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Wednesday, October 13, 2004  permanent URL for this entry

Not much time to write this evening, because I spent lots of time fiddling with the CGI script of my trackbackfier tool so that the HTML that it produces (and that only I will probably ever see, mind you) is fully CSSified and XHTML 1.1 validating.

Not much geek in that, is there? *8)

(On the other hand, note that I'm still perfectly comfortable making them little grinning-face symbols with inline "font" tags, and in general this here log doesn't even nod in the direction of validating; I contain multitudes.)

On this general subject, readers write:

According to the CSS spec, multiple classes can be specified by using spaces in the class="..." string. Why not have your trackbackifier use the space separation to tag an element with multiple attributes?

CSS allows multiple classes, as in class="hidden external tbc"

Well knock me over with a feather, I had no idea! What happens if the various classes have overlapping and contradictory properties? I should go read that bit of the spec.

More generally, a reader writes:

Yes, if you want to include your own attributes, it's probably best to use a namespace. But, at the moment, you're using plain HTML, rather than XHTML, so the namespaces may cause you a problem with validation in the future. On the other hand, attributes that are not understood by the HTML parser should just be ignored, so you should be able to just include them in your HTML as you wish. It is usual to use the initials of the author or the purpose as the namespace specifier. In your case that's not a good idea - there's a group called 'dublin core' that tends to be used for XML (and you may have seen it in RSS - actually you use it in your HTML headers so you must know of this anyhow) so it might be more sensible to use 'dchess' or something similar as your specifier. In the top of the document, at the <html>, change that to say <html xmlns:dchess="http://www.davidchess.com/private-elements"/> (or some similar URL that doesn't have to exist but merely declares your definitions uniquely - even that's not required but it shows the intent of what you're doing). Then when you need to use the attributes you can do so with the dchess namespace - eg, <a href="http://www.acme.com/" dchess:desc="Cartoon rocketry" dchess:tbc="yes" dchess:lemons="not today, ta">acme!</a>.

There is another possibility, however. If I remember correctly, you - like me - wrote the log management system yourself, rather than using one of the newfangled mass-user systems, 'cos they weren't around when you started. As such I presume that you somehow convert from the 'text you write' to the 'html we see' - like putting the side bar on, setting colour scheme, etc. In that process you could strip out any special attributes (or elements for that matter) that might have caused anyone else any complaints. That way only your tracking system sees them and they don't affect the output content of the log. Hope that makes a little sense anyhow :-)

Woo, lots of stuff in there!

While it's traditional to use "dc" as the namespace prefix for the Dublin Core, one can actually use any prefix for anything in one's own documents, since the "xmlns" constructs specify the mapping that applies within that document. Any program that assumed that the "dc" prefix always referred to the Dublin Core would be seriously buggy.

I think?

(So one could create really confusing, but entirely valid, XML documents through the use of intentionally perverse mappings like, say, 'xmlns:rss="http://www.w3.org/TR/xsl"', heh heh.)

I'm still confused about mixing in elements from other namespaces. I mean, if I want my XHTML to validate, can I throw in random other attributes on elements, as long as they're in other namespaces? If so, is that because the definition of XHTML somewhere says "blend-ins okay", or is it a general rule of XML validation? And is XHTML actually XML or not? (I notice the w3c's validator seems to run XHTML things through an SGML parser rather than an XML parser.) I don't know why I don't know all this.

And finally, yeah, I do have an entirely homebrew Content Management System, but (I blush to admit) the only parts that are actually automated are the production of the RSS and Atom files, and the synching of the log files up to the web server. The actual HTML files are still produced entirely by hand in a (really really ancient) text editor. So the text I write is the HTML that you see.

Amazing, eh? *8)

Also the trackbackifier currently works by reading the same HTML that your browser does; of course if I had a real backend system, the trackbackifier could read from the underlying database the same way that the HTML producer would.

Maybe someday!

And, on a similar subject:

As far as I can remember from soapmaking instructions I've read (I keep meaning to make some one of these days), "milling" involves allowing the soap to solidify so it's ready to use, but then grinding it up, re-melting it and letting it solidify again. This makes it harder and last longer.

