I programmed this dice game to teach myself the JQuery library for Javascript, and to improve my Javascript skills. There will be many more features. If you think the current version is neat, you're really going to like it. I'm excited. And oh, yes, the visual design will also improve. But you know what they say: launch with the mimimum viable product.

Shout-outs go to my friends on the Lojban #jbopre IRC channel for their patience in answering my questions: rlpowell, chrisdone, kpreid, and Tene. Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] _jer for his professional tutelage and for hosting the webspace.
"Cat falls suddenly asleep near the end of heating up."
We commonly think of written language as starting in one place, then proceeding in a straight line (perhaps with one or more carriage returns) and then ending on the other end of that line. We do this because that's how spoken language works.

Alex Fink and [livejournal.com profile] saizai of the Language Creation Society are developing a a non-linear writing system. The glyphs use their position on a 2D surface to communicate. This is not a writing system to express the phonemes of an existing language. In fact, it is not a representation of an audio stream at all. It is more like a new language, related to English only in the sense that American Sign Language is.
A poster in Ops at U-Con advertised seeking geeks to be interviewed, for an honors thesis about geek culture. So I emailed Rachel Yung at and signed up. If you self-identify as a geek, Rachel wishes you to do likewise. Here is a transcript of the interview.
Read more... )
Forgetting frustrates me. I've forgotten more knowledge in my life than peasants in the Dark Ages ever learned. The point of taking a class is not about what I learn. It's about what I won't forget. Then I can move forward on programming projects with confidence that I don't have to waste a bunch of time catching up on what the keywords and punctuation mean. I refuse to cram for exams and just lose it all. I have to practice, practice, practice-- then I need to keep doing a regimen of projects to keep in the habit.

At an informational level, I've understood true-false logic, strings, variables, constants, conditionals, loops, iteration, and recursion for twenty years. But it was learning, not training. I can self-teach, but my life was too busy for self-training. There is a certain hump I must surmount.

I owe my desktop publishing proficiency to taking classes, with a set of practice exercises on deadlines. Now I can pick up a new program and not even think about it. I just get in the Zone. That is the hump I need to get over with programming, which is why I am taking a class.

[livejournal.com profile] blue_duck and [livejournal.com profile] ssanfratello will understand the concept of training, right down at the muscle memory level. It's not just what you learn about stances, balance, breathing, keeping your options open like water, when to commit to swinging the sword, and absorbing the universe juice. It's about what your body does from practice, just WHAM. If you have to stop and access the knowledge, you have been stabbed. With a sword.

That's what I'm interested in. When it comes to my daily Lojban regimen, it needs to be engraved in the brain at the level of instant linguistic connection between word and meaning. I know the vocabulary of Lojban, but most of it I still have to translate from English, which should not happen. Translation wastes valuable milliseconds, too long for comfortable speech. Fortunately I do not get hit with padded sticks when this happens.

When I program Karda, it will be for language training, not just language learning. Spaced repetition algorithms do training. I'm interested in software for self-training in various skills. As Napoleon Dynamite said, "You know, like nunchuku skills ... bow hunting skills ... computer hacking skills." The idea will be for the software to remind you to practice the skill again, get feedback on the result, and modify the interval for when it will remind you to do it again.

lo prami mo
doi pampe'o na mi dunku ko
na mi dunku ko

Translated from Lojban back into English:

Love applies to which predicate variables?
Oh boyfriend/girlfreind/lover, imperative I am not anguished/distressed/emotionally wrought/stressed by you.
Imperative I am not anguished/distressed/emotionally wrought/stressed by you
continuative tense.

In 1987, Lojban was introduced as, essentially, an open source version of Loglan. The logical language project which began in 1955 was opened to its community to develop as The Logical Language Group so that it would not be in the control of only one man. A few months later, Lojbab and Nora were married with vows in Lojban. For reasons of Loglan's copyright, the root words were completely re-derived from English, Spanish, Russian, Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, and Arabic using computer algorithms by the end of the year, and the grammar was extensively debugged to fit the unmet desires of the community. The language was unveiled in January 1988, at the EveCon science fiction convention.

