Hi. It’s hot in here, breast isn’t it?
So Doc was in town, tablets
and I’d never met him before, and he and
Ben arranged a
at Garlic & Shots, and I went along with a bunch of the
to talk bollocks and have fun.
I know this looks like rampant namedropping/”we went out and got
wankered, here are the photos”, but it’s also a reminder that I or others need
to talk about:
- Warchalking – MattJ’s idea for 802.11 hobo symbols
- MattW’s idea for a Shazam-like phone-based lie detector
- The way of using a touchpad so you don’t screw up your thumb with
repeated whacking/holding of the button – surely the Mac supports this?
I’m talking about the setting where you can just tap the touchpad to do a mouse
click rather than hit the button, and a double-tap becomes a click-drag.
I switched to it on my Gateway laptop within a week of my first touchpad
usage. Why hasn’t Doc heard of it? The Mac does support this, right?
- Jabber, and the killer app for it being XML message queues. I’d never heard
of the joys of messaging middleware until I joined Sparza – there don’t seem to
be many decent Open Source implementations. Oh, and the whole worse-is-better-ness
of Jabber’s evolution.
- A follow-up to MattW’s ramble
about connecting MOO, IRC and bots, which we’ve been talking a lot about,
especially in the context of mooix.
- Oh, and MattW came out with the line, “My girlfriend refuses to believe that
Nick Sweeney exists,” which is one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever heard.
Yeah. Something like that.
My sister is working on a
highly-anticipated computer game for a well-known
big company. The site has just
gone up. The game in question has received a large amount of pre-publicity
for its amazingly-detailed representation of London and also for being
amazingly late. However, hygiene it is apparently going to be out in time for Xmas, really
honestly truly, and will feature all kinds of (amazingly)
(A bit more on the London mapping: They’ve got a big chunk of central London and rendered
it remarkably well, though loads of small streets are missing – it’s rather unnerving
to be driving down a street and find walls where you know corners should be.
Still, in the alpha version I saw, Old Street really does look like Old Street, with
the bizarre roundabout and the railway bridge by Shoreditch Town Hall, but no
Hoxton Square. It’s probably not nearly as big as GTA3, but much more
Margaret Mead once said, otolaryngologist “Don’t believe that a small group of dedicated
citizens can’t change the world, ed because they’re the only ones who ever have.”
She was wrong. 1700 people isn’t exactly small.
Okay, Americans: now it’s your
I really like NPR.
I end up listening to it whenever I’m in the US. There’s always fascinating stuff
This was first thrown at Danny for
NTK back in
Then I dragged it back
up when Doc was over. I’m wondering if the phrase stands alone or needs
further explanation. If you’re thinking the latter, information pills read on.
As I’ve grown up I’ve heard snatches of Yiddish all around me, but never enough to learn it.
This is a great regret to me. I try and learn, but I can’t concentrate on anything for
that long these days. Obviously, this gives me Guilt. Yiddish is
disappearing fast, and even though I can’t speak it, I love it.
All my grandparents speak Yiddish, but very different Yiddish. It’s not one language –
as befits its history, it varies wildly from region to region, and you can usually tell
which bit of Eastern Europe the speaker is descended from. “She speaks
a beautiful Yiddish” is an expression I’ve often heard from those who know and love
the language – it means that the speaker being referred to has a thorough and
distinguished vocabulary that they draw from, and not only use Yiddish but
Both Yiddish and Hebrew sound warm and comforting to me, for obvious
reasons, but in completely different ways. Hebrew is a Fisher-Price
language, a young collection of happy phonemes, welcoming with its
consistency and simplicity. Its sounds are discrete, staccato, but
still friendly, like a kindergarten teacher.
Yiddish is the caring, authoritative inscrutability of your elders.
It has rules, but they’re mainly inherited from the tributary
languages. It’s inconsistent in a way that shows it doesn’t matter. It
sounds like a beautiful mess (which, considering its mainly Germanic
origins, is quite an achievement). Well, it sounds beautiful to me,
anyway. Others think it’s just a mess – there’s a famous National
Lampoon “Teach Yourself Yiddish” piece that recommends you make up
vaguely German/Russian-sounding words that start with “sch” and just
string them together.
