Month: August 2006

Honyakuhome.org is live

I started a web page that I called the Honyaku Home Page back in 1995 (for whatever reason, the wayback machine only shows iterations going back to 1997—still pretty old for a web page). Over the years it grew and transmogrified. For a while, I ran it using a crude homebrewed CMS written in Hypercard.

When I upgraded my Mac to OS X, Hypercard became a non-option; my hacked-up CMS had been very awkward to use for a long time anyhow. Eventually I transferred most of the site’s functions to Movable Type, using some jury-rigged templates. That too became unsatisfactory, and for a very long time, I looked around for other options.

I found one in Drupal, though when I first encountered it, it was somewhat primitive. Over time, Drupal has developed, and I committed to using it. After a false-start, I hired a developer to customize a module for me, bought a domain name (which I should have done a long time ago anyhow), and soft-launched the new site.

Even though most of the ducks have been in a row for some time, I’ve been reluctant to have a public launch. Drupal has numerous add-on modules these days, many of which would no doubt make the new site more useful, but the double-edged sword is that every new module creates new administrative tasks, and some of the spiffier features would require even more futzing around. I was stuck in option paralysis. The best is the enemy of good enough.

Today, I finally said “fuck it,” decided to launch with a plainer site, and announce it. Check it out. honyakuhome.org.

Accelerando

Coincidentally on the same day that scientists announced clear evidence that dark matter really exists, I finished reading Accelerando, a story about the singularity by Charlie Stross. As this interview with the author points out, it’s “information-dense” (resulting in reading aids like the Accelerando Technical Companion).

Saying it’s dense is an understatement. In the early chapters, my (somewhat annoyed) impression was that “this guy has devoured every Boing-boing post for the past five years, digested and ruminated them, and vomited them onto the page.” As the book moved on and got weirder and more intense, I decided “this guy drops mind-bombs like a deer running through a forest drops turds.” So my mind is pretty well blown at the moment.

The singularity is an interesting proposition, an audacious prediction about the future, and this book gives a lot of ideas on the subject to chew on. While reading it, I found myself wondering “does he really believe this stuff?” In that interview, he hedges a bit, but says “any SF that doesn’t try to address the issue is either a dystopia or a fantasy.” So, yes. He’s a pretty smart guy who’s clearly listening to and extrapolating a lot of trends. And it makes me wonder ”can we create a world too weird for us to inhabit?“ According to the book, the answer is yes, many times over.

I’ve heard the year 2040 thrown around as a target date for the singularity. I’ll live that long, most likely. It’ll be an interesting ride.

Big time

You know you’ve made it when people think they can make money off you.

Austin Bloggers has been around as a loose community for years now, and is one of the older community-aggregator sites around. At last night’s meetup, two people attended because they see the community as an opportunity to make a buck.

One of these guys is not a blogger himself. He doesn’t have a blog. He does, however, have an excellent command of the most annoying buzzwords on the Internet today, which he flings around with unironic abandon as if this will impress us: his company is all “web 2.0” and “user-generated content.” Web 2.0 in this case apparently means “shiny” and user-generated content means “you fill up my site for no pay, and I make money off it!”

The other guy is a blogger, and has what sounds like an interesting blog, but again, he was there to sign up people for something that would benefit him: he’s developed a bit of code that bloggers can put on their blog-templates that will show a box with headlines from other bloggers in their community. This in itself is not particularly innovative (and has been implemented hundreds of different ways), although his has the interesting twist of putting together headlines from multiple sources. But the box always has a little link to a “sponsor” at the bottom. The sponsor has paid him money, he has given you this little code snippet, and in return, the sponsor gets to use your blog as part of a link-farm to get more google-juice. This guy at least had the good grace to realize that what he’s doing is slightly exploitative

Gosh, where do I sign up?

Go with the workflow

In “A Feature Request for Apple Mail”, Jochen Wolters talks about introducing workflows into Mail.app. I think this is an interesting idea, but it doesn’t go far enough. Mail may be the app where many of us organize most of our administrivia, but it isn’t the only one. Apple should give better exposure to the excellent metadata system it created for OS X 10.4, and make projects and workflows canned datatypes in it. Apple is already taking baby steps in this direction with the to-do service built into the future version of Mail

How would this work?

