I made some tomato and red pepper soup for lunch yesterday. Before I had a chance to eat it, the universe decided it still needed more red, and that I should try something stupid with a pocketknife. I sliced up my left forefinger and thumb pretty good.
This blog seems to be specializing in thoughts just before blood, so here it is: ah fuck, going to have to get stitches. I knew that in the first second.
Thankfully, there's a CAP (Centre d'Atenció Primària) in most neighborhoods, so after laying down on the couch to make sure I wouldn't faint, and grabbing chocolate from the cupboard, considering I hadn't yet eaten the soup, I walked the 10 minutes to the CAP, my hastily bandaged hand held high. People looked at me funny.
An hour and a half later, well, four stitches in the index finger, three on the thumb. But I'm ok.
I hear that some family of mine is going to these "tea party" protests. If you're not plugged into the States political scene, the deal is this: the Republican brand is broke, and everyone knows it. But there is so much anger at their base. So voila Republican anger without the Republican state trappings, a catchment of the neofascist tendencies in all of us, whipped up around a symbol: the idea that Obama is a foreign element, an outsider, not of us, coming to enslave us all.
One of my family writes, referring to the return of another from these "tea party" protests:
When you are released and your tracking anklet has been removed. . . what do you say we move to Montana and prepare for the movie Red Dawn? We don't have to paint Wolverine on the side of every Afghan or Obamian tank that we destroy, but we can live off the land, sleep under the stars and pee in overheated radiators. The enemy will be obvious out there. I remember Sesame Street. . . . which one does not look like the others. . . . got it. Always look for the red dot and the table cloth on the head.
This makes me so sad. And the thing that's really binding them together, even the less racist, is hatred of "Obamacare" -- the idea that one should be able to walk into a clinic, get treated well and kindly, and walk out, regardless of your employment status, without signing for anything, without paying anything, as I did yesterday, in this foreign land.
The light of summer has died, but not the heat. The sky failed to rain today. I'm sure that if cloud seeding actually worked, Pfizer would arrange to dispense rain by means of little purple pills.
I finally got around to uploading photos recently, for the first time since May. Photos are the new inbox.
It's a good thing a few of these turned out well, because I burned my glasses taking them -- on the inside of the lens. No wonder the EU wants to ban fireworks in the street, but what a pity. Up next: lifejacket beach sunbathing.
states that start with p
Two places I offer to you, both in the new-to-me state of Pennsylvania.
One: Eastern State Penitentiary, a "model prison", back from the days of utopia. From the outside, Eastern State imposes, with high, silent walls -- as if it had its back to the city, all around. And inside... well, it was built under the idea that 23 hours of silent isolation + 1 hour of solitary exercise would be good for the soul, somehow. So there are two sides of the experience: one space in which to see everything, linear wards radiating from the one-point center, and the other in-cell space, in which you see no one. Ever.
pollock and the cia
I went to New York's Museum of Modern Art for the first time, which was lovely -- to see so many icons of the last century, there, just on the wall.
Walking through the Rockefeller rooms of 1950s American art, I couldn't help but think of Who Paid the Piper?, or, as it was titled in the US, The Cultural Cold War. The deal, as I recall the book's argument, is that in the aftermath of World War II, Europe was really up for grabs. Of course we know how it played out politically, but art was also at stake -- that for the elites of Europe to be on board with the US politically, they had to believe.
So, the US did have whiz-bang technology, but man cannot live on atomic energy alone, as they say. Humanity needs dreams and interpretation: a function of art. The CIA wanted the dreamers and interpreters to (a) not be allied to communists, at all; and (b) to promote an "American" art, something in keeping with modernity and transgression. So Jackson Pollock was funded to be a cowboy-artist, on purpose.
Yes, I am struck, standing in front of his works; they have that something. I like it. But it is complicit.
Apparently, enough time has passed that even the CIA itself can talk about it -- https-only link because, er, apparently art is that important.
