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Friday, May 27th, 2005

George F. Will Trashing Bush?

So far I’ve stayed silent on politics, but that’s always been destined to change. I don’t have the time to sit down and write out a manifesto, so I’ll just have to toss little tidbits in as we go along.

I’ve always liked George F. Will, even though I’ve rarely agreed completely with him. He has a clear, logical approach to expounding his position, and many times I’ve read his words and had to adjust my own opinions. But he has always been way too conservative for my taste, and a supporter, if not voice, for the far right. So I was very surprised to read his column in the May 23rd issue of Newsweek.

He takes the whole column to get to the point, and maybe that’s a bit of smokescreen (or perhaps some reluctant foot-dragging) but here’s the part that made me jump:

…the greatest threat to civility—and ultimately to civilization—is an excess of certitude. The world is much menaced just now by people who think that the world and their duties in it are clear and simple. They are certain that they know what—who—created the universe and what this creator wants them to do to make our little speck in the universe perfect, even if extreme measures—even violence—are required.

Mr. Will has trumpeted the second Bush presidency since it was a campaign, and this is probably as close as he can come to a direct admonishment. He gets even more direct:

It has been well said that the spirit of liberty is the spirit of not being too sure that you are right.

There’s lot of ways to interpret these words, of course, but what stood out to me is a criticism of Bush’s handling of international affairs, and possibly his heavy-handedness in domestic matters. I’ve spent a little time searching and I haven’t found any columns by Mr. Will on the nomination to the UN of John Bolton. I did find his column arguing against the “nuclear option” of ending filibusters for judicial nominees. Considering the current rancor between parties on Capitol Hill, I’m surprised that Mr. Will isn’t toeing the neoconservative line.

Now I’m not an avid George F. Will follower who reads all his columns and watches him on the Sunday morning tv shows, so perhaps he would be surprised at my surprise. As moderate, libertarian-leaning Republican who is horrified and embarrassed by President Bush’s fiscal irresponsibility and downright scared of the religious right’s assault on our civil liberties, I have been starting to feel pretty out of place in my party, and it sure is nice seeing at least one of our stalwarts standing up against the “my way or the highway” attitudes that seem to have taken over.

Posted by Greg as Politics at 15:25 PST

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Wednesday, May 25th, 2005

Visited My Brother

I took the kids and went up to visit my brother last weekend. I’ve been thinking for days now about how to write about it. It’s been made harder by how chaotic things have been since I got back, but I feel like I need to put up a statement about how good it was and how much I enjoyed it as quickly as possible, and in the absence of something deep and moving you’re going to get this instead. Perhaps part of the delay has been a reluctance to probe the depths of my feelings.

In short, it was good. I haven’t gotten to go for too long and I really enjoyed it. I especially like seeing my nephews and having them see me every so often.

I guess that, in my bid to be the Brevity comic Number 1 fan, I have to report on watching actual production of a comic. The technical details are pretty much what would be expected – drawing, scanning, and manipulating on an Apple G5 using Photoshop (what did you expect – he’s surround by commercial artists at work – of course it would be an Apple.) But since this is a commercial venture, and I promised him I would ask before posting personal details in my blog, I can’t really go much more into detail. Just turn green with envy, you other Brevity fans – I have seen it!

Posted by Greg as Family & Friends, Software at 15:45 PST

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Friday, May 20th, 2005

A Little Excitement

Last night I wanted to go to bed early because I had been up until almost three a.m. the night before, drinking wine and working on my Mambo setup. (I’ve decided to throw the whole thing over to a new NACE San Diego website, where my goals are fairly limited in scope and I can use to time to build skills before I tackle my own website, which will probably be an open-ended monster.) So of course, something interesting had to happen.

My wife was talking outside with a friend and she came in excitedly saying that the dumpster was on fire. My immediate thought was, of course, “how did you manage to do that?”, but as it turned out she had nothing to do with it.

So I came outside and yes, there was a lot of smoke coming from the cinder block enclosure where they keep the dumpster for our block of condos. So I grabbed the extinguisher out of the back of my SUV and walked over. As I got closer I saw that the dumpster wasn’t on fire, but there were flames visible in the large wheeled plastic bin behind it that they use for recyclables. It was the one for newspaper. The lid was closed and I hesitated a bit before opening it, but since there was a huge hole cut into the top and it didn’t look like the fire was having any trouble getting oxygen, I went ahead and flipped the lid and squirted a lot of dry chemical into it.

The flames went away immediately, but smoke continued to billow out. I kept giving it squirts but since it was an enclosed space I couldn’t tell whether the white stuff that continued to come out was smoke or chemical. The flames were out and I guess I hoped that I had put enough powder in the bin to smother the embers, and I didn’t want to hang around all night, so I tossed the extinguisher back into the SUV and went back inside. Sure enough, in about ten minutes my wife came in again and said that it was still smoking, and it was – pretty badly – so I knew there was a good bit more work to do.

