inessential by Brent Simmons

June 2000


PapaScott: "[Europe|America] is more complicated that it seems." D'accord. And thank you for saying that.

Frontier: isp.root Bug Fix 6/30/00.

Frontier: Moving from isp.root to Frontier 6.2.

Manila Newbies: How to Include a Web Page in Another Page. Demonstrates both the includeMessage Manila macro and the iframe tag, two different approaches to including the contents of one page in another.

Manila Newbies: Stories and Bylines. You can turn bylines on and off for individual stories.


Manila Server HowTos:

Web Server Q & A.

How to Enable SOAP Server.

With today's win over the Anaheim Angels, the Mariners have re-taken first place in the AL West. They have the third-best record in all of baseball, including the wussy NL.

Well there are good guys and there are bad guys
and there are crooks and criminals.
Well there are doctors and there are lawyers
and there are folks like you and me.
So just get high while the radio's on
just relax and sing a song
drive your car up on the lawn
let me play your guitar.

-Camper Van Beethoven, Good Guys and Bad Guys

Ja, it's Napster addiction.


Reminder: the Seattle Frontier Users Group meeting is tonight. I hope to see you there.

How to change the language of your Manila site. Manila now supports localization -- you can choose Dutch, English, French, German, or Italian. (So far.)

The first updates to 6.2 have been posted, this one a fix for the outline not defined bug reported by some upgraders.

Bryan Bell has posted a couple new Themes. I like 'em.

array: "manila allows me to fiddle, one of my fave pastimes. i've only redesigned this log about five times ... now i can vent those urges on some new themes." Garret -- please do!


Frontier 6.2 has been released.

Seattle Frontier Users Group Meeting Tomorrow. I'll be there -- I hope you will be too.

Timothy Paustian has a weblog for his work on the Frontier Carbon port.

Okay, back to English today. I was trying out the new localization feature in Manila last night.


Maintenant, la langue principale de ce site est français.

Scripting News has news of 6.2 and a future Carbon version of Frontier.


Journal of a Wannabe Hipster: Race, and apathy: "But how can I figure race out if I don't write about it?" I want to say how much I've been enjoying this site, or kind of sum up how Ari's writing is good or interesting or whatever, but I can't, at least not at the moment -- but I can point to it. Check it out.

YooZoo has been re-designed, looks nice.


New theme -- Green Boxes.


Working on 6.2 -- we're getting close to the release. To whet your appetite, here are detailed kernel change notes and the list of changes in Manila since 6.1.1. (The Manila change notes are missing some of the most recent changes. It will get updated. And, when 6.2 ships, there will be a single change notes summary page to read.)


The CoolBlue Theme is new. It's available on EditThisPage.Com and Weblogs.Com sites and for download.

Bob has a question for Linux folks about Wine debugging and symbol names.

Introducing SOAP for Python.

I'd like a map of the 20th century in a Web page. It would be a chronological list of years. Under each year would be entries for the important events in art, literature, music, history, and technology.

There would be plenty of links off-site -- you'd follow a link to learn more about the Armory Show, about the moon landing, whatever. Call it historical weblogging.

At first I thought an index at the bottom would be needed, but now I don't think so -- browsers have a Find command which works well enough.


Introducing SOAP for Frontier.

Did you hear about Louis Miller?
He disappeared, babe,
after drawin' out all his cash.
Now Macheath spends like a sailor,
did our boy do -- something rash?

Got Napster last night, listened to various versions of Mack the Knife: Bobby Darin, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald, Nick Cave, Tony Bennet. (I tried but failed to download the Louis Armstrong version.)

Taking an example from Dave, I downloaded my personal favorite Bob Dylan song: "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again."

Well the bricks lay on Grand Street
where the neon madmen climb.
They're all placed there so perfectly,
they all seem so well-timed.
But me I sit hear patiently,
waiting to find out what price
you have to pay to get out of
going through all these things twice.

Has this Greenwich Village poet been reading Nietzsche? (It's Nietzsche, right, that eternal return stuff?)

