October 2005 Archives

I Have Nothing to Declare But My Genius


I Have Nothing to Declare but My Genius

With mainstream language design mired in ennui and retreating into formalism, the field has been effectively ceded to a ragtag, de-facto coalition of old-school dynamic stalwarts, scripting language designers, and ad-hoc domain specific API architects. A generation of research in this area can be distilled down into three overarching ideas, the rest is filigree.

This talk will explore these ideas, examine how and why these currents are converging, and show why the large scale, dispersed, heterogeneous, polyglot world of 21st century computing demands nothing less than this degree of commitment to dynamism.

Brian Foote has been programming professionally since the dawn of the Carter Administration, mostly in the service of academic researchers of various stripes. His association with the academy has enabled him to dabble extensively in research. His interests include objects, programming, programming language design, reflection, metalevel architecture, patterns, and software devolution. His exposure to Smalltalk during his impressionable formative years indelibly shaped his attitudes towards software architecture and design. Brian is one of five people to have attended every OOPSLA conference to-date. He is the author of a forthcoming self-help volume entitled “Late Binding as a Philosophy of Life”.

I get the same sense of security knowing that my program is statically type-safe as I do knowing that my seat cushion can be used as a flotation device.
--Donald Bradley Roberts, author of the award winning autobiography Outsourced to Indiana, during Q&A...

Devolution in the Air


Over the years, one of of the my favorite OOPSLA pastimes has been attempting to discern the Zeitgeist. What memes are moving, as the marketing 'droids might say. This time around, several distinctive themes emerged. I'll discuss the most vivid of them here. I'll talk about the others, Web Services, the Reflection and Metalevel Architecture Revival, and Refactoring Coming of Age, under separate cover.

The first, and most prominent / evident was Software Devolution.

By this I mean an overdue discussion of the death of quality, the embrace of failure, the acceptance of uncertainty, our exhausted capitulation in the face of complexity, the realization that the programme of the close-world formalist is mocked by reality.

Acknowledging devolution means acknowledging that not only are things worse than we've dared to admit, they are getting worse, and will continue to do so, at an ever accelerating pace. We are entering a worse-is-better world of sweatshops and generative robo-code, where the craftsmen must inevitably retreat to their redoubts in boutiques and curio shops.

Acknowledging devolution means abandoning our fetish for correctness, and learning what to do when (not if) something goes wrong.

Devolution was a theme that impinged from so many directions this year that it was impossible to ignore it. Software Devolution is something of an umbrella under which I am lumping a number of disparate trends. Perhaps the notion will seem more clear once I've cited some of the developments that made this theme seem palpable.

The most glaring evidence of this theme could be seen in Martin Rinard's Breakthrough Ideas presentation. Rather than cling to the notion that every error can even be caught, let alone avoided, Rinard deals statistically with consequences and ensuing carnage entailed in just "eating" them. The approach would seem to have more than a little in common with what the genetic programming people are doing. I need to look at his work more closely to see if this is so.

Embracing the reality of programmer fallibility and failure was a theme of Mary Beth Rosson's The End of Users keynote. She observed that something like ninety percent of all spreadsheets have errors, and that we are in something of a state of denial of the potential consequences of this reality.

Agile methodologists have been promoting the primacy of bottom-up, feedback intensive code and test based design as an alternative to the top-down foresight fetish crowd's traditional ideas. Martin Fowler's Finding Good Design keynote went beyond even this, and offered more than a nod in the direction of whether high-minded design ideals were honored primarily in the breach in practice, and questioned whether the very idea of design would retain its relevance.

For a moment, we all dared to ponder the question of whether craft in design is anything more than gilded filigree, soon to be as anachronistic as a hand-crafted circuit board.

