I joke — hilariously — but there is a serious issue here. At least, I assume there is. Frankly, I can’t remember, because I made the mistake of scrolling down to the reader comments about the visa story. Reading online comments is like letting someone punch your brain in the face with a fistful of stupid. If you doubt this, consider that I’ve been hit with the “fist of stupid” so many times, I now think brains have faces. Kudos, Internet.
October 25, 2013
September 25, 2013
A while back, I mentioned that my hosting service was moving the site to a new server. Fortunately, this change appears to have happened without disrupting anything. Today, however, I had to make a DNS setting change that may take up to 24 hours to take effect. If you get a 404 message that the site is unreachable, try again in an hour or so and hopefully the new settings will be in place. Or, I could be worried over nothing and this will also be a transparent change from the users’ point of view (fingers crossed, anyway).
September 8, 2013
I got notice from my site host that they will be making some changes to the server that this site is hosted on, and you may have difficulty getting to the site. The cutover to a new server is due in the next couple of days, but they don’t expect the interruption to last very long. If you can’t get the site to load at some point this week, just try again in a few minutes.
We plan to facilitate this upgrade as quickly and seamlessly as possible. Ensuring your total satisfaction with this maintenance is our primary objective. We will keep you updated via e-mail throughout. The upgrade process itself will result in an exact copy of your account being moved to new hardware and will ensure that the freshest possible up to the minute data is retained.
Once your data switchover is complete we will begin diverting all traffic to your new server so that you do not miss any traffic or experience connectivity problems. Please be aware that there may be minimal amounts of downtime, however we will do everything within our power to ensure a smooth transition. Please note, if you are currently using custom name servers, this process may require a change of IP addresses.
July 31, 2013
The Vikings are at their off-site training camp in Mankato this week, and the various fan blogs are doing a great job of covering the event (especially The Daily Norseman which has bloggers accredited and attending all open sessions). 1500ESPN has filled the void left when the great Tom Pelissero moved on to USA Today‘s sports department with Andrew Krammer (to team up with Judd Zulgad), while the main ESPN coverage is by Kevin Seifert. I hit my “maximum number of articles viewed” limit at the Minneapolis Star Tribune earlier this week, so the coverage from the St. Paul Pioneer Press is filling that gap for me until rollover.
I know most of you don’t much care for sports chatter, so I’ll put the rest of this post behind the curtain…
July 28, 2013
July 25, 2013
I use a few tools to come up with items to post on the blog. The two most useful are Twitter and RSS. I’d been using Google Reader for my RSS needs until it was shut down at the beginning of July, so I switched to The Old Reader and it has been working quite well as a direct Google Reader replacement. Earlier this week, TOR had a server meltdown and multiple failures of drives while attempting to recover. As of this morning, they’re still trying to get back online and (hopefully) recover all the data. Fortunately, I’ve also been testing Newsvibe for RSS, and it’s still working well … but has a different set of feeds than TOR.
My other main tool, Twitter, seems to be having some issues today … or it might just be that my old Twitter client is finally giving up the ghost. I’ve been using the desktop TweetDeck client for years, but I really disliked the “new” version of the tool introduced when TweetDeck was taken over by Twitter itself. Over the last several months, the old client (version 0.38.2) has been slowly losing bits of functionality — for example, sometime in the last week, I lost the ability to send a direct message from Tweetdeck, and earlier this year it became impossible to use the “old” retweet method and more recently to retweet at all.
Today, when I started up the client, it was unable to retrieve any data from earlier this morning. This might be a general issue with the Twitter API or it might be yet another bit of creeping feature-fail. It’s picking up new Twitter posts, but one of the more useful features was that it would also collect tweets from my several lists that had been posted overnight. This morning, only the main feed column in Tweetdeck is being populated, the rest (Mentions, Direct Messages, various list and search columns) are empty.
I may need to shop around for a new Twitter client. Either way, it puts a crimp in my usual blogging habits.
