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marnanel (6034)

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Journal of marnanel (6034)

Saturday June 03, 2006
08:38 PM

"A oes heddwch?"

Today was the day that my journal first appeared on, so hello to those of you reading it there. I'm Thomas, poet, would-be linguist, and programmer; I'm from Cambridge in England and I live in the suburbs of Philadelphia with my partner Firinel (Fin for short) and our daughter Riordon, who are both awesome people I'm lucky to have in my life. I work for an organisation that does awesome things. If you want to know more about who and where and why I am, you should read my bio on LiveJournal.

I am feeling so much better today. I must have slept for over twelve hours on Friday, and today I woke up feeling almost back to normal. When I came down to check my email I found a cup of coffee waiting beside my keyboard. Did I mention that Firinel is an awesome person?

SaraMae and Sharon (Fin's grandmother and mother) wanted us to go out to the diner with them, so we sat and drank tea and ate croissants. A while ago, someone somewhere on LJ was saying that French prosody doesn't really map to English ideas of where the stress lies in a word, and that when a French word is loaned into English, British English tends to stress the first syllable (BAL-lay) and American English the second (bal-LAY). I don't know enough about prosody to know whether this is true, but I present the anecdotal evidence of my very English attempt to order a croissant in America:

Me: I'll have a croissant, please.
Waitress: Go ahead.
(long pause)
Me: Um, what are we waiting for?
Waitress: I thought you said you had a question.
Me: No, no, a croissant.
Waitress: Oh, a croisSANT.

Later we came home, I did some washing up, and we briefly went to the sale. We didn't see any kittens, though.

I believe I fixed metacity bug 114305 today (removing old dead code to do with menu icons). This is part of a much bigger project to revise the entire theme format, which is about half done. I would have been almost done by now, but I broke my laptop a few weeks ago. (I have to say that the people I work for were extremely good with helping fix it, and deserve heaps of kudos.)

My current pet project is a port of xbeeb to GTK. It's tentatively called gbeeb, at least unless enough people decide it should be called plasticdaffodil. There are still a million things to fix, but I think it's now good enough to do an 0.01 release, so I'll try and get onto that, but first I'll need to learn a lot more about how to set a program up with autotools: I'll dig around and see if I can find a primer anywhere. Thanks to all of you who've expressed interest in testing or playing with it; if anyone else is interested, let me know. (If you don't have an LJ account, you can leave an anonymous comment.)

I've lost about eight pounds in about a week, quite possibly because I didn't eat much on Friday. I don't think this is anything to worry about; I'll probably get it back soon enough.

If any of you are going on the Philly Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation, we might see you there. Either way, peace to you all.
Friday June 02, 2006
07:33 AM

thunder and lightning

Quite briefly:

I fixed both the utf-8 bug and the trailing zero bug yesterday.

On the train I fixed up the BBC Micro emulator so that keyboard input is now almost as good as it'll need to be. (There are still some things like keymappings that need doing eventually.) I'm planning to use this to help teach Rio programming.

When I got home, there was a huge thunderstorm, which caused a power cut. We went to the diner in the hope that it would come back on, but when we came home it was still off. So we went to bed in the dark, but sometime overnight it came back on.

I'm feeling pretty dreadful this morning: headachey and feverish. I thought when I woke up that it was just that I'd slept badly, but I'm still feeling that way.
Wednesday May 31, 2006
08:27 PM

three bean

The BBC Micro emulator lives, sort of. It displays (very badly) in a gtk window, and it can accept keyboard input (very badly). Next to do is to improve the teletext emulation a whole lot.

I tried all day to track down the UTF-8 bug, and found out a lot of things about it, but couldn't put the big picture together. I'll try again tomorrow.

I went to St Mark's at lunchtime again. Today was the feast of the Visitation, when people remember Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth when both of them were pregnant. The preacher said that he was tempted to use pregnancy as a metaphor in his sermon, but didn't really dare make pronouncements about what pregnancy might be like because he wasn't ever going to be pregant himself.

I hacked on Metacity some, and on the Beeb emulator some, on the way home.

Fin made three bean chili. I made the rice. It was lovely.

Tuesday May 30, 2006
09:01 PM

As feely homies

As I mentioned earlier, I hacked BBC Micro stuff on the train. I got into work early, and refactored that piece of code I told you about where I'd tried to be too clever. I'm quite glad of the way it works, now.

