I had high hopes for last week.  It started off with me officially becoming an old man, celebrating my 30th birthday.  It ended with me laid up in bed for the better part of 4 days with a nasty cold.  Good times.

On the plus side, I had more satisfying nose-blowing experiences in the last 48 hours than I've had in my entire life.  It was great.  I'm a weirdo in that I really enjoy some parts of being sick.

  • The disappearance, if only for a day or two, of that nagging voice in the back of my head that keeps telling me I have to do work at all times or else I'm going to die unfulfilled, having accomplished nothing.  The nagging really gets annoying, and being able to watch movies guilt-free is a liberating experience (This weekend, it was Shoot 'Em Up, The Bourne Trilogy, Tropic Thunder, The Illusionist, et al.).  On the other hand, that voice is probably the only thing that keeps me from being a homeless, unemployed deadbeat.  Oh, wait, I already am. So I guess it serves no purpose.  Awesome.
  • I like how boogers smell.
  • The sheer joy of reaching near-incinerating temperatures under my blankets.  When I don't care about sweating (being a disgusting, mucus-leaking mess causes one to lose the drive for hygiene), I can cover myself in a ton of blankets and crank up the temperature under the covers into at least the 90s, if not triple digits.  I bake and love every minute of it.  No electric blanket or anything - just pure body heat.
  • And the peak of this recent bout with infection: successful nose-blowing
    • In order for blowing your nose to be successful, there has a partial or complete blockage (and complete blockages almost never successfully expelled in one shot).  The best situation is for there to be a small bubble in one nostril that inflates and deflates with every breath.  If you breathe lightly, it doesn't come out - but it does rise and fall.  When you feel that - it's game on.
    • All it takes is a tissue, folded over once - since the force behind the coming blow will be strong enough to rip through one layer. Then a deep breath, a finger closing the other nostril to increase the blowing speed (I'm a righty snot catcher, so its index finger to cover left nostril, or thumb for the right) - and the explosion.  If executed properly, you will feel the partial blockage in the back of your nose completely come free, immediately followed by the most satisfying thump in your tissue. The thump really hits home because it works both in the awesome sound it makes and the small tap I feel through the tissues in the palm of my hand.
    • From then on out, its just all glory.  Switch to two hands to use the outside edges of the tissue to wipe any side splatter off the outside of the nose.  Then pull it away and separate the now folded and stuck together halves to see the product of your efforts.  Yes, I made that, and then I shot it out of my nose, thank you very much.

So, anyhow.  Frustration-wise, my PhpBB Joomla Comments plugin 95% works, but it's going to require a large rewrite because of naming collisions with certain functions in Joomla and PhpBB (relating to dealing with UTF).  So the one thing I thought was almost done is now a week or two off.  On top of that, the really cool feature for this site I was excited about was going to be the addition of an XML-RPC capability, which would allow me to update the site from outside the browser.  That way, I could throw together outlines of posts I wanted to write into a desktop app and work on them as I pleased before publishing them. Joomla has a nasty habit of letting me type 90% of a post and then having me time-out of my session in the admin, causing it to lose almost all of my work.

Unfortunately, that too became a frustration. The plugin, the Movable Type XML-RPC API - is stripping out all brackets, which renders writing HTML impossible.  I contacted the author of the plugin, but as you can see, his native language is Japanese.  This makes communicating a little cumbersome. 

However, I guess in my "emphasize-the-negative, forget-the- positive over 5 year near-depression" I did manage to accomplish something pretty damn big as my cold was beginning to sweep me to the bed - Preppermint was finally migrated to IIS7 and .NET 3.5 after a six-month struggle. When I finally beat the stumbling block that had held us up for so long, the solution was so stupid it almost removed any joy I got from the situation - but I did manage to hit Deirdre up for a "And! that! is! how! it's! done!" Danny McBride high-five session (I tried to find the clip of that from "Hot Rod" but couldn't.  Interwebs, you have failed me.).  I'll explain what all of that means later, but basically it means big changes for Preppermint in the very near future.  So, there was that.  I also built Rock a radio studio in his house, which was pretty cool.

As you can see, when I do sit down to write something it tends to be long because I can't type as fast as I can think, so my mind races ahead and starts making connections to things that I will have to write about as well, before I'm even done typing my last thought. I'm not a particularly slow typer, it's just that I make mistakes too frequently, so I end up having to go back to fix them before I can continue, and my mind wanders. The result is choppy half-work, like this.

Wait, where was I?...

Oh, yes.  As I get back into the groove of writing again on a regular basis, I promise you the posts will be less choppy and more coherent (but will still contain the same amount of parenthetical asides - although I may adopt the footnotes method of Dream Loom). I'd say something about frequency too here, but I think it's better that I prove it before I promise it. I also promise a post about why I hate "Benny and the Jets", a topic that has bugged me a great deal for the past few months.

