Older blog entries for hypatia (starting at number 73)

19 May 2004 (updated 19 May 2004 at 11:56 UTC) »

Trip planning

I've been planning a world trip for ages, but never to the point before where I've actually assembled cash. It was originally planned for the end of 2001, when spiv finished university and I finished my comp sci and maths degree — clearly that never happened.

However, this time I have funds earmarked. and spiv has funds set aside through the Nature of Spiv, which involves always earning twice what your needs demand, or alternatively desiring to spend only half of what you earn. And there's some odds in favour of spiv being actually able to work on the road and therefore able to come, although we may well be misjudging.

Here's the rough schedule, open to change by up to a month in either direction at this stage, and subject to the deletion of entire continents at will:

  • mid September-early October: North America. Definite stops: Pan Alto (Stanford), New York. Likely stops: DC.
  • early October - November: Europe. Definite stops: London. Likely stops: Spain, Czech Republic, Latvia.
  • late November (in the unlikely event we can afford this): Asia. No idea what we'd do here. Well, lots of ideas, no commitments. Japan is the most likely of about a million choices.

Assuming funds are available, and I'm sure I am being laughable optimistic, adding two or three more stops on each continent would be really great. I'm toying with driving across the USA, but I think it's just the challenge of reversing all my reflexes, and isn't as good an idea as it sounds.

Where my loyal readers come in

Here is your once in a lifetime* opportunity to influence our itinerary! If you what to put your oar in concerning any of the following, please do:

  • travel tips (no, seriously, I love that kind of thing, unload your advice onto me);
  • must see countries/towns/secessionist villas that somehow have been left off my detailed plans above;
  • cheap places to stay, with convenient access to natural beauty, art museums, sites of interest to a nascent WWII nut, Twisted hackers, LinuxChix chapters, bloggers I want to fangirl or weirdly cheap pre-winter snowboarding sites with lots of beginners runs; or
  • people we know of who have floorspace available in any continent mentioned above and are willing to have us stay. (I hope this goes without saying: noone should feel obliged.)

Our itinerary, at least until Asia, is going to be influenced equally by the properties 'cheap', 'good', and 'proximity to people we want to meet', travelling salesman problems and "pick any two of three" taunts notwithstanding.

Please note that a hypatia lifetime, patent pending, is a duration of not less than about three years. I've got enough upheavals planned for the next three years without suddenly jetting around the world again. Moving is conceivably a different matter.

26 Apr 2004 (updated 26 Apr 2004 at 14:02 UTC) »

Backwards vATTIC

Backwards is the backend system for puzzling.org that I've sunk somewhere between 60-100 hours of my life into. Of all the coding projects I've ever done, it contains the single largest set of ideas in one body of code. It's also single-handedly tripled my knowledge of Twisted style asynchronous programming.

Unfortunately, all that was the means to an end, and the end is that, for the foreseeable future, I'm left with 2000 lines of unusable code and a website which I'll be continuing to maintain entirely by hand. I'm not a very means-to-an-end type person either: my projects are fuelled by delayed gratification. These days I'm losing at the reward end of all my projects.

I'm not at all tempermentally suited to this kind of thing. Mind you, the intersection of the sets of things I'm good at and things the set of things I'm tempermentally suited for remains at cardinality one ({reading}). Intersect that with the things someone will pay me to do, and we're back to the empty set.

Well, so much for Backwards. I suppose I'll dig it out in six months or so, re-write it to use whatever the Nevow design pattern is at the time, and use it as a platform to document my search for an alternative career or ongoing love-hate relationship with programming, or something. In the meantime, no new purty stylesheets for you!

23 Apr 2004 (updated 23 Apr 2004 at 04:48 UTC) »

live.linuxchix.org and planet.twistedmatrix.com

For the readers of my two aggregators, apologies about the downtime (or rather, misconfiguration) this morning that resulted in these sites (and others) vanishing for a time. It's just as well we aren't paying for 99.9% uptime, because I think our host would have lost it overnight by replacing our virtual machine with a cPanel!


Graduated (again) this morning. It was a hot day for academic dress :(

15 Apr 2004 (updated 15 Apr 2004 at 09:44 UTC) »

Cool code of the week

Hats off to pppoeconf. It's all so simple, post wailing and gnashing of teeth. (You think I speak figuratively? Not so! There's a reason I'm not employed as a sysadmin.) Put ADSL modem in bridge mode, time expenditure until Eureka: some hours. pppoeconf, time expenditure until pon: 1 minute. Done!

And now that I have returned to the land of broadband, I hope never to have to look at the Whirlpool forums ever again.

12 Apr 2004 (updated 12 Apr 2004 at 03:25 UTC) »

The eaters of writing

I can now add logjam (segfaults on file save failure or something like it), and the unholy combination of Perspective Broker, Movable Type and Mozilla Firefox (PB loses the connection, Firefox loses a large chunk of the text when I hit 'Back' and MT saves using the web connection... yeah, the one that just broke) to the list of products that have now cost me hours of writing which I will never be able to recreate.

So, when answering the question "when doing something like browsing my email [or other text writing], what is it that I use a non-web-based client for?" my answer is "stopping me from having to rewrite pieces of writing I was much happier with the first time, and also from letting out heart-felt yells that wake the entire household."

