What is Required: Print Captions on the back of Photographs

I am tired of waiting for “the market” to exploit painfully obvious opportunities so I will now provide guidance, in the form of milliblog entries, that tell our less imaginative entrepreneurs just what some of us would buy if we could.

Here’s a deep request. How about printing captions on the back of photographs?

I just went through the excruciating ordeal of ordering about one hundred prints from SmugMug. SmugMug prints meet my high standards but their online ordering software is clunky and clearly geared toward very small print runs. If you have hundreds of pictures, of varying and custom sizes, the software will punish you. The obvious steps of setting a paper type, selecting all your images, and then letting the software work out the paper size from image aspect ratio is not available. You must go image by image setting one easily derived parameter after another. I would print a lot more if it wasn’t such a frigging chore.

As annoying as SmugMug print-ordering is at least I get the prints I want with one major exception. If you check out my online photographs you’ll see I use captions like nanoblog entries. Many people have told me they really like my captions. One of my pet peeves is unlabeled photographs. I have wonderful hundred-year-old photographs of elegantly posed complete strangers because nobody left a clue on the back.

So, in addition to printing timestamps and file names on the back of photographs, include captions as well!

P.S. It takes about five years for the market to meet my obvious requirements; don’t hold your breath.

Milliblog: Religous and Comic Origin Stories

joseph smith powers up small

Joseph Smith gets his superpowers.

Have you ever noticed that the “origin stories” of religious figures and comic superheroes have a lot in common? Green Lantern is given a powerful ring. Moses is handed magic tablets. Buddha, a wealthy patrician, is horrified by injustice and suffering and decides to fix things: ditto for Batman. A powerful, otherworldly being, comes to Earth to save us. Are we talking about Christ or Superman? The only difference between comic book heroes and religious figures is: comic book origin stories are more plausible. There is a teeny tiny chance that being bitten by a radioactive spider will give you some powers, probably a tolerance for certain arachnid proteins, but there is absolutely no chance that long dead John the Baptist will poof back from the dead to baptize your semi-literate backwoods ass.

  1. A milliblog is a short blog entry that makes a single point and then gets out of the reader’s face.

American Star Chamber creates Foreign Passport Business Opportunity

Good news citizens: the putrid rogue intellects in Washington D.C. have created a brand new shiny Star Chamber. What’s a Star Chamber you ask? It’s basically a secret kangaroo court. The US system of injustice already employs an alphabet soup of Star Chambers. Perhaps you’ve heard of FISA and its outstanding work of rubber stamping the surveillance of dangerous American citizens – oops terrorists. Well, I’m happy to report that the self-aggrandizing assholes that drool us are no longer content with monitoring our terrorist naughty bits; now they’re going for what they covet most: our money.

The new Star Chamber law plugs an egregious hole that citizens – oops terrorists – have mercilessly exploited in the past. You see, when an American – oops terrorist – determines that residing in the US and maintaining American citizenship is no longer worth it, said American could simply gather up his holdings, leave the country, and renounce his citizenship. Remember Eduardo Saverin? He was a cofounder of Facebook who did a little arithmetic and figured out that dumping his US citizenship would save him many millions of tax dollars. Eduardo did what any intelligent human being would do. He analyzed the cost-benefit ratio of his citizenship and made the correct financial decision.

Of course, the entire financial position of the US government is predicated on making sure that citizens do not get in the habit of making such cost-benefit analyzes. In the past, the old tropes of patriotism, honor, giving back, national pride, and so forth kept many of us from firing up our computers but that’s the past. This is the age of hope and change.  And many little Eduardo’s hope to get out of here with some of their change!

The years of hope and change have led to an ever-increasing number of Americans fleeing the country. It’s only a trickle now but wait until Pussydent Hildabeast takes over. The trickle will turn into a flood and that’s a problem because without taxpayers how will Pussydent Hildabeast pay off her cronies, reward her allies, and punish her enemies? It takes a lot of money to bribe – oops run – government.

Fortunately, the new Star Chamber fixes the exile problem. Under the new regime, if the government thinks you owe them back taxes1 they can refuse to issue you a passport. You’re a flight risk you ungrateful terrorist – oops citizen – scum.  It gets better! If the government thinks you’re aiding foreign terrorists they can also refuse to issue you a passport. Of course, what constitutes “aiding foreign terrorists” is completely unspecified. Better not send any attaboy ISIS tweets, they might be construed as “aiding foreign terrorists.”  And, because we are so hope and changey these days if you dare ask why the government thinks you are aiding terrorists this shiny new law allows them to withhold evidence because: terrorists!  Due process is so white privilege! With such an idiotic and oppressive law in place, it’s just a matter of time before the US harbors thousands of internal tax and terrorist aiding exiles. They’ll be joining a larger cohort of hundreds of thousands of former American drug offense prisoners that are also, oddly enough, frequently denied US passports.

