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She sent me a $50 voucher from

I went searching for something I'd like, and found a veritable trove of books on Deep Linguistics, many of the really interesting ones starting at $250, and working up (I remember seeing one there with a price in 5 digits!)

But I found a couple of books, and another for Mim, and took advantage of a free delivery promotion as well. And the last has just arrived. I am now, after almost two months wait, the proud owner of Old Irish Paradigms and Teach Yourself Babylonian.

Who would have thought they wouldn't have those in stock?
catsidhe: (Default)
So, I was getting resigned[1] to Firefox continually crashing out whenever I was doing anything complicated and intensive like reading The Age, reading my Gmail, or attempting to update LJ[2].

I brought up devhelp, and it gave exactly the same error as FF was before it would segfault and die horribly. For the record (and the benefit of Google), the error is
** (program_name:pid): WARNING **: Exception in gr::RangeSegment
This was obviously not a FF problem alone. I remembered seeing Pango in the trace when FF had last segfaulted, so I added that to the google terms, and came up with a suggestion that the pango-graphite package was doing the damage.

I had a look through aptitude. Pango-graphite is a package which extends the graphite libraries into pango, which is the text presentation layer for GTK. It apparently is to access various smart features of appropriate fonts (such as the SIL set) such as contextual ligatures and variant glyphs. Being as I am a language and type geek, I had installed this without a second thought when I was installing 8.04 before the break. At inspection, it is recommended by four SIL fonts, and there are no other dependencies, so I purged it, and no more RangeSegment errors for me.[3]

Yay me.

Alas, it does not seem to have completely solved the problem, as I have already had to restore this post from draft once, but no more errors, and the browser response is much snappier, there not being another layer of glyph translation before the text gets onto the screen. Several wierdnesses have gone away too, so the presentation of Oldstyle numerals and the like must have been a side effect of graphite. It was cute on one level, but at the same time the glyphs were blurry on screen, and a bit hard to read. Ahead on points, I think.

So: advice.

If you have pango-graphite installed and get RangeSegment errors and spontaneous segfaults from Firefox/Iceweasel, or other programs which use the Pango presentation engine, uninstall pango-graphite and see if that fixes it. You probably don't need it, geeking about the possibility of contextual ligatures aside.

[1] for values of ‘resigned’ being ‘increasingly irritated, shading into pissed off, with the frustration of not knowing how to fix it and a cherry on top’
[2] the combination of “restore session” and “restore from saved draft” saved several gems of insight and pearls of outrage.
[3] If you do not understand any of this paragraph, don't worry. Not many people would. Just take my advice that if you don't know if you need pango-graphite or not, you almost certainly don't need it.
catsidhe: (Default)
I have been listening in the car, over the last couple of days, to Pergolesi's Stabat Mater. And I think it is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written. (And the best version I have found is by New Trinity Baroque, downloadable here (MP3, 5MB). Not th eonly one, by any shot, but high up there in an exalted list.

It is Giovanni Battista Pergolesi's (1710-1736) setting of a Latin poem, but uses only three lines:
Stabat mater, dolorosa
iuxta crucem, lacrimosa
dum pendebat filius
which translates as
The mother stood, in grief,
Beside a cross, weeping,
where hung her son.

This doesn't tell a story: it shows an image, a lightning flash illuminating one moment. It's like a haiku: a flash around which the rest of the story must be inferred, and is felt more strongly therefore.

And all the more poignantly, while the image is about Christ, it isn't about Christ: it is about Jesus' mother, and describing her feelings, watching he son dying slowly and horribly, and unable to do anything about it. Unable to comfort him, or make it better. Unable to leave. This isn't about the Passion, this is about a mother's love and grief.

And it is superlatively powerful for it, not needing any hint of Christian piety for it to touch you. It comes close to being universal.

And the music plays all this off perfectly. Two voices play around each other (canonically soprano and alto, but it seems to be common to use sop. and countertenor, as in the NTB version I've linked to), closely and loosely, trading off the first two lines back and forth in various permutations, but always coming together for ‘filius’. I don't have the technical knowledge of what Pergolesi was doing, but I do know that it works perfectly. Only having one voice would not give the opportunity for interplay, more voices would be too much. (I wonder what it would sound like with a baritone or bass voice... although I can see why Pergolesi didn't: it simply doesn't need one.) It is a small, intimate piece, perfectly suiting the depiction of one intensely private moment.

But I'm just going on and on, as I tend to do with any subject which interests me.
I just needed to say something about this, and share it with others, in the hope that you would get as much from it as I have.
catsidhe: (Default)

I have already had a fiddle with xkb. I found it irritating that I had to guess what keyboard setting I had to use to get the multimedia keys on the Dell Latitude I use to work. As it turns out, I wrote an entire keyboard description, which is now in the standard xkb-config project. So my name is on a very small piece of Linux. Yay me!

And yet, I was not satisfied. You see, I have always had this idea that since a keyboard turns an arbitrary keystroke into an arbitrary character on the screen, that you should be able to tell it precisely what characters result from a given set of keystrokes.

It is, of course, not that simple. In windows, for example, if you don't have the right tool to hack up something, then you're stuck with the (undocumented) Windows en intl keyboard. Which has its charms, but is tight around the shoulders and itches something shocking. In Linux, you actually have the option of doing something about it, that is, the tools are right there, but almost no-one knows how to use them. There's xmodmap, for example. That seems to be depricated, though, in favour of xkb. Don't get me wrong, xkb will do wonderful things, but you have to know what you're doing. I reckon that there are about a couple of dozen people on the planet who have a deep understanding of how xkb and its myriad of config files works. I think that I am among them... or at least, I aspire to be, one day.

Again, there is no documentation. (Or what there is is patchy and less than useful. Maybe I shall have to make that a project, in my copious free time.) It is, while more powerful than xmodmap, also more restricted because there is, as far as I can see, no way to have a local configuration. That is, there is no way to have a user set of configs which a user can select from. If you want to add a new keyboard configuration, or geometry, or variant, or whatever, then you have to hack it into place in /etc/X11/xkb/*/*. And be ready for it to be overwritten next time xkb-config is upgraded.

Anyway, I've hacked up a keyboard which almost suits me. It has the standard keys in their normal places (for the us(intl) variant), but gets interesting in the upper register. Aside on 'Mode' and 'Compose' )

So, I wrote my own keyboard. I'm calling it “Paleographic Roman”, because that is basically what it is designed around dealing with. Because I like Latin, Old English and Irish Gaelic, those languages are dealt with especially, but Norse and other European languages should be coped with more or less easily. I tried to make it that if <MODE>+x gives a character, that <MODE>+<SHIFT>+x will give you the uppercase form if available. All characters are in the standard Unicode set. While I have chosen characters from the MUFI standard set, no character is included if it is in the Private Use Area. And preference is given to characters, as diacritics can be obtained through dead keys and Compose. But, given all that, here's what I have:

Keystroke tables galore! )

So now I can type ¡Holá!, or Tá mé i'mo tuirseaċt ⁊ táim ag obair fós, or Þorfinnʀ ⁊ Ranúlfʀ, or Hƿæt! Ƿé ᵹardéna in ᵹéar-dǽᵹum, or Fōȝt he wiþ þat Ȝrēne kniȝt ariȝt, all straight from the keyboard, no further fiddling needed! (Well, some, because some programs don't deal with some Unicode combinations as they should, but nevermind, it works well enough, most of the time.)


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