Miskatonic University Press

Minimum CO₂ per month at Mauna Loa

climate.change r

> library(tidyverse)
> library(lubridate)
> library(ggplot2)
> read_csv("https://raw.githubusercontent.com/wdenton/noa2co2/master/mauna-loa.csv", col_names = c("date", "co2")) %>%
   mutate(month = floor_date(date, unit = "month")) %>%
   group_by(month) %>%
   slice(which.min(co2)) %>%
   ggplot(aes(x = month, y = co2)) +
   geom_step() +
   labs(title = "Minimum monthly CO₂ at Mauna Loa",
     x = "Month",
	 y = "CO₂ PPM",
	 subtitle = "Data from https://github.com/wdenton/noa2co2",
	 caption = "CC-BY William Denton") +
   theme_minimal() +
   theme(axis.title.y = element_text(angle = 0),
         axis.title.x = element_text(hjust = 0))
Chart of minimum monthly CO₂ at Mauna Loa
Chart of minimum monthly CO₂ at Mauna Loa

415 ppm


415 ppm
415 ppm


Previously: 412 ppm in April 2017.

What Are You Doing, Benny?


Kady MacDonald Denton (my mother) has a new book out: What Are You Doing, Benny? It was written by Cary Fagan and published by Tundra Books. It’s available from your favourite book source, be that a store (personally, I recommend a real actual store you can visit in person) or a library.

Cover of What Are You Doing, Benny?
Cover of What Are You Doing, Benny?

I’ve updated her Wikipedia entry.

Library eresource vendor policies

code4lib libraries york

Where I work, at York University Libraries, we’ve got a new web page up: vendor policies. It’s a big long list of everyone electronic resource that we subscribe to, with links (where known) to the vendor’s privacy policy and terms and conditions of use, and a note about whether account creation is optional or mandatory. The data was collected by Stephanie Power and is available on GitHub under a CC-0 license.

Screenshot of web page
Screenshot of web page

There’s also a little script that generates the long HTML list, suitable for pasting into a content management system. The list isn’t pretty, but our goal was first to build a complete list so that all of these policies that affect our users are in one place. That’s done.

Our second goal is to tell other libraries about it. Perhaps this list is useful elsewhere, particularly in Ontario, where the academic libraries share a lot of online resources? Right now it’s a list of what York has, and for other libraries to use it we’d need to figure out a way of listing who has access to what, but maybe that’s just a matter of adding a column to the CSV.

If anyone’s interested in using the data or has ideas about improving it, please email me at wdenton@yorku.ca.

Widmerpool and the Canadian Privy Council Office


As a great admirer of A Dance to the Music of Time, the twelve-novel sequence by Anthony Powell, I was interested to come across a mention of Kenneth Widmerpool, one of the most famous characters in the series, in The Northern Magus: Pierre Trudeau and Canadians (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1980, pp. 77–79) by Richard Gwyn.

Cover of The Northern Magus
Cover of The Northern Magus

The Trudeau is Pierre Trudeau, prime minister from 1968 to 1984 (with a short interruption) and father of our current prime minister, and Pitfield is Michael Pitfield, Clerk of the Privy Council of Canada.

Yet Pitfield remains dependent on Trudeau. Trudeau can do so much that Pitfield cannot: be an athlete; be an object of desire to women; be a writer (Pitfield’s prose is leaden); be popular; be elected Prime Minister. “Michael is scared of Pierre” says someone who knows both well. For all Pitfield’s power and intimidating presence, there clings to him a faint aura of Widmerpool, the dogged, seeker after power in Anthony Powell’s series of novels, A Dance to the Music of Time. Despite his extraordinary success, Pitfield remains curiously solitary, uncertain, vulnerable. Only after about 1977, by then confident of his position, did Pitfield begin to act, as one minister describes it, “not as Trudeau’s representative to the civil service, but as he should have all along, the representative of the civil service to the Prime Minister.”

Kenneth Widmerpool by Marc Boxer
Kenneth Widmerpool by Marc Boxer

Just as in Powell’s novels Widmerpool emerges in the end as the most memorable of characters, Pitfield, in his way, is as memorable a figure as Trudeau. As complicated, less-controlled, more human for all his ruthlessness, and essentially more creative, Pitfield’s shining accomplishment has been to create the modern Privy Council Office, and to structure it, superbly efficient despite its flaws, as the central nervous system for the entire government. “PCO,” says a colleague, “is Michael’s Sistine Chapel.”

