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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Accents from Around the World

Just a fun toy to hear many languages spoken by natives, including 100s of English accents.
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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Galloway on Charlie Rose

MP George Galloway was just interviewed on Charlie Rose (a great late night American interview show. The best. The only).

Charlie had some talking heads on before Galloway, so I quickly caught up with this. I don't know how its going over in Britain, but this is huge here. I imagine the blogosphere is abuzz, which means that there will be articles and editorials in the big papers for weeks. The man is brilliant! He deftly swept aside the allegations against him and used the opportunity perfectly to accuse his accusers, something that never happens here in the states, but did this time.

I don't know what the 1,000,000+ page evidence of oil-for-food scandals will bring, or if it even has a point, or if that point is to attempt to drag people through the mud, or something more devious, or more likely innocently bungled investigating, BUT, this single day of testimony will add at least 5% to the 'The Iraq War was a mistake' population here. (It's at 60% now, according to Charlie Rose).

As an anti-war activist myself, I was excited by this. Galloway may be a bruiser. Who knows, he may even be cleverly pulling the wool over everyone about his role in scandal, however, I really doubt he is insincere regarding the war. He's re-lit a flame here in the US, and one I'm glad to see.

-Smack

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Saturday, May 14, 2005

Blogger: How to Keep Trackback, Remove Haloscan Comment System

Read about how to use the Haloscan Trackback System without the Haloscan comments system, and how to remove one if you've auto-intalled. There is method in the madness, and Haloscan still wins for Blogger users...

Like many of us blogger.com users, I was quick to grab up the Haloscan Trackback system. If you have no idea what I'm talking about when I say 'Trackback', you may want to move along to the next post. 'Trackback' is a tool for connecting blogs together by referencing each other when there are topics they are mutually linking. If blogging is ego-masturbation, Trackback is a little closer to intercourse...

I found I didn't like the Haloscan commenting system. My reasons are due to the deficiencies in the Haloscan pop-up/no pop-up versions of comments. Other people have problems with comment extinction. I always am reluctant to put anything content-central as comments in the care of another site. Not that blogger makes backing up comments all that easy, but at least I don't have to rely on other servers just to keep a conversation going with comments.

Haloscan now has a nifty auto-implement system for adding their code to your blogger template. It logs in and makes the changes for you. Handy. On the other hand, there is no option to have "Comment System" and/or "Trackback System". You get both. Don't get me wrong, there are great things about the Haloscan comment system. I'm not trying to review it here. But if you follow this easy road, or manually install the code, you are going to have to manually 'rip' out the comment code if you don't want it.

See the Haloscan solution, if you have not yet auto-installed.

Before you begin, I suggest:
  • Back up your template before you start! (copy paste the template html into a notepad document is easiest)
  • Get some 'clean code' handy to paste into your template. This can come from your template backup you made before installing Halocode, or another of your blogs that doesn't have the Haloscan additions in place. It could also come from this link, but will require some editing to fit your username.
Now you are ready to rip and replace code. It should take about 10 minutes. There are three sections of code to work with in your blogger template to do this. I bolded text that will help you search through your template for the relevent sections of code.
  1. The header section contains a haloscan javascript. You need to keep that for Trackback.
  2. The post-footer section describes your comments link, and your Trackback link.
  3. The #comments section typically follows right below.
Here are the steps I took:
  1. As we said, the post-footer section describes your comments link, and your Trackback link. So just rip out the comments link half of that line (the halfway point begins with a | character. Its a very long line), which will start like this:
    < class="">comment-link" href="http://www.haloscan.com/comments/ YOURHALONAME/
  2. Replace that half of the line with the blogger comment-link from your backup template or any 'normal' blogger-comments system blog. That line should look something like this:
    < class="comment-link" href="">"<$BlogItemCommentFormOnclick$>> <$BlogItemCommentCount$> comments< /a>
  3. The other half of the line (after the | symbol) should still contain the Trackback code, which should still look something like this:
    | < class="comment-link" href="">/" title="Trackback" onclick="HaloScanTB('<$BlogItemNumber$>'); return false;">< type="text/javascript">postCountTB('<$BlogItemNumber$>'); < /script>< /a>
  4. If you have the relatively new auto-discovery Trackback code enabled, keep it. It will start like this:
    < !-- Trackback autodiscovery code < rdf="">
  5. Now for the last part, which should be just below this section of the template: The #comments section. This starts exactly as the post-footer section:
    < class="comment-link" href="">/"
  6. *see notes* I ripped the whole section here, replacing everything between the <> tags with the original version. That may be a mistake. I will update this if my comment trackbacks don't work. I think you can find the original #comments section and replace wholesale, but here are the first lines:
    < id="comments">
    < name="comments">< /a>
  7. Done! Save the template and republish.
Notes: Alternatively, I've redone this section (#comments) in the same manner as I did the post-footer section, capturing the second half of the haloscan line that deals with trackback, and applying it in the normal blogger #comments section. I also kept the second incidence of "autodiscovery code" here. It seems to be working...

