Extremely thankful for the comments on Authonomy

Thank you to people who have given me comments on my book.  I’m appreciative for the feedback and it’s encouraging to me.  I haven’t been writing.  I’ve been watching Olympics and playing Wii golf and making things in C.  I’m not sure what I’m going to keep doing.  I’m feeling pretty reflective tonight.  I’m cultivating a certain mood.  One day aside, this last month has been extremely balanced, which is no accident and does not come easily to me.  I’m going to be an uncle in a few months.  I want to be a good uncle.  I want to be loving and present but only in ways that are desired.  I’m tired of being angry with people.  I think that I’m at a place in my life where I still think that, if people are to be measured, that there is a lot of suckage going on, in me and others.  But I’m tired of measuring it because I don’t like the way it makes me feel.  That doesn’t mean that stuff doesn’t suck when measured, it doesn’t mean that.  All it means is I’m no longer measuring.  Is this the fatality of growing older?  I don’t think it is exactly.  This is a release, and a surrender.  You could call it a sadness except it without the emotion of sadness…it is a loss, an intented loss, a desired loss, a calculated loss.  What I want now—what I want in a day—is balance, simplicity, and, essentially, art.  I want the art of washing dishes, the art of shoveling snow.  I want the art of writing and reading and reflecting and programming and building and creating things, and talking with the people who make sense to me, who are cut from the same fabric as me.  I’m not sincerely interested in impressing other people, I have found, at 32.  Psychologically, that’s not my real need.  In domains where I have made half-steps because I was only in it up to the point where I proved that I could accomplish whatever end, that was about showing myself that my belief in me was well-founded.  I don’t have to do that now…because I have over and over successfully proven to myself that I can do x,y,z…and I have over and over found that proof to be ultimately unassuaging.  It doesn’t mean what I thought it would mean.  I think I am now free to play.  Everything I said was shit, was shit.  I was as right about all that stuff as it’s possible for a person to be right.  But it doesn’t make me feel good.  This doesn’t fix anything.  The world really is in a terrible shape.  Parts of it are in wonderful shape.  A lot of it is in terrible shape.  That is all true.  But I don’t feel like I will try to fix it.  That is not, before anyone suggests it, some attitude that represents maturation or mellowing or growing up.  There is a distinction between pessimism, apathy, defeatism, and yet still between self-care.  I will never give up on the world.  I also won’t delude myself about its state.  What I will do, what I am doing, is—while I’m adding to it in the couple of ways I know how—I am drawing inward, letting a shore buffer me from that crazy world that I love and that, as best I can, I make things for.  I have dreams that dogs I love are biting me.  That imagery fits here.  For some, the advice is not to bite the hand that feeds you.  Right now, for me, it’s to protect your hand from the mouth of the dog you love.

Extremely thankful for the comments on Authonomy

Absolutely loving the Olympics

Loving the competition, loving the emotional reactions of winners, loving the crazy ski conditions, loving it all.  More stuff like this should be on TV more of the time.  In my family we say that instead of war we should just do country-versus-country sports, and cooking competitions.  Maybe our species can graduate to such more civilized forms of competition.  I hope so.  The world is what we make it.  There is absolutely no need for us to suffer as a species in quite the ways we are right now.

Absolutely loving the Olympics

Debugged hard problem

Most debugging is easy.  The compiler or the memory checker tells you what’s wrong up to a certain level, and after that you can compare the actual and expected results of your program, to fix the rest.  With some experience almost all debugging is routine, even with multithreaded and network apps…you follow some process and fix problems with rapidity.  But sometimes there are harder problems.

A coworker and I debugged a problem a few years ago where somehow some of the whitespace in the program contained a special character…it showed up as whitespace to our eyes, but to the compiler it was a non-whitespace character.  So we were getting an error message that indicated that something was wrong with a piece of code which, when we looked at the code, there was truly nothing wrong with.  Even copying and pasting the code section maintained the error.  We knew there was something wrong because the compiler was complaining, yet we were correct in our assessment that the code we were reading was error-free.  It took us a while to find the incorrect assumption: that the code we were reading was not the code that was there.

