Christine Welch: A tidbit

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Christine Welch

One Comment: Christine Isobella Welch (1988-12-28 – ) is a Mandarin speaking, American singer-songwriter. She studied Chinese as a student at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois, (near Chicago) graduating in 2010. She then travelled to Kaohsiung Taiwan as a Fulbright English teaching assistant for one year in 2011. She was then accepted into the National Taiwan Normal University Chinese Literature Masters Program where she wrote a thesis in Chinese on representations of Taiwanese aborigine women, especially shamanesses, in 17th century travel journals, both Chinese and European. At the University of Wisconsin, Madison, she continued her research on travel, gender, and Daoist tropes, especially how these combine at the mythos of the Immortal Isle of Penglai. One Million Possibilities = 一百萬個可能, was recorded in 2013, but became a sensation on the Chinese video platform Douyin in 2018.

One Quotation: “I’ve never written a song in English. I just feel like Chinese is a very poetic language.”

One Track: One Million Possibilities.

One conclusion: This is the last of a series of weblog posts about women musicians who wrote their own songs and/ or composed their own music. Previous musicians were: Joan Baez, Buffy Saint-Marie, Mari Boine, Anouk, Bebe Rexha, Pauline Oliveros, Aurora, Kate Bush, Pussy Riot, Dolores O’Riordan, Clarice Falcão and Zahara.

One confession: At the beginning there was an attempt to find one significant singer/ songwriter born in each of the twelve months, and one (or two) each in the decades of the twentieth century. In addition, there was an attempt to find people from different parts of the world. However, I soon noticed that the average age of the musicians did not match the living population. Thus, I reached out for assistance to find younger musicians. Bebe Rexha was suggested by a close relative who, at the time, was under 40! I did receive more suggestions than were used. The only exception to including people by birthdate was Pussy Riot. It was plotted in where there was a vacant space.

Other music related weblog posts. In 2021: The Charm of Soft Synths; Shaped by Music with First Aid Kit, and many other groups some of which I am trying to forget existed; Andrei Cerbu’s Garage; Music for the People; Delia Derbyshire (1937 – 2001) and Cover.

Here are some people who were considered, but not included:

Abida Parveen (1954-02-20 – ) is a Pakistani singer, composer and musician of Sufi music, as well as a painter. I discovered that she was a little too entrepreneurial for my tastes, and – apparently – actively removes YouTube videos, so there was a constant need to update links.

Jane Siberry neé Stewart, born in Toronto, Canada (1955-10-12) is perhaps the person I regret the most about not including. She is a singer-songwriter, known for Mimi on the Beach, I Muse Aloud, and Calling All Angels. She is perhaps best remembered for performing the theme song of the Canadian comedy television series Maniac Mansion, although it was written by Lou Natale (1950-01-05 – ). Her quotation would have been: “I started out in music, but switched to sciences when I realised how much more interesting it was to study than music. I would leave the classes ecstatic about tiny things.” Here, One More Colour is sung in two versions, one by herself, for people who like cows, and one by Sarah Polley (1979-01-08 – ) in Armenian-Canadian Atom Egoyan’s (Born in Cairo, Egypt 1960-07-19 – ), 1997 film adaptation of Russell Banks’ 1991 novel, The Sweet Hereafter. The book is set in upstate New York, but based on a real 1989-09-21 Alton, Texas bus accident. Much of the film was shot in Merritt and Spences Bridge in British Columbia, but the story is also a metaphor for the Armenian Genocide, where the guilty fail to accept responsibility for their actions.

Kari Bremnes (1956-12-05 – ) is a Norwegian singer and songwriter. She earned an MA in language, literature, history and theatre studies from the University of Oslo, worked as a journalist for several years before working as a musician full-time. In 1987 she received the Spellemannprisen = Norwegian Musician award, for the recording Mitt ville hjerte = My Wild Heart, and in 1991 for the recording Spor = Traces. In 2001, she and her two brothers, Lars Bremnes and Ola Bremnes, received the prize for the recording Soløye = Eye of the Sun.

Siouxsie Sioux, born Susan Janet Ballion in London, England (1957-05-27 – ) is a singer, songwriter, musician and record producer, best known as the lead singer of Siouxsie and the Banshees (1976–1996). In an interview with Paul Morley she stated, “Damaged lives, damaged souls, damaged relationships. Most of the damage I sing about first happened when I was younger and I am still feeding off it and working it out. Early experiences are what create a lifetime of damage. The songs you write can help you fix the damage.”

Björk Guðmundsdóttir, born in Reykjavik, Iceland (1965-11-21 – ), is a singer, songwriter, composer, record producer and actress, with an eclectic musical style, incorporating classical, electronic dance music, contemporary popular, jazz, experimental, trip hop (an unrecognizable fusion of hip hop and electronica), plus an assortment of other genres that could be categorized as alternative or perhaps even avant-garde.

Lizzo (1988-04-27 – ) born Melissa Viviane Jefferson, in Detroit, Michigan, before moving to Houston, Texas, before moving to Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is a singer, rapper, songwriter and flutist. Early in her career she released two studio albums: Lizzobangers (2013) and Big Grrrl Small World (2015). Her inclusion was suggested by my daughter, Shelagh, along with the track Skin (2015).

In 2022, expect a post about assorted women electronic musicians, Donna Summer, Dale Evans, and other posts about six different synthesizers (so far), another about autotune and even one about a guitar!

A Celtic Calendar

Robert Berthelier’s Pan-Celtic flag from 1950.

Happy Celtic New Year! The Winter Solstice was Tuesday, 2021-12-20 at 16:59 using Central European Time (CET), where I live in Norway. This was already past sunset, because sunset on that day in Vangshylla was at 14:17. Since, sunrise was at 10:05, this gave us only about four hours of daylight. New Year’s Day should have began for me on Wednesday, 2021-12-21 at 14:18 CET.

For those wanting to translate the time to their time zone, the Universal Time Coordinated (UTC) of the Winter Solstice was 15:59.

The Celtic calendar is not always particularly accurate. It is traditional to celebrate the start of the new year at sunset on the 22nd. I understand some people even use midnight as the starting point, with most of the celebration happening on the 23rd. This means that in 2021, everyone is already starting the year off one day late, according to the sun. Since, I publish weblog posts at 12:00 CET, this still allows me two more hours in the day to celebrate. I hope readers in Arizona, British Columbia, California, Michigan, Ontario, New Hampshire and Washington state will forgive me for my lateness in publishing this post.

While one would like to look back to the ancient Druids for the origins of the Celtic calendar, the source is more recent, Edward Davies (1756 -1831). Davies did not understand the context of the Mabinogion, which was a compilation written in Middle Welsh in the 12th and 13th centuries, but derived from earlier oral traditions, and the other documents he was reading and researching. He did not seem to understand that Gwion/ Gwydion was a mythical trickster/ magician/ hero, or that the Battle of the Trees was a mythological conflict, and not a historical event. He did not realize that he was actually inventing the Celtic calendar!

