Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Expectant Waiting

"Expectant waiting" is a religious practice used within the Religious Society of Friends to test their leadings, or expectations, regarding the will of God.  "Expectorate" is a different English verb and means "to spit".  Some "Indians" [sic] maybe have been confused, as according to my catechism as an English (as in British) kid:  A Red Indian Thought He Might Eat Tobacco in Church.  That's the mnemonic we used at the Junior English School of Rome, to remember how to spell "arithmetic".

I want to relate "expectant waiting" to "unit testing" and also just to pausing a moment at the command line, and reflecting on what you intend to make happen, so that you'll be somewhat clear from the feedback, whether you achieved your goals or not.  More simply:  imagine the output you'd expect in response to 2 + 2, pause a moment to expect, then hit the Enter key and confirm the outcome or note discrepancies.

In doctest, we do that too.  At the code school the other night, a different instructor was showing how

$ python -m doctest

will run the doctests on the target script, passed as an argument to the doctest module.  Brilliant.

Ben and I discussed our different testing framework preferences over chips at that point.  The reason I like unittest (aka Pyunit) is precisely because it's somewhat clunky, shows a lot of apparatus, making the point that testing is no joke sometimes.  However Ben's choice was more practical.

For those of you who just lost me (too much POSIX?) , think of humming along to a tune, then the tune suddenly stops. You expected it to continue and may already know the next several bars. In other circumstances, you're hearing a tune for the first time and have a sense of where it's going, and then you're surprised. Perhaps the composer was intending to spark interest. In music appreciation courses and/or Youtube videos (Vimeo...) we learn about such things.

I bring up humming along to a tune (think of God's will) in connection with Thomas Paine and his writings about what it means "to prophesize" (from whence "to profess" right?).

Paine's thesis was we don't hear much about "singing" in the Bible because foretelling was in itself a musical activity akin to singing. As people picked up on what was to happen, the prophecy might gather steam and come true, what we call a "self fulfilling" prophecy.

However pointing out that some prophesies "snowball" or "gather steam" is not to suggest that everything expectantly awaited then happens, or that what happens is somehow always a result of what's expected. Neither proposition follows, as a matter of logic.

On the contrary, surprising events and developments continue to occur, whether we choose to call them miracles, cataclysms, or whatever acts of God. That everything would always go as expected is not our experience as human beings. Our fondest wishes are not necessarily any genie's command and some prayers go unanswered.

Tests set up our expectations, keep us aware of what we were intending in the first place.  Wittgenstein documents this grammar, this "tensegrity glue" (invisible) between our islanded concepts, such as "understanding" vis-a-vis "expecting".  These words "fly in formation" as it were, leaving inter-twining trajectories.

When all unit tests pass, that's a sign our project is responding as expected and that we do indeed "understand" what we're doing, at some level. When we're better able to "hum along" than previously, that may indicate a stronger sense of God's will, which is somewhat the point of this exercise, not surprisingly.

In Synergetics, a transcendentalist work, we have this term "precession" which in that namespace suggests "developments not predicted by [physical] laws considered separately".

The sum or product achieves results the list of ingredients did not foretell.  Alchemy, not just chemistry, is full of unforeseen reactions, even when they appear to pencil out in retrospect.  That's why we continue to experiment in science.  Arm chair speculation will only take one so far in life.