Archive for the ‘Egypt’ tag
I am so lucky I married an archaeologist.
Choosing a new name for MySQL Toolkit has been a hassle. I wanted to avoid a literal name, such as, um, MySQL Toolkit. Short is good. And so on, and so on. All the while, the Phoenix/Firebird/Firefox naming debacle was in my thoughts. I only want to do this once.
At first I tried not to stray too much from the current name. MyToolkit, eh, it’s okay, but a) it’s taken and b) it reminds me of Microsoft Windows, where everything is “my.” My Documents, My Pirated Music, My… you get the idea. I tossed out various combinations of Xaprb and Toolkit. Xaprb is unique, and it’s not completely unknown anymore, but it’s not that great a name. (For those who don’t know, it’s a total geek-out thing. It’s what you get when you type my first name on a keyboard that’s been remapped to Dvorak.) XAToolkit seems cool at first, but is this thing really about XA transactions? … No.
I tried to think of some mythical figure, such as an Egyptian god(dess). Oooh! Thoth is the god of writing, the scribe, record-keeping, etc… that’s related to databases, right? But it’s actually pronounced ‘toe-th’ so no one would ever find it, and I’d have to correct people at conferences and such (ack!). And anyway, that’s an appropriate name for a database, not a set of tools for augmenting a database. (Seshat got eliminated for the same reasons, though she’s even cooler than Thoth).
On the topic of mythical figures, Sargon, Hammurabi, Ashurbanipal, and Gilgamesh are all wicked cool (and they’re not all mythical), but not good names for the toolkit. (Neither is Engleburt Humperdink, but that’s another blog post).
What to do?
Ask my wife, of course. She is a Near East Archaeologist, among her many areas of expertise. She’s wonderfully clever. I must say, she was initially too clever for the task. She wrote me an email suggesting “IT Toolk (get it?)” I did not get it, and she didn’t reply to my “I give up” email for a while, so I was left to agonize over what I was missing. Is it a name of an Assyrian scribe? A word in some language only she can read…? No. It’s “Toolkit” with the last two letters placed first. That was anti-climactic. But when I started picking her brain, she immediately thought of Ma’at.
Ma’at is not only an Egyptian word, she’s a goddess. (We need more women in this profession!) She is the patron of truth, harmony, and order. She restores things to their proper balance and place. Without her, everything would return to chaos. She wears an ostrich feather, and the heart of a deceased person has to be weighed against the feather when passing to the underworld.
In fact, ma’at isn’t just a name and a word, it’s a concept, as my wife explained to me. This concept doesn’t have an exact parallel in other languages and cultures. You should read about it via the link I just gave — it’s really quite a fascinating bit of Egyptology. I asked my wife to find a good image of weighing the heart of the deceased, and she took some time to describe the scene:
The deceased is in white. He is visible along the top of the image, in front of a dozen or so judges. He’s visible again in the main part of the image. Anubis is leading him by the hand into the presence of Osiris. Osiris is not the figure kneeling under the scale — that’s Anubis again.
The scale of judgment has the deceased’s heart on the left side, in a jar, and the feather of justice (ma’at) on the right side. The Egyptians believed that the heart, not the brain, was the source of one’s personality and identity. The goddess Ma’at is on top of the middle of the scale, supervising the proceedings. She has the feather of justice on her head. Thoth, the god of writing (a personified Ibis), takes down the judgment. If the deceased passes judgment, he will continue to the underworld; otherwise he will be eaten by the “devourer,” who is part lion, part alligator, and sits under the right-hand arm of the scale.
In this scene the judgment was positive and Horus (the son of Osiris — a hawk) leads the deceased towards the canopy where Osiris awaits. Osiris is flanked by two goddesses. One is Isis; Nephthys is probably the other.
I don’t know about you, but I think this is all very interesting; maybe I should become an Egyptologist.
But best of all, ma’at applies to the tools I’ve written, too! Without them, your replication gets out of sync, and you don’t even know it. Fortunately, the tools let you bring things back to the way they should be, restoring order to your universe of data. And so on.
In the end, maybe Maatkit is not the greatest name for various reasons (Ma’at was already taken on Sourceforge, by the way), but it’s so freakin’ cool that I can’t pass it up. You can’t find a perfect name, anyway; if it’s good by one metric, it’s bad by another. Maatkit it is.
I’m going to be changing the toolkit’s name on Sourceforge quite soon. There’s also some other interesting stuff going on, which I’ll write about separately.
(Ma’at is pronounced “mott,” by the way.)