Friends and Frustrations

There are 4-5000 languages currently spoken on Earth, plus several times that number of dead languages that exist in written form. Most of them don't use the ASCII system of 48 letters and 25 or so punctuation symbols, and most of those that do include some letters modified with haceks, umlauts, circimflexes, tildes, acutes, braves, strikes and other marks.

Given that every country in the world now uses wordprocessors, and most users in most countries use more than one language, why is it so bloody difficult to make your wordprocessor work with non-ASCII text?

Esperanto includes 12 characters - six upper and six lower case - that are modified slightly from the familliar roman alphabet. With today's advanced software, in today's world that's so aware of global diversity, why can't I get OpenOffice Writer to display "Æ" when I type ALT+C?

That symbol is a capital C with a circumflex (hat) over the top if your system is configured to recognise the Latin-3 coding, though it'll show as an AE digraph if you're using the default Latin-1. Go here to download "SudEuro" (Southern European) Latin-3 fonts that display Esperanto characters correctly, as well as most European languages - The English part of the coding is, of course, unchanged, so your English will display as normal.

Now, given that it's a 5 second operation to install the fonts, and typing in alphabets other than pure ASCII is what most of the world needs to come I've spent two hours unsuccessfully trying to set my globally aware wordprocessor to do what a typewriter can do with the "backspace" key?

Perhaps you're asking why don't I use Alt Codes? Hold down the Alt key and type in a four digit code for the character you need. Two reasons why not: First, I don't really want to use five keystrokes to get one character, and second, it only works on the numeric keypad to the right of the keyboard - and I'm using a laptop, which doesn't have the extra number keys.

Why not create a macro to insert (say) a C with a circumflex when you press CTRL+C? I've tried. I've spent an hour trying to get OpenOffice to do just that. And it won't. I don't know why, but it won't. I think I recall that MS Word can do it, so I may install that.

I haven't seen Mark S in around nine months. He's someone I went to school with (far too many years ago), who drops back into my life at unpredictable intervals. He's not very bright, thinks I'm an absolute genius, sympathetic and understanding, not successful but eternally optimistic with women, smokes enough tabacco to give a herd of elephants lung cancer, and spent his 20s trying to decide whether he was gay. I had sex with him a few times before he decided he wasn't.

His other main characteristic is complete unreliability. If he arranges to meet at 8pm, he might turn up at 9:30 - or else phone two weeks later to say he was delayed and promises to call later that evening to arrange meeting up, which usually doesn't happen.

As I write this at 10pm, he's two hours late and his phone's switched off - or else he just forgot to recharge it again.

Paul T spent 40 minutes on the phone telling me why the most wonderful woman he's ever been involved with is about to dump him. The short version is: he can feel it coming.

He spent the early 90s (before I knew him) madly in love with her, and she with him. It was a chaotic, but ecstatic time. Then she dumped him, and he spent a decade recovering. Three months ago, she divorced her terminally boring husband, got back in contact with Paul, and they spent two months being madly happy again. Then he started to get worried that it was all going wrong.

Something happened in her life (a crisis - I don't know what) that took her attention away from him. She responded to his letters and text messages with brief, noncommittal replies. He has a chioce between going stir crazy with not knowing whether they have a future, and becoming wrist-slittingly depressed at the prospect of being alone for the rest of his life. He says he's chosen the latter option.

So far as I can see, what's really happening is: He always expects things to go wrong. So he gets paranoid that his unexpected second chance of happiness is slipping away because she's losing interest. So he fires off a series of communications verbosely detailing his fears and asking for reassurance. She doesn't have the time or energy to deal with his insecurities on top of whatever's messing up her own life at the moment, so she becomes temporarily distant. Which makes him more paranoid than ever. So he writes off more and more desperately, she she responds more and more perfunctorily.

In short: He can't live without her, and she can't live with him needing her so badly right now.

I'm tempted to pick him up and shake him, shouting "Listen, you great dozy pillock! You love her and she loves you! She doesn't care that you've got no money, she doesn't care that you're over 40, and she doesn't care that you're an overemotional twit who refuses to believe anyone genuinely likes them! She really does love you and really does want to be with you. Now stop working yourself into a suicidal state, and stop bombarding her with demands for the love you know she already feels!"

But there's two reasons why I can't do this. First, he's too heavy for me to lift. Second, he wouldn't listen. He never listens, not to me, not to his other friends, not even to her when she says she loves him.

A friend is someone you spend a lot of time quietly forgiving, but don't mind doing it. An old friend is someone you still forgive, but you've been doing it so long you're forgotten why you started. Your best friend is either the one who annoys you least, or who you forgive most quickly - hopefully both.

More than one person has advised me: "If in doubt, marry your best friend." Not someone you'd walk on hot coals for, not someone who makes you feel like a silly, giddy 16 year old. But someone who you can always forgive, who always forgives you, who you don't absolutely need to be with, but whose company you always enjoy.

Well, that rules out Mark and Paul, so I won't be marrying them anytime soon. But I am looking forward to spending an evening with C tomorrow, possibly watching some of the worst and cheapest horror movies ever made.

I'll have to introduce him to Angoroj - probably the only horror movie filmed in Esperanto.

Update: It's an hour later, and Mark has just called. He'd fallen asleep. Gah!


  1. Two other frustrations I'd forgotten about.

    The tower computer, with all the audio and music software, has decided to crash at random intervals. I think one of the two hard disks is getting old and knackered.

    And when the plumber came this morning to fix one broken pipe, the others disintigtrated when he tried. Do all plumbers have the curse of turning copper to dust? Or were they just 100 year old pipes?

    Anyway, he can't come back till Tuesady, so for the next four days, all our hot water will come from kettles.

  2. Tell Paul, if he's sure it's coming, it's better to jump than be pushed.

  3. Do it to them (and yourself) before they do it to you (and themselves), yes.

    The thing is, I don't think it would be coming if he weren't making it happen. So you're saying: Make it happen deliberately before you make it happen inadvertantly.

    [sigh]. Why is love so bound up with the fear of losing it?

    (Welcome back from Japan, BTW. Kunichiwa)

  4. Hello Captain, sir!
    According to my sources, those numbers are a little bit inflated. Of all languages on Earth only a minimal number of them have a written tradition, which means many people are still in Pre history nowadays…
    As to text processing programs/software (please, ignore my ignorance…), Word does «do» many of the things you complain about. Maybe you should check it out and find out for yourself.
    And now to Esperanto: I'm reading a «bouquin» from PUF («Que sais je?» collection) written by a Monsieur Pierre Janton who curiously published an «Enkonduko al Ŝekspiro» in Liège many years ago… The little book is a short introduction to Esperanto, but I'm learning a lot and also refreshing some knowledge from long ago…
    Have a nice weekend – without warm water… (lol!)

  5. Or just tell him to let nature take its course. He won't necessarily feel in command of his own destiny, but then again, he won't feel bad for wrecking it. He could have someone else to blame, but I already get the impression he's the type of person to blame himself for everything.


  6. Ric: Quite right about written languages. The wordprocessor I'm using is part of the OpenOffice suite, which is supposed to be smaller, more stable and more reliable than MS Office. In most ways, it is, but seemingly isn't so good with non-english alphabets.

    Minge: Oh, dear Paul will always find a way to blame someone else for something he's messed up. Especially if that something is his own life. Anyone who can spend hours telling you how realistic they are about their own thoughts and situations...isn't.

    I like him rather a lot, but when you like someone a lot, the things you don't like loom larger.