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July 31, 2004


Update: There's a super luxury edition of this here. No extra downloads: Should "just work" out of the box.

Here's a significantly pared down version of voodoo2palm. It doesn't do a few things (like clean up after itself... look for a folder named pluck_{name of your voodoopad} in Documents and trash it once it's done unless you could use a HTML export for some other reason. What it does do is make a Palm-readable version of your VoodooPad in which you can navigate using the hyperlinks. You can't edit the pad, but at least you can take it with you in a readable format that's not on an iPod.

It depends on the Plucker Distiller being put in the Applications folder (you can edit the script to change that location fairly easily). It also doesn't make any assumptions on how you plan to go about putting the document in your Palm... it just plops a distilled, Plucker Viewer-ready item on your Desktop. Double-clicking it will probably kick off whatever installation process you've got.

Greek to you? Visit the Plucker site to get oriented.

Todo: cleaning up after itself, packaging PluckerDistiller up so it can be installed in the correct place and save the user a few steps, figure out why bullet characters are mangled in Plucker, ambitious stuff I dare not mention in public now that I've had a chance to see what XCode and Interface Builder are capable of.

--Open this script in a new Script Editor window.

-- This AppleScript uses the freely available Plucker application to make a Palm-readable version of a given VoodooPad.

-- To use it, you need the Plucker Distiller, which is available at
-- http://www.plkr.org/index.plkr?a=dl
-- Once you've downloaded the distiller, unpack it and put the directory "PyPlucker" in your Applications folder

-- To use this script, put it somewhere easy to find and drag a VooodooPad onto it. It will convert the pad into HTML in a folder named "pluck_{name of the pad}" in your Documents folder, and it will then use Plucker to convert that HTML into a Palm-readable plucker document it places on your desktop. For most Palm users, double-clicking on the document will queue it up for the next HotSync

on open what
    tell application "VoodooPad"
        open what
        --leave these alone
        set padName to name of document 1 as string
        set pluckName to "pluck_" & padName
        set pluckDir to POSIX path of (((path to documents folder) as string) & pluckName) as string
        set pluckIndex to pluckDir & "/index.html" as string
        --next two might need to be edited if you put Plucker distiller somewhere besides your Application directory
        set PluckerDir to (((path to applications folder) as string) & "PyPlucker") as string
        set PluckerApp to POSIX path of (PluckerDir & ":Spider.py") as string
        --set this to any command line arguments you want
        --"stayonhost" ensures the plucker spider doesn't local files
        -- More arguments available by running 'Spider.py --help'
        set PluckerArgs to ("--bpp=16 --stayonhost")
        tell application "Finder"
                make new folder at folder "Documents" of home with properties {name:(pluckName) as string}
            end try
        end tell
        export document 1 as HTML to pluckDir
        do shell script ("/usr/bin/python " & PluckerApp & " " & PluckerArgs & " -f " & quoted form of (POSIX path of (path to desktop) & "/" & padName) & " -H " & quoted form of pluckIndex)
    end tell
end open

Posted by mph at 12:23 PM

July 28, 2004

HOWTO Put Your VoodooPad on a Palm, With Links (Updated)

Update: The script in the entry vooodoo2palm is a lot more portable. Save it as an "application" to get it to act as a droplet.

Another Update: There's a super luxury edition of this here. No extra downloads: Should "just work" out of the box.

Today's science project was "get my Brain voodoopad onto a Palm and preserve hyperlinks, even if I couldn't make it editable." I think I came up with this idea, but I've been in such a state of VoodooPad obsessiveness I might have come across it elsewhere. If so, apologies and please comment with a pointer to a URL so credit can go where it's due.

I suppose the other "please point" request would be to a simpler way to get HTML onto a non-net-connected Palm, though this approach has the benefit of everything being bundled up into a handy pdb.


No sooner did I start digging around for ways to automate the process below than I stumbled across something I'd forgotten all about: Plucker is a free (as in speech and beer) alternative to iSilo and AvantGo that does about what they do: it grabs HTML and turns it into something a Palm can live with, hyperlinks included. It's packaged up and ready to go as an Aquafied GUI for OS X. You can apply pretty much the same workflow with Plucker that I outlined below, and get about the same result, without coughing up $20 for iSilo. Another alternative I haven't looked into yet is SiteScooper.

As a result, there are now two ways to Palmify your VoodooPads:


Using Plucker

Plucker is a free (Free Software, free beer) scraper that spiders a given URL/file location and turns what it finds into a Palm-readable file with hyperlinks usable with the Plucker Viewer (also free/Free).

There's a very nice OS X GUI that automates everything, but if you want drag-n-drop simplicity for VoodooPad, what follows is my extremely duct-taped solution, using the Python Plucker distiller and AppleScript.

Special Note: Some people include disclaimers. I'm including an apology: This is just a way I figured out to get a VoodooPad into a Palm. It works for me on cursory examination, but I've made no effort to make this shareable. It's a reflection of deep neuroses regarding actually learning how to program. I might make it nicer to find and "just use" once I figure out more about how AppleScript's whole "do shell script" schtick works so I can get variables into a shell command, but until then it's pretty much "how I got things to work the first time around." If you like the idea, feel free to appropriate it and do it better.

Ingredients (Using Plucker)

Basic Steps (Using Plucker)

on open what

tell application "VoodooPad"

open what
  export document 1 as HTML to "/Users/mph/Documents/pluckedpads"
  do shell script ("/usr/bin/python /Users/mph/bin/PyPlucker/Spider.py  -f \
 '/Users/mph/Documents/Palm/Users/Michael Hall/Files to 
  \ Install/brain'\
 -M 3 --stayonhost -H /Users/mph/Documents/pluckedpads/index.html")

end tell

end open

The long and short of that is pretty much "When a file gets dropped on this script's icon, have VoodooPad open that document, export it to HTML in a given location, then run the Plucker Distiller script to spider the exported files to a maximum depth of three links, not leaving the host on which those files reside, then place the plucker file in the user's Palm "to install" folder for the next sync.

Using iSilo

Ingredients (Using iSilo):

Basic Steps (Using iSilo):

Additional Thoughts:

Posted by mph at 6:13 PM

Gently Download the Stream

While stationed in Korea, I became a total shortwave junkie: I've still got my DX logs laying around somewhere. The shortwave was essential after a while: My listening choices were either the local stations, which were fine to the extent one can tolerate synth-pop without being able to understand the cheap sentimentality bundled up in the lyrics (I need the cheap sentimentality... beat alone doesn't do it) or the armed forces radio broadcasts.

Aside: the recent flap over Rush Limbaugh's presence on AFRTS reminded me of another reason that radio station was unlistenable: Like the rest of the army, everything has to be timesliced. It leads to a Friday night at the post enlisted club where the rednecks stand around in their giant belt buckles and boots waiting for the clock to change to 11 so the R&B DJ has to pack up and they can get a country DJ for an hour before the metalheads take over at midnight. That's not "diversity" any more than tossing marbles in a pan full of melted Velveeta is a "blend." It's just making sure the kids don't fight over the toys.