June 29, 2013
If you use Google Reader, you’ve got until Monday to find a replacement tool or give up on your RSS feeds. Lifehacker wants to help:
The first thing you’ll want to do is back up your data as an OPML file through Google Takeout. You won’t be able to access it ever again once the service shuts down, so this officially qualifies as crunch time. Luckily, it’s really simple, and we’ve shown you how to do it in three easy steps. Once you’re done, I’d also make sure you have several secure backups saved at home and on the cloud, just to be sure.
As soon as your data is safe and sound, it’s time to go shopping for a new RSS home. Feedly is the most popular alternative at the moment, but there are tons of other options if it doesn’t check all of your boxes. In case you missed it, we’ve rounded up some of the best to help make the transition a little easier. All of these services will import that all-important OPML file, but some can pull your Reader data directly off of Google’s servers while it’s still available, including starred and read items in many cases, so it’s probably worth it to set up a new account over the weekend. In fact, if you haven’t settled on one alternative yet, you might want to sign up for several to hedge your bets and preserve this valuable metadata.
I’ve been using Google Reader to stay on top of news for my weekly Guild Wars 2 community round-ups at GuildMag, so finding a replacement was necessary. I settled on The Old Reader for my GW2 feeds and I’m experimenting with Newsvibe for other feeds.
I’ve been very pleased with The Old Reader, which has been a great replacement and the transition was nearly seamless. I’m still not completely sold on Newsvibe, as it has a couple of issues that reduce its usefulness to me: the session times out very quickly (less than an hour) and it can’t handle certain RSS feeds and refuses to indicate why (it just fails to add the new subscription silently).
June 13, 2013
May 23, 2013
However, as Richard Anderson points out, they prefer to trumpet the finding that only eight percent of Canadians trust what they hear from bloggers:
According to the referenced survey only 8% of Canadians trust bloggers.
Which begs the obvious question, indeed so obvious that the professional pollster quoted above didn’t bother asking it: Have 8% of Canadians even read a blog?
Those of us who comprise the mostly unpaid army of bloggers are perfectly aware that we are a niche. Really thousands of little niches. Most people do not get their news or commentary from blogs, or at least from blogs not affiliated with an MSM outlet. It’s why we call the MSM the MSM, they’re the mainstream and we’re the outsiders. So when you ask Bob and Mary Canadian do you trust bloggers, a term they’re probably only vaguely familiar with, they’ll say no.
Does anyone trust something they know almost nothing about?
What’s impressive is that the MSM has trust ratings in the 32-33% range, despite decades of incumbency and powerful distribution networks. When most people are very familiar with your product, and still think you stink, that’s a huge credibility issue. Bloggers are doing this for the hell of it and some spare change. The MSM is doing this for a living. If upstart amateurs have one-quarter the trust level of professional journalists, that says far more about journalists than bloggers.
Pollsters, ironically, scored lower than journalists.
May 20, 2013
Yahoo is spending $1.1 billion to acquire Tumblr:
Despite the breadth and diversity of life online, there are relatively few opportunities to make the kind of acquisitions that make the industry stop and take stock. Yahoo’s $1.1bn deal to buy Tumblr is one of those moments: a bold acquisition that says chief executive Marissa Meyer means business.
Comparisons to Yahoo’s 1999 $3.6bn acquisition of Geocities are too simplistic. In internet years, 1999 is more like two centuries ago and Yahoo is in a completely different place, led by a woman with all the zeal of a convert. Repeatedly passed over for promotion during her previous (another internet lifetime) 13 years at Google, she has an opportunity to do something impressive with Yahoo, which seemed in terminal decline. One venture capital executive told me that during the tenure of Carol Bartz, Mayer’s predecessor once removed, the investors were expecting Yahoo to ditch all but essential staff, focus on core revenue-building products and then rinse the company hard for maximum profit until it ran into the ground.
[. . .]
