Tag Archives: Rants

According to a FOX News host we found Noah’s Ark some time ago.

FOX News has a well deserved reputation for disseminating a lot of misleading information. So much so that it’s widely regarded as the propaganda arm of the Republican party. So I suppose it shouldn’t come as any surprise that while discussing missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, host Bill Hemmer asks if we’ll ever find it considering that it took 2,000 years to find Noah’s Ark.

No, seriously:

If it were true that really would be news, but the last I checked it’s still just a myth. yourmouth

Not only that, but his time estimate is completely off. If we assume for the moment that he’s referring to the folks in 1959 who (wrongly) claimed to have found it and we go with the best estimate for when the myth is supposed to have taken place (2,349 B.C.) then the actual time frame would be more like 4,308 years.

This is the quality of journalist that FOX news puts on the air. Not only ignorant of reality, but also ignorant of his own religious viewpoint. Granted, this is nitpick of a throwaway comment in a segment that had nothing to do with Noah’s Ark, but it’s so indicative of what passes for intelligent commentary at FOX that it sticks out like a sore thumb.

A few features may be missing from SEB for a bit.

losingmyshitI don’t know if you’d noticed, but SEB has been slower than molasses in January as of late and I’ve been scratching my head trying to figure out why. It had gotten so bad that it wasn’t unusual for the Varnish cache system that Dreamhost uses to time out when trying to do things in the backend like delete spam comments in the queue. My first thought was it was a result of the massive spam attack SEB has been under as of late as the queue has been filling up with close to 3,000 spam comments in 24 hours. So the first fix I tried was to set the blog so only registered users could comment. This cut down dramatically on the comment spam (though, oddly, some unregistered spam is still getting into the queue), but didn’t change the performance of the site. OK, what next?

Turns out in the world of WordPress there’s a plugin for just about everything including trying to figure out why your site is so damned slow. I came across the WordPress Plugin Performance Profiler (P3) from the folks at GoDaddy.com. It scans your system and puts together nifty charts showing you the impact each of your plugins has on the performance of your site. So what was bogging SEB down? Oddly enough, it was Automattic’s own Jetpack plugin. This is a big plugin that adds a bunch of useful modules to self-hosted WordPress sites so that they more closely resemble the feature set you’d get at WordPress.com. Everything from some simple stat tracking to automatic publicizing to Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, to social sharing buttons, to blog and post email subscriptions, and so on. We used quite a few of its features here on SEB. It was convenient in that one plugin offered a crap load of features and was adding new ones all the time. We didn’t use every module, but we used a good number of them.

It turns out it’s one hell of a resource killer and a lot of WordPress bloggers heavily recommend against using it. According the the P3 plugin, Jetpack was responsible for 88% of load time for SEB. On average almost a full 9 seconds was spent dealing with plugins before the page could be rendered with Jetpack running. So the logical thing to do would be to deactivate it and see if it makes a difference. Only there was a problem. I couldn’t deactivate it. When I clicked the deactivate link in the plugins panel all it did was disconnect it from WordPress.com (you have to have a WordPress.com account to even use Jetpack even if you don’t use that account for anything else). After trying to deactivate it several times only to have it not deactivate I ended up ripping it out by its short and curlies by logging into the FTP account and deleting the directory by hand. Not a recommended way to uninstall a plugin because it leaves a lot of crap in your database, but it worked and I’ll clean up the database later. The result? P3 says the average amount of time spent processing plugins before the page loads is a mere 0.543 seconds. That’s a humongous difference. The odd thing is that Jetpack seemed to run pretty well for quite some time (I’ve used it pretty much since it first became available). Yes, it had an impact, but it wasn’t as huge as its been lately. I don’t know what’s changed, but I won’t be switching back to it anytime soon.

So the site is back to performing at a reasonable speed, but we’ve lost a lot of functionality in doing so. I’ve turned anonymous commenting back on (which means my spam queue will soon be overflowing again) and I’ll have to see if I can’t find a few high performance plugins to reinstate some of the features we lost in dropping Jetpack. I still use Jetpack on some of the smaller blogs I run for friends and family members and I’ll probably remove it from those sites as well as even on Momma’s Corner – which has considerably less traffic than SEB — it’s having a major impact on performance. If you’re using Jetpack and have noticed your site seems awfully slow then try removing it and see if things don’t improve. Drop me a note if there’s a particular feature we’ve lost that you relied on (I’m pretty sure email subscriptions is a big one) and I’ll see what I can do about finding a replacement plugin.

