We finally got around to Ken Burns’ Dustbowl last week, and were suitably blown away. All talk of a Ken Burns Effect completely misses the point, and in my view the rostrum camera work would be nothing without the meticulous attention to the soundscape behind the images. But I digress. A lot of people seem to think the show is all about history. It isn’t.
The long-awaited paperless office recedes ever more quickly, at least in most official offices. Here in the home office, however, my printer has sat idle for more than a year, probably because printing at the office has been available. But last week, I needed to print. Usual problems. Ink past its sell-by date. 1 All of them. Then discover I don’t have a full set of replacements. Order them, and wait for them to arrive. Pull out the old ones, stick in the new ones, throw the old ones in the bin. Discover that the new cartridges are of the wrong region.
Yup, we’ve been here before. But this time I know the score. I have real work to do, so I delay calling Horse Penis printer support. When I do so, a nice young man tells me that I need a cartidge from the old region in order to set the new region. The garbage has been emptied, but in a drawer I have a couple of unused ones. Fine, I say, I have one, but it is out of date. He puts me on hold while he checks with a technical whizz that an out-of-date cartridge will work. It will. He puts me on hold to wait for a (presumably different) technical whizz. I listen to Vivaldi and watch my credit leak out of Skype. Another nice person comes on the line and after we exchange pleasantries, names and serial numbers we’re ready to do the deed.
“So, you have a full set of the old cartridges,” Lauren asks chirpily.
“No, I don’t have a full set. I just have a couple, and they’re out of date. Your colleague checked, and said that would be OK.”
I listen to more Vivaldi while she does whatever she needs to before coming back on and telling me, not in quite so few words, that I’m screwed.
As calmly as I can, I assure Lauren that I know this is not her fault, and that there’s nothing she can do about it, but if she would mind possibly conveying a message up the chain that I for one will never again buy an HP printer, that would be grand. And as a parting shot, I say that I simply can’t understand why HP would actually undermine its sales in this way. At which, Lauren perks up.
“Oh, I can tell you why. It’s EU legislation, to stop people buying things more cheaply in another place, which harms the economy of both places.”
Which, of course, is complete tosh. I mean, it probably is EU legislation. But the argument is tosh. Furthermore, I have “US” cartridges made in Ireland, and “Europe” cartridges made in Malaysia, and the whole thing sucks.
The following day, I wandered down to a big shopping street to buy a new, cheap, monochrome printer for the occasional bit of printing I need done. There’s a laser printer for €60 whose cartridges cost €80, which I discover in the nick of time doesn’t play nicely with Mac. There are printers for less than €40, whose running costs I don’t even attempt to investigate. I know the model. King Camp Gillette was a genius. But a printer is not a razor. In the end I decided that no household needs more than one printer anyway, and with the help of a USB stick and good old sneakernet, the Main Squeeze’s unit would do for me too.
Talking it over with my compadre, we agreed on three things. First, that the current state of affairs was a terrible thing. Secondly, that while the costs of entry to the printer market might be formidably high if you want to be pushing the envelope etc etc, if a company were to offer a restricted line (monochrome laser, workaday colour inkjet, pro colour inkjet) where both machine and consumables were fairly priced, we’d both be happy to Kickstart the hell out it. And finally, that the first company to offer 3D printer plans to make your own printer could have our firstborn.
What, it goes mouldy? I mean, dried up I could deal with, but out of date?↩
The point of this post is to simply provide my TextExpander snippets when using link posts via Google Chrome. These snippets were blatantly stolen from Jonathan Poritsky’s post above and modified to work with Chrome.
And therefor, what better page to test it on?
I’m slowly getting more familiar with Octopress, and thus more likely to use it. Still not sure exactly what this whole “external URI” thing is all about. From the docs, it seems like the title will link to the post I am commenting in. But then what about the permalink? Not that anyone is likely to need it. The documentation says that “each post will show it’s own permalink, and in the feed there will be a permalink at the end of linklog posts”. I need to see for myself what that actually looks like.
The other thing I need to do is think seriously about somehow making all this available on my travelling machine as well as here on my desktop. I’m away next week, and might just have time and something to say. I think I can do all that by moving the whole Octopress folder to Dropbox, but I guess I’d still need to equip the laptop with all the other stuff that makes Octopress work, and I’m not sure I’m going to be able to find time over the weekend.
p.s. Having generated and deployed this post, it doesn’t seem to work as advertised; I need to try and figure out why.
Sometimes the Internet turns me into a spoiled child, drumming my heels on the floor and holding my breathe till I turn blue in the face, and all because it won’t give me what I want. And of course it is all the Internet’s fault. If it hadn’t indulged so many of my whims for so long, I wouldn’t find this rejection nearly as painful.
The story isn’t too complicated. I’d been editing a podcast on the superior nutritional qualities of the potato, which features people who have lived almost exclusively on a diet of potatoes and been none the worse for that. I vaguely remembered a story from my undergraduate days of a chap called Geoffrey Pyke, a canonical British boffin. Pyke, in my recollection, had developed a hare-brained scheme, one of many, to get the trains moving after World War II. It involved human-powered locomotives, the humans concerned being themselves powered by potatoes, and Pyke had done all the necessary calculations to prove the feasibility, if not the practicality, of the idea.
