Book Report: Programming Ruby: The Pragmatic Programmer's Guide

This is a short book report. As if that wasn't bad enough, it's about computer programming. So maybe I should start out by relaying the story one of my relatives told tonight at dinner. It's a story about back when he worked at the Pentagon. He was in the 902nd military intelligence group. Every day, he'd receive a stack of reports from the FBI. He had a list of army people in the Pentagon, each of which was interested in certain things. So he'd spend a while each day reading over each of these FBI reports and figuring out which people would be interested in which reports. Then he'd make copies of these reports and distribute them. It was a tricky job, requiring attention to detail--except that he suspected that no-one really read these reports. One day, he nerved himself up and instead of carefully reading the reports, he just redistributed them randomly. It took less time, and he had more time to just walk around and goof off. You might think this was a foolish move--but he was young and foolish.

There's no denouement to this story. It turns out that nobody was reading those reports. He never bothered to read the reports again; he kept on distributing them randomly. Eventually, he was rewarded for his efforts with a different task.

In this spirit of not-reading things and then encouraging other people to read them, I recommend Programming Ruby. I didn't finish this book, but I recommend it. It's about a programming language. By reading the first part of the book, I was able to decide whether I wanted to use Ruby for an upcoming project or stick with Python.

This book talks a lot about anonymous program blocks, but doesn't mention lambda functions. And after a while, you wonder why there are no lambda functions, and you think that all Ruby programmers are nuts. But then the book finally mentions lambda functions after all. Ruby does have them. Ruby programmers aren't nuts.

I could write more about this book, but I think I need to go lie down and sleep off the effects of this dinner. Happy holidays, everybody.

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Book Report: A Secret Life

This book by Benjamin Weiser has interesting ethical choices, history, and spycraft.

A Polish navy officer became a traitor to Soviet-controlled Poland; which is to say that he arguably became a hero to the Poland-controlled Poland that lurked under the surface.

The Soviets made war plans. In these plans, huge numbers of Soviet troops marched from the USSR into Western Europe. Many of these troops would pass through Poland.

There were too many Soviet troops for the the West to stop them all. Unless the West used nukes. Where would the nukes fall? On Poland, of course--that's where the troops would be. Even if Poland wasn't invading anyone.

The Soviets tried to get the Poles to knuckle under to this plan. For the most part, that's what happened. One Pole, however, transmitted these plans to the West. He hoped to avert war; or if it was inevitable, that the nukes would fall earlier, when invading troops were not yet in Poland.

He talked with CIA folks. They did each other favors. They may have helped a little in gaining Poland its independence. That's a big favor to someone.

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