Team Murder No Brain No Headache.

28Oct/04Off

Hands Up, Who Wants To Die?

I've been trying to avoid talking too much about the election because that shit gets tedious pretty quickly. I am alarmed at the Republican push to fuck with polling. There are too many instances of this to ignore: Ohio, Wisconsin, and other places. Daily Kos has been keeping up with these developments as well as summarizing the incredible amount of 'net polling going on this election. It seems like "battleground states" are being redefined as states where Republicans go and try to directly challenge the legitimacy of voters. I suppose there will too many watching eyes to simply smash and grab the election appointment in family-owned and operated states this time around. This time they'll just destroy the dissenting ballots preemptively instead of dealing with all the messiness of last time because that blatant manipulation apparently hasn't been forgotten. It's a fucking nightmare fueled by *pundits and despair. If society won't do the right thing, it will promptly be vulcanized and the tollbooth will again be knocked down. Again, I am a scared motherfucker.

Oh, I still have invites piling up if you're one of the ten people left in the United States who doesn't have an account already. Just think of all the clamoring three months ago... I'm a little tired of just giving them away to strangers but apparently that's the only answer at the present. There must be six people that I'm at least acqainted with who don't already have accounts, right? Twenty four hours from now (roughly) and they all go into the invite spooler. I just noticed that there are apparently unwanted invites sitting there as well. It's turning into some kind of pound for unwanted invites.

I could really, really use a couple hours of sleep if that isn't apparent by this completely discombobulated post. Fuck spooling Gmail accounts, we really need a spooler for hours of sleep. There is a proposition with some value.

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27Oct/04Off

Mismanaging Content Is Job One

I agree with most of what Jeffrey Veen says about open source CMS projects but a good many of the CMS (how in fuck do you make that acronym plural?) systems I've seen are not aimed at end users at least for installation and janitorial work. Most of them are bigger hammers than many really need given what they're used for. I do really like his idea of the progressively complex interface that expands as you need it. Usually installing something (especially in a hosted situation where you're not necessarily root) is one of the more daunting parts of content management systems for end user types. I think most software intended for weblogging fulfills many of his requirements because it was indeed intended for writers, editors, and, lest we forget, the poor fuckers we expect to read all of this crap. There may be a grey area here though that isn't filled by anything at the present. Part of the problem might be that classic split between ease of use and power but I think that smaller than IBM yet bigger than a weblog is still a nebulous void. WordPress is definitely getting there but it remains really geek friendly as well since developers are an inherent part of the equation. I'm hoping that geek friendly remains a dominant part of the plan but not everyone is happy with sheer flexibility and how hackable something is.

I'm not trying to rip Jeffrey's article apart because 1) it's well written and raises valid concerns and 2) because he isn't the first one to become exasperated with the choices available for management systems. I do think that problems like these that are flowing from an explosion of CMS/weblogging tools over the past few years is one that definitely needs to be addressed because you can't always bang what's available into the tool most appropriate for your use. That fucked up tug of war is exhausting for both developer and user especially when neither party has a particular obligation to the other. I hate to continually expect commercial enterprises spring from less all-singing, all-dancing open source projects but I think that's the most likely solution here. Not because they'll necessarily make a better product but because all this frustration can be directed towards someone instead of shouted out into the ether. I do like the idea of separating responsibility to the end user (making it easy to use and administer once it's up and running) and responsibility to the developer (making it a flexible and stable platform to develop on top of) from a single entity because it allows both sides of the conflict to work at addressing the parts of the problem they're most skilled with. I'm glad to see more of this type of symbiosis going on lately because it seems more productive for everyone than the nasty polar split between free/open and proprietary software that everyone expects.

I'm stopping there before I degenerate into naked boosterism. I feel like this has already been argued better and with more clarity elsewhere -- that deja vu/fuck you feeling that I find myself stuck with all too often. Comments are open. Hit me with some ideas and thoughts.