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Blogs: Blogger "Categories" on the Horizon?

Methods for hacking up the equivalent of Blogger Categories. I have a new method I'm working out using Atom or RSS. I link to other methods used.

Why is it that some of us programmer types always find ways (not to mention reasons) to hack anything to suit our needs?

Maybe in this case its because Blogger is behind the times: Blogs need categories, or as billyjoejimbob would say, "topics" sections. I'm always amazed to meet people who are so focused that they only really have one thing they want to journal/blog/write/express. These people get things done, but I'd suggest that most of us start writing and discover our topics along the way. How do I know what I'm going to be writing about in a month or year, let alone tomorrow?

So some people just fill their blogs with anything that comes to them. That works well for many people who have one or five topics that they keep coming back to for the life of their blog. The 'classic' teenage angst blog, housewife blog, or politics blog fits nicely into the freeform space. Of course there are other people who obsess over organizing things, to the point that digging to well-boxed content is something of a chore for the users, not to mention the author.

Blogger needs categories. I am betting on when that will happen, rather than if, seeing as the competetors have long since adopted that feature (not to mention private/friends-only posts).

So, on day one with my blog (about 4 days ago), I realized instantly that I needed a private blog in addition to whatever I do here. And then 3 seconds later I realized I wanted another space for writing. That space should have been a sub-category of either this blog, or my private diary.

Invariably I get caught up in finding the right space for writing, rather than actually writing. Procrastination is more than half of my last name, after all. So I went exploring and found out that Blogger just isn't going to cut it for me, category wise, or on other features. Yet, I'm loathe to uproot immediately, as I'm too busy getting the tech side of things down with blogging and actually writing and living (gasp), and as the space I'd like will allow me to import this blog at any time.

So I did find the links above about what I consider: A genius hack to achieve 'blogger categories' that is too fiddlesome to be worthwhile for most of us. How many people want to rely on email forwarding to pass links between what should be pages of a contiguous website? Its a great solution, but I think I can one-up it.

I'm proposing to use the powerful atom (or RSS) feeds from Blogger blogs rather than the email bit from the solution provided above. It should work. The post below is my first experiment in incorporating material from another blog in a 'top blog'. I like Darth Side, and I hope he won't mind my promoting him.

Here is the outline of my solution, and please comment on it:
1. Create multiple blogs with blogger (free).
2. Name them in psuedo directory convention: "Smackspeaks" being the top blog, and "Smackspeaks_onPolitics" being a sub-species, or category, or 'topic'.
3. Use the Atom/RSS feed from each category in the top blog, either as psuedo-posts, news-bars, or a simple link list, ala the blog-roll.

Drawbacks:
1. The best use of dynamic content in a free blog is still with javascript, from what I can tell. And Javascript doesn't get web-crawled, so less popularity points for you (and no soup either). However, each of your sub-categories is a blog in itself, with its own syndication feed, comments section, template, etc.. I think that more than makes up for the impoverishment of javascripted content in web spiderings.

