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w/e 2020-01-26

There are times when I feel too old and out-of-touch to be any good at writing code and this week was one of those times.

The occasions when I have to get up-to-speed with making asynchronous API calls in JavaScript are frequently correlated with those times. Whenever I need to do this the method has changed since the previous occasion so I have to figure out which way is the best way (which usually isn’t the latest-and-not-well-supported way) and then understand it enough to do what I want, which is rarely what any of the examples show.

This occasion was extra difficult given that increasing numbers of JavaScript examples and StackOverflow answers use modern ES6 syntax which I haven’t yet bothered with. So I read these examples, that are supposed to make something complicated understandable to everyone, and I can’t even follow the code. I should just learn it. My usual attitude, “there’s no point being on the cutting edge of JavaScript because it’s not compatible with all browsers,” shouldn’t mean “never learn anything new”. But I still can’t fathom why anyone thought changing

var addTwo = function(num) {
  return num + 2;
}

to

var addTwo = (num) => num + 2;

makes sense. OK, whatever, maybe there are some benefits that require randomly changing the syntax, I’ve no idea, leave me alone, get your scooter off my lawn.

And then I was trying to get to grips with Stripe’s billing API. It’s been [mumble] years since I last used Stripe and while their developer tools are still really good the service has become a lot more complicated. And, bizarrely for “the new standard in online payments”, charging sales taxes like VAT, GST, etc. seems like a massive pain. Bewildering.

A photo of a couple of piles of long willow branches in the winter sun

So, I’m looking at the big stacks of willow branches in the garden and thinking I should probably just take up basket weaving or something.


§   This week I finished reading The Idiot by Elif Batuman (just in time to start the new William Gibson). For at least half the book I wondered why I was reading about a Turkish American in her first year at Harvard who kept doing slightly awkward and dumb things. It wasn’t bad but it just went by.

Towards the end I liked it a lot more. Partly because Selin’s relationship with Ivan, a Hungarian maths student, becomes more interesting. Not because much happens but I liked that, due to both of their inabilities to really work out what their relationship is, it’s this important but unsatisfying (to them) thread throughout the year, but not the overriding event. If they’d decided early on that they were An Item it would have been a different story. As it was, normal student life goes on with this nagging thing that they, and Selin in particular, can’t figure out periodically frustrating them.

Also, while initially Selin’s idiotness was a bit wearing at first after a while I accepted it and it reminded me that I probably felt a similar level of idiotness when I was 19. I mean, it’s not like I’m free of being an idiot now, so 30 years ago I was definitely unable to figure out a lot of pretty basic things about how life works. So I guess it was nice to be reminded how far I have hopefully come.


§   When we bought our car recently the dealer had, for unexplained reasons, just put in a new radio/CD-player/satnav unit. However, it required unlocking with a pin code that he said we’d have to go to the official Nissan dealer to have them enter, for £30 or so. Fair enough.

We made an appointment at Hereford’s very friendly Nissan dealer and dropped the car off. It turned out that due to a recall some years ago the car was also due to have both airbags replaced, free under warranty. I know nothing about owning cars so I was surprised that not only is the manufacturer’s outlet happy to do work on one of its ten-year-old, fourth-hand products, but it will do required updates for free. I realise that safety recalls in cars are different to the issues most technology manufacturers deal with but I found it pleasantly surprising in the week there was all that fuss about Sonos supporting (or not) its old audio products.

Also, getting the “radio code” only cost £15.


§   We enjoyed the Ken Burns Country Music documentary series, although a history-of-a-music-genre programme would have to be pretty bad for me not to enjoy it. It’s always good to be able to pick apart some of the names that are familiar, but about whom I know nothing. Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Marty Stuart, etc.

The only other Ken Burns doc I’ve seen in recent memory is The Vietnam War so hearing Peter Coyote’s narration did, to my ears, give the history of country music more over-dramatic seriousness than it warranted. Not that the genre’s a joke, just that, obviously, making any music genre sound as serious as a war is a bit odd. I guess the frequent over-earnestness of the talking heads didn’t help either.


§   It’s a sad week for those of us British folk who didn’t want to revert to a nostalgic Empire fantasy land, but I live in hope, still. Have a good week.

Ode to Joy on Youtube