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Om writes about age. I find age tempers my enthusiasm, because I know the cost of not conforming. Crossing boundaries others don’t want crossed. You have to fight for every inch. With age comes reluctance for yet another struggle.

Getting close with my XML-RPC client and server for Node. You can hook the server up to anything, easily. Factoring is good. Also a client that runs in browser. It’s like getting a classic car running. This is how I have fun.

Debugging Node apps

I got the answer to yesterday's query about getting at the data in a Node app using the debugger. There's a new way to do it. First you have to install a Chrome app. Then launch the Node app with a --inspect flag.

  • node --inspect test.js

The app launches. It displays a URL to open in Chrome. Copy it, paste it into the browser address bar, and the debugger opens. Your files are in the left margin. Click one. Set a breakpoint. When the app stops there you'll see the data in the right panel, and when you click the wedge, it expands.

One concern, this process requires using Chrome, and I'm expecting to have to stop using it soon because it breaks all my sites.

Listen. If you have something worth saying that requires more than a single tweet, as a reader I will feel more respected if you write it in a blog post, and refine it so it's easy to figure out what your point is. There still is a cacaphony of people wanting attention, more all the time, and it might be that more people will see your tweets, but I think more people will comprehend your thinking if you write it, as opposed to tweeting it. There is a difference. (Also I'm more inclined to route a blog post through my linkblog. I rarely circulate tweets that way.)

Quick video that illustrates a problem I'm having with node-debug. Any help much appreciated.

What's normal is what's real

Josh Marshall wrote a piece yesterday saying it's time for journalism to stop talking about norms. Of course I agree. I've been writing about that a lot lately.

Here's an analogy. Suppose you have a horrible accident and one of your legs is amputated. So you're trying to learn how to live with a single leg. All the while you're screaming at anyone who will listen: This is not normal. This is not normal.

But it is normal. It just isn't what was normal in the past.

There's a word for reporters who behave as if The Trump Totalitarian State, the one that's still emerging, isn't normal. Deluded. Not coping with reality. There are proper ways to respond to a totalitarian state, but saying it's not normal is not a good response.

We're in a weird period where (following the analogy) the leg hasn't been fully amputated yet. For example we still have a court system that's willing to order the president to stop blocking people on Twitter.

  • An aside, how will that be implemented? Will Twitter disable the block command on his account? Will they unblock all the people he's previously blocked? Surely they're not depending on El Presidentè to personally obey the order?

We still appear to have free speech. The right to assemble. Our votes still seem to work, even though some our votes are suppressed. But there's no question the doctor intends to amputate. So maybe we should be talking about things other than the incorrect idea that this is not normal. It most definitely is.

I couldn't sleep after last night's excellent game between the Rockets and Warriors, so I tuned into the midnight re-broadcast of Maddow. She had an ex-CIA guy on as the big guest, he has a book out. He says he believes, now that he's retired, that the Russians did influence the outcome of the election. Rachel paused, as if some big moment had passed. She seemed to be saying, aha now at last the truth has come out. I thought this is so laughably ridiculous. Of course we all knew that the Russians influenced the outcome of the election. This. Is. Not. News. Stop being so ridiculous Rachel. Let's move beyond what we all know. We all know what happened in 2016. Now let's put up some defenses against what's happening now.

What if, instead of only studying the way Trump is crashing our democracy, we devoted equal time to studying life in a totalitarian state, so we can anticipate what's coming next. We still have a long way to go before the Constitution is gone, so the more we know about what's coming next, the more effective we can be at heading it off. In other words, what if we didn't panic and instead learned how to put up the best defense possible. This is especially relevant for tech people, because life in our totalitarian state will be more completely totalitarian than any before, thanks to the incredible spying devices we carry in our pockets and install in our homes, naïvely assuming they only have benign applications. We create that technology. And already we are refusing to help, and that's a good sign, of course.

The oligarchs must know climate change is real

I always figured that our oligarchs know full well that climate change is real, they just have a different strategy for dealing with it.

I read this piece by Charles Stross yesterday where he outlined what I assumed was their actual plan. Here's the relevant section.

