The Book Corner

6/20. Robert Elsemere, by Mrs. Humphry Ward, published and wildly successful in 1888. The authorette is mad for socialism, and also wrapped-up in the exciting question of the day, was Christianity just a disgusting fraud, or might there be something worthwhile left in the ruins? The Elsemere character was made fun-of in later days, notably in 1923’s Told by an Idiot by Rose Macaulay, where papa routinely loses his religion every few years or so, but for Elsemere it’s all deadly serious. He promises the supremely-beautiful rural Catherine that they would worship Christ together when he proposes, and then, only two years later, realizes it’s all a fake and resigns his Anglican position and their idyllic rural life, where he had been fighting valorously & successfully for the little people. ... The story never notices what a huge repulsive betrayal this was — it is made clear that Catherine could’ve gone onto a glorious spinsterhood without him, going amongst the mountain folk, caring for the mothers’ confinements, comforting the lunatics, and dying of old age secure in the glory of the Lord. ... But no, she must follow her husband — he actually refers to her, lovingly, as “wifey” — to hateful ugly London, where Elsemere founds yet another religion, what only honors the historical Christ, not the fabulous miracle worker which German scholarship has totally debunked. In exchange, the Germans describe an absolutely verified minute-by-minute detailed biography of the real Jesus Christ, as He was 2,000 years ago or so. Which Elsmere adopts whole-hog.

... I actually delayed reading the Times Literary Supplement magazine for a day or two to finish this appalling/amusing tripe. ... So Elsemere, through obvious holy self-neglect, manages to die in the 5th (?) year of his marriage, leaving behind a tiny tot & beloved wifey, + seas of mourning workmen who, the authorette rather improbably claims, continue on with his atheistic socialist religion — which is the usual embarrassing tarted-up deism — to glorious heights.

It’s really kind of science fiction. Ward obviously thinks that such a thing would be wonderful wonderful, and so she writes it, and the idiots who agree bought the book. ... Henry James loved it....

10/7/20. The Cuckoo Clock, Mrs. Molesworth. It’s an 1877 children’s book, a masterpiece I think. It is written so simply, kind-of stupid — but it penetrates to the core somehow. Near the end, the little girl learns that everything must obey orders — the sun, the moon, children. She is informed of this helpful insight by the cuckoo in the clock, who takes her on presumably dream adventures to many wonderful places.

  • I read of the excellent Molesworth in Seigfried Sassoon’s Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, where he referred to his childhood reading — Molesworth’s The Palace in the Garden and Four Winds Farm, both enchanting, especially the latter. Sadly, Molesworth isn’t perfect, and The Carved Lions for instance is a standard-issue gritty realism portrayal of middle-class Londoners in financial trouble and their little girl who suffers for it. ... & wandering thru covid lands, I reread The Cuckoo Clock and it wasn’t as good! Nor was The Palace in the Garden. ... Four Winds Farm help up better, but that’s probably because it didn’t seem so ravishing the first time.

  • I read my Molesworth books on my amazon kindle with free Gutenberg “mobi” books — google, for instance, “gutenberg molesworth” to find a complete selection. I transfer the “mobi” files to my kindle using a PC and advanced professional necromancy; you techo-peasants will have to borrow a geek for the purpose somewhere, but it’s not that hard. I note that so far the gutenberg/mobi editions of 19th-century literature have been superior to the typically-99c ones I can buy at amazon, and really more convenient. And of course I donate money to the kindly gutenbergers....

  • I prefer stories with happy endings to lifi, which in our sad modern times is required to have at least a horrible tragic ending, although usually every sentence qualifies. But Virginia Woolf didn’t, except in her first book where she kills-off the heroine at the end. ... Sometimes I will be reading what I thought was a happy-ending story, but then the despair kicks-in — I skipped at least the middle third of the disappointing Carved Lions, finally getting to the delusional flying lion part, which worked-out OK.

I’ve applied a similar policy to other stories I hoped would be amusing but didn’t come up to snuff, and I think I’m becoming skilled at it. ... Macaulay’s Towers of Trezibond was a notably unfortunate example, where her lovely elegiac evocation of a lost world is trashed by a totally unnecessary/irrelevant tragedy in the last chapter.

... I must also recommend E. Nesbit, another brilliant children’s author, particularly The Enchanted Castle and The Magic City. Her “famous” book and big hit what got her started in 1906 was The Railway Children, but both the Castle and the City are masterpieces of fantasy and weirdness. In the Castle, a crowd of spectators for a concert are created magically, formed of umbrellas or something — but then, in some cases, they persist to the end of the book! One of ’em becomes a powerful London financial magnate! ... I should warn the gentle reader off of Nesbit’s “adult” novels, a few of which seemed to involve unlikely slinky-but-nevertheless-heart o’ gold women who died after dancing in the forest — except for her last novel The Lark which was really quite lovely.

... As in today’s best society, most of my authorettes were communists to one degree or another; Nesbit was a founding member ot the Fabian Society. Which, of course, hasn’t saved her from enthusiastic condemnation by contemporary perverts-of-the-week for her hideous racist blah blah etc.

... Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote A Little Princess in 1905, and while obviously related to the Shirley Temple movie, it’s better, of course. She, too, has her gutenberg page. Also outstanding is The Secret Garden. But she will swerve into depressing melodrama occasionally — actually, those most guilty of this sin are those who wrote the most, natch.

... My original expeditions into antique authorette serenity started with, I think, Georgette Heyer’s regency tripe and/or Angela Thirkell’s stuff. My graduation to the victorian/post-victorian “hard stuff” was occasioned when I bought an actual book I found in a beloved junk store, christian science lunatic Clara Louise Burnham’s Jewel....

... And I will admit that at least partly I rate my antique reading on its soporific effect — I could tell my molesworth bad egg was bad when I started waking-up as the poor little girl went crazy in her evil girls school. ... An early twentieth century author definitely not soporific was Jeffery Farnol — of the male persuasion, of course. I just worked my way through his 1933 The Way Beyond which is apparently an elaboration of his popular 1910 The Broad Highway, which was a corker all right — it’s first on his gutenberg page. The Way Beyond at least has beautiful color plates, but was really kind of not-so-good. So I moved on to his 1927 The Quest of Youth which, for the first few chapters, is much better. In general, the poor fellow did seem to get worse as the years wandered-on. And of course there was the depression. ... Farnol’s oeuvre included highly-violent pirate books — I had a lot of trouble finishing Black Bartlemy’s Treasure, it was so depressing. I tried to follow my “skip the ugly melodrama” strategery — and I did, often — but if followed completely, there wouldn’t be any book!


And I also must recommend two contemporary romance authorettes, Lauren Denton and Denise Hunter — the latter ridiculously prolific, and God usually intervenes somewhere in the last few chapters to show the characters what’s right ... it’s really quite heart-warming. Both might be available at at admirably-used prices. Both were recommended by the otherwise-ridiculous World Magazine, the only positive thing they’ve been capable-of as far as I can tell — unless you crave endless thumb-suckery just like a liberal magazine. ... But the World recommendation was useful because most contemporary romance includes a wealth of gynecological information that I’m afraid I’m much too narrow-minded to appreciate. ... I find these authorettes share with Falnor the occasional need for a gothic melodrama skip, which has very little effect on the narrative as far as I can tell....

& then sadly Hunter’s later oeuvre seems to degenerate into a “counseling” quest, where some poor girly manages to unsnarl a pitiful psychological problem with skilled help. ... But I preferred the godly intervention. So I lapsed for a few months, but after reading at least one recent lifi book — well, 20 pages of it, probably — I returned, and I realized I should think of the Hunter books like my molesworth children’s books: Hunter’s stories are singularly improbable, but sweet — we don’t have to worry about her dying in a hideous international drug plot, or whatever my stupid lifi book was supposedly about. Hunter has a series set in Nantucket, a land of opulence and quaint summer seaside beauty, where romance appears to flourish. ... I probably couldn’t afford the actual Nantucket for a week, and I doubt I could stand it that long — but the books are about a magic land where everyone lives happily ever after....

10/19/20. Kate O’Brien is probably the last of the readable hard-core lifi and As Music and Splendour may be the last of her books I’ll read, although I believe there are still a few bits & pieces. She is, in fact, a romance writer: her stories are about feisty always-beautiful Irish girls and, in general, the complicated unhappiness of their lives. Splendour is a particularly interesting & informative tale of opera singers who were “exported” from Ireland to Italy in the late nineteenth century.

Dom Casmurro (1899) by Machado de Assis, translated from the Portuguese by Helen Caldwell. ... Now I will use my book corner to vociferate against lifi in general, and in particular, Dom Casmurro: F-! ... That’s letter F, minus ... beyond failure. ... It stank, and it stank in a way lifi is proud about: depicting misery and despair, hopefully inducing such in the reader so, in an ideal case, he’d off himself. ... The first few chapters were amusing: the story of a random friend’s “world as opera” concept — libretto by Satan, but music by God. The idea is played-around with skillfully, and then the book goes downhill, concentrating on the narrator’s glorious romance with his cute 14-year-old neighbor girl (when he’s 15), who he eventually marries, and who betrays him, or so the narrator is obsessively certain, by canoodling with the best friend and having his child. ... Amusingly, Machado de Assis was a late victorian, but in Brazil, not amongst my beloved British authorettes. He & they probably had comparable left-leaning politics, but the important difference is the lifi compulsory despair. (For a good time, you can read a dubiously-translated 6/20 article on de Assis’ racial purity; and google de Assis pix to see a complete selection of racial variety.)

... So I sought to cleanse my reading pallet with Denise Hunter’s Mending Places, copyright 2004 which, in the Hunter oeuvre, means it’s got perhaps too-much sturm & drang melodrama, much of which I shamelessly skimmed — not unlike the last 9/10ths of Dom Casmurro — with this difference: the Hunter book had a happy ending. ... Child abuse and rape are the topics du jour, like a crummy TV movie, but the written form allows me to skip parts I don’t like, and arrive at a heartwarming ending.