Davies is described by Robert [von Ranke] Graves (1895 – 1985) as “… a brilliant but hopelessly erratic Welsh scholar of the early nineteenth century, first noted in his Celtic Researches (1809), the battle described by Gwion is not a frivolous battle, or a battle physically fought, but a battle fought intellectually in the heads and with the tongues of the learned. Davies also noted that in all Celtic languages trees means letters; that the Druidic colleges were founded in woods or groves; that a great part of the Druidic mysteries was concerned with twigs of different sorts; and that the most ancient Irish alphabet, the Beth-Luis-Nion ( ‘ Birch – Rowan – Ash ‘ ) takes its name from the first three of a series of trees whose initials form the sequence of its letters. Davies was on the right track and though he soon went astray because, not realizing that the poems were pied, he mistranslated them into what he thought was good sense, his observations help us to restore the text of the passage referring to the hastening green things and trees.” (p. 38, in the 1961 edition)

This Celtic calendar uses 13 trees as symbols for the lunar months, along with an Ogham letter. Ogham was used primarily to write the early and old Irish languages from the 4th to 9th centuries. The year begins on December 23 (12-23), the Day of Creation, the day after the winter solstice. Each month contains 28 days, except the last one (Ruis) which only has 24 days, in order for it to fit into a solar year.

Almost all calendars have inconsistencies. In the Celtic calendar presented, it is the conflation of a lunar calendar onto a solar calendar, as shown with the shortening of Ruis. A lunation is the period of time, averaging 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, and 2.8 seconds, elapsing between two successive new moons. Thus, many lunar calendar have alternating months of 29 and 30 days because of this. A lunar year consisting of 12 months is 354 days and some hours, or about 11 or 12 days shorter than a solar year. A lunar year consisting of 13 months is almost 384 days long. The Islamic calendar is a purer version of a lunar calendar. Here, there is no attempt to conflate the lunar months onto a solar year, so that the lunar months cycle through the solar year, and end up at the same relative position in 33 to 34 lunar-year cycles.

The Gregorian calendar is very similar to the Celtic calendar. It too attempts of conflate lunar months onto a solar calendar.

Below is the calendar, with the name of the month = Celtic letter, a horizontal representation of how it was written, the tree or other plant associated with it, and start and end dates, in month followed by date format. Location: ♥ = trees found on Cliff Cottage property; ☼ = trees found within 1 000 m of Cliff Cottage.

  • Biethe ( ᚁ ) = Birch/ Betula species (ssp.) 12-24 to 01-20 ♥
  • Luis ( ᚂ ) = Rowan/ Sorbus ssp. 01-21 to 02-17 ♥
  • Nion ( ᚅ ) = Ash/ Fraxinus ssp. 02-18 to 03-17 ♥
  • Fearn ( ᚃ ) = Alder/ Alnus ssp. 03-18 to 04-14 ♥
  • Saille ( ᚄ ) = Willow/ Salix ssp. 04-15 to 05-12 ♥
  • Uath ( ᚆ ) = Hawthorn/ Crataegus ssp. 05-13 to 06-09
  • Duir ( ᚇ ) = Oak/ Quercus ssp. 06-10 to 07-07 ☼
  • Tinne ( ᚈ ) = Holly/ Ilex ssp. 07-08 to 08-04
  • Coll ( ᚉ ) = Hazel/ Corylus ssp. 08-05 to 09-01 ☼
  • Muin ( ᚋ ) = Vine/ Vitis ssp. 09-02 to 09-29
  • Gort ( ᚌ ) = Ivy/ Hedera ssp. 09-30 to 10-27
  • Ngetal ( ᚍ ) = Reed/ wetland members of the order Poales 10-28 to 11-24
  • Ruis ( ᚏ ) = Elder/ Aegopodium ssp. 11-25 to 12-22 ♥

How much this calendar was used in ancient times is subject to speculation. In modern times, variations of the Celtic calendar were used by the Insular Celts, of which six Celtic languages are extant (in all cases, they can be written and spoken) in two distinct language groups: Brythonic: Breton, Cornish and Welsh; and Goidelic: Irish, Manx and Scottish Gaelic.

These people split years into two halves: the dark half and the light half. La Bealtaine, was the beginning the light half of the year. It is derived from the Old Irish bel taine = bright fire. This was held at the beginning of May. It is often informally translated as Mayday. Samhain was the beginning of the dark half of the year, at about the beginning of November. It is often informally translated as Halloween.

  • Quert ( ᚊ ) = Apple/ Malus ssp. = the light half of the year – Bealtaine to Samhain.
  • Straif ( ᚎ ) = Blackthorn/ Prunus spinosa = the dark half of the year – Samhain to Bealtaine.

Just as the day was seen as beginning at sunset, so the year was seen as beginning with the arrival of the darkness, at Calan Gaeaf / Samhain. This explanation seems in conflict with that initially proposed, where the year begins with the winter solstice. However, there can be different years for different purposes. For example, a school year typically begins towards the end of summer. The financial year at the beginning of January.

Solstices and Equinoxes.

  • Ailm ( ᚐ ) = Scots Pine, Baltic Pine/ Pinus sylvestris = 12-22, the winter solstice at the start of the year. ♥
  • Onn ( ᚑ ) = Gorse/ Ulex ssp. = 03-21, the spring equinox
  • Ur ( ᚒ ) = Heather/ Calluna ssp. = 06-21, the summer solstice ♥
  • Eadha ( ᚓ ) = Aspen/ Populus tremula – 09-21, the autumn equinox ♥
  • Ioho ( ᚔ ) = Yew/ Taxus baccata – 12-21, the winter solstice at the end of the year. The shortest day.

A Celtic Flag

Any ethnic group with respect for itself has not just a calendar, but also a flag. Robert Berthelier (? – ?), from Brittany, designed the flag at the top of this post in 1950. Its green field is charged with two yellow interlaced triskelions, a geometric shape showing triple rotational symmetry. One symbolizes the Gaelic countries of Alba = Scotland, Mannin or Mann = Man and Éire = Ireland. The other represents the Brittonic countries of Cymru = Wales, Kernow = Cornwall and Breizh = Brittany. Each of the six nations is therefore symbolized by a branch of a triskelion. The triskelion has been used since about 3 200 BC, during the Neolithic period.

The triskelions are inscribed in a yellow circle. The circle has been used by the pan-Celtic movement as a symbol of unity. Both green and yellow have been used since the start of the Celtic movements as colours, with green representing the sea linking the Celtic countries. In addition, purple is used, as the colour of heather, which has been the official emblem plant of the Celts since 1901-08-23, at the Celtic congress in Dublin.

The pan-Celtic movement started indirectly with the work of George Buchanan = Seòras Bochanan (1506 – 1582). He theorized that if the Gauls were Celtae (as described in Roman sources) then so were Britons. He concluded that the Britons and Irish Gaels once spoke one Celtic language which later diverged. The Breton scholar Paul-Yves Pezron (1639 – 1706) furthered this work in Antiquité de la Nation et de la langue celtes autrement appelez Gaulois (1703), as did the Welsh scholar Edward Lhuyd (1660 – 1709) in Archaeologia Britannica: An Account of the Languages, Histories and Customs of the Original Inhabitants of Great Britain (1707).

The pan-Celtic movement was almost mainstream from 1838 until 1939, but then went into decline. The Celtic League, an accredited non-government organization (NGO) was founded in 1961, and has since then become the prominent face of political pan-Celticism.

The Insular Celtic nations: Scotland (blue), Ireland (green), Man (brown), Wales (red), Cornwall (yellow), Breton (black).

