It was with anxious trepidation that today, after having been officially resident in Spain for 10 years, working and paying taxes all that time, I went to file a request for Spanish nationality.
See, being a non-European resident in Europe is a precarious thing. If ever something happens "back home" with your family or to those that you love and you need to go help out, you might not be able to come back. Sure, if you keep your official residence in Europe maybe you can make it fly under the radar, but officially to keep your right of residence you need to reside, continually. It doesn't matter that you have all your life in Spain, or France, or wheresoever: if you have to leave for a year, you start over at day 1, if you are able to get back in.
In my case I moved away from the US when I was 22. I worked in Namibia for a couple years after college teaching in a middle school, and moved directly from there to Barcelona when a company started up around a free software project I had been working on. It was a more extreme version of the established practice of American diaspora: you go to college far away from home to be away from your parents, then upon graduation your first job takes you far away again, and as the years go by you have nothing left to go back to. Your parents move into a smaller house, perhaps in a different town, your town changes, everyone moved away anyway, and where is home? What makes a home? What am I doing here and if I stopped, is there somewhere to go back to, or is it an ever-removing onward?
I am 35 now. While it's true that there will always be something in my soul that pines for the smell of a mountain stream bubbling down an Appalachian hollow, there's another part of my heart that is twined to Europe: where I spent the all of my working life up to now, where I lived and found love and ultimately married. I say Europe and not specifically Barcelona because... well. My now-wife was living in Paris when we got together. I made many, many journeys on the overnight Talgo train in those days. She moved down to Barcelona with me for a couple years, and when her studies as an interpreter from Spanish and French moved her back to France, I went with her.
That move was a couple years ago. Since we didn't actually know how much time would be required there or if we would be in Switzerland or France I kept my official residence in Spain, and kept on as a Spanish salaried worker. I was terrified of the French paperwork to set up as a freelancer, even though with the "long-term residency-EU" permit it would at least be possible to make that transition. We lived a precarious life in Geneva for a while before finally settling in France.
A note about that. We put 12 months of rent (!!!) in an escrow account, as a guarantee that allowed us to be able to rent our house. In France this is illegal: a landlord is only allowed to ask for a couple months or so. However in France you usually have a co-signer on a lease, and usually it's against your parent's house. So even if you are 45, you often have your parents signing off on your lease. We wouldn't have been able to find anything if we weren't willing to do this -- one of many instances of the informal but very real immigrant tax.
All this time I was a salaried Spanish worker. This made it pretty weird for me in France. I had to pretend I was there on holiday to get covered by health care, and although there is a European health card, it's harder to get if you are an immigrant: the web page seems to succeed but then they email you an error and don't tell why. The solution is to actually pass by the office with your residence permit, something that nationals don't need. And anyway this doesn't cover having a family doctor, despite the fact that I was paying for it in Spain.
This is one instance of the general pattern of immigrants using the health care system less than nationals. If you are British, say, then you know your rights and you know how the NHS works and you make it work for you. If you are an immigrant, maybe English is your second language, probably you're poor, you're ignorant of the system, you don't have family members or a big support system to tell you how the system works, you might not speak or write the language well, and probably all your time is spent working anyway because that's why you're there.
In my case I broke my arm a couple years ago while snowboarding in France. (Sounds posh but it's not really.) If all my papers were in order and I understood the system I would probably have probably walked out without paying anything. As it was I paid some thousands of euros out of my pocket, and that is my sole interaction with health care over the course of the last 5 years I think. I still have to get the plate taken out of my arm; should have done that a year ago. It hurts sometimes.
There is a popular idea about immigrants scrounging on benefits, and as a regular BBC radio 1 listener I hear that phrase in the voice of their news presenters inciting their listeners to ignorant resentment of immigrants with their racist implications that we are somehow "here" for "their" things. Beyond being implausible that an immigrant would actually receive benefits at all, it's unlikely that they would be able to continue to do so, given that residence is predicated on work.
