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May 2004 Archives

May 1, 2004

I always said that boy would get far!

Just a week after The Wisdom of Moo, Adrian Ramos' newest comic, debuted on Girlamatic, news comes in that he has "enthusiastically accepted" an invitation for his "older" comic Count Your Sheep to join Keenspot.

This again proves the predictive value of the short links list on the ROCR front page, although predicting success for CYS is like shooting fish in a barrel.

I don't have anything to link to for the announcement but that interminable Keenspace forum thread, but it's from Chris Crosby so it's as official as it gets.

Looks like I'll need another domain hosting provider...

To: support@gandi.net:


To whom it may concern,


I get repeated spam from http://www.buycheapdrugs.biz which is registered at Gandi. I noticed that Gandi, unlike other domain name providers such as GoDaddy, does not have a policy against the use of spam to advertise domains registered through Gandi.
Legally, you can institute such a policy, and ethically you should. I request that you add language to your terms of service prohibiting the spam-advertising of domains registered with Gandi.

I am a Gandi customer myself, and a satisfied one. However, I do not do business with Internet companies that do not make it a priority to protect the Internet against spam, and so your response to this issue will determine whether I will do business with Gandi in the future.

Best wishes,
--
Reinder Dijkhuis, [email address deleted]
http://www.rocr.net
http://whio.keenspace.com

From Gandi to me:

To improve our help desk, we have set up a new interface. From now, to contact our support please visit the link: http://www.gandi.net/support-en There you will easily find answers to the most fequently asked questions, in the area you are interested in. At the end of this research, you will of course be able to contact us by email. An online form will help you to ask your question. Then you will receive our personalized answer. Our help desk is still free of charge, in english or french languages, and only by email. Best regards, Gandi support service

From the link provided in the automated message above:

Cases where Gandi can not act

Gandi is a registrar of domain names. We do not provide any webhosting services nor email accounts, that could be used for spam.

Thus we can not desactivate nor delete a domain name on the only reason that it is used, directly or no directly, to send some spam. Because we can not act as a judge.

However please find below some information that could be useful in two kinds of spam:
[snippage]
When you use the Whois on the domain name that you have found in the spam, you see that the domain name is handled by Gandi:

Gandi is an ICANN accredited registrar, and as such registers domain names on behalf of its customer. Gandi does not provide any webhosting nor email accounts to its customer, but only the registration of the domain name. The use of the domain name is only up to the person who owns the domain, and/or to the contacts of the domain: you can find the details of these persons in the Whois.

Boilerplate above the online form referred to in Gandi's automated response:


Warning: our email help-desk is restricted to questions which are not
answered in our website, particularly in our Frenquently Asked Questions (FAQ).

Mail to legal@gandi.net bounced.

This will not do. Gandi has no policy against spamvertised domains and has explicitly made itself unavailable to complaints about this. The issue is "answered on their website" and if you find their answer unsatisfactory, tough luck to you.

ROCR is registered with Gandi until 2005. If their policy hasn't changed by then, I will switch to a domain register that does, even if the other domain registrar is considerably worse in all other respects than this one. Even Network Solutions will do if they cut off spamvertised domains.

Continue reading "Looks like I'll need another domain hosting provider..." »

May 3, 2004

The best thing about the EU expansion...

...is hearing a lot of music from the Baltic and Eastern European countries on the radio. Just minutes ago, I heard a track from an Estonian group whose name I missed, but they'll be in the Eurovision Song Contest this year. OK, so that's not much of a recommendation, but despite being a EuroSong contribution, it actually sounded great, with all the hallmark touches of Finno-Ugric music: powerful female voices in daring, harmonies, with a touch of accordion. If that is Estonia's trashy pop music, I would love to hear the more authentic stuff!

May 4, 2004

Lies about famous scientists

Via The Panda's Thumb: Behavior scientist and author BF Skinner's daughter writes a rebuke and correction to the much-repeated canard that her father used her as a test subject.

His careless descriptions of the aircrib might have contributed to the public's common misconception as well. He was too much the scientist and too little the self-publicist - especially hazardous when you are already a controversial figure. He used the word "apparatus" to describe the aircrib, the same word he used to refer to his experimental "Skinner" boxes for rats and pigeons.

The effect on me? Who knows? I was a remarkably healthy child, and after the first few months of life only cried when injured or inoculated. I didn't have a cold until I was six. I've enjoyed good health since then, too, though that may be my genes. Frankly, I'm surprised the contraption never took off. A few aircribs were built during the late 50s and 60s, and somebody also produced plans for DIY versions, but the traditional cot was always going to be a smaller and cheaper option. My sister used one for her two daughters, as did hundreds of other couples, mostly with some connection to psychology.

My father's opponents must have been gratified to hear - and maybe keen to pass on - the tales about his child-rearing contraption and crazy daughter. Friends who heard an abridged chapter of Slater's book on Radio 4, or read the reviews, have been phoning to ask if I had really sued my father or had a psychotic episode. I wonder how many friends or colleagues have been afraid to ask, and how many now think about me in a different light.