My own Breakthrough Ideas triptych (previewed exclusively here a few weeks back) further reinforced the notion that the gap between what we practice and what we preach is large, and is growing larger. In Praise of Cut and Paste sought to "out" an ubiquitous practice among framework designers and, well, everyone else, that has been regarded as something of a dirty little secret by practitioners, while being scorned by high road methodologists and academics alike.

Big Bucket of Glue suggested, among other things, that integration isn't pretty, that it is often quick and dirty, that essential complexity is here to stay, and that some part of the system must bear the structural stigmata associated with wrangling the rest of the system into a coherent whole. It can be seen as a potential integration layer sequel to our hoary spasm of pomposity Big Ball of Mud.

The End-to-End Principle in Programming Language Design suggested that mainstream languages such as Java focus too closely on minutiae like protection and type checking at the micro level while neglecting any support for the overarching end to end of real, honest to God runtime facilities such as validators, to, well, who knows? Features designed badly at the language level must often be reinvented a level up in a dynamic or adaptive object model layer in order to properly accommodate the needs of any end to end domain specific languages that might emerge. One example of where this phenomenon can be seen the architectural eyesore that the services layer is becoming. It is bad, and getting worse by the minute.

Devolution can be seen in the enthusiastically received Scrapheap Challenge workshop, where participants dumpster dive scraps from the web as fast as they can to solve programming problems.

There was something decidedly devolutionary in Grady Booch’s overdue exhortation to cast models aside, and in his candid admission that no one reads code anyway.

The winners of our Sudoko exercise in the Extravagaria III: Hunting Creativity workshop used twenty-first century scrapheap techniques (they Googled the problem), mocking the attempts of the organizers to demonstrate genetic crossover using the other two groups who'd treated the task as relatively solitary chores.

The notion of "Software Devolution" is drawn from the colorful hatchet job James Noble did on my Biography for the Sashimi vs. the Purple Robots panel. If the shoe fits. It is a notion that fits wonderfully under the aegis of the Post-Modern School of Programming founded by Noble and fellow traveler Robert Biddle at the inaugural Onward! a few years back. We are All Devo indeed.

Among the mantras of this movement are paeans to the centrality of The Program as the essential focus of computer science. Code is seen not only as the source of choice for interesting problems to study, but as the remedy of choice for addressing them. We should address problems with code with code, like real computer scientists, and not with closed form analysis, like mere mathematicians.

Implicit in this is the hope that our discipline is finally becoming mature enough to confidently address indigenous subject matter with indigenous tools and ideas, rather than seeing ourselves as the outcast spawn of some tawdry, long forgotten one-night stand involving the mathematics and physics departments.

The primacy of code, and of runtime mechanisms as a condign recognition of the intricacy and fallibility of code was a central theme of my own closing address to the Dynamic Language Symposium. More of that elsewhere, soon, I hope.

Devolution can be seen in the decline in the impulse towards Linguistic Imperialism, the cooling of the language wars, the increasing irrelevance of Utopian Linguistic Monocultures, and the grudging acceptance that ours is a heterogeneous polyglot world, where applications are increasingly expected to be able to cooperate.

A devolutionary cast can be seen as well in the impulse to use generated code in place of code crafted by human beings. Is generation a symptom, a code smell, signaling the inadequacy of our languages and tools, or is it a harbinger of things to come, the wave of the future, a sign that the John Henrys with their TTL drivin’ keyboards will ultimately be vanquished by these generative steam drills.

Indeed, Richard Gabriel is suggesting that the ultrascale volumes of code that our futures will demand can only be supplied by an automated process that relies on increasing greater degrees of abstraction. This prophet of a grim Worse is Better world may find himself once again the reluctant head of yet another vanguard.

Devolution has two somewhat conflicting connotations, both of which, in the right context, in the right light, fit this discussion to a tee. Devolution suggests de-evolution, revanchism, neoteny, and regression, a descent towards something worse than what we have now. Not a good thing. Devolution also connotes decentralization, a surrender to local control, a process of increasing federation, a spinning-off of constituent parts, as seen in the establishment of a Scottish Parliament, or the refactoring of the Soviet Union into Russia and friends. Think of a process of ball-of-mud componentization, or an annealing process that lets local clusters emerge. Not necessarily retrograde, not necessarily a bad thing at all.

