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Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

Plugins Deactivated

I’ve deactivated all my plugins to see if they are responsible for my new WordPress 2.1 installation screwing up like it is. This post is a test.

UPDATE: Well, it worked, and the page loaded a lot faster. But I’m still getting an error in the admin backend, so that’s not everything. Guess I need to start turning things on one by one.

Posted by Greg as My Website at 20:16 PST

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Monday, January 29th, 2007

WordPress 2.1

Last week, in conjunction with my blog’s name change, I upgraded the software that ran it to WordPress 2.1. Since then, I noticed some minor problems in the backend editor and that the blog loaded very slowly.

The severity of the problems grew when I tried posting. So far, everything I’ve tried has failed. So now my blog is completely broken. If you see this post, it means that my ultimate attempt has been the only one to succeed – hacking the database. Completely unacceptable.

I guess I’m going to have to roll back the software and try to restore the older version, which I won’t have time to even attempt until the weekend. Wish me luck!

Posted by Greg as My Website at 22:27 PST

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Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

Skull and Crossbones

Recently, my father mentioned that, when visiting my blog, he was a little put off by the skull and crossbones logo.

Red skull

The skull and crossbones goes back to my US Army days, when I encouraged the more aggressive side of myself to come out, and found great rewards in doing so. But that’s the third weigh-in that I’ve heard against the motif, which comes across as too heavy for a professional, and may sound its death-knell.

I’ve long considered how my blog is received on the Internet and seen how the name, which is not distinctive, rated in the search engines. I’ve long considering a new name and a new look. I originally picked “Ramblings” on a whim, since I didn’t know the direction I would take, and didn’t have a readily-available distinctive name and image that I could use to carve out my space on the Internet.

I’ve thought about it a lot since then, and the most most compelling theme that I can come up for myself is that I am constantly struggling to bring order to chaos. Since the laws of physics dictate that this is not natural, I have a feeling of impending doom in this effort. This effort is well documented in literature, so I’m comforted that I am not alone, and that we have a well-defined adjective for me – “quixotic“.

It took a while, but I finally settled on an antonym for entropy (the natural tendency towards disharmony.) It’s extropy – which makes me an extropicist. So I have a candidate for a new blog name – the Quixotic Extropicist. Distinctive, and literate. Better yet, there’s a compelling image of Don Quixote and his search for the noble – Picasso’s Don Quixote:

Pablo Picasso - Don Quixote

It would make a fine substitute for my skull-and-crossbones. In fact, it would make a fine tattoo, something I have also been searching for for almost twenty years. Its too complex for a brand; but then, we can’t have everything. My relationship with Cervantes goes back many years – when I left the US Army and moved to San Diego, my intention was to buy a boat and live on it while going back to school. The name I had selected was, following the unknowing example of Steinbeck, Don Quixote’s name for his mount – Rocinante – the nag.

So, pending protests of disapproval, I’m about to make a huge change. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Posted by Greg as My Website at 14:27 PST

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Sunday, January 14th, 2007

Tears of Nostalgia

Crockett answered, and with a caveat that brought tears of nostalgia to my eyes. The link he provided, which he said reminded him of me, was my Going to Combat song, sort of like my modern-day envisioning of the music that would play during my personal reenactment of the Ride of the Valkyries scene from Apocalypse Now. And right thereafter, YouTube gave me a link to one of my favorite songs ever, The Smiths “How Soon is Now“.

Gods, the late eighties was a great time for music, or maybe it was just the music from the Best Time of My Life. Whatever.

Tears.

Posted by Greg as Posts About Me at 11:01 PST

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The Lost Boys

In my entire military career – three years in Active Reserve as an 11B, Combat Infantryman; four years on Active Duty, 12B, Combat Engineer; and two years in Individual Ready Reserve – nothing was every so right in the world as when I was stationed at Fort Devens, MA, assigned to 1st Squad, 2nd Platoon, A Company, 39th Engineering Battalion (Combat). Other people came and went, also fondly remembered, but the core of our group was the squad leader, SSG John Dionne, myself as SPC, SPC Jonathan Crockett, and PFC Juan Estrada. The last three of us were roommates in the barracks, but we often hung out at the home of our squad leader. I was the Not-John.

Gods, the stories we have to tell about those times. We worked hard, played hard, excelled in our profession and got into plenty of trouble. We called ourselves “The Lost Boys”.

