Message Of The Day

Thu, 31 Oct 2002

19:19 [zork(~/madness)] cat intro.txt


You know, I saw in a movie how people on stilts can run 45 miles per hour.

18:17 [zork(~/nick/blosxom)] cat inkblot-whinge.txt

Inkblot's whingeing

So after Nate threw a hissy fit and broke this thing, holding his breath until it was fixed, I threw in an exception wrapper.

    story = file(filename).readlines()
    return current_date

I submitted that fix upstream, so life should be good.

I have made a madness/ directory, and it is world-writable, with the tmp bit on. This means that anyone can make a new file and play with it, but you can't futz with other peoples' entries. I'll prime it in a moment.

I dunno how I'd manage the colored entries, really. This system doesn't pay much attention to a file before slurping it up, so I'm not sure what styles I could throw on in a per-directory fashion.

17:41 [zork(~/kickaha)] cat 2002-10-31T08:17:16-0800.txt

ebook obsession

I might finally buy some ebook reader the form of the original rocket ebook reader. I've ruled out palm devices because of sccree size, franklin's ebookmen because, well, they suck, the zaurus will have to wait until I have $$$, and the gemstar/RCA ebooks are are so encumbered with DRM gar they have nearly killed the ebook reader market. The REB1100 can be tricked into loading free content but it also has a modem and Keys and ID's and nasty firmware updates. I'm now watching a bunch of items on ebay so maybe I'll have an ebook reader soon and can stop obsessing.

09:42 [zork(~/inkblot)] cat 2002-10-31T01:35:12-0800.txt

ha ha SBC Yahoo DSL!

So, I got this bifold advertizement flyer thingy in the snail mail the other day for SBC Yahoo DSL. On the "cover" side of the thingy, there's this absurd image of this guy's face. He's wide-eyed and his jaw is dropped. The blood vessels in his eyes have clearly been photoshopped out. Obviously, SBC Yahoo wishes to convey that this person is shocked at some aspect of SBC Yahoo's DSL service, perhaps the price or the speed or something. I'm rambling.

I think he looks like he's getting eviscerated.

05:18 [zork(~/inkblot)] cat 2002-10-30T21:18:21-0800.txt



Wed, 30 Oct 2002

17:22 [zork(~/inkblot)] cat 2002-10-30T09:22:23-0800.txt

Welcome to Cyberspace!

does my hair look ok?

03:56 [zork(~/kickaha)] cat grain.txt

Paper Grain

Nick, your points on grain are well taken. I hadn't even considered the effect grain would have when using consumer laser paper. The experience I have had is that most consumer laser paper is long grain. This is confimred by some research I did today. This is good news for the 4up binding I've been doing since the fold ends up being along the long edge of letter paper. I have bound a couple 2up books, including one I sent to Neale and those don't fold near as nice

I have a 4up version of canticle I'm binding for my sister and I might make one for myself. I still like he cheap and easy technique I'm using and the books seem to be pretty sturdy. The 700 page Vinge book I sewed into a Corn Flakes box has held up well and was fairly easy to read. My only complaint is that the margins are really small. But that's what I get for cramming the book into small pages. I have my eye on some bookbinding how-to books so I can learn the proper art of bookbinding, but sewing sections into cereal boxes is just lots of fun.

Mon, 28 Oct 2002

23:52 [zork(~/nick/blosxom)] cat flavors.txt

Custom flavoring

So I hacked up pyblosxom to support flavors in more than just the top-level dir. You can play with them by hacking up the .html files from /var/www/motd, and copying them to your MOTD dir. See for an example of how I abused this, and look through /var/www/motd/nick to see how I got this to work (and how I made it stick in my subcategories).

23:50 [zork(~/nick/bookbinding)] cat grain.txt

The Gospel of Paper Grain

So while at the aforementioned calligrapher, I mentioned that I was helping folks hack up little long-stitch signature-bound books. I explained that it was really hackish, and not for raw aesthetics.

She immediately pegged me with how the grain worked out in our little laser-printed setups. I kind of stumbled for a moment, and she showed me a few demonstrations about how paper grain affects binding.

Basically, machine-made paper is created in a roller, and the fiber particles get stretched in one direction. Typically on standard paper this follows the top edge, so that when you read an ordinary loose-leaf sheet, the grain runs to the right and left.

She handed me a book that had been bound incorrectly, with the grain running perpendicular to the spine. It was noticeably difficult to turn pages and keep them flat. I would have criticized the paper as being "too stiff" or perhaps badly glossed, but it was simply a matter that it was bound in the wrong orientation.

Take a ream of ordinary letter paper (or A4 I guess), and lay a heavy book two or three inches from the top edge. Try flipping through that top edge. Now do the same with the right edge. You should find that it's tougher to flip that way, even if you cut the ream into a perfect square.

Likewise, notice that when you fold or tear a piece of letter paper, the crease or tear is straighter when it follows the grain. It's no accident then that the standard American letter-paper 'zine format has as its spine the 8.5" bisecting line of an 8.5"x11" piece of letter paper.