Family of armed robber pissed suspect was shot by good samaritan.

Sometimes I’m amazed by the utter gall of my fellow humans. Take, for example, this news report about some idiot named Adric White who decided a dollar store would make a good target for an armed robbery down in Alabama and his resultant gunshot injury:

The Good Samaritan, who we are not identifying, told FOX10 News he was shopping at the Family Dollar on Stanton road when he noticed a masked gunman leading one of the employees to the front of the store.

“He had the gun to his head. He had him on his knees,” said the man. “I drew my gun on him and I said ‘Hey don’t move.’ At that point he swung around and before he had a chance to aim the gun at me I fired. I didn’t want to shoot him.”

This appears to be one of those rare cases where a Good Guy with a gun does manage to take down a Bad Guy with a gun possibly saving some lives in the process. I don’t buy into the idea that the solution to all gun crimes is more people with guns, but I acknowledge that occasionally it does work out well if someone nearby is armed and this definitely fits that bill.

The suspect survived the shooting and is under police custody at a local hospital. We already suspect he’s not too bright for thinking a dollar store was worth robbing . That suspicion is confirmed when we learn that he was out on bond after being charged in connection to another armed robbery at a local restaurant about a month earlier.  This guy is as dumb as a bag of rocks.

Apparently, stupidity is inherent to his gene pool:

A family member who did not want to be identified said White should have never been shot to begin with.

“If his (the customer) life was not in danger, if no one had a gun up to him, if no one pointed a gun at him – what gives him the right to think that it’s okay to just shoot someone?” said the relative. “You should have just left the store and went wherever you had to go in your car or whatever.”

I have two words for White’s anonymous family member: Fuck You.

8P72l5F

I’m a flat-out Liberal with a capital L, but even I think that if you or your loved ones are stupid enough to engage in an armed robbery and are threatening the lives and livelihoods of other people then you shouldn’t be surprised — let alone upset — if you get shot in the process.

I don’t carry a gun, but had I found myself in that situation where a gunman had a gun pointed at someone’s head and it was apparent the gunman wasn’t aware of my presence and I could see a way of coming up from behind and clocking him in the back of the head with whatever large, blunt object happened to be on hand you can be pretty sure I’d take the opportunity to give him a new opening in his skull. I wouldn’t try to kill him outright, but I’d make damn sure he wouldn’t be getting off the floor before the police arrived.

Your precious little snowflake lost any right to not be harmed the moment he threatened to harm someone else. If you’d rather he not be injured again then perhaps you should encourage him to find a more legitimate way to get his cash. There are certain occupational hazards that come with being an armed robber. Whining about him being shot just makes you look like a bigger idiot than he is.

Too Much Faith Will Make You Crazy: Stamping Out The Devil.

jewish-zombieIn a continuing effort to answer the question of “what’s the harm if someone thinks gods are real” I’ll often argue that accepting that idea implies accepting all the other baggage that goes with it such as angels and demons. This can be a problem when, say, a mother suddenly decides that her 5-year-old son has been possessed by demons. When exactly that happened down in Texas it didn’t turn out well for the son:

Magnolia police said Spurlock slashed her son’s throat from ear to ear and stomped on his head and chest. His chest cavity was crushed.

The boy, Michael, is in a medically-induced coma with life-threatening injuries. He is in stable condition at Memorial Hermann Hospital.

“She informed us she was trying to rid him of his demons,” Detective Brian Clack said.

According to investigators, Spurlock is very religious. Her Facebook account is filled with Bible verses and religious pictures.

“She stated they are a Christian family. She was reading the Bible with him and realized he was infested with demons and had to get rid of the demons,” Clack said.

The article doesn’t say, but presumably the mother will undergo psychiatric evaluation on the assumption that she’s mentally ill. Again I have to point out that anyone who claims demons are real and working to ensure a person ends up in Hell shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that this woman is nuts. Sure, you can quibble over her methods, but who are you to say he wasn’t infected with demons?