But anyway, I dig the poetry of this song. Less wise, more surreal, than Subterranean Homesick Blues, but full of compelling imagery.

Of course, part of my fondness is nostalgia: as a boy in the early '80s I had most of Dylan's '60s albums on vinyl and cassette. Highway 61 Revisited, all that.

I remember sitting alone in my room at night, listening to Dylan through the headphones, reading On the Road, thinking -- everything sucks, the system sucks, adults suck, school sucks, but Dylan understands. This was the Reagan era, morning in America, a good time to hate the world adults had created. Good clean fun, part of a healthy upbringing. You're never too young to start using the f word. (F is for fascist.)

Back to Mack the Knife, more nostalgia: when I was in college I sometimes claimed -- in jest, as conversation -- that I was the re-incarnation of Bertolt Brecht, born again as, horror of horrors, a capitalist American pig. I even wore a Brecht-like hat.

Oh the shark has such teeth dear,
and he shows them -- pearly white.
Just a jack knife has Macheath dear,
and he keeps it out of sight.

When the shark bites with his teeth dear,
scarlet billows, starts to spread.
Fancy gloves though, wears Macheath dear --
so there's not a trace of red.

Napster should probably be classified as a drug. It's one thing to have all these memories and associations tied up with music -- and quite another to be able to access them all whenever you want.


Frontier: Responders Performance Tip.

Dynamic Sites and Folders Bug Fix.

Root Updates Changes 6/19/00.

Personal note: I still think it's somewhat magical that we can update the client side of the root updates system.

The Mariners won big for Sheila's birthday.

I've always wanted a Vespa scooter. From Vespa.Org, an Umberto Eco quote: "Thus the Vespa came to be linked in my eyes with transgression, sin, and even temptation -- not the temptation to possess the object, but the subtle seduction of faraway places where the Vespa was the only means of transport. And it entered into my imagination not as an object of desire, but as a symbol of an unfulfilled desire."

I want to see Shaft on the big screen. Samuel L. Jackson is totally cool -- but I was still skeptical at first. Then I saw it was directed by John Singleton of Boyz n the Hood fame. Dude, I'm there.


Happy Birthday Sheila!

Happy Father's Day to my father!

Andrea: Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!


You've heard of "damning with faint praise," right -- when someone who, for instance, thinks the Mona Lisa sucks, they say something like "DaVinci's choice of color was appropriate for the subject matter."

There's also such a thing as "praising with faint damns." Usually that's what you do when talking about your own stuff.

Jane says: "Jim, I really like your [painting, novel, song, whatever]!"

Jim says: "Thanks Jane, that means alot to me. But I was frustrated at not being able to achieve [super-impressive sounding] effect right here."

Watch for it: you'll notice this all the time.

Yes, thank you, I'm glad you like my weblog, but I'm frustrated at not being able to insert a witty quip right here.

Continuing a thread from yesterday, more slow things Americans do:

Golf. Fishing. Gardening.

Gardening is huge. More than baseball, gardening is the nation's past-time.

We also read alot of books. Books are big.

I'm tempted to list car racing as an example of slowness. Yes, the cars themselves are moving fast, but if you watch a race you'll note that the relative positions of cars can remain static for long periods of time. It's Wagnerian. Glacial. Like baseball, an hour can go by where nothing happens.

When the history of sitcoms in the '90s is written, it will record that NewsRadio, not Seinfeld, was funniest.


Sheila's got the scoop on her birthday weekend.

It looks like DonorLink IT, from Seattle-based Frontier developers Social Ecology, is live.

Mira's writing about speed and America's addiction to speed. I can add to this by adding counter-examples.

Baseball -- sometimes called the nation's past-time, sometimes compared to watching paint dry. A slow game, pastoral, 19th century. Even in the year 2000 it has a mass appeal. Americans will think nothing of spending three (plus) hours watching grown men stand around on the grass.

Baseball is one of the few major team sports -- perhaps the only one -- that isn't timed. In football, soccer, basketball, hockey, there's always the ticking of the clock. Baseball stands outside of time. And baseball is quintessentially American.

