Archive for the 'Meta' Category

And the spammers have won (comments are now disabled)

Friday, December 13th, 2013

The problem with spammers on the web that I talked about before has continued getting worse and worse, to the point where hundreds of spam comments (and no identifiably non-spam comments) have made it through onto this blog. Akismet wasn’t doing the job, and I don’t maintain this blog often enough to keep all of the spam out. My only fix is to disable all comments. It sucks, because the two defining features that characterize a blog are (a) being personal and opinionated and (b) allowing multi-way communication between the author and the readers, and the readers with each other. I’m no longer doing half of that, so in some very real senses this is no longer a blog (though feel free to still email me if you want to chat). I’m really sad about it. But the spammers have won. It’s no longer feasible to try to maintain your own blog out there. Just host it with WordPress or similar and let someone else handle the spam problem, because I can’t stay on top of it any longer.

Long time no blog

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything here — over a year, anyway, which might as well be a decade in Interwebs time. The funny thing is that this blog gets more views now than it ever did before. That’s right, the Google searches leading to the backlog of old content have continued to drive traffic in ever increasing numbers even though nothing new has been posted in awhile. As a result of that, the AdSense ads on this site continue to support the cost of server hosting; hence why the site is still around even though I haven’t written anything new in awhile. Now I’m not making any money off it, but it’s always nice to have access to a co-hosted GNU/Linux server running somewhere (especially when said access is free).

One wonders what traffic on this site might be like now if I had kept updating it regularly, but whatever. I used that time for other things. Like reading!

I’ve been working my way through Modern Library’s Top 100 English Novels of the 20th Century. I’ve also been taking many a detour through other classic American novels that didn’t make the board’s list (To Kill A Mockingbird anyone?) and that I never got a chance to read in high school or college.

Most recently I read John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. I’m going to have to go back and read a bunch more of his books (the only other one I think I’ve ever read was The Grapes of Wrath, back in high school). I really enjoy him as an author, especially the little textural vignettes that have nothing to do with the main story. Unbelievably, one of my friends recently cited these interesting interruptions as a reason why they didn’t like Steinbeck. Crazy talk.

Also, Ernest Hemingway has been very enjoyable. I really appreciate what he’s able to convey using such few words. I know I can write that simply, but my icebergs wouldn’t have anything below the surface of the waves.

A new, fictional direction for this site

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

As you’ve probably figured out by now, the past several months on Cyde Weys Musings have been characterized by my extreme inactivity. That wasn’t unintentional. I just had to make enough of a break from the old direction of the site in order to feel comfortable taking it in a new direction. Apparently, a couple of months’ worth of guilt over writing very little for you all was enough to overcome the threshold of taking this site in a more personal direction.

I’ve finally realized that what I enjoy more than anything else is writing fiction, yet so long as I was writing non-fiction on here quite regularly, that wasn’t going to happen. I might’ve been a bit optimistic when I proclaimed that the secret to getting into the mood to write is by writing, because I clearly wasn’t doing it. I’ve finally turned that corner.

So the new personal direction on here will consist of me writing fiction frequently and publishing all of it. I know that doesn’t sound very personal, especially since I won’t be revealing any sort of intimate details about myself like so many other bloggers, but believe me, it is. It’s a frightening thing putting your writing out there for all to see and critique. While I got over that hump with my non-fiction awhile ago, fiction is still a much more sensitive area. But I’ve finally gotten over it, and I’d rather my work be read and possibly disliked than languish in obscurity on my hard drive. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be critical — but please be kind. Saying someone’s opinion piece sucks is one thing, but saying someone’s fiction sucks is another whole world of authorial insult.

So, keep your eyes peeled. I’m going to keep at this for awhile come hell or high water. I’m not really attempting to become a professional writer or anything (though I wouldn’t mind it if that did end up happening). I’m content to write for a small audience here. That what I write is read by a few people is enough.

For completeness’s sake, here’s a list of all of the works of fiction I’ve published on this site so far that I consider at least passable. I hope to at least double this number of works within a month.