Finally, I also want to say that the microphones, stands and cords arrived, meaning that I now have all the equipment necessary for podcasts to begin.  I want to get them started before Christmas, but between the template for the site, the comments plugin and Preppermint, I may hold off a couple more weeks.  But I will begin gathering drops, looping beds and writing and producing promos.  I want the podcast to be technically well done, so there's still some research about the mp4 container format, xml feeds and itunes submission to be done.  Rest assured - now that I've spent money on the equipment, this thing is happening for sure.

It's weird, just a little over a month ago, I was walking around Stroudsburg, PA canvassing for the Obama campaign on election day, trying to get people out to vote. Even though the people on my list were supposed to be Democratic voters (who had missed voting in a recent election), there was still a sense of a split among the people who answered the door.  Some were genuinely excited at the prospect of their country, which had seemed like it was slipping away into some distant memory, becoming alive again with possibility.  There was true excitement on some of those porches, and they were feeling the same thing I was.  Maybe, just maybe, this country that I love was no longer morphing into something unrecognizable - but instead was getting that spark back, the spark that makes people in other countries jealous.  The idea that anything is possible, because we are America, and America can do anything.

But that was just me and the people I talked with that had been pre-selected because they were likely to vote Democratic.  There was another group of people that were angry and scared.  It wasn't just that they preferred the policies of McCain/Palin, but that they hated what Obama was, what the stood for, and most of all - what he might be. 

I am a Democrat who supported Obama, but I do not think he is our savior.  A lot of people saw him as a vessel into which they could pour their hopes and dreams.  I saw him as someone who is smart and competent, mostly because he ran one of the smartest, most competent campaigns this country has ever seen.  I was glad to be a part of it, if only for a few days.  As much as I liked Obama, I never feared Sen. McCain the way these people did (though I did fear Gov. Palin that way, only because she was the embodiment of everything that was wrong with President Bush and the last 8 years of "feeling the truth at you". ) Their fear of Obama was visceral, like he was sent here to destroy everything they love.

Why this long intro?  Because things seem to have changed now that he's gone a month without blowing up the White House in a terrorist jihad, converting our children to Islam, outlawing privately held property or simply walking to the podium and yelling, "Where the white women at?".  CNN released a new poll showing Obama's approval rating rising steadily, even though he's still over a month away from taking office:

"An Obama job approval rating of 79 percent -- that's the sort of rating you see when the public rallies around a leader after a national disaster," said Bill Schneider, CNN's senior political analyst.

But that's not interesting enough for a blog post, is it?  No.

While I am very interested in politics, I don't like writing about it.  The funny part of this poll was President Bush's approval rating: 28 percent.  Which means two things.  First, Obama has a 50 point lead on Still-President Bush (seriously, how much longer do we have to wait before this guy leaves?  I mean, we know he's going to throw out some horrible pardons for the felons in his administration around Christmas when no one is paying attention, but after that - couldn't he just leave?).  Second, check out Bill Schneider's full quote from CNN:

"An Obama job approval rating of 79 percent -- that's the sort of rating you see when the public rallies around a leader after a national disaster," said Bill Schneider, CNN's senior political analyst. "To many Americans, the Bush administration was a national disaster."

We must not forget this.  After time, people will try to build up Bush's legacy, saying that he had vision, leadershipand other nonsense.  We must remember that this is and will not be true.  His administration was a disaster, and we're ready to roll up our sleeves and fix the place up again.  Heck, I volunteered for a campaign, something I've never before done in my life. It's going to get better, and I'm willing to work and sacrifice to make it so. And so are legions of other Americans.  We're ready to get started, and we're so excited that even though we know times are going to be bad, 79 percent of us think that, in the end, we're going to be okay.

Ah, good times.  I've been battling this site on a few fronts lately - and one finally succumbed to my incessant beatings. One of my long-term goals was to be able to post to this site outside of the Administrator function.  That way I would no longer have to worry about being timed out or have to deal with that annoying WYSIWYG. So, I set out to use Joomla's XML-RPC functionality, which would let me use a third-party desktop (or iPhone) client to write posts.  Of course, nothing was that simple.

I talked about it in a previous post about my frustrations with it - basically that all the angle brackets necessary for HTML, like , were being stripped out making linking or even simple paragraph tags impossible. After many discussions with the plugins author (who speaks Japanese by the way) and many bouts of troubleshooting - I ran into a thought that it may be the same bug that was causing a problem with XML parsing on the Swampdogs site (which is designed and administered by me and hosted on the same server).  Well, it was.

For those of you who may stumble onto this post via Google, a really annoying bug in libxml2 was the cause.  You can attempt to roll back to an earlier version of libxml2 without the bug - but the recommended fix is to rebuild php with libexpat and let that handle parsing.  Just be aware that the forum requires registration and login to see it, but registration is free. 

