IMR: 1998: June: 04 -- Thursday, 12:28 p.m.
UH Press, Manoa, Hawai`i
Well, we filled the empty student position at AIB on Monday, so hopefully I'll again be spared the fun of opening mail and updating the member database. I have to concentrate on my official duties, anyway, our second-quarter newsletter lining up to go out even later than the last one.

I thought coordinating copy flow for a daily newspaper was tough, but it's no easy task with a quarterly newsletter, either. Particularly when your writers live in two dozen different countries. Or don't speak English all that well.

Today my morning was brightened by a fellow in Turkey, who figured the best way to deal with the language barrier was to break through it as forcefully as possible. I guess Americans aren't the only people who figure shouting is the best way to improve comprehension.

Here at the press, the scanning continues. Slowly. The problem, I've determined, is that I'm using a flatbed designed for production-quality design -- one capable of resolution in the thousands, but thus as fast as molasses. What I need is a dippy, off-brand scanner that peaks at 300 dpi or so... since for the web I only need 72 dpi.

At least I've had some time to skim through our diverse offerings. That Frank Chin book I scanned last week, "Bulletproof Buddhists," is definitely... interesting.

All I can say is, I wouldn't want to be that guy's agent.

Yesterday, Jen and I took off during my lunch break to meet Cori -- an old friend from Hilo -- and her husband at the airport.

They were only stopping over in Honolulu for a couple of hours, so we enjoyed the sumptuous cuisine of the Burger King in the interisland terminal. They didn't have the teriyaki Whopper, so I settled for their funky fiesta model.

Cori, as I exclaimed immediately upon spotting her, hadn't changed a bit since I'd last seen her in 1995. She was and still is the most pleasant, cheerful, gentle soul I'd ever met.

I don't know if Sean, her husband, had changed, since they got together after I left the Big Island. It was the first time I'd met him.

Of course they fawned over Katie. And although they were understandably exhausted, we still chatted a bit.

He does tech support, specializing in Windows 95, and quite understandably detests it. Cori, meanwhile, has apparently had a hell of a time finding a job since she left. The plan for their visit was to explore employment opportunities in the islands.

"Come to think of it," I said, "A lot of friends we've lost to the Mainland have recently been thinking about coming back, too."

(Strange but true, in the last few weeks, Greg, Nate and Jaimee have all contemplated coming home. The latter two, fortunately for them, decided to stay put.)

I also discovered that Cori and Sean had only known eachother for three weeks before he popped the question. That's something.

Then, unavoidably, Craig -- a former Hilo coworker -- came up. They said he had strongly opposed their marriage, talking two bridesmaids out of participating in the wedding and still, incredibly, crashing the reception.

Sean figured it was because they got engaged so fast, but I told them it was probably something else. Jen and I were happy to say -- as a couple of four years -- that Craig also opposed our marriage.

In a twisted way, we saw it as a kind of blessing. One that the four of us had in common.

Eventually, Katie started fussing, and after a couple of laps around the terminal proved futile, we bid Cori and Sean farewell and headed home.

Hopefully we'll see them again before another three years go by.

[ Beach ]On Saturday, while Jen was at work, mom, Katie and I went to the "New Baby Expo" at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall. It was dubbed the "first annual," which made the editor in me wince, but otherwise it was a great event.

The minute I walked in, I felt... I felt... normal.

I don't know how else to explain it. For the last four months, my experiences as a father made me feel a bit like a freak, an "other" whose joys and tribulations are somehow out of sync with the rest of the world. I mean, I think about stroller accessibility a lot. I rant about how too few bathrooms have changing stations. And I got the feeling, at times, that most of my friends just didn't understand.

Suddenly, I was in a huge hall filled with flustered, tired parents with children of all ages in strollers of all sizes. Here were people who, conceivably, often had a tougher time at parenthood than I did.

No one gave the barf cloth on my shoulder a second glance. I didn't think twice about momentarily holding Katie's pacifier in my teeth. When the stroller would unavoidably bump someone's foot, not a single grumble was heard. I tested a bottle of milk against my cheek without shame.

These people were my people. I felt like that chubby costumed kid in the "Blind Melon" video, after he (she?) finds that happy swarm of bee people dancing in a field.

The expo wasn't very big -- maybe forty vendors in all -- but it was still varied enough to keep us browsing for a few hours.

The Hawai`i distributor for "Sassy" baby toys was there, allowing mom to snap up a few of the same great toys Katie had gotten as gifts. There were more than a few preschools present, and an equal number of insurance salespeople. Everyone was selling Medela breast pumps, as if Jen and I were the only people who didn't know it was the only decent brand. There was a huge feeding and changing area, a playground, and an amphitheater where presentations on childbirth and CPR were made.

Mom and I were careful to enter every single drawing, from a year's supply of diapers to a weekend getaway to Maui. By the time we left, our hands were full of coupons, fliers and brochures. Katie slept through the entire thing.

The crowd was decent, so hopefully they did well enough for there to be another expo next year. Jen, who was only two days away from going back on leave, desperately wanted to go.

In other news, after two weeks of harassing folks at ITS, scanning technical support lists and reading gobs of man pages, I finally — finally — got procmail working on my UH e-mail.

For the admirably non-geek, procmail is a horribly ugly but deliciously useful utility that processes e-mail on the fly. At its most basic, it does for UNIX mail what Eudora and its filters does for POP downloaded mail. Its more complex functions allow automatic mailing lists, filtering out known SPAM domains, customizable autoresponders, even a miniature fileserver.

Sounds excessive, I know, but for me, it was a necessity. Now that I've taken over DIARY-L, I run six mailing lists, with a combined subscriber count of about 3,300. The amount of mail (and error messages) generated is obscene. I desperately needed procmail to sort everything out by list and, if possible, handle certain problems on its own.

The problem? While ITS has procmail installed, it does not "support" it.

In other words, they refuse to help anyone get it running. Judging by the consistently gruff e-mail I would get in response to my initial queries, I think they make Help Desk hires chant, "We don't support procmail. Look on the web. We don't support procmail. Look on the web."

It's a good policy, actually. One wrong setting, all your e-mail vanishes into /dev/null, and you won't even immediately know something's wrong. Can you imagine the kind of tantrums professors would throw?

So I looked on the web. And found lots of great resources. The problem was, many of the most user-friendly pages were custom written for users of the respective ISPs. I copied a little here, a little there, and endured lots of trial and error.

Most of it wasn't hard to set up. After all, I ran a variation of procmail when the Venue had its own domain, and Greg actually had it running in his account for some time (set to trash e-mail from a priviledged set of malcontents). And surprisingly, I eventually found someone in ITS willing to help... a little.

Fortunately, a little was all I needed. The last sticking point, laughably, was a basic permissions setting. One command, and it was purring away.

With just a little more tweaking, I got it working with PINE beautifully, and set up 'mailstat' (which reports on mail received and where procmail put it).

There's nothing like the sense of satisfaction you get after you've gone full-geek and come out on top.

The end result of all this is a comment-ridden .procmailrc file that would probably save everyone else on the system the headaches I suffered. Unfortunately, I doubt ITS would appreciate me slapping it up on a webpage somewhere. If every ICS 100 dropout tried to install it, it could get messy.

Anyone else out there feeling lucky?


© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 4 June 1998 · Last Modified: 10 June 1998