Door to Door

Earlier today a guy came by the house raising money for the Democratic National Convention’s “grassroots” program where they are sending extra people into the swing states for the election. I listened to the pitch for a while and finally stopped him – I didn’t need to be sold and told him so. But here’s the thing – even though I am on board with his cause, have been donating money to various similar causes and even trusted the dude, I didn’t want to give money to him on the spot. I don’t know if I am too cynical or untrusting, but I don’t like handing money to anyone that rings my bell for whatever reason.

I took the pamphlet and may well give some money via the website, but I will probably never overcome this feeling. I absolutely will never consider giving money to anyone that phones me up, and asking in-person is only marginally better. When we give money we initiate it from our end, usually in response to some literature they sent us. The big problem with doing things offline is that you can’t just look at the server SSL certificate for the guy on your doorstep.


My friend Chris left a comment mentioning the movie DiG, a documentary about the Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Massacre, both bands I like. I’ve seen things about this movie on and off for a while, and I really do want to see it. It sounds fascinating to me, as a documentary that covers eight years (?!) of both band’s histories but mostly focussing on Anton Newcombe of BJM. It sounded fascinating the first time I heard about it, and now that I’ve got some personal recommendations it is Must See Cinema. If I like the film a lot, I’ll probably buy the DVD because it is supposed to have lots of extra footage culled from the 1500 hours (?!) shot for this film and edited down to 100 minutes.

I don’t like to get too close to it in my real life, but I’m entranced by self-destruction so watching it in a movie is perfect. I’ve always been drawn to the inevitable train wrecks, which is why I found so fascinating. I like watching these documentaries that are really Greek tragedies of people stuck playing their roles until it ultimately crushes them. I just don’t want to have to be one of them.

Rumsfeld Ordered Prisoner Hidden

The matter of treatment of Iraqi prisoners is getting to the top. According to MSNBC, Rumsfeld himself ordered a prisoner kept off the official roles. As always, Rumsfeld claims “security” as the reason. Originally they moved this prisoner outside Iraq but moved him back over questions of the legality of the detention. When they did, they lost track of this prisoner because, well, he was off the books. While the purported reason for the shenanigans was that this prisoner was too dangerous to book and treat normally, in fact during the time they didn’t know where he was anything could have been happening. Once again they play fast and loose with the rules for vague security reasons, but ultimately that behavior reduces the security of the whole situation.

I used to want Bush to fire Rumsfeld, but now I don’t I want him to. I want him to staunchly defend this kind of behavior as exactly how a Cabinet member should comport oneself. That gives everyone that much better reason to fire the whole lot of them in bulk this November.

Sky High Airlines

This is getting passed around my workplace, a link to Sky High Airlines. This is a really funny parody site of airline websites run by Alaska Airlines. I do know that it is hilarious. Check out the “Cohabi-fares” and actually try to do a family matchup. Just the choices are funny. What I want to know is how you get the job doing this stuff? Man, what a blast that must be.

I particularly liked this from the “Daily Barium” by Howard Barium, CEO and Chairman, SkyHigh Airlines:

I encourage my employees to make bold decisions, even at the risk of failure. And when they do fail, I give them 10 minutes to box up their crap.

Update: Apparently this has been around a while. I see references to people blogging about it as far back as 240 days ago. I’m late to the party, but this is indeed hilarious.

Bikes Against Bush

Via BoingBoing comes this link to a guy who can do dot matrix printing on the ground with a bike and spray paint. You have absolutely got to watch this video of it working! This is one of the most fabulous bits of steampunk low/high tech I’ve ever seen. He plans on painting anti-Bush messages on the sidewalk during the Republican National Convention in New York. More power to you, you cracked genius you!

I wonder if the next iteration will be to add in a speedometer that feeds to the computer and controls the length of the pulses so that you get the same output no matter how fast you are going. Currently, it looks like if you go faster it stretches out the writing. Still, this is truly an awesome thing he has done.

