Getting rid of Gutenberg ‘hard returns’ for the iLiad e-reader

Frustratingly, if you take plain text documents from the magnificent Gutenberg Project and use a word processor to convert them, they end up with ‘hard returns’ which break the lines and prevent them from wrapping properly. This makes for a very frustrating read.

The solution is to copy into a word processor file and remove all of the hard breaks while at the same time – important – making sure that the paragraph breaks remain.

  1. First step: in order to exempt all instances of two consecutive hard returns (those separate paragraphs and headings from the text) and replace them with a something unique – say FLESHISGRASS – which I will replace again with hard returns in step 3. This is to protect them from the second step.In MS Word, for example, I do this by Finding all instances of ^p^p (if you don’t know the code for a ‘Paragraph Mark’ as Word calls them, reveal all the Search Options and look for the menu of options for special – non alphanumeric – characters).

  2. The second step finds all hard returns. Deciding what to replace them with depends on what currently ends the lines of text in your book – whether it’s a space followed by the hard return, or just the hard return. Find this out by turning on the formatting, deleting a hard return and observing whether the words run together. It’s important to ascertain this, because if there is no space currently before the hard return, and I don’t insert one there during the Find/Replace, the result is that two words are run together.

  3. The third step finds all the unique codes of XXXXX we entered in the first pass and replace them with two Hard Returns, so restoring the line breaks between paragraphs and headings and text.

  4. Convert to a PDF file as normal

Trying to make sense of Gaza

Regarding the breakout from Gaza into Egypt, I have only a sense of bafflement.

The anti-Zionists have been hammering away for months that a Gazan genocide is imminent, that Gaza is like the Warsaw ghetto, that Gazans are starving. Although I knew that the population of Gaza was burgeoning, that Gazans have visits from the likes of Daniel Barenboim, and that while a humanitarian crisis, a blight on an entire economy, a postponement of prospects, a radicalising influence on an entire generation, and a great threat to the very young, very old and ill or disabled, that the blockade is not a genocide and Gazans are not starving – despite knowing this, I have read one too many Gaza – Warsaw Ghetto comparisons. When Hamas blew holes in the wall I was inordinately relieved.

But what happened was somewhat reminiscent of those anecdotes about German and British WW1 soldiers playing football in no-man’s land on Christmas day. 300, 000 Gazans made the trip out. Then we saw crowds of people Mubarak was describing as starving returning with carpets, donkeys, cigarettes, toilet roll, apparently ready to settle back into the siege again. Were the anti-Zionists shouting at the telly? Were they shouting “Run away, be free, live again! No! No! Don’t go back! What are you doing, Gazans? Save yourselves!!” Because seriously, they weren’t acting like a population that thinks it’s in mortal danger – from Israel or Hamas.

The border was open for days – based on the picture painted by the anti-Zionists, you’d have expected them to have gathered up their families and rushed to save their skins. But there didn’t seem to be much of that. People were calmly going about the business of what was repeatedly described by the BBC as ‘stocking up‘.

It might be family ties. Or jobs (though 60% of Gazans are now unemployed). It might be nationalism – a determination to stay on their land. It might be an assessment that life in Egypt as a Palestinian would be worse than life in Gaza. What it didn’t look like was a suicidal, Spartan defiance in the face of a genocide, even a slow one.

So it’s not a genocide. All is not well with Gaza. My only point is that the everyday appearance and behaviour of the Gazans who streamed through the gaps in the border didn’t fit with the exaggerated, destitute, piteous picture the anti-Zionists paint to make us hate, rather than just criticise, Israel.

Richard Littlejohn on 5 dead sex workers: emetic

Richard Littlejohn thinks that the sex workers who were murdered in Ipswich were merely vermin.

His Daily Mail piece is sick-making. That death for sex workers is the same as death for Hollywood stunt doubles – an occupational hazard. That they were never going to find a cure for cancer – on which basis we should probably give up on the African agrarians he mentions in the next breath – I mean, they probably can’t even read.

That the sex workers’ friends and families failed – but that society is blameless. That they were on the street because they were too disgusting to be accepted into a brothel.


Visceral moral disgust. It’s a funny old thing. I think it’s a dangerous thing.

Making ‘Zionist’ a dirty word

Why is this blogger, who is prepared to criticise the SWP for their unconditional support of resistance movements, so extravagantly but inexplicably disappointed that anybody left-wing would describe their opinions as Zionist?

“While reading down the different articles from the last few weeks and months, I came across one on Palestine. As one might expect, I did indeed groan – and was then aghast at someone left wing describing their opinions as Zionist.”

In the piece he refers to, the writer describes himself as a Zionist and then goes on to carefully explain what he means. Then, as well as criticising the SWP, he identifies the Left’s need for a positive project. He weighs in with some ideas for peace and unity between Palestinians and Israelis and between the British Left. It’s a thoughtful, responsible, qualified piece which avoids the dualistic pitfalls of Simple and a number on his blogroll.

In the world of anti-Zionists (those who believe in a single state between Jordan and the Mediterranean and the dissolution of Israel) if you identify as Zionist then you’re either not left or you’re wrong about yourself. Where does that leave progressive Zionist movements like Meretz-Yachad?

When are people like going to realise that Zionism – a complex of attitudes admittedly – is an entirely understandable response to past and present threats to Jews and threats to Israel?