... Part of the super intellectual appeal of lifi is the reader or readerette is so superior, he-she-it is detached from the story — that is, doesn’t believe a word of it! — not in a billion billion years! ... I, on the other hand, being a kind of primitive throwback grunting savage, believe these stories I read, and I am made unhappy when they tell of despair. ... Darndest thing, eh!?!?


Speaking of super intellectual BS, Philology, The Forgotten Origins of the Modern Humanities, by James Turner (2014 Princeton University Press), blows the gaffe on lifi, revealing its comparatively puerile youth which, apparently, was around 1870 — see this exciting page for how it was @ Cornell. The point being that all this nonsense about the sacred cause of literary fiction is just recently made-up stuff — a lot like the supposedly sacred-nature of journalism! — and is under our very eyes disappearing into the night, even as the Biden Landslide takes over our world. ... That is, the pitiful progressive sneaks invented literary fiction and journalism, and convinced the rest of us for years and years how beautiful and special they were. But they weren’t; & aren’t....

11/3/20. And now for a complete change of pace, Alexander William Kinglake’s Eothen: Traces of travel brought home from the east (~1844), a tremendously-amusing rendition of the fellow’s 1834 visit to the muslim realms, including the Christian holy lands. Kinglake is out for amusement, or something, but he promises there won’t be any boring statistics and so there weren’t. I imagine it was a very popular book; even today, Amazon has numerous different versions including kindle, and there’s a mobi too. Today’s culture morons would, hopefully, explode in outrage; he manages to insult everyone although, to be sure, leaving a little tolerance for his home team Anglicans. The story includes exciting adventure with the bubonic plaugue everywhere in the east, including Cairo....

Keeping-up with our whirlind tour of lifi thru the ages, I will complain about Geoffrey Chaucer and his Canterbury Tales, a revered antique work of lifi in the not-really-English “Old English” argot, but I got the “facing-page” simultaneous translation Bantam version @ amazon so I can kind-of read the original, “cheating” by reading the real-English translation when I had to, which was often. This was nice with the famous prologue where Chaucer introduces his storytellers, which is at least an education in how poetry can’t be translated, with Chaucer’s thoughts coming tripplingly off his tongue, but so obviously worse or at least differently off the tongue of the translator. It is no fault; this is an inevitability, summed-up in the pithy “poetry is what’s lost in translation”.

But then I got to the Knight’s Tale, and it was awful. I don’t care what they say, it was annoying, drivelish — the character keeps explaining how he must shorten everything, before he goes into another endless reiteration of some idiotic poetical bogosity....

The Machinists & Their Secret Sorrow

They are basically a harmless bunch, and much put upon, as their careers have careened into dust when CNC-controlled machining and worse took over the world. They speak a tightly-hermetic argot which appears to be intended to exclude outsiders and succeeds admirably — I’ve subscribed to Home Shop Machinist for years, and I think the offerings that weren’t totally opaque number in the small integers, usually involving some electronic gadget whose interaction with the machinery they had to explain in simpleton terms, since usually they barely understood it themselves. I believe their secret tongue took root even in their glory days as they assiduously annoyed their betters, like butinsky engineers such as my father.

But Digital Machinist, the evil CNC-contemplating offspring of Home Shop Machinist, offers Ed Nisley columns, who was the only person I ever saw explain that 3D printing takes approximatley forever — such a sad betrayal of the otherwise sacred omerta is of course forbidden in the normal regulation puffery of the magazines & internet. But the rest of the magazine’s articles are as intensely opaque as could possibly be desired. ... And I do not rudely scorn the machinists and their secrets. The reason I keep subscribing is because I enjoy it; it’s sort-of a private game — will this issue contain anything actually comprehensible — which I always lose & win. ... I wrote a letter to the Home Shop Machinist guy, congratulating him on the impenetrable argot, and explaining that as a software engineer I was an expert, and could proudly obfuscate anything....

The Yokels

The machinists have their excuses: many of the faithful were in fact employed as such before their places all closed, providing to be sure a lively market in giant metal lathes and other such, which many of these lunatics install in their snow-frozen barns. But many also enjoy the “I’m just a yokel” pose, where they pretend to be complete ignorami but just picked-up this machining thing ril ez ’cause they’re so manly & bright I guess, when they obviously have some background which they’ll certify by tossing in a technical phrase, just to show they’re really an insider — like the fellow who “learnt very quickly that my hand cut threads are crap” — I know I really hate it when that happens. ... The linuxistas do exactly the same thing in the Linux Format letters pages, which regularly feature sincere missives from complete Linux newbies who claim they figured-out some ridiculously complicated server nonsense, an’ it was so much better than Windows, come’on kids! ... But the Linux children have far less excuse, since their skills are still presumably saleable. Although perhaps not the idiots on the letters pages....