Update: Cult of Mac has some more information, including a link to an interview with Joshua Kinberg, the above mention cracked genius. BoingBoing was wrong – that isn’t paint they spray, but aerosol chalk that lasts 4-5 days unless you take a hose to it, in which case it lasts 4-5 seconds.

I wrote a post yesterday about the shutdown and then thought better of it and never posted it. In general, I think shutting it down if it was costing him more than he could spend is completely reasonable. The stranding of people is what is highly uncool, I think. Here’s a guy who has been pushing how important weblogs are and been working to get them acccepted as journalism, as important to democracy and has essentially flipped a switch and made 3000 of them go dark without warning. I understand the technical reasoning behind it, but if I was one of those 3000 I would be understandably pissed off.

The reason I didn’t post is because the last thing I need is to be feeding into Dave Winer’s persecution complex. In his audio statement he said “On the internet people criticize you no matter what you do.” That is a masterful statement, one that properly applied can absolve anyone from anything because, hey, people on the internet criticize a lot. Never mind whether or not it is deserved, we can handwave it all away. Beautiful!

Jeff Jarvis posts a link to the newly updated Rexblog insight that the big thing here isn’t that is no longer free, it’s that the URLs now have to change. Here’s a quote, including the Doc Searls quote he responds to:

Ironically, Doc Searls, who quickly jumped to Dave’s defense on this issue, is focusing on server space rather than on the philosophical issues he help articulate in the first place. Last September, for example, Doc said the following:

When none of your stuff can be found on the Web – either by search engine crawlers or by the countless writers who are denied the chance to link to your good stuff, you fail to exist in the largest and most vital business environment civilization has ever known. Links are what make the Web a web. Preventing them is the height of folly.

My frustration is not with losing server space. I am a fortunate person who has access to abundant server space and bandwidth. The fact that Dave Winer took away my access to his server space has absolutely nothing to do with my read on the significance of this event. My frustration is with those who should know better not recognizing that the Cluetrain issue here is about links: That when someone does something, either innocently or with malice, that disrupts the efforts one has made to allow others to find “your stuff” on the web, then they have done something that says, “you don’t exist.” And then, when others are allowed to keep their nearly identical links and therefore their “existence,” it says, “others deserve to exist, but not you.”

Here is one thing I wrote yesterday that I will reclaim:
There is a take home lesson here. If you are relying on a free service for something that is mission critical to you (or even a non-free service), always be prepared for that service to go away in the next few minutes. Your hosting company may go bankrupt and switch off the power tomorrow, so have local copies of everything that matters to you. While I feel a little for the folks who are left high and dry and have many posts that they can’t access, much of the fault is there own if they don’t have their own local copies. One of the side effects of weblogging with Blapp and the way it publishes via rsync is that I have multiple complete copies of my whole weblog at any time.

Also, pay the $8/year and own your own domain name. You can always set it up to forward to another URL at another service, but if you are dependent on the URL always being valid, then like Rex above you are screwed when it is no longer available. I see this whole thing as a valuable lesson in control. It’s always better to control as much of your footprint as possible, When you have an identity wrapped up in weblogging yet don’t control the storage of the content nor the web location, your online identity is always at risk. Think this through before you establish one, how much risk is in your current blogging situation and is it more than you are willing to bear?

Update: There is now a 90 day transition plan for the hosted blogs. This ought to serve anyone fine – those who have no intention of continuing beyond the end of the free 90 days have lots of time to transfer elsewhere and leave pointers at the old place. Those who want to pay Rogers Cadenhead and keep the same URL can do that. Everyone ought to be happy with this. Kudos to Dave Winer for finding a good path out of this and to Rogers for stepping in.

Shrook V071

I upgraded my Shrook today (twice) and it seems like the crazy resource use has been adressed some. Shrook no longer seems hellbent on using up every free bit of RAM on my computer at all times. Howver, the usage still seems high to me. Is there really a reason why this app that does the simple job of reading RSS/Atom feeds needs to use 40M? Good lord, not that long ago that would have been a luxury for your whole computer to have that much. Surely this reader could be slimmed down more on the memory footprint end. Still, at least there is some activity in the right direction. I’ll leave it running for a while and see how long it can go before its resource allocation is such that I have to kill it. Previously, that was about 6 hours on the desktop and maybe a day on the laptop.


