WP’s new commenting system

Not being one to bite the hand that feeds me (much), I won’t go too deeply into how badly WordPress dropped the ball with their “new” commenting system.  I think it was done with the best of motives in mind (stopping drive-by harassment and spam) but the implementation was done with a chainsaw where a small surgical knife would have been better.

Forcing folks to log in (or even create an account first) serves a purpose even if one doesn’t immediately see it.  It helps to log an IP address of a commenter.  While this is done in the background, and is not intrusive (except for having to do it), it still annoys people.  I had my blog set up so that once I approved a person’s first comment, other comments could be made without approval.  This has gone by the wayside.  Where before, I enjoyed seeing colorful avatars, I now see only the default ones because there is some sort of mix-up between logging in to Avatar.com and WordPress.com so that using one email to log into one service is not sufficient for the other service.  This is a problem to be worked out between the two services and I don’t think it was intentionally caused by WP.

I feel certain that WP will eventually work this out to the satisfaction of all.  What does bother me is that there is absolutely NO comment (joke intended) from the WordPress staff anywhere except a few scattered posts in a now-locked thread concerning their change of policy.  This is just wrong.  They should be making sure their point of view is known to everyone who uses their service.  This is not the case.  All we can do is grouse about it – and even then not very effectively because we don’t know who to grouse AT/TO (choose correct grammar – I know it’s a preposition).

So, until things get straightened out, I am just going to ignore my statistics because they will be skewed out of shape because not everyone wants to have to log in to comment.  The whole point of blogging is to let the free association of ideas actually happen.  Having to put yourself down in a log file somewhere just to make a comment is just not the right way to go.  I feel I am perfectly capable of screening comments for my blog and keeping the obvious spam and whatnot out.  I don’t need some Java code doing the thinking for me.

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The 20-year Itch

Also subtitled “What was I thinking?”

After being trashed by a very unfavorable (and error-filled) home appraisal for a refinance from a person who was definitely unqualified, we decided it was time to do some changes around the house.  Our family room contains one of our fireplaces and, since we are heading into summer, we probably wouldn’t be using it very much in the coming months.  So, our next decision was to remove the old paneling which had been slapped up around the beginning of time by our house’s old tenants from 20 years ago.

Last winter, we had an ice storm which built up in the rain gutters and forced a bit of water into the house over the french doors to our deck.  It wasn’t much, but it was enough for me to have to tear down a few pieces of paneling.  What I saw back then should have prepared me for what was coming at the beginning of this week.  The old paneling, which had been slapped up using a garden hose for a straightedge and a piece of bread for a square, practically disintegrated when I pried it off.  I spend quite a bit of time making repairs to the header over the door like filling in huge voids, removing plywood blocks to support a 12×8 lintel, and tugging out blackened pieces of non-outdoor insulation with an R-factor of about -12.

Once this was done, I began to apply new paneling.  Trying something new that the wife had found on a web site, we decided to use our composite flooring we bought at IKEA on the wall.  Don’t laugh, it works just fine.  Seeing as how the walls, corners, and ceiling were built to not-so-very-exacting standards, I had a heck of time measuring and cutting boards to fit.  After three days of struggling with saws, hammers, finishing nails, and the like, I am now about half-way through with the pr0ject.

My left thumb is black and blue with a severely cracked nail and I have multiple tiny little pokes from hidden nails behind the old paneling which was laid directly over small pieces of gypsum board and, in some places, the original lath & plaster.  Each new piece of paneling removed revealed more shoddy construction.

It will be nice when I am finished though because we plan to place bookshelves from floor to ceiling on either side of the fireplace.  Some other changes will be to lighting and, eventually, new flooring.  This coming winter should see our family room as a very cozy place to do some reading and toasting in front of the fire.  When you hit 70, pleasures like that are hard to find.

