Breaking stuff, bringing it back up

Thought I’d play around with this blog a few hours ago and install a new theme. Everything was fine until …

… until I blew the whole thing up.

Had a server error pop up, and could not get into my WordPress installation. Couldn’t fix it, couldn’t get in.

But Google is my friend. The WordPress Codex is likewise my friend. Filezilla became an even bigger friend.

  1. Downloaded Filezilla.
  2. Fed in the parameters to the blog. This took a few attempts until I got the syntax right.
  3. Stared at the list of files within the WordPress directory stored on the server.
  4. Scratched head.
  5. Refilled glass of sweet tea (doing this at a Mickey D’s, using their wireless signal).
  6. Found the directory of the theme I had just installed (and where the problem began).
  7. Hit Delete.

This coming just hours after my last post on heart pacemaker batteries and DIY surgery, I had this sick feeling I was doing it wrong. That I had completely b0rked the process, that I was doing surgery with a chain saw using myself as a guinea pig again.

Fired up the blog — success!

I’m back up.

So if you couldn’t get into the site for a couple of hours, try ‘er now. (Gee, I sound like the aircraft mechanics at New Bern Airport in North Carolina … try ‘er now!)


Breaking stuff is fun.

Fixing stuff is even more fun.




Blogging: Everyone’s doin’ it doin’ it

This blogging is a very cool thing, and it’s too bad I’ve been so slack at it.
What’s so great about blogging is that you can make anything you want of it.
Many folks use blogging tools to keep a personal journal, to tell all the things they’ve been doing all day. Others use it to unload some screed about a particular subject matter — in my case I’ll use this space to slap around some politician or give my take on the news. If you’re interested in anything at all, that’s a reason to blog.
I’m an ardent journal keeper. Have been for years. If I’m wrestling with a personal decision or just plain bothered about something, I’ll write about it. But I’m old school; my first preference for a journal is an actual bound book, written in ink. It worked for all the great writers, so who am I to buck that trend?
My pen-and-ink journal is a thing of beauty. Some of it is neatly done, with all words carefully measured. Other times the entries are scrawled, with an odd disconnectedness about what is written. Sometimes there’s a lot of free association involved with journaling, and it’s like, well, like I just hurled all over the page (why do you think they call it catharsis?). I’m also a list-keeper, an outliner and a mind-mapper, so my bound journal has all of these things.
But there’s a lot to be said for blogging. Unlike a private journal, this stuff is public. Maybe I need to air an idea for feedback. Maybe I need to start discussion. Or maybe I just feel like being controversial. That’s OK, too.
Right now I have several blogs, and all have a specific purpose. My regular blog (The Column Reloaded) is sort of a catch-all, with a bit of everything. I also have The Jam Session Reloaded, which has my musical musings, and a tech blog called The Workbench Reloaded. In truth I haven’t done much with these lately; I wrote the last Workbench entry Feb. 1, and have been slack about writing for the others.
In addition I have another political blog through The Examiner, another I haven’t done anything with. I’m undecided whether I want to continue with it. I also have my HubPages site, which is where I keep some of my better writing. Of the lot, I probably have the most fun with HubPages.
If you want to consider blogging forms, you’d have to add Twitter. I tweet a few times a day, and I find it rather addictive. I can tweet directly from my cell phone, and I can post fast thoughts from anywhere. Twitter’s interesting; there is a horrendous signal-to-noise ratio and you need some industrial-strength third-party tools to sift through the chaotic mess that is Twitter.
And yeah, there’s a lot of mundane in Twitter. Like the one from a friend:
“Breakfast blend too tame to crank engine; need me some emeril big easy xtra bold or jet fuel.”
OK, being a coffee junkie myself (just a pinch between your cheek and gum) I can relate to this, but many people can’t. But I contribute my share of the mundane to Twitter:
“Thought about calling in dead @ work, but it’s payday. Dead men cash no checks.”
Which may be important to me, but in the final analysis, who really gives a rip? I tell you what, the Internet is the world’s biggest garbage dump.
I mention all this because my older brother, Rick, got bitten by the blog bug. He’ll be a natural at this — like everyone else in my family he has a wide range of interests and opinions aplenty about all these interests.
He just published his first post; his 19-year-old son Michael had a horrific car wreck and stepped out of his crushed Crown Vic.
Off Rick’s description of the accident it’s amazing Michael came out with little more than a few scratches. I’d seen my share of car wrecks, and I can tell you that hitting a utility pole at even 40 mph (and Michael was probably driving twice that speed) is the kind of collision that usually leaves no survivors. Rick is pretty unabashed here; he credits Michael’s survival to divine intervention and seat belts. Knowing a little something about the power of both, he’ll get no argument from me. It’s now a question of whether Michael “gets it” after such a close call, but time will tell.
Rick promises his blog won’t be that dramatic most of the time (which is a good thing because no father needs that much drama in his life) but he’ll have — like this blog here — a little bit of everything. In other words, the stuff of a good blog.
Take a look, if you haven’t already. And if you like it, subscribe. Feel free to comment.Link to it. He won’t mind.
Welcome to blogland, Rick. We were expecting you.

