Mimsy Were the Borogoves

For the wisdom of the wise are the criterion of your madness.

42 Astoundingly Useful Scripts and Automations for the Macintosh

Work faster and more reliably. Use Perl, Python, AppleScript, Swift, and Automator to automate the drudgery of computer use. Add actions to the services menu and the menu bar, and create drag-and-drop apps.

Use simple scripts and make your Macintosh play music, roll dice, and talk to you. Create ASCII art from your photos. There’s a script for all of that in my new book, 42 Astoundingly Useful Scripts and Automations for the Macintosh.

Commemorate Patriot Day with Betsy Ross—Wednesday, September 11th, 2019

The asciiArt script from 42 Astoundingly Useful Scripts and Automations for the Macintosh is astoundingly useful, as the title of the book implies, and can be used for a wide variety of purposes. I originally made this image for Independence Day, overlaying the Declaration of Independence on a drawing of the Betsy Ross flag. The Betsy Ross flag’s simple design is perfect for sequential ASCII art. The circle is a simple geometric element that shows up when placed in text; the stars of the modern 50-star flag get muddled unless the text is made so small as to be unreadable.

  1. Download the Betsy Ross flag for use with the asciiArt script: Betsy Ross flag (PNG, 24.9 KB)
  2. Place it in a folder where you can run the asciiArt script.
  3. Open the Terminal.
  4. Type “cd”, a space, and then drag your work folder onto the Terminal. Press the RETURN key, and you’re ready to create ascii art from the Betsy Ross flag.

Because the flag is such a simple design, when recreating it using text for the greyscale it makes more sense to keep the number of characters small. Here’s the Betsy Ross flag with just the asterisk, equals, and exclamation:

  • ~/bin/asciiArt "Betsy Ross Flag.png" --palette "*=! "
What the f*** is wrong with Americans?—Wednesday, September 4th, 2019
Have some fucking decency

Pretty sure decency also involves not assuming people have something “fucking wrong with them” just because they disagree with you on the best way of providing quality health care.

There is something obscenely wrong with you if you disagree with the left. You’re not a decent f***ing human being unless you support the Canadian health care system of long waits and no choices.

What the fuck is wrong with Americans who aren’t on board with free healthcare. I’m Canadian and I don’t care that I pay extra taxes so a little boy in Alberta can have open heart surgery, or an elderly man in Nova Scotia can get the heart medication he desperately needs. It’s called taking care of your people. I’m glad I pay so that people can have a good quality of life. It’s called being a decent fucking human being.

The left used to use Britain’s National Health Care as an example of caring for other people. But with two recent high profile examples of literally keeping patients—children—under armed guard to keep them from leaving the system, I’m not surprised they’ve given up that example. Before that they used to praise the Veterans Administration’s government-run health care. They turned on a dime, albeit a large one, when the immense corruption at the VA became public, and the veterans who died because of delayed medical treatment. I received political mailings for a few weeks claiming (correctly) that single payer would be just like VA-care before that reference went the way of the dodo.

Neither of those institutions did a good job “taking care of their people”. Despite the massive taxes required to pay for those government services. People who have to interact with the VA and the NHS have far from “a good quality of life”.

What the fuck is wrong with Americans is that we do not want armed guards forbidding us from choosing our doctor when the government-provided doctor fails us.

The VA and the NHS are exactly what happens with monopolistic health care. Corruption and long waits, refusing to allow challenges to the system. Now the only place remaining for the left to praise is Canada. It’s not a great choice, but the only other option would be admitting they’re wrong.

While the left thinks anyone who disagrees with the left has something the fuck wrong with them, I have never seen anyone on the right in the United States complain about British National Health Care, or Canadian Health, unless someone else has tried to force the same system on us. If other people want to try different systems, that’s their business. Most people don’t care if other people want to do something stupid. They care when other people try to convince them that stupid is smart and anything other than stupid is evil. We know that the next step is forcing stupid on everyone.

Amazing Grace (Common Melody)—Wednesday, August 28th, 2019

Amazing Grace (Excell) (563.1 KB MP3 file)

There are many inspirational hymns in the Christian world, but there is only one Amazing Grace. It is by far one of my favorite hymns. The story of how and why John Newton wrote the lyrics is itself amazing.

So of course I had to make a file to play it using the piano script. I highlighted it in 42 Astoundingly Useful Scripts and Automations for the Macintosh, but I wanted to go over it a little further here, and also talk about using it (and other MIDI files) in GarageBand.