Our next project will be to tackle the downstairs (basement) fireplace and do pretty much the same to it.  At least down there I already know how the paneling was installed.  The fireplace area also includes the pool table and the sliding door out to the hot tub.  I can hardly wait.

 

Odds and Ends

I tried just the other day to watch the ‘new’ picture “The Mechanic”.   I only lasted about an hour and then flipped to another channel.  It was horrible.  Charlie Bronson does a face-palm.  The hitman had the same last name and he used a hot car – that’s about it.  This got me to thinking about all the other remakes I’ve seen that turned out worse than the original.  True, there were a few remakes that were okay.  A trio of my favorites are: The Parent Trap, Sabrina, and The Reluctant Debutante (What a Girl Wants).

Some of the rest are drek.  They Are:

3:10 to Yuma, The Bad News Bears, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Rear Window, The Firm, Flight of the Phoenix, The Absent Minded Professor = Flubber, The Incredible Journey = Homeward Bound, The Italian Job,The Longest Yard, Mostly Martha = No Reservations, The Nutty Professor, Ocean’s Eleven, On The Beach, Dial M for Murder = A Perfect Murder, Picnic, Planet of the Apes, Godzilla, Red Dawn, Rollerball, The Paleface (’48) = The Shakiest Gun in the West (’68), State Fair, Bye Bye Birdie, The Taking of Pelham 123, The Thing from Another World = The Thing, The Time Machine, Total Recall, Vanishing Point, The More the Merrier = Walk Don’t Run, Where the Boys Are = Where the Boys Are ’84, Yours Mine and Ours

Special Mention as being good remakes also: Les Visiteurs = Just Visiting, Day of the Jackal = The Jackal, Seven Samurai = The Magnificent Seven, The Man Who Knew Too Much (’34) = The Man Who Knew Too Much (’56), Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House = The Money Pit, My Favorite Wife = Move Over Darling, High Noon = Outland, The Front Page = Switching Channels, To Be or Not to Be, The Shop Around the Corner = You’ve Got Mail

Come on, Hollywood.  Can’t you come up with some original films besides just adding computer effects and crud to what was a basically good story?  My all-time disliked remake is: Arthur.  Liza Minelli and Dudley Moore absolutely made that movie.  Sir John Gielgud as the butler was perfect.  The remake starred Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, and Jennifer Garner.  Making Hobson (Sir John’s part) a female was just plain mean spirited.  I only watched the first half hour of this loser.

Anyway, my rant is over – for now.  I’m sure that some pitchman in Tinseltown is just slavering to do a remake “because it’s easier than writing new stuff.  All we have to do is cut off the title page and change the name.  Nobody will be the wiser; especially those losers out there who’ll pay to see it”.

 

 

Never Outsource Some Things

The corporate mind seems to think that sending things overseas will cure all their monetary problems.  In a very few cases this might even be true.  But there are some things that should never be outsourced.  Brain surgery using Skype comes to mind immediately.  Crisis intervention is another.  The major item I wish to expound on today is: Technical Support.

My Internet went out two days ago.  My ISP is AT&T (what used to be SBCGlobal) so I call the AT&T hot line.  Remember that I wear double hearing aids and cannot hear too well anyway so this tale will either chill you or strike a sympathetic chord.  First crack out of the bag is CHIME CHIME CHIME WELCOME TO AT&T!!  The phone blasts into my ear.  Good, I think, at least I will be able to hear them – from across the room.  Next, there is a click and someone way down in a rain barrel tells me, in Spanish, to press ‘1’ if I want Spanish.  I say nothing.

Then this robotic voice appears and asks me in a conversational tone (I am paraphrasing here) “Well, howdy to friendly old AT&T.  At any time just speak whatever it is that’s bothering you today.  Things like ‘service’, ‘pay your bill’, ‘tech support’, …”  At that point I speak and say “Technical Support”.  Pause.  “I’m sorry, what was that again?”  I repeat what I’d just said.  “I’m sorry, what was that again?”.

