I Read Some More Books!

Compared to the first half of this year, in the last couple of months I've been reading like a demon!

Dangerous Planet: Natural Disasters That Changed History by Bryn Barnard. This is another book by the Outbreak dude, and I didn't like it as much but probably just because I have more of an affinity for disgusting pustulent diseases than I do for scary natural (and other) disasters. This book has the same basic format; each chapter is dedicated to a different disaster, describing how the disaster happened and how it changed the course of history. Among other things, Barnard discusses the Great Fire of London and its effect on how buildings and cities are constructed; the two (not one but two!) typhoons which devastated the army of Kublai Khan and protected Japan from invasion in the 1200s, leading to a certain sense of invincibility in the Japanese; and of course the classic asteroid which wiped out the dinosaurs.

This book is beautifully designed and well-illustrated, clearly written and informative.

Your Four-Year-Old: Wild and Wonderful by Louise Bates Ames. I had to read this to see what it had to say about four-year-olds, which my mom friends and I have already observed are bossy and braggy as hell. Ames agrees, although she gives it a more positive spin; she says if you can view your four-year-old's noisy, pushy arrogance with as much amused detachment as you can muster the year will go much more smoothly.

As usual the observations in this book are spot on, and very helpful in distinguishing your child's personality from the phases she's going through. It gets a little dated sometimes but that's part of the fun of it.

Thankfully, the next book in the series is subtitled "Sunny and Serene". Hooray!

The Mac is Not A Typewriter by Robin Williams. I only read this because Blake had it out, and a lot of it was stuff my brother taught me back in Grade 11 ("The Amiga is not a typewriter!"); don't use underlines, don't use spaces when you should use tab stops. Williams also gets into fancy stuff like Kerning, and she is very keen — perhaps obsessively so — on curly quotes and em-dashes. She uses some very strong words to describe straight quotes, words which make me think I am dealing with an ill person and should perhaps disregard her advice. Really, they're quotation marks.

I am also leery— born perhaps of having been introduced to computers through Unix in the early nineties — of using non-ASCII characters, really ever, but especially in email and on the web. Williams even suggests using curly quotes in filenames! I'm sorry, I don't even use spaces in filenames. That's craziness. Excuse me, I am going to go and grow a long beard now, and perhaps refrain from bathing for a few weeks. I must dust my green-screen ASCII terminal.

At the cottage last week I read Home Leave by Libby Purves which was fantastic and I loved it; it's about four siblings, the children of a diplomat, who were hauled all around the world when they were young. It's about what home means, and of course I related to the situation of having your sibling as your only constant for your whole childhood. There is a lot of talk of children and babies in the book and Purves writes so realistically and richly about children; they don't disappear or only feature as plot or characterization devices, or worse just as noisy perplexing ciphers, as they so often do in novels. Purves knows how to write about how children change you and affect you for better and for worse. I loved the characters and the stories and the ideas. And the ending; the ending was immensely satisfying.

I also read Pug Hill by Alison Pace which was pretty disappointing after the Purves. This is a book about a thirty-one year old in Manhatten looking for love and sorting herself out. The protagonist annoyed the crap out of me with her whining and self-absorption and judgementalness and immaturity, and she didn't get all that much better through the book, although I think she was supposed to. It was like Bridget Jones in Manhattan, except blessedly free of talk about dieting.

I’m Back!

Ah, the city. How I love it. I’ve just gotten back from a trip to the cottage my parents’ rented, and while the house is sort of lonely with just me there, I’m really enjoying being able to flush the toilet, and have a long shower, and run the air conditioning, and all those other conveniences of modern life. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the cottage. I think I had more fun there this year than I have since I was a kid, but it is still nice to be home.

I think the main trick will be keeping on top of everything so that I’m not making a mad rush to get everything done on Sunday morning, before Amy and the kids get home. It’ll be an extra-special trick, since Trevor’s on vacation this week, so I’ll be the lead server developer for the two products that we’re trying to release in the next week or so. Ah, well. It wouldn’t be fun without some stress, right?

Get Me Out Of Here

I am having some kind of stupid birthday crisis. As I was loading the dishwasher this evening I was ruminating on how aggravating it sometimes is to have to share every single little bit of your life with someone else. I had just answered the door to a charming young lady wanting me to sponsor a child, and I said no because I know Blake doesn't want to donate money to charities until we're out of debt. If it was just up to me I would probably give a little bit every month regardless of debt; it's not like malaria is going to take a break while we pay off our reno. After bidding the charity girl good luck I went back to loading the dishwasher, which I have to do Blake's way because Blake unloads. Fair enough, and all this is perfectly reasonable —I am by no means faulting Blake here, I couldn't ask for a better husband. It just gets a little tired constantly having to consider someone else, or in my case three someone-elses.