In his Observer review, Tim Adams at least suspected something was amiss with Slater's research. He realised she could have contacted me to confirm or verify what she suspected, but plainly hadn't. His conclusion? I had gone into hiding. Well, here I am, telling it like it is. I'm not crazy or dead, but I'm very angry.

Misrepresentations of science and scientists, including the 'mad scientist' meme, are harmful to our understanding of what scientists actually do, and to our understanding of the world. I'm glad Deborah Skinner Buzan has chosen to strike back.

Coincidentally (or perhaps not), I have recently added snopes.com, which also debunked this story, to my blogroll.

Outside-in, or inside-out.

Every once in a while, I come across a website or forum post that makes me wonder if I'm doing things the right way. Many fantasy writers make a point of more or less completely developing a fantasy world before starting on the stories themselves. They create species, a history, a technology and changes to the laws of nature before putting individual characters and plots in their world. Reading the post linked above, it's easy for me to see why: with all that background already done, it becomes easier to come up with new story ideas, and the world itself will seem consistent and real right from the start.
I, on the other hand, have always been an indisciplined writer. I've always made up the worlds of Clwyd-Rhan and the Gnomian Republic up as I went along, letting them emerge from the existing story material. I have kept some records, and even have some background material that is almost, nearly, not quite ready for publication as an appendix or guide to the most recent storyline, but that is only created after the fact. The advantage, I suppose, is that it makes the story a journey of discovery for me as well of the characters. Or that's what I tell myself along with that classic excuse "the real world made itself up as it went along too".
Still, I'm not so sure. I'm convinced that as a result of my scattershot approach, there are major inconsistencies waiting to be revealed by a keen-eyed reader, and that the story might not have spun out of control so much if I'd planned more in advance.
There are quite a few writers reading this, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

May 5, 2004

The Keenspace Curse strikes again

If you're reading your webcomics early in the morning, you'll find that many keenspace-hosted comics aren't responding, and according to The Belfry's Keenspace Tracker, the server itself is not responding. Of course, this had to happen on Online Comics Day. If Murphy's Law applied as effectively in the physical world as on Keenspace's servers, The Netherlands and Mexico would both be invaded by evil foreign powers today.

Still, it's early. I'm sure the brilliant Kisai is e'en now pounding away at the servers trying to figure out what has gone wrong, and fix it. And by the time American readers fall out of their beds, things will be hunky dory again. Have faith, little server!

[Update: Keenspace came back some time in the afternoon (CET), with the comics updated, and all is well again.]

Murph's not dead

Speaking of Murphy...

One of the great things about the Web is that you can use it to correct print reports that haven't made it to the reader's snail mailboxes yet. The Comics Journal writes:

Contrary to reports you may have read online and one which you may be about to read in issue #259 of The Comics Journal when it ships next week, retired Prince Valiant cartoonist John Cullen Murphy is not dead. Not even slightly. Based on erroneous reports, the News Briefs section of Newswatch in issue #259 includes a notice that an obituary for Murphy is slated to appear in issue #260. That is unlikely to happen since the cartoonist is not in fact dead. The Journal sincerely regrets the error, for which the stupid, stupid, stupid news editor, Michael Dean, is entirely responsible. A correction will appear in issue #260.

Joe Meek at 75

I love reading alternate history, especially of subjects I know a little about, and The Naked Maja's "had he lived" account of music producer Joe Meek's career after 1967 does a pretty good job of it.

"One day Syd came in with some funny-looking pills which he said some German mates had given him. I took one look at them and immediately flushed them down the toilet. Syd was just about ready to take a swing at me, but ever since then he's thanked me for doing that, almost on a daily basis."

It gets a bit silly towards the end though.

May 7, 2004

Random quotes

Blogging is going to be light here in the next few days, because I haven't even got near my goal of finishing 5 pages of ROCR this week, like I really ought to do every week that I'm not working on a well-paid project so I can build up a buffer for when I am. So far, I haven't completed 3 since Friday, despite the help I got from Yonaka.

I have a lot I want to blog about, but it'll have to wait. I will, however, stop to recommend Spike's blog which is full of hyperbolic praise of myself and fascinating stories of mummified rats, and to ask about any good Moveable Type plugins that may be used to pull random quotes from a file and display them as the tagline to this blog. Spike's blog has a few neat ones that I'd love to use, and I keep finding them in other places as well. I'm sure they exist, but which are any good?

May 8, 2004

The Piercing Gaze

After two hours, The Old Man was looking forward to the end of the ordeal. On the whole, he had not done badly. He had surprised many by admitting that the whole mess was his fault and had even looked sincere while saying it. Sure, there had been moments when he had wavered, fidgeted or waffled. Sure, it might not have been a good idea to say that Alpha had been blindsided; in Alpha's position, being blindsided was not an option. But these moments would surely be glossed over, forgotten. He would ride it out.