Devolution could be seen as well in the conference organization itself, where satellite symposia offered an alternative to the "take my ball and leave" secession of the Aspects and Agile movements. The adjacent RubyConf, and embedded Wiki and Dynamic Languages events brought fresh plankton to what could have otherwise been a stagnating meme pool, and may point the way to a more federated future for long-in-the-tooth conferences like OOPSLA.

Is devolution a natural consequence of growth? Of maturity? Of riding an exponential? Of Variety and Diversity? Fratricde ebbs because there is more room, and a more diverse herd, self-sustaining communities calve from the central glacier, and set out on their own…

Bastards! Bastards! You're All Bastards!


My final official duty of this year’s OOPSLA was to serve on Onward!’s Yoshimi vs. the Pink Robots panel. I was asked by panel moderator James Noble to assume the guise of a grizzled, curmudgeonly veteran hacker. Something of a stretch, to be sure :-), but I figured I’d be up to it.

The panel takes its name from a song by The Flaming Lips. James opened the panel by showing the video for this number. It’s actually pretty catchy. You can find it by clicking the album cover to the right. It was likely the intention of the panel’s framers that the beleaguered Yoshimi was to be cast a surrogate for the users, and that the Pink Robots were to be associated with us inscrutable hackers. I’d rather hoped that this question be left open, and that the audience be allowed to see things the other way. In hindsight, it’s not clear it was even raised, let along settled.

I’d found as many soda pop cans as I could to decorate my spot at the dais. I donned my trusty old engineer’s cap, primarily to get the bright lights out of my eyes, though the thought that it fit the character didn’t hurt.

I don’t remember much about my opening position statement, except what’s below. What I do know is that I’d been told that the ACM was going to finally start recording talk and panel videos this year with an eye towards putting them into the Digital Library. What, I thought, about those occasions where one has made a complete jackass of one’s self on a panel, and had wanted to crawl off into a corner to die? What then?

Then I thought about the performance OOPSLA 2004 Conference Chair John Vlissides gave as the (literally) propeller-headed “Jimmy the Freshman” in OOPSLA 2004’s sporadically amusing but occasionally execrable “Dating Design Patterns” skit.

John had asked me to help him cast this skit a few weeks before. I’d cast it without reading it, out of fear for the worst. I’d read it shortly before rehearsals began, and my fears were not fully allayed. This skit, I had warned him, had the potential to substantially undermine the very dignity not merely of everyone involved, but indeed, of the entire conference. John replied: “What dignity?”

It was in this spirit that I resolved to put such concerns as I might have had on my part to rest once and for all / for good.

In the spirit of OOPSLA 2005’s focus on creativity and the humanities, as established by the stirring keynote address of former poet-laureate Robert Haas earlier in the week, I elected to recite an original piece that Don Roberts and I had put together, based on the work of one of our country's most celebrated contemporary lyricists.

The original idea had come to me, as so many ideas do, earlier that morning, in the shower. Cleanliness is next to Godliness, and Hygiene has served me over the years as generous, albeit fickle, muse. This, however, was one of the most horrific shower visions I'd ever had the displeasure of contemplating. An acid hallucination gone terribly awry. Like something out of Hitchcock, it was a flashback of James’s over the top introduction of Mary Beth Rosson’s talk, only hellishly different. Indeed, it was the end of a fateful downward spiral that had begun, as Eugene Wallingford has noted, the day before.