2. Javascript can be slow. Blogger can be slow. That could be ugly slowdowns for you, or maybe not?

3. Formatting an RSS feed into Blogger isn't exactly obvious. 99% of the websites on syndication give you great advice on how to syndicate your site, but not how to use that syndication in a website. To add to the confusion, there are many cripple-ware products out that want to take advantage of us poor non-server-hosted people by charging for simple script services like RSStoHTML.

I did find some useful links though, if you are considering adding syndicated content to your blog, whether for simple: "And here's the news" type things, or for a potentially very useful solution to the 'Blogger Categories Problem':

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Excerpts from "The Darth Side"

A Syndicated Excerpt from "The Darth Side". Yes, that means this post is dynamic! It goes and fetches the latest journal entry of Darth Vader and posts it here. See below the entry for how I did this and what I plan to do with this trick...





I used several tools to do this:
First, used Feedburner to convert the typical blogger atom file into http://feeds.feedburner.com/http/smackspeaks_Darth

That may be unnecessary (probably would work with Atom), but allowed me to validate the XML.
Then used: Feed2JS to convert the feed into a javascript snippet, which I also added to the sidebar in blogger's fairly easy to use template.

That is a much better service than RSS-to-Javascript, or rss2html.com
Feedroll's free service is pathetic 'taunt the user with crippleware'.

This is all in an exploration to solve the Blogger "No we don't have categories" situation using RSS/Atom. I'll get to that in the next post. -Smack


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Friday, May 13, 2005

Morality Questions

Here's my homework, courtesy of Nihil. We've been over the first one pretty well. The others are taking me awhile to plunge into...

Morality Questions: For my later blogging
"Well, my understanding of the initial question was - if a people's or a culture's morality is nothing but an arbitrary system derived from differing customs, traditions, regligions etc, how can morality be real or have any genuine meaning?" -Nihil from this forum


"You can't argue with the evolutionary theory of morals - it's temptingly scientific to say that natural selection must perforce eliminate unsuccessful and inefficient forms of behaviour. This idea has a purity to it. I've been wrestling with this one myself; can what is pleasing to the reasoning faculty fail in the test bed of the real world?" -Nihil



"Well, all I mean is that it is satisfying to the intellect to compose a philosophically harmonious and apparently coherent idea of what is reasonable and decent behaviour, and what is an infringement of fundamental human rights. But, contrasted with a morality that is derived from natural selection, based not on what is "fair" but simply on what is expedient, what use is such a morailty?

I have no idea which is superior in evolutionary terms - a "wise" and "just" society that lives in peace and brings prosperity and justice to its people, or a brutal, unenlightened and savage culture that swarms across the map in a vast horde and slaughters the enlightened ones to a man, pausing only to grunt: "Sorry pal, you've been naturally selected against"." -Nihil explains further...



"What if a society with a completely different and opposing set of social customs and standards manages to outperform our "advanced" societies economically? Will that mean that we have been selected against? What if this other society was a brutal and oppressive regime with no free speech or rights of any kind? Would this mean that our ideas of developing a just and equal society are a mere decadent indulgence, and a sign of our weakness?

Consider how you might try to create an effectively functioning society. It is not unreasonable to think that a society might work well when it is fair and just. Experience has shown that a system which encourages fair competition among all members of society generally profits overall and generates wealth for itself. So in this way, social progress and economic wellbeing are often thought to be connected. But if our system were to be outperformed economically by a society that eschewed our idealism, what would that tell us?

This is all I'm trying to get at when I say: "can what is pleasing to the reasoning faculty fail in the test bed of the real world? ". We presume that a harmonious society is a healthy one, but we have no proof of that yet. What if a cruel and harsh society that ruthlessly persecutes its minorities is stronger? Nature is amoral - survival is the only criteria of success.