Introducing PC Game Fun Time, my new blog focused on PC gaming

Monday, October 20th, 2008

I’ve just started up a new blog with my current housemate and former college roommate, Grokmoo. It’s something we’ve talked about doing for awhile but finally got around to. The new blog is called PC Game Fun Time, and somewhat obviously, it’s focused on PC gaming. Check out the introductory post for a look at what we’re trying to accomplish. If you or someone you know might be interested, check it out! We’re going to start it up the same way we did with Supreme Commander Talk, which is to say, a massive blitz of posting.

And if the new site looks a little bit familiar at the moment, then yes, it’s because I completely ripped off this site’s theme. We’re still thinking about a good long-term solution on that front.

Yes, I’m still around

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

Isn’t this always how it works out? You plan on taking a short break, and then for many days in a row things keep coming up that prevent you from ending said break?

Anyway, look for a real post later tonight. I’ve also been thinking about refocusing this blog somewhat (though this is far from the first time I’ve said those words without following through on it, so who knows what’ll happen). The general topic format just isn’t getting me where I’d like to be.

The key to getting in the mood to write

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Wow, William McCamment hit the nail on the head with this one: The secret to getting into the mood to write is to start writing. In other words, writing creates the mood, it does not wait on it. I can definitely empathize with this maxim. Even when I generally don’t feel like I’m in the mood for writing, if I manage to force myself to start, the words flow out naturally after that. It’s thus pretty much like any other activity: overcoming your inherent laziness and actually starting to do something is the hardest part. A good example of this principle would be exercising. It’s hard to drag yourself to the gym, but once you start exercising, you see it through to the finish — say, an hour long workout.

The advice applies to all sorts of other activities, of course. Not feeling in the mood to get off your butt and do something productive? Just do it anyway. Once you start at it, you build enough momentum to see you through to the end. It’s just a problem of getting over that initial hump.

Man, I wish I had listened to this advice, say, ten years ago.

I have some advice of my own to add to this: if you have trouble doing anything regularly, commit to doing it on a strict schedule, and then keep to it. Once you get used to doing something regularly, it becomes much easier to keep doing it, through sheer force of inertia. For instance, I wasn’t able to really commit to working out regularly until I forced myself to do it every Monday through Thursday after work. And more to the point of the original advice, I wasn’t able to start blogging regularly until I committed myself to blogging every day. Now I haven’t quite kept that strict schedule (in particular, I’m apt to lapse a bit on weekends), but it works for the most part. I write nearly every day for this blog.

Abandoned blog post ideas, part 2

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Following my wildly successful blog post on abandoned blog ideas, part 1 (at least in terms of cleaning up my WordPress post drafts, anyway), I figure it’s time for part 2. The idea is exactly the same: I’m going through my old WordPress drafts, many of which are nothing more than an idea stored as a post title, and combining a bunch of them into a hodgepodge post. Don’t expect any cohesiveness to any of the following paragraphs. Here we go.

We had an office party a few months ago after work with beer and videogames. Some of my coworkers brought in their console gaming systems. One of my coworkers brought in Smash Brothers Melee, which had just been released for the Wii and was all the rage. I definitely wanted a chance to play it, but I didn’t end up doing so because a few other guys and I spent the entire night playing Rock Band. So, at least in terms of choosing between games I had never played before, Rock Band won out handily. It was a lot of fun — I don’t regret it!

I was idly thinking about things, as I often do, and I came up with the word “Secularium”. I’m not exactly sure what a secularium would be, but it sure sounds cool. Maybe it’s a non-religious counterpart to a place of worship, providing a sense of community and an appreciation for the natural world? The people running a secularium (Scientists? Humanists?) would definitely emphasize rational thinking and empiricism over the faith-based alternatives. Hrmm, maybe I should start one, as a sort of sane alternative to Unitarian Universalists.

This draft title sums up the idea completely: “Embarrassing events matter much less to others.” I saved it as a draft, stewed on it for a day, then realized I didn’t really have anything to add to it, because it’s so incredibly obvious. What I at first considered profound was merely germane. But I might as well re-tell the story that I reminded myself about in the draft notes, because it is mildly funny. In my sophomore year of college, one of my roommates was sitting at his computer in his boxers playing a game. My other roommate happened to have a female friend or two over. I noticed that my first roommate was “peeking out” of his boxers, if you will. I quietly informed him and he got all embarrassed about it (I don’t think the girls ever realized). But it was something that meant absolutely nothing to me, but was quite embarrassing to him, thus proving my thesis.

