Acesulfame K

Rrgh. For a test blog, I don’t seem to be doing a lot of testing, eh?

My apologies. This is the final week of production on my iPhone book and I’m using up every last second I have to make it The Best God-Damned Book Ever Written. “Moby Dick”? “Great Expectations”? “The King James Bible (Special Edition With All Of The Naughty Stuff Outlined In Purple)”? Forget ’em. Toss them into the recycling because “iPhone: Fully Loaded” will without any question become the standard by which all great literature is compared.

All great literature will fail by comparison, but it’s good that these other writers keep themselves busy and have some sort of goal. Don’t you think?

So there are two immediate priorities going on with the Celestial House of Binary (BETA):

1) Create a somewhat awesome new WordPress theme. Workin’ on it. I’ve found a couple of neat tutorials and starting points (thanks in part to a public call for same on MacBreakWeekly) that have given me a big leap on this. I’ll post links later.

I’ve also worked out the color scheme, based on a page of comic book art. I photographed the page, handed it off to Flickr Toys’ Palette Generator, and bango: I immediately had a CSS stylesheet with those colors all locked and loaded.

2) Figure out the best way to wire up the RSS feed. My homebrew blogging app has a long list of weaknesses. One of the biggest is that although it observes most of the ginchier web standards (like RSS) it’s still bloody invisible to the search engines and trackers and other mechanisms that folks use to find stuff on the Web. It’s off on its own island somehow and I’ve no idea why.

Case in point: I did my usual egosurf on Technorati and as usual, Yellowtext posts on the Colossal Waste of Bandwidth are nowhere to be seen. But posts here on the Celestial House of Binary pop up immediately.

This is discouraging for Yellowtext. Dammit, it’s been online and RSS-ified for something like five years now, and it’s been linked all over the place. Whereas has only been live for a few weeks, with no word-of-mouth at all.

So before I tell people to come on down to (for all your badland RV sales and service needs), I wanna make sure that the RSS system is as studly as it can to be.

Mmmmm…okey-doke. Then Feedburner, I guess? I’ve looked at this service as a technology pundit and I’ve looked at it as an author with a longstanding blog and now I’ve looked at it as someone starting up a new blog, and each time the site tells me the exact same thing:

“Feedburner has something to do with hosting RSS feeds. The thing that it does, whatever it is, will work out for you in the long run. Honest.”

Feedburner desperately needs an “elevator pitch.” That is, if you have an idea for a movie and you want to get George Lucas excited about it and you’ve got an hour of his time, well, awesome. But in reality,

(Yes. The reality of getting a chance to pitch a movie idea to George Lucas. I regretted that as soon as I typed it. If only there were some way of un-writing that before you all read it. I can only apologize and move on.)

…But in reality, the best you can count on is having ten or twenty seconds between the time you realize that the man standing next to you in the elevator is the guy who did “American Graffiti” and “THX-1138” and “Star Wars” and even “Radioland Murders”, and the time one of his goons pulls your sweatshirt over your face NHL-style and shoves you into a fountain in the lobby.

You can’t sell nothin’ without an elevator pitch: ten to twenty seconds that will engage enough of someone’s interest that they’ll want to hear the “real” pitch. FeedBurner’s site lacks those critical ten to twenty seconds.

Well, I’ll figure it out. Next week. When the book is done and the birds are singing in the trees and the bacon is once again hot, crisp and flavorful. Until then, I am stuck in my office, singing showstopping numbers from the classic musical “Showboat” and feeling like the most miserable bastard alive.

Whistle While You Smirk

You can tell that a project is going well when you’re pleased to be busting your ass. Case in point: my iPhone book, which is in its final week of writing.

It’s coming out great. It goes its own way and it justifies its existence in the marketplace and it’s going to make a lot of iPhone owners really happy with their purchases. Of both the iPhone and the book.

Oh, and iPod Touch owners, too. It would have been great to be one of the first to market but good God! The iPhone is a completely different beast today than it was two months ago.”iPhone Fully Loaded” won’t be the first iPhone book but it’ll probably be the first one to reflect the actual state of the world, not the one that existed a week or two after the release date.