The Toys

When the purpose of a machinist article isn’t shrouded in mystery, it is always a toy: a model steam engine, a beautiful “garden” locomotive the incredibly-skilled guy can ride around on — and I may jest, but they are incredibly skilled. ... The small scale would seem inevitable with the hobby lathes like my father’s Unimat, although it does leave the question of what they made on the big rigs — it doesn’t seem possible it was parts for my father’s D21. ... And I’m pretty sure the beloved pater was as clueless as I am, since he seemed to use his Unimats as a drill press. ... With a few more turnings of the wheel, I have become certain that they make toys. There was actually a guy with a nice article about model steam engines who unashamedly specified that was his calling — which, to be sure, is unusual — the fellows usually hide, however improbably, their toyish preoccupations....

Other machinist articles are almost all about clever accessories for the fellow’s and presumably readers’ existing equipment — which purpose and mechanism are of course totally shrouded in hermetic argot & sacred secrecy.

The Cheap ’n’ Stupid Apple SD Socket

In my beloved silly cameras and older computers, one pokes an SD into the socket and it “snicks” almost all the way in, with a spring latch mechanism. Getting it out is a matter of pressing the thing a little, and it springs out. In my life, this mechanism has never failed, on numerous devices.

I used to think Apple’s grotesque abandonment of the spring/latch socket, in favor of a much stupider cheaper system where the SD card sticks half way out — which was immediately copied by numerous other stupid companies like asus, imitating the cla$$y apple — was just stupid cost cutting, but then I realized it was in aid of another cherished latter-day Apple Inc. goal: to prevent the wretched user from any modification/expansion of his machine in any way. Not the historic Apple perhaps, but quite evident in recent years, as batteries and memory and hard drives got soldered-into phones & computers permanently.

So not only is the stupid SD socket annoying and stupid, it prevents the wretched victim user from expanding his storage even a little. Because the stupid thing’ll break off, forcing him to use SDs only as a temporary storage medium, as the presumably pro-monopoly Deity intended. ... So the user’s forced — if he’s stupid-enough, and after all we are talking Apple — he’s forced to buy a more expensive machine, sooner. ... Although many of us still offend the sky and use the SD as permanent storage and indeed there is a cottage industry of special short SD cards that won’t stick out so much. And cost ridiculous amounts. One company “BaseQi” appears to be making a killing, at least I bought two “iSDA 350A” “For Surface Book” genuine-aluminum adapter for ~$25/each @ amazon, and it seemed to fit two troubled Asii in the herd. But they have a whole selection, and maybe the “345A” if it existed’d fit better.

... But Apple’s way ahead of that: the new macbrook pro has no SD card socket. My fourth hit when I googled “macbook missing SD socket” was some fawning macintosh fan drip claiming it was the camera companies’ fault for not zooming-up the wifi or blue something or whatever he was babbling about....

The Sad Decline of Asus, + Usux™ Mediocrity

But the LOL got an HP laptop where, as we discovered when we tried it, the SD socket works! ... I am so jealous. My last HPs, a laptop and a desktop, behaved so shamefully I’ve stayed away from the brand for years, but who knows; perhaps I’ll have to reconsider. ... Particularly since Asus appears to be floundering, at least judging by my 12/17 Asus VivoBook F510UA FHD Laptop — no longer available, maybe for good reason, since I finally had to “recover” idiot Windows in a 4-hour operation, after some stupid asus program BhcMgr.exe would hang-up the startup. ... Really, I expect Windows to constantly complain about missing programs, but this stalled the boot — a great tradition in really stupid software, what asks at some crucial moment “What’s your favorite color?” or some other crucial query, like how some program one has never heard of is missing, and then offers nothing to do about it but click “OK”. This is the kind of stupidity we pay for in a brand name, and I’m afraid Asus is now that brand. ... My computer herd includes numerous discarded Asii of the LOL, and I guess I should’ve noticed the trend....

My 12/17 Asus VivoBook F510UA FHD laptop continues to exhibit stupid symptoms, most noticeably this time (1.) sound stopped working and (2.) stupid Win10 “search” thing was obviously crashing. After much sturm und drang I “fixed” the sound by updating the driver in device driver — after reading the web advice to roll it back. But the win10 search is still broken. I figure it’s just Usux™ and its marvelous wonders, and I think I’ve noticed the recourse to win10 search — by idiot web savants — much reduced: it used to be the first way to get something, but I assume it’s breaking all over, and I figure anyway a Win10 system with just one or two things broken — is that unusual? ... And I will guess it almost certainly has something to do with the lovely and gracious Cortana, Usux™’s entry in the stupid talking computer sweepstakes what everybody on earth wants so much it hurts, so they can get those precious talking advertisements they so crave....

My beloved 4/17 Lenovo win10 desktop shows no such symptoms, somehow managing to concoct a win10 computer that doesn’t fall over every few months. Unfortunately the Lenovo laptops have had bad reports — eviiil data stealing — but even then. ... But I went to my Lenovo desktop to see how the win10 Stupid Search™ is supposed to work, ’n’ of course it’s cracking-up at the Cortana™ advertising! Before I get a prompt to type, it’s supposed to display a wunnerful cornucopia of stupid ads, what my desktop does. ... So really, the brokenness of the asus could be perceived as a feature....

