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Ben Crowder

Archive: April 2011, Page 2

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Ink

Ink, BenCrowder.net, Blogging

As of a few minutes ago, this site is now running on Ink, the static blog engine I’ve talked about for the last couple weeks. Every page is straight HTML/CSS. There’s a little bit of Javascript, too (for submitting comments, displaying pedigrees, and pulling in the Flickr feeds on the art page). No PHP.

How it works (in a nutshell)

I’ll write more about all this later, but here’s the directory layout:

/pages
/posts
/scripts
/templates
/web

/pages and /posts are home to a bunch of Markdown files. A Python script (ink) lets me bake those into the templates and puts the resulting HTML files in /web.

I can test everything locally, and when I want to push it live, I just type ink deploy. (I’m using rsync.)

Migration

Migrating the blog over from WordPress wasn’t too hard. I wrote a short Python script to pull my posts out and put them in Markdown files (I’ve been using Markdown on my WordPress blog for a while now), along with YAML metadata like the categories and stuff. With more Python magic I got all the links cleaned up (I wanted relative URLs instead of absolute) and deleted 160 megs of unused images (WordPress uploads four copies of every image, at different sizes) and fixed some broken links. And there had been a weird encoding bug that crept in a while ago when I merged all my old blogs into WordPress, turning all the curly quotes and em-dashes into gibberish, so I fixed that.

Going forward

Whew. I feel liberated.

I’ll spend the next few days using Ink for real and cleaning up the code so it’s publishable, and then it’ll go on Github as usual.

Some small site changes

BenCrowder.net, Design, Ink, Web, Web Design

Slight update to the stuff at the top of the page. Before:

And after:

I’d wanted to do an illustration-based banner for a while, and when I moved the search box up to the nav bar and changed the nav links, I couldn’t stop. So you get a new banner, based on my illustration “Dropping the Nets.” I’ve also updated the favicon. Some early drafts:

And the final:

It’s a white pilcrow, which I typed in quite by accident when I was going through possible characters to use there. I like the look and hey, pilcrows have to do with books and typography and printing and text, all of which are right up my alley.

Now I just need to wrap things up on Ink and switch the site over… (I’m so, so close. All the core functionality is there; I’m just adding in some nice extras like an auto-generated sitemap.xml file.)

Revelation every day

LDS, Religion

I’ve often wondered why we had a lot of “thus saith the Lord” revelations back in Joseph Smith’s day (just look at the Doctrine & Covenants) and don’t get many at all nowadays (“The Proclamation to the World on the Family” and “The Living Christ” are the only ones I can think of, and even then they’re not directly in the Lord’s voice).

Don’t get me wrong, I fully believe that the Church nowadays is led by God just as much as it was in 1830, and I likewise fully believe that our modern prophets receive revelation. I was just curious as to why the format seems to have changed over the years.

On Sunday I found my answer.

I was reading Melvin J. Petersen’s February 1985 Ensign article “Preparing Early Revelations for Publication” and came across this passage from John A. Widtsoe:

There is, in view of what has been said, need of continuous revelation. However, we must understand that there are two classes of revelation given by God to man. The first deals with the structure and content of the plan of salvation. Once given it does not need to be given again. Adam received it…. Christ gave the same revelation to man in His dispensation. So did Joseph Smith in his dispensation. The foundation, or platform, once given does not need to be given again unless men forget the truth.

Then there are revelations that fit the changes in our lives, meet our new needs, help us overcome unforeseen conditions—revelations for our daily guidance.

This great country, the United States of America, has found itself in a great depression. We have the Gospel. What did the Lord do? He spoke to his Prophet, and we have what is known as the Welfare Program. It is the application of the eternal principles of the Gospel to present day needs. It is as revelation. We have that type of revelation continuously.

So, when people say: ‘We ought to have revelation now as we did in the day of Joseph,’ we must answer, ‘Open your eyes; we do have revelation every day; such as we need from day to day.’

