So in my complete abandonment of this site, I'd also abandoned the old PHP based random name generator that I wrote what I think is 9 years ago now. It's not pretty, but it works. Or at least, it works again after being broken for nearly a year.
I'm going to attempt, at least every other day, to pick an item I've shared via my Google Reader account and post about it here. Get me back in the habit and maybe not make me solely reliant on annoying baby posts.
Today's link: America's Achilles' heel: the Mississippi River's Old River Control Structure by Dr. Jeff Masters at WeatherUnderground.
America has an Achilles' heel. It lies on a quiet, unpopulated stretch of the Mississippi River in Louisiana, a few miles east of the tiny town of Simmesport. Rising up from the flat, wooded west flood plain of the Mississippi River tower four massive concrete and steel structures that would make a Pharaoh envious--the Army Corps' of Engineers greatest work, the billion-dollar Old River Control Structure. This marvel of modern civil engineering has, for fifty years, done what many thought impossible--impose man's will on the Mississippi River
It's an absolutely fascinating read about one of the greatest civil engineering feats in the modern world. Over thousands of years, the Mississippi River has changed it's final course to the Gulf of Mexico multiple times. To the native peoples of North America, this wasn't an issue - but once the Europeans arrived and started setting up ports and cities and businesses where Big Muddy meets the Gulf, the location of the end of the largest river system in North America became very, very important.
From an essay by John McPhee, The Control Of Nature, excerpted by Dr. Masters
The Mississippi's main channel of three thousand years ago is now the quiet water of Bayou Teche, which mimics the shape of the Mississippi. Along Bayou Teche, on the high ground of ancient natural levees, are Jeanerette, Breaux Bridge, Broussard, Olivier--arcuate strings of Cajun towns. Eight hundred years before the birth of Christ, the channel was captured from the east. It shifted abruptly and flowed in that direction for about a thousand years. In the second century a.d., it was captured again, and taken south, by the now unprepossessing Bayou Lafourche, which, by the year 1000, was losing its hegemony to the river's present course, through the region that would be known as Plaquemines. By the nineteen-fifties, the Mississippi River had advanced so far past New Orleans and out into the Gulf that it was about to shift again, and its offspring Atchafalaya was ready to receive it.
In the late 1950's the Army Corps of Engineers stepped in and built what was to become the Old River Control Structure. This series of dams and levees and control gates was to ensure that the Mississippi River would go where WE want it to go - right through New Orleans and the ports that are so valuable to our economy. South Louisiana is the busiest port in the United States, and currently sits 12th busiest in the world. Now... move the Mississippi away from the ports... How do we get all those goods coming in and out of the United States through that port to where they need to be?
Dr. Masters' post has fascinating information about how this structure came to be, the great threat it faced from a flood in 1973 and the possibly greater threat it faces today with the record flooding along the Mississippi Basin. It's definitely worth a read.
In my mind, where this intersects with politics is the greater problem we have as a country with our infrastructure. Our country is built on grand projects - grand OLD projects. Our power system, our highway and interstate system, our flood prevention system and the control if the Mississippi River and continued existence of its ports. All projects that are decades old. With a culture in this country that the government spending money at all (except on the military) is 'wasteful' at best or 'socialism' at worst nothing has been done to keep our infrastructure sound, let alone replace and modernize it with new technologies.
The Great Recession of 2007 -2009 was a prime opportunity to not only put much needed work and money into our infrastructure but to boost our economy at the same time. We had a chance to do a major stimulus package not built around even more tax cuts and a few projects here and there, but a package built around rebuilding the bones of the nation. A stimulus that would have been fully directed towards fixing roads, bridges, dams, power transmission systems, power generation plants and the like would have put tens or hundreds of thousands of Americans to work, and that work would have had a long lived impact on our nation's economy. In addition to rebuilding was is old or out of date, we also could have focused on building a new infrastructure for the 21st century - a national broadband backbone to not only get internet quality and speeds higher where it already exists, but to get broadband internet into communities ignored by the likes of AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and the like.
Instead we get whines about socialism, Randian utopia fantasies and a lukewarm response that only softened the landing of a recession without giving us a long term boost from the money spent.