After I finished the dishwasher I followed a link from my brother's blog to this dude's blog to TV Tropes where I spent an enjoyable hour or more reading about Buffy and Firefly and Battlestar Galactica (though perhaps I should not have read those spoilers), and I really miss good TV. I miss watching thoughtful, well-written shows, and I miss going to work the next day and discussing them with smart people, either live or online (yes, I spent far too much time discussing TV at work, and I guess I will have to remove that admission from this space before I look for another job). I miss having the time and the spare emotional and intellectual resources to dedicate to TV shows.

And somehow (there may be some hormones involved) that particular nostalgia has snowballed irrationally into missing the days when I had lots of time to play on the Internet, when my life was spent in a shiny air-conditioned condo on a busy street and I took a train to work and played on computers all day. Now suddenly my life seems to be spent playing in the dirt with two messy, demanding, noisy, emotional (why, oh why must they be two and four at the same time!) little people who seem to have no interest in discussing Marti Noxon's Season Six intellectual breakdown, or whether there is any point in improving Internet security technology as long as it is still possible to adhere a Post-It note with your password written on it to the side of your monitor.

Oh, I miss grown-ups. I miss them so much. I miss air conditioning. I miss meetings. I miss lists of things to do that don't involve zucchini. I miss computers and filesystems and data and logical problems and whiteboards and deadlines and lunch rooms and that idiotic conversation about where we should go for lunch this week. I miss being something other than Mom ("mudder", she calls me) and homemaker.

Being Mom is something that will never change, but one day it will involve less dirt and hopefully more conversations about Marti Noxon. (Or actually hopefully not, now that I think about it.) And one day I will go back to work and they will probably have outlawed air conditioning by then, but there will be computers and meetings and deadlines and I will soon refresh my hatred for all three things. Life is all about balance — you have to hate lots of different things to be truly happy.

Some notes on Bazaar

This started off as a reply to some email on the Bazaar-NG list, but it sort of grew and grew, until there were a whole bunch of things in it, and I thought it would probably be better as a weblog entry, so that I could find it later.

On to the email...
Martin Pool wrote:
> If you have sftp access to your server, then just do
> bzr init-repo sftp://user@host/~/myproject
> bzr push sftp://user@host/~/myproject/mybranch
> then on the second machine (eg at work)
> bzr init-repo ~/myproject
> cd myproject
> bzr branch sftp://user@host/~/myproject/mybranch

As a related question, if I wanted other people to be able to download my branch over http, would it suffice to do something on the server like

bzr init-repo ~/www/myproject
cd ~/www/myproject
bzr branch sftp://user@host/~/myproject/mybranch

or would I need to push straight to ~/www/myproject/mybranch?

I'm of two minds here, and I'ld like to explain why, in case it's a common problem. On the one hand, the repo I created by following the steps in the first part of Martin's message
> bzr init-repo sftp://user@host/~/myproject
> bzr push sftp://user@host/~/myproject/mybranch
should be just the same as any other repository, right?

But, on the other hand, when I ssh to "user@host", and look in ~/myproject, all I see is a .bzr directory. None of the files I allegedly pushed.

A search for 'bzr push "no content"' and 'bzr push missing files' turns up nothing that makes much sense to me. running 'bzr help push' finally shows me the following lines:
> The target branch will not have its working tree populated because
> this is both expensive, and is not supported on remote file systems.
which explains it at least a little. So I started looking for a way to push and update, which quickly led me to the push-and-update plugin, but I'm now lost as to how to install it into my copy of bzr (the binary distribution, running under Windows XP.) The plugins document that ships with bzr says "typically found in /usr/lib/python2.4/site-packages/bzrlib/plugins/", but I'm really fairly sure that's not where it's located on my box... another page says that it is "usually [...] C:\python2.4\site-packages\bzrlib\plugins under Windows", but again, that directory doesn't exist where I am.

