log (2005/05/06 to 2005/05/12)

So instead of writing in my weblog or sitting zazen or anything like that tonight, I've been staying up late in order to write a geeky little Photoshop tutorial: Making PNGs with alpha-channel transparency in Photoshop.

I was doing this at Ian's suggestion, to see if it would solve my problem mentioned back on Saturday, of being limited to brown styles here in the log by the fact that I always brownify my images. As you can read in the afterward to the tutorial, although I did get alpha-transparency working, it doesn't seem to actually solve the problem.

So we are still cogitating on that.

The tutorial page, naturally, is fully CSSified, valid HTML 4.01 strict, and is in general a thing of beauty. Long after I should have been in bed I was sitting there admiring it, doing yet one more unnecessary tweak to the wording or the layout, and hitting the validation link yet one more time, to see once again that indeed w3c still likes me.

I guess that's why it's called "validation"... *8)

So I was sitting in the Nose Doctor's waiting room this morning doing email on the laptop here, and on a whim I asked it about wireless networks in the area. It told me about two, one of which was encrypted (oooo!) and one of which wasn't. I was tempted to connect to the non-encrypted one and see if I could actually get to the net, but then I thought better of it.

Partly because it seemed dangerous (I mean sure I've got a "personal firewall" on the machine here and all, but still), and partly because it seemed vaguely Wrong. (Not that I haven't done similar things once or twice before, but this time the qualms won out.)

Would it have been Wrong in a legal sense? Bruce Schneier points us to an interesting paper on the subject:

Wi-Fi Liability: Potential Legal Risks in Accessing and Operating Wireless Internet

Suppose you turn on your laptop while sitting at the kitchen table at home and respond OK to a prompt about accessing a nearby wireless Internet access point owned and operated by a neighbor. What potential liability may ensue from accessing someone else's wireless access point? How about intercepting wireless connection signals? What about setting up an open or unsecured wireless access point in your house or business? Attorneys can expect to grapple with these issues and other related questions as the popularity of wireless technology continues to increase.

This paper explores several theories of liability involving both the accessing and operating of wireless Internet, including the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, wiretap laws, as well as trespass to chattels and other areas of common law. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of key policy considerations.

Turns out, unsurprisingly, that you're unlikely to be prosecuted or successfully sued for just checking your email via someone's open WiFi access point, but if you use up all their bandwidth, or use it to do naughty things, or do it professionally, the risks go up. The full paper gives a bit more detail than that. *8)

(The Nose Doctor, by the way, says that I could have a relatively small operation that might (but might not) improve my sense of smell, or I could wait and see if it comes back by itself (it might or might not), and while I'm waiting I could squirt lots of salt water into my nose now and then (which might or might not help). He didn't mention nanobots, which would clearly be the Right Answer...)

Also from Bruce, some bad news:

The United States is getting a national ID card. The REAL ID Act establishes uniform standards for state driver's licenses, effectively creating a national ID card. It's a bad idea, and is going to make us all less safe. It's also very expensive. And it's all happening without any serious debate in Congress.

Papers, please.

FIRST POLICEMAN: May we see your papers?

CIVILIAN (nervously): I don't think I have them on me.

FIRST POLICEMAN: In that case, we'll have to ask you to come along.

CIVILIAN (pats his pockets): Wait. It's just possible that I... Yes, here they are.

He brings out his papers. The second policeman examines them.

SECOND POLICEMAN: These papers expired three weeks ago. You'll have to come along.

Suddenly the civilian breaks away and starts to run wildly down the street.

The policeman SHOUTS "Halt", but the civilian keeps going. ...

A shot RINGS out, and the man falls to the ground. Above him, painted on the wall, is a large poster of Marshal Petain, which reads: "Je tiens mes promesses, meme celles des autres."

Of course that can't happen here.

From the mysterious "HTML o' the Day" that continues to arrive in my mailbox, today's "Real or Parody?": Unborn Baby Ornament - US Troop Model:

Plastic replica of an 11-12 week old fetus, 3" long, holding a firearm in its precious little hand.

The entire site, Miss Poppy dot com ("What a trend we have in Jesus!™") is worth a visit. The link to Adult Christianity ("Christian News: The latest on religious molestations, frauds, and violent crimes") eventually convinced me, but it was a tough one.