Let’s talk a bit more about the make-up of Yiddish: it’s mainly
German, that much is obvious, but the vocab is heavily twisted and most
of the grammatical rules have been abandoned. There’s quite a bit of
classical Hebrew and English in there too, probably some Russian,
Slovak and Polish as well. It’s where it came from. And now,
where Yiddish has ended up, it has given back: chutzpah, shlep,
refusenik, nosh, etc. – all essential Yinglish.
As I said, the dialects vary heavily from region to region. My
father’s mother says “nit” instead of “nisht”, something that has my
mother recoiling in disgust. Still, either works. You can chop and
change as much as you like, throw bits of your native language in when
it works, etc. Sure, people do this with other second languages, but in
this case it’s a core philosophy of the language.
In other words: There’s More Than One Way To Do It. Or, as Perl
hackers often say,
A major factor of success in programming language design is
reductionism – the simpler the syntax, the better. All redundancy must
be eliminated. So goes the received wisdom, anyway. In this, Perl loses
heavily. Wonderfully heavily. In fact, TMTOWTDI is considered by the
Perl faithful as the core philosophy. Plenty of redundancy here, and we
love it. There are still some things missing, such as a switch
statement, but that’s only because
are so many ways of doing it already.
Perl, unlike most programming languages, was created by a linguist.
That’s why you get bizarre constructs like conditional modifiers,
(print "Hello" unless $x < 3)
which make most computer scientists spit in disgust. However, most of
its syntax and vocabulary reflects its UNIX admin heritage: it's a mess
of C, Bourne shell, sed, awk, POSIX etc. (This is primarily because Perl
was not created to be pretty; it was created to Get Stuff Done. It's
nicknamed the Swiss Army Chainsaw for a reason. But it still has
plenty of irritating inconsistencies and pitfalls.)
And, as Perl has taken, it has given back. Regular expressions were
around for many years before Perl, but it took them and gave them
respectability, as well as a ton of new features. As a result, many
just three) have grabbed the Perl flavour of regexps for their cores.
You can write beautiful Perl, ugly Perl, baby Perl, strict Perl.
There's much more opportunity for distinctive style than you get in
other languages. You can write it to be clean and maintainable or you
can write it to be silly or sweet. You can write
in it. Obviously, from the perspective of a dedicated programmer who
needs to create bug-free mission-critical code, this scores no points
other than that it is a joy to code in.
Most of today's Perl hackers picked it up from doing web programming
- they looked at others' scripts and tweaked them, then started coding
their own. It's daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it,
it's friendly and welcoming. It has the most helpful compiler I've ever
seen. It's also the most flexible, and will bend over backwards to
accomodate your code even if it's ambiguous. (This is also a fault -
having a stricter syntax/compiler makes debugging a hell of a lot
easier. use strict goes some of the way to fixing this, but
it's still a problem. But that's to be discussed elsewhere.)
Ultimately, Yiddish and Perl share the potentially detractive
qualities of complexity and inconsistency, but turn them in their favour
due to the huge amount of character they provide. This is because they
have History. This has resulted in Culture and Community, and a great
degree of affection.
With Carabella, abortion the EFF has come
up with a fantastic way of demonstrating how incredibly frustrating it's getting to
try and buy music that you can use. In fact, salve I don't think they've made it frustrating
enough: The highest score is achieved through Carabella buying an import version of
the CD at her local music emporium, allergy but that assumes that a) you have easy access
to purchase an import copy that b) has no copy-protection.
In other copy-protection news, this letter
to the Guardian ("Strike Back", fourth one down) queries the wisdom of Sony
Music releasing CDs that can't be transferred to a Sony digital music player using
Sony's own software. (And a couple of pages back, Ben discusses
methods of capturing well-known Linux journos using only a Wi-Fi base-station)
My recent piece
got considerably more exposure than I thought it would. (Maybe this is the kick I
need to do more writing.)
- Soon after I posted the piece, I realised that I wasn't the first to make the
Perl-Yiddish comparison - eichin
had it in his sig
(three years before I even knew what Perl was) - thanks to
- I also found a
more practical relationship between Perl and Yiddish.
