Good evening, internets!
I am not doing a very good job at existing both online and off. Indeed this summer word-drought correlates with real-world motion, to Paris and England and the Netherlands, and back and back and back. Tonight I'm looking out at a working week here, then a flight to LA for a wedding and work, out to Montreal for the Scheme Workshop, to North Carolina to see the folks, back to LA, then Paris and home.
pon'drous & heavy: planetary rotations
With orbits like these, it's hard to keep centered, which is where I hack and write best. Still some things have managed to come off well -- Guile progresses towards a 2.0 release, though with a couple more milestone releases than predicted. I'll write about 1.9.12 when it goes out in a few days.
The recent GNU Hackers Meeting in the Hague turned out well. There were 40 or 45 people there. The talks were good, and the side-channel conversations were also good. Videos should be up shortly
I feel like we're in a kind of renaissance of GNU as a community of hackers -- that as our virtual community coalesces into real affinity networks, GNU hackers gain a sense of the possible, and of the will to get there. We're in a fortunate position I think -- we have the means to effect a large hack, so discovering our own possibilities is that much more exciting, and empowering.
Also on the GHM note, I should say something about the Revelation Space, which hosted the meeting. Well, it would have been nice already if it had only had our needs covered, which it did, but to us the revspace was made excellent by being so low-key, trusting and comfortable that we really felt at home. This feeling had a directly positive impact on the quality of our meeting. So thanks again, revspacers, and happy hacking!
Anyway, this is just to break the ice a bit, and see if I can get back in the rhythm of writing. Happy hack to all, and to all a good hack!
Incredible. I got a copy of "The Boy With the Arab Strap" this evening, and I smell things from 10+ years ago -- early fall flowers and grass, thousands of miles away, even as it rained and rained here today, all grey day long.
I used to be "that guy". You know, the guy you copied tapes from.
In Namibia, when I was in the Peace Corps, we traded tapes a lot. In the fall of 2003 a new group arrived, and one of the girls in it was really cute. We might have been a thing. I engaged in mating rituals -- that is, "I'll send you a mix tape". And then she laughed!
Apparently somewhere in 2003 things changed. Indeed when I got back in winter 2004, it was all about the Ipod contraption, mp3s, and some mix CDs.
But everyone who knew it, knows it: a mix CD does not a mix tape make.
I have here three pointers into the ether.
with apologies to rubén darío
The Azul is a Java machine like the Symbolics that Moon and Weinreb worked on was a Lisp machine. Easily the most interesting read of the last week or two, via Michael Weber.
This one will be on the final exam.
house in order
The company I work for, Oblong Industries, just opened up their web site on Friday. Go check it out!
I like how they hook visitors with the videos, then pull a Yegge with all of the text they have there. I approve!
Send us your coordinates, I'll send a Saint Bernard...
In a couple hours I'll go up to the polideportivo and help lay out 500 square meters of mat. It's seminar weekend, kiddos! The incoming instructors are top-notch, Yamada sensei out of New York and Shibata sensei out of Hombu dojo in Tokyo. As a bonus we'll have Peter Bernath, Harvey Konigsberg, and about 50 or so other people coming from abroad. Good times!
And, and, para colmo, tomorrow I test for black belt. Yay!
A lot of people ask what happens once you get your black belt. Its traditional meaning is that you are a serious student, and have an understanding of the basics of a martial art. It does not connote finality in any way; it's more like a milestone, or something like that.
One can see this in the first-degree tests, like mine tomorrow. They're usually fun to watch, but unnecessarily forced, lacking in grace. The difference between first- and second-degree tests is phenomenal, though -- it seems that in the few years after shodan, practitioners gain a sense of confidence and fluidity that they lacked before. That I lack now, I mean. So it's an important rite, for me, but one that points towards the future rather than the past.
The album "Less Talk, More Rock" by Propagandhi is a near-masterpiece. While I do like their other albums, "Less Talk, More Rock" has an infectious youthful brilliance that makes me twitch every time I hear it. I must have listened to Resisting Tyrannical Government 50 times and it is still a transformative experience. Rock on!
Since last week's missive, I've been able to relax a bit, hack-wise, fixing errors as I see them. Most errors have been related to the fact that displaying a blog entry first parses it as valid XML, throwing an exception if the input is invalid. Luckily wordpress is pretty good at ensuring that its text is valid XML, but it's not complete -- it allows bare ampersands, both in the text and in URLs, and sometimes lets angle-brackets pass through unfiltered. So I've had to fix up a few old posts.