Today I went to the ugliest bar in Spain. The fluorescent lights gave palpable white form to the smoke. The walls were greasy tile, and the domestic whisky sat on dusty shelves. We drank beer out of 20 cL bottles. I imagine it was cheap; I did not pay.
(If you are seeing this on my web site and I haven't yet fixed things: scroll down, there are photos)
Missing from the photographic documentation is my trip to Long Island (maritime suburbia) and to Manhattan (the A train actually exists). New York is interesting, with an energy of its own.
The states trip was wonderful, but it recedes in time. Last weekend I went to Paris, with a bit of a train theme -- night train there and back, breaking into the petite ceinture, going to a museum in an old train station. (Wild to think that the Manet and Monet déjeuner sur l'herbe pieces coincided with Marx's Capital.)
Thanks for recent feedback regarding slides and PDF validity; will be pushing those bugs upstream.
I documented a few more modules; click for more info.
May I clarify regarding Spoon: PURCHASE NOT their latest "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga", rather indulging in "Girls Can Tell", which is more satisfying.
I have a bit of a writing backlog. Rather than edit edit edit, taking the moment out of whatever it was I was writing, I'm just going to dump a bit before writing something new.
I would like to make words about John Leonard.
I recently stole half a dozen back issues of Harper's from a friend's apartment in the states. It is my purloined word-horde of delight.
Their happiest turns of phrase are offered by Leonard's monthly book reviews. I imagine him as an eccentric spider in a multidimensional web, nimbly turning around newly trapped books in webs of their predecessors, decorating his subjects with perception. Generous, too, like a grandfather in his shop, talking out loud, telling old stories. Then he give you his tools, asks you to try your hand at the lathe or soldering iron.
(My grandfather was a spider, it make my eyes mist thinking of him, excuse me)
I'm growing a bit frustrated with Spain, on this my fourth anniversary of flying away from my previous homes in the states. Why can't I find tofu or decent sliced bread in the stores? Why is it that my schedule overlap with grocery stores is only 40 minutes per day? Why is it so difficult to find a café to hack in at three in the afternoon on a sunday? Not to mention the lack of greasy spoons, burritos, and proper sandwiches.
Say what you will about cultural relativity, but a grilled emmenthal-walnut-basil-avocado-mustard sandwich on hearty dark bread is objectively better than flaccid bacon and processed cheese on a dry baguette.
On the other side of the exaggeration, Barcelona is civilized in ways that American towns don't even know how to dream about. I don't miss the irritations of owning a car. I can bike everywhere in town. When I go out my front door, there are people walking the streets, strolling with and without purpose -- the liquid to the gaseous state of America. What is not here is the second-hand couch on the front porch, the rocking chair, the shed out back.
Apparently my happiness is entirely determined by home, food, and transportation. I fret insatiable.
Hacking, I take control of my life. Or perhaps the clause should be, "doing things I should have done a while back". I realized this the other day that after knocking down some bugs in guile-gnome, guile-lib, and g-wrap. Doing so lets me take care of email backlogs of bug reports, patches and questions I never got around to before, making me feel like I'm actually getting on top of my inbox, which is currently at best a minor form of guilt.
Speaking of guilt, I should mention something that people nagged me about for a long time, until apparently they gave up: the video archives for GUADEC 2006. Here is the situation. The raw recordings I have are of large chunks at a time (between 2 and 20 hours), and do not play properly in most players. You cannot seek in them. Why? Because I fucked up and recorded in too high a quality for the boxes we had for encoding. Secondarily, after we had to drop some frames, the encoders continued on as if frames had not been dropped, thereby ensuring that the archives have large synchronization problems.
At first I invested quite a bit of effort into trying to get these videos cut and resynchronized, writing two applications and a few hacks to a number of GStreamer elements. Last time I looked, those hacks were not working properly (segfaults, etc). It was depressing on the three levels of (1) I fucked up in the beginning, (2) I wrote large parts of the capturing software, and I didn't think it would discard the timestamps, and (3) the attempts at getting out ok-to-decent archives were failing also due to code I needed to write.
