What I’m Watching: Disenchantment

The new Matt Groening cartoon, at long last! Surely after 4000 years of the Simpsons, and a few seasons of Futurama over the 30-some years it was on and off and on and off, has taught him how to craft a tightly-wound, kickass cartoon!

Imagine the Dark Ages. Imagine plague, filth, terrible rulership by inbred aristocrats, superstition, religious lunatics praying to gods who aren’t there, conquest by savage barbarians… Oh, what fun. Well, it could be. If anyone wrote “jokes” for this.

There’s a princess Bean, who apparently you’re supposed to sympathize with, but she’s loathsome, the kind of shitty inbred mass-murdering spoiled aristocrat you’d hate in real life. An Elf named Elfo, because why even bother trying to make a joke (they did name an elf who left Elfland “Leavo”, which was almost funny… Then beat it into the ground with “Returno”). And a shadow demon “Luci”… ugh… which everyone agrees is her cat. Nobody has a personality, just a one-beat repetitive routine. Bean wants to get drunk. Elfo is a goody-goody who wants to date the princess, but of course never will. Luci says “evil” things like “get drunk”. It’s like a world made of the NPCs from a CRPG. They walk in circles saying one of a few recorded lines.

The plots are tedious and unoriginal, even by the standards of extruded cartoon product like Simpsons. There’s an occasional fight, which would at least change this from boring to some kind of adventure show? But they’re short, slow-paced, lot of talking in between the occasional axe swing.

In comparison, watch an episode of Berserk, and you’ll see great art, giant swords cleaving people apart, a fairy sidekick who’s not awful, in a world far darker than this but far funnier, too. I’m fairly eager to see Castlevania S2 on Oct 26. I’m still watching thru the Godzilla anime, which is dumb as hell but amuses me at least half the time.

With anything Groening touches, of course, we need to talk about sexism and racism, see the Problem With Apu. In this case, the boring fantasy kingdom shows male honkies in charge, a few black (or blue & froglike) people off to the side. Women other than Bean are entirely subservient, medieval European gender roles followed 100% up through S1E5. The black vizier is of course evil and perverted; like, how could you expect otherwise from Matt?

I’m disenchanted with Disenchantment. It might be the dullest thing I have ever seen. I would ask Netflix for my money back, but, you know, watching other stuff.


Xcode Packaging

Speaking of packaging, a thing I hated in Xcode, which made me wish to be filled with nuclear fire, transformed into Godzilla, and stomp thru 1 Infinite Loop, was the package structure:

        all source, images, and config files in a single giant mess, regardless of "groups"
                    foo debug.xcscheme
                    foo release.xcscheme
        more sources

Are you fucking kidding me?

Groups aren’t folders, they’re just keywords grouped together until Xcode decides to fuck you over and disorganize them. To fight the project dump dir, I’d make a group, then add a subfolder, edit the group to reference the folder, and then I could create files in their own nicely-organized subfolder. There is of course no automatic name sorting, because that’s a developer convenience and Xcode hates developers.

Test code couldn’t be in the same folder as the code it was testing. So you’d edit a file, then edit a test file WAY over in a different tree. Good luck knowing how much coverage you had.

I especially love how foo.xcodeproj/xcuserdata/ and foo.xcodeproj/project.xcworkspace/xcuserdata/ have duplicate structures for develop & run/debug modes, because obviously the runtime and debug teams are separate and hate each other.

Julia Local Packaging

So I wanted to move all my common Julia code to a support dir. My filesystem has for 30+ years contained:

        et fucking cetera

Build scripts for most languages expect something very like this, and it’s easy to import one package’s source into another, so I could put common code in a “Marklib” project, and get work done.

Making this happen in Julia was a lot more difficult. With a little help from Slack I made sense of the terrible package documentation for Julia and the incomprehensible errors, and wrote a script juliaMakePackage.zsh:

if [[ $# -ne 1 ]]; then
    echo "Usage: juliaMakePackage.zsh NAME"
    exit 1
cd $devdir
julia -E "using Pkg; Pkg.activate(\".\"); Pkg.generate(\"${name}\")"
cd $name
git init
git add .
git commit -m "Initial commit"
cd ..
julia -E "using Pkg; Pkg.develop(PackageSpec(url=\"${devdir}/${name}\"))"

And then added the main dir and all packages I make to ~/.julia/config/startup.jl:

# startup.jl

push!(LOAD_PATH, pwd())
push!(LOAD_PATH, "$(homedir())/Code/CodeJulia")
push!(LOAD_PATH, "$(homedir())/Code/CodeJulia/Marklib")

println("READY $(pwd())")

Now finally I can:

% julia
READY /Users/mdh
julia> using Marklib
julia> Marklib.greet()
Hello World!

