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     Societies in Heaven and Hell
    Filed under: — David @ 12:49 pm

    Lately I’ve been thinking about the nature of Heaven and Hell, and my own conjectures of what they might be like. My favorite book on the subject is C. S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, whose main point is that, in the end, it is our own hangups that will keep us out of heaven. It’s not so much a matter of being shut out of heaven as not even making a proper effort to get in.

    But my own thoughts lately have been in terms of society and what that will be like in the different parts of the afterlife. I believe it will in some ways be very much like the society we have now, but very different in other ways, if nothing else because of the kinds of people that will be our neighbors.

    Say you were to divide all people into two groups: those that live and work in creative and productive ways and contribute to society, and those that lazily and greedily feed of the contributions of others - such as by stealing, committing fraud, or various get-rich-quick schemes. Now imagine what things would be like if everyone were physically divided up that way, and how the resulting societies would turn out.

    As a side note, there are two obvious issues there. First, it is an overly simplistic and black-and-white way of looking at things. I think the same applies to the idea of Heaven and Hell, so I’d say it’s still a fitting approach to that subject. Second, what is it that would actually separate us? It’s not the same as the division we have now between the rich and the poor; I’m talking about something based on people’s actual desires and intents, not the circumstances and fortunes we happen to have. It is difficult to picture how this would be enforced, but I believe in some way our own natures - what we have chosen to become - will determine and define whether we belong to the society of Heaven or the society of Hell.

    Now on to the projected fates of these hypothetical societies. Take the world we live in, and imagine what it would be like if people stopped lying, stealing, and cheating - or if those that did those things were removed or otherwise prevented from having a negative influence. First of all, there is so much time and energy now being dedicated to matters of security and enforcement that could instead be put to more positive uses. What if, for example, everyone that is currently working on spam filters were free to work on other technologies? What other contributions might they be making instead? I think that is only the beginning of the changes we would see, and there are benefits that we can’t even imagine from our present perspective. We would be constantly growing and opening up new possibilities for each other.

    Now for the other side. What if the thieves and cheaters were left to only cheat and steal from each other? If the only people that made anything worth stealing are gone, what is there left to steal? These people have developed extremely dependent lifestyles, so when all they have to depend on is each other - the least dependable people of all - then things will seriously start falling apart. If that were to happen in this life, they simply would not survive because they lack the attributes and skills necessary to sustain themselves. But we are talking now about the afterlife, where there is no death and being in Hell means having no choice but to live in unlivable circumstances. There is no other choice, no other possibility, because that is what they have chosen to become.

    Yes, I optimistically talk about the heavenly society in the first person, and the other in the third person. But I think that is the way to go - and not only to talk like it’s going to happen, but to act like it as well. So if your goal is to be a part of that heavenly society, you need to become the kind of person that will be comfortable there.

    All this, of course, is influenced by my own religious beliefs. Hopefully you will at least find it interesting to compare it to your own.

     Grand Opening
    Filed under: — David @ 7:31 pm

    This morning I went to the opening of the Apple Store at The Oaks. Not that there was anything in particular that I wanted to buy; I just wanted to see an Apple store opening at least once.

    I got there about 15 minutes before opening time (10 am), and there were reportedly about 300 people in line in front of me. According to the security guards, the people at the front of the line had arrived at 7:30. Actually, there was some speculation that they really arrived earlier but the mall doors didn’t open until 7:30.

    A few minutes before 10:00, we heard some yelling and cheering from the direction of the store. At first we assumed it was because the store was opening, but it turnend out it was the store employees running up the line and getting the people all phyched up, yelling and slapping people’s hands as they ran by. It took them almost exactly 30 seconds to run by, which was perfect for getting a video for it on my camera.

    When I finally got to the door of the store, I didn’t think to look at the time, but I did look back at the line - it looked to be about as long as when I arrived.

    The first thing I checked out was the new iPod. The only video it had was the Fantastic Four trailer (boring!). The one next to it had a 30-second version of the ubiquitous U2 “Origin of the Species” video, which the iPod listed as a “movie” rather than a music video. One black iPod seemed to be crashed.

    Unfortunately there wasn’t anything I wanted to buy. I’d like to get the latest version of iPhoto, but since that’s all I need out of the whole iLife package it’s not really worth the price. I have been playing a bit with Garage Band (it came with my G5), but that’s not enough to justify either the iLife upgrade or a $99 Jam Pack. I’d like to get one; since I don’t play any instruments, all I can do is pile some loops together.

    Not that I came home empty-handed. I got myself a new juicer. But more on that later.

     Make some noise
    Filed under: — David @ 8:41 am

    Here’s another case of making some noise and getting some decent customer service in return.

    I decided to order the Batman Begins DVD from Amazon, and I always like to get that super saver shipping deal - free shipping on orders over $25. But that meant I had to buy something else too (there’s the trick!) so I threw in a Justice League figure set that had been unavailable for a while, and which I’ve never seen in stores. Turns out toys, apparently, don’t count for super saver shipping. So I also added C. S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength, having read the first two books in the trilogy already.

    Yesterday morning I received an email saying that part of my order had shipped - it was the book. With a shipping charge. That wasn’t right. I checked to make sure the book was super saver worthy, and it was. So I went to Amazon’s Contact Us page, and after filing a complaint that the Contact Us page is really a Try All This Stuff Before You Contact Us page, digging around and finally finding something that looked vaguely like the right form, I explained my case.

    By the end of the day, I received a note saying that I was right, and my card would be credited the amount of the shipping charge. So there you go. It’s only a few bucks, but it feels good and gives me renewed hope for the world.

     C++ wish list
    Filed under: — David @ 12:09 pm

    There are two things that top my list of things I wish C++ had. Searching around just now, I found that I’m not the only one wishing for these things; there have been formal proposals for both.

    One is const constructors - constructors that are only used when creating a const object. This was proposed 10 years ago (in a slightly more general form) in CV-Qualified Constructors, and the author points out something I hadn’t thought of. For this case, it makes more sense to put the const keyword at the beginning of the constructor declaration, rather than at the end as with other member function declarations. This is because a const constructor can only be used with a const object, whereas for other member functions there is the opposite restriction: a non-const function can only be used with a non-const object. Const functions can be used on any object.

    I got this idea as I was writing the Core Foundation wrapper classes for ACCELA. If const constructors were available, then I wouldn’t have to have, for example, separate ACFString and ACFMutableString classes. This split was also necessary because you can’t tell at runtime whether a given CFString is mutable or not. Both of these issues made it necessary for me to use separate classes to distinguish between the different types.

    The second item is explicit overriding, proposed just recently in An Explicit Override Syntax for C++. Overriding is currently always implicit in C++, which can lead to various mistakes if you misspell a function name, or change the name in one place but forget to change it in another. I think doing things explicitly is almost always better, and there ought to be an explicit alternative for every implicit declaration or action so that you can be sure you’re saying what you really mean to say.

    This paper also has something I didn’t think of: it’s good to be able to specify which base class you want to override. I run into multiple inheritance issues sometimes with ACCELA, since I have a class for every set of Carbon Events and they all inherit from the same AEventObject base class. This is a potentially hairy situation, and I’m sure there are people who would avoid such a setup altogether, but I find it works out fine as long as I’m explicit about everything.

    I wish I knew more about the real status of these proposals and whatever ongoing evolution of C++ may be happening. So far I haven’t turned up any pages with discussions of these proposals, but I’m sure they’re out there somewhere.

    This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

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