> There really is a problem if I take a string encoded with UTF-8 and try to
> concatenate it with a string encoded with 8859-1 (or one of the more exotic
> character sets).       
> tried to educate me) is why, when I say "utf-8-string" + "8859-1-string",
> Ruby can't just convert the latter to the encoding of the first, do the
> concatenation and be done with it.

Well, you could make this argument for anything. Why does 2 + "hey"
not call to_s on the 2 automatically/ After all, you can convert 2 to
"2" losslessly... there's a reason things are strongly typed.

Also, I don't know the specifics of 8859-1, but there are some
encodings that are just simply not compatible with each other. Try
adding a UTF-8 string to an ASCII string, for example...

Encodings are hard.