After Lojban successfully defended itself from a legal challenge over ownership of the concept of a logical language, its prototype Loglan faded into stagnant oblivion. Over the past twenty years the growth of the Lojban language and its community has proceeded in fits and starts. But if one looks at those intervals as iterations of a cellular automata, it could be interpreted as trending toward an explosion of growth.

2006 was a banner year for Lojban, seeing the biggest in-person meeting of enthusiasts, the largest-ever local groups meeting regularly in Michigan, Grinnell college in Iowa, and the Maine School of Science and Mathematics; a slate of exciting web applications; an original novel; plans for Lojbanimation which could become virally popular among non-Lojban speakers; and the peak of organized internet activity.

This year each of those milestones will only get bigger. This year we celebrate what Lojbab and Nora LeChevalier, Garry Burgess and Tommy Whitlock did in 1987. Think of that as an Arecibo message. Those take a long time to reach their destination, and just as long to answer, and they have been patient. This year we answer that message.

--Matt Arnold, aka "Eppcott"
Board Director, Logical Language Group
I'm bringing this up on my personal blog rather than my blog about Lojban because its lessons are broadly applicable to things that a lot of you are interested in, so I'd like to get your feedback.

Do you like my new icon? I made it after [livejournal.com profile] camgusmis talked me into being the cat-herder for Lojban's language debugging committee. (Yeah, a speakable human language has a debugging committee, is that not neat?) I don't possess expertise in linguistics or logic. I do not intend to arbitrate disputes over language, discuss linguistic issues, or even possess voting rights in the debugging committee-- just keep it moving. The Lojban word for "captain" is "jatna", pronounced "zhat-nah", but "Shatner" is my mnemonic device. Scotty, Spock and McCoy are the ones who know how to do things; I just keep them from sitting on their butts.

The job of herding cats is what I do with the vast majority of my free time, so I feel uniquely qualified. I define "herding cats" as "coordinating any project whose workers are true volunteers, are not obligated by compensation". (I feel the phrase is inappropriate to refer to paid employees, no matter how catlike you think software engineers are. You are not a cat herder if you have the power to fire or penalize someone. But that's another matter.) Cats show up only when they want to and are motivated by friendship and/or personal fascination.

What I am not qualified to do is design a constructed language. Just as in running a science fiction convention, my role is limited as follows:

1. Understand what tasks await doing, not necessarily knowing how to do them.
2. Assign tasks and track who is assigned to what.
3. Set deadlines and warn of their approach and arrival.
4. Keep current with everyone's contact info and preferred means of communication.
5. Talk to the volunteers a lot, asking for reports to check if they're active.
6. Seek replacements for the ones who went inactive or lost motivation.
7. Motivate active volunteers with vision, encouragement, small gifts, public thanks, or incentives tailored to their unique motivational drives.

And that, my friends, is herding cats. However, in the current traditional structure of a science fiction convention, there is a lot more that goes into being conchair, which is why I am not a conchair. It really is two totally unrelated jobs, which could be split. The second set of conchair responsibilities is:

8. Set the budget. ($$$)
9. Negotiate the hotel contract. ($$$)
10. Make long-term strategic decisions. What constituency to extract money from. What message to use to extract it from them. Where to best invest money to attract them. How to reduce the expenditure of money. ($$$)

"Oh, Matt, you can easily be conchair!" quoth he and she who have smoked crack and uttered a counterfactual statement.

The reverse side of that coin, to speak candidly, is that deeply savvy and wise decision-makers (tasks 8 through 10) do not always have sufficient personal availability to create and nurture a concom (tasks 1 through 7). Vital concom slots go empty, and we sort of coast along because we can't afford to have a leader who can create an active concom only to lead it right off a cliff. I am not speaking of any convention or any year in particular: it's fairly common.