[toggle code]

  • # Excell, Edwin O., 1900
  • # Rev. John Newton
  • --key F
  • # line 1 bass
    • [-- "F +F" | 2 "F C" [8 F A] 4 +F | 2 "C +F" 4 "C +E" | 2 "+D +F" 4 "B +F" | 2 "A +F" 4 "A +F"]
  • # line 1 treble
    • - "A C" | 2 "A +F" [8 + A F] 4 C | 2 "C +A" 4 "B +G" | 2 "A +F" 4 "B D" | 2 "A C" 4 "A C"
  • # line 2 bass
    • [-- 2 "F C" [8 F A] 4 +F | 2 "C +F" 4 "B +E" | 2 "A. +F." 4 "F +F" | [4 + A. 8 F A F] 2 F 4 F | 2 "A +F" 4 "A F"]
  • # line 2 treble
    • 2 "A +F" [8 + A F] 4 C | 2 "C +A" 4 "C +G" | 2 "C. +C." 4 "C +A" | [+ C. 8 A C A] 2 C 4 C | 2 "C +F" 4 "C C"
  • # line 3 bass
    • [-- [B. 8 A B] 2 F 8 D +F | 2 "F +F" 4 "A +F" | 2 + "D F" [8 F A] 4 -C | 2 "-C F" 4 "-C E" | 2 "-F F"]
  • # line 3 treble
    • "B. D." 8 "C +F" [+F D] 4 B | 2 "A C" 4 "C C" | 2 "A +F" 4 [8 + A F] C | 2 "C +A" 4 "B +G" | 2 "A +F"

You can just copy and paste this into your text editor and save it as a text file, say “grace.txt”, and then run piano on it:

  • ~/bin/piano grace.txt
Dominion Electric Corporation Wafflemaker Manual—Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

I have never been a fan of single-purpose kitchen tools. They take up space and are only used on that rare occasion when their purpose comes into play. Waffle irons are no different. If I want a waffle, I figured, I could just go out and have someone else make me one. Why would I want to use space in my kitchen for an appliance I’m literally only going to use when I want to make waffles?

Then I saw this beautiful old waffle-maker at the local antique mall, for $5, marked “works” and I couldn’t resist. It makes small waffles—about 4 ½ by 5 ¼ inches, just right for a moderate breakfast—and two at a time. It’s the perfect waffle maker.

There was only one problem: each side uses its own plug, and the waffle maker only came with one cord with one plug. This meant only making one waffle at a time. So I started haunting eBay for an extra cord.1 I discovered that there are a lot of these waffle makers out there, and sellers have a very inflated sense of what they’re worth. They usually list for far more than $5 (especially with shipping added in) and they literally never sell.

As I started to use the waffle maker, I discovered another problem. It seems like a simple thing to use a waffle maker, but in practice it isn’t. Do I need to grease the iron? That seemed to make more of a mess than people would be willing to put up with. The gauge on the top of the irons goes from low, to bake, to hot. Which do I wait for when making waffles? It seems like I’d want it to be hot, but then what is bake for?

At which point I noticed something else about the Dominion waffle irons on eBay. None of them come with manuals or instructions. A detailed search of the Internet and there are no reproductions of the manual either.

The only Dominion waffle maker I’ve ever seen bid on, I bid on. Because it came with the manual (and it was only about $20 with shipping). Even then, with photos of the manual, doing a search on the title of the manual still comes up with nothing. Since it’s a short manual, and it has very useful information, I figured I’d reproduce it. The full title is Directions for Operating Waffle Iron and Tested Recipes (PDF File, 81.2 KB).

The media’s Trump hatred causes mass murder—Wednesday, August 14th, 2019
Trump-inspired killings

Why are the actions of a deranged environmentalist, worried that too many people harm the Earth—the El Paso killer—blamed on President Trump? The “current climate of hate legitimized by the MAGA ethic” is so much a part of the religion of the left that asking for examples is an insult to intelligence. Here’s what one person in my Facebook feed said when someone else questioned the left’s religion by pointing out that “Trump has outwardly, formally, and officially on several occasions announced his stand against all hate groups. Burning a church does not help to Make America Great Again, so no, it was not a MAGA inspired event.”

I have a very informed opinion about what is going on in this country. The flames of bigotry and hate are being fueled and condoned by Trump. I won’t insult your intelligence by citing the numerous documented instances. Bottom line for me; You as a minority supporting this man is akin to a victim of child abuse listening to MJ.

This is extreme condescension, and emblematic of the way the left infantilizes anyone who disagrees with them. The attempt to shame a minority into returning to the left’s plantation. Disagreement among the groups they feel they own is especially appalling to the white left; when they lose control over their subject identity groups it’s like a child abuser losing access to their victims. They lash out.

But there’s also the dig about insulting your intelligence. Realizing that just about every “numerous documented instance” turned out to be a hoax, I asked for an example. He posted two.

The anti-Trump (at best) New Zealand Christchurch killer. And the anti-Trump synagogue shooter here in the United States.1

Those are two very good examples of how blind hatred of Trump is at best self-defeating and at worst is fueling the deadly hatred the left claims to oppose. Blaming Trump for fueling those killings is coming out unequivocally in favor of hatred. The only way Trump or any political leader could have adjusted their speech to appease the synagogue shooter or the New Zealand shooter would have been to engage in hate.

42 Astounding Scripts is live!—Friday, August 2nd, 2019
Astounding Scripts book cover

This is the ebook cover from Apple Books. It’s also available in print on Amazon and as an ebook on Smashwords.