What is it about South Carolina and sex scandals?

Yeah, yeah, so people may be wondering what it is about South Carolina. First, Gov. Mark Sanford didn’t hike the Appalachian Trail. Now, some blogger is saying he had something going on with guberatorial candidate (and Republican frontrunner) Nikki Haley.

And The New York Times, that stodgy newspaper from way back, is picking up on it. Here’s the skinny from NewsBusters:

N.Y. Times Published Unproven Adultery Claims of Nikki Haley — After a John Edwards Blackout: “

Clay Waters of MRC’s Times Watch project noticed this week that the The New York Times was just as guilty as The Washington Post of jumping on the unsubstantiated adultery charges against female GOP gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley in South Carolina:

[Reporter Shaila] Dewan used the sex scandal of former South Carolina Republican Gov. Mark Sanford as an excuse to suggest, without substance like emails or phone messages, that the claims by blogger Will Folks fit a pattern of sexual bad behavior in the Palmetto State:  “Scandal Rattles Politics In South Carolina, Again.” The text box to Wednesday’s print story worked in the party identification: “A blogger says he had an affair with a G.O.P. candidate for governor.”

The treatment of a fairly obscure Republican politician stands in sharp contrast to the paper’s blackout of the amply documented affair of former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards. The Times totally ignored the Edwards affair until the candidate himself confessed on ABC News, then, when its own public editor criticized the paper’s lack of coverage, editors made hypocritical excuses.

Dewan certainly didn’t do much hedging around the claims of blogger Will Folks, relaying the accusation with a tone of near-giddiness:

Virginia may be for lovers, but sultry South Carolina is beginning to earn a reputation as the state for extramarital madness.

This state was just starting to shake off the embarrassing spectacle of Gov. Mark Sanford, who is limping out of office after admitting to an affair last year, giving late-night hosts a new laugh line with his initial cover-up: that he had been hiking on the Appalachian Trail.

But now, one of Mr. Sanford’s political allies — who is a top contender to succeed him — finds herself embroiled in a possible sex scandal of her own.

Only two weeks before a highly competitive Republican primary for governor, the candidate, State Representative Nikki Haley, has been hit by charges, leveled by one of her supporters, that she had an “inappropriate physical relationship” with him three years ago.

On Tuesday the supporter, Will Folks, a blogger and political consultant, promised to document claims that he had had a relationship with Ms. Haley.

Ms. Haley, who leapt to frontrunner status last week, days after an endorsement by Sarah Palin, issued a strong denial, saying, “I have been 100 percent faithful to my husband throughout our 13 years of marriage.”

A couple of thoughts here. Nothing’s proved yet, and the accuser, a Columbia-based blogger named Will Folks, who calls himself “Sic Willie,” is highly suspect. Check out his blog (which he bills as “unfair, imbalanced”) sometime. Folks himself — well, the word is he’s pretty sketchy. Don’t know whether it’s his 2005 guilty plea to a domestic violence charge  or his “hot as hell” description of Haley in 2008 that feeds this. 

According to Sic Willie:

“We’re frequently accused of showing a little too much love to S.C. Rep. Nikki Haley, to which we can only say “we wish” (ba doom ching) … but seriously, why wouldn’t we show love to Nikki? In addition to being one of the few fiscal conservatives in state government willing to stand up for what she believes in, Haley is hot as hell, people, and if showering her with our unceasing affection is wrong, we don’t wanna be right …”

Folks sounds like one of those NATO types to me:

No Action, Talk Only. 

And it seems like a lot of voters are seeing right through him. Haley still holds a 10-point lead in the Republican primary; that has not budged. She’s picked up endorsements from the Republican Liberty Caucus and Myrtle Beach TEA Party just within the past couple of days.

If rumors of an affair are true, than Haley should probably step out of the race. 

For having bad taste.



Speaking your piece: Blogging whys and hows

[First of a short series on public discourse]

They used to say about newspaper publishers that you never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel and paper by the ton.