Among the benefits: the evening after Apple announced the iPod Touch, I laughed and laughed and then I went through the manuscript, looking for places to change “iPhone” to “iPhone or Touch.” A couple of phone calls to the publisher and the marketing will reflect that it’s full of tips and techniques for Touch users. First to market!

So today I finally bit the bullet and canned Chapter 8. It was…interesting,  but it was kind of just sitting there between chapters 7 and 9. I looked at its place in the structure of the book and suddenly remembered a much more interesting topic I’d come up with about a month ago, when the book was “locked.” But I had to put it aside, because I couldn’t insert a new chapter at that point without completely disrupting every chapter that came after it.

Welp, I realized that if I dumped the current Chapter 8 — which was damned-near complete — this new topic could slide right into its place. And nobody would have to spend two days renumbering illustrations and callouts because of an inserted chapter.

It was lots of work but damn, it’s much better than what I had there before. If the project were going poorly, an element that requires only 20 minutes of thumb-twiddling would feel like torture. As it is, at the end of six hours I was no farther along than I was when I started, vis a vis the number of completed chapters. But I couldn’t be more pleased.

Q&A: “Is Mankind Inherently Good Or Evil?”

Q: Is Mankind’s basic nature to be good, or evil?

A: If those are the only two choices, then “good,” definitely.

I sense a disturbance in the Force which corresponds to thousands of voices crying out with information…information that they can barely recall, from a single college Philosophy course that they barely passed. Blah blah blah Hegel blah blah blah Kant, etc.

Philosophers! Morons. All of them. Except of course for the once who have tenured positions with prestigious universities. Now that’s a sweet, sweet scam worthy of a Corleone.

And save your “But are you a good person because that’s Man’s nature, or merely because you fear the repercussions that come from breaking the law?” This comment only demeans you. Plus, it doesn’t address the question. The question isn’t “Am I, Andy Ihnatko, good or evil?” — I suppose I shouldn’t comment publicly on that one, due to pending litigation — but “Is Mankind?

Here it is: as a species, we have consistently voted for Good over the course of the last, what, 40,000 years or so. Witness the bulk of human society today. Overwhelmingly, communities (call them governments, call them tribes, call them nations) are based on observance of the basic principle of acknowledging other people’s rights and freedoms.

So yes, if someone sees me fiddling with a 160 gigabyte iPod Classic on the subway, thinks “This treasure can be mine with a simple investment of a little bit of pushing and a little bit of running away very fast,” but notes the presence of a police officer nearby and does nothing, that’s a point in favor of an evil nature held in check only by threat of punishment. But the fact that there are laws against theft and multiple bureaucracies to prosecute and incarcerate those who aren’t on board with that means that Society, as a whole, trends towards basic goodness.

I mean, we take this sort of thing for granted. If Humanity were evil, we’d take for granted that any property of any kind was simply up for grabs, and if you like your wealth or possessions, you’d better be prepared to defend them with force.

Notable exceptions abound — viz civil warfare in the Congo and banks that charge its own customers a fee for withdrawing their own money — but clearly, all empirical evidence proves that regardless of the generation or the locality, humanity’s basic nature is Good, not Evil.

That’s completely settled. Let’s hear no more of this.

Finish Him!!!

Had a brilliant idea today: a “Mortal Combat”-style fighting game in which all of the combatants are not particularly noted for being physically intimidating, to the point of downright milquetoastery.

Playable characters include:

  • Eddie Deezen
  • Mr. Bean
  • George Costanza
  • Pee-Wee Herman
  • Paul Lynde
  • Rick Moranis (as Louis Tully from “Ghostbusters”)
  • Larry David
  • Woody Allen
  • Dr. Smith from “Lost In Space”
  • Milhouse Van Houten
  • Don Knotts (as Barney Fife)
  • Don Knotts (as Ralph Furley) (Unlockable player)
  • Niles Crane
  • John Waters
  • Arnold Horshack
  • Clark Kent (in the presence of Lois Lane) (before she learned that he’s Superman)
  • Charles Nelson-Reilly
  • The black guy from “Designing Women”
  • Moby
  • Arnold Stang
  • The middle guy from “Blue Man Group”
  • Mel Cooley (from “The Dick Van Dyke Show”)
  • Matthew Broderick
  • David Spade
  • Dick Cavett
  • Patton Oswalt (as Spence on “The King Of Queens”)
  • Patton Oswalt (as himself)

Most common fighting style: lots of slapping, not many shots landing because combatant has his other arm wrapped around his head, eyes clamped shut, most of upper body twisted as far away from fight as possible. AKA Boku Nerd Floating Monkey-Style.

