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[sticky post] Hello!

Oct. 29th, 2009 | 03:00 pm

Welcome back my friends
To the show that never ends!
We're so glad you could attend
Come inside, come inside!

— Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression, Part II)

Hi there!

If you're reading this, you're probably just looking at my journal, perhaps even thinking about adding me as an LJ-friend; or alternatively, perhaps I just added you as an LJ-friend, and you're curious about me now. In either case, I'd like to use this opportunity to say a few things.

Trevor: You're skating the edge.
Æon: I
am the edge.

— Æon Flux

First of all, I tend to write freely about topics everything that matters to me; more distanced, "professional" entries may directly be followed by more personal ones (and vice versa), and I will, generally, openly write about all sorts of things, including philosophy, sexuality, politics and more. Some of my entries will be friends-only, others will be publicly viewable, too, and unlike other people, I don't use <lj-cut /> tags or specific "topic filters" (i.e., custom friends groups dedicated to specific topics) to shield people from things they may not want to see.

Well, as long as it's text, that is; I will cut images that aren't safe for work etc. (at least if I remember, which I might not always do!), since I wouldn't want for people to get in trouble if their boss happens to be shoulder-surfing at work. Text, though, is a different issue, and if you'll get into trouble for reading about certain topics at work, you probably shouldn't be checking your friends page at work to begin with.

He said, "I am told that when men hear its voice, it stays in their ears, they cannot be rid of it. It has many different voices: some happy, but others sad. It roars like a baboon, murmurs like a child, drums like the blazing arms of one thousand drummers, rustles like water in a glass, sings like a lover and laments like a priest."

— Mike Oldfield, Amarok (liner notes)

Second of all, concerning friending me: feel free to. There is no need to ask if it's OK to do so; everyone's welcome to, as well as to post comments etc. (as long as they're genuine: spammers etc. will not be tolerated, but that goes without saying, anyway). I may add you back if your journal looks interesting or if I know you, too, but this isn't automatic. If you do want me to add you back, engaging me and talking to me is probably the best way to go about it.

Please don't ask about being added back if I didn't do so on my own, either, unless I already know you well and you want to be able to read my non-public entries.

If I already friended you but you don't know who I am and haven't been in contact with me before, that most likely means I became aware of your journal somehow, took a look, and decided I wanted to keep up with what you're writing — "I find your ideas intriguing and wish to subscribe to your newsletter", as it were. I don't expect you to friend me back or otherwise take an interest in me, but if you do — all the better.

If what it is to be furry you still don't comprehend
Then consider this advice, my curious friend
If you're willing to respect that which you don't understand
Then come take my paw and I'll take your hand.

— from "Furry", by Croc O'Dile of TigerMUCK with help from Tony DeMatio, June 1995

Regarding commenting, BTW, I'm always happy to receive comments. However, things like "lol" are not proper punctuation, and correct spelling and grammar would be nice as well. And of course, I expect people to not be insulting or rude, but that, again, should go without saying.

That's about all I can think of for now. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

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Golf and life

Oct. 7th, 2019 | 10:50 am

An interesting exchange overheard in the commentary of the 2018 Andalucía Costa del Sol Open de España Round 3, about 2:00:30 into the video — the context is Amelia Lewis having a tough round (so far):

Richard Kaufman: It's all a little flat for her, isn't it, right now.

Alison Nicholas: At the moment, yeah, but she needs to just dig in and keep going. Things can always change.

Someone asked me the other day and said, in your career, was it just all fun and easy going? And I said, no, most of the time it was a grind, trust me, and you have to just grind it out at times and hope that things will change and … there's only a few occasions I can remember where things seemed completely easy.

It's a tough game, golf. There's so many variables, and not many constants.

That's not just a good description of golf but a good description of life as well. And good advice, too.

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The Tough Guide to Fantasyland

Oct. 5th, 2019 | 10:11 am

Imagine that all fantasy novels take place in the same country – Fantasyland –, and imagine further that the protagonists are not really heroes as such but rather tourists who booked, well, a tour orchestrated by the management of Fantasyland (or three, if the novel's a trilogy, or several more).

