Archive for September, 2004

Humor, Linkdumped

Monday, September 20th, 2004

The linkdumper script is already hard at work. Here’s a collection of funny links that have been gathering dust in a folder all summer. (”Summer” is an astronomical term which has no bearing on the weather of the past 3 months.)

Bunny humor:

Geek humor:

Fan humor:

Political and sociological humor:

Converting .webloc files

Sunday, September 19th, 2004

Speech of the day: Aragorn’s ever-popular not this day monologue

Warning: Geeking ahead!

Safari and most other Mac browsers will save individual links as a clickable .webloc file, recognizable by the little “HTTP” on the document icon. I’m always dragging links from Safari or Mail to the desktop for later reading, blogging, or filing away. When I’m off-line and I just want to click something later, a webloc is fine, but when I have a huge folder full of links, reopening each one in Safari can be a pain. Cutting and pasting links for a link dump blog entry is time-consuming. There ought to be a script for that, so I wrote one.

Webloc files are hard to work with because the URL is in the resource fork. Here are a few useful links that discuss getting the URLs out of the resource fork—incidentally, this link dump is an example of my new script in action:

The case I really wanted to handle was my collection of reference links. Normal people would bookmark them but I keep them in folders sorted by topic, along with html and other files. I’ve tried wikis and blogs and xml DTDs for keeping information organized, but I’ve found that the best knowledge management software for me is the Apache webserver that came with my mac. Safari will display xml, text, html, pdf, and rtf, plus my local WordPress writing journal, so I keep all my writing info on my local website. I use a php script to index each directory and provide navigation. The system works perfectly, except that I can’t see the .webloc files or open them through Apache—they can only be opened by clicking on them in the Finder.

So I took a shell script from one of the macosxhints articles about converting Mac weblocs to the PC analogue, and hacked it until it took a bunch of weblocs and converted them to an html list, which can be easily cut and pasted into the blog. The output is actually a full html page (sent to stout) which I can use for my local web pages. The script can be edited easily to change the html. At some point I may make a version that outputs markdown-native links.

To use the script, download linkdumper.txt. Change the permissions so it’s executable (chmod 755 linkdumper.txt), rename it if you’d like, then run it in the Terminal. Typing ./linkdumper.txt *.webloc should work, if you don’t understand shell scripts. If you type just ./linkdumper.txt, you get a short help blurb. I keep my copy of the script in ~/Library/Scripts/, though I had to add that directory to my path. Please keep in mind that I know very little about shell scripting, and weird things may happen. Weird things happened during the hacking of this script, though I’ve been unable to reproduce them.

Pardon the extreme geeking.

P.S. I forgot to link Faviconic, a nice little program to add a site’s favicon to its webloc icon.

John Gatto

Saturday, September 18th, 2004

I’ve blogged before of the brain-drain theory of what’s wrong with American schools, but here’s a different analysis by John Gatto in his Teacher of the Year Acceptance Speech from 1990: kids have no time to be themselves.

Cool Color Tool

Friday, September 17th, 2004

Voet Cranf has a neat color tool. Click on one of the colored squares, and then on the plus sign that appears in the lower right corner of the square. Then slide the sliders! Or read the directions and find out what all the other controls do.

Upped Versions

Thursday, September 16th, 2004

I’m an Emacs girl myself, but many mac users prefer BBEdit, now up to BBEdit 8.0. Daring Fireball explains the appeal of BBEdit.

Quicksilver is up to β29.

DivX is up to 5.2.

Bookpedia is up to version 1.1.3. If you’d rather not pay for software, there’s a free program that does the same thing (cataloging books), more or less: Books for MacOS X.

The Dunbar Number

Wednesday, September 15th, 2004

If you’ve read The Tipping Point, then you’ve heard that the upper limit to human social networks is about 150 people. The name behind the number is Robin Dunbar, author of Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language. Razib discusses it in a recent GNXP post. The comments on that post led me to this Life with Alacrity post on the Dunbar number.


