Punkin Quote of the Day

Posted on September 18, 2014
Filed Under parenting | 8 Comments

On the drive to school, from the backseat out of nowhere.

Punkin: “Daddy, I think you are beautiful.”
Me: “Thank you so much. I think you are beautiful.”
Punkin: “Do you think you are beautiful?”
Me: “No but thank you for saying it.”
Punkin: “Well, you are beautiful.”

Hard to reconcile this with the child who 13 hours earlier was in full tantrum mode on the floor, crying about how she wanted to be the one to take her clothes off before bathtime while refusing to do it.

Piwik

Posted on September 17, 2014
Filed Under technology | 5 Comments

One of the things I picked up from Jamie and Garrick talking nerd stuff on this episode of the Open Loop podcast was a reference to the open source project Piwik. Despite this thing having millions of downloads, I had never heard of it.

Piwik-logo-high-res

Basically, it is an open source version of Google Analytics that you can self-host. I have it running on this blog now, and it is pretty cool. Even better, via the WP-Piwik plugin, you can see the stats directly on your WordPress dashboard page.

I had a problem where I thought the thing wasn’t working for a while. I saw the stats on my dashboard but not going directly to my Piwik installation. It wasn’t until I dug around that I discovered that I had five entries for this blog, four of which were not receiving stats. Switching it to “Show all sites” then brought in everything I wanted. I am not sure exactly how the other four got created, but that issue is resolved now. It’s a neat little package and fits squarely in my goal lately of bringing more control in house. I like it. Thanks, Jamie and Garrick!

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Gary Cole on Speakeasy

Posted on September 15, 2014
Filed Under movies, tv | Leave a Comment

I’m a fan of Paul F. Tompkins and have been anxiously awaiting more episodes of the Pod F. Tompkast for a year and a half. I’ve just started watching his series Speakeasy on YouTube. This episode has Gary Cole and is pretty phenomenal. I like that the conceit of the series is that the two of them are sitting at a bar enjoying cocktails while they talk. Instead of Dinner For Five, it’s Drinks for Two.

And while I am talking PFT, just let me say there is no better choice than him for the Doctor Strange movie. Ever since Jared Axelrod photoshopped the picture, I’ve been in. Joaquin Phoenix? No, Tompkins all the way! Take that to the bank!

Paul F. Tompkins is Dr Strange!
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Zen Ties

Posted on September 14, 2014
Filed Under comics | 7 Comments

Sometimes Punkin comes home from the library with stacks of books. A lot of times lately these are either repeats or another entry from familiar franchises like Pinkalicious. A while back, maybe as long as a year ago, she had this odd book about a panda who teaches philosophical lessons to the neighborhood kids. The first time I read it with her, something seemed oddly familiar. Then we got to one specific page and I thought “Is this book painted by Jon J. Muth?” Turns out the answer was yes.

zen-ties-page

The book was Zen Ties. We have since checked out his work in other series as well as others in the Zen series. In 1984 I was reading the comic book he did with J. M. DeMatteis, Moonshadow. What I didn’t realize at the time is that he isn’t that much older than me. He’s 7 years older but looking at those paintings from back then – when I was 17 and he was 24 – I would have assumed he was much older. The polish and craftsmanship he brings now isn’t radically different from what those comic pages looked like 30 years ago.

Nowadays it is pretty commonplace to see fully painted comic books. Back then it was completely novel. Moonshadow is the very first one I ever experienced. Every time we read a Stillwater book to Punkin, I have all of this in the back of my mind.

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Georgia Tech 2014

Posted on September 13, 2014
Filed Under sciencefiction, sports | 7 Comments

Oh Georgia Tech, I do love watching you run the triple option offense. I don’t love the wild inconsistency that seems to come with it. Has any team ever started 3-0 in a less impressive fashion?

image

PS – I know practically nothing about football. I am reading one of Scott Sigler’s Galactic Football League novels though.

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Do What You Don’t Hate

Posted on September 11, 2014
Filed Under life | 15 Comments

I have mentioned on the blog and my podcast that I think the advice “follow your dreams” and “do what you love and the rest will follow” is unintentionally cruel. It makes anyone who has a regular day job into a failure unless that job is their dream. The market realities do not exist such that everyone could switch over to their dreams. It is privileged, elitist advice that lucky people give the masses who can never follow it en masse.

Library visitor

Lo and behold, here is Rachel Nabors saying much the same thing. She really nails the heart of it:

Don’t do something you hate for a living.