Anyhow, shortwave rocked. Especially when I caught the North Korean English broadcasts, because they were really funny. My favorite one was the night they told us Japan would join them in a left hook from the south that would crush us between two mighty peoples' armies united in Pan-Asian solidarity. Memorable quote from my drunk team chief: "Shit. That'd be fucked up."

For whatever reason, reception was pretty good there, as it was when I first picked up the habit in Indiana. It's not so good here, but I've been pining for radio again. The big diff since my time in Korea is that we've got a lot of 'net-based radio shows and netcasts that are there for the plucking. I grabbed a copy of AudioHijack and pointed it at a few obvious picks for shows I'm never in front of the radio/computer to listen to (like This American Life and Counterspin). But as I was reminded by a visit to PublicRadioFan.com, there's a lot more out there than Ira and Terry.

Anyone got any recommendations for good public radio listens?

Posted by mph at 10:14 AM

July 27, 2004

The Pomp and Pageantry of Irrelevance

You might think that Democratic convention week would be an occasion to watch Democratic true believers, but you'd be wrong. The real entertainment value is over at Hit and Run, where you can watch the multi-headed beast that is libertarianism chew its many tongues in half in a mad fandango of irrelevance, slowed only by the intern, who thinks Instapundit is, like, totally awesome.

They're currently eating the "cake" portion of the meal. They'll be having the same cake when the Republicans meet. Brandies and bitter grousing about how much better off we'd all be if we all embraced their capering and perpetual fringe status in November.

Portland libertarians, at least, are completely up front about the real point of their politics.

Posted by mph at 7:42 AM

July 26, 2004

Housekeeping Notes

It didn't take long for the spammers to find the new archives and begin to spread their shit around in liberal doses again. Imagine my dismay when the shiny new Movable Type 3 deleterator only allowed me to delete trackbacks to my own entries, leaving several from coauthor pk I couldn't delete.

After the usual round of chicken-bone waving and gesticulating and rebuilding, I still couldn't delete the offending trackbacks (the symptom is that the deletion checkbox doesn't appear on the far right column of the ping's entry on the trackback screen). So I went for a walk through the MT support forums and found a thread on the matter, with a solution from Phil Ringnalda, with whom I'm locked in some strange blogospheric orbit (not unpleasant, mind you, but I'm beginning to think Phil and I worked down the hall from each other and sometimes said "good morning" in the elevator in another life).

The fix, in case you just don't want to go look, is to hunt down around line 2161 of lib/MT/App/CMS.pm (it turned out to be line 2169 in my install of MT 3) for a line that looks like this:


and replace that with


(delete the curly braces).

Once that change was made, all was fine and I was able to remove the offending trackbacks on the spot. Much better. Looking forward to the arrival of MT Blacklist 2, recent awardee of the MT Plugin Developers' Contest Grand Prize. It will evidently be part of a plug-in pack for MT 3.1, about which SixApart has revealed a little more just this evening.

Just skimming the "What's New" file 6A posted, the "jump up and down, clap hands" feature looks to be "dynamic PHP publishing," controllable on a per-template basis -- so changes to templates won't always involve a rebuild, except where you don't want the PHP performance penalty, like an RSS feed people are downloading every 30 minutes for as long as their computer is on during the workday.

There's also a scheduled posting feature, which is appealing in one of two ways: "future posting" is a good way for folks to keep a site in content for a few days at a time without having to be there to post. For blogs with a regular readership, that could be handy. During my LinuxToday days, I depended on future-posting to make the site tick over the course of a weekend, and when I moved from Virginia to Oregon it was useful to make things look like someone was awake at the switch first thing for the east coasters.

Time-shifted posting also makes it easy to have a totally knee-jerk reaction during the work-day that you can scribble into your blog and forget all about, setting it to magically post during whatever your periods of plausible deniability with the boss are.

"Blogging at work? Perish the thought! My 2,000 word essay on the evils of children writing books set in worlds their much more capable parents created was posted at 5:15 p.m. Well after working hours!"

In Other News:

Up to this point I've maintained several custom RSS feeds (No Mac, No Meta-Blogging, No-a-few-other-things by request). Doing them was initially a bit of a lark, but (as noted in the comments in a previous post) there's some taxonomic drift going on, along with the fact that I'm just not sure whether I want to spend time classifying things finely enough that the feeds remain meaningful.

As I've said before, what a lot of people mistake for slobbishness is often the result of a thwarted perfectionism, and it's not so different here: I can't do the feeds "right," so I don't want to continue to do them. For now, they're in place, but they'll be turned into permanent redirects at some point in the near future, pointing at the full stories RSS feed, which provides all the content of every entry.

While we're on it, there are also these feeds, which will remain around:

Posted by mph at 5:50 PM

July 24, 2004

Paper or Plastic?

I had this idea in my head that the iPod and a nice pad and paper would be my portable calendar/memo/address book accouterments. Now I'm having second thoughts, mainly because I'm realizing the iPod interface to the calendar is better for finding out how I'm looking on a given day than finding a particular event. What's everyone else think? Is iPod/paper a futile holding action against giving in to the superior but fragile Palm?

In other workflow-related stuff:

Posted by mph at 2:31 PM

Pears, Buckwheat, Age

Ben is six months old today. He got an early jump on the celebrating yesterday, when he was fed his very first baby food that isn't rice cereal: Pears mixed with whole grain cereal meant to fix some binding that the rice cereal seemed to introduce. He's really digging the solid food when we give it to him. He periodically loses all control and tries to bite the bowl we're feeding him from.

Not a lot of time right now to reflect on this milestone except to note that, overall, we're worrying about milestones less and less. Ben's growing, he seems awake to the world in a way he wasn't three months ago, and he's as happy as we can help him be when we aren't pissing him off, which we're still pretty good at now and then.

We spend less and less time worrying about whether he's "where he's supposed to be," I guess, and more time enjoying him. Nothing seems to stay the same for more than a week, from which words he thinks are funny ("brown spike" and "butt cream" don't entertain nearly as much as "pants" and "banana" seem to lately) to what he thinks of the stroller (pleasant, nap-inducing or horrific death ride).

Other than that, what else to say? He's the little dude and we love him.

Happy birthday, Ben.

Posted by mph at 10:45 AM

July 20, 2004

Workflow Wiki

Thanks to some chatting with gl. last night, I settled on a wiki for my workflow obsessions (instead of the short-lived flooooow 'blog).

There are some good reasons for that:

Folks who mind sites via RSS will find the recent updates feed useful for tracking changes and additions.

Participants are welcome. I've tried to set up a basic structure on the front page. There's a little "sign in" box down there in the lower right corner, where you can sign in before participating, preferably using WikiCase for your name, like "JoeSmith" or "JaneDoe".

Posted by mph at 10:44 AM

July 19, 2004

OSCON 2004

Cool! I got credentials for OSCON 2004 here in Portland next week.

Looks like this is my session wish-list for the moment:

Plus a few of the keynotes.

