Asking the Right Questions

Understanding the mind of a computer programmer can be quite difficult and sometimes I forget to ask the right questions. Yesterday, I asked one of the programmers to set me up an account on a Unix machine for a new designer. This was done promptly and I sent the designer details of the account. What the programmer hadn’t done was given the designer the required permissions to change the design! Now I thought this was self evident. What was the point of setting up an account on a machine for a designer if they can’t change the design? The programmer told me that I hadn’t asked him to set up file permissions.

It happened again this afternoon. I was printing a large document which died in the middle with a stack error. I asked a programmer to help me. What I wanted was to be told how to print specific pages of the document from the command line. What I was told was “You can’t fix a stack error – you need a new postscript interpreter”.

Schwern in Belfast

Michael Schwern is in Belfast to talk to the Perl Mongers tonight. The title of his talk is “Sufficiently Encapsulated Magic Is Indistinguishable From Technology”. Not quite sure what this will entail but I’m sure it will be fun!

Learning More Words

If you have a morbid fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth, there is a word for it: arachibutyrophobia. There is a word to describe the state of being a woman: muliebrity. And there’s a word for describing a sudden breaking off of thought: aposiopesis. …In English, in short, there are words for almost everything.

– Bill Bryson, Mother Tongue

Lately, I have spent quite a few evenings playing Boggle. I haven’t managed to win a single game. There are so many words that I have never heard of. And I’m not talking about long words (words with more than seven letters) rather words of three or four letters. I never knew that a ree was a female Eurasian sandpiper, that feh is a Hebrew letter (pe) or that ose is a ridge of sand (esker). There are also lots of valid three letter words such as oot, ens, dah, and ern which I use all the time without having any idea as to what they mean.

I have been trying to find ways to learn new words. I’ve been reading word lists, scrabble anagram lists, dictionaries, books about words etc. So far, the best thing I have come across is a program that Tony wrote which analyses the boggle games we have played and produces a list of all the words it was possible to find in a game.

I’ve started to dream about boggle. Maybe it’s time to find something new to play like scrabble.