It's great to have readers that know things. So I can still picture the soap-mill out by a river somewhere in rural France, right? With the willow trees and all?

In the talking place, a reader (or something) writes:

Who are chuck? Who are harry? Who are not here. Who are not of the smelling.

Readers are urged to respond if they feel so moved.

Daze points us to the highly memorable Dictionary of Japanese Perversions, about which no further need be said.

Long Story points us at a recent obituary; now we may never know for sure whether or not he was kidding all along.

And, you know. Other stuff other days. That sort of thing.

Sleep well!

Monday, October 11, 2004  permanent URL for this entry

Ah, I love the fall (the Fall, the Autumn). Cool and sunny and lovely yesterday and today; summer seems definitively over, and the season of warm shirts and falling leaves and pies has arrived.

I made the first golden bread of the season yesterday; the four of us ate virtually the whole loaf while it was still hot. Next time I should remember to make two.

An encouraging reader writes:

Subject: private privates and other generalia

Life is short. Steal it and scan it.

In fact this morning at the club, the original little "Keep your privates private" sign was gone, and in its place was a much larger sign, with the same grinning fully-clothed man, and a long explanation of what they'd actually meant, including a reference to an episode of some TV show that had set off a national debate about health club etiquette. (See what I miss by not watching TV? All the good national debates!)

Mr. Private Privates

I was amused.

Then this evening I was going through the ancient piles of mail that I have to move out of the way to eat dinner, and there was an issue of the always exciting Club Newsletter, and there in the Club Newsletter was the same grinning man, and same long explanation.

(My theory is that they put up the small sign just as a reminder, on the assumption that of course everyone had read the always exciting Club Newsletter, and only when my confused email and I imagine a few dozen similar comments broke the news to them that not quite everyone reads the newsletter the instant it comes did they realize they had to put up the larger sign.)

So here's the relevant bit of the page, along with Fully Clothed Man (Mr. Private Privates) himself. Turns out that we're only supposed to be nude in "the changing and shower areas", which sounds pretty silly except that that's like 90% of the locker room, so what it really means is that they don't want people nude in the place off to the side where the sinks (and the sign) are.

Which I suppose is okay with me, since I don't generally go over there anyway. But it still feels pretty creepy to have in the back of my mind the thought that someone else in the men's locker room there with me might be offended by naked men. How bizarre!

(If I told the club that I was deeply offended by nose-hair, would they ask everyone to start wearing nose-mittens? And I do object slightly to the sentence about nudist colonies and blow-driers; I like to use the blow drier to dry off any remaining wet-feeling expanses of my entire self, at the same time I dry my hair. The womenfolk in this house told me that I'm weird when I mentioned that, but I refuse to believe I'm unique, or even unusual, in that respect. But the dryer that I use is in the "changing area" anyway.)

The bit about small children I can sympathize with, at least small female children; it'd be awkward to be a Dad of a small female child and have nowhere to change her out of her wet swimsuit but the men's locker room. At least the time of day that I'm at the club, though, that never seems to happen.

And that's the end of Eye on Nudity for today!

Subject: moisture deferring cop

There are some more upcoming Loft Events coming up, for you artsy NYC types.

I wrote down some notes on yet another book. And yet again was torn between writing a purely for-myself spoilerful one ("This was the one where the guy..."), and the more generally targetted one that I did write. Silly me.

Some recent searches that got here:

a few old memories chords
a picture of teens showing the rhythm of the universes
a shaded sphere with ebony pencils
a winter poem for five year olds
advertisements showing unattractive faces
advertising humorous messages

Isn't that poetic? I love those ebony pencils, the unattractive faces, the rhythm of the universes.

And from further down in alpha order:

concept of free will
confessions of a common reader
connect4 opening moves
cooking stories
courting girls and "Watching sex"
creating a random dot stereogram
criticism of C.S. Lewis Till we have faces
crlstrm IL
crlstrm il
crlstrm, il
crlstrm, illinois
crystal flashlight
cultural artifact of the millineum
current ebay auctions funny odd
curvature of earth

Good ol' Crlstrm; apparrently we're quite the authority.