I went out and dragged the bin around to a clear concrete area and tipped it on its side, pouring the contents out. The fire had taken pretty good hold. I looked at the stuff I had poured out and it seemed like there was more than one large smoking clump of paper embers. It wasn’t very hot, so I was able to move stuff around by hand, looking for the glowing parts and anything that looked like it could have started the fire. I had a bit more chemical left and squirted it onto the smoking parts, but I really needed water and I didn’t have a hose, so I was thinking about going back and filling up a bucket when the fire department showed up.

The firemen asked me if I had got it out and I told them it was still smoking pretty badly, so they parked the truck and a couple of them walked over. It hadn’t even occurred to me to call the fire department. I guess I consider them to be a resource you used when you couldn’t put out a fire by yourself, and I knew I could handle this, but I guess other people in the complex thought differently, which explained why I was the only person out there actually doing anything about it.

The firemen pulled out a water extinguisher and doused all the debris down pretty well, and used a shovel to turn the stuff over to make sure it was thoroughly wetted. They even shovelled it all back into the bin when they were done, which was great, because cleaning up was something I was starting to get concerned about. I didn’t know whether I could walk away from the mess and just give the maintenance people a call the next day.

One of the firemen was pretty tall. It’s interested to see how that affects me. I get nervous standing next to people when I can’t see over their head unless I know them really well. I’m 6′ 5″ and I was in bare feet, and I sized this guy up (trying to be unobtrusive about it) and with his boots and the slope I figured I probably still had an inch on him, and that made me feel better. Obviously I’m lucky that I’m not in the NBA or even the NFL, because a lot of people would be around that were taller than me, but then maybe I could learn to get over this almost subconcious macho “I’m better than you” thing I have about height. My little brother is two or three inches taller, but I still out weigh him and I’m sure I could take him in a fight (not that I would ever want to have to find out), so I’ve learned to live with it. Still, it seems kind of primitive that I even think stuff like that, but there’s no use denying that I do.

Posted by Greg as Posts About Me at 08:56 PST

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Tuesday, May 17th, 2005

Getting Famous One Person At a Time

So this morning I came in and found an email from my brother saying he found my blog. Great detective work, Rodd!! If you get emails from greg_at_gregrperry_dot_com, didn’t you think there might be a gregrperry.com? As you can see from the email text,

Subject: Found your blog

Actually, Guy found it, as he was vainly searching the internet – which he
does about every 5 minutes. The archive thing you do with our comic is
cool. Does a bot do that automatically, or do you have to do it manually?
Of course, we will have to send the lawyers after you if we ever release a
book.

he didn’t even figure it out from the email. I used to keep my Brevity comic archive secret, with no links and a robots.txt prohibiting the search bots from indexing it, but my fraternal pride won out and I posted the link you can see on the left, which does show up in a google search. Actually, I was afraid of my brother’s lawyers. If I do get a “cease and desist” letter, I’ll be sure to post it prominently.

Notice also that Rodd didn’t bother to post here – I had to quote his email. Of course, he’s not too busy to post to other people’s blogs and getting famous. Perhaps I need to criticize his work to attract his (and Guy’s) attention.

I’ll let you all know how I maintain the Brevity archive. Six days a week I get the daily Brevity emailed to me by Comics.com, so on Monday morning I have to go fetch the Sunday one myself. I save all the images from these. Then I can use IrfanView, the best image viewer I have ever found, to create the thumbnails and the html pages. Then I FTP the new index page and the new image pages up to my host. I do this about once or twice a week.

It would be nice to figure out a way to automate this process, but I’m kind of busy playing with my Mambo site and learning all the things I’ve mentioned in previous posts. That is also keeping me busy posting technical details as a diary of learning how to set up my website, and leaves little time to go on with the social commentary. When I get everything up and running I’ll have much more to say on other topics.

Posted by Greg as Family & Friends, My Website, Software at 09:52 PST

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Friday, May 13th, 2005

Installed New CMS, OS

I’ve been busy the last couple of days.

I got thinking about what I wanted to do with WordPress and realized that what I really need is a whole portal CMS, not just blogging. So I went back to opensourceCMS and took a look at their offerings. I decided to give Mambo a try. It installed easily enough but I was tripped up a little in the initial configuration – I couldn’t get it pointed to my MySQL database properly.

One of the things that helped me figure it out was my experience with WordPress and looking in its configuration files. I’ve enjoyed WP so far, and it has been very educational, but I think its days may be numbered. I guess we’ll see.

