I Am a Genius: listen to my words

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listen to my words

Archive for 2012

Archie Double-Sized… er… Double-Standard!

My wife recently acquired a paper sack full of old Archie comics. The kids are reading them constantly.

Yesterday I noticed this cover.

Archie's Jokes #471, August 1978

Oh, Veronica, you slut.

Which is what they were thinking way back in 1978.

But wait a minute!

Isn’t this the same Archie who not only is known to date both Veronica and Betty (who is also pictured, listening to Archie talk about kissing Ronnie), but who is constantly trying to kiss any girl he sees?

Archie you stud!

BUT WAIT A MINUTE

Veronica kisses six boys in a week and that’s shameful. Archie does the same, and he’s a hero.

NO.

The real reaction should be “Archie, you poor hypocritical misogynist.”

See, the picture isn’t funny if Archie doesn’t assume he’s the only one Ronnie’s been kissing. He expects complete fidelity from the girls he’s playing against each other.

Archie comics, from what I can tell, is much more enlightened these days. We really shouldn’t hold a cover from more than thirty years ago against them. I just thought it was an interesting thing to note.

The New White Man’s Burden

My wife was recently diagnosed with cancer.

My reaction is usually one of calm serenity. It’s a major issue, but it’s a resolvable one and we’ve no reason to expect long term problems from this.

But “cancer,” also known as “the c-word” is a scary word on its own. And every once in a while I have a little freak out about it until I can get my brain to move on to something else.

I’ve repeated “it’s not serious” or something like that over and over (and sometimes I even believe it) to kind of control others’ reactions to the news. I don’t want massive doses of sympathy. It’s not serious. We expect that they’ll take the offending thyroid out and she’ll be good (you know, other than adjusting to the medication). As cancers go, this one is pretty low key and easily curable. No chemo or anything like that.

So after, and sometimes while, freaking out I have this immense guilt.

The original White Man’s Burden was the moral imperative to spread culture to all those benighted people who had the misfortune of living somewhere other than Europe. It was well intentioned, but lets be honest, a lot of that European influence was not for the better. And it had the nasty problem of looking at any non-European as inherently inferior.

The New White Man’s Burden is where inconvenient, even bad things happen, but you feel guilty for freaking about it because it could be so much worse.

“We’re not in a third world country with no medical help and she doesn’t have a debilitating incurable cancer, so I should feel blessed instead of freaking out.”

Part of the problem is my Mormon Conscience (which is a lot like a Catholic Conscience except it can have more than one wife). I’ve had it beaten into me that I should be grateful all the time (and I should) and that excludes being nervous or concerned or sad about bad things (but it doesn’t — I just can’t get my reptile brain to believe it.

The real danger of the problem is less psychological and more sociological. It puts me in a situation where I’m in danger of feeling superior, and that “superiority” means I’m not allowed to feel human.

I don’t like this expression “First World problems.” It is false and it is condescending. Yes, Nigerians struggle with floods or infant mortality. But these same Nigerians also deal with mundane and seemingly luxurious hassles. Connectivity issues on your BlackBerry, cost of car repair, how to sync your iPad, what brand of noodles to buy: Third World problems. All the silly stuff of life doesn’t disappear just because you’re black and live in a poorer country. People in the richer nations need a more robust sense of the lives being lived in the darker nations. Here’s a First World problem: the inability to see that others are as fully complex and as keen on technology and pleasure as you are.

Teju Cole, quoted in What’s Wrong with #FirstWorldProblems

Read the linked article. It’s enlightening.

On the one hand, count your blessings. Be aware that you have it better off than many by the simple fact that you own two pairs of shoes and know where your next meal is coming from.

On the other hand, that doesn’t mean you’re better than those people, just your circumstances, a lot of which was just luck on your part. And guess what? Those problems you have are shared by other people.

Life on Easy Mode

How does this stand with John Scalzi’s thoughts on Straight White Male’s being on life’s easy mode? Well, I pretty much agree with Scalzi. No one has ever assumed I was dangerous or part of a gang. Partially because I’m not very fit but also because I’m a pale boy. In short, my conception of “New White Man’s Burden” has nothing to do with it.

Yeah, it’s easier here because I have access to modern medicine and insurance. But that doesn’t mean it can’t still scare the crap out of me. It just means I won’t win a “mine’s bigger/worse/scarier” pissing match with someone who doesn’t have access to those things. It means I should have hope, but having hope doesn’t mean that nothing bad is happening (nor does it mean that I believe nothing bad CAN happen).

In the end, it’s OK for me to have a little freak out. It doesn’t mean I think I’m in the worst of all possible scenarios. It doesn’t mean I believe I’m in a life-destroying situation.