Revelations have been given to Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow, Joseph F. Smith and President Heber J. Grant. Every one of them has had revelation whereby the Church has been guided.” (John A. Widtsoe, “Modern Revelation and Modern Questions,” The Deseret News, Church Section, 28 January 1939, p. 6.)

And there you have it.

Vim search and replace on funky characters

Vim

Occasionally I run across weird characters in Vim that show up as numbers in angle brackets — <95> or <97>, for example. They’re just curly quotes and em-dashes and such, but they’re encoded oddly, and there’s no way easy to do a search and replace on them.

Except that there is.

  1. Yank the character. (That’s Vim talk for copying to the clipboard.)
  2. Start typing your search-and-replace command — :%s/
  3. Hit Ctrl-R followed by " (double quotes) to paste the character.
  4. Finish out the rest of the search-and-replace and hit Enter — :%s/<97>/--/g

Voila. (There might be a way to fix these characters with iconv or some other encoding app, but I haven’t been able to get it to work other than this way.)

NaShoStoMo update (day seven)

NaShoStoMo, Writing

I ended up finishing that third story last night and writing another, and then I wrote another two tonight. This is awesome — I went from writing no fiction at all for months and months to writing around thirty pages so far in the first week of April.

I’m not going to post the stories online, because they’re embarrassing, but here’s what I’ve got so far:

  • “Wallwalker” — about a high school kid who can walk through walls (fantasy/science fiction)
  • “The Baby and the Box” — about a newborn who can see the creature on the ceiling (fantasy)
  • “Gravedigger” — about a golem and a little girl (fantasy)
  • “Back in a Bit” — about a husband who takes out the trash and doesn’t return for ten years (science fiction)
  • “Clerk’s Office” — about an elders quorum presidency who finds a door that leads under the church (horror)
  • “Fire to Fire” — about a boy who can start fires with his hands (fantasy)

I do plan to write a realistic story at some point, honest. But the other twenty-nine this month will almost certainly be fantasy or science fiction, because apparently that’s what I do. (And I’m very okay with that.)

A side effect of all this story writing that I didn’t foresee (I must be blind, because it’s kind of obvious in retrospect) is more confidence in my writing, enough that I’m now raring to go back and write Tanglewood, that young adult fantasy novel I started two years ago but lamely gave up on. (It changed a lot after that draft, by the way.) Some of my stories this month will come from that world, I think.

Mmm, writing is fun. And hard as heck. But mostly fun.

NaShoStoMo update (day six)

NaShoStoMo, Writing

Almost one week into NaShoStoMo so far. I’ve written two and a half stories and I’m hoping to finish the third story tonight, so I’ve got to write three more to catch up. I have a feeling I’ll be playing a lot of catch-up this month.

I have to say, by the second day of the month I was this close to giving up. I figured that NaShoStoMo was an unnecessary extra stress in my life and besides, fiction isn’t even useful, and there were so many other more worthwhile ways to fill my time and blah blah blah yadda yadda. Luckily I realized that that was Resistance talking (see Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art). I managed to muscle through it, and I’m really glad I did. Story ideas are flying at me from all over the place. It feels so good to be writing fiction again.

But man, writing middles is hard. And endings are even harder for me. I can handle beginnings just fine, but as soon as I get to the middle, it’s like every bone in my story goes limp, and it’s kind of hard to end properly when you’re flopping about with your invertebrate middle.

And that’s why I’m doing NaShoStoMo: to learn how to write middles and endings. Thirty stories is going to be really good practice for that.

Also, keeping my stories short is proving to be difficult. Writing a story short enough that I can finish it in a day (preferably a single sitting) would seem to be easy, but as soon as I get going, it’s like I go into novel-writing mode and I’m spinning out the first chapter of what’s going to be a much longer story. So my other goal is to learn how to clamp down and tell each story with more economy.

And yes, all three stories are kind of pathetic, but you can’t expect much more from that from rough drafts. I do plan to revise some of these lumps into something nice and shiny someday.

Parallax animation test

Animation, Blender

An animation test I painted in Photoshop and threw together in Blender, mainly just to play around with parallax layers (and to get back into doing animation again):