Caspian Seen

A couple weeks ago I went to see Prince Caspian. It was a pretty good movie, but I didn’t remember reading anything vaguely resembling the stuff in the movie, in the book. But it’s been many years since I read the book, so I thought it might just be my poor memory. I wanted to go back and read the book again and see what was different.

Mark “Zompist” Rosenfelder did that for me, and I guess I was right, the movie doesn’t really resemble the book very closely at all. He does conclude, and this was my feeling too, that Reepicheep was still quite awesome in the movie, and that there were a lot of little good bits in a whole that didn’t make much sense or follow the book closely at all.

It’s OK for a movie to deviate wildly from a book, if the movie isn’t supposed to be the definitive movie version of a book, the one promoted and supported by the author’s literary heirs… Well, you can’t really trust literary heirs. Look what they did with Lewis: on the strength of an offhand remark in one of Lewis’s letters, they’ve rearranged the books in collections so that The Magician’s Nephew comes before The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, which is unbelievably stupid. Nephew is written specifically for readers who’ve already read Lion, and half the fun of the book is in seeing how all the things taken for granted in the first book might have had a reason for existing, in stories untold at the time.

Never trust a literary estate. An author’s works should be their own caretaker. Having a bunch of financially interested relatives hovering over the words as self-appointed guardians and interpreters is too… well… it becomes almost an ecclesiastical rather than literary situation, in the worst senses of “ecclesiastical.”

Dawn Treader, my favorite book in the Chronicles, is next… In the words of Brian Posehn, “Go ahead! Ruin it up!”

Mail AppleScript-ing Project

I have a folder full of old mail in Apple’s Mail application. It’s gigantic. About 70,000 messages. Most of them are duplicates, because it’s the result of finding old folder of mail upon old folder of mail and merging them together into one great hoard. The actual number of real distinct messages is probably a smallish fraction of 70,000.

What’s worse, some of the 70,000 are blank. In an inept attempt at writing a Python script to clean up a similar uber-mail-folder in the past, I somehow took a lot of old mail and destroyed the body of the emails, leaving the headers intact. So my gigantic folder includes many duplicates, but some of the duplicates aren’t real duplicates because they have missing bodies.

I want to somehow eliminate all the duplicate messages, and there are scripts to do that in Apple Mail. The only one that I would have trusted not to accidentally kill a real message and keep the one without a body, chokes and fails on a folder that large. (It also choked and failed on a smaller folder. Maybe something changed in Leopard that breaks that script.)

So I wanted to go through and destroy all the messages which have blank bodies — they’re no use to me and they make it dangerous to get rid of duplicate messages. I tried exporting everything to a mbox-format file, and use some of Python’s nice mailbox-manipulation libraries, but the file was insanely large, and Python on my macbook staggered under its weight. (Besides, my use of Python caused this problem, a while back…)

So eventually I turned to AppleScript. (I first tried using rb-appscript, but it turns out I don’t need any special Rubyness for this, and it’s easier to learn from examples of AppleScript on the web if I don’t have to translate them into Ruby before I use them.)

I wrote a script in Apple’s Script Editor called “Winnower.” It takes messages in a folder called “doing” and sorts them into two folders, “blank” and “done,” depending on whether there’s any content in the body or attachments on the mail. I put a few thousand messages at a time into the “doing” folder and then run the script. (The full weight of the 70,000+ message folder was too much for this script too.)

It looks like this:

tell application “Mail”

set doingbox to mailbox “doing”

set blankbox to mailbox “blank”

set donebox to mailbox “done”

set doingmessages to messages of doingbox

repeat with thisMessage in doingmessages

ignoring white space

if mail attachments of thisMessage is {} and content of thisMessage is equal to “” then

move thisMessage to blankbox


move thisMessage to donebox

end if

end ignoring

end repeat

end tell

Wir Tanzen Ado’ Hynkel

I’m the only person I know who really digs Laibach. (Joe introduced me to it, of course, so he is the Ur-Laibach fan, but I don’t know if he digs it quite so much these days as back around 1990 or so…) I keep trying to share it with people, and they keep hating it.

Besides their original stuff, Laibach has covered:

One of their more accessible and recent songs, is Tanz Mit Laibach, which as the title of this blog entry notes, calls out in its lyrics to the Charlie Chaplin film The Great Dictator…

So what’s not to like?

Yeah, I know. Next week I’ll get over it, and have an unhealthy obsession with some other weird artist… But Laibach will still be their own special kind of awesome.

Hardy Heron Saves The Day, Sort Of.

Yesterday the kids/family’s computer’s hard drive took a dive. (It’s a very old desktop machine which my wife bought from her employers for something like $10 when they upgraded all the machines; that was two or three years ago. It has always run Ubuntu Linux in our house.) Wouldn’t boot, couldn’t even hit the grub menu. Wouldn’t be so bad but the hard drive was big and I’d been using it as a backup drive for a lot of stuff. I have a new backup system (a portable HD that I back my macbook up to) but I still had a lot of old stuff on there that I would like back. I haven’t yet looked into whether it can be resurrected. I took it out and swapped in an old small drive.

Since there’s a spanking new version of Ubuntu available, Hardy Heron, I burned a CD of that and installed it. Install went smoothly but the graphics have been killing me.

There were two problems, one now solved:

  • There is no way to get past 800×600 resolution even though I know that it’s capable of much better
  • The graphics were *weird* — when you moved the mouse pointer you’d get little messed up squares on the screen where the mouse went. (Now solved.)

The problem at the root of all this is that they have kicked autoconfiguration of X11 into overdrive. It is no longer possible to manually configure your graphics card and monitor set up by any straightforward means. It autoconfigures, and the configuration file which it was once possible to tweak is now a nigh-empty stub. (It’ll still respect what you put in there, but I don’t know enough off the top of my head to do anything with it.)

The causes of the two above-mentioned problems come from this autoconfiguration:

  • The autoconfigurator doesn’t seem to know what my monitor is capable of, and assumes the worst (800×600)
  • The autoconfigurator is smart enough to be able to take advantage of my card’s hardware acceleration, and so tries to run a cool whizzbangy hardware-accelerated desktop. Problem: my card is old and crappy. Its hardware acceleration is bad. I do not want a cool whizzbangy hardware-accelerated desktop, because of that.

I was able to turn off the whizzbangy desktop effects which ruined the desktop, through the Appearance item in the Settings menu. I haven’t yet figured out what to do about the resolution. We’ll see how that goes tonight.

On the upside, everything else about the machine is Just Working.