July 2001 Archives

This was before I discovered SSI...

I think that HTML should have an include statement. It'd make life much easier for those of us too lazy to build our websites in a database. There's probably a way to do it, or at least fake it using CSS, but it'd be so much simpler. I mean, HTML is designed to include other data types in-line (the most obvious example is pictures), so why not include include other HTML files in-line? It would make building modular web pages much easier.

On the other hand, I could probably do it in PHP. That would require me learning PHP, though. And I don't want to learn PHP. At least not now.

Isn't Your 15 Minutes Up?

Revised the FAQ slightly.

I'm hoofing it through Union Square yesterday, on the hunt for something that's really hard to find in New York City but shouldn't be, and who do I see but Bernie Goetz.

Believe it or not, he's running for mayor.

I guess that's not entirely surprising, since everyone and her brother is running for public office this year.


It's a strange, strange world we live in.

That's Just WRONG!

So I'm watching Iron Chef last night, and on comes an ad for Preparation H Wipes.

I'm so very sorry, but that's just horribly, terribly, wrong.

There oughta be a law or something.

Oodles of Noodles

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So I’m sitting at the bar in Republic, the noodle shop in Union Square (I’m fond of their curried duck noodles, particularly if I have a glass of cold beer to go along with it), watching the chefs do their thing, and it hits me. What I really want when I hit it big and remodel my kitchen is a wok station. One with big huge roaring flames and room to make a mess. I like the idea. Big loud, roaring flames. The only problem is that I’m not entirely sure that I’d have room for it in my apartment. Perhaps the solution would be to buy the apartment next door and expand…

In related news, I’m finally working on Condensed China again. It’s only four years out of date. Time for an update.

And if you’re at all interested in travel photography, you can investigate some of my pictures of last year’s SE Asia trip here. It’s somewhat old (meaning that if you’ve seen these before, you won’t be seeing anything new) and I’ve been meaning to integrate it with my main site, but guess what — I haven’t. The pictures will migrate over eventually. Someday.

Blowin' In The Wind

I did that long ride up and down the Hudson again yesterday. And, I have determined, with apologies to Bob Dylan, that the answer is not blowin' in the wind, but rather that the answer is bike shorts.

At least certain parts of my anatomy hope so.

It really is a long ride. From my house, up to the George Washington Bridge, down to the Battery, and back up to my apartment is about twenty miles. It's nice down at the Battery, at least if you get there early enough, before the crowds of tourists descend and turn it into a seething mass of sweaty humanity; you can look out at Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty in peace and feel hokey and patriotic. Proud to be an American and all that. Land of the free, home of the brave; the great melting pot.

Actually, the immigrant experience is more like the great tossed salad than the great melting pot, at least for the first generation or so.

What's also interesting, at least in New York, is that immigrant neighborhoods have a habit of staying immigrant neighborhoods; it's just that the immigrants themselves change. Perhaps the best example is how Chinatown has grown to engulf Little Italy and the formerly Jewish neighborhoods of the Lower East Side.


Macworld Expo is here.


Red Sleeves

So I'm out on my bike on Saturday. And I'm wearing a sleeveless T-shirt.

It was a beautiful day out to go for a ride. Sunny, warm but not too warm. A perfect day to head up to the George Washington Bridge, then go all the way down to the Battery, and then back up home.

Gentle reader, I am not a small man. And I am no longer as young as I once was.

The ride up the river was stunning. I really shouldn't be writing about this, for fear that others will discover it, but I'm writing about it anyway. Heading up the river from my apartment, I go through Riverside Park South, Riverside Park, Cherry Walk, past Fairway at 125th Street, past Riverbank State Park, back into Riverside Park (called Upper Riverside Park, I think), finally ending up at the little red lighthouse underneath the George Washington Bridge at approximately 180th Street. The lighthouse is actually in Fort Washington Park, but I'm kinda vague on where exactly the boundary of Riverside Park and Fort Washington Park is. A quick search on Google indicates that I'm not the only person who doesn't know where the one ends and the other begins. Perhaps the best part of the ride is the relative paucity of other riders and joggers. Compared to Central Park, the riverside is abandoned and desolate.