I think the movie screening on Thursday night will be hard to pass up, too. Time to start pecking things into iCal.

Happy to hear from any Puddingtime visitors who'll be in town, too!

Posted by mph at 7:39 PM

July 18, 2004

Interactivity Wishlist

Chatting with Michael a few days ago, we got into questions of how I put my (work) sites together. The site of primary interest involves a bullpen of three fairly steady contributors plus a few others who have something now and then.

Though it isn't happening yet, at some point they'll all be coordinated enough for me to pull off themed weeks, with my "big picture" people working in concert with my hands-on people to hit topics vertically instead of in a grab-bag fashion. So as we get them all coordinated, the reader will hopefully read a "big picture" piece on a certain trend on Monday, and get a reminder at the end of the article that on Wednesday or Thursday, he/she should come back for the implementation piece. Since newsletters are a big part of the site's overall draw, they'll benefit by taking on a more thematically unified approach.

As I described how all that works, how I keep track of it, who knows what when, and how the information moves around, Michael, who's got professional and academic interests in how work flows go together, said "it seems quite a bit of your job is information brokering," which is about right.

I do spend a lot of time editing content, and talking to my writers. I also spend some time writing since I've got a pair of columns that go out each week. And I spend a lot of time reading just so I can get a sense of what's going on for each of the columns. But the real work flow issue is pretty much about information. I'm either taking it in or passing it along, or relating it in selected snippets in assorted contexts (the weekly edit plan that goes up to my executive editor, the quick summary that goes out during the weekly teleconference with the rest of my group, or the really quick overview of which way I want the site to go when I talk to my writers).

Since macifying the home, it's been a lot easier to contemplate workflow issues, simply because I've got a lot of tools that are available in both mobile and home-based contexts (so there are no concerns about porting data back and forth), and there are no issues about differing formats.

The inner Linux nerd in me flips out over that. "Lock-in!" it hisses. Then I think "well, yeah. Locked in," because I'm not a developer, and because there have been plenty of applications I've used under Linux that stored their data in no more end user friendly a fashion that Apple, which is at least sticking to using recognized standards for its calendar, addressbook, and mail applications.

Anyhow, long and short:

Up to now, I've never really thought about work flow issues in any depth, which is sort of weird because starting with the second half of my tour in Korea in '94-'95, I've worked in nothing but information management positions, which are pretty workflow intensive. I've always just taken work as it comes, shuffled it along, or held it long enough to munge it into shape for other recipients. I tend to have huge stacks of paper laying around, and offices under my supervision have usually ended up being ad-hocracies with a light layer of organization on the outward-facing parts of the operation.

That approach has worked fine when the amount of time I've had has been closer to "as much as I need" and my energy levels have been higher and more focused. It drives people around me crazy, but I've also usually been pretty reliable, if disorganized, so that part has balanced out.

But now there's more to contend with on a daily basis. If I miss something during the period I think of as "the work day" (which is sort of amorphous, since I work at home, but usually starts around 6:30 and ends around 4:00), it's getting harder and harder to deal with it later because Ben's in the picture and I hate shorting him and Alison any of the time that's not part of the work day.

Which brings us to the title of the entry: "Interactivity Wishlist"

I wish I knew of a mailing list where people got into workflow stuff in the way Whole Earth Review used to get into the generic concept of "tools." Every issue was a great repository of either tools or books about how to use tools. I think I learned about the Leatherman in an issue of WER some time around '91 or '92, for instance, in the form of a tiny blurb and a picture.

It's part of the whole "Clean and orderly thing," but I'd rather avoid the insane specificity of stuff like The Good Easy, which spends too much time on the high level stuff (have this app, make this thing be called this, move these things here, make your buttons look like this, use this font) and too little time explaining its conceptual underpinnings (data should be portable, for instance).

Naturally, I'd like it to have a technology focus, only because my work interactions and the information I deal with must cross the computer at some point, but I'd be open to discussion about any sort of workflow management tools, whether it's in the form of "here are the best pens" to "here are some cool pads that have this interesting ruling on them so you can..." And I'd also like to talk about workflow management proper, or books related to that. For instance, "Time Management for Dummies" was surprisingly revelatory to me when I picked up to pull myself out of the quagmire of a work backlog at Ft. Bragg.


Update: I think I'll move my musings on this over to flooooow

Posted by mph at 1:23 PM

July 17, 2004

Harper's Considered Annoying

So last year I got a subscription to Harper's from a school child. I think I paid a little extra for the privilege of helping out a school, but that's o.k. I had to sell sausages and special "smokey flavored spreadable cheese" in a crock for fundraisers, and that stuff was both a pain to deliver and nasty. Most people in my neighborhood probably scooped out the cheese and kept the "quaint decorative crock."

My patience with Harper's comes and goes, so it was a risky subscription, but I thought of the children and picked it because it was fairly cheap and because my Salon Premium subscription has already helped me remember why I hate the national weeklies courtesy of the free subscription to US News and World Report (with resident troll John Leo). Plus I was pretty entertained when Lewis Lapham appeared on the NBC morning talk show from his office, cigarette smoldering in his hand, and told Ralph Nader that he'd smoke in the privacy of his office if he wanted because it wasn't bothering anybody else. Smoking has a long, honored tradition among newsroom types. I learned at the feet of a man who started phone conversations with a sharp inhale. So Harper's had the "Lewis Lapham: Celebrity Dick" thing going for it. Also, I guess, having been burned by subscription scams in the past, I wasn't even sure I'd see a single issue.

All was well. Nice to walk past the latest issue on the newsstand and think "that'll be headed to my door no later than tomorrow... no need to so much as lift a finger to pull it down from the shelf!"

Then I got my first "Your subscription is about to expire mail," which was "signed" by Lewis Lapham himself. It had a few obligatory stroke-off sentences about me as a Harper's reader (magazines are the worst for this sort of reader flattery, and it makes me a little unhappy that of all the traditions in the print mag world Salon has to choose from, it sticks to the "your subscription to Salon shows you to meh meh meh mehhity-fucking meh") before launching into the weirdest sidewinder curve I've ever gotten as a pitch:

"Lewis," or the intern down in circulation masquerading as him, told me that some people actually believe that magazines ask people to re-up early, then pocket the proceeds from the overlap! I was to understand that he was just writing to let me know it was time to resubscribe, and that, believe him, it wasn't about bilking me out of an extra issue or two worth of revenue, so please put that idea aside and just re-up.

I toyed with the idea of scanning the letter and putting it up as a PDF, just to have something to build into a screed about Harper's mining the most discernible fault of its readership, which would have to be an ungodly powerful conviction that they are so much smarter than everybody else. Lewis' proxies down in circulation clearly believe they can make their readers buy things simply by implying that not buying would be the earmark of a ignorant rubes who concoct foolish magazine subscription boondoogles because they're too dirt stupid to realize Lewis has better things to do with his time, and too miserly to be willing to lose a few cents anyhow.

