Vacances en Suisse.


I’m doing some holidays in Switzerland, to meet family and friends, so I will write in the blog slowly.

Je suis en vacances en Suisse, pour rencontrer ma famille et mes amis, de ce fait, j’écrirais lentement dans ce blog

Ich bin in Ferien in der Schweiz, um meine Familie und Freunde zu treffen, deswegen werd ich diesen Blog langsam schreiben.

Je suis bien arrivé, mais le voyage était plutôt long et fatiguant.

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LaTeχ wish-listVœux pour LaTeχ


LaTeχ logo

For writing research papers I use LaTeχ.

Pour écrire des papiers de recherche, j’utilise LaTeχ.

While this program is in my opinion much more suited for writing academic documents than a classical word processor, and has a lot of useful features and add-ons, it also has its shares of problems.

LaTeχ is not a word-processor in any sense of the word, its authors call it document preparation system, in fact it is a language that can be compiled into documents. So when you use LaTeχ, you typically edit a source text file and then compile it into a graphical file, typically a DVI file, a postscript file, or more recently a PDF file. This means that LaTeχ is not a WYSIWYG system. Instead you type what you mean and let the layout system do the layout for you. While there are graphical front-ends to LaTeχ, you can basically write documents by using all the tools and techniques designed for handling programming source code. This is both the strength and the weakness of LaTeχ: it is a programming language, you can define marcros, function, even conditions. For instance when teaching, I use a set of macros that builds the cover page of the test with the sum of the maximal points and helps build two version of the test. You can do similar things with macros in Word, but not in such a clean way. The problem, is, you need to compile and debug your LaTeχ files. And LaTeχ, as a programming language is seriously dated.

So while I use LaTeχ daily, here are some wishes for improvements:

Better error reporting
When LaTeχ cannot compile a file, it simply stops with an error message and waits for input (not abort/retry/fail, but nearly), the error messages are not that helpful, and if the problem lies in a macro definition, or an unclosed list, the line number will often be bogus. Nowadays, even GCC compiling C++ with templates can do better than that.
Unicode support
LaTeχ is by default a ASCII only program. There are packages for enabling certain encodings in the source file (like ISO-8959-1) or even UTF-8, but they are hacks and in the case of UTF-8, only support a limited number of characters.
While I accept that LaTeχ is not a WYSIWG system, if my text-editor can handle characters, so should the LaTeχ compiler. In fact, I could not put the content of this post into a LaTeχ document directly.
Any character outside math mode
LaTeχ has a special mode, where the typographic engine does not follow the rules for normal text, but instead the rules for equations, this affects most notably the spacing between characters. Current versions of LaTeχ allows certains characters (say a greek ξ) only in math mode. So not only can you not only type the xi letter directly, but you have to type its code in math mode, so the resulting text is $\xi$, really inconvenient when you mention variables in the main text.
Better font control
Font control is quite primitive in LaTeχ, you usually specify the font-size in the document declaration. Want to change the default font? You need a special package. Want to do slides with LaTeχ and use a special font? Good luck. I typically use sans-serif text in my articles, but the sans-serif font look larger than the serif font. Even adjusting font size is complicated. The problem lies in the fact that LaTeχ has its own font back-end, with its own font tables. So even if your machine probably has a complete true-type rendering engine, LaTeχ won’t use, instead it will rely on its own engine.
Of course, the way characters sets (be it for math mode or unicode) are handled and the font-rendering engine are linked

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House Building in Miyatake

Je japanese way of building is interesting. I took some picture of a house being built.

La manière japonaise de construire est intéressante. J’ai pris des photos de la construction d’une maison.

J’ai profité d’avoir un système pour charger rapidement des images sur mon blog pour mettre en ligne une série de photos d’une maison en cours de construction. Ce qui est intéressant, c’est que la construction ne se fait pas sur la base de murs, mais de piliers en bois. Le toi est posé très rapidement et ensuite on insère les parois. Si le look de la maison est très moderne, avec une apparence de béton brut qui est très à la mode au Japon ces temps, la manière de construire est plutôt ancienne. Presque l’inverse de la Suisse, en fait, des piliers en bois décorés avec du faux béton…

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Da Vinci Human Silhouette

Yesterday, I went to see the “Da Vinci Code” in the cinema. I think it is not a good movie.