Another piece of Americana: the phrase "hanging out." Whatcha doin'? Hanging out. Can I come over and hang out with you? Yup.

Or take John Wayne and similar heroes: slow talkin', slow ponderin', slow ridin'. "Well. I. Reckon. The. Sun's. Gonna. Set. Pardner."

Slowness. America is a 19th century nation. We understand slowness at a core level. (We also understand quickness.)

Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby by Donald Barthelme is one of my favorite stories. I went to see if it had been reprinted on the web -- sure enough, and by a fellow Seattle-based weblogger, Jessamyn.

"Some of us had been threatening our friend Colby for a long time, because of the way he had been behaving. And now he'd gone too far, so we decided to hang him. Colby argued that just because he had gone too far (he did not deny that he had gone too far) did not mean that he should be subjected to hanging. Going too far, he said, was something everybody did sometimes. We didn't pay much attention to this argument. We asked him what sort of music he would like played at the hanging.... Colby said he'd always been fond of Ives's Fourth Symphony. Howard said that this was a 'delaying tactic' and that everybody knew that the Ives was almost impossible to perform and would involve weeks of rehearsal, and that the size of the orchestra and chorus would put us way over the music budget. 'Be reasonable,' he said to Colby."

The story reminds me of good advice I got from one of the few teachers I had in high school who had both brains and a sensitivity to the poetic current that runs through everyday life. There's no such thing as going too far, she told us at the start of the year. If you think you're about to go too far -- either in your work for this class or in life -- go farther.

She was my AP English teacher and one of the very few teachers to suggest that writing was something other than a species of etiquette. Learning to write isn't like learning to use the salad fork at the right time, learning not to drink from the fingerbowl.

I didn't then, and don't now, think she was advocating extremism for extremism's sake -- she was letting us know that if you have an idea, you should pursue it and not let up, go past the point where you think it's getting weird or that other people might laugh or want to hang you.

I'm paraphrasing, as I don't remember her exact words. Go way too far, she said; go so far beyond too far that you can't even see the line anymore. Then you're getting somewhere worth going.


The Orderly Boxes theme by Bradley Peters is now available to EditThisPage.Com and Weblogs.Com sites. Thanks, Bradley!

Now, here's a challenge to everyone else: let's make more themes. It's a chance to show off your talent, build some flow, and do something great for the folks who aren't designers but still want a well-designed site.

The ZopeFish site is using the new theme. Coo.

I wish I could explain the Rocky Horror Picture Show to Mira. I haven't been to it in years, but when I was a teenager my friends and I went pretty regularly.

Rocky isn't a rebellion against anything. It's an affectionate spoof of old, really bad science fiction and monster movies. It brings to the foreground the repressed sexuality of the '50s, stands it on its head. Think of Ed Wood, director of Plan 9 from Outer Space and Glen or Glenda. That's the context.

To get it, you need at least an acquaintance with '50s American culture and B-movies. And you need to be able to drop all earnestness -- Rocky is about camp (though not itself camp); it's ironic, a parody.

It's fun. Knowing fun, adult fun, fun with a wink.

Update: It occurs to me that Rocky pokes as much fun at its own time -- the '70s, the Sexual Revolution -- as it does at the '50s. Rocky is far from being a rebellion -- you could almost argue that it's conservative. Sexual dogmatists of either extreme are unable to enjoy this movie. A healthy sense of humor, which dogmatists lack, is crucial.

Update 2: By coincidence, the book I was reading at lunch -- Umberto Eco's Six Walks in the Fictional Woods -- mentions Rocky Horror. Eco's writing about cult movies, Casablanca in particular.

"We also know that, in order to advance the plot [of Casablanca], the scriptwriters put in all the clichés of cinematic and narrative history into the film, turning it into a museum, so to speak, for moviegoers. For this reason, it can be used as a kit for assembling archetypes. In a way, the same thing applies to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which is the cult movie par excellence precisely because it lacks form, and so can be endlessly deformed and put out of joint.... In order to become a Sacred Wood, a wood must be tangled and twisted like the forests of the Druids, and not orderly like a French garden."


