Is there a book in your blog? Convert WordPress to Scrivener

I found this great post from Liz Strauss with a great idea: Look through the archives of your blog and see if there is a book in there. She suggests that if you have 200 posts, there’s probably a book. I have over 400 – maybe even two! But seriously, it’s a good idea.

I’ve just started using Scrivener, and that would be an awesome tool to pull this together. It has great features for managing chunks of text, including a corkboard for arranging them. But how to get the posts into Scrivener?

It was an interesting problem to solve and I figured it out. It brought the posts in just the way I wanted them: Separate files, with images intact.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Use the wp2epub plugin to get the posts out as an .htm file. This is a subtle feature, but the htm file comes in the .zip file that is created with the epub file.
  2. Edit the htm file to replace the <h1 class=”main”> tag at the start of each post with the same tag but with ### on its own line in front of it.
  3. Import the .htm file into Scrivener. It will come in as a web archive, and images should be intact.
  4. Use Documents->Convert->Web Archive to Text to convert the file to text within Scrivener.
  5. Export the newly created text file as RFTD, rich text in Apple’s format.
  6. Import the newly exported file, but use the Import and Split function, entering ### as the split string.
  7. You now have your posts in Scrivener, each as a separate file with images intact.

Firewall Jail

The other day I tried to click on a link while at work. I was surprised to see a site-blocked message from our SonicWALL firewall. Why block tinyurl? All it does is let you take a very lengthy URL (which are increasingly common for a lot of reasons) and convert it into a very short one. This is very useful for putting URL’s in email because some email readers break URL’s in half if they are longer than one line. This of course renders the URL useless, unless you take the time to paste it back together.

I did a short search, and it turns out that tinyurl is one of the sites that firewall companies have decided we don’t need to see. Actually, they classify it as a proxy bypass tool, but the net result is that they’ve decided tinyURL is guilty until proven innocent. Like the extra ounce of shampoo in the TSA security line, because it could be dangerous, it is dangerous.

This is fascinating to me because it creates a huge gap.

You see, tinyURL is blocked by default. You can unblock it, but the interesting part is that must be done by IT. IT, who has just about everything else to do but answer requests like this, and has a built-in defense against spending any time on it: It’s a default setting on the firewall, and we trust their judgement.

The employee probably isn’t motivated to get it unblocked, because going to some IT departments with a request like this is a great way to ask for trouble, even if you’ve got some ironclad business reason for needing it unblocked. Never mind that the tinyurl you can’t read may be pointing to a relevant article on a blog; It ain’t the Wall Street Journal or a company memo.

That leaves Or Facebook. Or Linkedin or a ton of other quasi-business sites to find a way to get firewall companies to not block them by default. They end up blocked in the first place at least partly because the firewall users block them, or some of them do.

From SonicWALL’s site:

SonicWALL CFS categorizes millions of URLs, IP addresses and domains in a continuously updated, dynamically rated database. CFS rates over four million URLs, with hundreds more added daily. Because the ratings are determined both by artificial intelligence and human observation, the database is highly accurate, and the instance of false positives is minimized.

I think it’s safe to say that part of the process is measuring how much time people spend on sites, so, ironically, the usage a site promotes might just be what gets it blocked.

Consider Linkedin and Facebook. Facebook is blocked, but Linkedin isn’t. I think that’s because Facebook came from the non-business end of the social networking space, but Linkedin came from the business end. Facebook can be a sinkhole for time. Between the applications, the photos, the groups and discussions one could really spend all day there and some probably do. Linkedin was the stoic busienss site. There wasn’t much to do except invite people, process requests, or tweak a rather limited profile. Linkedin has since tried very hard to become a lot more like Facebook. My prediction is that very soon Linkedin will cross the threshold, and will become a site that chews up so much time that companies block it.

The firewall blocks a site because a segment of it’s customers decide to, and by automation. The customer company probably has no way to check the list of blocked URLs in any reasonable way – it’s got to be in the millions – so probably has very little understanding of what they’re missing, so to speak. The user has the ability to lobby with their local IT group to get a site whitelisted if they choose, but that still leaves the site blocked elsewhere the firewall is used.

Here’s the gap: Suppose a site that started out blocked turns out to have a lot of value – does it’s rating ever decline? Automatically? Hard to say. SonicWALL doesn’t mention that, and I’m guessing that there’s only one way it ever happens, and that’s by people asking them to re-rate sites.

YOU can ask for SonicWALL to re-rate a site here.

A better luggage tag

Over at One Bag One World there’s a mention of a novel luggage tag idea. Red Oxx announced something similar, but I got one from them as a comp (they forgot to send me a plastic one I ordered) some time ago. It’s your basic dog tag with a nice threaded cable loop for attaching it to your luggage.

