Archive for September, 2004

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Media Fact-Checking

September 30, 2004

Whoop! Whoop! Red Alert! A mainstream news organization has been found doing their freaking job!

“Vacillation is who he is, it’s his strength, it’s his defining characteristic,” said Nicolle Devenish, director of communications for the Bush campaign.

She said Kerry has stated 11 different positions on Iraq and the war on terror. However, the independent campaign Web site FactCheck.org Monday disputed such claims, saying its analysis shows Kerry’s position has been consistent.

– CNN.com [full article]

Though why CNN themselves don’t have the gumption to call Ms. Devenish a liar is a mystery, at least they’re going to fact-check.org to um, check facts. What passes for news these days is either two to four professionally angry and constitutionally rude people shouting the latest campaign talking points at each other, or simply stenographic reporting. What you don’t get is any investigative stuff. Nobody actually goes out and checks whether what these guys are saying is, you know, true or not.

Tonight I’ll watch senator Kerry debate president Bush. I expect Kerry to “win” in any sense that matters to me: better command of the facts, more in touch with reality, saner policy proposals. But I expect that who really wins will be whichever candidate the talking heads are praising after the debate is over. It starts right away: the television watching audience will be told who “gave a better performance” and who “took a bold stance” and who “made a gaffe.”

But who will tell us which candidates facts check out? Which network do you watch for that?

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Things Are Shaping Up

September 29, 2004

It’s been a hard road migrating two domains, two blogs and a photo gallery from one machine/OS to another. First I couldn’t get both domains firing up together. Then I tried to console myself with the uber-cool post-by-email (and thus cell phone!) feature..which then proceeded to only partially work. Well, at least the gallery had been brought over in one piece. Or so I thought until I tried to upload a picture.

Yes, everything seemed to be unraveling fast. But then things turned around. I finally got gallery to upload a picture (yay for netpbm and a pox on imagemagick!). Then I realized that a missing “/” in my apache config file was preventing me from using both domains at once, a problem that was rapidly fixed once identified. To top it all off, I installed a log analyzer called webalizer and even managed to configure it to analyze both mine and Paige’s sites seperately – something she’d been asking for.

I’m extremely glad that things are working again. It’s like moving. You live out of boxes and sleep in strange places for a while. You don’t feel right. But then things do go back to normal even if there still are a few problems. Speaking of problems, anyone got any bright ideas for these?

1. I still can’t post by phone without the cateogory error you see in the previous post. It also affects all comments to the post. And, once processed, it doesn’t delete the email, either.

2. I can’t seem to get the log analyzer to function as a cron job. I edited the cron file thus:

28 * * * * root /Library/WebServer/webalizer-2.01-10-macosx/webalizer

But it just persists in not doing anything. When I run the program in that path manually it fires up and generates the report. WTF?

3. This one’s a biggie and I have my doubts whether I’ll ever really solve it. It’s my habit to link to previous blog entries. You know, when I’m mentioning that I wrote about something before I like to link to that old entry. Well all those links were hard-coded and reflected a MovableType-generated URL. I have all the content imported into WordPress, but the URLs are quite, quite different. How could I map those links to the new locations?

But listen, generally speaking I think this migration has gone remarkably well. There’s been no data loss, no significant downtime and just about everything works. Knock on titanium 🙂

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posting from email

September 27, 2004

This is me blogging via email. Man, if this works I’ll be able to blog
with my cell phone!


scott d. feldstein
http://scottfeldstein.net/

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Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes!

September 26, 2004

As you can see there are big changes afoot here at scottfeldstein.net. I’ve been on a non-stop mission of extreme nerdery this weekend. Here’s the major things going on:

  • Upgraded from a p2 233 wintel box runing Redhat 7.3 to a 400 mhz blue g3 running Mac OS X 10.3 “Panther”
  • Migrated from MovableType 2.661 to WordPress 1.2

Things may go up and down for a while so please don’t send me email saying “OMG DUDE YOUR SITE IS DOWN!” I still have to set up virtual hosting in apache so that Paige can have her domain back and make her new WordPress blog publicly available. Likely I’ll screw it up a few times before I get it right, hence the up-and-down prediction. With luck, though, I should have it working before I hit the sack tonight.