John VanDyk: How to Hook PostgreSQL and Frontier Together via ODBC.

Thanks to everyone who came to the Scripting News dinner last night! I had a great time.

Here's Sheila, David Brown, Mira, and Dave on the Scripting News dinner.

I'm imagining Bill Gates at home singing along to his karaoke machine. (He's rich; undoubtedly he has a karaoke machine.) The song is a Clash cover of an old favorite. Bill sings:

Breaking rocks in the hot sun
I fought the law and the law won.
I needed money 'cause I had none
I fought the law and the law won.
I killed my baby and I feel so sad --
I guess my race is run.
She's the best baby that I ever had --
I fought the law and the law won.
I fought the law and the -- the law won.
His "baby" is of course Microsoft.

Does Bill sound like himself as he's singing, or is he trying to sing like Joe Strummer? He's all alone: I think he's trying to sing like Joe Strummer. He sounds like he needs to clear his throat.

If I can leave you with one final detail to sort of bring the image on home: Bill's taken off his glasses and tied a red-and-white bandanna around his head, a la Axl Rose.


Reminder: Tuesday night is Scripting News dinner night in Seattle, 7 p.m., at Mama's Mexican Kitchen in Belltown.

If we're real good, maybe after dinner we'll go mobile, take a short walk to the Frontier Room.

Sheila's got the scoop on squirrels.

Biermania! Bob's working on the Linux port of Frontier; this is his weblog.

I got a haircut today at the local barber shop, always a very Norman Rockwell experience. He actually did have lollipops, but he didn't offer me one. Well, that's okay.

I always feel smarter after getting a haircut. I also feel like I look fierce -- another illusion.

My barber has an actual barber pole. If you don't already know it, the history of the barber pole might be surprising (and a little gruesome).

Lawrence Lee applied the MinimalWhite Theme to -- then started personalizing it, changing colors, etc. It looks great! Lawrence writes: "This should be a popular starting point for new Manila users."

I'm glad to see someone using MinimalWhite. (This is the first instance that I know of.) My personal favorite so far, it's designed to bring the words to the front, to get everything else out of the way.

Also: it's a reminder that when you apply a Theme you don't have to stop there. Themes can be starting points, as Lawrence writes and shows by example.

How did I find out about it? I went to Themes.UserLand.Com, where Lawrence created a News Item. Members can create News Items, you don't have to be an editor. So if you create a Theme, or are using a Theme, or have something to say about Themes, that's the place to go.

Latte.Weblogs.Com: "BTW, I really like the new theme feature. I've tried to muck about with web page design but I'm not a graphic designer and I never will be. These themes allow design-newbies like me to have a cool web site."

I pointed to the Celebrating Italo Calvino NY Times audio special last November, and last night I finally got around to starting to listen to it. I didn't get much past the opening (yet) -- Calvino's daughter, Giovanna Calvino, so touched by the recognition her father still receives years after his death, can't make it through the opening remarks without starting to cry.

Is it too much to talk about "loving" a writer you've never met and never can meet? Yes. Duh. But then there's no word for the bond, however one-way, that exists between a passionate reader and the mind of the author whose works incite that passion.

Between the lines, behind the words, one perceives -- partly, inaccurately, with not a little bit of projection at work -- a style of consciousness, a mental cosmos that's immensely attractive. It's a fiction, to be sure, one in which the reader plays a large role. But: there is (was) a real mind behind it.


DaveNet: The Sixth Sense.


Fixed a minor bug in News Items tonight: it was possible to accidentally post a News Item to the home page twice if you used the Back button in your browser. Now (once all servers are updated) it won't be possible.

New theme available for EditThisPage.Com and Weblogs.Com sites: MinimalWhite.

Star Trek geek alert -- it's me, I'm the geek -- this geek can't help but hear the words "Ketracel White" in place of Minimal White. That being the name of the ultra-addictive drug the shape-shifting Founders used to keep the warrior Jem'Hadar obedient.

