Religious Epics, both Modern and Classical

I am back to working on my father’s French epic manuscript index. I use “Epic” in the literal sense; stories about Charlemagne and his cast of characters.
I’ve gotten frustrated at getting my father to do some of the work, so I’ve decided to make an end-run around him and just try and do it myself. Which I probably should have done in the first place. In the past, I’ve gotten some of the data into a website, but that is mostly the actual libraries and the manuscripts. I still have to get the contents of those manuscripts.
I have all the files that he wrote thirty years ago. The first problem is that these files are written in something called “Waterloo Script”. There is nothing I’ve been able to find that reads those files or converts them to anything modern. I have not even been able to find documentation of it. So I will have to write a converter myself.
The files are basically text with a lot of codes to do different things. I have to extract the data out of it and eventually put it into SQL. However, I’m going to put it into XML as a middleman first and then use XSLT to convert as appropriate. That way I can convert to HTML easily to see how things are going. (I know that’s a lot of acronyms, but they make sense.) I am tempted to try and write something that will be generic and handle any Waterloo Script file, but that may be too ambitious.
My first task was to pick a language to do the parsing in. This was important.
I have most of my experience in C# or Swift these days, but those are full featured languages tied to Microsoft and Apple respectively. And I don’t know how long they will last, as they are specific to an operating system. I need to use an interpreted language that can be used on any machine. I was looking at this as a learning opportunity to get better with a language I don’t use much.
My first thought was Perl. It is an old language but still used and is well known for being good at text parsing. Sounds ideal. I even have the Camel book that is considered its bible. I haven’t looked at it in 15 years, but an old language doesn’t change much.
The other thought was PHP. It is a language more devoted to web servers and is what I will be using to serve the website eventually, but it can be used for parsing as well. It just isn’t known for it.
I could do it in Ruby which I’m learning, but that is VERY tied to web servers and will come with too much baggage that I don’t want.
I wasn’t sure which to use. I looked online for advice. But most articles seemed to be more religious than secular. People are very devoted to a language they have spent time learning.
For Christmas I wanted to start work on this project. But I didn’t want to take a laptop around with me during my vacation. I have a new iPad Pro with a keyboard; can I do work on that? I even have an app, Coda that should allow me to edit files. Unfortunately, the iPad doesn’t have a lot of compilers on it.
So, I loaded a whole bunch of files on to my web server. The plan was that I could use the iPad to edit the files remotely and then run them off my server. I wouldn’t be able to do development on an airplane, but who am I kidding? There is no way I would be THAT motivated.
I did some experiments to prove it could work. And I had a magnificent failure. The concept worked in practice and I was able to do exactly what I had theorized. However, I learned something else that changed everything.
In this day and age, being a programmer is fairly language agnostic. Languages have evolved a lot, but mostly in parallel. Many are derived from C/C++ and if you know the basics, it is easy to move from one to the other. (The valuable software development skills are more along the lines of being able to think properly.) That was the thought process I had going in. Although Perl was based off of C, it was nearly 30 years old. It did a lot of things in a way that no longer felt natural. It would not be easy to do development in it.
PHP was much closer to C/C++. That would be the better way to continue.
But then I realized, there is an even better option. If I wanted to use something not too foreign, why don’t I use Javascript? I’ve developed other things in it. I hadn’t thought of it before because it is a language for running off a client machine, not a server. But, it is powerful, and it will also run in any web browser. And my iPad has a web browser.
Using Coda, I was able to get the data on to the iPad and run it from there. Then I could actually use it on a plane if I wanted. The biggest issue was accessing the files wasn’t natural. Every other language had ways to open a read files from a file hierarchy. Because Javascript assumed it would be running on a client machine it could only access them from a URL, but I could work around that.
It has so far been working quite well.

Movie Watching Advice

I have two ways to get me through films that are painful.
I get annoyed if I am watching a movie or TV show and I see the characters do something dumb. It makes it painful to watch. I can accept them doing dumb things if it has been set up as part of their character. But when someone is carrying the idiot ball, I am not going to enjoy it.
I also have trouble letting go of tasks/missions. I want to finish things that I start. I realize the Big Bang Theory actually did an episode on this called The Closure Alternative. Closure is as descriptive a word as necessary.
If I start a book, it will annoy me if I don’t finish it. Even if it is a terrible book. Heaven help me if it is a terrible book in a series. I would like to think I’ve gotten better over the years.
The problem that I am having is that a movie may get painful from idiot ball usage, but I still feel the need to finish it. This is less of a problem with television shows than movies, because a good television show will have more time to bring up plausible reasons for things to happen, or the show will be over soon anyway. A film has to move things along quicker and doesn’t have the opportunity for character development.
I was watching a film that I expected to be bad, The Late Bloomer. I don’t mind bad films so much as long as the characters are true. The movie was predictable and I don’t mind that. Except when it decided to do predictable idiot-ball usage. Where a child gives the adult dating advice which is “be mean to the girl”. Ugh. Classic idiot-ball.
Then I had a realization. It was a predictable movie. I knew exactly what was going to happen. I knew it so well, I didn’t need to watch the painful scene. I simply fast forwarded through the scene and then continued with the rest of the film. I got my needed closure and I had a better time.
My other method of getting through films is less noble. If I can see that something bad is going to happen, either because it is a suspense/horror film or because the classic arc requires a tragedy to setup the third act, I will get stressed. The solution is to quickly scan the wikipedia entry on the film at the appropriate time. It give a synopsis and knowing what bad thing will happen makes me relax a lot more.
I actually get to enjoy the film.
I think this is true for a lot of people. It’s why trailers spoil entire movies. People like to know what will happen.