So, a few weeks later the problem is fixed.  Now I can post to my blog from any client that supports the Movable Type API for XML-RPC.  I am currently using ScribeFire, which is a Firefox plugin (if you're not using Firefox after the latest massive Internet Explorer security hole, you're just nuts. It has apparently been fixed as Windows Update just downloaded a patch for IE7 - but it was busted for awhile and apparently up to 10,000 sites contained code to exploit it and steal your passwords. Good times.)

ScribeFire's good, in that I can browse around and leave this open at the bottom, allowing me to visit many sites and provide way more links per post with ease.  There are a few problems, though. 

First, it doesn't use paragraph tags - rather it just requires me to hit return twice - which is sloppy HTML.  I love the paragraph tag (note: I tried to insert bracket-p-bracket here using HTML entities, but Joomla apparently can't handle that).  Second, when it sends the post to my site, it remains unplublished - but that may just be a bad setting of mine, I have to look into it.  Third, it seems to exist outside of Firefox's wonderful spell checker.  Fourth, there does not appear to be a way to insert photos that have not been already uploaded.

I tried Windows Live Writer (which apparently released a new version yesterday), and was fairly impressed - but I still prefer the in-browser method.  In addition, while Live Writer supports uploading photos via FTP, it does not support Secure FTP, which sucks.  I have non-encrypted methods of communication with my server disabled because it's stupid to pass your login and password in plain text.  I find it mind-boggling that we are still sending so much internet traffic unencrypted these days?  Why not encrypt it?  It's not like encryption will keep eavesdroppers at bay forever, but it will discourage the casual snooper.

So, anyway - this post was written entirely with ScribeFire and so will all of my posts in the future (or at least some other XML-RPC client - like the Wordpress client for the iPhone). It should, in theory, increase my output.  Throw in the fact that I have set up my podcasting studio including Mic boom on my desk with my RE20 in it's shock absorber - and I am beginning to feel like a person with a real website.  Next step - a real template and finishing the PhpBB - Joomla Comments which people are bugging me to complete.  It's good not to be depressed anymore.

 P.S.  -- It appears that ScribeFire's HTML capabilities may be much worse than I originally thought, it included no returns or paragraphs at all  - but it does now publish posts, just not to the front page.  Back for more testing.  Arggh.


(*and by sometimes I mean all the time)

I was talking to someone I know recently, when she looked at me quite seriously and said she wanted to ask me an important question.  The background is that we had talked politics quite often over the past year, so I was her go-to for political information and news. The conversation went largely as follows:

Me: (warily) Go ahead.

Her: Ok, so I heard from a customer of mine that Obama's in favor of abortion and making it legal.

Me: Well, that's half right. I don't think anyone is really in favor of abortion, but he has stated he wants it to remain safe and legal.  He has also stated that we need to reduce the amount of abortions by making birth control more readily available and more commonplace.

Her: That sounds okay. Maybe it's not called abortion then.

Me: Wait. What?

Her: What's it called? The thing they do in Europe that he's going to make law here where they kill the retarded babies in a year?

Me: OK.  I'm not sure what you just tried to say, but nothing in that sentence was true.  You're going to have to explain that again - but I can assure you that whatever it was you were told, it was wrong and is not true.

Her: See, I wasn't sure, but she convinced me.  You know the thing in Europe - the thing where if you have a baby that's born retarded or handicapped or something...  you know, how they give you a year until they inject the baby with the thing that kills it... the government.

Me: They don't do that. No country does that. But, go on...

Her: Well, she told me that Obama was going to make that the law here, so we'd have to kill our babies if they were sick.

Me: No.  No he won't.  That will never happen.  People would riot in the streets.

Her: But they do it in Europe.

Me: No they don't. That's nonsense. No democracy is forcing people to kill their babies.  If that sort of thing were going on, don't you think it would be in the news?

Her: I don't know.  I mean, they all said Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and he started 9/11 - but now they say he didn't. 

Me: (Pause) That is a remarkably good point. 

Normally, I'd tell people that they have to read more and listen less to idle gossip and rumor.  But what if the traditional media is completely unreliable and unwilling to even do a fraction of its job, Congress thinks its main responsibility is to roll over an play dead for the President (Republican or Democrat), and the last two Presidents were a charming liar and a liar who didn't even bother to pretend he was telling the truth?  I mean, what's a person to do?  And apparently the answer is: believe utter rubbish.  Don't fact check or anything.  The truth is merely whatever you heard last. 

(P.S. These thoughts stolen completely from Matt Taibbi's The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religionalt. It's quite a fun read if you like crazy and don't mind the depressing future of our country.)

The worst part?  To this point, I have been unable to swindle these people out of their money.  How much of a pathetic loser am I if I can't separate these people from their money? Why haven't I retired to Hawaii to visit my uncle and the new HDTV I convinced him to buy.  I mean, I think I'm the smart one, and I'm living here in New Jersey amongst the cold and snow.  Blargh.