This post was written under the assumption that there can never be enough calendars, so that people have yet another excuse for missing appointments, as in … “Oh, I thought you gave me that date according to the [select calendar of choice, or just one randomly] calendar! This Celtic calendar is undoubtedly impractical to use on a daily basis especially in this digital age, but I am attracted to it because of the trees. Impractical? Yes, because the use of a calendar depends on a community of users agreeing on a date system. If nothing else, one can also use the Celtic calender to (select one) impress/ depress/ oppress friends, or to increase one’s weirdness coefficient. Normal people in North America and Europe (and many other parts of the world) will continue to use the Gregorian calendar.

#400

This weblog post is to commemorate my 400th weblog post. It follows a previous commemoration, posted on .

Statistics

When a new weblog post is published, 42 notifications are sent out (including one to myself). Of these, 18 are to women, and 24 to men. 26 go to people living in Norway (including 11 in Inderøy), 9 to people in Canada, and 7 to people in USA. Slightly more than half of the people, 22, are retired. I am biologically related to 8 people, and married to yet another. Of my adoptive family, all have declined an invitation to receive notifications. I have known one person for about 68 years, and another for less than a year. I have a relationship with each and every one. On average, 33 people read each post. I do not know who these people are, and I have no intention of finding out.

When I approached retirement, and started writing this weblog more seriously, in 2016, I stated that if readership exceeded 100 people, it was an indication that I was doing something wrong. This is still my belief. However, I have no objections to increasing readership to about that level, on the condition that I know the people or are related to them, or are recommended by people in these two groups.

Spam is not a major problem, but sometimes people I don’t know want to add inappropriate content. The post that has attracted the most spam is one about a Kaiyun Pickman, a Chinese pickup. This week, for example, someone wanted to add an advertisement there for an online casino. Even though I don’t know Paul MF Broadway, I allowed his comment because it was relevant. Relevance is the only criteria for having a comment accepted.

Corona-19

Veritas vos liberabit = The truth will set you free, is the motto of Johns Hopkins University. It is appealing, especially at a time when many politicians don’t seem capable of differentiating truth from lies. It is also Biblical, appearing in John 8:32. Yet, in 2017 W. Bradford Littlejohn described it as both the peril and promise of Christian liberty. Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported over 270 million cases, and over 5 million deaths, in the world, as publication of this weblog post approached. Currently, the omicron variant is dominating the press, if not the pandemic.

I am not impressed with former Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg who, in a press conference 2021-09-24, announced that people in Norway could return to their normal way of life. This was a lie, but I am uncertain if Solberg is too dense to understand this elementary fact, or if she was wishing ill will on the people of Norway because of her election defeat. There could even be other reasons. In any case, the result was that many people behaved as if life had returned to normal. Shaking hands and not maintaining an adequate social distance are examples of clear violations of acceptable pandemic behaviour. Now, the intensive care wards of hospitals in Norway are filled beyond their capacity with Corona-19 cases. In addition, since everyone knows that government budgets are written in stone, Norwegian hospitals will have to cut back on their services in 2022, because of cost overruns this year. Nurses and other hospital staff are also suffering burnout. Workers, who have the opportunity, are once again required to work from home. Masks are required in stores. Most public activities have been cancelled.

There is increased need for cooperation in many fields related to epidemiology, including the production and distribution of vaccines. Disease seems an inappropriate place for free enterprise/ capitalism, especially during a pandemic where none can be free of Covid-19, until everyone in the world able to be vaccinated is vaccinated. It may be possible to build a bubble, but even New Zealand has experienced that these can pop easily.

Jennifer B. Nuzzo, in a TED talk, compared Covid-19 with the 1904 Baltimore fire caused by a cigarette that destroyed 1 500 buildings/ 2 500 businesses/ 80 blocks. Despite aid from firefighters in neighbouring cities, they couldn’t hook up their hoses because in 1904 there were over 600 variations of hose couplings. This failure resulted in major changes: Data was used to make buildings safer and to improve fire responses; ordinances were passed that ultimately became building codes resulting in fire resistant buildings; fire alarms were installed that could detect and pinpoint fires in buildings; fire drills became standard practice; national standards for firefighting equipment were developed so fire crews had interoperable equipment. In the same way, lessons from Covid-19 will change the world forever. There will be no return to the previous normal.

Climate Crisis

The world is facing a human created climate crisis. On 2021-08-09, The sixth Comprehensive Assessment of Climate Science, a 3949 page report, was published. This report raises important questions, some of which are left to the interested reader to answer. Is libertarian capitalism better at solving social problems than, for example, democratic socialism? Why/ why not? What should be done to improve the situation for the majority of people given that there is increasing inequality in the world? What are the benefits of redistributing wealth and income from the many poor into the tax havens of a wealthy small minority? Are the large number of jobs created meaningful for the people employed? Why/ why not?

Americans spend about 17 % of their GDP on health care, in contrast to 10 % in Europe. That is more than 50 % difference. In USA it is the specifics of health insurance that determine benefits, in Europe there are strict rules that apply to everyone. Which system is better? Why? Is the increased cost of health care in USA beneficial or detrimental?

Should health care be provided as a government service, or should it be open to competition? Why? Private donors collectively make large donations to medical research. Why are the medical charities unable to patent treatments since they are financing so much of the research? Why are drug companies able to patent treatments, and profit from this situation? If this just? What alternatives are available to ensure that everyone receives the health care they need? What should be done to change the current situation?

Bayer owned Monsanto produces seeds that are genetically engineered to grow glyphosate tolerant plants, commonly referred to as Roundup Ready crops. While most plants die when exposed to glyphosate, genetically modified plants experience no ill effects. The genes contained in these seeds are patented and a source of income for Monsanto/ Bayer. Should these genetically modified plants be permitted? Why/ why not? There are a number of conflicting claims related to toxicity and carcinogenicity, especially, that give rise to doubt about the suitability of glyphosates and patented seeds. Monsanto has been found guilty of false advertising, and there are claims that some test results have been falsified.

While I am reluctant to encourage Roundup Ready crops, there are some genetically modified crops that I do support, with golden rice being the best example. Wikipedia tells us, golden rice is a variety of rice (Oryza sativa) produced through genetic engineering to biosynthesize beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, in the edible parts of rice. It is intended to produce a fortified food to be grown and consumed in areas with a shortage of dietary vitamin A, a deficiency which each year is estimated to kill 670 000 children under the age of 5 and cause an additional 500 000 cases of irreversible childhood blindness. Rice is a staple food crop for over half of the world’s population, making up 30–72% of the energy intake for people in Asian countries, making it an excellent crop for targeting vitamin deficiencies.

Of course, some crops (and probably some weeds) take it upon themselves to become Roundup Ready, through genetic modification. The challenge with both of these genetically modified products is that they both involve ethical decisions. Should genetically modified products be available? If yes, then in what form? Why? Why not?

This section on the State of the World was initially written 2020-01-26 at 20:45. It was modified for publication, starting on 2021-08-10 at 10:00.

COP 26

The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference = 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held in Glasgow, Scotland, between 2021-10-31 and 2021-11-12. It is also the third meeting of the parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA3). In 1804, it was estimated that the world population finally reached 1 billion people. It reached 2 billion in 1927, and 3 billion in 1960. On 2012-03-12, the world population reached 7 billion. By 2021-10-17, 7.9 billion milestone was reached, heading to 8 billion in 2023. This growth is unsustainable.