  • Right now climate denialism is a touchstone of the American right, but the evidence is almost impossible to argue against right now and it's increasingly obvious that many of the people who espouse disbelief are faking it—virtue signalling on the hard right. Sooner or later they'll flip. When they do so, they will inevitably come to the sincere, deeply held belief that culling the bottom 50% to 90% of the planetary population will give them a shot at survival in the post-greenhouse world.

I have told this story myself, once at full volume in a crowded NYC subway car (inadvertently, I tend to speak loudly) and was rewarded with agreement from fellow subway riders.

Idea processing. In your brain a complex project in all its facets is just there. To implement the project, you must serialize it and communicate it, so that the same blob appears in the individual minds of the team. If they understand how their work relates to others, it triggers their instinctive sense of teamwork. We’re a social species, we’re more functional if we understand where we fit in. This is why software that lets you visualize, organize, and communicate your understanding of a project makes you a more effective leader.

There's a disconnect in developerland. Thinking about the cost of a change, the advocate only contemplates how much it costs for new development, not the cost to transition existing applications, or in the case of the web, websites or domains. The longer the technology has been deployed, the larger the cost, and the more widely deployed the larger the cost. HTTP, the protocol of the web, has been constant for 25 years, and is probably the most widely deployed protocol in existence. The cost to do a major transformation of HTTP is huge. Yet when we discuss it, advocates generally speak in terms of how much it would cost to put up a new website.

Sometimes the advocates are aware that there is an installed base. They give it a disparaging name that makes it seem okay to ignore it. Or they say that the new protocol will be so much better that any sane person will want to switch right away. Or the new protocol is so compelling the installed base will swamp the base of the old klunky one. What happens is the new way is over-done and too complex and gets very slow adoption even from new applications. And if the proponent is a bigco, like Apple or Google, the market ends up with a hairball. Too many hairballs and the market fades away. Never actually disappears, but people lose interest. (This is what happened with SOAP and all the WS-xxx protocols.)

I have a question. Why don't they use Walt Frazier as a commentator on TNT instead of the Stan Van Gundy and Mark Jackson. They are so awful and Frazier is so good.

Poll: Which teams will be in the NBA Finals?

A 15-minute podcast explains why I'm finished waiting for journalism or the Democrats to lead us out of the abyss. We don't have to be riveted on the stream of minutiae coming out of journalism. Instead we have to organize and get the focus where it belongs, on the people. We're considered spectators, part of a wave that might or might not exist. The only way out of this for the people to organize. And that means doing things, not just watching.

I have an Electron app that's developing into a Frontier-like thing, but there are still many things Frontier does better or easier. Then I had a flash, why not call Frontier from the Electron app. How? Using XML-RPC of course. So I wrote an XML-RPC client in JavaScript. Doesn't yet support all the types. It works! I was able to call examples.getStateName (23) and sure enough it returns Minnesota. This might be very interesting.

Last month, XML-RPC was 20 years old. Here's a piece written on its fourth anniversary in 2002. Thanks once again to Bob, Mohsen and Don for the best collaboration of my career.

O'Reilly XML-RPC book. They have the full text on Google Books.

We're cleaning out the family home before selling it. My mom had a picture of me from the 1980s on the fireplace mantle. It's a publicity shot from Living Videotext that appeared in a fair number of press stories about our company. A good picture, but it had a lot of exposure to the sun over the years. That's what the white spots are from. ??

I’m skipping the Sunday news shows, first time in many months. I broke the habit. Why? The news just tells us how sick we are. I understand. Let me know when the news starts helping us dig out.

We need to be organized

Once you give up on the idea that the solution to our problems will ever show up in the news, it leads to new observations.

Like this. The opposition, basically American oligarchs, who thanks to Citizens United have been able to buy enough of the government to dismantle our democracy, is somewhat organized. The rest of us, who, combined, have huge economic power if we could just organize ourselves, are without leadership. Waiting for something unspecified to happen.

The best the Democrats can do is Tom Perez. He has zero charisma, no ideas, not even slightly bold. I listen to him, but it's painful.

