New neighbours

We were due to move out of London on the 31st, and then we were going to live in West Yorkshire with Sam’s family for two weeks before leaving for the US. Obviously, that plan was shot to pieces.

We were still planning to move out on time until late Wednesday night when we realised that a lockdown in London could easily mean being stuck with nowhere to go. At around 5am on Thursday, we woke up and started packing. Sam got one of the last vans at Enterprise and we Tetris-ed things in to it until about 7pm when it was filled to the brim. We said goodbye to our home for the last 4+ years, and then he drove north while I failed to stay awake in the passenger seat. We listened to a few episodes of Answer Me This and The Mythos Suite, ended up rolling in to our destination around 1am.

Meet our new neighbours.

Brown hens in a back gardens in West Yorkshire

We’ll be staying in a few AirBnBs until things calm down a little bit and it makes sense to move to the US. It’s pretty good so far. We have already worked remotely for so long, we don’t have to make any major adjustments there. And it’s a beautiful part of the world, should be able to do a lot of walking.

Part of me feels really guilty about leaving, particularly when I think about what happened with the lockdown exodus in Italy and after reading this Guardian article. We don’t want to contribute to any problems, but we couldn’t stay.

We decided on Yorkshire because it was pretty much our original plan, though we’ll probably be here longer than we had planned and will rarely see family. We’re trying to stay as distant as possible. Living in a state of flux.

packing, selling, dissolving

Drawing of a dracaena

We’ve been slowly packing up for the past month, preparing to move thousands of miles away. It was exciting up until about two weeks ago. We knew it would be sad to leave the people we love, pack away our books, sell so many of our things. But we were looking forward to a big change.

Now it feels untethering. Reality feels very thin at the moment, and the process of moving amplifies that feeling. Home should be a grounding place, but it’s shifting under our feet. We’ve disassembled our workspaces, we’ve given away the chairs and sold the monitors. The umbrella plant that I got at the flower market when I first moved here, the dracaena I brought back from the dead, the lovely coffee table we’ve had since we first started living together. They’ll all be gone by tomorrow.

Drawing of a mid-century coffee table

I really don’t mind the downscaling. They’re just objects, and all of them are going to great homes. And we’re still going to move even if it gets delayed by current events, so it doesn’t make sense to hoard things for the sake of a few more weeks. But the *timing*. Things are dissolving and will be fluid for quite some time. I could really do with some solidity.

The worst part is that we may not get to say goodbye. We were planning to celebrate with the people we love. There’s an outside chance we’ll still be able to, but we don’t want to put friends in an uncomfortable or dangerous position.

What will happen will happen. And we’re pretty fortunate. It’s just sad, that’s all.

drastic nostalgia

pink ice plant flowers, a bee, concrete breeze blocks painted white, bromeliads, air plants, glue sticks, wicker chair back, lemons, limes, my blanket, sea hare, cut strawberries, mud, asphalt, flaking kick ball backboard, eucalyptus, AYSO jersey patterns, Vons ice cream, sand, marine layer, gross beige rug, 70s beach blanket, sunscreen, Xacto knife, vorco board, bright blue sweatshirt, jelly pens, unopened peonies, rope, bird wallpaper, food dye in water, pancake batter drips, continuous form paper, chain link fence, shiny brass, plastic oscillating fan, dirty terrazzo flooring

wanting to do something drastic to yourself
tattoos, shaving your head, suicide
out of all the good, where does this feeling come from? what frustration are we trying to embody?

also, nostalgia
it’s masochistic, purposefully reliving unreal events that will always feel superior to the present day, real life

we forget so much
oblivious viciousness of childhood

glass-block walls, stucco of all sorts, white wrought iron, fake wood panelling, ivy, guppies, anenomies, four square, gloved hands, twisted hair wraps, clover, tadpoles, blue pools, mustard, Pleiades, *big* spider, unshaven legs, long hair, freckles, sheets in the sun, wisteria, terracotta tiles, reflective glossy black, ceramic bear, brick wall, water pump

***

Found in one of the old notebooks that I’m slowly de-cluttering.

Overheard on the 73, “it’s just one of those things”

I’m not going to lie, when I get a few drinks in me… I’m a little nasty to her. But it’s just one of those things.

Overheard on 10 April 2013 while sitting on the the upper deck of the 73 bus between Euston Station and King’s Cross, headed towards Stoke Newington. Said by a middle-aged businessman with a blue tie and London accent talking on a mobile.

Seems particularly awful since obviously there is self-awareness. He just doesn’t care enough to act differently.

***

Found in one of my old notebooks that I’m slowly de-cluttering.

Where are the non-English programming languages? Thoughts prompted by a small but mighty bug

A short two-parter

Part 1: A small-but-mighty bug

I’m doing a few coding-for-designers workshops with the students in the MA Graphic Media Design programme at the LCC, the first one was this past Thursday.

We’re focusing on web stuff since that’s what they expressed the most interest in and it’s in my wheelhouse. We started with a broad and brief overview of code, about how we use human-readable programming languages to communicate with computers. But 99% of the time, when we say “human-readable” we really mean “English-based”. More on this later.