Next time a bridge collapses, a levee breaks or some other infrastructure disaster strikes... think about the opportunity we had and wasted because some people are so afraid of taxes that they will mortgage their future so as not to pay them.
Alright, I've been looking around but so far striking out in finding a plugin that does what I want with a GoogleReader shared items feed. I'd write it myself, but I don't have the a) time or b) experience with WP internals to do it. Or at least not to do it right.
So I'm going to lay this out there, maybe pass it around and see if any other awesome person with the skills can make it happen.
- Parse GoogleReader's.... interesting... XML of the shared items feed and find new 'entry gr' nodes since the last check.
- Create a new Post that doesn't just include the content of the feed item. I don't want to rip off other people's work
- Instead, Create a new post that says something like "Shared in Google Reader" with a link and a blockquote snippet of the content if available
- If a 'gr:annotation' node exists within the 'entry gr' node, include the annotation (the "note" in GR) as the actual post content under the "Shared in Google Reader"/link/blockquote snip.
That's pretty much it. In theory I could do it, but I've never worked with WP's database or writing code in WP that can get executed on its own (something along the lines of the FF Comments plugin that grabs new FF comments on its own, or FeedWordPress, something like that). So... anyone able to make this happen?
Update: An additional feature that would be cool would be to check the tags on the shared entry and try to match them with categories in the blog?
Alright so I decided to get my girlfriend hooked up with a wireless router. Ended up getting a simple Netgear wireless-g router, perfect for someone who just needs to get online and doesn't need much in the way of fancy stuff. All set to install, which is when I started to wonder if Netgear's router installation process is well thought out...
- Okay so there's no paper documentation to do a manual setup. I just want the default IP, username and password. I can set the rest up myself. WHy won't you give me that, Netgear?
- Fine, I'll use the fucking 'wizard'.
- Alright wizard is working pretty well. Even asking me what sort of security I want on the wireless.
- Wait... shouldn't it ask me to change the router's default admin password?
- Shouldn't it at least tell me what the default admin password is so I can, you know, log into the damn thing?
- Alright, time to dig through the documentation ont eh CD and there it is... page two of the "manual setup" section contains the default router username and password.
- I finally am able to login to the router and change the default password for the admin account.
That entire time, the router was insecure. If someone going through the install declines to set up WPA or WEP security on the wireless access, taking over the router and seriously fucking things up would be child's play. Even a retarded "1337 hax0r" could do it.
And I wondered why so many wireless access points I run across are unsecured and using default passwords. One of the major players doesn't even prompt users to change the password!
if you use or buy Netgear routers, make sure to change your password. Apparently they don't think it's all that important.
I wish I'd noticed this before my big gubernatorial campaign website comparison entry, but why is Schellinger using a company out of Portland, Oregon to implement his website? Could his campaign not find anyone locally to do this? It's not like there aren't some very talented web designers in Indiana that haven't worked on campaigns before.
Also an update to the Schellinger part, he does have an RSS feed but it's sort of buried in the little text at the bottom.
Alright, time for a really pointless breakdown of the Indiana Gubernatorial candidate websites!
First the Democratic side.
- Wow. This is a bland, pretty looking website that would have been good circa 2000-2004. No interactivity, no issues page, no blog. There's a page for videos, but they are hosted on the Schellinger website instead of YouTube which takes away another avenue for interactivity and internet grassroots organization
- The whole site seems geared towards this message: I am Jim Schellinger. The heads of the state party love me so volunteer and donate to me. Now!
- They do have a nifty Googe Maps app on the site to see where Schellinger has been on his tour of the state, but that alone isn't enough to make this a viable internet campaign site for 2008. I also had trouble finding a schedule of where he WILL be.
- The main navigation buttons are all for getting people to do something for the campaign. Volunteer, Donate, Endorse (aka sign up for the mailing list), and Build The Base (aka let us send emails to your friends).
- The secondary navigation along the top is all information related, but no page for the issues. A generic "about Jim" page, endorsements, 'in the news', press releases and a contact page.