Later, we spent most of the morning planning the new iteration, Iteration Zhoosh. I'd suggested the name before Iteration Zho, but that's because I'd never heard of a zho (which is because I'm not a Scrabble player), but I'd heard plenty about zhooshing, which is Polari for "beautify" or "comb". Hence the topic in the chatroom:

(2006-05-30 10:53:24) ***Alec of the Wood has set the topic to: As feely homies..we would zhoosh our riahs, powder our eeks, climb into our bona new drag, don our batts and troll off to some bona bijou bar.

At lunchtime I went to the 12:10 service at St Mark's, where I was the congregation.

My name is

the congregation

During private prayer afterwards I was struck by an insight about my life, which I'm still thinking over, though like a dream it might lose a lot by being put into words. Maybe I could make a sonnet of it or something. Anyway, I don't want to write about it here, but maybe I should start a Bible study / prayer journal. I'm not sure whether I should leave it readable to a list of people who want to see it or just to me. Your opinions on this are appreciated.

In the afternoon, I tried to solve a big UTF-8 problem, but barely got it put together by the time it was time to leave.

I hacked a small amount on the BBC Micro emulator on the train. The reason I didn't debug more was the one line

EmulatorPC += ( signed char )( *EmulatorPC++ );

(EmulatorPC is char*.) Now, for those of you who know a little C but not much, that DOES NOT increment what EmulatorPC points to (which is good, since it points at machine code). Instead, it

1) takes what EmulatorPC points at
2) increments EmulatorPC
3) adds the number we found in 1) to EmulatorPC

You might THINK that this was legal C, because addition is commutative, but it IS NOT, and it DOES NOT WORK. Except it does. gcc doesn't complain about it at all. But part of what I needed to do involved changing EmulatorPC from auto to static, and then all hell broke loose and the program didn't run. Debugging virtual machines is no fun at all.

There was so much traffic on the road that the power went out on my laptop before we got home. I spent the rest of the time reading The Yellow Wallpaper , which is very interesting and enjoyable, and I'll post my thoughts on it later.

Sharon has an ending date for her job. I see buses in my future.

Fin made a gorgeous tofu salad. I wish I could tell you how good it was. It was good. Rio and I went out and swung on the swings afterwards and talked about things.

I have a big plan about learning Welsh, which I'll post more about when I know more, in the next few days.

I was delighted to discover that two people think I'm a journeyer on Advogato. I like being part of big projects.

It occurs to me that I didn't tell you people what the myspace account I'd set up was. It's here. Friend me if you like, or don't. I'm not particularly impressed with the system, but there must be something in it, because there are millions of people using it. On the other hand, you could say the same about Windows.

Sunday May 28, 2006
08:24 PM

Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand

We were back at St Gabriel's this morning. Fr Cal was away, and a priest had come in from Reading to take the service. She was a very friendly, warm and glad sort of person, a pleasure to meet. Her sermon was more like an essay about prayer read aloud. It would have made a good small group meeting, but it didn't really work as a sermon. She had a beautiful stole with pictures of children of all different races on it. She told me that she'd seen it at General Convention, and pondered back and forth about buying it because she was close to retirement, but it seemed so perfect for her and her ministry of children's work that she ended up getting it.

Probably because it's Memorial Day tomorrow, there were a few patriotic songs mixed in with the hymns. The postcommunion hymn was America, America, God shed his grace on thee . I thought this was a bit weird, but someone pointed out to me that English churches do occasionally sing Jerusalem .

After the service people could stay behind and be prayed for. Only two people stayed, one of whom was me. One of the clergy people asked you what was up and you talked about it for a bit, and then they prayed for you, and gave you a hug. They were very supportive. I'm glad I've found a church family where I feel I belong.

I mentioned the work I do to James, and he said it was wonderful to have good works and the work you do for a living being the same work. I think he has a point. Some people try to tell me I should be doing something else (my psychiatrist asks me why I'm living in this town and doing this work when I could be away somewhere doing postgrad work or something) but for now, this is my calling, and I'm sticking to it.

Later we went to lunch. We mostly discussed swordfighting, for some reason, but the lesson I learned from that meal was not to eat so much at lunchtime that I'm no longer hungry, or else I'll feel sleepy all afternoon. I don't need any more ways to feel stupider.

My fix to Metacity compiles. It awaits testing.