Yahoo was easy to write off in the tech community because it lacks the cool factor and developer kudos of Facebook and Google. But Yahoo’s power has always been in its more mainstream (though ageing) user base and its powerful display advertising business. Herein lies the key to its Tumblr acquisition. Though the fit with this hipster lite-blogging, photo-heavy platform could seem a little awkward, it makes sense in the context of Yahoo’s ad strategy.
Tumblr founder David Karp has always said its advertising model is based on Twitter’s “the tweet is the ad” principle. That is, that being embedded in a customised, personal flow of information, being relevant to an influential and proactive community is the most valuable and meaningful way of presenting display advertising right now. That makes Tumblr, integrated with Yahoo’s enormous expertise in display advertising, a diverse and demographically important platform for Yahoo that is mobile-heavy and social-focused.
May 10, 2013
Nine years is a very long lifespan for a blog. The vast majority of blogs don’t even make it to a first anniversary before the blogger loses interest and stops updating it. As I have no other particular claims to distinction, I’ll hang my hat on longevity. If I were to do it over again, I’d probably have come up with a different name for the blog, but for a spur-of-the-moment joke, it’s held up well enough. I guess.
One thing I don’t regret is not specializing in a particular area. I’m not an economist, or a military historian, or a political theorist, but I have interests in those areas that crop up relatively frequently here on the blog. I don’t generally post personal items, as there are lots of other venues (like Facebook) which are better suited to that sort of thing … and I live a fairly boring life, so exotic trips and exciting adventures are things I read about rather than experience directly. I especially don’t post about (past) employers or (current) clients in a way that they could be identified: that’s the sort of thing that tends to have only negative repercussions.
I did a retrospective round-up of the first year for the 2010 anniversary, the “best of 2005″ for 2011, and posts from 2006 last year. To stay on that path requires a look at what I posted in 2007 (and may still have some relevance or interest):
- QotD: Matching Wine with Food. Jennifer “Chotzi” Rosen exactly captures the highly imaginative food suggestions too many wine writers toss into their reviews.
- A close call. Winter driving in Canada can be unduly exciting when you least expect it.
- Close call, follow-up. Fixing the damage from the unscheduled off-road trip.
- An unexpected down-side to wine snobbery. Where I recount the new first-world problem of knowing too much about wine to order the plonk you are offered at too many restaurants (that is, terrible cheap wine at expensive wine markup).
- How does Symantec stay in business?. Symantec loses a customer.
- Declining to dine Roman style. I hate meeses to pieces.
- The tour went well…. A successful campus tour at Trent University. Victor only hit me once.
- Mississippi traps State Farm. When state governments overreach, companies respond rationally.
- Misunderstanding economics. Responding to a Toronto Star article by explaining the Broken Window Fallacy.
- Accounting and the military. “Jack Granatstein explains why the military budget numbers seem to come from another planet than the one we inhabit.”
March, 2007 (a very busy month, resulting in very low blog output)
- Our dystopian future?. “Brad Warbiany takes a moment to glance into his crystal ball and finds . . . shite”
- “Good job, buddy!”. An extended comment from a regular reader becomes a full blog post.
- Very disturbing development. “These guys are not exemplars of “warriors”. They’re parties to conspiracy and murder. That is not what soldiers do. The distinction may be a bit subtle for those raised on anti-war protests and anti-military propaganda, however. “
- Toronto to export garbage at retail level. The social and political side of garbage collection.
- The diet dilemma. The inevitable result of two trends: more sedentary adult life and cheaper food.
- Why have an army at all?. A letter to the Toronto Star suggests that Canada has no actual need for any armed forces at all.
- Everybody’s talking about it . . .. Some conversations just repeat on a regular basis. This discussion of how a criminal got his hands on the weapons he used in his crime could be copy-pasted into any month of the last decade.
- Somehow, I’m not convinced. A long-standing problem with using US college students as guinea pigs for sociological experiments is that they’re not truly representative even of Americans, never mind non-westerners. Your results will be biased due to the sample you’re using.
