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Expressionless


Originally appeared on ReadWriteWeb

There is no greater challenge to my geek credentials, no more damning indictment of my weak kung fu, than the fact that I can’t write a regular expression to save my life.

I know, I know. They’re a command-line ninja’s shuriken* of choice. If Linux is dough, they’re the KitchenAid**. They’re loyal and loving, and they’ll jump up and do tricks for you if you only know how to ask them.

But I don’t know how to ask them, because I only step into the land of regex once or twice a year. Every time the need comes up, I have to re-learn regular expressions more or less from zero. The last time it happened, I broke down and bought an O’Reilly book for my iPad. (This is my usual strategy, based partly on the hope that the knowledge will seep into my brain osmotically through my fingertips while I’m playing Cannibal Bunnies.)

And so I found myself plunging back into the book a few days ago, and thinking that there’s probably a German word for the sensation of learning a piece of information, recognizing that it’s something you used to know, and realizing – with some wistfulness – that you will soon forget it again.

I’d probably know what that word is… if only I spoke German more often.


* N.B.: I know even less about martial arts than I know about regular expressions.

** Wait, that’s a trademark. Instead of “KitchenAid,” I’m supposed to say “KitchenAid™ stand mixer.” I’d do a search-and-replace on it… if only there was some concise and flexible means for matching strings of text, such as particular characters, words, or patterns of characters.

Posted on January 24, 2011 at 7:40 am in Noise to Signal as part of Noise to Signal « Noise to Signal and tagged with , , , , , , . Follow responses to this post with the comments feed. You can leave a comment or trackback from your own site.

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