To phrase my point in more emotive terms, in case I'm failing to capture your interest- what about if a genocidally anti-semitic regime, or some other kind of brutish fascist society rose up in the world, and suddenly annihilated all its rivals economically. Does that mean that being nice guys has been a mistake and that we deserve to be defeated for trying to create a just society? Or is a just society stronger than an unjst one?

My point is - is morality pointlessly wishy-washy idealism, or is equality and fairness a measure of a society's strength? Or is there no connection between the two at all?" -Nihil

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Oh, I miss the flute...

My old Shakuhachi teacher... He is the man.

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Pim Fortuyn, Intolerance, and Europe

Some conclusions:
It is easy to point out that these reactions are not necessarily rational or useful, but it seems that sometimes the further use of a system of thought must be entirely rejected in order to culturally 'move on'. Feminism as a viral idea (meme), became co-opted into western civilization, much like an organelle (Evolution of organelles). In a sense, feminism-as-virus became feminism-as-DNA, and won. Fascism, on the other hand, lost badly, and there are still white blood cells that recognize anything remotely fascist as vacuole material: "Die!" Note: This is a repost of what I had to say in a longer discussion on Remembering Pim
Pim sounds like quite a dude. I would have liked to have met him.

That PC hypocrisy displayed by rabid liberals in fascist manner: Hopefully it will always remain hot air and not mutate into actual fascist actions. Europe has done really well getting over nationalism slowly, but things still seem so damn fragile...

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The difficulty as I see it, KOTI, is that intolerance towards extremism can still be part of an emotive chain of intolerance, still part of the chain of human emotive reaction that begins with PC snobbery and ends with angry irrational measures, like war.

Fascism and Nationalism appeal to anger and fear, which belong to the centrists perhaps moreso than the extremists. Everyone feels the right to be angry or to demoninze others when they are afraid. It is impossible to legislate against emotion. Thus, there is some danger in intolerance or irrational snubbing of any non-aligned idea.

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I don't want a dispute on this either. From what I know of Pim, he wouldn't approve. As you so well squashed my defense of feminism (and you were right, unlike the other 50 posts: When Feministas Attack), so too do you squash my own concern about intolerance of intolerance rather well. Since these two topics are somewhat related (Ideas that have served their purpose) I have been reconsidering the whole notion of Memes and a sort of antibody reaction to ideas that need to die.

There seems to be a cultural phenomenon that occurs when ideas have served their purpose and should be shelved: People reject the idea out of hand, and anything to do with it. We see that in the feminism thread with counter-reaction to anything feminist, and we see that in Europe with intolerance of anything akin to fascism.

It is easy to point out that these reactions are not necessarily rational or useful, but it seems that sometimes the further use of a system of thought must be entirely rejected in order to culturally 'move on'. Feminism as a viral idea (meme), became co-opted into western civilization, much like an organelle (Evolution of organelles). In a sense, feminism-as-virus became feminism-as-DNA, and won. Fascism, on the other hand, lost badly, and there are still white blood cells that recognize anything remotely fascist as vacuole material: "Die!"

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Poll on this blog format

Take a poll on my blog format



Thanks, Smack

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Welcome to my weblog

Welcome.

I'm busily working on the technical details I'd like to implement here. So the posts may seem a little un-organized. Eventually there will be categories, so that if you want to read the technical stuff you can, or if you only want to hear about politics or funny blogs I've found, you can see just that. I'm adding all sorts of features, so look for many updates to the form and content over the next weeks...

(the original post, now outdated as I get focused)
For now, this is just a personal blog to collate some things I'm interested in online. I usually post in website forums as "Smack" or "Smacksim", so when I link to forums, that's me writing with that alias.

I'm actually more interested right now in finding a completely private blog-space to do some journaling of a personal nature (diary). I looked at typepad, but I feel there must be somewhere to do that for free. Probably, when I find that space, I'll use this blog for public journaling, and that blog for private journaling. We shall see.

-Smack

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