indecision

I am vegetarian. I am also indecisive. Because most restaurants have a small (non-zero) number of vegetarian options, these things go well together. This doesn't work in vegetarian restaurants, which is a shame, because I like to support vegetarian restaurants but I don't like to be faced with many choices.

Building tubes





Part of the One Laptop Per Child vision is that children can use the laptop in a very social way. Bringing this vision about involves making it very easy for programs on the laptop (activities in OLPC parlance) to talk to each other. When Collabora was handed the challenge of making this happen, it fit well with an an idea that had been floating around for a while: namely Application Data Channels, a Telepathy interface for sending arbitrary data to your contacts.

While designing a solution for OLPC, we adopted two key simplifications. Firstly, we decided to reuse D-Bus's nice data marshalling and method/signal model, since Telepathy applications will be using D-Bus anyway. Secondly, we dropped the somewhat unwieldy "Application Data Channels" name in favour of calling it tubes.

Last year, Mads Olesen worked on a Google Summer of Code project to introduce Application Data Channels to Jabber. By building on Mads' work, Guillaume laid the groundwork for Jabber tubes in Telepathy. Then, with a bit of libdbus hacking, I got our first tube hooked up.

Since then, we've built an OLPC activity that uses tubes to implement networked board game, Marc Maurer has started on an AbiCollab backend for tubes, and work has begun in Sugar on making tubes really easy for activities to use.

In short: opening a Telepathy tube tube gives you a way to talk D-Bus over the network, without worrying about the underlying protocol. I'm really excited about the sort of things that people will build with this, in OLPC and beyond.

Image © flickr user swafo; licence cc 2.0 by-nc-nd.

Faust

On Friday, I went to see Punchdrunk's adaptation of Goethe's Faust to 1950s USA; possibly my favourite theatre experience ever. (Previously I would probably have cited Beautiful Thing.) Despite having had only 4 hours' sleep, I had a wonderful wonderful time.

This was no ordinary production:


  • it took place in a disused warehouse in London docklands

  • there are five floors with around 40 rooms

  • audience members wear a mask at all times

  • different parts of the plot happen in parallel

  • you are free to wander around as you please



The sets were detailed and fabulous and at times surreal: an alchemical laboratory, a pine forest, several bars, a diner, a corn field, an office, motel rooms, a family drawing room. At several points, audience members were pulled into the fray. At several points, I became part of a crowd of people running after an actor to follow the story. My role as an audience member was directly challenged, to the extent that my place in the world felt different when I came out.

A few mentions I found from the Grauniad which do it better justice than I are listed here.

My only regrets are that I spent more time than I would have liked searching for the action; and that the run, which ends on the 31st, is completely sold out so that I can't see it again. Nevertheless, I'll be keeping an eye out for future Punchdrunk productions; I hear tell that they have something new starting in September.

Phlebotomy

When I was last in hospital, some tests needed running on my blood. I wasn't overly excited about this, but when the doctor told me that a phlebotomist would be with me shortly to take my sample, the loveliness of the word did much to distract me from my discomfort.

Of course, at the time I did not reflect on how near in sound are "phlebotomy" and "lobotomy".

(no subject)

Tonight I saw Attila the Stockbroker and David Rovics at the Loft: both of them informed, topical, policial, angry, wonderful. There was a lot of joining in on the choruses, especially on songs like Burn it Down, I'm a Better Anarchist than You and Guy Fawkes' Table. I can't resist quoting from Attila's Asylum Seeking Daleks: it captures so well my feelings re Daily Mail xenophobia.


Asylum seeking Daleks
are landing here at noon!
Why can't we simply send them back
or stick them on the moon?
It says here in the Daily Mail
they're coming here to stay -
The Loony Lefties let them in!
The middle class will pay...

This satire on crass ignorance
and tabloid-fostered fear
Is at an end. Now let me give
One message, loud and clear.
Golf course, shop floor or BNP:
Smash bigotry and hate!
Asylum seekers - welcome here.
You racists: emigrate!

(no subject)

The other night, I went to see John Cale. We had a great time, though somewhat disappointingly, he stuck to his more rock-y songs. We were pretty excited when we saw the violas on stage, but they never got played. (It turned out that Venus in Furs was first on the set list, but it seems John decided it wasn't the night for it.) The songs I enjoyed were the ones in which he visibly lost himself, which also tended to be the ones with a less conventional sound.

One thing I really appreciated: the venue was non-smoking by John's request.

The main thing I took away was: I hope I have as much vitality when I'm 64. Some 45 years into his musical career, he's still kicking bum. Dal ati, John!

challenge

Despite having seen Kathy Sierra speak at GUADEC last year, her keynote at LCA was still engaging, entertaining and thought-provoking. One thing it tied nicely with was Rusty's talk about Wesnoth, in particular the part about stats.wesnoth.org, which collects information about players' progress through the game. Kathy talks about how important it is to get the amount of challenge in the things we make just right­ — the Goldilocks rule. If something is too easy, or too hard, people lose interest.

The Wesnoth statistics allow campaign developers to see when players give up on the game levels they write, or when they complete them too easily. This kind of feedback makes it much easier to get the difficulty just right. Perhaps we should be thinking about other feedback systems we can use to let us know when we're putting the wrong amount of challenge into our software.