But hey, I already successfully brought over the entire gallery and upgraded it from 1.4.2 to 1.4.4-pl! (applause)

Oh, and one more thing. This new look. I picked a style that had 3 columns that didn’t make my eyes hurt. What do you think? Here are some other styles to choose from. Got a recommendation? I still have quite a bit of “moving in” to do before this place looks and works right. Now’s the time to be heard.

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Democratic Party Volunteer

September 24, 2004

John Kerry called me up the other day while I was working late. “Scott,” he said, “I really need your help in Waukesha.” (Me and John, we go way back; we’re like this.) “Gee, I don’t know, John,” I said. “Waukesha is a pretty conservative town, isn’t it? What can I do?” John was persistent – you know how he gets. “Listen,” he said. “If I had someone in town to reach out to people, really connect with them, then I could get my message out and make some headway. Scott, I need someone like you. Will you help me? Will you help America?”

So what could I do? I said “sure.”

donkey.jpgOf course it was just some guy who called. He said he was from the Democratic blah, blah, blah in Waukesha and did I want to volunteer? That’s how I ended up in the storefront Democratic party headquarters in downtown Waukesha on a Thursday night calling strangers on a cell phone that wasn’t mine.

I had told the guy I would volunteer to “work the phones” (whatever that meant) from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.. I figured the downtown address was less than a mile from the house so I left at 6:40 and walked it. When I got there the door was wide open to the street. Inside a dozen people of all ages looked busy: talking on the phone, talking to each other, typing at laptops, walking quickly with paper in their hands. I didn’t know who to talk to. Nobody seemed to notice me.

I introduced myself to a couple of people and said that I was there to volunteer. A nice 20-something fellow gave me a script, a cell phone and a few sheets of names and numbers. I was to call these people one by one, ask the questions on the sheet and tally the answers. Simple enough.

I don’t know where they get these numbers but many of them were no good. Either the line had been disconnected, or the individual didn’t live there anymore, or all I heard on the other end was the screech of a fax/modem. But some of the people answered. When they did I introduced myself and told them I wanted to ask them a few questions about the election in November.

First, if the presidential election were held today would you vote for John Kerry, George Bush or Ralph Nader? Next, if the US Senate election were held today would you vote for Russ Feingold or Tim Michaels? If they answered both of these as “definitely” democratic I then asked them if they wanted an absentee ballot. If they answered “definitely” republican I thanked them for their time and hung up. If they answered either of them in a less than definite way I asked them which election issue was most important to them.

I must have been calling in the good neighborhoods because most of the people I talked to supported Kerry. Yes, there were a few Bush supporters, and some just declined to answer any questions all. But the most disturbing calls were the ones where they just said “Oh I don’t know. I don’t pay any attention” or “I don’t really care about that stuff.”

I can understand how people are busy and I can understand how it is hard to get good information about what’s going on the world. I can see where there might be some people who wouldn’t know how to answer the questions. But to not care? I don’t get it. Many of these people sounded downright proud of their ignorance and apathy. As if they felt good about not having stooped to the level of “politics.” I think they may have felt smart about the fact that they were just too wise and cynical to be found giving a rats ass.

Whatever the reason, I know I was speaking to members of that half of voting-age Americans who can’t be bothered to show up and punch out a chad for democracy. I found it very disturbing. They say all that’s necessary for evil to win is for good men to do nothing. It makes you think.

But I shook it off. In the end the battery of the cell phone went dead and I had to stop. I tallied my calls and handed in my sheets. Before I left I got to chat with a few people. They were all really nice. When I asked who I needed to schmooze to get one of those Kerry/Edwards lawn signs they said I could just take one. They said I should come back and stay involved. I said that I might do that.

When I left it was dark. I soon realized that I’d done it again; I was walking through the neighborhood with my politics visible under my arm. I hoped nobody said or did anything rude about my lawn sign as I walked home. One guy in a speeding car did shout something at me in an angry challenging voice but I’m pretty sure he said “FUCK BUSH!” so either he was confused, drunk or couldn’t see my sign very clearly.