In particular, I am concerned that the wealthier nations have reneged on their promise to provide $100 billion, that they promised during the Copenhagen climate change conference in 2009, to help developing nations strengthen their resilience to climate change. Thus, I am in full agreement with Tasneem Essop (? – ), a South African who is the executive director of Climate Action Network, that the third proposed final text is a clear betrayal of the world by rich nations.

I am also in agreement with Saleemul Huq (1952 – ), a Bangladeshi, who is director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development, and a senior associate of the International Institute for Environment & Development, that the world is facing two climate change problems: the old one of preventing catastrophic impacts for everyone if we go above 1.5 C and a new one of dealing with the loss and damage already happening due to increase of 1.1 C!

On Saturday, 2021-11-13, Extinction Rebellion protesters, with a piper leading a procession through the gravestones of Glasgow’s Necropolis, then lay in front of tombs declaring Cop26 and all the summits prior to it as a failure. Karen, from the Isle of Barra, said: “We are here grieving for a planet that has been sacrificed by the failure and stupidity of Cop26. The bare minimum needed from Cop26 were commitments to leaving oil in the ground and an immediate halt to fossil fuel funding. Anything less than that is idiocy. We know exactly what we need to do and we’re not doing it.”

Living in the past

Stellantis is a multinational automotive manufacturing corporation formed in 2021 merging Italian-American Fiat Chrysler with French PSA Group. The company is headquartered in Amsterdam. Currently, it is the sixth-largest automaker worldwide. Despite this, CEO Carlos Tavares is unhappy. He doesn’t like making electric vehicles, and claims that these have been imposed on his company, and are unprofitable.

This is the challenge of being a laggard, hoping electrification won’t happen. Now that it is inevitable, he complains that automotive industry electrification brings 50 percent additional costs against a conventional ICE vehicle. He states that these additional costs cannot be passed onto the final consumer, because most of the middle class will not unable to pay that price.

My reply to Stellantis, is to encourage them to shut down their entire automotive manufacturing activities. Let the Chinese, Vietnamese and other manufacturers take over. Despite the rhetoric, Stellantis has said that it is investing €30 billion through 2025 to build new EV platforms to support a series of new electric vehicles across its brands.

Profitability is not an industry problem. Other automakers have been able to make reliable and profitable electric vehicles. There are cost issues because of inflation and global supply chain problems. However, there are also benefits. Battery costs are now (2021) $132/ kWh. In 2016, five years ago, they cost $350/ kWh.

A Vinfast VFe35 SUV. Photo: Vinfast USA

The Vinfast VFe35 is a 5 seater, all wheel drive SUV made in Vietnam. It provides a 300 kW motor with 640 Nm of torque, and a 90 kWh battery, for a WLTP range of 500 km. It is 4 750 mm long, with a 2 950 mm wheelbase. In comparison, a standard Tesla Model Y offers a 150 kW motor with 350 Nm of torque, and a 50 kWh battery, for a WLTP range of 390 km. It has the same length (4 750 mm) but has a slightly longer wheelbase at 2 981 mm. Both vehicles are being provided with over-the-air updates.

Living in the Present

Ecuador has enshrined the rights of nature in its rewritten 2008 constitution. The Guardian newspaper reports that the Ecuador constitutional court decided 2021-12-01 that mining permits issued in Los Cedros, a protected area in north-west Ecuador, would harm the biodiversity of the forest, which is home to spectacled bears, endangered frogs, dozens of rare orchid species and the brown-headed spider monkey, one of the world’s rarest primates. Enami EP, Ecuador’s national mining company, held rights for mining concessions that had been granted in two-thirds of the reserve. The decision means that mining concessions, environmental and water permits in the forest must be cancelled, not just for Enami, but throughout Ecuador.

Some regard the Rights of Nature as important as Thomas Paine’s (1737 NS – 1809) Rights of Man (1791/ 1792), a key text in the American Revolution that defends the French Revolution (1789 – 1799) against Edmund Burke’s (1729 NS – 1797) attack in Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790). One of Paine’s main arguments was that human rights originate in nature, and cannot be granted politically, because that would implies that they are revocable, in essence, that they are only privileges.

Rights of Man proposed many practical reforms. It was directed mainly at the British government at the time, but has application today: a written constitution composed by a national assembly; the elimination of aristocratic titles, because democracy is incompatible with primogeniture; a national budget without allotted military and war expenses; lower taxes and subsidised education for the poor; and, progressive income tax to prevent a re-emergence of a hereditary aristocracy.

Mica Peck (? – ), an ecologist and senior lecturer in biology at the University of Sussex, apparently of Finnish ancestry, but born in Ecuador, comments: “It is important for the world to reflect on the limits of nature and to seriously question the effectiveness of current conservation policies and actions. Policy frameworks that place humans in context as a part of nature, integrated into a system that balances intrinsic rights between legitimate subjects of the law, rather than placing humans as above, or apart from, nature, will be a necessary part of addressing the serious environmental issues that our planet is facing. This ruling is as important to nature as Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man were to our own species.”

My hope is that other countries will enact similar ecological provisions in their own constitutions.

Present Reality

With my eyes slowly failing, I intend to concentrate more on audio than video, but using computers as visual assistive/ enlargement devices where necessary. Building construction is another of my interests, but will stop when our residence since 1989-03-01 becomes suitable for a couple of old people to live in. Hopefully, by the time I am dead and gone, one or more of my children will decide that they too want to live in a house suitable for old people, but will fix it up to suit their own particular needs. My only request is that they spare the lives of some of my favourite trees.

Priorities

Recently, I came across advice on how to prioritize activities. The first step was to make a ranked list of the top 25 categories of activities one would like to engage in. The second step was to note activities six to twenty five, and to develop a strategy to avoid them. That is because these activities are so seductive, that they will take time away from the top five activities.

Compiling this list has taken some months already, but I have managed to put two items on it: writing and electronics. Then I took exception to the second item. Electronics is probably the wrong term to use, it is too narrow. Mechatronics covers it better.

Smartwatch

Wyze 47 smartwatch. Photo: Shelagh.

Somehow two Wyze smartwatches, have materialized in our house. These are a 44 model, for Trish, and a 47 model, for myself. These arrived without incurring any costs. This miracle occurred through the natural process of producing and raising a child, who ended up paying for these two watches and giving them to us. Thank you, Shelagh.

I am not exactly sure that they are going to work, as desired. Neither of us have worn watches for at least twenty years. However, we both come equipped with unused watch pockets on our respective jeans and chinos. Thus, the intention was to fill these pockets with a watch, that could be taken out to undertake common tasks, as needed. The first task is that a digital watch can always show the exact time, to within a few milliseconds. I especially wanted to have the time displayed with large digits, in a bright colour that contrasts with a dark background. This eliminates the need to have clocks located in rooms. The watch can also act as a timer that follows the person who needs it, rather than being located at the device (such as a stove top) being timed.

Despite their relatively small size, a HHD is sometimes too large to be carried about continuously. Personally, I am forever taking my HHD out of my pocket, and laying it on a desk or workbench. A smartwatch is considerably smaller, and can stay on a wrist or in a watch pocket. Thus, it can be much more effective at helping people remember events by sending notifications (accompanied by vibrations in advance of an activity) that are actually received by the user.