Then it was time for That Woman to ask her question. That Woman, mention of whose name still made his and his supporters' hackles rise.

As That Woman spoke, and, it seemed to The Old Man, she spoke interminably, making the minutes allocated to her seem like an eternity, The Old Man fidgeted again. The Old Man swayed from side to side, looking to his left, looking to his right, never meeting That Woman's Gaze. But he felt the Gaze, all right. Who would not? It didn't matter that he now wielded more power than That Woman, that he had always had fewer scruples than That Woman. It didn't matter, even, that That Woman's question wasn't particularly interesting or salient. That Woman's Gaze came with electrodes. Under That Woman's Gaze, part of him slunk away, and now it was The Old Man himself who was on the box, being pointed at and laughed at.

That Woman had stopped talking. Her Gaze, though, stayed fixed on The Old Man. What was her question, again? The Old Man fidgeted, grimaced, squirmed, and scratched the top of his head. 15 more minutes to go.

Myopia to the left of me, short-sightedness to the right!

A left-wing RL buddy (well, sort of: we know one another from the Dutch small-press comics circuit and he has stayed in my house a few times. By the standards of online friendship, that means we're practically engaged) of mine and a right-wing online friend and colleague of mine are both making comments in their blogs that show exactly the same sort of selective blindness. I should be grateful to them. It's very rare to have such a great opportunity to be fair and balanced dropped into your lap.

First, Martin Wisse asks, rhetorically:

Does the fact that US soldiers have engaged in torture in Iraq demand of those on the left who supported the war to re-evaluate their position?

[snip]

Then surely, the fact that the liberators themselve engage in torture and rape, must cause some soul searching? After all, what does liberation matter if torture still happens?

I suppose Johann Hari and Harry of Harry's Place are chopped liver? I presume you didn't check back to see what such vocal supporters of the war as Christopher Hitchens and Norman Geras have been saying, Martin? Seriously, you didn't, did you? You went "fuck'em" in January and haven't looked back since, have you? Because if you had bothered to look, you'd know that there was plenty of soul-searching.

Despite illustrating a satire on the Bush administration's handling of the run-up to the war, I have counted myself among the "pro-war" left for some time - and that has taken, and still takes, quite a bit of soul-searching. There are no easy answers here, no morally pure[spit] position. But these particular horrors will end, and end soon. The horrors that Saddam inflicted on his people would not have ended any time soon.

At least Martin (unlike myself), makes his point quickly and concisely. A few days earlier, Carson Fire, who I have quite a few reasons to call my friend even if I've never met him in the flesh, wrote a rambling post trying to make several points at once. The main point, as far as I can tell, was to portray himself as a lone right-wing voice in a vast left-wing wilderness of webcartoonists:

My fellow webcartoonists who sit on the "other side of the aisle" have been quite vocal for some time, now, and it just seems like it's a good thing to let you all know that we're not all marching in lockstep.

No, Carson, webcartoonists are not all marching in lockstep. You make it seem like we're all some sort of Borg hive-mind that only allows for leftist voices. As if Jeff Darlington, Jim Alexander, Howard Tayler, Syke, Ryan Higgins, Scott Kurz, Ian MacDonald, Sarah Huntrods and Kaichi Satake for goodness' sake are chopped liver. Some of them are very vocal, others are not. All of them have made their opinions known at opportunities of their choosing, and will do so again. It may surprise Carson to know that there are also left-wing cartoonists who choose not to voice their political opinions on their sites, for reasons that concern them only.

But the extent of Carson's selective blindness is revealed in the following two paragraphs:


And you can see who gets all the press for cartoonists these days... vile voices like Aaron McGruder and Ted Rall. While some on the left are shocked that Ann Coulter is allowed to live, McGruder and Rall spread some of the most wicked vitriol into the mainstream, and under cover of little drawings.

[paragraph snipped]

Rall is the kind of cartoonist who's syndicated, oh, just everywhere, and gets nominated for Pulitzer Prizes. Even an embarrassed MSNBC had to yank the feed last week when the Tillman cartoon surfaced. To many Americans, who detest leftist-hate rants, this is the face of modern American cartooning.

These are striking for what they don't say:
1. That the amount of vitriol expended by the left on Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and her ilk is matched drop for drop, if not more, by the right's response to Rall, McGruder or Michael Moore for that matter. Duh!
2. That the press Rall in particular gets isn't universally positive among the American left (the international left isn't aware of him).
Andrew Sullivan, a much more astute conservative commentator than Carson, has kept tabs on left-wing bloggers distancing themselves from Rall - he missed some that were made earlier and undoubtedly there are many more. The ones that he mentioned include some prominent left bloggers. I don't think the many people denouncing him regularly in The Comics Journal forums and Talk About Comics are all raving reactionaries either.