In the US where there are no benefits the phrase is usually reduced to "immigrants are stealing our jobs", a belief encouraged by the class of people that employ immigrants: the owners. If you encourage a general sentiment of "immigrants are bad, let's make immigrants' life difficult", you will have cheaper, more docile workers. The extreme form of this is the American H1B visa, in which if you quit your job, for whatever reason, even if your boss was sexually harrassing you, you have only one week to find another job or you're deported back to your "home". Whatever "home" means.
And besides, owners only hire workers if they produce surplus value. If the worker doesn't pay off, you fire them. Wealth transfer from workers to owners is in general from immigrants to nationals, because if you are national, maybe you inherited your house and could spend your money starting your business. Maybe you know how to get the right grants. You speak the language and have the contacts. Maybe you inherited the business itself.
I go through all this detail because when you were born in a place and grew up in a place and have never had to deal with what it is like being an immigrant, you don't know. You hear a certain discourse, almost always of the form "the horde is coming", but you don't know. And those that are affected the most have no say in the matter.
Of course, it would be nice to pass over to the other side, to have EU citizenship. Spanish would do, but any other Schengen citizenship would at least take away that threat of deportation or, what is equivalent, denial of re-entry. So I assembled all the documentation: my birth certificate from the US, with its apostille, and the legal Spanish translation. My criminal record check in the US, with its apostille, and the legal translation. The certificates that I had been continually resident, my social security payments, my payslips, the documents accrediting me as a co-owner of my company, et cetera.
All prepared, all checked, I go to the records department to file it, and after a pleasantly short half-hour wait I give the documents to the official.
Who asks if I have an appointment -- but I thought the papers could be presented and then they'd give me an appointment for the interview?
No matter, she could give me an appointment -- for May.
And then some months later there would be a home visit by the police.
And then they'd assess my answers on a test to determine that I had sufficient "cultural integration", but because it was a new measure they didn't have any details on what that meant yet.
And then they'd give me a number some 6 months later.
And then maybe they would decide after some months.
So, 2018? 2019, perhaps?
This morning the streets of Barcelona were packed with electoral publicity, almost all of it urging a vote for independence. After the shock and the sadness of the nationality paperwork things wore off, I have been riding the rest of the day on a burning anger. I've never, never been able to vote in a local election, and there is no near prospect of my ever being able to do so.
As kids we are sold on a story of a fictional first-person-plural, the "we" of state, and we look forward to coming of age as if told by some benevolent patriarch, arm outstretched, "Some day, this will all be yours." Today was the day that this was replaced in my mind by the slogan pasted all around Barcelona a few years ago, "no vas a tener una casa en la puta vida" (you'll never own a house in your fucking life). It's profoundly sad. My wife and I will probably be between the two countries for many years, but being probably forever third-class non-citizens: "in no day will you ever belong to a place."
I should note before finishing that I don't want to hear "it could be worse" or anything else from non-immigrants. We have much less political power than you do and I doubt that you understand what it is like. What needs to happen is a revaluing of the nature of citizenship: countries are for the people that are in them, not for some white-pride myth of national identity or only for those that were born there or even for people who identify with the country but don't live there. Anything else is inhuman. 10+ years to simply *be* is simply wrong.
As it is, I need to reduce the precarious aspect of my life so I will probably finally change my domicile to France. It's a loss to me: I lose the Spanish nationality process, all my familiarity with the Spanish system, the easy life of being a salaried employee. I know my worth and it's a loss to Spain too. Probably I'll end up cutting all ties there; too bad. And I count myself lucky to be able to do this, due to the strange "long term-EU" residency permit I got a few years ago. But I'm trading a less precarious life for having to set up a business, figure out social security, all in French -- and the nationality clock starts over again.
At least I won't have to swear allegiance to a king.
silence on the wire
It's been pretty quiet in this electro-rag, and for a simple but profound reason. I don't know about all of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, but for me there is definitely a hierarchy between housing and anything else.
Thing is, my partner and I drove up to Geneva almost three months ago, but we only moved in somewhere permanent last week. Everything was up in the air! Sublets and couches and moving vans and storage units. All the things in all the places.