Themes.UserLand.Com is a new weblog.


Columbus: "Wow. This themes thing is really cool. I just changed the look and feel of this site 4 times in 5 minutes." This site is using my personal favorite theme (so far), the RightStrip theme.

I'm trying to develop an aesthetic approach to watching bees. We have these lovely allium (alliums?), now in full spherical bloom, around which bees hover like helicopters harassing a giant purple geodesic dome. But the voice in my head insists: I know it's gonna hurt me, I know it's gonna hurt me, I know it's gonna hurt me.

A lesson I keep re-learning: the body has limits. (Problem is, those limits keep changing on me.) The night Themes shipped I was up until dawn. The next day, yesterday, I was in a fog all day. This reporter even took a nap, which didn't help much, or not enough. I got major sleep last night and am fresh again today, I'm happy to report.

The day begins with Madness: "So if you're coming off the street, and you're beginning to feel the heat, well listen Buster, you better start to move your feet, to the rockin'-est rock-steady beat of Madness -- One Step Beyond!"



What Are Themes?

How to Create a Theme

How to Manage Themes

Themes are now available on Weblogs.Com and EditThisPage.Com sites. If you run your own server, update manila.root to get the new feature.

Update: New Theme available now on EditThisPage.Com and Weblogs.Com servers.

We're shipping just a few Themes at first -- we want to stress that Themes are a wide open area, there's lots of room and opportunity for creativity. You don't need Frontier to create Themes, all you need is a Manila site. Here are the first four shipping Themes: Default, OldDays, ThickLines, and Stripes. Will there be more? You bet.

New Themes-related macros: homePageLink, themeLink, downloadTheme.

As I was working on shipping Themes last night I had a local talk radio station on in the background. There were discussing the Microsoft breakup order.

Overwhelmingly, the callers were upset, disagreeing sometimes vehemently with the decision. And, also overwhelmingly, they weren't software industry people, but people with a PC at home who browse the web, send email, write in Word, and so on. The common theme: Bill Gates is great, he's made all this so easy and convenient and cheap.

There were a few dissenters, but none of them could coherently explain why a Microsoft monopoly hurts customers.

After I got over my emotional thinking -- I just wanted to shake some sense into people who I thought were grievously and sadly deluded -- I remembered that these people are right, maybe not about Microsoft itself (they gave Bill Gates personal credit for pretty much everything good in the world of computing, often absurdly) -- but they're absolutely right about what they want from computers. And they're right that Microsoft, in conjunction with HP, Compaq, Dell, etc., offers it to them, and no one else does.

I don't offer a conclusion or lesson, just a report.

DaveNet: What the Web Wants.

There's another view: the Microsoft case is just another example of this stupid, unnamed syndrome that's been going on as long as I can remember -- we can't seem to last two minutes without there being a major news story that drags out, usually in the courts, for months and years.

From Iran-Contra to the Gulf War to Rodney King to Tonya Harding to O. J. Simpson to Monica Lewinsky to Elian Gonzalez to Bill Gates. It's so tiring. A part of me favors injustice over the dreariness of these stories. Usually we get both injustice and intense boredom. Can't we skip straight to the injustice, bypass the months and years of wondering when this thing will ever end? I'm being facetious, but you get my point.


Super-cool Seattle pictures are up at Sheila's web site.

Mama's Mexican Kitchen will be the location of the Scripting News dinner Tuesday at 7 p.m. We've got a private room. I made reservations for 20. (Under my name: Brent Simmons.)

If you're planning to attend, take the survey . I'd like to get a more clear idea of the number of diners, in case the reservation needs to be modified. Thanks!

John VanDyk writes of eating Marshmallow Safari for breakfast, of how American supermarkets devote an entire aisle to breakfast cereal. As an adult I lost the ability to digest milk, and every time I go to the grocery store I hear the call of my beloved Post Golden Crisp. How I miss the smiling and contented face of Sugar Bear in the morning. Sugar Bear, man, you rock.