When I went searching for details, Wikipedia confirmed only part of the story:
One suggestion for the problems of energy-starved post-war Europe was to propel railway wagons by human muscle power – employing 20 to 30 men on bicycle-like mechanisms to pedal a cyclo-tractor. Pyke reasoned that the energy in a pound of sugar cost about the same as an equivalent energy in the form of coal and that while Europe had plenty of sugar and unemployed people, there was a shortage of coal and oil. He recognised that such a use of human muscle power was in some ways distasteful, but he could not see that the logic of arguments about calories and coal were unlikely to be sufficiently persuasive.
Sugar? Well that would be pointless, nutritionally. It might be OK for energy, but what about all the other nutrients the cyclists would need? Of course Wikipedia had citations up the wazoo to support its far-fetched statements: three consecutive articles from The (Manchester) Guardian in August 1945. So that’s what I went looking for. Could I find them? Obviously not.
There are of course newspaper archives, which may well have contained those articles. But they required quite a hefty subscription, and there didn’t seem to be any way I could search without signing up first. Not that I want things for free, but if ever there were a need for a friction-free system of micro-payments, this is it. I’d happily pay a very small amount, say 5 cents, to discover whether the archive held what I was looking for and a slightly larger amount, say 50 cents, for a copy thereof. And my guess is that the archive might well earn more in total if it offered this kind of access. In the old days, living as I did in London, I would have been able to go either to The Guardian itself or to the national newspaper archive in Colindale, and on balance, I probably would not have done either. These days, spoiled child that I am, I drummed my heels and held my breathe. And wrote this.
The Internet redeems itself
Still researching potatoes, I set off down another path, that of my old chum Colin Tudge, who despite being normally a thorough-going Cobbettian, has consistently praised the nutritional virtues of the potato. That led, in short order, to a throw-away remark (in So Shall We Reap) about “an heroic Danish physiologist” who had lived for a year on nothing but potatoes. And that took me to Mikkel Hindhede and his extraordinary account of the effects of the World War I North Atlantic blockade on mortality in Denmark. Thanks to Hindhede’s enlightened nutritional policy, mortality was far lower in Denmark than in Germany. Was Hindhede himself Tudge’s unnamed Danish physiologist? That I couldn’t discover, although I did discover that Frederik Madsen — originally a patient and later a janitor and assistant, was persuaded to live on nothing but potatoes and a little fat, and thrived on the diet, even when encouraged to take on a farm job in order specifically to increase his need for calories. There were others too. Hindhede himself ate nothing but potatoes and margarine for 27 days, and in the grand tradition of experimentally-minded physicians, he involved his family too:
“We adults, as well as children, eat a great quantity of potatoes not only at dinner, but also at supper. In the evening, if there be no potato salad or potatoes served in some way on the table, we are sure to hear of the children present, ‘Are there no potatoes?’.”
Clearly they’re not spoiled. And there really doesn’t seem to be much wrong with a diet in which most of the energy comes from potatoes, as long as they’re not fried, which is more than you can say of most staples.
From all of which, I derive two important conclusions. The Internet giveth, and the Internet taketh away. And eat more potatoes.
Back before there were blogs (honest; I promise this is true) my little company website had a kind of diary of newsletters, updated roughly once a month, and delivered by hard-coded HTML tables. It looked, I fancied, a little like an index card file 1 with little tabs at the top for the various dates, and some fancy backgrounds in the cells that showed you which month you were looking at. I was really quite proud of it, even though each new month meant a flurry of cut-and-paste as I rearranged the tab cells around. So I was primed to like this new-fangled weblog stuff, and adopted it with alacrity.
First I played with Nucleus CMS, which I’m happy to see is still going strong. Then I had a brief fling with Tinderbox, a much under-rated programme that in the end I gave up on because I couldn’t get anyone else at work interested, and I didn’t use it enough on my own to keep paying the fees. Tinderbox really is rather wonderful, and I know I barely scratched its surface. Worth remarking here is that a website that originates from Tinderbox is (or was) completely static. So no worries about databases or any of that. I had no idea at the time that I’d be looking back at static HTML sites with enormous fondness.
I abandoned Nucleus CMS and Tinderbox for WordPress quite early on, round about WP 1.3, and loved that WP let me do do so many seemingly complicated things so easily, the natural result of clever people being encouraged to share their cleverness. Lately, however, WordPress has been turning into more and more of a liability; it regularly crashes my server, goes into a funk and slows down alarmingly, and opens the door to all kinds of (in)security paranoia. A cyber-pal says that’s because the clever people aren’t quite as clever as they think they are. Maybe so, but the real downside is that it is now so complicated and beyond my competence that I am hopelessly unable even to ask the right questions to start fixing it. When things went belly-up elsewhere, and I had a week more or less spare, I switched this site over to Octopress, and I’m super happy with that.
