# Diary

Welcome!

This is both a wiki (a website editable by all) and a blog (an online diary about the stuff AlexSchroeder reads and does). If you’re a friend or relative, you might be interested in reading Life instead of this page. If you’ve come here from an RPG blog, you might want to head over to RPG. There are other similar categories to be found on the SiteMap.

Für Rollenspieler gibt es ebenfalls eine eigene RSP Kategorie.

# 2015-06-29 Über die Rhetorik

Als ich etwa zwanzig war – wohl schon etwas vorher – fand ich mich so scharfsinnig und so redegewandt, ich dachte, ich könne es mit jedem aufnehmen. Insbesondere mit den Erwachsenen! Mit den Freunden führten wir hitzige Wortgefechte und führten uns auf wie Kinder, die miteinander raufen. Klar, so üben die Kleinen.

Erst mit den Jahren merkte ich, dass mein Auftreten, mein Diskussions-Stil dazu führte, dass man den Diskussionen mit mir aktiv aus dem Weg ging. Mit der Zeit legte sich meine Rechthaberei.

Noch ein paar Jahre später – vielleicht war ich da schon dreissig – merkte ich, dass es oft gar nichts brachte, Recht zu haben. Hierfür gab es verschiedene Gründe. Gewissen Leuten war der Diskussions-Stil mit Argumenten dafür und dagegen fremd. Nach einer Weile wussten sie nicht mehr, was man denn noch sagen “durfte” und sagten lieber nichts mehr. Was aber nicht bedeutete, dass ich sie überzeugt hatte. Oder eine Diskussion wurde mit Allgemeinplätzen beenden. “Da kann man halt nichts machen.” Ja hallo, wenn jegliche Reaktion darauf egal ist, warum haben wir denn darüber geredet?

Oft hatte ich übersehen, dass es verschiedene Gründe für ein Gespräch gibt. Man will sich gegenseitig überzeugen. Man will sich gegenseitig kennen lernen. Man will die Zeit überbrücken. Ich dachte oft, small talk sei Zeitverschwendung. Wer so denkt, versteht nicht, dass small talk ein notwendiger Schritt ist, um eine Beziehung aufbauen zu können. Hier werden grundsätzliche Kompatibilitäten geprüft.

Auch der Umgang mit irrationalen Argumenten musste geübt werden. Ich musste nämlich mit erstaunen feststellen, dass nicht alle davon überzeugt waren, dass rationale Argumente die einzigen Argumente sind. Wer Angst hat, wer traurig ist, den kann man mit rationalen Argument nicht trösten. Wer verliebt ist, den kann man mit rationalen Argumenten nicht warnen. Wer zögert, den kann man mit rationalen Argumenten nicht ermutigen. Aber manchmal kann man mit irrationalen Argumenten etwas erreichen. Eine Ablenkung, ein scheinbar unzusammenhängender Satz, ein Argument, welches nichts zur Sache tut und “trotzdem” wahr ist, ein Bild, eine Pause wie ein leiser Paukenschlag, ein kurzer Moment der Ergriffenheit, des Rapports, ein unwillkürliches Mitnicken. Das waren meine neuen Werkzeuge.

Und selbst jetzt, mit über vierzig Jahren, lerne ich noch hinzu. Über den Aufbau, Kreise innerhalb von Kreisen, Rückgriffe und Vorankündigungen. Wie kommt es überhaupt dazu, dass die Leute uns zuhören wollen?

Ein gutes Beispiel hierfür ist die Verwendung der Gnade Gottes, grace, in Obamas Eulogie für Rev. Clementa Pinckney. Er denkt nach über grace. Er sieht Gottes Hand in den Ereignissen. Grace. Der Mörder konnte nicht wissen, was geschehen würde. Grace. Amazing Grace. Das Publikum erkennt den Liedanfang, aber Obama hält sich zurück, bringt die Zeilen so, dass man aufstehen will, es aber nicht tut. Dann redet er weiter. Über die Gesellschaft, die Gewalt, den Rassismus, über unsere Aufgabe in dieser Welt, und dass unsere Taten der Gnade Gottes Ausdruck verleihen sollen. Der Gnade Gottes. Grace. Amazing Grace. Und dann singt er. President Barack Obama delievered the eulogy at the funeral for Rev. Clementa Pinckney. Transcript.

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# 2015-06-29 Xbox360 Red Ring of Death (three red lights)

It’s been a while. I still play games on my Xbox360. But today I got a red ring of death and it isn’t going away. Three red lights. Apparently that indicates a failure in the power supply? I think I’m going to try and open it and reapply that cooling paste.