Some digital watch apps can be very useful. NightWare is a digital therapeutic device that currently fitted to an Apple Watch to interrupt post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related nightmares, by measuring heart rates and body movements. Other people may have other sleep disturbances that could benefit from similar interruptions to their sleep. This would require that the watch be worn!

Personal Data Assistant

In the 1990s, I considered buying a Psion 3 personal digital assistant (PDA). Charles Stross (1964 – ) regards the Psion 3 as an unsurpassed PDA because of its long battery life (20 to 35 hours) with 2 AA batteries, its stable and versatile software and its durable hardware. Others describe over twenty years of daily use with models such as the Psion 3mx. While Psion is English, the company had a major Canadian presence, with offices/ operations in Mississauga, Ontario. It was often compared with an American made Palm.

One of the mechatronics projects I am considering working on is a revitalized Psion, which would not be a recreation of a 1999 Psion 5mx Pro, but an extension of it, based on a Raspberry Pi Compute Module (CM), or other microprocessor, and using other 21st century components/ processes. What I miss on a HHD/ smartphone is a keyboard. I also prefer working in a landscape (in contrast to portrait) format. Thus, an updated Psion would have its case and keyboard recreated with a 3D printer. Originally, the EPOC/ Symbian operating system (OS) was used with applications for word processing, spreadsheets, databases, email, contact and diary management. The Open Psion Language (OPL) was available for software development. OpenPsion, formerly PsiLinux, is an open source project that attempts to provide a more modern OS for the Psion. The ultimate success of the project would to have the device actually function as a HHD, with phone capabilities.

A Psion 5mx PRO photographed in 2005 by Georg Dembowski Schoschi.

The Future

As before, I continue to encourage people to write weblogs, rather than to use exploitive social media. In 2018, I quoted Bill Blunden in a weblog post about the challenges of social media, titled Social Media Revisited. The Guardian recently published an article that explains how social media, and Facebook in particular, is exploiting people. Restrict social media to friends and family, and perhaps a few others you don’t know that well, to keep it honest. Write about the topics that interest you that others might be interested in.

Jacinda Santora, 2021-08-27, made a list of 103 social media sites. Here, people may find one or more that suit their personalities. While some sites are huge, others like Goodreads or Pinterest are just large. Some people prefer one or more of the Reddit flavours, because of their own special interests. Some days, I even visit Ello.

The two social media platforms I do encourage are Diaspora and Mastodon. Only the former is on Santora’s list. Diaspora is a nonprofit, user-owned, distributed social media platform with independent nodes/ pods interoperating as a network. Mastodon is a self-hosted social networking service, with microblogging features, similar to Twitter. I have (largely unused) accounts at both. For further details, Wikipedia has articles on Diaspora and Mastodon.

Former president, Donald Trump, seems to be a fan of Mastodon. To avoid a lawsuit, his social media site, truth.social is acknowledging that the computer code powering the platform comes from Mastodon. He writes: “Our goal is to support the open source community no matter what your political beliefs are. That’s why the first place we go to find amazing software is the community and not ‘Big Tech’”. The Open Source section appeared 2021-11-12, two weeks after Mastodon threatened to sue Trump’s platform for violating its open-source license, that allows anyone to use it freely, but on the condition that the code and any ensuing modifications be made publicly available, allowing the entire Mastodon community to benefit.

Notes

I am disinclined to use a hand-held device (HHD) = smart phone (most often), for notes. It is not merely that I prefer a keyboard to a touchscreen, it is their lack of a suitable (read: fast) drawing tool that is most irritating. In addition, I find the lack of a visible file system annoying. During my working life, I used to carry a planner with me, with a page for each working day, plus a page for the weekend, so that each week occupied three sheets. While both calendar and note apps are found on my HHD, I seldom used either. There is too little to do that requires me to make a note of times and dates, so they either don’t get written down, or – if they do – the calendar isn’t consulted when needed. This means that I sometimes forget about (zoom) meetings that I want to attend. Around the house and when visiting building supply shops I carry a yellow A5 hardcover project book with 240 grid/ squared pages, with 4mm squares, that I do use. Here, I write notes with a V-ball pen with blue liquid ink, emerging from a 0.5 mm tip. The use of a pen is deliberate, so that any changes will be clearly visible.

My yellow A5 240 page Workshop & Construction Projects notebook, with information about reconstructing Ikea Fira storage containers, that are no longer available. The pen shown is my favourite writing device, a Pilot V-ball 0.5 mm tip, liquid ink pen.

Earlier this year, lacking pen and/ or notebook, I started taking notes on my hand-held device (HHD), using an app labelled Notes. Some days later, I was using Nextcloud, a server-client program on my desktop machine, and came across these same notes. They had been automatically copied from the HHD to the server, and were available to all of my other devices. Because of its built in privacy and security features, these were not available to anyone else using Nextcloud, although they could be sent to others using Warpinator (for other users of the server) or Signal (to a somewhat wider audience). Then again, they could be added to an email to allow contact with anyone.

In this very undramatic fashion, I had accidentally found a solution that had troubled me for years. My advice here is simple. People should acquire a server, even if it is just a minimal solution involving an inexpensive, single board computer such as a Raspberry Pi, and some form of storage. Then they should install Nextcloud, or some other server-client software, to run that server, as well as on all of their other devices.

For those wanting a more detailed history of my route to this discovery, this weblog post will end with its story. It is not for everyone, especially those with demanding children or other time constraints.

My outpouring of words in this weblog probably reflects an inability to keep a diary or a calendar, plus a dopamine addiction. On 2019-09-29 I decided to do something about this and started an experiment. It started because I wished that I had some form of a register so that I could look up what I had done with some missing bookcase hardware. Yes, I am aware that wiser people tape or in other ways affix hardware to the uprights, or at least shelving, so that the screws and other bits don’t wander off to party at more exciting locations in the universe. This attachment didn’t happen.

My significant other keeps many diaries, with names like garden, knitting, sewing and general. I’m not sure that such an arrangement would help me. While I’ve never actually read these books, I’ve had parts of them read to me – and they seems to deal mainly with weather and gardening events, perhaps even a record of visits or meals, for all I know. What I can’t imagine is any reference to screws, let alone one that details where a particular set of screws were stored.

The problem with diaries is their chronological nature. They are traditionally written in books made of paper. This might be useful for tracking some events, but not for most things. What the world needs is a digital diary, with what used to be called hyperlinks.

Unknown to me, but not unexpectedly, Digital Diary turns out to be a commercial Microsoft product, when I searched using these terms. I changed my search terms, adding open source, which brought me to SourceForge, which listed 26 open source search results. Twenty-five programs listed that they had between 0 and 3 downloads this week, with many of these programs claiming they were last updated in 2013.

Lifeograph was the exception with 53 downloads this week. It was recently updated (2019-09-18) and claimed: to be a private digital diary, for taking personal notes on life; to have all essential functionality expected in a diary program and strives to have a clean and streamlined user interface.

A more general search resulted in finding RedNotebook, described on SourceForge as open source time tracking software. It had 121 downloads that week, and was updated 2019-04-07. Features include: Text formating with bold, italic or underlining; tag and search entries; Insert images, files and links to websites; Links and email addresses are recognized automatically; Spell checking; Search-as-you-type; Automatic saving; Backup to zip archive;Word clouds with most common words and tags; Templates; Export to plain text, HTML or Latex; Content is future-proof: data is stored in plain text files; Translated into more than 30 languages.