Today I solved a hard bug.  That’s significant to me as it doesn’t happen often.  I had referred to a variable, called system, in a newly-written function, without passing that variable into the function.  Normally, if you refer to something that isn’t there, the compiler will find that and it will be one of the first and simplest problems you debug.  In this case, though, there was already a global variable named system, that hid the fact that I hadn’t declared my variable.  That global system variable was not put there by me…it’s part of some library I included.  So there was no compile error and no memory error, but there was a program error, because when I thought I was referring to my variable system (which didn’t exist in that scope) I was actually referring to a different variable of the same name (and the same type, which just happened to exist for me because someone else created it).  It was a fun “gotcha”…and finding that in thousands of lines of code took some time…because as simple as the situation is now that I understand it, the way the situation presented itself to me is this: it looks like somehow my pointer value is getting messed up, and no matter what I do, I can’t find the line of code that messes it up.  That’s because my way of stating the problem is wrong: I was looking at some words called “system” all over my program, and trying to find where I mis-set one of them…but the assumption that all those “systems” referred to the same variable(s), variables I had created, was wrong…even though usually that’s a safe assumption since the compiler tells you when you refer to something that doesn’t exist…but it certainly doesn’t tell you when you happen to be using a variable named the same as someone else’s poorly-named global variable.  The problem took a while to solve because of the way I was stating the problem to myself.

Programming, especially debugging, but programming in general, can be seen as a process of rectifying your idea of the world, with the world as it actually is.  Most of the time, during the programming process, what you have left to do is measured by the difference between what you think is going on, and what is actually going on.  It’s humbling to realize that in programming (as with other parts of life) there is almost always a delta between our models of reality, and reality itself.  We are, essentially, wrong.  Programming, and some other types of self-examination, involve humbly discovering exactly how.

Debugged hard problem

"Walmart & Costco are selling more copies of a limited number of books"

“Dear Mr. Temple: Thanks very much for your query letter regarding your novel, THINGS SAID IN DREAMS. I’m sorry to say that I don’t feel we could represent this for you successfully because of the fluctuations in the publishing marketplace. The publishing business has been erratic since the early part of 2001, when most publishers took a big fall in sales. Sales since 1999 have been mixed, and, specifically, 2001 showed a tremendous drop in the sale of fiction. Since then, book chain business has been soft, with yearly increases of two to four percent, but more from nonfiction than fiction–and with a rise in the sale of juvenile and young adult books. Generally speaking, this means that bookstores and such outlets as Walmart & Costco are selling more copies of a limited number of books, often and not surprisingly by established best-selling authors. The market for fiction has been smaller and smaller, and thus publishers and editors have been buying less novels that might be considered “mid-list”–and they’re buying darker material. I wish I could say something more specific about what you’ve submitted, but we are receiving between forty to sixty queries a week these days–and it is just impossible to read and consider and comment in detail. Of course, another agent may feel differently, and good luck with your work. Best wishes, [Agent X]”

Understood.  Best wishes to you in this publishing climate. MVT

"Walmart & Costco are selling more copies of a limited number of books"

"Thank you for writing."

“As it states on our website, please note that we are not taking on new clients or accepting any query letters at this time. However, Mr. [X] has made his book, How to Write a Great Query Letter, free, as a way to give back to the writing community and help you in your search. If you would like to donwload it for free, you may visit […] Mr. [X] also maintains a blog, […], which is filled with valuable advice to help aspiring authors in their careers. Feel free to visit it, and to ask any general questions you may have about writing or publishing. We wish you the very best of luck in your search. Best wishes, [Agency X]”

I didn’t write this agent back.  Though he has a venerable list and I think he means to help, my goal is clearly not to become great at writing query letters.

"Thank you for writing."