Typical fatalities: Curling up in defensive fetal position and accidentally tumbling off of fighting platform; crying so hard that combatant passes out from dehydration; dropped asthma inhaler.

My Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Uncle Godefroy

I was only in New York for about 36 hours but I still found time to head up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and see how they were taking care of a family heirloom:

Me In Armor (400)

Honest to God, I can’t tell you how many times I had to haul that thing to the other side of the rec room just so me and my sisters could play bumper pool.

We got more than a $2000 writeoff when we donated it to the museum, which was great but honestly Mom and Dad were happy enough just to get it out of the house. They offered them the bumper pool table, too, but I guess the Met just doesn’t know real quality when they see it.

I don’t know much about Uncle Godefroy. One story says that he did extremely well as an officer in the French cavalry. Another says that he just rented the suit for the day so he’d look like a big deal in the painting.

Well, whichever…my hat’s off.

Sodium Benzoate (Preservative)

Sooo…any progress yet?

A bit, sure.

No. Not really.

I thought it’d be easy to set up WordPress so I can post from my iPhone (post via email, actually, but hey, details) but although I have yet to invest so much time and burn so many calories that it’s become an endless gavotte of pain and humiliation, we seemed to have missed the exit for Easytown quite some time ago.

The deal is that I just set up a Super-Duper Double Dog Dare Extry-Top-Secret Email Address for WordPress. The blog software logs in and checks for email from time to time and through patented Keebler Elf magic, any email sent to that address eventually becomes a blog post. I just need to give WordPress the login info for that account.

Naturally, I want this to be a brand-new address that only one person knows about. Otherwise, this blog would provoke most of you to wonder what, precisely, “C1al1s” is, and why I’m so excited to tell people that their prescr1pt1on for it is ready.

(Though maybe I shouldn’t be so hasty. People complain that I don’t update my blog nearly frequently enough. Using my spammy .Mac email address would solve the holy crap out of that problem.)

But it doesn’t seem to be working. What WordPress needs is a simple button there on the Options page marked “Check Address Now.” All’s I know is I’ve sent an email to and it hasn’t turned up on the blog and I assume that WordPress checks for new stuff more than, say, once every 18 hours.

Garlanded in victory from that adventure, I enabled’s “Post To Blog” feature. I post a ton of stuff to my Flickr feed.  In fact, my experience with Flickr is one of the many things that pushed me to finally move past my homemade blog app; it’s close to being a “proper” blog and I found that I really liked the features.

Welp, that was easy as cake. A piece of pie. Whatever, I can click a button in Flickr named “Blog This” and by golly, it blogs this.

Still, the results are sub-perfect. There are only two size settings for the picture: too small, and too big. And the style sheet for Flickr’s built-in captions is somewhat diffle-binked because the line spacing is way too big.

That’s not a big deal.  Seems like the problem will go away if I unleash som Preying Monkey-Style CSS-Fu on it. And most of the work on this site will be about editing style sheets.

Indeed, that’s why I switched from the fancy-schmancy theme I downloaded from WordPress’ theme gallery to the arse-ugly default one. My final layout is going to be all custom anyway. Why pretend? Embrace the ugly.

So, yes: to get Flickr to post photos that fill the width of the column, all I need to do is redesign the whole thing so that the default width just happens to be the width of a Flickr JPEG. Simple!

A Pitcher of Gimlets

A Pitcher of Gimlets

Originally uploaded by andyi

Another HDR. I seem to be in some sort of color-profile hell. I wanted intense colors, but while it looks great on my desktop. in Safari it’s a little too intense and in Firefox it’s too weak.

Why is it that Firefox doesn’t give a damn about profiles? There’s that. The Safari problem, I think, lies with the fact that the image went from 16 bits to 8 when converted to JPEG.