- Where is the interactivity? Where is the way to not only connect supporters to you, but connect supporters to each other to build real momentum?
- I find it funny that near the top it says "This is a grassroots campaign for the future of Indiana. Are you ready to join us?" yet the entire website has nothing for enabling a modern, internet ready grassroots campaign.
Grade: D+. it looks pretty, and there is good graphic design. But it lacks all the features of what a campaign, especially a non-incumbent campaign, needs on a website.
What would I add if I was made the Internet Director for the campaign?
- A prominent blog, possibly even part of the front page, that includes open comments
- Links to and use of Facebook and Myspace.
- Move the videos to YouTube
- A real issue page spelling out Schellinger's stances on the issues facing the states. Don't bury them in press releases, which most people won't read
- While the design is good, it's also very typical. Oh look, a candidate for office using red and blue and a star in the logo! Build a unique identity with a non-standard color and a unique non-star and non-exclamation-point logo. While Barack Obama has stuck with the red, white and blue his logo is a bit of brilliant graphic design.
- Add an RSS feed, not just for a Blog but for everything
- Oh look, a bunch of rural Indiana images yet no images of cities. Shocking. A blue barn siding background. A few rotating header images of farmland with a barn, rural sunset, and state fair arch/sign. Dear Jill Long Thompson, not everyone in the state is a country bumpkin, and we actually have cities, and people in those cities vote. Sincerely: Indianapolis, Gary, Fort Wayne, South Bend, etc. (Update: Finally a refresh brought a single picture of Indianapolis but still the theme is overwhelmingly "rural".)
- An actual issues page, but only one issue on it about education and a note to come back later for more. No. Get them at least basically fleshed out early and put them all up there. People come to your website to find out what you stand for, not just to be treated as cash machines and donate to you.
- A Blog!!! But.. oh.. wait... no comments. A "blog" without comments is not a blog. Have the stones to put comments on there. Yes, you will get some negative comments and even some vile comments. If some of them get too out of hand have a staffer whose job it is to watch the comments and delete any over the top of hateful ones. But allow people to disagree. This will let your supporters who also comment to back you up and get more involved in the process. As it is, your "blog" is just simplistic press releases.
- Videos actually hosted by YouTube, which allows comments. Nice. There are also links to Facebook and Myspace, which is good. Except the MySpace link is broken. Come on! Seriously, there is no excuse for that.
- Slightly better logo/graphic identity than Schellinger (I like the J inside the outline of Indiana, could be iconic on its own.) Still over-reliant on red and blue.
- There is a calendar of campaign stops but it apparently hasn't been updated since mid-December. No map of future or past stops.
- Menu includes standard About page, News (which seems to be more Press Releases and less Mentions In The News), the "Blog" that is not a blog, Take Action (a form to submit your 'ideas' to the campaign and also end up on the mailing list), the Issues page with one issue, a Photo Gallery that just has a few photos (instead, use Flickr and update it often from the road), the aforementioned out of date Calendar, and a contact page. All pages include a box to click on so you can contribute.
Grade: C. At least there is a slight attempt at interactivity what with the YouTube videos and the links to Facebook and MySpace(although that link is broken) but the Blog-That-Isn't-A-Blog is just weak. Design is slightly different than normal and a decent logo if still standard Red and Blue. I would like the Calendar if it was actually up to date.
What would I add if I was made the Internet Director for the campaign?
- A REAL blog with REAL comments. None of this fake blog crap. Make the News page part of the blog entries so your RSS feed will update anyone who subscribes.
- Engage actively in the Facebook and MySpace communities you link to (and fix the MySpace link)
- Put more than one issue on the Issues page. Now.
- Make the entire header clickable to take you Home. As it is only the logo part of it does that. Most internet users are trained to think an entire graphic header like that will take you to the home page of the site.
- As recommended to Schellinger, build a brand with a non-standard color that doesn't blend in with every other candidate.
- Move your Photo Gallery to Flickr and use it regularly to post pictures from the campaign trail
- Update your calendar
It's pretty obvious to me that neither candidate has a full time staffer dedicated to building an internet presence and keeping the website active and up to date to keep people coming back. Both Dem candidates' online efforts are weak. Only Jill Long Thompson shows any interest in interacting with the online grassroots community and even that is a pretty weak effort.