It’s all fun and games believing this nonsense until someone acts upon it. Then everyone carries on about how obviously that person was crazy all the while ignoring the crazy ideas they’re spewing themselves.

SEB Safety Tip: Don’t use gasoline to rid your child of head lice.

People like this mother are the reason why signs like this exist.

People like this mother are the reason why signs like this exist.

And if you do decide that gasoline is the only appropriate way to get rid of head lice, don’t do it next to a space heater. Because bad things may happen:

According to an affidavit filed in the case, the incident happened in January. The affidavit says a space heater ignited the gasoline and burned the 5-year-old girl and Suggs.

Haileyville Police said the child suffered second- and third-degree burns over 60 percent of her body.

The mind boggles at what possible thought process could have concluded this was a good idea. The article doesn’t say if the mother was drunk or high as a kite, but it’s the only thing I can think of that would explain such abject stupidity. In fact there’s a part of me that hopes either alcohol or drugs played a role in this because the thought that anyone could be that stupid without being impaired is too frightening to consider. 

I know times are tough and all and I could maybe, sorta see the logic behind trying to use gasoline to kill head lice if you can’t afford a proper licecide treatment because (amazingly enough) the idea actually shows up in medical journals as far back as 1917. That said, you can find decent over-the-counter treatments at your local CVS for under $20, but perhaps they didn’t have $20 and did have a container of gasoline in the garage. Assuming for the moment that is the case that still doesn’t explain why you would use the gasoline anywhere near a running space heater. Granted it was January so maybe they couldn’t afford their heating bill and the space heater was the only thing keeping them from freezing, but you’d still think that common sense would dictate that gas near a heat source is a bad idea.

I’m not the world’s greatest parent and I’ve made my fair share of mistakes over the years, but this sort of thing isn’t rocket science. Just a little time spent thinking your cunning plan through would avoid an awful lot of pain for both you and your kids.

googlereadertombstone

Google is killing Reader and I’m hating all the possible replacements.

googlereadertombstoneGoogle announced recently that they’re going to close down their RSS aggregator called Reader due to declining usage and their desire to concentrate development resources in other areas. I’ve used Google Reader for years now, pretty much since it was launched in 2005. It’s how I keep up with the couple hundred different blogs and websites without having to visit each and every one of them in turn. Needless to say this announcement was very distressing, but all good things come to an end and it’s not like they’re the only RSS aggregator out there so I started looking into alternatives.

In the past few weeks it became clear that what Google considers a “small” group of users is still huge compared to anyone else as just about every other RSS aggregator I tried was swamped with people checking it out after the announcement. The three most recommended ones I tried were Feedly, Newsblur, and The Old Reader.

Newsblur was almost completely useless at the start because its servers were so overwhelmed by all the folks jumping ship. Things have settled down since then and I’ve had a chance to try it out a bit and it certainly seems to have the most features, but it’s also limited to 64 feeds with 10 stories max unless you subscribe to their service. It’s only $24 a year and it might be worth it, but I’ve not used it enough to make that determination yet. It’s one I’ll definitely be playing with more, but my initial impression is that it’s trying too hard to be everything to everyone and the fact that it requires a subscription to really be useful is a negative. It also doesn’t appear to be able to share items with anyone who isn’t a Newsblur user. I’ve gotten used to sharing items on my Google+ page and Newsblur doesn’t support that.

Feedly also was near useless in the immediate aftermath, but it has since become more stable. It wants to present your feeds in a magazine format that’s quite different from Reader’s layout. Ultimately it suffers from what I call “Apple Computer Syndrome” in that it’s very pretty but it wants you to do things its way instead of the way you’d want to do them.

I have a particular way that I go through my RSS feeds in Reader and getting Feedly to allow me to do the same thing has been a real pain in the ass. Some things can be set as default through the preferences option (full articles as opposed to excerpts with a pic next to it), but other things have to be configured on a per-feed basis (showing only unread vs all articles). Considering that I have 200+ feeds having to tell each and every one of them that I want to see both read and unread articles is damned annoying. How you sort feeds in Feedly is also a mystery to me. I want mine sorted alphabetically, but by default it sorts them by who has the newest content. I seem to have somehow gotten it to sort alphabetically, but I have no idea how I did that.