This is all good news! What the morons in Washington have created is a gigantic business opportunity for any country that will issue Americans passports for cash.  If you don’t already have another passport contrive to get one as soon as possible!  You really don’t want to be imprisoned here if you run afoul of our increasing fascist authorities.

  1. Of course the IRS never incorrectly assesses a citizen’s – oops terrorist’s – taxes.

Euphoria: Review

euphoriabookLily King’s excellent new novel Euphoria derives from an incident in Margaret Mead’s life. Margaret Mead achieved fame as a young woman with her 1928 book Coming of Age in Samoa. Usually, scholarly works do not attract mass audiences but the good bits of Mead’s book read like soft-core porn and introduced the radical idea that sexual behavior in adolescence may have strong cultural overtones. Nowadays we lump such deep revelations in the “No Shit Sherlock” category!

Some of this is brilliantly alluded to in Euphoria. The strong female character (Nell) had written a popular book that her husband (Fen) envied and peers deprecated. The three main characters, Nell, Fen and Bankson, are social anthropologists doing field research in New Guinea in the 1930s. All three have serious doubts about what they are doing. They obliquely acknowledge the sheer conceit of foreign neophytes descending on an unfamiliar culture and, without speaking the language, being familiar with the environment, or knowing jack shit about the local economy, “decode a people,” in a few short months.

Early social anthropologists liked to cast themselves as “anti-missionaries.” Euphoria echoes this sentiment in a few passages. Anthropologists were there to learn about a culture not obliterate it with Christian sky fairy fantasies. The admirable agnosticism of social anthropologists, you cannot take one myth seriously when you have studied hundreds, is still blunted by an infantile dedication to the absolute primacy of culture. We are not animals but Rousseauian “blank sheets” that our culture scribbles on. Many contemporary social scientists of the left, “Are there any other kind?” bitterly dismiss criticism of this ludicrous axiom as “White Privilege.” The social anthropologists of Mead’s day may have been a bit delusional and naïve, but they didn’t create utter bullshit like Critical Race Theory or, I kid you freaking not, Microaggression Theory.

My only complaint about Euphoria is that it romanticizes a “soft pseudo-science.”  Anthropology has two major branches: physical and social. Physical anthropology deals with things like comparative anatomy, radioisotope dating, geological layering, and DNA; it is very much a real science! Social anthropology is all squishy, personal, and non-verifiable; it is not a real science.  It’s not even, to use Rutherford’s exquisite burn, “stamp collecting.”  Euphoria makes this all clear to scientifically literate readers. In many ways, Euphoria is a better introduction to Mead than Mead herself: recommended.

How Dante Can Save Your Life: Review

dantesavelifeDante’s Commedia may save your life, but I wouldn’t bet on this book doing the same. How Dante can Save Your Life is both interesting, annoying, and ultimately disappointing. If I had stopped in the middle of this book I would have rated it higher. It certainly started out well but, what can only be described as the author’s whining, slowly degraded my view.

The seriously religious do not perceive reliable approximations of reality. They are drifting with their phantoms, looking for things that cannot be rationally demonstrated to exist. Though I admire the discipline and restraint many intelligent religious people exhibit it’s simply impossible to take their cherished beliefs seriously. Those of us that demand verifiable reasons for accepting propositions will never accede to the belief that the purpose of life is to return to God. The author repeatedly returns to this theme as he reads Dante and shares his own life.

The author, Rod Dreher, and his family endured serious grief. The best part of this book is his retelling of his sister’s death from cancer in her forties and her community’s outpouring of love and support. I don’t think the author would disagree that his sister’s death, and the book he wrote about it, greatly contributed to his career as a writer.

It was at this point the author had a crisis that lead to Dante. Cemeteries are for the living not the dead, as is myth. Dante created an extravagant and great myth and like all great classics his epic poem has much to offer readers in any age. The author uses it as a type of self-help book to work through his family problems.

His problems are common. Many of us have seen loved family members die horribly, many of us have suffered crippling injuries, many of us have distressing careers, and many of us have family members that are struggling with themselves and us. Yet some of us are tough enough to see life as a random clash of blameless atoms and that whining will not fix anything.

In Dante’s view, this is the great sin of pride that unchecked leads to Hell. Lucky for us Hell and Heaven are myths. Art, however great, is not reality.

