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April 13th, 2004

10:34 pm: Back still hurtz ...
.. a little whiskey helps though.

So I'm practically starting my interrupted Calculus sequence over again. This quarter I'm (re)taking the second in the four-part series: involving techniques of integration mainly. (anybody who's had the engineering calculus sequence probably remembers this one) My first take-home quiz went well.

Physics quiz this Friday. The last one didn't go as well as I'd hoped. One quiz is dropped though. Will change strategy.

Current Mood: uncomfortableGod-dammed back ...
Current Music: Music from the movie: AI

April 10th, 2004

05:43 pm: Sick today...
  • Back hurts.
  • Talked to my sisters and Anthony about my mother moving from MI -> CA (where we live). Discussed the implications for my grandmother (who would have no relatives living in the area then).
  • Ready to do some Physics problems. After my first quiz,I'm going to have to change my strategy. It is going to take more work in this class than I expected.
  • I've been sick today as well.
  • Doing laundary right now

    Current Mood: sicksick
    Current Music: Music from the Good/Bad/Ugly

    March 25th, 2004

    09:19 pm: I've just purchased a ....

    The essential tool of the alchoholic.

    March 23rd, 2004

    03:40 pm: Studying for an easy exam...
    ... 19th century American history.
    ... write a 2.5 minute final presentation for Oral Communications class.

    ... easy stuff.

    ... next quarter, it's back to the engineering courses .. so long interrupted.

    ... lunchtime now, then back to studying.

    Current Mood: crappycrappy

    March 22nd, 2004

    07:08 pm: It has been a long time.
    Well, a lot has happened.

    At this point, I don't want to go into a lot of detail about my life since in some ways, things have taken a nasty turn. In other ways it has taken a much better turn.

    I can honestly say that I'm a much different person than I was in the 1.5 years since my last entry. For better or worse, I'm not sure.

    Current Mood: discontentdiscontent

    July 28th, 2002

    11:04 pm: My last entry...
    ..needs some serious editing. I'll get to it later though.

    09:38 pm: XML.. why?
    So what's the big deal with XML?

    It's basically:

    • A standardized format for data files. (heavily oriented towards tree-like formats)

    • A system for specifying the structure of files. (XScheme/DTD's)

    • A system for transforming one document into different formats. (XSL)

    • A syntax for navigating trees. (XPath)

    • API's for manipulating XML documents. (DOM/SAX)

    • More on the way for sure...

    This is all well and good, but was it really necessary to invent such an elaborate structure? My biggest complaint is
    that it's just so dammed hard to read. I've never been a big fan of the
    <tag> stuff </tag>

    format to begin with. Perhaps it was largely intended for data interchange between programs only but now it's everywhere.
    Even the venerable make utility is being usurped by ANT which requires
    you to specify builds with XML. By the way, I've heard that the C# language implements javadoc-like functionality with XML (!). Maybe in the future
    you'll be allowed to write code in any language you like, as long as it looks like XML.

    XML is also growing. Here are some recent additions to the language:

    • XQuery. Here's the an abstract from a W3C document:

      XML is a versatile markup language, capable of labeling the information content of diverse data sources including structured and semi-structured documents,
      relational databases, and object repositories. A query language that uses the structure of XML intelligently can express queries across all these
      kinds of data, whether physically stored in XML or viewed as XML via middleware. This specification describes a query language called XQuery, which is
      designed to be broadly applicable across many types of XML data sources.

      This passage is a poster child for lack of focus and mis/over-applied generality (I guess that I shouldn't be surprised that an "abstract" has
      these two properties though). The single word "XQuery" tells me more about XQuery than this abstract does.

    • XML Protocol - as if the passage above isn't bad enough, here's a very abstract abstract:

      This document describes an Abstract Model of XML Protocol.

      The challenge of crafting a protocol specification is to create a description of behaviour that is not tied to any particular approach to implementation.
      There is a need to abstract away from some of the messy implementation details of buffer management, data representation and specific APIs. However,
      in order to describe the behaviour of a protocol one has to establish a set of (useful) concepts that can be used in that description. An
      abstract model is one way to establish a consistent set of concepts. An abstract model is a tool for the description of complex behaviour – it is not a
      template for an implementation... although it should not stray so far away from reality that it is impossible to recognise how the required behaviours
      would be implemented.

