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Hacker's Diary

A rough account of what I did with Emacs recently.

December 31
Elsewhere, I'm still tapping away at some family history stuff. In doing so, I came across this:

Such land as has a turfy sod, and will neither bring barley, or other grain, it is adviseable to grass up the turf sods and burn them, afterwards to set potatoes on the spread ashes, which trench so deep as to bring up sufficient mold and clay to cover them, and to mix the remaining turf un-burnt, to make mold hereafter. Ground so ordered will bring a good crop of potatoes, and afterwards a crop of oats. If the potatoes be set in January or the beginning of February, and are of the kidney kind, they may be dug out in July, or the beginning of August, and turnip seed may then be sown, which will be fit to pull and clear off the ground by the time they plow it for oats; so that in a year and a half there may be had three crops out of this sort of land, which in its own nature was not worth a shilling, and in some places not six-pence an acre. If the potatoes be dug in September or October, turnip seed then sown, will be fit for the pasture of sheep or black cattle till the time of plowing for oats, which in such sort of land will be best in March.

It may be objected, that if the inland parts of this kingdom, having such ground, should run much into this potatoe culture, that our markets would be glutted with them. In answer to which I would offer, that the main design is to alter the nature of such lands, and make them arrable, and it is impossible there can be a glut, when hogs are fattened with potatoes, which pork is excellent in its kind, will afford a good price, and is easily brought to market, and that without this management such lands cannot be made arrable.

- from The Antient and Present State of the County and City of Waterford, Charles Smith, MDCCXLVI (1754)
Typos are as-is (including the year, which aside from the odd formatting of "XLVI" actually looks like it should have been 1745), the only change I made was to convert the old-style "s" to a regular one. The reason I'm quoting this here is that this is basically a surveyor of sorts suggesting that what these Waterford Irish really need to do with their land is turn it over to growing potatoes. The long-term results of this are, of course, history.

December 30
Bit of a Frankenstein's Monster setup now: the RSS toy is still running as a Perl CGI, but the callbacks to get various bits of content are hitting a Django application. Getting there, as they say.

Many movies are being watched, but nothing I haven't seen before, so I'm not bothering to note them here.

December 27
At this point, the python version of the RSS Toy's "get all my stuff to read" is roughly as functional as the Perl one. What I've not fully verified is if it does the same sort of stuff the way I want, such as detecting when a story's RSS summary has changed over time. I'll need to run it a few times against BBC's newsfeed to test that, I think, since they tend to do a lot of headline and summary tweaking during the lifetime of a story.

December 25
Merry Christmas!

It's been a while. I've been in Rome on a pre-Christmas vacation, during which I read a bunch of books but watched no movies as the flights didn't come with in-flight entertainment and the hotel TV was, with the exception of some news channels, entirely in Italian.

Playing around some more with Pythonista; I managed to turn out a functional if not entirely pretty Mandelbrot set toy; the processing speed is disappointingly slow, but the ease of putting together an app with full-screen graphic display and touchscreen gestures was pretty impressive. Less impressive was the various attempts I made to multitask the toy: ideally, you want your UI to be in one thread, and your mandelbrot set generation in another, typically updating an offscreen bitmap that gets blitted to the screen periodically; in practice I couldn't figure out how to get anything close to this, since Pythonista comes with threading but no multiprocessing, and when I tried to use it it crashed out of the entire app. While it's possible this was user error on my part, it's disappointing that I was able to do this - maybe it's a bit much to expect that the app would capture interpreter-level crashes and prevent you from getting dumped out to the launcher.

Still, it was fun to be able to knock this out in a short time and play with it. Now I want a desktop version of the app!

December 8
While working with all this Python/Perl stuff I'm seeing inexplicable stalls in scripts, typically when something databasey is happening. I'd rather not have to interrupt my unicode abuse to go deep-diving a noddy database.

In the end I wound up restarting the laptop: various other things were starting to act weird, and when I did opt for the restart it wouldn't do so cleanly. Awesome. And then, of course, it didn't actually cure the original problem, and now I'm wondering if I need to do that database deep-dive after all.

December 7
Still working my way through The Sopranos - I'm over half-way through Season 3 - and I'm still finding roughly the same set of things as I'd said early on: there are characters in it for whom I'm eagerly anticipating the inevitable write-out, there are some inconsistencies with Tony's level of intelligence (just this past episode he made some passing literary reference that was fairly impressive, followed a couple of scenes later - or preceded a few scenes earlier, I don't recall - by him not even recognising the name of some other culturally equivalent thing), and I'm still not feeling the addictive draw of the show that I've felt with other series. Still, at this point I feel somewhat obliged to see it through. Don't get me wrong, I'm not hating it, just that it doesn't feel like the compulsive must-watch TV I understood it to be.

December 4
Continued adventures in attempting to coerce Perl and Python to speak the same text-munging protocol, I find that Perl assumes you want all your LOCALE and UNICODE in your \w, while Python assumes you don't, and making the two converge is a bit more of a pain than I first imagined.

The general gist of what I'm trying to get to here is that I have a hashing function that tries to generate a unique signature for a given entry in an RSS feed (handwaving why this might be a thing I require), and in order to avoid various problems I'm attempting to generate the same hash from Perl and Python by beating the two of them in each others' directions until they agree on the entire collection of test data I'm throwing at them. Python keeps breaking on things that involve unicode, and while I understand why, it's still annoying to deal with. On the plus side, I will have a pretty much unicode-clean setup when this is done.

December 1
D'oh. I allowed my StartCOM SSL cert to expire, so I had to reregister with them to get my account back in order. Thankfully, their customer service is pretty awesome even on a Sunday afternoon.

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