- Potential outages. Jon switched ISPs at the end of April. It took several days to get the blog up and running at the new ISP. An abortive effort was made to update to the then-current version of MovableType, but eventually he had to admit it wasn’t working properly and revert back to the older install.
May, 2007 (a death in the family meant another month of irregular updates)
- The Food Police. Another blog comment from “Da Wife” that grew to be a full guest post on the blog.
- Historical context, lack of, see Time Warner. If you want to use a historical event to make a point about something else, make sure you actually know enough about the historical event you’re referencing.
- Over-the-top iconography. Where we have to wonder what the heck the graphic artist and/or approving purchaser was thinking.
- “Pirates” fight to a 2-2 draw. The start of the summer soccer reports.
- How not to encourage foreign companies. A friend’s travelling tale of woe, showing how little has changed since the Cold War era.
- Bucket status: undefined. The job search and minor technical glitches of the moment.
- Why James Lileks won’t play. “Clearly the ability to soak up arbitrary complexity and incomprehensible names peaks at age 8. “
- Ontario under siege. The OPP and angry natives orchestrate a highway shutdown and perform some ritual Kabuki posturing. Foreshadowing the Caledonia confrontation, in hindsight
July, 2007 re-employment took its toll on blogging output
- New dog pictures. Pictures of early interactions between Xander and the new dog. We ended up adopting her and (of course) calling her Buffy.
- Daycare and the public interest. Always a hot topic of discussion among new parents. Always a hot potato for politicians as their mouths want to promise what the public purse can’t actually deliver.
- Raising fears of terrorism to fight terrorism?. Some things never seem to change.
- More on framing the war on terror. The usefulness or lack thereof in various government responses to terrorist threats.
- Home sweet (demolished) home. I was upset to discover that my childhood home was going to be one of thousands to be levelled in a massive redevelopment in Middlesbrough.
- Trains to Burlington. The long tale of moving a model railroad layout from Brooklin to Burlington.
- HTML markup accuracy. Amazing how much clarity a properly formatted superscript can provide.
- Public transit boondoggles. Once again, a topical issue as Toronto considers how to get all the subways, streetcars, light rail, and other public transit toys without actually footing the bill themselves.
- Fake volunteerism, overseas edition. The negative aspects of doing overseas volunteer work.
- Vikings trample Jets in exhibition game. The first of many mentions of the great Adrian Peterson (this was his first appearance in a game for the Vikings).
- And what else would you expect them to do?. The Canadian media still doesn’t understand or appreciate the military, but it’s actually better now than it was in 2007, as shown in this little post.
- Electrical gremlins. A follow-up post to the train layout post at the start of the month.
- Trains to Burlington, conclusion. The month-long tale of the model train layout comes to an end.
- Burlington Ribfest. After installing the layout, we took a side trip to the local charred meat festival.
- Amusing co-incidence. Being able to tell exactly when the satellite took a photo of your neighbourhood.
- Arctic Patrol Vessels: now with less sonar. An early warning sign that the APV contract would not go smoothly.
- Pirates finish out of the medals in playoffs. The end of that soccer season comes in pretty predictable fashion (including a default because we couldn’t get enough players to show up for a meaningless game).
October, 2007 (the job was consuming all my waking hours this month, so blog posts were very light indeed)
- There’s no place like Florida. There’s just something … special … about Florida.
- Voting day in Ontario. The election John Tory had to work really hard to lose. But he somehow managed the trick.
- Micro microeconomics. I explain “Russon’s Law of Economics” as applied to the Ontario economy just before the entire North American economy hit the skids. In hindsight, this was a flashing red light about the near-term performance across all retail sectors.
- The anti-age-effects movement. Rather than working toward mere longevity, put efforts into reducing or even eliminating the worst aspects of old age.
November, 2007 (deadline pressures at work kept blogging light)
- Outlook for Vikes-Chargers game today. I think it’d be safe to say that Vikings rookie running back Adrian Peterson had a pretty good game.
