Pleonast RSS

My brother has a weblog at a site that doesn't provide an RSS feed for its blogs. I like reading what he says, but I can't be bothered to go look at the site periodically to check for new posts. That's so twentieth century. So, I wrote a screen scraping script that generates an rss feed for me. Subscribe to this feed and get Mike's posts without leaving your feed reader. You can change the url and get other users, too: Angie.

Regarding feed readers, I'm still using Bloglines and I'm very happy with it. A lot of people are switching to Google Reader and it is very nice, too. I've tried it, but I miss the way Bloglines lets me reorder my folders and feeds however I want.


Well, we heard from the President last night. My conversation with Kevin at Voter Vault is continuing. He had a good response to the comment that I pasted here yesterday. Good stuff. I'm not pasting today, so you'll have to go there and read it if you care. I hope this new plan works and my predictions of failure are proved wrong.

Live Hits

I just released another plugin for b2evolution: Live Hits. Most of my plugins have been of little practical value and this one is no exception. In fact, it's nothing more than a toy. But, if you have a b2evolution blog, a bit of curiosity and some time to kill, you may think it's fun. b2evolution records some info on every visit to the site, including their user agent, timestamp, what url they hit and their IP. The Stats tab of b2evolution provides a great way to sort through this data, including charts. But I wanted to write an interface for this data that was in real time. I took Digg Spy as inspiration and the jquery Spy plugin as some code to start with. Throw in a dash of sql and a pinch of Google Maps and stir briskly.

Using it is very simple. Just go to the Live Hits tab under tools, choose a blog (or None to see hits from all the blogs at once). Then you'll see the hits start rolling by, complete with a logo showing what browser or search engine hit the site and a matching pin on the map.

If you're a author, you should be able to see it in action right here.

The end result may be fairly pointless, but along the way I learned a lot about b2evolution and about jquery. JavaScript has always been opaque to me, but jquery makes it a lot easier, cleaner and more powerful. If you do any web development, I strongly encourage you to check it out.

Escalation in Iraq

By all accounts, President Bush is going to announce his plan tonight to send more troops to Iraq. I feel fairly strongly that this is a terrible idea. I wrote this as a comment to a post at Voter Vault, but I'm reposting it here with a few more links. Think of it as efficiency rather than laziness.

We must get our news from different places, because I haven't noticed a big appeal to emotion on the part of people opposing this escalation. Here are the reasons I've seen.

1. It was tried in August of this year and it didn't work. The neighborhoods taken by US troops were pacified for a time, but as soon as they left, the violence returned.

2. 20,000 is not enough. McCain says this and he also says that it should be for at least 18 months.

3. There aren't 20,000 more troops to send in. We're already stretched thin with multiple and extended tours.

4. My congressman, Ike Skelton, has been saying that it's way too late for this type of strategy.

5. Abizaid and Casey, the (former) generals on the ground, oppose this plan. Bush has said all along that he'll listen to his generals when it comes to troop levels. Then when they oppose his new plan he kicks them to the curb. He'll say that they've failed and need to be replaced, which may be true, but if you want an example of choosing politics over statesmanship, look no further. This was a brilliant political maneuver. He passed the buck for all those months and now he's using them as a scapegoat for his failed policy. He'll reshuffle the chairs and start the cycle over again.

So, there are five reasons that I think this is not a good move, and none of them are emotional. Do you have some examples of what you're talking about. I did read about Ted Kennedy comparing this to LBJ's escalation in Vietnam. I guess that does invoke the strong feelings related to that war, but I don't think it's far fetched comparison.

If more troops go in I hope it works and things in Iraq improve, but have a hard time believing that it will unfold that way. He's trying to draw to an inside straight and the chips he's pushing in are actual human people with real lives and families. The casino needs to stop serving him drinks and call 1-800-BETS-OFF for him.

If you agree that this escalation is a bad idea, you can sign this petition.

Prevent malware

If you have a new computer and you want to keep it from getting slow, crashy and malware-ridden like your last computer, then take a look at this list. I wrote up versions of this for two clients in one week, so I thought I would post it here so I can copy and paste next time. If it's useful to you, too, then that's great.

How to keep from getting spyware, adware and viruses, in order of importance.

1. Get a Mac
( ) They're much more secure and are not generally affected by these problems. If you follow this step then you can skip the rest. If you already own a Windows computer, read on.