There is no glory in suffering. Because you can grow to hate something you love if it puts you in a bad position, this advice gives you permission to move on to greener pastures if what you love is making you cry at night. Whatever you love should love you back. And if it’s not working out, it’s ok to find something else to love.

I think this is a much more sensible approach. If your goal is to create artisanal free-range belt buckles, you should absolutely pursue that. What you shouldn’t do is be in a hurry to force that to bear the full weight of your living. As Hugh MacLeod says (I paraphrase from memory) “Don’t be in a hurry to quit your day job to pursue your hobby full-time. Then you still have a job but you are down one hobby.”

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Open Loop Podcast

Posted on September 10, 2014
Filed Under podcasting | 4 Comments

I had occasion to correspond with Garrick van Buren. I had made a post a while back that I missed his First Crack podcast. He focussed on people and businesses local to him, and they were always interesting. When my daughter was born I went back to look up the nut who had the Daddyator workout, where you do resistance training with your child as the weights. Sadly, it was offline by the time I needed it. He interviewed coffee people, brewers, the people who were opening an artisanal peanut butter store at the Mall of America. It was nuts in the best way.

He pointed me to his newer – if not new – podcast Open Loop. I listened to all nine episodes of it. The thing about it, he and his cohost Jamie talk beer, technology, programming but more than anything else, they talk Kubb. I had no idea what this was until I looked it up.

Now, having heard them and read up on the subject, I want to play the damn game. It seems like a great combination of Jarts, croquet and bocce. You have to be able to throw accurately to make anything happen, but there is a strategy at play. Every decision that you make has immediate repercussions, and trying and failing at certain bits gives your opponents a big advantage over you. It seems like so much fun I want to play it. Jamie expressed his disdain for playing it on the sand and expressed snow as his preferred field. I think it would be a truly awesome beach game.

Jamie runs the Planet Kubb website, which has lots of information about the game and various teams. I found an Instructable for a simple way to create a set out of a few lengths of dowel and 4X4s. I happen to be sitting in a building with a table saw downstairs right now, so that would be doable. Grand Strand people, who is up for some Kubb with me?

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Conway SC Business Incubator

Posted on September 9, 2014
Filed Under business, myrtle beach | 3 Comments

I ran across this story about a business incubator opening in downtown Conway SC originally via The Digitel daily email. I love the idea of a business incubator in downtown Conway, it really is a great location for it. To emphasize the small town nature of this place, I know personally all the people interviewed on camera.

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Evil Genius Chronicles Podcast for September 9, 2014 – Exclusions

Posted on September 9, 2014
Filed Under audio | Leave a Comment

In this episode, I talk about interest groups that feel the need to exclude others in order to maintain themselves; I talk about “mansplaining” and why I think focus on it alienates potential allies; I discuss my personal strategy on dealing with flame wars; I use Penn Jillette as a model on how to deal with friends with beliefs contrary to your own and then I toodle.

Here is the direct MP3 download for the Evil Genius Chronicles podcast, September 9, 2014

Links mentioned in this episode:

You can subscribe to this podcast feed via RSS. To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported. Bandwidth for this episode is provided by Cachefly.

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A New Podcast Goldrush?

Posted on September 9, 2014
Filed Under podcasting | 1 Comment

Gold Rush - Sovereign Hill, Ballarat

I have noticed an increase in the number of people asking in various podcasting fora about how to make money in podcasts, the best way to get a large audience fast and questions of that ilk. Is this something we can thank Podcast Movement for? I don’t know an enormous amount about that conference but it seems in line with the focus as I understand it.

I won’t claim my focus is better or worse than any others, but I will say it is different than that. It’s a tricky thing to maintain and express my indifference towards those topics without contempt. I understand some people do care and some might even need to care because they are under different economic conditions than I am. Still, it gets hard to reconcile the big tent sometimes when I feel like I am in the wrong one.

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Silver Springs

Posted on September 8, 2014
Filed Under music | 5 Comments

I have said it hundreds of times and I will say it thousands more. The best song on Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album is the song they cut for time. I remember watching their episode of Behind the Music and the discussion around it. Mick Fleetwood and Lindsey Buckingham both asserted that everyone loved the song but it was just too long to fit on the album. I called bullshit because the albums was only 39 minutes long, and even in 1976 there were plenty of 44 minute LPs.

Having kicked this thought around for a decade, even though I love the song and it is my favorite Fleetwood Mac song of all time, for a long time I thought those guys were right. It’s not the the total running time of the album would be technically infeasible, it’s that in the era of needing two sides of nearly equal length, it couldn’t possibly be sequenced well with “Silver Springs” on it.

