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Hosted services Sun, Apr 30, 2006
The more I think about it, the more I understand the usefulness of hosted services.  For example, Gmail for your domain, picture sharer Flickr, bookmark sharer del.icio.us, video sharer YouTube, and even blogging tool WordPress.  I used to be under the impression that all these things can and should be hosted at one's own website.  It just seemed to make sense:  If you have your own web space, you should put all your stuff in the same place.  You should set up your website and implement a photo gallery.  You should collect and share links.  If you have videos or other multimedia, you should host them too.  If you have access to a mail server, you should implement that.  Why use a bunch of different sites when you have plenty of space on your own site? 

But I'm realizing the error in this way of thinking.  If your site goes down, everything goes down.  If something weird happens to your mail server, you have to figure out what the problem is and fix it.  On the other hand, if you stored your pictures on Flickr, you'd be using their bandwidth, not yours.  If you used del.icio.us to manage your bookmarks, you'd be using their reliable servers, not your own.  If you used YouTube, you'd be sharing videos with their web-based Flash player, not forcing people to download the right program and necessary codecs. 

Although I'm still not a fan of Flickr's maximum storage space and monthly upload rate, and I don't really feel the need for "social" anything, I can appreciate the usefulness of hosted services.  You get to use somebody else's bandwidth and reliability at the cost of customization and localization.  At times, that's a worthwhile compromise. #technology

WordPress the_content (8) Fri, Apr 28, 2006
I've never been a big fan of how WordPress treats my post content (the_content).  It automatically puts it within paragraph tags (<p>), and there's no way I can disable that. 

Or is there?  I searched for it and found that other people are unhappy with this function.  This WordPress support topic pointed to a plugin called WP Unformatted, written by WordPress guru Alex King.  The plugin somewhat clumsily disables the auto-formatting when a custom field is added to a post.  That's a lot of work, seeing that you'd have to add that custom field to every single post to make everything look the same.  This guy found the function that applies this auto-formatting (which can also be found in the WP Unformatted plugin if you're a little bit smart):  It's named "wpautop" and it's called in the "default-filters.php" file in the "wp-includes" directory.  His suggestion is to edit the file by commenting out the call to that function. 

I've never been a fan of editing core WordPress files because it adds a lot of confusion when upgrading.  So the other obvious alternative is to make a little plugin or include in some "my-hacks.php" file this little bit of code:  "remove_filter('the_content', 'wpautop')".  This does the trick, but it causes a few other problems.  If a post has any type of formatting, such as paragraphs or line breaks, they're all gone.  Disabling that filter simply outputs plain text, though the text still looks like it has formatting [1].  Another weird thing that happens is that the_content has a blank space before the first character of the first word.  I'm not sure why this is happening, but I verified that it happens in more than one theme, which means it's not just a problem caused by my theme. 

A WordPress support page said that the the_content() function simply applies filters to the get_the_content() function, meaning that a user could call "echo get_the_content()", and it would output the stripped-down version of a post's content.  I tried it and found that it works great and doesn't have that blank space at the beginning.  Problem solved!  Except that it creates a whole bunch of new problems, the most important of which being plugins.  Most plugins apply filters to the_content, which means they would have no effect if the_content isn't called.  So I'm back to where I started.  WordPress puts the_content in paragraph tags.  Suck it up. 

[1] The plain text looks like it still has formatting (when viewing the source) because that's how it's stored in MySQL.  It has line breaks and spaces, but HTML doesn't display it like that.  The solution to that problem is to put it in <pre> tags and include word wrap with the "wrap='virtual'" attribute.  You can also apply styling to <pre> tags like this:  <pre wrap="virtual" style="font-family:trebuchet ms; font-size:10pt;"> #technology

Audience Thu, Apr 27, 2006
Sometimes I don't write anything on my website for a little while because I get a form of writer's block.  My general idea behind this site is that I'll stop writing when I have nothing more to say.  But I have more to say.  Lots more.  I have an opinion about everything.  Obviously even stupid things.  So where does this writer's block come in?  It happens when I think about who my audience is.  Since I personally know the 4-5 people who regularly read this site, I sometimes feel the need to write things they might agree with or be interested in.  It's not that I'm changing my ideas so they fit in with my "audience".  It's more like I hold back on writing about everything that's on my mind.  This can be a good thing, obviously, because I have some pretty radical beliefs and ideas.  But it can also be a bad thing because I'm not writing what I really want to write.  And it's not all offensive, racist stuff.  Some of it is Christian.  Some of it is uber-technical.  And these are the kinds of things that I think twice about writing because I have my "audience" in mind. 