Our problem isn't knowing what we stand for, we know. We need to organize our power to balance that of the oligarchs. The fact that we can't get organized is not an accident. The owners of the media are oligarchs too.

Start by looking to people who have done amazing jobs of organizing in the past. I would start with civil rights leaders. Union leaders. The Parkland kids. Teachers. Find people who can speak and write passionately.

It's not enough to win elections, we have to elect powerful leadership to oppose the already organized and powerful leadership on the other side.

Mysterious AWS problem

Important: This is not a request for support from Amazon.

I had an issue on one of my EC2 servers starting last night. A few of the apps running on it were not accessible over the net.

I figured one of my code updates had broken something, but I couldn't find a common thread between the apps. They were xmlviewer, river5 and jsonchat.

xmlviewer is the simplest so I started with that.

  • Ran it locally. Works fine.
  • Checked if the request was making it to the server. It wasn't.
  • Checked if DNS was properly mapped. It was.
  • Then I checked if the port was open in the EC2 firewall. It wasn't. There was the problem. I opened the three ports for the three apps and voila, they are working again.

Which leaves me with a mystery. I can't imagine I woke up in the middle of the night, in a dream, opened the EC2 console and deleted the entries for the three ports. But they weren't there.

What happened? I may never know! ??

I noticed this feature on TPM, a little control that increases and decreases the text size. I reallllly appreciate this, even though their story text is already quite readable. I decided to add it to my story pages and day archive pages. A nice little addition. Doesn't clutter things up, and its purpose is fairly obvious, I hope. ??

I watched the American Experience biography of Nikola Tesla. Great story. He invented alternating current, designed the motor that used it. Also invented radio, though Marconi claimed credit. Tesla ultimately won, posthumously.

Fiddling while earth burns

I'm going to Trieste to speak at the State of the Net conference on June 15. My second time.

I really appreciate the opportunity, going to Italy in June is nice. Great food, wine and spirited discussion.

I want to talk about breaking down the walls of journalism to get the people involved. I believe that's still where we're going, and the urgency is all the more severe given the way journalism has been shrinking and drifting.

Journalism got us Trump.

If the press were more of the people we'd have had a chance to have a serious talk among ourselves and ask if we really want to go this route. The core problem is the lack of respect we, the people, have for each other, and the extent to which we let politics and journalism herd us. They do it so well, optimized to make us succumb to advertisements, same as the giants of tech. And get us to accept, even desire!, inadequate health care and education, or even safe water and disaster relief.

Meanwhile the climate keeps warming, and the earth becomes less habitable.

Side-stepping Google

John Gilmore: "The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it."

For the latest on Google's plans to turn the open web into Disneyland, read their May 17 announcement. I've written a backgrounder on the issue of Google and HTTP. Before jumping to any conclusions about what I think, please read it.

Anyway, I had an idea that there might be a route-around. Suppose there was a site that was a container for the web. It has an address bar at the top where you enter the address of a site. It then displays the contents of the site below. It accepts HTTP or HTTPS. But the container site is accessible via HTTPS.

Problem solved? It seems we've restored access to the sites Google doesn't like. Yes you have to access us in a compatibility box, and that's hopefully just a temporary fix until one of Google's competitors decides to try a more cooperative approach to whatever it is Google is trying to do (and I don't believe it has anything to do with our security, it's their ad revenue they're worried about).

PS: Here's a place to comment on the technical merits of this idea. If you have a political statement please post it on your blog. Thanks.

Braintrust query: I'm trying to repair the images in a static-generated Manila site from the early 2000s. The server that held them, redjupiter.com, is gone. Happy to host the images on a static site here.

BTW, the site is my father's mbatoolbox.org. It's running again, and looking pretty good for such an old site. ??

What happens when people on the net run a campaign like this against someone because of their race, religion, where they’re from. The angry lawyer is nowhere near as scary as the mob pursuing him.

This podcast tells how a fake story on Facebook started a religious war in Sri Lanka. When I listened to it I realized this is the way the net will end. Sooner than I thought. You should listen to this.

Google didn’t prepare for the obvious questions because the tech press never asks any. The kinds of questions they get are like “How great are you?” Keep going. There are lots of unreported stories. Big ones.

