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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


Sunday, January 14th, 2007

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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Wednesday, November 8th, 2006

Timeout for Levity

I’m currently going through a very, very serious life change on the domestic front. I haven’t wanted to write about it much on this public place, and at the same time I haven’t wanted to disrepect the seriousness of the situation by flippantly continuing on writing about other things that normally I would have found to be worth comment. Judging from at least one email, I have failed in that regard, but you can’t please everybody.

So I may as well throw this into the pot. One of my former Corrpro San Diego coworkers attempted to throw a little levity into the situation. I’ve often found that, in very serious situations, it can help to step back and take a little laugh. So without further ado, I present to you the Greg Perry milk carton:

Greg Perry milk carton

I don’t know where this photo came from, but man I need a haircut. That’s the longest I’ve seen my hair in quite a while.

Posted by Greg as Family & Friends, My Website, Posts About Me at 17:14 PST

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Saturday, October 14th, 2006

The Door into Summer

I discovered science fiction in 1974 in fourth grade at the Karingal Primary School in Frankston, Victoria, Australia; soon after I had become such an avid reader that I was searching the shelves of the school library for anything and everything that might prove to be entertaining. I distinctly remember the first book – it was Catseye, by Andre Norton – a hell of a great introduction for the young reader to the genre. It was a natural fit – my fourth grade teacher (damn, I wish I could remember her name) had undertaken to read The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien to us all over the year – and she succeeded.

It didn’t take me long to fall into the grasp of the science fiction classicists. Because my family couldn’t afford to buy a lot of books, a trip to the local library on Saturday every two weeks (the length of the loan time) became a staple of our family life, thanks to the dedication of my mother. I suppose it’s still true today, but when you’re maxing your loan limit on every trip (even if I went through the dozen books in three days or so), it becomes statistically more probable that you’re reading books that had been published 20-30 years ago. So I became well acquainted with the works of Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein, the two granddaddies of a long list that, if I took the time to enumerate, would stifle any chance of me finishing this already drawn-out post.

Although I would later discover that I had mixed feelings about Heinlein and his entirely too-progressive social ideals, thanks to a twelve-grade English paper I set out to write (switched at the last minute to Roger Zelazny), early on I discovered a clear favorite that would endure – The Door into Summer. I’ll spare you the analysis, but a passage that struck an enduring chord in me was when the protagonist, Dan Davis, travels back in time to defeat his nemeses, and for some reason that I forget now, sees fit to draw the teenage girl Ricky, with whom he has some avuncular relationship, out of her girl scout camp and persuades her to leave everything behind in her own best interest. Putting aside the predatory nature of this summary (it seemed to make sense in the book), I was overwhelmed by Davis’ assertion that, in order to be true to oneself, one most be prepared at all times to forgo all worldly possessions and connections if circumstances dictate that doing so is the only way by which one can escape the influence of the manipulators that do not have his or her best interests at heart. (I hope I have presented this summary with the intent of the author.) I strongly remember this assertion as being one of the foundational principles to the most macho parts of my life – the time when I was encouraged to put my body in mortal danger, consider the lengths to which I would go to save to lives of my buddies (or recover their bodies), and, as best as I could, to face the volcano (catch the Firefly reference?) – in short, when I was in the US Army. So, with more elucidation than you could possibly desire, I have established the foundation for an otherwise quirky concept.

Thus we get to the point of my story.

On Sunday, 1 October 2006, my wife kicked me out of the house.

At the time, I was in shorts and a t-shirt, without shoes or wallet, but fortunately, I had some money in my pocket, about US$100. She locked me out of the house, and had just given me the key to the expired-registration truck that I had purchased for her a couple of years ago. Looking back, I would have to say that it was a maneuver on her part to try and make a point that I needed to look at our situation and rededicate myself to making the relationship work; in that instance, I evaluated the situation and decided whether the relationship was worth pursuing. I did not come up with the answer that she was hoping I would arrive at.

I left, and have not come back. Instead, I separated myself from our situation emotionally and geographically. No, I’m not in San Diego anymore. My meatspace coordinates can, at this point, considered to be classified. You may note that comments on my posts have become restricted to registered users – if you really want to comment, I invite you to register. It’s pretty easy.

My few regular readers and the search engines may have noted that my posting has dropped off of late. This is due to the crescendo that was building to this point and its aftermath. I hope to start writing regularly again about the same issues that I advertise in my blog’s subheader – Linux migration, security, corrosion engineering, surviving cancer, website construction, and life – in that order. I don’t see the benefit in publishing a “woe me” account of my travails through domestic separation – but I had to get some of this off my chest. If you are desperate for the other side of the story, my wife has started her own blog. For fans of my technical work, this can only mean that I have more time to dedicate to your issues.

(I can only hope hope that with this post, I have truly earned the appellation that I selected long ago. Ramblings. Be thoust forewarned!)

At this point in my life, just like Petronius the cat, I find myself checking all the doors, looking for the one that leads into summer.

Posted by Greg as Family & Friends, My Website, Posts About Me at 22:47 PST

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Friday, September 22nd, 2006

Contact from NACE

I was browsing my visitor list yesterday (yes, although lately I have found myself incredibly short on time to write, I do still check in, if only to remove the comments that fool the spam filters), and saw a hit from a search engine that was corrosion-related. That always piques my interest – judging from how high my poor little site ranks using some common corrosion terms, there just isn’t much corrosion-related traffic out there on the Internet, and sometimes it’s from my own company (I try to keep tabs on that traffic.)

But this hit originated from the headquarters of NACE International, the world’s leading corrosion society, of which I have been a member since 1992. It’s also the group through which I hold a certification as a Cathodic Protection Specialist, one of the highest certifications in the CP field, which allows me to sign off on just about any regulatory requirement there is that’s aimed at protecting people and the environment from corrosion-related damage; i.e. keeping gasoline tanks from leaking or high-pressure gas or petroleum pipelines from rupturing.