My point with this long ramble that took almost two hours to put together? Like the Jacobean theatre-goer said when London's two theaters both featured Romeo and Juliet: "A pox on both houses". If you post political opinion on a weblog, be prepared to do some legwork. Don't just read those sources that confirm your own prejudices about your opponents - and steer clear of the fringes of both (or rather, all) sides.

May 9, 2004

I'm sweet as a kitten, really. Meow.

Yesterday I was bored and frustrated and chained to my computer waiting for an important message to come in. To fill time, I did some trawling of my semi-regular blog bookmarks, and let things get to me that normally wouldn't get to me. I do think that selective blindness in political blogging is a real and widespread problem, but I could have been more civil about it, and I could have been more considerate and less snappish towards the people involved.

Besides, I can't really stand the heat myself. I do not court controversy; indeed I find it very stressful. And today is entirely the wrong day for me to deal with angry responses. I'll be traveling to Munster, Germany, to see my friend Kim who has been laid up following a car accident. Can't deal with heated debate right now.

So, sorry about the tone of my last post. Not sorry about the ideas I wanted to communicate, but I'll try to be more civil in the future.

May 10, 2004

The joys of having a background artist!

Preview of Friday's ROCR comic

Friday's Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan comic will look gorgeous! Yonaka has really outdone herself this time. She deserves to have as many people looking at her work as possible.

This particular background was hard work for her, but I don't think I could have done it at all. Not at this level.

I was wondering why...

... I never saw this image on the Modern Tales front page anymore.

bigpic3.png

I just looked at it on disk to look up the dimensions (because I'm making a new one), and it turned out that this one was 499 pixels wide. That couldn't possibly be right, but when I uploaded it to Modern Tales, the display software didn't check for the exact width so strictly. The latest version of the software does, and doesn't display the large image in the rotating large image slot if the size isn't exactly 500 * 200 pixels.

Suggestion to image software makers: when people scale an image to a specific size, they usually have a reason for scaling to that size and not another. Do not change it behind the user's back.

Suggestion to Joey of Modern Tales: it may be useful to warn people upon upload or database submission if an image is not exactly the right size, because the software used to make the images can't be relied on.

May 11, 2004

He's looking quite spry for his 144 years!

Via Smilodon on IRC:

'Anton Checkov' reads



"Hey, what's up!"
"You'll never believe who's in Union Square right now"
"Anton Chekov!"
"Isn't that weird?"
"I don't know, I'd say he's around 65."
"Yeah, it's him, he has the beard and everything."
"Really? That's funny."
"Yeah, that's weird, well I think it was, I don't
know"
"19th Century you think?"
"I don't know, this is weird."
"Well, he's here."
"No, it's definitely him, It must have been the
1960's"
"It only sounds old because it's Russian"
"I don't know. This is weird."

May 12, 2004

Name and Shame, part 3

I went for two whole weeks without comment spams, but now I'm hit by three of them in a day, all tacked onto the same post (this one, which is now closed), and with clear similarities in style (the URLs, for example, were in all caps in the emailed transcripts). I did the Sam Spade whois thing, and while I don't make a habit of pointing and laughing at a person's genitals I will make an exception this week for:

Registrant Name: Georgi Georgius
Registrant Street1: Simen 12
Registrant City: Styaua
Registrant State/Province: Styaua
Registrant Postal Code: 2321
Registrant Country: RO
Registrant Phone: 40.5298762
Registrant Email: pharm@bonishop.com

Continue reading "Name and Shame, part 3" »

May 13, 2004

A new form of spam, or?

I was puzzling over this for a bit...

blogweirdness.png

This keeps showing up in my Bloglines account. It isn't in Donna's blog itself, but looking closely at her RSS feed, which is provided by a third-party company, even though blogspot provides a perfectly good Atom feed, I found that it was tacked on to the bottom of her feed.

OK, problem solved. Obviously 2rss.com was just trying out a way to make a buck out of the service they provide. Which will fail because their service isn't particularly needed. Livejournals and blogspot blogs typically have working feeds if you know where to find them.

Rats! With nasty diseases!

I read all the way through Spike's rat mummification report without having to call Huey O'Rourke on the big white phone. I'm proud of myself now.

Warning: read the warnings. She's not kidding about them.

More on Friday's comic

I have put together a few webpages showing the process of creating the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan page for Friday. Yonaka and I live on opposite sides of the Atlantic so it would have taken far too long to send the originals by mail, but apart from our use of our broadband connections to pass scanned art to and fro, it was all surprisingly low-tech and low-budget. Why use trickery when you have Yonaka's raw talent at your disposal?

Also, I've made a new promo graphic:

May 14, 2004

How to enjoy Eurosong without mental scars.

Kieran of Crooked Timber is a sad, obsessive man. Where would we be without him? He has created a statistical analysis of geo-political favoritism in the Eurovision song contest, complete with confusing but convincing pictures.

However, Kieran's premise is flawed:

...Eurovision songs are (to a first approximation) uniformly worthless, [so] we can assume that votes express a simple preference for one nation over another, uncomplicated by any aesthetic considerations.

