24. April, 2007

Can it ever be too much winter?

Filed under: Japan 2007 — frightanic @ 09:21

Oh, yes it can. Those who know me know that I love the cold season in Switzerland. I keep telling that I’d love to live in Switzerland in winter and in Alaska in summer…

Right now, though, I wish winter had long passed. My wife and I are travelling in Hokkaido, Japan. There is snow everywhere…piles of snow. Down at the coasts the white powder has melted, but as soon as you climb a few hundred meters ground is still covered with it. Worst, spring hasn’t really started yet. We learned the hard way that here in Hokkaido there’s either winter – most of the year – or summer. Flowers don’t start to blossom until end of May we were told and the first snow falls in late September. In south Hokkaido it may be slightly different but we are/were in central & north Hokkaido.

We have just come at a bad time as there really isn’t much to do. Even if we were to rent winter gear (which we didn’t bring) ski slops are already closed as this off-season is as much “off” as it can be. Is life miserable because of that? No, of course not, there are advantages, too. Fares are lower and most everywhere we go we’re alone – either because the place is closed or because all other tourists had given their journey proper planning 🙂


20. April, 2007

Different airports – different cultures?

Filed under: Japan 2007 — frightanic @ 14:52

If you’ve recently travelled on an airplane you know that you’re not allowed to bring “liquid” items openly on board anymore. Get rid of your harmless water bottle before you pass the security check, put deo, tooth past and super-duper anti-aging cream into a small transparent plastic bag. Not to mention that none of the items must contain more than 100ml. No, that’s not a lot…

I’m currently travelling in Japan and in order to get there I flew from Zurich to Tokyo. The dutyful Swiss security officer in Zurich noted that my brand new tooth past tube contained slightly more than 100ml. Not good for me as I hadn’t paid enough attention to the size of that tube. He wanted to throw it away. I tried to safe it: “What if I squeez out those extra few milliliters?”. No chance. Being Swiss myself, I knew that argueing with a Swiss “authority” is hopeless. So, I had to travel without toothpast and my hatred for those islamic idiots who like to blow up airplanes and other symbols of the successful west grew even stronger than it already was.

Today I flew from Tokyo to Sapporo and the same rules applied. However, the Japanese installed a small and simple machine that checks your drinking bottle for dangerous substances. Of course they allowed me bring my cold green tea on board. Why don’t the Swiss use that? When checking-in my first aid kit they found my special tape scissors which I had forgotten to move from the kit into my suitcase (as I had done when flying to Tokyo). I feared the worst for my belove scissors. In Zurich they would have ended up in the trash can in an instant. Not so in Japan. The officer apologized and told me how sorry he was, but I couldn’t bring it on board. Of course, I knew that and I apologized for my mistake. He took the scissors, placed them in an envelope, sealed it, and handed me a receipt. Perfect. Everybody is happy. Many could learn a great deal from the Japanese…

7. April, 2007

Learning Ruby

Filed under: Ruby — frightanic @ 11:11

For various reasons my wife and I decided to stay home this Easter. This gives her time to prepare an upcoming business meeting in Tokyo and I, well, I decided to step into the Ruby swamp this weekend. Dave Thomas’ “Programming Ruby” has been laying around for some months now, but I never really get around to dig into it.

I’ve made it through the first few chapters of the book. Ruby is installed on my MacBook (it came preconfigured) and on my Windows 2000 PC, I installed the RDT plugin for both Eclipse installations and wrote my first Ruby classes.

I’m still waiting to be impressed.

I never liked cryptic programming languages – that’s why I never learned Perl. And that’s probabely the reason why I still like the verbosity of Java after so many years. I like expressive grammar/APIs because I’ve been working with good IDEs all the time. If I didn’t have code completion and code templates things would probably be different. I’m not at all more productive just because I have to write fewer characters to achieve the same functionality.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not (yet?) ranting about Ruby. So far, its grammar is simply not appealing to me and I know too little about the language to judge whether its claimed advantages over other languages will offset this.

  • It’s nice to inject something into a string with "Hello #theNameVariable" instead of writing "Hello " + theNameVariable but I prefer the expressive version.
  • What’s the point in syntactically separating instance variables @name from class variables (static variables in Java) @@name? The source code will become cluttered up with special characters – yuck.
  • Attributes are prefixed with a ‘:’. See above…
  • Why would I want to name a method that converts the state of an object into a string to_s instead of toString? What do I gain?
  • I’m not yet sure whether I like the implicit “getter/setter” methods for attributs. Ok, I have to write or generate (as modern IDEs do) less code, but the expressiveness of my code suffers from that.
  • On the other hand it’s nice to have virtual attributes. The Uniformed Access Principle as put forth by Bertrand Meyer has made it into Ruby.

To be continued…

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