Panel moderator James Noble's outsized neo-pompous HMS Pinafore histrionics and desiccated antipodean wit are utterly inimitable. But I took a stab at channeling 'im anyway. My re-enactment of my surreal low-culture vision from hell went like this:

I've been around forever
And I wrote the very first code
I put behavior and data together
I am hacker (sic)
And I write the code

I write the code that makes the shareholders smile
I write the code that the users defile
I write the code that makes the testers cry
I write the code
I write the code

The Fountainhead is on my short list of all-time favorite movies, although, I must confess, part of the pleasure I take in it is a partially (but only partially) ironic appreciation of its unrelentingly self-absorbed dialog. It’s great. Objectivism indeed. That said, Rand’s characterization of Roark’s total passion for his work, and his utter disregard for what society thinks of it, one way or the other, fits many in our vanishing indigenous programming culture to an uncanny degree.

I don't build in order to have clients.
I have clients in order to build.
--Architect Howard Roark, in The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand

An enduring source of frustration among programmers is the degree to which users have no conception of the the glory, the majesty, the grandeur, of living in the code. Of living among, and crafting these magnificent artifacts. The medieval artisans who crafted the great cathedrals of Europe, is has been said, would often take care to craft even that which could never bee seen from the ground with the same care as that which could, because they knew God could see it. This alas, is often inevitably the lot of much of the craftsmanship that goes into the code. But we put it there anyway. And the users have no idea.

This being OOPSLA XX, I was in something of a reflective frame of mind. I started my professional programming career on 20 January 1977, the Day Jimmy Carter was inaugurated, or James VI by my American Regents reckoning. I worked in fairly large research group (about thirty folks in all), with a dozen person technical staff. We worked for a guy who was the spitting image of the pointy haired boss in Dilbert, only with a 170 IQ.

I have a confession to make. In those days, when programmers got together and spoke among themselves, which was fairly frequently, because no one else would talk to us, when we’d talk about users at all, it would be to talk about what #$%^&%$ morons users were. What’s more, we were not alone. Furthermore, I have it on some good authority, that in some circles, this perception continues to exist, among some programmers, even to this day.

Users, we were sure, didn’t know what they wanted. Who did? Why we did!

Who were these users desecrating our cathedrals? Who were these money changers? Chase them from our temples!

The Agile insurgency is increasing viewed as an orthodox movement. A lot of the process guys have traded their keyboards for cufflinks. Waterfall has been effectively vanquished, though it lingers like a winter cough. If I had a beef, it would be with anyone, it would be with the managerial caste, not my users.

At one point, I shamelessly recycled one of my vintage tale about raw materials for software, caffeine and sugar, being cheap and abundant, whereas labor was anything but. I then observed that were the sugar and coffee exporting countries ever to get into cahoots, they could do to the American software industry what OPEC did to the overall economy during the seventies, which is to say, cripple it with an embargo on its vital raw materials.

People come to panels for red meat, for conflict, for entertainment. The scholarly may opt for high-fiber technical material tracks with names like "Type Theory IX", or spicy, exotic mind candy alternatives as are otherwise found in Onward!, but by and large, people come to panels hoping to see the upper-middle brow equivalent of a Claymation celebrity death match.

And so, I fear in hindsight that many found our panel to be a tepid, desultory love-fest. And people just don’t seem to get too excited watching a love-fest, at least so long as the participants remain fully clothed. Who, outside of a few members of the diplomatic corps perhaps, enjoys watching people agree?

For me, the point where I broke character was when legendary waterfall apologist Larry Constantine asked us to be serious for a moment, and I fell for it. Rather than maintaining my shop-steward for the hackers, Commando vs. Infantry persona, I tried instead to be reasonable. Yawn.

Mr. Inimitable ended the panel with a (fortunately nearly unintelligible) video of a salty exchange from someone else’s nightmare, fellow Kiwi Peter Jackson, if I am not mistaken. James then closed this one with one his trademark tumescent tweedy tirades, a heartfelt tribute to someone special.

And it will be coming soon to a Digital Library near you. May God have mercy on our souls.