Once again we've gotten some spam addressed to Maddie Lathe. That's such a great name, I really must use it for something.

From our favorite Unitarian Universalist Minister weblog, a really lovely piece of writing. I know, or I think I know, just how that feels. One of the reasons I'm so fond of the little daughter's camp is that it's trying to be just that kind of heaven, and sometimes maybe it even gets there.

And from that there same minister weblog, we get indirectly to a page that links to and talks about an essay titled "Why 'Unitarian Universalism' is Dying". Film at eleven, as they say. *8) Some good commentary there (and another UU minister weblog I really ought to add to the feedreader). I tend to be one of those who thinks that the current state of indecision and angst and uncertainty is just about right, so I get to be smug. But then I'm not trying to keep an actual congregation going (I have enough trouble with the Lake Association).

Ran across another copy of our RSS feed in the referer log. Can't tell if that means that we're famous now or not, though...

Sunday, October 10, 2004  permanent URL for this entry

So natch I had to post today, if only to test out the trackbackifier again (it's so satisfying when code works). But I'll be good and not link to some random site that supports trackback that I wouldn't otherwise have linked to. I hope.

Why is soap in classy hotels usually "French milled"? I picture this windmill on a hilltop somewhere in France, or maybe a watermill by a French stream, with the grain unloading from the farmer's cart through one door, and the little cardboard boxes of soap coming out the other door.

Shall I tell this story about coming home yesterday? Sure, why not; it's long but memorable (in the "I might want to read it again some day" sense, I'm afraid, more than the "you might find it worth remembering" sense).

At lunchtime I asked the concierge ("concierge") when and how I should leave for a six-thirty flight from Logan, and he said that there's a van every half-hour from the street outside the lobby to the airport, ten dollars, and I could take the four-thirty one just to be sure. I thanked him, and then really as an afterthought asked him if it was possible to take the T, and he said that it was in fact and showed me on a map that the green line has a station a block from the hotel, and then I could transfer to the blue line at Government Center and go out to the airport from there. "It might take as long as an hour," he said.

The second-to-last session of the workshop ended just before four, and since I was planning to leave at four-thirty I said goodbye to my host and all, and packed up my stuff, and went down the stairs to the fancy lobby. The van from the airport to the hotel had been cramped and bumpy and not much fun, so I headed for the T station.

It was right there; I went down the steps to the Inbound side, and a train came up and opened its doors, and I got on, and the doors closed and off I went. At Government Center I got out and looked at my watch, and it was just after four.

"Hm," I thought, "I could spend half an hour bumming around downtown Boston looking up at the tall buildings, or I could head right to the airport and maybe get an earlier flight or something and get home sooner." I decided tentatively on the downtown-Boston plan, but the decision was so tentative that when I realized I'd have to leave the T system and then spend another buck and a quarter to get back in later, I changed my mind.

Just as I changed my mind an airport-bound train pulled up and opened its doors, and I got on, and off I went again. At the Airport station there was a shuttle bus sitting right there about to leave for my terminal, and I got on and the bus pulled out. At the terminal I got off and went in, and there was no line at security so I went right through.

The shuttle gate was utterly empty, not a soul there. A friendly lady came in through the jetway door, looked at me in surprise, and said "Are you getting on this one?" It was just four-thirty.

"Um, wasn't planning to..." I said.

"You're going to wait two hours for the next one?" she said, and turned and yelled something down the jetway. Someone yelled something back.

"Come on!" she said, "You have a ticket?"

"Uh, yeah," I said, and fumbled it out of my pocket.

She grabbed it and waved me down the jetway. "Hurry, hurry, hurry!" she said.

They let me onto the plane, and the door boomed closed behind me.

"I don't suppose there are any edge seats left?" I asked. (It was a 737 with three seats on either side of the aisle.)

