Tuesday, September 12, 2006

On the reception and delivery of information

I'm pleased to be taking my COMP 3007 course with Tony White because it is his favourite undergraduate course to teach, and it shows. He makes a real effort to entertain the class as well as impart the knowledge, something I really appreciate. Professor White described our textbook, Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs as "THE best book on Computer Science I have ever read". The Forward of the book is a marvellous passage that I think any lay person should read if the want to understand the philosophy of computer programming. I have made note of some of my favourite quotes from the book so far, including:

The source of the exhilaration associated with computer programming is the continual unfolding within the mind and on the computer of mechanisms expressed as programs and the explosion of perception they generate. If art interprets our dreams, the computer executes them in the guise of programs!

Every reader should ask himself periodically ``Toward what end, toward what end?'' -- but do not ask it too often lest you pass up the fun of programming for the constipation of bittersweet philosophy.

Pascal is for building pyramids -- imposing, breathtaking, static structures built by armies pushing heavy blocks into place. Lisp is for building organisms -- imposing, breathtaking, dynamic structures built by squads fitting fluctuating myriads of simpler organisms into place.

Invent and fit; have fits and reinvent! We toast the Lisp programmer who pens his thoughts within nests of parentheses.

In effect, we conjure the spirits of the computer with our spells... A computational process is indeed much like a sorcerer's idea of a spirit. It cannot be seen or touched. It is not composed of matter at all. However, it is very real. ... The programs we use to conjure processes are like a sorcerer's spells. They are carefully composed from symbolic expressions in arcane and esoteric programming languages that prescribe the tasks we want our processes to perform.

It's a goal of mine to make my university experience fun this year. I already laughed heartily about 3 times in class today :) I think I should go visit my prof in his office hours and share my enthousiam for this book, and the course. I'm particularly motivated to do so after reading a chapter of Inge Bell's book This Book is not Required entitled "Support your local professor". I decided that if I want to become a teacher (I'm considering it), a good way to practice would be to present the information in this chapter to my professors. It's occured to me that a good way to learn how to give good massages would be to practice on a masseuse because they know how to give good feedback. Well, I bet it's similar with teaching. I haven't commited to doing this yet, but I wrote out some notes...

I'm considering dropping in on a Toastmasters meeting one of these days so I can get better at public presentations. For the first time ever, my room mate Mark Tovey interviewed me about Free Culture and how it relates to his most recent paper, and he gave me some nice comments on my delivery of answers, which I found to be rather encouraging. I know I've got it in me to be a good speaker, but I need some refinement. That being said, there's value in being silent in voice and mind, so on that note...

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