It just means I’m worried and have to reign the more primitive parts of my imagination in.

Table of Contents in WORD

OK, I feel kind of stupid putting this in here because… Word? Really? Yeah, i should probably be using Open Office. But when MS Office is provided by my employer, I get lazy. Also, this ties in with people who are documenting their software too, which isn’t always a separate technical writer. A lot of programmers (usually badly) document too.

Anyway, let me give some background.

The Problem

I’ve worked as a technical writer for over a decade. As a technical writer, you often have to create complex, multi-level, numbered headings, something like this:

A Multi-level outline example

What’s really messed up about this is that most of the time, you have to do all the numbering yourself. Add a new level 1 heading? Guess what, you get to manually renumber every single frigging heading after that point. EVERY. ONE.

Why is this? Because Word only creates a table of contents based on the heading styles. So while you have this perfectly good outline numbering system, including the 1, 1.1, 1.1.1 system popular in technical writing circles, you can’t auto generate a TOC out of that.

MORE WORK.

I thought for certain that this couldn’t be the case. I mean, I can’t be the first person who wanted Word to handle all the heading numbering for me and then create a TOC from that. So I Googled it. And was discouraged.

Ok, I admit I didn’t search past the first page of most of my search queries. But when “Create table of contents from numbered list in Microsoft Word” is giving me results for creating numbered lists OR creating a table of contents without even mentioning the other, it feels like a huge waste of time to keep looking.

(I also got a hit for building a TOC from a numbered list in InDesign… but that wasn’t helpful either, you see.)

So I played with it some more. And I have our solution.

The Solution Preface: SKILLZ J00 NEED

You need to know how to set up your outline list. Headers, by default, are left aligned. Outline levels, by default, are indented according to their level. Common practice, since it uses heading styles, is to have all the section names left aligned. You’ll need to modify the outline definitions to ditch the indents if you want to have consistent visual style. I’m not going to spend the time here to explain that. It’s a much easier topic to find information on.

The other thing you need to know how to do is define quick styles. Strictly speaking, this isn’t absolutely necessary, but really, it’s not an advanced topic and it makes a lot of things MUCH easier. I’m also not explaining that here. It’s also easy to learn or find information on Google for.

The Solution Part I: Add Text

Use the outline system to make your document. It will save you ages of time. You probably already do this, but if you don’t, make sure you’ve got defined quick styles for each level you’re using. If you don’t, you’ll have to add the step of selecting all similarly formatted text, and that’s not as reliable if you made one mistake somewhere. Using the quick styles is a better way to make sure you have a uniform styling system anyway, so you should be doing it.

When you’re done, open the Style Bar.

Hover over your list 1 style. You see how you get the drop down carrot? Open the drop down and select All instances of the list 1 style.

Then open the References tab on your ribbon.

The first box in that tab is the Table of Contents tab. Click the Add Text button. Almost certainly the check mark will be next to “Do Not Show in Table of Contents.” This is evil. Click Level 1.

Repeat this process with list level 2 styles. Select them all, then from that Add Text button choose Level 2.

Repeat for as many levels as you’re going to use.

Then go generate your Table of Contents.

It’s worth mentioning that this method doesn’t have to be used with list styles, that’s just seems what’s most natural. You can manually insert these fields pretty much anywhere you want.

It’s also worth mentioning that using “Add text” for the same spot twice has no effect. You will still only have one entry for that spot in your table of contents. So if you make your table of contents and then have to do another draft that changes the outline structure, you can still use the same process and not worry that your TOC will be fubar.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that this changes how you create with internal linking. Sure, you can use the table of contents to link to other places, but if you want to link within the document using this method, you need to use Cross-references. Word DOES create a hidden bookmark for each of these locations, but they don’t show up in the Hyperlink dialog.

So, if like me and most people I’ve worked with and you use Hyperlinks for your internal linking, it’s time for a new process.

The Solution Part II: Cross-Referencing

Place your cursor at the point you want to create the link.

On the Insert tab of the Ribbon, click Cross-reference.

You get a lot of things you can use as the reference target. For this system, from the Reference type drop down, choose “Numbered Item” (after all, that’s how you created your structure, right?). Make sure “insert as hyperlink” is checked, and choose an option from the “Insert reference to:” drop down. I personally like to use Paragraph text. Unfortunately, there isn’t an option for both the number and the text. Which is pretty stupid. But then again, this is an article about a work around because of a system that’s pretty stupid, so we shouldn’t be surprised by this.

The Cross-reference dialog in Word

Then select your desired numbered item and click Insert. Your Cross-reference text has appeared! Close your dialog and test the results by holding down CTRL and clicking the new text. The document should navigate to the point you designated.