Hier, j’ai été au cinéma voir le « Da Vinci Code ». Je pense que ce n’est pas un bon film.

Yesterday was the first time I went to a movie theatre in Japan, it was something I wanted to experience. While going to the movies in Japan is expensive, it is less so than in Switzerland, and you get less adds and no break – which in my opinion brings nothing to the movie. Baring this, it was a surprising non-exotic experience, perhaps I’m getting used to the country, but I simply suspect large movie complexes tend to be the same everything.

The only funny thing was having a movie in English with Japanese sub-titles, I’m more used to the reverse. The funny situation was when people spoke in non-english languages, the movie had english sub-titles, and the japanese sub-titles had to be moved on the side (becoming side-titles?). It would have been much more elegant not to put the english sub-title, but this would be asking to much, I suppose. The sub-titles where often quite far from the original, and I had a few cases where I was hearing french and reading two texts which did match only very loosely.

So I will talk about the movie, before I continue this review, let me clear out a few things:

  • I have not read the book.
  • I am completely indifferent to the theological implication of the movie in general and the position of the catholic church on the subject.
  • I had no special expectations about the movie, one way or another. I like the genre – I certainly liked Foucault’s Pendulum.
  • I give out bits of the story in this post. So if you want to see this movie (which I cannot recommend), and think knowing the story beforehand will spoil it, you should stop reading here.

My first problem with the movie is that it is tediously slow. The whole story is supposed to be a race between the good guys and bad ones to find some secret, so you expect some rhythm, some pace. No. Characters react so slowly you think they took some valium. Of course there is some running around, car chases. But mostly, people stand around and talk slowly, explaining everything – especially the obvious. It is so bad that the best moments of the movie are the ones when some character gets punched. It kind of wakes you up, and the characters stops talking, which at this point of the movie is quite pleasurable. The movie is also long, more than two hours, so the whole thing is very tedious.

The second problem is, the characters are stupid. It starts with Fache (Jean Reno). He is convinced that Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is the murderer of Jacques Saunière (Jean-Pierre Marielle). Saunière has written some code stuff on the ground in invisible ink along with a note “P.S see Robert Langdon”. If Fache wants to arrest Langdon he simply needs to erase the “P.S see” and pretend the victim wrote some gibberish and then the name of the killer. Of course he does not do this, he erases the whole line. But then again, at this point of the movie, and old dying man with a bullet in his chest managed to:

  1. Setup an elaborate puzzle in the museum, including doing a permutation of the fibonacci series
  2. Strip out of all his clothes and cut a pentagram on himself.
  3. Die in the exact position of a Da Vinci painting

All this without smearing the whole place with blood, being seen on any security camera or having any security people coming (firing guns in the Louvre is a common thing, obviously). Of course, when the police arrives, they do not do a full search of the area (which would reveal the hidden key). The police gets fooled by the most stupid ruse (throwing the tracer into a passing truck) and completely leaves the museum, which is very convenient, because having fooled the police, Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu do not leave the museum. No, they stay inside it and solve the puzzle (in more time it would take to look behind all the paintings).

This was the first scene which seem to last ages. The movie drags on in the same vein, the scenario is just a vague excuse to slowly introduce new puzzles. Actually, I like puzzles, but I want to be able to play. That is I should be given all the clues and some time to try to solve it, seing people pacing in rooms with some computer graphics and then coming out with an arbitrary solution. Why give stupid clues when the answer to Newton is apple? The second problem with the puzzles in this movie, is that nobody cheats, nobody thinks out of the box. Sir Leigh Teabing (Ian McKellen) is a cripple millionaire. He has a code-box. If the right code is selected, the box opens, if the wrong code is selected, the content will be destroyed. The content of the box is the goal of his life-long quest for which he is willing to kill even his loyal side-kick. He will:

  1. Realize this is just a combination box built in old times and try to pick the combination while countering the self-destruction mechanism (like for instance by freezing the vinegar in the vial)?
  2. Play the game, fly around chased by the police, shoot people, risk the box breaking (the thing is supposed to be delicate) all the while try to get people he does not trust (he betrayed them) to give him the right code.