It’s also slow compared to Reader and it becomes even slower if you have a crappy network (like I do at work). Lastly it seems to have a habit of skipping over some articles in a feed. I’ll get to the end of new articles, but it’ll still show 5 or 6 as still unread and if I click on the feed again it’ll suddenly show new items between the items I’ve already seen as if it had them in its pockets and just forgot to show them the first time around. But it is very pretty and it will let me share items to my Google+ page as well as Twitter and Facebook and a couple of others I don’t recognize so it has that going for it.

The Old Reader is an attempt to clone Google Reader from back when it was more of a self-contained system. When you shared items back then it wasn’t posted to your Google+ steam because Google+ didn’t exist back then. Instead it was only shared with other GReader users that had marked you as a friend or subscribed to your shares. TOR also suffered from the sudden influx of new users, but it didn’t seem to impact the functioning of the application so much as it did it’s ability to import your Google Reader subscription lists. You can export your subscriptions as an OPML file that you can use to import them into another RSS aggregator. I did with this TOR and it was nearly two weeks before it got around to actually processing it because so many other people were trying to do the same thing.

That said, TOR is the closest so far to Reader in terms of how it does things and it’s relatively speedy once it gets your subscriptions imported. The ability to rearrange subfolders has a couple of annoying quirks, but you can work around them. It’s definitely a work in progress and its performance will vary as a result, but the biggest negative against it is the same one Newsblur has. That it will only share with other users of TOR.

So, for the moment, I’m still trying to use GReader until they yank the plug or I find an aggregator that does everything I want. Alas, Google appears to have broken GReader’s ability to share items with Google+. When I try to do so these days it’ll pop up the box and I’ll get halfway through typing in a comment only to have the box suddenly disappear and all my key-presses interpreted as keyboard shortcuts screwing up where I am and losing the share in the process. It’s damned annoying. So I keep hopping back and forth between Feedly and GReader and finding I’m not happy with either one.

Granted, in the grand scheme of things RSS aggregators are pretty low on the list of most import things ever and it’s definitely a First World Problem I’m bitching about, but that won’t stop me from pouting over it.

This one has revolutionized how I get around the office at work.

Oxford American Dictionary decides 25 years late to make “GIF” the word of the year.

So this happened. The folks who produce the Oxford American Dictionary have declared their word of the year to be “GIF”, which is actually an acronym for “Graphics Interchange Format” and was introduced all the way back in 1987.

Personally, I’m confused by the choice and the reasons listed in the news article do nothing to clear said confusion up:

 ‘GIF’ named word of the year by Oxford American Dictionary | The Sideshow – Yahoo! News.

“GIF celebrated a lexical milestone in 2012, gaining traction as a verb, not just a noun,” said Katherine Martin, head of the U.S. dictionaries program at Oxford.

“The GIF has evolved from a medium for pop-cultural memes into a tool with serious applications including research and journalism, and its lexical identity is transforming to keep pace.”

It’s gained traction as a verb? What the hell? How the hell do you use it as a verb? I’ve been on this Interweb thing since right around 1987, long before the mainstream caught onto it, and I have never, ever, ever heard anyone use GIF as a verb.

Guess I better check in with the people who put out the dictionary to see if they have any examples of this usage. Turns out they have a blog on which they announced this choice:

GIFverb to create a GIF file of (an image or video sequence, especially relating to an event): he GIFed the highlights of the debate

Seriously? Not only would I laugh my ass off at anyone trying to use that as a sentence, but why the fuck would anyone “GIF” the highlights of a debate in an age of ubiquitous streaming video?

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of video clips that make excellent GIF animations. There’s hours of amusement to be found at sites like Señor Gif which provide you with crucial snippets like the following:

This one has revolutionized how I get around the office at work.

But if someone were to come up to me and ask if I’d seen that video they had “GIFed”, I’d have no choice but to slap some sense into them.

That said, their blog entry goes on to say:

The GIF, a compressed file format for images that can be used to create simple, looping animations, turned 25 this year, but like so many other relics of the 80s, it has never been trendier. GIF celebrated a lexical milestone in 2012, gaining traction as a verb, not just a noun. The GIF has evolved from a medium for pop-cultural memes into a tool with serious applications including research and journalism, and its lexical identity is transforming to keep pace.