The first big limitation to this method is what I mentioned above: it doesn’t give you the choice for Paragraph Number and Paragraph Text combined. You can over come this by inserting the number then the text. From a document end user point of view, the effect is the same.

The other big limitation to this method is the formatting. As in, there is none. It looks like the rest of the text. I have a habit of clicking things anyway, because I want to believe, despite evidence to the contrary, that things will work the way that they really should. But most people aren’t like me. If there’s no visual clue, they’re not going to bother trying to click it. Therefore, I recommend manually changing the color or underlining or both. It’s kind of a pain, but I think it’s less of a pain than tracking the numbers for headings yourself, especially if you have a “Cross-reference” quick style set up.

Summary

I am aware that this may appear to be complex. It’s a very quick process though. The outline itself only takes half a minute for the whole document. As compared to minutes that would be taken on even a relatively small document, and the enormous amount of time spent fixing the numbering when a new section is added to your document.

Part 2 of the solution is probably slightly more complicated if your practice has previously been to use hyperlinks.. Adding a hyperlink makes a format change for you and you can add it to existing text. Whereas a cross-reference adds new text and does no formatting. However, once you’re used to it, I believe this will save time, or at least be insignificantly longer. After all, you never have to type the words for the target. So if you use [Paragraph number][Paragraph text] as your target, you have 2 clicks extra to get the text in. And a third click if you have your quick style in place. That’s not hard. Factored in with the efficiency of using a list instead of headings, this system comes out as a win.

look! He has his tongue all funny!

Ranaan Katz did a funny tongue thing

This, apparently, is defamation?

Ranaan Katz is the owner of the Miami Heat, a basketball team. Which means, honestly, I couldn’t care any more about him than I do about the contents of my cat’s litter box.

Until the cat poop started threatening first amendment rights.

Wait, I got that wrong. Mr. Katz did the threatening. Honestly, now, he’s a bigger problem than my cat’s fecal matter.

Mr. Katz, in addition to being a basketball team owner, is also extremely sensitive. Someone snapped a picture of his tongue all funny. Yeah, it’s kinda chuckle worthy, but not worth the time tweeting to my friends. Except that when the picture was used as an illustration for a blog post critical of him, he accused the blog of being “defamatory” and asked the courts to shut down the blog. Not suppress the picture (which would be bad enough), but to shut down the blog. And not just shut it down, but to shut it down in a preliminary injunction. For those of you who don’t speak Legalese (like me), that means he wanted the blog shut down before the lawsuit even went to real trial.

Over-react much?

Katz’s position is essentially that anyone who is mean should be legally required to shut up. Also, he has money, so he can afford to sue.

I try not to use the only words that come to mind when I try to describe how I feel about this individual.

The purpose of this post is two-fold. 1) Spread the picture. Because it’s NOT defamation and if it’s so embarrassing that Mr. Katz forgets what country he lives in then he needs to be reminded. Streisand effect, baby. Now that he’s tried to shut people up, it’s time to shout him down. If he’d not said anything, neither would have I. In fact, I may have even been critical (not heavily, and probably not enough to blog about it) of the original poster for being petty enough to choose that picture. But now that Mr. Katz brought the court in, he’s the enemy. So I’ll happily spread it.

Purpose 2 is to make people aware that this thing goes on. It’s not just Charles Carreon’s delusional lawsuit against The Oatmeal. It’s not just Brett Kimberlin, convicted terrorist, using lawfare to silence political opponents. This is a direct attack against civil liberties in the United States, and it should be opposed in any ethical manner available (which, btw, excludes harassment). Now, go spread the word.

If you want more details, there are people better at describing the legal side of it. Like this one where Popehat unfavorably compares Ranaan Katz to caricature personality George Costanza or this one where Carlos Miller describes more detail about related information.

REASONS!

So there’s this: America’s English-Style Legal System Evolved to Conceal Truth, Not Reveal It. Apparently, illustrating a discussion of the US justice system is done by showing a bunch of English judges standing around. I felt that was kind of a cheap shot, but you know, it actually kind of works as the point of the whole article.

The article and the comments go something like this:
Mr. Whitton: US justice system sucks. Because of Reasons
Commentors: your “reasons” are more of a bunch of quasi-factual historical observations of varying accuracy.
Mr. Whitton (in the comments): REASONS! Also, something irrelevant but also “historical.”
Commentors: OK, well, you do have a few numbers. No sources for them, though. Also, many of the numbers seem to be impossible to actually determine.
Mr. Whitton: …
Commentors: Well?
Mr. Whitton: Another historical thing! And a book! Which I wrote and you should read because why the heck am I writing this if you’re not going to read my books?! Also, You’re a sophist! And a rationalizer! Also, I apparently don’t know what either of those mean!
Commentors: OK, we’ll just be over here.

