20.35.27 - Mark

1 year, 7 months, 19 days, and a handful of hours.
That's 599 days

That's how long it's been since I spun out some other words for my personal site.

7 years, 6 months, 7 days.
That's 2,748 days

That's how long it's been since I started "blogging" (at that time was really just glorified site updates with tiny bits of my life attached)

In those first close-to-six years of scribbling out notes in my little section of the interwebs, I periodically missed a month or two of updates, but never really lapsed a season, let alone a year.

And honestly, I don't feel "bad" about my "disappearance". Over the years I've seen some of my favorite sites truly disappear, some merely idol for eternity, some vanishing into the ethers, some choosing to retire, sometimes you just miss the memo about changes in direction. In my extended gap however, I still put things onto my flickr account, which merges into my main RSS feed, as well as occasionally put things on Twitter and Facebook (which I'm pretty sure don't merge into that feed).

There's a good amount of stuff to put online here, I pretty sure it won't take another 599 days to write some more.

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16.43.10 - Mark

Put simply, this month has simply been weird and a little confusing, and decently busy. I've been online less, and between photos on flickr and messages on twitter posting stuff here has just fallen off on the side. It's not lack of content, it's a simple lack of time. Other things have fallen off to the side as well, like watching movies (I've had the same Netflix rentals for a month), random web surfing and reading books all of which provides occasional add ons to the site. Why? Several reasons.

Part of it has been traveling. In the last two weeks I've been out and about far more than I've been in. Three days for Savannah GA, a day or two futzing around Surry County with camera in tow, a weekend in and around Brevard, NC, three days in Morganton, NC, and another day going to and from Lexington and Winston Salem, NC. Travel adds up quickly

Another thing has been photography related, well above and beyond the traveling with camera. I've taken tons of photos and didn't exactly stay on top of the processing, so that's added up. I've also been working on a photo printing comparison (20 some sets of the same 15 photos) which ordering and organizing alone ate up a working week faster than I expected. I'm also working on entering a couple prints into a judged photography competition and those prints needed ordered, and framed (which looks like it eats up time tomorrow.) Then there's some small attempts at shooting non "art" photos for profit.

Some of it's just life. Why bother with the website where there's stuff to hear/see/do/experiance. I like having this site, I like posting content, I even feel a little "bad" when I don't post in a while, so the sites not going away. Hopefully I'll get back in the habbit and post some more stuff as I start clearing out the backlog of content, or start finishing projects worth writing about. Until then...

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5 Years?

10.48.08 - Mark

In most cases, I could care less about a website/blog/podcast/vidcast anniversary of any sort, and off hand I couldn't tell you the "launch" of my various excursions into owning and caring for a personal website, other than I think it was around 2000 or 2001. I couldn't tell you off hand how many videos I've made and posted (tho' I've only done one audio show and that, thankfully, is mostly buried), but I noticed a few days ago that I started this blog thing on blogger 5 years ago today after getting tired of managing almost daily posts on the old static site by hand, so Happy Birthday blog-like entity.

If I keep it up, I might get decent at this blaging thing...

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Let's try this again.

00.45.56 - Mark

Every once in a while I get it in my head that I'm going to do something useful with my flickr account. This tends to result in a bunch of photos being uploaded over a day or two, followed by months of casual disregard. Its not that I don't like flickr, just that I was using the limits of a free account to justify not uploading there. I'm going to try and do better because I've now upgraded to a "pro" account, and I'm not a fan of wasting money.

I've been making it a pretty regular feature to post a photo on these pages, and that will continue since I like doing it, but this isn't a photo of the day sort of site. Life aggregator would be a good term since I've been posting the movies I've watched, the books I've read, and occasional links I think are worth sharing.

We'll see if this works. I love sharing photos, but there's that feeling that posting my stuff onto flickr helps flickr (and by extension, Yahoo) and not this site (and by extension, Me)

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Stuff I Make (and sell)

02.34.14 - Mark

Blogging has been light recently, part of it's being lazy, part of it is working on other websites, part of it is some light changes I made to this site last week.

Some of the cooler or more useful items I create here are going to get passed on to a Goodies section. We'll see what direction it takes, but right now it's a mini store for my Raven Knob panoramic. I'm also making my web development a little more visible but linking to my portfolio. I need to update it, but I've got other projects that need more attention

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Some weeks later

23.31.48 - Mark

Camp is done once again, and I've been painfully thrust back into the real world kicking and screaming. Well maybe not kicking and screaming, but Raven Knob is not something you really want to leave behind. Fortunately I've got a few camp related projects that should keep me free from a full blown withdrawal. Among other things I did get around to ordering the panoramic photo I took at the beginning of the summer (only about 11 weeks ago...) and sorting out the 4000+ photos I took during the already mentioned 11 weeks. Once some of the chores get finished up (unpacking, catching up on 3 months of news, other random shit) I'll pick up the posting rate. I might have gone to camp, but the rest of the world didn't take the same 3 month vacation I did.

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The worst part of camp...

