In praise of butter

“From milk, too, butter is produced; held as the most delicate of food among barbarous nations, and one which distinguishes the wealthy from the multitude at large.” (Pliny The Elder, Natural History, 28.35)

The Dreaming Iolanthe: Photograph of a bas-relief sculpture made of butter by Caroline S. Brooks (1840-1913). The tools used were a common Butter Paddle, Cedar Sticks, Broom Straws, and a Camels Hair Pencil.

Yesterday, my sister thought of and shared another of her pearls of wisdom: virtue tastes like butter. My sister’s displays of wit are always very welcomed guests set to straighten out some discussions. At the time, a discussion on virtue and its demons, right in the middle of our meal. Suddenly, while savoring a toasty bread spread with butter, she came up with her dairy metaphor. I immediately chimed in, I felt an important resonance stemming from her idea: virtue is good, and so is butter. Simple. But I even dare to go a step further: butter tastes much better than virtue. After all, what’s virtue? An ideal, likely and commendably pursuable, but, nevertheless, more often than not a matter of fiction. A cynical rehearsal would yield this statement: virtue is something that others worry about. But it’s not the case for butter. Butter is impervious to moral’s grounds (except, remarkably, for the perils of gluttony.) Thereby, if one’s able to enjoy dairy foods, butter will be a feast for the senses, and will turn bread into Bread, and breakfast into Breakfast. Barbarous nations of early Europe were aware of this special substance of butter, and they bore derogatory labels from Romans and Greeks, who tagged them as simple “milk-drinkers”. Unfortunately, Mediterranean climate was very harsh on butter, better suited to the climates of northern Europe and its barbarians. And time, perfect master of everything, would prove barbarians right. And time, ancient times, have kept butter as a delicacy, a pleasure coming from the dawn of the world. As Leigh Hunt once stated: “Bread, milk and butter are of venerable antiquity. They taste of the morning of the world.” Bread spread with butter, a breakfast with the family… ah, simple things are the best.

Pursuing virtue might be a complex issue. However, we have butter.. and virtue tastes like butter… so…

“Meanwhile, let us dine and breakfast, like good-humored people; and not quarrel with our bread and butter.” (Leigh Hunt, The Seer, Breakfast Concluded)

What is ‘standard English’?

After King Alfred’s victory over the Vikings in 878, the government of Southern England came to be established in London, which later became the capital of the whole of Britain. Because of this, the English spoken in London and the East Midlands was gradually adopted as the ‘official’ variety of English. And as time went by, this dialect (and its later developments, profoundly influenced by Norman French), became the ‘standard’ language- the form of English generally accepted for use in government, the law, business, education and literature. Standard English, like all standard languages, is therefore largely the result of historical accident. If the Vikings, who held the north of England, had defeated Harold’s army, the capital of modern Britain might well be York, and this book would be written in (and about) a very different kind of English.

Michael Swan. Practical English Usage (3rd Edition).

hello, world

Personally, by reading “hello, world”, I evoke orange and warm afternoons, with my eyes strained (and soothed) by code. Nice, and overly inefficient Pascal code. In some images, a few BASIC snippets interleave, but those are not that nice to remember…

In calm thoughts, these two words (with the comma) bring to mind plenty of images. More often that not, I hold “hello, world” in fond remembrances. For this post I’ve slightly modified the default WordPress post title, in favor of the original Kernighan‘s form: no capitalization and presence of comma. Through the years, it seems to me that this sequence lightens my worries when coping with new languages, systems, things. Somehow, the mind has understood that once “hello, world” is done, then reaching the entire system is achievable. Kind of Pavlovian Conditioning, I guess.

In K&R’s C Tutorial, this feel at ease perception it’s also intended:

The only way to learn a new programming language is by writing programs in it. The first program to write is the same for all languages: Print the words hello, world. This is the basic hurdle; to leap over it you have to be able to create the program text somewhere, compile it successfully, load it, run it, and find out where your output went.

This way, “hello, world” should be our first step for pummeling through the new beast (language).
Continue reading “hello, world”