- A word to the Word-Wise. A cautionary word to those folks who have to depend on Microsoft Word for mission-critical tasks.
- This nicely explains it. The point where The Economist‘s drift towards advocating centralization and expansive government finally got me to let my subscription lapse. This was around the same time many UK bloggers were starting to refer to it as The Ecommunist.
- The real reason Ron Paul’s message is becoming popular. The cognitive dissonance of having a “Republican” who actually advocates for smaller and less-intrusive government.
- Canada cracks down on religious extremists. Well, some religious extremists, anyway. The kind that quote the Bible and all.
- Toronto council wastes money . . . in other news, water is wet. A rare link to the Toronto Star, and not for purposes of pointing and laughing.
- Go, Royson, Go!. The Toronto Star reporter fires back at the mayor who dissed his first article about council wasting money.
- Another good example of “spin”. Media gets report. Media spins report for maximum headline effect. Media then condemns the author of the report for hysterical over-hyping.
- Change your sexual orientation, get 10% off your flight. How not to advertise to minority customers.
- Victory is Mine!. A minor victory, admittedly. And the piper must be paid in the update.
- Another light blogging forecast. Toronto drivers. Snow. Do not combine these two elements lightly.
- Freedom of speech? In Canada, not so much . . .. Tip-toe past the word “censor”, or else!
- Attempting to excuse the inexcusable. Honour killings in western society.
- Velcro is not your friend. Christmas decorations. The joys of, sorta.
- Our Frankenstein connection. A bit of genealogical research leads to an interesting literary connection.
April 18, 2013
You’ve got to admire their willingness to continue their fight against reality:
The Phony Veterans of Foreign Wars, the nation’s leading military fakers’ organization — representing fake members from all service branches — has gone on the offensive in the fight against military bloggers.
PVFW fired back with a public relations offensive, speaking with reporters and establishing a password-protected blog on their website devoted to peer-reviewed development of members’ stories of their superhuman valor and heroism.
“Because of these milbloggers’ relentless assault on our First Amendment-protected right to lie about brief, unglamorous or nonexistent military service,” PVFW chairman Michael Spurwick told reporters, “several of our members have suffered irreparable damage to their reputations, and a few have even had their businesses and careers ruined, after being exposed as frauds. Something had to be done.”
Spurwick, a former Army sergeant, who was promoted to General before retiring as a Captain, has a long and impressive career of made-up military service.
“We lost a lot of good men out there,” Spurwick said. “I don’t really like to talk about it.”
Born in 1965, he’s a veteran of every U.S. military action since his birth, from the Vietnam War to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Boasting unearned Special Forces and Ranger tabs, Spurwick served with both Delta Force and the Rangers during Operation Gothic Serpent in Mogadishu, Somalia. He’s participated in every combat parachute jump since 1967, when, at just fifteen months of age, he parachuted into North Vietnam with the 173rd Airborne during Operation Junction City — as well as a top-secret high altitude, high opening jump from the International Space Station during OEF VI and a LANO (low-altitude, no-opening) jump from a B-1 bomber during OIF V.
[Editor's note: According to Spurwick's DD214, obtained by The Duffel Blog through a FOIA request, he was discharged from the Army in 1986 during basic training at Fort Sill, Okla., as an E-2.]
I’m sure there is — or soon will be — an anti-bullying law of some stripe that will allow these brave imaginary heroes to launch legal counter-attacks against those who would deny them the ability to wear uniforms, medals, badges, and awards to which they have no actual right.
March 17, 2013
Guido Fawkes offers a warning to those bloggers cheerleading for the British government to impose controls on the tabloid press:
One thing that surprises Guido is that his comrades in the liberal, progressive blogosphere have seemingly not noticed that the proposed Royal Charter aims to control and regulate them as well as the tabloids.