It's just milk I have a problem with. Bring on the garlic and jalapenos. I like them spicy noodles.

Actually it's not just milk. Another common household substance -- marijuana -- nauseates me. In my personal reality milk and marijuana are linked, are brothers in the same family of stuff that sends me to the WC. Which is probably a good thing, otherwise I'd be a total stoner, working the late shift at a video store.

So as not to shatter my already cracked street cred, let's say, without going into details, that in my very distant past I tried a number of other drugs and found them copascetic. Also note: I don't endorse or condone the use of drugs. I don't condemn it, either, I'm in the enviable position of being completely apathetic on the subject. (Well, that was the sound of my street cred shattering, as jagged, reflective shards hit the pavement.) Protestant by upbringing, if not by practice, I condone hard work, physical and mental exercise, and put my faith in the four food groups, despite the special challenges the dairy group presents me.

Flaubert: "Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work."

It's a good day when you can go from Sugar Bear to Flow-bear in a few paragraphs.


The themes discussion continues. As does work on themes.

New show at Stand In | Jennifer Gardner. Via post695.

Another thing I like about Mac IE 5: keyboard navigation. It works like MSIE 5 for Windows. You can tab (and shift-tab) between links, hit enter to follow the link.

I'm starting to get the hang of BrainForest. It's keeping the to-do list for Themes organized. I'm still planning a review in a few days, maybe on the weekend. Perhaps before then I'll have come up with an easy way of going from BrainForest to the web, probably via Pike.

My father -- who represents the first generation of Simmons men to be saddled with the unfortunate initials B.S. -- once gave me this sound advice: "You can never have too many napkins."

Say you're downtown shopping, and you get a hot dog (or Wiener Schnitzel) from that go-get-'em fellow with the cart -- take as many napkins as you can without getting in a fight with the man with the tongs. Because, sure enough, 30 minutes later you're going to get a runny nose or spill your latte in your lap. You can't stop Murphy, but you can clean up after he strikes.

Speaking of Murphy... Dear Reader, I noticed when you came in this morning you have a small yellow-green grass stain, streaked with dirt, behind your ankle. No no, other leg. I know you were running late, but still, use the sidewalks, that's what they're there for. When you launder these pants, don't dry them on high heat, you'll bake the stain right in.

Andrew Wooldridge: scriptingnews chat today! "I'm lurking pretty much all day on #scriptingnews on irc today. I'd like to invite everyone on to come and chat about manila, ETP, soap, or any other cool stuff you feel like!"

It's the year 2000, and I have a terrible confession: I've never chatted. I treat my sentences like B-movie Hollywood starlets -- they spend hours in makeup and wardrobe, trying on capital letters, making sure no vowels are missing or out of place, picking through racks of punctuation looking for the perfect accessories, checking first this look in the mirror, then that look. They won't go out until they're ready to meet their public. (Demanding little prisses, Trinitron prima donnas, unaware that people are laughing at them behind their back.)

I'm joking. Sort of. But I'll never be the Dogma 2000 candidate for President of the Internet, despite my sympathy for the cause. And I may never chat.

You'd be right to say: "Oh, get over yourself!"


Jake's got a question for Mozilla gurus.

Discuss.UserLand.Com: A discussion about Themes.

joefish is totally funny. Requires Flash. (Rated PG-13 for language and animated violence -- but it's still totally funny.) Via Melissa -- who doesn't have a weblog, but should.

Themes are coming, soon. (Not sure what day yet.) There are a few technical details still to work out, a little UI left to do, but the hard parts have been done.

If you think you might want to make Manila themes, there a couple things you can do to prepare. One is create a site that you want to make clone-able. Maybe that's your existing site -- if not, go to Weblogs.Com and create a new site. After making a site that you think would be a cool theme, validate the HTML and CSS. I posted a couple bookmarklets the other day that help with validation.

You don't have to shoot for HTML 4.0.1 Strict -- given the state of browsers, HTML 4.0.1 Transitional is a good level.