Now, I remember that he said ‘tech support’ instead of ‘technical support’.  Well, maybe he’s brain damaged (from too much surgery over Skype, no doubt).  I say ‘tech support’.  A pause.  Then “Tech support, fine.  Now, for which type of tech support do you desire?”  Hmmm.  There are types?  He launches again ‘home phone’, ‘wireless phone’, ‘megaphone’, ‘two tin cans and a string’, ‘internet’, …”  Aha!

I speak ‘Internet’.  Now I am faced with “Which kind? ‘dial up’ (does anyone still use that?), ‘high-speed wireless’, ‘DSL’, …  Aha, again!

I speak ‘DSL’.  “Thank you.  Now, let me confirm your telephone number.  I have you as calling from # # # – # # # – # # # #, is that correct?”  I say “Yes”.   He says “Thank you.  Please wait for the next technician.  Low-pitched BEEP!  High-pitched BEEP!  I wait, cringing from the tones while my hearing aid resets.

Now I am treated to a voice extolling the virtues of using the Internet to contact technical support simply be going to “ATT dot COM forward-slash Support”.  Ummmm, excuse me, I can’t get ON the stupid Internet dude.  That’s why I’m calling!  Sheesh.

Finally the phone begins to ring.  Thirty five rings later it is finally picked up and a singsong voice says … something so rapidly that I have no chance of deciphering it.  I have been shifted to a country where English is perhaps a fifth language.  I say “Huh?  What was that you said?  Please speak slowly because I wear a hearing aid.”  He responds “HI, MY …  NAME … IS … FLAUBERT … HOW … MAY … I … HELP … YOU?”  Now, I have a wise-ass.  I am only hearing impaired, not intelligence impaired.  Now, this person reduces volume to around forty decibels and again sings me a song asking if he can help me – albeit a bit slower.  I begin my explanation.

halfway through, this guy interrupts me to ask me what phone number I am calling from.  I say “Hey, I was already asked that already.  Don’t you have end-to-end CRM? (Customer Relations Management)”  He says “Huh?” and asks me for my phone number again.  I give it to him.  Now he wants an alternate in case we get disconnected.  I give him my cell phone (from rival Cincinnati Bell – take that, AT&T!)

I start again with my problem.  He interrupts me after I tell him my DSL has been out for about an hour and tells me he is going to “run some tests against my modem and am I sitting in front of my computer?”  “Which one,” I ask.  “I have seven of them.”

This throws the guy for a loop.  I already know how the game is played having gone through his once before though and have isolated my DSL modem so that it is connected directly to only one computer because I know that is going to be the very next instruction.  I try my best to forestall ANY further kindergarten-grade preliminaries by telling him I’ve been in IT and computers for around 48 years.  This has no effect and he keep driving ahead on the script he has in front of him.

“Please to be opening your Internet Explorer and entering the following numbers.”  He gives me the IP address of the modem which virtually every modem in the known universe has as a default.  “Stop,” I say.  “I don’t have Internet Explorer on any of my computers”.  “Oh, you are very mistaken, Sir.  Every Windows operating system has Internet Explorer.”  “Well, mine doesn’t ever since I ripped it out, threw it on the floor, and kicked it to death.”

This really fakes the guy out.  “But, I do have Firefox so we can proceed from there and I’ll fake it.”  He doesn’t understand the meaning of the phrase ‘fake it’ so I have to explain.  Anyway, after socially dancing for five minutes I tell him I have the login page of the modem showing.  Now, He tell ME what my username is and wants me to put it in the first box.  I’ve already done that, but to make him happy I move the mouse over to the desktop and hit a bunch of keys randomly so he can hear them.

Now he really throws ME for a loop.  “I have to ask you this security question to see who I am talking to.”  He proceeds to ask me “Who is your favorite hero?”  My what?  What the hell is he talking about?  Favorite Hero?  I may, back in the dawn of Internet time when I set up my first DSL connection gave some answers to questions like this, but after around eleven years, who remembers them?  I tell him this.  “Oh, I am very sorry, sir, but I am unable to give you the password until you answer this question.”