In a way it should have been liberating, but I reckon I'm just a homebody: someone who likes to have a spritual and physical base to come back to. It's the classic introverted/extroverted "where do you get your energy" thing -- in private, or in society? Of course it's both, but for me the private side is important and necessary.
society, nations, states
Incidentally, October made ten years since I left the US. I lived in Namibia for a couple of years, moved to Spain in 2005, and as you know, left for Switzerland in September. In that time, a third of my life, I have not been able to vote for my local government. Representative democracy isn't very democratic, of course, but not even having that nominal connection to collective decision-making is a bit unmooring.
In Spain I have what is called "EU long-term residency". In 2003, the EU standardized visas for "third-country nationals": folks like me that do not have citizenship in a EU country. After 5 years, you automatically get country-specific "long-term residency", and can optionally apply for "EU long-term residency" (as I just did), which has the additional benefit of being transferable to other EU countries.
The idea of EU long-term residency was to make third-country nationals have the same rights as EU citizens, but several restrictions placed on the agreement by individual nations make it not very attractive compared to full nationality. EU citizens have the right to move around the EU, whereas third-country nationals have to apply to do so.
And in many countries, you can get nationality just as easy as long-term residency. In France for example, you only have to wait 5 years to be able to apply for nationality. In Spain, if you come from a Latin American country, you only have to wait 2 years (in theory; I have heard of unreasonable delays). As that is not my particular case, I would have to wait 10 years to get Spanish nationality, making this "EU long-term residency" attractive. However if I move away from Spain officially, I would have to "start over".
Man. The EU. What a bizarre institution. I think few normal citizens can describe the structure of the the EU -- you know, what's the deal with the parliament and the commisioners and the president and the central bank? The operations of the EU have very little to do with democracy. The tenuous accountability of the Members of European Parliament is mostly to political parties rather than to the people. Finance in rich countries basically runs the bank. The commission seems to run itself, with limited accountability to the governments of member states. To the extent that the EU is a democracy, it is its weakest form: vast, physically removed from its constituency, composed of representatives of representatives.
It's been interesting to see the contrast in Switzerland. Switzerland has its own currency, protectionist trade policies, and a smattering of EU-à-la-carte. So, yes, it is relatively easy for EU citizens to move to Switzerland, but on the other hand it's quite difficult if you are a "third-country national" like myself.
Switzerland is also very local. Most legislation involves the citizens directly, via referendum. The other day, voters here just approved a new constitution, by simple majority, for Geneva. Contrast this to the EU, which centralizes its power more every year.
There are good things and bad things about this. I suppose that specifically, it's mostly good for the Swiss, neutral for EU nationals, and worse for third-country nationals. Policies that enable local agricultural and industrial production are great for local workers, businesses, consumers (with Swiss salary), and the environment. These policies are quite difficult to have in the EU. Even the existence of the Swiss franc is great for local decision-making power, although its policies are mostly controlled by finance.
On the other hand, the immigration policy is quite reactionary, often bordering on xenophobia. In the EU, the institutions were able to achieve some limited forms of freedom of movement of persons, including third-country nationals, in exchange for the freedom of movement of capital. No such arrangement has been made in Switzerland. (They'll happily take your capital, of course.)
As you probably know, I mostly identify as an anarchist, a kind of libertarian socialism that is suspicious of hierarchical power structures. So Switzerland has its attractions in that sense. But I've had discussions with folks arguing that the EU has actually been the emancipatory institution, in contrast to reactionary governments, and there is something there. For all its decentralized, democratic principles, women did not get the right to vote in Swiss federal elections until 1971, and the last canton (local government) held out until 1990, when it was forced to allow women to vote by a federal court.
There's no way around it: Geneva stinks of money.
An illustration, if you don't mind. When we first came here to visit in August, we got out of the car, went to a cash machine, and tried to get out 120 francs (approximately 120 dollars, or 100 euros). No. The minimum amount was 100 francs, and the next was 200. Well, OK. We got 200. It came out in two bills. The machine did not dispense any lower denomination. There was nothing wrong with that machine; it was marked as only dispensing 100-franc bills and higher.
On the other hand, unlike Spain, all shopkeepers carry around fat bankrolls and are quite happy to break a 100, even on a 50 cent purchase. You can do that only if you can find something that costs that little, of course.
