The store where people go to channel over

I made my way to Insp with the meter near green, an electronic ticket that tracked my hands arcing in blank night beneath fluttering rain. The last drops plopped on my head as I pushed into a tinkling bell.

The store sold draped shadows and sharp-edged boxes, and thin books with grasped titles: Axioms of a Framework. Iambic Hymns. Seven Grand Arguments. Catching the Muse.

“Haady,” spoke a silhouette shaded above an amber lamp. He put aside a glittering cylinder and rested a cloth above it. “Help you?”

I approached the counter and held up my ticket. The inks were bright, new as Revi had made it, best he could with the fluoro for which I had bid. Stranger faiths had elected a no-rep newbie to a height a step higher by providence. Now it curled along its slender wire-spine, half-rolled as it had been in my pocket, but dry despite.

“I’ve got my ticket,” I said, creeping toward the orange hued man. “It’s close now. I was wondering if I could make a purchase.”

“How long?” he asked.

“Tomorrow will make it two weeks,” I replied.

“Two weeks,” he said. “This is all I got.” And he brought the cylinder back to the light. It was a small telescope.

“That’s it?” I asked. “You can’t muse with that.”

“Son, you’ll be lucky to make it that far. You walked in with a dribbled paycheck. What were you expecting?”

“My own muse,” I exclaimed. “Been nothing like what I’ve been expecting, and I’ve waited so long as I can. You know how I’ve bent words – I hammered them out and put them all care-worn in pages. I believe them.”

For a second, he said nothing. Then:

“And what did you write?”

“Anything important’s got layers,” I started. “And relationships are fundamental.”

He rolled his eyes – or that’s what I felt like he had done.

“Last time I went this long, I wrote about all the girls I never got to know,” I continued. “This time, I want Insp. She’ll make everything easy.”

“Take it or leave it,” he said, sliding the thing forward. The ticket vanished in his hands and he walked into a back room. The rain stopped and the awning dripped.

I gazed through the telescope and saw crimson threads. They swam in an ether of trolling wisps, murky snakes of beige, cream and gray.

And no hope came to me, or upon me, or beside me: it was merely me.

Tomorrow, Muse, when I wake – unfurl in me a burning map and grant me one of your quickened keys. I shall show loyal words and not abandon them. Fourteen days have nearly passed; I have marked each one. Now it is my due: let this be a good start!


The FAQ approach


The philosophy of dynamics versus the philosophy of state: much like how computers assist our decision-making, you may be better served with a decision-centric notetaking habit. In the most general terms, it is a question-asking process rather than a list-making one.

The terminal and the shell

tty(4) tells me the name of the terminal. I can switch among several terminals and receive names like ttyC0, ttyC1, and so on.

These are fields in a table in the /etc/ttys file, which mentions the execution of a “/usr/libexec/getty” program and a string “vt220.”

Searching for vt220 in /usr/share/misc/termcap brings me to an entry on the capabilities of the vt220 terminal:

  • ae: End alternate character set
  • am: Terminal has automatic margins
  • bs: Terminal can backspace with ^H
  • mi: Safe to move while in insert mode
  • ms: Safe to move in standout mode
  • xn: Newline ignored after 80 cols (Concept)
  • xo: Terminal uses xoff/xon (DC3/DC1) handshaking
  • co#80: The number of columns
  • it#8: The number of positions in a tab
  • li#24: The number of lines
  • cl: Clear screen and home cursor
  • ct: Clear all tab stops
  • ho: Home cursor
  • is: Terminal initialization string (termcap only)
  • k4: Sent by function key 4

And so on. Reading these man pages, I collected many more: init(8), login(1), getty(8), environ(7); what I ought to be looking at right now is afterboot(8).

The takeaway lesson here is that the shell and the terminal are different abstractions. The former is our textual desktop, an application, a programming language. The latter describes emulation attributes to mimic a communication interface.

Seeing the shell as a level “above” lets me accept it as more than merely the pregnant husk around a playwright’s musing, but a system in its own right. Pipes, job control and co-processes are all important concepts. The shell is not just a “script runner.”

Exploring $HOME/.profile

: ${HOME='/root'} # no error message
  • If HOME is not set, assign ‘/root’ to HOME and $HOME will be substituted with /root
  • The colon lets you set HOME without printing an error message. The command interpreter tries to execute $HOME, which is substituted as /root, which by itself is not a command.
  • TEST isn’t set, so it is assigned ‘ls’ and substituted. The command interpreter recognizes ‘ls’ as a command and lists the directory. Same deal with $TEST by itself.
echo ${HOME='/bin'}
  • This returns /root
  • If HOME is already set, $HOME is substituted with ‘/root’.
  • If HOME is not set, then HOME is assigned ‘/bin’ and substituted.
umask 022
  • The umask command sets the bits to be turned off on file creation.
  • 022 turns off write permissions for group and others.
  • As umask(2) states, “write access for the owner only.”

Sniff HTTP traffic with Fiddler2

One of the first steps to emulating the browser’s HTTP requests to a server is to examine the traffic as you browse web pages. We’ll use cURL to send the requests after we watch the browser.

The basic process is to

  1. Open Fiddler2 and a web browser (Internet Explorer and Chrome work automatically)
  2. Visit a web page
  3. Write the cURL script to emulate the browser

The initial interaction with HTTP to a server is a GET request. The server may return a cookie with a session ID. This identifies the browser to the server among all other connections. For our purposes, a cookie can be considered just another header.

We invoke cURL with a HTTP GET request to collect the session ID, and we execute cURL again to POST our login credentials.


cURL script



Think of insights as fortification against fatigue, and attaining them the sum spirit of all writing: that as we are in perceiving only those sensations delved to us by our senses, the consumption of other words allowing us expedience to those same strongholds, paved paths first forged by adventuresome, raucous pioneers – the author himself.