Keegapologies, and keegakeegaCRASH

I would like to offer apologies to anyone who might consider themselves a “reader” already (ha), and to me for not keeping promises I made to myself about how much effort I would put into this World Wide Web Log. I’ve been trying to complete some past-due stuff for school (read: final draft of my Honors Project and an independent study) so that I’ll actually get a degree in my lifetime, and it has not been going swimmingly. Turns out I suck at fiction, and yet I continue to try my hand at it.

(Which is not actually a sign of insanity, but rather, being a scientist, kids!)

Also, nonfiction doesn’t work when you spend all day looking at a computer screen trying to make fiction work.

Still, I ask you not to lose faith in me. And to immediately undermine my imperative that you not lose faith in me, I would now like to do something bad writers do: tell a story, then give a link so I don’t have to tell any more story.

As I’ve already shown above through my frugal use of random asides, I’m a reader of the webcomic xkcd. You probably are as well. It’s one of many webcomics I read on a regular basis, but it’s probably the only one that ever, even occasionally, goes completely over my head. The reason for this is quite simple, and in fact I’m warned that it will happen on xkcd’s every page:

“Warning: this comic occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors).”

Actually, it’s more the programming language than the mathematics that gets me, but the point remains. I chose to be a liberal-arts major, and when I’m faced with programming-based humor, I feel not moral outrage or probably-unrighteous indignation. Rather, I’m hit by an acute desiderium (look it up) for the time in my life when I could just have easily become a computer sciences major with an actual trade and an actual knowledge base. Sometimes, completely separate from any comics-induced ennui, I still feel the desire to roll back the clocks and do it all over on the other side of the college campus.

(It probably says something that neither of my idealized life-paths lead to ostentatious amounts of tail, strange, etc.)

But to bring it back to xkcd-induced whathaveyou, I was browsing through the archives when I came across one strip in which Mr. Munroe made mention of “pronouncing” <> symbols. This was new to me, but it wasn’t exactly news, because not long before that I’d been exposed to one Mr. Ryan North referencing the # sign as a “hash mark.”

“WHAT THE FUCK, PROGRAMMERS?!” I thought with mild intrigue.

Having advanced through the ranks of high school calculus, and having looked at a phone before, I knew for a facet (not a typo) that these symbols were known as “greater than”, “less than”, “number” and/or “pound”, and that you didn’t pronounce them, you just said they words they stood for.

It turns out that, like paleobotany before it, the world of programming language is far stranger, and far greater, than any of us could have ever suspected. An associate of mine named Joel—whom I’ve never really given the attention I’m realizing he deserves, to my shame—linked me to an entry from his own Web “Captain’s” Log that not only laid out how programmers read such punctuation, but did it through the use of an adorable poem that he didn’t write.

As much as it pains me, I’m not going to rehash everything Joel says in his post, because on principle shout outs (shouts out?) are better than cheap shots. Go read what he wrote, because it’s nifty, and the poem (which Joel didn’t write) will make you smile.

And with that, I have to get back to actually trying to make something of my life.

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