If you happen to be such a Tourist yourself, you'll probably want to read Diana Wynne Jones's Tough Guide to Fantasyland (Revised and Updated Edition), a veritable treasure trove filled with a plethora of useful information. I'll just give an example:

MONASTERIES. Thick stone buildings on a steep hill. They are full of passages, cloisters, and tiny cells, all with no HEATING, and inhabited by MONKS, mostly elderly and austere, some rather addled in their wits. At the Monastery's head will be an Abbot, who is often portly and sly. These establishments have three uses:

  1. For SCROLLS (see also TEMPLES). Any Scroll containing information vital to the Tour QUEST is likely to be jealously guarded in a Monastery. It is not advisable to say that you have come to look at this Scroll. If the abbot is really sly, he will find two dozen ways of putting you off. You will probably have to steal the Scroll. In cases where the Monks are willing to let you consult their Scroll, you will find that the keeper of Scrolls has recently lost his reason and the Scroll with it. You will have to search through the disordered (smelling mustily of old books (OMT) and filled with the plangent scent of ancient minds (OMT)) library by night.
  2. For sanctuary and rest. In this case, you will come pounding up to the Monastery at dusk, with the forces of Dark hard on your heels. You will have to hammer at the huge (oaken (OMT)) door a lot, but they will let you in. Once inside, you are safe. This kind of Monastery has religious WARDS that really work. But the problem comes when you have to get out again (see SECRET PASSAGES and UNDERGROUND PASSAGES).
  3. For sacking. Here you come pounding up to the building with the forces of Dark half a day behind, only to find it a heap of smoking stones. But there will be one survivor (see NUNNERY for the rest of the Rule).

Here's another:

MOUNTAINS are always high and mostly snow-capped. There seems to have been no ice age in Fantasyland, so the Mountains rise tens of thousands of feet into pointed, jagged peaks (OMT), which have evidently never suffered erosion. They are full of rocky defiles (OMT) and paths so steep you have to dismount and lead the HORSES. Almost certainly there will be at some stage a ledge along a cliff that is only a few feet wide with an immense drop the other side. This will be covered in ice. Snow will be sweeping across it. The Rule is that you are always in a hurry at this stage.

And another:

JEWELLERY. The Rule is that it all has magical purpose. The Management takes the very reasonable line that no one is going to wear or carry something just because it is pretty or beautifully made. Your pendant will always be an AMULET, your brooch a TALISMAN, and your necklace will be of CRYSTAL, which will enable you to communicate with distant friends. If you pick up a piece of Jewellery by the roadside or in a MARKET it will, whatever it looks like, turn out to have some MAGIC. Take care, however. By far the majority of Jewellery is EVIL or, if not Evil, will have conditions attached to its use. For instance, a RING can either put you under the influence of the DARK LORD or grant wishes while ageing you ten years for every wish. In Fantasyland, even Jewellery you have owned for years will turn out to be something of this kind. If you are lucky, your mother's Ring will merely bring out your latent TALENT. But don't bank on it. Be careful particularly of Jewellery pressed upon you by a dying stranger. See also JEWELS.

"(OMT)", BTW, stands for "Official Management Term":

OFFICIAL MANAGEMENT TERM (OMT) appears in this Guide where necessary and in italics. OMTs are forms of words which the Management has dreamed up for use every time a certain thing, fact, sensation, or person is mentioned. Thus STEW is thick (OMT) and savoury (OMT); HISTORY is lost (OMT); at the point where the party of Tourists is about to be attacked the very air seemed doom-ladden (OMT); and a constant COMPANION on the Tour will be the rat-faced little man (OMT). OMTs perform the same function as music in films.

This is a great book if you're a fantasy fan – you'll get many laughs out of it – but also if you're a writer — to (at the very least) be aware of the clichés and OMTs so that you can choose whether to incorporate or avoid them.

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Citation styles

Sep. 26th, 2019 | 04:51 pm

I propose that two new laws be enacted around the world: that those who demand non-standard citation styles be required to provide

  1. a justification for deviating from well-known, well-established, well-understood, sensible standards; and
  2. a biblatex style implementing said style.

Those who don't comply should be punished by being forced to write exclusively in Microsoft Word until they repent.

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Wedding poems

Sep. 21st, 2019 | 10:38 am

No idea what to write on a wedding card? Try these schnee-approved wedding poems:

Fish live in the sea,
Lizards in a grotto,
You're about to get married,
I'm about to get blotto.

Violets are blue,
Roses are red,
May you be happy together
Until you're both dead.

I'll probably come up with more later.

