inessential by Brent Simmons

December 2000


New macro: includeHttp includes the text returned by an HTTP request in a Manila-generated Web page.

Sheila wrote a new sample macro: workspace.randomLine returns a random line from a discussion group message, so you can do things like a random quote generator.

Another new sample is from Emmanuel Décarie: Sending a file with tcp.sendMail.


I still maintain a server running Frontier 4.2.3. I rarely have to actually use Frontier on that machine, but today I did. I felt like taking a screenshot.

This server is the descendant of the first server I ever ran. There are files that date back to 1995.

The hard drive is named Jeeves. At the time I thought that was a cute name for a server.

The server originally ran Frontier 4.0b1, aka Aretha.


On Linux I run Netscape, and I've always been bugged by how poorly it renders so many sites. Then I discovered I could turn off support for style sheets -- and now it works much better. (On the Advanced panel in the Preferences dialog box, uncheck Enable Style Sheets.)

In other words, Netscape's CSS support is so bad that no support at all is better. But that's not news to anyone.


"Vat kind of creemenal ees dis Kringle?!"

--Burger Meister Meister Burger


I'm so happy because I got Scrapple to eat on Christmas!


Mmm... Philadelphia's Favorite.


Little bits of software

Here are a couple small things I like point to every now and again, in hope they'll be useful to somebody besides me. I myself use these pretty much every day.

Web File Types Contextual Menu Plugin
For Mac users, a utility that makes it easy to set the type and creator codes for downloaded Frontier files. You know the drill -- you download a guest database and need to deal with the type and creator codes before opening it. With this utility it's a click away.

Validate HTML and Validate CSS Bookmarklets
For any browser that understands JavaScript bookmarklets. You can validate the HTML and CSS of the frontmost page displayed in your browser with a single click. This is useful not only for standards compliance but for fixing bugs -- the validator will tell you about unclosed tags, for instance. (Note: scroll down on the page linked to above to find the bookmarklets.)


We note with great sadness Kirsty MacColl's untimely death.

How many hours have we all spent singing along -- half-drunk, surrounded by good friends -- to Fairytale of New York?

It was Christmas Eve, babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me,
"Won't see another one."

I was at the barbershop the other day. In the chair to the left of mine a young boy was getting his hair cut.

The boy was joking about what his older brother was going to get for Christmas. It was apparent that the boy and his older brother were both regulars -- all the barbers had greeted the boy by name when he came in, and they knew who his older brother was.

The boy was saying his older brother was bad. So he was going to get a lump of coal for Christmas.

No! Worse -- he was going to get a doll's eye for Christmas.

"A doll's eye?" one barber asked and looked at another barber.

"A doll's eye, yes, the eye of a doll," the other barber said.

"Not a doll's eye," the boy said, changing his mind. "He's gonna get coffee!"

Reader's Digest. It would be so easy to knock them -- but knocking the obviously and contentedly low-brow is a sure sign of Philistinism. (College kids and hipsters, take note.)

I mention Reader's Digest because the slice-of-life bit above reminds me of how, when I was a boy, I used to read all the jokes. Which led to dreaming of how I could write those jokes -- and get paid for it. Reader's Digest always used to have a page saying how much they paid for the jokes. It was alot of money! Or so it seemed to me as a twelve-year-old.

My friends and I used to fantasize about how we'd be rich from writing jokes, and what that would be like, to have all this money for baseball cards, banana seats, Star Wars action figures, and the deluxe version of Monopoly.

Except this one friend, a Mormon, who said he'd put the money in his missionary fund. Which was a jar of money sitting on top of his dresser. He fantasized about having more money saved up than any other boy in his church.

The rest of us thought he was crazy. He already had alot saved up, almost a hundred dollars.

The boys of the NYPD choir
Still singing "Galway Bay"
And the bells are ringing out --
For Christmas Day.


How to use Radio as an editing tool for slides in Manila.

Here's a slideshow on the subject.

On Nov. 14 I asked for advice about flat screen LCD monitors.

And now I have one -- delivered today was a Samsung 770TFT. It has a 17" screen (equivalent to 19" in a glass monitor). Comfortable reading resolution is 1280 x 1024.

It was originally planned for my Mac desktop machine -- but it had to compete with the Trinitron I'm currently using there, and it couldn't. No matter what I did with the settings, it was either washed out or muddy. Tried it with both OS 9 and OS X -- it wasn't that good.