I go ahead and type my password into the box and tell him I’ll just guess what the password is because I have no idea who my favorite hero is.  He gets excited and tells me it starts with an “M”.  Mickey Mouse?  Margaret Thatcher? Missing Link?  I haven’t a clue.  I relent and tell HIM what the password is.  He gives up and we proceed.  I click Connect.

The modem thinks about it for around two decades and then resets the page to the login screen.  At the top, in tiny little letters that my trifocals can’t read without the aid of a big magnifying glass I keep on the desk, “Cannot reach the Distant equipment”.  I relay that to said technician.  He thinks about it and then gives me another password to try.  Same results.  We go through five passwords (after re-confirming that I’ve entered my proper email address every time).  Each one fails with the same message – which I pass on to this idiot technician.

Each time we go through this, I remind him of what the modem is telling me: I cannot connect to the distant equipment.  This clearly (in my mind) tells me that there is a problem on the DSL line somewhere between the back of my house and the “cloud”.  He refuses to believe it and pronounces my modem as bad.  However, I am not to feel badly because AT&T will be happy to sell me a brand new modem for around a bazillion bucks plus tax, installation, and green stamps.  I tell him no, I think I’ll keep mine and wait until the serviceman finds the blockage and fixes it.

“And what blockage would that be, Sir?”  He asks.  “The blockage between here and the rest of the world.  Please assign a control number to this trouble call and pass it to the repair service so they can set up an appointment.”

By now, he is sputtering that things just aren’t done that way, but I override him and he reluctantly agrees (maybe to just get rid of me and keep his ‘calls per hour’ numbers higher).  He finally tells me that I will receive a call “within the hour” scheduling a serviceperson’s appearance.  We hang up.

Sometime, during the night, little technical gremlins (the good kind) went out and repaired my DSL line and left me a message on my cell phone (instead of my regular phone) at 0400 telling me they have judged it an equipment outage on their network and that a service call won’t be necessary.  This morning, I reconnected my modem, router, switches, wireless access point, and all other things properly and I’m back in business.

Some things should never be outsourced.  Give me a fast-talking New Yorker, a twangy Floridian, or a California surfer any day.  Please, all you corporations, can’t you at least bring technical support back within our own borders so we can communicate better?

 

Surgery

Today, I finally had a small growth right between my eyes removed.  It was done as a walk-in, lie back for fifteen minutes while my forehead was numbed, sliced open an inch, and the thingy removed, incision sewed, and then back out.  Now I have a vertical bandage that is slowly driving me crazy.

I know I am not alone with my dislike of having anything near (or touching) my eyebrows.  My wife, kids, and grandkids all tease me by threatening to rub them the wrong way.  Today, I had to grit my teeth and bear it while the doctor taped towels all around my face so he could isolate the surgery area.  Naturally, as soon as he told not to raise my hands to my face, I developed an itch on the side of my nose.  The impulse grew larger and larger until I had to physically restrain one hand from flying to my nose with the other one.  Finally, the assisting nurse noticed my face twisting to and fro and asked me if I had an itch.  She had to ask me twice because I’d taken my hearing aids out and didn’t hear her the first time.  She reached out with a gloved finger and rubbed the side of my nose.  She will be featured prominently in my will.

So now I am sitting here in my computer room, glasses at a strange angle because they can’t sit properly on my bandaged nose, and writing this post.  I have to stop every once in a while and hold an ice-filled bag to my face to help stem the slight swelling the Doctor said I might have.  Once the swelling goes down, I can look forward to little ‘raccoon eyes’ from the surgery.  My cat already thinks I look strange because she shied away at first and then, naturally, got curious and sniffed the bandage.  She even lay on my chest for a while just to make sure I was all right.

