Monthly Archives: February 2010

Closures, finally explained!

Programming language weirdos (by which I mostly mean people who program in Lisp) are forever telling you that you need closures, and that your language is unbearably primitive if it doesn’t support them.  Turns out that they’re right, but their rightness is completely obscured by the horrible, uninformative term “closure”, and even more so by the fact that the definition given for the term is usually some opaque hunk of verbiage like “a first-class function with free variables that are bound in the lexical environment” (from the Wikipedia article on the subject.)

It also doesn’t help that the examples people usually give are so lame: it’s all “Here’s a function that returns a function that yields the value of a hidden variables that is incremented every time it’s called”.  Whenever I see examples like that, I just think “Why would I ever want such a thing”?

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I know this blog doesn’t exactly make sense …

Hi, Mike Taylor here.

I’ve been blogging very happily and successfully for a couple of years over at Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week, sharing duties with my palaeontology colleagues Matt Wedel and Darren Naish; and I’ve contributed a few posts to my employers’ blog at Index Data.  But increasingly I find myself wanting to blog about subjects that don’t fit into either of those venues, hence this new area.  The idea is just to have a place to write about whatever is exercising me at the time, sort of like Matt’s blog Ask Doctor Vector.

Right now, what’s on my mind is computer programming, and especially programming languages — hence the title, The Reinvigorated Programmer.  I’ve been programming computers for 31 of my 42 years, professionally for the last twenty of those years, and over that time what started out as a passion has inevitably become a bit stale.  But in the last few weeks I’ve had a positive renaissance, and I want to talk about some of the reasons for that and the lessons I’ve learned.  So that will be a recurring theme of this blog.

But there’s a lot of other stuff buzzing around in here, too.  At one point, I wanted to start a blog about TV shows, which was going to be called — because whenever I watch anything, I find myself comparing it unfavourably with Veronica Mars.  (That’s Veronica over on the right of my banner, by the way).  [Update: not any more, poor Veronica got bumped by The Eleventh Doctor and Amy, because I wasn’t writing about Veronica enough.]  But eventually I realised that that might be a bit limiting in the long term.

Also, I like sushi.

So the one thing you won’t find here is sauropod vertebrae.  For all your sauropod-vertebra needs, SV-POW! remains the blog of choice for the discerning reader.  That aside, all other bets are off.  So expect this to be a bit of an uneven ride.