Eurovision songs aren't uniformly worthless; instead, mediocrity is the order of the day. There is usually something to enjoy at Eurosong: last year I thought the Belgian entry was quite good (it made number 2) as well as one song from one of the Baltic countries. I'd need to look that last one up. And there are some spectacularly crappy ones each year, like the dreadfully unfunny spoof inflicted on us by the Austrians, or the English entry which was only saved from getting negative points by the bassline at the start.
But most songs are like last year's Dutch entry: bland, mediocre, destined to end one step below the left column in the final tally (considering the Dutch' track record in the years before, that's a pretty good score). I remember that by the time the contest was on, I had rather learned to like the Dutch entry; I thought the tune was more memorable than many of the others' and that the production value was better. But even then, I suspected that this was the result of having been brainwashed by it on the radio in the preceeding weeks. A year on, I'll be damned if I can remember how it went.

Last year was the first time in a decade I watched it. I got together with some of my buddies (Danny, Sidsel and Jeroen, I think. Possibly my brother as well) to watch the ghastly spectacle unfold. The blonde Eastern European starlets, the cheesy touristy shots of the host country, the cooked-up controversy, the key changes, everything. How did I survive? The answer is very simple.

Alcohol.

Lots of it.

If you want to survive Eurosong without mind-scarring, make sure that you're at least into your second drink before the first song starts, and keep up the pace. I know that that's not good for the brain either but you will need the soft blanket of hazy good-cheer to protect yourself from the three-hour bombardment of saccharine mediocrity that is the contest. Naturally, there's a drinking game to help you keep up the pace, but it has far too many rules. You need only one event to guide your drinking: the Key Change.

Key changes are a tried and tested device for giving a song a bit of extra "lift" and make it seem catchy. It's particularly useful when a song is so badly written that it can't go for three whole minutes without running out of steam. The hallmark of a good Eurovision Song Contest entry is that the key is shifted up by a full tone or more (not a semitone. Semitones are scary and Goffic) around the 2:20 mark. The hallmark of a great Eurosong entry is that the key is shifted up twice in the three minutes allowed for each song. In fact, during that other song that I liked last year, I told my buddies "you know, this song is so good I won't even mind a key change." The Key Change occured immediately afterwards. So I said "see? I'm not bothered by it at all? The only thing that can ruin it now is another key change!" The second Key Change occured immediately afterwards, and I decided not to tempt fate by suggesting that there was still time for a third. If there had been a third, the song would surely have won.

Drink two fingers' worth of booze for each time the key is shifted up and you'll be too plastered to remember your own name before the judging even starts. So you can, indeed you will, forget those other complicated rules in the official drinking game.

The judging is pretty dreary and repetitive to watch although possibly not compared to the songs. It becomes fun if you've kept a ranking of your own, especially if you've fought with your buddies over it. Keeping track of who gives points to who is also a good idea - and you can print out Kieran's graphs and pretend that they represent your analysis of the year's vote. You will be the life of the party!
One other great aspect of the judging is that you get to see the performers waiting for the outcome, penned up like sheep and drinking rather faster than you are. They will pick their noses on camera, talk to their families at home on their cell phones and generally look like cattle waiting to be slaughtered, which is exactly what they are at this point. Last year's winner, a Turkish singer whose name fortunately escapes me, was interviewed during the final moments (it was a fairly close race with the Belgians) and revealed herself to have all the wit and composure of a plucked chicken. It was much more entertaining than hearing her sing.

POSTSCRIPT: I see that those perfidious Brits are still trying to tie last year's execrable performance by Gemini to the war in Iraq, and are already using the Abu Ghraib torture scandal as a pre-emptive excuse for a new humiliation. Knock it off, lads! Never was the Eurosong Jury process as fair and objective as when it returned no points at all to Gemini.

POSTSCRIPT no. 2: A few days ago I mentioned hearing and liking the Estonian entry, without knowing that it was in fact an entry for the contest. Turns out it hasn't made it past the semi-finals that were held for the first time this year. Bummer.

The BBC Proms

Ah, the new BBC Proms schedule is out, and once again, Gilbert and Sullivan have lost out. Whereas Elgar will get no less than 7 appearances in the proms, each of which will be 15-30 minutes long, Holst four of similar length, and even Handel (who's rather out of favour nowadays) gets one 12-minute composition, Gilbert and Sullivan get one two minute song, which, coming as it does on the last night of proms, and being the little list song from the Mikado, will, if past years are anything to go by, have the lyrics rewritten and, in all likelihood, the performer won't have practiced enough to sing it at patter-song speed, so it'll be sung too slowly.

Why?

Is it, as Loweko speculates, because many G&S songs take horrible amounts of training and rehersal, whereas a little Elgar just requires an hour or three of tuning?


Or is it something more? After all, they included a Gilbert and Sullivan concert for decades before dropping it suddenly a few years ago.

