is not at all an
       un-mixed blessing.

       It's a near impossibilty
       to really examine
       everything so closely --      Feynman (see "Surely You're
       a genius-level intellect      Joking") tells a story about
       like a Feynman might be       being led-astray temporarily
       able to get away with it      by what was widely regarded as
       (maybe), but in practice      common knowledge among the
       it's ridiculous for           physicists in the field, and
       someone like myself --        only after learning they'd
       relatively bright, but        changed their minds did he go
       hardly a genius -- to try     back to the original paper,
       to live this way.             and then he remembered how
                                     unimpressive he thought it was
       At the very least,            the first time he had read it.
       I think it makes
       my progress in                  He resolves at
       learning things                 that point to
       much slower than                understand         But then: Murray
       it might be                     everything for     Gell-man
       otherwise.                      himself, and       complained that
                                       take no one's      the point of all
       For example, to this day,       word for           of Feynman's
       I'm not *really* sure I         anything.          stories was to
       believe in all that stuff                          show how much
       about electron orbitals                            smarter he was
       and the shell structure of                         than everyone
       the the atom.  Doesn't it                          else.
       seem kind of clumsy and
       arbitrary?  I mean, the                                It's amazing
       "Von Pauli Exclusion                                   how well a
       Principle"?  *What*             Actually:              little self-
       principle?  It's totally        thinking of            deprecating
       ad hoc!                         the atom as a          humor can
                                       badly written          conceal that
          Well okay, so maybe          software               sort of thing.
          it helps explain             module would
          the semiconductor            probably work             Not that I
          band gap phenomena           for me.                   would know
          that transistors                                       anything about
          are based on...                  Okay, so the          such tactics,
                                           interface is          myself.
          And, yeah, okay there's          clumsy.  What
          other supporting data...         else is new?
          like spectroscopic lines         Just deal.
          (and little things, like
          the fact that lasers work)
          and there's the periodic
          table of the elements and
          all that...

               That might convince
               *some* people, but           This sort of radical
               I want *more* myself.        skepticism might be
                                            useful for someone
                                            doing theoretical
                                            work, but it's an
                                            impediment to just
                                            learning the material
                                            well enough to use it.

                    So, should I try the
                    opposite approach?

          Maybe the right thing
          to do is to be a "true
          believer" at least at
          the outset.

          Make the assumption that
          the experts know exactly
          what they're up to,
          emerse youself in that
          worldview uncritically...
          then later, step back and
          see if you can conjure up
          some heresy.                      Ride the
                                            faith cycle...

     I continue to be
     hyperskeptical in the                  Another variant of
     world of software                      the rough/fine
     engineering -- certainly               strategy, but in
     it's a field that                      reverse.
     deserves it, it's far                                        TWO_LEVEL
     less intellectually
     rigorous than something                   Instead of refusing
     like physics and                          admittance to anything
     chemistry.                                that doesn't meet
                                               your standards, you
     Snake oil abounds.                        throw the doors open
                                               and hold an open house,
                     (Not to mention           then selectively eject
                     some other animal         the bad elements later.

                                               And that sounds a lot
     I stick with perl rather than             like a standard strategy
     play the language-of-the-                 for designing "social
     month game, but even as a                 network" web sites.
     perl programmer, I'm
     reluctant to take up the perl                ACCESS_RAMP
     techniques that are touted as
     the latest thing...

        The hot topic right now
        would be "Class::InsideOut"
        vs. "Class::Std", but
        myself, I'm only just now
        thinking about giving the
        old "Class::MethodMaker" a

           And I still haven't
           started using

           It's been standard
           practice for over
           five years, though,
           maybe I should
           just go for it,
           and see what I think
           of it later...

              I find it very
              difficult to
              evaluate a software
              technique in the
              abstract, without
              actually trying it.

                There are always
                gotchas that don't
                turn up until you
                apply it to a task.