That's just plain dumb.  This website isn't about my "audience" (I keep using quotes because having an audience makes it sound like I'm important, and I'm not).  It's about me.  If you don't like what I have to say, stop reading.  Or get your own website.  I'm an opinionist, and this site is a collection of my thoughts, feelings, opinions, ideas, beliefs, rants, raves, and anything else I can think of, written about every topic under the sun.  Why should I hold something back because I think it'll bore people?  Why should I filter my ideas so that only the "best and most agreeable" come out? 

I shouldn't, so I won't.  I'm going back to writing for the sake of writing.  Be prepared for some more geeky-ness and mediocrity. #psychology

Listening problem (2) Wed, Apr 26, 2006
I think I have a listening problem.  I've been noticing lately that my mind wanders during conversations.  Just yesterday, I was talking to a guy I work with.  I asked him a question about a project, and about two minutes into his explanation, I realized I hadn't heard anything he said.  I was off in my own little world, thinking about rainbows and unicorns or whatever it is I normally think about.  I had to rely on my "keen intellect" to put together the pieces of his explanation based on what he was currently saying.  Then I faked my way through the rest by pretending to know what he was talking about.  Life would be a little easier if I actually listened to what people were saying instead of just pretending to listen. 

"Not talking" doesn't mean "listening". #psychology

Website causing problems (3) Tue, Apr 25, 2006
I read a story a little while ago about a guy named Christopher Monks who was turned down for a teaching job because of his website.  Part of his website consists of his semi-stalking fan letters to Star Jones.  I say "semi" because they're totally meaningless and done in "good fun".  He doesn't actually mail her the letters; he posts them on his website.  He calls it a hobby; just something he does as a stay-at-home dad. 

When he went to an interview for a teaching position, the interviewers Googled him and were a little disturbed by the contents of his website.  He tried to explain everything to them, but they didn't really listen.  He didn't get the job.  This story is a little like Heather Armstrong, who lost her job because of the contents of her website (though her website's contents were "objectionable and negative" and directed towards her boss and co-workers). 

I read these things in the past and laughed.  For anyone to take the intraweb seriously, they'd have to be pretty dumb.  But then that got me thinking:  What if my employer Googled me?  Would I lose my job?  What if I try to get a different job in the future?  Will I be rejected because a large part of my private life is available for 6 billion people to read? 

So I sometimes consider ending my website and deleting all its contents.  Sure it would still be available through the Internet Archive and Google cache, but normal people don't know about that.  And I think (and hope) I could convince a would-be job-ender that my website is relatively harmless and doesn't contain much, if any, incriminating information about myself, my employer, my family, or my acquaintainces.  I guess we'll see. #technology

Media Tue, Apr 25, 2006
As I was thinking of things people could buy me for my birthday, I noticed something interesting:  Everything I was asking for was some form of media [1], whether it was CDs, DVDs, video games, books, etc.  That got me thinking:  Everything in life basically revolves around these things.  We watch shows on TV, then talk about them with our friends.  We watch movies, then we play video games based on these movies.  We read books, then watch movies based on these books.  We save up our hard-earned money so we can buy these forms of media.  We even save up our hard-earned money to invest in bigger and better ways to display or transmit these forms of media.  We buy big TVs so we can watch hi-def movies.  We buy stereo systems so we can hear music in surround sound.  We wait in line at electronics stores to buy the newest and greatest video game systems.  All for what purpose?  To entertain ourselves.  To waste a little time.  How futile.  Yet how fun. 

[1] Some may call it entertainment.  Others, communication.  I call it media.  Either way, it's a method of transferring information in the form of speech, ideas, music, etc. from one person or group of people to another. #entertainment

Stain Shield Tue, Apr 25, 2006
If you've ever microwaved tomato sauce in a regular old plastic container, you know how much it sucks:  Tomato sauce stains everything.  Permanently.  What a jerk. 