So I fiddled around with making a table-free version of the log, with limited success. One thing that tables are very good at that CSS (and especially very abstract and semantic CSS) is perhaps less good at is making the properties of one screen area depend on those of another. I want for instance to make the height of the sidebar column over to the left there depend on the height of the main text column on the right here, and in that sidebar column I want to have the occasional image that's lined up with a particular piece of text in this column, and I want to have at the bottom a horizontal rule and a "top" link that's lined up with the similar controls at the bottom of this column.

That's easy with tables, but the best I've been able to do with CSS has involved some rather dodgy position adjustments that seem to work wildly differently in different browsers, and leave swathes of the wrong color all over the place. Perhaps just my own lack of skill; reader contributions are welcome! *8)

(Just one new style today: the aptly named None.)

Happy Mothers' Day! Gave the family (including the resident mother) Sunday Breakfast in Bed, and then made a nuisance of myself by attempting to do various things (chief among them the laundry) that apparently aren't in my Primary Skill Set. Since they involve atoms and all.

Spent the interstices between being fatherly and useful struggling with HTML and CSS some more. Moving the sidebar image of Wanda from up at the top of the sidebar column to down near where its entry now is proved surprisingly difficult to get right cross-browser. Seems that Opera, IE, and Firefox all have different notions of the default margins on a paragraph of all things (the <p> tag, for heaven's sake; the most basic bit of HTML there is).

I think I mostly got it figured out and fixed, but I'm not going to go over to the iBook tonight and see what things look like in Safari and the Mac versions of Opera, Firefox and IE. Some other time.

Whilst I was at it, I did another stylesheet. It's sorta lame, but it uses an image filter thing that seems to work only in IE, where it magically causes all the images to be grayscale. Very nice for a grayscale style! Less obviously useful elsewhere. *8)

I also wrote a little style-chooser widget; it's down at the very bottom of this page, teeny-tiny so you can barely see it. Shouldn't be necessary for folks with modern browsers who have the function built-in, but there you are just in case. (Hm; done properly it should read the available styles from the DOM tree itself. Maybe later. I'm not a real JavaScript and DOM hacker anyway.)

The individual i

The "individual i" over there in today's sidebar is from Rebecca. Dunno exactly what it's about, but seems like the right sentiment. Lemme know if it turns out to be a Plutonian mind-control plot or something, okay?

From 50 cups:

One of the biggest issues apartment dwellers have to face today, is Invisible Donkey infestation.

And finally, we notice that the main theme of the site that hosts the scurrilous Wicked Wanda stuff that we cited yesterday is Xena / Gabrielle fanstuff (the romantic subtext in particular).

The comic's stars as featured in the 80s Penthouse days bear a striking resemblance to Xena and Gabrielle.

Not the first comparison that springs to my mind; but then maybe I just haven't watched that show enough...

So having gotten my HTML to validate the other day, I've now burned some more valuable seconds in cleaning it up further, and moving more of the presentation stuff into the CSS. The layout is still table-based (so it's no CSS Zen Garden), but we're coming along.

'Course once one's moved the presentation stuff off into a stylesheet, the next thing to do is provide alternate stylesheets; so we've done that also. Users of modern browsers can see the alternate style ("Mocha") by asking the browser for it (View → Style → Mocha in Opera, for instance). Users of legacy browsers like Microsoft's "Internet Explorer" may be able to see the fancy new style by clicking here (and to reset to the original style here).

(Thanks to Paul Snowden for the style-switching JavaScript.)

Pretty excitin', eh? I admit the picture of bark (bark, log, get it?) is a little egregious, but hey... *8)

The alternate style is still brown, because all the images (the permalink image, the syndication badges, the validation badge) are brown, and I'm not clever enough to make them work right with non-brown styles (Ian says I might be able to make clever PNGs using the alpha channel to be semi-transparent and therefore automagically adapt to the underlying color; maybe someday.)

So lemme know what you think of the Mocha flavor of the log, and if the page isn't working right for you or anything. The nice thing about this is that I can play with the page design without actually changing it (the Official Version of it).

Ms. Von Kreesus

From Daze (who has happily been posting again), we find that someone has scanned in the entirety of Oh Wicked Wanda, to which my reaction is a big fat OMG.

I remember an astounding number of those panels full of unrealistic bodies and naughtiness, from old Penthouses tied up with string (and maybe less old ones sitting in my parents' room), from my innocent youth (perhaps a bit after Surftoons). Wanda Von Kreesus and Candyfloss, sigh...