"I doubt it," the attendant said, so I headed back for the exit row, where at least there's a little more legroom. All four exit-row edge seats were filled with substantial-looking men (like me); three of us sitting shoulder to shoulder wouldn't have been optimally comfortable.

But one of the window seats behind the exit row was empty. "I suppose someone's sitting there?" I asked the young woman in the aisle seat.

"No, no, go ahead," she said, moving her knees out of the way.

"This is going to New York, right?" I asked. She nodded, and I explained that the gate person had rushed me onto the plane and I was afraid we might be going to St. Louis or something, and we laughed.

So the plane took off a few minutes later, and I got to look out the window and read the random magazines and conference proceedings from my bag while the young woman took notes on a photocopied article about journeyman weavers in medieval England or something in a Boston University folder, our elbows a comfortable distance apart. And I got home two hours early.

And if any of the bits of good timing in the paragraphs on the way to the airport hadn't worked out, and I'd been ninety seconds later getting to the gate, it wouldn't have happened. Not that that would've been Really Bad, but it was nice to be home.

(On the way into Laguardia, we flew down the east side of Manhattan, banked around Wall Street, and flew up the west side, all quite low. I didn't know planes were even allowed to do that. More people than usual seemed to be looking out the windows.)

Two of our favorite weblogs check in: Hitherby:

"I can help," says Father Morgan. "We can beat the demon of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis together."

Mr. Whitfield shakes his head. "There's another demon," he says. "Closer. In the alley."

And Fafblog:

Do not look at the truck you will ruin everything! You will embolden the truck! How can you bench press a truck with your magical powers of telekinesis after you have said it was the wrong truck to bench press? You are not qualified to bench press the truck!

Headline o' the Day: Cheney Claims Saddam Had Ties to Rumsfeld.

Jessamyn writes:

Google is so fast and so useful that I've taken to remembering some web pages just by the search terms that I can use to find them, since I can never remember their URLs.

Which struck me as kind of funny, since the way that I get even to sites with pretty trivial urls, like Amazon and alibris, is to type their names into the Google search bar in Opera. After all, that way I don't just get to the site, but if there's a big important headline in the news about them I'll see that too.

And also Jessamyn points at a Bernie Sanders page showing one reason that I like him even if I'm theoretically not a big fan of Socialism.

Elsewhere in politics: I like the "it was the wire to the earphone that he was getting his orders through" theory, myself.

Markup-geekery question: for efficiency, I want my trackbackifier (at least in default mode) only to bother tracing down and attempting trackback autodiscovery on those links that I've specially marked as trackback candidates. I'm doing this at the moment by putting them in a class called "tbc", as you can see by viewing source here.

But, semantically, I don't really want to put them in a (single) class; rather I want to declare them as having an attribute. Because after all if there were (say) five things that could be true about some a-tags and not others, I wouldn't want to have to declare thirty-two different classes to express the power-set!

So what's the right way to do this? If I were designing my own XML language, rather than working in HTML, I would of course add an attribute to the a-tag for each of the five things; but this is HTML and I can't just casually add attributes. I could put the attributes in a different namespace, but I've never understood when you're allowed to do the funny mixed-namespace blend-in thing that people are always doing in RSS, say. Would that interfere with validation? (Not that this log validates at the moment, but I might want it to someday.)

Wisdom from any thoroughgoing XML gurus most welcome...

Saturday, October 9, 2004  permanent URL for this entry

So this time I'm at a Classy Boston Hotel. And on a Saturday, yet. What a traveller-about I'm being lately.

This afternoon sometime I'll take the T to the airport, and the shuttle home. Right now, I'm sitting on a couch on the second floor of the lobby, listening to the piano music and being dazzled by the chandeliers (which are at eye level from here). The conference's informal (hacked together) wireless network keeps going down.