The challenge with both of these products was their inability to update content on multiple machines automatically. As a user of three different machines, I was left with three incompatible versions of notes, unless I used excessive efforts to merge them.

Fast forward to 2019-10-25 and I downloaded and installed a third program, Simplenote, from Automatikk, the company that makes WordPress. Its main advantage, is that it allows one to have the same content on different machines. That is fine, but I am reluctant to let Automatikk store my data on its cloud. Since this was a test, I installed it on my VivoMini desktop machine, my VivoBook laptop both running Linux Mint, and my Xiamio Pocophone F1 hand-held device (HHD) running Android.

On 2020-11-23, more than a year later, I ended my experiment with Lifeograph, RedNotebook and Simplenote, and wrote this summary, timestamped at 18:47. There wasn’t much data collected, but my intuition allowed me to declare Simplenote as the winner. Yet still, I was unhappy, and the winning program was never used.

Have fun everyone, and thanks for reading!

Words of the Year 2021

Somewhere, sometime I read that pandemics release creative energy. After two years of Covid-19, I am not sure. However, it sounds good. One form of creativity is inventing new words, or using old words to denote new things. Recently, it has been claimed that there has been an explosion in new word invention and usage.

The words listed here relate to my personal (re)discovery of them. Other people may have completely different perceptions of what is a new word, or a new usage of an old word.

January – Yoke

2021 Tesla model S Plaid, with its yoke. (Photo: Tesla)

In Tesla news, for only $140 000 (Lets just call it NOK 1 500 000) one can get an updated version of Tesla Model S (as in S3XY) Plaid. The basic design of the Model S has been unchanged since 2012, although it has been updated before. Most of the discussion about this current update has been about the steering wheel, although not everyone wants to use that term. Tesla uses the term yoke. There are no stalks, either, meaning the turn signals, lights and other typical features are now controlled by touch buttons on the yoke.

February – Side-hustle

Yes, it is normally written as a phrase, but I’ve added a hyphen to transform side-hustle into a word. Elaine Pofeldt, writing in CNBC, has provided The ultimate side hustle guide for 2021. Citing a State of Independence report from BMO Partners, she claims that, “56% of Americans said they’d be more secure working for themselves than in a traditional job in 2020, up from 32% in 2011.”

A side hustle or side job or side gig is a job that a person takes in addition to their primary job in order to supplement their income. In my youth this was often referred to as moonlighting. This contrasts with a person’s day job. Some dictionaries give a much more sinister definition of moonlighting going back to 19th-century Ireland, where people murdered or maimed cattle, during the night, to protest against the oppressive land-tenure system.

March – Fungible

Mike Winkelmann (1981 – ) is responsible for bringing everyone’s attention to fungible vs non-fungible tokens, often just abbreviated without explanation as NFT. If it were not for his alter-ego, Beeple, and the sale of Everydays: the First 5000 Days, a collage of images that sold for $69.34 million on 2021-03-11, no-one would have heard these terms. A non-fungible cryptographic token represents something unique. In this case, it is 5 000 digital images, making it the third most expensive artwork by a living artist. This contrasts with fungible tokens, used with cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, that are mutually interchangeable.

April – Voltswagen

It may have started off as a bad April Fool’s Joke, but Voltswagen is an impressive name. If Volkswagen hasn’t secured it, then I would consider it for a future project, ahead of the more Italian-English VoltaVan, an Italian-Norwegian VoltaVogn, or an all Italian VoltaVagona.

May – Adulting

Some claim that Kelly Williams Brown (1984 – ) invented the present participle, adulting, in 2015. It is a neologism that refers to behaving in an adult manner, or making someone behave like an adult, or even transforming someone into an adult. Unfortunately, for Brown, @unholytwerp tweeted the following on 2008-10-02: Grew up in a town of 2k and adulted 10 years NYC. Same values: Keeping the job. Feeding the family. Educating the kids. Buying the stuff. This abecedarian = word collector, only discovered it 2021-05-06.

June – Fast Food

This phrase refers to food that is permitted to be eaten by a person who is observing a religious fast. While I have on occasion used this term while observing a fast, in the years before I turned 70, it now appears to be part of the Oxford English Dictionary.

It has nothing to do with burgers or other sorts of food from an A & W root beer stand, or its later iterations, derived from the one that Roy W. Allen opened 102 years ago, on 1919-06-20, in Lodi, California.

July – Locovore

Other people may have come across this word in 2005, but for some people, such as myself, it is new. It refers to a person who eats foods grown locally whenever possible. At locovore.co, it seems possible to buy quail eggs from Quail Haven Urban Farm in Fort Worth, Texas. That would make a change from walking up the road to a neighbouring farm to buy chicken eggs. It appears possible to buy local foods from all over the world!

August – Flexcation

A holiday during which parents spend some of the time working from home and children are homeschooled, allowing the family to go away for a longer period than usual and at a time of year when they would not normally be able to go on holiday.

With the pandemic continuing, flexcations to distant parts of the world are not always permitted. Indeed, for the residents of Cliff Cottage, the travelogue, typically a video in segments lasting up to an hour, has become a substitute, but without excessive heat, humidity or hoards of mosquitoes. See this article about travelogues.

September – Petroholic Rehab

I am only 11 years and 2 weeks late in discovering Petroholic Rehab. It was used at the Oil Fair held in Stavanger, Norway. Marius Holm, deputy chairman of the Norwegian environmental organization, Bellona, presented this program to wean petroholics, on 2010-08-21.

For over [5]0 years, [corrected from the original 40 years] Norway has chosen to make themselves dependent on oil. Little Norway accounts for almost three percent of the world’s CO2 emissions, through its oil and gas exports. Norway’s dependence on oil money not only provides large CO2 emissions, but also destroys a greater restructuring for more renewable energy and energy efficiency. Norwegian politicians should realize that they must reduce the oil business, shield vulnerable areas along the coast, and cut oil industry subsidies. They should, but they don’t.

There has to be a transition to renewables. There are 12 steps to weaning:

  1. We admit that we have a problem, that. we have let ourselves become addicted to petroleum.
  2. We admit that our constant petroleum abuse has led to a heavy hangover.
  3. We admit that our petroholism has negative consequences for our loved ones and for the surroundings. Consequences such as poverty, destruction and despair.
  4. We admit that our successful, oil-based economy cannot last, and understand that we must invest both labour and capital in renewable energy sources such as algae, biomass, sun, wind, geothermal energy, tidal power and wave power.
  5. We admit that the idea of ​​a life without petroleum scares us. Nevertheless, we realize that there is no future in a petroleum-based life.
  6. We realize that our future has to be green.
  7. We admit that we have wasted large amounts of valuable energy. By using energy more effectively, we reduce the burden on the environment, the economy, and the resource base.
  8. We choose to protect the Lofoten and the Arctic areas and to manage the fisheries in a sustainable manner.
  9. We commit ourselves to green solutions such as electric cars.
  10. We choose to fly through the landscape of wind-powered high-speed trains instead of taking planes. [This may have to be modified to take electric aircraft into consideration]
  11. We realize that CO2 capture and storage are required for the remaining fossil emissions and also for the future production of carbon negative energy.
  12. When we finally woke up, we commit ourselves to bringing this message to other petroholics, and to deal with these principles in everything we do.