After my short intro, we put together a simple webpage with HTML and CSS. A few of the students ran in to a small-but-mighty bug that I’ve never encountered before.

We were working on a basic CSS rule set, something like:

body {
  background-color: linear-gradient(blue, pink);
}

And for one of the students, it just wasn’t working. I checked it a bunch of times, it was all typed perfectly. No missing spaces or characters, spelling was fine. VSCode indicated that the background-color declaration wasn’t finished, which seemed weird. I looked really closely at it and noticed that the semicolon seemed a little thinner than the others in the file.

Turns out that the student had typed a full-width semicolon (U+FF1B) instead of a semicolon (U+003B). The full-width semicolon is used in Chinese to “demarcate parallel structures in a paragraph”. Another student ran in to the same problem a few minutes later, using a full-width left curly bracket (U+FF5B) instead of a left curly bracket (U+007B).

I had asked them to type in a semicolon, to type in a curly bracket, and so they typed the characters the way they normally do in their native languages. Super understandable.

If you were just starting to learn what code is and how it works, I can’t imagine how hard it would be to debug this sort of language-based problem on your own.

Part 2: Where are the non-English programming languages?

Gretchen McCulloch wrote a very worthwhile Wired article titled “Coding Is for Everyone—as Long as You Speak English”. I feel like every programmer / dev should read it.

Programming doesn’t have to be English-centric. As McCulloch puts it:

The computer doesn’t care. The computer is already running an invisible program (a compiler) to translate your IF or <body> into the 1s and 0s that it functions in, and it would function just as effectively if we used a potato emoji 🥔 to stand for IF and the obscure 15th century Cyrillic symbol multiocular O ꙮ to stand for <body>.

How would we go about implementing non-English HTML tags? W3C has an FAQ on the topic where they state that “HTML or XHTML tags are all pre-defined (in English) and must remain that way if they are to be correctly recognized by user agents (eg. browsers).

Since browsers just implement the standards set by W3C (I’m pretty sure that’s right?), I’m guessing that W3C would have to approve it if we wanted native non-English HTML support. It seems like it would be a bit of a mountain to climb but if we take something like Wikipedia’s translation efforts as an example, surely there are tons of people out there that would help with translation?

Gonna keep an eye on this. Need to find a book or good article on the history of ALGOL.

Getting STRONG

I want to get STRONG

Yoga is relaxing but expensive, and I’m not sure about learning it at home. Gyms suck. Swimming is *lovely* but doesn’t do my angry skin any favours. Can’t run much b/c of lifelong knee issue. Excuses, excuses.

At-home bodyweight exercises FTW. This is what I’ve been trying recently, every other day for about 30 minutes. I can do all of them within the confines of a yoga mat in my postage-stamp flat.

They’re based on a few decent exercise vids on YouTube, but I prefer not to refer to the full videos all the time. Too high-energy / shiny. Instead, I’ve got the movements programmed in to a circuit training app and I listen to that alongside a mix.


Glute + quad workout

About 11 minutes. Need a yoga / exercise mat. Related video

0:30 – Pulse lunge, left side
0:30 – Pulse lunge, right side

0:30 – Lunge with leg raise

0:30 – Jump squats

0:30 – Side squat steps

0:30 – Sumo squats

0:30 – Abductor squats

Move to mat, tabletop position

0:30 – Donkey kicks, left side
0:30 – Donkey kicks, right side

0:30 – Fire hydrants to straight kick back, left side
0:30 – Fire hydrants to straight kick back, right side

Lie on stomach, head resting on forearms

0:30 – Frog kicks, alternating legs
0:30 – Frog kicks, both legs

Lie on back

0:30 – Glute bridge

0:30 – One-leg glute bridge, left side
0:30 – One-leg glute bridge, right side

0:30 – Glute bridge, narrow stance

0:30 – Glute bridge, alternating leg raise

0:30 – Glute bridge, hold it


Standing arm workout

About 4 minutes. Completed standing in one spot, arms extended the whole time. These are hard to describe, see related video.

0:30 – Arms extended, palms up and then down

0:30 – Butterfly stroke then curling under as if holding beach ball

0:20 – Pulsing with palms facing forward
0:20 – Pulsing with palms facing backward

0:20 – Small circles clockwise
0:20 – Small circles counter-clockwise

0:20 – Forward, bend elbows, up, down

0:20 – Up, bend elbows, forward, back (reverse of above)

0:20 – Straight arm clap

0:30 – Trace ball in front


I’ll add more as I come across things that I like.

I found Piskel while writing this post, what a cool little site / tool. Neat CSS tip via SB: use image-rendering: crisp-edges for extra crispy pixel art.

Ceramic cat by a young David Hockney

Life-size black and white ceramic cat by David Hockney

Ceramic Cat
David Hockney 1955

On loan from Jean and Paul Hockney.

This cat was given to David Hockney’s brother and sister-in-law as a wedding present in September 1955. It was one of approximately four cats made by the artist whilst a student at Bradford College of Art. After the model was produced the mould broke, making this sculpture unique as it was the only one with indentations. Subsequent versions were produced with a smooth finish and in different colours.

This life-size ceramic cat with stubby little legs is in one of the display cases in the ground floor of Salts Mill alongside many other pieces by David Hockney.