27Oct/04Off

God Told Me To Skin You Alive

Although I fully realize that the upcoming election is going to be another one of those "Go Centrist or Die" type arrangements I have to say that I'm a little surprised by Bush's statement about gay civil unions. The usual goes for the NY Times stuff: login: teammurder password: teammurder. Of course, as we learned from the last go-round, what is said on the campaign trail and what actually happens when the office is filled are two very different things but politically this is somewhat suicidal. I can't imagine that making a statement that essentially gives gays and lesbians political legitimacy is going to mesh that way with the Bible thumpers that are the core of his support. Let's hope this is the big, stupid mistake that cuts into the Republican states. The thing is, and this is the thing that I'm really hung up on, who would the conservative Christians vote for if not W? Maybe he could 12 step his way out of this conflict as well?

Looking at this L.A. Times article it sounds like some of the hardcore are going to actually vote third party. It's weird to think that the Republican camp could actually lose votes to a third party (other than, you know, some apocalyptic, sic the rabid pit-bull of God on your heathen ass variety of third party) or even to the Democrats. I think this is part of the danger of playing it centrist especially when you've been working the smiting vengeful God who takes his orders from me gives his orders directly to me angle so hard and relentlessly for so long.

Filed under: General 1 Comment
27Oct/04Off

I’ll Take My Pleasant Surprises Where And When Ever I Can Get Them

Huh. For the first time in eons I'm working on Macintosh. Normally this is where I would bitch about the full sized but woefully inadequate keyboard and the incredibly slow scrolling and the lack of a scroll wheel on the standard issue (white?!? Dear god are people actually supposed to refrain from touching the machines and instead just feel things about them?) mouse but instead I'm just noticing that my site looks pretty good in Safari. This wasn't always the case especially when this was a Movable Type operation. WordPress looks really good with a very minimal amount of template twiddling. Good work even if it isn't normally a consideration. Also nice to use a lab machine with a tabbed browser included.

As an aside, the browser wars certainly are gearing up again. I had a professor recommend Firefox to me. This is a first and is probably indicative that people are indeed learning that Internet Explorer is not the internet. This probably isn't the best example that I could come up with given that the conversation was about Audioscrobbler but I'll take what I can get. He's a Mac guy too so maybe there's some early adopter leaking into the gene pool.

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26Oct/04Off

Hello. My Name Is Fucking Idiot.

Comments are enabled again. I finally figured out what went wrong and corrected it. Somehow I ended up with a problem in my list of spam words that was triggering a false positive for the Three Strikes Spam Plugin for any comment. Sorry about all of the FBI redirects to anyone who tried to leave a comment. It's back to the old "all comments are moderated" thing at the moment with my spammer database being rebuilt rapidly by usual gang of buttholes. If this should happen again for some reason which it very well could since I didn't bother to pinpoint the exact cause of the false positive, the Three Strikes plugin now just redirects you to the index. You can put away your tinfoil hats and stop screaming at least until after November 2nd.

So, feel free to comment away until I break something else. I won't even have to ask for your shoe size or your grandmother's maiden name for the privilege. Also, I want to thank everyone who's saved me hours and hours of confusion by pointing out when something is b0rken. I appreciate it even if the end result is tearing my hair out and horrible, stabbing headaches. Thank you.

Filed under: General 3 Comments
25Oct/04Off

The Gnome Fork…

I'm pressed for time at the moment as I have class in a handful of minutes, but I heard about the GoneME Project today and it made me really happy. I used to kind of like Gnome but the rapid movement from simplification with an underlying ability to get at the innards as necessary to simply dumbed down and unusable for anyone who has the knowledge to work their desktop to death completely cured me of any sympathies for it. I think that a project like GoneME is a good compromise between the two. Just read their list of goals and the explanations of each and it becomes immediately clear that folks planning this are thinking about it pretty clearly and with an eye towards users in general without the insane bias towards beginners. They also bring up a very salient point in the commentary attached to the project goals: the current incarnation of the Gnome desktop doesn't give users room to move from a beginner level of competency to a more advanced usage. You either use Gnome in the click and drool sense or you hack on Gnome with very few niches between the two.

