The one book I keep returning to, my personal bible, is The Question of Value, by James S. Hans. I keep wondering why no one else sees its enormous value. But I seem to be in a world where there are few of us. That is life: you have to take it as it is – wherever it takes you.
One of his main points is the difference between discursivity, a word he has made up for himself, but is based on discursive: “proceeding logically or coherently from topic to topic” or “reasoning from premises to conclusions based upon analytical reasoning” – as contrasted with intuitive.
And recursivity, another new word based on recursive: “of, relating to, or being a procedure that can repeat itself indefinitely.” The basic idea is simple: you never get anything right the first time, you have to keep working on it – endlessly.
He also has another idea, which he got from Nietzsche: the human revulsion against time. I cannot explain this, and only absorbed it after reading him over and over – a procedure I am sure he would have approved of. You have to let go of the past, and accept that in the future things will be different. I cringe at this paraphrase, because it is so trite and new-age. But sometimes even they are on to something important – even if they have no idea what to do with it.
Two technologies, I found, that do not work well with each other. I was beginning to worry, but plunged on ahead anyway. Perhaps my Fairy Godmother would appear to help me. She never did.
Microsoft’s Visual Web Developer is an over-developed tool – I can only describe it that way. It has forty ways of doing everything and their interactions, to me, are baffling. It seemed to be testing me to see if I was really a programmer. I failed the test.
So I tried something else: web2py another application framework that seems to be doing everything right. At least that is what it claims. I downloaded the book (it was cheaper that way) and set to work. My previous programming experience (I was a programmer back in the early Eighties) came in handy as I navigated my way through their programming interface. I managed to avoid most of the minefields, but then got stuck – on something that to any real programmer must seem trivial.
Real programmers, I must say, have a sixth sense about how to program and can see things ordinary mortals (such as me) cannot. It must be genetic – and I don’t have those genes.
I realized right away something I realized before: that these guys need someone less bright than they are to explain them to others. That is why I became a technical writer – and a successful one for twenty years.
But that time also taught me something else: tech writers, although they are well-paid, get shit on (to put it bluntly). What they crank out is junk, but that is what employers seem to want. Good technical writing is done by people who know what they are doing – and can also turn to writing to help them pay their bills.
Let me get back to my original subject: exploring my limits, because that is what I am doing here. Once again, I have found one of my limits – but I have also found ground I can maneuver in.
Maybe, if I talk to web2py right, they will let me work on their documentation. If I can penetrate their wall of silence, that every organization seems to protect itself with, I might be able to help them.
But then I ask myself: “Can they help me, as a person?” I very much doubt it, they are not into that kind of thing.