Turning JOD Dump Script Tricks

Have you ever wondered how extremely prolific bloggers do it? How is it possible to crank out thousands of blog entries per year without creating a giant stinking pile of mediocre doo-doo? Like most deep medium mysteries it’s not very deep and there are no mysteries. The spewers, people who post like teenage girls tweet, use two basic strategies:

  1. Multiple authors: The heroic image of the lone blogger waging holy war against a sea of Internet idiocy is largely a myth. Many popular prolific blogs are the work of many hands. The editor at Analyze the Data not the Drivel eschews this tactic. Apparently he’s an incontinent and argumentative prima donna that sane people steer clear of.
  2. Content recycling: In elementary school this was called copying. Now that we’re all grown up we use terms like, “excerpting”, “abstracting”, and my favorite “re-purposing.” The basic idea is simple. Take something you’ve written elsewhere and repackage it as something new. Hey, all the cool kids are doing it!

The following is a slightly edited new appendix I have just added to the JOD manual. I am working to properly publish the JOD manual mostly so I can say that I’ve written a legitimate, albeit strange and queer, book.

I created this post by running the \LaTeX code of the manual appendix through the excellent utility pandoc, tweaking the resulting markdown, and then using pandoc again to generate html for this blog. pandoc is a great “re-purposing” tool!  

Finally, re-purposing is not entirely cynical. The act of moving material from one medium to another exposes problems. I found a few editing errors while creating this post that eluded my \LaTeX eyes. If you find more this is your chance to tell me what a moron I am.

Turning JOD Dump Script Tricks

Dump script generation is my favorite JOD feature. Dump scripts serialize JOD dictionaries; they are mainly used to back up dictionaries and interact with version control systems. However, dump scripts are general J scripts and can do much more! Maintaining a stable of healthy JOD dictionaries is easier if you can turn a few dump script tricks.1

  1. Flattening reference paths: Open JOD dictionaries define a reference path. For example, if you open the following dictionaries:
       NB. open four dictionaries
       od ;:'smugdev smug image utils'
    |1|opened (ro/ro/ro/ro) ->|smugdev|smug|image|utils|

    the reference path is /smugdev/smug/image/utils.

    When objects are retrieved each dictionary on the path is searched in reference path order. If there are no compelling reasons to maintain separate dictionaries you can improve JOD retrieval performance and simplify dictionary maintenance by flattening all or part of the path.

    To flatten the reference path do:

       NB. reopen the first three dictionaries on the path
       od ;:'smugdev smug image' [ 3 od ''
    |1|opened (ro/ro/ro) ->|smugdev|smug|image|
       NB. dump to a temporary file (df)
       df=: {: showpass make jpath '~jodtemp/smugflat.ijs'
    |1|object(s) on path dumped ->|c:/jodtemp/smugflat.ijs|
       NB. create a new flat dictionary
       newd 'smugflat';jpath '~jodtemp/smugflat' [ 3 od ''
    |1|dictionary created ->|smugflat|c:/jodtemp/smugflat/|
       NB. open the flat dictionary and (utils)
       od ;:'smugflat utils'
    |1|opened (rw/ro) ->|smugflat|utils|
       NB. reload dump script ... output not shown ...  
       0!:0 df

    The collapsed path /smugflat/utils will return the same objects as the longer path. It is important to understand that the collapsed dictionary smugflat does not necessarily contain the same objects found in the three original dictionaries smugdev, smug and image. If objects with the same name exist in the original dictionaries only the first one found will be in the collapsed dictionary.

  2. Merging dictionaries: If two dictionaries contain no overlapping objects it might make sense to merge them. This is easily achieved with dump scripts. To merge two or more dictionaries do:
       NB. open and dump first dictionary
       od 'dict0' [ 3 od ''
    |1|opened (rw) ->|dict0|
       df0=: {: showpass make jpath '~jodtemp/dict0.ijs'
    |1|object(s) on path dumped ->|c:/jodtemp/dict0.ijs|
       NB. open and dump second dictionary
       od 'dict1' [ 3 od ''
    |1|opened (rw) ->|dict1|
       df1=: {: showpass make jpath '~jodtemp/dict1.ijs'
    |1|object(s) on path dumped ->|c:/jodtemp/dict1.ijs|
       NB. create new merge dictionary
       newd 'mergedict';jpath '~jodtemp/mergedict' [ 3 od ''
    |1|dictionary created ->|mergedict|c:/jodtemp/mergedict/|
       NB. open merge dictionary and run dump scripts
       od 'mergedict'
    |1|opened (rw) ->|mergedict|
       NB. reload dump scripts ... output not shown ...  
       0!:0 df0  
       0!:0 df1

    Be careful when merging dictionaries. If there are common objects the last object loaded is the one retained in the merged dictionary.

