Happy Birthday Gerard Manley Hopkins

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It must be rough to be a poet of the scale and stature of John Ashbery, to have won every award worth winning, to rise to the very height of your profession and then to find each year that your birthday is best remembered for a master of your craft who died before you were born.  Hopkins was born on this day in 1844 and died in 1889.  Ashbery was born in 1927 and celebrates his birthday under a weight of Hopkins credits.

If that’s not bad enough Beatrix Potter was also born on this day in 1866 which is why Peter Rabbit gets the picture credit.  As a gardener of course I am no friend of Peter Rabbit, nasty large eared rat with a short tail that he is.  I’m with the Farmer on this one.

I love Hopkins because I think he was one of the first writers who grasped the song of word, how the word itself can craft the poem.  James Joyce brought this understanding to prose but Hopkins gave it to Poetry.  The power of words has increasingly been recognized in fields of study such as neurolinguistic programming and nominative determinism.  This poem is an excellent example of how he plays with the word sounds to capture the echo of birdsong through the wood.

The Woodlark; by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Teevo cheevo cheevio chee:
O where, what can tháat be?
Weedio-weedio: there again!
So tiny a trickle of sóng-strain;
and all round not to be found
for brier, bough, furrow, or gréen ground
before or behind or far or at hand
either left either right
anywhere in the súnlight.
well, after all! Ah but hark—
‘I am the little wóodlark.
. . . . . . . .
To-day the sky is two and two
with white strokes and strains of the blue
. . . . . . . .
Round a ring, around a ring
and while I sail (must listen) I sing
. . . . . . . .
The skylark is my cousin and he
is known to men more than me
. . . . . . . .
…when the cry within
says Go on then I go on
till the longing is less and the good gone

Tut down drop, if it says Stop,
to the all-a-leaf of the tréetop
and after that off the bough
. . . . . . . .
I ám so véry, O soó very glad
that I dó thínk there is not to be had…
. . . . . . . .
The blue wheat-acre is underneath
and the braided ear breaks out of the sheath,
the ear in milk, lush the sash,
and crush-silk poppies aflash,
the blood-gush blade-gash
flame-rash rudred
bud shelling or broad-shed
tatter-tassel-tangled and dingle-a-dangled
dandy-hung dainty head.
. . . . . . . .
And down … the furrow dry
sunspurge and oxeye
and laced-leaved lovely
foam-tuft fumitory
. . . . . . . .
Through the velvety wind V-winged
to the nest’s nook I balance and buoy
with a sweet joy of a sweet joy,
sweet, of a sweet, of a sweet joy
of a sweet—a sweet—sweet—joy.’

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Spam

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July 5th 1937 saw the launch of a new product, a long lasting tinned pork and ham product called SPAM.  SPAM has sold billions of tins.  It is everywhere (apart from the Middle East/ North African Muslim countries).

The pervasive nature of SPAM was parodied in a 1970 sketch by Monty Python.

The word “Spam” began to be used by certain abusive users of early chatrooms in the 1980s to scroll other users off the screen by repeating the word “Spam” hundreds of times.  They then moved to insert large blocks of text from Monty Python sketches to disrupt chats.  They became known as “spammers”.

Spam and Eggs are used as metasyntactic variables in the Python programming language, released in 1991, which is named after Monty Python.

By 1993 the term Spamming was used to describe the multiple reposting of the same message, often for marketing purposes.  In the days of dial-up connections and painfully slow load speeds such “flaming logo” posts prevented access to chatrooms and caused widespread frustration.

By 1998 the word Spam had entered the Oxford dictionary to describe unsolicited marketing messages.

Since 2000 spam messages have been responsible for infecting computer systems with virus software, bugs, worms, Trojans and ransomware.  2017 has become the year of ransomware with large scale attacks on older Microsoft systems running with out of date protection or unsupported software.

 

 

Ancient Greeks developed techniques for computer coding

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We tend to think of computer coding as something very new, dating from the 1960’s and later. Basic launched in 1963 and many think of it as the first language because it underpins much of modern SQL.

FORTRAN was developed by IBM in the 1950’s

More knowledgeable historians will refer me back to ENIAC in 1946, or project Ultra in 1941.

Even better historians will take me back to 1804 and the punch card programming system used on the Jacquard Loom to weave patterns in silk.

I think we can go even further and wind the clock back to 500BC because coding has a far older history. Today, when we design classes in education we could learn from the ancient Greek method of the Trivium (3 ways).

The trivium was a system of education taught in Greece and Rome to master the art of oration, which is the foundation of all courtroom trials, most business presentations and almost all political speeches and debates.

It involves 3 disciplines, Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric.

  • Grammar: definition of terms, language, limits, data etc.
  • Logic: how to arrange your data, build arguments, test them, link them and test them again.
  • Rhetoric: how to deliver the final output in a succinct, engaging and compelling way.

To any experienced coder the schema above looks eerily familiar:

Input – Process – Output

Does it sound preposterous that the Greeks worked out early forms of programming?  Remember these are the people who gave us much of our mathematics.  By 100 BC they were building clockwork computers such as the Antikythera mechanism.  This level of sophistication was not achieved again in Europe until the 14th century.

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