Basically, there’s no connection between the “historical basis” Whitton creates and the conclusions he… well, he doesn’t really draw them so much as invent them whole cloth. It’s pretty clear he started with a peevish opinion, then decided he had better have something that looked researched if he was going to state it. So he took some history, some of which may have been invented? And then … put them together.

Now Kiss

There’s not really anywhere else to go after that.

A Few Reasons My Current Workplace Is Superior In Every Way To My Previous Employment

  • I got a chair that doesn’t give me knee or back problems on my first day. I didn’t have to wait two years.
  • I got a computer and could start working on day one. I didn’t have to wait a week.
  • I get cell phone reception in the bathroom.
  • Free. Dr. Pepper.
  • My supervisor understands what I’m talking about when I talk about the work I was assigned to do.
  • No pit of existential despair weighing heavily in my gut.
  • Proper lighting and visible windows.
  • It doesn’t take three months to get software.
  • I’m encouraged to communicate in efficient ways with my peers and those who can help me through problems.
  • My boss isn’t bi-polar. OR trying to brute force his way into being in charge. Related: He doesn’t act like he deserves unearned respect.
  • I can use current technologies that will keep me relevant instead of designing for Internet Explorer 7.

And that’s just on the first day. How awesome is that?

The Monkey Duck has arrived

So… I finished the theme with all the nit-pickiness that accompanies an official WordPress theme.

You can acquire it here.

I’ve gotta re-tweak it before I make the final version what I’m using here. But there you go. A full demo is currently live at http://wptest.herbertlives.com but once I start on another theme that site will change.

Enjoy! And feel free to leave suggestions, questions, comments, and smart remarks right here.

Should Not Exist

The TSA, that is.

Of course we’ve already covered that. Or, if we haven’t, we should have.

But seriously, I can’t think of any legitimate, rational reason that the TSA should continue to function and use up taxpayer money.

The screenings have stopped exactly zero terrorist plots, and anything they’ve managed to catch would have been caught by pre-September 11 screening methods.

But yes, I’m writing this as I’m outraged by their behavior regarding a four-year old. I’m going to quote the first-hand account, because it’s key to my point. Read it please.

My two young children, aged four and six, were particularly excited their Grandmother was catching the same flight out of Wichita. Since she lives in California, and we live in Montana, they’ve never had a chance to fly with her. Tired and eager to return home, we began passing through security. My children and I went through without an incident. My Mother, however, had triggered the alarm. She was asked to go through the scanners again, and when the source of the alarm could not be identified she was told to sit aside and await a pat-down. All of this was perfectly routine.

When my Four-year-old daughter noticed her Grandmother, she excitedly ran over to give her a hug, as children often do. They made very brief contact, no longer than a few seconds. The Transportation Security Officers(TSO) who were present responded to this very simple action in the worst way imaginable.

First, a TSO began yelling at my child, and demanded she too must sit down and await a full body pat-down. I was prevented from coming any closer, explaining the situation to her, or consoling her in any way. My daughter, who was dressed in tight leggings, a short sleeve shirt and mary jane shoes, had no pockets, no jacket and nothing in her hands. The TSO refused to let my daughter pass through the scanners once more, to see if she too would set off the alarm. It was implied, several times, that my Mother, in their brief two-second embrace, had passed a handgun to my daughter.

My child, who was obviously terrified, had no idea what was going on, and the TSOs involved still made no attempt to explain it to her. When they spoke to her, it was devoid of any sort of compassion, kindness or respect. They told her she had to come to them, alone, and spread her arms and legs. She screamed, “No! I don’t want to!” then did what any frightened young child might, she ran the opposite direction.

That is when a TSO told me they would shut down the entire airport, cancel all flights, if my daughter was not restrained. It was then they declared my daughter a “high-security-threat”.

Two TSOs were following her and again I was told to have no contact with my child. At this point, I was beyond upset, I disregarded what the TSO had said to me, and I ran to my daughter. I picked her up. I hugged her. I tried to comfort her.

The TSOs were not pleased.

I was forced to set my child down, they brought her into a side room to administer a pat-down, I followed. My sweet four-year-old child was shaking and crying uncontrollably, she did not want to stand still and let strangers touch her. My heart was breaking. I will never forget the look of pure terror on her face. A TSO began repeating that in the past she had “seen a gun in a teddy bear.” The TSO seemed utterly convinced my child was concealing a weapon, as if there was no question about it. Worse still, she was treating my daughter like she understood how dangerous this was, as if my daughter was not only a tool in a terrorist plot, but actually in on it. The TSO loomed over my daughter, with an angry grimace on her face, and ordered her to stop crying. When my scared child could not do so, two TSOs called for backup saying “The suspect is not cooperating.” The suspect, of course, being a frightened child. They treated my daughter no better than if she had been a terrorist.