My legs are actually in pretty good shape, all things considered. It takes about a mile or so to really get them loose and warmed up, but I guess that's just age. Or something.

Turning around, there's an amazing view of Manhattan. And a pretty nice view of New Jersey, too. And the ride down is nice, too. Once past 59th Street, I'm in Hudson River Park, an ongoing project to turn Manhattan's West Side waterfront into something that's actually attractive. A smooth paved bike path extends from 59th Street all the way down to Chambers Street. It's so well put-together than I don't even notice that I'm zipping past most of Midtown Manhattan.

No, it's not the legs that are the problem.

I hit Chambers Street, and turned right into Battery Park City. Dodging runners with jogging strollers and the odd fisherman, I weave my way down to Battery Park, at the very southern tip of Manhattan. Then I turn around again and head up to Pier 25, just north of Chambers Street, for a burger and some lemonade.

I take advantage of the opportunity to rest.

I also investigate The River Project Estuarium on Pier 26. It's an interesting look at the Hudson River as a biological habitat. If you're ever down there, I recommend that you check it out.

Then I climb, every so slowly, back on to my bike, and head back up the river towards home.

See, the problem is that I'm a big guy, and I have a proportionally big behind. Unfortunately, bike seats aren't big at all. In fact, they're rather small. So there's the problem of a particular amount of mass that's concentrated on a small area that's not used to supporting so much.

Now I know why bicycle shorts have padding.

I get home, and take a shower. I'm getting dressed when I look in the mirror and notice the sunburn. Remember that sleeveless T-shirt? Well, as I stand there, it looks like I'm wearing a white shirt with red sleeves. Bright red sleeves.

Lucky 13

In case you're wondering about the staggering blob of text below (three thousand, two hundred, and three [more or less] words and counting), this is not going to be a text-only journal. Thanks To The Power Of HTML, there will actually be pictures (and ever perhaps other forms of media) from time to time.

Like this one.

Speaking of Bali, I have to say that the travel itch is striking again. That restless feeling, that wanting to move and see new and strange and beautiful things. It's not unbearable yet, but it's there, and it's quite real. It's not as bad as it was last year, when I just Had To Get The Hell Out Of Dodge for a few weeks; not quite as imperative, not as demanding, but it's an itch, and one that's gonna get worse until I finally end up scratching it.

It's not that I want to leave New York—quite the contrary; I very much enjoy living here (not to say that I wouldn't move if the circumstances are right). It's that, well, I get more done when I'm on the road. I feel like I'm actually accomplishing stuff. I can cram a year's worth of living into three weeks on the road. The lure of the road, the romance of the road, me and Willie Nelson singing On The Road Again.

The question, of course, is where. I'm thinking about Asia again, Hong Kong again, maybe Vietnam, maybe China proper, maybe Japan. Nepal sounds quite intriguing, particularly after what happened with the Crown Prince and all that.

Europe is also an option, particularly if my sister ends up spending some time there. It's been a long time since I've been over on the other side of the Atlantic and travelled.

Shortly before I left Hong Kong to come to New York, I took a three-week junket around South-East Asia, and I swore that I'd never travel alone again. Last year I spent three weeks wandering aimlessly around South-East Asia again, and was travelling more or less alone once more. I learned a lot about travelling by yourself on those trips. I think that if I go again, it'll probably be by myself. Not because that's become my preference (I think) but rather that it's much easier to head off on one of these trips if you're not travelling with someone. I had enough trouble trying to schedule this stuff around my job and other obligations. Doing it around two people's schedules is more than double the trouble. Either that or I'll just have to win the lottery so I don't have to worry about these sorts of things...

I think that I'll try to avoid cramming everything into a short trip. Which either means:

  1. Going for longer periods of time, which would probably be predicated on winning the lottery (see above), or
  2. Just not going to as many places.

I think I'd prefer Number One, but I may just have to settle for Number Two.

