Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Quiet a long time

I've been quiet a long time, because I've been very, very busy with work, kids and other things.

I find my best free time these days is when I am sitting in a dark room getting kids to fall asleep, but it's hard to work on the kinds of projects I used to do under those conditions. Instead I've been revisiting languages that I've studied in the past, and learning about some new ones.

But I've also been trying to figure out how I can fit more interesting work into my free fragments of time. I've built a kind of operating system that runs in a browser, that I can bring up on my phone or any laptop I happen to be using, and pick up a piece of work and poke away at it. The state of the session is saved to a server, and reloaded in the next browser I use to access it. I call it Joss.

One of the first applications I wrote to run on Joss is a JavaScript REPL, but it turns out to be fairly difficult to write JavaScript code on my phone. Autocorrect wants to fix everything up, and special characters require several taps to access. My next project is going to be a programming language that is suited to the constraints of the phone. I've been thinking about the properties of an English-like programming-language for years, and this is the perfect opportunity to try it out.

Ultimately, I want to get to a place where I can work on some other ideas that I have been gnawing on in my spare time, too. For example, I want to develop some strategies to attack word-substitution ciphers. I plan to take a text and divide it into two parts, and encipher one half with a randomly generated word substitution cipher, then use the other half as data to inform the decipherment. I want to use two halves of a single text in order to maintain a common semantic domain and idiolect.

Another idea I want to work on is something I call "paleo-poetics". This is inspired by work I did with Manchu to reconstruct syllable structure and prosody by looking at poetry. I think it would be interesting to apply the same ideas to Egyptian, Akkadian and Sumerian poetry, to see if I can discover anything interesting about those languages and their poetic traditions by uncovering the skeletons of their poetic forms.


  1. Wellcome back Brian! I am counting on you to complete the transcription of the Rohonc codex.

  2. Thanks! I also need to catch up on your blog. I see many interesting new posts there.