Site Meter

I’m coming up on 11 years blogging, and all or most of that time I have used Site Meter (I usually say Sitemeter but believe they mean it as two words), even after it mostly stopped tracking referrers a few years back. Not sure that isn’t at least partially Google’s doing. For that matter, Sitemeter, cPanel’s available stats on my hosting, and now, on a static site I am hosting and working on, Google Analytics, each give rather different indications of what a site has for traffic. Analytics being most stingy and cPanel being most effusive (including showing RSS traffic, but generous even without that). I’ve always wondered how it could be so hard. If someone opens a page on your site, it’s a hit. 1. Another one makes 2. And so on. I don’t need to know each load of each element of each page, and each of those is not “a hit.” But I digress.

Recently I started noticing when this page loads (it’s my home page), on the status bar it spends some time claiming to be loading a URL at MySpace. WTF? MySpace?!

I knew the price of free for some free web counters was a spammy link embedded right in the code they give you, or an openly acknowledged and accepted ad banner on your site. Sitemeter never did that. They plastered you with ads on their own site, but that’s to be expected. Some bloggers removed them when they had speed issues a few years back, since you don’t want them bogging down your own site, but they were sort of the gold standard among bloggers for comparability over time and between sites, if not for accuracy.

I have a popup blocker.

Turns out that Site Meter is able to use the link to them embedded on the page to pop up a small video window in the lower corner of the screen, working with MySpace. Thus the call to MySpace, and whatever extra load time that took. Never saw it, but learned it’s now a thing.

As of just before starting this post, I removed the Site Meter. I may not get to ones on all legacy blogs, like the archive of AV in Expression Engine format, but I’ll work on it in the near future. If I need to know about my traffic, I can get a good idea from other sources. What SM has done is unforgivable.

Newegg Rocks

We’ve been using a sketchy router for something approaching five years. Initially it was for wi-fi, since we had FiOS and that came with a proper router with multiple wired ports (and wi-fi, but I had disabled it and lost the ability to log in and change things back), and it sat at the end of one of those wires. It had to be rebooted regularly, as it would just flake out and the person on wi-fi would have no internet.

After switching to Comcast, it became the solution to the fact that a cable modem is not a router, and is no good unless you are wiring it to a lone computer. As is the case now.

The router, a Belkin, was reliable wired, but continued to need rebooting, sometimes a few times a day, for wireless. This became more of a problem when we had more than one computer using it. In fact, the more using it, the more it seemed to fail.

Late yesterday afternoon, we started having symptoms that roughly matched DNS being a mess. This troubleshot down into being the old router giving up the ghost.

I perused Newegg’s selection and ordered a D-Link router at a price $30 below that listed elsewhere, with free shipping. It has 4 ethernet ports plus wi-fi. More than four ports seems to be a rare and expensive option, or I might have sought it out. D-Link is what we had with FiOS so reliably. Its only problem was a touchy WAN jack, so the router had to sit just so and remain undisturbed.

Anyway, Newegg packed and shipped the router from New Jersey almost before I ordered it. Initially they said it would be here today, which was updated by UPS to tomorrow, by end of day. Today would be insane. Tomorrow is amazing, and would match the shipping times from the same place previously. They never fail to amaze me.

Fingers crossed that the router works well and sets up easily, of course, but I couldn’t ask for a better vendor.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts! Yes, Massachusetts gave you Scott Brown to defeat Obamacare, President Obama, Harry Reid, et al. It was a clear indicator from a state often called “the bluest of blue” (which I might contest) that people Did Not Want the so-called “Affordable” Care Act.

Instead of “passing” the law as was, in a manner that at least bordered on fraudulent, don’t you wish now, Dems, that you had gone for that “oh man, we BARELY lost by ONE vote, maybe next time” loss?

Massachusetts Did Not Want the law passed, enough to muster the people’s votes against it then. Massachusetts! And you blew it.

Collected Links

I have been bookmarking things on the idea I would post about them. You’d think posting, say, five days a week would be easy, right? The set is huge, some are probably quite stale, and I am not sure I’ll get to them all with meaningful treatment. Therefore, I will collect several in one post, with minimal commentary.

When law is no longer a safe bet and more about economic change, automation, job security and “the good old days.”

The Roman Army Knife beat the Swiss by 1800 years and looks remarkably clever for the time.

Agile: The Once and Future Methodology explores how what some might think of as new software development practices go way back. A favorite topic of mine, for all my experience in software development is modest.

NSA: The Decision Problem is a discussion of the state of and history of sigint and surveillance, and how modern big data and such affect it.

Superfast internet over old-fashioned copper phone wires?