My scanner, however, wasn't attached to the computer at the time, and I am very lazy. So I let that opportunity go. Plus you never know if Lewis himself wouldn't, perhaps, bestir himself to turn up in comments and write a custom umpty-fifty page essay condemning me. He did, after all, authorize a graphic file of his signature to be laser printed on to the letter the circulation intern wrote for him. He's clearly concerned that his message get out.

Then Harper's stopped coming, because the letter ultimately pissed me off. A simple "Hey, you're running out in a month" would have probably gone ignored, too, because I can barely remember to zip my fly most mornings, but it wouldn't have made me put aside my indifference to timely action in favor of aborted plans to complain bitterly about the wasted brainpower of inventing a conspiracy that I'd know better than to believe so the circulation clerk could establish his/her belief in my non-rubeness.

So we've been a month or so without a new issue, and I've thought about "Lewis'" letter a few times since then, wondering what pile of papers it's in, and whether I should go crawling back. Like at least one other person I know, something about having a long-time magazine subscription makes me feel like I've anchored myself somehow.

I've tried it with ReadyMade (god... make that thing go away soon... it's like BoingBoing for homeowners only it takes up actual physical space under my coffee table, and always seems to spawn extra issues just when I think I've recycled the last of them) and Whole Earth Review (which was once cool, disappeared, and came back bearing the same name but resembled that story in the latter part of the Chronicles of Narnia where the monkey dresses a donkey in a lion skin and parades around yelling 'Look everybody, Aslan!')

Web subscriptions don't work, either, because they lack any real physical substance. I guess you can recreate the effect of a stack of "New Yorkers" by carefully mailing links to Salon stories to your friends so often that it sort of implies that you don't care about the annoying Web ad non-subscribers have to endure, but I'm on record as being against using e-mail to communicate third party ideas, and that limits me to just mentioning that I read Salon a lot, and who do I ever talk to in person?

I was ready to commit to Harper's, so their attempt to trick me with their whole "manufacture a scam then tell all the readers they're too smart to believe the same dumb things as the penny-pinching red state huckleberries" scam, and that hurt. They misjudged me: I'm a part of the demographic that thinks it's smarter than everyone else because it's too smart to fall for appeals to how smart it is, and "Lewis" completely missed that.

Today, I got a poignant reminder of the situation in the form of a guilt issue. They cut me off for a few weeks, let me hang, and now they've sent me a freebie, meant to stir me into action. Looking at the pile of "meh" mail crammed into the mail holder I installed over our mail slot, I can see a plaintive little reup envelope from Harper's, far too skinny to contain another phony-baloney letter from Lewis or his proxies. Just a simple reminder. In a week or two, they'll send another one, maybe with an actual guilt letter. I've been here with Utne, Newsweek, Linux Journal, The Nation, and a few others, and I can tell the WIRED subscription I got for free is about to try that even though I've had 12 forgettable issues to remind me that you don't have to see the little ponytail to know it's there.

I think b!X and Gruber are gonna have to be it. I'll get a t-shirt out of Gruber, and a better sense of what the hell's up with Portland out of b!X. Neither will stack up under my coffee table (though b!X is hawking printed editions), but unless b!X breaks his fairly taciturn approach to fund-raising or Gruber fails to break out of his "post-fundraiser inability to post" slump in the next month or two, they seem like good values, and I'd rather pay for them than Lewis Lapham's half-wit intern.

Anyone else want to offer candidates for subscription dollars?

Posted by mph at 5:15 PM

The Trouble With Small-fryness

There are a few problems associated with being eager to please and being a sub-minor blogger:

  1. When you post a plaint on your sub-sub-minor dev blog claiming the exclude categories plug-in is borked in MovableType 3, no one will happen across that entry and say "It works, you're on crack." If you spend a lot of time on crack, these problems add up.

  2. You need things like the exclude categories plugin to work if you want your super-special RSS with categories non grata to work.

So this is an amended plugin report: ExcludeCategories does work and it's driving the Mac-Free RSS feed. It also makes it relatively easy to protect people from other categories here, like "movies," "blogs," and "things mph wrote that are about anything besides babies." So just ask. I won't redesign a single page, because that is a step too far, but it's so easy to tweak the RSS that I might as well.

On a site semantics note: iPods, while capable of working with Windows machines and even occasionally having something to do with Linux, are apparently part of a broader cultural alignment that has more to do with Apple making them than anything. That faced me with the sticky issue of whether to create an "Apple" category under which iPod and Mac items can fall, or an "Apple" category that acts as a mother category to the "mac" category and any entry that an iPod item belongs under (think: tech and music, for starters), then creating an RSS feed that was less "Mac Free" than "Apple Culture Resistance Central."

Then I thought a moment more and realized iPods are part of a broader cultural alignment that has more to do with Apple making them than anything. The company's just into making little smooth pieces of plastic and metal that are easy to use. Their laptops, when they aren't breaking because the engineering staff spends too much time doing one-hitters out behind the dumpster, are the same way. And this eMac here is similar. If it didn't have the speakers and disc tray, it'd be the lovely, pearly tear drop of a gigantic robot angel made of plastic and metal that periodically squeezes out gigantic 50 lb. tears made of consumer electronics. And god bless that angel. And god bless Apple for unleashing it on the world, even if its nail-clipping iBooks Just Die.

The other consideration is that I'm very lazy and I hate the way MT makes me save an entry before I can double back to add categories. So I'll be damned if I'm going to spend time making meta categories.

Decision: iPods are midget Macintoshes that play music and don't happen to go bong when you start them up. You can't use them as word processors, either, but having once spent a week writing a column using a Palm keyboard and squinting into the muddy display of a Handspring Visor, I'm here to tell you that's a bad idea anyhow. So having identified them as midget Macs, we'll keep them categorized there. Except for this entry, because it's not so much about the iPods as it is about the ExcludeCategories plugin working.

And also because if I don't file this entry under something other than "Mac," the person I maintain the Mac-free feed for will never know it was fixed.

Posted by mph at 8:25 AM

July 16, 2004

Clean, Orderly, Refurbished (Updated)

iPod. Eeee!

In a first, the sales dude at the computer store recommended a refurbished unit instead of a new one, which was fine with me because I ended up getting a 10GB model for a few bucks less than a Mini would have cost me, and I've got some space to spare.

Doug's AppleScripts for iTunes was pretty indispensable once I had everything synched up and realized there was a solid 400MB worth of crufty duplicate songs floating around from some lunacy in my past. The best hint for getting rid of them came from an article on MacOSXHints.com, which recommended using the finder to find everything named "*1.mp3" (that's how dups tend to get named in Macland) and making sure the ones listed weren't songs that actually had a "1" as the last character in the title. The Doug scripts came in when it came time to nuke the "!" songs from iTunes after a quick second sync to the iPod helped it figure out which tracks were dead in the face of my mass deletions.

