Go forward in time to September 2004.
I received a bunch of comments about the script to fix filenames. Thanks, guys! I'll compile the suggestions and come up with a better version.
My work machine decided to die over the weekend. When I turned it on yesterday, it wouldn't get past the POST screen. That machine was always flaky; it started being unreliable when I was working on OpenOffice and building and rebuilding it all the time. So yesterday I purchased a new box, and it arrived today in the afternoon. So far it seems to be working nicely.
On Sunday we went to Veracruz, where there is always excellent seafood, lots of heat, and a peaceful time to be had.
I wrote a little script that
It converted my home directory correctly, including Documents and Music, so perhaps it actually works. But it would be great if someone with more Python experience than me could give it a sanity check. The script is here: fix-filenames.py.
From the time we got the espresso machine, we would froth the milk in the same cups as we used to serve the capuccino. Since then, we've discovered that using a separate, large cup to froth the milk yields better results. I still haven't been able to get thoroughly micro-foamed milk, but am getting closer. Oh, yes, Dan Mills kicks ass for passing that link. That site is fabulous.
Mark was kind enough to tell me what's wrong with requesting a session end from gnome-settings-daemon: it's not session-managed, so it just gets terminated instead of causing the session to shut down. So I wrote a patch to remove that stuff from gnome-settings-daemon, and another one to do the processing of the logout key in Metacity instead.
I hate gnome-session.
I patched gnome-settings-daemon to fix this, by using the exact same code as there is in the panel to ask the session manager to bring up the Log Out dialog:
gnome_client_request_save (client, GNOME_SAVE_GLOBAL, TRUE, GNOME_INTERACT_ANY, FALSE, TRUE);
But the stupid piece-of-shit session manager does not bring up the logout dialog. I have no idea of what is going on.
Michael Zucchi is my hero. He's writing (gasp!) documentation on EPlugin, the new plug-in system for Evolution. When I worked on the calendar many moons ago I started writing technical docs for it. There was a public API reference, documentation on the calendar's model/view architecture, and documentation on the calendar's internals, such as how alarm instances are computed. The API reference got obsolete with Evolution 1.5, but the rest has not really changed much. All those docs got removed from the HEAD branch, though, and live now in the attic in CVS.
Today, Oralia started her new job as an English teacher for secondary and high school students. The school uses a constructivist system, which has the nasty side effect of making it impossible to keep the class in order. The kids behave terribly and they think they have the right to do whatever they want. It's going to be, um, fun to learn how to handle them.
On Monday and yesterday I was in Mexico City; yesterday we had two long meetings at the Novell corporate offices. The first one was a culture meeting; it's interesting how we have to merge the mindsets of all the little companies that became acquisitions. The second one was, unfortunately, completely irrelevant to the engineering and QA people from the Ximian/Mexico side of things.
It seems that the PrintScreen hotkey, which is used in Gnome to create screenshots, doesn't work for Debian and SuSE users. It turns out they are missing stuff in their XKB symbol files. (This is another case of "Owen was here first").
But, in the end, traditional writing systems always diverge from the spoken language they are intended to formalise. The failure to keep up with language change has very serious consequences. English and French speakers are rarely able to fully master spelling despite a huge investment of time at school learning to spell. Nowadays, they are generally incapable of correctly spelling their languages without electronic assistance. One of the more visible signs of education is the mastery of these excessively complicated spelling schemes. Because of the particularly obtuse spelling schemes of these two tongues, spelling has become a matter of social justice in the English and French speaking world, because poorer people with poor educations are less able to compensate for their poor mastery of these archaic systems. This phenomenon is even more acutely felt in China and Japan, where literacy is notoriously hard to acquire and writing skills even more difficult to learn without sizeable investments of time and money.
Good point; a large part of the problem comes from education. I'm confident to say that my spelling for both Spanish and English is pretty good, but I was lucky to have parents who could send me to expensive schools — Spanish is of course my mother tongue, and in school we had English lessons since pre-first grade. Then again, as I finished high school, most of my classmates had mediocre grammar, and terrible spelling and punctuation. They had gone to the same expensive schools as well.
Most of the world's languages are to some degree subject to state standardisation to ensure that the language is reasonably easy to spell. This state power has, in the main, had enormously positive effects by bringing literacy and the ability to express oneself in print into reach of vast numbers of people. English is somewhat unusual in allowing a private corporation - one which acts without any sort of public mandate - control over spelling standards. Thanks to the effectively universal use of a single word processing suite, English spelling is what Bill Gates says that it is.
That is kind of scary — spelling gets determined by the spell-checker in MS Word. Of course most people don't bother to pay attention to the red squiggles that highlight misspellings. It's also not likely that they'll learn better spelling by just paying attention to what their word processor tells them. You achieve good spelling through reading many books, writing a lot, and paying attention.
The outcome is a hopelessly complicated spelling scheme which native speakers have difficulty learning in 12 years of school and second language users have virtually no hope of mastering. It remains one of the causes - and by no means the least important cause - of inequality of opportunity throughout the anglophone world.
Is this true? The spelling of many native English speakers I know is worse than mine :)
And if English spelling is an example of market failure, then French spelling qualifies as an example of government failure. Weighed down by a near religious devotion to the intricacies and idiocies of French spelling and to the technocratic system of education which follows from the years spent learning its complexities, the Académie Française has traditionally been the second largest barrier to actually making French comprehensible, although in recent years it has begun to show much more substantial flexibility. The largest present-day barrier to language reform is the francophone public, motivated, as far as I can tell, by sheer linguistic ignorance.