  3. Updating master file parameters: When a new parameter is added to jodparms.ijs it will not be available in existing dictionaries. With dump scripts you can rebuild existing dictionaries and update parameters. To rebuild a dictionary with new or custom parameters do:
       NB. save current dictionary registrations
       (toHOST ; 1 { 5 od '') write_ajod_ jpath '~temp/jodregister.ijs'
       NB. open dictionary requiring parameter update 
       od 'dict0' [ 3 od ''
    |1|opened (rw) ->|dict0|
       NB. dump dictionary and close
       df=: {: showpass make jpath '~jodtemp/dict0.ijs'
    |1|object(s) on path dumped ->|c:/jodtemp/dict0.ijs|
       3 od ''
    |1|closed ->|dict0|
       NB. erase master file and JOD object id file
       ferase jpath '~addons/general/jod/jmaster.ijf'
       ferase jpath '~addons/general/jod/jod.ijn'
       NB. recycle JOD - this recreates (jmaster.ijf) and (jod.ijn) 
       NB. using the new dictionary parameters defined in (jodparms.ijs)   
       (jodon , jodoff) 1
    1 1
       NB. re-register dictionaries
       load jpath '~temp/jodregister.ijs'
       NB. create a new dictionary - it will have the new parameters
       newd 'dict0new';jpath '~jodtemp/dict0new' [ 3 od ''
    |1|dictionary created ->|dict0new|c:/jodtemp/dict0new/|
       od 'dict0new'
    |1|opened (rw) ->|dict0new|
       NB. reload dump script ... output not shown ...
       0!:0 df  

    Before executing complex dump script procedures back up your JOD dictionary folders and play with dump scripts on test dictionaries. Dump scripts are essential JOD dictionary maintenance tools but like most powerful tools they must be used with care.

  1. Spicing up one’s rhetoric with a double entendre like “turning tricks” may be construed as a microaggression. The point of colored language is to memorably make a point. You are unlikely to forget turning dump script tricks.

For Carl’s Memorial

Carl in his basement apartment surrounded by his drawings and hugging Puff: one of his long lived cats. Carl was a good friend for most of my adult life. During the many years I lived in Edmonton I spent a lot of time with Carl. It’s rather odd that I have so few pictures of him. I have been an avid amateur photographer since I was eight but I only have half-a-dozen pictures of Carl. I held off “developing” this image because of the reflection in Puff’s eyes. Now I see this informal imperfection as a reflection, (pun intended), of Carl’s haphazard fun filled way of life.

Carl in his basement apartment surrounded by his drawings and hugging Puff: one of his long-lived cats. Carl was a good friend for most of my adult life. During the many years I lived in Edmonton I spent a lot of time with Carl. It’s rather odd that I have so few pictures of him. I have been an avid amateur photographer since I was eight, but I only have half-a-dozen pictures of Carl. I held off “developing” this image because of the reflection in Puff’s eyes. Now I see this informal imperfection as a reflection, (pun intended), of Carl’s haphazard fun-filled way of life.

A memorial celebration for the life of Carl Sullivan was held today, June 20, 2015,  in Calgary. I was unable to attend, but I sent this little note. The world is a little gloomier without Carl. 

1969 was a memorable year for many reasons, but two “events” stand out for me. It was the year of Apollo 11, the epochal first moon landing. If humans still exist a thousand years from now the first moon landing will still be remembered and lauded. Of less historical, but greater personal interest, 1969 was also the year I met Carl B. Sullivan.

Apollo marked a high water mark for western civilization; we have been steadily degenerating ever since. Similarly, Carl, for me, marked a high friendship mark. No event of the last forty-six years holds a candle to Apollo 11 and no post-Carl friend holds a candle to Carl.

I know Carl would enjoy being bonded with Apollo 11. He enjoyed the “weird.” His own weird, the weird of others, the world’s weird. Carl liked to cast himself as a sage and wizard. He was certainly a sage of the absurd and a wizard of fun.

I have many fond memories of visiting Carl after another exquisitely self-crafted dismaying day only to have Carl wave his wizard’s wand and make my gloom bloom. This is an exceedingly rare talent and frankly we were blessed to fall under his spell.

I know Carl was ambivalent about the prospects of an afterlife. His appetite for the absurd did not extend to religion. I am harsher; I expect utter oblivion, but if I am wrong and find myself cast into Hell for a lifetime of misdemeanors, I’ll find Carl, (he had his own Hell worthy misdemeanors),  and Carl being Carl, will turn Hell into an eternal party!

Goodbye old friend you will never know how much we all miss you.