Is Gilbert and Sullivan not upper-class enough for the BBC Proms? Has it been tainted by popularity, in the same way that an independant artist who starts making money loses all street cred? Does the spirit of snootiness haunt the BBC, forcing them to push everything that's popular into the Last Night of the proms, where they put all the things that aren't good enough for the rest of their lineup....

Somehow, I suspect so.

May 15, 2004

Lackluster visitor numbers

One of the aspects of doing a webcomic that I like the least (no, make that loathe with a passion) is the need to constantly mind the websites it appears on. Current status: rocr.keenprime.com (aka rocr.reinderdijkhuis.com) is dead, and unless and until I sit down for a few hours and get my file permissions in order, it won't be revived. Not sure if I can be bothered right now.
rocr.xepher.net is chugging along nicely but few people seem to know about it and it should be seen as strictly a mirror site and home for this blog.
rocr.net has been fairly stable lately, but visitor numbers are slowly slipping. I can think of two reasons (beyond the obvious confusion factor):
1. That damned stroboscopic green card ad that has been showing up in the host's ad system!
2. Keenspace's "no Hotlinking" measure which disallows display of the images to browsers when the referrer string isn't a Keenspace-hosted site. Because some Firewalls (Norton especially) strip the referrer string altogether), many people visiting the site for the first time see a broken site.
I understand the need on Keenspace's part to limit bandwidth theft and protect their ad revenues, but I really don't think this is the way to go about it. It causes the sites hosted by them to make a bad first impression to new readers, and it puts the onus of explaining the problem to readers (those that bother to stick around long enough to look for an explanation, and if you know anything about the habits of web users you'll know that that's a vanishingly small minority) on the site owners, many of whom don't understand the problem themselves. This is a serious problem: like I said, most users will not bother to look for an explanation, and from the point of view of those that will, it's not at all obvious where they should look.
Most users do not, and should not, know who hosts the website they're visiting. There is no reason whatsoever to assume that they will look beyond the site they're already on, or at best the forum or blog for the site they're already on, and make the mental connection that "the answer may be on the Keenspace forums" (which I think it is, but by now it has become pretty hard to find). I have answered queries about this in email, on IRC, on third-party forums that were completely unrelated to Keenspace and in person. I only have a vague idea (unless I can look it up) how to solve it. I can (and really, I should) devote real estate on the website to explain the problem, but really would you accept it if CNN.com said "if you can't see the images, dig into the bowels of your computer and make changes whose effect on your privacy you may not really understand"? You'd have to be pretty fanatically devoted to CNN over ABCNews.com to bother with that crap.
There is another solution which I oughtta implement, which is to create a replacement image that will show up in case of an image block (Keenspace's approach does allow for that), and use that to show the explanation. Still doesn't alter the fact that the host has imposed a solution that other parties have to pick up the slack for.

May 19, 2004

Studio-mate Jeroen is in for a shock

I have upgraded Opera on the studio computer from version 7.23 to 7.50. As usual with Opera, upgrading wasn't nearly as straightforward as it should be, because existing mail, bookmarks etc. have to be manually imported (as did the registration). Also, the interface has had quite an overhaul and it took me some time to make it look the way I was used to on my own account.

Having done those things (and they're not really difficult, just a lot of busy-work), It's nice and quick. I like the addition of an RSS reader in the mail panel, and the chat client, while feeble compared to standalone chat applications, will do in a pinch.

So Jeroen: Don't panic!

Muhahaha!

Recent search terms for the Waffle front page:

With which key words
1. eurovision 3
2. blog 2
3. waffle 2
4. tally 1
5. cronies 1
6. final 1
7. official 1
8. estonian 1
9. semi 1
10. 2004 1

I'll bet the actual search phrase was
"Estonian cronies waffle official Eurovision semi-final tally 2004".

May 20, 2004

CAPCHAs

A number of blogs and forums I visit now protect their comment sections with CAPCHAs, form fields in which you have to type a number/letter combination displayed in an image above the field, in order to prove you're a human. Allow me to state three things for the record, so you can laugh at me if I change my mind in a few months or so.

1. I fucking hate them.
2. I expect spammers will find a way to defeat them, whether this will be Chinese slave labor or a clever combination of Bayesian filtering to determine whether a form field may be a CAPCHA and OCR.
3. Consequently, I do not intend to use this technology on this weblog right now.

May 21, 2004

Nah, can't be bothered

The Cartoonist's Choice Awards are on again, for the fourth time. The first two years I was quite enthusiastic about taking part, using my website to suggest possible nominees as well as asking my own readers to nominate Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan. Last year and this year, though, I don't think I can be arsed, frankly.
Why is this? I don't really know. It's just a feeling I have, but thinking about it:
It may have something to do with the way it creates bad blood in the "Webcomics Community" (as if there is such a thing) each year. There's always a lot of criticism and when I take part I always end up weighing in. Bleah.
Also, there isn't much in it for my own comics. I got a few nominations in the past, but right now, ROCR isn't a fresh comic -- it has become part of the landscape. And nobody nominates the landscape. If it was going to generate a big buzz it would have done so in 2001/2.
Other, newer cartoonists may still want to take part though.