The Dick Durbin Debit Card Fiasco bears shouting from the rooftops, much the way Barney Frank’s role in the financial crash does.

I waited so long to post this, it’s obsolete! The tax was subsequently repealed, but here’s Why We’re So Frustrated About The Massachusetts Software Tax.

That ought to do it for now.

Thinking

I was getting ready to start this post and happened upon this one, in which Julie says one of the things I have been thinking, but in fewer words than I might have achieved. I have worried about authenticity. Not merely in expressing myself online, but in living my days, pursuing my works.

So. I have been job hunting, in response to Deb going on disability, on the idea that I both need to at least make up the shortfall, and that I am free to pursue such a thing. I love my part-time job that had more or less perfect SAHD hours around her schedule, but it was all I generally felt I could do, besides herding kids and being a crappy housekeeper and an awesome cook. Yeah, I kept thinking “write, dude” and similar things, since when would I have even that much of an opening. Yet I didn’t even keep blogging up well. Whenever the question of what I really want comes up, though, writing is way at the top. Even if it’s blogging.

That was a great thing about my job in outsourced Microsoft support years ago. While in one product, during an annual review I expressed how much I would love doing work centered around writing. That was part of a career growth kind of thing, as I recall. The manager, who was fantastic, didn’t see much chance of that happening, yet under my next manager it did. I had more to do with that than management did, apart from tolerance, initially, and doing what Microsoft wanted, when one of my counterparts there effectively appointed me to full time “web response” support of the product. This was a new thing. It had only been done by escalation level people at Microsoft itself, by our primary weekend guy, and ad hoc by me and a colleague, in any available time we could find between calls. The weekend guy would handle the cases he got as far as he could, then escalate them, even if they were easy. One Monday, Microsoft assigned them all to me and that was it for phone support. I was writing from then on, with rare exceptions, and was one of the pioneers.

Things that make me think.

I’ve been doing a web site migration for an extended family member who had some sort of falling out with his original designer and host. There was more to fix than I might have expected; ways in which they were sloppy. I figure it’s because of a graphics person going into web development, versus someone with a programming background. It’s been a blast. I could do this a lot, but I’d need to farm out graphics to build sites for people that needed new/nice ones. I can do simple, though I lack the tools I once had, and the money to buy nice ones.

I got a call from an unsolicited prospective employer. On the phone I said I was interested, but the guy was skeptical due to the commute. He had read my town wrong. Off the phone, I found it’d be at least 110 miles a day round trip, an hour minimum each way. I did math. They pay over the amount I must make net of added costs for things like commuting and tax considerations, but not enough even to pay for gas at a charitable price. Then there is the opportunity cost of the hours driving, other car costs, the fact it starts out temp, albeit long term, and that I would loathe working in the industry. Which, near as I can tell, is closely involved with making Obamacare fly. That and the type of work is the secondary type I seek, the “or I could do this.” I got an effective rate of pay for the hours added to what I spend on my PT job that is well below my PT job’s hourly rate (which is just $5 below what they pay before doing the math).

There wouldn’t be enough money to move nearer the job and support me in a room or small apartment plus send enough here to keep things rolling. Since we apparently are separating again but for real this time, moving out is actually a goal, but isn’t going to happen until and unless it’s viable. We have a good arrangement and set of roles, and that would shake things up far beyond money. With her home, we have changed roles, so I am no longer the main crappy housekeeper, laundress and dishwasher, but I am still the primary cook. In job hunting, I have had a low key “I can relocate” aspect that I hadn’t before. At a price and within reason, though what’s reasonable depends on price, as always.

That made me think about what do I want to do, or particularly not do. Do I even want a job job? The bottom line for making up Deb’s shortfall is to nearly double what I make from the PT job. We once had ads on sites and peaked at almost 2/3 of that number. From blogging. Or more accurately, from residual value of having blogged and run a blog carnival. I had some resentments that led me to mostly stop blogging, and to keep starting new sites that’d be mine alone. In fact, I have a conundrum that was going to be another post. We decided to return to AV, which I’d never loved the idea of leaving, the act of which lost us most of our audience and momentum. We were staying together. We would have a joint blog again. Happy days are here again. I had actually made a bit of progress with a solo blog, settling on one to build. Albeit not as I’d originally planned. The site in question was going to be a portal to posts at various blogs on various topics (more blogs, topical ones, easier to get ads), while also having original content, and importantly, promoting myself as a “help you create/maintain a blog or web site” service for side money. When we were really screwed financially, Deb did a brilliant job of building multiple income streams that by themselves might not support us, but contributed, and in some cases bordered on being “yawn money.”

