[San-Diego-pm] Damian Conway... LAST NIGHT!

Russ Schnapp rlssdpm at schnapp.org
Tue Sep 30 11:35:30 PDT 2008

Christopher Hahn wrote:
 > Hello all,
 > I had to be with my son yesterday.....I almost brough him with me to
 > see Damian speak,
 > but thought of the potential distraction and did not.
 > So bummed.....perhaps someone could write a comment summary to the group?
 > Just thought I'd ask.  Take care all.
 > Chris (Chris Hahn - xrz1138 at gmail.com)

In a nutshell, Damian covered the subject of Dead Languages, starting 

Latin -- each section was introduced with a latin description, wherein 
Damian managed to needle us Americans for our lack of classical 
education while stunning us with his ability to translate such names as 
Beowulf and Kenny, and terms like "gunslinger".

There was an interlude on Lara Croft wannabe culture, including lots of 
photos Damian carefully researched for our benefit alone, and not at all 
for his...

An example of his Lisp implementation of Conway's "Life" cellular 
automaton game -- though being the ancient fuddy duddy who learned my 
dialect from "The Little Lisper", I was disappointed in the lack of any 
usage of car or cdr -- although a couple of people seemed to know the 
origin of those terms, so I didn't feel entirely archaic.

He then explained a Postscript example of the Buffon approximation of 
pi, which you, too could run on your postscript-based printer as an 
April Fool's joke on all the dead trees...

C++ (Damian admitted that this fit the "dead language" classification 
only by wishful thinking on his part) was then introduced with some of 
his pet peeves about the language (is that a pointer to an function 
returning an integer?  or a function that returns a pointer to an 
integer? or...) along with a very elegant implementation of a Petri net 
simulator (dataflow programming).

SPECS -- a language nobody has heard of because it was Damian's improved 
syntax for C++, eliminating the pet peeves.  He claims the only reason 
it died was because he tried to solve the "=" vs "==" problem by using 
":=" for assignment -- and everyone knows that this is Wirth's kiss of 
death!     (Anybody remember Damian's pun about Wirth?  It bothers me 
that I've forgotten it, because I once had to give a presentation to the 
guy, and whatever you heard about him was indeed true!)

And for the giant fireworks spectacular, Damian then ties everything 
together with an extremely clever and simple programming language based 
on a melding of Perl (of course) and -- Latin!  It turns out that you 
can eliminate a lot of the positionality of most language by using 
Latin's declensions (word modifier suffixes that provide much of the 
meaning).  He described the system, along with his clever parsing 
technique.  And, of course, if you care to use it, there's a Perl module 
you can use via Filter::Simple to program in Latin.  It's 

That's it in a nutshell, without 99.9% of the laughs.



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