Thursday, January 19, 2006

What kind of nut? I particularly like cashews and almonds

Ah, the world of blogging! I just found this comment about me on another blog:

"I'm a big fan of Steven Feuerstein, as everyone knows. However, it looks like this is a non-techie blog. Which is fine, I guess, but I'm a fan of his techie thoughts. Occasionally his socio-political thoughts crept into his work, and it usually made him look like a nut, but I digress…"

Now, I gotta say, I don't think my skin is too thin. I don't really mind if you think I'm a nut, or CALL me a nut, but I think you should at least actually back up a statement like "made him look like a nut" with an example or two. So feel free to pop offer to my blog and offer some specifics!

Perhaps this is a reference to my fourth book (now out of print), Oracle PL/SQL Programming: Guide to Oracle8i Features, in which I decided to skip the usual "emp-dept" examples and use more interesting sources for my material, such as union busting, earth killing, war criminals, etc.

It created quite a stir for a while there. Some people really hated it, others enjoyed it immensely. Tim O'Reilly, the owner of O'Reilly Media, took a personal interest (I suppose that when a reader sends an email saying "I will never buy another O'Reilly book", he should take a personal interest). I thought he would give me a hard time and giving him some heartache, instead he invited me to write an article about why I did this. You can find my article and associated threads at:

Here's a bit from the beginning:

I Don't Like Your Examples!

by Steven Feuerstein

I have been writing books about the Oracle PL/SQL programming language for the last five years. In 1999, O'Reilly published my fourth book, Oracle PL/SQL Programming Guide to Oracle8i Features, which created a bit of an uproar among my readership, caused considerable discussion within O'Reilly, and led to my writing this article.

Why did this book cause a sensation? Consider this excerpt from Chapter 2:


Let's look at a simple example. Suppose you are responsible for building a database to keep track of war criminals for the International Court of Justice. You create a package called wcpkg to keep track of alleged war criminals. One of the programs in the package registers a new criminal. You want that register program to always save its changes, even if the calling program hasn't yet issued a COMMIT. These characters are, after all, fairly slippery and you don't want them to get away.

The package specification holds no surprises; the transaction type is not evident here:

... PROCEDURE register (
culprit IN VARCHAR2, event IN VARCHAR2);
END wcpkg;

The package body, however, contains that new and wonderful pragma:

PROCEDURE register (
culprit IN VARCHAR2, event IN VARCHAR2)
INSERT INTO war_criminal (name, activity)
VALUES (culprit, event);
END wcpkg;

And now when I call wcpkg.register, I am assured that my changes have been duly recorded:

wcpkg.register ('Kissinger', 'Secret Bombing of Cambodia');


Now, I expect it's not every day you pick up a technology text and read a charge that Henry Kissinger is a war criminal for the secret bombing of Cambodia.

Is that nutty? I say that "nutty" is the world in which Kissinger is a respected elder statesman, raking in the big consulting bucks.


David Aldridge said...

I love that excerpt -- it starts off with a very novel situation that perks peoples' interest, and at the end either leaves them laughing or makes them shoot coffee out their nose.

Nuttiness is in the eye of the beholder -- keep up the good writing.

Robert Vollman said...

Here are some definitions I found for nutty:

1. Crazy; idiotic; insane; loony; batty; nuts. [slang]

2. nutty: informal or slang terms for mentally irregular [syn: balmy, barmy, bats, batty, bonkers, buggy, cracked, crackers, daft, dotty, fruity, haywire, kooky, kookie, loco, loony, loopy, nuts, wacky]

3. Afflicted with or exhibiting irrationality and mental unsoundness: brainsick, crazy, daft, demented, disordered, distraught, dotty, insane, lunatic, mad, maniac, maniacal, mentally ill, moonstruck, off, touched, unbalanced, unsound, wrong. Informal bonkers, cracked, daffy, gaga, loony. Slang bananas, batty, buggy, cuckoo, fruity, loco, nuts, screwy, wacky. Chiefly British crackers. Law non compos mentis. Idioms: around the bend, crazy as a loon, mad as a hatter, not all there, nutty as a fruitcake, offout ofone's head, off one's rocker, of unsound mind, out of one's mind, sick in the head, stark raving mad. See sane/insane.

Is using an example with war crime in a book teaching PL/SQL nutty? In my opinion, yes.

Not in the sense of it being crazy, idiotic or brainsick. But in the sense that it is irregular.

It's about as nutty as someone writing a paper on war crime suddenly talking about PL/SQL.