A Simpler Previews Interface

tldr: New web site: Goshenite.

I’ve been reading American comics since the 80s.  To put that into perspective for you youngsters: That was before Snapchat even existed.

Think about that for a moment.

goshAnyway, back in those days, Mile High Comics sent out a condensed list of everything all the comics distributors would be selling in three month’s time (including snarky comments), and I scanned through the list (on paper!) and ordered (or subscribed to) the stuff I wanted.

This was very efficient.  Scanning lists on paper is something human beans do well.

Then the Internet happened, and everything went s-l-o-w.

These days, there’s only a single distributor — Diamond Comics.  They do sell catalogues of everything they sell, but they’re big and annoying and not very scannable.  The other options are a few comics shops that list the Diamond data (including Mile High), but they’re all so… old fashioned.  Small, paginated lists and a whole lot of clicking.

In my opinion.  Mileages vary more than the NOx output from a Volkswagen.

So I’ve just been web-scraping tgosh2hose sites the past few decades to make the data scannable again.

But yesterday I had an idea: What if I were to put that data up on a more modern site that allows for better zombie-like scanning?

Design objectives:

  1. Zero wait browsing.  When I want to see the next listing, I don’t want to wait.  So: Everything preloaded.
  2. Avoid having to move the eyes around.  This means that each category of data (title, creators, the cover) stay in exactly the same spot.
  3. Keyboard-based navigation between the comics and the publishers.
  4. An ability to filter out variant covers.
  5. No storage of data on the server.  Everything happens in the browser, and the users’ subscription lists are not sent anywhere.  The secret of your subscription to Magic Whistle is still safe!

I implemented this today, and you can see the results on Goshenite.  The data is scraped from the Diamond web site — I hope they don’t mind.  I mean, they’re distributors, so more channels to hawk their wares, the better?

The source code for the scraper is here, and the source code for the web site is here.

(Goshenite is a crystal that kinda looks like diamond.  Clever, huh?)

The idea is that you can sit yourself down before your screen, tap happily on “arrow down” and the other keys, and when you see something you might want to buy, you hit “b”.  After you’ve done, you hit the “Export” button and you get a list you can give to most any normal comics store in the US, and they’ll order the stuff for you.

Or just send the list to Mile High, which is what I’ll be doing.

The Tilda Swinton Checklist

After a pretty random decision to see all films Tilda Swinton had appeared in, and a basic run-through and then a mopping-up weekend, I’ve basically seen all the Swinton films that are kinda available.  (In some form or other.)

This post is a place-holder article I’ll just be editing to keep track of what films I still have to seek out.  Because it makes more sense to do that on a blog than in a text file.

shot0029 png2

You know.

The films with “-” in the first column are the ones I’ve yet to watch.

* 1986: Zastrozzi: A Romance
* 1986: Egomania
* 1987: Aria
* 1987: Friendship’s Death
* 1988: The Last of England
* 1988: L’ispirazione
* 1988: Degrees of Blindness
1988: Das andere Ende der Welt
* 1989: War Requiem
* 1989: Play Me Something
* 1989: Cycling the Frame
* 1990: The Garden
* 1990: Your Cheatin’ Heart
1990: Fruits of Fear
* 1991: Edward II
1991: The Party: Nature Morte
1992: Man to Man: Another Night of Rubbish on the Telly
* 1992: Orlando
* 1992: Shakespeare: The Animated Tales
* 1993: Wittgenstein
* 1993: Blue
1993: Das offene Universum
1994: Remembrance of Things Fast: True Stories Visual Lies
1994: Visions of Heaven and Hell
* 1996: Female Perversions
* 1997: Conceiving Ada
* 1998: Love is the Devil
* 1999: The War Zone
* 1999: The Protagonists
* 2000: The Beach
2000: The Dilapidated Dwelling
* 2000: Possible Worlds
* 2001: The Deep End
* 2001: Vanilla Sky
* 2002: Teknolust
* 2002: Adaptation.
2002: Tilda Swinton: The Love Factory
* 2003: Young Adam
* 2003: The Statement
* 2003: The Box
* 2004: Derek Jarman: Life as Art
* 2005: Thumbsucker
* 2005: Constantine
* 2005: Constantine (Video Game)
* 2005: Broken Flowers
* 2005: The Absent Presence
* 2005: The Somme
* 2005: Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
* 2006: Stephanie Daley
* 2006: Galápagos
* 2006: Deep Water
* 2007: Sleepwalkers
* 2007: Strange Culture
* 2007: Faceless
* 2007: The Man From London
* 2007: Michael Clayton
* 2007: Hitler’s Favourite Royal
2007: Schau mir in die Augen, Kleiner
* 2007: Derek
* 2008: Julia
* 2008: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
* 2008: Burn After Reading
* 2008: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
2008: Requiem for Jarman
* 2009: The Limits of Control
* 2009: Io sono l’amore
* 2009: The Invisible Frame
* 2010: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Trader
* 2010: Climate of Change
* 2010: Spur der Bären
* 2011: We Need To Talk About Kevin
2011: Genevieve Goes Boating
* 2011: Women War & Peace
* 2011: Cinema is Everywhere
* 2011: Making it In Hollywood
* 2012: Moonrise Kingdom
2012: Radioman
* 2012: Getting On
* 2013: The Stars Are Out Tonight
2013: Ways of Listening
* 2013: Only Lovers Left Alive
* 2013: When Björk Met Attenborough
* 2013: Snowpiercer
* 2013: The Zero Theorem
2013: Death for a Unicorn
* 2014: The Grand Budapest Hotel
2014: Antarctica 3D: On the Edge
* 2014: Travelling at Night with Jim Jarmusch
* 2014: Trainwreck
2015: Dreams Rewired
* 2015: A Bigger Splash
* 2016: Hail, Caesar!