DFG! DFG!

Today's Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan comic was colored by reader Drooling Fan Girl. Yay for her! She's doing a fine job, staying close to the existing style but putting in her own little touches.
We'll see some more DFG-colored comics in a week or so. She's saving me a lot of work this way so I'm finally getting ahead.

Two political songs, for your enjoyment

FCC Song all fucks by Eric Idle.
President's Day by Loudon Wainwright III.

I saw Loudon in concert in Groningen yesterday, and the response then was pretty much the same as at the in-store performance at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, California where this recording was made.

Commentary by Loudon:

Due to its particular timeliness with regard to our nation's impending electoral decision in November, I have made the rather unusual (for me) decision to cast it into the ether of cyberspace, there to be had gratis(*), absolutely free of charge for citizens armed with an MP3 player and a taste for broadside material. It is my sincere hope that those of you who like the song and approve of my plan will assist me in spreading the word about "Presidents' Day" in order to inform and/or inflame any swing voters out there who remain at all ambivalent or apathetic about the current administration and its reckless, dreadful policies.

(*) Indeed, Loudon has made his opinion about MP3 downloading known in the song "Something for Nothing", off the So Damn Happy album he is currently promoting. If you can still see him on his tour, don't miss him.

May 23, 2004

More songs for your continued edification and further delight

After posting those songs in the previous entry, I decided to check if Richard Thompson had weighed in on recent world events. If he has, he hasn't posted the results yet, but I did find this on his website:
Dear Janet.

Thompson's albums tend towards the serious and bleak, but he has lighthearted pieces like this in his live shows, and it is these tracks that end up on his website. It, and I Agree With Pat Metheny, aren't representative of his body of work as a whole. I expect that if and when Thompson writes about current events, the result will be much more stinging and philosophical than the songs in the previous posting, and that they will be part of his next album, just like the title track to Shoot Out the Lights (inspired by Russia's invasion of Afghanistan), "Psycho Street" off Rumour and Sigh (inspired by the Salman Rushdie affair, but far removed from it by the time it appeared on record) and "Outside of the Inside" off The Old Kit Bag, a haunting, scary track exploring the mindset of Islamic fundamentalists. Those tracks take work but they're more than mere throwaways or protests.

(By the way, all the links to Thompson albums above go to Amazon in the US, and I get a kickback if people buy them, or if they continue to browse from them and buy something else. So you can familiarise yourself with Thompson's work, and supplement my income at the same time! Sounds like a deal to me.)

May 24, 2004

Open ROCR forum thread 1: Maghreid's outburst

Now that The Rite of Serfdom is finally lumbering towards a dénouement, I'd like to solicit input from you, the readers to help me wrap it up as neatly as possible. To start with, remember this outburst from Maghreid?

Maghreid on patriotism

In this forum thread, reader gwalla writes:

Bad time for a rant! Sheesh. As a politician, she should know better than to badmouth the goals of her allies.

Yup, and she's chosen the wrong moment for it too. But I was wondering if any of you regular readers were on to the game Maghreid has so far been playing (which, incidentally, she will have lost as a result of this moment of honesty - even though she echos my own feelings on the subject almost exactly). I know what she's up to but I wonder how much work I need to do to make it clear before the story ends.

So: what variant of the political game do you think she has been playing? Post it in the forum thread, which is open to unregistered guests!

Effective interrogation techniques

Hesiod at Counterspin Central reports about a TV program he saw about interrogation techniques in recent history. The program gave some examples of the similarities and differences between various historical torture techniques such as those used by the Gestapo, and those used at Abu Ghraib.

But it is the story of the Germans' most effective interrogator that caught my eye:

The second example was of a Luftwaffe Corporal, Hans Joachim Scharff, who spoke perfect English. He was in charge of interrogating downed American and British pilots.

His technique?

He was really nice, joked around with the prisoners, treated them well, gave them coffee and tea...and found out an absolute shitload of information from them.

You see, the pilots were all conditioned by the allies to believe that the Germans would do all sorts of horrible things to them if they were ever captured. So when their captor was a really nice and pleasant guy you could smoke a cigarette with and joke around with, they dropped their guard and gave away a lot of information inadvertently.

Amazing, huh?

He was probably the most effective interrogator the Germans had during WWII, and he was extremely humane.

[snippage]

Now, Scharff was the exception to the rule for German interrogators. But, he was also the most effective, and did not violate the Geneva conventions to do it.

Not to toot my own horn, but Geir and I were right about this.

May 25, 2004

Wait, wait, hurry, hurry, wait... hurry!