Given a limited amount of personal hack time, I chose to hack on my guile-related projects. Much more personal bang for the buck. While guilt might be useful on some occasions, and is only a two-key typo away from guile, in this case it was too much and I had to back off to retain my sanity.
So, um, my bad about that guys! I know it sucks. I've got some folks at the office interested in getting this job done so hopefully before the end of the year some decent archives will be out.
(Is there some kind of official body or church or something that one can go to for egoism problems? Looking over this next paragraph, I seem to need it.)
Going over the guile stuff I did, I have to say there is some really good work there. It's what continues to attract me to those projects. The texinfo parser I wrote for guile-lib is pretty hot, even given my proclivity for parsers. The lazy bindings work I did for g-wrap was all right. Mapping a GTK text entry to a scheme port wasn't so bad either. I dig on hacking it.
Distributed version control systems promote bitrot. With centralized systems, either your code is in or it's not: if you want it in, you have to get it in the maintained trunk. With decentralized systems, you can commit your code to some branch somewhere, and mentally mark it as done. This week I found patches over two years old lingering in one of my arch branches of guile-lib. Two years. People had been writing in to mailing lists to complain about it, and I was wondering why they didn't have the fixed version. Sheesh.
america of the turning leaf
European workers have it figured out. Jaws gape among my American friends when I tell them I have five weeks of vacation a year; stateside it appears more common to have just two or three. I've been off for about a month now. A pleasantry indeed.
I write from my folks' house in North Carolina, later to fly back to BCN this afternoon, along with a couple hundred other pairs of red eyeballs. It's been real nice stateside, to see a buddy of mine get married in the mountains, to tour the metropolis that is Los Angeles with some very alive minds, to putz around in raleighdurhamchapelhill with my people. Neither did the fall leaves disappoint.
Also I got to play some discgolf!
used cd harvest
I have been crate diggin. From bestest to mediocrest:
Minor Threat, Complete Discography. Wow. If this had a banjo in it I'd call it a barn burner. But we don't refer to punk rock that way. Intense!
Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat. A bit earnest at the beginning, but later so terribly natural. Not terrible-bad, mind you, terrible that conjures to mind images of dark clouds and pending storm.
Neil Young, Mirror Ball. Not sure on this one yet, not enough listens. I just buy anything by this guy.
Sonic Youth, Washing Machine. I must have had a tape of this at some point, I know the songs. Fills a hole in my Sonic Youth collection. Good stuff, but for your bucks buy their newer albums.
The Raveonettes, Whip It On. Fine, but monotonous -- get Chain Gang of Love instead.
Just finished a most excellent trans-spain bike trip, starting from France, heading along the northern coast of Spain, cutting in across the mountains in Asturias, ending in the northwestern state of Galicia.
I kept a dorky videolog of the trip as well; click the above for a playlist file containing about 25 short clips I recorded with my digital camera. It's about 20-30 minutes in total, and about 35 megabytes. Older (more than a month ago) GStreamer+totem should play it fine; if you have trouble viewing the files, maybe try a different player (mplayer for example). Or alternately here's the directory with the movie files.
After just getting back to BCN on Monday morning ("why yes I am freshly showered"), time to move again! Tomorrow I fly to the US for a wedding and to hang out with friends. Nothing like an airplane for some good hack time.
I've had a series of fine days. A festa major in a small street near Gràcia, a meatful party at the house in which no glass was broken, and for the first time I was chosen as the person on whom the aikido instructor would demonstrate a technique. Granted, 15 of the best folks at the school were gone to Japan to participate in the All Japan Aikido Demonstration, but hey, I take my moments as they come.
I'll be flying out on Sunday to North Carolina. After running around a bit, I fly to San Francisco from Thursday to Thursday, hopefully my visa situation is all ready for me to go to Washington on Friday, back to Charlotte on Saturday, and hop the aluminum airtubebus back to Spain on the Sunday two weeks after arriving.