But then my display driver update for the Asus F510UA accidentally enabled my beloved PSP9, until then AWOL. ... So, really, it’s a net win....

Acer Too?

My beloved asus vivobook finally was unable to play VLC music without massive stuttering, so I looked into an Acer Aspire E5-575 — which did play for a little without stutter, but then, no. But the asus’d probably work perfectly here in the homebase also, where it knows it’s being watched and in peril. ... The acer ’though is obviously part of the universal Windows 10/Computers-Stink-let’s-use-our-phones movement which will leave me bereft not too far in the dreaded icy future.

Acer Power

... The most amusing stupidity so far is the power button won’t turn off the computer. ... Kuel, eh?

... Oh wretched techno-geezer, what a fool U R, so childlike in the empty fields of modernity. ... All I had to do was hold the stupid key down for about 2 or three seconds. Of course! ... An innovation introduced, no doubt, after thousands of the things were returned because of people accidentally turning the stupid laptop off. ... Every five-year-old knows this hermetic inner secret these days; even I knew, in a slightly different context. ... Of course there is no way to google it. Since everyone already knows it. ... The pitiful manual, which I managed to examine after some difficulty — it insisted on coming-up in the unreadable unusable Usux™ edge — has two pointless topics, the contents of which have undoubtedly been obsolete/bogus for years, and didn’t include the stupid actively-hostile power key....

And really, the acer’s hermetic hold-down power-off is better than the Asus, which has the same stupid keyboard power-button, but doesn’t require a delay — although somehow I wasn’t constantly turning it off by accident. ... In general I’d say asus has pulled-ahead of acer in the stupidity-mediocrity sweepstakes; I got the Acer laptop about a year later than the asus for pretty much the same price — ~$550 — and it has better amenities, like an ethernet fixture — I had to use one of those wretched USB things for the asus — and a VGA port. Its SD card socket, although not the old-style “working” socket, is nevertheless arranged on the machine so the stupid card doesn’t poke-out unnecessarily. ... And of course it seems to play VLC music without rampant stuttering....

But I must anxiously note that this “safety” keyboard power-button hold-down overlays the well-known forced-power-off, where one holds down the power button for 10 seconds or so. Although maybe that still works? ... Right, normally one uses forced-shutdown when the machine won’t shut-down normally, so if holding the power button down for a few seconds doesn’t do it, probably holding it down long-enough will. I can’t really test that easily, and it’ll probably not work when it’s most infuriating....

But Acer’s really OK, or at least the most OK of the dwindling laptop offerings — particularly compared to HP. ... And I got a Windows 7 Dell laptop around 10/19 which wasn’t bad ... so far....

Ditto HP

The LOL’s beloved HP laptop got that 2-months-out-of-warranty battery blues, which is the HP behavior I so fondly recall: broken shoddy hardware and software. ... That leaves me with Acer (or Dell, for laptops) or Lenovo (for desktops — never laptops) for my next pointless purchase. ... Ad astra!

... And then I was owenizing a different HP laptop, a special hand-me-down with a sizzling SSD drive! ... Miniature of course — 120Gb — but I had clever schemes to use an additional 128Gb SD plug-in, and it was all going well and then it dived into the pit of oblivion and may never be seen whole again. ... I’m wiping it as I type indignantly, and maybe it’ll just get goin’ good & all will be forgiven ... but I’m not holding the proverbial breath. ... And my instinctive regard for both HP and SSD drives has of course been considerably enhanced.

... And then, after it came to a perilous kind-of life again, my beloved Macro Express decided it would start at every reboot with the helpful stupid useless settings/hints section, which the exact same program doesn’t do anywhere else....

The Broken Edge

One of the other things noticeably broken this week in my Asii win10™s is Edge™ the fabulous™ Usux™ amazing™ internet browser, which waits for a response for a while and then closes. I only care because of my PDF necromancies, and I was indeed bereft — but then, not to worry, unbeknownst to me Usux™ has slipped in a working copy of the beloved searchable-PDF-printing internet explorer version 11 into win10 behind our backs! So all is forgiven and of course that’s why Edge doesn’t work — they’ve kicked it to the curb, to let it die in squalor & degradation. And the web seems to think IE11 was always there in the beloved win8/10, but I am suspicious & filled with doubt. ... Of course it’s not like I would notice....

A Win10 Search Fix

Eventually, wandering the internet, I fixed my stupid Asus VivoBook F510UA FHD Win10’s search convulsions:

  • WIN key+I settings
  • Cortana
  • Turned-off everything I could find.

That did it! For today. ... The Edge browser on the other hand, judging by internet whining, is usually broken, so who cares. And of course when I click the Stupid Search and it asks “look on the web?” or whatever drivel it emits, and I foolishly assent, it immediately runs the Stupid™ Edge™ browser, whatever my super Win10™ browser default and, of course, it falls over. ... Behold the Holy Way of Mediocrity.