I went to the park with Rio later, and she played with another little girl. I should have brought my computer and tested Metacity, really, but I thought she and I were going to play more.
Saturday May 27, 2006
09:47 PM


We woke late for a weekday but early for a Saturday, because it was time to go up to Shupp's Grove and help out with SaraMae's stand: they needed Fin to help out with power tools setting up the electrical supply. Rio stayed to run her own table today with them today and made $3. She is very proud of this.

When we came back I tried to compile GNOME again so I could work more on Metacity next week. It all fell quite easily into place.

I set up a myspace account because I was curious what all the fuss was about. I still don't know. It looks like just another blogging site with some social networking features.

I finally got VoIP working, and had a long talk with my father.

Rio and I went to the park, and met a little girl called Juanita, and her father, Abdul. Abdul and his wife both work at the shop round the corner, so I'd met them before, but never to talk to (it's hard to chat to people in a shop when they're working). He asked me about England, and told me he wants to visit Stonehenge one day. "My parents-in-law are in England," he said, "but we don't talk because I'm a Muslim." "How does that work out?" I asked. "Well," he said, "every time they talk to me they try to convert me to Christianity." I think it sounds like being as pushy as they're being is the worst thing they could be doing if they want him to hear more about Jesus, actually.

We had Chinese for dinner, since we didn't on Friday. I realised that most weeks we all get a different order and then Rio's leftovers go in the fridge, even though she gets a small, and then they often go bad. So today I ordered nothing, and ate the remainder of Riordon's food, and there was no waste.
Friday May 26, 2006
09:21 PM

hereinunder known as the Artist

Sharon picked me up in the morning and gave me yoghurt and cola.

Today at two we were due to talk over one another's code review, so when I got into work, I spent the time until nine o'clock getting some code reviewed ready. At nine, I walked to the Plough and the Stars on Chestnut Street. I had a bit of trouble finding the place at first. When I got there, a man was blocking the door; I told him I'd come for the documentary and he took me to the manager. The manager, who was pleasant and Irish, asked me whether I'd brought the producer with me, and when I told him I wasn't anything to do with the production but only an interviewee, he sat me down with a cup of coffee.

Sitting next to me was a professor called Rich Pawling, who was playing the banjo. He began regaling me and the manager with tales of Irish derring-do, mainly involving Irish people killing other people they didn't get on with. He pulled out two or three books about the Mollies, and showed us some press cuttings. "You don't think it's all over, do you?" he said. "Here's a story about some Englishman with no brains in his head walks into an Irish bar on St Patrick's day, and makes derogatory remarks about the Irish, and he'll Never Walk Again." (Since I was at that moment an English person sitting in an Irish bar, I inly swore I would be careful not to make any accidental derogatory remarks about the Irish.)

After a while, Dyfrig from Telesgôp turned up. He chatted with me about the Mollys in English and Welsh, but I was finding it difficult to put sentences together in Welsh. (Thinking about it now, this was my first attempt at a face-to-face conversation with a Welsh speaker in Welsh ever, so I'm not surprised I fluffed it. Someone whose opinion I respect tells me it's always hard speaking Welsh to a new person, anyway.) I said my Welsh wasn't really good enough, and he told me that that was okay, because they could use me in English.

I went upstairs to the balcony, where the cameraman was setting up, and the sound guy put a box in my pocket, and ran a wire up inside my shirt to a clip mike on my collar. Rich Pawling said he'd go and get ready. Did they want him as a miner, he asked? He had all the clothes ready, and even a (disabled) pistol. I saw him afterwards and he looked very convincing, with a light on his hat and soot on his face. I don't know how he got all that into his little bag.

The cameraman shone a light at me, and Dyfrig stood just out of shot and asked me questions. I was instructed to wait a second after he'd finished so our voices didn't cross. I talked for about twenty minutes about the Molly Maguires, Welsh and Irish immigration, class struggle, and the necessity for the labouring classes to organise, but occasionally we had to re-take because of the phone ringing. Once I said "as I said before", and I was asked to do it again without those words so they'd be able to put it back in any order.

After that, I came back downstairs and signed the release form (in which I was hereinunder known as the Artist). It had all been so much fun that I was quite surprised to hear I was going to get a cheque for doing it: I hope I can do something similar again someday. I apologised to Dyfrig about my Welsh being so bad, and he said not to worry because I'd given an interesting perspective on it in English. When it airs I'll try to get hold of a copy.

