an obession with first principles

Client Side Thoughts – All the Rage These Days

Posted: Saturday Jan 28th | Author: JohnO | Filed under: Programming | View Comments

A programming post! I know, its a bit unusual considering all thats happening in the world. But this one is worth it. All the rage these is a gorgeous, smooth, animating, fully javascript-enhanced experience for web applications. And I’ve been building them. There really interesting part is the choice of technologies to use – particularly on the backend. We’ve stayed with the tried and true django. Which, out of necessity, requires that certain decisions be made. And django is a wonderful platform I truly wouldn’t imagine working without.

Lots of the current javascript enhancements are going on with “slimmer” backends (Mongo, Couch, Cassandra, etc). Which means that a lot of the traditional things a backend framework does are not done. So their front-end has to pick up the slack. In many cases this means defining models, and url routes. For those of us using beefy backends this definition is already done, and to replicate it on the front end would be ridiculous. So I feel that the beefy backends of the world are being left out by the adventures in javascript. It should not be so.

I’m already templating on the client side with @getify’s HandlebarJS. That brings along with it a nice Promise pattern implementation. And he has also written a nice Gate pattern implementation as well that I use. Of course I’m using jQuery, along with ajaxForm to handle form posts asychronously. And now we are using Plupload to deal with uploading media (ajaxForm does this with an iframe hack that is not very pretty). I’ve written some nice utilities for dumping django model data into JSON, a Command pattern implementation, and a Databinding implementation on the client side as well.

The trick that I would like to work on, is packaging all this goodness into a unified package that takes advantage of django in a much cleaner way. Getting class information and URL route information onto the client side is the first step. Wrapping the JSON returned from the server with this class info and URL routes, tied together to the Databinding interface gets you a model layer, with instance caches. While that model layer is defined in django. With a couple more nice additions a lot of maintenance/house-keeping code won’t need to be written.

The next thing that has jumped into my mind is pushState. But I haven’t played with it enough to know how to implement it in a “framework” type of way.

This client should be written to be entirely decoupled from the actual backend client. You are dealing in URLs, JSON blobs, DOM elements, forms, events and async calls. The fact that django provides this is inconsequential. You could start with a django backend because of all its benefits of getting up quickly. And you can migrate over to other sharded DBs or non-relational DBs or other data sources (e.g. memcache) as you need to scale.

This project’s first philosophical belief is to get up and running without duplicating your work on the client side (D.R.Y.). It’s second would be to work purely with native types as much as possibile (strings, JSON, DOM). It’s third would be modularity/loose coupling. Since its built on native types as much as possible you can use the parts you want, and only the parts you want.


Someone Please Explain

Posted: Friday Dec 9th | Author: JohnO | Filed under: Dialogue | View Comments

Why no one else seems to think this is valid?


Things Unseen

Posted: Tuesday Nov 29th | Author: JohnO | Filed under: Dialogue, Philosophising | View Comments

I think it would be useful if the concept of the umwelt were embedded in the public lexicon. It neatly captures the idea of limited knowledge, of unobtainable information, and of unimagined possibilities. Consider the criticisms of policy, the assertions of dogma, the declarations of fact that you hear every day — and just imagine if all of these could be infused with the proper intellectual humility that comes from appreciating the amount unseen. Edge.org – David Eagleman


Crux

Posted: Wednesday Nov 9th | Author: JohnO | Filed under: Anthropology, Philosophising | View Comments

The crux of the matter is not correct reasoning but an existential act of appropriation, rejection, or transformation. Such an act does not have the universal validity of a ration statement. Only their existential repercussions endow such experiences with meaning.
Karl Jaspers, Anslem and Nicholas of Cusa, p.86


The Second Bill of Rights

Posted: Tuesday Nov 8th | Author: JohnO | Filed under: Anthropology, Politics | View Comments

It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher that ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people – whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights – among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our nation has grown in size and stature, however – as our industrial economy expanded – these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all – regardless of station, race, or creed.

    Among these are:

  • The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops of farms or mines of the nation;
  • The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
  • The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
  • The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home and abroad;
  • The right of every family to a decent home;
  • The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
  • The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
  • The right to a good education;

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens.

President Franklin Roosevelt, excerpt from State of the Union, January 11, 1944


One Thing I Wish Occupy Would Think About

Posted: Monday Oct 31st | Author: JohnO | Filed under: Epistemology, Philosophising | View Comments

Is a positive understanding of suffering

We are all aware of the negative aspects of suffering. But we would be remiss to never contemplate the positive aspects. Both of self-induced suffering, and of externally-produced suffering. When I say self-induced, I do not mean that we revile our own selves. Rather, that we forcibly, violently, push ourselves beyond our current abilities. Both physically, and mentally.

This, of course, is not to blame the victim, or validate the suffering inflicted upon groups or individuals. I know for a fact that in Theology the Black Church has had a huge amount to say on this topic. I regret that I have not been able to be read in it yet. Just as Cone argued for God’s own identification in blackness, the cross argues for God’s identification in suffering. What can we say about our this cruciform image of suffering?

I recognize that if Occupy is anything – the last thing it is is theological. So I don’t expect them to co-opt a theologian’s understanding of cruciformity or of suffering. Yet, I do hope (and at some point expect) a broader treatment of suffering in relation to the long history of its thought in this country, and in philosophy.