I saw from my server logs that the BlogShares bot occasionally crawls this site. I went to look and sure enough, this humble blog is listed on there. Even more oddly, people have bought shares of it! I don’t know who you are, John Carney and Paul Koan, but thanks for buying in (I guess.) Paul, sorry you bought in at a peak and are now way underwater. If I knew what this goofy thing used for the valuations, I’d try to manipulate it up enough so you could cash out without losing so much on me. I feel bad being the source of a big loss.

I could get involved with this and claim the 1000 shares that I think are reserved for me as owner but to be honest, I’ve got enough time sink holes in my life without this. For now, I’ll pass.

Rent some Telescope Time

Via WorldChanging comes this link to an internet-connected optical telescope. You can rent some time on this, and via your computer see the images that get captured. Entering astronomical features by name will have this telescope aim straight toward them. If you are an amateur astronomer, this is really some spiffy stuff. For $40, you can rent an hour and the prices get cheaper per hour as you buy longer blocks of time. Spiffy, no? Do some astronomical viewing without having to schelp yourself out to the middle of nowhere.

Email Preferences

I’ve been getting emails from a company called Kewlbox for years now. I’ve thought they were spam and I’ve been deleting them. As I decomission the address I’ve used for the last 8 years I’m trying to unsubscribe from all the things I’ve legitimately subscribed to over the years. Even things that look spammish if they include a “click this to remove” I’ve been trying that and only if they don’t actually remove me are they relegated to getting reported to Razor, Pyzor, DCC and all the places my SpamAssassin sends to.

When I followed the link and then did the password recovery business, I found what sure enough looks like a profile that I set up. It had my address and a username that is my typical one. I have no recollection of setting this up, but I certainly believe that I did set it up at some point and forget about it. Here’s the curious bit – all my email preferences were already set to the “don’t send me email” settings. So, why is this joint sending me mail? There is no option to delete the account that I can find in the web interface so I emailed their customer support saying that I want this account deleted since they ignore my mail preferences to send me mail over my objections. I got back what looked like a standard cut-and-paste of their FAQ from some service rep. I started to push back and engage her, and then thought “Screw this, I’m not spending any time on this.” Instead, I changed my email address in the account to WhyAreYouEmailingMeDespiteMyTurningThePreferenceOff @ Maybe whatever poor schmo has to deal with their SMTP bounces will give a shit. As long as I’m not getting their mails, I’m happy.

Subversion on OS X

As I continue to get this iBook set up for development, I wanted to get Subversion installed, as well as the Subclipse plugin. I was originally highly disappointed because when I installed the plugin, it went immediately to crashing Eclipse every time I tried to use it. As it turns out, Subclipse is not a pure Java implementation of the Subversion protocol like I thought but something that calls in to local libraries. Unless Subversion is already installed, it ain’t going to work. It sure would be nice for the Subclipse plugin to catch this case and give some kind of a message to that effect, rather than just gakking so hard as to bring down all of Eclipse.

Once I knew that was the score, I set about installing Fink which I wasn’t dying to do but the OS X binary distributions of Subversion use it. I could have built it from scratch, but I don’t really care that much about it. I’d rather use the apt-get type tools to just update for me automatically rather than rebuilding every time a new release is out. After I installed Fink, installed the Subversion client, Subclipse worked like a charm! I did a “check out as project” option and blammo, down came my project with everything already set up correctly. Very nice.

