Tuesday’s child

Here’s what I’m doing today:

1) Delaying calling the orthodontist. The metal support on Child One’s headgear snapped and I have to find out how much it will cost me to repair. By cleverly putting off the call, I don’t have to pay.

2) Yawning. Elvi left me last night. You see, there’s this fancy microscope that goes ping at Universite Laval in Quebec City and she and two other grad students drove downriver to use it. McGill has one of these machines, but it’s broken – so I’m told – and these fine young minds need results for a conference in two weeks. Elvi’s coming back later today sometime – so I’m told. In the meantime, the kids took up a lot of time and I didn’t get yesterday’s allotment of work done until 2:30 a.m. today. I woke at 6:30 to get the kids up and off to school.

3) Wondering if I ought to have posted a draft of that page of “72 Virgins” while in process. It’s going to keep getting better. It better keep getting better.

4) Non-plussing. Shooting on “Time and Space” starts tomorrow in San Francisco – so I’m told. It’s raining there, so Marior will start with the interior shots. That’s my first work in production, and you’d think I’d be giddier. That’s not my style, though. I’m more the type to keep the highs from getting too high and the lows from getting too low. That joke was for Elvi.

5) Working on the upgrade of Alex’s Web site. I’ve chosen sections of his upcoming “Crafty TV Writing” for posting on the site. The book will be out this summer and is the best book I’ve ever read on writing for television.

6) Reading and posting to blogs so I don’t have to correct JOUR 319 spreadsheet assignments.

7) This is my impending afternoon and evening:
3:30 – leave to pick up kids at school
4:00 – kids leave school
4:30 – get home
4:45 – leave again with Children One and Three
5:00 – drop Child One off at her babysitting training course
5:15 – arrive at arena for Child Three’s hockey practice
5:30 – hit the ice with Child Three and numerous other kindergardeners and coaches
6:30 – leave the ice and undress Child Three
7:00 – pick up Child One
7:30 – Mardi Gras party at Alex’s with all three kids and possibly the wife

Sometime in there, I’ll have to feed the kids. It doesn’t leave much time for a nap.

Two pages

I spent Friday and the weekend on “72 Virgins”, including some rewriting. I thought it might be instructive to post the original and the first rewrite pass. I won’t tell you which is which, however. Which do you like better?

A moment ago, Bassil set off a bomb among these people in a market. Franco is a cop. Havah is a mother, Albert is a senior citizen, and Julia is in high school. That’s all the set-up you need.

  • This room is painted a shade of gray exactly 50% black and 50% white. There’s one door, closed.
  • Bassil, Havah, Franco, Julia, and Albert mill around the room, stunned and confused.
  • Havah realizes she no longer holds children in her empty hands.
  • My children! Where are my children?
  • Havah breaks into hysterics.
  • In confusion, Bassil looks around.
  • (in Arabic)
  • Is this Paradise?
  • Albert cocks his head as if listening for something. He takes a step, slowly. He takes a second step, at normal speed. The mere action impresses him.
  • Franco gains his bearings, as do the others, save Havah. Julia consoles Havah, calms her enough to stop the hysterics.
  • Franco quickly surveys the room, pauses his gaze on Bassil.
  • Do I know you?
  • Bassil responds with a blank look. Franco shrugs it off, then goes to inspect the door.
  • Albert takes a third step, downright frisky. He smiles. He performs a brief dance step, then a deep knee bend.
  • Franco opens the door. It opens outward. Incredibly bright light floods into the room from whatever is on the other side.
  • Startled, Franco quickly slams the door shut.
  • Any theories on what just happened?
  • He gets nothing but blank stares. Bassil might look a little sheepish, perhaps even guilty. Albert glides around the room.
  • Don’t know what just happened, but I like it.

And the other version:

  • An empty gray room that appears to be an exact 50% mix of black and white. A single door resides in the middle of one of the walls.
  • Bassil, Havah, Franco, Julia and Albert stand at the opposite end of the room from the door.
  • Confusion, Bassil looks around.
  • Is this heaven?
  • Julia looks about wildly.
  • Havah glances down to her empty hands. Panic strikes.
  • The children. They were just here a moment ago.
  • Albert smiles as he stretches.
  • Don’t know what just happened, but I like it.
  • Albert performs a deep knee bend.
  • I haven’t not felt my arthritis in years.
  • Franco surveys the room and pauses as his gaze falls upon Bassil. He tilts his head to the side as if trying to recall something.
  • Do I know you?
  • Bassil evades the question with a blank look. Franco shrugs it off as the door attracts his focus.
  • Albert moves toward the door. Franco, curious, follows. As the pair reach it, the door opens.
  • Bright light bathes the room from the other side.
  • Startled, Franco quickly slams it shut. He turns to the group.
  • Anyone have an idea as to what just happened?
  • Blank stares transform into looks of deep concentration.

There you go. Discuss.

Tech talk Thursday

Because the scribosphere is so wise and artsy, so many of us use Macs. Ever since NSD went comatose, I’ve been antsy to comment on tech developments, and here are two I can’t ignore.

The tech media this week reported a vulnerability in OS X security. It exists and while this exploit can work malicious deeds, a simple setting will prevent it from working.

The offensive item at hand is not a virus or Trojan, but a process. If you surf to a Web page while vulnerable and click on a link, Safari will download the file, which is a Terminal script. Terminal (the OS X command line interface) will open automatically and run the script. Somebody can do a lot of damage to your files and/or hard drive that way.

You can run a benign version of the exploit at Secunia. The process resembles the Widget vulnerability of two years ago that Apple patched in OS 10.4.1.

There are two easy ways to prevent the file from running automatically. You can run Firefox, which won’t automatically open files unless you ask it to. Don’t do that. In Safari, you need to check the setting of the “Open ‘safe’ files after downloading” box. Open your Safari preferences and make sure that box is not checked:

That’s it. You’re no longer vulnerable, although if you open the file manually, you will cause the script to run. Apple needs to secure Terminal more tightly.

You can read discussion at Slashdot for more opinions.

A second development that interests me as a teacher of HTML and online publication is the new Google Pages. Google has come out with an online Web design app and is willing to host any pages you create for free, up to 100 MB worth. It doesn’t get better than that. You can work on your pages in a WYSIWYG interface or in straight code. It doesn’t work with Safari, but you can use the latest Firefox in OS X and Google Pages will work fine. Here’s a small sample page I just mocked up.

If you look at the code, you’ll note that Google Pages relies heavily on CSS. Unfortunately, when you use the code edit feature of Google Pages, you can see the code for the entire page. You can only work div by div. That will limit the usefulness of Google Pages in my classes. I’m not sure whether or not you can upload previously coded pages for Google Pages to host. You can upload files, so perhaps you can. I’ll have to test that. If you try, please let me know with a comment.