I've been thinking that, if I want to keep writing these monthly bits o' fluff, I'd better start making some sense pretty soon. If you've been reading Cubist Threads, you know I'm prone to launching into some banal diatribe about the prosaic minutiae of my midwestern upbringing.
I'm just not sure that these recollections are exactly what your long-suffering editor had in mind when he gave me this fun gig, so perhaps I'll save the flowery stories and try to be a bit more practical.
Oh, bother...the very notion of making sense is fundamentally at odds with my manifest propensity for waxing preposterous: endeavoring to elevate the perfect absence of meaningful content to its epitome. It has been a joyful exercise in the art of putting the "blank" back in "blank verse."
Lately, I'm thinking I owe you something more substantial than that, and frankly it bothers me sometimes. I'm afraid I am squandering my tenuous opportunity to push a political agenda, or to advocate a belief system, or to fire your imagination and tell you how white your shirts can be.
On the other hand, you probably already have a perfectly serviceable belief system, a solid set of conscientious political convictions, and dazzlingly incandescent unmentionables. Maybe I should just chill out on the whole heavy, head-shaping trip and simply hope my words will make you smile, or laugh, or maybe even dream a little.
I like to think I can keep an open mind - perhaps it's the rust gathering thickly on the door hinges - but I'm surely kidding myself. It's much more likely that my belief system is quietly calcifying into a spiny little ball in some tangential tidepool, viciously insulating itself against anything that dares to tread nearby.
But sometimes, thankfully, something still comes along to shake my convictions to their roots. For instance, several years back now, the whole concept of object-oriented programming was one such mindbender. Before my first exposure to OOP, I was perfectly happy in my procedural understanding of computer programming. I didn't want to hear about any object-oriented approach to programming - an approach so new that it must surely be deeply and hopelessly flawed. After all, what could possibly be more concise and accurate than a well-drawn flowchart?
Then I read a skinny little book about OOP - one of the multivolume set of documentation that came with a later version of Turbo Pascal - and some glaring lights started illuminating my previously comfortable ignorance. OOP made a lot of sense, right away, but was too abstract for me to grasp at first reading. OOP didn't really "click" for me until later, when I needed a general-purpose numeric input field in a GUI I was writing for plotting some interesting chaos simulator or somesuch. I thought about creating a numeric input field "object" - an object I could put anywhere on the screen, and from which I could get input - and OOP fit my requirement perfectly. I was sold on the potential of OOP and haven't looked back.
I've recently had another such pseudoawakening: a couple of weeks ago a colleague of mine recommended a book called The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene. The book purports to be a layman's look at string theory, the 11-dimensional description of reality that holds some promise for logically unifying all the forces in the universe, and my skepticism was unmaskable. I've read a bit of Einstein's work on relativity, beginning pretentiously and finishing prematurely, and sort of vaguely "getting it." I have trouble imagining the macrouniverse in any other terms.
While I haven't finished reading the book yet, I soon will; I'm excited at the prospect of my spiny little ignorance urchin being upended and eviscerated yet again. With luck, I will have lubricated my brain doors a little and shooed away some ignorance in the process. But fear not, gentle reader, that I may run out of ignorance; while I hope to chip away at it for years to come, my personal supply knows no bounds.
Blair Wyman is a software engineer working for IBM in Rochester, Minnesota, home of the IBM iSeries.