Yesterday I opted also to move my Subversion repositories from the old, slowly dying Linux box to the new Fedora Core box. I was amazed how easy this process was. Using svnadmin, I did a “dump” of the old ones into a file and on the new one I did a “load”. Essentially, it replays all the changes so that all the history from the old repository appears in the new one. That’s very nice. You also have the option of putting boundaries around the history when you do that, such as only keeping the most recent N changes (which I assume means that you have the identical files at the end but that the history only goes back for N revisions.) I found this a lot better than having to deal with the raw files of a CVS repository. Subversion has some issues – most of my problems with it have to do with the complexity of libraries needed by it – by I think this is well on track to being the thing people use instead of CVS in a few years. Even the complexity issue is helped out when it comes preinstalled on Fedora Core boxes now.

Blosxom Writeback Vulnerability

My high school buddy Kevin forwards along a reference to a vulnerability in the Blosxom writeback plugin. The advisory is on insufficient HTML validation to strip out malicious script code. However, I’m not sure what version of writeback they are looking at because by a visual inspection what I have doesn’t have this problem. They say the issue is:

In the writeback plugin, the code to filter out tags is a simple regular expression: “s/<.*?>//mg”. So entering scripts as “<script>alert(‘test’);</script>” will get filtered into “alert(‘test’);” and no code will be executed by the client.

Now as I dig through, I see that I’m using the writebackplus, which doesn’t appear to have this vulnerability. This is the thing that was even stripping out the paragraph tags that so irked some correspondents. Just to be sure, I’ll leave myself a writeback to test this out. For those of you out there using the original writeback plugin, I’d recommend either fixing the regular expression yourself if you can or switching to writebackplus. If in doubt, temporarily remove this plugin while you sort it out.


The other day whilst unloading the dishwasher, I idly wondered why cuddling up with another person was called “spooning” and I asked “Why isn’t it called, for example, forking?” Of course, as soon as I said it out loud I knew the answer. This led me to wonder if anyone has ever uttered the sentence “I’ll spoon with you now if you fork me later.”

Week 12

My weight this week was 228 pounds, down 3 pounds from last week and 18 pounds down from baseline. I added some activity and did some more bike riding and such. I’m pretty pleased with my progress so far. If I lose 2 pounds by next week, I’ll have lost an even 20 pounds my first quarter of this effort. That’s pretty decent – not too crazy but definitely noticeable. I hope to keep this going. It doesn’t get any easier.

Steve Albini Talk on Recording Studios

Via the Brad Sucks weblog comes this link to a Quicktime video of Steve Albini giving a talk about recording studios and digital recording. I’ve read his writings on the recording process and the music business. I’ve only listened to the first 10 minutes so far (it’s 90 minutes long!) but it seems really interesting so far.

Albini had a huge effect on the music of the 80’s and 90’s. He produced a metric assload of albums, but two that really influenced soundscapes of rock were the Pixies’ Surfer Rosa and Nirvana’s In Utero. Now that I’m in Chicago I just like the thought that Albini is around.

Statistical Songwriting

Via Gapers Block comes this link to a fascinating paper and project done by a University of Chicago computer science student who also happens to be a musician. Loren Jan Wilson analyzed the content of music reviews on Pitchfork Media and used those results to write songs that played into those qualities deemed statistically significant. It’s an interesting experiment, and I have to say that I do in fact like the songs that he wrote at the end.

American Diplomats Condemn Bush Foreign Policy

This is another testament to the seriousness of the times we live in. A group of former diplomats and military commanders are releasing a statement condemning the Bush foreign policy. According to this report, a number of these people were appointed by Reagan and Bush Sr.

Phyllis Oakley, the deputy State Department spokeswoman during former President Ronald Reagan’s second term and an assistant secretary of state under former President Bill Clinton, said the statement was “prompted by a growing concern, deeply held, about the future of the country’s national security.”

The statement clearly calls for defeat of the Bush administration, she said, although it does not endorse any candidate.

“We are on the wrong track, and we need a fundamental change,” said Oakley.

and later in the article

Oakley also said that releasing the statement was not an easy decision.

“We’re all career [public] servants who have never taken a political stand,” she said. “What we want to get on record is our profound concern about the future security of the U.S.”

