An exception to the rule, 'Once you hack, you never look back,' Simon Cozens
withdrew from prominence in the perl community to become a missionary in Japan. His transformation from programmer to missionary has always been an enigma to me, because computing is my religion.
My transformation has been in an opposite direction from English teacher to disciple of, devotee of, lover of perl.
Bram Moolenaar said he'd like to know what the man who invented sex is working on now. I'm convinced he/she/it (us/you/them?) is working on computers, and specifically on computer languages.
Seymour Papert had something similarly startling to say in The Children's Machine, arguing the computer is made for kids. Something like programming is the greatest thing since sliced bread. No, that's right, programming is the greatest thing since reading and writing.
As a language learner and language teacher, my experience has been that the LADs (Language Acquisition Devices) and to a lesser extent the LASSes (Language Acquisition Support Systems) don't 'talk back.' If there is anything we learn from the study of language learning, it is that language learners learn more than we learn.
But the computer does 'talk back.' You can learn a lot from your end of the conversation, if you can hold up the computer's end, too.
I think this is probably because natural language is hard-wired in. Programming a computer is not. It's more like having intellectual sex. The tension and release are more intense and more in the forefront of consciousness.
In natural language, with a 'soft machine,' you can never determine the cause of failure, and if the failures are only ever soft, the successes are soft too.
This excitement at being able to understand what I am doing and what is happening to me is what has led to me transfering my affections from natural language to programming.
But how does Simon Cozens actually stand with perl? I was excited to get the chance to hear him at the January kansai.pm frameworks meeting
, where he presented on Maypole.
Right at the start, as way of introduction, he said he was in Japan as a missionary, but then proceeded to give the talk
about Maypole principles. What most impressed me, however, was his Japanese. To me, it sounded like he was a near-native-speaker, meaning I couldn't tell the difference between his Japanese and that of the Japanese presenters. He must be the best Japanese-speaking perl programmer, excluding Kogai Dan, Miyagawa Tatsuhiko, and all the other Japanese perl programmers.
He said this was the first time he had given a presentation like this in Japanese. He must have been reading Japanese programming material or talking to Japanese programmers, because although it wasn't a detailed technical discussion, he didn't seem to stumble on any of the terminology he was using.
As an example of the ease of writing Maypole applications, he talked about a Japanese beer database, and a library circulation system for his and others' books that he had been working on in the last 2 weeks.
He told me that it's all hands-off for him now, maintaining Maypole. I wonder about the relationship of the work on the beer and library applications to the presentation.
At the end of the meeting, it looked like it was only at his instigation that the organizers mentioned YAPC::Asia in Tokyo in May. Perhaps he is going to turn up for that.
In any case, what appeared to be a shiny big Mac laptop he did the presentation on suggests he still sees himself as involved in programming. It appears that he has not stopped using perl. And that he is still programming.
The SAME THING, the SAME THING that makes a preacher lay his bible down. --Muddy Waters
PS Two lightweight Made-in-Japan web frameworks presented at the meeting, both on CPAN, Tripletail