I could write a little essay here about why standards are important, but I'd rather work on getting themes finished. Instead I'll point you to the Web Standards Project.

More about themes will appear as we release the feature.

(Yes, this site still doesn't validate. It will once I have time. Themes are the priority.)

"White youth, black youth, better find another solution. Why not phone up Robin Hood, and ask him for some wealth distribution." Listening to The Clash From Here to Eternity, their live album released last year. Ya sure, it rocks.

Seems like lots of people are setting up radio stations with -- maybe it's time for Radio Free Ballard. You betcha.

I figured out how to do a HotSync with my Visor last night. It took about 10 minutes, and a couple restarts, but probably only because I didn't read any of the instructions.

I installed BrainForest, because I wanted an outliner. I'll write a review after using it for a few days.

Update: Tom Donovan loves BrainForest. Tom has posted some converters for going from Frontier to BrainForest and back.

As I was mowing the lawn -- with my mechanical push mower, human-powered, software-developer-powered -- a blister formed on the edge of my right hand, the karate-chop outer edge. I had to hold the handle of the mower the way some baseball players hold their bats, with the pinky finger off the knob end, wrapped around thin air.

There are people, probably most people, for whom likenesses -- similarities, similes, metaphors, connections -- come easily and unasked-for. This promotes a richness of experience, as one runs strings connecting this to that, as daily life becomes web-like.

But there's a mushiness to this, too -- we experience life as metaphor soup. Rather than seeing something for what it actually is, we see what's related.

Sometimes I think what Zen is (or part of what Zen is, or a side effect of Zen) is a complete lack of metaphor. Precision of observation; un-self-conscious focus of experience. Admittedly I know very little about Zen, other than what a couple books have said.

Two Zen principles have always meant a lot to me yet remain mysterious:

1. Zen is your everday life.

2. The uninitiated sees a blade of grass as a blade of grass. The Zen student sees a blade of grass as... something else, something so much more than a blade of grass. The Zen master sees a blade of grass... as a blade of grass.

It's been said the Zen is incompatible with Western forms of art. (The Beats, perhaps intending to disprove that thesis, ended up strengthening that position.)

A book I started reading (I'm about a third of the way through) makes me question that. It's Mr. Palomar by Italo Calvino.

Mr. Palomar is an observer of phenomena. (Duh.) The book opens with him watching waves on a beach. The descriptions of vague, chaotic patterns are rendered with precision, with very little metaphor. I'm not even finished the book, and I can already tell you it's worth reading. It's making me think about the way I experience the world.

Boy, I really like cream soda.


poppy, allium

Sheila and I have been enjoying blivet alot lately. I like watching weblogs grow, become something worth visiting every day.

I downloaded and installed iMovie, which is now available for G4s, not just iMac DVs. It quit with a type 12 error every time I launched it. I tried turning on and off extensions -- you know the dance. Nothing worked.

Finally I remembered about the MacFixIt site, where I found in one of their forums that somebody else had the answer: iMovie doesn't work unless the Control Strip is enabled. So I enabled it; now iMovie works.

Why the hell does iMovie require the Control Strip? It's so weird, so Windows.

{pictureRef (, align:"right")}New Manila macros: glossSub, includeMessage, and pictureRef. To make these available on your server, update manila.root, and quit and re-start Frontier.

I used the pictureRef macro to right-align the picture of the atom above. I typed {pictureRef ("atom.gif", align:"right")}.

The Bookmarks and Search boxes are included in the template for this site via the includeMessage macro. In the dynamic version of this site, I get an Edit button beneath each of these boxes. It makes it easy to edit components of the template without actually having to edit the template itself.

Manila's basic macro are documented on the Macros site.

I don't know if this universal, semi-universal, or just me. When I was very young, when I was still learning language, I expected words that sound alike to be closely related in meaning. Two examples: perm and sperm, Venus and penis. The difficulty in learning is exacerbated by not being too good at hearing yet. (Part of learning language is learning to hear language. Duh.) The words Venus and penis were nearly indistinguishable. The first time I can remember making people laugh is when I inadvertently referred to the planet penis.