Chapter two of my novel, Wanderlust, has been released.  You can find it at the same URL as in my original post here, but click the number ‘2’ for the second chapter.  The overall title is named for Chapter 1, but that was because there was already a title named that same and Booksie will not allow two identical titles on their site.  Go figure.  I am also working on some chapter art that may make the story seem a bit more real.

So, snow already!

Off and on for the last week we have been alternately pelted with what I call ‘granola snow’.  It starts out as little grains of snow and eventually creates a crusty, slipper surface everywhere you step.  This goes on for a day or so and then the sun comes out (or tries to) and then the temperature edges up and over freezing resulting in melted granola.

While mentally composing this post, I ranged way back 60-some years and recalled the snows of winters past.  I am sure everyone does this from time to time; comparing snows “like it used to be, Sonny” with a chuckle more like a cackle, but I really seem to remember a lot lustier winters in my past.

Take Fairbanks (please).  We were up there from summer 1947 through summer of 1950.  I was age 5 through 8.  Perhaps it was because I was closer to the ground, perhaps not, but it did seem that snowfall, any snowfall, seemed to reach my waist fairly fast.  I definitely remember walking to school pushing snow ahead of me like a two-legged snowplow the whole six blocks.  When I arrived (or, in fact any kid arrived), our first order of business was to dance about and shake wadded snow and ice down our snowsuit legs.  This was done in the entryway and under the supervision of stern-faced teachers who would inspect each and every one of us for contraband (i.e. hidden snowballs).

Once inside, we progressively shed outer garments until we were steamed dry.  This was because the school used a monstrous coal-fired boiler and steam heat.  Steam heat, as we all know, is the bane of any kid regardless of age.  When the heat was on, we sweltered; when it was off, we froze our little tushies off.  But, I digress.

We were overjoyed when our dad came home and told up we were moving to Washington, D.C.  Whoopee!  No more snow!

To put it mildly, we were disillusioned the very first winter.  That was the winter of 1951 and it was brutal.  It actually made me wish for the sunnier days of Alaska.  At least in DC we had buses to take us to school.  Only on rare occasions would they fail to get through.  It was pointless to sit there in the kitchen listening to the radio and praying for a snow day (or week, sometimes) because they would never fail to pick us up.

This amount of snow was not the norm though.  In most winters (we were there from 1950 through 1955) the snow levels were somewhat disappointing to us kids.  It rarely ever reached our waists.  Instead, it mostly hung around our thighs or lower.  Since my age was from 8 through 13 there, perhaps it was because I was taller than before.  By now, however, boys my age were now more interested in building, charging, and defending snow forts as well as making the lives of girls miserable by snowy antics.  I would like to state here and now that I really didn’t have any axe to grind when I did stupid stuff like that.  If any of those girls are still around, I apologize.  It was just ‘stuff boys did’ back then; stupid, but necessary by the ‘Code of the Male Animal – preteen years’.

Moving onwards, we spent the years 1955 through 1958 in Southwest Germany – specifically at Bitburg AB near Trier.  This was a different snow it seemed.  Weather patterns weren’t like those in the States.  It seemed as if snow could come from any direction – and usually did.  My dad, who was in the hierarchy of the 2nd Weather Wing on base, had a particularly hard time predicting weather patterns for quite a while until he got used to there not actually being a pattern.  In my 13th through 15th years there, I came to welcome hard snows.  Since we were housed in a central area, and the school was plonked down smack dab in the middle, we rarely got a chance to actually miss school because of snow.  We did have what they called ‘delayed opening’.  This is similar to what that call the same thing nowadays except that it meant we would gather in the gymnasium or smaller lunchroom and play records and dance until the teachers actually arrived.  Now I recall that snow was beginning to work towards my aims instead of against them.