It was an awful sight.

A third TSO arrived to the scene, and showed no more respect than the first two had given. All three were barking orders at my daughter, telling her to stand still and cease crying. When she did not stop crying on command, they demanded we leave the airport. They claimed they could not safely check my daughter for dangerous items if she was in tears. I will admit, I lost my temper.

Finally, a manager intervened. He determined that my child could, in fact, be cleared through security while crying. I was permitted to hold her while the TSO checked her body. When they found nothing hidden on my daughter, they were forced to let us go, but not until after they had examined my ID and boarding passes for a lengthy amount of time. When we arrived at our gate, I noticed that the TSOs had followed us through the airport. I was told something was wrong with my boarding pass and I would have to show it to them again. Upon seeing the TSO, my daughter was thrown into hysterics. Eventually, we were able to board our flight.

My daughter is very shaken up about this, and has been waking up with nightmares.
What should have been a very minor, routine security check was turned into a horrific ordeal. All of this could easily have been prevented if the TSO involved had used a little bit of compassion and a smidgen of common sense. There is no reason for any child to go through this, and while I completely understand the necessity of tight airport security, I fail to see how harassing a small child will provide safety for anyone.
Michelle Brademeyer

And then the TSA has this which I suppose sort of qualifies as a response:

I’ve seen some headlines stating that TSA Officers accused a 4-year-old child of having a firearm. This wasn’t the case, and I wanted to take a few moments to explain what happened.

TSA has long had a security procedure where if somebody has contact with a person who is undergoing additional screening, they must also undergo additional screening. Why you might ask? You’ve probably heard the old saying that the hand can be faster than eye? Well… that’s the reasoning behind this procedure. There’s always the chance that a prohibited item could be traded off during contact. I’m sure you’ve watched the scene play out in more than one movie where two people collide or shake hands and an item is traded off? Same thing…

We did recently roll out new procedures that reduce the need for pat-downs of children. These new screening procedures include permitting multiple passes through the metal detector and advanced imaging technology to clear any alarms as well as the greater use of explosives trace detection. These changes in protocol will ultimately reduce – though not eliminate – pat-downs of children. But… this is one of those examples where a pat-down of a child was necessary.

It was explained to the family why the pat-down was needed and at no time did our Officers suggest the child was carrying a firearm. We’ve reviewed the incident and determined that our officers followed proper current screening procedures.
Bob Burns, TSA Blog Team

Apparently, the TSA is trying to stop Danny Ocean and his crew from escaping with the loot they heisted from that sleazy casino owner. Guys, “you’ve seen in movies” is a terrible, terrible argument. You know what else I’ve seen in movies? Time Travel. Space slugs that eat space ships capable of faster-than-light travel. Dragons. I believe the chances of any of those things somehow threatening US citizens is so remarkably close to zero that it is zero.

But that’s more a criticism of the structure of their argument. Not the point.

Mr. Burns is adamant that no TSO ever suggested the four-year-old of holding a handgun. That, apparently, is what they feel they need to quibble about.

But if you need to, re-read Ms. Brademeyer’s narrative. She says they implied it. Who am I going to believe here? A mother who is not allowed to be with her child but gets to watch as they grope the four-year-old? Or the civil rights violating agency with a history of poor judgement, even poorer action, and the lack of ability to even justify their own terrible existence? Perhaps they’re both suspect in terms of believability. But I’m going to go with the first-hand report rather than the guy with the job to make an oppressive government organization look a little less terrible.

Other than that, the TSA doesn’t dispute a single fact that Ms. Brademeyer puts forth.

Ok, here’s the thing about first-person accounts. They’re great for historians because they put a lot of context into contemporary events. However, they are almost certainly always embellished, if not exaggerated. Eye witness accounts are almost always faulty. Still the subjective view is valuable, because it clearly illustrates the effect the TSA has on the American people.

But even if we tone down Ms. Brademeyer’s story, we’re still left with TSOs who separated her from her child, did nothing to help console a distraught child and prohibited the child’s mother from the same, and refused to re-scan the child, opting for a pat down.

Oh hey. What’s this that I found on the TSA’s Website?

Security officers will approach children gently and treat them with respect. If a child becomes uncomfortable or upset, security officers will consult parents about the best way to relieve the child’s concern.

and from the same page:

TSA has enacted risk-based checkpoint screening procedures for passengers 12 and under that include: … Allowing multiple passes through the walk through metal detector and advanced imaging technology to clear any alarms on children.