John Vlissides Photo ©2004 by Munawar Hafiz



I (almost) had the opportunity to introduce Martin Fowler's (superb) talk on Finding Good Design at OOPSLA 2005 this week. Fortunately, an alert functionary in the ACM's Office of Protocol, correctly having observed that my name was nowhere to be found in the Conference Peerage, was able to heroically and single-handedly avert what could have been an appalling affront to the conference's prestige.

Eugene Wallingford has done his usual masterful job providing the play-by-play for the talk itself. I might inject some color commentary once my own OOPSLA brain-dump has progressed a little further, but in the mean time, a few folks asked for the libretto for what became the scripted part of Ralph Johnson's intro. Here it is. Ralph did a terrific job paring it down. I'm continually amazed by what he can do with only arrow and delete keys to improve a piece.

It is fitting that we've convened in a place called Fashion Valley to talk about design. For in the realm of High Technology, just as in the realm of High Fashion, Design is a central concern.

And, In the glamorous and exotic world of object-oriented world of object-oriented software style, of code couture, if you will, the very best designers, the doyens of design, are known, as in the fashion world, by a single name: Kent, Ward, Ralph, Rebecca, and ... Martin.

Martin's is a life is filled with glamorous models; his sketches of smashingly attired anorexic stick figures are transformed overnight, in factories in the Far East, into the season's hottest products.

Whether you commission designer code or buy it off the rack... ...chances are you've had the opportunity to admire Martin's work.

This season, when some trade rag paparazzi breathless ask: Who did your code? The answer the A-List Coder longs to give is ... Martin.

Martin is, as well, the master of the Total Code Makeover. He is the Father of Modern Code Cosmetology.

Martin is a gifted distiller, a distiller of memes. He scours the hinterlands, patiently hand selecting only the finest raw materials. Martin lets them age, as if in an oak barrel. He takes ideas rough, fresh, impetuous and raw and ages them until they are mellifluous, smooth, soothing. and finally, palatable.

And he is, as I'm fond of saying, a pretty good writer for an Englishman...

He is the lead author of UML Dispelled, er, Distilled, still the volume of choice for those looking for a relatively painless introduction to this cartoon cult. Not least among this volume's virtues, it has often been said, is its brevity.

His seminal work on Analysis Patterns sets him apart from the mere scavengers that stalk our field.

His landmark volume on Refactoring took an obscure technology cultivated in the cornfields of rural Illinois, and turned it into a household word.

He's got a new book out as well, Enterprise Application Patterns. I think it is about Star Trek, but I'm not sure.

Martin is the man who brought back basic black with his Martin Fowler Signature Line for Addison-Wesley.

Technical fads rise and fall like hem lines. But At the edge of the runway on the banks of the Refactoring Rubicon one designer stands alone. So, here to preview his fall collection is the fabulous Martin! Martin Fowler:

The Aristocrats of Brigadoon


It was 1986, the space shuttle was grounded, a lame duck second-term Tory was watching his poll numbers erode, and I found myself heading off to OOPSLA.

Some things never change.

Nineteen years later, we find ourselves convening for the twentieth time. This is OOPSLA XX. (Next year will mark the twentieth anniversary of OOPSLA, back where it all began, in Portland, but that event will, nonetheless, be OOPSLA XXI. We number a lot of thing starting with zero in our line of work, after all.

However you reckon it, the task of commemorating this auspicious occasion had fallen to the five stoic, steadfast, reliable souls who’d managed to attend every OOPSLA to-date. A distinguished lot, present company excluded, of course. We, along with a handful of indispensable fellow travelers (Richard Gabriel, Ken Bauer, Linda Rising, Laura Weiner, and Jeff McKenna), constituted the unofficial OOPSLA 2005 Backward! committee.

