Tag Archives: Blogging

Some things for the future

Well, so far this year has been tough at best, so it is time to look forward.

As I sit here suffering a thankfully rare but severe reaction to gluten that will undoubtedly keep me awake the rest of this evening, I am contemplating what things I need to do to get life looking up again:

  • First of all, I think the basics are covered. I’m getting excellent grades in my masters program, and I’m exercising regularly. We bought a recumbent exercise cycle and I found that a laptop perched on my nice wooden music stand allows us to use the computer while we pedal. Watching DVDs, doing homework, reading papers, surfing the web, or listening to podcasts all make it very productive time, which was the main reason why I wasn’t exercising before. I have found the auto-scroll feature in Acrobat Reader to be particularly handy for reading while exercising. But I certainly could be eating a bit more healthy – less chips and beer, more fruit and wild rice.
  • I decided finally that, given my career as a web geek, playing ensemble with my double bass just isn’t going to happen anymore. I don’t have time. I will never have time. I might have time for a few people to come over and jam on Dvorak and Schubert, but the reality is that I know very few good string players out here in the burbs. However, what I do have time for is practice – late nights, weekends, whenever I can get a few minutes. The whole reason I got into the double bass in the first place was to play solo music, so it’s time to get back to my roots and string that thing up with some solo gauge Thomastiks. Heck, this is how Yingwen and I hooked up in the first place: She was a pianist that played the double bass; I was a bassist in need of a good and willing accompanist; one late night rehearsal after another and… 😉
  • I will never apologize for not blogging, but I do intend to write more. And by the way, I am sick of being hosted on a non-PHP5 server. Looking for new digs for this site. And I really should start learning Ruby.
  • “But what about Ajax?” I can hear some of you saying… Well it is true that every single damn job posting out there these days asks for someone who is god of Ajax and all things server-side. Great – you know, I read Jeremy Keith’s book on DOM Scripting, played around with some of the frameworks, and for whatever reason I’m still not digging it. There are too many hacks, failovers, workarounds, and the rest of it for me to fall in love with this language. In most cases when I come across a deep and serious problem in my web team with an application, it is because of an over-reliance on Javascript. So I’ve decided to keep it in the utilitarian mode for now until such time as I can further dive down properly into it later this year.
  • Finally, the guitar deserves a little attention since that has actually improved dramatically over the past half year or so. I really should firm up my technique and stop slouching that instrument over my right leg all the time.

How does one find the time to practice two instruments, go to school, work full time and have a family? Simple: Give up television.

Pimp my Reader

I am a fan of the Google Reader application for managing my RSS subscriptions. The advantage of having all my feeds organized in one convenient web repository is proving to be quite handy (much as del.icio.us has been for bookmarks) and I like Readers’ own ability to produce new RSS feeds from my content categories.

But the UI, much like a lot of Google’s apps, leaves a lot to be desired. (Gmail – I’m looking at you.)

Fortunately, Jon Hicks has put some lipstick on this pig. Enter Google Reader Theme. Installation is fairly trivial, and the result is a more pleasant and usable interface. As of this writing, it works for Firefox, Camino, Opera, Omniweb, and Safari.

Nice work! Looks much better now – thank you.

Jon also mentions he was using CSSEdit for the skinning work. I like this tool – have been using it since somewhere in the 1.x days. I find it very useful for quickly digesting the styles in an existing theme, such as an open-source project that I want to skin by leveraging existing styles. For starting from scratch, nothing can beat TextMate or Dreamweaver for cranking out standards-compliant XHTML and CSS in rapid-fire mode.

This is a great capability, to be able to create your own skins for sites you visit frequently. User customization supports even further the idea that we as web developers need to continue to separate content from design as much as possible, to produce semantic, meaningful markup, and to make our code as simple and as well-documented (self-documenting/semantic) as you can.

Had to do it

After upgrading WordPress, I decided I couldn’t stand the old design any longer. I clobbered it. This theme from the WordPress Theme Viewer is called ChinaRed.