I thought losing a long Advogato entry at lca was enough to teach me this lesson but it wasn't. Here we go again: Never ever write anything you'd be sad to lose in anything other than a text editor written by crazy pedantic hackers with wrist problems, ideally ones who have revisions in their swap files.

Anyone other than crazy pedantic hackers with wrist problems seems a bit cavalier about all that junk that you foolishly left in RAM. Crashes while saving are particularly unforgivable. I write anything longer than a paragraph in web-based clients when hell freezes over or <textarea> entries are considered sacred, whatever happens first.


Linux Australia has opened their campaign against clauses of the recent US-Australia trade agreement. Relevant issues are Australian anti-circumvention and software patent laws.

If I have time to work up a response for the Senate committee, I'll probably make it available here.


For me, learning Perl has been like giving up smoking. In fact, until recently they were even more remarkably similar in that I'd never learned Perl and never given up (or taken up) smoking. But the current similarity is that just as it takes many smokers several serious attempts to quit, it took me several attempts to learn Perl.

I'm not sure was I was ever trying to learn it at all. I think I was still, years later, held in the web of How to become a hacker. I always got caught on the rocks of trying to program Perl with my Python idioms which involve rapidly evolved steep class hierachies and heavy reliance on nested data structures and was quickly dashed up against Perl's references, or references syntax at least.

This time though I was learning Perl for work, which is like giving up smoking for a partner: an added incentive and a position in which it is difficult to admit failure. I'm sure my Perl looks exactly what a Python programmer's Perl always looks like too.


I'm told going overseas makes sense. What kind of sense, I'm yet to determine.


Just as my formal involvement in SLUG is about to end (a new committee is being elected Friday night, and I'm not standing), I find that I'm putting a lot of time and thought into it again. But... I'm still not standing. I figure that being able to choose my level of involvement will stop me periodically burning out and getting resentful.

Also, I can then focus on helping get hacksig off the ground. I've gotten just about everything I need from SLUG in terms of using Linux. I'm not personally interested in advocacy, except possibly in the legal arena. Clearly, a programming group is the next step.


I'm well past where I ever expected to get with Linux: I'm a competent single machine or home network, small-size, non-critical sysadmin. Finding that out was nearly as big a surprise as finding out that I was confident programming.

But I don't want to go any further with it. I try not to make decisions like this: I am generally uncomfortable with saying I want no more knowledge. But honestly, I know what I want to know. Need only, not desire, will push me further.


Twisted is a whole other kettle of fish. I find that I need to find a four or five hour solid block of time to get writing done, and I only have that time on weekends. But weekends also have the unfortunate side-effect of containing family birthdays, moving days and house cleaning.

To be fair, I've spent the last few weeks working (finally! finally!) on the re-write of my website that has been on the drawing board for well over two years. It is somewhere between three and six hours from deployment. During that time, I've spent zero hours writing documentation.

I feel silly in many ways putting so much effort into a website. It's certainly not something that people seem to admire. I'm putting a negative spin on everyone's reactions there though. Most people I know are programmers, and a large number of them simply don't like writing, or don't like it enough to want to build a house for their writing. I do like it, and building a CMS is a natural consequence. Or so I will maintain from here on in.

Aside from this, while my wrist pain has improved with a better arrangement at work, I do need to be careful about typing when I'm not being paid for it. I need some HTML macros for my editor (stat) because the < and > signs seem to bring on weakness and discomfort quickly.

Travel plans

I'm planning to zip around the world, or parts thereof, starting in September or so. I'd better hurry up, I'm not even at the budgeting stage.

Life plans

It is suddenly horribly clear that I need to decide whether to do a PhD and where to do this hypothetical degree in a hurry. I need to have a supervisor and some kind of topic before I leave Australia in September if I'm to do it here, and I need to think about funding, GREs, applications, interviews, visas and spiv if I want to do it in the UK or US. (If I do it in the US, I also need to think bout all that time.) And if I don't do it, I should think about what the hell else to do. I envy spiv his attachment to programming as a vocation, I myself am simply part of the indecisive masses.

It's been at least a couple of years since I really settled into programming. I can take code and change it without understanding the whole thing. I can guess at the function of libraries, or read their source to find what I need. I write some amount of code that 'just works'.

But it still surprises me, every time.

23 Feb 2004 (updated 23 Feb 2004 at 10:36 UTC) »

Today the first pain of RSS-as-anything-at-all bit me, with someone on Planet Twisted embedding very wide text in <pre> tags, causing (for most viewers, not for me) the main column to expand to the right to accomodate the rogue <pre>.

I got a nice mail suggesting that the cross browser fix for this is to convert:

<pre> blah  blahblah


<div style="font-family:monospace;">
blah&nbsp;&nbsp;blahblah<br> blah</div>

(There's not meant to be a line-wrap in that second example, but I'm being kind to the Planet Twisted readers — oh, rendering HTML in HTML is hard!)

But let's face it, fixing other people's HTML for them is nightmarish. Start with <pre> tags, end up with... well, writing a complete HTML parser/sanitiser for Planet. So I'm being a wimp and not doing it. I hope.

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