Older blog entries for jfleck (starting at number 302)

I spent time last night and this morning reading my .emacs file. This might seem an odd exercise, but I use emacs for all my writing, but aside from stealing a bunch of code from other people years ago I've never really spent any time customizing it, which is silly, given that customization is the whole point of emacs. So after poking around in an old emacs book, I customized (fill-individual-paragraphs! cool!)
I've been a bit of a slacker in dealing with the gnome docs organization problem, which over-arches a number of our other issues, so I started installing Lampadas last night (which is to say I started installing the depencies). Some good overview docs from dmerrill and David and Alexander Bartolich have written a useful guide to the dragons lurking in the installation process. I quote:
Installation of lampadas is a bloody mess.

Part of my curiosity stems from my need to manage all the docs I write on my own computer, and I figure learning how Lampadas addresses those issues will give me a good foothold in understanding how it will work with our gnome docs.
virtual life
Just noticed my late sister-in-law's entry in my Evolution address book. What do I do? I guess in a physical address book it would stay forever, and the act of deleting it seems so harsh. So save it I will.
lsdrocha: Your evangelism is for sure worthy of apprentice certification. Good work.
my week
I've been largely away from the computer this week. Spent most of the week down in Carlsbad, N.M., where I toured the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. In simple terms, it's a nuclear waste dump, the first of its kind in the world. The folks who work on it despair of the word "dump", preferring "deep geologic repository" or words to that effect, and they have some right to their linguistic claim. "Dump" implies big bulldozers and piles of dirt - this thing is highly engineered and meticulously clean and carefully done, so maybe "dump" isn't quite right.

It's a mine 2,150 feet deep, with the waste - plutonium-contaminated stuff from nuclear weapons manufacture - entombed in football field-sized rooms carved out of the salt beds. Over time, the salt "creeps" in and encloses the waste. It's been open and accepting waste since March 1999 after more than two decades of planning and development. I've written about it off and on for years, but haven't much lately, and haven't been underground to see it since they started dumping, err, I mean depositing stuff in it for real. It was a good trip.
GNOME doc stuff
There are a couple of GNOME docs projects I need to get organized and off the ground that have been lingering without momentum but need to get done.
  • The Web. We need to set up a system to get our docs displayed on the web. Lampadas may take care of this for us, but we may need something different/sooner.
  • Indexing. We've got index tags in a lot of our docs. I've gotta figure out how to get generated indexing going.
  • Translations. We really need a plan for what to do once we get all the docs translations Sun is planning. For some packages, they'll add a huge amount of bloat. Do we make locale-specific packages?
  • Docs build. There's been a lot of discussion about a better docs build system, and Malcolm's got some plans underway. I must poke and prod.
Gee, that's more than "a couple", isn't it?

I need a bike ride.

Just got word I've been accepted to a week-long program at MIT to learn about genetic research.
Mom and Dad came over for dinner, and Dad brought the pictures he took at the Grand Canyon. I snagged and scanned and threw some of them up. (Played a little bit if GIMP on them because my scanner doesn't quite do them justice.) Dad's an artist - note the painterly composition. But really, how can you go wrong with The Canyon?
Anyone here know anything about street sign research? It seems to me that it might have a great deal to say about UI design. At its best, good road signs are crisp, minimal communication tools - icons warning us of dangers ahead, directional signs telling us where to turn. At their worst, they're a UI disaster, all cluttered as business after business competes for our visual attention. I'll bet the people who do this stuff have a great base of data from which we could learn.
the canyon
There is a close parallel for me in standing before Nude Descending a Staircase and the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. It's a sort of gut-clunching, teary feeling, as if I am looking upon something importantly beautiful but slightly beyond me, something difficult to understand. Great feeling, to be repeated whenever possible. In other words, mom and dad and I had a great trip to the Grand Canyon.

Like icing on the limestone layer cake (he said, brutally mixing his metaphors) I saw a California condor, so large and very endangered but serene sitting on a tawny outcrop just below the rim with no understanding of his special place in the world.
crowd size
telsa: Crowd size is a bugagoo for both cops and journalists. I did stories years ago about the size of the crowd at the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., on New Year's Day. Every year, the cops would say there were a million people watching the parade, and I wondered how they knew. They told me they flew over in a helicopter and said, in essence, "Yup, looks like about a million people.". We did some elementary arithmetic, and concluded that it was physically impossible to fit a million people onto the sidewalks of Pasadena. There just wasn't room. So my colleagues and I made an attempt at rigorous crowd counts, measuring sections of street at various points along the route and counting the people and doing the math. The result was a crowd of about 300,000, give or take 50,000. We wrote the story for the newspaper gleefully. And now, every year, I read the wire stories out of Pasadena and every year the cops still say there are a million people at the Rose Parade. Oh well.

Last fall, I was covering an anti-war rally at the university here, and one of the organizers complained about the crowd size estimate we had run in the newspaper for a demonstration they'd held the week before. So when the group went on the march, I just counted them all. Didn't take too long, and I had a real number.
road trip
Taking off tomorrow for a long weekend at the Grand Canyon with Mom and Pop. I love the canyon, but this is most about spending some time with the folks.
error messages
For everyone who has ever bemoaned or mocked those terse and unhelpful error messages software spits out at us (and who hasn't?), there is this, from a talk by high performance computing pioneer Roger Lazarus. He's talking about SEAC, an old behemoth with just 1024 words of memory and an apparently unpredictable nature:
Los Alamos users also trained the cantankerous machine to print out a tell-tale warning in case of major errors: "CALL A CAB."

"When that happened, we'd go home and leave it to the engineers," Lazarus said.

no wimps here
Now that is a bike race.

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