As ‘t myn tiid is

Gurbe Douwstra is a Frisian musician from Drachten, the Netherlands. I ran into one of his songs on a social network, and it touched me. This is because I have lived the first half of my life in Friesland, a province in the Netherlands, with its own officially recognized language, which we proudly call Frysk. While I don’t speak it, it is still close to me.

By no means am I going anywhere – I like to think that I still have the vigor of life in me. But as the text is beautiful, I wanted to share it with those unfamiliar to Frysk. So here is my attempt to translate his song “as ‘t myn tiid is” from Frysk into English and Japanese.

Gurbe Douwstra's song in Frisian
Gurbe Douwstra’s song in Frisian

When it’s my time

When you miss me, have a need of me
or look for guidance, when you daren’t go further
then close your eyes, and stand still for a while
look in your heart, and know that I’ll be there

Don’t be sad, it is as it goes
all that lives, will one day pass away
But just believe me, I mean it sincerely
no single life, long or short, is for naught

So when it’s my time, grieve not too long for me
I’m not far away, I’ll always be near
I’m in your being, I’m in your blood … you’re my blood
Never forget this, my child, and everything will be alright





Vim tips and tricks: HTML table re-ordering

Suppose you have an HTML table on a static website, not dynamically created. It shows a grid of thumbnail photos in table cells. The code was something like the following:

 <td><a href="photo/photo01.html"><img src="photo/photo01.jpg" alt="" /></a></td>
 <td><a href="photo/photo02.html"><img src="photo/photo02.jpg" alt="" /></a></td>
 <td><a href="photo/photo03.html"><img src="photo/photo03.jpg" alt="" /></a></td>
 <td><a href="photo/photo04.html"><img src="photo/photo04.jpg" alt="" /></a></td>
 <td><a href="photo/photo05.html"><img src="photo/photo05.jpg" alt="" /></a></td>
 <td><a href="photo/photo06.html"><img src="photo/photo06.jpg" alt="" /></a></td>
 <td><a href="photo/photo07.html"><img src="photo/photo07.jpg" alt="" /></a></td>
 <td><a href="photo/photo08.html"><img src="photo/photo08.jpg" alt="" /></a></td>
 <td><a href="photo/photo09.html"><img src="photo/photo09.jpg" alt="" /></a></td>
 <td><a href="photo/photo10.html"><img src="photo/photo10.jpg" alt="" /></a></td>
 <!-- etc... -->

Yes, ouch!

There are hundreds of photos, spread over several pages in several HTML files, and you want to put them all on one page. You also want to change the number of columns of the thumbnail grid. How are you going to do this in the most efficient way possible, without turning the code into a dynamically generated code? Read on to learn more, using grep and vim!

Continue reading Vim tips and tricks: HTML table re-ordering

How to use Deaf Gain in job interviews

In a previous article I have written about how to positively communicate your deafness towards the job market. I want to expand on this by sharing with you a certain interview question that I was asked, and how I responded.

“Why should we hire you?”

Note: this was for a position that requires analysis and problem solving, involving computer science, programming and statistics.

This is a pretty common interview question. It is usually asked in the last stage of the interview process, as it means that you have passed your skill tests and company culture fit tests. The answer to this ultimate question helps the hiring manager to decide between all the candidates who reached the last stage of the interview process. It is here that you have to make yourself stand out from all the other candidates.

What value can I add to this company by being there? How can I help this company in improving by working there? What special features do I have that can be beneficial to this company?

It was at this moment that I thought about Deaf Gain. Deaf Gain, being the playful antonym of “hearing loss”, is defined as a reframing of “deaf” as a form of sensory and cognitive diversity that has the potential to contribute to the greater good of humanity (Bauman and Murray, 2009). So I responded with the following:

By being Deaf I may have a different viewpoint towards problems. I may see certain issues that are otherwise not visible to most people, such as the need for closed captions in movies and other film media. I may have a different approach to solving problems, such as adding visual cues or details to an interface, or enriching the interface with a different method of input such as sign language or gestures. By working with me, my colleagues will become aware of these issues, these possibilities, and learn from them. They will learn about a minority group, and be made aware of its existence in society. I am an example for others on how it could be different for certain people. By being there, I can highlight human diversity inside the company, and in society. By hiring me, everyone will benefit from the new experience in working with me.

