March 19, 2018, 10:10 am
I am biased. As evidenced by, oh, everything on this blog o mine.
I'm not left-leaning, I'm left. I supported Bernie Sanders. I think Donald Trump is the worst president in history and should be tried for treason.
I. Am. Biased.
And anyone who tells you they're not biased is lying to you, and possibly to themselves. We all have opinions, no matter how we got them, and we view the world through the prisms of them.
But the media owe it to you to not allow those biases to make it into the coverage they provide, and frankly, most of them are doing a shitty job of it.
Fox News is intensely biased to the right. CNN and MSNBC to the left. The Wall Street Journal to the right. The Washington Post to the left. On and on it goes, where it ends, politics blows.
The fact that we know which way these publications lean is a profound failure on their part. Facts are facts, things that happened should never be based on opinions. I think Donald Trump sucks big donkey balls, but I once took up for him because I felt in that instance he was being treated unfairly. And that's my point. I don't like taking up for the hairball, but reporting is not the place to be airing political opinions.
People who read my news site every day, but have not had the misfortune of stumbling onto this site, have absolutely no idea whether I'm a conservative or a liberal or something in-between, because my news site reports neither side. My site reports what's going on, without injecting my ridiculous opinions into it.
Unfortunately, the large media outlets in our country feel no such need to restrain themselves. And that's to the detriment of our country, because when the people we get our information from are twisting that information before it ever reaches us, we might as well put on jumpsuits, a la 1984.
Spreading it for Google and Facebook (otherwise known as creating structured data for images on a busy site)
March 18, 2018, 4:16 pm
If you're bored by technical stuff, move onto the next entry.
My news site gets almost 50,000 viewers every day. That means my server, a dedicated linux machine somewhere in the desert, must serve up a minimum of that many pages every day. But the story doesn't stop there.
Because my site only counts each IP address once per 24-hour period no matter how many times it sees that address, my hit count is way higher than 50k. It's closer to 200k per day, for just that one site (I have other sites that get even more viewers per day, but they don't suffer from the problem I'm describing here.
It's a lot. And the server handles it swimmingly.
Until something big breaks and tons more people hit the site. And it's all Facebook and Google's fault.
You see, in order to properly index the site, both Facebook and Google want structured data, which I won't get into here except to say EVERYTHING needs to be described, and images even moreso; they both want to know where the image that describes the story is, and how wide, how high and what kind of image it is.
Because all the images on my stories are html links inside the story itself, I can't just point FB and Google to a file somewhere where they can find the image. Instead, I used a nifty bit of HTML searching to identify the first image, create it in memory, analyze it and send the data to Google and Facebook every time they try to access the story. And it works like a charm.
Until 200,000 people try to see the story at once. All that processing (and analyzing images is pretty overhead-intensive) takes a lot of the computer's memory, and eventually, it runs out of memory and crashes the server.
Especially because it was doing that for 25 stories on the front page in addition to whatever page (single story) the user is accessing.
So I came up with a multifaceted solution:
I cached all the stories, so the server isn't having to access the database 30 times every time someone hits the front page. My site has ads that rotate randomly, so I couldn't just create a static HTML page and call it done. Instead, I had to create a cache system that allows the ads to rotate every time someone access the page. To do that, I cached the HTML for each story, saved it to a file and access it whenever needed. That cut down on a lot of server load.
I created a schema-less database system, because some stories will have images, some will not, and I didn't want to crawl through all 4,000 previous stories to figure out which was which. "Schemaless" means the database has no idea what data it's looking for when it opens the story and has no idea what structure the other stories have when it goes to write a story. A "schema" is a map of sorts, telling the database what to look for and where. Going without a schema makes a very flexible kind of database, and I think I'll be migrating everything over to it. My site, which formerly worked on XML, and before that on JSON-based flat files, is now operating on what I'm calling the Ineffable Schemaless Database system, which I wrote this morning and have now migrated the entire site over to.
The advantage of moving to this kind of database is that I can now store image data related to each story inside the database. When Google or Facebook come looking, instead of re-analyzing the images over and over, my system will now feed them the data stored about the images. And if it doesn't find any data, it will send them the logo you see above, with the data stored about it.
Ultimately, what this all means is big-hit days won't crash the server anymore, and as a bonus, because of the caching, the site loads about twice as fast as it did before.
The advantage to making my database schema-less is that in the future, if I find some other data point I want to add to stories, I can just do it without having to worry about whether older stories have that same datapoint and then having to rework the entire database to include it. For instance, if I later want to add, oh, I dunno, comments (spoiler, I won't [remind me to tell you how comments have turned the Internet into a place I hate]), I can actually add them without having to change the structure of my database at all.
