Thursday, January 17, 2008


  • I’ve revamped how Labels work on Journal Entries; they were getting out of hand. Now there are just a few Categories; every post will have one (and, hopefully, only one) of these. Beneath the Categories in the sidebar of Journal Entries (not Current Thoughts, where this is posted; Categories have yet to get out of hand here) are various Labels; a post may have none, one, or more than one of these. Note that as I’m using Blogger’s Labels for both my Categories and Labels, they will be mixed up together at the bottom of individual posts, in alphabetical order. But the Categories links are useful for making sure you see all the posts in Journal Entries, anyway, without having to navigate through the somewhat cumbersome Archives links, as all posts with a given Category, regardless of date, will show up when you click on that Category’s link either in the sidebar or at the bottom of a post, and all posts have a Category.

  • Book Notes with multiple entries for one book also are Labeled with the book title to make it easier to see all the posts on that book at once; these book-title Labels do not appear in the sidebar, so they are only found on the relevant posts. I will also include an author label when I post about multiple books from one author.

  • I’ve also changed the links for all the little book graphics (and most other book links) to Google Books rather than Google Books has lots of neat features, including internal previews of many books, and a link to reserve a copy at your local library. If you’re having trouble understanding a Book Note and want to see if you can find the context, Google Books might help. If not, there’s an Amazon link on every page; they often have previews too.

  • On another note, because of the way I’ve structured this blog, it’s quite likely that entries in the compendium are outdated and have been updated and improved in their Department blog. Click on the link at the bottom of each post in the compendium to see the latest and greatest version of that post.

  • Although I’m not entirely sure why I’m going to all this work; I seem to currently have a grand total of one verified email subscription (the widget in the sidebar in the compendium says two, but one of them is me) to this blog. Is no one reading this? Or are they just not using the email subscription feature? I do hope somebody’s reading this, or else I’m doing a whole lot of work for nothing; I looked yesterday and noticed that, even with all of the journal entries I’ve posted, I’ve only gotten through something like a fifth of my first journal so far, so there’s lots more coming…

  • That reminds me: since entries in Journal Entries are posted by their original creation date (years ago in most cases), it is likely that newly posted entries will not appear at the top of the blog. This means that if you’re watching Journal Entries to see if there are new posts, you’re going to miss them. Either subscribe to Journal Entries via email or subscribe to or watch the compendium, or you’re going to miss the new journal entries. Yeah, it sucks, but I can’t think of a better way; I’ll be posting stuff from several journals written at different times, and I think it’s worthwhile to keep the entries in chronological order.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Third Thing

3. I remember! The third thing is that along with how the blog is now separated into two departments instead of five, I changed the method that the blog entries are reposted onto the compendium. Instead of having an email client always running that re-sends the posts to Blogger (as described in Me? Blogging?), I’ve had to change things around a bit. With the transition to New Blogger that allowed me to consolidate the blogs, something broke with how Blogger parses special characters. My department blogs have an em dash in their namesthat thing. The problem is, you can’t find an em dash on a keyboard; it’s a special, high-ASCII character like • or æ or . Unlike the lower-128 characters (everything you actually see on a keyboard: letters, numbers, normal special characters like $%&@), there’s no standard ASCII code for the upper-128 characters, which, on the Mac, includes the em dash (option-shift-hyphen), but on other systems may not. So HTML threw its hands up and instituted what’s called HTML Entities instead, where special characters are represented by codes like — and • (which result in — and •, respectively). The problem in this case was that Blogger started escaping these codes, so the department links at the bottom of the posts on the main page started looking funky. Instead of sending "Genius/Idiot&mash;Current Thoughts" (embedded in a link, of course), it sent "Genius/Idiot&&mash;Current Thoughts" which resulted, instead of Genius/Idiot—Current Thoughts, in Genius/Idiot—Current Thoughts. Not what I wanted.

Of course, the easy thing to do here would just be to give up and change the department blog names, to something like Current Thoughts or Genius/Idiot--Current Thoughts. But I’m not well known for doing the easy thing; I wanted it pretty. Instead, I spent many long days over a period of several months—most of last year, really—learning enough UNIX to do this by hand on my own computer (the Mac is now based on a UNIX operating system, in case you didn’t know). In the end, I had to go to an incredible rigamarole in order to save my silly em dash. Here’s the new setup (this replaces step 6 in Me? Blogging?):

6. Blogger emails the post to an email account I have set up on my own computer (I have a static domain name provided by It comes in, is handed off to Procmail for processing, which hands it off to formail to modify the header so that Blogger would take it back (took forever to figure that bit out), then hands it off again to sed for lots of reasonably complicated text processing, to make it look like it used to look before Blogger broke it (Blogger had changed some style stuff as well). Procmail then sends it to Postfix, a UNIX mail server, which shoots it back off to Blogger.