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The Book of Puka-Puka

Sep. 2nd, 2019 | 03:29 pm

I've finally (finally!) started reading Robert Dean Frisbie's (Ropati's) Book of Puka-Puka, which was published bvy Eland in a new edition earlier this year. And even though I've only just started I can already recommend it; it's fascinating, and written in a captivating, evocative style that draws you in and really brings those southern seas alive.

On breaking my way through the bush I closed my eyes before the glare of exposed sand and the shallow water between the reef and the shore, reflecting the full blaze of the sun like countless mirrors. The shallows were alive with cross-seas meeting in sparkling ridges of spray, falling back in dancing undulations. Miniature waves washed up on the beach, which gulped them down, leaving no backwash; and from farther out came the incessant thundering of the great Pacific combers as they rose high to crash in resounding cannonades along the reef and to spill back into the sea, exposing rust-red ridges of coral broken by pools of sea foam.

It's obvious that Ropati is a gifted author. I wish I could write like that.

EDIT: here's another short excerpt:

On the western side of Matauea Point is a half-mile stretch of shallow water, where at low tide are exposed tracts of salmon-coloured coral as flat as a table and broken by shallow basins filled with six or eight inches of tepid water where the fish find refuge until the next tide. On the northern and eastern sides of the Point are beaches of coral sand shelving steeply into water about ten fathoms deep. This makes an ideal swimming place; and, better still, one can throw a line from the bank and catch a morning's breakfast without greatly exerting oneself. Fine rock grouper are caught there, and every now and then a young jack, a milk mullet or a red-snapper will take the book. The trade wind blows refreshingly cool across the Point, clearing it of mosquitoes and singing an eternal psalm in the fronds of the coconut palms. It is a beautiful spot, and I have often fancied that when my trading days are over I would build a comfortable house on Matauea Point, devoting the rest of my days to a hedonistic, pagan life: fishing, falling to sleep among the volumes of a picaresque library, dreaming at times of the delirious, turbulent world I once knew, now happily so far away; and again at times loving some island woman with the clear-eyed appreciative passion of an old man. It would be a fitting way for an island trader to end his days; and when he closed his eyes for the last time and he was snugly buried in the clean coral sand, how well he would sleep there, the trade wind rocking the palms over his grave and the long Pacific rollers thundering along the reef offshore.

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Cases, cases

Jul. 13th, 2019 | 07:43 pm

Just like German, Icelandic has four cases (nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive), and just like in German, verbs can take objects in more than one case.[1] What's neat, though, is that (unlike in German) pretty much all combinations of cases are possible. Here are some examples:[2]

First object
(none)accusativedativegenitive
Second object(none)Það rignir.
(It rains.)
Ég keypti súkkulaði.
(I bought chocolate.)
Ég gleymdi buxunum mínum.
(I forgot my pants.)
Ég sakna hennar.
(I miss her.)
accusativeÞetta kostaði mig þúsund krónur.
(That cost me a thousand crowns.)
Hann gaf mér bókina.
(He gave me the book.)
Ég bið þig þess.
(I'm asking this of you.)
dativeLofaðu mér því.
(Promise me that.)
Hann óskaði mér alls góðs.
(He wished me all the best.)
genitive???

The only thing I haven't been able to find is a verb taking two distinct genitive objects at the same time.

There's no point to this, I just thought it was neat. :P

  1. English, of course, has only some remnants of its case system, notably in the inflection of personal pronouns; but verbs taking more than one object do occur in English as well, to wit:

    He gave me the book.

    Due to the lack of case markers the word order is less flexible, though. In German and Icelandic, for that matter), you could say both

    Er gab mir das Buch. / Hann gaf mér bókina.

    and

    Er gab das Buch mir [und nicht dir]. / Hann gaf bókina mér [en ekki þér].

    In the latter, the emphasis would be on "mir" and "mér", underlining the fact that it is in fact "me" who's given the book. In English you'd have to resort to a proposition to express the same thing:

    He gave the book to me [and not to you].

  2. BTW, if anyone's got a suggestion on how to make HTML tables look reasonably good without resorting to complicated stylesheetery that's entirely unworkable for simple LJ posts with some inline HTML, I'd love to hear it. Say what you want about the HTML of 25 years ago, but at least it works.