... In the last year of so, overlapping mostly the holy covid arson & riot socialist-dawn season, I’ve managed to somehow acquire three Dell laptops: an antique XP, a less-antique Windows 7, and an up-to-date upf--ks-in-the-night Windows 10 unit — and, oddly, they all seem to work! ... In the past I was discouraged by a dell at least once but, possibly, they’ve been standing still while the glorious world of mediocrity & arson has been pushing ever forward, but, whatever....

Backslash-Quote: The Greatest Bug of All

When the earth was cooling, computerists, probably those Kernighan & Ritchie guys, figured C-language programs should have command-line arguments, and they made it so. At that moment or shortly afterwards, people wanted command-line arguments with spaces in them, which was supported by quotes. Thus, one could go grep phrase *.txt or grep "phrase with spaces" *.txt. Both ways! Total flexibility!

But then the guru masters realized they must do something; what if someone wanted a quote in the argument? So they introduced the backslash-quote, i.e. grep "he said \"Hi\"" *.txt. It was a backslash presumably because C-language already used that punctuation in C-language literals and printf syntax to indicate special characters, including quote marks, control characters, random hex values. ... But only the double-quotes were “escaped” for the command-line.

This was a terrible error, because they didn’t provide for escaping the backslash itself! They only used it as an escape character when it came before a double-quote mark, and otherwise just passed it through. Perhaps they wondered, who could possibly be stupid-enough to need an argument like “c:\windows\stupid directory\”?

... Of course, they hadn’t met Bill Gates. ... MSDOS and later Windows had directory paths just like decent operating systems (i.e Unix) except to make them different, they used the backslash instead of the forward slash. To make absolutely sure everything was screwed-up forever, the option character, normally a - hyphen in Unix, was a forward-slash in MSDOS. Also, incidentally, the path separator was changed from a colon to a semicolon. ... Perhaps there had been some wacko software patent action contemporary to the bad dreams of MSDOS’ architects, but that’s what they did.

Windows 95

And then, Windows 95 and some version of NT introduced spaces in file and directory names. From there it was only a matter of minutes probably before somebody tried to describe a directory in a command-line like stupid-program "c:\stupid directory\" arg3 and failed utterly: the stupid-program would see a single argument c:\stupid directory" arg3 with that wacky double-quote stuck in the middle and nothing would work.

Today, all the compilers I tested include an additional “feature”: the sequence \\" will be seen as a single backslash, followed by a double-quote[1]. I know that the old Borland compilers I have, year 2000 and back, did not have this additional feature, so with programs compiled under those compilers it is impossible to use properly-backslashed windows spacey-directory arguments. ... As I learned to my sorrow while I was trying to beat into submission Corel X4 recently, which does only recognize a directory in certain contexts if it has a final backslash....

I believe that the pre-2001 Borland state of bugitude lasted through much of the history of the feature; I don’t have an adequate supply of antique compilers (!) to really tell, but my guess is Borland stole the feature from some Unix or Microsoft compiler around 1988, and probably at least at that time nobody provided the \\" fix.

It’s Not a Feature; It’s a Bug

For me, the beauty of this feature is my sense of millions of users, over the wandering years, trying to pass windows directories to various command-line utilities, and utterly failing. ... It’s poetic. A very small percentage of them will guess that the \\" feature is available — if it is — but most of course won’t. ... And often, command-line utilities are actually used by other programs, batch files, whoever, where the “feature” just fades out of sight into the maelstrom of chaos that is Windows (or really any recent OS). .. Of course we could all just Read the Fine Manual; but giant $500 programs hardly have manuals anymore, and pitiful Windows command-line utilities — never.

— the strangely-amused programmer
Monday, November 9, 2009 5:33 pm

1. Actually I realized later my beloved Borland Builder version 5 — beloved, because I can’t see paying $1000s for a probably more-broken copy-protected upgraded .net-based (!!) monstrosity — has the \\" feature, sort-of, but does it wrong. Of course. So if I want "c:\windows\stupid directory\" it’ll produce c:\windows\stupid directory\" — strange trailing quote — which isn’t terribly helpful. As my beautiful might demonstrate. Note that there includes exciting and almost-certainly deadly fixit code for the problem; typing it without arguments probably won’t crash and will tell you how to see for yourself the exciting results — and perhaps if your compiler is like that, fix it also. Please note the included source code isn’t nearly as bad as it looks; like Mark Twain I believe said of Wagner (“not nearly as bad as it sounds”). ... And then I got guilty and wrote a beauteous C-language version; so there are two things in, argument.cpp with the C-- borland command-line arguments fixer and handy house destroyer, and a comparably talented plain old C-language version arg2.cpp — which, to be sure, is still a CPP file, a practice I follow since the error-checking’s more annoying. Both of these fixits, incidentally, as well as rendering "\stupid directory\" correctly, also can embed quotes by doubling, i.e. "\really ""stupid"" directory\" would produce \really "stupid" directory\ — and heck with Windows 8, it could happen! — and even edge conditions like """\really"" stupid\" and "\really ""stupid""", producing respectively "\really" stupid\ and \really "stupid". ... Amazing isn’t it?

