Oh, the fragility!

January 6, 2010

(Do people still whine on blogs instead of on Facebook or Twitter?)

It’s amazing to me how fragile my computing environment is. I take it for granted that lots of things won’t work in lots of ways, often in scary, nasty, debilitating ways.

I’ve burned a good chunk of today trying to put a bit more sophistication into some of my book’s formatting. I’m using LaTeX (of course!) and I found a nice little style for formatting grammars. I have a lot of grammars in this chapter (and will have more, I’m sure), so it’s nice to 1) make them easy to write and 2) have them print out nice.

This was all working fine for the most part, with the except that the nice word counter script I have would throw up ugly warnings. I found the suppress error option and moved on.

But but but. The grammar environment made me repeat the mapping from things like “:” to → over and over and over again. What if I wanted to change the formatting? There was, afaict, no way to add a caption or a label.

But this is LaTeX, right? I can fix this. I’m gonna wrap these suckers in a \figure. But that’ll look ugly. I know, I’ll create a new environment that sets up the figure and my choices for mapping! Then I’ll just have one place to touch to munge things and a lot less to type all over.

Well, the fail swamped me. All of the little things I tried just didn’t work. And really didn’t work. There’s some wacky order of expansion I just don’t know. I tried delving into the style file: Wow. There’s a whole lot of TeX I don’t know anything about. At all. Not even a little. And I don’t want to. No quick hack worked even a little bit. I think I see a really nasty hack that might at least change the defaults, but man, that would be NASTY.

Grr. Argh.

So I moved on and finally got back to, y’know, the actual writing. I put a figure around one of the grammars so I could add a caption, just to remind me that I want to get that working.

Of course, my first task is to write a long grammar. With comments. Which aren’t supported. But it seems to degrade ok.

Until I tried to measure my progress and got:

* You have written -7057 words since your last commit.

Well that sucks! No I didn’t accidently delete stuff. My counter just interacted badly with the figure and whatever other issue it has with grammars. I took a peek at the counter script (in yet another language I don’t want to learn) and gave up.

My world is fragile.

One Response to “Oh, the fragility!”

  1. samanthabail Says:

    Can I say ‘welcome to my world’. It’s incredible how much time one can spend messing about with and tweaking something because there _must_ be a solution to that particular problem, of course.

    Meh.


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