Yawn money is a term a friend and former colleague introduced me to (not sure if he coined it) for things that bring in money while you sleep. Anything that gives you residuals or royalties would be like that. Ditto for ads. Once you get past the initial work. Selling something like crochet patterns isn’t far removed, where you do a fair bit of work, but then it’s a download with automated sales, or worst case, sending e-mail with them to buyers. My ideas for that have extended to reviving the blogging enough to generate revenue again. That’s not so much yawn money as it is getting paid indirectly for writing. It becomes yawn money in that you can coast for a while before it goes away. And to writing a book I have had in mind, though I could blog the story serially as well. It’s a business experiences thing.

Now, I should pursue some of this regardless of whether I search for full time work, even if I am going to set my standards low for what I accept. Especially if I set them low. I keep thinking there is something I am missing. A way to make lightning strike. Like it’s a game and I need to learn to play it.

One of the things that kept me from blogging was the fact too many of the wrong people read me, and I had to watch what I said. It’s not so bad as the Facebook account where you’d barely know I had a political opinion, due to the diversity among friends, and especially the vocalness of the leftier, sometimes almost to the point of commie, people there. I sometimes want to throw all caution to the wind and be myself. Which also applies when I am looking for work, blogging on my real name site that is oriented mainly to that end.

In fact, I have developed mixed feelings about this identity. Too many people know the real one, or could figure it out. At the same time, if what I am selling is that I write, that I know something about business and economics, that I managed/edited a thing on those topics that was in its day a big deal, then how am I to deal with the fact that I can’t admit to those things without revealing my pen name, and revealing all my opinions and maybe the less [adjective chain here] things I might have written along the way.

I am also thinking that I am at a juncture like the one when I job hunted following college. I sought accounting work because that was my degree, but my heart wasn’t in it. I didn’t know what else to look for, though, and I stubbornly resisted taking just any job anywhere and seeing what happened. That is the correct tactic. You explore, learn an industry, make contacts, get work experience cred in general, and avoid having zero income or doing something that can’t lead anywhere. Because I kept adding tech stuff, in the form of software I’d used, to my resume, on the idea accounting needed computer skills and especially knowledge of Lotus 1-2-3, eventually I landed in tech support. Hiring people saw an opportunity I had no idea existed. One that was ideal for me.

Now I feel somewhat the same about support, at least in the call center sense, if not about tech generally. Thus I had focused more on “analyst” as a job title, be it called business, systems, data, or something else that still means you’re in the same continuum. Aspects of this harken back to my business background and experience, go along with my ability to cross-communicate between geeks and ordinary people, the times I’ve worked on determining business needs, and my ability to hold a big flow in my head while also handling detail and accuracy.

Obviously, I have an idea of something I could do and might enjoy, but I am not sure anyone will hire me at it, or that I’d be comfortable starting at a high level version. Yet I keep thinking that I am missing something, and that an astute hiring person might say “aha, you could do…” some cool thing I had never considered.

I’ve done self-employment a lot. I’d have done more over the past few years, but for tax complications and SAHD duties. Working on a web site for someone is ideal as a do at home task, for all I am not obliged to do things that way any more. Though it is actually more possible, given the presence of another parent and more viable age of the kids. The tax complications are gone. My weird reticence about charging adequately still needs work. It was another factor in making me not care whether I did business.

Any conclusions? Well, I am going to work on some of the side money angles, and on associating some stuff with my real name without necessarily shouting out my pen name to the world. There is a business blog can be revived easily, and that was the single most successful ad vehicale we ever had, the one that generated most of the money over time. It might still be, had it not lain fallow. I’ll personal blog, and it’ll probably be here, despite my mixed feelings about the joint versus sole blogs. I’d been meaning to post here more than has happened, and to migrate posts from the old version that was in Expression Engine, which doesn’t port over in a friendly, convenient way. Personal blogs weren’t a big seller for ads, but hey. The only blog with an ad is a tech blog I never post at, and that is a candidate for revival. That and the business one go with skills I am emphasizing for Real Job potential. I also had a site that was going to be my next business. It never went away, but I have it blank right now because the content, including what I did for services, pricing and all, was stale. I mean to do something with that, even if I do limited business. That is because I added that as a position on my resume, as well as because, well, any work I can get is much needed income. If it actually flies, I can see a tiny office in my future, which would be a nice supplement to a tiny apartment or room rental I also see in my future, eventually. I’m going to emphasize more the web stuff than I did before. I’m going to stop failing to play with technology. It was exhilarating recently to make a laptop work, including tearing it apart more than necessary and seeing how it ticked. I have computer carcasses and parts to go through and mostly purge, but in the process I can get my groove back. Funds are an issue, obviously, but I learned the hard way you can’t build or even keep a business running without spending on it in ways that get you and keep you current. I used to be angry that everything I took in at the old business went to home expense and I felt unable to put money into anything “extraneous.” The office rent got paid, though sometimes that was an eventuality rather than a given, but the technology I worked with got older and older, internally and not just with the client. If I couldn’t pay me enough to live on (and I felt like I couldn’t trim things as much as I needed – funny what necessity changes) and keep both the taxes and medical insurance/expenses paid, I certainly couldn’t buy new computers, devices, software, training, whatever. And that is part of the problem with my weird reticence about pricing adequately. Which back then wasn’t a problem, long as I charged the clients for everything I did. Too few clients and too much restriction by one on my ability to service others was a problem, but the hourly rate was at least close to where it should have been.