Since I expect it'll make a difference to any answer I get, let me just say upfront that I've installed Bazaar (bzr) 0.18.0 into C:\Program Files\Bazaar\ using the Windows standalone installer. The output of "bzr version" is:
Bazaar (bzr) 0.18.0
Using Python interpreter: C:\Program Files\Bazaar\bzr.exe
Using Python standard library: C:\Program Files\Bazaar\lib\library.zip
Using bzrlib: C:\Program Files\Bazaar\lib\library.zip\bzrlib
Using Bazaar configuration: C:/Documents and Settings/blake/Application Data/bazaar/2.0
Using Bazaar log file: C:\Documents and Settings\blake\My Documents\.bzr.log

Copyright 2005, 2006, 2007 Canonical Ltd.

bzr comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY. bzr is free software, and you may use, modify and redistribute it under the terms of the GNU General Public License version 2 or later.

So, where should I put the plugins in this case?

The answer, as given on irc, seems to be "put it somewhere else and set the BZR_PLUGIN_PATH env variable". Works for me, although it would have been nice if the Windows standalone installer did that for me, by creating a Plugins directory under the install directory. And as one final note, the BZR_PLUGIN_PATH, which it may contain spaces (i.e. "C:\Program Files\Bazaar\Plugins"), must not end in a trailing "\".

Daily Deck Update 11

Okay, I think the deck is officially done, and so it’s party time! If you’re actually going to have a chance of making it here (sorry, Dave), please leave a comment or email me with the dates that work well for you, and I’ll see what works out the best for the most people.

The tricky part, I expect, will be restraining myself from writing a program to figure out the optimal solution.

System Administrator Appreciation Day

July 27 is System Administrator Appreciation Day, so in honour of my brother (who is no longer administering sys, but did for a long time to the detriment of his own mental health and love of humanity), my friends Jeff, Woody (both also ex-sysamins) and Jason (who I believe does anything for money, provided there are Macs involved), and of course my own home sysadmin Blake, go and buy your sysadmin a fancy coffee (or a beer).

Daily Deck Update 10

Get it?  Agate?  Get it? A Gate! No longer just a pretty stone, we now have a gate to keep out whatever’s been pooing in our yard. (Assuming it isn’t one of the girls. Or a raccoon. Or someone’s cat. Or something that could squeeze through the gap in the bottom. But still, it’s got to be less likely to continue, right?)
The Shed. Our garbage shed! It’s a bit larger than I thought it would be which I think is partially due to the sloped roof, which is mandatory in places that get as much snow as we sometimes do, and partially because… Well, I don’t know why else it might be so big. Maybe just because that was the scale of the space it had to take up.
Screen! And an old-new screen door. This should get some air moving through the house without my having to worry too much about finding a hornet in my bed (again!) And when the screen on the front gets installed, it should be even sweeter.

Daily Deck Update 8

Stairs! It’s getting close... The planters are done, and the garbage bin (which seems larger than I thought it would be) is framed in.
Stonehenge.  Kinda. A closer-up view of one of the planters, along with the base to the umbrella for the patio table, and the gas hookup for the barbeque.
Stairs! And the inside of the garbage bin, with obligatory cat.
Okay, so the comments were a little weak today, I’m recovering from a severe arm wound, cut me some slack.

Yet More Books

Extraordinary Evil: A Brief History of Genocide by Barbara Coloroso. Like so many of us, Coloroso has been doing a sort of independent study of genocide and she came up with the rather surprising, at first glance, theory that genocide is bullying writ large. I was pretty skeptical at first but she sold me on her idea; she has done a lot of thinking about bullying and she has her trademark bulleted lists on the topic all figured out, and she manages to map them to genocide quite convincingly. I'll probably check out her book on bullying, and also a few of the books she refers to on genocide. A few of them were on my list before but I chickened out; maybe this time I will have the guts to actually read them.

Outbreak: Plagues that Changed History by Bryn Barnard is actually a picture book which I grabbed from the kids' section because I'm all about plagues and gruesome diseases. However, it's written at what seems to me to be a very advanced level. It is a fantastic book; each chapter discusses one plague and its effect on society, and the illustrations (also by the author) are lush.

I didn't actually read The Assault on Reason by Al Gore because I had it out of the library and I had to take it back before I got more than a couple of chapters in. However, I was pleasantly surprised; in the chapters I read he got into why people are so compelled by television, so it seems like he's really getting into the very roots of why American politics is so screwed up. I have put myself on the hold list again (I am number 249 of 267) and I look forward to having another crack at this book. Sometime in 2008.