A mingling of thoughts and benevolent misrepresentations on tech, language, music and life.

Seachtain na Gaeilge

Tá Seachtain na Gaeilge ann, agus ba cheart dom úsáid a bhaint as mo chuid Gaeilge bhriste. Bhí deis agam ar an Luan freastal ar léacht leis an amhránaí den scoth, Karan Casey. Bhí sí an-suimiúil. Chan sí cúpla amhrán agus mhínigh sí an taighde a rinne sí le déanaí agus an obair a rinne sí leis an eagraíocht FairPlé. Tar éis na hócáid bhí seans agam cúpla focal as Gaeilge a labhairt léi.

Go Set Up Watchman

The built-in Django server greatly facilitates development by reloading Python code when it detects file changes. As of Django 2.2, the server has started to watch for changes in a different way. As the release notes point out: runserver can now use Watchman to improve the performance of watching a large number of files for changes. For a project that I am working on, using Watchman turned out to be more of a requirement than a bonus.


Coding is writing. I spend hours a day writing in vim. My favorite keystrokes are second nature. Searching, replacing, moving the cursor around. It’s fast and efficient and easy on my hand, which typically starts to hurt after too much mousing, or worse, touchpadding. And I spend hours a day working with git. Branching, diffing, committing, merging, pushing. It helps me understand exactly where my code is. So when it’s time to write a translation, I’m loathe to give up on the tools I know so well and use so effectively.

My hair won't fall out

I continue to ponder caption and image pairings when I run into interesting sentences in Duolingo. This first one is not so much funny as it is surprisingly apt. Here I am with the authors and my fellow translator from the Long Path to Wisdom project: Scríobhamar leabhar spéisiúil le chéile. We wrote an interesting book together. And here’s a frame from my cigar shop comic:


Some earlier posts on this site have featured drawings I made with pen and ink back in the nineteen-eighties. I’m thinking in particular of Another slice and Cigar shop. The process of getting from paper to digital was interesting. After scanning to JPEG I wanted to get the images into an SVG format, and the command-line utility potrace was the perfect tool for the job. As a preparatory step, I found I had to convert the JPEG to a BMP.

Parsing Unidata Multi-Value Strings

The college I work for uses Colleague as its main database of record. Colleague returns data to our applications in Unidata multi-value strings. Essentially it’s a serialization that uses four ASCII characters as demarcations of various organizational levels. Parsing the Colleague data into Python data structures turned out to be easier than expected when I used comprehensions for the job. Let’s start by taking a close look at the multi-value strings.

The Long Path to Wisdom

Last Tuesday I had the pleasure of going to New York with my good friend Lisa Liesener to celebrate the release of a book that we translated together from German: The Long Path to Wisdom. The original text is also a collaboration; Jan‑Philipp Sendker teamed up with Lorie Karnath and with his son Jonathan Sendker to collect and present a wide-ranging variety of Burmese folk tales. Jan‑Philipp is also the author of two novels (so far) set in Burma: The Art of Hearing Heartbeats and A Well-Tempered Heart, both of which I also translated for him.

Buttonwood Video

Once or twice a year for the past few years our band, the Mattabesset String Collective, has had the pleasure of playing a gig at the Buttonwood Tree in Middletown, Connecticut. We love those gigs. It’s a cozy venue and the acoustics are great. Our most recent gig was just a couple weeks ago, and Paul Horton of Paul Horton Visuals (and a former Mattabesset member) made this very satisfying video of our first set:

Another Slice

I thought it would be fun to couple a panel from one of my old Slice comics with a contextless translation exercise from Duolingo. Mostly I work on Irish, but here’s a sentence from a Japanese lesson that acquires new interest when paired with an illustration: 先週はたくさんはしりました (Senshū wa takusan hashirimashita)Last week I ran a lot. In its original context the panel depicted the luckless Slice paying his debt for taking the Cupid metaphor too literally.

Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2018

I’ve been a fan of Irish traditional music since I was in college. It was the mid-1980’s and I was collecting Planxty records and anything I could get my hands on by the likes of Christy Moore, Andy Irvine, Paul Brady, the Bothy Band, Clannad, the Pogues, etc. Over the years I’ve followed many of those musicians through various constellations and gradually broadened my circle of awareness. I had of course heard of the Fleadh Cheoil, the national music festival, but I had never imagined the energy, variety and excitement of it until I caught pieces of it this year on TG4.

Behave-Django Monkey Patches

I’m building a Django dev environment in Docker, and I want to be able to write Gherkin feature scripts to drive Selenium testing with Chrome and Firefox. I’m using Docker Compose to orchestrate containers named python, postgresql, selenium_hub, selenium_chrome, and selenium_firefox. In particular, I’m using the selenium/node-chrome-debug and selenium/node-firefox-debug images so that I can open the containers with a VNC client where I can watch the browsers run and even interact with them when I need to troubleshoot tests.

Cigar Shop

For a very brief time in college I was developing a comic strip that I called “Life of Slice.” The misadventure depicted below was loosely autobiographical. Why are the initials KM instead of KW? My name used to be Kevin Moriarty. When I got married my wife and I blended our last names. Hers used to be Wilson.

Curvy Worm

MIT’s Scratch platform can get under your skin. No pun inten… Well, no, actually, I’ll just own that. Pun intended. Their visual coding language and web-based IDE are loads of fun, and not just for kids, though definitely also for kids. Every once in a while I get the itch to mock up some old arcade game or other. Below is my effort at a snake game. Unfortunately it requires Flash.

Spring Light

In sun-dappled wood Fleet-footed deer spring lightly Past budding cyclist

soroban — そろばん

For about two years I lived in Japan. It was a long time ago, and it is now a smaller fraction of my life than an hour is of a day. Then again, a lot can happen in an hour, and there are facets of who I am today that I can trace back to that time. Living and working in Japan was both wonderful and difficult. I remember commuting ninety minutes each morning and evening in stifling trains so full at times that I could find nothing to hold onto.

The Dog Injures Me Every Night

There are many things to like about Duolingo, but one of the chiefest among those is the delightful array of surprising sentences that pop up from time to time. Gortaíonn an madra mé gach oíche. The dog injures me every night. Those few words, like a poem, conjure an unexpectedly rich sensory tapestry. And although “usefulness” is a poor measure of an expression’s worth, it only adds to the pleasure to put myself into the scene and to envision the context in which I might, as a traveller in Ireland, have occasion to fire off this devastating linguistic salvo.

Mother of Discontent

Translation and programming scratch a similar itch: I take pleasure in the act of giving form to ideas. On occasion I have been asked how much I change things when I translate. It’s not an easy question to answer. A lot and very little. It’s not word for word, or even sentence for sentence. In the end it’s not the language itself I am translating, but a narrative populated by characters with emotions, problems, and their own ways of seeing the world.

Loopback Workaround

Promenade across the floor, Sashay right on out the door, Out the door and into the glade, And everybody promenade. – Bugs Bunny, cited on IMDb I run a small server at home. I’ve got Plex on there alongside a wee Dokuwiki where I chronicle my impressions of various single-malts and high-end chewing gums. I wanted a domain name for that server, but my ISP does not offer static IP addresses.

Full Stack

“What kind of work do you do?” asks a fellow web developer, someone I’ve just met. The question caught me off guard. “Front end? Back end? Tight end? Book end?” He could see I was puzzled. “Deep end?” “Well, actually, I kind of do all the things. Some better than others, of course, but whatever needs to be done. I work a lot with Moodle and Drupal, sometimes with WordPress, usually on a LAMP stack.