That job prospect I mentioned saved me turning them down by simply not calling me back or e-mailing as promised. I was prepared to say no. That’s something I am learning! I can say no. I don’t have to take work that pays too little or has demands that are all wrong. Obviously there needs to be some work being had, and it can be a matter of marginal revenue in a storm, but the abuse can be limited.

I figure as I blog, as I muck out my room and work through the old computers, I might have ideas. I am feeling hopeful and my brain feels like it’s funtioning fully now, so I am more likely to have a clever, creative idea and be able to follow it.

If the economy were better, I might be focused purely on jobs, but I have already been turned down for no-brainer opportunities. That’s an element I forgot above: The need to piece a living together, to be a rennaisance man, perhaps.

Better Than The Nolan Chart

My first thought was that this makes glaring the limited difference between typical republicans (conservatives) and typical democrats (liberals).

SocialStructures

This is from Liberty’s Torch.

My second thoughts involved the naming of the categories, and volunteerism being much less scary-sounding than anarchism, which is what the only truly safe section is. Minarchism may not sound less scary than libertarianism, which is what that part of the chart describes, in strict, traditional terms. Since “classical liberal” is a term I learned meant “libertarian,” I am intrigued by having that matched with “paleo-conservatism,” the next step up, and… mmm… acceptable. I always figure that it matters first what you choose to have government do, then, having decided, doing it right. Towns will run schools? OK, let’s not make them money sinks that do a lousy job, and for goodness sake let’s not let the federal government take de facto control. That kind of thing.

I’m glad the next loop up is modified with “modern,” because it is so not conservatism. Except now it is. Deb sat down as I was working on this and we talked about the names and categories. I came to libertarianism in the seventies, and was heavy into it into the eighties. I learned it as what’s called minarchism here, as I noted. She learned it, later, as what’s called paleo-conservatism here. I learned that as more of a next level, just as shown, where you can’t quite get everyone to agree that, really, these things can be done at least as effectively by the market or private cooperation.

And there’s another thing. It seems to me that this looks at any and all activities at any and all levels of government. In my town, we have a classic example of volunteerism/anarchism, whereby the community runs a gas and electric utility, to benefit the community and keep it tight to the people it serves. Local action. So when we talk roads, are we talking that, yeah, way more efficient for the community to build and maintain them, while maybe a highway that goes long distances and has controlled access, yeah, that could work better or as well done as a privately built road you pay to use.

Which is really just a step up from that decision to assign the right to use force on behalf of everyone to a government entity. Trouble is, another thought I had right away, it’s the very fact you are giving government that power to use force on your behalf that makes it easy for it to use power to coerce you. The idea is projecting it outward. It’s so easy to turn it inward.

And arguably the dangerous transition point is that fifth item up: education. Once the government can not on coerce, but control what is learned, influence attitudes from the beginning, power is well entrenched. Which is why education cannot be controlled by higher levels, but must remain controlled by lower levels of government or community, or be in the hands of the people, or be privately operated and paid.

Homelessness

Back when it was a huge issue, more for bashing Reagan than for real, but it’s always real to some degree, and had been exacerbated by the recent release of mentally ill to the streets, I became aware of how government causes the problem of homelessness and people over their heads in housing costs.

Zoning. Regulation. Rules, largely but not exclusively local in nature.

Can we go back?

Worse, I always thought the tiny sleeping cubes in Japan, or airports wherever, were a cool idea. Never thought of them being restricted into impossibility here.

Additionally, as I am sure I have mentioned before in ten years of blogging, I have thought housing suffered from preconceived notions and from lack of new inventions. As long as a house is a single family, made generally of wood, on a lot of at least a certain size, constructed a certain way, generally by professionals working at a certain pay and pace, then the cost will be higher rather than lower. I’ve always thought there had to be a better way.