Dissonance

Posted: Sunday Oct 30th | Author: JohnO | Filed under: Philosophising | View Comments

It has always seemed strange to me… the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.” John Steinbeck


The Church is historically and intrinsically an artistic operation – Brueggemann

Posted: Sunday Oct 30th | Author: JohnO | Filed under: Anthropology, Epistemology, Philosophising | View Comments


Using the Church in Political Discourse

Posted: Sunday Oct 30th | Author: JohnO | Filed under: Dialogue, In the News, Philosophising | View Comments

A couple of times I’ve run into the Church being used polemically when discussing politics. A perfect example is 2012 Presidential Candidate Ron Paul – please go watch. I wish the creator would let me embed it here, but they disabled that ability

As an aside, Senator Paul is incorrect about the cause of the prices in healthcare. The commentator in the video hits the nail on the head when he wonders what the difference between the Church saving him, and the Government saving him. The only real difference is that everyone pays taxes, and only some people voluntarily give to Churches. The commentator, again, rightly remarks about the steady decline in the influence of Churches over the years. Pragmatically – a social safety net like this is getting smaller. But pragmatism is not the issue here. An issue that I find relevant is that Ron Paul failed to be that supporting community when one of his staffers (who does not get health insurance by Ron Paul, his employer) died because he could not pay for the treatment. Ron Paul did not help this man financially.

The issue I find is that the Church is being co-opted into a discourse within which it has no expectation to be. I do not mean here, “the separation of church and state”. I do expect and hope that the Church will be more active than it has been (and all the churches I have been a part of remain active in helping people financially navigate their lives). But, the Church has a right to make their own decisions. To be ‘free’ as Ron Paul would say, to act of their own responsibility. Political arguments cannot assume, presume, or coerce the Church into a position she has taken of her own volition.

A government is responsible for its people. It is responsible to further the people in their collective goals, and individual goals. Certainly every individual must act responsibly. But, frankly, shit happens. Families who are barely feeding and housing themselves should not have to worry about finding a way to stay healthy. Even for myself, a resident of Massachusetts who pays every month for the public healthcare option, carries a risk. There is no responsible investment I can make that will absolve me of all health risks. If I get hit by a car and have permanent injuries (which happen to 2 million Americans every year) insurance will not cover most of it, and I will have to pay out of pocket for the rest of my life. Unlucky, yes, but at 2 million per year, how much progress and human flourishing are we losing? Is it worth losing? Those Americans who want universal health care, and especially a single-payer system, say it is not worth losing our humanity because of money.


Occupy and the Protestant Work Ethic

Posted: Tuesday Oct 25th | Author: JohnO | Filed under: Dialogue, In the News, Philosophising | View Comments

One of the strangest, at least to me, is the institutionalized form of a protestant work ethic within a free market economic system. The phrase “protestant work ethic” was coined by Max Weber. To summarize the protestant work ethic as it is known today:

He who does not work shall not eat.

God helps those who help themselves

How it is known today is nothing like what Weber advanced. The latter is terribly wrong, for God send rain on the just and the unjust alike. The former is a caricature of 2 Thess 3:10. The verse says “will not work”, not “does not”. There is a big difference between the two, not only of language, but also the early Christian situation. In taking Christ as Lord many were thrown from their communities (some, e.g. those in Jerusalem, weren’t). Finding random jobs would be incredibly hard if people knew who they were.

Now to Weber and the Reformation. The Reformation actually had a lot to say about work because they had a specific historic event to deal with: the rise of a merchant class. For time immemorial there were those who owned and ran estates, fought in wars, and made political decisions. There was no illusion that this did not constitute work, yet it had its vast rewards. And everyone else worked with herds, land, or mills (unless you were a priest – but their activities were also seen as strenuous work). When the Reformation occurred there was the rise of a merchant class who seemed to do no work, and make profits. They traded goods or money, made loans, and connected people together. There was no category within which to place them as truly “working”. Any attempt in the late 19th or early 20th century by Weber to equate the writings of Luther, et. al. with what he witnessed culturally are entirely misguided, an attempt to read that history far far too literally. There are valuable things to say about the value of virtuous work, but what we’ve done with it is horrific.

We have codified that the market is God. The market decides who is righteous and who is a sinner. Those who succeed and make money are righteous. Those who are unable to make money are sinners. The market has thus judged. This is a shocking development once this idea takes its root. For then the ends justify the means. If you can make money through illegal actions the market will vindicate you. If you can cheat, lie, and steal, but your balance sheet is positive – you are righteous.

OccupyWallStreet recognizes this codification. It says the ends do not justify the means. The market is rigged. Occupy does not reject the virtue of work. It rejects the state of affairs that the market declares the righteous and the sinner. Occupy sees itself as the people who have followed the rules, all the recommendations everyone has made for them. Go to college. Save money. Buy a house so you have equity. And those with crushing student debt can’t get a job. Those with houses can’t refinance or have lost them to mortgage. They’ve worked virtuously and have been declared a sinner by the market. And the financial establishment has cheated and changed the rules constantly, their risk now being covered by the promise of the government. Greed is one of the seven mortal sins, and their greedy behavior is being rewarded by the market as the righteous.

The market is not God.