Filtering Out Pingbacks From A WordPress.com-Hosted “Recent Comments” Box

If you self-host your WordPress blog, you can do whatever you want.  If your blog is hosted at WordPress.com, you’re very limited in what you can customize.

For instance, for years I have wanted to get rid of pingbacks from myself in the “Recent Comments” box on the pages.  When I link to older messages, the box ends up looking like this:

commentsI look like a monomaniacal self-commenter.  Like, eek.  So yesterday I spent most of the day googling around trying to find out how to stop this insanity.  And it turns out that this is something that users have requested from Automattic since (at least) 2009, but they just haven’t implemented it.

Even though it’s totally trivial.  On a self-hosted WordPress blog, it’s a one line change.

So my choice here is to either start self-hosting (and I don’t want to — I host enough stuff already), or to figure out a way to work around this weirdness.

WordPress.com offers a few handfuls of widgets.  One of them seemed promising — the “Text Widget”.  But although you can put HTML in there, there’s no way to update it automatically, or use an <iframe> to embed HTML dynamically.

Then I saw that there’s an RSS widget!  What if I were to download the comments feed from WordPress, filter out all pingbacks, and then create a new RSS feed based on that?

Presto!

rssNo more pingbacks!  However, the RSS feed only has the last ten comments, and virtually all of them were pingbacks (except for the two test comments I added while developing), so I’m still the only one there in that box.  But that should hopefully fix itself after a while.  🙂

(The script caches comments, so it should build up to a more meaningful feed after a while…)

The code is on Github, so feel free to use it if you’re also annoyed by the “Recent Comments” box. Two non-optimal things about using this way to list the comments: 1) No images are allowed in the RSS Widget on WordPress.com, so it looks kinda boring, and 2) WordPress.com caches the RSS for a while (an hour?), so it’s not updated immediately.

But it’s good enough for me, and I won’t have to start self-hosting (and stop paying Automattic money).

(My very first Python script!  Python seems rather inconsistent.  Hysterical raisins, I guess.)

Linux, Wifi Hardware and Tethering

I thought it might be convenient to set up the laptop as a wifi access point sometimes (especially when copying images off of the Flashair SD card in the cameras, since they have very short range).

There’s apparently no built-in method in any Linux distribution to have a wifi card be both an AP and a client at the same time.  This is probably because it’s a very complicated task depending on lots of hardware and software details.  But someone has taken a stab at it, anyway.

On my new Lenovo Carbon X1 laptop, with this wifi controller

04:00.0 Network controller: Intel Corporation Wireless 7265 (rev 59)

it doesn’t work.  If NetworkManager is running, it just says “Device busy” when creating the ap0 device.  If I stop NetworkManager, I’m able to create the AP, but if I then start NetworkManager, it’s unable to connect to the real AP.

On my old Lenovo Carbon X1 laptop, with this wifi controller

03:00.0 Network controller: Intel Corporation Centrino Advanced-N 
        6205 [Taylor Peak] (rev 96)

it works!  And it’s much, much faster copying pictures from the Flashair card when it talks directly to the laptop than copying pictures via a separate AP.  Which makes sense, but I didn’t think it would be like 5x faster…

Looking at “iw list” on both, they both seem to claim that they should be able to be a client and an AP.

Does anybody have an idea whether the newer chipset just isn’t capable, anyway?

Mini Comics Extravaganza

I’ve been going on a small press shopping spree these past weeks.

