MaW's Musings

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The main problem, I have discovered in the last few days, about deciding to write a column for the Post is deciding what to write about.

I have spent several days wracking my brains for suitable subjects and, while some ideas for some rather nice editions have popped up, there is currently no overriding theme to my plans - so I decided that I wouldn't have one. However, as I wrote this column and the Book Recommendations section appeared, I decided on a format I think I might even follow next week - first, the random musings, or Miscellany. Yes, there's a book recommendation in there this week, but I'm sure you'll forgive me for that... Then, books, music, food, video... whatever I've seen, bought or done that I'd recommend to other people. And some things I wouldn't, as well, just to let you know what can happen to you if you're not careful.

Also, in case anyone's interested, this column is not being written using my GuideML editor GuidePost. Why not? Well, there are two main reasons:

  1. I'm running Linux, and the Windows version of GuidePost doesn't work too well on Linux without WINE, which I've not bothered to install since I upgraded to Slackware 8.0. The Linux version of GuidePost needs some serious work, so I don't use it very much.
  2. I fancied brushing the dust off GEdit+, as I don't use it very often - GNU Emacs normally tempts me away from it.


My sister, FABT, brought a rather large smile to my face earlier in the week by presenting me with a copy of a book called Latin For Even More Occasions (or Lingua Latina Multo Pluribus Occasionibus) by Henry Beard, a fantastic tome I have always wished to read, along with its prequel, Latin For All Occasions. These books are packed with wise sayings in the classical language, including one on the cover of Latin For Even More Occasions which immediately catches the eye - "Te audire non possum. Musa sapientum fisa est in aura", which the book reliably informs me means "I can't hear you, I have a banana in my ear". I suspect that the author may have written others, including one I've seen (although the authorship remains in doubt) in my local Past Times shop entitled "How to Insult, Abuse and Insinuate in Classical Latin", which has to be one for the Christmas List.

Interestingly enough, that latter book seems to have a multitude of similar works to go with it, including (probably) more than one in Shakespearian English. It's amazing what you can use to get people interested in dead languages, isn't it?

Speaking of Shakespeare (nice connection that, what?), a group of students in the USA have produced a programming language called The Shakespeare Programming Language, or SPL. SPL's aim is to allow the programmer to produce programs which read like Shakespeare's plays, and it has certainly accomplished that. The website of the project includes some example programs, including a Hello, World! that is somewhat more than 100 lines long (but packed with fantastic if slightly laborious insults, which the documentation tells us represent negative numbers). On the whole, it seems entirely useless for everyday programming, but definitely something worth looking into if you're a computer programmer who likes weird languages (like myself). Another weird language that sees a new release is var'aq, the warrior's programming language, written by various Star Trek fans as an exercise - what would a Klingon programming language be like? It's somewhat more than that now, however, and sports quite an impressive list of features. Both these languages can be found on Freshmeat, probably the ultimate Open Source software site for GNU/Linux and PalmOS.

I'm not going to write about programming any more this week, mostly because I've spent the last goodness knows how many weeks writing a program for a Windows CE device using Microsoft eMbedded Visual C++ and IBM DB2 Everyplace. This is an experience I hope never to repeat. For some reason, the idea of a programming language and API that seems to almost randomly crash or throw an error totally fails to appeal to me. I'll stick to Delphi on Windows, thank you very much - and C++, Perl and Haskell on Linux.

From This Point On, No More Programming

What shall I write about instead, you may ask? Well, firstly I want to recommend that if you haven't already read it, go and read this week's edition of the excellent column by Pr. C. Tonks, Ask Prof. - if he's up to his normal standards, it's an absolute must-read. Especially if you found even a little of all that programming garbage I wrote up above interesting.

Secondly, we are about to jump into hyperspace for the journey to Barnard's Star...

Well, maybe not, but the death of Douglas Adams still hits me every time I see someone reading one of his books, or when I heard that BBC Radio 4 are broadcasting the original series again - although I already have it on CD, having worn out my tapes. Speaking of which, is the TV series ever coming out on DVD? Yes, you've guessed it, I've killed my VHS tapes of it.

Book Recommendations

Last week I indulged myself and purchased the latest work by David and Leigh Eddings - The Redemption of Althalus. If you like Eddings, this is a must-read. I haven't finished it yet (so no spoilers if you want to talk about it), but I seem to regret every time I don't have the chance to read some more, even though I know it's beyond me to sit down and read the whole thing through - it may be good, but it's certainly no Wizard's First Rule.

And if you don't know what Wizard's First Rule is, I highly recommend that as well. My aforementioned sister discovered it some years ago (must be at least four or five by now), and it's definitely well-worth reading. The sequels don't always live up to the standards set by the first book in this The Sword of Truth series, but they are also worth reading, and the sixth book, Faith of the Fallen, which has recently come out in paperback in the UK, more than makes up for any mediocre bits in the intervening books - which you mustn't skip, or you'll miss out on most of the back story. Anyway, the books are all by Terry Goodkind, and are, in reading order: Wizard's First Rule, Stone of Tears, Blood of the Fold, Temple of the Winds, Soul of the Fire and Faith of the Fallen. We are assured that another is in the works, and hopefully will be published sometime soon, unlike the next book in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time, which isn't expected until 2002.

Music Recommendations

I am very aware that not everyone shares my taste in music, but my latest purchase - a Kate Bush compilation album entitled Whole Story is so good I simply can't not mention it. I'm also rather enamoured of Maddy Prior, a former singer with folk-rock band Steeleye Span and a well-established solo artist in her own right, at the moment. The last album of hers I got was Ravenchild, which I'll freely admit is better than the more recently released Arthur the King, but that's certainly no reason not to get both... I wouldn't recommend Ballads and Candles for everyday listening though. Yes, it's good, yes, it's live, yes, it's more suited to Christmas. It is a recording of a Christmas concert after all, and I will definitely be playing it before bed on Christmas Eve.

As for bad music I've heard recently... please, Shaggy, stop now. Please?

And Bob the Builder's version of Mambo Number 5... I shudder just thinking about it. What is it that the summer holidays do to the music and film industries? Hmm?

Finally, Madonna... what can be said about Madonna, other than "More! More! More!"?

To The End

Well, that about wraps it up for this week. I wouldn't want to hold you away from the rest of the Post for too long, and I know how much I enjoy reading it... join me again next week, when no doubt I will have some more musings to share with you on various subjects, and I'll have another book to recommend from my personal collection. If you have any comments or suggestions, please feel free to e-mail me on [email protected] - or you can use the forum here of course.


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