The thing that makes it all worthwhile isn't so much the portable tunage, which womps my dead Iomega HipZip and its 40MB of storage all to hell, but the fact that VoodooPad works with it, right down to the nifty links between notes. Right now they're sort of hard to manage because every single page in the pad is at the top level of the list instead of the "internal" pages staying out of sight until followed through from the index. That's liveable if it means getting to carry Brain around with me at all times in relatively wikieized form. I suspect, in fact, it'll have me looking for more things to put in Brain, so my crushing despair will be complete the day meteor showers, The Tsunami, and a gigantic EMP come, wiping out every copy I've squirreled away anywhere.

But yeah: VoodooPad is the iPod's killer app.

Also chatted briefly with gl. about the utility of calendar/notes/address book in a 'pod, and firmed up my notion that the Palm has become obsolete for me. If the good lord had wanted us to use Graffiti out on the sidewalk, he'd have moved primitive humans to make the alphabet suck really bad to begin with. As it is, the alphabet's just fine, and the good lord gifted us with the fine products of Rite in the Rain ™, which allow us to use the alphabet he let us end up with in all sorts of weather. He also gave us three score and 12 years on this earth, which means the time spent typing an afternoon's worth of jots back into the computer once home, while adding up, probably won't keep whichever of us is meant to from brokering peace in the Middle East or writing the Great American Novel.

So there's a Palm Tungsten E on the market, lightly used, with a Palm aluminum case and a 128MB SD card to go with it. Offers being accepted until I get around to dusting it off enough to take a picture and toss it up on eBay.

Update: I hate the rumor sites. If Think Secret has this one right I might be trooping back down to the Mac Store on Monday morning (or some time within my 30 day return period). All the other rumor sites were convinced the new models would get a storage bump but stay within their price ranges. So I guess it'll take something like "a 10 gig mini for what a 4 gig mini goes for now" or "a 15 gig 3g for what I paid for my 10 gig" to get me to rouse myself enough to pinch the necessary pennies. Bastards.

On One Second's Further Reflection: Life is so hard. I totally can't decide which iPod is best for me. I thought the future was supposed to be simpler. Waaaah.

A day later: Everyone and their uncle now points to the discovered cover of Monday's edition of Newsweek, which shows Steve holding a new iPod and looking maniacal. No word on the specs.

Posted by mph at 4:37 PM

Only one issue

Altercation regular Charles Pierce breaks it down (again):

There really is only one issue in this election. Since the Extended Florida Unpleasantness, this has been an Adminstration utterly unconcerned with any restraints, constitutional or otherwise, on its power. It has been contemptuous of the idea of self-government, and particularly of the notion that an informed populace is necessary to that idea.

It recognizes neither parliamentary rules nor constitutional barriers. (Just for fun, imagine that the Senate had not authorized force in Iraq. Do you think for one moment that C-Plus Augustus wouldn't have launched the war anyway, and on some pretext that we'd only now be discovering was counterfeit?)

It does not accept the concept of principled opposition, either inside the administration or outside of it. It refuses to be bound by anything more than its political appetites. It wants what it wants, and it does what it wants. It is, at its heart, and in the strictest definition of the word, lawless.

It has the perfect front men: a president unable to admit a mistake because he's spent his entire life being insulated from even the most minor of consequences, and a vice-president who is viscerally furious at the notion that he is accountable to anyone at all. They are abetted by a congressional majority in which all of these un-American traits are amplified to an overwhelming din.

So, now we are faced with the question: Do you want to live in a country where these people no longer feel even the vaporous restraints of having another election to win?

Posted by pk at 10:57 AM

July 15, 2004

Get Your Grub On

Rice cereal. Personally, I think it looks nasty. Ben seems to dig it, when he gets it in his mouth.


Posted by mph at 4:20 PM

Things I Never Thought I'd Say at Work

"Eh. When my punditly powers grow too large for this body, I'll consume her and take her place."

On further reflection about the day at work: If I hear "enterprise" too many more times today, I shall certainly scream.

Posted by mph at 11:50 AM

July 13, 2004

Sycamore is Open

That's how Sycamore opened.

That's how ... Sycamore is.

I say this somewhat quietly and without fanfare, because ... well ... because people who like their living green and private don't usually appreciate a lot of fluttering flags and cartwheeling clowns.

Negativland, Escape from Noise

Puddingtime is now reopen for business in radically simplified form. Some plumbing remains unported, but the place is habitable.

Things that are still broken include

Things that are new:

Things that will be coming as I get around to making them so:

One other casualty in the crossfire:

pb.gif A comment from Leopoldo with links to the Internet Wayback Machine's entries on puddingbowl.org and its predecessor at my old ISP in Charlottesville.

I've visited there before, but it was good to go back and see those pages this evening as I sat in front of the computer jiggering things around: The old cstone pages were put together with Emacs and produced using a perl script called genpage. They weren't very fancy because I had no idea how to do anything fancy consistently, and because I was a lot more interested in being able to publish, not design.

One of my favorite relics from there:

My original essay on weblogs, "Last Modified: Fri Sep 10 00:39:56 1999":

It's easy to rhapsodize about the democratizing power of the Internet. It puts the power to "publish" in the hands of anyone with access to modest computing resources. It's easy, in a place and times of plenty, to overlook that it's generally a relative elite taking advantage of this power.

Even so, the Internet has created interesting permutations in the way we communicate with each other. Weblogs form another variation in the personal page, breathing new life into something that was getting remarkably tired for being less than a decade old. They aren't an answer to the traditional media, because they tend to feed off the traditional media. On the other hand, they hint of a future based around personalized, trust-based networks standing in opposition to the shaky, authority-based, profit-motivated news channels we live with now.

There's also an essay on Linux in there somewhere.

Both subjects have something in common: At some point the people in orbit around these things became aware of themselves as a community, so they started talking about themselves, and it became important to be a voice in those communities. Then the little ponytail guys turned up and did their damndest to turn it all to a big goldmine, with the attendant piles of dirt and leavings in the form of trashy, forgettable books, pompous titles, and phony "leaders."

A friend of mine reminded me once that you can't let those people ruin things for you. You should always take the time to point and laugh while they elbow for positions around the trough, but you should never, ever let them take the joy out of anything.

Posted by mph at 7:53 AM

July 11, 2004


And to move it away from the meta just a hair:

If you're feeling morose and unhappy over the sort of spam you've been getting lately, it's definitely a good idea to not watch "Capturing the Friedmans until you're feeling a little better.

It's a documentary about a family that went through the father being found out as a kiddie porn consumer, and the subsequent trials he and his son went through for a massive number of child molestation charges. Adding to the creep factor is the fact that the family happened to be compulsive home movie makers, and the sons were more than happy to train a camera on arguments as they all unraveled under the stress.

Most of the reviews (to edge meta again, in another direction) caught what I did: Disentangling the chaos and confusion of a pedophilia witch hunt driven in part by "recovered memories" along with the rather large entanglement of the father's very real pedophilia is a nearly impossible task.

