Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Karlin Gazette

G-d, this has been a busy week. Way, way more work than usual. And I have to tell you that I am tired, tired, tired. I mean, my eyes hurt, and my shoulders hurt. Maybe even my but hurts. And all just for the love of blogging. No, I am not being facetious about this, all of this extra work has been done because of a project I got involved with for my friend Simon (pronounced see-mon with a long “o” and the accent on the second syllable)) Shapiro. Why have I done this? Why did I need it? I don’t know but I did and so I went ahead and did what I said I would do maybe two months ago and blogged an entire issue of the Karlin Newspaper. This is the newspaper which Simon is the director of and now I am done and this is just great for me. Why was this so much work? Well, to start with there was a lot I did not know about the world of Adobe. And also there was also that I didn’t know much about temple politics. And the combination of the two about had me in the psyche ward. But you know these things happen and to me the best you can do is go with it and see where it takes you. I this case, all it did was lead me straight back to my desk. But its ok. I have benefited in several ways. And of course I have learned several lessons I shall not soon forget.

But before I get to grinding up web space, if you want to look at the paper, just click on the logo a the top of this page.

But anyway, how all of this got started was from one of my first visits to the Synagogue for Shabbos. After, while having our meal, I met Simon Shapiro, found out that he was a journalist and that he was involved in the writing of said journal. I asked a few questions about it and, wanting to be involved, offered to do something about putting the gazette on the web. The idea was taken with what interest there was to be had by Joseph Lieberman our temple president, which is to say it bounced away like a tennis ball off a brick wall, and for the moment, this was that.

But later during conversations with Shapiro I learned that in fact he was rather serious about the gazette, he loved the work, and that he actually wanted me to be involved. And he also was interested to see if this on-line thing had anything to it. “well,” I said “all we have to do is get the text and the pictures and I can get it up and on line in a couple of hours. Simple.”

“Ok, let’s do it.”

“Ok, I am into it. I said I was into it. Just give me the disks.”

“Lieberman has the disks.”


So waited until the following Friday to speak to Lieberman but he of course put me off until Sunday. Ok, when you are right, you are right so I waited for Sunday at which time I realized that I did not have a number or address where I could locate the man. Ok, so no problem, this time I caught him after temple on Saturday night.

“So, Mr. Lieberman, I would like to talk to you about those discs…”

“What discs?”

“The Karlin Gazette discs.”

“What do you want them for?”

“Well, you know, I write and I thought maybe I could do something for you by puttinbg the paper on-line…”

“You’re a writer?”

“Well, I like to think I am.”

“What have you written?” I gave him a rundown about the plays and the book and this blog, he said he would have to think about it.

“Well, you can have a look for yourself. I have a lot of stuff up[ on the web. I can send you an e-mail.”

“Good, you do that.” Is what he said. I took his e-mail, went straight to the computer when I got home, he would of course be checking in right away, right?
One day, two days, three days, four… No response. The next Friday I run into the “I don’t talk business on Saturdays” argument and then on Saturday night he tells me that he has not gotten it. Ok, I’ll send it again. No response.

“Did you get the e-mail?”

“No, not yet.”

“Look, I sent you two e-mails.

Yahoo tells me they both went off and neither came back.”

“Well, I didn’t get them.”

“Ok, just for the case of argument, let’s get this straight.” I pulled out the original piece of paper.

“Look, is this first letter a little l or a big L?

“Big L”

“Ok, great. So this is what the p[roblem has been. Right. Ok, I'll give you this one. You are right and I am wrong. So, this is what I am going to do. I am going straight home tonight, right now after temple, and I am going to send you yet another e-mail. Ok? And this this one will be sent to... now let's get it right this time... to Big L, little I little e little b….”

No answer again.

The next Saturday I asked him straight away: DID YOU GET THE E-MAIL?

“Yes, I got it.” Wow. Cool.

“Ok, so what did you think of it? Did you read the play?”

“I haven’t read it yet. I’ll let you know.”

All right, so you get the point.

And basically I am not all that foolish, I didn’t really care so much so I just let it go. Why should I knock myself out for this schmuck anyway? (Don’t ask for a translation of this word. If you don’t know already, it means a swell guy.) But then Shapiro went and hit me with the news that he has cancer this sort of changed everything around for everybody. Now I realized that by getting this thing on the air, I would be doing a favor for a nice man by alowing for his words to have a bit more distance than he might be used to. So the first chance I had I went again to Lieberman, and this time, though I did need to be a little loud on him, I got a hold of one of the disks from the printer, an actual PDF addition of the Karlin times.

And of course my computer wouldn’t read the text. I saw the pictures, but where there should have been words there wrere only dots.

And also of course Lieberman wanted to see my work the next day anyway.

“I thought you said it would take you a night.” He frowned at me.

"There is no text, only dots. I have got the pictures off it, but there is no text.” He sniffed at me and went off.

OK, but why is this happening? It should have been easy enough. I had an Adobe reader, I think it came as a part of a translator program, but in any case it didn’t work. So Ok, maybe the problem is that I am opening it in the wrong program for editing. So, I grabbed a disk I had...uh...cheaply aquirted some time ago in ... ehem… in Poland. Anyway, I uploaded Adobe Acrobat and PageMaker and tried again. Nothing. Not a word. And I could not even open the document in PageMaker.

Meantime, every time I passed Lieberman he is giving me these “Go back to America” looks.

So, you know, being a logical guy I went over to the printers to ask them about this disk. And you know what happened? Their computers could not read the thing either. “Oh, sorry,” Says Andre the layout guy, “It appears as though we gave you the wrong disk. We had made this on an old computer. I guess that it was written in an archaic PDF program. Here, we will do it again.” He then handed me a disk with not one, but two PDF issues of the Karlin Gazette.

