Daily Archives: June 11, 2010


I’m imagining a group of programmers congregated in a large loose circle. They’ve had many drinks and decide to play a game of “Never Have I Ever.” After much revelations about their sexual adventures (or lack thereof), the questions shift to programming (naturally). A C++ programmer says, “Never have I ever been inspired by a programming book.” The Ruby programmers in the room groan and put their fingers down. I would now have to put my finger down too.

In the past few weeks, I’ve started to dig through Python and Ruby. I wanted to expand my language repertoire. I also started looking into various frameworks, such as Django and Rails, for making web apps. This foraging was frustrating. I looked through different comparisons. Many were clearly unobjective. The ones that were objective felt too technical for someone who had yet to even play with the frameworks. I felt torn. For some reason, I felt as if I was choosing a religion; it felt a more permanent choice than it really was. Then, when I got the frameworks it felt as if I was picking a church — there were the battles all over again. Finally, I decided I had done enough foraging. I had to quit looking for information and build something. I decided to learn both Django and Rails, but I would learn Rails first. This meant I had to learn Ruby. This was when I came across Why’s Poignant Guide to Ruby.

This book blew my mind. At first, I was like, “What the hell is going on?” It had insane digressions and cartoon foxes. I couldn’t really follow it. Slowly, I became more engrossed in the bizarre storytelling and the fun analogies. Yes, % did look kind of like a frog. I have been reading The Shallows recently so I’m primed to think about deep reading versus scanning. I was engaged in deep reading. I was pushed in the book like I was a novel. Not only that, but I was pulled into the programming examples. Usually, these examples are tedious exercises that I ignore.

When I woke up in the morning, I knew I had dreamt of Ruby. It was weird. I still like Python a lot. It appeals to a certain side of me that wants everything structured and usable. Because of the book, I felt as if programming in Ruby would appeal more to the poetic side of me. Really weird for programming.

The writing style directly inspired me to re-write the first assignment for the class I’m teaching this summer. It doesn’t nearly match the poignancy of the original, but it is more fun than the boring writing for a typical assignment.

So, now I’m working my way through a tutorial on Rails. I’m not nearly as inspired now. It’s a lot to slog through; it’s fairly complicated compared to what I’ve done before. But I am encouraged to press on.