Among the more curious things I have had to write for this blagware is a UTF-8 encoder, in order to parse character references like ’ and such, given that Guile only does byte strings, currently.
Shockingly, to me, I do get spam, on the order of about one or two comments per day. No one else uses this software. It seems that there are a couple bots out there that actually parse forms, looking for textareas, then manage to divine which fields require what syntax. Currently my field names are the same as wordpress', so I will vary them until my obscurity provides the necessary "security".
But in the meantime, since my persistent store is Git and not a database, I can easily revert any change, be it changes to posts or to comments or whatever. I fleshed out the admin interface sufficiently so that you can actually create and edit posts there, and gave it an interface for seeing recent changes and possibly reverting them. Of course, reversion is also a change which can be reverted, ad infinitum, so there is no need for scary warnings in the UI when deleting comments, because no change is irreversible. Neat.
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'm a bit blogstipated currently, but wanted to mention:
In our last episode, I had posted some slides from the last Scheme Workshop in some kind of invalid PDF format; seems to have been a cairo bug. With a newer cairo, I remade the slides. Please let me know if they still broken. Kthx!
If you write in an unclear way about big ideas, you produce something that seems tantalizingly attractive to inexperienced but intellectually ambitious students.
Philosophy is mumbo jumbo and stuff, P. Graham
Interestingly, to my solipsism anyway, I just learned what Kant's categorical imperative is last night. I was reading Moral Minds by Marc Hauser, on gushing recommendation from a friend. I am currently re-evaluating that friendship. The book seems glib and spongiform, 20 pages in.
Just started listening to Spoon. How catchily delicious!
I have regressed yet again, snagging a copy of Midnight Marauders from the interwebs. A fine, fine album. Award Tour is still such an excellent track.
WXYC continues to delight.
Unexpectedly, after a class on Thursday, the instructor gave me the nivell blau, which lets me take out dinghies from the municipal sailing center whenever I want. Yay!
Also unexpectedly, and still undigested, my aikido instructor said that I should present myself for shodan this march coming up. Lots of training necessary. Hopefully I can get in five or eight hours a week until then.
More predictably, I signed up for a new year of yoga at the local iyengar center. Iyengar schools seem to be progressive; this particular school has six levels, which have separate classes. +1 flexibility.
Been hacking guile-gnome docs a lot in the last couple weeks. Will write more on that later, just wanted to get out the link now: 1000 pages of generated documentation: classes, properties, signals, functions, methods. I'm up to GTK+, a few libraries to go and all of the platform libraries will be documented. Still room for tweaks though.
fodder (for rumination)
When women let their hair down, it means either sexiness or craziness or death.
Margaret Atwood, Ophelia has a lot to answer for
My last entry on Flumotion internals began with a rhetorical question, something like "why aren't more people hacking Flumotion?" Unexpectedly, I got some real responses in the comments, all quite good. The general theme is that "developers are users first". If your project doesn't present itself well and offer a good initial experience, you're shutting off potential contributors as well as users. So say HiHo, Kalle, and Michael, more eloquently than I.
But that's not the best part. Launchpad offers a web-based repository browser, including changesets, and offers the ability to subscribe to any branch it knows about. You get emails on distributed commits. This is a beautiful thing! Anyone who has worked with distributed VCS's has probably had the feeling that they are seeing development through a keyhole, that there's a whole world out there that's not easily visible or comprehensible. Launchpad offers the possibility of tying together the various development branches out there in the wild in one place, effectively removing the last advantage of centralized version control. Nice job, Launchpad hackers!
I have no current plans to rely on Launchpad for this service, as it is not free software. However, the genius of distributed VC is that I don't have to rely on it; I can continue working like I normally do, commiting my code to archives hosted elsewhere, but if Launchpad is available (probable), I can use it to keep track of things. It helps me work better. I don't need anyone's permission for it to help me work better, either; I just tell it about the bazaar repositories, and it mirrors them. Delightful.
My phone's been in interplanetary orbit since I went to the Pyrenees two and a half weeks ago. Without it, life's been calm -- time to write, for example. But it's getting old, I might have to hoof it to Tarragona to retrieve my social contact device.
I bought two old albums today: more Cat Power (the covers album, which is astonishingly beautiful), and Yo La Tengo (And then nothing..., mellow, in a similar haunting vein, verging on mope). I just can't seem to put 2000 down. cd drome++; instead of swiping a barcode to listen like at FNAC, there you spin vinyl.
MediaLens' cogitations continue to inspire.
Finally, I desire to believe that the word "mindset" comes from the definition of "set" as "[d]irection or course; as, the set of the wind, or of a current." To me this is a wonderful image that some sailors I know might appreciate.