It’s a little annoying because it jingles a bit when I walk so I replaced with a non-metalic tag on my Air Boss carry-on, but I got what I thought was a clever idea when I got the tag.

Jim Markel asked me what I wanted engraved on my tag. My first choice was:


But I figured with civil rights being what they were under the Bush administration it was a bad idea.

Instead I opted for my name, my email address, cell #, my website URL, and a password. My thinking was that if I end up on the kind of long trip where it’s good for the luggage finder to have my itinerary, I could just put a password protected page on my site, with a notice that anyone finding my bag could log in with the password to see my itinerary or leave me a message.

My travel died down, and I never implemented the idea, but I think it’s a good one.

I would also mention that the metal tag is a good idea because a) it’s hard to read from far away (think nosy stranger) but easy to read when it’s in your hand and b) the writing ain’t coming off and neither is the tag. If I check a bag, I’m using it.

The only thing worse than not getting what you want is…getting it.

So today the Big 3 are beginning their pleas to the government for loans to keep them afloat until they can return to profitability. It seems most people aren’t in favor of a bailout, and even resent the automakers for even asking for a bailout after they spent years making cars no one wants.

Wait a minute. No one wants? They may not want them now, but they wanted them then!

I don’t know about where you live, but here in Milwaukee Escalades are not uncommon. Neither are H2’s, Suburbans, and all the rest of the giant vehicles. Large pickup trucks are also very common. Before the collapse, these vehicles were not cheap. I’m not thinking people bought them as a result of coercion or some kind of conspiracy. They bought them because gas was cheap. Gas is fine. It’s cheap, and why shouldn’t we drive larger, safer vehicles? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been lectured to about how I’m almost being irresponsible by not having 4 wheel drive in the winter by someone who’s just fallen in love with their 4 wheel drive Canyonero.

Then gas gets more expensive. Way more expensive, and all of a sudden everyone regrets driving a gas guzzler. We all start wishing we could instantly buy cheap hybrids, or even better, electric cars! We should also think about energy independence – then a lot of this middle east nonsense would be irrelevant, and certainly the environment would improve.  Gas is now bad. Can you believe all these people are still driving SUV’s. We need hybrids! Ethanol! Electric cars!

Then we have a collapse. Gas is cheap again. Our automakers are suffering, first because spiking gas prices made the vehicles we demanded for years unattractive, then because even though gas is cheap no one has the job or the credit to buy any kind of car. The B3 come to Washington, beg for money, and we’re outraged. How dare they, after all those years when they could have been making electric cars, which nobody wanted,  and instead made tons of money on gas guzzling SUVs, which we loved, bought in droves, and happily paid high prices for?

Now the B3 are presenting plans stating they are going to embrace all things green, energy independence and full economy related. Hybrids. Alternative fuels. Electric cars. If only the government will give them the money, they will make the cars that will save the country.

God help us if we agree to this. The thing no one is asking is how many new, expensive, hybrid & electric vehicles newly recovering citizens are going to buy when gas is at $2 a gallon. The answer is not many. I’m no genius, but I do know enough about manufacturing business to know that demanding the expensive development of expensive products that have no market is not an effective way to rescue a struggling company. We may end up bailing them out, just to turn around and do it again in the form of subsidizing the purchase of vehicles American doesn’t really want to buy.

While I’m as offended as anyone about their flying to the meetings in their corporate jets, I don’t blame the automakers for making the cars customers wanted to buy. It takes years to get a car already developed into a manufacturing pipeline, and even if we could shorten that to only a year the automakers still wouldn’t have been fast enough to satisfy America’s fickle interests.

The real problem that must be solve for the B3 is their own internal inefficiencies and labor costs. Let’s worry about solving those problems, regardless of whether the best way is bankruptcy or bailout. Changes in these areas will help these companies no matter where gas ends up, or how American tastes change.

Energy efficiency & independence issues aren’t a B3 problem, or an oil company problem or a government problem. They are an American citizen making the wrong choice problem. Having efficiency and independence means making sacrifices in other areas – sacrifices America has not been willing to make. I don’t think there’s any evidence they will make them in the future.

If the American people are going to demand that development of speculative vehicle technologies is part of any bailout, how about we ask the American people to pre-order the vehicles as part of the bargain?

Is Drunk Driving Not Dangerous?

The issue of cell phone use while driving seems to be a hot button with just about everyone. Those who are stuck behind someone doing 5 under the limit while on the phone are firmly in the camp that it using a cell phone while driving should be illegal. Those using a cell phone while bored on the freeway, or answering a quick call from the spouse, point out that no one has died, there hasn’t been any screeching tires, and therefore it’s pretty harmless.

Those of us who use headsets smugly claim that with a hand’s free kit, using a car phone is no more dangerous than chatting with a passenger. Or is it?