When they write about Engelbart’s accomplishments they leave out the one he thought was most significant — outlines. Computers are great for augmenting human intellect. Of all the things I've developed, the one with the greatest value is outline software. Idea processors. Incredibly useful tools. The intersection of machine and brain architecture. Engelbart, a brilliant explorer of technology, found his way to this place. I did too, independently, a few years later. We were introduced by Ted Nelson. When they write the history of this period of tech development, I'm pretty sure it'll be the outliners they will be writing about.

Five minute podcast about Laurel and Yanny, obsessing about the NYT page that lets you tweek it endlessly back and forth between the two. What does it all mean? Something. Nothing. Drives me crazy. ??

When people are enjoying a BBQ in the park, and the cops are called because of their skin color, let's flood the park with BBQ-loving people of all colors. Stand with our fellow Americans.

Darius Kazemi, re changes to Twitter API: "The real losers here are apps that need to real-time monitor a feed of Tweets, mostly 3rd-party Twitter clients."

Two-factor authentication is based on the assumption that you control your phone. But phones are easy to hijack.

About the angry lawyer

This is a lightly edited version of a Twitter thread I posted earlier.

My grandparents, all citizens of the US, and taxpayers, spoke English and their native languages. My paternal grandparents spoke Russian. On my mother's side, they spoke German, Polish, Yiddish, probably some Russian too. To get by they had to speak lots of languages.

The lawyer who got so angry has a Jewish last name, and if he's like a lot of second or third generation Jews in the US, has recent ancestors, that he may have known, who spoke English with an accent and it wasn't their only language.

And I bet he was embarrassed by his grandparents. I know I was. And now, as an adult, I regret this. They had hard lives. They got swept up in the Holocaust. That fucked up our family in many ways. And I bet the lawyer got some of that too.

So even though we got screwed, we lived. That's huge. I wouldn't exist if it weren't for their perseverance and courage. Determination. That's why the immigrants who actually make it here are such intelligent and capable people. They had to be, or they wouldn't have made it.

As always people focus on the number of people killed. Six million. But many more people survived, but were damaged by the experience. We live with them. We are them. And that's just us. What about African-Americans. They rose from slavery! Can you imagine.

I checked in on the River5 instance we set up on Glitch in April, and it's still running. Quite nicely, actually. Good work! ??

A Guardian piece about blogging at Harvard in 2003. I was pretty radical back then. But you see Twitter as an extension of blogging, pretty much everything I said actually happened. I thought there was a chance of journalism getting on board, that seems so naive today. I've become a lot more cynical, for good cause.

Another idea for a new social media app/feature. A club of peers, people with the same number of followers, a similar kind of following, similar background, similar influence with others. Let an algorithm decide all this. Say 40 peers per group. You get one coupon for each, and with that coupon you can send a message to an individual. It's labeled as such. The one shot you have to influence another person. No second chances, no discussion, just a simple pitch. You can use as much text as you like, but beware the recipient is under no obligation to read any of it. You can use links, simple styling, paragraphs.

Braintrust query: I'm confused by what Twitter is doing with their API.

NBA playoff report

I love the NBA because without much effort anyone can see what's going on. It's a very accessible sport.

And this time of year, the second-to-last round of the playoffs, is when it gets most dramatic. The teams with the most to lose are in a contest where all but one will lose. The trick is to figure out who, and why.

And then there's hope. Who do you want to win? For me it's totally predictable, unless the Knicks are involved, I always root for the talented underdog. The one everyone assumes will not win. Especially if earlier I thought myself that they would not win. Right now that team is, of course, the Celtics.

I like them because like the Warriors, they can win in a variety of ways, where the other two teams, the Rockets and the Cavs have basically one way to win, an isolation play with a star player who can drive to the basket and also has a good jump shot. The Rockets have two of these guys, James Harden and Chris Paul, and the Cavs have LeBron James. It's easy to defend against a team with one or two ways to win, just concentrate the defense on the strong player, and force the ball to come out through one of the others. Last night at first James looked like he might carry the Cavs, but it turns out he is human, he clearly got tired and hurt as the game went on. The shots that were going down like daggers in the first quarter were missing the mark in the third and fourth. HIs defense was porous. For the last two nights, against the Celtics, he couldn't carry the team.