October – Nanolearning

Learning that involves reading/ hearing/ watching very small pieces of information. Typically provided on the internet. It takes a minute, perhaps two, sometimes less. The key is to deliver content engagingly. It solves minute, but specific problems, using few a minimal of sentences/ soundbites/ video sequences.

November – Tshinanu

With COP26 being held in Glasgow, living-language-land offers a platform to minority and endangered language-holders to share a word and story that reflects a relationship to land and nature. They have shared 26 words to give a global audience fresh inspiration for tackling our environmental crisis. Their website explains each of these words in depth.

The Innus communities are marked with 9 on the map, provided by https://www.quebecautochtone.net/en/

Of these, I have chosen Tshinanu from Nehluen, the common language used throughout the Innu communities in Quebec. According to the website, the Innu alphabet has 11 consonants and 7 vowels. It is complex, but pictorial. Words animate a thought, linking a precise action with the environment. There is one vocabulary for village life, and another for the bush. These nuances are linked with the corresponding environment, which itself is indissociable from thought, and therefore the verbal expression. The vocabulary changes with the landscape from south to north, as well as from east to west. Words enable people to understand the relationships between flora, fauna and people, who must adapt to the environment. Tshinanu – the inclusive form of we – invites sharing, community life, as there are no fences in the word tshinanu. It is a collective ‘we’, an open hand extended to others, inviting them to be a part of the circle. It also correspondingly tells a story, the story of the community of life of the person who speaks or writes. This word brings into relation the land, the animals, the plants and the peoples in the same pronoun.

December – Jazz hands

Many organizations have replaced applause with jazz hands, in an attempt to make events more accessible for people with disabilities. Unfortunately, the term might also be confused with a dance performance where the performer’s hands position the palms toward the audience with fingers splayed. This position is also referred to as webbing. It is commonly associated with especially exuberant types of performance such as musicals and cheerleading.

As an applause substitute for clapping, both arms are outstretched upwards, with fingers wiggling. This is sometimes referred to as spirit fingers or jazz fingers. Loud noises, including clapping, and especially whistling and other noises expressing appreciation, can create issues for people with anxiety, autism, deafness or other sensory issues.

Sign languages are languages with their own grammar, syntax and idioms. For many, they are languages of necessity and of access. The wave applause used at many sporting events, is another example of sign language making a positive contribution to a wider group of users.

Word of the Year – Parkour

Parkour is a training/ exercise discipline where traceurs move from one place to another in a complex environment, without assistive equipment and in the fastest and most efficient way possible. This includes the best of climbing, crawling, jumping, martial arts, obstacle courses, rolling, running, swinging and vaulting. These terms should be understandable for most readers. Yet, the tenth term, plyometrics, may require people to use Wikipedia (or other sources) to discover yet another new word.

Practicing parkour in Freeway Park, Seattle, Washington. A beginner takes a leap. Photo: Joe Mabel, 2012-03-02

Parkour is usually an urban activity that can be practiced alone or with others. Traceurs see their environment as a challenge, to be navigated by “movement around, across, through, over and under its features.” David Belle (1973-04-29 – ), a French actor, film choreographer and stunt coordinator, is credited with starting it in France in 1988, based on the training/ teaching of his father Raymond Belle ( 1939-10-03 – 1999-12-01).

As is often the case, parkour had a predecessor, méthode naturelle, developed by Georges Hébert, (1875-04-27 – 1957-08-02) who promoted athletic skill based on the models of indigenous tribes he had met in Africa. He noted: “their bodies were splendid, flexible, nimble, skillful, enduring and resistant but yet they had no other tutor in gymnastics but their lives in nature.” His natural method involved ten fundamental activities: walking, running, jumping, quadrupedal movement, climbing, balancing, throwing, lifting, self-defence and swimming, that helped develop three main forces: energetic (willpower, courage, coolness, and firmness), moral (benevolence, assistance, honour, and honesty), and physical (muscles and breath).

My first appreciation of parkour came in the Luc Besson (1959-03-19 – ) film Taxi 2 (1998). However, I was unaware of it by that name.

Discouraged words

Yes, this writer may be inconsistent, even sloppy, in word usage, but in general he finds the following words annoying enough to discourage their use, in theory if not in practice.

Artist as in a vocalist or other musician who is performing live or in a recording. Please use either musician or, preferably, a more specific terms (such as guitarist, vocalist) to describe them. In the same way, one should use specific terms in other arts to describe practitioners. A person can be engaged as a painter, a print maker, a sculptor, a writer or even a poet, plus many others. If all else fails, then use performer, explaining why a more precise word is unavailable.

Expat as in an emigrant from/ immigrant to somewhere else. The correct term for an ex patriot is emigrant/ immigrant. I am one myself. I am not an expat.

The Importance of Words

This year’s Human Rights Day was celebrated on 2021-12-10, the day before the publication of this weblog post. It is celebrated annually on this date and honours the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption and proclamation, on 1948-12-10, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the first global enunciation of human rights and one of the first important achievements of the new United Nations.

On this same day, journalists Maria Ressa (1963-10-02 – ) and Dmitry Muratov (1961-10-30 – ) received the Nobel peace prize. Ressa was almost blocked from attending because of travel restrictions related to legal cases filed against her in the Philippines. She is the CEO and co-founder of Rappler, an online news platform noted for exposing power abuses/ authoritarianism under Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte (1945-03-28 – ).

Muratov is editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, a prominent defenders of free speech in Russia, or in the words of Berit Reiss-Andersen (1954-07-11 – ), chair of the Norwegian Nobel committee; “Novaya Gazeta is the most independent newspaper in Russia today, with a fundamentally critical attitude towards power.” The above link is to the Russian edition. The English version, appears to be through Facebook, a company and website that I am avoiding. Information about it appears in Wikipedia.

Reiss-Andersen also said that Ressa and Muratov were “participants in a war where the written word is their weapon, where truth is their goal and every exposure of misuse of power is a victory”.

Meanwhile, in Britain, on the same day, the High Court overturned a judgment from earlier in 2021 that prevented Julian Assange (1971-07-03 – ) from being extradited to the US, to face charges related to WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of documents, including diplomatic cables, about the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, in 2010 and 2011. This new ruling was condemned by advocates of press freedom.

Forth

A Forth interpreter flow chart (Source: https://www.embedded.com/introduction-to-forth/)

Forth is not a mainstream programming language. Whenever it is compared to something, the most operative word is different. It is almost like assembly language, which is how a machine would interpret code, if it used English, rather than 0s and 1s to calculate and communicate. Some refer to Forth as a virtual machine, which is software pretending to be a physical machine. In part, this is because it is not just a programming language, but also an operating system. Despite this, Forth is simple. It can run on a few kilobytes (kB) of memory. When coded appropriately, it seems to be its own independent language, but with a lot of English-like words.

While Forth was invented by Charles (Chuck) Havice Moore II (1938 – ) in 1970. It was operationalized by Elizabeth (Bess) Rather (1940 – ), who – with Moore – started Forth, Inc. in 1973. Rather refined and ported Forth to numerous platforms throughout the 1970s. She also chaired the ANSI Technical Committee that produced the ANSI Standard for Forth (1994).

Forth was made specifically for the real-time control of telescopes at the United States National Radio Astronomy Observatory and, later, at Kitt Peak National Observatory. A real-time response is one that guarantees that something will happen within a specified time period. In other words, it sets a deadline for something to happen, usually one that is relatively short. Thus, a real-time process is one that happens within defined time steps of some maximum duration.

