Tao of the MachineProgramming, Python, my projects, card games, books, music, Zoids, bettas, manga, cool stuff, and whatever comes to mind.
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Back after 5 days... been busy with work, and of course the new Harry Potter book. ^_^ I did manage to get it on the 21st, without pre-ordering. Granted, Borders and Books-a-million were sold out, but fortunately Waldenbooks still had a copy (I got the very last!), and Toys 'R Us even had a whole stack, I guess people didn't think of going there for the book.
Now some comments... containing spoilers. Highlight this area to see them. Or not, if you don't want to see gratuitous babbling.
Harry sure has an anger problem. Somebody in the newsgroup pointed out that, besides having a lot on his mind, he probably suffers from post-traumatic stress. I guess that explains his sudden change (compared to the previous book).
Sirius. I wonder if he's really dead? There definitely seems to be something up with that veil. Maybe he will be back, alive or otherwise.
Luna Lovegood. My favorite new character by far, possibly because I recognize parts of myself. :) Hopefully she'll be back in book 6.
Snape. I think in future books (7?) one of the following will happen: 1. Snape and Harry get some kind of grudging respect for each other (although they will still not like each other), or 2. Snape dies saving Harry's life. Of course I have zero evidence for this...
James Potter. So now we know that he was a jerk. A bully, not unlike Draco Malfoy. That sheds a new light on Snape's behavior... maybe he just hates Harry because he assumes he's the same as James, possibly because of their "uncanny resemblance". And, of course, he doesn't like mudbloods...
Moody. According to an interview, the new Moody would be "even cooler" than the old (fake) one, but we don't see much of that in the book. Maybe in the next one?
Tonks. Interesting character, should appear more, though.
Percy. Values rules over his own family, and acts like an asshole doing so. I wonder if he will return to his family in the next book, now that the Ministry has been proven wrong.
Minerva McGonagall. Her witty, scorching retorts to Dolores Umbridge makes the book worth (re)reading alone. Great stuff.
Mundungus Fletcher. There's an uncanny resemblance between him and Crookshanks... both are described as "ginger-haired" and "bandy-legged". Still, Dung == Crookshanks doesn't seem to be possible, because there is a scene where they appear simultaneously. Hmm...
Romantic developments. There aren't many, really... I knew from an interview with JKR that Harry/Cho and Hermione/Krum wouldn't last. My favorite pet theory is that Harry will/should end up with Ginny. Book 5 seems to make that less likely, but I'm not sure... at least, she sees him as a real person now (rather than a celebrity), talking to him, etc, which only brings them closer, IMHO. On the other hand, I'm not sure that we already know Harry's future love interest. Maybe Luna?
Everybody on the newsgroup (and elsewhere) babbles about Hermione x Ron, but I really don't see many clues in that direction... although it's possible.
Dumbledore's Army. There's now a circle of people practicing DADA; we'll probably see them again in the next book (unless Dumbledore disbands it?). Such an "inner circle" could be important in the last battle. (Oops, wrong book... :-)
Prophecy. Depending on how you interpret it, it may mean that one of [Harry, Voldemort] will have to kill the other... but that doesn't seem quite right. If Voldemort kills Harry, then the books will definitely have a sucky ending, so let's assume that this won't happen. If Harry kills Voldemort, then he's suddenly a murderer. OK, he killed the worst wizard on earth, but that doesn't make him any less a killer. That doesn't seem right either. Maybe some other scenario is possible... somebody else kills Voldemort, Voldemort falls behind the veil :), or maybe falls to his doom as Harry battles him at the edge of a cliff? Who knows.
Uranus. Nitpick: here she comes with that Uranus joke again, multiple times even! We already saw that in book 4...
That's all. Buy the book. Overall, it's darker and definitely less childish than the previous ones. Just so you know.
Pondering a text format...Currently I'm working on a text format, much like Textile. The working title is Sextile?, and it's dubbed "the inhumane text format".
Silly working titles aside: this isn't trivial to write. To be honest, I don't know if I will be able to come up with something acceptable and useful; something that does the right thing most of the time. It should, of course, and if it doesn't, then it should be easy to override the defaults.
One goal is that the code should be clean. One might think that this doesn't really matter, as long as the format itself works well... but what if you want to extend it, or fix a bug? Then you don't want to look at a bunch of Perl-ish code.
It may be worth pondering what is wrong with HTML for writing text (because this is what the format, ideally, should fix). You cannot avoid learning a format's syntax; whether it uses tags or something else, special forms require special syntax. So, my format will still support HTML tags inside it, for the sake of power and flexibility.
Paragraphs (or rather, <p> tags) are a nuisance, though. They clutter the text visually; people (including me) don't apply them correctly (and use <p> as a separator, rather than putting <p>...</p> around the text); etc. Textile solves this elegantly: multiple consecutive linebreaks are considered to separate paragraphs, and the code deals with the correct placing of the tags. This is what Sextile does too. Also, single linebreaks (outside of a <pre> block) translate to <br>.
The above seems simple, but it's surprisingly difficult to code correctly. And there are special conditions. I don't want a <br> directly before a <pre> block, for example. I also don't like a <p> section directly after a <pre> block, because it leaves open too much space. But maybe this should be solved using stylesheets.
I am not sure if I want the _special_ *syntax* that Textile uses. Sure, it's nifty, but you can't turn it off (what if I really want to enclose text in *asterisks* rather than displaying it as bold?) and it doesn't always work correctly. Should it be used inside a <pre> block?
What about special quotes? Textile used different opening and closing quotes. I removed them from my local copy, because they weren't applied correctly. Maybe I'll try my hand it, maybe not. I'm not too fond of them.
Do we automatically replace certain characters like > and < with > and <? If not, it's a pain to use them. But if we do replace them, then we cannot use HTML tags anymore. >_<
And then there's the lists. Deceptively simple, but causing all kinds of problems. How do we make nested lists? Can we put <pre> code in a list item? Etc.
Even if I can find a perfect solution for all these problems, there is still the issue of the actual implementation, which will be hairy to say the least. But, let's see what we can do. Back later.
Update 1. The backslash may be a special character in Sextile. It can be used to escape things, e.g. \< would display as <, and the < wouldn't be seen as the beginning of a tag. This behavior should be turned off in <pre> blocks. To get a backslash, use \\, like in Python strings. I suppose this might be a slight inconvenience, but how often do you need to type a backslash in ordinary text? (Not counting Windows pathnames.)
Update 2. Totally unrelated: Yay, I got the Harry Potter book!