Let’s take a typical translation job for me. It may involve four or five e-mail messages, a couple PDFs, and a couple of Word documents; if I wanted to get really organized, I’d add an item to my calendar showing the deadline. These are all disparate types of data managed through different applications, but they’re all related. Every job goes through a few stages (some of which are often skipped): inquired, estimated, accepted, underway, completed, invoiced, paid. Different activities may have different workflows (I’d need a completely different workflow for my fire-equipment business). So I need to A) define general types of projects and the steps of a workflow associated with each one; B) conveniently set up new projects and indicate their project types to pipeline them into a specific workflow; C) conveniently associate messages, files, etc, with a project; D) view and change the state for each workflow. It needs to be dead-easy: the marginal effort to assign a message to a project rather than just skip to the next message needs to be vanishingly small. I imagine hitting a magic key that pops up a list of active projects to choose from (with the option to create a new one); if any text is selected, a new project is created with that text as the title.

Mail Tags permits something like this, after a fashion, but only within the world of Mail.app. This might be enough if you’re content to use mail as a PIM, but I’m not (and it would get ugly trying to deal with files, and Mail Tags does not currently work with IMAP as described in that article). What I’m describing would need to be a system-level feature that was exposed in mail messages, setfile dialog boxes, the Finder, etc.

Projects could be viewed through the Finder, like smart folders. The viewing window for mail messages could include a banner showing a menu of pending projects to select from; once a message was assigned to a project, a row of buttons would be used to show and change state (this could also appear in the Finder window for the project).

Update: After doing a little more noodling on this, I’ve come up with the following bezel displays

workflow bezels

The three would not all appear at once. I envision that for an unassigned file, the magic key would bring up the first; if the user selects “New Project…” it transitions to the second; pressing the space bar would flip it to the third. For a file that has been assigned to a project already, it would go directly to the third. Those aspects of the workflow setup that couldn’t be controlled through this interface would probably be handled through a preference pane. The bezel would act on whatever document window is foremost.

At a basic level, there’s almost nothing in the data model for this that couldn’t be handled through OS X’s existing metadata constructs; the one thing that could not be would be a table associating project with project type/workflow. And so there’s no reason a third-party developer couldn’t do this right now. At a more advanced level, ideally there would be hooks added that would tie project-related events to other events, for example, when the mail client is foremost, setting a project on a message might close that message and move to the next. In MS Word, saving a file with no project would bring up the project-assignment bezel.

In fact, there’s already a program, SpotMeta, that lets users create enumerated types of metadata and apply them to files. As clever as it is, it’s a little clunky to use, and doesn’t have a straightforward way of working with mail messages, iCal events, etc (though technically, it could work with them).

Dealing with items that have been tagged with a project and workflow state could mostly be handled through smart folders in the Finder, in Mail, etc. Ideally there would be some kind of universal viewer (most likely hacked onto the Finder) that could show the contents of all the various datatypes corralled into a workflow.

The goggles, they do nothing!

I underwent LASIK treatment yesterday.

I’ve been very nearsighted (20/400) since I was in 6th grade, and from the day I first wore glasses (on a class trip to Springfield), not another has passed where I haven’t. I’ve been ready to be done with them for a long time, and finally got around to it.

The procedure was very weird. Lying back in the chair, things happened to me very quickly. It’s impossible to see what’s going on, but I’m familiar enough with the procedure to know “they are attaching the vacuum clamp to my eyeball…rotating over to the flap-cutting laser…cutting the corneal flap…folding back the flap…ablating the cornea…smoothing back the flap.” The whole process took less than five minutes. Gwen watched the whole thing in horror and amazement (which is pretty much how I felt when I watched her go through it about a year ago). When Gwen had hers done, they gave her valium that kicked in before the procedure started, so she was checked out the whole time. They gave me valium too, but it didn’t kick in until after I was home. So I lay there, rigid, thinking in the abstract about what was happening to me, while the actual events were proceeding with well-practiced speed above me.

Right now my left eye feels kind of scratchy. Both are bloodshot. Light sources have haloes around them, and my vision feels a little off—a little hazy or something. It’s hard to describe. Nothing out of the ordinary from what I understand. But my acuity is good. Predictably, my near vision has suffered a little—it’s hard to focus closer than 3.5“ away (that’s still very good, of course). I’ve got a follow-up appointment tomorrow morning.

Not putting on glasses is a weird feeling: I tried on my old glasses and was bowled over at the funhouse-mirror effect.

Now, for the first time in my life, I can buy cheap sunglasses. Or expensive ones.

Quote of the day

“Do you want to drive to farmer’s market or ride our bikes?”

“It’s hot enough out that I don’t mind contributing to global warming.”

(Yes, I actually did say that.)

Jabberwocky in Japanese

Language Hat posted links to some translations of Jabberwocky, which has been a pet interest of mine ever since I saw the French and German translations in GEB. Someone, years ago, sent me a bunch of Japanese translations of Jabberwocky, and they’ve been languishing on my hard drive ever since. Now seems like a good time to get them out there.

I am posting these with minimal formatting because I’m lazy. Headings are translator names. Notes and credits are as I received them. See after the jump.