Miraculously, Wendy and I received Rubbermaid Stain Shield plastic containers (don't call them Tupperware; that's a brand name) for our wedding.  It actually wasn't that miraculous; we asked for them.  But little did we know they would change our lives forever.  As I sit here writing this, I'm eating pasta with spaghetti sauce out of a Stain Shield container that I just microwaved.  All I can do is marvel at how totally awesome this thing is.  Awesome enough to be written about in Popular Mechanics.  Stain Shield containers completely resist stains.  That's because they're made from a different material than most plastic containers.  Not only do they resist stains, but they're also dishwasher safe and freezer safe. 

If you've ever flipped out because you can't clean the stains out of your plastic containers, invest in some Stain Shield.  You'll never flip out again. 

(Mr. Rubbermaid, feel free to send me money for unashamedly advertising your product to millions tens of readers.) #products

Basketball (1) Tue, Apr 25, 2006
My favorite sport to play is basketball.  I don't exactly fit the mold of a stereotypical basketball player (i.e. I'm short and white ... oops, was that racist?), but I still like to play.  The reason I like it is pretty simple:  It's pretty much the only sport you can play by yourself.  With baseball, you need someone to pitch to you.  With football, you need someone to catch your passes.  With soccer, you need someone to defend the goal.  With tennis, you need someone on the other side of the net.  Sure, there are ways around this, such as using a pitching machine or one of those tennis ball shooters, but it's not quite the same.  Basketball requires only one person.  Though you can't play 1-on-1 with only one person, you can do pretty much everything else. 

Basketball is therapeutic for me.  I like to play to relieve stress and unwind.  I also use it as a way to exercise.  I can only run and/or bike around my neighborhood so many times.  I need something different, and basketball is great for that.  So basically, basketball is a very selfish thing.  It's my thing.  My time.  It's all about me

The problem with this is that other people don't agree with me.  Almost every time I play basketball in a public place, people ask me if I want to join their game.  It's weird having to figure out a way to say no.  "No thanks" tends to work, but it causes an awkward moment:  A bunch of guys see me playing by myself, and they need another guy to even out the teams, so they invite me.  A "no thanks" doesn't make any sense to them.  Why wouldn't I want to play with them?  It's not like I don't know how to play.  It's not that I'm incapable of playing.  So there's usually an awkward pause as I turn back around and continue playing by myself.  Sometimes I'll give in just because they're persuasive.  "C'mon, just a few minutes."  That's usually a lie and I know it. 

But sometimes it's good to play with other people.  That's when I realize how incredibly basketball-socially-awkward I am.  It's similar to a person living in a locked cell for an extended period of time.  When they get out, they have some social problems because they're not used to interacting with other humans.  When I play basketball by myself all the time, it's difficult to join a game because I don't know how to interact and I'm not used to someone trying to take the ball from me.  So I usually just flip out and knife people.  Actually, I just lose every skill I had previously learned and I revert back to how I played when I was 8.  It's ugly. #sports

Positive news Mon, Apr 24, 2006
The Great News Network and Happy News are two sites that report positive things that are going on around the world.  Their objective is not to ignore all the newsworthy and often negative things in current events.  They merely believe that the traditional media have a tendency to report a disproportionate amount of negative news.  So they're trying to balance things out.  This is an answer to my call for positive news from August 3, 2005.  Thanks for listening to me, Mr. Website-Reading News-Gatherer.  (via Digg) #entertainment

Peeps (5) Sun, Apr 23, 2006
Peeps are great.  That's all I really need to say, but I'll go on. 

Most people feel pretty strongly about Peeps.  Either they love 'em or they hate 'em.  And the people that love 'em feel strongly about how they should be eaten.  Should they be eaten head first?  Should you eat the beady little eyes first?  Or should you do it like Wendy and eat their butts first?  Another point of contention among Peep lovers is aging:  Are Peeps better when they're fresh or after they've been "aged" for a few weeks?  I'm a strong proponent of aging.  It's like a fine wine:  A well-aged Peep is infinitely better than a fresh Peep. 

Last Saturday, I was handing out Peeps at a supermarket with people from church.  The event was meant to act as an invitation to an Easter egg hunt for the little 'uns.  It was kinda funny to be bringing people to God through the Power of the PeepTM.  It was interesting to hear people's suggestions for eating Peeps.  One lady said to microwave them.  I've heard that before but never tried it.  Another lady said to freeze them.  That brings a whole new dimension to Peep eating. 

It's funny to think that a little chicken-shaped marshmallow covered in yellow sugar can cause so much commotion. #food

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