This is stupid. French spelling doesn't seem to be any more complicated than English. It has its large set of rules, but so far (second-level French for me so far) it seems to be more consistent in its pronunciation. It does have many rules which are hard to master at first (diphthongs, exceptions for pronouncing the s at the end of a word if the next word starts with a vowel, etc.), but they seem to be more or less consistent. English is much worse in this respect: plough, bough, through.
If "the largest present-day barrier to language reform is the francophone public, motivated ... by sheer linguistic ignorance", would they do any better with a simple set of rules? Would English speakers do any better? Spanish has the advantage of being a phonetic language. There are funny cases like Spaniards making a difference between soft c, s, and z; Mexicans use the same s sound for all three. Argentinians have their ll versus y. It is these funny cases that give people trouble when spelling, plus they can never master accents, even when there are only a few simple rules to follow. Maybe people wouldn't have trouble with spelling if the language were consistent to the point of being ridiculous, but their grammar would still be terrible.
In second grade I had a Spanish teacher who came from Spain. Our dictation exercises were really easy, because she unconsciously made the c/s/z differences, which is what gives kids the most trouble. All of my classmates appreciated that; being used to just hearing an s sound everywhere, it was obvious whenever the teacher used a different sound, which meant a different letter.
The only spelling reform in Spanish that I remember is when the Real Academia changed the ch and ll diphthongs. They were considered single letters for collation purposes, so chango would be in the Ch section in the dictionary, rather than appearing in the C section. Similarly, llano would be in the Ll section rather than the L section. After the reform, these were split into single letters and are diphthongs just for pronunciation purposes; for sorting, they work just like other letters.
I was happy to mark bug #118552 as WONTFIX today. It is the old Unix problem about the behavior of .. with respect to symbolic links. The old GtkFileSelection takes .. literally: if /tmp is symlinked as /home/foo/tmp and you go to the latter, then double-clicking on .. takes you to /, rather than /home/foo.
These days, however, the not-so-new-anymore GtkFileChooser does not display .. anywhere. To go to the parent of the folder you are currently visiting, you hit the appropriate button in the path bar or press Alt-Up; both are equivalent. When you visit /home/foo/tmp from the example above, the path bar actually displays [/][home][foo][tmp]; going to the parent folder by either method does take you to /home/foo.
I'm just happy that the path bar lets us get this right with no special cases whatsoever.
I thought I knew everything about the GPL, but I didn't.
With practice, these days we can consistengly make good capuccinos. And we realized just how overpriced coffee is when you buy it at a café.
Also, espressos look lovely in the little glass cups that Joakim gave us as a wedding present, but I don't have a picture of those yet.
This weekend I finished reading Bram Dijkstra's Cubism, Stieglitz, and the Early Poetry of William Carlos Williams. It has a pompous title, but it lives up to it. The first three chapters are about the state of the art world in the United States from about 1900 to 1920. There was a group of disgruntled artists, led by Alfred Stieglitz, who thought that outside of their group, artists in the U.S.A. had not really made contact with their home land: they said that the others kept fantasizing about European landscapes and other boring pastoral scenes, rather than looking at what the local environment had to offer. Those three chapters describe the excitement that was going on around Stieglitz's gallery, called "219", on Fifth Avenue in New York. Photographers, painters, writers, and poets revolved around it, presenting their new ideas and trying to define a style. Most of them started with variations on Cubism or Impressionism, they tended to reject pure abstraction, and later managed to form their own style.
William Carlos Williams initially thought of being a painter, but ended up a poet. However, he tried to rid his poetry of all literary aspects — metaphors, philosophical ramblings — and instead tried to write his poems as if they were paintings. Like the Cubists, he tried to present different views of the same object so that one would be able to get a more detailed impression of it than would be possible by only observing it from a single viewpoint. He liked to isolate single objects and then describe them plainly: he thought that an object itself should be able to form particular feelings in the observer/viewer/reader, without any help from allusions to other situations or metaphors whatsoever.
The initial chapters that describe the first two or three decades of the 1900s, plus the chapter that focuses on Stieglitz, are fantastic. They got me really excited about how artists look at art and try to evolve it. Along the way, this part of the book has examples of W. C. Williams's poems and how they relate to photographs or paintings by other people in the Stieglitz group, or vice-versa. Later, there is a chapter that gives a large number of references to those other artists. This chapter gets quite tedious if you don't know who those artists are; I would certainly have liked it better if the book had samples of their work. There are about 30 black-and-white plates in the book, which look absolutely horrible due to being printed on mass-market paper. While they are useful to let you have an idea of how certain works look like, they are printed so badly that they don't really lead to being contemplated in comfort. The text in the book describes colors and textures, but the paintings are printed as murky gray halftones.
The last two chapters go into more detail on Williams's poems, but the text gets repetitive. It keeps pointing out Williams's desire to do away with metaphor and to observe things directly, etc., etc., which is exactly what the first chapters were about. Finishing the last chapter felt like a chore, except for the parts where the author actually talks about specific poems; the rest is just a repetition of what he had discussed before.
In short, to me the most interesting parts of the book were the first three chapters on the Stieglitz group and the beginnings of William Carlos Williams's conscious efforts to create a new kind of poetry, and the bits where the book analyzes particular poems and relates them to paintings or photographs by other members of the group. As an amateur photographer, the book managed to form a lot of ideas in my head about how or why to do photography.
Crooked tree for which someone kindly provided support:
Ramón came by today to start as an apprentice hacker. We had only a little time to talk, because I had to go out and meet Oralia for lunch, but it looks like we had a good start. Raúl has started reading SICP and also doing the exercises: it's what every proto-hacker needs to do at some point. The idea of coaching an apprentice came out of Germán's thoughts on the matter.
The call-for-papers for GULEV 2004 is up!
Go backward in time to July 2004.Federico Mena-Quintero <email@example.com> Tue 2004/Aug/03 20:50:50 CDT