Pinholes 2 - Ignorance, misrepresentation and prejudice edition

Sseveral comments regarding the pinholes post, have forced me, against the deepest elements of my nature, to engage in thought. Since that might never happen again, I thought it meet to record the event.

I'm going to say "I" a lot, because this is mostly my opinions.

Bidirectional programming

As pointed out by Christian Schuhegger in a comment on the original post, lenses were originally introduced to computer science in the context of bidirectional programming, rather than as a tool for dealing with deeply nested immutable structures. He points to a good list of papers on the subject on ...

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Pinholes - Idiomatic Clojure Lenses

Lenses are a construct for getting, "setting" or "modifying" values within data structures, especially deeply nested data structures. The quotation marks have the usual meaning when they show up in funktionsprache:1 not mutating anything per se, but instead producing an object, or reference thereto, that is identical except for the requested change.

In Scala, the need for lenses is pretty glaring, as illustrated in Eugene Yokota's great explanation of lenses in Scalaz, because of the centrality of case classes. In his example problem, a turtle is represented with three case classes:

  case class Point(x: Double, y: Double ...
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'Ducers Wild -- a concise guide to the menagerie


It's not too long, but, to summarize the summary, if you read Rich Hickey's 2014 blog post on transducers first, his 2012 post on reducers will be easier to understand.

Brief Definitions

Herewith, all in one place, are Clojuresque definitions of:

  • reducible
  • reducing function
  • transducer
  • reducer
  • folder
  • decomplected

Longer elaborations of these definitions follow in the subsequent section.

reducing function

Anything that can be used as the first argument of the reduce function, e.g. + or conj. Generally, it's a binary function that returns something of the type of its first argument, which is supposed ...

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Testing on Hundreds of AWS Instances - (sort of Distributed functional programming, part 3a)

In part 1 and part2 of this almost unbearably exciting series, I outlined the concept of distributing purely functional programs and went through some implementation details of Girder.

So far, however, I've only asserted that it works, so today I want to start explaining how I used Amazon Web Services to test pretty cheaply on gobs of machines.

The art of AWS wrangling was somewhat new to me, and I went through a few iterations before deciding on the right mix of tools. Needless to say, the right mix ended up being fairly Clojure heavy, which helps to smooth ...

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Comedy - A brief syllabus in honor of Joan Rivers

I have a confession to make. I don't find comedy funny. There are exceptions - Gilbert Gottfried and Louis CK can occasionally reduce me to putty - but, by and large, I appreciate comedy from a technical rather than aesthetic standpoint, combined with an admiration for and empathy with the drive that compels people to perfect their craft.

I have similar feelings about magicians. Having spent a significant portion of my youth reading about and reverse-engineering illusions, before concluding that certain qualities necessary for success in the field are innate rather than learned, and I would always lack them. For example ...

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Distributed purely functional programming, part 2

In a previous post, I introduced a framework called Girder (the code is on github), which aims to facilitate Plain Old Functional Programming on distributed systems. By POFP, I mean code that, as much as possible, consists of normal looking calls to normal looking functions, the only requirement for which is referential transparency: there are no side effects, and calls to the same function with the same arguments should always return the same value.

Functional programming, in my view, is dramatically less functional when you use a framework that requires you to cast your algorithm in terms of message passing ...

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Quick tip on getting lein to recognize your new dependency

Ever realized you needed to modify some dependency (e.g. I needed to add weak cache support to core.cache), go a head with forking on github, lein install your new version, modify your project.clj to pick it up, and then... somehow... you still seem to get the old version? That's usually because some other dependency is explicitly requesting a version of that library. If you do lein classpath, you'll see your library show up, in two different versions, with the one you don't want first.

In my case, the relevant bit of classpath shows

   /Users ...
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Beauty and the Beast - Distributed functional programming, part 1

OSS and Commercial Grids

Grid computing has always suffered the reputation of a buzzword that one suspects might not actually mean anything, but it has become especially ill-defined with the rise of open-source distributed computation frameworks like Spark, Storm and Grampa Hadoop. These extensively documented systems don't need much explanation from me, other than to note that they all basically pump data through a pre-designed graph, whose topology is often defined by map-reduce keys extracted from the input data.

Traditional, commercial grid products like Tibco Cloud, né DataSynapse, and Symphony are adapting, at least in terms of marketing, but ...

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Yeah, yeah, I should have used perl


After reading my compelling post on a clojure Slack-bot, an astute reader1 pointed out that using the fullblown apparatus of compojure, jetty, jvm, etc. for something this silly is really only justified when the entire purpose of the exercise is procrastination. Well, dear astute reader, that was the entire purpose, but you're right. Ok, here it is in perl,

    #!/usr/bin/env perl
    use Mojolicious::Lite;
    use File::Slurp;
    my $token = read_file("TOKEN");
    my @lines = split(/\0/,read_file("LINES"));
    post '/slacks' => sub {
      my $c   = shift;
      my $t   = $c->param('token');
      if ($t eq $token) {
          $c->render(json ...
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Procrastination with a clojure M-x yow slackbot


I really should be working on this obscure distributed RDF/FRP thing, but for various reasons my head isn't working properly write now. So I did this other stupid thing instead.


Once upon a time, M-x yow in emacs would deliver a nice random quote from Zippy the Pinhead. Nowadays, you just get

Yow!  Legally-imposed CULTURE-reduction is CABBAGE-BRAINED!

which has something to do with copyright law. More specifically, the file yow.lines in emacs' data-directory now contains only the opinion expressed above, rather than the original seven-hundred or so precious epigrams, delimited by \000 ...

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