Tuesday, September 14th, 2004

I was surprised that the Metro was still reporting about Bush’s National Guard service yesterday without mentioning that the recent memos were patent forgeries. Here are all the gory details from the typesetting perspective, and here’s a fun interview with Dan Rather’s ego on the matter. (Thanks to Classical Values for the title and the second Rathergate link.)

Timescape, Ilium

Monday, September 13th, 2004

Pippin of the day: a soldier of Gondor

I’ve been reading mostly short fiction lately, but I got around to a couple of novels. Timescape by Gregory Benford seemed like a good idea at the time—a story about scientists from two different eras. In 1962, a Jewish researcher deals with strange perturbations in his experimental data while trying to understand his native Californian girlfriend. In 1998 (the book was written in 1980) a team of British physicists tries to extract grant money from a world government more concerned about imminent environmental collapse than hypothetical tachyons.

Except for the killer plankton, that’s about the sum total of the science in Timescape. The rest of the novel alternates between Our Hippie Hero’s relationship problems and the sexual escapades of a future Brit bureaucrat. In fact, the main pastime of scientists and their (stay-at-home) wives in 1998 seems to be adultery. The one female scientist I recall was a lesbian. Toss in the Armageddon by Plankton and the predictive power of Timescape approaches zero—not very reassuring in a time-travel novel (of sorts). I’m not sure whether this is a mainstream novel dressed up with tachyons, or a sci-fi novella with 300 pages of characterization tacked on. Either way, you get the picture.

Dan Simmons’ Ilium was the only Hugo nominee I hadn’t read, and now I’ve remedied the situation. Although Nicholas Whyte and Locus rated it first, I was disappointed by the lack of an ending. Paladin of Souls is also part of a series, but a freestanding part. I see now why it won over this book. Ilium left me hanging at the foot of Mt. Olympus.

It was a wild ride, though. Ilium follows the adventures of three sets of characters: several intelligent robots from Jupiter’s moons, a scholar resurrected by the Greek gods to check the progress of the Trojan war against the account in the Iliad, and a group of young eloi—useless, decadent humans—living on Earth. The robots eventually join up with a set of humans, but the other two plots never come together. It’s like reading two entirely separate novels shuffled together into one 575 page volume, and only one of them has anything like an ending.

Here’s another review along the same lines. It’s a fun read and hard to put down, but I wouldn’t recommend starting Ilium until you have your hands on the sequel.

[Update:] I forgot to mention my big nitpick of Ilium. The following are facts related to reproduction on the future Earth:

  1. A lecherous main character is concerned that his cousin may not want to sleep with him because of antiquated incest taboos.
  2. Each woman can reproduce only once.
  3. There is no incest between brothers and sisters because no one has brothers or sisters.
  4. There may be incest between fathers and daughters because no one knows who their father is. They do know their mothers.
  5. The natives believe their population is (artificially) fixed at one million people, though later in the novel this estimate is revised.
  6. Things have been this way for a long time now—to the characters, it seems that they’ve always been this way.

These facts contradict each other in several ways. The two characters cannot be full cousins if no one has any siblings. They could be half-siblings on the father’s side or the half-cousin descendants of such half-siblings, but they would not know it because paternity is not tracked.

Also, the population cannot be fixed at any number, either the original 1,000,000 or the later estimate, because the rate of reproduction (one child per woman) is far below the replacement rate. The number of fertile women would be halved in every generation. That the population is in geometric decline fits the plot of the novel, but the characters don’t seem to realize it. They may be clueless eloi, but that kind of population loss would be hard to miss after several generations.

Blue Screen of Death

Sunday, September 12th, 2004

As the Apple Turns reports on a truly frightening nuclear scenario. I think it’s time to bring back the backyard bomb-shelter fad.

Slashdot can advise you on sheltering in style from that mysterious mushroom cloud over North Korea.

Holiday of the Religion of Peace

Saturday, September 11th, 2004

There’s a convention in London today to celebrate 9/11: “The Choice is in Your Hands: Either You’re with the Muslims or with the Infidels.” Thanks to Classical Values for the link.