If you walk around the center of town, it's designer tailors, caviar bars (not kidding), and private banks. It is truly disgusting. It makes me think of a butcher's counter: bleach covering a faint smell of blood, but without the redeeming earthiness. Perhaps this is just a personal analogy though.
That's the macro-level. Of course there are normal folks here too, but that's tempered by the cost: things are in general really expensive here. Starbucks drip coffee for 5 dollars. You can easily spend 70 dollars a person at a normal restaurant. A normal one-hour tram ticket is 5 dollars. Etc.
From what I can tell, the cost of things is not a problem if you have a Swiss salary. I'm in something of an irregular state: an American with Spanish residency, working for a Spanish company, living in Geneva (but actually France). Administrativia aside, it has been quite a shock coming from Spain to here. In Igalia, the cooperative I work at, we try to pay everyone the same when everything is going well, but when the budget is a little tighter salaries get scaled down to something approaching "the cost of living" (whatever that is).
We had to open a whole new round of discussions about how to determine compensation after I moved here. Geneva just didn't fit in anyone's conception about what was reasonable! It raises all kinds of issues: what does it mean to work in a cooperative with people in all different kinds of places? What does fair and equal compensation actually mean in San Francisco and A Coruña and Madrid and Geneva, and how do you calculate it? It looks like we've come to an interesting and probably unique solution there, so perhaps more on that as discussions progress.
Of course it's strange to come to this capital of, well, capital with these values, but here I am. You end up talking about money a lot. Of course you need a place to put your money and take it out. For an anarchist I've got a lot of bank accounts: Spanish, Swiss, French, and US somewhere... For all the new EU regulations, cross-border ATM fees still make it attractive to have an account in the place where you need to withdraw money.
Same thing with mobile phone companies. As I said, we ended up moving to France. The rent is a lot cheaper, it's more compatible with our residency permits, and it's still only a 25 minute bike or tram into the center of Geneva so it's not totally in the boon-docks. But this makes me carry around two phones because I cross the border all the time, and then of course there's the old Spanish SIM I need to do something with. I've done the PIN-to-PUK dance multiple times, because I can't remember so many numbers.
It's a pretty strange identity to have: to have a house in France, but feel attached to Switzerland. It's tough to catch the dominant social story, of who is the "us" in this place. It's problem with Geneva in general, transient city that it is.
Well, this post grows long, and it's mostly a rant, right? And I needed to rant and be done with it. But I don't want to be too negative. We have an actual house, with a garden, and we're going to plant things and compost and such. It's warm and cozy inside and there are snowy mountains about, and there's a cosmopolitan city within a close if brisk bike ride. I have a French grocery store five minute's walk away. It's a dark season, but there is cheese and wine enough to carry me through to springtime :) So things are good. I'll still rant, but things are all right.
Bon. Catch you internauts later. Next time, with code!
Last weekend in Barcelona was lovely, the best time of the year: crisp air, free outdoor music, fireworks and correfocs, castellers and wine tasting. It was great.
The town festival starts with a speech, the pregó, and this year's was from architect and poet Joan Margarit. I hope he will forgive my poor translation of this excerpt of his speech:
Freedom is a strange journey.
It is a bullring with chairs
on the sand at election time.
It is danger, in the morning, on the metro,
newspapers at day's end.
Freedom is making love in parks.
Freedom is dawn's breaking
on a day of general strike.
It is dying free. It is the Persian wars.
The words Republic and Civil.
A king leaving by train in exile.
Freedom is a bookshop.
Going without identification. It is songs
of the civil war.
A form of love, freedom.
The mayor was quite irked, to have his event spoiled by talks of strikes! Indeed, the town's festival only comes once a year, but tomorrow, the 29th of September, we have something even more wonderful: a general strike.
I grew up in the US, in a particularly union-hostile region. I never knew anyone in a union. So, with that perspective, and with the idea that many of my readers might be in the same situation, I'd like to explain a little about what's up with this.
The proximate cause of tomorrow's strike is a piece of legislation making it easier for businesses to fire workers, and generally giving more power to businesses at the time of salary, benefit, and contract negotiations. I recently looked at the Spanish wikipedia page for the 1988 general strike, and to be honest, not much has changed.