I really hope this “digital photography” technology catches on some day, but unless they finally iron out some of these fundamental bugs I really can’t see much of a future in it.

(Update: But on this brand-new iMac, it looks perfect. Go figure.)

Shimmy Shimmy Shake

Shimmy Shimmy Shake, originally uploaded by andyi.

“NO! BAD dog!!!” I heard from behind me.

And I hadn’t even paid the lady $20 or anything.

No, she was calling after her pooch, who had bolted away and lept into the pond. I helped her haul the beast out and gave him an approving glance as he shook his fur and went on his merry way.

Anyone who’s ever been a little kid can appreciate his thought processes. “She can yell at me for jumping in the pond,” he was thinking, just before going airborne. “But she CAN’T order me to feel as hot and miserable as I was before I hit that cool, cool water.”

Disturbingly, my next thought was “You know, the cops can yell at me…”



Originally uploaded by andyi

“No, no…that’s terrific news, General. Really.”



“Spit it out, son.”

“Okay. Stand in front of this mirror and strike the pose you’re going to use for this grand monument to your bravery and heroism.”

“Done. Man alive, that kisser’s going to look fantastic in gold leaf, wouldn’t you agree?”

“I’m sure you’re right, sir. Now just bear with me and hold your head steady…”


“Do bear with me, sir. Okay. Now how do you look?”

“I look like a git with a duck decoy balanced on my head.”

“Precisely. Only it won’t be one of your hunting decoys, it’ll be a live pigeon. For the next 500 years it’ll be Winged Victory leading you onward, as you confidently ride a wild war-beast into battle…with a live bird on your head.”


“If I might suggest, sir, there is an abstract sculptor in Kensington who’s been getting some highly favorable notices for his public commissions…”

Me on the CBS Early Show

I Amtrakked my way to a quaint little Dutch trading post over the weekend to do another bit for the CBS Early Show. Check ‘er out…I’m there to talk about my ideas about back-to-school tech for high schoolers:

Ach, it was a four-minute segment, I had about six minutes’ worth of stuff to say, and it really showed. Well, nobody died. I did kick the water cooler in the dugout afterward, metaphorically-speaking, but on the four-hour train rode home I replayed it in my head and decided that though it wasn’t my finest hour on national television, it wasn’t as bad as I was making it out to be. So I stopped writing personal letters of apology to the American viewing public after just 113 (from Aaban, Abrahaim G. through Aaban, Amos W.).

The important thing is that with this appearance, I’ve scored the Hat Trick: three segments on the Early Show in as many months. This means that I now feel like I can consider myself part of the CBS Family. And if, just before leaving the TV studio of a family member, you can’t fill your backpack with all of the Cokes from the minifridge in their green room…I ask you, just whose green room minifridge can you steal from?

I freely (and manfully) admit that the lamp was a bad impulse and I fully intend to return it if they ever invite me back.

First Tech & Creative Decision…

…Is “What do I want to point to?”

Hard to know. Right now, you hit that URL and it takes you right to this beta blog. But maybe it’s better if the top URL were more of a rolling answer to the question “Who the hell is this Ihnatko guy, and why does he insist that he’s ‘internationally-beloved’?” Because regular visitors will either subscribe to the RSS feed or bookmark the blog’s subdirectory, while first-timers (the ones who’d need a “welcome” page the most) are more likely to knock on the front door.

Assuming, of course, I want to use to begin with. One of the reasons why I built my previous site under was because I wasn’t sure if I could count on people spelling my name correctly. Later, it became a bit of a boon because when I appear on podcasts it’s easier to say “CWOB.COM” than to spell out a name of Carpathian Russian origin.

The technical part is that you can’t just click a button in WordPress and stash it to another directory. There’s some server-fiddling to be done, followed by file-fiddling and preference-fiddling.

Another solution would be to keep things as they are, continue to hand out as the front door to my webstuff, and merely include a link to as my blog.

Hmm. Blank canvases truly are fickle mistresses, are they not?

Soya Lechthinin (an emulsifier)

Well, let’s just break in this new WordPress blog. Observe as I make blogging history by writing this sort of thing without invoking one of the (hang on, let me count ’em up) seven different phrases that normally must be invoked under such circumstances.

