Miscellany

MISCELLANY….Teresa Nielsen Hayden:

A student at the University of Kent who got zapped for plagiarism right before his final exams is suing the university for negligence, on the grounds that he?s been cheating in exactly the same way throughout his studies there, and they?ve never said anything about it.

My first reaction was ?Nice try, kid.? On second thought, he does have a point….

Kieran Healy:

I don?t think he has a point.

I link, you decide.

Elsewhere, Kieran waxes lyrical about the programming language APL. Now that takes me back a ways ? specifically to my senior year in high school:

COMPUTER CENTER GUY AT LOCAL JC: Can I help you?

ME: Is this the place to get an account to use the computer?

CCGALJC: What [computer] languages do you know?

ME: Um, I know some BASIC. And I’m taking a FORTRAN class.

CCGALJC (sarcastically): Well then, all the kingdoms of heaven are yours, aren’t they?

He was a fan of APL, which was also the approved pedagogical language of Golden West College at the time. But he was right: BASIC sucks, whereas APL is truly a mesmerizing language. It’s not really all that good a language, or so I’m told by people who know more about these things than I do, but it’s certainly more fun than any other language I’ve had the misfortune to meet.

APL legends abound, and the local legend at Golden West College was of some young prodigy who wrote a 4-line program that could take the derivative of any equation fed into it. I saw the program myself, and sure enough, it was only four lines long. And it worked. I don’t know how, and I’ve always been suspicious that there was a trick involved ? perhaps buried within the arcane symbols was a call to some other program that was a thousand lines long ? but everyone swore it was for real. If so, it was an amazing accomplishment.

Sadly, it’s been downhill for me and computers ever since….