Where "Paradise Lost" seemed happy to push the viewer into a few conclusions that differed radically from the trial outcomes, and even circled back around to finger a suspect of its own, "Capturing the Friedmans" prefers to hang back. There are a few moments where the cops who presided over the hysteria are allowed to contradict what the viewer can plainly see on screen, and there are some juxtapositions of informative subtitles against spoken word that point to contradictions and problems with the prosecution. But the documentary never makes a case. It contents itself to document the family coming apart, then offers only a small sense of very personal resolution at the end.

That refusal to render final judgement has driven a few reviewers to distraction, but it makes for a more challenging film that resonates for a while instead of ending up filed under "outrage about which we're piqued but unable to change." It's superior to the "issue film" it could have become. But it's a tough one, too.

Posted by mph at 10:20 PM

There Be Dragons Here

Once upon a time, I was the boss of a site that pulled in 500,000 page views a day and had a readership that was alternately devoted, fanatical, and vile depending on how well you'd stuck to their orthodoxies on a given day. Only once did I ever feel like any of them turned on me. It was not a bad gig.

The sites I work on these days have a significantly smaller readership, and they're much more quiet about their reading. It's an odd month when I hear from any of them. In fact, I have to go over to my old site, where my writing for my new sites is periodically linked, to read what people are saying. Like:

OMG! If you are even thinking about reading this article, then you've already wasted too much time on it. It is garbage!

I don't know what kind of traffic we do here. My obsessive compulsive statistic tracking makes it hard to figure out how many people are coming through all the parts of the site: the wiki, gallery, other gallery, blog, and some side projects all get their own stats pages, and I'm far too lazy to go around adding it all up, or cleaning up my slovenly virtual domains long enough to create an extra log (maybe I will now that I've confessed). But Puddingtime proper has a running average of about 400 visits a day on a good day, and a little more than 10,000 visits a month. My stats package tells me the average visitor comes back once or twice.

Of the non-returns, here's what most of them came here for this month:

Last month it was more of the same, though this month is odd in being one of the first in which "pudding" hasn't been in the top ten inbound Google queries.

Anyhow, I'm laying all that out (especially the numbers) to make the point that I'm much more pleased and grateful for the relative few who come through here. On the old, big site, we used to swing for the bleachers, hoping to get a slashdotting (so we could laugh at how puny the Slashdot effect was becoming and to get an extra 10,000 or so page views). Here, I'm just happy when the referer log tells me we've appeared in a blogroll somewhere even though we don't know the person who put us there.

I'm also laying all that out so no one takes it wrong when I say I now officially hate Web design and consider myself in completely over my head on the matter, and I'm seriously thinking it's time to figure out how far back we can roll the design to something like "Movable Type Classic" without everything becoming too unwieldy.

Three times in the last week, I've been reminded that there's always a browser out there that will break something, even if it's a relatively new browser. I don't even want to name names because I've been dealing with assorted Web browser oddnesses for a while now and I've learned the value of humble silence.

We're not supposed to be about the design here. We're supposed to be about the content. For the record, I admire Gruber's minimal cool, Phil's "well-engineered stuff under basic presentation" contentment, Nate's "riff on the essentials," and b!X's dense but open look. I also admire Ed waiting for months and months and months to change anything at all.

I look at what they've all done and I think "Why am I putting this three column lipstick on this mule?" Except Puddingtime isn't a mule. She's just fine. She's also overdressed, and it's driving me to distraction. Like Mal says to Kaylee: "You'd look like a sheep walking around on its hind legs."

Speaking of Mal and Kaylee:



So I think it's time to delve into the renormalization of Puddingtime. Probably keep the colors and the cowgirl, but the rest... oh... hell hath no wrath like me deciding it's time to get clean and orderly again.

And just to make the point, in case you're one of the three people who's written to say "How come this looks wrong?": Thanks for taking the time to write. Thank you for visiting. This is me in a fit of frustrated perfectionism handing the design driving over to the experts.

Posted by mph at 9:58 PM

July 9, 2004

The Trouble with Comments (Updated)

I spent some of last night helping Michael B. get MTBlacklist installed. The past few days have seen a real jump in comment spam here and there, and I dealt with my first truly concentrated trackback spamming attack this week.

Even with MTBlacklist, there's still drudgework involved in clearing that kind of thing out, not to mention the sense that someone has come along and thrust my nose full into a pile of shit they're trying to peddle to desperately fucked up people. I try to get it off the site as quickly as possible, and I'm not interested in cataloging what's depicted in some of the seemingly innocuous URLs I try to investigate before banning them. It's enough to say that pornography has gone in roughly the same direction as American political discourse: The cheesecake center hasn't held.

Every time I have to wade through a pile of comment spam pointing to sites that sell degradation and the sexualization of misery I feel a little more depressed. At some point in the past few months, I passed out of the relativistic bubble I'd sealed myself into as that sort of stuff passed through my inbox and over my pages and into a state of anger and sadness.

Maybe it's about having Ben in the house now and the involuntary process I go through, as have other parents I've talked to, when I'm exposed to something I might have previously blown off. I don't think of myself undergoing whatever's being depicted. I think of Ben. I don't wonder if I'll ever feel some need to consume the degradation and humiliation of others. I wonder what makes other people need that, and I wonder if I could fail Ben in such a way that he'd have that need. If I needed it driven home any more, the scum that posted links to their sites in the comments in Ben's gallery pretty much accomplished that.

This is a matter that raises some uncomfortable and prickly issues, and it's looming as a point at which much of the friendly go-along/get-along relativism I've adopted must fail, but it's what's on my mind lately. I've spent the last week almost daily fending off yet another attempt to turn my pages into an advertisement for someone else's sexualized malice.

The unhappy fact at the heart of it is that if you run a weblog, especially if you run a weblog using popular software, these people find you. Sensing that weblog maintainers are beginning to rally against them, they've even taken to seeding their spam with truly harmless URLs as a way of taking up a little more of the webmaster's time, maybe hoping that eventually the whole thing will become enough of a chore that site maintainers will just give up.

I'm leaning more toward eliminating comments as part of Puddingtime and moving them over to something like phpBB, or just spending more time trying to incite fellow scoopists to do something besides lurk. Either way, it seems like something has to give.

Update: I did take one step I probably should have a long time ago: I installed the MTCloseComments plugin and set it to close comments on any item more than three weeks old. The prevailing wisdom seems to be that older entries are the most abused because they've built up an exploitable Google presence. Hopefully this will do a little more to stop the worst of it. Existing comments aren't affected, but the form that allows comments to be entered is removed (less as a courtesy to spam bots than the occasionally confused reader who comes across an older entry off the search engines).

Free assistance to anyone with an established blog who could use a hand setting this up.

Posted by mph at 6:40 PM

July 8, 2004

What is the W. Doctrine?

Josh Marshall inches toward some kind of crux vis-a-vis what he sees as the widespread belief that "promoting democracy," now the default rationale for the Iraq war, is a central focus of the Bush administration's foreign policy.

Looking at the record, he says, it isn't, not any more than it's ever been in American foreign policy. Bush is no more likely than any other president to make short-term geostrategic sacrifices for the long-term well-being of a foreign population, and has demonstrated as much in his policy towards every nation.