Again, the TSA doesn’t dispute any of the essential, or even most of the ancillary, facts of Ms. Brademeyer’s story. Which states that everything I just quoted from the TSA website was blatantly violated. However, the TSA does claim that they checked on it, and it’s ok because they “determined that our officers followed proper current screening procedures.” Really! Big Charlie who dates the cousin of one of the TSOs told me so.

I’m calling a lie on that one.

You may have noticed that I used the word “terrible” a lot. That’s intentional. The TSA has caused more terror in the hearts of Americans and other innocent air passengers than Bin Ladin ever did or ever could. Bin Ladin never scared me. Angry beyond reason at times. But never terror. My own government? Especially the TSA? Yeah, they terrify me CONSTANTLY.

Update 2012-04-27 13:34
It should surprise no one that my comment on this entry on the TSA Blog was never approved. The comment was an abbreviated form of the ideas expressed in this blog entry. Note, however, that they couldn’t very well pretend that no one said anything. Of 156 comments at this moment, only one expressed any support for the TSA, and it didn’t expend any effort justifying this particular adventure the TSA led us on.

WordPress… Y U No Love Me?

OK, so I’m trying to release this as a theme, but here’s the problem.

Currently, comment_class() add “odd” or “even” to a comment’s class, presumably to enable alternating colors on a list of comments. It’s pretty fail when it comes to threaded comments, though.

  • comment 1
    • first reply to comment 1
      • reply to the reply
    • Second reply to comment 1
  • comment 2

In this example, clearly you’d want comment 1 to be class=”odd” and comment 2 to be class=”even” if you were alternating colors. No dice. comment_class is no respecter of hierarchy or depth.

In this scenario you get:

  • comment 1: class=”odd”
    • first reply to comment 1: class=”even”
      • reply to the reply : class=”odd”
    • Second reply to comment 1: class=”even”
  • comment 2: class=”odd”

Note that comment 1 and comment 2 both get the same class, and therefore if they’re used for styles, they’ll get the same appearance. True, they also get “thread-odd” and “thread-even” (respectively) so you can style on that, but that doesn’t help with first reply and second reply — which both get class=”even”. Only the first level in the hierarchy gets “thread-odd” and “thread-even” so you’ve still got two sequential comments with identical styling.

It would be useful if the “odd” and “even” assignments reset for each level of a thread. Then I could use them in conjunction with their level (which is already assigned by comment_class()) to get approprite styles. So we’d get this:

  • comment 1 (class=”odd thread-odd depth-1″)
    • first reply to comment 1 (class=”odd depth-2″)
      • reply to the reply (class=”odd depth-3″)
    • Second reply to comment 1 (class=”even depth-2″)
  • comment 2 (class=”even thread-even depth-1″)
    • first reply to comment2 (class=”odd depth-2″)

if a depth was an even number, it would have one pattern for odd/even. If the depth was an odd number, then it would have a different pattern for odd/even.

I have had a number of thoughts today for how to fix this so I could get what I wanted. Using jQuery to correct all the classes after it all loaded was one idea. Another was to write my own functions for not only how each comment displays but also for displaying the whole list. In the end, I think the simplest way is to hack the core modules, which means it won’t be going into the distributed version of this theme. Although I might find a simple way to get it all in how I want it without duplicating the entire comment_function.php file.

Anyway, for the curious, this is how I do it. I use the following code to replace WordPress’s get_comment_class() in */includes/comment-template.php