Very high ranking former diplomats who have every reason to support a Republican administration are coming out and saying that the America they worked to build is being torn down by our current administration, that our status as the world’s leading power is being tarnished. I remain amazed that there is anyone out there supporting Bush at all. Ronald Reagan was the one who asked the famous question “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” Other than those who got fat tax breaks and/or lucrative contracts to destroy and/or rebuild Iraq, who could say yes to that?

The Central Server

On Buzz Machine Jeff Jarvis talks about a mythical central server that holds all our information of every type (and he does it while referencing George Carlin, always a plus.) I have the same kind of desires that he mentions, that my information is available to whatever device I might be on. I got a little of this from .Mac when I created an account to sync my address book and calendar from the old desktop and get them on the new laptop. I’d like all the things he mentions available, plus a few others.

I want my RSS information there, my subscribed feeds and the state of my subscription – what I have read, marked for later, removed, etc. (This is actually what Shrook does for me right now that I like so much.) Add to that my NNTP subscription states, my IM buddy lists. But I want more.

Even better if it would include metadata about my radio and TV preferences, such as TiVo information and my RadioLover information and things like that. You don’t need to store the actual media files for each, but information about people – what people want to follow, what they have seen, etc. Think metadata about your media, movies, songs and what you have seen and what you thought of them. Then, somewhere you could have a service that takes this metadata and serves out the media files, adds them to your Netflix queue or whatever. Imagine that, whatever device you are on – laptop, desktop or handheld – you can see the list of media you want to watch or listen to and make a request to see them on this. It requires thinking a different way, rather than a device-centric view it is it a person-centric view.

A lot of this stuff exists here and there. It would be quite cool to have a unified server that does all this. What an infotopia!

Use Case for Full RSS Feeds

I’ve appealed umpty-ump times here for people with excerpted RSS feeds to add full RSS. I no longer subscribe to blogs unless their RSS is full. At this moment, I’m on an iBook on a train, disconnected from the net. However, I am going back through my Shrook subscriptions and reading all the stuff that came in overnight. I like doing this, but I can’t do it when the feed is clipped to 200 characters.

Here’s my deal with RSS readers. They really aren’t about the reading – anything can do that. A good RSS reader enables and makes convenient the management of your feeds – keeping track of what you have and haven’t read, allowing you to flag things as something you want to return to for blogging later. It’s less about the sheer reading and more about controlling large amounts of inbound data. That’s why I stopped using FeedOnFeeds, because while the reading was enabled quite well, the management was weak. What I like about Shrook best is the management. You can mark articles for coming back to later, you can set up “smart groups” where virtual groups have all articles that match keywords and things. Searching is easy, so knowing what I have yet to read and finding something I want to blog about is simple.

The good things that can be done via RSS are mostly undone by excerpted feeds. This is why I have removed from my aggregator blogs I really want to follow that way, like Making Light, Kathryn Cramer and Mark Evanier. Please please please, use full feeds my friends.

Technorati Plugin Works!

This perhaps isn’t the best blog to test my Technorati plugin because I don’t have a whole lot of inbound links and what I do have are fairly static. However, today because of the trackback I left earlier Ernest Miller’s blog popped onto my list and was duly represented. Nice! I hadn’t thought about it and then noticed it showing up in my right rail. It’s supposed to work but that doesn’t mean I’m so jaded to not enjoy it when it does.

One thing I have gained an appreciation for is the relative flakiness of Technorati. By using the Technorati API I can see oddly different results from time to time. Sometimes when my refresh happens, nothing is returned from the call. Sometimes every item in the list is some reference to this weblog, not the incoming links. I suppose it is good that it flakes a lot now, so I can code the plugin to deal with the weirdness. I considered having it not write out the cache file when nothing is returned, but then it would slow loading the blog to a crawl when Technorati is down because every page would be waiting for the plugin to timeout. I learned my lesson with the XML-RPC pinging plugin – don’t make the actions that happen frequently during remote server outages have side effects to cause them to be called even more. I’d rather have an empty list now and then than have it really hose my site when Technorati is down.