The problem with Number Two is that I'm always tempted by more. It's like when I'm shopping for dinner: I'll be in the supermarket and one thing (artichokes) will catch my eye and then another (asparagus) and a third (orange bell peppers) and the next thing you know I'm making eight different things and trying to fit them all on one plate. But sometimes it'd be better just to focus on three things and keep it simple and clean, you know?

The problem with Number One is that I might experience travel fatigue. If that's the only problem, though, I think I can deal with it...

A New Toy

I think I mentioned below that the OS X Finder creates Classic Mac OS-style aliases by default. I also mentioned that you can create Unix symlinks and that the OS X Finder treats them like aliases. From the command line, however, Classic Mac OS aliases just look like files, not like symlinks. I booted back into OS 9.1 the other day—surprise, the Classic Mac Finder sees symlinks as just plain old files, not like aliases at all.

The big news is that I got a G4 Cube. It arrived yesterday. I am so far liking it very very much. Admittedly, the extent of my use so far has been:

  1. plugging it into a cable modem
  2. downloading NiftyTelnet SSH so I'll be able to read my email until I transfer all my Eudora mailboxes over
  3. downloading all the various updates to the system (I purchased it refurbished—the keyboard and mouse were brand spanking new; the assorted cables that it came with were in good condition; the speakers look fabulous and sound almost as good; the Mac itself only came with Mac OS 9, which is interesting because Mac OS 9.1 was released six months ago. That means, of course, that this is actually a pretty old computer. One hopes that it spent most of its time sitting on the shelf in a warehouse and not in actual use) which took a while (the 9.1 update by itself is 70 MB).
  4. installing Oni, breezing through the first two levels and promptly getting my ass kicked at the beginning of the third level.

The Cube is a really quiet computer. I like that a lot. It'll be on, and I'll walk right on by, not even noticing that it's on. Which is pretty impressive, particularly considering that right now it's in the middle of my living room floor.

I still need to buy a few gadgets for it—a USB hub, a USB-serial converter for my printer, and the like. But so far, I'm giving it an enthusiastic two thumbs up.

Now all I gotta do it put X on it...

Site update:

  • Reduced the default text sizes one point. This site is rather copy-intensive, and I seem to suffer from logorrhea a wee bit, so making the typefaces slightly smaller will fit more text on the page at once.
  • Installed, after a little mucking about, ispell on OS X. I now have spell-checking on all appropriate systems. The key, if anyone's interested, is that OS X's brand of Unix doesn't have /usr/local/lib (in fact, there's nothing in /usr/local). All the stuff that you'd expect to find in /usr/local/lib now lives in /usr/share instead. You also need to download the developer tools, if you don't already have them.
  • Still need to migrate the rest of the old pages over as well as insert a placeholder for the writing page.

Finished? You're Never Really Finished....

Finished updating the rest of the site. Most of the formatting elements are now tucked away in a css file. This means that should I ever be convinced to change the color of the sidebar again, it's a 15-second change, not a two-hour change. I've also added (as you should be able to tell) bullets to delineate entries. Much easier to look at than just lots of white (well, in this case, yellow) space. I should probably do another screenshot, but I think I'll hold off until I'm done with the rest of the site before doing that. I don't think that anyone's looked at the current screenshot that's buried in the F.A.Q. yet.

I need to get ispell installed here on my OS X installation. Given that Emacs is already installed, I'm surprised that ispell wasn't. But I guess they figured that anyone who'd choose to use Emacs for conventional text editing would have the chops to download and install ispell. Heh.

I think that HTML editing falls somewhere in the middle. I'm certainly not writing code, at least not programming code as I know it. On the other hand, there are more than enough mark-up codes and HTML entities floating around that this doesn't really count as conventional text editing either. Yes, I'm writing, but how many word processors ask you to insert all the formatting by hand any more?