FINDJ: A Logical Grep

Just like Spock! So much more sensible. ... No, not really; you should assume findj is bad and dangerous and will erase your hard drive almost instantaneously, but here in the attic, at last, I can go

findj "balm&gilead" c:\gregor\textkeep\bible.txt

and if you had the Guttenberg Project ASCII bible text, your copy might also print

::::::::: c:\gregor\textkeep\bible.txt
8:22 Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then
46:11 Go up into Gilead, and take balm, O virgin, the daughter of

Get it here, with complete obsolete Borland version 5 C++ source! ... And, absolutely free of charge, a BSD-style (free free free!) license therein. ... Note that this is a slovenly wasteful ungreppish thing, which stows the entire file in memory. That could be fixed but I’m not going to. ... But on the other hand, it’s survived minutes of testing!

It prints a supposedly-informative message if invoked without arguments....

... and A Few More Dubious Utilities

While I’m at it, here’s sortj, sumj, and randj, which sort, add-up, and randomize respectively ASCII lists. All are of the memory-wasting whole-file-in-memory persuasion, like findj. And randj is particularly pitiful. ... Won’t we have fun?!?! — after you clean-up the extensive damage these harmless bits of pestilential software will wreak on your computer, your home, and your innocent pets.... Jgotabs is a much scruffier sort of thing, but the others are disdainful of those nasty tab characters, so it might be handy. And it might even work! ... Although, again, do hide the pets....

... And then again, for something entirely different, let’s take a stroll amongst the shacks and tents down by the water and the cannery, and see how the peasants live! Specifically, how we wrote programs when men were men and programmers were probably impaired in numerous dubious ways: my precious, my only, a legacy of my misspent productive years, JGODIR! ... You don’t need it, I don’t need it, but I started it on 12/15/93!!! ... I vaguely recall I concocted this for an associate in a distant land — Pennsylvania I think. ... I would send him various software I had concocted — probably by modem by then, I think the days of mailed diskettes were over, but who can tell? But one day the stuff I sent couldn’t be deleted, it was a virus! ... I have a vague guilty memory of my making it read-only, to correct some other amazing problem we were supposedly having, but anyway I suspected that, and so I borrowed some code from my almost-as-fascinating OwenView so I could send him a command-line directory utility that, as opposed to the MSDOS DIR command, would show the file’s attributes; and I think the strategery actually worked. And I’ve found JGODIR strangely useful over the years, for its wacko formats and what-not. ... But you almost certainly won’t, if you survive the destructive matter-anti-matter collision which will infallibly occur if you ever are so foolish as to run the program....

And then Monday, February 11, 2013 I discovered I was reporting file times in UTC aka “Coordinated Universal Time” but in some barbarous language, aka Greenwich time! ... So sophisticated ’n’ all. ... I might make it an option someday, but I think I’ve got it to tell the real time now....

CBuilder (Version 5, 2000) Tips ’n’ Trickery

Aka the last decent version; aka the “version I own”. ... Up there I explain about “\stupid\backslashes\” in quoted command-line arguments — but there’s more! .... Builder and Turbo C and the other awful Borland Cs (but still much better than Microsoft!) had a conio library where you could make these cute little windows with, of course, mono-spaced fonts, like the beautiful illustration. But when Windows 7 and its hideous 64-bit snootiness rushed at me (see antiques for more on that), my old 16-bit Turbo C (1988) programs wouldn’t work until I added a “textmode(C80X50)” call to them; then they would beautifully locate their primitive characters in a typical 80-character 50-line console screen and all was good and new again. ... The “C80X50” constant came from a large collection in conio.h, all of which, constants and calls alike, are apparently undocumented in Builder and, as usual, my helpful suggestions are likely to melt your car at least if not your appliances and children, but nevertheless I am so happy that I got this stuff to work....

— the kindly programmer
Thursday, March 10, 2011 1:41 pm

The Dark Side of the Arduino

In my role as the only being in the entire known webiverse who will say anything bad about anything, here at last are the astonishing hidden secrets of the world-famous Arduino hobbyist experimenter board:

  • Some wonderful Italians created this FOSS project, which consists of hardware — an adorable little board with an Atmel/AVR microprocessor on it, originally thru-hole (aka “antique”) to make it easier for hobbyists — and software: an IDE for you to write your programs, and an entire c-like programming language to write them in!

  • I must admit I assumed for some time that the Arduino Programming Language (as it’s ingeniously known) was an interpreter, probably because some idiot on the web or a magazine said so (including in days of yore my helpful entry). Which would make it really really stupid if you can’t breakpoint or single-step in the Arduino system. Which you can’t.

  • But in fact the language is C++, with “EZfied” features: “Your sketch [aka your Arduino program in their quaint argot] undergoes minor changes ... and then is passed directly to a C/C++ compiler” (

  • But you can’t use ICE h/w or whatever it’s called this week with the Arduino language. So even if you have one of the ($350?) Atmel in-circuit debuggers, you still can’t single-step or breakpoint. At least in the Arduino language/environment.