But my favorite part of the story is this:

To put the risk into some context, the researchers note that you’re about as likely to get into an accident while talking on a cell phone as if you were legally drunk. Since most of us wouldn’t drive drunk, why do we so willingly put aside similar risk and talk on the phone? Because while the relative risk is significant, the absolute risk of death or serious injury from such an accident remains small.

If we assume that an accident is an accident, and there isn’t greater damage or injury because of the cause of the accident, something isn’t right here.

We clobber drunk drivers with horrendous fines and various other penalties. We treat them as social outcasts, and generally portray them as one step removed from freewheeling killers on a spree. If you drive after drinking, you are such a hazard to everyone that if you call the police to report a suspected drunk driver they will act on it.

People who use cell phones are an annoyance, and we struggle to pass laws that mostly go unenforced. We do it all the time – I probably couldn’t drive a block without seeing someone on the phone. I chuckle thinking about how the 911 operator would react if I called to report a cell phone driver.

But the risk from either activity is apparently the same. Why aren’t the penalties the same?

Let’s find out if Tim Ferris is full of it!

I’m a moderate Tim Ferris fan. I liked his book, The Four-Hour Work Week and I enjoy his blog. But, I am a bit of a skeptic that true, repeatable, sustainable results can be obtained from his miracle techniques for learning things rapidly. Learn a language in an hour?

It does make for great blogging, though, and he’s got a real knack for making buzz.

So his new show Trial by Fire looks to be fascinating, and I won’t miss it. 11pm ET/PT on The History Channel.

Part of me is warming up to watch a dramatic failure, but I mostly would like to see him succeed.

Looking for something new

I had the girls to myself over the Thanksgiving holiday, while Susan was visiting her family. Somewhere between the 17th game of “Steal my sister’s toy” and negotiating the 33rd revision of the Sibling Chair Personal Boundaries Act of 2008 (aka the “Daddeeeeee! Laney’s touching my CHAIR again!” act) it ocurred to me that Susan’s had two child-free, out-of-town vacations while I have had none. Susan’s certainly had her share of alone time with the kids while I’ve traveled for business, but I noticed that she seems quite happy and refreshed when coming back from her own trips.

I think I need one. But I can’t figure out where on earth to go, or what to do.

I remember back in 2005 I went to Gnomedex. Back then blogging was still sort of new – not everyone had a blog – and it felt exhilarating to go and be with other people who were on the edge of that wave, and not entirely sure what to do with it. The business of blogging hadn’t been shaped yet, and it was new territory to explore. It was exciting, and you didn’t have to be a super-blogger to fit in.

I miss that feeling. There was lots of new stuff back then. Podcasting was even newer than blogging. Linkedin and it’s ilk were just starting to become popular. There was a lot of new concepts, and there weren’t too many copycats yet, so it was enough new stuff to keep one busy, but not so much it was work. The feeling of being wrapped up in something new is gone, and I’m having a hard time with this.

Blogging has become something that, having long ago been on the front page of Business Week & every other magazine, is a bit old and stale. I still do it because I feel like it, but I think the number of blogs that anyone could read far outstrips the time they have for reading them. Social networking has peaked, and dare I say jumped the shark. Linkedin has become the business Facebook to such an extent that there really isn’t much reason to be on both any more, let alone the dozens of other social networks out there.

Instead we have Twitter, the value of which still alludes me a bit, but Twitter isn’t quite the massive innovation that blogging was.

I think part of the original mystique, and it’s death, is content. At first the ability to create and publish was intoxicating. While my own posting habits never got to the recommended levels, it was still cool to be able to write something. It still is, a little.

The problem is that the thrill depends on having something to say, and frankly, reading mountains of sort-of-interesting-but-not-very-actionable stuff from lots of other folks tends to make anything I’m thinking of saying seem, well, pointless.

I’m looking for something new. What’s new?

What happened to Lornitropia?

You may have noticed that now points to, and I’ve given my blog a new look (temporary, a newer one is on the way). I’ve decided to do this because it’s been over four years since I started Lornitropia, and while I still like blogging, I never really like the name Lornitropia. It was the first really unique word I came up with, and in a fit of energy I decided on it without really considering how long it was. It’s a horrible name. It’s hard to spell, assuming someone hears it properly, which most of the time they don’t.

So I decided to create a new site and move everything over. It seems like everything is working, but I hope that if you discover something broken, you’ll let me know.

I will hang on to the Lornitropia.X domains, but they will now point here.

New course at Woodcraft

Woodcraft University has a new course – Bandsaw 101. I think bandsaws are far more complicated to tune than to use, but still it’s nice to learn new techniques. Also, if you’re contemplating whether to get a new tool or not, or are trying to decide between, say, a lathe and a bandsaw, these kinds of intro courses can give you a better idea of how much use it’s really likely to get in your own shop.