00.01.27 - Mark

I've been up at camp for about two weeks on and off, and despite working hard it's a rewarding experience (as always)

It's biggest attraction, isolation from the "real world" is also a severe weakness. The camp doesn't place a strong emphasis on outside communication. No TV, impeded radio signals, irregular newspaper deliveries, and practically being a cell phone free zone make regular news a rarity. Fortunately we have a couple of wifi hotspots scattered about camp but the signals aren't great and you have to make it a point to access them and even then news isn't a matter of great importance.

Had it not been for a friend who came up for a night, I could have easily missed the drama brewing between the Bush administration and Russia and I certainly don't have enough knowlege to make any decent comment about the mess.

Ph, and in case you haven't figured it out, this is a semi-formal note to let you know posting will be extremely light for a couple of months. I'm going to try and post a couple times a week, but I doubt that will happen.

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23.42.13 - Mark

To the unknown soul who shared those scripts with me - Thanks, I guess. Really would have preferred have learned that info via email tho' - I've got it in my profile block if you'd like to drop me a line

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10.27.57 - Mark

I've been trying to figure out what exactly I want to say about Tim O'Reilly's proposed Blogger Code of Conduct. Others have posted on the issue and looked at the proposed code in more detail than I will.

That said, this post has gone from it's a bad idea, to it won't work, and now to I don't really give a damn. This isn't something I'll be joining up with because I don't see any of the problems that this claims to be a solution for. I've had anonymous commenters I've disagreed with, trolls I've been tempted to delete, arguments and embarrassing things go public. I've never deleted a post I've made, and I've only deleted two non-spam comments intentionally, and even then I wouldn't make the same decision today since they were rooted in a misunderstanding rather than problematic. All in all I've broken nearly every one of the proposed codes of conduct in one way or another, from posting copyrighted material (if you can find it) to not requiring email addresses from commenters.

The only thing I can say about my blog is that it's mine and I'm responsible for it. I don't need to sign a pledge for that to be true.

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New-ish features

15.33.16 - Mark

While part of the reason I haven't posted a lot recently is a crappy interweb connection, the other part is that I've been paying more attention to the non-content side of this blog. Tweaking code and database schemes and adding new features. Among other things I've added sidebar features and dedicated pages for books and movies I've recently consumed, and I'm fleshing out a link blog feature (again with a sidebar block as well as it's own page)

I'll probably try unifying all of this stuff next week. Boredom has done a lot to spawn feature creep.

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Four Years

11.55.09 - Mark

This blog has come a long way in four years. Back on February 15th, 2003 I signed up with a blogger account and I've come a long way since - nearly 1600 posts, hundreds of comments, developing my own blogging engine and adding all sorts of features I never would have dreamed of four years ago.

I've been online far longer than four years however, I had a couple of static pages hosted online going as far back as late 2000 or early 2001. Long enough that I've since forgotten, but I still have some pages online going back to June 2002. Thankfully my taste and writing have both improved since I first started those sites.

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Blog Newly Refined

15.22.41 - Mark

Getting bored while fixing bugs is not a good thing. Rather than simply fix the bugs in my commenting engine and clearing out the crap comments that have piled up over the last several months I started fiddling with other aspects of my blog code, adding toys like a complete tag cloud, and index pages for my better posts and my multimedia files, improved sidebars fixing a bug in my archive calender and adding a stripped down version of my tag cloud as a navigational block, as well as adding some practical features, like displaying post titles in the page headers and fixing a long list of things with the comments.

Having done almost no programming or web work in the last few months, I almost forgot how much fun it can be to churn out some code.

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Keywords, Links, and the Kitchen Sink

16.38.32 - Mark

The comment spam problem on this blog has finally gotten to me (the database powering this thing has 60MBs of plain text spam comments!) and I'm now in the middle to testing a couple of new tools in my little war on spam. The main reason I've put it off this long is because I though it would take an entire overhaul of the comment system to even attempt to cut back the crap comments, but thankfully I was wrong.

When I started Googling for spam filtering tools, I quickly found two existing services. One called LinkSleeve, which basically looks at the links in the submitted data and compares them to its existing database. The second is Akismet, which seems to be the intimidating sentry in the field.

As it turns out neither was that hard to install into my existing system, LinkSleeve was literally cut and paste, with no modifications needed at all, while Akismet was a little more hands on, involving registering with wordpress for a free account, then researching ways to connect my code with their services. While I was able to find the rights material, it involved some programming on my part, adding a couple of calls and changing some variables around.

Since early this morning, all of the comments on this site have been evaluated with my own filtering rules, along with LinkSleeve's URL screening and Akismet's blend of filters, and the results are a bit surprising. When I added LinkSleeve I though it had the best solution, since comment spam is all about the links, I though that it would catch junk comments my filters were missing (The Hey! Cool Site. Comments that are hardest to screen), but not only does it miss most of them, it also fails to catch spam comments with a dozen obvious junk links. This may be due to a lack of users sending comments into the system, but right now its even far behind my rudimentary keyword/ip based filters.

