1995: En glad gutt

I haven’t read many of the Norwegian classics.  I’m pretty sure I’ve never read anything by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (his name translates to Bear Star Bear Son — like wow) before.

This book, called perhaps “A Jolly Lad”, is a slender volume on young love across the class barriers, as well as a society getting progressively more modern.  It’s quite funny and touching.

And since it’s from 1860, it has some interesting swear words,like “hvalpung”,  which can only mean “whale’s scrotum”. 

I think.

The illustrations are kinda eh, though:

Rating: Peasantific!

CDO Jukebox

I buy a lot of albums, and I have since I had enough money to buy a lot of albums.

Since the late 80s, my listening methodology hasn’t changed much.  I buy an album, and I put it in the “new” stack, and those are mainly the albums that I play.  I delve into older favourites, but new music is fun.

That stack used to be vinyl, and then CDs and vinyl, and an mp3s directory, and now flac.

After a while, an album becomes too old to be in the “new” stack, and I end-of-life the album by listening to it a last time, and then select the best songs from the album and put it on a Stuff mixtape.  The mixtape used to be tape, and then CD-R, and now it’s either not physical, or I burn a bunch of them to an mp3 CD-R to play in the car.

The “new” stack used to be a physical stack of albums, but since 1998 I’m just ripping everything, so it’s now a directory in Emacs.

I use the Stuff mixtapes play in the car, and to play while I’m eating breakfast.  Listening to Certified Good Music is less stressful when I’m zombieing around in the morning.

There’s now 306 of these mixtapes, stretching back to the early 90s.  They’re kinda a diary.  Sort of.  Only very cryptic, and I have no idea what some of it refers to any more.

The reason for this post is that I just got an idea to put the latest mixtape up for listening in the browser, so I did that.  The newest Stuff mixtape directory there will have a JS/Flash-based player embedded so that everybody can listen to the best music in the world!

A year or two after the fact!  I’m always perpetually behind in stuffing the “new” directory.  The first date on the images says when I bought the albums in question, and the last date says when I end-of-lifed them.

I bet this’ll become the most polular Internet Web Radio thing on the Intertubes.

1995: Sataniske vers

My sister used to work for a book publisher, so she got tons of free books.  The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie was probably one of them, which explains why I’ve got it.

It’s better than I expected.  It’s written in a very late-80s coke-fuelled wide-eye manic way, with one tableaux after another.  Quite entertaining, but some of it drags.

The book hasn’t aged well.  For instance, the magic realism.  When all the people in the hospital turned into creatures from fables, it just made me start rolling my eyes.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to read while you’re rolling your eyes?

But it’s not bad.  Bits of it are very inventive and exciting, even if the post-modern excoticism wears you down a bit.  It’s funny, though.

Rating: Pomolicios

20 Years of Free Software

It’s 2013.  It’s cold outside.  I’ve had a couple of drinks.  It’s the perfect time to sum up my career in free software.

 I think it was yonder in 1992.

That them there old days.

I’d started using GNUS (the Emacs newreader) to read Usenet news.  My most pressing concern was how to read the, er, alt.binaries.pictures.furniture group, because I needed to, er furnish my student apartment.  (It’s true what they say about what the Internet is for.)

A couple of years was enough of that, and I started looking around for a free software project to really sink my teeth into.  I was all riled up by Richard Stallman’s rhetoric.  I think I may actually have asked the FSF what to do, but in the end I decided that I wanted to expand upon Umeda-san’s GNUS work and develop that into a comprehensive news/mail reader.

And so I did.

The mid-ninetees were heady years for me.  I had a spiffy 486 machine at home, but it was really too slow to compile (ding) Gnus (as I called my version), so I had to transfer it daily to the university’s systems to do the compilation/failure/publish cycle.

I had started my Gnus version without asking permission.  I was told repeatedly that this wasn’t a good idea.  And it probably wasn’t. It was kinda rude.  But there were two reasons:  1) I was too shy to ask.  2) I didn’t want anybody else to butt in.

But Stallman accepted my work into Emacs anyway. So I had the pleasure of telnetting into the FSF machines and working with the Emacs RCS system to install my stuff.