We were an eclectic group, with hometowns from Boston, MA, San Diego, CA (born Tijuana, Mexico), Fargo, ND, and West Chester, PA (born Ferntree Gully, Australia). Two of us earned our US citizenship while serving together. The bonds we formed shaped us and the rest of our lives.

Those bonds have proven themselves over time. Although this took place more than seventeen or so years ago, we’ve all still stayed in touch. But one of us, Crockett, whom by nature played the real wild card, and spiced up our adventures by his unpredictability, held out as the prodigal son – the hardest to keep in touch with, though no less loved.

Segue.

A couple of weeks ago I got a lot of hits on an old post that someone had shared with his/her community. I noted the activity, but nothing came of it except that one person seemed to keep coming back, browsing through the rest of my blog. This person was coming from an IP than could only be resolved by geolocation to somewhere in the US, but I traced the IP to an ISP that served Montana and the surrounding states.

Now I, like all diligent webmasters, have to deal with the frustrations of lurkers – those strangers that hang around, keep visiting, but never pipe up through a comment or email. I’ve learned, like so many others, to put aside the wondering – the lurker will either finally speak up, or just disappear. But this time I was in for a pleasant surprise. Checking my logs, I saw a visit that terminated in my Contact Me page, and forlornly trotted off to check my email in case the link had been used.

This time I is was in for a pleasant surprise. The link had been used – there was an email!

And what an email. It was from the long-unheard-from Crockett. Son of a bitch! You better answer my reply, and soon.

P.S. Anyone who stumbles across this post who was a member of 1st Squad or 2nd Platoon, hell, anyone from my past, I’d love to hear from you. I’ve had abortive attempts of contact through Classmates or Military.com (Montenguise, Shadowen), but I never get anything from my replies. Keep trying! I’d especially love to hear from the honorary Lost Boy, Johnny Saalfrank, but since he followed my lead, went to SFAS and didn’t break his foot, he’s probably either in Afghanistan, or making a fortune as a mercenary (oops, private contractor) in Iraq.

Posted by Greg as Family & Friends, Posts About Me at 10:16 PST

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Opening Up

I’ve been keeping mum about personal stuff lately, even including simple things, like, Where the Hell is Greg? Which is a pity, because I’ve been doing some interesting stuff and traveling a lot, and normally I like to post my travels, as you could see when I occasionally mentioned where I was in the last few months. But recent events have lead me to conclude that I can start loosening up. So, I’ve taken the opportunity to install the Inline Google Maps plugin for WordPress, and now I’m going to give it a shot. Bear with me; I have only fooled around a little bit with the Google Maps API before, and could see that it was a very powerful (and complex) tool. So I’m trusting that Mike Kornieko got it right (and that my GM API key is correct.) Let’s find out!

Current meatspace coordinates: 32.26965, -107.73858 (latitude & longitude, WGS84)
Local appellation: Deming, NM

Deming, NM

Results: Well, I can see that there are a few kinks to be worked out!

First, the plugin takes a link to Google Maps and reinterprets it to place the inline map. So every previous post that links to Google Maps, such as my Minot, ND post, is now screwed up, because I don’t have it set up properly for the plugin. I can’t even see the original version in my WordPress editor, so I may have to turn to a database archive to recover the original.

Second, I found out by experimentation that the map will overwrite all text adjacent to it unless I make sure I have a blank line separating the text from the link in my WordPress Write Post editor.

Third, the displayed map looks quite different from the image I copied in Google Maps, and the marker is in the wrong place! Although I took pains to refine my coordinates to a resolution of a few meters, the marker is about 30 km (~20 miles) to the north of my location! That’s a pretty serious error. You can see just how much it’s off by cutting and pasting my coordinates in Google Maps, and comparing it to the image here.

Fourth, the map size is specified in pixels. Normally, I like to specify images in the width of the remaining space after my WordPress template stakes out the space needed for its left and right sidebars, which varies according to the screen resolution used by you, my visitor. I could deal with this by either modifying the plugin code to accept the percentage variable I want, or by trying to pass a calculated value for pixels using PHP variables to the plugin – either of which takes more work than I want to do. For now, I’ll leave the settings as they are, which makes the map a little too small for my preferred resolution (1024 x 768 on my laptop LCD screen, higher when I was using my 19″ at home.) But the smaller map is still comfortably visible, and I still get visitors using only 800 x 600, and believe it or not, in my second hat as IT support for my company, I’ve found users still stuck in lower resolutions that don’t want to change.

So there’s quite a bit of work to be done. But I really want this capability on my blog, so I guess when I find the time (ha, ha!), I’ll take a crack at it.

