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Re: Deploring *nix Philosophy

On Fri, 04 Jun 2004 00:29:19 -0400, Erik Hemdal wrote:

> Nowadays, I don't use floppies as much as I used to, but the behavior I
> recall under Windows is sequential writes.  It's not possible to
> interrupt a write to a floppy, and not possible to write two different
> files to a floppy simultaneously.  That's very simplistic behavior that
> avoids the need for much media management.
>> >> It's more a philosophical point.
>> >> ( Rest read and snipped ! )
> I'm not sure I understand this part of the problem.  Again, I haven't
> seen this problem on any of my systems. ....

>> > This  is a common trait of all *nixes, as I am learning. Whatever are
>> > the inner strengths and ideals, the above examples are born out of a
>> > lack of respect for the common computer user. Clear message -
>> > computer not for non-programmers and non-geeks!

Been there, thought that, found out otherwise.

> (snip) I'm sincerely NOT trying to be flippant or rude here, I truly
> don't understand your point.  I continue to be amazed at how complicated
> "simple" things often turn out to be.

How normal, alas! Been on both ends of that one, and still am -- the
bottom end -- with linux.

I liked the automobile analogy, but it can be made to cut both ways --
most of the work on mine goes to my mechanic ...

Here's a parable that may help.

An eminent philologist sits in her office, one who no longer thinks in
mere words, but in whole word-families and all their history, each as
present in its entirety to her mind as a trampoline to an acrobat.

In comes one of her advanced graduate students, to discuss a topic for his
seminar paper. After they chat a little, she suggests, "You might like to
do Bread; I think you can handle it."

Very conscious of the compliment, he temporizes: "Hmmm... Give me a

She rattles off all the forms "bread" takes in Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, Old
Norse, Old Church Slavonic, and several more, noting for each whether it's
attested or inferred; he nods. Then she derives the Indo-European and
proto-Indo-European forms, giving only the results and taking for granted
that he sees the methods. He continues to nod.

So she quotes author and title (still off the top of her head) of the
major books on the subject, which he writes down, and goes on to name the
learned journals where the most recent major articles have appeared; he
scribbles the standard abbreviations, like DVj for Deutsch
Vierteljahresschrift fuer <klassische Philologie, or whatever>, and the
years. He's still nodding. Finally he thanks her, and heads for the

The grad student is looking forward to a month's productive and enjoyable
effort, which will bring him one step closer to being a real philologist
in his own right; and the eminent one permits herself a moment to bask in
a well-earned sense of successful benevolence.

Before she finishes the moment, or the grad student reaches the end of the
hall, a complete stranger looks in the door: a freshman, young but
brilliant scion of a long line of surgeons and humanitarians, each as
eminent in those fields as the philologist in hers, ready, eager, and
determined to emulate them all.

With more diffidence than confidence, she says hesitantly, "I think I need
a little help with the Dative Case."

Oho! This'll be harder. The philologist, a connoisseuse of students, has
sized the freshman up while making her comfortable, spotting both her
ability and the determination underlying the diffidence; making a quick
decision, she marshals her thoughts for the length of one very deep
breath, and launches into a scintillating disquisition in the history of
grammar, morphology, and syntax all across Europe and India for the last
five thousand years.

But the freshman waves both hands in protest: "I'm sorry -- I must have
asked that very badly. The thing is, I have to take organic chemistry next
year to get into med school, and I want to teach myself enough German to
read the cookbook without taking a whole course in it; but the use of
Dative Case seems confusingly different from Latin."

Triple oho! This is much, much harder.

The first difficulty will be to establish where the freshman is coming
from -- how good her Latin is, whether she means regular or idiomatic
uses, etc., etc.

The second difficulty, where we really get into parallels with the present
case, is worse: to elicit all that information, indispensable to set the
problem up, without making the freshman feel like she's stumbled into a
hostile cross-examination, designed not to inform (not yet, indeed!) but
to humiliate her, get rid of her, and make sure she never comes back.

Clear message, as false as it is clear: philology is not for
non-philologists and non-historians!

80% of us here, according to somebody's estimate, are scattered variously
between the grad student at one end and the freshman at the other. The
other 20% are the philologists.

As for your not so humble, disobedient servant, he's about a sophomore:
still very clueless, but aware that the cross-examination is a standard
prerequisite to help, not an exudation of hostility. Sometimes he even
manages a stab at junior status: guessing ahead of time what some of the
questions may turn out to be, and providing what answers he can in

Welcome to the club.

Beartooth Implacable, curmudgeonly codger learning linux
Work is for people who can't hunt.

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