.

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1 “Second Hand News” Lindsey Buckingham 2:44
2. “Dreams” Stevie Nicks 4:14
3. “Never Going Back Again” Lindsey Buckingham 2:15
4. “Don’t Stop” Christine McVie 3:12
5. “Go Your Own Way” Lindsey Buckingham 3:38
6. “Songbird” Christine McVie 3:21
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
7. “The Chain” L. Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, C. McVie, John McVie, S. Nicks 4:16
8. “You Make Loving Fun” Christine McVie 3:31
9. “I Don’t Want to Know” Stevie Nicks 3:15
10. “Oh Daddy” Christine McVie 3:58
11. “Gold Dust Woman” Stevie Nicks 5:02

That’s the thing, Rumours is an extremely well sequenced album. That’s a big part of what makes it such a classic album as a whole. Not only is every single song on it very strong, the rhythms, ebb and flow, tension and release is better than any album of its era. Adding five more minutes of mid-tempo melancholy is very tricky. Whichever side you put it on, 2.5 minutes plus or minus 20 seconds has to trade to the other. If you put it on Side 2, that would pretty much mean moving “I Don’t Want to Know.” That leaves Side 2 as a downbeat, dirge heavy album closer. It has to be on Side 1, which means that you probably can’t displace a slow song. That pretty much leaves “Second Hand News” as the one to move, which robs the album of that great opener.

I think there is one reasonable option. That is to move “Never Going Back Again” to Side 2, right after “The Chain” and put “Silver Springs” in that spot on Side 1. I finally empathize with Buckingham and Fleetwood. Years ago I laughed this off, but they are right. Is this a better album with “Silver Springs” on there, given the two sided LP/cassette constraints they were working with? I think my suggestion is reasonable but I can’t state it is better than the original. In the CD era, it’s a no-brainer. The song belongs on there. In the LP era, what they went with might have been for the best, as much as it pains me to say so.

As it is, “Silver Springs” remains my single favorite Fleetwood Mac song. I’m sure some contribution to that is the fact that it hasn’t been played to death like all the hits have been. My second favorite song of theirs is “It’s Not That Funny” but only in the live version. I remember the concert they played over and over on HBO in the early 80s and that song was a staple. Lindsey Buckingham played the hell out of it and won me over. At this point, I could take or leave all the hits with a strong chance of leaving them. As long as I have those two songs, I’m good.

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Weight and Health Update

Posted on September 7, 2014
Filed Under fitness | 12 Comments

2014-09-07-08-28-10

Not only have I hit my 18 month weight low recently, I have actually gotten down into the vicinity of my weight loss circa fall 2012, when I was qualifying for a health insurance rebate. I have no cash incentive this time, I’m just doing it for me.

I started swimming on July 1st. In the month of July, I swam 15.9 km in just over 10 hours. In August, I swam 20.7 km in 11.3 hours. Including the first few days of September, I have swam 43.2 km since this whole thing began.

I’m feeling good, and looking good (self-reported data.) This is not a casual, auto-pilot process. I still need to think about every meal and really carefully examine the amount of carbohydrates I eat. I believe that I will just need to do this for the rest of my life because whenever I don’t, my weight gets out of control. I am fighting some bad habits and some really bad genetics but I think I can at least fight them to a draw.

When I was younger, I desired a swimmer’s body. Never mind that with my morphology and genetics that was basically impossible, it was my ideal. Now I have accepted that I can achieve kind of a Dave Grohl build – beefy middle-aged guy who isn’t fat, isn’t super muscular but just solid. I’ll take it.

A New SNAP Insight

Posted on September 7, 2014
Filed Under weblogs | 2 Comments

Obey the POSSE
I’m still experimenting with my whole system, and I just tried a new thing with the SNAP plugin. It adds a new function under the “New” menu called “New Post to Social Networks.” If you use it, it will create a tweet/status and send it directly to all the selected networks. It won’t create a blog post, so that defeats the POSSE goals and prevents it from having a place for the activity to gather.

Still, it is an interesting option to have available. It means you can use your blog as an all purpose interface for all of your connected networks. If there is an ephemeral thing you want to push out to multiple places simultaneously and not keep a blog record of it, you can do it that way.

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This Blog Has A POSSE

Posted on September 5, 2014
Filed Under weblogs | 15 Comments

Obey the POSSE

This will be a long post so I will put the TL;DR stuff right up top.

What

I am trying to reclaim my blog as the center of my online life, rather than various social media sites.