The real question here is why I didn't hear about this project any earlier... from what I can tell it's been active or at least actively discussed since July.

23Oct/04Off

Yes, They’re Off

You might notice that I've completely disabled comments for the time being. This is doubtful, however, since most of the comments posted here are from robots and not people. I was going to whip up something a little less generic than the default placeholder that shows up now but I had to wonder what the point really was. In fact, my comments were entirely broken and redirecting to the FBI site until Tony was kind enough to inform me. I fixed it and then the torrent of spam comments started again. Sometimes I inadvertently delete actual mail during the course of deleting spam email messages and this infuriates me. I have even less time to sort through a couple hundred spam comments a day in search of one relevant comment. So, I'm going to take the cranky route and just shut 'em down until I feel like I have the energy to deal with those aspects. It isn't like I'm posting all that frequently as it is.

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18Oct/04Off

The Time Machine Of Boredom And Fear

If I haven't made this adundantly clearly in the past, despite my obsessive fixation on techofetishism and flagrant disregard for formatting, punctuation, and grammatical standards, I'm an English major. The internet, as the WWW is commonly referred to by Humanities types, and its direction of text away from the dead tree only distribution channel always elicits a mixed bag of reactions from fellow students and professors. I've recently heard one professor bemoaning the decline of academic publishing due to that pesky intarweb making texts accessible, capable of rapid revision and editing after review by peers and otherwise, and a whole slew of other generalizations about the influence of hypertext on the distribution of the written word. I guess that's where things intersect for me: the preoccupation with channels of distribution, specifically of information packaged as a marketable commodity, and how that might affect the livelihood or prestige of having that information (or equally often, research) transformed into commodity is often shared between the technologist and the literati. In other, probably more clear, words, it's another case of open/free and closed/proprietary information and by nature is as vehemently arguable as any topic on the planet. Depending on the day or the level of CRT burnout my eyes are currently experiencing, I might fall on either side of the argument but I love it when I find folks in the Humanities actively dealing with these issues in a constructive way.

Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities is a fabulous example of how this can play out. There are a collection of writings about teaching, researching, and studying Dickenson and Whitman using the Classroom Electric (forgive the term since it seems like this project, at least the MITHologies section, is frozen at 2001) called MITHologies that is really worth perusing despite their relative old age and limited scope of subject matter. The opinions in the essays are largely more mature in their lack of hysteria and a couple of them are conceptually kickass. I especially liked Jay Grossman's article about teaching Whitman's Civil War by the wide use of otherwise difficult to obtain or sanely navigate resources (the Library of Congress site is the example he uses) compiled into something useful and more linear for the sake of student sanity. He also mentions that many more forks of potential interest can be explored by allowing students to voluntarily explore divergences without simply relying on search terms shots in the dark or bibliographic information slapped into one of those damned 'Further Reading' lists.

Yeah, this is totally 1996 of me but my interest in the gee whiz technologies is in perpetual recession and I'm more actively interested (at least in the sense of things that I'd actually like to invest horrible hand dirtying labor into) in how to use all the crap that we already have. That's why I'm making this a 'Don't Forget' post -- because I'm going to try to find more actual instances of this sort of compromise between academia and the howling void that sometimes is the internet. So indulge my 1996-ness and help me out if you know of any projects (other than the blatantly obvious ones that everyone knows about) that fit this description or any that seem to argue either of the extremes.

17Oct/04Off

Not Even The Worst Part

Yesterday I received a credit card that I applied for. If you've recently gone through the laborious process of activating a new credit card you realize how painful this process is. It totally sucks. I chanted "No" so many times that the word, monosyllabic as it might be, entirely lost meaning. I never want to get nasty about since the person that answers my call is without doubt making near minimum wage. I sigh my way through 2500 of those and, finally, have an active credit card without a bunch of extra garbage strapped onto it.