But that was a couple of decades ago. Now the guy who buys all this ink and paper has no real credibility. He’s in the tank. Newspapers are dying. Network TV news is dying.

But the need for a free, independent press remains, and probably now more than ever. This brouhaha over the ObamaLosi health care plan is instructive. If it wasn’t for public discourse via the press and Internet, how would you know some senators — maybe even yours — sold their votes for a bit of pork or a few judges? How else would you know what is in that health care plan, and how much it would cost to future generations? How would you know about that gigantic proctoscope coming your way, unless someone tells you about it?

I’ve written plenty about the stuff going on in Washington, and I’ve hardly scratched the surface. But I’m not unique. Plenty of bloggers do the same thing, and some do it as well, or better, than me. But that’s OK too.

More people get their news via the Internet these days. And with today’s tools (Google Reader, Twitter, Facebook) it’s easier than ever to share news. Shoot, even with my modest 540 Twitter followers, you can see the potential. Assuming my average Twitter follower has 2,500 unique followers of their own (and I’m clearly shooting wild with the numbers here), you can see how word of something can get out on the Internet:

  • First generation, my followers: 540.
  • Second generation, my follower’s followers: 1,350,000.
  • Third generation, my followers’ followers’ followers: Forget it. Smoke is pouring out of my calculator.
  • All of this takes place within a few seconds.

OK, that’s some real fuzzy math, but you get the idea. Now you know how a news story or video can go “viral.”

Years ago, thinker Marshall McLuhan named the printing press as one of the great extensions of man, arguing that it made the common person into a reader. He later amended it with the copying machine; everyone’s a publisher. Ol’ Marshall’s no longer around; if he’d lived to see blogging and Twitter, he’d say everyone now has a newspaper.

But you get the drift. The media is no longer top-down, i.e. a publisher and a gang of reporters telling you what’s news. It’s now bottom-up, with the common man setting news policy.

Now, that sea change is for better or worse. The Internet has a horrendous signal-to-noise ratio. For each solid, meaty piece of reportage there are about a million pieces of fluff about Britney Spears or Tiger Woods. Sometimes this bottom-up news policy does make me long for some good old-fashioned elitism.

Still with me? Cool.

Setting up a blog is easy. Just about anyone who can turn a computer on and point a mouse at the Web browser icon can do it.

I’m using Blogger, which is a platform owned by Google. What’s beautiful about it is that it’s free, it’s easy, and initial setup takes almost no effort at all.

Before you do anything else, decide what you want to blog about. If you want to write a bunch of crap about how many beers you puked up, or who you hooked up with last night, do me a favor: Please ignore everything I say here. We’ve got plenty of the likes of you on the Internet, and you’re probably looking at the wrong web site anyway.

But if you’re interested in the world you live in, if you are able to string together a few coherent and independent thoughts, if you’re not a Kool-Aid drinker, then let’s talk about blogging.

  • Give yourself a sign-in name and password. If you have a Google account (such as gmail), use that.
  • Come up with a name for your blog. You will soon be known for that, so choose carefully.
  • Pick a template. There are plenty, and some are butt-ugly. But pick one. Don’t worry about all the cool widgets and things just yet; you’re just writing now. Got it?
  • Pull up NEW POST, then write a headline.
  • Lock and load. Get your thoughts down.
  • Read it over. If it looks like it’s what you want to say, click on PUBLISH POST. See how easy that was?
  • Don’t worry that no one is reading it. Keep writing. If your stuff is good, the readers will come. Tell folks what you’re doing. Put it on your Facebook page, or whatever social media you’re using.
  • Stick with it, and learn the nuances of blogging as you go. There’s a whole new science about it. For now, though, just write.
  • If you don’t write worth a flip, just use your computer webcam and talk to your readers. Start a YouTube channel, save your videos and talking messages there, and post them to your blog. Just make sure you’re, well, wearing something — PLEASE? — when you make your video.

That’s the basic stuff.

OK, so why am I giving up all this information?

Because I can, and because we need more voices out there on the Internet. We need more, well, I said it. Independent thinkers. Folks who don’t give a rip what the mainstream is saying. Folks who, like that guy in David Baldacci’s Camel Club, “want the truth.”

Something smelling funny in Washington, or in your state capital? Don’t just sit around whining about it. Blog about it.

(Props to commentator Michael Berry of Houston for putting this idea in my head.)


[In a future Column, I’ll continue this thought … I’ll discuss ways of keeping up with all these Internet headlines. Think RSS here.]