2. Email Attachments
Don't open them. If you know the sender and are reasonably sure that you know what the attachment is, then go ahead. Be careful.

3. Windows Update
If you're using Windows XP, then turn on Automatic updates and allow it to install all of them. If you're using something older than that, then go to Start > Programs > Windows Update once every 2 weeks and follow the steps to download and install all critical updates.

4. Firefox
( ) Firefox is a free web browser that is more secure and feature rich than Internet Explorer, the browser that came pre-installed on your computer. If you use Firefox instead of IE then you'll prevent many security problems.

5. Spybot Search and Destroy
( ) This security program will scan your computer for bad programs and remove them. It can also block bad programs ahead of time. Follow the instructions and update, scan and immunize once every two weeks.

6. AVG Free
( ) Free antivirus with updates. Just like before, update and scan every two weeks.

7. Adaware
( ) One more to update and scan fortnightly. This one sometimes catches what the others miss.

Best. SecDef. Ever.

In his regard for our people in uniform, in his unwavering strength through unprecedented challenges, in his example of leadership and patriotic service, I believe the record speaks for itself: Don Rumsfeld is the finest Secretary of Defense this nation has ever had.
-- Dick Cheney, December 15, 2006

He apparently said that with a straight face. I think that even the first president Bush's Secretary of Defense, dirtbag that he is, was better at the job than Rumsfeld. But Tom Friedman sums it up best:

Think of what happened this week. OK, Dick Cheney, the vice president, stood up at a massive farewell ceremony for, for Rumsfeld at the Pentagon and said he was the greatest secretary of defense in American history. Now, if that is true, either George Bush is a fool or Dick Cheney is a liar, all right? Because either George Bush just fired at the height of a war, at the greatest national security threat of our country’s current era, the greatest secretary of defense in history, or Dick Cheney thinks we’re all walking around with a sign that says “Stupid” on it.
on Meet the Press, December 17, 2006

Appeal for Redress

I'm currently reading The Greatest Story Ever Sold by Frank Rich. It's a collection of all the mistakes, spin, half-truths and outright deceptions of the Bush administration. I remember hearing about a lot of this when it happened, but now that I see it all at once and see the connections, the charges are quite damning.

The elections last month were a clear message from the American public that the war in Iraq is not acceptable. Now there's another group calling for an end to the war: the military. A growing group of active and reserve service men and women (including officers) is signing on to the Appeal for Redress. There strict rules about how someone in the military can dissent, but they do have that right. Appeal for Redress is a way for someone in the service to express their desire for the war to end and still have the full protection of the law. We can support our troops by standing behind those who make this choice.

Comic Vine

Comic Vine has a database of thousands of super heroes, cataloged by their powers. So, if you've ever wondered who was tops in a particular super power, this site can tell you. It's also a wiki, so if you see a gap or a mistake, just click Edit and contribute.

(via Digg)

This American Life

NPR radio show This American Life is now available as a free podcast. I've been wanting to listen to it for a while and I'm really enjoying it now that I can hear it on my commute. Other podcasts on my iPod:

Battlestar Gallactica - Instant DVD commentary for the best sci-fi show on TV.
Meet the Press - Tim Russert refuses to take BS off of anyone.
News Hour - Nightly PBS news show with another great reporter, Jim Lehrer. These are broken up into segments, which is really nice. I listen to the stories I'm interested in, in the order I want.
Now with David Brancaccio - Weekly PBS news magazine that is unabashedly leftist.
Le Show - Harry Shearer of Simpsons fame. Comedy, news and commentary.
Onion Radio News & President's Weekly Radio Address - The Onion is funny in audio form, too. Their Bush speeches are the best, though.
This Week in Tech - Successor to The Screen Savers and the grandfather of all tech podcasts.

I'm not giving links because you can just look in iTunes or your favorite podcast directory if you want to subscribe. There are some other shows on my iPod, but these are the shows that I never miss. Having time to listen to all of this is one good thing about being in my car 8 hours a week.

What I do at work

Last week I completed the sales site for the product I work on. used to just have a login page, but now we have some info about the product and some screencasts showing what it can do. If, for some reason, you have an interest in what I spend my days on, watch those videos and you'll have a good idea of how the application works.

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