So I set it up for my Windows and Linux desktops. (Which share a monitor via a KVM switch.) And there it's beautiful -- for whatever reason, it's great with Windows 2000 and Linux running GNOME. It's sharp and bright, easy to read. It's more readable than the glass monitor I had been using.


I've always resisted listening to NPR -- "yuppie scum radio" I've always called it.

But I've succumbed. I'm listening to NPR now. The problem is, there's no good alternative.

So, here I sit, true to my demographic group.

Next thing you know I'll be fussy about beer, preferring cloudy black bitter dregs to the eminently drinkable Miller High Life.

Shoot me before I start praising Northwest cuisine and its habit of perverting every dish that's good and true with salmon, mushrooms, and wild greens.

You call this fettucine alfredo? I call this fish salad.

All I want for Christmas.

Jake likes fish salad. Jake's an extremely likable fellow, but we don't let him cook for us.

There are a couple links on Scripting News today regarding Web pads. (Web pad: a tablet, no keyboard, with a browser. Pen-based input. Wireless. Larger than a pda.)

As a fan of the small, lightweight, and portable, I've wanted a Web pad for a long time.

I bought an iBook and an Airport -- so I sort of have one. I can browse the Web in my living room. I can sit outside. It's cool.

But it's still too large for when all I'm doing is reading. (Which I do a lot of.)

My guess is that the first Web pad I buy will run a version of Linux and Mozilla (or perhaps Opera). Partly because I'm not a fan of the Windows GUI, but also because the economics are probably better. I suspect they'll be cheaper -- and for Web pads to do well, they'll have to be inexpensive.

Also, I expect a Linux pad to be hackable in ways that a Windows pad would not be. Reminder to Web pad developers: the set of early adopters overlaps the set of hackers.


Radio UserLand 7.0b32 has been released. It includes two new commands, Save As HTML and Save As Plain Text. The first renders an outline and saves it to disk; the second allows you to create and edit plain text files in Radio -- which means you could edit Python scripts in an outliner, for instance.


A-Rod's off to Texas, to play for the Rangers. I thought I'd be more upset about this. But by now we're used to our superstars leaving town.

The irony is that the Mariners keep getting better. Last year, the first year post-Griffey, we almost made the World Series. And this year, with the signings of Ichiro Suzuki and Jeff Nelson and with the return of Lou Piniella, we may go all the way.

Sure, I'll miss A-Rod. But I'm not concerned about the team itself. If the Mariners stay healthy and play up to their potential, they could win it all.

George W. Bush is my president.

That's not my choice -- but that's okay.

I'm proud of my country today. Our processes may seem odd to non-Americans (or even to Americans), but what we're doing is trying to attain fairness. (Sheila called Americans fairness junkies.) One of our methods is the adversarial method -- two groups battle, and at the end we expect fairness.

I'm a fierce partisan Democrat. Do I feel like the process was fair? Yes. Had it ended sooner, I might not have. It's hard to tell.

Now I'm very interested in the future. All the talk is of Bush bringing the country together, reaching across party lines.

I don't know what this would be like.

There are lots of issues where the Republicans are on one side and Democrats on another, and there is no compromise. School vouchers, for instance, or a flag burning amendment. Where's the bi-partisan ground?

I don't see it. So all this talk about working together seems right now like just talk. I haven't heard any specifics. I'm having a hard time imagining specifics.

If Bush (and the rest of the U.S., including me and you) can find the places where we can come together, and do good things for the country, I'll be amazed and pleased. It's a hard job.

More than anything, I want what's right and fair for the country and her people. This goes way deeper than partisan politics.

For my part, I'll start by working to keep an open mind.

All I have right now are questions. That's good, I think, that's the way to begin.

Only a Mariners fan would point out that George W. Bush is the former owner of the Texas Rangers, our AL West rivals, new home of that shortstop guy.

Texas Texas Texas. I was recently there, for the first time in my life. I caught connecting flights in Houston on my way to and from New Orleans for the EDevCon conference. But being in the Houston airport isn't quite the same as being in Texas. So, I've been there, but only technically.

Oh, sorry, did you want me to link to something? Oops, I forgot. Here, check out Mixman.


I added a new top-level section to my directory: Software Development. It contains two new directories, one for Version Control and another for Design Patterns. Please feel free to suggest links -- it totally helps.


It's snowing in Seattle...


Having just missed the 3 o'clock workshops, I'm coming at you live from the "Online Nerve Center." (A big room with a bunch of computers.) It's an instance of Manila appreciation: I can update my site. Which may seem like a ho-hum notion by now -- except it's not, really.

When I launched IE, the home page was set to Astounding Web Sites. Cool.