Eno: Another Data Markup Language

Eno seems interesting. I don’t know that it’s interesting enough to exist over existing formats, but it’s in the YAML/Config format/TOML family and sort of a cousin to Markdown/Settext/Wikiformat (as all these data formats are).

It doesn’t seem to have a spec per se and the documentation is silent about primitive datatypes, which is annoying. Looking at the Python library’s documentation suggests that it uses an on demand coercion approach…basically, you coerce an element when you retrieve it from the parsed structure:

>>> from enopy import loaders, parse

>>> doc = parse("""
...   publish: yes
...   location: 36.987094, -25.091719
...   contact: contact@faulty
... """)

>>> doc.boolean('publish')
>>> doc.lat_lng('location')
{ 'lat':  36.987094, 'lng': -25.091719 }
>>> doc.email('contact')
ValidationError: 'contact' must contain a valid email address, for instance 'jane.doe@eno-lang.org'.

I can’t say I’m a big fan of this API. It seems really dreadful to have the field name as a string inside a coercing function call on the document which magically gets the right “loaders”? I mean, you have to specify the type of everything including built in structured types? Yeek.

Ok there does seem to be a generic interface:

>>> document = enopy.parse(input)

>>> document.element('title')
<class Field name="title" value="Artfest 2018">
>>> document.element('tags')
<class List name="tags" items=2>
>>> document.element('content')
<class Section name="content" items=14>

This feels like a step back from e.g. JSON. And this documentation hurts me!

Still, it’s kinda interesting and one could always layer a different API on top.


Worksheets to Support Active Learning

I do a lot of lecturing. I like to lecture and am good at it. It also is pretty much what’s expected. For MSc classes we have all day classes which kinda suck for lectures though that’s mostly what we do. For my software engineering class, I break up the day with two labs, which helps, but I’m always on the look out for ways to make the lectures more effective. This generally means trying to get the students to do active learning, that is, not to passively “receive” information…this is nearly worthless…but to anticipate, question, puzzle over, generally be engaged in the material I’m presenting. Student response systems seem to help some with this as does asking questions of the class (though this often fails). Our students are of wide ranging abilities and backgrounds. For many, just working in English is a big strain.

One thing I’ve had what I think of as some success with is providing little, simple activities on sheets of paper, e.g., to draw various complexity curves. It’s a variant of clicker questions, but trying to get them to do something.

I came across a Software Carpentry blog post on Git worksheets which intrigued me. The idea there is to “draw along” with the instructor instead of doing some task. It seems a nice way to provoke and support the good sort of note taking. I have a lot of “process style” slides which I maybe can change into worksheets or have anticipatory worksheets. I draw a lot on the board spontaneously, but perhaps using the opaque projector on a worksheet might be more effective (though take a lot more prep).

Support for Contact Theory

There’s an intriguing post by Echidne about a paper about an experiment on the effects of gender integration on men’s attitudes toward women. This chime’s with other stuff I’ve read esp about thresholds for participation which trigger changes in climate (I really need to go back and dig all those up and put them in one place). Interestingly, Echidne speculates that the quality of the contact is also key:

The first sentence is crucial of course, and so is, in my opinion, the clear sharing of same tasks in an observable manner.  It’s not enough that men and women are in close contact, the way many of us are in our homes or at least in our childhood homes, say.

The work must be shared so that the skills and effort of each contributor become evident to the others.  Many traditionally female chores at home (cleaning, laundry) can become almost invisible (as work) to those family members who are not doing them when sexual division of labor is rigid, and it may be hard to value the work someone is doing if it appears to just happen in the background of life.

I find this highly plausible. And it points not just for the need for women in leadership positions but in all positions. And it’s ever more important to make sure that they don’t get stuck with ghettoisable tasks.

Music Monday: This is America

Christa Blackmon covered this song, and some of the inspired covers, on LGM a while back, but given recent events I found myself watching the (brilliant but heart breaking) video:

The running at the end…just watch it.

It’s an interesting contrast to “The President Sang Amazing Grace”, though I think people misread “President” more.

Things are going to get a lot more broken before they have any hope of getting better. That means lives blighted or lost.

Sunday Birthday Baking

For my birthday, Zoe got me a class in Italian Baking at Bread Ahead in London. It was fun! We made foccacia, ciabatta, and grissini. They came out great:

I don’t generally do cooking classes and we were constrained by available slots, but even thought I’ve made focaccia before, loads of times, it was interesting to do it with an instructor. We worked with extremely wet doughs. I’d never let my kneaded dough stay that wet before this class. We also got the 60 degree rule (ie the temperature of the room plus the temp of your flour plus the temp of your water should equal 60 degrees C for the dough to end up at optimism rising temp). And the results were super yummy though the focaccia was more closed crumb than I like. I repeated the focaccia at home. It came out a bit different but ok:

I also made myself a birthday cake. A brown sugar angel food cake. The taste difference is subtle though the color different is rather clear:

Re the class, I had fun. It wasn’t really a revelation per se but, for example, it was super fun to handed the group ciabatta dough. I think the classes where I’d do something I’m unlikely to ever do at home (like donuts) are more likely to be super awesome, but I can’t complain. It was enjoyable as an experience.

Cranky Pants Wirth

I love Niklaus Wirth’s work. I read his compiler constructor book and it was so beautiful and make computer science seem so elegant…it’s why I ask my PhD students about the Chomsky Hierarchy to this day. I thought the Oberon system was very neat (esp the S3 spin off).

But damn he can make a lot of undersupported claims in a short text. “A Plea for Lean Software” is a fun, cranky polemic but the 9 lessons learned are a big pile of “because I say so”. Eg lesson number one is that the speed the “complex” Oberon system was developed depended on having a strong and statically/manifestly typed language. Ok! I’m convinced! Well, no, I’m not convinced 😉 I’m willing to bet that it has a lot to do with having a genius programmer/system designer who could do exactly what he wanted with no compatibility issues or external constraints to face.

I think life and computer science are better now. We know more and more of what we don’t. People still make these gonzo claims but they don’t go quite as far.

I hope.

I still love reading it though.

This Week in Zoe News

Another NPR interview:

I mean for instance, if it hadn’t had ‘Another World’ and ‘The President Sang Amazing Grace,’ it would have been a beautiful album of very pretty songs. But it wouldn’t have the depth that it has. So some songs like the president song drop out of the sky, and are just my good fortune to hear.”

The Boston Globe:

The album’s centerpiece is Zoe Mulford’s “The President Sang Amazing Grace,” written in the wake of the 2015 church shooting in Charleston, S.C.

For the first few weeks on tour, Baez couldn’t sing it. “If I see the audience get teary, then I’m in trouble,” she explains. “I’d get started and it was so overwhelming. I’d give up and try again the next day.”

The not-so-subtle message of what’s said and not said in the lyrics — about the dignity of the office of the presidency — is not lost on international audiences, Baez reports.

“It goes over the same in Sarajevo, in Turkey. I always say, ‘Turn to your neighbor if they don’t speak English.’ It gets through very quickly.”

And just in case a few people in attendance aren’t following the thread, she makes “a couple more blatant comments,” she says with one more laugh.

Some cool stuff is happening behind the scenes including, I hope I hope, movement toward a new album.