Gnus usage took off.  People started contributing and writing emails to me, complimenting me about my work.  And I know this will sound churlish,, but that was really hard to deal with.  My natural reaction to someone saying “Hey, thank you for foo” is to say “Oh, foo should be so much better.  It’s a piece of shit, really”.  Because I know.  It really could be so much better, if only I had spent more time on it.

After a while I understood that responding this way is rude.

If somebody compliments you, the proper response isn’t “No, you’re wrong”.  It’s “Thank you.  That’s very nice of you to say.”

Most of us free software programmers occupy a somewhat strange place.  We’re about as famous as second runner-ups in Belgian high-school badminton competitions.  But still we get these emails thanking us for our awesomeness.

It can lead to delusions of adequacy.

And it’s really difficult to talk about.

Anyway, I was allegedly studying, and then I was allegedly suddenly working instead.

And then I came up with Gmane, which is more of a service than a software project.  I often regret that I started it.  Programming is fun.  Keeping a service up is excruciatingly boring.

My main problem as a developer is that I’m monomanicially and stupidly focused on one thing at at time.  If I’m thinking about work stuff, I’m thinking about work stuff, for weeks on end.  If I’m doing Gmane stuff, I’m not even considering doing Gnus stuff.

As exhibit A, I present you with a chart detailing the number of non-work emails I’ve sent per week since 1996:

The erraticness! (That should be a word.) It burns!

It doesn’t look any better on a year-by-year basis:

What you can read from that chart is that I started getting back into Emacs and Gnus development after a six-year hiatus, sort of.

A lot of that time was dealing with work stuff, but Gmane (and now Gwene) soaked up most of my remaining brain capacity.  Handling the death threats and Indian court proceedings were discouraging enough.  It’s not that I needed the money, but having Google ads on Gmane somehow validated the concept somehow.  And then they dropped Gmane, for something I can only classify as “not reasons“.

Which brings me to the main point of this drunken trip down memory lane:  Most of all, free software development for me is all about bad conscience.  There is so much that I want to do, and that I know that I could have done, but that I have chosen not to do.

Every time I sit down with a book, or go out to a concert, that’s time that I could used doing something productive instead.  I could have handled a bug report.  I could have answered a user question.  I could have reviewed a patch.  Instead I choose to do something else.

So there you have it.  Free software leads to a life of embarrassment and bad conscience.

But it’s also funner than shit (to paraphrase Team Dresch).

Whenever I write something, I can’t wait to say git push to let the world see what I’ve written.  It’s (almost) instant gratification.  Minutes later people grab what you’ve done, use it, send you comments, send you patches.  It’s pure pleasure.

That’s why I’ll be doing it for another 20 years.  At least.

1995: Till Damaskus/Ett drömspel

I couldn’t remember buying this, and it turns out that I didn’t.  It was forgotten by somebody at my apt, and he’s since gone onto become a theater instructor.  How appropriate, since this is a collection of two plays by August Strindberg.

I probably get a more abstract impression of the plays than originally intended.  I mean, they’re full of madness and symbolism (it’s Strindberg!), but the Oldee Timey Swedish Grammar (from 1898) combined with the general christianey drift of the plot makes my  brain not quite grasp what’s going on all the time.

But the plays are definitely powerful.  And quite amusing in places.

Det är synd om människorna!

Rating: Symbolicious.

4AD in the Early 90s

I used to be a 4AD fan and kept a discography going back in the 80s.  Or 90s, I guess. 

I also used to buy lots of British music papers.

Rooting through the basement storage here today, I found a cache of snipped 4AD-related articles and reviews that I had apparently collected back then, but had never done anything with.  So I thought I’d just scan them and assemble them into PDFs.

The scans should probably be cropped for easier reading, so I was thinking about writing an Emacs-based image cropping mode.  But then I thought “eh”, and wrote this teensy little library that just queries you for file names, and then uses the Gimp to do the cropping.

Gimp supports opening several files “remotely” (i.e., without starting a new instance for every image), so this turned out to be a workable way to, er, work.

The time period turned out to be 1989 to 1993, which isn’t the prime period for 4AD by any stretch of the imagination.  Half the articles are about Lush, I think.  I mean, I love Lush, but, you know.

So there you go.  Enjoy the fabulous early-90s British music journalism.

I should fold these into the general database, but that would mean getting the C++ program I wrote in 1989 to compile now, and that’s not…  fun…