As mentioned before, it was for a position that requires analysis and problem solving. If your case is different, you may need to reword it a little bit so that it is applicable to your situation. It is my hope that this article has given you some inspiration, so that you can take advantage of your Deaf identity in your quest on the job market!

Sending mails from a Zend application

If you are making an application that needs to send out e-mails to for example hundreds of your users, then you don’t really want to actually send them e-mails when testing your application in a development environment. They would totally not appreciate getting multiples of your test e-mails, probably littered with loads of debugging code.

However, in Zend Framework you can have a different configuration for your development environment. One of these configuration items is the mail transport system. If you tell Zend to use the following for your development environment:

resources.mail.transport.type = Zend_Mail_Transport_File
resources.mail.transport.path = APPLICATION_PATH "/../mails"

then the Zend Framework will put all e-mails sent using the Zend_Mail class, in this mails directory in your project’s root directory. This way, you can safely test all the out-going e-mails that are sent by your application, and check them out in the mails directory.

There is still one more thing to do. If you do the above, you will notice that Zend creates *.tmp files that are in a certain ugly MIME encoding format (7bit, quoted-printable or base64). What is more, you will have a hard time checking the HTML layout of your HTML e-mails, since you’ll only see HTML code in the *.tmp files for your HTML e-mails, which are also encoded in the aforementioned ugly mail encoding.

Add mutt to your toolkit, configure your Zend mail transport to put the mails in the new directory of the mutt tree, and you’ll be able to access your e-mails using mutt!

First the Zend configuration:

resources.mail.transport.type = Zend_Mail_Transport_File
resources.mail.transport.path = APPLICATION_PATH "/../mails/new"

Then install mutt and prepare the directories:

sudo apt-get install mutt
mkdir -p mails/tmp mails/cur mails/new
chgrp www-data mails/new
chmod g+w mails/new

Start mutt, telling it to use the mails directory:

mutt -f mails

And there you go, you’ll be able to see incoming mails, sent from your Zend application. No need to fiddle with the addTo() calls that could be everywhere.

To check the HTML version in your mutt e-mail client, open the e-mail, hit v to see the attachments, navigate to the text/html part, hit Enter, and mutt will open it in your default web browser.

Carpe diem

I was watching an episode of Vikings, and there was a scene where King Ecbert was reciting a Latin poem to his daughter-in-law. It said:

Don’t ask, we may never know, Leuconoe, what the Gods plan for you and me. Leave the Chaldees to parse the sentence of the stars. Of expectations, life’s short. Even while we talk, time, hateful, runs a mile. Don’t trust tomorrow’s bough for fruit. Pluck this. Here. Now.

In my curiosity I looked for the original text, and found it was one of Horace’s odes, to be specific Ode 1-11. Its full text is here:

Tu ne quaesieris, scire nefas, quem mihi quem tibi
finem di dederint, Leuconoë, nec Babylonios
temptaris numeros. Ut melius, quicquid erit, pati!
Seu plures hiemes, seu tribuit Iuppiter ultimam
(quae nunc oppositis debilitat pumicibus mare
Tyrrhenum). Sapias, vina liques, et spatio brevi
spem longam reseces. Dum loquimur, fugerit invida
aetas. Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.

Now, the translation in the Vikings was probably meant to be poetic, and therefore slightly different. Also, the last few sentences in the translation refer to the last two lines of the poem, so the middle body has been cut out.

Here is how I would have translated Horace’s poem (with a little help from a few other sources):

Don’t ask, for we don’t know, what ending the gods
will give me or you, Leuconoë, nor try to make sense
of the Babylonian numbers. How much better it is
to accept it, whatever it will be. Whether Jupiter gives us
many winters to come, or whether this is the last one
(currently weakening the shores across the Tyrrhene
sea). Be wise, strain the wine, and for life is short
cut back on your far-flung hopes. As we talk, so flies away
our hateful age. Seize the day, with little trust in tomorrow.