I just watched this tutorial on YouTube and it seems quite doable: Red Ring Of Death FIX Tutorial Xbox 360. I needs some help and encouragement to get the plastic top off.

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# 2015-06-29 On the Supreme Court Decision

The decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to allow same-sex marriage in the United States has led to think about the situation in Switzerland and about the role of a constitution.

In Switzerland, a popular initiative can add amendments to the constitution, but we have no constitutional court to enforce these. All the constitution does is say that parliament ought to pass laws to make it real. Then parliament can’t agree on a law, these amendments linger for many years, decades even. I’ve heard it said that this construction was made on purpose. Why have a court to make these decisions if you can simply vote in a different parliament. The idea is that you just add more democracy, I guess.

I just think it’s interesting that there are alternative thoughts on this and some do not require undemocratic elections for life of powerful people.

When comparing a high court of justices for life and an inactive parliament, I think the inactive parliament has more democratic potential because in a few years, I can vote for a new parliament. So, for the moment: not much different. As a political institution: it’s better if you can change your vote.

And yes, of course a democracy usually goes hand in hand with the rule of law, a constitution that protects minorities, and many other institutional and cultural norms. You can vote in Russia, in Iran, in the USA, and still you’ll find powerful forces affecting your freedoms: existing legislation preventing the establishment of a viable alternative, financial incentives preventing the growth of viable alternatives, existing institutions preventing the implementation of meaningful change. Voting alone is not enough.

Note that as far as the US goes, I think what makes it impossible for me to be very enthusiastic about decisions of the supreme court I happen to like or the election of presidents I like is that I know full well that the voters that disagree with me are still there, they still make up about half of the population, we won but we didn’t convince. So yes, as far as I am concerned, Love Wins and Thanks Obama Unironically and all that. But the others are still there. The US system of legal and cultural norms, of financial pressures, of all the things that are not about the actual voting, made it impossible to reach out and make those positive steps together. After the fight is before the fight. No matter who wins, the other side is determined to fight harder next time. None of the news that reaches me across the Atlantic gives me hope regarding any sort of healing. Perhaps this is part of our Zeitgeist for the moment. Or perhaps it has always been thus and I’ve just grown older, and more tired.

Also note that same-sex couples still don't get the exact same rights and protections in Switzerland.

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# 2015-06-25 The Long Campaign

Stargazer recently said, “I suck at running campaigns.” I was reminded of how I try and run a persisten campaign setting.

If you want to run longer campaigns, this is what I’m doing: My campaign world is infinite. Planes, other continents, from dinosaurs to lasers, it’s all there. And even if I want to combine two settings, I’ll use Planescape ideas to connect them, bend a little here and there, no problem. Then, players have an effect on the setting, change it. This is cool. It can be a short campaign of six sessions (that’s not what I do, though). The next campaign will be somewhat related. It takes place nearby. A few years in the future. In an alternate plane that involved the old campaign somehow. And that’s how the campaign transcends characters and rules. Use D&D 3.5 for a bunch of characters. Then use Solar System for a bunch of characters. Then use Labyrinth Lord for a bunch of characters. Then move to the Astral Sea. Then play some first level characters doing jobs for the high level characters. Then switch to the high level characters again. And if that gets boring, let’s see about marriage and children. Let’s play the kids!

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# 2015-06-24 Emacs Live

I’ve been trying to switch from my own Emacs setup to Emacs Live. Some things are great. Some things… I don’t know. They need a lot of getting used to.

I’ve created my own pack in ~/elisp/alex-pack.

In ~/.emacs-live.el:

(live-add-packs '(~/elisp/alex-pack))

Paredit is messing with how I navigate using Control + Arrow Keys.

In my own pack, ~/elisp/alex-pack/init.el:

(dolist (x '(scheme emacs-lisp lisp clojure))
(let ((hook (intern (concat (symbol-name x) "-mode-hook"))))
(set hook (delq 'enable-paredit-mode (symbol-value hook)))))

Delete Trailing Whitespace Mode deleted some non-breaking spaces in my SVG document. This may be an indication that I should write better SVG.

In my own pack, ~/elisp/alex-pack/init.el:

(setq before-save-hook
(delq 'live-clenup-whitespace before-save-hook))

Changing how C-h works. Help is now on M-h. I’ll adapt. Except I’ve found modes where M-h does describe-mode and that confuses me. I think I’m going to stop using the bindings pack provided by Emacs Live.

In ~/.emacs-live.el:

(setq live-packs (delete "stable/bindings-pack" live-packs))

Ispell no longer shows any content in the *Choices* buffer/window. What’s up?