In spite of being a cat herder, the reason I am not, have not been, and do not want to be conchair, is that I do not have opinions on 8 through 10 and money bores me. Paying attention to such matters would drain all interest out of me and make me want to GAFIAte. I would stab randomly in the dark at budgets, contracts and strategic decisions. I would be held responsible for the resulting failure, and I would be rightly blamed for having asked people to fail along with me. I will not, and constitutionally can not, evangelize anything that I don't believe in. When I mentioned this to Sal and Heather of Aegis Consulting, Sal remarked, "You don't like guessing, do you?" If I were to find out that those I trusted had staked my time and energy on a guess, I would be livid. So no, I can't evangelize guessing.

You may have noticed by now that my trust is of vital importance to me, and its dissappointment (to put it gently, I will not say "betrayal") is a recurring theme of this blog. I hear horror stories from [livejournal.com profile] avt_tor about conrunning politics in other regions, in which people actually compete to be in charge, and yet what an embarrassment of riches that must be. By contrast, in Michigan nobody wants to do anything. This is our harmonious blessing and lethargic curse. One issue with conventions in Michigan is that the number of people I trust enough to recruit as concom workers dwindles every year. You can't successfully build a concom if you say to people "Where have you been?" and "Have you gotten anything done?" as if to say "I don't have confidence in you." But it's true, I don't. As Head of Programming, there are two individuals to whom I say almost nothing but those things, every time I see them, because the success of my responsibility depends on it! I even tried adding someone to the "team" to shore up the task, and this third individual is doing nothing that I can see. (Don't worry, the vast majority of the programming team is completely present and it's going great overall.) Meanwhile I'm fielding inquiries about these tracks of the schedule and am helpless to do it myself since I know nothing about the topics. I feel I'm doing all I can as a cat herder, but at the end of the day, the cats are really in control.

I just keep reminding myself that the dysfunctionality is a necessary tradeoff for what I like so much about cat-herded groups.

I'm gaining skill in Second Life. This Aztec/Egyptian/Greek/Chinese hybrid is based loosely on a prehistoric Japanese idol called a "Ueno." He's a creation of mine for the Intensive Course In Spoken Lojban. It will be a web comic created by taking snapshots of scenes we set up in Second Life, and the dialogue will be in MP3 files in Lojban. In each exercise, the student character will be in a different situation in which he must figure out the language of the natives (Lojban, naturally), and select the correct reply in Lojban from multiple choice to proceed. Do you remember the TV show Quantum Leap? You can think of this character as the student's "Al". He knows the native language; he refuses to translate but is happy to coach.
nemorathwald: (I'm losin' it)

This work is courtesy of the XKCD webcomic, and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.

To the man with a hat I could say {jo'a go'ira'o zo'o} -- "That's true for me too. (humorously)" The man without a hat is not entirely correct. In Lojban one can speak as illogically as one wishes to speak. But by pointing that out, I'm exhibiting the sort of detail-oriented pickiness the man with the hat refers to. :)

For Lojbanists, getting xkcd'ed is as good as getting Slashdotted, Dugg or Farked! That means the author of xkcd is expressing a sentiment similar to Groucho Marx's statement, "I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members."
Read more... )

After months of work, Timo Paulsen has finished applying my new graphic design and user interface upgrades to the code of jboselkei, the Lojban Translation Game, and Robin Lee Powell has installed the upgrade on the web. There are some new features, like the ability to click a link under Lojban text you are composing, to submit it to the online parser to be validated. Check it out!

The Lojban Festival was fun, despite the organizational train wreck of Philcon. We persevered and had the biggest and best gathering in the fifty-year history of this language project. I've put up photos on Flickr.

First, the complaints about our treatment by Philcon. )Second, praise for the Lojban attendees and our awesome time with each other. )


Oct. 6th, 2006 02:27 pm
nemorathwald: (I'm losin' it)
Yesterday my friend [livejournal.com profile] rlpowell told me on the phone that when he sees my text messages on the Lojban IRC channel or mailing list, he imagines them spoken by a hyperactive chipmunk on meth... and suddenly my utterances cease to baffle and dismay him. He says other geeks need to meet me in order to be able to execute this audio transformation in their minds. Otherwise, I do not come off as breathlessly offering them the opportunity to get in on something I think is amazing and fun and cool. Rather, I come off as an insufferable buffoon stomping his feet and making inscrutable suggestions that do not compute, as if I were making demands on them. I need to interact with hardcore tech geeks more often via phone.