The first word processor I ever used was... heck, I don't even remember the name. AppleWrite? It was a word processor that ran on our old Apple ][+. Since the Apple ][+ was an upper-case only machine, upper case was indicated by inverse video. It was pretty crude, I'll admit. But it worked, and I wrote many fourth- and fifth-grade papers on it. Later we upgraded to a great word processor called ScreenWriter II. It was from a company called On-Line Systems. You know them better today as Sierra (yeah, the guys who make the games). ScreenWriter II got around the limitations of the Apple ][ display by displaying everything as graphics. It was sort of a precursor to true WYSIWYG interfaces. It also did 80 columns of text, which was pretty revolutionary (remember, this was 1981 or 1982). Having 80 columns of upper- and lower-case text on a screen that was hardware-limited to 40 columns of upper-case only was pretty damn cool.

Emacs, the text editor I'm using to type this on right now, can trace its origins back to before my Dad bought our old Apple ][+ (Dad bought the Apple in 1980; Emacs dates back to 1976). The funny thing is, of course, that I'm using an incredibly powerful and sophisticated computer to run a program that's almost as old as I am.

Behind The Scenes

Am in the processing of making more-or-less behind-the scenes changes to the site. The most obvious change is that the sidebar doesn't have a blue border anymore; it's a green border. Makes the design somewhat more subtle and–dare I say it?–slightly more tasteful. The link colors have also changed (to match the new stripe, naturally). I've moved more of the formatting into a css file which will make future changes like this at lot less work. Of course, I still have to finish up the rest of the work right now...

To Blog or Not To Blog, That Is The Question

Well, for now the editor of choice is Emacs. I figured out (actually, I asked on comp.emacs and got an answer) how to get it to wrap text how I want it to (I use a wide terminal window). And the more I use it, the more I like it. I'm something of Lisp moron, which means that I can't really customize it, but I can get it to do what I want it to do. It also has the advantage of running on all of the platforms I'm going to be doing my work in. Design work will still be done with Dreamweaver, but basic everyday maintenance will be done with what is known to some as The One True Editor (no, I'm not making that up).

Now, if I could just get it to insert a <p> every time I hit the return key twice, I'd be all set.

I'm kind of afraid that keeping some sort of an on-line journal will only reveal to the world the unadulterated banality that is my life. Yep, here I am, an allegedly hip, happenin' genuine New Yorker (not the magazine). Quite frankly, it's not as exciting as one might think. Yes, I've been to parties with models and actresses. I think the last time that happened was, uh, four years ago? (Oddly enough, it's been about four years since I redesigned this website. But that's another story for another day.)

As a side note, I'm thinking about implementing a 'footnote' style for sort of irrelevant asides like the parenthetical comment above. The problem with text, from one point of view, is that it's linear. I guess the most logical way to implement a footnote-type system would be to have pop-up boxes on a mouse rollover or something similar. On the other hand, I think that it's really annoying when a site does that, so perhaps it's not the best idea I've ever had.

Getting back to the footnote problem, text is inherently linear. It goes in a line, with little provision for branching (this is why, I suppose, they invented the footnote and the parenthetical aside, but that's another story). The problem with text that goes in a line is that ideas are not necessarily linear. They're much more often like a bush, with weird little implications and connotations and the like hanging off of them in all sorts of interesting ways. The Plumb Visual Thesaurus is a good way to illustrate this concept. Hypertext was supposed to solve this problem, but it hasn't yet. It's come a long way, I'll freely admit that.

The other option is to employ a vaguely Proustian prose style, with endless, meandering sentences, sentences that roll, unfold, stretch and expand, much the way the view from atop a mountain ridge unfolds, all-encompassing; sentences that unroll, not in a straight line like a ball of yellow knitting yarn rolling across the living room floor, but rather in a crook'd, irregular path, touching every subject that it can find before finally settling down to the immediate subject at hand and addressing it directly.

Eighty-three words. Not bad.

Speaking of Proust, here's an article that compares Proust and Martha Stewart. Really.

The problem with the Proustian approach, aside from the fact that encourages me to indulge in some rather poor writing habits,, is that there aren't that many people willing to wade through 83-word-sentences. String nine of those babies together and you've got an opinion column ready for the New York Times (or any other major newspaper, for that matter). I suspect that the middle ground lies in the judicious use of the parenthetical comment; however, should that not be enough, I think that the next step would be the addition of footnotes. Adding footnotes to what is essentially a personal journal sounds ridiculous, but is it really?