Readers send us various insights on Clams and Scallions:

Warning: this movie contains penis

Inglorious friend! most confident I am
Thy life is one of very little ease;
Albeit men mock thee with their similes,
And prate of being "happy as a clam!"
What though thy shell protects thy fragile head
From the sharp bailiffs of the briny sea?
Thy valves are, sure, no safety-valves to thee,
While rakes are free to desecrate thy bed,
And bear thee off, -- as foemen take their spoil,
Far from thy friends and family to roam;
Forced, like a Hessian, from thy native home,
To meet destruction in a foreign broil!
Though thou art tender, yet thy humble bard
Declares, 0 clam! thy case is shocking hard!

Come from the sea.

post me

It's worth watching the crtoon network sunday night lineup, at least once

"When you ride alone, you're riding with Hitler" ? That's really some form of slogan ? Maybe I've just lead a sheltered life and never associated genocide, megalomania and warmongering with travelling without friends.

On the other hand, I associate 'contagious' with something that you don't want to get. Like Measels. Ok, so laughing is said to be contagious as is yawning, but then you don't want to be caught on the sharp end of a contagious laugh 'cos it hurts too :-)

page 23

Thank you, Mr. Saxe!

"When you ride alone, you ride with Hitler" is an old poster, presumably about carpooling to save gas for the War Effort. (Now these days we're urged to consume for the sake of the economy and thence the War Effort; how things change.)

I'd love to have time to watch more cartoons...

These naked the beauty bactritoid will show you all their small secrets radiopacity

Answers to the question "When shouldn't you use XML?".

An interesting thread on Amptoons, about Real Men and gender essentiality and all. I actually waded into this thread a bit, with the result that (as usual) someone implied that I'm an idiot. I continue to think it's amazing that anyone can't understand why people object when they say "men are more aggressive than women" (even when what they mean when they say it may well be true), but I've now given up (at least temporarily) on trying to help them understand it...

And in this week's hack, I now have a little CGI script that looks at the links in the log here, loads the pages that they point to, does TrackBack autodiscovery on them, and gives me a page whence I can actually issue TrackBacks from those pages back into the log. So by the time you read this, there may well be a TrackBack pointing from the Amptoons entry cited above back into here. And now that I have TrackBacking, my hits will soon skyrocket, and I will become even more famous!!

From the dynamist comes our Economics quote o' the day:

Efficient wealth confiscation systems receive high marks from economists because they cause few distortions. In them, the state takes assets from the wealthy and either uses them to endow a state fund for ongoing redistribution or redistributes the assets immediately in such a way that the formerly poor have no ongoing need of redistribution. If it is to be efficient, confiscation must be done in a fell swoop so that it becomes a sunk cost for formerly wealthy, who get on with their lives and do not distort their ongoing behavior.


Efficient wealth confiscation is not a realistic policy option in the United States...

This is from the very interesting and highly technical "Robin Hood and His Not-So-Merry Plan: Capitalization and the Self-Destruction of Texas' School Finance Equalization Plan". The author is not in favor of "efficient wealth confiscation", necessarily; he's just discussing it as a formal concept of economics (and I thought it was a great phrase).

Daze reminds us that it's Boobiethon time again. Go, admire, and contribute!

Also from Daze:

Parker pointed to the differences between the MPAAs treatment of simulated violence and simulated sex. Team America features violent scenes in which a Tim Robbins puppet is set on fire and a Susan Sarandon puppet is dropped off a 20-story building - all acts that passed MPAA muster.

"We blow Janeane Garofalo's head clean off, [but for the MPAA] it's all about the positions of the dolls having sex," Parker said. "It's not funny - it's tragic."

Security cluedperson Bruce Schneier now has a weblog, which as you'd expect contains various readable entries like this one. (I'm not as willing to rule out incompetance or stupidity as he is, but his alternate explanation is worth being scared by.)

From Pursed Lips, our Correction o' the Day, from the Crimson:

The Sept. 29 news story "Scalia Describes 'Dangerous' Trend" misquoted Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as saying that "I even take the position that sexual orgies eliminate social tensions and ought to be encouraged." In fact, Scalia said, "I even accept for the sake of argument that sexual orgies eliminate social tensions and ought to be encouraged."

Aw, shucks...


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