This was at least as hard as it sounds to figure out how to do. I could never have done it without the Procmail Quick Start and a nifty program called Postfix Enabler. I’m cheap; I fought with .conf files and a bunch of stuff I don’t even remember anymore (God help me when I need to change computers; I have no idea how I did all this) for days before I finally gave up and paid the $10 for Postfix Enabler (a Mac front-end for Postfix). I was a fool. What I failed to do in two or three days, Postfix Enabler did in two or three clicks. I love the Mac .

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Three things

  1. I’ve redated all the posts on the main page to match when they were originally posted. Some were out of order because I had posted some new items before I reposted old items.

  2. The email subscribe link on Journal Entries was broken; it wrongly subscribed to Current Thoughts instead. Fixed.

  3. Er…I forget what the third thing was. Except…don’t forget to subscribe! Oh, and if you’re a close friend, don’t forget to log into and friend me at LiveJournal; stuff too personal to go here is likely to go there.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Blog is back

(updated below)

The refurbishing of Genius/Idiot is complete, and I hope to resume posting on a semi-regular basis. As mentioned previously, there are two Department pages, Current Thoughts and Journal Entries. All posts from these two pages are amalgamated onto the main Genius/Idiot page. Each of the three blog pages has a Subscription link on it that works for that blog only, so if you only wish to be updated about current writings, only subscribe to Current Thoughts, if you only wish to see updates on my old journal entries, subscribe to Journal Entries, and if you want both, just subscribe to the main Genius/Idiot page.

I’ve re-enabled Anonymous commenting, but please don’t comment without at least leaving a nickname and URL or email address, or something to indicate who you are; I hate guessing. Plus, if you log in, you can subscribe to further comments on that post, which is pretty cool.

The main Genius/Idiot page has some older entries that people who have followed in this blog in the past may have seen before on top; I’ll move them down to their proper place before long, but people who have only looked at my blog in the last few months and not before haven’t seen these posts before. Some posts that should be new to everybody are at the top of Current Thoughts.

If you’ve never visited my blog before, I’d appreciate if you took a look and see what you think. Please leave comments on any posts you find interesting.


Update: June 18, 2013

I’ve disabled Anonymous commenting due to some spam comments, but OpenID commenting is still available.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Changing Blogs

(updated below)

If you have been paying attention to Genius/Idiot for the last few months, you know I’ve been rearranging my blogs. Instead of the old separate-blogs-as-categories scheme that I was using (Philosophy, Book Notes, Random Thoughts, Liberty, and Technology [dead links]), thanks to Blogger’s new Labeling feature, I have consolidated these five blogs into two, Journal Entries and Current Thoughts, with Labels (listed in the sidebar) serving as categories within each blog. Of course, all posts from these two new blogs are still aggregated at the main Genius/Idiot page.

I’m in the process of migrating posts from the old blogs to the new, and then the comments. I’ll probably leave the old blogs up indefinitely, in order to be a good netizen, but they’re dead and will stay dead (except that I suppose I’ll repost this on each of them, but at some point commenting will be disabled).

One other thing: The header says “Posts from all my blogs are aggregated in the compendium.” But that’s not quite true; only posts from Genius/Idiot blogs are actually aggregated, as well as my posts from Carbondale Bytelife [dead link]. There is a passel of other blogs listed under “Other blogs” in the sidebar to the left that are not aggregated here. My question is, should they be? Should the main Genius/Idiot page show posts from all my blogs, instead of just the two Genius/Idiot blogs? I’ve had one “no” vote; what does everyone else think? And don’t shy away from answering just because you find this some time after it’s posted; I’m still interested in your opinion.

Update: June 18, 2013

Well, though I left the old blogs up as long as possible, time still killed them with the demise of MobileMe. Journal Entries [dead link] and Current Thoughts [dead link] still exist, though moved to the URLs linked to above. The old “category” blogs exist on The Internet Archive, but they’re kind of broken there, so I’ve just left the old (dead) links intact above. Since the entire blog has been moved to my own custom domain, it should in principle never break again, as long as I’m alive, anyway.