Site news:

  • I looked up some of the 'last modified' dates on the pages of the previous version of this site. They seem to date all the way back to 1997. Damn, that was a long time ago.
  • Added an extra break between entries. That makes reading them and figuring out where an entry begins and ends much easier.
  • Done with the links section for now. All the links are good, at least as of July 6. Still need to do the Music/Opera section and the writing section.

You know, it's much easier to ride a bicycle when the rear axle isn't bent.

Viagra For Everybody!

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I was reading the Times at lunch today, and discovered that Pfizer (that’s right, the makers of Viagra) is sponsoring this summer’s Earth, Wind & Fire tour. The copy reads "This summer, Earth, Wind & and Fire, one of the brightest stars in music, will be on a stage near you. … You also don’t want to miss the Pfizer booth. Health can often be measured in numbers, why not get yours checked at the booth? … For more information, visit us on the Web at: www.viagraconcerts.com."

Emphasis added.

Baby Steps

Still looking for a editor to use. Pepper has promise, but I'm having trouble fixing the font size. It's not entirely a crime to want to make the text readable, no?

I'm currently writing this in Emacs in an OS X terminal window. It's hardly a perfect solution, but it works for now. I'm kind puzzled as to why Apple shipped OS X without a GUI ASCII editor. TextEdit is really pretty cool, but I can't figure out how to make it save a plain text file. It's awfully fond of RTF. Hang on. I think I figured it out. OK, so it works. But it's not nearly as convenient as SimpleText was for making quick-and-dirty changes to code or other text.

I was just reminded of the fact that TextEdit has this annoying habit of opening HTML files as HTML, not as text. And the type is kinda small. Sue me, I'm at 1600x1200 resolution.

The problem with TextEdit is that even though I can save stuff as regular text, it saves it only without an EOL character that Emacs can recognize.

I'm beginning to think that there's no such thing as the perfect editor. I suppose I could try to write an Emacs extension to do it. But Emacs wasn't really written to handle HTML. Argh. FWIW, I'm using Pepper right now. It does some nice things.

Having to wait five seconds every time you want to save is not one of its more endearing features, but it is a good incentive to register it.

I think for now I'll stick with either Dreamweaver or plain ol' Emacs, unfortunately.

In doing all of this, I discovered something interesting about OS X's Finder. When you create an alias in OS X from the Finder, it creates an old-school-style (i.e. OS 8) alias, which the command line doesn't recognize. However, when you create a symlink using ln from the terminal, the Finder not only recognizes it as a symlink, it recognizes it as an alias. Now, the acid test will be to boot back into OS 9 and see if OS 9 sees the symlink as an alias. I don't think it will, though it'd be pretty cool if it did.

Soft Opening

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I guess I’m officially going live. Call it a ‘soft opening.’ Things to fix on the site:

  • Music & Opera pages need to be reformatted and updated.
  • Same with links.
  • Links also have to be pruned and otherwise reselected.
  • Not sure what’s going to go into the “Other Writing” page. Need to create something for that.

Pretty amazing that the site hasn’t been overhauled in over three years. I guess that it was finally time.

The Photography pages are done, or at least done in the sense that they’ve been formatted in the new format and updated somewhat. Though I can’t say that beyond updating the gear section that there was an awful lot to change.

The Fourth of July was pretty cool. I’m not entirely sure that $15 was worth it, but it was nice. Never been on the Roosevelt island cable car before. It was interesting. I heard, that night, four or five different languages: English, Spanish, German, Cantonese, some form of Hindi, and I probably missed some. Everybody coming out on a foggy night, pregnant with the possibility of rain, to see the fireworks. America. What a country, eh?

For the record, this is not a blog, though I suspect the primary difference is that I’m not using Blogger’s software. Eventually I’d like to end up with something like that — I really don’t think that breaking out Dreamweaver every time I want to write an update is a good idea — but how and why beats the pants off of me. I’ll figure something out.

In a perfect world I’d just roll my own code. Of course the last time I did some serious programming was in what, High School?

Still, it’s a start. Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, what, old chap?