The Celtics on the other hand, move the ball around on offense until they find a play. This means you can't double-team anyone, everyone is a threat. You really can't defend against that. They're pretty much always going to get off a shot. And people get to rest, so they don't play exhausted as LeBron was.

Of course the Warriors are even better at the distributed multi-threat offense than the Celtics, but they're also worn out by so much winning. Their tiredness comes from boredom. Who cares if they win another championship. I imagine even Bay Area fans are looking for something more interesting and less predictable to watch. The players still have to show up. But they can't be even slightly hungry for a win.

On the other hand this Celtics team has everything to prove. Not only are they very young, they are playing without their two biggest stars who are injured. You have to wonder, no matter what the outcome this year, what they're going to be like next year if Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward are healthy.

So I'm hoping for Celtics vs Golden State in the finals. That could be an epic contest. Multiple threats, who knows where the ball is going to go at any moment, and a sharp contrast in perspective, youth vs royalty.

Another little feature for this blog

Previously I could put numbers in front of items in a list by adding an a flNuberedSubs attribute on the parent with the value true. Like this:

  1. One
  2. Two
  3. Three

Yesterday, when I was digging around in Old School to add collapsible headlines, I realized I could easily add bulleted items, for when numbers aren't right. The attribute is flBulletedSubs. Here's a demo.

  • This is a bulleted item.
  • As is this.
  • And so is this.

Let's see if it works!

  • Yes, it does.

A refinement of the new feature

Liudvikas Bukys, in a comment here, suggested that items with flNumberedSubs set true be rendered as ordered lists in the RSS feed. Good idea. It was pretty easy to implement. If it works, this list should appear in your RSS reader as a numbered list, not a bulleted list.

  1. George Washington
  2. John Adams
  3. Thomas Jefferson
  4. James Madison
  5. James Monroe
  6. John Quincy Adams
  7. Andrew Jackson
  8. Martin Van Buren

And to be sure that bulleted lists still work...

  • New Jersey
  • Florida
  • Mississippi
  • Alabama

Update: Here's a screen shot of what this post looks like in Feedly.

The problem with juggernauts like the Golden State Warriors is that they become boring. It's the same act as last year. They're bored, and I can tell I will be bored too, soon. And next year? Not again, please. This happened with the Miami Heat. Once you win three championships in say five years, the team should be required to reset. Otherwise the NBA itself is doomed to be boring.

Yes, Michael Avenatti is showing what the press could do if it didn't care about access or what other journalists think. He's showing us what's out there for journalists to discover. Inevitably they'll rise to the challenge. He and Michelle Wolf are taking advantage of the lameness of journalism in 2018. Good!

I've been thinking about how we were told not to accept this stuff as normal, but people are misinterpreting that as "do not accept it." That's a bug. Because until we accept that we have a royal family, we won't be able to mobilize to oust it. We're lucky because we still have a legal system that's designed to overthrow monarchs.

One could argue reasonably that the Citizens United decision made an American monarchy inevitable.

Signal which I started using a few weeks ago and am encouraging others to use is open source. The desktop version is an Electron app.

Collapsible post text

Back in the old days of Scripting News I had a feature that let me collapse the text under a given headline. An in-place footnote. Parenthetical text that doesn't disrupt the flow of a story.

  • This is an example of such text.
  • Think of it as another form of linking.
  • Not off-site and not as far away as a standard link.

The way the feature works is you put an attribute on the headline named collapse and set its value to true. When the page is displayed the subordinate text is hidden (display: none in CSS) with a gray wedge to its left. If you click the wedge it expands, as you would expect.

I have the feature in Old School for videos and tweets. For example, this line references a tweet. It has an attribute named urltweet whose value is (doh) the url of the tweet. ??

And as of this morning, it's in the current version of Old School, so you will be seeing me use this feature on Scripting News.

PS: Here's a snapshot of the OPML file for the blog that shows how the collapse attribute is represented. It's pretty simple.

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