I have trouble accessing the file open history using <up> or M-p. Similarly, I can’t edit the filename using <left> or <right>. What’s up? I think I’m going to disable Ido mode for find-file.

In my own pack, ~/elisp/alex-pack/init.el:

(ido-mode 'buffers)

I like the some of the fontification, but it turns out that I’m starting to confuse the Emacs frame with terminal windows. So I think I’m going to stop using the colour pack provided by Emacs Live.

In ~/.emacs-live.el:

(setq live-packs (delete "stable/colour-pack" live-packs))

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# 2015-06-24 Die Männerwelt

Die Daten zum Geschlechterverhältnis im Geschäft sind etwas besser als zur Zeiten meiner Mittelschule, die ich hier in der Schweiz in reinen Männerklassen verbringen musste. Danke an all diejenigen, die sich dafür einsetzen, dass mein Arbeitsumfeld etwas normaler wird!

Nach dem Export aus unserem CRM:

Die Frauenquote im Informatikstudium bleibt in der Schweiz erschreckend tief. Wikipedia zitiert Eurostat, wo die Schweiz im Jahr 2012 die schlechteste Quote hatte (unter 7%). Wenn man sich die Sache mit den Abschlüssen selber mal anschaut (EF48 für Informatik, DE und CH, ED5_6 für erste und zweite Phase des Tertiärbereichs) sieht man, das die Situation nicht nur schlecht ist sondern auch noch laufend schlechter wird.

Für das Jahr 2012 gab es nur noch 145 Informatikabschlüsse für Frauen. Wir haben hier in der Schweiz ein kulturelles Problem.

Wenn man auf dieser OECD Seite über Hochschulabschlüsse nachschaut, sieht man ebenfalls, wie schlecht es um die Schweiz steht. Wir sind die Letzten.

Auch der Lohnunterschied bleibt enttäuschend gross. Beim Pay Gap steht die Schweiz laut OECD auch nicht besonders gut da, und Deutschland nur wenig besser. Ich hoffe, mein Arbeitgeber trifft hier die richtigen Entscheidungen.

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Oh wow, Estonia…

AlexDaniel 2015-06-24 22:44 UTC

– Alex Schroeder 2015-06-25 05:15 UTC

# 2015-06-22 On Background Music

When I started listening to podcasts, I felt that there was a world of fan made audio content out there, and it was new and exciting, news for the people, by the people, on the topics I cared about. Mostly: gaming.

But then I started noticing that these people were rambling. Editing was poor. People just do not like to cut material, I guess. I felt like I was reading long and rambling blog posts. And I was. How refreshing to have professional radio programs that are live. The need to end at the exact second. And the skill these people have! Thinking Allowed. In Our Time. British progammes by the BBC. I was unhappy. Why was Switzerland not doing something similar? Why did I know more about the Royal Society than about whatever we are doing here in Switzerland?

Later I started to notice the longer podcasts by the American National Public Radio, and the Public Radio Exchange, via podcasts such as This American Life and 99% Invisible. These programs are longer. They are scripted, cut, edited; there are pauses for emphasis; and the emptiness between the words is filled by music. A background music that elevates the mere spoken words to something else. They add poetry. They push the emotional buttons. They add another layer to the stories told. I love those low hums, drones, those electronic blips and bloops. A pause. A zone. A sound.

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Comments on 2015-06-22 On Background Music

Thinking Allowed – what a name! But the problem I am having with podcasts is that I cannot concentrate on anything if something interesting is happening in the background. That is, any background noise does not allow me to think about my stuff. So, to me podcasts are not “Background Music“, more like main activity…

How do you handle that? Do you have some secondary brain that you are hiding?

AlexDaniel 2015-06-23 22:09 UTC

Haha, no indeed. I can only listen to podcasts while walking. Walking requires very little brain. I walk to work and back. Each leg takes a bit more than half an hour. I can listen to podcasts while doing household chores, but only when doing repetitive stuff.

– Alex Schroeder 2015-06-24 09:47 UTC

# 2015-06-21 Jessie

I upgraded my old Apple iBook G4 (PowerPC architecture!) from Debian Wheezy to Jessie. And I was greeted with a black screen. I rebooted and watched the text scrolling by. Something failed about Load Kernel Modules. Something else failed about LSB. Nothing serious? The text console login prompt, and then a black screen and the ventilator blowing.

I had never figured out how to switch from X11 to the consoles on my iBook. But now I was determined to figure it out! I had seen the prompt, after all. It turns out that I need to press fn + ctrl + alt + cmd + F1.