The generous conclusion to draw is simply to say we can't judge Bush foreign policy on those grounds, or expect him to consistently apply such policy. Which comes as no surprise to anyone who saw the scorn with which Bush spoke the words "nation building" in a 2000 debate.

The less generous conclusion is to say that this rationale for the Iraq war has always been just as dishonest as the previous rationales of fighting terrorists and finding WMDs.

We invaded Afghanistan, with justification, because the terrorist network was inextricably intertwined with the Taliban "government." It remains to be seen how real is our commitment to peace and democracy there. My guess is we'll settle for "stability," but I really haven't heard much about Afghanistan since that football player died. Have you?

We invaded Iraq not for terrorists or Saddam but for the same bouquet of reasons we always do things, but Bush was able to be more brazen about it than usual. Our fears of terrorists, and Saddam's incorrigible brutality, gave Bush the talking points he needed to get support for it (at least domestically) even if all the other reasons evaporated (and they have). Absent all other excuses, opponents of the war could always be shouted down: Would they prefer that Saddam was still in power? Of course, no one would.

And, of course, no reasonable person, whatever his or her feelings about Bush or the Iraq war, can look at Iraq since the handover of sovereignty (whatever it means) and hope that things don't turn out well. It certainly goes against any "liberal" conviction or instinct I've ever had. I hope the Iraqi people are able to take their future in both hands.

But, even without waiting to see if next year's Iraq election is free to produce results unfriendly to the U.S., I'm no more convinced of the Bush administration's commitment to charitable nation-building than I was when Bush derided the idea four years ago. Marshall's post is instructive in removing that from consideration as any kind of guiding philosophy for this administration.

The most tragic aspect of the war in Iraq may turn out to be that it was not sold or undertaken in the interests of global democracy, let alone the Iraqi people. Iraq cannot be allowed to slide into chaos, and the administration's conduct of the war and the diplomacy leading up to it has ensured that other nations are little obligated or inclined to help. It is up to America to see it through, struggling uphill against rock-bottom Iraqi opinions of our strategies, our methods, and our goals.

Unfortunately, just at the moment when history needs the American public's buy-in, recent polls show that we are believing less and less that the war had anything to do with terrorists or WMDs, and caring less and less about freeing Iraqis.

Bush invaded Iraq because he thought it would be easy. He gave reasons that never existed for his war of choice, and he is now left waging it for a reason he never believed in; a reason that, in his ignorance and haste, he never prepared the American people for, but one that may be, ironically, the only reason it was ever worth waging.

Posted by pk at 11:47 AM

July 7, 2004

"I look forward to a spirited debate."

So said President Bush when informed of John Kerry's choice of John Edwards as running mate, and so says he anytime anyone asks him about the campaign. When he'll personally join said debate is anyone's guess, but in today's New York Times, administration mouthpiece William Safire deigns to remark upon Kerry's pick.

Loftily casting aspersions with his left hand while his teacup rattles in his right, Safire hides his fear of Edwards's addition to the ticket behind a fig leaf of pundit disdain. For help, he dials up his friend Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. Even strategically, the two contend, the move makes little sense, since Edwards can't be counted on to automatically deliver his home state of North Carolina or its neighbors.

My own view is that Edwards need only help loosen the grip of the GOP's Southern Strategy, take those states out of BushCheney's automatic column, and force them to spend time and money contesting them--and I believe he will. Moreover, I think Edwards' Southern appeal extends far beyond the old Confederacy. He speaks a language voters in Ohio, Iowa, Michigan, and Pennsylvania will respond to. Let Republicans in their hubris satisfy themselves that Edwards can't win Kerry electoral votes in the South; he'll be busy winning the crucial swing voters up North.

But strategy is for chumps who don't know the fix is in. It's more satisfying for Safire and Graham to declare that Kerry's choice illustrates yet again the fundamental rot in his moral and political soul. "Charisma gap!" they agree. "Not a pick of confidence!" they exult. "No such thing as a charisma transplant!" they plead.

Apparently it would have been more sporting for Kerry to pick another colorless pol to join him, rather than a running mate who will lend needed energy and warmth to the ticket. A "pick of confidence," Safire judges, would have been the albino automaton Dick Gephardt, stolid and experienced, whom Safire praises with faint damning the same way conservatives gush over Joe Lieberman when they want to seem non-partisan. Of course it's clear why Safire is really sorry Kerry didn't pick Gephardt, but instead he mews that Edwards's public resume is too thin, and Edwards himself a policy lightweight. "In making his decision yesterday," Safire sternly intones, "Kerry should have kept that criterion of 'the best man ready to take over' uppermost in his mind." In choosing Edwards, Kerry "chose the political hottie."

Now, it's not like Kerry chose The Rock or Jessica Simpson, but this is fair, to a point, and lack of experience is why I didn't support Edwards's primary campaign. Right or wrong, though, this matters less when considering him for vice president, heartbeat away or no. More to the point, Edwards's public record is as long as George W. Bush's was in 2000--and his career before that was, arguably, a good deal more accomplished. (I suppose it's unfair to also point out that Dan Quayle was hardly a dignified elder statesman when Bush Sr. tapped him in 1988.)

Candidate George W. Bush, Safire notes approvingly, showed real noblesse-oblige in 2000 when Dick Cheney became his running mate, because obviously Cheney didn't add one gram of sexpolitik to the ticket. The Cheney choice, sniffs Safire, "was directed at governing, not campaigning." And there's no arguing with that: it was clear that Dick Cheney announced himself for viceroy because he relished the dark bunker and the levers of power; it was up to Bush to win the campaign on his own, with his shaggy-dog syntax and dumb, Disney-hero resolve.

But Safire's smug appraisal falls apart when he generously grants that Bush, in selecting Cheney, was also compensating for perceived gaps--and then attempts to make a virtue of the fact that Bush was covering gaps not in his political charm, like Kerry, but in his ability to do the job.

Safire then wisely scurries to the Edwards-talking-point buffet, tray groaning with insinuations and non-assertions. Edwards may look good, ladies, but at 51 he's "no spring chicken." He's "adept at persuading juries" (slick) and a "quick study" (slick) who in "only five years in public office" has "learned to half-answer and slip around hard questions." He's slick, you see. Just like another honey-tongued son of the South we know.

Acknowledging the potency of Edwards's "two Americas" primary stump speech, Safire calls Edwards "the happy class warrior, the smoothest divisive force in politics today." (It's unclear how this compares unfavorably to President Bush's coarse divisiveness.) Safire notes that, in their suspiciously "coordinated statements" yesterday, "both the patrician Kerry and the multimillionaire Edwards took pains to identify themselves with the 'struggling' middle class."

Republicans hate to acknowledge the existence of classes in America, let alone the idea that one or more of them might be "struggling" for any reason other than drug use, rap music, or moral turpitude. Why should it seem more suspicious that the two Democrats are millionaires than that the two Republicans are? Because the one thing Republicans hate more than a "class warrior" is a politician who's a traitor to his. Apparently the only form of hypocrisy Republicans disparage is that of a wealthy liberal trying to ensure equality of opportunity and a living wage for those able to earn it against the power and bottom-line pressures of big business and Wall Street.