It wasn’t until I started tidying relict posts from the ancient past, though, that I realised that I had come full circle, and was once again serving fully-baked sites.2 This time, though, thanks again to the cleverness of others, I don’t have to do the cut-and-paste of updating myself. I just have to write the stuff — which was always the point — and the software does the rest. Workflow remains more complicated than it was with WordPress and Marsedit, but at least I can agree with Aaron on this:
Some people seem to think that I want to bake because of perfomance. Honestly, I don’t care about performance. I don’t care about performance! I care about not having to maintain cranky AOLserver, Postgres and Oracle installs.
I’ve no idea what an AOLserver or an Oracle install is, although I have heard of Postgres. I just know that now I don’t have to deal with them either, at least not now that everything’s set up. And if I could find a good way to move the big blog somewhere else, I would.
Because I don’t need to be stood here like a frazzled short-order cook.3
Not that any of the youngsters know what that looks like.↩
At which point, in addition to linking to Aaron Swartz’s Bake, Don’t Fry post, I should also link to what Mark Bernstein, author of Tinderbox, had to say in response. Note, chums, this was from 2002, when fried sites were just getting going.↩
Technology has not been kind to me today. But people have been great. So I’m going to try and focus on that, and ignore the awfulness that is my printer and the rubbish “service” that my other blogging platform and server are delivering. If I could, I’d migrate that one to Octopress too, as I have with this website. The obstacle is that my compadre is even less technically inclined than I am, and to keep us both running and synchronised on a static site like this one would be a full-time job. I already have one of those …
The picture above shows what happened to jeremycherfas.net after the shiny new Textdrive 2.0 did something or other about a month ago. 1 What, I have no idea, since no human being there ever sees fit to reply to any channel of communication that I’ve tried. The image on their website seems strangely appropriate. A woman, struggling through thick mud. Are they trying to tell us something?
Anyway, the farrago there, coupled with an ongoing security attack against WordPress sites, prompted me to switch this thing over to Octopress, and although it took a fair while, and a lot of help from people at ADN, here I am again, looking at greased lightning delivery and 100% uptime. Lots of people have blazed this trail before me, many of them leaving detailed notes to guide a lost traveller. I would never have made it without them, and I made some notes of my own as I moved along from inspiration to implementation, but I’ve decided they aren’t nearly complete enough to share with anyone else. I’d probably lead them up one of the several dead ends I explored.
My intention, of course, is to publish here more frequently, even though it is actually considerably more complicated to do so. We shall see. I’d also like to indulge in a bit more tweakery, eventually. For now, though, I’m just happy to be reliably back.
Of course I’ve obscured the actual number of visits; I’m not opening myself up to ridicule. I might do so in a month or so if being properly available actually has any impact.↩
There are various things I want to test here.
The first thing I want to test is footnotes1
Now here is some more silly text.
And right at the end is what I want. And it looks just fine in Byword’s preview of Markdown. But alas, under the ordinary octopress set-up, it does not render.
Never mind about that though; the crucial part is to test whether the use of s3cmd works to push only changes to Amazon.
Later … It did, but I had misnamed my S3 bucket without the www bit. So I had to change that, and now redeploy. But I continue to live in hope. and I’m not going to have anything new to say until S3 is delivering the site at jeremycherfas.net and www.jeremycherfas.net.2
The Rome Digest is plugging a translation of Popes, Peasants, and Shepherds: Recipes and Lore from Rome and Lazio. Somewhat sensitised by my earlier efforts to dispel the idea that the herb mentuccia is pennyroyal, I looked inside. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that the error continues to be perpetuated. I can’t find a way to comment at The Rome Digest, or the translator’s site, so this marker will have to do.
Kiva is probably the most succesful thing in existence to allow ordinary folks to lend money to other ordinary folks. I’ve been a member since early 2008, and I think it’s a really good idea, which is not to say that Kiva is a particularly good implementation. In fact, we’ve had our differences. But I keep “reinvesting”. I suspect in part because it is, or was, the only game in town. That and inertia. But maybe the time has come to overcome my inertia.
I’m prompted, this time, by a simple error in a mass emailing Kiva sent me, reminding me that I had uninvested and suggesting I “Go to kiva.org/lend and make a loan today!”
What’s the problem? The link is wrong. It starts hhttp:// rather than http:// Silly, I know, but computers are silly. [^fn1] [^fn1]: I actually copied the wrong link, just for, you know, evidence.
That’s why we have people. But not, obviously, people who check whether someone, somewhere, has made a silly mistake.
A silly mistake that was easy enough for me to discover, though I wonder how many other people with money at Kiva would get the email, click on the link, be told they’ve made a mistake, and be utterly frustrated?
Ages ago I banked with the National Westminster Bank, in England. Service was pretty rubbish, but, you know, there were all these standing orders and credit cards and stuff like that and it was always too much of a hassle to overcome the inertia and move to a better bank. Besides, all banks were so much the same. Then along came First Direct, and they said, just sign up with us and we’ll take care of the hassle. So I did, and they did, and we’ve been happy together ever since.
Now to see about extricating my money from Kiva. Or not.