So are the comics any good?

Yes!

I have a tendency to read the smaller comics first. Here’s some of the ones I found to be particularly interesting from among the stacks I’ve gotten so far:

Runner Runner (Tugboat Press)

The first story in this anthology is by Sam Sharpe, and it’s really engrossing.

It tells the story of a super hero comic from the 40s interspersed with a tale of blind dates. (I know.) It plays with identity in a way that’s unnerving. It has that Pynchon-like feel of encoded meaning. It’s super.

The other two stories, by Evan Palmer and Joey Alison Sayers are also kinda spooky. A three-pack of spookiness. Very nice.

Ikebana by Yumi Sakugawa (Retrofit/Big Planet)

It’s both a funny send-up of art school and a moving, mysterious tale.

Like with Runner Runner, it’s also a bit unnerving. Like the characters in the story, we’re not quite sure what the piece is really getting at.

I love mysteriousness and confusion.

The Libertarian by Nick Maandag

There’s nothing mysterious about this one, but it’s really funny. Storyline: A libertarian has to pretend to be a vegan socialist feminist to win over his current crush.

Things go as you would expect, only more so. The stiffness of the drawing helps making things even funnier.

You Don’t Get There From Here #27 by Carrie McNinch

Nothing spooky here either, and not as funny. These are diary comics at their most diary comicness. This is not James Kochalka. He would draw funny nonsensicalness on days where nothing he thought was interesting happened.

McNinch commits to the diary idea totally. If all she did that day was have breakfast and draw some comics, the strip says that she ate breakfast and drew some comics.

Even so, I found myself reading the strips avidly. The charming art work doesn’t hurt, but I just found the whole thing… soothing.

I went off and ordered issues 1-10 right away.

King-Cat Comics & Stories #75 by John Porcellino

Well, duh. Everybody loves King-Cat, so how interesting can that be?

This issue focusses completely on the cat, Maisie, from when Porcellino got her to when she died. I have to admit a cried a bit at the end there. (Well, I don’t have to. But I did anyway.) And there are funny bits in there, too.

And I just love Porcellino’s artwork. So simple, clear and attractive lines.

The Weather Festival Phenomenon by Ron Regé, jr

While I do enjoy Regé’s more straight-up philosophical comics, I just adore his narrative work. The tension between the story and the ecstatic art is just wonderful.

This series of comics is based on a story by Banana Yoshimoto and is about love and loss and stuff. I can’t wait until the third chapter is out. It’s quite engrossing.

Gorilla Bear #3 by Cara Bean

There’s something very appealing in Bean’s artwork. The juicy blacks and the scratchy lines…

And the stories are both quite affecting and sometimes somewhat loopy.

The Anthropologists by Whit Taylor (Sparkplug)

The artwork here doesn’t really appeal to me that much, but the straight-up old-fashioned narrative is appealing.

It’s the story of two young anthropology students in Australia. Nothing very dramatic happens, and I guess you could say that it’s not the most original story in the universe, but I still found it quite enjoyable.

Double+ by Ben Sears (Study Group Comics)

I didn’t think I was going to like this one. At first glance it looked like yet another video game story book (a genre I find way more boring than playing video games, and that’s boring enought), but it’s more of an oddball sci fi quest thing.

And the artwork is really appealing. All the pages looks like a sand storm have just passed by. (Or a pixel storm, I guess.) So everything is just a bit smudged and worn. It’s a very nice effect.

The Right Here, Right Now Thing by Paulina Stulin (Jaja Verlag)

To round things off, here’s a comic that’s not from my US small press blitz, but from a Berlin trip from a couple weeks ago.

A story of travel and love and smuggling drugs, it has a meandering quality to it that I like quite a lot. The figures are kinda stiff, but the colours are very nice…

Well, that’s it. I didn’t want to babble on for too long. Mini-comics, mini-nattering…

Off to order more!

NCSI SUV: CSID

Look, I’m a Windows developer:

DSC01961Actually, I just pushed the Concerts in Oslo Cordova app to the Windows Phone store to debug the submission process.  At work I’ve tried to push an app several times to the store, but Microsoft just says “it doesn’t work”.  When I ask “er, what doesn’t work?” their response is “it doesn’t work”.

And pushing the CSID app helped!  From the server logs, I can see that Microsoft never let the app contact the server.  So either they don’t actually test the apps before putting them on the store, or they only test them in non-networking mode.

Which would explain why the app at work gets the response “it doesn’t work”.  It’ll have to provide more in-depth error messages when there’s no network, and perhaps that’ll make Microsoft let the app through.

*crosses fingers*