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 sourceforge.jp!



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().

Again with the stamps

Friday 1 April 2011, 22:26

After all the nonsense I went through to get US stamps for my agent-query self-addressed stamped envelopes, it turns out that the US Postal Service is raising their prices effective April 17; the relevant price goes from 75 to 80 cents. I'd built in a safety margin by buying 78-cent stamps, but they jumped right past that. So any agents who currently have SASEs from me had just better use them soon, and I can't really send out any more (including the packages I just prepared and sealed tonight before discovering this, intending to drop them in the mail tomorrow morning) until I go through another round of silliness to get some 2-cent stamps. I hate playing this game, and I'm angry about the US Postal Service's online store refusing to sell to me in Canada, and over the fact that although they claim they announced this upcoming change in January, they didn't do that anywhere I could see it (for instance, on their Web site) so that this came as a surprise to me when it shouldn't have.

How to lie with charts

Sunday 20 March 2011, 12:04

I'm generally a fan of the IAEA, but this image I just grabbed from their Web site is a textbook example of slanting (literally!) a graphic image so that it misleads the reader.

Fuel temperature chart

The chart shows the temperature of two spent fuel pools at Fukushima Daiichi. Until the morning of March 19, UTC, the temperatures were slowly but steadily increasing. After that, they decreased significantly. These data could well be presented with a two-dimensional line chart.

But the makers of the chart above chose to project it into three dimensions in such a way that the lines slant downward even where the temperature is increasing - obscuring one of the most important pieces of information the numbers represent, which is the direction of change. A human being looking at the chart and not reading the numbers would get the incorrect impression that the temperature was consistently decreasing over the entire time period. Thus the chart has failed in its purpose of making the numbers understandable. The chart actually conveys a negative amount of information, because it conveys incorrect information. If you erased all the graphics and left only the numbers, readers would be better informed.

If they were going to make a chart, there is no reason it needed to be a three-dimensional chart; and if they were going to make a three-dimensional chart, there is no reason they had to use that particular choice of projection angle. I hate to ascribe to malice that which could be explained by stupidity, but this really does look the way deliberate deception would look; and it has the same effect as deliberate deception even if it isn't actually deliberate deception.

New OCR fonts, and a page for them

Saturday 19 March 2011, 20:43

Some years ago I posted TrueType conversions of the venerable Metafont OCR-A and OCR-B implementations. The TrueType versions were created by autotracing from the Metafont-generated bitmaps, and they weren't really very good; there were a bunch of problems with the glyph encoding and spacing and stuff. Nonetheless, those fonts have over the years been some of the most successful things on my entire site. They've gotten multiple third-party links, including from Wikipedia, and they've generated a lot of positive feedback for me from users around the world.

Just recently I found out that the original author of one of the Metafont packages I was working from has released a new version and (which is important to some users) opened up the licensing to allow commercial use. So I've taken the opportunity to re-work both typefaces and do it properly this time, by translating the Metafont versions to work with MetaType1 and produce vectors directly. I've also put the OCR-A and OCR-B faces together into one package, and set up a new page on this site for distributing them and my other font projects. Take a look at it here.

Something else of note is that I get a lot of incoming traffic from people who are using third-party translation services to view the OCR font pages in Japanese. Well, I'd like to get more Japanese-language traffic on this site, and I can do a lot better than the translation services, so I've also posted the font page in Japanese. And for fun and to encourage prompt updating of third-party links, the old pages that had the now-obsolete fonts, have been redirected to the Japanese version of the new page.

On the yen/loonie exchange rate

Tuesday 15 March 2011, 10:13

This chart, reproduced as fair dealing from Yahoo! Finance, shows the price of one Japanese yen in Canadian dollars for the last five days. See below for why I think this is an amazing chart.

Exchange rate chart