Thursday Music Thinks It's the Future

Perl 6

This is kind of fascinating in the train-wreck sense, but even aside from weirder-than-Perl5 syntax, taking a speed penalty like that in modern times is not acceptable; computers are fast enough to solve all problems in a few seconds, but the slower your program is, the more power it consumes, and that costs you real money in a data center.

I don't see any support in Perl6 for a web server, GUI, low-level graphics, sound, or even low-level UNIX libraries, you have to use NativeCall with a lot of wrapper code for every struct. Perl5 made Gtk pretty easy to use, hideous as it may be, and mod_perl made it a powerful choice on Apache servers.

What we expect from a systems programming language has changed since the '70s-'90s when Perl and its immediate ancestors were invented, and even the most rough, low-level programmers don't want to reinvent everything from assembly up anymore.

Python has multiple ways now to get faster, I'm currently trying out Cython and getting faster, compiled Python binaries, which can directly call C code (because by that point it is C code). Python's standard Tkinter GUI is primitive, but SDL works well if you can distribute it. Python's system libraries and web frameworks are top-notch.

JavaScript isn't fast, but modern runtimes are surprisingly good; I'd have to write some tests to see how Node or Electron compares to Perl 6, but I'd bet on the massive VM investments in JS. JS does everything now, it's certainly the most familiar user interface these days.

If you just want a multi-paradigm language for hacking, Scheme and Racket are ideal, supported by tons of papers and books like SICP, and they compile to fast native code.

And then there's the real outliers, like Lazarus, which is a Delphi-like Pascal IDE, or the usual "I want a hobby language" choices of Haskell, OCaml, Clojure, etc.

Even if Perl6 had come out in the first decade of its development, it would've been a little backwards, but compared to modern choices it's archaic.

I’ve avoided the Whatever Star because, in addition to making Perl 6 look like a lineal descendant of brainfuck, it is governed by rules that are too subtle for my understanding.
—Evan Miller

Dichronauts (Greg Egan)

Dichronauts is another of Greg Egan's "what if {MATH}" stories, like Schild's Ladder, Incandescance, and the Orthogonal trilogy. Often I describe him as the only Hard SF writer.

The world posited by having 2 space dimensions and 2 time-like leads to casual relativistic effects when you turn in a time-like direction, so it's sort of like Edwin Abbott's Flatland or AK Dewdney's Planiverse, in this case beings waddling on a mostly-east/west line, up/down being the other usable space direction, with symbiotes who can "see" sideways into the lightless cone north/south with sonar. So, uh, read Egan's paper explaining this and play with the simulation first.

While buildings are mentioned and the moving of one shown, I think not enough pages are given to the presumably vertical, thin architecture or how engineering or life would work.

Seth (Walker, wannabe hero) & Theo (his much smarter Sider symbiote) and others go off on a survey mission which finds some difficult terrain, a terrible cult-like town, and then a strange part of geography that could doom everyone.

The first two adventures are quite comprehensible (if you read the paper), and the physics don't interfere much with the story. Then the third goes into a different space/time region. And here he mostly loses me. The geography of the new region is hard to understand, and Theo doesn't spend the necessary "As you would know if you had paid attention, Seth" time to make it clear to me; I get the math on a flat plane but how it works in this region could use a diagram or two.

The drama in the first two parts of the survey would have made a better complete novella, I was engaged with the characters and cult plot. The last part winnows down the cast to one/two somewhat sad companions, and a communications barrier, which makes it even harder to care. The ending is abrupt and inconclusive. For a sequel, or just "done with this exercise, hit publish"?

"Do you really expect my counterfactual longings to be consistent with my merely hypothetical speculations?" —Theo


What I'm Watching

  • Happy Valley: 2 seasons (and a 3rd is planned) of a middle-aged English policewoman chasing murderers in a small town. I find Flock of Seagulls, the first season junior antagonist, utterly unthreatening, but he has his moments. The 2nd season arc was a little obvious, Moaning Myrtle was sinister as hell but with minimal payoff. Still, it's as good a police procedural/mystery as I've seen in ages. ★★★★☆

  • Message from the King: South African badass Jacob King comes to L.A. looking for his missing sister. The plot's a little opaque at times, Jacob is a mute statue except for some side-eye, and there are far fewer guns and security systems than I'd expect in L.A. underworld, but the fistfights and stealth missions are good. It's very reminiscent of The Limey, but much grubbier and less fun. ★★★☆☆

  • Rick & Morty S3: Holy shit. Pickle Rick with Danny Trejo. How many times can I spam the star button? ★★★★★★★★★★ I do want at least one of the dumbass improv cable show eps this season, we can't take a constant dose of this like that Statham flick Crank.

  • Almost no anime. Last year's Crunchyroll simulcasts had Gabriel Dropout (seriously Gabe is my spirit animal: A dropout who wants to destroy humanity), Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid (this might be a tech blog? She's a Python programmer! She's writing Django all day in a soul-crushing open-plan office without even a cubicle!), Akashic Records of Bastard Magical Instructor (awesome title, sometimes great characters & plots, endless filler crap in between), some Sakura Quest (cute start, and hooray, more shows about adults with jobs! But this was too mellow and sappy). Everything else this season seems to be a ripoff of Sword Art Online without the cranky MMO-soloing protagonist in black (ahem), or rom-com. Get your shit together, Japan, you're being out-weirded by a Marty McFly & Doc Pickle cartoon. ★☆☆☆☆