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Should the following work, or am I doing something wrong?

[mike@Vector ~]$ export MIKES_DIR=/home/mike/
[mike@Vector ~]$ /usr/local/sage-4.5.2/sage
| Sage Version 4.5.2, Release Date: 2010-08-05                       |
| Type notebook() for the GUI, and license() for information.        |
sage: os.system('echo $MIKES_DIR')
sage: os.path.isdir('/home/mike/')
sage: os.path.isdir('$MIKES_DIR')

I ask this because isdir() appears to be used in one of the scripts for building ATLAS to test whether you're trying to use system-wide atlas libraries, and I'm having trouble getting that to work.