Lesson learned: penis jokes are funny.

(Note to Freudians: get lost.)

Penis, second planet from the sun, cloud-covered, mysterious, hot enough to melt lead. Penis, the Evening Star, visited by U.S. and Russian probes, mapped from orbit.

Penis, the Morning Star, home of a runaway Greenhouse Effect, with a surface atmospheric pressure 90 times that of Earth's.

When it comes to planetary humor, who can forget... Commoditising the Windows API: "It isn't hard to imagine that a large proportion of companies may start writing against the WINE libraries, the common standard of the old Windows and every other operating system, including Linux, instead of the Microsoft Windows API, to ensure compatibility between the various competing operating systems and the largest possible market share." Via


The Lou Reed show was excellent. If you can get tickets for this tour, do so. (That is, if you like Lou Reed, of course.)

Sneak previews: here and here. And here.


I'm going to the Lou Reed show tonight. Years ago I made up a song: I Wanna Be Lou Reed. It's still true. If you're roughly my age (early 30s) there's a strong chance you think that the Velvet Underground invented music. You've noticed that "icon" is an anagram for Nico. When people mention The White Album, you think of VU's white album with the big yellow banana on the cover.

Sheila's got more about Lou Reed -- and about the long-awaited return of Jamie Moyer to Seattle's starting rotation.


John VanDyk: Announcing the Metadata Plugin for Manila: "This plugin allows the association of arbitrary metadata with stories in a Manila site. Metadata can be indexed automatically and macros can use these indices to build tables of contents, keyword search results, product summaries, or whatever you can dream up." "Welcome to the hottest spot on the web for hard-core client-side engineering..."

XML-RPC: XML-RPC validation suite.

I like how Daniel Berlinger has used the Discuss CSS feature -- the header is a background image, a gradient. Looks good. Super-bon.

Bug Fixes 06/01/00: "Several bugs were fixed today in mainResponder and Manila."

Bookmarklet for validating HTML below. It validates the HTML in the page you're looking at using W3C's on-line validator.

It's been tested in MSIE 5 Windows and Macintosh on my machines. To install, drag the link to your Toolbar Favorites or ctrl-click (or right-click) on it and add it to your Favorites.

Validate HTML

Here's one for validating CSS:

Validate CSS

You'll note that this page doesn't validate -- that will change.

Velocity: Michael's writing about teenagers partying at the Seattle Center. It warms my heart: there's a sense of continuity here. 15 years ago that was me, that was my friends. Of course -- in those days the Center hadn't been renovated yet, and Skoochie's was nearby. Do kids these days have as much fun as we had? I hope so. (The responsible adult in me adds: we always took the bus.)

Avoiding fights was always interesting, at least back in the '80s. "New Wavers suck!" My witty reply: "Stoners suck!" Ah, the good old days.

I started using my new Handspring Visor yesterday. So far so good -- in fact, it's great. Pretty much all the time I need to work very systematically: so I create a short-term to-do list (but as a memo) and keep track of where I am. It's hard to do in a desktop app, because often my screen is full of windows I'm working on, no room for another app or outline. Or I may be doing something that requires me to quit and restart Frontier or Pike often (say a new build), and I can't keep an outline open.

The other thing I'm finding it's good for is to take random notes of things I discover. For instance, last night I was validating the HTML and CSS on a website, and discovered that the spacePixels macro leaves out the alt attribute, thereby creating non-valid HTML. I no longer trust my memory on these things, I like to make notes.

I haven't learned to do a HotSync yet. Maybe tonight. That way I can install BrainForest so I can have an outliner on my Visor. My ultimate goal is connecting my PDA to the web.

I always think I don't like Bob Marley and the Wailers. You know: blech to that reggae stuff, it's just ska gone bad, all self-consciously political and self-righteous, and slow and boring, blah blah blah -- but then I actually hear a Bob Marley song, and I think: wow, that's good. What an artist, what a band.