That highlighted part captured my attention so I continued reading to see if they provided any examples of this supposedly new use for GIF files. Here’s one they came up with in a section called “Highlights of the year in GIFing:”

January 2012: The New York Public Library launches the stereogranimator, a tool enabling users to make GIFs of vintage stereographs in the library’s collection to create an illusion of the 3D experience of viewing through a stereoscope.

That particular service may be new, but people have been converting stereographs into animated GIFs for years. Some of the earliest postings I’ve seen date back to the late 90′s.

August 2012: The GIF vaults to prominence as a tool in covering Olympic events, marshaled into use both for serious analysis and humorous effect. Blogging for the New York Times, Jenna Wortham called GIFs “the perfect medium for the Olympics.”

Again, this isn’t particularly new. You can find plenty of animated GIFs from previous Olympics created both by ordinary people and a few news agencies.

Then there’s this:

February 7, 2012: First post on the GIFtastic tumblr whatshouldwecallme 

Um. OK? Not sure why we should give a shit that it was used as the first post on some random tumblr no one’s ever heard of. But what do I know? I can’t even manage to figure out how to use the word as a verb.

Granted, in the great scheme of things, what the folks at the Oxford American Dictionary deem to be the word of the year isn’t particularly important. It just feels like a wasted opportunity given how many other significant not-25-year-old-acronyms are out there that would’ve been a better choice. Then again, when you consider that their second choice was YOLO, hoping for something better than “GIF as a verb” is probably being overly optimistic.

An example of the new Skype ads in action.

Skype introduces ads during calls, tries to play it off as something you’d want.

An example of the new Skype ads in action. Click to embiggen.

The folks at Skype announced on their blog yesterday that they were rolling out a new advertisement system for users who are not paying subscribers. A good percentage of Skype’s user base are, let’s face it, freeloaders who are content to use only those features that are offered for free. I’m one of those freeloaders and one of the things you put up with for free stuff is being subjected to ads. Skype has promised that these ads will not affect call quality nor will they make any sound whatsoever.

I don’t have a problem with that. What I do have a problem with is their attempt, in a post on their blog, to make it sound like the introduction of these ads is something we freeloaders will appreciate:

Skype – The Big Blog – Skype Advertising Update

While on a 1:1 audio call, users will see content that could spark additional topics of conversation that are relevant to Skype users and highlight unique and local brand experiences. So, you should think of Conversation Ads as a way for Skype to generate fun interactivity between your circle of friends and family and the brands you care about. Ultimately, we believe this will help make Skype a more engaging and useful place to have your conversations each and every day.

Seriously? The only way they will spark conversation between me and whomever I’m Skyping with will be if they’re in any way annoying enough for me to mention how fucking annoying they are. Otherwise, like most ads on the Internet, we’ll probably ignore them altogether. In fact, if we’re not using the video option then chances are the Skype client will be minimized and I’ll be looking at something else entirely. The last thing I do on audio-only calls is stare at the Skype client.

Again, I don’t have a problem with Skype putting ads on the screen per se. I get that they’re a for-profit company and they have to come up with a way to make some bucks off of those of us who don’t subscribe to their service. I just wish they’d be honest about why they’re doing it and not try to sell it as something beneficial to me like I’m an idiot.

Had they said something like this:

Hey folks. Today we’re putting advertising on the screen during 1-to-1 audio only calls to try and offset the cost of providing you with the service for free. We promise to keep the ads as unobtrusive as possible and they will not affect the call quality. We do offer a subscription service that not only offers lots of additional features, but also eliminates the ads for those who don’t wish to see them if you’d like to consider that option. We hope that this will not be a source of inconvenience for you and we welcome your feedback.

I’d be damned impressed with their honesty. Running a service like Skype is expensive and they have to make money somehow if they want to keep offering some of their features for free. These ads aren’t unreasonable even if I think most folks, like myself, will ignore them.

But who knows? Maybe I’m wrong and there will be a lot of people who end up finding them a useful topic to discuss with their friends. Maybe such people really do exist and I’m just being an old curmudgeon. I’d like to think that’s not the case, but I’ve been wrong before. Even so I think Skype would do well to count those as a happy side-benefit of the ads instead of trying to promote that as a feature folks will appreciate. But maybe that’s just me.