The idea is to generally paralyze the country, and force the government into negotiations. It's something of a farce, given the close relationship between the majority unions and the governing party, but I think they couldn't maintain credibility among their members without calling a strike.
Still, there hasn't been a general strike since I last moved to Spain at the beginning of 2005, so this is a big deal. Tomorrow could be quite a mess, for good and for bad.
Things are bad in Spain -- really, really bad. The unemployment rate for 20- to 25-year-olds is something like 40%. The problem is that this strike, as it is conceived of by the majority unions, is only about reform, and reform is not good enough.
A colleague of mine said to me yesterday, regarding the strike, that "the numbers just don't add up!" Like, how can people get all these benefits when the country is so bad off? The problem with statements like these is that they assume the limits imposed by capitalism. Why is there a credit crunch when 40% of young people are out of work, and can be put to work? Why are the banks not making new mortgages, but there are so many vacant flats?
And then economists have the nerve to chide Spain on its profligacy. It is galling.
Unfortunately, this acceptance of capitalist false-scarcity logic applies to the dominant unions' meek requests for reform. On the other hand, I think the people (as usual) have outpaced the majority union leadership, and things could become quite interesting.
I belong to an anarchosyndicalist union, which has been calling for a general strike for years. The idea is that yes, it's fine to strike for reform -- but one must also strike for revolution. The logic of empty flats and tight credit and wildly disparate renumeration, the logic that promises the world that it cannot -- cannot! -- give to all, this logic is crisis. It's not simply that we are in a crisis, it is that capitalism is crisis.
So really, we strike against capitalism, wittingly or not. Of course it's much better to be conscious of the place of things, but we work with what we have. That is the function of the radical trade union -- a bridge between the working people and radicalism.
Maybe tomorrow we'll have the Seattle '99 we deserve. Here's hoping. Until then, happy striking!
Well, I do declare! It took me until after lunch to realize this day has a personal significance: it was five years ago today that I came to Spain, not for the first time, but for this time.
Europe's been good to me, but the heartstrings still tug homewards. Here my word choice betrays me. True, there is no one place for me to go back to in the States, a "home" of relationships; but there is something there. Something green, something makeshift; something not entirely settled.
It sure isn't the health care. Or the architecture, for that matter, I notice as I hear the bells chime three, from the office where I sit.
I guess one doesn't have to explain the pull of a native land.
I'm told that in France one may wish bonne année all throughout January, as long it's the first time you see someone. So bonne année, tubes! Nice to rap at ya.
These waning days of my twenties are somewhat dislocated; or bilocated, perhaps. I spend a fair amount of time in Paris. Modern times, modern relationships, right? So it's me, my girlfriend, and the Talgo. I slept four nights on the overnighter last month, it will be four this month, and next month at least two.
It's not the cheapest way to travel, but I just feel bad about taking planes all the time -- apart from the environmental impact, plane travel just doesn't do a body right. You're alternately treated as a terrorist or a consumer. Your mind doesn't have time to arrive. It just ain't natural.
Anyway, until soon. Ciao!
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.
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.
Everything has broken on my bicycle. One or two dozen spokes, the frame (a crack down the head tube), cables (back brake, shifter), pedals, and, most recently, the rear axle. It has gotten to the point of amusement. A beer to the first commenter to correctly predict the next new part to break.
Regarding existence in Europe, for my American readers, I offer two more data points. One: not only are there unlimited "sick days", when you get well, you have to go to the doctor before they let you back to work. Two: I went to a most amusing wedding on Friday, held at a vineyard near Tarragona. It was a lay ceremony, with a judge and paper-signing at opportune times. There was a guy on a mixing deck hiding in the shade; during the ring-exchanging part of the ceremony, he tastefully turned up a bit of eurotechno. During the recessional, "Dancing Queen". Would this fly in the states, I ask the jury?
My sister says that when she sang a capella, that they beatboxed saying "boots, skirts". It works: "boots, skirts, boots, skirts, boots, skirts".
A bit of last-minute fixups to a paper I'm submitting to the 2007 Workshop on Scheme and Functional Programming. A bit of an odd endeavor, as I'm not an academic. I'll write more about the topic after smoothing out a few more rough patches.
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.
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.
Jesus knows why, and so do you