Posted by Greg as My Website, Posts About Me at 06:46 PST

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Saturday, January 13th, 2007

Coincidences

I was actually just checking Bloglines for feeds with an early analysis of what the Indianapolis win might mean to the San Diego Chargers, but I saw that there was a new post at Reasons Unbeknownst, which is always an interesting read, and I saw Kirk mentioning Barry Goldwater. So I’m using the coincidence to steer you to an interesting site.

Posted by Greg as Politics at 19:59 PST

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Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

Discovering Barry Goldwater

I woke up early this morning and, tired of my early-morning sports shows (you may have noticed that my blogging about the San Diego Chargers dropped off just as everybody else finally noticed that they were, in fact, the best team in the NFL – it wasn’t fun anymore, and besides, there’s just too much on now about basketball, which I don’t like), flipped through the channels and landed on HBO’s Mr. Conservative – Goldwater on Goldwater.

There’s always danger involved in watching a single documentary and coming out of it saying “yes, this is what I believe” – although it’s a sign that the documentary was really well made. So I did a quick search to see how others viewed this presentation. Right away I saw criticism and praise, and the approach of both really cemented my interest.

During the show I had noticed the surprising mix of political figures who had deigned to be interviewed and included in the documentary. Included were George F. Will, the political commentator whom I most admire and respect, and Sandra Day O’Connor, who I think was the best Supreme Court Justice that has served since I’ve been old enough to have a political opinion. But criticism from the current Right Wing focused on the parade of current Liberals – Hillary Clinton, Al Franken, James Carville, Ted Kennedy and Ben Bradlee. And am I so out of the mainstream of current Republican politics that I was surprised to see Walter Cronkite labeled a Liberal? Still, I would have been very interested to have heard the comments of William F. Buckley, Jr.

One source immediately soothed me – The Cato Institute. Cato is where I have always turned when I have wanted to know the “official” libertarian view on an issue and the reasoning behind it, since my first copy of the Cato Handbook for Congress. I’m not saying that I let them decide how I should think, but they are an invaluable and authoritative resource on where we should be headed. I read their official blog post on this show and saw that I fit two of their three categories of people who call themselves “Goldwater Republicans” – I am pro-limited government, and I am libertarian. And their snide comment about George W. Bush reflects the problems I have with that administration.

I have, at times, called myself a conservative – but always, with the same breath, denounced those who currently have control over the definition of the term. I am happy to find that I stand in good company with at least the older version Goldwater, who said “I think every good Christian ought to kick [Moral Majority leader Jerry] Falwell right in the ass.” It’s instructive that the Wall Street Journal has taken pains to fight what they see as the modern day interpretation of Goldwater by trying to recast him back into an earlier version, and by doing so tries to reclaim current social conservatism as a foundation of the conservative movement.

What does the notion that Goldwater was a libertarian mean? First, it suggests that the cultural right has abandoned true conservatism. It implies that presidents like Reagan and Bush, who have relied heavily on socially conservative voters, deviate from Goldwater’s rugged and pure frontier conservatism. And then there is the implication, appearing frequently in the mainstream media, that Republicans must move back in Goldwater’s direction if they are to reclaim their intellectual credibility.

Well, I happen to think that the Right has abandoned true conservatism. And I do think the Republicans need to reclaim their credibility, and I think the results of the 2006 elections indicate that I am not alone. Last November, commentators pointed out that many libertarian-leaning people, who seem to comprise a significant portion of the swing vote (the ideologically unbound that, despite Karl Rove’s flash-in-the-pan success of relying on a “get out the base” strategy, usually control elections and the basis of power in the United States), had come to the conclusion, for once, that the Democrats better represent their interests. I haven’t given up yet on the Republicans, but I want to push them away from the religious right. At least, as long as the religious right makes abortion, oppresion of gays and government-sponsored Christianity their foundation. I’m seeing an emergence of a religious movement towards ecological conservation that is very promising. This, I believe, is actually a value that Goldwater would have supported. If the religious right started supporting the separation of Church and State instead of trying to legislate morality, I think I could get along with them just fine.

I still need to get a copy of Goldwater’s The Conscience of a Conversative, but, based on the Cato Institute’s and the Wall Street Journal’s characterizations, it might to fair to start calling myself a Goldwater conservative.

In an amazing coincidence, my very last post mentioned my pleasure in enjoying the scenic beauty of Goldwater’s home state, Arizona.

Posted by Greg as Politics, Posts About Me at 05:20 PST

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