Out of Province Vehicle

I remember seeing “The Slipknot”, a fringe play by T.J. Dawe. It was so good I bought the script to it. (Which I don’t have on me because I have put it into storage.) In it he describes his life in Vancouver and the trouble he had with a van that a friend asked him to sell. It was not easy.
I am now living in Vancouver, and my car’s Alberta registration is going to expire at the end of this month. So I will need to register it in B.C. (I think I was supposed to do this within a month of arrival…) This province is picky about the cars it allows to drive here. Specifically, they need to have an “Out of Province Vehicle Inspection”. The registration place that I went to recommended a place to have that done. It’s a ten minute drive away from downtown. However, their hours are almost identical to my work hours. Which means I will probably never see them face-to-face.
On Monday I drove out to their place, dropped the car off, put the keys in the mailbox, and then walked home. The walk took about 45 minutes along a fairly major road. It gave me an opportunity to watch the locals drive.
I’m probably stereotyping here, but I don’t trust B.C. drivers. They have a wonderful mass transit system. This means that they don’t have to get behind the wheel of a car often. So they don’t get to practice as much as other Canadians do. I hear more honking horns here than I did in Edmonton. When they get a bit of snow they also tend to fall apart. Mind you, this causes icy streets that are usually inclined, so I can’t blame them too much for that.
With this lovely mass transit system, and the fact that I can walk to work, I have been wondering if I even need a car. If the car fails the inspection, it might be worth it to abandon car ownership. I could, before the month ends, do an epic drive to Calgary and sell my family my car for a buck and then take a bus home. That sounds exhausting though.
Life without a car would mean I would have to second-guess every time I want to go somewhere I used to drive to. Going to the Superstore outside the downtown would be more complicated, and would the lower prices and wider selection against the cost of the skytrain be worth it? But I’ve been hermitting a lot this winter as I’m trying to get my life organized. The lack of a social life in Vancouver also prevents me from going driving anywhere. But I should keep my options open for the future when I will want to explore the city more in summer.
The inspection failed.
It failed for the same reason TJ Dawe had trouble with his friend’s van. The windshield has cracks. “It was good enough for Alberta!” is how Mr. Dawe put it, if I remember correctly. If I had paid more attention to the play, I could have handled that issue beforehand.
All is not lost, or Alberta bound. The inspection place is having a guy come in tomorrow to replace my windshield. So I don’t need to deal with the logistics of dropping or picking up a car unnecessarily. It will cost money, but not obscene amounts. It does mean that I will actually have to see the proprietors face-to-face; the cost of the windshield is more than they can handle over the phone. I’ll probably try and get there before they open on Thursday so I can get to work at a reasonable hour.

Avoiding 2017

It is interesting when XKCD has a comic that matches my resolution fairly closely.
I continually have a plan to get my inbox cleaned up. One of the better methods I’ve had, which is more prevention than a cure, is to avoid the current year.
Let me explain:
When I receive an email, my mail program doesn’t necessarily show the date that it arrived. It will say “Today” or “Yesterday” as appropriate. If it arrived two days ago, then it will show the complete date, along with the year. So my current goal is to not have the year “2017” show up as a date in my inbox.
This requires me to stay on top of my email. It has actually helped me to be more productive. Things don’t sit around. I have a software project with my father that I now have to stay on top of. Because I am keeping mentally occupied with it, I found I am sleeping better. Mental exhaustion helps.


For Christmas, my family and I went to Houston and the surrounding areas.
It was nice and warm for the most part. A pleasant change from the usual Canada standard.
We were spoiled rotten with great food. Catalina’s family in Corpus Christi were superb hosts that had formerly owned a Chinese restaurant. For eight people there was a nine course meal. My family is now going to expect that with every vacation.
In Corpus we were also a one minute walk to the beach. It could probably have been closer, but an aircraft carrier was taking up all the parking. I mean that almost literally. It couldn’t possibly be true, but it sounded too cool not to say. Really, the aircraft carrier was not taking up any parking spots. But it did add a certain je ne sais quoi to the view.
The museum ship, the USS Lexington was very cool to see. You can wander over more of the ship than I would have expected. I did ask and discovered that it no longer floats; it was sailed into the mud and then allowed to settle. It will never move again. On board there were a lot of tight staircases, and good displays. I liked the scale models. The story of the Dreadnought was also good. There were lots of planes on the deck to look at. And they let you move and pretend-fire the big guns. I don’t think we covered everything in it; after awhile you get tired from too much learning.
My flight to and from Houston was fairly easy, except my razor was confiscated on the way back. I can not say the same about my family, who are now swearing they will never fly with Air Canada again. Their flight down was delayed by 140 minutes and their Bombardier plane was cramped and uncomfortable. Their return flight was at 7:30 in the morning, which meant getting up very early. I still do not know if that plane ever made it back to Canada. It certainly didn’t fly that day. I don’t even think it flew the next. Luckily my family was able to get switched over to United for the next day and had a stay at the airport hotel for their trouble.
For flying purposes I don’t know who to trust anymore. Last year, United gave me a lot of trouble for flying to and from Costa Rica. And I know that they break guitars. But Air Canada sat on a throne of lies. They claimed they were sending another plane to rescue people, but that never happened; they kept trying to repair the one they had and telling people fantasies about departure times which required continual false returns to the airport. I think it was the same plane they took down, implying it was on its last legs for awhile.