Shortly thereafter I got an email from NACE. Someone there was surfing the net looking for information on Professional Engineers in California of the now defunct “Corrosion” type. She stumbled across my site, and contacted me because she thought I might know how get more information. PE’s in California are regulated by the California Board for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors, which has a searchable database, but it doesn’t allow you to search by a category, such as the Corrosion type. I called and talked to her, took a look at the site, and offered to help; but I wanted to know why she was looking for this. She let me know that NACE was interested in trying to revive the Corrosion PE license.

This is very interesting to me. The difficultly at present for engineers to get the highly coveted PE label is, IMHO, one of the reasons that we seem to be experiencing a decline in new blood in this field. And by promising to help, she offered to keep me updated with NACE’s efforts and progress.

So I looked carefully at the online database and saw a way to prize the information about all licensed Corrosion PE’s, past and present, from the interface; including names, addresses (which I’m assuming are business), and license status. All I need to do is write a script that will retrieve information pages for each individual for Corrosion PE license number 1 through 1087 (the last one apparently issued), and dump the results into a comma delimited file, filtered via regular expressions, which I can them import into a database such as OpenOffice Base. This is all very much like what I had already done with my Google automated search plugin for WordPress, before that project came to a screeching stop when I learned that automated searches of Google violated their Terms of Service.

It shouldn’t be too hard to do; it’s just that I’m really clumsy with regex, and without the filtering, I would be holding a huge lump of information that would be very difficult to go through by hand.

Oh – and although she found my site the day before, she was at first put off by my rotating skull and bones image. She only persisted when she came across the site again using a different search. Is my adopted logo too severe for professional issues? I’m pretty fond of it, and don’t want to give it up.

Posted by Greg as Corrosion Control, My Website, Programming at 07:55 PST

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Tuesday, August 1st, 2006

Email to the President

Well, I took the bull by the horns and did it – I sent the following email to the new CEO of Corrpro Companies, Inc.:

Dear Mr. Larkin,

As a seven-year employee of Corrpro and a stockholder, I was very pleased to see yesterday’s announcement of your appointment of President and CEO.

I know you must be a very busy man, and normally I would not be trying to send an email to someone in your position, but I have a small suggestion for you that might help you in your new leadership role, and benefit both employees and stockholders.

In many leading companies today, the President maintains a public blog that serves as a forum to outline his or her business philosophies, strategies, goals, and progress towards them. With the inclusion of comments, it can also serve as a dialogue between the President and the interested public. It is, of course, a double-edged sword. Although you would have the opportunity to quickly disseminate your ideas, you would also be exposed to criticism and to the risk of inadvertently exposing information valuable to competitors. It is, in essence, a PR strategy. A quick Google search would reveal many of the pros and cons of the CEO blog. One I thought was astute mentioned five critical elements of a successful blog: candor, urgency, timeliness, pithiness and controversy.

A blog may or may not serve your purposes. I know it would help me, because I rarely, if ever, get to hear the opinions of the top leadership of my employer without it being filtered through multiple layers of middle management. Writing on a regular basis is a skill that not many people have, although it can be developed. However, it is a tool that you might find valuable. I myself have maintained a blog for over a year now, and although it can be a struggle to post just twice a week, I have found the experience to be clarifying and even cathartic.

Highest Regards,

Greg R. Perry
San Diego

I’ve never done anything like this before. I suppose it’s risky, maybe even more risky to publish the email, but I don’t feel bad about it. I really would love to read a blog by our new president and CEO.

UPDATE: I got a response in just under an hour. I won’t publish it without permission, but it was interested and positive. I’m impressed.

Posted by Greg as My Website, Posts About Me at 09:19 PST

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Wednesday, July 19th, 2006

Google Images Name Search

Last week I noticed that my website had crept up in Google’s Image Search, but last night, when I was showing my wife, I was shocked to see that I am now the number 2 result when using image search for greg perry. I’m also there as the number 17 result. Your results may very, because Google makes extensive use of customized results through cookies. Maybe it is, as a coworker called it, “ego-googling”, but I have tried hard to learn something about website optimization and implement it, so I’m quite pleased with the result.

I wasn’t even bothered when, as a counter to my demonstration, my wife googled her maiden name and was the first and second hit. But then, her name is pretty distinct, whereas mine is a combination of two relatively common names.

Posted by Greg as My Website at 05:53 PST

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Friday, July 14th, 2006

Recent Comments

I’ve added the Recent Comments plugin from MtDewVirus to my left sidebar. It took a little tweaking to add the code to my template (especially so that it doesn’t automatically break if I turn the plugin off), to my css file (formatting), and to the plugin itself (turned out the formatting was embedded.)

It includes, of course, the comments generated by WordPress as pingbacks when I link between my posts. This is getting more and more annoying. I think I had a decent idea about separating out self-pingbacks from other comments, but the response I got from the WordPress Support forums when I proposed it was not what I wanted to hear:

angsuman – “I often found hard-problems are not answered in this forum.”
You are welcome to assist…………

Which tells me “interesting idea, why don’t you write the code for it?” Another tempting, but time-wise, impossible, opportunity. It looks like the subject of self-pingbacks has been bandied about on the wp-hackers mailing list, but the idea of doing something about it has been shelved with a note that code is needed.

With a little code tweaking, I was able to remove the WordPress pingbacks (the “comments” that WordPress puts in automatically when I link to a previous posts) from the listing of recent comments. I just added another criterion to the database search. The ease with which I did this makes it seem entirely feasible to write a plugin to handle the self-pingbacks, but where do I find the time?

Posted by Greg as My Website at 16:45 PST

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