The heroes always bravely solve the puzzle – never they try to think deeper. They would probably still be trying out to figure out the gordian knot, instead of looking for a sword.
Besides the puzzles, this movie is about symbols, what about it? The film has a symbolic dimension, no doubt. Like everything else in the moving, it is very heavy-handed. The hero’s research subject are the feminine symbols which is also what everybody is running after. Very early in the movie you have a scene were the templar’s place is raided and the only thing that is found is a a single living red rose. It is not a subtle allusion, the flower is the center of the shot (which like all others in the movie is very long), and the rest of the scene is discolored, in case you missed it (maybe you were sleeping), it is repeated all over the movie.

So the quest is about a living feminine symbol. There is only one feminine character, Sophie Neveu so she is obviously the descendant of the christ, thus repeating the über-cliché that the objet of the quest is always in front of heroes in the start. Once this was figured out, the movie became even more boring, the heroes now had to do more puzzle solving and running around to discover the obvious. Actually, Dan Brown was no happy using this cliché once, he had to use it twice – the body of Maria Magdalena is where the whole story started. Thanks Captain Obvious.

Let me finish with the characters. There were actors I like: Reno can do the stubborn french cops, and Audrey Tautou, well she is Amélie. But I could not feel any empathy for their characters. Capitaine Fache is so shallow and stupid you feel he will implode. Sophie Neveu is a cop half the time and a damsel in distress that runs around in high-heels shoes the other half. Silas is a masochistic religious nut, but soon even his auto-flagellation sessions become boring.
There is a tentative to make the heroes more human by giving them issues, but this is very heavy handed that it completely backfires, partly because it feels like an ad-on, an afterthought, the fact that Robert Landon fell into a well brings little to nothing to the movie and makes it even looonger…

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From now on, there is a gallery, you can now see my photographs.

À partir de maintenant, il y a une gallerie, on peut voir mes photos.

Exporter mes photos depuis iPhoto, que j’utilise pour gérer les photos, jusqu’à une forme utilisable dans mon blog a toujours été un peu compliqué, je devais en général les exporter, puis les charger sur le blog. Pas réellement pratique. J’ai trouvé un système relativement pratique qui utilise un compte flickr comme espace de stockage. J’utilise d’abord le plugin pour iPhoto FlickrExport, puis le plugin FAlbum pour WordPress qui génère la gallerie automatiquement.
La gallerie n’est plus accessible ici>.

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Browser usage

I have recently added a small plugin to my blog to do simple web-traffic statistics, nothing very advanced, but it gives me an idea of who is visiting this site. Of course, this tool is very simple, and the sample size quite small (a little more than 1000 hits). In short, this data should not be seen as representative of anything.

The most interesting thing for me was referrer information, most people arrive from search engines. Some of the requests are somehow surrealistic, for instance if you search for the word rösti in japanese pages on yahoo, my blog is the first and only hit. On average, this blog gets around 80 hits a day.

The other thing this tool gives me is some statistics about the different types of browsers people use to look at this web-site. The first chart gives a break-down of the different browser engines.

Browser chart may 2006

It is no real surprise that Firefox has such a large share. Microsoft Internet Explorer comes second, and in the third positon Safari.

Operating system chart May 2006

The share of the different operating system is somehow surprising, the 72% share of Windows is large, but we are far from the 95% share that is often touted, no doubt people who read this blog use different operating systems. The Windows version is either 5.0 or 5.1, aka 2000 and XP respectively.

At 18%, Mac OS X is quite strong, but the funny thing is, there is no trace of Linux, instead, I get 4% of BeOS users. I know that some of my readers use Linux, but my tool only keeps track of the 15 most common user-agent strings, and as every distribution will probably have a different string, none made it into the top 15, at any rate, the Linux share is lower than 6%. And I really wonder who the BeOS user is.

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白川は岐阜県の奇麗な村です。Shirakawa House合掌造りの家がたくさんあります。

Shirakawa is a beautiful village of the Gifu prefecture. There are many houses with steep rafter roofs.

Shirakawa est un joli village de la préfecture de Gifu. On y trouve de nombreuses maisons avec des toits de combles très pentus.

Shirakawa House

Shirakawa fait partie d’un site qui a été classé héritage mondial par l’Unesco. C’est un des rares endroits au Japon qui abrite encore des maisons avec des toits de chaume. C’est naturellement un endroit qui ne survit que par le tourisme, mais il reste somme toute très joli et intéressant. Nous avions eu la chance d’avoir du beau temps, et il restait quelques cerisiers en fleur.