And from there start putting in my libs. Each one needs a package and a startup entry; I may have to automate that by walking my code dir. Waste of several hours figuring that out.

Lovely H.P. Lovecraft Day

Below, one of my favorites to curl up and enjoy; “The Book” fragment elaborates on the first few sections, but the poetic rewrite is more effective:

Fungi from Yuggoth, by H.P. Lovecraft:

I. The Book

The place was dark and dusty and half-lost
In tangles of old alleys near the quays,
Reeking of strange things brought in from the seas,
And with queer curls of fog that west winds tossed.
Small lozenge panes, obscured by smoke and frost,
Just shewed the books, in piles like twisted trees,
Rotting from floor to roof—congeries
Of crumbling elder lore at little cost.

I entered, charmed, and from a cobwebbed heap
Took up the nearest tome and thumbed it through,
Trembling at curious words that seemed to keep
Some secret, monstrous if one only knew.
Then, looking for some seller old in craft,
I could find nothing but a voice that laughed.

II. Pursuit

I held the book beneath my coat, at pains
To hide the thing from sight in such a place;
Hurrying through the ancient harbor lanes
With often-turning head and nervous pace.
Dull, furtive windows in old tottering brick
Peered at me oddly as I hastened by,
And thinking what they sheltered, I grew sick
For a redeeming glimpse of clean blue sky.

No one had seen me take the thing—but still
A blank laugh echoed in my whirling head,
And I could guess what nighted worlds of ill
Lurked in that volume I had coveted.
The way grew strange—the walls alike and madding—
And far behind me, unseen feet were padding.

III. The Key

I do not know what windings in the waste
Of those strange sea-lanes brought me home once more,
But on my porch I trembled, white with haste
To get inside and bolt the heavy door.
I had the book that told the hidden way
Across the void and through the space-hung screens
That hold the undimensioned worlds at bay,
And keep lost aeons to their own demesnes.

At last the key was mine to those vague visions
Of sunset spires and twilight woods that brood
Dim in the gulfs beyond this earth’s precisions,
Lurking as memories of infinitude.
The key was mine, but as I sat there mumbling,
The attic window shook with a faint fumbling.

IV. Recognition

The day had come again, when as a child
I saw—just once—that hollow of old oaks,
Grey with a ground-mist that enfolds and chokes
The slinking shapes which madness has defiled.
It was the same—an herbage rank and wild
Clings round an altar whose carved sign invokes
That Nameless One to whom a thousand smokes
Rose, aeons gone, from unclean towers up-piled.

I saw the body spread on that dank stone,
And knew those things which feasted were not men;
I knew this strange, grey world was not my own,
But Yuggoth, past the starry voids—and then
The body shrieked at me with a dead cry,
And all too late I knew that it was I!


Monday Note

“The social network is built on values that are so shady that it can’t be trusted to address fake news issues. Some countries already suffer from it.”
—Frederic Filloux

Normally I read Monday Note for the inimitable Jean-Louis Gassée’s posts, like 50 Years in Tech, Part 1 and Part 2 largely about HP; as a former HP-er during Carly’s disastrous reign of terror, it’s fascinating to read about an HP that wasn’t on fire and screaming.

But this time Frederic, the news guy, is actually posting something of interest, and you should read those Fake News posts.

Anatomy of Frank Herbert

Truthfully, “God Emperor of Dune” is the best book in the series, but you have to read the second and third books to get to it. And they are… They are just the worst.
—Dave Kellett

This is completely true. We can theorize about how Chapterhouse: Dune or the final book might’ve been the best if Frank hadn’t been dying, but certainly the abominations perpetrated by Kevin J. Anderson (worst writer in the world) and Frank’s incompetent son Brian were not that.