We'd wrestled sporadically over the format for this event over the last year. I'd originally conceived of it the morning after an evening of moderate carousing in Vancouver last year as an Irish Wake. The Idea would have been that it were being held at sometime in the future. Anyone with a story could come up to tell it. Libation would, of course, be abundant. It would be the kind of event that would finally end in the bar at two o’clock in the morning.

Shopworn stereotypes aside, the Irish Wake is one of the most dignified and effective retrospective rituals mankind has ever devised. I know. As per her wishes, I’d helped my family to conduct one for my own mother a few years back.

However an Alert FunctionarySM in the ACM's Office of Protocol deemed such an enterprise as being in potentially questionable taste, so off we went trolling for other formats: a nursing home in the years 2025, a twelve-step meeting for object addicts, the list went on.

By the afternoon of day before, we’d still not settled on final format for our plenary event the following evening. We convened an emergency lunch meeting of the three non-professors on the perfect attendance list, and professional retrospective organizer extraordinaire (and Backward! committee member) Linda Rising. We decided to run our retrospective as … a retrospective.

We nodded our heads in satisfaction with our plan, as perfect attendee Rebecca Wirfs-Brock produced a six dollar bill from her wallet bearing an ad for art house film with which she was quite smitten named The Aristocrats. The film is built around different renditions of what is billed as the world’s funniest, or at least filthiest, joke. Rebecca told me the joke on the way out. I laughed on-and-off for over twenty minutes. Though I said nothing at the time, I knew then and there that our intrepid little band of OOPSLA perfect attendees finally had a name.

Our retrospective itself was preceded by a sumptuous, outrageously decadent dessert spread sponsored by Sun Microsystems, to commemorate (only) the tenth anniversary of the Java programming language. It was like something out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. A persistent rumor had it that Sun had shelled out $20,000 for six hundred helpings. Suffice to say there was enough molten chocolate on hand to have dipped every attendee there up to his neck in the stuff.

The bridge from the reception to the retrospective was to have been provided by designated Java Oompa Loompa (note the OOs) James Gosling, but he proved unable to attend. We were, however, as a dividend of the Backward! committee’s video production efforts, to display a clip of Gosling’s OOPSLA 1996 talk, The Feel of Java that Don Roberts had carefully selected for this very occasion.

With Gosling sidelined, the duty of holding up the Java Standard fell (figuratively, this time) to his designated stunt double: Steele. Guy Steele. It is customary that a stunt double be less handsome, less erudite, and more athletic that his corresponding leading man. I regret that I must inform you that Steele (who is depicted here vividly indicating Java’s age using the fingers on both hands) fell short on all three counts.

I’d noted as well that Steele had delivered what was unquestionably the cleverest talk I’ve ever heard in my life, Growing a Language at OOPSLA ’98 in Vancouver. As part of our Backward! commemoration, we’d embarked on the process of transferring some of the OOPSLA video archives to DVD late this summer, with the hope of setting up a Wayback/Time Machine space in San Diego. We used the video of Steele’s talk to test the equipment, and it attracted quite a crowd. Though we had about fifty other vintage events to show, Steele’s talk was the only one we exhibited. Other ‘bloggers have cited it as among the most impressive things they saw this year at OOPSLA. I could have sold a hundred of ‘em.

The knowledge that one is about to speak induces a kind of mental tunnel vision, or information triage, that makes concentrating on the speaker before you more difficult. I don’t recall that Steele said anything he hasn’t said before about Java, other than there were unspecified things they’d do differently now.

We opened the retrospective proper with our five perfect attendees, The Aristocrats (left to right), Ralph Johnson, Ed Gerringer, Allen Wirfs-Brock, Rebecca Wirfs-Brock, and your humble correspondent, fielding a few softballs. I’d noted that not only had Allen and Rebecca attended every OOPSLA, but that they had been married for nearly thirty years. Any bets as to whether OOPSLA, let alone Java, will make it that far?