Another test you can do is to dampen a piece of paper and watch it dry. Maybe you have a phone book that was under the sink for too long, or a favorite toilet reader that spent too much time in the shower steam. Maybe you spilled coffee on a magazine or textbook. You should see that the ripples of the distorted paper are all visible mostly from the top and bottom edge of the monograph, while the foredge and spine are still mostly straight.

This is because the fibers in the paper like to stretch out when they're waterlogged, creating uneven tensions in the structure of the sheet. The importance of this fact is that when you bind with glue along the spine (typically for perfect-binding, though some signature binding techniques have been known to do the belt-and-suspenders thing), you don't want the spine itself to try and lengthen, as that will crack the pages out when the ripples start forming.

I saw this happen many times with the books that the Internet Archive Bookmobile were handing out, and it wasn't until I got religion on paper grain that I realized what had caused it. It's a real pity that they were handing out such poorly-bound books. Had they made sure to make the spine parallel to the grain, the books would have been easier to manipulate and more durable besides.

23:19 [zork(~/nick/gar/lnx-bbc)] cat gcc-hacked.txt

Dave Barry hacks GCC

Well, it's not the cleanest of solutions, but God bless Dave Barry for hacking up GCC to build something like what we want. There's a big hairy patch up at that makes my head nearly spin, but I think it's a good thing. We're still working on getting the dirs right, but somehow Dave says that doing so breaks things.

My hatred for big old packages with crufty build systems grows. At least the Linux kernel build system is something that lots of people use, so it's only really showing its age in the area of feature dependencies. But gcc and X make me physically cringe when I think about them.

05:46 [zork(~/dmarti)] cat 2002-10-27T21:33:30-0800.txt

First Message of the Day

Moving sucks, but you knew that.

Do any of the Zork crowd need a reasonably good 2u 2-processor x86 server for a free software project or community site? I have one not currently in use, but it's loud as a sumbitch and needs a good home far away from me.

There's a pretty good chance I'm available to provide Virtual Bus service to Caltrain riders who need to get to Mountain View on weekends from the Palo Alto stop. The catch is that I don't usually check my mail on weekends.

Sun, 27 Oct 2002

21:18 [zork(~/nick/gar/lnx-bbc)] cat libstdc++.txt

I hated XFree86, but now I just hate GCC

I hacked and sawed for months before Dave Barry finally pushed TinyX into my face, and I realized that it was exactly what the LNX-BBC needed. It was a quick day's work to get it mostly set up in a pretty good fashion.

But since we were not about to take twm, I nixed it in favor of hackedbox. The problem: hackedbox is C++, and our isn't getting installed. This is giving us big headaches, as no matter how many ways we build gcc, it only ever gets bigger yet never succeeds in installing libstdc++!

It's enough to make me pine for the days when it was a separate package, and we may end up having to use a pre-2.95 version of the thing in the end as a hideous patch. GAR.

20:49 [zork(~/nick/bookbinding)] cat japanese.txt

A Japanese Binding

As my fiancee and I were at our calligrapher's studio the other day, I chanced to mention my interest in bookbinding. We talked for a long time, and she eventually gave me some handouts she'd made for her own bookbinding class. It turns out that calligraphy is often part of a larger discipline of manuscript, and so the creation of the entire book is taught.

This particular technique is for perfect binding without gluing the spine. Regardless of this, it is still important for the grain of the paper to run parallel to the spine.

[pattern for covering around board and spine reinforcement: 3/4 inches around the board, sloping in at spine piece to extend out a little under 2 inches]

There is a pretty good coverage of how to do the final lacing at

09:04 [zork(~/nick/blosxom)] cat PST8PDT.txt

Standard Time

I just noticed that the clock rolled back to 1am, thanks to daylight savings ending here in California.

I'm curious as to whether or not this entry (roughly 1:05PST) will be placed later than the previous one (1:27PDT).

08:27 [zork(~/nick/web)] cat css-fu.txt

Stupid CSS tricks

Okay, so I was bored, so I went ahead and did a green button. I now find it utterly baffling that this little trick isn't more widespread. I see all these stupid little GIFs for the syndication buttons on all these sites I find.

So the CSS for it is just this:

.button {   background: #ff6600;
    color: white;
    border-left:   1px solid #ff9a57;
    border-top:    1px solid #ffc8a4;
    border-right:  1px solid #7d3302;
    border-bottom: 1px solid #3f1a01;
    padding: 0px 0.5em 0px 0.5em;
    font-family: helvetica, arial, sans-serif;
    font-weight: bold;
    font-size: small;
    text-decoration: none; }

Then you make your link <a class="button" href="rss.xml">XML</a> and up comes a little orange button. You can even put all thet style nonsense into the style= attribute of the a tag if you want.