But the Dune series isn’t Frank Herbert’s best work. I’d put at least Destination: Void, Whipping Star, Dosadi Experiment, Hellstrom’s Hive, and Eyes of Heisenberg above it, both for scope of ideas, character development, and pacing.

Dune most of the time meanders aimlessly through the desert, eventually coming up with a memorable scene, and Dune Meshuggeneh (#2) and Super-Babies of Dune (#3) are the least interesting books Herbert ever wrote. The others are all far more tightly written.

His short story collections, mostly about the ConSentiency setting (I want a chairdog!), are fantastic. And for sequels, the Bill Ransom co-authored Jesus Incident, Lazarus Effect, Ascension Factor are good stories of Humans under a deranged AI that thinks it’s a god: Good lessons for the coming times.

Julia String Concatenation

Last time, I was uncertain about string concatenation, so I did a test:

#!/usr/bin/env julia

const kTestText = "abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz0123456789\n"
const kLoops = 10000

function stringString()
    s = ""
    for i in 1:kLoops
        s = "$s$kTestText"
    return s

function bufferString()
    sb = IOBuffer()
    for i in 1:kLoops
        print(sb, kTestText)
    return String(take!(sb))

function vectorString()
    sb = Vector()
    for i in 1:kLoops
        push!(sb, kTestText)
    return join(sb, "")

function typedVectorString()
    sb = Vector{AbstractString}()
    for i in 1:kLoops
        push!(sb, kTestText)
    return join(sb, "")

println("*** stringString")
@timev stringString()

println("\n*** bufferString")
@timev bufferString()

println("\n*** vectorString")
@timev vectorString()

println("\n*** typedVectorString")
@timev typedVectorString()

*** stringString
  1.100197 seconds (21.24 k allocations: 1.725 GiB, 15.94% gc time)
elapsed time (ns): 1100197167
gc time (ns):      175349222
bytes allocated:   1851904041
pool allocs:       11292
non-pool GC allocs:9950
GC pauses:         79

*** bufferString
  0.006864 seconds (11.80 k allocations: 1.134 MiB)
elapsed time (ns): 6864042
bytes allocated:   1189493
pool allocs:       11794
non-pool GC allocs:3
realloc() calls:   8

*** vectorString
  0.017380 seconds (26.68 k allocations: 2.191 MiB)
elapsed time (ns): 17380237
bytes allocated:   2297091
pool allocs:       26659
non-pool GC allocs:9
realloc() calls:   8

*** typedVectorString
  0.031384 seconds (44.75 k allocations: 2.999 MiB, 10.00% gc time)
elapsed time (ns): 31384383
gc time (ns):      3137654
bytes allocated:   3144221
pool allocs:       44730
non-pool GC allocs:8
realloc() calls:   8
GC pauses:         1

Well, there’s me told off. I expected #1 typedVector, #2 vector, #3 buffer, then stringString way at the bottom. Instead the first 3 are reversed.

IOBuffer, as ugly as it is, is the clear winner. Vector did OK, but twice as much CPU & RAM loses. Amusing that typedVector is twice as slow and memory-heavy as the untyped (explained ). On larger loops, buffer gets slower, but vector remains a memory pig, and in GC that’s unacceptable. Of course stringString is terrible, and it’s almost exactly the same for string(s, kTestText).

Time to rewrite some text processing.

Twitpocalypse Now

The big winners of this so far have been ActivityPub servers, especially Mastodon, and micro.blog, where I’ve seen a lot of people finally jump out of the boiling pot (I was gonna say “frogs” instead of “people”, but the whole right-wing frog avatar thing…). My handles are in that About page above you, if you want to follow.

If you’re picking an ActivityPub instance, be aware that mastodon.social is a giant possibly-hostile mess like Twitter, and not really a “community” like many other instances. Pick a smaller instance, read the timeline on their instance’s front page, and make a more informed choice. You can communicate with almost everyone in the Fediverse and see a similar Federated timeline from almost any instance, but the Local timeline will be different.

If you were on ADN, you can ask me for an mdhughes@appdot.net invite. Pleroma is also interesting, and might be more to your taste.

Anyway, welcome to the free world, ex-twitterers!