That is the theory. Practice may or may not follow the theory.
I realized the other day that I've been hacking proprietary software for going on two months now. Not NDA-proprietary, not copyright-proprietary, but just proprietary. Software to run the Flumotion streaming server on a large cluster of machines. Proprietary in the sense that it's only useful to some organization planning to host streams from many customers, streaming to many many listeners.
It's been interesting, although I have to figure out how to get back to free software or otherwise rationalize my existence.
I wrote a lossless ogg/theora+vorbis cutter a few weeks ago and never said anything about it. It has a very simple installation process: just click here. You'll need up-to-date gstreamer, gst-plugins-base, and gst-python. Ubuntu Dapper will do.
I'm pretty sure it produces correct files, although in general it outputs a few P frames before the first I frame. While correct, this confuses some common players until the first keyframe is processed. Ignore the man behind the curtain.
Went through and tagged the rest of my photos, resulting in an enormous tag cloud. The thresholds can be tweaked but I think it's rather interesting.
As far as the software goes, recent changes: the bottom row of random thumbnails are only recent photos; fixed some url-encoding issues so all tag names should work now. I keep claiming I won't do any more web hacking but I imagine I'll implement view counts for photos.
Going home next Sunday for visa issues; hopefully will be returning Spain-side within a couple of weeks. However in the meantime I'm pretty excited about heading out to visit some folks in San Francisco. Sweetness.
Steel Bank Common Lisp has an excellent profiler. I mentioned this before. It's statistical, driven by SIGPROF, so that the stack samples that it takes are evenly spaced in program execution time. That means that if you have more samples in one function, that your program spent more time there. A simple idea, used also by the statprof profiler I hacked on for guile and python, among many others.
Juho Snellman did a nice hack recently, making the profiler ticks driven by allocations instead of SIGPROF. The result is an allocation profiler that will tell you which parts of your code are allocating memory the most. In garbage-collected languages this is often one of the best ways to microoptimize, as the cost of GC depends on the amount of allocation. Nice hack, Juho!
come back from san francisco, it can't be all that pretty
Links I have enjoyed
Richard Stallman interviewed by Z magazine (it's about time). The soul-probing Torture's Long Shadow by Bill Moyers (via titus, whose journal I am enjoying these days). The hyperbolically delicious fuckchristmas.org, via Miguel, who is the first google hit for his first name. There should be a word for that.
Worst plane trip ever
So I realized about half an hour before landing in Washington that I didn't have my tickets any more. I must have lost them in one of the two security searches in Heathrow (security searches in connecting flights?).
I figured I'd just head up to the Virgin Atlantic offices and get them to reprint my paper tickets. After all, this must happen occasionally, and all the information is in the computer anyway. But no. Long story short, I have to buy a new ticket. I can't adequately express my impotent anger at this situation.
On top of it they lost my bag. They called me the next day asking what was in the bag, as in, "what was the deceased wearing?". Two days later I am wearing the same clothes.
(If anyone has any advice about this situation, I'd like to hear it -- wingo at pobox dot com.)
It seems Ronald had a nice semester, which is pleasant. However he seems to be under the mistaken impression that GStreamer is a Fluendo project. By my count 37 people contributed to GStreamer over the 0.10 cycle, which easily swamps the half a dozen people that Fluendo occasionally devotes to the project. I'm sure it was an honest mistake.
American toilets are fascinating. So much water! Toilet paper made of clouds! What an odd place.
The stuff Interdictor is reporting from New Orleans is heartbreaking. Especially this interview with someone in the Crecent City Convention Center from Thursday. Cops and guns against food.
It seems the cops get more worried about theft than about lives. Similar thoughts are echoed by Malik Rahim. Of course it's a balancing act, and it's tough to really know what's going on from over here in Barcelona. At first the storm hit, and I thought things would sort themselves out. Seems the government there took the same perspective.