Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Paradise ponders: anniversaries, culverts and muddy yard edition...

Paradise ponders: anniversaries, culverts and muddy yard edition...  Today is our 36th wedding anniversary.  I'm a lucky guy to have my beautiful bride put up with me for that long! 

The funny-looking guy at right is Mark T., my sprinkler contractor.  A big part of the job he's doing is to fix the problems in our yard that would prevent a nice, attractive lawn from being installed.  One of those problems was a giant steel culvert-to-nowhere that was about 3/4 buried near the southern end of our yard.  We have utterly no idea why this ugly steel culvert was there – there's no purpose for it that I could even imagine.  My best guess is that some former owner of our property decided to dispose of it there.  At a guess, it weighs between two and three tons, mainly because of all the wet soil that's nearly filling it.  It's so heavy that neither his skid-steer nor my tractor can lift it – all either of us can do is roll it around.  So he's going to have one of his employees cut it into sections (we'll try two, and if that's not small enough then four), tip them up on end, and get the dirt to fall out.  Mark had an ear-to-ear smile pasted on when he told me of his success – this because the evening before I had voice my skepticism that he could do it. :)

Our back yard has now been leveled and raked with a machine called a Harley rake (much like the one in the photo at right).  One of his employees is fixing a leak right now, but when he's done we're going to light off all the sprinklers in the back yard and soak it really well.  Then we wait for things to settle, and Mark will start hauling dirt to adjust the level to our liking.  Then we soak it again, fix any settling issues, and lay sod.  When that sod goes down, it will be the first time this year our back yard looked green!

This ain't your mama's JavaScript...

This ain't your mama's JavaScript...  Working on the irrigation supervisor software has me doing some JavaScript development again.  It's been a few years since the last time I tried doing anything non-trivial in the web browser environment, so I've been being careful in my assumptions.  It's a darned good thing I'm doing so, because JavaScript has changed so much I can hardly recognize it.  It's all good, too!

I could list lots of changes that I've noticed, but I can convey the flavor of it with a single example.  I wanted to do a SHA-256 digest (of a password) in the browser.  In the past, I'd do a web search for someone's library, download it, and incorporate it in my project.  This time when I did the web search, I discovered the Web Cryptography API, which I'd never even heard of before.  It's supported in every browser I can ever imagine being concerned with, it's open source, and it's been reviewed.  As just one of its bazillion capabilities, it has a digest function that supports SHA-256.  Awesome!

Taken as a whole, the new stuff that's widely supported looks a awful lot like the kind of rich library environment I'm used to in Java programming.  Furthermore, the browsers have moved far closer to a universal standard than they were even just a few years ago.  These changes make JavaScript a vastly more pleasant programming environment that I am quite enjoying...

Dictionary dad...

Dictionary dad...  My sister Holly emailed me this morning, and something she said triggered this memory.  My dad had a larger vocabulary than you'd expect from a farmer – much larger, actually.  His spelling was nearly perfect, too.  These served him well in our word games (Scrabble, Boggle, etc.), which our family played a lot of.

When I was learning to read, I often ran into words I didn't know.  If I asked my mom about those words, most of the time she would give me an explanation, and only occasionally would she send me to the dictionary.  My dad was just the opposite, often sending me to go look up the word and then come back and tell him what it meant as a way of testing my comprehension.

As I worked my way into more adult books, I'd start running into words that the dictionaries we owned at the time didn't list – or listed with definitions that didn't make any sense in the context I was reading them.  This was happening because I had started reading older books that we had on our shelves, and those books were written in an older style, sometimes using words that had fallen out of common use.  I remember particularly running into this with some of Mark Twain's books, and with translations of Jules Verne.  My dad explained that to me, but without any more complete dictionaries the only source of information was my dad's memory – and often these would be words that he didn't know, either.

Then one day dad came home with a new dictionary, a gift for me.  I call it “new” because it was new for our household, but it was actually a lovingly used volume.  Lots of pages were dog-eared, there was marginalia, and a little stick-figure drawing on the inside back cover.  Most likely my dad picked it up at a yard sale somewhere, or perhaps a used book store.  Unfortunately I don't remember who the publisher was, or which edition.  I do remember, though, what it looked like: it was a hardback, with a bright red cover and embossed gold letters on the cover.  And it was huge – so thick and so heavy that at my then-age I could scarcely lift the thing.  The best part, though, was that it was a descriptive dictionary, like the OED, showing how words were actually used rather than laying out a “correct” definition.  I can't recall ever stumping that dictionary.  It became my “word bible” as my reading took me into more and more challenging texts.  It was also the start of a life-long relationship with dictionaries for me!  :)