OK. Looks like no GDM3? I’m going to install the display manager slim and hope that this is enough. Time passes. Wow, I am greeted by a display that looks like a CGA display with four colors? Maybe six colors? It’s terrible. But I see a Debian logo, and a user name prompt. I’m logging in!

And… All the colors are wrong. I feel like my entire desktop has been resampled. Ough! My eyes! I’m going to install xdm… Rebooting… And the graphics are unchanged. Damn!

When I switch to the console, run Emacs, and call M-x list-colors-display I see the colors just fine even if the entire screen is terribly dark. Answering Linux nouveau.noaccel=1 to the second boot prompt also didn’t solve my problem.

For the moment I uninstalled all display managers (no xdm, no gdm3) and so the system just shows the console login prompts when I boot. Too bad the damn stuff is so dark I can’t use the laptop during the daylight.

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# 2015-06-15 Soundscapes

Recently, I was reading a piece on Wired about the music of Holly Herndon and how it relates to the NSA and our loss of trust in the institutions of our government. That’s my take, at least. I was fascinated and searched for he on YouTube ended up listing to this one hour interview where she talks about the sound of Now. What do cities sound like? What should electric cars sound like? And it goes on from there. How to play music on the laptop, what sounds it plays. Avatars as extensions of ourselves. The rights you have regarding your physical body and the rights you lack regarding your digital “body”.

I always think about the historical perspective. How singing and drumming developed, changed, the necessity of physical implements, the relation of the visual input to the audio – do we see people playing? I remember arguing that synthesizers are better than electric guitars with my step brother in the eighties. I remember being fascinated with drum machines when I discovered The Sisters of Mercy. And trackers on the C64. Consider the PixiTracker (also on YouTube). It’s great. Electronic music. The deconstruction of pop music.

And now I’m listening to an episode of 99% Percent Invisible on the Symphony of Sirens. Arseny Avraamov was interested in the sound of Now. He wanted to make a symphony about the feeling of a nation being born, an industrial revolution unleashed, a revolution ongoing. As Wikipedia describes it: This piece involved navy ship sirens and whistles, bus and car horns, factory sirens, cannons, the foghorns of the entire Soviet flotilla in the Caspian Sea, artillery guns, machine guns, hydro-airplanes, a specially designed “whistle main,” and renderings of Internationale and Marseillaise by a mass band and choir. The piece was conducted by a team of conductors using flags and pistols.

Holly Herndon mentioned the programming language ChucK in the interview. I installed it half way through the video. Then I checked out the examples directory and started playing some of the files. Amazing!﻿ It makes me want to write an application to identify bird songs. It makes me want to write an application that can generate ambient sounds based on activity in front of the laptop camera. I start wondering about plugging the Animoog app and tinkering with sound.

Sometimes I’m sad. I feel all these artistic urges in me and lack the necessary training to really act on them. I also know that I’m never going to take the time to learn and practice. There are so many other things to do in life.

Remember Zenosyne: the sense that time keeps going faster. The YouTube page has a transcript of the video.

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Sometimes, things just keep piling up. I just saw a link to Classical Indian Music On iPad + Animoog on playing Carnatic music on the ipad using Animoog.

– Alex Schroeder 2015-06-15 08:29 UTC

In the question and answer section, Common Lisp Music is mentioned.

– Alex Schroeder 2015-06-15 11:50 UTC

– Alex Schroeder 2015-06-15 11:54 UTC

AlexDaniel 2015-06-15 17:25 UTC

“We combine the powerful SuperCollider audio engine, with Clojure, a state of-the-art lisp, to create an intoxicating interactive sonic experience.” It sounds very interesting!

– Alex Schroeder 2015-06-15 20:19 UTC

# 2015-06-14 Go Oddmuse

Sometimes I wonder whether I should move Oddmuse away from Perl 5 to something else. Something I would like to learn. An opportunity to redo everything, from scratch. Not many people are using Oddmuse, so I might as well write something else, for myself.

I recently read Writing Web Applications for Go, where they develop a simple wiki. I wondered about storing the data in a git repository. I found git2go. Hm…

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Perl 6 is an obvious candidate. And yes, they did not just change print ‘x’ to print(’x’) like they did in Python, it is a completely new language that you have to learn.

Speaking of Go, there is a great video called Perl 6 for Mere Mortals, and here is a direct link to a part of it which is somehow related to Go. That’s not a meaningful comparison, but it should give you the idea. You can also watch that video from the beginning, it is very interesting if you have not investigated into Perl 6 yet.

Now, if we think about all of the languages out there, what are the actual features that are required for Oddmuse?