Anyway, the none of you who read this far, I'm going to publish the Ineffable Schemaless Database system as soon as I'm sure it's secure enough, and I'll probably make it open source so others can improve on my work.
February 25, 2018, 9:21 pm
If your mind has never been blown, get a mop bucket handy.
A television show aired 47 years ago that aimed to entertain all Americans but was based on the extremely volatile politics of the day (think Vietnam war, pre-Watergate, American youth in the streets being shot by government storm troopers), could literally be written and aired this very day, with better production values and modern actors, and you'd never notice that it was written almost half a century ago.
As the incredibly dull and predictable rock band RATT so inimitably said 34 years ago, "What goes around comes around". Who knew a bunch of hair metal dongles with a Hustler Magazine (male) centerfold playing lead guitar could say something so prophetic?
Recently, tipped off by a tweet from Jimmy Kimmel, I purchased the first season of All in the Family, a sitcom that ran from 1971 to 1979, during a time when there were only three television channels, and that meant there was a pretty good chance anyone you know who lived through that time was watching it. I know my dad was (which meant our whole family was). And watching it now, I can't help but think my dad thought it was a conservative show intended to debunk the ridiculous views of the leftists, even though my dad was closer to Rob Reiner's age than Carol O'Connor's.
Wikipedia's description of the show is succinct: "The show revolves around the life of a working-class bigot and his family. The show broke ground in its depiction of issues previously considered unsuitable for a U.S. network television comedy, such as racism, infidelity, homosexuality, women's liberation, rape, religion, abortion, the Vietnam War and impotence."
The series, regarded as one of the greatest of all time, portrayed a multi-generational family living in New York. Archie Bunker (O'Connor) is an outspoken, narrow-minded man prejudiced against anyone who is not white, heterosexual and however he thinks people should be. Michael Stivic (Rob Reiner) is referred to as "Meathead" by Bunker, and his values couldn't be more opposite of Archie's.
Archie, even though he is bigoted, is portrayed as loving and decent, a man simply struggling to adapt to changes in the world. It's a nuanced portrayal of a conservative digging his heels in against what he sees as encroaching liberalism.
Michael is a good-hearted and stubborn hippie, as well as being the most-educated person in the household, which gives him a kind of arrogance.
The first season deals with themes that might be familiar today: Women's equality (or lack thereof). Race relations and whether black people have a basis for claiming they aren't treated equally even though the law says they should. Homosexuality and whether gay (and other non-traditionally gender-oriented people) have and deserve the same treatment as cis-gendered people. But it deals with these issues comedically and in a way that makes a thinking person both enjoy and resonate. Archie is, after all, a real-feeling guy (played flawlessly by a profoundly liberal actor). He's a good guy who holds reprehensible political and personal ideologies. He's stubborn, but he's not unredeemably evil. By the same token, Michael is the guy with the right answers, but he's kind of an asshole about getting them across.
And we are still, almost half a century later, facing every single issue they're fighting about in this series, which both depresses me and gives me hope. Today's Trumperica is not the end of the world. At the worst, we'll go over this shit again in another 50 years.
February 20, 2018, 6:06 am
Is it possible that Republicans don’t want to do anything about school shootings because they don’t mind if people are scared enough to support school choice vouchers, which would allow schools to become segregated again?
I hate to be that cynical, but such are the times we’re living in.
February 16, 2018, 1:13 pm
One good thing has come from all the mass shootings America endures on seemingly an almost-daily basis: with all the Republicans offering their thoughts and prayers for the shootings to stop (instead of, you know, enacting laws and stuff), we now have empirical evidence that God does not listen to Republican prayers.
I'd say that's progress.
Since God doesn't care what you want, GOP, how about stop basing so much of your policies on your misunderstanding of what you think he wants?
February 14, 2018, 10:22 pm
I have to use this disclaimer a lot: I'm a gun owner. I'm a supporter of the Second Amendment right to possess firearms.
But I'm also sick of children dying because the gun lobby has bought enough politicians to make sure there is no legal way to prevent psychopaths from using guns to murder dozens of innocent people.
I have a shotgun. A. Shotgun. I don't own an assault rifle. I don't own a rifle at all. I don't own a pistol. If you come to my house intending to do me or my wife or children harm, I can unlock my ammunition box quickly enough to load my shotgun and blow your brains out. But if I wanted to go on a shooting rampage, I probably couldn't pull it off, because my shotgun is a single-shot breakover..
And that's the point. I can defend my family. I can kill a coyote. If I so desired, I could kill some game.
Gun assholes will argue that they need an arsenal to protect themselves against the government, but the truth is, the government possesses cruise missiles, tanks and nuclear bombs. If they want to kill you, you're dead, regardless of how many firearms you own.