So I took this new disk and as soon as I got home I plugged it in. And you know, it was better. I could see now that there was text to go along with the pictures, so this was good. The only thing was, I still could not get any of the text off of it.

What the hell?

Ok, the problem is in the program I am trying to copy to. I tried text program. Notepad, wordpad. No. Ok, let's try Word prograagin. No. The problem is tags. With tags: No. Without tags: No. I tried PageMaker again, tried front page, tried Internet Explorer, tried photo programs, Blogger, Media player, and every version of word that exists in this computer. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zip...Tried the ZIP programs: Would…not…open.

Lieberman comes up to me at the Synagogue and hands me a scrap of paper.

“What’s this?”

“You can’t read it?”

“Is it in Russian?”

“You can’t tell?” Oy… I looked really close and sounded it out. It said PageMaker. “The printer gave it to me. He says this is the program you need.” I thought my head would explode.

I went to talk to the Rabbi about this. No, I was not getting emotional about it! Ok, maybe I was getting a little emotional about it, but the rabbi also knows computers.

He suggested Coral Draw.

“Look, I have decided that PDF is a photograph of the text and that is all there is to it. The only thing that works is the Adobe “photo capture” tool but this is no good for pulling text. ”

“It is not a photograph.” Spaketh the Rebbe ”The way I understand it, PDF is like a sheet of glass. This sheet of glass lies on top of the text. All this requires is a decoder. Find the correct decoder and the sheet of glass flies away.”

“Right. I’m off.”

“Mazel tov.”

So now I am four hours searching the web. Decoders, PDF decoders, Adobe decoders, Russian language decoders for Adobe, Capturing text from Adobe, transferring text, copying text, clicking, dragging, dropping, acquiring, transferring, moving, applications, soft wear, free wear, uploads, down loads… and yes, even coral draw. Before the night was over I had I download five, that’s right 5!!!!! Separate programs, all of which claimed that I could get text off of a PDF file. N-O-T-H-I-N-G!!

But then it occurred to me that the problem might be in the font. I mean, I could see that the font from the printers was listed as being something called “pragmatica”. So I tried some English text. BINGO!!!

Ok, so now all I have to do I find some pragmatica on the internet and I am in business, right? Three more hours of digging: nothing. I mean I found some 80 Russian specific fonts during those early morning hours, and in all different formats, but none of them allowed me to pull that damned Russian text off of that file.

So, you know I am thinkng that I am getting a little stupid with this project. I missed a meeting with David Altman, Egor forgets a chess lesson and I don’t even have the presence of mind to remind him. I am writing political texts on my blogs (no apologies), snapping at Tatyana (also no apolologies). I am on no sleep and all of this is just to put this tiny little piece of newsprint on the web. What is going on?

But still, Monday morning bright and early I am at the printers. I explain the problem. Andre’s computer has no such problem. Maybe it is the font he says. Yes, yes, this is what I thought. The font is called pragmatica. Please give me pragmatica and I will be happy.

OK. He copies the entire font file from his computer. 1049 fonts. And pragmatica. I race home. D-O-E-S N-O-T W-O-R-K.

By this time I am too shaky to do anything about it. I really do not care even a little. And really, if I hadn’t spoken to Simon Shapiro on the phone, I probably would have quit right there. But I did talk to Simon. Not about this, mostly about Egor and his chess. Simon loves chess and therefore he loves Egor as well. And of course Monday evening I did in fact go back to the printers, this time with my own computer in tow. This time we were going to find the answer or die trying.

Of course Andre can do it on his computer. Why is this?

“You have to do this in PageMaker.”

“I have PageMaker. But PageMaker does not open PDF files (and somebody is really going to have to explain to me why it doesn’t). What are you doing that you can?”

“Well, its simply really. You just have to have a PageMaker copy of the text for it to work…”


I didn’t say that but I thought it.

“May I, uh, have a copy of these editions in…uh…PageMaker format?”

“Sure.” He gave me another disk. And of course it didn’t work.

“Why isn’t this working? I have the pragmatica font.”

“Maybe your computer doesn’t know Pragmatica can be in Russian. Try Times New Roman.”


“Like this.” It took all of a full minute because we had to leaf through about 900 fonts before we got to the t’s.

“I tried this already in Acrobat. I couldn’t do it.”

“No, you can’t do this except in PageMaker. Watch, it’s easy. You just change the text in the original document like this. Then click it, click copy and then… drop it…here.” There were angels singing in my ears.

I rushed home to get started. This was Monday night. Monday night is also BEINGHAD Times night. But I didn’t care. I really wanted it now.

Look, I have written enough. I do not want to get into what it took to actually make the blog I am speaking of. I don’t want to talk to you about writing all of those html marks by hand to get the headlines and the side bar right. Or about how many times I had to redo it to try and get the left and the right to match up. I don’t know how many hours… maybe 10. Maybe 15. I really don’t know. But I did it. I really did it. About two months and change since I said I would get that paper onto the net, it is there. And it looks cool too. And, at the very end, and this was only a few hours ago that I did this, I added one tiny bit of outside text to the sidebar along with a picture. Go ahead and have a look. It is slightly more than halfway down. It comes with the only graphic on the right side other than the small mast head and the shofar.

And if you don’t read Russian, all it is is a short interview with an American who now lives in Pinsk. Apparently he has written a Russian Language play named Pod Kablukom. The text for which can be found on the web and at the end, when asked why he lives in Pinsk he responds simply: Why not? What’s wrong with Belarus?

More soon…