  • To summarize, it’s bad because it’s stupid to make an EZ-to-program system which is hard-to-debug. (See this stack overflow summary, which references a dubious-looking Visual Studio plug-in Arduino debugger for sale.)

Delusional Rant

And I know why the Arduinistas did that: because real men, at least in my wonderful embedded system world, debug with a few toothpicks and printf statements; they don’t need no stinkin’ ridiculously expen$ive debugging equipment! ... Which, but a little while ago, in these guys’ formative years, were, like everything else in our hideous denegerate free-market capitalist greed-ruled world, much more expensive. ... Actual mortals, like myself, nevertheless need debugging equipment, at least if we want to do anything beyond the abysmally simple. We need breakpoints and single step.

And I am an expert, and I never lie. And it isn’t just my delusional rant, it’s an official programming verity that debugging takes at least twice as long as writing the program. When I googled “arduino debugging”, the stackoverflow recommendation was to use a plugin with the free Visutal Studio 2015, which doesn’t seem like much of an improvement, or upgrading to an AVR debugging environment. Otherwise, as someone points out, “during development, we all use Serial.print() to help debug our code”. Which is what they did with the teletypes in olden days when men were men....

Compared to many educational / hobbyist products and others, the Arduino is still ridiculously functional per $. And perhaps I will find-out how it’s possible to debug with “Arduino Language”, although not, apparently, from the Arduistas. ... It’s like my beautiful toy sextant , made somewhere in the wide wonderful world so it looks like a genuine antique instrument — but, sadly, not actually so good at sextanting. ... The Arduino shares its traditional ’n’ quaint socket/thru-hole[1] CPU style with other hobby offerings, but adds open source goodness and a resulting large competitive market of compatible products and add-on boards (in Arduino-speak, “shields”!?). ... So it’s good. ... But not all good....

Arduino Mega 2560: Knave or Fool?

And as I and the Arduistas wander through the years, I eventually got their lovely Mega 2560 board for a pittance, and then dawdled for a few months, and finally went to get the Eagle schematic and PCB files, which are a standard part of the wonderful and uplifting open source deal. ... And there were none! ... There were such files for the despised revision zero Mega 2560. Which is not the board I bought; with the Arduino logo on it and everything! ... It’s “despised”, because I assume if it was changed — twice! — so early in the young board’s history, there was something regrettable about revision zero. ... What I got is the “MEGA 2560 R3”, as is printed right on the bottom of the board; without my italics of course. ... But the Eagle file I found on the web “” was not good; it was a broken zip, which would unzip not!


... I must say, for a few days, even a week, I figured things must be really sad over there in Arduino land; the classic organizational sclerosis must’ve set in, if they had become so stupid they couldn’t post a valid zip file. This is the sort of thing Bob’s Software and Used CDs would do. ... But then the snake whispered in my ear: perhaps, in the classic “Knave or Fool” dilemma, we have not the fool here? ... Perhaps, the Arduistas are tired of the cloners churning out their designs in a few days, robbing all the obscene profit from the otherwise wholly pure and noble Arduino enterprise? ... The Arduino folks must have the Eagle files to produce the board; surely they’re capable of zipping them up and posting them? I mean, I could do that in my sleep. ... But when they post the Eagle files promptly, the cloners get right to work with their shoddy cheap exact entirely legal imitations....


But later, I realized everything’s OK. ... They’re not venal but, indeed, just fools. ... Eventually they posted a working zip file which still wouldn’t open in Eagle. Legions of the usual idiots forum participants posted assurances that sure absolutely it really really worked this time. Since I had already applied zip-file fixit tools to the broken zip and achieved a similar result — i.e., it would unzip, but the resulting supposed-eagle files wouldn’t open in Eagle — I assumed the notional Bob’s Software idiot-in-chief had just done the same. ... But no; the arduweeny are not so easy. What they did was post a working zip file with working Eagle files in it — but for a different version of Eagle! ... This sort of creativity is the mark of the True Cluelessness! ... That is, the Eagle files of aka “Rev 0” opened good in Eagle version 5, but’s files, cunningly, would only open in Eagle version 6. ... Not so terrible, since to just look at the file, Eagle’s a free download — but that’s true only if you tell people!

Now there were a few vagrant posters who claimed it’d open great in Eagle 6, along with the people who insisted the zip file was never never broken; and of course the apparently officialish poster who said the broken zip file was a “known issue”. ... Such are the ingredients for truly great broken software, and I doff my cap to the arduweeny masters. ... And I still suspect the “broken” zip file was a bit of anti-cloner medicine....

— the thoughtful compassionate programmer

1. I, too, am fond of thru-hole socketable parts. And apparently large numbers of hobbyists and I’d suspect some back-alley professionals are also, since the parts vendors still seem to keep quite a few available. But one cannot fit a 112-pin CPU into a 48-pin socket, and the 48-pin socket is already too big. So time marched on. ... Recent Arduino offerings have, in fact, turned to a darker side and use SMT devices....