First off, you’re to be commended for reading this post. It shows a very unusual level of intelligence and problem-solving skills. If there were more people like you, it would be safe to walk the streets at night. My theory here is that statistically-speaking there’d be more people like you on the writing staff of “Family Guy” and thus fewer people would be crushed to death by defenestrated TV sets while taking the dog out for a wee.

No, no, I mean it. I’m not publicising this new site at all, which means that if you’re here and reading this, then either (a) it’s about a year from today and you decided to go back and read this entire blog all the way back to the very beginning, or (b) it’s about thirty seconds after I’ve clicked the “Publish” button and you just up and decided to see what would happen if you plugged “ihnatko” into your browser’s address field.

And even then, you wouldn’t have found this place unless you’d actually typed it correctly. I was twelve before I could do that, and I had the benefit of parents who refused to feed me for days if I ever got it wrong. So seriously, dude: kudos.

So why the secrecy? Because as I write this, the blog is still in its “skunk works” stage. This is my first WordPress blog and I frankly know little of what I’m doing. Metaphorically speaking, I want to go public when I start clinical trials on a miraculous new pill that prevents nine forms of cancer while rendering ladies’ legs self-shaving. I will “accidentally” allow people to discover it when all I have are computer models that look extremely promising.

But right now, my lab is a warehouse filled with nothing but hundreds upon hundreds of cages filled with baby ducks, suffering all kinds of inhumane and sickening horrors. This is not a time in the project when you want kids with video cameras sticking their noses in, you know?

It’s an interesting moment, really. I am among the most knowledgeable and experienced bloggers in the country. But I am also among the very least knowledgeable and experienced. I’ve been blogging since 1995, long before the word “blog” had even been coined and lonnnng before there were any tools for building and editing the things. So I had to write my own app from the ground up…and every time a new resource or technology or standard came down the pike — like RSS syndication — I had to learn about how the thing worked and then write new functions to support it.

Excellent. Spiffy. Damned impressive, right?

Be impressed, dammit. You kids today! Do you realize that when I was your age, my computer was made from twigs and dried animal skins? I’ve been alive forever, and I wrote the very first blog! I put the words and the HTML togeth…

Okay. Now you’ve got me quoting Barry (f***ing) Manilow lyrics, dammit.

(Manilow. “I Write The Songs.” “Copacabana”? Christ almighty. Forget I brought it up.)

The point is that when most people learned how to blog, they learned using awesome and mature tools, like MovableType and WordPress. Six months after building my blog, I had figured out how to convert text into HTML and upload it to a server. When an average high-schooler has accrued six months of stick time with WordPress, he or she is pretty much capable of designing and deploying the online edition of a regional newspaper.

My total hands-on experience in building a WordPress blog? Er, I’m nearly done writing my first post. Impressed?

No, me neither. But I’m excited to be learning.

In a future post I’ll discuss the grand history of YellowText, my first (and to date, only other) blog. As you can see, there’s really nothing about that blog that would make you think that it there’s anything unique about it. It does its job rather well; so well that I’ll probably open-source it at some point.

But my jealousy of WordPress blogs has transitioned from cartoon-like insincerity to wistful sadness to its current state, in which I realize that I must now either move to WordPress or set fire to every blog that uses it. If I went with the latter option, I’d be yet another 3 to 5 years behind state-of-the-art blogging technology by the time I was released from prison. Transitioning to WordPress is admittedly a more conservative play, but in my defense there’s also a lot less driving involved.

Anyway. I won’t do anything to prevent people from discovering and reading (and even commenting in) this blog. I intend to keep posting about my newbie WordPress experiences, both to keep my own head straight and maybe be a lamp unto the feet of future pilgrims.

But do me a favor? Don’t you go publicising this thing. I haven’t decided on a final template or layout, the masthead is only a rough draft, and once again if PeTA ever finds out what I did to that poor pig while trying to figure out if a static front page could be used to heal second-degree sunburn, man alive, that’ll be quite a setback for this project.

For now — and this is a moment of great ceremony, for I shall surely be writing this often in the coming days until I get bored and forget about this entire project forever — push the button, Frank.