People Are Noticing…

Walmart’s computerized scheduling system and bare bones staffing, and this is a Bad Thing. I love Walmart, but I am furious when they are out of things because they don’t staff to stock the shelves, and I like long lines no more than anyone. I’d rather have a long line and full shelves, though. And I don’t figure the store has to be spotless or perfectly neat – they’re a discounter – but it’s easy to let it go too far. I haven’t seen it, personally, even in the bathrooms.

Funny story, though. My first ever trip into a Walmart was in 1988, before we had a single one in New England. It was in Slidell, Louisiana. My lasting impression was how horribly dirty the store was. I’m not sure I noticed the prices being low, but I noticed that, and I was struck by the extent of the fishing gear, despite not being into fishing myself.

The mighty can fall. It may take time, but it can happen. Forget Sam’s policies at your own risk.

Entitlement

I’ve been thinking about entitlement as a personal and moral trait that can overlap political beliefs, and relate to the government plural of the same word.

Whether you have been raised to it or come to it otherwise, a strong enough sense of entitlement without moral brakes on it can lead you to steal, which is really just a direct form of seeing that money not yours is spent to your benefit. It can lead you to something like insurance fraud, where you feel entitled to take the insurer for enough money not merely to repair insured damage to your house, but also to rebuild it extensively, shiny and like new. It can make you the person who is demanding beyond all reason at a retailer, or who gives the pharmacy hell for the limits of your prescription coverage that they can’t control. It can make you the person who has an unrealistic concept of what Social Security and Medicare are/should be, and of how far the money you paid in actually extends, even if you are logical and not otherwise mathematically impaired.

You see this as a generality in generations, like the Lucky Few, even when individually they might have political leanings ostensibly disparaging of “entitlements.” I had not been aware there was indeed a distinction until recently, despite it seeming like there was a gap before the Boomers. You see it more specifically in families or how people are raised, and in social classes. A sufficiently strong sense of entitlement is a lopsided thing, where you see only that you want, you deserve, you need. You don’t see where the money is coming from, who you are affecting, or even ethical, legal or philosophical ramifications. Come to think of it, it’s the extreme opposite of feeling entitled to nothing via a low self-esteem or “dog that’s been beat too much” problem, but that strikes me as a digression into another topic.

A gentler form of it is indeed strongly optimistic expectations. Of course you can get a job at the proverbial IBM and retire comfortably after thirty years! Isn’t that what everyone does? Sorry, Lucky Few, it’s 2013. Or 1980, as the case may be.

Anyway, where I am going with this is to cross it over to political leanings or expectations. It seems to me that the same outlook could give make your overriding conviction to be milking the system for what you want for you and yours, without regard or even awareness of consequences or costs. Just as you can ruin your life if you let an inhibition-free sense of entitlement veer into illegal ground, you can ruin the country by voting or promulgating institutionalized theft. There are times when the overhead of entitlement can be absorbed for an extended or even indefinite time. For instance, unionized industries that add cost out of proportion to value. There are times when the party ends. Real estate won’t always go up and up artificially. You were never entitled to an automatic windfall. Government won’t always be able to pay benefits it does now. Not even pensions, if the money wasn’t actually put aside and kept safe and actuarially appropriate.

You are not entitled to whatever you want, any way you can get it. There isn’t an endless trough. It has to come from somewhere. If you’re not creating value for value, if you just want it so you should get it, you’re doing it wrong.

AutoZone is Convenient

But seriously? I would consider trying elsewhere for a part next time. Too late for this weekend, since my brother is planning to stop at one for a part for working on the truck for us Sunday. I like my local store, and it’s right around the corner, but that is unacceptable corporate behavior. No that the company I work for would behave any differently, but we aren’t a theft target and are pretty secure from non-employees. Ironically, there is a small time auto parts place in town that I’d never likely have gone to anyway, which I am already making a point never to use due to that family having been behind the local swearing fine (since held to be unconstitutional and rendered moot in a review by the state).

Via Jeff Soyer

Elections Have Consequences

I knew there were tax changes coming, barring anything done to avert them, and I just discovered one aspect I’d not know of before in the chart here. Child tax credit is going from $1000 back to $500 in 2013. That may not suddenly mean we owe more, or even that we get less back in earned income credit, but it may be a close thing, or may matter in a couple years.

Not that the child tax credit should even exist, but since it does, and it potentially affects our finances, why would we approve of an arbitrary drop? As such things go, it seems least worst, in the manner of the EIC if you’re really into evening things out. The trouble with the EIC is the donut hole dropoff, which we start to approach, in which your effective tax rate is staggering. Even now, I figured out last tax year that each dollar of self-employment income I might add means 47 cents in additional tax. If I charge you $40 to fix your computer because I figure that’s all you can afford, or all the market will bear, I make a tad over $20 of it in reality, and no matter that I spent three hours, for which I should have charged between $120 and $300. But this is not about pricing and marketing and even the effects of self-esteem on same.