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Lessons (not) learned

Jul. 6th, 2019 | 01:49 pm

An interesting tidbit from the TeXhax mailing list …

Context: an inquiry about TeX packages for writing chemistry papers that would work with plain TeX, without requiring LaTeX; a pointer to https://ctan.org/topic/chemistry was provided, with the note that unfortunately this didn't allow filtering LaTeX-only packages. Another user then suggested ,,using the source`` (of the HTML page, that is), to wit:

$ wget -O - https://ctan.org/topic/chemistry 2>/dev/null | tidy -n -i -asxml 2>/dev/null - | lxprintf -e 'a[contains(@href,"/pkg/")]' "https://ctan.org%s\n" @href - | while read uri; do wget -O - $uri 2>/dev/null | tidy -n -i -asxml 2>/dev/null - | lxprintf -e 'td[.="Sources"]' "%s\n" 'following-sibling::td/a/code' -; done | grep -v latex

/biblio/bibtex/contrib/chembst
/macros/generic/chemfig
/biblio/bibtex/contrib/chem-journal
/obsolete/indexing/corridx
/biblio/bibtex/contrib/chem-journal/jcc.bst
/support/konwerter
/graphics/mcf2graph
/graphics/mol2chemfig
/support/ochem
/macros/context/current/cont-ppc.zip
/graphics/pstricks/contrib/pst-labo
/graphics/pgf/contrib/tikzorbital
/info/translations/chemsym/de
$

And another user then replied, writing:

Sometimes I just want to weep. There can be no doubt, based even on just the evidence above, that the Unix operating system is a very powerful tool, and the simple fact that one can identify all packages that do not have the string "LaTeX" (presumably case-insensitive) in their CTAN path is a clear demonstration of that fact. And yet the entire thing is gibberish. It could be Mayan, for all I know. I could stare at it for the rest of my life and still not have the slightest idea how it works. Why oh why oh why does someone not come up with a command-line interpreter (or as I fear you would call it, "a shell") that uses English verbs as its commands and Enqlish nouns/adjective/adverbs/etc as its qualifiers ? How on earth is anyone expected to know what "-i -o" implies, especially as what it implies is almost certainly a function of the command to which it is applied ? And why can one not apply 2>/dev/null distributively, such that it applies to all commands in the sequence rather than having to be spelled out in full for each.

Algol-68 showed the world how programming languages should look, feel and behave; VAX/VMS did the same for operating systems. But the world was too stupid to see their strengths, and abandoned them in favour of C and Unix. As I wrote before, I weep.

I'm inclined to agree re: the ,,gibberish`` part – not necessarily that you couldn't learn it if you stared at it for the rest of your life –, but what I found most intriguing were the remarks re: Algol-68 and VMS. Not having used either, I'm curious how they did better than C and Unix, and what lessons we could have learned, but chose not to.

Disclaimer: I like Unix, and I think the problem here isn't just with obscure syntax but also the simple fact you need to extract links from an HTML document, rather than parse a plaintext file. I'm no friend of C, though, which I think is a bit dishonest — it masquerades as a high-level language, even though it's anything but. (And (modern) C compilers are actively looking for ways to stab you in the back at every opportunity, though that's the fault of those compilers' designers and programmers more than the language proper.)

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Disabling the blurry login screen background in Windows 10 1903+

Jun. 28th, 2019 | 06:20 pm

The title says it all, and it's simple, if you know how — it's not in your regular settings:

  1. open the Group Policy Editor (use Search to search for "group policy" or so, or run gpedit.msc);
  2. go to Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > System > Logon;
  3. select Show clear logon background; and
  4. set this to Enabled.

Oh yeah, and

  1. reboot,

because even in 2019 Windows is not able to change simple system settings (we're not exactly talking deep kernel internals here, folks) without a reboot. :P

After that, it should work. (But don't ask me why this setting doesn't have a, well, setting, in Settings. Also, don't ask me who at Microsoft decided that this looked good in the first place)

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R.I.P., Dr John

Jun. 7th, 2019 | 07:09 am

Dr. John, the famous New Orleans blues musician, the night tripper, le grand zombie, has died. I'm honestly not sure what to write here that would do him justice.

Not that I'm too terribly familiar with his œuvre. I only have one of his albums, Gris-gris; he's one of those musicians you feel you should listen to more, but then you never get the opportunity to do so.

You may also know him from the movie Blues Brothers 2000, BTW, in which he sang Season of the Witch.

My thoughts are with his loved ones, his family and his friends.

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