The next day I log on to the web site for the card and find that I'm signed up for all kinds of shit that amounts to a ten or so dollar charge ladled over the top of my balance. The web site, of course, has no way for you cancel these services so I have to call the 1-800 number. Into the belly of the beast I go again. Of course, same deal as the time before, I'm talking to a lowest level service person on the phone. I tell her the basic deal and she sounds sympathetic. Unfortunately those services are managed by "their partners" and I can't cancel directly through the credit card company. Crap. I dial yet another toll free number to find out that their service desk is only open 3 hours a day and only on weekdays. The other number that I call offers the same options and then disconnects. I have precious little patience for run around so I call back the credit card company to cancel the account. This also becomes tantamount to pulling teeth and I go through two lower tier phone reps before I lose my temper. The credit card company insisted that I pay for the services they signed me up for without my permission and wouldn't budge from that position until I invoked the Better Business Bureau. Suddenly all of those charges disappeared and my account which had never been used for anything that I approved was closed.

A little while later I applied for a similar card from my bank and was approved instantly. If my bank tries anything similar they'll lose me as a banking and a credit customer. It's pathetic that it's come to that -- in order to get what I want as a paying customer I need leverage to make threats. All the perky, upbeat marketing in the world isn't going to fix that. This company spends an inordinate amount of advertising dollars sawing away at this very theme. Argh.

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14Oct/04Off

It Figures

I, like almost everyone else who's heard about the Slint reunion that none of us will ever see, can only say "Holy shit!" There are all sorts of wild rumors flying around about what the future might hold but I'm wishing for a new recording more than anything else. I've seen Slint footage and it isn't thrilling. Nonetheless I'm totally freaked out about it. Any sympathetic thousand-aires wanna spring for a couple of plane tickets to All Tomorrow's Parties? If you're into tight-assed and deliberately obscure indie rock from the early 1990's, this is a great moment and there are very, very few great moments in that context. Savor it.

There is an announcement over at Touch and Go that basically gives you a press release summary of all of the hype. Nice frame set, assholes.

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12Oct/04Off

No Teat For You Bad Man


This one's a new one on me. Seen when I clicked the News link from a search page. I was actually just trying to get to Google News.

12Oct/04Off

In Most Respects, A Good Day

Today was National Coming Out Day and I was lucky enough to witness a double wedding ceremony at the center of campus between two lesbian couples; one couple renewing their vows after many years and the other young couple, all flushed and excited, exchanging vows after a few years together. It was very sweet and although I expected some pig fucker to show up waving a bible around and threatening us, couples and spectators alike, with hellfire and damnation it didn't happen. It was very sweet and I'm glad that I didn't have to shoot anyone in the face for trying to interrupt it.

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11Oct/04Off

They Will Find A Way In

I just read (I'm procrastinating on studying for a midterm so I'm unusually productive in all things that do not concern that midterm) a pretty grim and cogent picture of the future of RSS and syndication in general. We've all been tolling the bell for the current methods of syndication so long that the marketing fucks finally caught on that this was something people actually use. Open an orifice and some dumb company that has long outlived its usefulness as anything other than a fantasy football portal (I assume we all know who I'm talking about here without me linking them, right?) will shove some advertising in there, posthaste. The nice part about syndication which Michael Fraase brings up in his post, is that syndication is painlessly easy to stop reading. There is nothing essential about syndication feeds. People can access the same shit with all the pretty pictures by simply loading the page in browser or rolling their own scraper up to server up the same content with all the festering bullshit trimmed off. Not only will people be annoyed with your feeds but they will be unresponsive to new things you offer via those feeds. That's your foot. Please stop shooting it.

The Onion is also locking up its archives as premium content. This may not be a new measure but it sure as fuck is annoying. How many links are broken on your site now? Archives cost too much to justify keeping them continually available? Delete them and die with some dignity.

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11Oct/04Off

Answer Overacting With Hyperbole…

I managed to thoroughly annoy one of my thoroughly annoying professors today while describing why I thought the actor who played Mr. Darcy in the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice was overacting.

Me (unfortunately): I just think that he was less subtle than I would've liked. I mean, he was looking around the room under his eyebrows all James Dean style. I might be wrong about this but even at a country dance he might as well have arrived wearing a rainbow clown wig and lighting his farts.