Why:

When I found out about the IndieWeb POSSE philosophy, it resonated with me. I’ve felt like this over the years, and this crystallized my thinking.

How:

I am using WordPress plugins to push my posts out to social media and Brid.gy to bring that activity back to this blog.

Background:

I first ran across the concept of POSSE (Publish Own Site, Syndicate Everywhere) in an episode of In Beta on the 5by5 podcast network. The basic idea is to set up a system where a site you own (typically a blog) is the origination point of your online activity, and from there it propagates outward to whatever social media sites you care about. This struck a chord in me, because I have watched myself following the same pattern as almost all the early 2000s era bloggers: blogging slowing or ceasing while all that activity moved to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, et al.

The concept is that by putting your site as the central primary point of activity, you retain ownership of everything. There are horror stories of people losing their Twitter or Facebook accounts and then losing years and years of their history in a flash. I have somewhat mitigated that problem by having a self-hosted version of ThinkUp running and faithfully gathering my social media information. (Interesting aside, Gina Trapani the developer of ThinkUp was the original cohost of In Beta.) This helps somewhat, but is a reactive rather than proactive solution. It doesn’t solve the fragmentation problem, and it doesn’t solve the “loss of blog mojo” problem.

Given that I like the idea of owning my whole stream, collecting it in a central canonical place with all activity pushing back to it, this whole thing seems like a natural fit for me. Of course, like all similar situations (think podcasting in fall 2004), there is not yet an off-the-shelf product to do this. It is time for a series of rickety Rube Goldberg devices! Yay, fun!

Current System:

This is the extremely early days of this concept, so everything is in flux. Also, I’m only a few days into this exploration so this is an ongoing research project. All of this is subject to change and certainly some parts of it will over time. This blog post itself should be an example of my own dog food being eaten. I’ll start with the activity flowing back to the blog, as this is trickier. The pushing out is pretty straightforward.

Note too that every bit of this is in the context of a self-hosted WordPress blog. The ins and outs will be different for other blogging tools.

Step 1: Webmentions
The first prerequisite for the whole thing was the trickiest bit for me, getting webmention support onto this WordPress blog. It requires installing the webmention and semantic-pingback plugins and then doing some configuration. Every profile you want to connect to your blog needs to have a link back to your blog in it, as the tools use this information for security. This page details how to do it. Learn from my mistakes and verify that you can receive webmentions via this test tool before you hook anything else up. I’d have gotten a lot of automatic coolness if I had.

Step 2: Backfeed
Backfeed is the idea of pulling the activity back to your own site. This page details the concepts and some tools. I opted to use Brid.gy because although it isn’t perfect it does pull back likes, favorites and things like that in addition to comments. I’ll discuss the ramifications of this decision later.

Go to Brid.gy and connect your target profiles. It can pull back your activity from Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram. This is simple and familiar if you have ever approved third-party apps for you accounts before. If you have things working correctly and have activity on posts that link to your blog posts, you will immediately see this activity hit your blog like magic. It goes without saying that if you want to see the magic, you should have some active posts that point to your blog before you hook this up. It will be a tad anti-climactic otherwise.

Once I got it working, I made a test post that I put on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ asking people to interact with it. The result is pretty phenomenal, you can see it on this post.

Step 3: Pushing out (The SE, Syndicate Everywhere part)
There are multiple options for this. The simplest and easiest option for most people would be to use the Social->Publicize function of the Jetpack plugin from WordPress.com. Many, possibly most, WordPress blogs already have this. I chose to go with the SNAP plugin (Social Network Auto-Poster). This is because I’d like the full text of my posts to push out. That doesn’t seem possible with Jetpack, which automatically truncates. SNAP is highly configurable and will allow you to write your own template for each connected social media site. It’s not perfect, I’ll discuss that later as well. If you are seeing this post on any social media sites, then it worked. What you see is what it did.

Problems:

For the backfeed functionality, the dependence on Brid.gy is a point of failure. I have taken all the external dependencies of social media sites and collected all that into one big external dependency. Because of the way the webmentions work, the details of the information are contained in a Brid.gy url. Although the comments live in my blog, they are not useful without this external service. That service is free, maintained by a single guy as a labor of love and subject to shutdown at any time. It might also get overloaded, destroyed or subject to any manner of mayhem. If any of that happens, the comments that pushed to my site will be useless.

Also, in my short experience the working of Brid.gy is not 100%. Some fraction, about 5-10% of the attempts to push webmentions just fail. I don’t know why, if I look at the web page for my account I see a failure message with no further details or way to retry. Apparently, that is just it. If it fails, the whole game is over. Again, if I had some control over this process I would be able to at least look at logs. As it is now, if the Brid.gy black box fails, I don’t get to look inside.

