September 18, 2011

Ask a Mark Trail Sunday Comic

Filed under: comics,fun,humor — Tags: — Nick @ 8:01 pm

Dear Ask a Mark Trail Sunday Comic:

I have been married several years to an only child. Despite our objections, my mother-in-law, “Diana,” continues to treat my husband, “Rob,” as though he’s helpless and me as his equally incapable sidekick.

I should have realized there was trouble when Diana and other in-laws came to visit us on our honeymoon — unannounced and uninvited. When we go to a buffet restaurant, she prepares plates for him. She tells him what clothes to wear to events and even irons them for him. She includes our names on cards, gifts, flowers, etc., for which we’ve had no input or financial contribution. Anytime we mention going out of town, she attempts to invite her husband and herself to tag along.

Rob and I are responsible adults who work full time. We have never asked his parents for anything. I find her behavior insulting and intrusive. Even if I wanted to wait on my husband hand and foot, I’d have to beat my mother-in-law to it.

I have done everything I can think of to remedy this, from having Rob speak to her to being frank with her myself. Aside from saying hello when I answer the phone, I choose to have no relationship with her. Am I being overly sensitive, or is Diana overstepping her boundaries? — MARRIED TO AN ONLY CHILD

Dear Married to an Only Child:

When startled, wild animals often react instinctively, and the results may be very unpleasant. A mother grizzly is a notoriously uncharitable creature, especially toward careless hikers who suddenly round a turn in the trail and surprise her and her precious cubs. If you’re going hiking grizzly country, it is best to advertise your presence. Sing whistle, or talk loudly and hope the bear will move away instead of toward you.

Texts from Dear Abby and Mark Trail from Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011.

December 18, 2009

Secrets of the Comics Kingdom

Filed under: comics,fun,what's new — Nick @ 8:48 pm

Newspaper websites that show comic strips syndicated by King Features Syndicate (KFS) have been using the Reed-Brennan Media Associates (RBMA) as a source for their strips; one example is the Houston Chronicle comics page for which the color comics come from rbma. Some of the complaints of the rbma-served comics are their small size, occasional flakiness of their server, and inability to directly link to their comics (although that’s certainly their prerogative and I don’t fault them for it).

Some newspapers, such as the Toronto Star, are now serving these comics from a source called the Comics Kingdom. Although their interface seems a bit clunky and script-heavy, they do have the advantage of also providing higher-resolution images than are available through rbma. Moreover, they are (so far) allowing hotlinking directly to their images.

Inspection of the url for images coming from the CK reveals they have the general structure: _size.gif


feature = the id of the strip
yyyy = year (4 digits)
mm = month (2 digits)
dd = day (2 digits)

_size could have values of _small, _med, or _large (525, 665, or 760 px wide, respectively, at least for several strips I looked at)

For example. today’s (Dec. 18, 2009) Rhymes With Orange, large version is:

A little experimentation has revealed a hidden archive that seems to go back to Nov. 1, 2007, at least for several strips that I tested.

Again, for Rhymes With Orange, that would be:

After a bit of poking around, I fond another interesting hidden feature: Leaving off the “_size” argument shows an even bigger picture, one that seems 1200 px wide for
the comics I tested. For example, here is a 1200 px wide Family Circus panel, in all its glory:

Oddly, the few Sunday strips I tested seem to be “only” 1000 px wide, although strips farther back in the archive seem to be bigger.

Oh, one more thing. It seems that it is possible to get a peek at the future. For the last couple of weeks, I noticed that on Saturday they upload one week’s worth of strips in advance.

I stumbled across these features while trying to build a Comics Kingdom strip viewer and also trying to teach myself php at the same time. After a few false starts and a lot of rebuilds, I put together a Comics Kingdom Viewer page in which a user can either select a number of strips to view at once, or else select a single strip for any given date that exists in their archive. I made the output for the multi-strip viewer page “bookmarkable,” so that it should be possible to bookmark a daily reading list. I also made “forward” and “back” links so that one can step through the archive day by day.


October 17, 2009

Updated page: comics links

Filed under: comics,fun,web authoring,what's new — Nick @ 12:04 am

I just updated the comics page to include a bunch of links to comic strips (mostly ones found in newspapers, although there may be a few webcomics in there if read them, and there are also a few strips that are retired but in reruns).

At first I started making the links using the TABLE element, which seemed logical at the time. I had the idea that could apply the CSS overflow property to the TBODY element to make a scrollable table, but that didn’t seem to work in most browsers. Moreover, after looking over the CSS spec, I’m not even sure that overflow can be applied to TBODY at all.

After that, I decide to use nested list element markup, which ended up saving a lot of lines of code, at least. To save browser space, I gave the list elements a fixed width and floated them so they would all line up. I had to use a few tweaks to get it to look right in several browsers (including some older ones), but eventually I think I got the bugs worked out.

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