It is part of the myth of American exceptionalism that safe working conditions, injury compensation, child-labor laws, and paid vacations came to the coal mine and the factory floor without the efforts of--and violent opposition to--labor organizers, political reformers, and government regulators. These--along with trial lawyers--have ever been the scourge of our grand free-market society, Safire believes, and if we never needed them before, then we don't need Kerry and Edwards and their disingenuous populism now.

But voters in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Michigan know a different history and a different present. In Bush's America there is an eight-lane expressway dividing those to whom his tax cut brought $300 and a layoff, and those to whom it brought $300,000 and a military contract. All Republicans offer the former group are the thrill of national militarism and the balm of moral righteousness.

President Bush has yet to create the first new job of his administration, and if Democrats seek support out of the growing disenchantment of those failing to find prosperity in his Darwinian economy, then it would behoove Republicans to acknowledge there is fertile soil for the strategy. Of course, I personally hope they go on believing the delusions of William Safire.

Posted by pk at 2:53 PM

July 4, 2004

Much Better

Posted by mph at 2:41 PM

July 3, 2004

Buzz (Updated)

Updated twice, now, because blogging, as it turns out, is an excellent way to fret about hair.

It's not my habit to worry about my hair. For one, I know which way it's headed: I'm going to have less and less up front, and some day I'm going to look like David Crosby, only without his gravitas. There'll be a pink, scorched dome on top, surrounded on three sides by hair. It'll look like a spray-painted ostrich egg in a nest made of scavenged hair. If I get vain about it now, it's just going to be pathetic and sad later.

So I recently bought a hair brush for it, because it's gotten pretty long and the last time I let it get anywhere near this long I also ended up with this knot about the size of a strawberry right down near my neck, and it eventually had to be cut with scissors. I was twenty, so I forgive myself, but it was a painful experience because the scissors were dull. But never let it be said I haven't learned anything in the last 16 years: I bought the brush this time, and I've been using it.

And that brings us to this morning, as we prepared to head downtown for some book shopping and Mexican food eating. I was very conscientious, since we were about to be seen in public, about running the brush through my hair. And it suddenly went from a vaguely Christ-like "flowing tresses" to ... poofy. It just went poof. It hovered around my head all afternoon, occasionally blowing into my eyes with a gentle poofing feeling. Poof. Badly irritating, and not at all dignified.

So it's got to go. I've decided. It's either that or get silver hair spray and go for the freakadelic funkmeister from Planet Booty look.

And that leaves us with the beard issue, because (like I noted at the top) I don't like to worry about my hair. So if any of it goes, it all goes. And if I'm taking all the hair off the top of my head, I'm left with a beard that will look really stupid... like that story about the monkey who took the barber's daughter after the barber shaved his beard and tried to glue it back on with coconut fuzz. Pretty much the only beard that goes with "close cropped" is the goatee. And somewhere in the last few years goats have gone from "Hmmm" to "I'll be god damned if I'm going to go around looking like Goldberg."

I don't think of it like getting a hair cut. I think of it like "Well, ma, the back 40's gotten kinda overgrown. Gonna go grab the rider and take it down a foot."

And if you're reading, Mr. "Seemingly Kindly Old Man I Ran Into at Powell's Who Suddenly Got Nasty and Insinuating About People Who Shoot with Digital Instead of Film After I Tried to Help You Figure Out Whether Adobe Illustrator Has a Decent AppleScript Dictionary," this is what I do with my camera. I document my hair before removing it with clippers. I desaturate the picture because the upset over all the poofiness has made my skin angry and blotchy. Then I post it on the Web, contributing further to the useless clutter that threatens to choke all of Western Civilization. You were right, as it turns out, obviously no one does anything useful with digital cameras. Rest well tonight. Make it a double. Kiss your wife on the cheek.

And now I'm going to eat a burrito, which makes it "Mexican twice today," which is anathema to some people who believe one should never have the same kind of ethnic food twice in the same day. If I could go back to this morning and eat a breakfast burrito, though, I would, just to make the point that you won't die.

Update: Well, Alison decided she would die if we had Mexican twice, so we ordered a pizza instead.

Update 2: Al wasn't willing to help me cut it off last night, so it's gotta happen today. But I woke up and noticed that a night of sleeping on it (and the two drool-coated fists Ben plunged into it last night) didn't do much to restore it to its former unpoofiness. A little, but not much. So that raises the possibility of just making not ever washing it except for weddings and birthdays a policy, or buying some kind of product to fix it. Neither is appealing. One is itchy and the other is probably smelly. I know it's time to come to grips with the fact that I had my time in the long hair sun many, many years ago. It's gone now. Plus, with short hair, I'll be able to wear my prized copyleft hat again. Up 'til now, the only hat I've been willing to wear has either been my black stocking hat (winter) or my green "Seattle Sombrero" (other seasons).

There's also the question of whether it's possible to remain a professional Unix pundit without a beard, but I think there are maybe three or four of us left, and one of them has drunk so deeply of rabid "Sun must open the source to everything or face annihilation!" koolaid I don't think he counts anymore. Getting rid of the beard might be a powerful brand differentiator.

Posted by mph at 7:39 PM

July 2, 2004

Because You Never Know

No small amount of happiness to note that gmail is finally allowing address book imports from Safari. There were rumors among the Mac people that older (pre 0.8) versions of Camino would let you import a CSV file, and there's even an Applescript to make this happen using the OS X address book, but there was no such option from Safari, newer Caminos, or Firefox until I checked back tonight.

It promptly crashed Safari, but not before uploading all my contacts.

Because the first thing I did when I brought "Chuck Yeager's Flight Simulator" home for my Commdore 64 was see if it was true that the program was realistic enough to make a mach 2 nosedive from 90,000 feet cause the screen to go black from the "stress" on the player, it also seemed sensible to try to import my contacts twice, which is something Yahoo! mail has allowed from my Palm on a few occasions. God bless the gnomes of Google, they were on the lookout for that and it wouldn't let me.

So now, as I pointed out to Ed, who is flatly disinterested in this rationale, if I'm ever knocked over the head, loaded into a plane, and dropped onto the streets of Cairo, I'll be able to check my mail (because everything that comes in across the server gets cloned by procmail and squirted over to gmail) without having to worry about yet another Squirrelmail security issue.

It's another reason to dig VoodooPad, too, which provides a way to make sure my Brain pad is available in the same basic way I use it at home from anywhere, including a dusty 'net cafe in Cairo.

And that's pretty much the overriding consideration for everything. I think it's the only reason I bother to maintain my own server at all: You never know when you're going to get knocked over the head and dumped somewhere, and when the chips are down you'll want to be able to find a browser... any browser... and get at stuff like the contact information for your travel agent, who'll get you a ticket home. Or a link to that really cool site with all the funny animations so you can pass the time waiting for your travel agent to get through to you.

Posted by mph at 9:56 PM