    This is getting too far out of hand. A person could spend the next four years studying XML. And for what? A standardized data file format?
    It's far too late now, but perhaps a different approch would have been better. Let me step away from XML for a moment to explain what I have in mind.

    I'm in the middle of developing a game for the PocketPC right now. I needed some type of tool that I can use to build maps with and I didn't want to
    spend the time writing an elaborate GUI for map-building. My only other choices left were:

    1. Use an existing tool (e.g. 3d Studio Max) augmented with some macros or plugins or something like that

    2. Specify levels in text files which could then be run through an existing macroprocessor (giving a kind of programmabilty) and then fed into my program

    I choose option 2. Now at this point, I'm sure that some of you would have been salivating at yet another opportunity to sneak XML into something.
    Now, having a decent macro processor was a definite requirement as the raw data file format was primitive. I wanted to use macros to build complex game objects
    (structures) out of simpler ones and macros would make this possible.

    So now I had to find a macroprocessor. I considered M4 but rejected it for one reason: the only conditionals allowed are string comparisons, and
    the only comparison allowed is equality. Getting m4 to play tricks like finding out if a particular number is less than another would probably
    suck badly. What about cpp? Well, I ruled out cpp because it has no looping constructs, which were also a definite requirement.
    So I decided to use PERL. Levels would be given as inline files like:

    $txt = << "END_LEVEL"
    ...level text goes here...
    print macro_expand($txt) . "\n";

    And macro_expand() would call eval() on any piece of text between hash marks. so there, now I
    have a sort of "executable data file", macros, complete programmability and access to tons of libraries etc. So I had a kind of "executable data file".
    It didn't end there though. Later on I hit on the idea of embedding the levels as backquoted lists in a Scheme program. That way macroexpansion
    would be free (just use the unquote/unquote-splicing operators) and my "macros" could manipulate complex data structures (which PERL sucks at)
    (actually the data structures wern't all that complex, but PERL still sucked at manipulating them all the same)

    So you say: "Big deal, he's using a scripting language with embedded data. So what?" And you're right, it isn't a big deal. Neither is XML for that matter.
    I believe that LISP, with it's excellent handling of tree-like structures, would have been a much better format for data files than XML. Think about it: XPath,
    XQuery, document transformations and schema validation could all be implemented as libraries of LISP code. And you'd get a level of programmibility that just
    isn't available in XML. As long as every implemented that same LISP and used the same libraries it would be a much better replacement for XML. And if people object
    to LISP syntax, then another scripting language could be used.

    I guess my point that XML is 1/10 of a programming language already. Why not take a big leap (backwards) and augment something that's already widely-used?
    XML will prevail though, encrusted with more "working drafts", "working groups" and
    standards as it lumbers "forward" it will someday be recognized for the shallow and overhyped monstrosity that it really is.

    Current Mood: discontentdiscontent

    April 16th, 2002

    12:30 pm: Well I come back.. and look what I find.

    • A link to a picture that's gone stale.

    • All of my "friends" have taken themselves off of my list.

    • My entries are embarrassing. That's okay, since I probably don't get many visitors anyways.

    Let's see.. one entry every 4.5 months...

    December 14th, 2001

    03:50 am: It's been how long?
    About 6.3 months (190 days / 30 days). Well, a lot has changed. I'm not going to document it all. Let's just say that I havent' made the best possible use of my "free time" as I'd have liked.

    Current Mood: disappointeddisappointed
    Current Music: Hide and Seek -- from AI soundtrack, John Williams

    June 6th, 2001

    08:35 pm: The Blahs
    I've got a so-called "friend" over right now. We're supposed to be doing a hacking (programming) jam-session kind of thing right now. I feel lethargic though, can't get into it. Maybe I'll read for a while instead.

    Got a new windshield on Monday. Now, to just take care of that fix-it ticket I got...

    Current Mood: listlesslistless
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