Plaid code

Thursday 19 May 2011, 15:45

Fans of my fiction writing will doubtless remember my theory that in the Future, girls' school-uniform skirts will be made of "smart fiber," capable of changing colour under computer control to act as a sort of display screen, and the wearers will use that to encode personal information into the plaid stripes of something like a present-day 2D barcode. Such technology already exists today (it's closely related to "e-paper"), though it isn't cheap and rugged enough yet for serious use in clothing.

Well, in one of my nefarious projects I recently had occasion to actually use a data-to-tartan encoding scheme, and you might find the results interesting. Here's a sample:

[Plaid code swatches]

See if you can reverse-engineer the encoding that generated those swatches. It's quite simple, and has an historical basis.

Tarot spread generator

Saturday 14 May 2011, 11:26

Here's a simple online Tarot page I wrote a few years back. Very simple: choose a spread, you see the cards face-down, click on each card in turn to flip it face-up. You're on your own for interpretation. I'm taking the opportunity of the transition to the new site code, to add a Project Wonderful box - but if I'm not pleased by the bidding on that, I may remove it.

The card images used in this system are scans from the edition of the Waite deck published in 1909 that collectors call "Pamela-A," and they are public domain in Berne Convention countries. See John B. Hare's comparison of the Pamela-A deck with another popular deck.

Gas prices and the Conservative tax on everything

Friday 13 May 2011, 07:04

I've been hearing a lot of grumbling about gasoline prices recently. People who ought to know better on my social-networking friends lists circulated that asinine one-day "boycott" message a little while back. My alarm clock wakes me with CBC Radio every morning, and today they were talking to someone from Consumer's Union who was hoping to pressure the Federal government to Do Something. I'm of the opinion that the Federal government has already Done way too Much in this matter, and they ought to butt out already.

One of Harper's talking points in the recent election was to accuse the Liberals of pressing for a "tax on everything" (a scary renaming of the carbon tax that anybody who cares about survival of the planet, including a clear majority of Canadians, actually supports). But when you fill up your car's gas tank and pay today's prices for it, you are paying the Conservative tax on everything, which they implemented without a vote and which never received proper discussion or coverage. Let's put the blame where it belongs.

Disclosure: I don't own a car, and I do own units of a real-return bond index fund, which makes more profit in nominal terms when the price of everything (including gasoline) goes up. I don't think that really means I benefit from higher prices, only that I lose less than some other people. I've written about inflation-indexed bonds before. I'd rather have prices stay low and my bonds not make so many dollars.

Top three ridings I'll be watching

Sunday 1 May 2011, 17:07

This is going to be a heck of an election. It already has been, in fact. I'm not going to do an astrological thing - and in fact I took down the one I posted for the 2004 election - because I care too much about the outcome to do it properly. I'm also probably not going to post a whole big thing about the issues and how I feel about them; by this point, anybody who could be swayed by my writings on that stuff already has been. But tomorrow night I'm going to attempt to sit back and watch the proceedings as entertainment, and for anyone planning to do the same, here are my top three picks for ridings to watch.


Sunday 24 April 2011, 15:02

Here are a few notes on the current state of my life.

Dream: a box of cards

Monday 18 April 2011, 08:06

Dream transcript from the morning of May 2, 2009. I posted it in my Dreamwidth journal at the time, and I'm pretty sure I know what it meant because it tied into events in my life at the time, but I felt like posting it again today.


Sunday 17 April 2011, 13:01


On expectations

Saturday 16 April 2011, 11:45

Planned Parenthood is an activist pro-abortion organization. No matter which side you're on yourself, you're stupid if you seriously expect that someone who strongly opposes abortion should support PP, and the government should fund PP, because PP spends less than 90% of its budget on abortion and does many other worthwhile things. That is not how human behaviour works. It's like saying someone who supports GLBT equality should support the Boy Scouts of America, and the government should fund BSA, because BSA spends less than 90% of its budget on discrimination and does many other worthwhile things. One showstopping issue can and routinely will override others; that is what "showstopping" means.

Both sides of the abortion debate agree that abortion is a matter of overriding importance, something that really matters. If abortion didn't really matter to Planned Parenthood, then PP could and presumably would forget its abortion advocacy and have a lot more support for its other activities. Since they don't do that, their opponents should be expected to similarly treat the issue as important. That is basic human behaviour, and anyone who can't form and act on reasonable expectations about human behaviour will certainly lose in any effort that involves human beings, regardless of the moral high ground they may think they stand on.

Tsukurimashou 0.2

Wednesday 6 April 2011, 22:16

This is the announcement of a now-obsolete version. Check out the latest progress of Tsukurimashou at!



I've just posted the second release of the Tsukurimashou font family - now with 198 kanji, including the 80 Grade One jouyou kanji. You, too, can write like a six-year-old! Also new in this version is a fancy build system.

Download the source package (ZIP) which includes four ready-made OpenType font files, or preview it by looking at the demo PDF (which is not much changed from last version) and the kanji chart.

More commentary probable at some future date; for the moment I've already used up today's word quota writing the package documentation.

Fixing Alpine's broken subject sort

Monday 4 April 2011, 10:09

I use the Alpine email software, which is successor to Pine. I mostly like it, but its implementation of "sort by subject" is broken and annoying.

It is documented that Alpine will strip "Re: " and variations from the start of a subject line before sorting, and that seems like something I would reasonably want: replies end up getting sorted with the things they are replies to, instead of all being grouped confusingly under "R". However, what is undocumented and unwelcome is that Alpine will also look for and remove strings enclosed in square brackets, which are typically used to identify mailing list messages. I subscribe to several mailing lists that identify themselves by square-bracketed tags at the start of the subject line while leaving the From: headers unchanged (messages are from the person who sent them instead of from the list). If subject sort worked, then as a natural consequence of how string sorting works, I could group all messages from the list together, sorted within the group by the rest of the subject. But because square-bracketed tags are silently ignored, I can't do that, and there is no way to group the mailing list messages together. There is no option to make subject sort sort on the actual subject, no really, the string that is in the Subject: header and not a munged version.

Fixed by deleting lines 4562 to 4565 of imap/c-client/mail.c in the Alpine 2.00 distribution, which check for square brackets and invoke mail_strip_subject_blob().