Schedule 4, Point 1 of both the government and the opposition’s versions of the Royal Charter will bring blogs under the regulator’s control:
“relevant publisher” means a person (other than a broadcaster) who publishes in the United Kingdom: a. a newspaper or magazine containing news-related material, or b. a website containing news-related material (whether or not related to a newspaper or magazine)”
[. . .]
To all those bloggers who support this press control Charter because they hate Murdoch and Dacre, Guido offers this cautionary counsel, remember that the new regulator will cover you as well. You will have all the expense and bureaucracy of compliance as Murdoch and Dacre face, without the means. Unless like Guido and the Spectator you plan to become media outlaws too…
March 15, 2013
Felix Salmon on the knock-on ramifications of Google’s announcement that it is killing Google Reader:
But whether or not Reader was ever going to be a good business for Google, it was from day one a fantastic public service for its users. Google started as a public service — a way to find what you were looking for on the internet — and didn’t stop there. Google would also do things like buy the entire Usenet archives, or scan millions of out-of-print books, or put thousands of people to work making maps, all in order to be able to get all sorts of information to anybody who wants it. [. . .]
The problem with the death of Reader is that it was the architecture underpinning lots of other services — the connective tissue of just about all RSS readers and services, from Summify to Reeder to Flipboard. You didn’t even need to use Google Reader; it was just the master central repository of your master OPML list, all the different feeds that you were subscribed to. Google spent real money to provide that public service, and it’s going to be sorely missed. As Marco Arment says, “every major iOS RSS client is still dependent on Google Reader for feed crawling and sync.”
Arment sees a silver lining in the cloud, saying that with Google gone, “we’re finally likely to see substantial innovation and competition in RSS desktop apps and sync platforms for the first time in almost a decade.” I’m less sanguine. Building an RSS sync platform is a hard and pretty thankless task, it costs real money, and it might not work at all — especially in a world where less and less content is actually available in RSS format. (You can subscribe to my Tumblr feed in RSS format, but there’s no such feed for my posts on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or Path or even Google+.)
RSS has been dying for years — that’s why Google killed Reader. It was a lovely open format; it has sadly been replaced with proprietary feeds like the ones we get from Twitter and Facebook. That’s not an improvement, but it is reality. Google, with Reader, was really providing the life-support mechanism for RSS. Once Reader is gone, I fear that RSS won’t last much longer.
March 14, 2013
Arnie Lemaire, who blogs at Blazing Cat Fur is becoming a bother to the great and the good at the Toronto District School Board. After a recent comment on his blog, the TDSB sent police officers to his door:
Can writing a sarcastic but clearly tame blog comment really land two cops at your doorstep?
It happened to Blazingcatfur blogger Arnie Lemaire Wednesday for musing “OISE and the TDSB need to be purged, or burnt to the ground whichever is more effective.”
He’s, quite rightfully, upset about it.
But, often critical of the Toronto District School Board and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Lemaire said he will not back down from efforts to “intimidate” him.
“Dear TDSB, You Can’t Silence Me,” was a headline on the blazingcatfur.blogspot in response.
But, what they clearly can do, is bring in the police to investigate.
In what can be described as more TDSB theatre of the absurd, an obscure six-week-old blog comment resulted in police visiting his home like one might see back in the day of the Stasi in communist East Germany.
Update: As Mark Steyn puts it “Nobody Expects the Toronto District School Board Inquisition…“
It seems a wee bit over-sensitive for a school board that promotes murderous goons like Che Guevara and cop-killers like the Black Panthers as role models to its young charges to get its knickers in a twist over a blog post. But, of course, for leftie social engineers, the glamor of the revolutionary aesthetic is mostly a useful cover for inculcating a bovine, unquestioning statist compliance from which no deviation is permitted. There was barely any pretense by the cops that there was a legal justification for what happened yesterday; it was just a friendly warning: “Nice blog ya got there. Would be a real shame if something happened to it.“
One of the most disquieting trends in western Europe is the state’s increasingly open intimidation of those who dissent from the official ideology. Sad to see it on this side of the Atlantic.