(Is it any wonder that I so often bang the drum of "let's have a meeting" in all my volunteer organizations?)

Previous to meeting me in person, it was just as difficult for [livejournal.com profile] rlpowell to stomach me as it is to a few of the other hard-core engineering geeks I know. My ideas are based on social considerations, and he advised me that I need to make that clear if I am not to piss of my more logical friends. I should not assume that they're lazy, don't take ownership, or don't want to get onboard a project they are supposedly interested in. The real explanation is that they literally have no idea what I am talking about, and I need to back up and explain.

He said that when he would hear my schemes, the behavior of any humans-- actual, flawed, fallable human beings-- never entered his mind at first. It's similar to the reason some socially feral engineers are purist zealots about Libertarianism, Communism, Open Source, etc. Pure ideology works perfectly in an abstract world of perfection where the behaviors of populations actually start making sense. A lot of Lojbanists are attracted to an engineered language for precisely such reasons. That includes yours truly. But I understand the mystique of a fantasy world where America adopts the metric system, keyboards employ the Dvorak layout, everybody uses Linux, and humans stop needing to believe in God. It is a Rapture Of The Nerds, a consummation devoutly to be wished, and it is not going to happen. I'm able to simultaneously understand it as a fantasy and still like it. Experience it. Participate in it. As Heinlein would say, "grok it". That intersection is the sweet spot for promoting anything.

The embarrassing thing about Marketing is that it is grabbing a mob by the lowest common denominator of its lizard-like hindbrain and shaking it until what you want falls out. In our case, the outcome of using a hive mind of distributed wetware computation on ten million undiscriminating internet users is to get the attention of a few discriminating internet users. To call that counter-intuitive is an understatement, but it works. Art is a magical practice which works on a logic all its own, consisting of doing things that would otherwise be stupid.
nemorathwald: (I'm losin' it)
When a presentation is scheduled for the Sabbath and my expert presenter practices Orthodox Judaism, "Can he get up to the whiteboard?" ceases to be a metaphorical question. Some people literally can't write before 5:21 PM.
nemorathwald: (Matt 3)
Have you visited the land where Lojban is spoken? It's called samxarmuj, meaning "computerized imaginary universe". It's a text-based world on the internet, where you can operate a character using commands in either English or Lojban: the online software is bilingual. Lojban is like the language of magic in samxarmuj-- speaking it can bring objects into existence and give them form and function.

You don't even need a plane ticket. Just click http://teddyb.org/cgi-bin/moo_ssh.html and use the password "moo" to log in as a guest until you have your own account. Commands are typed in the bottom-most part of the window. Guest accounts are limited to using English, so type the "register" command to get your own account. It's totally free.

More information, including other ways to access samxarmuj, is available at http://www.lojban.org/tiki/tiki-index.php?page=The+Lojban+MOO Read more... )
I've known [livejournal.com profile] copingwithcows for years, but didn't expect her to show up for the meeting of my local Lojban group this week! Who would have thought that she speaks so many words of Tolkien's Elvish (aka Quenya) and can get up to the whiteboard to scribble formulas for the Monty Hall problem? What fun. The regulars Neil, Jen, Bruce and Sean all managed to attend simultaneously. It was the largest gathering we've had all at once. Let me know if any of you feel an interest, by the way.

I made frozen coffee drinks for us all, this time containing coffee-flavored ice cream. Jen and I reported on the status of the Lojban fridge poetry magnet prototype, and the plan for the Logical Language Group Inc., of which I am a board member, to have a company print several hundred batches so we can sell them on the site.

We talked about which film to translate, out of the candidates whose filmmakers have offered them to us. I would still like to make a machinima of Fossil Games as a long-term goal, but currently Love and Plutonium looks like a front-runner.