I was going to embark on a lengthy journey of backing up all of my data and then writing about how I did it, focusing on all of the tools that were used (GnuPG, rsync, tar, scp, K3b, mysqldump, etc.). But then I just got lazy and never got around to it. I still do back up my most essential data across multiple computers over time, but I’m simply not very organized about it, even though I maybe should be. And if my house does burn down, taking all of the computers with it, I would be facing significant losses. I do have enough free space on this webhost; maybe I should encrypt my files (to keep them away from prying eyes in the hosting company) and store them here?

I was playing this game for the Nintendo DS called “My Word Coach” regularly, and I thought I might get a good blog post out of it. But I eventually got bored of the game and the blog post never materialized. Now, I haven’t played it in many months. The fundamental problem with the game is that it’s just not a lot of fun. Granted, learning hundreds of new words in search of an expanded vocabulary is a noble goal, but when it feels like studying, it’s hard to get excited about it, and even harder to spend 15-30 minutes doing it each day. And the mini-games in it are very hit-and-miss, with some of them emphasizing spelling over meaning. I’m not studying for a spelling bee (the whole concept of which I find insipid), so what I really need to know is the meaning of the word. I’ll always be able to recognize a word whose meaning I know when I see it, and if I feel the need to use it in a written composition but don’t remember the exact spelling, I hear there’s this Internet thing where one can look up words with amazing efficiency. But if you’re a writer looking to expand your vocabulary, definitely check it out. I thought it was hilarious that I started out knowing 55% of the words in the game’s dictionary, as judged by an “entrance exam”, while one of the reviews I read had the guy starting at 20%. Ouch.

And finally, if I wasn’t being meta enough already, one of my old drafts was itself an idea to take old drafts and combine them into a single post. What are we, two layers deep now? At least I finally did get around to it.

All right, phew, down to 41 drafts now. This is becoming more manageable by the day.

New anti-spam measures on this site

Friday, July 25th, 2008

I’ve switched from Akismet to Defensio for my spam-stopping needs here on this blog. The change should be transparent. If anything goes wrong, like if your comments are all of a sudden getting marked as spam, you know how to contact me.

I’ve made the switch to Defensio because I’ve heard some good things about it, and decided to give it a whirl. Akismet definitely wasn’t doing the best possible job, so hopefully Defensio will fare better.

Abandoned blog post ideas, pt. 1

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

I have fifty drafts sucking all the air out of my WordPress dashboard at the moment. Very few of them are ever likely to be developed into fully fledged blog posts, but I would feel kind of bad just deleting them outright. So I’m taking a bunch of the ideas and combining them into a hodge-podge post, hopefully for your reading pleasure. So, without further ado …

Workplaces are food sinks, in that if anyone has any extra food left over from a party or other event, they can bring it to work, set it down on a communal table in the kitchen, and it’ll be gone by the end of the day. Workplaces can thus absorb any of the extra food in a society that might otherwise be wasted. I’m not sure how I ever thought this tiny little insight would be expandable into a full blog post, but there it is.

In college, I was a part of an undergraduate research program that had a team of eight people writing a 100-page research paper over the course of three years. The paper was about an educational videogame that we wrote. We all thought that 100 page paper was a big deal at the time. Well, two months ago for work I wrote a 100 page paper over the course of a month with a single coworker. It required a comparable amount of research to the undergraduate research paper. It’s funny how relative ideas of what constitutes an involved assignment change so quickly following employment. I’m laughing at the thought that we ever considered a 100 page paper written by eight people over the course of three years to be a hard undertaking.

Many years ago, when I was still in high school, I took a photograph of the Great Falls section of the Potomac River on a camp field trip. Not too long after, I uploaded said photograph to Wikipedia for use in an article. All was well and good for awhile, until it was transferred to Wikimedia Commons (an image repository run by the Wikimedia Foundation) and the person effecting the move completely munged the image attribution. He attributed the photograph to a user who did nothing more than decrease the image quality by reducing the size of the image (an action which was later reverted). I understand that thousands of photographs are processed for transfer to Wikimedia Commons every month, but you really have to get the details correct! Put in the extra few minutes to carefully check the image’s history and verify that credit for it is actually going to the one who deserves it. I’ve since corrected the attribution on the image, but now I face the nuisance of regularly trawling through all of my uploads just to make sure none of them have been mistakenly attributed to someone else. Another complicating factor here is that only administrators can view deleted revisions, and the revision that established me as the content creator was deleted on Wikipedia. So I could see it and point out the error, but the average editor/reader cannot.