I’d introduced the proceedings brandishing a bottle of Clos du Bois (get it?) Merlot, and vowed that once we five were down to two, we’d crack open that bottle and drink it. I wish I could remember where that cliché came from. I think it was a bottle of Bordeaux, and a fighter squadron, in the original tale.

Once the retrospective began, it fell to Linda Rising, Mary Lynn Manns, and fellow lifer Allen Wirfs-Brock to save the day. Allen came armed with a veritable litany of who was here when questions that managed to get some of the older folks in the crowd a pretty good workout, what with repetitive standing and sitting. Allen and Linda subsequently widened the panel to anyone who’d been at OOPSLA ’86 in Portland. That produced a satisfactory quorum of the village elders.

Q: What kept me coming back?

A: The free booze.

A: OOPSLA, said I, was an intellectual Brigadoon, a place you could return to every year, and pick up conversations in mid-sentence. A place like a cocktail party on the Bizzaro World, where you could glibly discuss topics like multimethod dispatch, and be surrounded by the other thousand people on Earth who thought that that was fascinating.

There was a steady stream of questions from the floor. One somehow involved the idea of removing the OOs from OOPSLA, and just re-branding the conference as Programming Languages and Systems. I quipped that were we to banish the OOs from OOPSLA, Rik SmOOdy and I would have to move to Serbia. I’m not sure whether anybody got it.

There was a query as to our most embarrassing OOPSLA moment. I recalled with horror the reception that Al Gore’s science advisor was given at the after dinner speaker at the last OOPSLA banquet in Washington, DC in 1993. Rebecca grabbed the baton and recalled how noisemakers distributed during one of the panels, in combination with wine distributed during the meal, lead to this genuinely appalling breach of etiquette.

I fondly recalled, at one point, Alan Kay’s banquet presentation on the Vivarium project at the very first OOPSLA. I repined as to how he’d managed to gore every oxen in the house, and being struck that one could actually do that at a research conference. For good or ill, my life was changed.

I recalled as well, as I often do, how he’d observed, as he so often did, that Good ideas don’t always scale, which prompted Henry Lieberman, the next day, to inquire So what do we do, just scale the bad ones?

Someone lobbed a slow ball down the middle for us at one point, asking us what things would be like down the road. Having been spending my time in the High Performance Computing world of late, I’m convinced that things seven or so years from now will be quite a bit more different from now than now is from seven years ago. With Moore’s Law exhausted, and a multicore breakout in the works, and PS3s and their ilk poised to bring supercomputer power to every teenager on the planet, we’ll be faced with the challenge of coming up with a programming model. MPI meets Actors meets Darwin meets Worse-is-Better. How will we squander this bounty?

After a while, I recalled the mix of deference and fascination, mingled with a dash of pity and boredom with which I’d have greeted such a gathering of elders nineteen years ago, and wondered what the folks in our audience, few of whom had bailed out in the midst of this, were thinking. Regardless, I was really enjoying myself, at least, as can be seen in the picture below depicting fellow OOPSLA gadfly Dave Ungar wistfully waxing eloquent over I can’t remember what as I gaze on in rapt attention.

In an elegiac moment, Ungar also recalled the year that we discovered that a Sarcasm Birds-of-a-Feather session was inherently impossible to organize if you tried to get the right people to come to it.

There were moments where what we were doing felt a tad indulgent. I recalled my youthful garage band sessions, which were way more fun to perform than they were to listen to, and thought, well, if that’s what we’re doing, then what the hell, we deserve it. As the retrospective wound down, I felt oddly, uncharacteristically sanguine about it all. It’s hard to deny that we have made a difference over the last nineteen years.

What with the dessert spread and all, this affair seemed more akin to a Jewish Wedding than an Irish Wake. We got insulin shock, alright, but nothing to wash it down. But this event, in the end, was what it needed to be, and about as much fun as it could have been, at least without the liquor…

Photos ©2005 by Munawar Hafiz

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Dominique Boucher (The Scheme Way)

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