Just when I have nearly two weeks' worth of buffer for Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan, I get word from Hello You! that they don't much like my first Floor script for the next season, and by the way, the final deadline for the art is June 8! They tell me this after letting me wait a whole month for them to announce the magazine's new format.
So the next few days I'll have to come up with a better script which I'll have to start drawing immediately once approved. *If* I succeed, which is by no means certain, I will have no buffer by that time.

Oh to be like Howard Tayler and to be able to crank out a week's worth of comics in thirty minutes...

May 26, 2004

Looking better now...

I now have a script approved and because I'm still buffered, I will be able to start drawing it today. That means I should be able to meet my deadline and stay buffered. Things aren't so bad then:)

May 27, 2004

Something I already knew but need to remind myself of occasionally

Get Your War On rocks the hizbah.

May 28, 2004

No. 1 reason gay marriage must be a good idea:

The French are trying to ban it.

May 29, 2004

Scottish Opera's The Minotaur - a review

Opera for children is a delicate balance, and Scottish Opera is to be congratulated for not pandering to them, but presenting a work of actual artistic merit, their only concession to children being an attempt to make the plot easier to follow. However, there are several problems that ultimately make me consider The minotaur only a partial success.

Things start out rather promisingly - The Oracle's opening song reeked with excitement and drama, as she began to set the scene for the opera. Louise Innes' is a superb performer both physically and vocally, and practically oozes charisma - an excellent bit of casting. Things look very promising indeed.

Continue reading "Scottish Opera's The Minotaur - a review" »

Swatting flies again

This spammer crawled out from under a little rock, and it's about time I chased it back. Note the phone numbers: 555 is a fictional area code, right?

Culprit: http://samspade.org/t/lookat?a=www.all-debt-consolidation.org aka
http://samspade.org/t/lookat?a=http%3A%2F%2FWWW.I-directv.net
Spam incidents: 2.
Email address used: hrie@yahoo.com
Originating IP's: 62.233.230.117 and 212.160.201.98

Server Used: [ whois.gandi.net ]

www.all-debt-consolidation.org = [ 80.67.173.5 ]



domain:ALL-DEBT-CONSOLIDATION.ORG
owner-address:Acc. Media
owner-address:586 Drew Street
owner-address:14552
owner-address:Little Rock
owner-address:Arkansas
owner-address:United States of America
owner-phone:1.5552556565
owner-fax:1.5552556565
9403324906c56a445851d0a7096a6c52-847167@owner.gandi.net

Continue reading "Swatting flies again" »

ROCR Open thread no. 2: How am I doing?

How do you feel the story and art in Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan are coming along? What needs fixing? What should I stay the course with?

Whoa!

Finally, a webcomic that isn't too small to read comfortably. Problem is, it doesn't fit on my 1280 x 1024 pixel screen!

I think this is where webcomics need to go before we even begin to tackle the question of whether horizontal or vertical formats are more comfortable for online reading in earnest. Really. As long as the choice is between making a comic the pixel-size equivalent of a postage stamp (or in more recent years, two postage stamps either stacked on top of one another or put side by side), the question of whether the stamp is horizontal or vertical should be the least of the webcartoonist's concerns. But I think it may be a little to early to start putting them online at 1225 x 2008 pixels like sizes like this episode of Seven Plains . The comic looks promising, by the way.

[Update: the episode I linked to is the only oversized one in the series so far. The others are on the high end of webcomics sizes but should fit most monitors]

So that's where the summary goes!

Ever since editing, at Pete Ashton's suggestion, the template for this blog's RSS feed so that it includes the entire entry instead or just a short excerpt, I've been wondering if the Excerpt feature was still used anywhere in the blog. Now I've found out.

I noticed that a recent search term leading here had been "Gestapo" and did an internal search to remind myself which entry the searcher might have found. The internal search led me to this result, which includes a summary I'd entered on a whim.

So I will contine to occasionally put stuff in the Excerpt field that I've got in my MT entry screen, as an easter egg for my legion of obsessive blog-devourers.

May 30, 2004

It's gotten lighter in here, allright.

Inspired by my friend Kim's exhortation to "do something about the Egyptian darkness" in my apartment, and my neigbours' regular window-cleaning, I've cleaned my windows for the first time since the last century. I've also removed the net curtains (much needed for privacy; I live on the ground floor near a busy street) so I can take them to the dry cleaners' and put them somewhere conspicuous so I won't forget to actually do so.

To my shame, Kim's exhortation was made 2 years ago, and I first noticed the neighbours' window-swabbing last year. It's taken me that long to take action. I got a lot, I mean really a lot of grime off both sides of the windows and even though I haven't done a stripe-free job of it, I definitely get more light in. One more step towards making this place pleasant to live in again.

On the downside, people walking down the street can now see the appaling levels of disorganisation and messiness in my flat. I'd better do something about that. But not today, because I've been indoors for long enough.

About May 2004

This page contains all entries posted to Waffle in May 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

April 2004 is the previous archive.

June 2004 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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