In the next year or two, I’ll start to redesign this blog again. Like I have time…

I thought about going naked on this blog and redesigning from scratch, but I know I won’t have much time over the next five weeks as I finish classes.

It has also become painfully clear that I have too many categories going on here. I must have confused that taxonomy feature with free-tagging, which I think should probably be a separate feature.

How has it come to this?

How is it that the person who wrote one of my favorite blog posts of all time on the issues of positive thinking and positive association, has become the victim of threats that cross all sorts of lines. Whatever the details on this huge controversy are, the bottom line is that I hate to see one of our fellow usability geeks get hurt.

However, the reaction by Kathy and many other bloggers sympathetic to her cause has been to abstain from writing in their blogs in a supposed act of protest and support. I frankly don’t get it. It’s just free speech.

I do not agree with most of Malkin’s political opinions (with the notable exception of certain free speech issues), but there is one thing she said recently in relation to this incident that I do wish to quote here:

My response to this and other endless slurs and threats–most empty, some serious–has been two-fold:

1) Report the serious threats to law enforcement.

2) Keep blogging.

As I have said before: “There is a time to be tolerant and there is a time to draw lines. If you don’t draw those lines, bullies will be emboldened.”

That is my unsolicited advice to those now cowering in the face of anonymous commenters and assorted nutballs who will never go away.

Would I stop blogging as Kathy has done? Hell no. The only thing that stops me from blogging is outright laziness, lackawanna, and deep cases of ennui. My reaction to such hostility and negativity has traditionally been to completely ignore the offensive material and continue forward. In fact I thought twice about posting this issue on my own blog here, because to an extent I am just perpetuating the flame war begun by the trolls that began this mess.

Although maybe the silence is in itself a form of speech. But I think keeping the blogosphere full of positive energy is better than letting silence and negativity rule.

Spam is Pure EvilѢ

Comment spam for me has been overwhelming the past few months, so much so that I just started finally neglecting my own blog. Fine – you (insert colorful expletive here)s win. (You have no idea how many times I had to rewrite that line in an attempt to self-censor myself. I keep thinking what co-workers might read this, or my kids someday…)

You can only post so many attempts to advertise your male performance enhancement pills and cinematography of equine fornication so much before I finally shut down all sense of reason and just abandon the thing. It gets really boring really fast having to sift through 20 or 30 spam comments just to find one legitimate one, so for a while there I just walked away for the most part.

So therefore, I’ve instituted a new comment policy. Posts after a couple of months will be automatically closed to new comments. Trackbacks seem to be much less problematic – mostly because I can’t ever recall receiving one – so I’ll leave that on for the newer posts for a while longer. But everything about a month old or so is closed to comments.

If anyone cares, here’s the SQL to blanket-close your comments from any MySQL command prompt:

update yourwordpresstablefor_posts set ping_status = replace(ping_status,'open','closed');
update yourwordpresstablefor_posts set comment_status = replace(comment_status,'open','closed');

You will of course replace yourwordpresstablefor_ with whatever prefix you chose for your WordPress blog, or maybe you don’t have a prefix in which case you can delete that part.

I am finding spam to be all consuming lately. Blog posts, email, and the good old paper mail box that I try to ignore. My postman hates me. It probably looks to him like we only come home once a week, if that. We just went on vacation for a week and I bet he didn’t notice. I am sick of looking at all of it- the junk mail, the useless offers for crap I’ll never use, and the stuff on the Internet is just ridiculous. As if I’d ever pursue that crap.

Anyway, comments are back open. If I deleted yours, sorry.

New years are great. I didn’t make any new year resolutions this year, but I already somehow find myself being more productive and taking care of crap that has been left unfinished. One of those things was paying attention to this blog and it’s spam problem. And getting back to the cathartic process of actually writing something in it.

Have a happy new year. May all your spam be light.