Spam

Posted

Every time I mention spam to my wife @vixenlenore in relation to her inbox, she says she doesn’t care about it, that it doesn’t bother her. She doesn’t even delete spam. What gets past GMail’s (excellent) spam filter just sits in her inbox, and some of it, I am sure, has been there since she opened her account.

The other day, I was reading about 419 scams. You know, those Nigerian

“I have some money I need to get out of the country so if you give me your bank account number I will put it in your account and you can keep some” emails. I read that the basic premise behind the scam existed in the sixteenth century, and went to tell my wife this. I was halfway through explaining what a Nigerian 419 scam was when she interrupted me and told me, “Those are real, you know”.

Since Jennifer is by no means stupid or entirely new to the internet, I will assume that there are other people out there who believe that these are real too. So, as a public service announcement, here is a list of things to keep in mind when you check your email.

Spammers are bastards. Don’t help keep them in business.

The people who will be voting

Posted

Note: this post was written shortly before the Bush/Kerry election. At the time, GWB was the worst president in American history.

A couple of weeks ago at work, I got into a political discussion, trying to talk some sense into this guy, Carl (not his real name). I was trying to tell him why Operation Enduring Oppression Freedom was a stupid waste of our tax dollars, since we can’t even decide why we are there. (Weapons of mass destruction? 9-11? Oust a ruthless dictator? Spreading democracy? Anything but oil, it seems, will fly as an excuse.)

Carl replied that he was sure there were WMDs, but Saddam just “hid them in Iran”. I explained to him that if Iraq had WMDs in Iran, they would have detonated them by now. He looked confused, so I went on to explain how Iraq and Iran are bitter enemies, and the only thing they really have in common, other than a border, is hatred of America. This was obviously news to him.

I wonder what he would have said if I had continued and told him how a large chunk of Saddam’s weapons were given to them by the good old US of A, back when George Bush I was Vice President, to fight Iran.

Normally I would shake my head and sadly laugh at this level of ignorance (he wasn’t young by any means, and should have remembered all this from the ’80s), but right now, it is more scary than sad or funny. People like Carl are going to flock to the polls tomorrow, to vote for the very people who put us in Iraq to begin with. I urge you, my humble reader, to go vote tomorrow. Research the candidates in your district so you can make a more informed decision than Carl will make, and go help balance out all the ignorance.

Anniversary

Posted

Jennifer and I went on our anniversary trip to Six Flags yesterday. We had a great deal of fun, though we hurt like hell now. I would estimate we walked about twelve miles yesterday, and those coasters hurt a lot more than they used to when we were younger. It was worth it, though, just to spend a day with my wife.

Today we are moving. It is going to suck since we have a lot of stuff that is heavy and our muscles are sore, but we gotta do what we gotta do.

TextPattern vs. WordPress

Posted

Note: I am no longer using either platform and would recommend Jekyll.

I have been using WordPress for two weeks now, which (I feel) is long enough to make a basic comparison with my old software (TextPattern) for anyone who is trying to find a good platform to blog from.

Interface

The first difference you notice is the style of the admin interface. TextPattern (TxP) seems sparse, simple, yet a little cobbled together. It loads quickly, though. TxP feels like it expects you to know more about web programming before you can use it, but both should be fairly simple for a new user.

Writing and editing

While I realize that interface aesthetics are a matter of personal opinion, most writers seem to be of two camps, content folks and design folks. People who focus on content, and don’t want anything getting in the way of their writing, will appreciate Textile. This is available as a WordPress plug-in, but is built in to TextPattern. Textile is small, unobtrusive, and makes writing easy. People who are more focused on how their words look will defiantly prefer the rich text editor built in to WP. It slows stuff down on my archaic (1999) iMac, but makes text formatting a point-and-click affair, and should be speedy enough on a newer computer to not matter. Which one would you be more comfortable in? If you prefer writing in a word processor (MS Word, OpenOffice.org, etc) you would probably prefer WP, but anyone who does their writing in a text editor (VIM, emacs, Notepad, etc) would be happier with TxP.

Templates

This is the main thing that has held me to TxP for so long. WP’s template system is PHP based, with a large assortment of functions that output content. TxP uses a XML syntax, embedded in an (imaginary) txp: namespace. I am fairly comfortable with PHP, but the XML format of TxP just makes much more sense when editing a (X)HTML template. TxP is much better, and even allows a tag for basic PHP. However, if you plan on doing heavy-duty PHP inclusion in your templates, stick with WP.

Static pages

WP makes creating static pages a breeze, but in TxP you have to jump through your own eardrum to do so. WP wins this hands down.

File format

TxP doesn’t clutter your server up. A default install places two files (.htaccess, index.php) and three folders (textpattern, images, files) in your home directory, and stores nearly everything in the database. In theory a set up like this should be the Wrong Thing, but TxP is remarkably fast, and this makes a backup as simple as a mysqldump command. The biggest problem with this approach is editing template and plug-in files must be done either with a browser interface, or through copy and paste. (I cheat — I load the page into lynx in a terminal window, then press ^E-^E to open the file in my $EDITOR.) WordPress litters nearly thirty items in the base directory, and has its plug-ins and themes within the wp-content directory. This makes editing easier, but means an extra step to backups.

Speed

Despite the fact that everything is stored in the database in TxP, my (very unscientific) testing (meaning, which feels slower) seems to show that TxP is faster at almost everything.

Support

There is more stuff available for WP (due to its larger install base) but TxP seems to have better quality (and better organized) information.

WP is also updated much more often — TxP got its first update in nearly a year just last week.

Miscellaneous

TxP has a few extra features that have no comparison in WP. TxP offers file upload and download (and keeps track of download stats) so if you have lots of files to share, this is nice. It requires browser upload, though, so FTP junkies won’t really use this.

WP has its own feature set, though. One nice thing for newbies is the hosted service over at wordpress.com. This keeps you from having to worry about finding hosting and creating database tables. The hosted service is much more limited, however (for example, you get a shit-load of themes to choose from, but you can’t edit them or create your own, nor can you use plugins)

WP is also integrated with Askimet for comment spam protection, but TxP’s forced comment preview defeats nearly every comment spambot on earth (I got two comment spams the entire time I was using TxP)

Bottom line

I am using WordPress, but used TextPattern for over five years and have no regrets. If you really know nothing about web programming, and just want a simple blog, I would recommend WordPress, but for most blogs I see nowadays, TextPattern is probably the best option available.

A Day in the Life of Joe Republican

Posted

Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and safe because some tree-hugging liberal fought for maximum water-quality standards.

With his first swallow of coffee, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to insure their safety and that they work as advertised.

All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer’s medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance – and now Joe gets it, too.

He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe’s bacon is safe to eat because some girlie-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat-packing industry.

In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body.

Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our atmosphere.

He walks to the subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards.

Joe’s employer pays these standards because Joe’s employer doesn’t want his employees to call the union. If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he’ll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some ridiculous liberal didn’t think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

It’s noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe’s deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe’s money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.

Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime.

Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards.

He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers’ Home Administration because bankers didn’t want to make rural loans. The house didn’t have electricity until some big-government liberal (FDR) stuck his nose where it didn’t belong and demanded rural electrification.

He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, quiche-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn’t have to.

Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn’t mention that the beloved conservative Republicans fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day.

Joe agrees: “We don’t need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I’m a self-made man! All Americans should take care of themselves, just as I have.”