We also translated something which came out as {mi na kufra le nu do vecnu le mi zargu}. If you know what that means, you're laughing right now.
Every time I go to a convention, there is usually an anime room. Sitting in there watching the otaku enjoy subtitled animation from Japan, I am impressed by how powerfully this medium spreads a foreign language through other cultures. I think back to the anime conventions I've visited and consider the classes on Japanese that they teach there! An entire subculture exists online, called "fansubbing", for amateur hobbyists to translate Japanese culture into English and other languages before it is officially released.

For another example, audiences hear Klingon spoken with subtitles in Star Trek, or Quenya spoken with subtitles in The Lord of the Rings, and are captivated by the setting that language creates. Not only could Lojban gain the speakers that it needs by using this effect, we'll have fun creating a film!

Animation once required prohibitive amounts of time and money. But with the advent of machinima, that's no longer true, if you're willing to settle for relatively crude computer animation.Read more... )Much of the work could be distributed among multiple people who become excited about this project. It would require:

1: finding or writing a story.

2: converting it into a screenplay format with dialog and voiceovers.

3: drawing storyboards.

4: translating the script into Lojban.

5: modeling the characters, props and sets in 3D.

6: if we decide to use Second Life, probably purchasing land and paying to put the models in it.

7: puppeteering and recording the models in machinima software such as Second Life.

8: recording our voices acting the Lojban script.

9: editing it all together with music and English subtitles.

10: posting it to Youtube and Google Video.

11: submitting the link to my friend Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing.net who will probably blog the $#14 out of it.

12: welcoming the influx of newbies.
Google just bought my favorite 3D drawing program, SketchUp, and made it available for free to everyone. This is the easiest and most intuitive way to create 3D models, with the possible exception of Second Life. It comes with a tutorial that will have you making models in no time. I used this program to create this illustration of a space station which I use as a visual aid to explain Lojban sentence structures.

Recently I made a model of a three-dimensional chess variant I invented years ago, named Hannibal. Click the pictures to see larger versions. Here it is perpendicular to the ground. Before I add the playing pieces, I want to tilt the board until it rests all three of its deepest points on the table.
I rotated it 45 degrees along one non-vertical axis and 45 degrees along the other non-vertical axis. As you can see, this still isn't level. Here's a geometry question: from the starting position shown above, how many degrees do I have to rotate it around each axis to rest all three points on the ground?
The Logical Language Group received an email from a gentleman in France who is with L’Union Française Onixienne. An AltaVista babelfish translation of their website yields the following:

The French Onixian Union is an association which has the aim of promoting, adapting, and developing the creation of a federal State, called "Terran Federation", including all the current Sovereign states such as the Eurasiatic, Oceanic, American, African countries ... such as recommends the French author E. Onix in his work entitled "My Utopia: the Terran Federation".

Here is an AltaVista babelfish translation of the email (written originally in French), in which he asks us five survey questions.
Read more... )

I personally have very little desire for a one-world government; mainly because if you don't like your government you should be able to move somewhere else. Furthermore, here we see how such an institution would surpress personal freedom in terms of language. Is the concept of one-world government inherently opposed to personal freedom?

There's something to be said for language diversity. I'm very fond of science fiction stories such as Tom Purdom's "Fossil Games" in which technology keeps the characters alive and young for so many centuries that they have time to learn dozens of languages, including artificial ones. I do not savor the prospect of all languages boiling down to one universal monoculture.

Here are my answers to Stephane's questions: Click here. )
What would your answers be?
[livejournal.com profile] rikhei requested the English version of "I Am A Little Teapot of Borg" as a ringtone. I translated "I'm A Little Teapot" into Lojban, and this sound file (click here to download the MP3) is what I got when I translated it back into English. I'm not sure who laughs harder at this, [livejournal.com profile] rikhei or [livejournal.com profile] palindromeg33k. It might just be funnier than the Sesame Street theme song translated into Klingon. (I order you to immediately tell me the way to Sesame Street!) Resistance is futile. You will hear me shout. You will be tipped over and poured into Borg.

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