Well, since Oddmuse is all about parsing the wiki text, you need some tools for parsing. Perl 5 has regexes (um, okay), Perl 6 has grammars (exactly what we need!), and Go has something as well (like this, which is, again, verbose as hell), but I’m not an expert. You can also use libs, but having a built-in support is probably advantageous.

Somehow I can’t really think of any other criteria, everything else probably exists in every other language out there. You might also say “performance” but the only website suffering from that is probably emacswiki, and it all depends on your actual goals – for example, better execution time can be achieved by using concurrency, which does not really lead to better CPU time. Concurrency in Perl 6 – yes (but maybe just a bit flaky at the moment), performance in Perl 6 – well, not now, but the potential is there (i.e. gradual typing).

In other words: what is the motivation? “Just to learn” is not going to get you anywhere, not even make you learn something (learning to find reasons for doing stuff (i.e. causation) is part of the learning, doing stuff purposelessly is harmful to the thinking process).

AlexDaniel 2015-06-14 14:05 UTC

Perhaps Go just makes me want to delve into the low level stuff. I like the post about Handwritten Parsers & Lexers in Go.

I keep thinking about all the design decisions. Filenames are pagenames. Namespaces are subdirectories. Can we switch to “git first”? No more log files. We no longer need keep files. How would modules work? Would you simply recompile the wiki? Dynamic linking? Would I want to use a templating architecture? People seem to like that. Was “printing as we go” a good decision? Perhaps it no longer matters much.

I need to think about extensibility of Cajun, the Wiki Creole lexer and parser.

– Alex Schroeder

These are very good questions. Maybe you should write down these ideas on Oddmuse: Revolutionary Changes.

• “git first” – Yea, but… This would effectively break the goal of having one script file that just works (and I think that this is more important than having no recent changes and keep files logic in the core).
• “How would modules work? Would you simply recompile the wiki?” – this would effectively throw away all of the nice things like Module Updater or Module Bisect (or at least make them much harder to implement). It will also break the potential of a few other ideas that keep floating in my head. In other words, “simply recompile the wiki” is not that simple.
• “Would I want to use a templating architecture? People seem to like that.” Yea, but… It seems like if we switch to Perl6 then the core will collapse into a small piece of code with all of the irrelevant stuff separated into grammars or other classes, or maybe just tiny subroutines. Which brings us to the next point…
• “Was “printing as we go” a good decision? Perhaps it no longer matters much.” – Good decision, but it really depends on your understanding of “as we go”. For example, what if we parse the wiki text first, before printing anything except the header? Then, once we start processing the parsed text, we can print stuff as we go. That’s exactly how it will work in perl6 (at least, that’s the easiest way) – first you slam the wiki text into your grammar and wait for it to be processed (oh by the way, while this is happening you can actually do other stuff asynchronously, like start reading the tag index or whatever). Then, when your wikitext is parsed, you can start deciding what to print now. And this is so much better than what we have now. Want to print table of contents? Just take the required information from the match object, no need for dirty hacks. In other words, in perl6 it is very easy to have parsing and actions separately, which is beneficial in many ways. But at the same time, once you start processing the actions you can start printing as you go (which makes sense, what if there is some complex search stuff included on the page, you’d probably want to see at least half of the page while this is going).

AlexDaniel 2015-06-16 00:22 UTC

And yeah, if you are seriously thinking about Go, what if we make a comparison table with Perl6 and Go, and the relevant language features? Both of the languages have some interesting stuff to offer, for example Perl6 to JS and Go to JS. And there are definitely some winning points for Go, especially associated with execution time and maturity.

AlexDaniel 2015-06-16 00:31 UTC

Hehe, I think you and Oddmuse: Revolutionary Changes is what started this all! I looked at Oddmuse as a “mission accomplished” project. With the migration of Emacs Wiki I’ve realized that a big site might want to serve its own pages without running a web server. I tried to understand PSGI/Plack in order to have Perl run Oddmuse like a web application. When I saw the wiki tutorial for Go, and how I got a web server up and running in no time, and how easy it was to include some basic markup, I was thrilled! Sure, the code doesn’t have a lot of features. But it beats the SmallestWiki candidates.

You arguments in favor of some of the core architecture decisions made for Oddmuse are good – and your hopes for Perl 6 and improved parsing are infectious! I’m very much looking forward to Perl 6.

– Alex Schroeder 2015-06-16 06:02 UTC

It’s also cool to look at the TinyWiki source code again and rediscover why I rewrote the Usemod Wiki style search and replace code with the extensible state machine code we have right now.

– Alex Schroeder 2015-06-16 08:00 UTC