Making The Guardian website slightly less annoying for subscribers...

My in-laws are visiting us, and my father-in-law is a dedicated newspaper reader, so I was prompted me to take out a subscription to The Guardian, Prince Edward Island’s newspaper of record, for the next while.

There’s no way to subscribe only to the printed newspaper: the standard $17.50/month subscription includes daily home delivery of the print newspaper along with the “e-edition” and all-you-can-eat access to the otherwise-metered website.  Oddly, the price for this without the printed newspaper is exactly the same. Which doesn’t bode well for print, as it suggests that the print newspaper is deemed to be worth $0.

The first copy of the newspaper arrived this morning (impressive, given that I purchased my subscription only yesterday) and included an excellent cover story on government expenses reported by Teresa Wright and Ryan Ross. It was a good issue to start a subscription with.

Meanwhile, I decided to use my newly-unlocked access to the entire Guardian website as an opportunity to try and make it less confusing to read (I found, to my surprise, that unlocking the website with a subscription doesn’t make any of the ads, offers and extraneous elements go away).

Hence this Greasemonkey user script:

// ==UserScript==
// @name        cleanup-pei-guardian
// @namespace
// @include*
// @description Hides the annoying parts of The Guardian website.
// @version     1
// @require
// @grant       GM_addStyle
// ==/UserScript==

This script, once installed in Greasemoney, has the effect of turning this:

The Guardian: Before Greasemonkey

into this:

The Guardian: After Greasemonkey

The effect is dramatic, and reading the altered version makes me feel like I can breathe again. And it makes me feel like I’d actually like to spend some time exploring the website.

I realize the irony of this experiment, as the bulk of my living derives, directly or indirectly, from web advertising revenue that appears in ways that are often as jarring as on The Guardian. The difference, though, is that I’m paying The Guardian $17.50 and the least they could do is make the experience of reading the website slightly less annoying.

It’s worth remembering that The Guardian has more than 100 years of a history of using design non-annoyingly; witness the front page of the print newspaper from today’s date in 1939:

The Guardian, Dec. 20, 1939

It is a thing of beauty.

Casa Mia Gift Certificates

I spent the afternoon printing a new round of gift certificates for Casa Mia Café, to feed the demand for the holidays. They’ll be on sale as soon as the ink is dry.

Casa Mia Gift Certificate Samples along with the type used to print them

They are printed on Indian cotton rag paper from Khadi Papers on my now-99-year-old Golding Jobber № 8 letterpress in Futura 30 pt. and 24 pt. and Bodini 14 pt. They’re available in $20 and $50 denominations.

12 minutes and 29 seconds later in Charlottetown

I have become diverted by an interest in the history of time on Prince Edward Island. To this end, ably aided by Simon Lloyd at Robertson Library, I have begun to explore the relevant legislation.

Here, for example, is a snippet from The Interpretation Act of 1939:

Let’s do some checking on the math.

There are 360 degrees of longitude, and 24 hours in a day, so each degree of longitude represents 4 minutes of time.

That means the a difference in time of 12 minutes and 29 seconds, which is the figure in the Act for the difference between the Provincial Clock in Charlottetown and 60 degrees west, would be 3.125 degrees of longitude.

Which, in theory, places the Provincial Clock at 63.125 degrees west.

And, sure enough, if I go to and navigate to the Coles Building – the contemporary name for the Law Courts Building – it is, indeed, at -63.125º.

The Coles Building Location

You can see this better-illustrated on the Atlas of Canada, with the NTS grid (National Topographic System) turned on. The major divisions on the NTS grid are spaced at 2º of longitude apart, and the minor divisions are spaced at 0.5º of longitude, so moving 3.125º east of Charlottetown you reach 60º west, which runs through the tip of Cape Breton:

NTS Grid

Another approach to this would be to compare the time of the sunrise in Charlottetown to the time of the sunrise in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia (which sits almost right on top of the 60th meridian). And sure enough, the sun rose in Glace Bay this morning at 7:36 a.m. and in here in Charlottetown at 7:49 a.m., 13 minutes later.

Or, like The Interpretation Act says, 12 minutes and 29 seconds later.

The time in the Atlantic Time Zone is based on the time at the 60th meridian, which is interesting to note because that meridian runs along the very eastern side of the time zone’s boundaries.  This means that although they are in the same time zone, though the sun rose today at 7:36 a.m. in Glace Bay, it didn’t rise until almost a half hour later, at 8:14 a.m., in Edmundston, NB.

Alex Campbell in a Tiny Box

My colleagues at Robertson Library have been hard at work in recent weeks publishing the audiobook and ebook versions of the Alex B. Campbell biography by Wade MacLauchlan.

Librarians are nothing if not keen to innovate, and so among the various ways you can buy the audiobook is pre-loaded on its very own MP3 player.

It’s Alex Campbell, in a tiny plastic box:

Alex B. Campell Audiobook on a USB Player

If you’re looking for a more conventional audiobook format, the book is available as a download, on a USB stick, and in a massive CD set.

My small contribution to the effort has been to work to put the ebook and audiobook on sale in iTunes, on Google Play and on Audible. This has turned out to be akin to opening a hornet’s nest full of complicated paperwork and technical requirements, so it’s slow-going. It has born some fruit, however: you can now purchase the eBook from Google Play. Others to follow.

If it can't be found in Canadian Tire, try the 3D printer...

I’m coming up on the end of a 14 year program of resuscitating the old metal window blinds that were in our house when we bought it in 2000. They’re generally in good shape structurally, but the cords have been chewed up by time, and so they need to be taken apart, the old cord extracted, new cord wound through, and new “blind cones” stuck on the end of the cord that hands down and allows them to be raised and lowered.

Which is how Oliver and I ended up roaming up and down aisle 17 and aisle 18 at the new Canadian Tire store in Charlottetown, where we were directly by comically unhelpful staff, looking for cord and cones.

I was looking for 1/8” cotton cord, but they had none, so I had to settle for nylon. That’s fine.

As to blind cones, none were evident, and, returning to other members of the comically unhelpful staff for additional help, the reaction was close to indignation that anyone would ask for directions to such an unusual product: “I know we don’t sell blinds… you could try aisle 18.” Where we’d just been roaming. We left the store.

What to do?

Fortunately, at this exact moment I remembered that there is a Ditto 3D printer sitting here in the office, on loan from Robertson Library at the University of PEI for a “Minecraft Party” at Birchwood Intermediate School on Monday afternoon where we’ll use it to take Printcraft out for a ride.

So why not, I reasoned to myself, simply fabricate my own blind cones, Canadian Tire be damned.

And so that’s what we did.

Thingiverse to the rescue: we found a ready-to-print Window Blinds Pull Cone, free for the taking. We grabbed the STL file, ran it through Tinkerine Suite (the software used to “slice” the STL file and make it ready for sending to the Ditto 3D printer) and copied the object 3 times so we could print 4 cones at once. We copied the resulting “.g” file to an SD card, slid the SD card into the printer, hit “print” and we were off.

And the result, 37 minutes later:

3D Printed Window Blind Cones

Score one for the awesome power of personal fabrication!