Now onto the incumbent Republican.
- My God, the green! My eyes! I love the non-standard color. It makes Daniels stand out as different among all the red and blue signs, but this is overload. Too much green in the background around the content.
- Use of YouTube is good. Interactive.
- Alot of money has obviously been put into this site. Lots of features like dogs dressed up for mitch (which may sound silly, but it will engage some people even in a minor way), ability to request the RV/campaign stop.
- Links to Facebook, MySpace, Flickr and YouTube. Those sites are apparently used by the campaign too.
- Menu: There's an about the team section. Pretty generic. A "Get The Facts" section that at least tries to address some of the critiques against him and what they see as accomplisments (although they are largely spin and bullshit, it's good political operation and website fodder), and a "Resource Center" with links to news articles, speeches, 2007 Campaign Donations report. I like the latter, gives a sense of openness to the campaign, although I wish it was the actual election commission report and not just a PDF generated by his finance committee. Could be useful for oppo research into his donors though! (PDF of 2007 donations report)
- No blog at all. While the forays into interactivity via Facebook, Youtube, MySpace and Flickr are good I still feel you need an interactive blog with open comments.
- No Issues page listing all of the major issues for the campaign. Sure, trumpet what you see as accomplishments but also have a standard place where people can find what you want to do next and where you stand on the issues of 2008.
- An RSS feed? Nice. Although there don't seem to be many items in it which is odd given all the content on the site.
- There is also a tool to allow people to write letters to the editor to various newspapers. This is something I helped implement on a smaller scale for some of the statehouse campaigns for which some friends and I worked on websites.
Grade: B+. I hate to say it but Daniels has the Dems beat hands down on quality of website and online organization. The lack of a blog and more true interactivity is not surprising but his site is still light years ahead of what the Dems have in that area. The use of an iconic, non red/blue color is great. Everyone knows what that green color means come election time.
I'm not going to give hints of what I'd do if I was the Internet Directory for Mitchy. 1) Because I would feel dirty and 2) I don't want to even think I might be helping them.
Sadly, there is much the Democratic candidates could learn from Mitch Daniels' web presence.
Found this meme via my father.
The first article title on the page is the name of your band.
The last four words of the very last quote is the title of your album.
The third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.
You then take the pic and add your band name and the album title to it, then post your pic.
1. Band name: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scouting_in_Bahrain
2. Album name: "Worry a little bit every day and in a lifetime you will lose a couple of years. If something is wrong, fix it if you can. But train yourself not to worry. Worry never fixes anything." - Mary Hemingway
3. Album image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eqqman/2166411396/
(I modified the rules to use the first image to match the criteria that was ALSO Creative Commons available to share and modify)
I think I like the band name, and the album cover too.
ArsTechnica has an excellent article about the recent Firefox 3 "blocking bugs" hubub, and the resulting response from the Firefox community. I will say that this article and this issue really sums up some of the difficulties of the software QA process - especially at the end of a cycle near release. Everyone (testers and developers) views their bugs, their issues, their code as the most important. This is difficult to overcome at times in a corporate software environment, so I can't imagine how hard it is in an open source software environment. It's one of the key challenges to QA: prioritizing bugs near release and determining which ones truly are blocking issues, which ones are incorrectly defined as blocking and which ones can be shipped and put off until an early service pack or hotfix.
The inflated number of blockers doesn't reflect problems with the Firefox development process or the program itself. Rather, it indicates that Firefox community members who actively participate in bug reporting and triaging are having trouble prioritizing the bugs properly. This is a very common problem that often emerges in large open source development projects towards the end of the release cycle.
Exactly. Hell, even corporate software development faces the same issue at times.
Asking maintainers to reevaluate bug priority is a way for Mozilla to refocus development on the most important issues so that the software is as robust and usable as possible by the release date. Reclassifying less-significant blockers is a necessary QA strategy that will actually lead to a better Firefox 3 release. No software will ever be released completely bug-free, and problems that can be fixed in updates after the Firefox 3 release can and should be reclassified at this stage so that they don't hold up more important development efforts.
