Blathr Wayne Lorentz

What is Blathr?

Blathring in June, 2023.

So, what good is it?

Saturday, June 24th, 2023 Alive 19,051 days

A Udamonic Scamp3 starting up

This weekendʼs project: Teaching myself FORTH on a Udamonic Scamp3 single-board computer.

My first introduction to FORTH was around 1984 with H.E.S.ʼ 64 FORTH, which everyone just called “Sixty-Forth” because itʼs easier to say and made us feel clever. I didnʼt get very far with it because the H.E.S. FORTH came on a cartridge, and I had no means of storing my completed programs. Not even a datasette. By the time I got my first 1541 disk drive, I had moved on to other things.

But I have an affinity for old programming languages, so when I ran across the Scamp on the internet, I ordered one right away. I didnʼt receive it right away, though. It was shipped from Australia via a start-up called Sendle, so the computer I ordered in March arrived at the end of June. Iʼm amazed that it works, considering it was packed in little more than a thin layer of bubble wrap, and mailed in a basic envelope, which had been torn open along the way.

By design, both 64 Forth and FlashForth on the Scamp are FORTH supersets. Programs being only semi-portable between platforms is considered a feature, not a bug, in FORTH. Still, all FORTHs conform to the same programming paradigms and seem to have 95% compatibility with one another. Much like computers in the 1970ʼs, when youʼd buy a generic book of BASIC programs at Brentanoʼs and then it was up to you to customize the code to fit your machine.

The default editing screen from 64 Forth on the Commodore 64
The default editing screen from FlashForth on the Udamonic Scamp3

Interestingly, the H.E.S. variation of FORTH seems more capable than the FlashForth that the Scamp runs. 64 Forth has over 500 words in its vocabulary, and comes with a split-screen I.D.E. method of interaction. The Scamp superset of FlashForth has just 425 words, and is designed for very bare-bones TTY output. No fancy ANSI windows here.

On the other hand, the Scamp can be powered off and when it's plugged in again you can pick up right where you left off. With any Commodore 64 FORTH, once you restart, you have to rebuild or reload all of the words you have previously defined. So while FlashForth isn't flashy, it's certainly more useful to use for a long-term project.

So what will I do with a 55-year-old programming language in 2023? Iʼm going to learn. Iʼm going to explore. Iʼm going to expand my ways of thinking and understand how things were done in the past so that I can do things better in the future.

Whenever I get a new piece of kit, Iʼm automatically challenged with ”What good is it?” I shouldnʼt have to answer that. Intellectual curiosity should be rewarded and saluted. Not everything is a start-up. Not everything is a business. Not everything has to make money. 50 years ago, nobody would have asked someone who does woodworking in his spare time, “How are you going to monetize that?” The notion would have been ludicrous. And, not surprisingly, the sort of people who donʼt understand intellectual curiosity are also the same group of people who spend their free time laying on a couch binge watching the latest zombiethon on the trendy streaming service of the day.

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Abraham Lincoln spins the hits!

Thursday, June 8th, 2023 Alive 19,035 days

Hereʼs my latest million-dollar idea.

Combine the power of audio deepfakes with the radio distribution capabilities of the internet to allow radio listeners to pick their own disc jockeys.

It came to me when I was pondering Appleʼs new assistive technology to allow people to respond to messages by typing the response, but delivering it in their own voice. Apple calls it “Personal Voice,” and itʼs coming to iPhones better than the one I have.

By combining Appleʼs Personal voice with the voice-tracking software already in use by radio stations, listeners could get not only the music they want, but also the presenters they prefer.

So instead of having to suffer through the affectations and vocal fry of the latest too-cool-for-school D.J. on Sirius XMU, with the push of a button, you could have Sluggo from First Wave telling you about Björkʼs new tour. Or, instead of the inaudible never-thee-care mumbling of a KCNV/Las Vegas classical announcer, you could have the clarity and diction of David Attenborough explaining the historical significance of Tchaikovskyʼs Dances of the Hay Maidens.

Iʼll leave it up to the radio companies and the announcers unions to decide how semi-synthetic D.J.ʼs get compensated.

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Stirry sticks?

Wednesday, June 7th, 2023 Alive 19,034 days

A mocha with latte art from Three Keys Coffee in Houston

Todayʼs coffee is “Uh… I dunno… just gimme a mocha,” which is what I uttered upon interrogation from the surprisingly helpful baristas at Three Keys Coffee.

Three Keys is a local roasting company that has just opened its first retail location. And that location is one block away from me.

From what I can tell, the beans it sells have won a bunch of awards. Iʼm not a connoisseur of anything, so awards donʼt resonate with me. But the coffee is good.

Smooth, not too sweet, and very gulpable. Because sometimes in the morning you need a gulpable coffee to blow out the lung butter that has accumulated in your esophagus overnight.

Since Three Keys is used to getting accolades, Iʼll give it four out of five stirry sticks. High marks for flavor, texture, and location. But the menu is a bit limited, with only a handful of options: americano, flat white, cortado — all of the usual pedestrian offerings available in any generic Houston coffee shop. When it gets a signature drink or two of its own, then weʼll really have something going on here.

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Everyone loves Raymond

Saturday, June 3rd, 2023 Alive 19,030 days

Thereʼs a new woman helping people find their seats at the co-cathedral these days.

She seems nice enough, but I feel bad for her. It appears that her parents named her after a rap star.

Her name tag reads “Usher.”

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Does your landlord know about this?

Thursday, June 1st, 2023 Alive 19,028 days

A napping bee

This morningʼs promenade in the garden revealed a sleeping bee and a baby pepper.

A perfectly puny pepper
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