function get_comment_class( $class = ”, $comment_id = null, $post_id = null ) {
  global $comment_alt, $comment_depth, $comment_thread_alt, $mdg_leveltrack, $mdg_lastdepth;
  if (!empty($comment_depth) ) $mdg_lastdepth = $comment_depth; #eric did this
  $comment = get_comment($comment_id);
  $classes = array();
  // Get the comment type (comment, trackback),
  $classes[] = ( empty( $comment->comment_type ) ) ? ‘comment’ : $comment->comment_type;
  // If the comment author has an id (registered), then print the log in name
  if ( $comment->user_id > 0 && $user = get_userdata($comment->user_id) ) {
    // For all registered users, ‘byuser’
    $classes[] = ‘byuser’;
    $classes[] = ‘comment-author-’ . sanitize_html_class($user->user_nicename, $comment->user_id);
    // For comment authors who are the author of the post
    if ( $post = get_post($post_id) ) {
      if ( $comment->user_id === $post->post_author ) $classes[] = ‘bypostauthor’;
    }
  }
  if ( empty($comment_alt) ) $comment_alt = 0;
  if ( empty($comment_depth) ) $comment_depth = 1;
  if ( empty($comment_thread_alt) ) $comment_thread_alt = 0;
  #Eric’s code starts
  if ( empty($mdg_leveltrack) ) $mdg_leveltrack= array(1=>0, 0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0);
  if ( empty($mdg_lastdepth) ) $mdg_lastdepth = 0;
  if ($mdg_lastdepth < $comment_depth) $mdg_leveltrack[$comment_depth] = 0;
  $mdg_leveltrack[$comment_depth] ++;
  if ($mdg_leveltrack[$comment_depth] % 2) {
    $classes[] = ‘odd’;
    $classes[] = ‘alt’;
  } else {
    $class[] = ‘even’;
  }
  /* end eric’s code, but then he commented out this bit here
  if ( $comment_alt % 2 ) {
    $classes[] = ‘odd’;
    $classes[] = ‘alt’;
  } else {
    $classes[] = ‘even’;
  }*/
  $comment_alt++;
  // Alt for top-level comments
  if ( 1 == $comment_depth ) {
    if ( $comment_thread_alt % 2 ) {
      $classes[] = ‘thread-odd’;
      $classes[] = ‘thread-alt’;
    } else {
      $classes[] = ‘thread-even’;
    }
    $comment_thread_alt++;
  }
  $classes[] = “depth-$comment_depth”;
  if ( !empty($class) ) {
    if ( !is_array( $class ) ) $class = preg_split(‘#\s+#’, $class);
    $classes = array_merge($classes, $class);
  }
  $classes = array_map(‘esc_attr’, $classes);
  return apply_filters(‘comment_class’, $classes, $class, $comment_id, $post_id);
}

The Monkey Duck Cometh

It’s not done, but it almost is. And I needed a real world scenario to finish up the styles anyway — the dummy data sets I’ve found simply didn’t do enough.

But here is is. Monkey Duck Genius. When it’s finished (hopefully, in the next day or so) I’ll be putting it on WP.org for anyone who is interested. In the mean time, I’d love feed back about specific things you’ve noticed need fixing.

Daily Snapshot for April 2, 2012

cleansing the palate, so to speak. Have another daily snapshot.

The Washington Monument

click to embarrass-size

I’m so stupid

So yesterday I fell victim to a practical joke.

I considered pretending that I was participating. It would have worked, and some people may have believed me.

But anyway, I decided honesty was the best policy. A lot of this is motivated by the fact that I was so angry about the joke. Not about being joked, but that the joke had motivated me to righteous, angry blathering and action. And finding out that it was all a falsehood deflated me so badly.

I have emotional problems, and this is the sort of thing that throws me right off track. I usually feel so weary of this sort of thing that I don’t even have time to think about how I should be relieved that I don’t have to participate in another crusade. I get depressed, basically.

So anyway, yesterday’s post was based on fallacious information. I felt so sure of it being true because so many sites were participating in the ruse. I did have a bit of a nagging feeling that it was weird there didn’t appear to be an “official” link to the bill in question. The lesson here is to listen to your nagging doubts and at least look into it.

Anyway, the premise, that Lieberman is introducing a specific horrible bill, was not true. He is into censorship, however. So he’s still not someone I like.

And my other arguments remain valid. Removing our civil liberties is exactly what terrorists want. They don’t do us any good, and it creates a climate they like.

So, take that for what it’s worth.

And, to make sure this doesn’t come off as a “non-apology apology”: I am sorry for spreading misinformation. I felt I had done proper research, but I clearly hadn’t. It was a mistake, and I’m sorry.

Is it Evil? Or just stupid?

Edits on 04/02: crossed out the things that aren’t true, but I thought were because I’m a gullible jackanapes.

Being socially conscious makes me very tired. Extremely tired.

For example. A few weeks ago the Smithsonian began construction on the Museum of African American History and Culture. Yay. But, what they didn’t communicate to anyone was that they were going to shut off all the sidewalks around the block — including the spot where for decades (literally, as in multiples of 10 years) there was a slug line*. So suddenly dozens of people were standing each night on the curb waiting for rides, a mere slip of the foot away from getting flattened by a bus. Everyone agreed that the established location needed to move, but not a single person started doing anything about it. So I stepped up.

As soon as I got the ball rolling, the cretins crawled out of the woodwork. Some thought the five business days to get everyone used to the idea was too long. They started whining about it. Others refused to move. When all was said and done the line finally moved to a safer spot, but I was angry or frustrated with about fifty percent of the people I had previously been blase about.

I was tired. I was glad I wasn’t in politics, and my dim view of humanity as a whole was reaffirmed.

I don’t LIKE having to help fix things. That’s why I don’t like to be involved.