When I got back to Solutions, the code review meeting was just about to start. The lessons I'm taking away from that meeting are that doing things the clever way doesn't usually win you any brownie points. I wrote one module in two ways, one using OO and the other using prototyped subs, and everyone used the OO version. But having the other subs in there made it all more complicated than it needed to be, and I think it got bad reviews because of it. I'll be refactoring it in the next few days.

I checked in new code to metacity today for the first time since my laptop broke.

I made pierogies for dinner.

Thursday May 25, 2006
09:58 PM

What goes up must come down

Today was mostly code review, but I sneaked in some extra fixes to the tests I was writing yesterday.

ladynik0n gave me a teapot! I walked home with it. People were staring at me from cars and pointing.

We don't owe the state any taxes.

I worked quite hard on the way home on a project to make it easy to edit benefit flows. This is what I've got so far, if you want to play. You need a browser that can do SVG (Opera, recent Firefox, IE with a plugin, or Safari from CVS); if you don't have one, don't worry about it.

In the "what were they thinking?" department, here's a book review from Amazon:

Someone in Rev. Lucas Holt's rundown, Austin, Texas parish has chosen to ensure God's vengeance by dispensing his own brand of justice... this serial killer has selected his victims based on the words of a hymn... Holt, an attractive middle-aged Episcopalian priest, was assigned to the down-in-the-chalice church of St. Margaret's; his sadistic bishop relishes the church's demise and that of its unconventional shepherd as well. Does the Bishop also realize that Holt exudes sex appeal to a variety of women: his church secretary, hookers, an aspiring female politician and not the least, a lady from his own past--tough police Lieutenant Granger... Himself a priest, (my emphasis) the author has endowed his long-suffering but oversexed protagonist with great intuitive sleuthing abilities.

Clearly, we're dealing with the Rev. Mary Sue here.

Firinel made lovely breaded fried tomatoes and aubergines for dinner. While I was helping cook, I was talking to Riordon.
Me: Well, you have some Scottish blood.
Rio: Because Daddy Alex is part Scottish?
Me: And not only that, but you have some Welsh blood too.
Rio: Because some people in your family are Welsh?
Fin: That's a strange use of the word "blood".
Me: Why?
Fin: Usually, people use it to mean biological parentage.
Me: Oh! Do you know, I completely forgot.
Fin: What's funny is that you were assuming Rio inherits genes from both her fathers.

I made another unsuccessful attempt to get on I was told that the only requirement needed was a GNOME CVS account, which I have, but when I asked to be added, everything went silent again. I'll ask again in a week or so.

desh came up and told me that he has reason to pester everyone in the Systems team except me. So we'll have to find something for him to pester me about, too. I hope it's not Joule breaking or something.

09:54 PM

Pamela Taylor, my erstwhile biology teacher

Some teachers at school stick out in your memory. One such was my biology teacher, Miss Taylor.

She would go off on long discussions about her own experiences, where it was relevant to the lesson. Once I remember during a sex ed class she told one of the kids, "Don't write this down, dear, your mother will have a heart attack".

Another time she said, "When the brain processes a stimulus continually, it becomes insensitised. For example, Gemma, can you feel your knicker-elastic?"

Lots of kids used to go to her for advice about contraception or menstruation: she was quite the Wise Woman of the school. When I was quite young I was building a barometer in science class. I was trying to make it with a balloon as the diaphragm, but Miss Taylor walked past as I was building it and said, "I don't think that will be sensitive enough... I think you should use a condom." The entire room stopped talking and stared at me. This was officially my second most embarrassing moment ever.

Once some kids brought in a bottle of whisky and shared it out between themselves at breaktime. She said, "Well, since I can't tell how much you each might have drunk, I'm afraid you're all going to hospital to have your stomachs pumped", and made it so.

Another time: "Surely you've heard of the principle of osmosis! 'Nicholas farts at the front of the class. Who smells it first and who smells it last?'"

Another time she was telling us about childbirth and explained, "It's like shitting a melon." The next lesson, she asked, "Did anyone prepare for this lesson?" "Yes, miss," said one of the boys, "I ate a melon". That same lesson she told us all to lie on the floor and put our legs up in "stirrups" (actually lab chairs). "Yes, come on, the boys as well." Then she walked around the classroom exhorting us to push.

Friday April 28, 2006
03:07 PM


This morning: write "tag" function.

This afternoon: after some suggestions, write super-generalised "uebertag" function.

=head2 ubertag

For people who never took German.


sub ubertag {
  goto &uebertag;