Dance is one of the best things written in English in the twentieth century. If you haven’t read it, you may find the first book rather episodic and wonder if you should continue, but for me it was the second in the sequence where I realized it was a work of genius. Half the book is devoted to an extraordinary night where the narrator goes a to a dinner party, then a ball (this is London in the 1920s), then meets an old friend from the first book and goes on to a wild party. Widmerpool is in both books.

I cannot recommend the series highly enough, though as Powell has narrator Nick Jenkins say, “I was impressed for the ten thousandth time by the fact that literature illuminates life only for those to whom books are a necessity. Books are unconvertible assets, to be passed on only to those who possess them already.”

Getting my Raspberry Pi on a PEAP-MSCHAPv2 wifi network

unix york

I have a Raspberry Pi at work that I use for listening to STAPLR. A while ago it fell off the university’s wifi network. Today I got around to fixing that. For some unknown reason I had to do more today than I did back when I first got it on the wifi, but such is the way of computers. For my own sake I’m documenting what I did here, and maybe it will be useful to others.

This is based on: Raspberry Pi 3 and PEAP-MSCHAPv2 WiFi Networks by Nontas Rontogiannis and an answer in a Raspberry Pi forum by broo0oose. Thank you, fellow Pi users who are on not on a simple wifi network!


First edit /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf and add:


Fill in these fields:

  • ssid (wifi network name)
  • identity (username)
  • password

You can enter your password in plain text, but that’s a terrible thing to do. Instead, use a hashed version.

echo -n 'password_in_plaintext' | iconv -t utf16le | openssl md4 > hash.txt

Then take the text in hash.txt and add it after “hash:” in the password field.


Restart network services (sudo service networking restart) and all should work … unless you don’t have a /etc/network/interfaces file, which I didn’t! Somehow it had disappeared. So I created one, with this incantation:

auto lo

iface lo inet loopback
iface eth0 inet dhcp

allow-hotplug wlan0

iface wlan0 inet dhcp
        pre-up wpa_supplicant -B -Dwext -i wlan0 -c/etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf
        post-down killall -q wpa_supplicant

(That’s a tab for indentation there, in case it matters. The pre-up line should be all on the same line, it’s -c/etc/wpa..., but some formatting thing is messing up the display here.)

After rebooting it all worked, even though the network icon in the icon bar showed no connection.


Typing in your password means it’s in your history, which means it’s in a file on the system. That’s insecure. The easiest way to clear that out is to wipe your history:

history -c

But you can also just wipe out the one line by finding just which one it is, for example:

$ history | grep openssl
  118  echo -n 'password_in_plaintext' | iconv -t utf16le | openssl md4 > hash.txt
$ history -d 118

But when you’re on the network you should install xsel:

sudo apt-get install xsel

Now next time you can run

echo -n 'password_in_plaintext' | iconv -t utf16le | openssl md4 | xsel -b

This puts the hashed password into the X clipboard, where it’s easier to paste. You’ll still want to wipe it from your history.


Why the Pi doesn’t support this kind of network out of the box, I don’t know, but I hope they add it. Nevertheless, the Pi is marvellous little thing.

Charles Dickens in Bonanza


Amanda Wakaruk told me about an episode of Bonanza where Charles Dickens comes to town because his copyright has been violated. Yes, Bonanza, the old TV western with Lorne Greene as Pa to Hoss, Adam and Little John.

Rotten Tomatoes summarizes the episode (S05 E02):

Future Lost in Space bad guy Jonathan Harris stars in this Bonanza episode as celebrated British novelist Charles Dickens. When the Virginia City newspaper begins serializing Dickens’ latest novel without his permission, the author arrives in town to register a protest-and gets arrested and fined for his troubles. Despite Dickens’ imperious refusal to pay the fine or speak in his own defense, Dickens’ cause is championed by four of his biggest fans–the Cartwrights. Others in the cast include Victor Maddern as Dave, Frank Albertson as Sam Walker, and Charles Irving as Rogers. “A Passion for Justice” originally aired September, 29 1963.

Amanda recommended it as having a surprisingly nuanced discussion of copyright issues.

Slow Art Day


I just learned about Slow Art Day, which this year is on Saturday 06 April. This is the plan:

  1. Sign up at a local museum or art gallery.
  2. Attend and look at 5 pieces of art slowly.
  3. Discuss your experience.

Down at the Art Gallery of Ontario they picked five works and suggest people look at them for ten minutes each. This is just my kind of thing, and I’m going to go.

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