So the fact is, our Second-Amendment rights allow us to provide game for our family and protect ourselves from ne'er-do-wells who might break in and threaten our families.
But that shit has gotten out of control.
We need some kind of legislation to make sure we de-arm the crazy fuckers who go into schools and kill dozens of people. Or malls. Or hotel rooms from which a nutbag can murder 500 people at a concert.
Enough is enough.
February 8, 2018, 11:11 am
The "Christianity" in America is nothing like the Bible's version of Christianity. I know; I was part of making it so.
Here's a test for you:
• Do you believe poor people need to get off their asses and work to receive help?
• Do you believe sinners need to repent (quit sinning) before (or after) they can be saved?
• Do you believe abortion is a worse sin in the eyes of God than lying is?
• Do you believe God financially blesses believers, and that if you're not blessed, something is wrong in your life?
° Sub-question: do you believe the richest among us are blessed because they're righteous?
• Do you believe calamities in your life are a result of sin?
• Do you believe people from other religions are going to hell?
If you answered "yes" to any of those questions, a) you're not a Christian, and b) you probably voted for Donald Trump and think he's a Christian.
• Never, in the entire time he was helping the poor, did Jesus first ask them to get off their asses and help themselves.
• The Bible is clear that Jesus died to cleanse every human of the guilt of sin, and even goes so far as to say "and believers too".
• The Bible goes on and on about how horrible and evil liars are, but never once mentions abortion.
• Jesus was clear that rich people are the hardest to reach with the good news, because they worship their possessions. Never did he promise to shower his followers with wealth.
• Poverty, sickness and trouble are no indication of spirituality at all. Some people just have bad days, weeks, years or lives, but that doesn't indicate any failing on their parts.
• Jesus proclaimed salvation to all people. Period. Anyone who tells you differently has an agenda and probably wants money from you.
I say all that because of this abomination. Trump saying anything aligning himself with Christianity is like Pepsi saying it is Coke.
February 3, 2018, 8:08 am
The orange idiot has been in office for a year now, so maybe we can actually start attributing some of the performance of the economy to him and his policies instead of him constantly taking credit for the Obama economy.
Let's see: biggest daily point fall since the December 2008 financial crisis that Obama rescued us from?
Yep, Trump is finally making a difference.
January 28, 2018, 9:21 pm
A disgraced cop teams up with his previously-unknown daughter's imaginary friend (a blue unicorn) to find the methed-out Santa who has kidnapped her.
Not the best idea ever for a TV show?
I disagree. The BEST ever idea for a TV show.
Based on the graphic novel of the same name from Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson, the Happy! TV show centers on a former cop, Nick Sax (Christopher Meloni). Now a hitman, Nick finds himself unmoored in a treacherous world full of murder and meaningless hook-ups. One day, though, his drunken, depressing existence is turned upside down by Happy (my favorite comedian Patton Oswalt), an imaginary unicorn.
As a big city police detective, Nick was something of a superstar. After losing everything, he finds himself pretty much on the skids. Now working as a killer for hire, Nick blows what little cash he earns on drugs and booze. Until Happy finds him and enlists him in a quest to find a daughter he conceived while he was cheating on his wife, who now is raising the girl by himself.
I know, sounds like a dumb concept. But believe me. You are missing out if you're not watching this show on the SciFi channel (or, like me, on AppleTV).
I wish I had written this concept and the execution of it. It's brilliant. OK, I could write more, but I have to get back to watching.
January 26, 2018, 4:16 pm
Me: All of my books are New York Times bestsellers. They're the best books. Incredible books. Everyone loves them. All the best people tell me that.
Fact checker: Not they're not. No one ever says that.
Me: I never said my books were bestsellers.
I guess this is my way of declaring my candidacy for president, the office whose only qualification seems to be inventing your own reality and then denying you did.
January 25, 2018, 9:09 am
Here's an interesting fact: Last year, the world's billionaires saw their collective wealth increase by 762 BILLION dollars. If those 2,000 people had donated just the increase in their wealth from that year, world poverty could have been completely eradicated.
They would all still be billionaires. With a B.
No billionaire will ever have to worry about money ever again. Ever.
In trickle-down economic theory, the more money we send the way of the ultra rich, the more they pass it on to the poor by creating jobs. But the truth is, they don't pass it on. They hoard it.
If they did pass it on, no one — read that again, NO ONE — would be poor.
Billionaires would all still be billionaires. They wouldn't miss a penny of it, because they'd still have more money than they could ever spend in their lifetimes. But we could eliminate poverty.
That is the most disgusting fact I could cite today.