That’s why I was relieved to stumble on to Popehat. They could be angry for me! I’m certain I’ll find quite a bit I don’t agree with them about in the future. But so far, they’ve been angry for plenty of good reasons and said things better than I generally manage to do. Naturally they would most likely be disgusted with my slothful attitude toward activism, but eh, thems the breaks.

Anyway, today I found the hole in my justification. No, not that hole, the other one. NO, the less obvious one.

This one.

It’s not enough to be stupid, criminal, or a complete waste of space to get me riled up enough to try and muster any support for something. You have to also be trying to undo the Constitution.

In case you can’t be bothered to follow the link, or you did, saw that it was more than two paragraphs, and thought “tl;dr” (in which case you probably haven’t gotten this far either), the blog post linked above discusses Senator Joe Lieberman’s latest attempt to subvert the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. To wit, he wants to offer a bill that makes web site owners’ culpable for the content of comments left by readers. It’s not the first time, and likely won’t be the last unless his constituents get a brain cell and don’t re-elect him. The man is not a friend to civil liberties.

Want to read more on it? Here’s an article. And another. And One more. I’m sure there’s enough links from there to get you the information you need, since I already linked the text of the changes.

Guys, this is stupid bad. Almost Protect IP Act stupid bad. Which is why I wonder. Is the man evil? Or just stupid?

One of the fundamental principles I try to apply to all my political discourse is that the other side of an argument is not crazy, stupid, or evil**. Because it is possible to disagree with out one side being one of those. Generally, in modern political discussion, both sides at least one, usually two or more.

But Lieberman… seriously? You want to remove the ability to make anonymous comments on the Internet… to stop the terrorists? I can’t even begin to think of how that logic goes. Or why on earth you think that principle will be remotely confined to anti-terrorism enforcement. So, are you of the opinion that tyranny is a beneficial way to run a republic? Because if you do, the only possible conclusions are that you’re either evil or stupid.

Look, let me set politicians straight on this. Al Qaeda and Bin Ladin made me very angry for several years. But they never struck terror into my heart or mind. I stopped being so angry at them when “if x doesn’t happen than the terrorists win” became an argument that people actually used and “when you’re trying to get things done…” became the justification for the federal government to do whatever the heck they want. At that point, I got angry with the people arguing for our own government to enact oppressive policies.

You know what the terrorists are after? They’re not trying to escape — many of them are suicide bombers. They’re not trying to gain control of our government. They’re trying to make it so our government isn’t free anymore. They’re trying to make it so that we have our own backward thinking mechanisms that keep us from being allowed to travel, wear what we want, and say what we want. Because if that freedom exists in our country, it can “infect” their country.

So what makes the terrorists win? When our own frigging government tells us that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are no more important than toilet paper and that freedom of speech is detrimental to our safety.

You know what? Freedom of speech is probably dangerous — it means we don’t have to agree. And yes, it makes it harder to get things done. That’s what the people who wrote the Constitution intended. It’s supposed to be hard to get things through so you can’t ram a fist full of liberty-stripping bills through Congress without any objection. People, we want it to be difficult for the government to change easily. Maybe a few guilty get away, but it means that thousands of the innocent don’t pointlessly suffer.

So, to finally get to my point. U.S. citizens, it’s time to exercise a few of your civil liberties while you still have them. It’s time once again to write your Senators. Don’t worry about your Representatives, yet. This is a Senate bill, or will be. Lieberman’s chairman of the Homeland Security committee so that should help you sleep better at night. Or not. But write your Senators. You can find their pages by going to the Senate web site and pulling up your state. Tell them what you think of censorship and the destruction of the best communication tool the world has seen so far (I’m talking about the Internet).

I’m not going to explain slug lines. If you don’t know, go over here. — go back

Obvious exceptions are people like Michael Moore and pretty much anyone on Fox’s payroll that has a show with their name in the title. — go back

“Daily” Snapshot for March 28, 2012

I’m taking pictures most evenings when I reach the slug line. Since I don’t actually slug every single day (rarely, I stay late, or get a ride earlier), there won’t be a picture for every single working day. Plus I’m not going to miss or delay a ride because I need to take a photo.

But anyway, the slug line is between the National Mall (just south of the Smithsonian Museum of American History and a small grassy area before the Washington Monument. They’re building the Museum of African American History and Culture right there too. I may take pictures of other directions, but so far, they’ve all been of the Washington Monument, despite the blinding glare from the sun behind it.

I’m going to upload the older pictures and back date them. So if you really want to see, you can search on the “Washington Monument” tag or look through the Photog category.

March 28, 2012

Click to monument size

Daily Snapshot for March 22, 2012

Here, a picture of the father of our country’s memorial

The Washington Monument

Click to super size.