Also, the more direct impact on us is the end of the payroll tax reduction, which arguably should never have been enacted anyway. But since it was, the end of it represents a substantial tax increase on people of modest income. We’re talking about eliminating what we saved by canceling our landline, to put it in real terms, or enough to get McDonald’s 2-3 times a month… except we don’t do that, because the money isn’t there! If it’s not there for things we want or need, how is it there for a tax increase? It’s not. Nor is it there to be a portion of the additional we’d need to spend on groceries in order to change my diet to comply with what the cardiologist wants to see to maximize my lifespan and minimize my chance of additional stents or worse. Not. There. For. Health. So it’s not there for taxes, either, and if you think Obamacare is going to help me afford to eat healthier, you’re delusional.

The thing is, again, the tax shouldn’t have been cut in the first place, so nobody would be able to miss it. Or it should have been eliminated 100% in a massive overhaul of everything. As long as you pay lip service to it being a retirement account, or even if you don’t, and instead recognize it as a wobbly pay-as-you-go Ponzi scheme, cutting that tax makes no sense, as it affects if either way.

The child tax credit, though… As a matter of social policy, what is it? It recognizes that people with children could use an added tax advantage because OMG expensive. By extension, it makes having children a prioriy of the government. New subjects citizens to help keep the social security Ponzi scheme economy going in the future, replacing older workers as the retire, and some so the whole scheme economy doesn’t collapse.

Back to the donut hole. It’s more than the taxes. My 47% assumes self-employment, and would be lower otherwise, but if it’s employment or business income, if it takes time away from home, it means daycare. If I were to trade in my part-time job for full time, there would be an immediate daycare “tax” of $270 a week. Not even guessing at how much more that might be in summer or school vacation weeks. I have to account for that, elimination of the EIC, even though for us that has been on paper and being taken to cover old tax debt each year, incurring income tax on income that had none before as well as the added income, insurance costs that will change, and costs associated with commuting and having less “free” time. Working from home or doing business from home and flexibly/less than full time modifies that, but doesn’t avoid it entirely. For a specific potential job, I estimated needed $40,000 a year above the income I make part time just to stay even. Not compensating me at all for taking my time. That’s basically $43 an hour for each extra hour above what I work part time.

No wonder I still keep thinking what I have to do is make a living at self-employment and/or writing and/or part-time work from home.

Things have to change, in any event. My reaction to the election was a coldly furious resolution to be prepared to survive whatever happens. Ironically, that means improving my income. Expenses have nowhere to go but up, since we are about as to the bone as possible. I figure on being better able to cover living expenses, while continuing to keep them as low as possible, while preparing against disaster, disruption, lack of income in the future… all the things that can happen “unexpectedly” (if you have blinders on). It’s great to hope things go well and change for the better, but in reality it could take decades to recover from this depression and from four more years of fundamental transformation. If it happens at all. In the long view, the tax blip coming up is nothing, and could help things turn toward the saner sooner rather than later.

Question One

I’m still torn on Massachusetts ballot question 1, which involves access to onboard diagnostic data from your car.

On the one hand, “there otta be a law” is one of the most evil phrases and reactions out there, and that seems to be what this is. That gives it to the status quo, but often the status is not quo. Rather, it’s warped, by all the cumulative otta-be laws, and all the existing assumptions and regulations. Put another way, the tabula is not rasa.

On the other hand, and the one I lean toward, especially after thinking through the above paragraph, you buy it, you own it, and you own your data. Period. If your car tracks information about its condition, that information is yours, to be able to access freely and use as you please.

The other two questions are no brainers, barring any qualms one may have over either of them being poorly written and thus flawed in some way.

Cooking, Blogging and Tech, Oh My

Or: Pay attention to your sites, dude.

Once upon a time, Jeff Soyer started a food blog called Single Guy Cook, which I hough was a brilliant idea. Unfortunately, it ran out of steam quickly, given limited funds and repertoire.

That inspired me to start one called Married Guy Cook, since I used to post frequently about what I’d cook, and I’d gotten deeply into cooking since getting married. Unfortunately, it hobbled along, given limited funds and repertoire, and I trailed off due to that and other issues. However, it was a popular and lucrative site, for a time, for earning money.