Of course once I had Akismet set up, it blew away my existing tools, capturing the vast majority of the spam comments that have trickled in since its installation. That's not to say its perfect, but I think its safe to call it as being somewhere around 90% right now

There will however be more spam comments here for the next couple of days. While I think Akismet will be my primary tool for stopping spam, I'm probably going to continue using all three systems to catch spammers in the act, and set up a master script to direct spam to various levels of purgatory based on which filters it trips. There are going to be a few other upgrades (in addition to a significantly cleaned up database) to my little system, but I feel so much better having found a better way of dealing with the spam around here.

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House Cleaning

02.44.00 - Mark

After letting my blog sit in its own juices for the last few months while I was at camp, it managed to get hit by comment spam pretty hard - one post had something like 327 spam comments that snuck past my (admittedly crude) filters.

The total ammount of spam I've recieved this year was close to 10MBs of data! Just for comparison all of my 1500 some blog posts takes up about 1.4MBs - 1/7th the space!

That's not to say it's all been deleted. Because I was in there doing some heavy duty cleaning I shifted some structures around to make it more manageable and I'll need to fix some of the related scripts to match it - so don't worry too much if commenting is broken over the next day or two.

On the other hand there's no doubt in my mind that spam is a serious problem, even for small bloggers using homebrew software.

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Return to society

00.51.47 - Mark

Camp is now officially over. The areas are packed up for the season, the last of the paperwork has been filed and/or archived. The campers, leaders and the idiots who work on staff who couldn't care less about camp are gone. Those left are the kind of people who really truely care about the place and about having a good time with friends and like minded individuals. In other words, some of the best days days in camp are also the saddest.

I'm going to be transitioning back home over the next few days, school over the next couple of weeks, and hopefully a job sometime in between. This time around, I won't deprive myself of camp for over a year - when camping is one of your primary methods of stress release you burn out.

I'll get back into the blogging habit in a few days.

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02.36.25 - Mark

I think blogging here is going to be light for the next couple of months baring a nice surprise (and I'm hoping for that surprise) Raven Knob is calling and I have every intention of answering that call. I'm packed up and planning on leaving in the morning to start working on staff for the summer and doing something I truly enjoy as opposed to the miserable life experiences I've been on the receiving end since I started attending High School University.

As much as I would love for this little warning to fall into my archives, if connectivity falls tough, and this site looks inactive, it's because most trees don't come with power and ethernet. Not that I'm complaining about that. Part of the reason I'm looking forward to the next few weeks is to get off life's interstate for a while.


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Bug Fix Edition

10.29.19 - Mark

I've gotten around to fixing half a dozen problems in the blog, including unbreaking the comment engine (I blame the spammers), making the site usable in Internet Explorer (despite the fact that you should be using Firefox) and writing in some bottom of the page navigation so you don't need to resort to using the monthly archives.

I'm pretty sure those fix all of the complaints I've recieved in the last few weeks.

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My Bad

09.27.57 - Mark

Late last week I had about a dozen junk posting find their way into my blog's database. They wern't comment spam, although at first glance they looked like it, with junk email addresses and the poorly spelled messages characteristic all spam seems to contain. What was a bit atypical was the spammer's address which was at my domain. It didn't hit me why this was until this morning when I had another one of these messages pop up.

I was being used to help sleezeballs in Latin America spam some poor fool's email account.

Ooops. My Bad.

The quick patch was a series of rules you need to meet before a comment is posted, and when I get around to it I'll probably put together some IP filters and email verification code as a basic spam filtering system, and then move it over to another "installation" of my blog software before spammers discover it in 3 months.

Other than the measures I can take, I kind of feel bad for the dozen or so people who have been spammed because of an exploited error in my code...

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04.03.56 - Mark

It still strikes me funny how everytime I wrap up a sizeable coding project, its completly anticlimatic. Maybe I've just watched Hackers, Swordfish and Antitrust a few too many times and the idea of a enmotionally charged end to a long code session is too ingrained in me for reality to make a dent in my delusions.

This isn't the Maker related project I mentioned a while back (which I'll probably start in the next day or two unless a better idea peesents itself), rather I'm dragging my Dad into online publishing, and its more fun for me to do everything from scratch than it is for me to go out install a copy of wordpress or some other prebuilt blog engine and then hack my way though the code of someone elses template.

Look for a link when there's actually some content on there, which shouldn't be too long, the first tings to go up will be some of the editorials and columns he's written (the dirty secret here is that I refuse to read the newspapers he's worked for, but still want to read his columns - the whole point of his website has been so I could get an RSS feed of his writings. If that costs me $8 a year for a domain name, I'm fine with it.)

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Spam Pizza?

14.53.53 - Mark

Shoot. I was partially hoping that my not using a standard blog engine would keep the spammers at bay. Maybe that's true of some scripts, but not all. Two months without spam isn't bad I suppose, considering how high I've been placed in Google anymore

Looks like I'll need to work out some way to manage spam. Probably needed to do that anyways, considering I'm recycling my blog engine's code base on a couple other sites.

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