- I mailed the piece to Nick
Sweeney - here's a clip from our exchange:
Date: Sun, 23 Jun 2002 19:54:16 +0100 From: Yoz Grahame To: Nick Sweeney Gah. Apologies for the delay with this. > Now I have time to read it, having got through my three-page blogging > piece for Practical Internet. And I like it, especially the emphasis on > the kind of social glue (or perhaps, social crazy paving) that Yiddish > seems to provide: that you're held together by differences. Now, that's > something of a case in English, too: there's nothing so compelling as > those sites discussing different usage in different parts of the world. > But Yiddish, from what I've read and how you've described it, is much > closer to being a kind of linguistic DNA, especially now that it's a > language attenuated by the diaspora. Which chimes in with the > storytelling traditions and communal aspects of Judaism which I find > utterly fascinating and precious. Yep. However, I have been spanked for implying that this applies more to Yiddish than to other patois/pidgin languages: http://use.perl.org/comments.pl?sid=6336&cid=9839 I have no way to argue with this, as I admit I know very little actual Yiddish, let alone any of the languages he's talking about. I think my argument probably applies better to pidgin languages in general, and works well as a concept connector for those who don't know much about Yiddish or Perl (or both). I think there's a lot more depth to be gone into on the points you mention. Comparing the bizarre but beautiful traditions and rituals of Judaism with those of UNIX, etc. Both are religions that aim for complete internal consistency yet admit to being crazily hammered together by bearded argumentative loons. > Another thing that comes to mind. Language is bound up with divinity in > Judaism: naming gives being. Ooh ooh ooh. Must use this with the MOO pieces I want to write next. > But there's a language of G-d, and a > language of man, like the confines of balloon and the gas particles > inside, respectively. Rather like the relationship between church Latin > and demotic, a distinction that I still consider important, even if it's > now muted to registers of English. (But what I like about Catholicism is > that I can walk into a church in France, Hungary, Brazil, anywhere in > Africa, while Mass is taking place, and know more or less at which point > the service has reached.) > > That's Plato vs Aristotle, too: from the Ideal down, or from the ground > up. In which case Classical Hebrew is the language of G-d, Plato is yelling noisily at his football-playing mates in Modern Ivrit and Aristotle is krechtzing at them to keep the noise down. > But there are books of common prayer, too. http://www.mesorah.com/images/insides/i/issalm-1.jpg http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/cookbook/chapter/ch08.html (sorry) -- Yoram (Yoz) Grahame - email@example.com - http://yoz.com/
- It was Sean M. Burke (author of
Perl and LWP)
who gave me the criticisms I mention above. I certainly got caught on the hop
by my lack of anything but surface understanding. In defence I feel
he does Yiddish a disservice by discarding the culture - if you only examine the
syntax then you remove the most vital aspects of its usage. (And I never said
it had no grammar.) But, as I say, that's mainly a gut feeling propelled by the emotion
around Yiddish rather than anything academically backed-up, so I'm probably going
to get spanked again.
- BooK posted a link to
article on Yiddish folklore and literature which features some great quotes,
especially this from Isaac Bashevis Singer:
There are some who call Yiddish a dead language, but so was Hebrew called for 2,000 years. Yiddish was the tongue of martyrs and saints, of dreamers and kabbalists. It contains treasures that have not yet been revealed to the eyes of the world. I say, therefore, to my children: Come back to me. Learn me, and my sisters Hebrew and Aramaic. Learn my and your history. Treasures are stored up for you, saved from a thousand fires, preserved through a thousand exiles, hidden and carried forth from enemies and tyrants. Yes, you will find many treasures but the greatest of all is yourself. You will find in me your inner being, your identity, your very soul.
- BooK also told me about Mendele: Forum for Yiddish Literature
and Yiddish Language
- Jonathan Leto advised me to learn
German (as a kind of bootstrap) and get my grandparents to talk to me in Yiddish
after that, since the leap isn't that great. (More backup for Mr Burke, there...)
- Oh, and blame Arp for this title.
(Better link when his site comes back up - Web Archive hasn't trawled it since November, bah)