That and being even more broke than ever (I’d never realized while I was self-employed just how low my income was, though I did know that it was incredibly rocky – impossible, technically – to live on it) were part of the inspiration for starting Frugal Guy Cook, to which I ported the posts from Married Guy Cook.

Then I all but abandoned it, despite all my plans to make money from it, and to expand the focus to being frugal in this ridiculous economy and to handling our son’s multiple allergies and sensitivities. That meant it didn’t build much content or garner page rank, and never became a potential source of income. Granted, that was partly the reperoire thing, and the money thing goes without saying, but that was part of the schtick. Only so many things you can tout doing with dried pinto beans, cheap burger on sale (OK, that’s an oxymoron these days; burger that is sometimes on sale for less epensive enough to justify its purchase, if only because we have to eat), cheap beef on sale, cheap chicken on sale, rice, and what vegetables we can afford, or buy regardless. I never buy fish, for instance, because $5/lb and up is “rich people food.” Indeed, my current conundrum is that since my stents, I am supposed to eat healthier, and while there have been steps in that direction, going whole hog means money. And if I do spend more on food, it ceases to be “frugal,” at least by my standards. The next couple weeks will test my frugality. We have a freezer relatively full of meat, which helps, and are well stocked in other things, but I expect to have maybe $60 or so to spend through November 9th (maybe more, but there’s also gas, and I have to plan low rather than optimistic). Bread alone is $6-7 a week. Anyway, I digress.

I slacked off on that site so badly that I have yet to fix the weirdness that porting from the old one caused, or adjust the theme to look less funny as a result (or replace the theme).

On my last big shopping trip, I got a sugar pumpkin on sale for 29ยข a pound. Cheap and I love making pumpkin bread or other things from the source, though canned is easier. Yesterday I went looking for a pumpkin bread recipe. I may have had one saved on my computer, but my computer, and the spare one into which I put the till working drive from the dead one, is dead. I thought I might have written about making pumpkin bread, and if so, it might have made it onto the food blog. Otherwise it’s a matter of finding a likely looking recipe and trying it, rather than using one I knew was good from past use. Not that there’s much you can do to mess up pumkin bread. Besides, I can always make pumpkin cake, which is a matter of using pumpkin as the liquid in the egg and dairy-free cake recipe and adding appropriate seasoning.

In the course of checking whether I’d ever posted it, I found that every picture in every post I looked at had been replaced by a square graphic saying “SHOPWIKI.” Clicking the picture, rather than bringing up a larger version, took me to a site not my own.

“How was I hacked,” I wondered.

Well, I wasn’t. I allowed the old domain to expire, an unusual thing for me, but sometimes there’s reason to let go. The posts I had ported still pointed to graphics (and sometimes internal links) on the old domain. Which now belongs to someone else. My experience with lapsed domains, even if they have no page rank, is that someone snaps them up and makes them page full of ad links, such that they will generate at least something over the cost of registering and hosting the domain. It’s what my old business partner would have called “yawn money.” Make money while you sleep. Even if it’s a little, even if it’s some tiny form of arbitrage, it will add up and be something you wouldn’t make otherwise. I could go for some of that.

I still had all the graphics, mind you. The folder the old domain had been in was totally intact. So I copied it to the new location and modified each wrong URL directly in the database. Easy, but a bit embarrassing, given that it should have been done at the time of the port.

The moral of the story, I’d say, is pay attention. If you’re going to have a blog empire, mind your blog empire. If you’re going to write, write. If you’re going to maintain places to write, maintain them. Don’t be surprised if neglect leads to decay.

At the moment, I am only posting here, trying to do it regularly, building back up a blog we should never have left fallow in the first place. If it weren’t for the difficulty in porting Expression Engine to WordPress, the entire original content would be here, rather than archived. The conundrum is that topical blogs are lucrative. That was part of the reason for Frugal Guy Cook in the first place. I’ll probably post food-related stuff here now, but it’s an opportunity missed. Same for tech blogging and business blogging. I fell out of both, tech in paricular, since I all but stopped doing it for a living, and I lacked the money to keep myself up to date, which feeds the no doing it for a living and vice-versa. We’ll see what happens. For the time being, writing and maintaining this stuff is de facto a job for me, so all the more reason it should get caught up and get done routinely. Income, however speculative and lacking in direct connection to the effort, won’t be possible at all otherwise.

RIP George McGovern

We remember him best for the 1972 blowout to a crookedly leftist republican, but George McGovern increasingly became a Libertarian Hero. Read it if you haven’t; it’s a great appreciation, and includes details you may not have known.

I remember the 1972 election well, because I already followed politics to some degree, and favored Nixon. When we held a class election between the two candidates, I was almost the only one who voted Nixon, foreshadowing how our parents would vote in Massachusetts, but not in other states.