Allow me to free-associate about FOSDEM: packed hallways, rainy sidewalks, buttery croissants... actually about food I could go on for quite a while.
People-wise it was pretty good, although with a pervasive feeling of oddness. The free software community has its perceived social hierarchies, and for many people, these conference events are attempts to transfer those hierarchies to real life. So until someone knows what position that you occupy in their mental pecking order, they treat you with lots of distance, and depending on where they put you, potentially lots of distance afterwards.
The GNOME-FR people, on the other hand, were refreshingly exuberant. Very positive people, the Vincents and Guillaumes and the apparently unlinkable Christophe Fergeaus. Of course there were many other excellent folks there, and also of course, not enough time.
I presented a talk on writing GNOME applications in Scheme. It's available on the interwob as an incorrectly-rendered PDF, or as a tarball of SVGs to be presented with inkview. I was shocked, I had the title slide up for a good 5 minutes or so, but still about 40 people stayed in the room.
Of course with just the slides, you are missing my charm. For better?
I got loads of wonderful comments on my last writing product, concerned with the mechanics of presentations. Especially useful was the tip that inkscape comes with a slide-show-like wrapper, inkview. Thanks Andy!
Also fascinating was Jos Hirth's XSVG, rendering SVG inside the browser (probably Firefox-only). Pretty cool, that. Maybe next time.
I should mention that I considered using some LaTeX package, but decided not to because I wanted to be able to easily tweak the presentation. That notwithstanding, several people mentioned latex-beamer as being quite good.
In the end I used my ghetto scripts, although the text-to-svg process was more work than it should have been. I looked at doing it with my existing XML processing tools, but it turns out that using functional programming techniques to do text layout is an underexplored area. I'm still poking at that.
other thangs, delimited by ⁋
My new year's vow to be more communicative is not going so well.
Interesting paper: Control Delimiters and Their Hierarchies by Dorai Sitaram and Matthias Felleisen. Summary: "Continuations in Scheme are cool but potentially expensive; we have a way of restricting them slightly but making them cheaper."
The library has rendered unto me an album by Miriam Makeba, which is providing much delight. (It's a collection, although I prefer her early-US stuff.)
I lit a fire on my terrace for the first time this year. Delicious global warming ensued.
My grandmother's not doing so well; I'm going home next week to visit.
I started yoga a little more than a month ago, at an Iyengar school. It's interesting, and way harder than I thought it would be.
break my body, hold my bones
I have been sick for the first two weeks of this new year, suffering from what here they term "mucosity". Not fun, not fun.
Still testing software, Flumotion mostly. Recently it's been a bit more rewarding, as I've smashed some nice bugs. The process of figuring out what to test, getting into the testing mindset, and actually doing the tests is tedious, but bug work is all right. You at least know that you're getting somewhere.
I recently reduced my work hours by one day a week, down from five days to four. It's basically the same as it was -- whereas before on Fridays I hacked on personal projects in the office, now I do the same in bars and cafés, and am able to eat at home. I suppose the flexibility will come in handy in the future, though. I'd be more positive about the whole thing if I hadn't been ill for both of my Fridays this year. Boo germs!
Last year I wanted to focus on health, which worked out pretty well. I eat OK, cycle about an hour a day, and manage to make it to aikido about five times a week. While I suppose I could fall off the wagon in the future, maybe if I moved somewhere non-bikable, without aikido, for now I'm doing all right. I'd still like to start with yoga this year, though.
This year I want to communicate more. Too many of my friends are slipping away from me, mostly because I just don't communicate well. I'm good at visiting people, but the more pedestrian post/internet communications means are not my forte. I have problems in this regard.
recently enjoyed music
Tryo, a French reggae band. Good stuff, very alive.
As engineers and physicists at Lockheed Martin and the Air Force dream up new weapons -- shaping bombers out of polymer and pixels -- politicians and Pentagoneers imagine the threats those super-bombers of the future will blast to bits.
Only the money -- billions and billions of dollars -- is real...
Frida Berrigan writes in terrifying detail about dreams deferred in Raptors, Robots, and Rods from God. This stuff makes me furious, the whole video-game aspect of it all. Reminds me of In Las Vegas a pilot pulls the trigger. In Iraq a Predator fires its missile, via lemonodor:
Sgt Mac Mackenzie, 41, an Army sensor operator who has served in Northern Ireland and Iraq, said: "It is not always appreciated that this is what we have to do. You are just staring at the screen. Then suddenly it can go live, you're involved in an engagement, a target appears and everything is turned on its head."