I have several computers participating in the Seventeen or Bust distributed computing project, the goal of which is to prove that 78,557 is the smallest Sierpinski number (it seems a much nobler goal if you understand the mathematics behind it, trust me). If you have any idle computing power, you should join it too. The attraction it offers versus most other distributed computing projects is that it has a finish line in sight. They only have five more primes to find (out of an original 17, hence the project name), and once they do, the project ends successfully. Compare that with, say, the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search, which just keeps looking for larger and larger primes and thus never ends. The Seventeen or Bust project currently holds the record for having found the largest non-Mersenne prime.

I’m tired of pseudoscientific pablum on television, especially when it’s on otherwise respectable networks such as the History Channel. This kernel of an idea for a blog post was inspired by an especially heinous paranormal television show on the History Channel. Luckily, Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy and others are putting together a new television show called The Skeptologists that will provide a counterpoint to all of the pseudoscientific nonsense on television. Hopefully it makes it to air.

And last but not least, I was going to write an entire blog post about a freaking screwdriver. It was supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek ode to a great tool that my dad bought for me many years ago and that has served me well all throughout high school and college (and I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many computers it has taken apart and put together). One of my remarks in the draft notes that “Its orange color makes it easy to find”. But as I wrote more and more about it, the ode became more and more serious, and eventually I scrapped the whole blog post idea as being patently ridiculous. Unfortunately, this was not before I took multiple pictures of said screwdriver, one of which I present for your mocking scorn and frivolous amusement:

And with that, my WordPress drafts queue is down from 50 to 44. I should do this more often. If you think any of the above ideas could have merited a full blog post, by all means, let me know in the comments below. I’m not promising anything though. Hopefully with most of these you can see why I decided against expanding them into full blog posts.

WordPress continues delivers cutting edge features

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

I know I’ve been critical of WordPress in the past, but the new release of WordPress 2.6 allows me to pause and give thanks for all the amazing features that WordPress offers. Earlier tonight I was helping a friend with her Blogger.com blog, and the difference between that and WordPress is night and day.

For instance, Blogger doesn’t even offer out-of-the-box support for below-the-fold text, and the official work-around they suggest is an ugly display:none; CSS hack. Yeah, that’s right, the full text of every post is always included on the main page — there’s just a CSS directive to the browser to hide it! Talk about inefficient! WordPress does it the correct way. And the stylesheet support Blogger has is just hideous. The full text of the stylesheet is included inline with the HTML header on every page. If you don’t believe me, just view the HTML source of this random Blogger blog. They’re all like that.

So compared to Blogger, WordPress is incontrovertibly amazing (and although my friend isn’t likely to want to get server space and administrate her own blog, I would at least recommend moving her blog over to WordPress.com). But the new version of WordPress, 2.6, adds a killer feature that I’ve long wanted in my blog software but haven’t seen anywhere: an integrated revision control system. If you’ve ever read Wikipedia and viewed the history tab, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Revision control is useful for single author blogs, where you might wipe out a passage only to later wish you had it back. It also helps a lot when there’s some tricky formatting you want to get just right. Without a revision control system, there’s no way to revert to a known good version without first copying the post source into Notepad. But it really shines for multi-author blogs. I remember how, when I was writing for Supreme Commander Talk with Grokmoo, we would edit each others’ posts, and then have to explicitly have a chat about what things in each other’s work needed editing so that the mistakes might not be repeated again. With proper revision control, just execute a diff and what’s changed is plain as day! It always slightly irked me that other people might be editing my words and I would never be able to know. With WordPress 2.6, that’s no longer possible.

So I’ll count my blessings with WordPress. Despite its security vulnerabilities (most of which seem to be passed now) it really is a great piece of software, and the developers continue to add amazing new must-have features to it. Now that I’ve had some experience with another blogging platform, I can unequivocally say that I heartily endorse WordPress. Everyone’s blogging experience should be this smooth.