A XeLaTeX flavour for LaTeX-make

Wednesday 31 August 2011, 10:15

I like using Danjean and Legrand's latex-make package to handle automated compilation of my LaTeX documents. Unfortunately, there are several other packages with very similar names and functions, and this isn't the most popular one, so it's often hard to find on the Net when I want to install it on a new computer or recommend it to collaborators. In fact, I've ended up checking a copy into my own SVN repository so I can just check out from there when I want to create a new installation. Another gotcha is that it doesn't know about XeLaTeX, which has become an issue now that I'm using XeLaTeX for a lot of my newer documents (to achieve Japanese/Unicode and OpenType font support).

Below the cut: a Makefile fragment to add XeLaTeX support to latex-make. This can be used instead of the one-line default Makefile for a directory full of LaTeX document stuff, to replace the default invocation of pdflatex with xelatex.

More Japan trip links

Wednesday 24 August 2011, 09:26

These are mostly collected for my own reference, so that I can quickly find them during my trip, but they may be of interest to readers as well. Inclusion of a site on this list (or on the linked maps) doesn't necessarily mean that I will visit it - some I'm just recording for reference, and my itinerary will be at least partly decided spur-of-the-moment. See also my earlier posting. I will probably continue updating this entry rather than writing new entries for additional links; but reports when I'm actually on my trip will go in new entries.

Workaround for "bad default print settings in GTK+" bug

Sunday 21 August 2011, 11:11

Today, after years of suffering, I finally managed to find a workaround for one of the several problems I'd been having with printing from GTK+ applications, in particular Firefox. Here are some notes for the benefit of others who may encounter the same thing.

BASIC SYMPTOMS: Every time I try to print something on my laser printer using a GTK+ application, I get inappropriate default settings (namely one-sided printing on card stock from the multi-purpose tray). If I don't change these defaults, the printer stops and waits for user intervention to insert card stock in the multi-purpose tray. Others reporting similar problems have often complained about letter-sized or A4 paper being the default when they wanted the other - sometimes adding a layer of chauvinistic slurs at countries following the other standard - but in fact I haven't had that particular problem myself.

Media from Toronto trip

Wednesday 17 August 2011, 15:02

Now online: photo gallery, PDF presentation slides, and MP3 audio recording of my talk from my recent Toronto trip.

Shrine links

Monday 8 August 2011, 11:31

In September I'm going to Japan for three weeks, and one of the things I'm planning to do there is visit Shinto shrines. Here are some links on that, which may be of interest to Western pagans among my readers.


Friday 5 August 2011, 18:36



Etch-a-sketch curves

Thursday 4 August 2011, 17:42

Suppose you want to draw a curve with an Etch-a-Sketch. The idea is that you can move the pointer up, down, left, or right, by a precisely controlled amount, but you aren't coordinated enough to turn both knobs at once in a precise way to create a diagonal or curved line. So you want to approximate your desired curve, with one made up of stair-steps; a piecewise linear curve made up of segments that each go in a direction chosen from a small finite set of directions (in this case, the four directions up, down, left, and right, but I'm interested in allowing any arbitrary small finite set of directions).

[illustration of an Etch-a-Sketch approximated curve]

How can you do this so as to get the best possible approximation?

What (not) to say to someone who is alone

Monday 1 August 2011, 17:01

A friend's Twitter stream pointed me at this item on what to say to someone who is sick (with cancer, in the authour's case) and it touched me. It also reminded me very much of some of the things I've read about the experiences of people fighting infertility, and it reminded me of my own experience too. It seems no matter what problem someone suffers, they can count on their friends and loved ones to make personal contributions to the pain with ignorant, clueless, and hateful repeated attacks that masquerade as caring attempts to help. I don't have much hope that my writing about this here will change anything; the fact that not many people really care what I say about such things is itself an example of the problem. But I'm going to write about it anyway, this one time today.

Big-oh is not a total order

Thursday 21 July 2011, 10:34

Anyone who's studied computer science should be familiar with the Landau asymptotic notation, or "big-oh" notation. But how well do you really know it?

Given two functions it seems intuitive that one at least one ought to be big-oh of the other; in some cases maybe they are both big-oh of each other, in which case they are theta of each other and in a certain sense can be said to be equivalent. It sure feels like a total order, with a place for everything and everything in its place, and it is a total order on all the kinds of functions we normally care about. I've certainly marked down plenty of students for incorrectly claiming that n log n can't be compared either way to things like n and n2.

But today I had occasion to wonder if it's really true that O() induces a total order on all functions for which it is applicable. I looked on the Net and couldn't find anyone discussing this issue; I did find this archived final exam in which someone asked it of students as a true/false question and apparently was looking for the answer "true." Unfortunately, the correct answer is "false."

Counterexample below the cut. If you've got a computer science background you might want to think about it a bit yourself before going further. It shouldn't really be hard if you look carefully at the definition.

The parable of the tricycle

Saturday 26 July 2008, 20:44

Imagine a young man nearing his 16th birthday, the day when he'll be eligible to get a driver's license. And let's imagine this is before graduated licensing was a big thing, or else imagine that he's maybe a little older and getting ready for the final level of the graduated system instead of the first level, or something like that. The point isn't exactly his age, just that he's about to get to the point where having a vehicle of his own would be a pretty good thing.