This is very, very important for QA no matter who you are working for - an open source community or a corporation. End-of-cycle bug prioritizing can make or break a release. Leave too many as deferred can make users hate you. Try and fix too many and you'll be indefinitely postponing your release (and users will hate you). You need skilled QA and Development managers to be able to identify the stuff that absolutely MUST be fixed, the stuff that sucks but we can live with for a few weeks before a hotfix, and the stuff that just doesn't truly matter.
Speaking of hotfixes, this is something that the Ars article doesn't really go into but I'm sure (I hope) that the Forefox development community is already working in this fashion: branch your code even before release into a hotfix project. This project will be your first round of bug fixes for your product post-release. Even before the product is shipped start deferring the "sucks but we can live with it for a few weeks" bugs to that code branch. Put developers who are not needed for the release and bug cleanup process onto the hotfix. This way you have a head start on the hotfix that will make the (hopefully few) users who are unhappy about the shipped bugs happy.
In summary, "these are not the bugs you are looking for" and I think Firefox 3 is going to be just fine. Someone at the NYT should have done more research into software QA before writing that article or at least interviewed someone involved in QA management. By the looks of it they just reworked some press releases and added a dash of OMG!!WTFXORZ!!!700BUGZ!
so once again I've been gathering tabbed links in my browser with the idea of posting about them but it hasn't happened. So that means another Link Dump! You are excited, I can tell.
- Apparently crime really isn't as bad as people perceive it. Maybe people will calm the fuck down about all this panic over a "crime asploshun!!" in Indianapolis that really isn't. Although I doubt it. Because even though The Star carried this story, it won't stop them from sensationalizing crime themselves and contributing to the problem.
- I think I got about 100 IQ points dumber reading about the Scientific Proof For The Existence Of God!!!111eleventomgbbq!!. Really, if you have any sort of logical reasoning skills at all it's easy to decimate this thing into a million pieces. but I value my sanity FAR too much to actually read it again and do that in blog form. The best part is probably the uranium part. jeebus.
- A great find, CJ notes the appearance of Indianapolis in a new Marvel comic! Too bad they based the art on an old picture of the circle with the now non-existent Market Square Arena visible. Oops.
- God I hate the Pacers anymore. And not just because of horrible management decisions and blundered personnel. No, also because they still refuse to have any redheads on the dance team. Heathens!
- Schadenfreude, thy name is Ted Stevens Getting Raided By The FBI. I really hope they showed up in a BIG TRUCK! In honor of this amazing news, I went back and found the Ted Stevens internet speech techno remix.
- Nerds + Showbiz Pizza + The Rockafire Explosion + New Ms. Booty = AWESOME.
- This REALLLLY deserves its own post but damn if I have the time right now. So Thanks Mitch! Because you caved to the property tax whiners (of whom so many are people who have been paying far under what they should have been for years - I'm looking at you Meridian Kessler District) and put off the new tax evaluations Marion County is going to have a $52 million shortfall. Don't worry, Indianapolis is only the economic engine for the state you pretend to represent completely (but in the end you just end up representing road construction companies and people who believe your fake accent). A big ol' hearty middle finger to Mitchie Rich The Amazing Midget Governor.
- I've been posting more on CWAMB lately. I have a big post eventually planned for a what-if solution for the NBA: a 50-60 team league with three divisions and European-style relegation. Keep an eye out for it.
- Couldn't agree more with this at Tapped. The way our politics work, the short sighted politician who only spends money in time of disaster instead of spending money when there is no disaster gets rewarded. The latter just gets yelled at for spending tax money and *gasp* maybe raising taxes. Heavens to Betsy, noooo!
- This is horrifying. Dear Oklahoma, I enjoyed my time there for a national high school student council convention in 1995, but you are now dead to me.
- Mega-Kudos to FCC Commissioner Michael Copps. You couldn't be more right about the absolutely TERRIBLE broadband policy in this country. Making the link between this and the rampant media consolidation in the US is very nicely done.
I think that's it? I hope?