Everyone else: awful silence.

I am hoping to get participation points for simultaneously embarrassing myself, everyone else in the room, and tying together the British novel and fart jokes but the outlook is not exactly bright.

11Oct/04Off

Light After Lunch Reading…

It looks like the next massive wave of domain name squatting is here. Dot info. Does anyone really care or is this actually a disaster? On one hand I can see the "Search for online casinos" search page being a part of it but are com, net, org, and info really that interchangable? I dunno.

Hey. You like all singing and dancing, right? If you're using Ubuntu Linux you might want to check out the Multimedia guide for your maximum earache and eyestrain. Woo. This is good.

When talking about things that effect the election in the proximity of the election and the ultimate warblogger mentions your site (albeit as a dotcom, not a dotorg, and not even friggin' close to a dotinfo) as part of his vice presidential assassination of the pursuit of truth or clarity debate you might want to plan ahead. Just a little bit.

Class looms like a cutpurse with a freshly sharpened shiv...

11Oct/04Off

Keep Slack Simple Stupid

I've been watching the Gnome and Slackware shitstorm building momentum over the weekend and causing an incredible amount of speculation about the future of both most of it ridiculous, childish, or desktop partisan. Unfortunately the barbarous hordes from both Slashdot and OS News have killed the Dropline Gnome forum where the announcement was made so I can't link to it directly unless you really want to see an account suspended page.

I too have built Gnome from the ground up more for the experience of the process than anything else and I'll be the first to say that it sucks. Even under a distribution like Gentoo where compiling is a whole lot less painful than other binary-based distributions it sucks building Gnome. I'm guessing that the aforementioned suckiness is what makes projects like Dropline so important for folks that want to use Gnome under Slackware. Patrick said on his post to the Dropline list that 30% of the bugs reported for Slackware are Gnome related. Jesus. He said nothing about ridding the distribution of Gtk+ applications that aren't a part of the Gnome packaging. Yeesh. I think if he did sacrifice that much time building a desktop environment that continually moves further away from configurability and choice (allegedly for the sake of "user experience") and towards a developer echo chamber Patrick would qualify for sainthood.

At some point I imagine that Gnome is going to have to become a distribution given the increasing loss of configurability (I'm talking about user configurability here through normal interfaces) and difficulty playing nice with other applications. More than a few distributions have settled on Gnome for the default DE which is fine because that means they'll have the time to dedicate to picking up dog poop, keeping the windows clean, and making sure that things don't break. Right now things break.

I should probably state that I a user of neither Gnome nor Slackware but I admire both for separate reasons and get exasperated with both of them. This is a difference in philosophy that should define the impetus for distributions and users of those distributions. Slackware has never really been a meta-distribution like Debian or Gentoo and has a very dedicated set of users who like the constancy and stability of Slack. There are very few surprises there and I think, and this is speaking as someone who hasn't actively used Slack for at least five years, that ultimately the choice to drop Gnome from the base install is a wise and prudent one selected more out of necessity than spitefulness. I wish the users, regardless of their particular desktop religion, could try to see it that way for a second but I guess claiming the superiority of KDE or the imminent death of Slackware or Gnome makes for better shouting on the forums.

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10Oct/04Off

Death To False Metal

Damn it. I woke up this morning to find Derrida dead. I've only become acquainted with his methodology over the past couple of years above and beyond the "ridiculous" label that many in academic circles have branded his work with. In example many of his arguments were pretty compelling and, if nothing else, his approach made people really think about some of the words they used in writing. Consider Deconstructionism in tandem with intertextuality and you're about an active a reader as a person could hope to be. To pretend that readers don't read things into a text and writers do not write unintentional bits of themselves into is being a bit more ambitious about your critical faculties than I'm willing to do. Like any other philosophy commonly rolled up and smoked as literary criticism I'm not sure I entirely buy into it but I've thought a lot more about things that I'm reading in translation with his ideas in mind.