Do you want to play music on your computer? Do you want to create ASCII art from your photographs? Play podcasts back faster, snapshot web pages, display upcoming birthdays on your Desktop? Do horribly ancient filenames drive you crazy? Would you like to replace their underscores with spaces and separate their mashed-together words to readable ones? Would you like to organize your favorite recipes?

There’s a script for all of that in 42 Astoundingly Useful Scripts and Automations for the Macintosh.

42 Astounding Scripts shows you how to take control of your Macintosh.

I’ve been reading a lot of books about computers from the late seventies and early eighties. I cut my programming teeth on books like Ken Tracton’s 57 Practical Programs & Games in BASIC and the various forms of 101 BASIC Computer Games*. Reading these books again, I began to feel, not nostalgic, but jealous. Jealous of the younger me who had these books to read. As far as I can tell they don’t exist now. I wanted to read a book that didn’t exist.

Sometimes if there’s a book you really want to read, you have to write it yourself. — Ann Patchett (New York Times, Writers On Writing, August 26, 2002)

So I went through the scripts I use on a weekly and even daily basis, as well as a few scripts I hadn’t written yet but wanted to, and put together the book I really wanted to read. This is a book I would want to buy if I hadn’t written it.

Some of the scripts are a few lines long; others are a few pages long. Every one of them is something I’ve found useful and fun.

Reagan’s Lincolnian Revolution—Wednesday, June 26th, 2019
Reagan For the Little Guy

I saw this meme about the good old days show up in my Facebook feed yesterday from a friend of mine in a teacher’s union:

This is actually the 1956 Republican Party platform:

  1. Provide federal assistance to low-income communities
  2. expand social security
  3. Provide asylum for refugees
  4. Strengthen labor laws so workers can more easily join a union
  5. Extend minimum wage

There are several problems with this list, the obvious being that Republicans are the only party in 2019 that still wants to provide asylum for refugees. Democrats want to let in the people that immigrants need refuge from. Democrats are specifically shielding murderers, rapists, and other violent criminals from deportation, if those criminals came here illegally.

Without walls, there is no sanctuary. The Republican Party understands this. Democrats also understand it: asylum isn’t their goal. They want refugees to remain frightened and dependent.

The wider problem, though, is not that it’s wrong about what the Republican Party supported in the era of Jim Crow. What’s wrong is that Democrats still support going back to the era of Jim Crow. In 1956, wages had risen enough that the minimum wage no longer kept unskilled blacks out of the job market, no longer blocked them from gaining the skills they needed to thrive. It was only with Johnson’s Great Society that blacks stopped advancing economically.

As economist Thomas Sowell has shown in books such as Basic Economics, increasing the minimum wage hurts minorities most. Politicians in 1956 knew this. That’s why they supported increasing the minimum wage. They supported it as a form of segregation. Democrats in 2019 still know this. They still, sixty years on, want to keep unskilled blacks frightened and dependent.

The elephant in the nuclear power plant—Wednesday, June 19th, 2019
Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository

Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, never used. A monument to government waste and the folly of government experts. Did it occur to anyone in the bureaucracy that if you have to go to this much trouble to contain the radioactivity it might still be a useful fuel?

For some reason nuclear power has been in my news lately, both new news and old news. I was watching a segment a few weeks ago about nuclear power plants going out of business, because it’s so expensive to dispose of the highly radioactive waste products that nuclear power plants produce. They can’t figure out what to do with it. Nobody wants it—it’s dangerous and it takes thousands of years to become not dangerous.

It occurred to me that this is nuts, and it’s so nuts it’s an elephant-in-the-room problem. Saying that nuclear power plants are going broke because they can’t figure out what to do with highly radioactive byproducts, is a lot like an oil power plant saying that the byproduct of burning oil is more oil, and what are we going to do with all this oil we’re generating?

If nuclear waste is so radioactive, why aren’t we recycling it for use in nuclear power generation instead of spending billions building waste repositories that the federal government just abandons? A quick bit of research, and it turns out that radioactive waste can be and is recycled back into useful radioactive fuels. But not in the United States. The US federal government not only wastes money building and abandoning waste repositories, it also bans recycling the waste, and has done so since President Carter. And so nuclear power plants go out of business because they aren’t allowed to recycle and they can’t throw it away.

Recycling radioactive waste both reduces its radioactivity—if it didn’t, obviously, it would be infinitely re-usable as fuel—and drastically cuts the volume of waste. Recycled waste takes up less space and is radioactive for far less time than first-generation waste. Not only would recycling nuclear waste provide more fuel, it would vastly reduce the cost of safely storing it by making the waste itself safer.

This is an example of how uselessly insular and provincial modern news is in the United States. The whole point of nuclear power plants is turning radioactivity into useful power; reporting on how nuclear power plants are going out of business because they need to dispose of radioactive waste, does no reporter think to ask why it needs to be disposed of if it’s still radioactive? It seems the obvious question.

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