A problem with SNAP is that while it pushes to Facebook, Twitter and a lot of others in the free version, if you desire Google+ integration (which I do) it requires the paid plugin. Worse, you will not find out until after you try to hook it up (like I did) that the plugin in incompatible with two-step authentication which I do have on my Google account. The developer seems resistant to making it work with that, and this is an important thing for me. Jetpack works with two-factor authentication but somehow the SNAP developer claims it is impossible for him. For testing purposes I’m turning off two-step for now, but there is a hard decision in my future.

Future Work:

To make this work better, I’d love to see my dependency on Brid.gy replaced by one to my self-hosted ThinkUp install. ThinkUp is already crawling my social media streams and recording all my activity. It seems like a pretty small effort to write a plugin to push a webmention in just the same way that Brid.gy does. That way, although I have an external dependency in my blog it is to a thing I own. Since this whole IndieWeb thing is about control, that seems philosphically better and more consistent to me.

It would be preferential to find a system that could push posts to every social media system I want it propagated to, in exactly the manner and format I choose, without changing my security settings. Whether this is pushing existing vendors to change their tools (like adding templating to Jetpack or two-step support to SNAP) or creating new tools (ugh, not by me) if these existed and were easily available off the shelf then this whole thing would be more of a product and less of a kit car with a zillion pieces.

Final Thoughts:

I am pursuing this as an ongoing project. I like the ethos, and I like the result. Twelve years ago, I made a dozen small blog posts a day not unlike how people currently use Facebook or Twitter. There is no reason I can’t return to that. I like this blog being the center of everything and the social media posts being the second-class citizens, rather than the other way around. I have it set up that via IFTTT rules I can originate a post in Google+ and have it push to Twitter, Facebook or back to this blog. Ultimately though, that is rewarding bad behavior. Just because three years in, Google+ still does not provide a write API does not mean they should be the primary position in my life. I’ll take the hits to make this work, and will continue to post on this topic as I refine my system. I hope that just like early podcasting, people will take the rickety systems and build more solid ones so that eventually, there is just a button to push or a thing to install (or pay for) and the whole thing is done. May it be so, world without end. Amen.

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Third SNAP Test

Posted on September 5, 2014
Filed Under weblogs | 2 Comments

To quote former coworkers, “There is no more realistic test environment than production.”

rp_egc-logo-150.jpg
Trying to get the template right. What will happen with links, bolding, italics, strikethrough, and other stuff.

This is the third paragraph. I am hoping that screwing around with this on a Friday night means I bug less people with this silliness. Yay, Friday night!

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Second SNAP Test

Posted on September 5, 2014
Filed Under weblogs | 1 Comment

rp_egc-logo-150.jpg
Trying to get the template right. What will happen with links, bolding, italics, strikethrough, and other stuff.

This is the second paragraph. I am hoping that screwing around with this on a Friday night means I bug less people with this silliness. Yay, Friday night!

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SNAP Test

Posted on September 5, 2014
Filed Under misc | 1 Comment

I’m not wild about how Jetpack’s Publicize function pushed my test post. So, for fun I am going to try the SNAP plugin and see how it works. Also, here is a picture of a puppy.

puppy by Lisa L Wiedmeier, on Flickr

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POSSE Test for Pushing Out

Posted on September 5, 2014
Filed Under technology | 3 Comments

This is just a test. If successful, this should be on Facebook, Twitter and G+. I have no idea what the posts will look like, but for now anything will be good enough. I didn’t get the full post on what I’m doing written last night, I’ll shoot for over the weekend.

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POSSE Test

Posted on September 4, 2014
Filed Under technology | 74 Comments

This is a test, to see if web mentions is working. Please like, comment, interact to see if it pushes back to my blog. I’m trying to create a POSSE, yo.

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Evil Genius Chronicles Podcast for August 31, 2014 – Recieved Wisdom

Posted on September 3, 2014
Filed Under audio | Leave a Comment

In this episode, I play a song by Valley Lodge; I talk about two bits of received wisdom about parenting that I strongly defy acknowledging as true; I talk about the notion that “there are too many podcasts” and that sort of thinking.

Here is the direct MP3 download for the Evil Genius Chronicles podcast, August 31, 2014.

You can subscribe to this podcast feed via RSS. To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported. Bandwidth for this episode is provided by Cachefly.

Links mentioned in this episode:

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