When I got home I put the sign next to the ones I already have for Feingold and Kennedy. It’s a shame that by the time I got home this afternoon it was gone. It didn’t last even 24 hours. I tell myself that perhaps the wind took it. But there really wasn’t any wind to speak of today. I have a mind to go back down to the Democratic headquarters and get another sign. Maybe several more.

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Disclosure

September 22, 2004

Confession time. I have to come clean with you about something I’ve been feeling pretty dirty about. So here goes. It all started a couple of weeks ago when I saw the “iTunes Affiliate” link on the iTunes music store. On a whim I clicked it. Next thing you know I was a bona fide “affiliate.”

The thing about me being an affiliate is that if you follow a link from my web site to the iTMS and you buy something I get a cut. It’s really that simple. I link to some music, you buy it, I get a kickback.

Immediately I started to wonder if I’d done the right thing. After all, this blog isn’t about money. It’s about me and my voice and saying what I want to say. I undermine the legitimacy of my own opinions when I introduce commerce into it. How do you know I am not just gushing about Butterfly Boucher because I need to make my monthly quota? Are you sure it’s simply because I really like her record?

Well, rest assured – I do like it. And you can be positive about this because I have canceled my “affiliation.” From here on in what I write here is written solely because I believe it and neither of us ever need worry that it’s for financial gain. I get no money from Apple or Amazon or anyone else with regard to this blog. I pay for it myself, such as it is.

Reality check: though I’m quite pleased at having recently passed the 300-a-day visitor mark, I probably don’t get enough traffic here to make a dime off such a program anyway. As I was canceling my membership I looked at my “stats”: number of purchases, total sales in dollars, my commission – it was just one long row of zeros. In a way it’s a relief; there was no temptation to back out of my cancelation mission.

One more thing. I have to give props to David Weinberger, who’s fascinating post several weeks ago on blog “disclosure” surely primed my conscience to be extra sensitive to this issue

Okay, two more things. I really do like the iTunes music store and I really do like Butterfly Boucher and all the other artists I discuss here. You should give her a try. Honest.

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Pie Season

September 18, 2004

paige and sammy eating pieThey say fall begins on September 21st, but in my house it began today. Today we baked the first apple pie of the season.

Naturally we went to the Retzer Nature Center for their annual Apple Harvest Festival. We go every year. We didn’t spend much time there this year but we did buy some homemade soap, some crafty jewelry, some apple cider and half a peck of Winesap apples.

Paige had her friend Sammy overnight and as it turns out Sammy had never made a pie. The three of us worked together. Here is the recipe so you can follow along:

Scott’s Ultimate Apple Pie
First, I must tell you that I use store-bought crust. Yes, I know that homemade is nice. I would make my own, I have no problem with doing it – I make homemade biscuits all the time. But the thing is, the pie crust you can get for $2 in the refrigerated case at the grocery store is pretty darned good. So I find that all the fuss over homemade isn’t worth it. Hush already.

  • 2 pie crusts (one for top one for bottom)
  • 6-apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin (I’ve had good luck with Jonathan and Winesap, YMMV)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp + a couple of dashes flour
  • 2 Tbsp milk

unbaked piePreheat oven to 425. Peel, core and slice the apples thin. Place them in a large bowl full of water with the juice of half a lemon. (This prevents them from browning while you work.) Put a dash of flour in the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan. Place bottom crust in. Drain apples and mix with sugars, 3 Tbsp flour, cinnamon and 1 tsp of lemon juice. Fill pie. Place 3 tablespoon-sized slices of butter on apple mixture. Cut fancy vents in top crust if desired, and place on top of pie, sealing edges with fork. Trim excess from the edge of the pie pan with sharp knife. Brush top of pie liberally with milk, sprinkle with sugar. Put a baking sheet on bottom rack of the oven (line with aluminum if you don’t want to clean it later) to catch any drips. Place pie on middle rack of oven. Bake for 30 minutes at 425, then an additional 30 minutes at 325. Remove from oven, let cool. Drive immediately to the nearest frozen custard joint to buy a quart of soft-packed frozen vanilla custard. Serve with big wedges of warm pie.