To top it off, I installed SuSE 9.3 at home last night. I have never even seen SuSE in action before, let alone installed it, and as it turned out, another thing I had never done before was install Linux when there was already another Linux there. I already had Windows XP Pro and Red Hat’s Fedora Core 3 installed. It took me about two hours, including looking up stuff on line, since I didn’t have an installation manual, and reburning a bad cd. The partitioning part has always made me nervous, but this went pretty well. I guess I’m getting used to it – and to think I used to scorn multiple partitions! I now have 9 and free space left for another Linux – I’m thinking about putting Mandrake on, too.

I only had two disappointments – the SuSE installation didn’t recognize my RT2500 chipset wireless card, and although it was willing to put the Windows partition in the GRUB bootloader, it ignored the FC3. Competition between the distros? I had to guess how to add another Linux and I guessed wrong. Seems I need to learn how to tweak GRUB now. The RT2500 issue was particularly disappointing because I selected SuSE largely because the 9.3 version was reputed to have native support for that chipset. After the trials of getting my wireless network up and running under FC3, I was looking forward to SuSE doing the work for me. We’ll see how hard it is to add the device later.

Posted by Greg as My Website, OS at 13:01 PST

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Tuesday, May 10th, 2005

Server Error Messages

I tried to post last night at about 00:59 PDT and got an interesting error message :

Internal Server Error
The server encountered an internal error or misconfiguration and was unable to complete your request.

Please contact the server administrator, support@xxxxxxxxx.com and inform them of the time the error occurred, and anything you might have done that may have caused the error.

More information about this error may be available in the server error log.

Apache/1.3.31 Server at www.gregrperry.com Port 80

So I tried again this afternoon and it worked. Not only did my post fail – when I tried to refresh the blog page I got the same error. I was able to get my only html page up, though, so it looks to me like the PHP processor failed on the server. I never had that happen before.

Posted by Greg as My Website at 16:03 PST

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Googlebot at last!

Well, I checked Saturday night and the googlebot had come back again! I eagerly ran some searches and came back with mixed results.

Searching for “greg r perry” got me first out of seven, but it was on my gregrperry.net, which is hosted on SDF, a free unix server that has been put together by a great bunch of dedicated enthusiasts. I found it by looking at one of Web’s blogs, knowing what a sucker he is for free hosting, and going to the base address. It is free, but for a nominal fee I got an expanded lifetime access with a little more capacity. It’s a great place to go if you want to play around with unix, a venerable OS that brings back a lot of memories for me. If I ever find a whole lot of time lying around…

Searching further, using “greg perry” and various additional terms, I noticed that Google was ignoring the “keywords” meta tag I had inserted, just as I had been told. Other search engines had picked right up on them. With “san diego”, I ranked 80 out of 1220, and only because it saw my post referring to the same search terms!

Today I addressed the keywords issue by replacing the “Greg R Perry” on my bot-catching pages with “Greg Perry”, and tonight I saw that the googlebot had come back around again sometime today, but it (hopefully) must have been before the changes (my logs run about a day behind), because the searches came up the same. I know I have a long way to go before I can climb up the ranks in Google – I’ll actually have to start putting up stuff worth reading.

This all sounds so vain. Well, I guess it is. May as well cop to it now when I don’t have any readers, just in case of the unlikely event that that situation changes. It’s particularly funny, because I’ve always been a bit of a privacy nut. You know how some conversations stick in your head your whole life? (Of course, there’s no way of telling how your mind alters the details as time goes by.) In 1991 I had a conversation with another sergeant about protecting private information. (I forget his name – I’m terrible with names – but he once showed me a wonderful book called “A Cynic’s Dictionary” or “A Cynic’s Handbook” or some such that included a wonderful quote, which I’m going to misquote here and without attribution – “A cynic is a romantic who has given up”. The impact of the implications of this revelation would probably take years of therapy to investigate.)

Getting on to the original point (I use parentheses entirely too much, but I guess it’s a sign of a multithreading mind), in this conversation he was trying to demonstrate that we were all entirely too unconcerned with the security of our private information. Remember, this was back in 1991, when the phrase “identity theft” wasn’t in our vocabulary. I know it was that year because the conversation took place in a barracks room near Kimpo Airport in Korea. I challenged his assertion, stating that I took my own information security seriously. He leapt upon me, thinking he had an easy victim with reach, and asked me whether I ever threw away stuff like bank statements or paycheck stubs, and I said no, I’ve got every one of those I’d ever received filed away (still do.) He asked me about credit card bills and other stuff that has account numbers on it, and I truthfully replied that yes, I had throw away papers, but whenever a paper had an account number on it, I tore out the number and chewed the paper up and swallowed it, and I had been doing that since 1985. This was before paper shredders were considered home appliances, and if you remember Iran in 1979 (and I did), you wouldn’t have considered a shredder to be adequate security anyway. The other sergeant looked at me blankly and said “well, you’re really paranoid.”