05:22 [zork(~/nick/blosxom)] cat pyblosxom.txt


So nobody should notice, but I switched from the Perl version of blosxom to the python version. One bonus this gives is the ability to define little filter modules to the text. I had hand-hacked in the blank-lines-separate-paragraphs bit to the Perl version, but I've been able to do still more by simply hacking pyblosxom to use a default filter.

It can cache the files if things get too slow, but I don't imagine that will happen.

The most notable changes are that URLs such as and will be translated (the second one was "", and the URL has to be separated by whitespace -- I may add angle brackets or something to the mix at some point).

Also, you can do emphatic text with the application of asterisks. (that was just "emphatic text" -- again, spaces make the magic happen).

04:26 [zork(~/muse)] cat 2002-10-24T20:03:09-0700.txt



Fri, 25 Oct 2002

14:32 [zork(~/nick/web)] cat css.txt

Ha ha CSS

Man, so Paul Gray's crazy CSS is so leet. Did you know that the RSS button on the right is not an image? I made a styleeee so you can make orange buttons with all kinds of text really simply. I'll have to work out other colors at some point, I think.

12:05 [zork(~/woot)] cat mobius-snake.txt.txt

emptying the contents of the car into the lake

So, um. <pre> 09:01 <@CrackMonkey> eat that, ed lang! </pre>

I like the way it looks suitably consolish.

09:22 [zork(~/nick/blosxom)] cat apologies.txt

Spam spam spam spam

Okay, sorry folks. I was just testing out blagg. You can look at ~nick/.blagg for a sample config file. It's probably not all that useful, but you can just set the thing up to troll various sites and slurp in articles.

I really only installed it for completeness, but I should have probably made a subdir for the stuff before I started monkeying.

But that <a href="">book entry</a> is actually the book I'm reviewing.

08:26 [zork(~/nick/blosxom)] cat octal.txt


<a href="">Octal</a>:

I figure I'll post it once enough of the wrinkles are ironed out. It looks like <a href="">muse</a> and <a href="">inkblot</a> managed to use the script to set up their dirs, so things are probably about ready to announce.

This is partly just a neat little hack that I'm using as part of the research for an article, but at some point this will reach a level of functionality where I figure it could be a useful fixture for zork. I'm interested partly in installing blagg and seeing how to integrate that into a multi-user environment. The blosxom stuff was mostly written with a single-user MacOSX system in mind, so I'm playing and fiddling.

Note that there's also a <a href="">python version</a> of this software that supports the same data files. the difference is that I added the one-line hack to get the blank-line-denotes-paragraphs feature to the perl version, while the python system has a more elaborate parser setup that I have yet to fully work out.

At any rate, I'll play and fiddle for at least a week yet.

07:01 [zork(~/octal)] cat motd.txt

Stuff, and Stuff

So, when are you going to post motd to motd?

05:27 [zork(~/inkblot)] cat 2002-10-24T21:27:12-0700.txt

hi. i'm not blogging... or something.

04:34 [zork(~/nick/blosxom)] cat script.txt


<a href="">Octal</a>:

The script enforces a bit of policy by making the user's subdir and giving the file the appropriate .txt extension. Did you know that you can type "motd tinkerbell" and it'll make a tinkerbell.txt file?

Of course, it's not as powerful as simply editing the files yourself. It can't do sub-subdirs, for example (all slashes get turned to underscores). But it's good for getting folks to make entries off the bat.

04:29 [zork(~/octal)] cat 2002-10-24T20:28:29-0700.txt


So, is this motd script really necessary? I mean REALLY necessary? I mean, what's so hard?

04:24 [zork(~/nick/blosxom/ttt)] cat haha.txt


Did you know you can make subdirs of your personal dirs, and categorize your entries thusly?

03:57 [zork(~/nick/blosxom)] cat usrlocalbin.txt

another motd test

Wow, this stuff is coming along, eh.


03:56 [zork(~/nick/blosxom)] cat 2002-10-24T19:56:24-0700.txt


I'm playing with my new fancy motd script, which makes new entries in your motd dir.

Neat like my feet.

03:38 [zork(~/nick/blosxom)] cat again.txt


I'm also playing with pyblosxom, which promises more advanced froofergee.

But it doesn't seem to actually work.

03:03 [zork(~/octal)] cat urls.txt

How does this work?

Does it automagically linkify urls like ?

02:48 [zork(~/octal)] cat so.txt


If I make this multiple lines, is the first the subject?

02:46 [zork(~/octal)] cat huk.txt

Huk Huk Huk

02:43 [zork(~/spork)] cat emohteedee.txt

How do you read the motd's on zork?

  1. suspects
  2. elbows

02:40 [zork(~/nick/blosxom)] cat foo.txt

Trying blank-line munging.

Let's see if this does the trick...


02:16 [zork(~/nick/blosxom)] cat start.txt

Starting it up

So I've been writing this big article on why diaries are not weblogs, etc, and blosxom was the only free software it listed. <p/> I'm a little irritated that I have to type in HTML, but I may just throw a big PRE tag in.

[zork(~)] cal
[zork(~)] tree
[zork(~)] cat README