Forth is the antithesis of Ada. Wikipedia defines Ada as “a structured, statically typed, imperative, and object-oriented high-level programming language, extended from Pascal and other languages.” In its purest form, Forth is none of these, with the exception of being imperative. Most computer languages are imperative. They use statements/ commands to change a program’s state. Ada originated in the 1970s because of US Department of Defense (DoD) concerns about the high number of programming languages being used in embedded computer systems. They wanted one language to do everything. Unfortunately, with Ada they created a monster that was far too large and complex, that was slow to compile and difficult to run. A compiler (used with a compiled language) requires code to be translated into machine language, before it can be run. In contrast, an interpreter (used with an interpreted language) directly executes instructions without requiring them to have been translated into a machine language, in advance.

Allegedly, a Forth program can be compiled, but not if it contains words that are only evaluated at runtime: DOES>, EVALUATE and INTERPRET are three such words. If even one word has to be interpreted, the entire Forth dictionary would have to be embedded inside the program. Thus, Forth should always be treated as an interpreted language.

Forth is an appealing language because of its one and only guiding principle, Keep it simple! Part of this simplicity involves how the language is used. Leo Brodie – a third main contributor to the language – explains, in Starting Forth, E2 (1987): The interpreter reads a line of input from the user input device, which is then parsed for a word using spaces as a delimiter. When the interpreter finds a word, it looks it up in the dictionary. If the word is found, the interpreter executes the code associated with the word, and then returns to parse the rest of the input stream. If the word isn’t found, the word is assumed to be a number and an attempt is made to convert it into a number and push it on the stack; if successful, the interpreter continues parsing the input stream. Otherwise, if both the lookup and the number conversion fail, the interpreter prints the word followed by an error message indicating that the word is not recognised, flushes the input stream, and waits for new user input. (p. 14) While the use of unusual words may make the above description seem complex, this is a much simpler approach than that used in most other computer languages. A graphic version is shown in the flowchart above. Parse is a word used extensively by people who construct compilers. It refers to the process of dividing a sentence (or in computing, a statement) into words/ grammatical parts and identifying the parts and their relationships to each other.

One major problem with Forth is that its dictionary, more often referred to as a library in other languages, is not uniform. Some implementations come with an adequate dictionary, others less so. Some use words the same way, others give the same word different meanings. This means that Forth implementations can produce very different results, depending on dictionary content. This weakness is probably the main reason why Forth is not treated seriously, and has not been extensively used.

Forth is a stack machine, a computer where the primary interaction is moving short-lived temporary values to and from a storage location that follows the rule: last in, first out. A stack significantly reduces the complexity of a processor. Tasks are expressed as words. Simple tasks usually involve single words . More complex tasks connect together many smaller words, that each accomplish a distinct sub-task. Thus, a large Forth program is almost like a sentence that involves a hierarchy of words, distinct modules that communicate using a stack. Data is only added to the top of the stack, and removed from the top of the stack. Each word is built and tested independently. Provided that words are chosen appropriately, a Forth program resembles an English-language description of the program’s purpose.

Forthwright

Forthright is an adjective, used to describe a plainspoken/ frank/ blunt person. A person who develops/ modifies/ corrects/ improves/ uses Forth programs is referred to as a forthwright, a noun. Both words are pronounced the same way. A wright is a person who makes or repairs something. The original ca. 700 AD Old English wryhta, referred to someone working with wood. Since then, the term has expanded to include many different occupations. Carpentier, now carpenter, was introduced into England only after the Norman conquest in 1066, effectively replacing wright to describe this role. In Scotland, wright is used much more extensively.

Raspberry Pi Pico

The traditional strength of Forth is its minimalist use of resources. This is more important than it may seem. Gordon Earle Moore (1929 – ) formulated an expectation in 1965, later termed Moore’s law, by others, that computing capacity would double every year, some say every 18 months. This doubling cannot continue indefinitely. Many, including Moore, expect it to be invalid from about 2025, giving it a life span of 60 years. Even so, this means that even the most primitive of microprocessors made today has many magnitudes of capacity compared to anything made in, say, 1970. This is why many people prefer to use computer languages that are less optimal.

In contrast to Moore’s law, Niklaus Emil Wirth (1934 – ) formulated a very different expectation in his 1995 article A Plea for Lean Software, later termed Wirth’s law, by others, that software is getting slower more rapidly than hardware is getting faster. Most computer scientists are no longer making software that optimize/ minimize resource use, because they know that ample resources are available.

The reason some few people continue to use Forth is because of their acute awareness of Wirth’s law, where they see the negative impact of software bloat, on a regular basis.

General Public Licence (GPU) and public-domain Forths exist for most modern operating systems including Windows, Linux, MacOS, Android and some Virtual Machines. Such implementations include: gForth and bigForth. Dale Schumacher forked the Raspberry Pi/ARM port of JonesGorth around 2014, and removed its dependency on Linux. It now runs bare-metal, on a Raspberry Pi, booting directly into the Forth interpreter. Many important words have been re-implemented in assembly, or as part of the built-in definitions. Note: In computing, bare or bare metal refers to a computer executing instructions directly on a processor aka logic hardware, without an intervening operating system.

Iteration #2 of Unit One (#2U1), my personal workshop, will officially commence on 2023-11-01, less than two years away. It will transform a construction-support workshop into a fabrication shop, as my career as a wright/ building constructor/ carpenter comes to an end, and my career as a millwright/ machinist begins. My primary emphasis is broad, mechatronics, but the workshop’s role is limited to fabrication. Electronics and programming will probably be done inside Cliff Cottage, while much of the thinking will take place wandering about in the woods.

The purpose of the workshop is for an old man to have fun, to build upon skills learned in the past, and to learn new 21st century skills, to keep his brain and body active. Hopefully, some useful and environmentally sensitive products will be made at it.

There are plans to use Forth as the official shop language/ operating system for computer numerical control (CNC), the automated use of machine tools, controlled by a computer. I expect to have one primary machine that can move in three dimensions, and change heads as required. The two most important heads will be a router, which can shape materials as well as drill holes, and a laser cutter that cuts more accurately and with less waste than a saw. I expect to concentrate on various types of hardwoods as my primary material focus, but not to the exclusion of other materials. These are subtractive processes that remove material. In contrast, 3D-printers are additive.

There is no need to waste money on expensive silicon if cheap silicon will do. The silicon needed to control a CNC mill will be a Raspberry Pi Pico microcontroller. It costs NOK 55 = US$ 6.05 = CA$ 7.75, on the day before publication. Any money saved on silicon will be put into better bearings, and improved versions of other machine components.

Forth is not for everyone. It is useful where there is a need for a real-time system involving mechanical movements. After milling machines, and other types of tools, robots come to mind first, including unmanned underwater vehicles and drones. It should be mentioned in all fairness that Forth is not the only language I intend to use in the future. Two others are Prolog and Lua. Prolog is a logic programming language developed in France in 1971 with a number of artificial intelligence applications. Lua is a multi-paradigm scripting language, developed in Brazil in 1993. Its basic set of features that can be extended to suit different problems.

A dangling Raspberry Pi Pico microcontroller attached to a USB-C power and data connector. On the laptop pinouts for the Pico are displayed, along with its datasheet. Photo: Raspberry Pi.