The Germans also had tons of sports and festivals all winter long in which snow played an important part.  Cold weather would not daunt them from carnivals and the like.  All of which would allow some cold-weather activity on the part of good male-female relations.  In face, it outright demanded it in some instances.  Ice skating was high on the list as well as bundling on horse-drawn hay wagons (real wagons with real hay and real horses) so we could “watch the scenery go by”.  And, best of all, there was nothing like walking your girlfriend home in knee-deep snow, carrying her books, and trying to catch flakes on your tongues.  That was something to die for.

The following years, I spent mostly in California.  When that ended, I spent a year in college and then joined the navy.  My first few years were spent down in Southeast Asia where the only snow you saw was coming from the press reports on how well we were ‘winning the war’.  I did spend three years in Misawa, Japan.  The snows were great there with drifts sometimes high over the roof of the car as I drove to work.  It seemed strange , however, that Japanese snow only fell from right to left.

Now, in this new year, all I see (so far) is snow that barely reached your shoe tops.  I realize that we may have more snowstorms for a while, but I’d bet they aren’t anywhere near as deep or as good as snowfalls of the past; dammit.  I really miss a good hefty snow.  Maybe, since it is an election year, we’ll see some great snowjobs.

Weird Weather

A couple of days ago, it was 54 degrees out.  The sun was shining, the birds were tweeting, and the squirrels were, um, squirreling.  A light wind blew and all was right with the world.  Now, today, the rain came.  It is cold, blustery, and not at all conducive for the sun, birds, or squirrels to do their thing.

According to the weather-guessers, it is supposed to snow for the next two days.  Now, these are probably not the same ones that told my sister in Boulder that the snow was only going to last for a short while and deposit just 2 inches, but they are of the same breed (if not the same genus) and they make their predictions based on Ouija Boards and fish guts (or whatever) wrapped around their fingers.

A company a few years back used to sell what they called a backyard weather indicator.  It was a simply flat board about 6 inches square that was suspended by a string on all four corners and hung on a tripod.  It was simple to use:

If the board was dry and warm, the sun was shining.

If the board was wet, then it was raining.

If the board was whipping around, then the wind was blowing.

If the board had two inches of snow on it, then it was snowing

You get the idea, I’m sure.  I wonder if that company is still around because they obviously had an inner track to thing of that nature.  They probably invented the Pet Rock also.

I just watched an old British black and white movie starring Aldo Ray and Peter O’Toole called “The day they Robbed the Bank of England”.  It’s a very good movie but only about 85 minutes long.  Now that I’ve seen it, I was strongly reminded of a much more modern movie released not long ago called “The Bank Job”.  Like the older movie, the thieves used an old sewer to tunnel under the bank vault so they could plunder it.  Not having the modern conveniences of things like radios, rapid transportation, and other things like that, the old thieves got caught simply by bad luck.  In the new movie, a ham radio operator picked up their handi-talkie chatter and called police.  The police, in turn, did some fancy sleuthing by sending cars all over London with their sirens hooting while the detectives listened for radio chatter.  Clever idea, for sure.  It didn’t work because a clumsy accomplice on a rooftop dropped his radio to the pavement below.

The end of the later movie got a bit murky as the thieves traded some smutty pictures by a female Royal for immunity and new passports.  They “underestimated” the value of their haul also and rode off into the sunset.  I’m pretty sure Aldo Ray didn’t get to do that.

Our cat is certifiably deranged.  That’s a veterinary term meaning “she’s crazy”.  Since the squirrels have virtually stopped frolicking in the yard, she has now taken up a watch station in the front window and “ekkkks” at the occasional bird that has the temerity to try and feed itself from the small try I have suspended right in front of the front porch.  This puts the birds at about eight feet away from her nose.  Yeah, I know.  It’s cruel, but lots of fun (for me, bwwwwahahahahah).  One of these days I’m going to have to film her.  She really gets into it.  She paces back and forth while they peck away and when they fly off (especially upwards over the roof of the porch) she zooms to the back sliding door and waits patiently for them to appear.  They never do, but she won’t listen to me.

Later, ya’ll.