How this for irony: PETA kills a majority of the pets they take in.

PETA has always bugged the shit out of me and now I have one more reason to be annoyed. For all the talk of protecting animals that they do it turns out that the vast majority of animals they take into custody end up being euthanized:

“The facility does not contain sufficient animal enclosures to routinely house the number of animals annually reported as taken into custody,” Kovich concluded in his report.

Kovich also determined that PETA employees kill 84 percent of the animals in their custody within 24 hours of receiving them.

“[PETA’s] primary purpose,” Kovich wrote, “is not to find permanent adoptive homes for animals.”

Surely this has to be some sort of mistake, right? Surely an organization so devoted to the well being of animals would never consider killing most of the ones they are taking in, right? Surely they have a good explanation:

PETA media liaison Jane Dollinger told The Daily Caller in an email that “most of the animals we take in are society’s rejects; aggressive, on death’s door, or somehow unadoptable.”

Dollinger did not dispute her organization’s sky-high euthanasia rate, but insisted PETA only kills dogs and cats because of “injury, illness, age, aggression, or because no good homes exist for them.”

Well that last reason seems a little odd, but perhaps it’s true that the vast majority of them are unadoptable for some reason or another.

PETA’s own history, however, shows that this has not always been the case.

In 2005, two PETA employees described as “adorable” and “perfect” some of the dogs and cats they killed in the back of a PETA-owned van. The two were arrested after police witnessed them tossing the animals’ dead bodies into a North Carolina dumpster.

PETA had no comment when the Daily Caller asked what sort of effort it routinely makes to find adoptive homes for animals in its care.

Or perhaps they’re just full of shit. One suspects that they devote the vast majority of the funds they raise on advertising and harassment initiatives as opposed to, say, proper facilities and outreach for the animals they take in. The Humane Society routinely euthanize animals as well, but they at least make an attempt to determine if an animal is adoptable and find them a home if they are prior to killing them if at all possible. Somehow it’s not at all surprising to me that PETA is as hypocritical as it is obnoxious.

Lowes

Lowe’s can kiss my big fat ass.

I used to be a pretty big fan of Lowe’s despite not being the sort of person who spends a lot of time in hardware stores. A good percentage of my Christmas lights and decorations have been purchased from Lowe’s over the years and on those rare occasions when I did need something hardware related they were often the first thought that popped into my head.

Then they started doing stupid shit that simply pisses me off. It started with their decision to cave into Right Wing Nutcase pressure to pull their ads from the reality TV show All-American Muslim back in December. Not that I don’t think companies have a right to advertise on whatever shows they want, but the reasoning behind the decision. That annoyed the shit out of me and gave me pause to consider whether I wanted to support such a cowardly company.

Then I read over at ArsTechnica.com about how they have a Linking Policy with forms you’re supposed to fill out, sign and send to them prior to linking to their website or using their logos. Apparently because they think they have any control over such things:

Please fax completed link agreement applications to:
(302) 995-6906

You see that Lowe’s logo over there to the right? I haven’t asked permission to use it in this post. Same goes for the link I put in that very first paragraph. That’s OK, though, because both fall under the Fair Use clause in part because I am engaging in criticism of the company in question. Specifically the criticism that the company can go fuck itself.

The folks at Ars were equally confused by this policy and contacted the company in regards to it:

It all seemed so odd that I contacted Lowe’s public relations department and asked if it was the company’s position that people need to obtain such a license in order to link to Lowes.com. And if so, what legal basis stood behind this position?

“Managing link agreements is part of protecting our brand,” is the polite reply I received. “The process we have in place to handle links to lowes.com is a business decision.”

Obviously they have no legal leg to stand on and are just hoping people are stupid enough to think they have to have permission before linking to their site. While technically harmless, this sort of bullshit just gets my dander up in a major way. You can take brand protection to ridiculous extremes and in the process end up alienating otherwise loyal customers. Customers like me that will avoid Lowe’s from now on. Not because either thing they did is wrong per se, just stupid and cowardly. Sometimes that’s enough.