But then, the title of the piece contains the phrase ‘correct Marxism’. Enough said.

Chit chat

In our Northern Line carriage last night somebody was petting a drunk homeless man and when he woke up and started being cheeky the ice was broken and the people in the carriage began to talk. We established that the homeless man was from Chelsea and bloke next to me was from Basildon, so were his family, there were three of us from Bedford, and Matt from East London. I talked to the Basildon dad, Matt talked to the Basildon daughter. Matt’s conversation got as far as “Where do you live?” Matt: “Barkingside”. Daughter (hearing ‘Barking’): “Oh, you must be the only white person there”. Matt then allowed the conversation to peter out (later he said it was because he was a man and he was worried things would turn nasty – it was midnight on Saturday and we’d all been drinking).

In my conversation, Basildon dad started by lamenting that London was not for Londoners any more, that Londoners were pushed away into the suburbs and even further out, and that people on every nightclub door in London were Polish. I thought he might be a racist of the variety that doesn’t discriminate between brown and pink foreigners – UKIP supporter, possibly. We were talking nicely, nodding and smiling, I was very sympathetic about housing and job situation, he was saying awful things very pleasantly. He was qualifying what he said all the time “Maybe I’m too old”, “Maybe I’m too English” to communicate that he was a thoughtful man – but his main thrust was that although Englishmen and foreigners might live side by side they would never understand each other and never properly mix. I said that might be true – and even by tacit mutual agreement – for first generation immigrants, but their children and grandchildren would have plenty in common if they shared interests, concerns and experiences – went to the same schools and universities, watched the same telly, used the same services, worked in the same organisations. He wasn’t convinced so I told him that my grandparents and great grandparents were from Eastern Europe and now I was as English as him. He sat back and shook his head impatiently – not sure whether it was that he thought I was wrong or that I was exempt from his analysis. He told me his son couldn’t find work because of the Poles and Indians, and used the phrase ‘nicking our jobs’. I asked him what he thought the role of employers was, or governments, and he recognised immediately where I was going because he was very shrewd. Then I can’t remember what made him start to shake his head sorrowfully and say that I was calling him a racist. I said that that had not been my intention but that was it – we arrived at Bank. When I looked back he was too and we exchanged a smile. Nothing I said had touched him and vice versa.

Well, you hear this kind of stuff a lot but I still don’t know what to make of it – under what circumstances does it turn into violence and expulsions? How do you recognise when it is imminently dangerous? Racism is a complicated thing, racists are not motivated by the same feelings. There was a gripping documentary on disgust from the Frontiers series on Radio 4 last Boxing Day (21:00) about the link between physiological feelings of disgust and moral revulsion – Susan Beth Miller is a leading researcher into this. Somebody from National Front might have a big streak of savage, visceral disgust running through their racism, whereas a UKIP supporter, a political antisemite? I don’t know. I wish I did. Then I’d know whether to talk or walk.

The family had gone to see Athlete – never liked them.

Photography, polar bear of professions

Last year I said OK to an author who asked for one of my pictures of Cressing Temple Barn to use in his book about the Knights Templar. Then Schmap asked for one of my photos of the Great Eastern Hotel. I said yes – notwithstanding the squeeze on professional photographers who are forced to resort to more and more inconvenient and/or hazardous quests to compete with the general public.

I said yes because in the years when I had more time than money, I myself frequently acquired copyright in this way. Other reasons: it cost me nothing, Schmap is free and authors of niche books do it for love not money.

The fact is that uploads to photo-sharing sites like Flickr are increasing steadily. Even if a tiny proportion are marketable – and even the worst photographer strikes lucky occasionally – the  overall result is a repository of cheap, decent images. My photo of Cressing Temple Barn was very good, and although the Great Eastern Hotel could have been better focused, Schmap shrunk it so it doesn’t matter – high quality imaging is not what people who use Schmap need or want. The value professional photographers resides in our need for professionally-taken photographs. The circumstances in which we want or need this high quality – weddings, food porn, marketing etc – seem to be decreasing in comparison to the circumstances when we don’t – most notably, news.

Professional photographers are scared for their livelihoods because of unmediated relations between people like me and organisations like Schmap, and this must feel both demoralising and scarey.

But the idea that they deserve special conservation measures doesn’t convince me. It’s not that I’m a free market radical – I’d entertain the idea of subsidies and special measures for some professions we want to keep in Britain. It’s just that I don’t think the kinds of photographers we’d like to hold onto are under any pressure from the average joe and their camera.

East London Line alternatives (4). Kate Moss’s birthday.

I hid East London Line alternatives (3) after somebody flattered me that I might get stalked (it was insanely detailed).

But know this – if you’re coming west-bound along the Central Line and trying to get to New Cross, then you could do a lot worse than get out at Liverpool St, walk to Cannon St, London’s most placid terminus, and 9 minutes later you’ll be in New Cross.

For her 34th birthday Kate Moss hired out a couple of floors of the Dorchester for a 34 hour party, but she only withstood 18 hours.

Flesh’s partly incognito 34th birthday party, on the other hand, was divided between a day’s work, a coffee shop interlude, the John Snow on Broadwick St, (popular with the John Snow Society) and a late dinner on Charing X Rd.

It’s like the hare and the tortoise.