Les kanjis d’aujourd’hui
Kanji Kun ON Signification Décomposition Note
Croisée, Scène Une montagne 山
et un support 支
Colline Le kanji habituellement utilisé pour colline est 丘, il se lit oka.
Étrange, Curieux 奇しきkushiki: destiné
Beau, compagnon 麗しいuruwashi: beau, charmant.
Manipuler, paume de la main. tanagokoro
: paume de la main

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Schnappi, das kleine Krokodil僕はSchnappiはドイツの有名な音楽です。日本のiTunes Storeで買えます。

Schnappi, das kleine Krokodil is a popular german song, you can buy it in the Japanese iTunes store.

Schnappi, das kleine Krokodil est une chanson allemande populaire, on peut la trouver dans le magasin iTunes japonais.

J’ai à nouveau gagné des chansons grâce au jeu sur ma marque de thé, donc je me suis un peu baladé sur le magasin iTunes du japon. Ce qui m’a frappé c’est qu’il y a une grosse section de variété française et allemande. Je n’ai pas l’impression que la situation soit symétrique, en tout cas le magasin Suisse ne contenait pas de variété japonaise. Par certains côtés, les japonais sont bien plus ouvert sur le monde extérieur que les européens, non que Schnappi soit exactement un haut-fait de culture, mais bon.

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Getting things Done

Je viens de commencer à utiliser le système Kinkless GTD. Kinkless GTD est un système d’organisation basé sur la méthodologie Getting Things Done. Le but étant de pouvoir organiser les tâches et les projets. Kinkless GTD n’est pas d’une application à proprement parler, mais d’une série de scripts pour Omnioutliner Pro 3.6.

Omnioutliner est un programme pour gérer des listes. C’est un programme très agréable à l’usage et que j’avais déjà utilisé plusieurs fois pour gérer des listes, notamment lors de mon départ de France. Avec Omnigraffle qui est un excellent programme pour faire des schémas et des diagrammes, ce sont deux programmes commerciaux pour Mac OS X que je recommande.

Kinkless GTD permet de passer de simples listes de tâches à un système de planification, avec une vue par tâches à faire, par projet, une archive pour les tâches réalisées. Pour chaque tâche, on peut spécifier une date de début et une échéance, une périodicité. Selon son status, chaque tâche se voit attribuer un code de couleur (rouge = dépassé, gris = inactif, mauve = prochaine chose à faire). Enfin, le système se synchronise avec iCal et par là, avec mon iPod et mon téléphone mobile.

Jusqu’à présent je m’organisais simplement avec la fonctionnalité des To-Dos d’iCal, mais ce système était très primitif. Le fait de ne pas pouvoir exprimer les dépendances entre les tâches, ou le fait qu’une tâche ne devait devenir active que dans le futur étaient mes principaux reproches. À présent, on va voir ce que ça donne à l’usage…

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Panorama de TulipesTulip Panorama

先週の土曜日は東山のチューリップを見に行きました 。

Saturday of last week, I went to Tōyama to see tulips.

Samedi dernier, j’ai été à Tōyama pour voir des tulipes

Tōyama est une ville à une cinquantaine de kilomètres au nord de Kanazawa. On y pratique la culture des tulipes avec beaucoup d’enthousiasme. Chaque année, aux alentours de la Golden Week, a lieu la Tulip Fair. Il s’agit d’une gigantesque expositions de tulipes. On y trouve on s’en doute des tulipes, un petit musée et plein d’attractions. Il y a aussi des roues à aube.

Parmi ces attraction on trouve les sempiternelles stands de nourriture, mais aussi des spectacles pour les enfants fait par des personnes dans de gros déguisements (comme les Mickey à Disneyland). De ce que j’ai vu l’histoire impliquait des ninjas et des tulipes.

Panorama de Tulipes
Beaucoup de tulipes Cerisiers en fleurs et Tulipes

J’ai pris la photo ci contre avec le mode panorama de mon téléphone mobile, ça permet de faire des panoramas, ce n’est pas toujours aisé et ça donne des effets curieux quand les gens entrent dans le panorama. J’ai trouvé cette image amusante.

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