The eulogizing is, of course, tedious. There is a pretty funny column in Time about spending a little time with the man that would probably be more affirming or whatever it is that eulogies are supposed to do. He was a difficult person working on difficult topics that were unpopular with many. Just think about the stand off between Deconstructionism and fundamentalist Christianity and headaches loom imminent. Thanks for all the headaches, man.

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9Oct/04Off

Less Traumatic Than Last Time

Magically, the WordPress upgrade went smoothly and hasn't broken anything that I'm aware of. The last time I upgraded I wasn't paying attention and it was three in the morning so, in comparison, anything would be smoother. It might make sense for future upgradey releases to make a smaller package that includes only new versions of files instead of picking and choosing. I've already suffered the trauma of not RTFM so it was much easier the second time around. I'm a nervous kid when it comes to upgrading software that I actually use...

The process of writing way too many pages that I don't care about resumes this coming week. For some stupid reason one of the aforementioned papers must be in Chicago style. If there is a more pointless methodology for citations for undergraduate papers I'd be happy to give that a shot as well just for "experience." Footnotes. Ugh. I'll busily search for an unoccupied tar pit for them to sweetly slumber in.

So, loud music and drinking...

Oh, I nearly forgot about the point of all this ranting -- while it's fine to use unwieldy systems in order to learn them it doesn't make any sense in particular to use them entirely for secondary sources. Without really putting the systems to work with, say, a stack of letters from an archive or something that would be particularly difficult to cite with MLA, it seems pretty pointless. You don't learn how to ride mountain trails on a stationary exercise bike...

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5Oct/04Off

Fixing, Breaking, Testing, And Not Much Sleeping

I've finally successfully upgraded from the 0.8 version of Firefox to the 1.0 pre-release version. Why did it take me so long despite security problems and lots of feature carrot and stick motivators between versions? Because I'm an idiot. It's all the fault of a plugin and none of the actual application. I blame MySpace for making me so damned dependent on a browser plugin. That also reminds me to mention that Midcentury now has a MySpace page so rub elbows and hit on us if you're so inclined.

I also moved the laptop onto Ubuntu Linux while writing a paper the other night. If the number of recent reviews of this distribution is any litmus installing Ubuntu might be the next great American pastime. Without doubt it is a very straightforward and very quick installation although some of the defaults, for me, fell a bit short of sane. Video resolution was disastrous leaving me stranded near 800x600.This is no problem for me because I just waved the magic wand of dpkg-reconfigure (xserver-xfree86 if you're drifting in here from Google in hopes of a solution) and manually reconfigured X. The tool included with the Gnome DE didn't list any other options but the ones assigned by the installer. This is probably a matter of preference/bias since being dumped into Gnome by default feels a little like having your thumbs trimmed off to insure your safety. Like I said, this is no problem for me to enable the root account (sudo passwd ) and then reconfigure X but I wonder about the end user-ish type that this distribution is intended for... The only other real trouble that I had was setting up PPPoE network access (I may also have overlooked it since I relied on apt-cache to tell me if the package rp-pppoe was available) since the client isn't included in the defaults and gcc which I needed to compile the source tarball is also left out of the default install.

All of that said, I am probably the worst person imaginable to attempt to fairly evaluate this distribution because I've spent a fair amount of time working with Debian in the past and I absolutely loathe Gnome though I really love many of the applications that are typically packaged with it. For a pre-release, this is really great stuff and, despite some very marginal issues that I had, is damned near ready for primetime. Out of the two problems that I had I think the misconfiguration of X is probably the closest to being a deal breaker. There has got to be something a bit more powerful/flexible that could be used for reconfiguring bad defaults or the addition of optional configuration the first time around. Automagic is only magic when it works correctly and on a freakishly underpowered laptop there has to be some compromise of prettiness, performance, and choosing the resolution that doesn't make you feel like you're computing on Speak and Spell. I think I'm actually going to keep it installed for a little while longer to see how smoothly a week or two worth of updates from the Ubuntu repositories goes. I'm very impressed and really curious how future development is going to turn out.