A horribly unrealistic picture of what women really look like, of course. I wonder if it damaged me in some sense, and made me appreciate real women less? I appreciate real women quite a bit, so the damage was perhaps not severe. *8) On the other hand, in that these are strong (if depraved) women running empires and travelling through time (and having lots of sex), it's not an entirely negative image. (Yeah, I know; sort of the obvious thing to say.)

And this is more evidence for my "why many men learn to draw" theory. (In fact it may be the earliest bit of data that I had in support of that theory.)

From Rebecca, a story no doubt widely blogged:

The relentless influx of emails, cellphone calls and instant messages received by modern workers can reduce their IQ by more than smoking marijuana, suggests UK research.

Explains alot, eh?

And also from Rebecca (just because of the order I read my feeds yesterday), here's Bruce Schneier on the latest PDF Incident; this time the fact that putting a black mark over text in a PDF file doesn't actually remove the text from the file may actually have damaged National Security, not just reminded us that someday it might. Man.

And finally also from Rebecca, the mordantly funny 21st Century Goofus and Gallant story. ("Gallant practices Vedic shallow breathing to conserve his family's oxygen allotment.")

What else? I guess I haven't mentioned we're having a bathroom redone. Just like in the Sims, this involves lots of money. Unlike in the Sims, where you can just stop time and go into Build Mode and click and drag and stuff, this involves considerable time, dust, mess, noise, and various strangers with implements of destruction. And that's for a really tiny bathroom, too.

So far they've taken off the walls and floor and ceiling of the room without finding any fire-ant nests or structural timebombs, which is good. Various parts are going to arrive a week or two after initially expected, but otherwise things are going well (touch wood).

It'll be nice to have a sink that isn't prevented from falling off the wall only by a length of two-by-four propped under the lip.


So there was this ad on the radio for Fannie Mae, and at the end it said to "log on to fannie mae dot com". But of course that sounds just like "fanny may dot com" and so on. Astonishingly, none of the alternate spellings seem to be porn sites. At the moment.

I've been Doing My Bit for a Safer Internet:

Subject: Congratulations from Netcraft

The URL you recently submitted has been accepted as a phishing site by the Netcraft Anti-Phishing Team. Thanks for reporting your 19th phish. Keep up the good work!

I now have the NetCraft mug and the sweatshirt.

penguins are the best birds – they fly and swim

From the Dynamist some great images (I'm using that one as today's desktop wallpaper) from a big collection of old advertising images on a site full of cool old stuff (see also the Patent Room that I think I linked to the other week). I've been making all sorts of silly desktop wallpapers that I'll probably never actually use...

Someone in the newsgroups accused me of papanca the other day, and while Googling around to figure out what that was (turned out the accusation was entirely justified, btw) I came across this rather amusing essay. (And while we're doing Buddhist links, here's a nice Dharma talk that I stumbled across while looking for something else; not so funny, but I liked it. Serious Zen.)

One or more readers were inspired (and/or confused) in their reactions to Before eating, always...


Rule # 17 : (and I quote verbatum) Before eating always, always have your underling conduct the poison test.

jump off tall buildings.

kill whatever it is, unless it be a oyster.

Thinking about a few days ago when you mentioned that one of the blogs that you read actually makes money out of writing things, do you think you'd ever stoop so low ?

Sit up straight; don't hunch down over your food. Pause 2 slow breaths...

Speaking of the two slow breaths, one of the Top Ten Reasons I Suspect I'll Never Be A Serious Zen Student: Oryoki.

I don't consider making money to be low, necessarily; and I actually like the idea of writing things professionally. (In fact in some sense I do write things professionally (have to update that page someday).) But I have no reason to think at the moment that the kind of weblogging that I do is likely to earn me any money; and I'm okay with that.

Before eating, always...

shovel the walk.

compliment the chef

hack into view yahoo webcams without permission

remove underwear


have your taster give a forthright opinion of toxin content

park your gum somewhere convenient nearby

dust for prints

don magnificent evening wear, tie a luxurious silk cummerbund about the abdomen, and ask for the wine list

go back for the fishing hat.



halle barry

halle barry


web cam


halle barry completely naked


yahoo view webcam

Whew! We know what's on Certain People's Minds, don't we?

(How to view a Yahoo webcam without permission)

And I think it's "Halle Berry", isn't it? (Or "Holly Berry".)

Happy Friday!

(The archive page validates now, he mentioned proudly.)