Odd, too, that I favored Nixon after his imposition of wage and price controls, which infuriated my father. I couldn’t believe the government had the right to do such a thing. We make fun of the hapless Carter, and it is well-deserved, for all he was far better than Obama, but Nixon piled on Johnson to create the basis for economic conditions Carter (and Ford, and Reagan initially) faced. But I digress.

It is a good man who can observe, inerpret and accept reality, admitting he was once wrong in some regards. Without ceasing to be right in others. Well done.

Either-Or

Yesterday I saw Atlas Shrugged Part 2. This time around, it was playing at a nearby Regal theater, which also showed Obama’s America, so I didn’t have to drive to a far-flung, unfamiliar theater, as I did for Part 1.

Of the two, Part 2 is unquestionably better, and not merely due to the meatier, more exciting material. It also did not suffer from the cast changes as I thought it might.

If there was ever any question that Atlas Shrugged falls in the science ficion genre, this movie, even more than the book, argues that it does. Simply being future/alt-history suggests it, without some of the futuristic technologies or elements.

If there was ever any question that John Galt was inspired by Nikola Tesla, this movie, even more than the book, makes clear that he was. Among the special effects are those associated with efforts to get Galt’s “motor” for drawing unlimited power from the air to work without Galt around to help.

As an aside, such a device represents the ultimate intellectual property challenge. Obviously, if anyone can build such a device, can know how, have access to it for reverse-engineering, then selling electricity generated from it would not be lucrative for long. The very reason Tesla lost backing for the very device he allegedly had working or near to it. As such, it would have to remain a black box, unable to be accessed to reverse-engineer. At that, simply knowing such a thing was possible would set others on the path of figuring out how to create their own. On the other hand, one might accept it quickly falling into public domain or generating competition, given what it would do to the world, and given the other ways its inventor could then make money.

Anyway, I liked the movie a lot. The script was pared down from the source material skillfully, with inclusion of key points, some of which I might have expected to suffer. What it could not convey was Reardon’s internal guilt and thought processes that made blackmailing him successful. I am not sure this would have been clear to a viewer who’d never read the book, despite being subtly implicit.

The flash forward opening was a nice touch, drawing us in with excitement and adrenaline. The fact that it is set in near future modern times actually helps Reader’s Digest things. All the action regarding the tunnel disaster and the buck-passing is distilled into the central control room and the scene itself.

The root of money speech was there, briefer but more than adequate. The breakout was there. The cabin was there, but barely, and wasn’t it in New Hampshire originally? And not sitting on a flood plain, immediately beside water? The wet nurse was well done, and well acted, in that you could see the character developing and thinking without a word.

Most of the casting was good, even great. Esai Morales, whom I knew from the ill-fated Caprica, was a better Francisco. Lillian was equally good, perhaps better, even if the original was the one to fit my mental image. This one was at least as good at portraying that form of evil. I could see Cheryl’s gears starting to turn before the movie was out. I couldn’t remember if she had her final scenes in 2 or 3, but must be 3. Dagny was better. Reardon was as good or better, though he could have supplied the voice of Batman in the most recent films. Robert Picardo rocks anyway, and did in this. Even having read about Teller’s small speaking role, I almost missed who it was, and there were faces like that of Michael Gross that looked familiar but I didn’t place at the time. Wyatt wasn’t in it, but they showed his picture on the news as the guy from Part 1. I’d love to see him back, even if he is not as described in the book.

On an unexpected note, I loved the soundtrack, or score, if that’s the better term. I don’t usually even notice a soundrack. I stayed through the credits mainly for the music.

I’m still amused by DB Sweeney as Galt! And we still haven’t seen his face, even at the end, when he finally becomes a person, not a question. I will forever think of him as Doug Dorsey from The Cutting Edge, one of my favorite “good bad movies” of all time. I’ve watched it at least six times. In Part 3, seeing him in the actual role may allow me finally to picture him otherwise.

There was one point when I thought we might actually see Danneskold, who has been almost entirely left out of the movie adaptation, but it proved instead to be the scene when Reardon calls his lawyer and finally orders up a divorce. About time.

The times depicted are worse and yet shockingly similar to our current ones. The actions of government are familiar, as are the consequences. The use of consequences of government to justify even worse actions of government are familiar. Even timeless.

Could someone see it without Part 1? Absolutely, if they’ve read the book. Probably, even if they haven’t. It doesn’t start with one of those total recaps, but you get enough of an idea the circumstances and background. Perhaps I am biased.

Overall, it’s a better adaptaion than we might have had cause to expect, considering the density of the source.