Friday, September 10, 2010

Of mushrooms, mail, and memory foam

For most of my life, I've disliked mushrooms. Recently, I've learned to tolerate them, and then a couple of weeks ago, I began actually wanting them. The LA has been a somewhat enthusiastic fungivore for many years, so really, this brings my tastes into closer alignment with hers more than anything else. I've begun adding mushrooms to my pasta sauce, and may well continue to use them in cooking. It just goes to show, one should always be willing to give a food another chance. That said, neither of us feels that enthused about curry. The LA dislikes spicy food, and I still can't get past the years of school curries which smelled of vomit.

As for memory foam, I've finally realised that I need a good pillow to keep my neck from becoming completely ruined by my sleeping habits, and succumbed to the lure of the high-density polyurethane foam. It's too early to tell if it's a massive improvement, but this morning my neck felt better than it has for some time. All this bought me was more of a chance to feel the effects of my recently discovered allergies; I'd forgotten, but it seems that I suffer an overreaction to some varieties of tree pollen, and there are such trees around here.

And so we come to mail handling. E-mail is a useful tool, but poorly defined and generally poorly implemented. The standards are contradictory, and frankly it's a nightmare. Even determining the syntactic validity of an e-mail address is nigh-impossible. That said, some aspects can be managed; one such aspect is message threading, which is to say keeping a message grouped together with its replies. Some clients don't do this; it's a tricky thing to handle. The most computationally cheap method is to compare subject lines; this works reasonably well. Google's mail service uses this, and adds a few wrinkles such as parsing the message and hiding the quoted text under the assumption that you've already read it. However, this approach breaks down if someone changes the subject line; I've seen Gmail fragment a useful conversation into unreadability because of this. My in-laws gave me a used iPod Touch last week, as a very early birthday gift; among its features is an e-mail client. This client handles message threading very well. I believe that how it does this is by means of the message-id (a header not usually exposed to the user, automatically generated to have a reasonable likelihood of being unique) and the in-reply-to (another header, rather obvious in what it refers to). The upshot is that messages remain threaded even with multiple subject line changes. I rather like this. The iPod has many other useful features, but this was the one which leapt out at me.

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