Iowa Caucus

Well, tonight is the big night. Tonight we find out whether Ron Paul’s support is as wide as it is deep, or if we’ve been fooling ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong—this isn’t ‘win or die’ here. But if Paul does no better than his polls would indicate (9%), then we, the members of the Ron Paul R3VOLution, have been kidding ourselves with our belief that Paul’s support is better measured by the number of straw polls he’s won (25, more than any other Republican candidate this cycle) or the amount of money he’s raised (nearly $20 Million last quarter, likely more than any other Republican), or the number of online polls he’s won (countless, but the current AOL Straw Poll [dead link] is probably the most interesting), or the number of MeetUp groups he has (1,442, with a stunning 90,000 members, more than any other candidate, Republican or Democrat) than by the actual polling data, which, many contend, are biased against Paul because a) many Paul supporters are more technically savvy than most and are therefore more likely to use cell phones, which often aren’t called in traditional polls, and b) pollsters contact “likely Republican voters,” which excludes many Paul supporters who haven’t voted, or haven’t voted Republican, in the past.

It’s hard to know how accurate these charges are, and therefore how likely traditional polls are to be inaccurate. I have had very little luck in discovering the actual methodology used by these polls. Only once or twice have I seen a poll say what its criteria for “likely Republican voters” is, but at least once the method was to ask the respondent if they intended to vote in the primary/caucus, and if so, for which party. I have also seen polls that specifically said that they included cell phones in their calls. Given all this, it’s really hard to know whether these criticisms of traditional polls hold water. It seems likely that they hold to some degree, but given that professional polling organizations stake their reputations on getting it right, one would think that at least some polls would indicate Paul’s true level of support, and he’s yet to get more than 10% in any traditional national or state poll that I’ve seen. And there is one online poll that he’s losing: the USA Button Poll. This one is interesting in that you actually have to spend some money and buy a button in order to be counted. It’s easy to vote in an online poll. It can also be fairly simple to vote multiple times from multiple email addresses, or whatever. But when you actually charge money in order to vote, it infuses a level of honesty that might not be there otherwise, especially when it’s something stupid like a button poll that no one in their right mind would waste enough money to rig.

On the other hand, there are some indications that Paul will do better than expected tonight. First there are the aforementioned flaws in the traditional polls, which even Zogby himself seems to admit might cause Paul to do noticeably better than expected. Second, there can be no denying that Paul’s supporters are passionate and dedicated. This means that any given Paul supporter is probably more likely to take the time and effort to caucus than supporters of other candidates. Third, Dr. Paul really does have a lot have a lot of money in the bank, and he’s spending it in Iowa to establish an organization that will get out the vote. Fourth, there is still a significant chunk of undecided and unsure voters in Iowa, and caucuses give little speeches before voting. Given that the rhetoric of the Paul campaign is appealing to many people and that Paul supporters are generally going to be less likely to change their votes at the last minute, if Paul supporters comport themselves in a calm, respectful, non-wacko manner, Paul seems likely to pick up last minute votes that polls could not detect.

So we’ll see tonight. If Dr. Paul does badly, does that mean I’m going to give up on him? No. Regardless of what happens, Ron Paul has made a difference that will last for years in the future, and I intend to be a part of that, even after this Presidential race is over. In fact, I’ve already been named a Precinct Captain, so I’ll be helping out until the Illinois Primary, at least.

So: My predictions. It looks likely that Huckabee will place first, followed fairly closely by Romney, but it could easily go the other way. Paul has a strong chance of placing third; that’s what I’m fervently hoping for. If not third, then a strong fourth after McCain. If Paul doesn’t finish ahead of both Thompson and Giuliani, neither of whom have actively campaigned in Iowa, it bodes ill for Paul’s eventual nomination. On the other hand, if Paul finishes a solid third in Iowa, then goes on to place first or second in New Hampshire, he will have shown himself to be a serious contender with a real shot at the nomination.

Update: June 18, 2013So how did it turn out? Were my predictions correct? Here are the results:

Mike Huckabee40,95434.36%17
Mitt Romney30,02125.19%12
Fred Thompson15,96013.39%0
John McCain15,53613.03%3
Ron Paul11,8419.93%2

Paul’s fifth-place showing, with no higher vote percentage than predicted by the polls, was disappointing. It’s interesting, though, to see how little you could have told about the final outcome from this: Thompson, as Zogby predicted, didn’t last long after this (though that was certainly not my prediction), and McCain was, of course, the ultimate winner of the Republican primary process.