Young blogger tells senator off in town hall

Senators Lindsey Graham(R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ) held a town hall at 9 a.m. Monday here in town, and I didn’t go. Could have, but I had some making-a-living things to do.

This young woman got into a frank discussion with Graham, who is one of those Republicans who quacks and waddles like a Democrat. Here’s part of the exchange:
… so as soon as the meeting was over, I practically ran over to the swarm of people surrounding the senators, elbowed my way through, and as he grabbed my hand to shake it and give a fake smile, I stopped him and said, “Senator Graham, you did not answer my question.” He stopped, looked at me, and said, “Are you a Ron Paul supporter?” to which I replied, “I am, but you still didn’t answer my question from earlier …”
Should have gone to the town hall, just to see that.

Hoax: Break it to me gently?

I found this recently in Lifehacker, and it ties in well with this other posting. Here goes:

How Can I Explain an Internet Hoax to Non-Techie Friends? … When it comes to hoaxes and non-techie users, being gentle is really the wrong tactic. It’s only a matter of time before they fall for something that actually harms them, by stealing their information, or something else. They need to learn, and quickly … personally I reply all with a link to Snopes or elsewhere, explaining that it’s a hoax. Then I include this line: “Every email that asks you to forward to all your friends is a hoax, or a joke by somebody that just wants to clog people’s email.”

Here’s the original article, which was in the Superuser forum. Interesting stuff, by the way.

Good, sound advice. Personally, I get an itchy trigger finger when I get emails marked Fw:, and that finger hovers over the DELETE key. Sure, some of the Fw: stuff is funny, some is inspiring, and much of the photography that gets forwarded to me is flat-out stunning (current screen background is an airborne shot of the Blue Angels, which I got from that slush pile). I’ve written plenty of columns from something I got in FW: land. But any computer advice, or any rumor, or anything that may seem important — check it out.

More thoughts while Twitter acts up

Don’t know if Twitter is out of the woods yet (posting has been hit-or-miss for me since yesterday). And some folks have … well, y’all might as well take the coffee pot away from them.

  • Some Twitter and Facebook users panicked as the sites went down Thursday
  • Several online social networks were the victims of cyber-attacks
  • One Twitter user says she felt “naked” without her micro-blog
  • Another says he felt “jittery” during the time Twitter was down
  • My own test posting from this morning:
    ericsomething Was Twit still acting up, or is it me? Sent communiques via SMS last night, Twitter didn’t buy ’em.
    Literal translation: Durned if I know.
    Yeah, some folks noticed, ya think?
    … let’s start with the basics. The simple concept behind a “Denial of Service” attack (note we’re not talking distributed yet) is to overuse the service in question (for example, Twitter) to the point where it becomes unavailable to others. Think of this metaphor: if I call your home telephone over and over again, and you lack call waiting, other callers can’t get through. As long as I keep calling, I’m denying service to others, thus implementing a “Denial of Service” (or DoS) attack. Now, in practice this is close to impossible with an internet service like Twitter, because, not to stretch the metaphor too far, they have a lot of phone lines. There’s no way one computer could use the Twitter service so heavily that it would affect other users …
    Or something.

    Who do you trust?

    Walter Cronkite’s recent passing outlines how there’s a trust void in our society. To address this interesting and vital question, the Washington Post has been asking newsmakers and others to nominate their own choices for most-trusted-in-America status.

    Somme of these choices are pretty good, pretty shrewd. Others … well … some are scarier than others.

    So who do you trust? Oprah? Barack Obama? Warren Buffett? The everyperson/blogger? Jon Stewart? Bill Moyers? Fareed Zakaria?

    Feel like throwing up yet?

    This ain’t Disney World, local blogger says

    Although it’s real easy to dismiss articles or posts from folks who are not from around here and know exactly how to fix your town, this is one of the better ones I’ve read. It’s actually quite clear-eyed.

    But I’d still want to cue up the John Lennon music before reading the whole thing …

    … imagine a Charleston with bike lanes along some of the major arteries to make its citizens feel safer? What if certain areas of Downtown became pedestrian-only? What if local zoning ordinances were modified to encourage more of the corner Mom & Pop shops? What if pedicabs were given free reign to cart our citizens around rather than restricting them to a maximum of 15 out at a time? What if we had a light rail radiating in all directions and neighborhoods and towns were built around those stops (just like in New Jersey or Long Island). What if we had an actual water taxi service with accessible docks scattered all over our waterways? (like Vancouver, BC). What if we tried Rails to Trails like DC or Atlanta …?

    OK, she does raise points worth discussing.