My point? – oh yes, that I’m typically into the privacy thing. I have been doing Google searches on myself for years, and always been very happy not to have found anything – and now I crave the top spot while searching my own name. I teased my former IT manager about his side business that I had found easily because he had a very unique name. I have been using computer “handles” since early 1992 – hiding behind an alias, and always looking for a better short but distinctive alias. When the networks started becoming more popular – ’round about the time that “World Wide Web” thing started picking up – I thought it was shocking and improper that people were posting under their real name.

I guess I’ll have to think about that dichotomy.

Posted by Greg as My Website, Posts About Me at 16:00 PST

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Thursday, May 5th, 2005

Miserable Little Story

I just wanted to tell you a miserable little story that might make you laugh. I was sent to the store this evening on an emergency mission to procure female supplies and Boo was restless, so I took him with me (he likes going to the store with me.)

I took the time to pick up a few other things I had been meaning to get and proceeded to the checkout line. There was a man at the register (so Boo had to look to the next register over for someone to flirt with), and he was quite genial. We chatted a little as he scanned my items and then he said the following:

“I’ve seen you here before, but I haven’t seen him (referring to Boo.) Is he yours, or is he your grandson?”

[Pause for dramatic effect.]

[Longggggggggggggggggggggggg pause.]

Well, what can I say? I’m sort of stuck in that pause. I don’t turn 40 for a couple of months. True, Chelsea turns sixteen in August, so it’s technically possible, but I really wasn’t expecting an emotional crisis about that event – turning 30 had been a minor affair – but this sort of lays the groundwork for a dozy. Perhaps keeping my hair in a crew cut isn’t enough to hide the grey at the temples. Maybe I should shave my head. But it’s such a bother – you have to do it every day or it looks like crap, and that would add a good 10-15 minutes to my morning routine, not to mention that max pack of razors and can of shaving gel I would have to pick up more often than I buy toilet paper. Even worse, perhaps the “grandfather” age shows in my face more than in the grey temple hair.

Dad – I remember making a birthday card for you (maybe it was when you turned 30) that teased you about your age. You might remember how I spelled “going bold” instead of “going bald.” (I must have been a precocious kid – I was five going on six when you turned thirty.) I just wanted you to know how sorry I am about that card and all the other age teasings I have ever made; and that goes for you, too, Mum.

If I’m going to have a midlife crisis this year, I had better start planning for it. I mean, I’ve already done the normal things – rode a fast motorcycle, jumped out of airplanes, gone scuba diving, rappelling, blowing things up, living in the woods and surviving by eating bugs… oh crap, I know there’s more, but I can’t think them all. I’d really have to put some thought into a good, quality midlife crisis event. John Dionne stole a good idea – learning to fly an aeroplane – and what’s more, he rubbed it in my face by taking me for a flight when I visited him on my last business trip to Missouri a month ago. The only “normal” midlife crisis thing I haven’t done is take a mistress. (All right – quiet in the galleys – it’s not in my nature – I think. One woman is enough work – why would I want another?)

I’m open to suggestions. See the “Comments” link below this post? The winner will get a webpage dedicated to him/her, and the event, with pictures if possible.

Posted by Greg as Family & Friends, Posts About Me at 23:57 PST

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Search Engines

I keep waiting for the googlebot to come back. It last came by on the 27th, eight days ago, which was when I stopped showing up. That was the day before I installed the blog.

Yahoo’s slurp bot came by, though. I show up No. 1 when searching for “greg r perry” and No. 35 when searching for “greg perry”. No. 1 again if you try “greg perry” “san diego”. Not too bad, considering how many Greg Perrys (ies?) there are, including a big technology author, a musician, a cartoonist, and many others. I don’t know when it came by, but I had 52 page requests. Looks like it respected the conditions in my robots.txt file, too.

Still, if you can’t be googled, it’s like you don’t exist.

Posted by Greg as My Website at 15:22 PST

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Wednesday, May 4th, 2005

Alternate Spellchecker

Couldn’t get the WordPress plugin to work. It couldn’t find the required executable on my host’s server, and my $4-a-month hosting plan does not include server access.

So I went with the Mozilla extension SpellBound. I couldn’t get this to work either, but the notes said I would have to reinstall Mozilla. I went with the upgrade, 1.7.3 to 1.7.7, and now little funky things are happening like searches in my googlebar popping up in the background instead of the foreground. **Sigh**. But I do have a spellchecker now, and one I can use whenever I’m filling out anything online.

Posted by Greg as My Website, Software at 12:58 PST

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