Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Quantum of Solace

Just got back from watching Quantum of Solace. It wasn't as shockingly good as Casino Royale, but Craig sure is a great Bond.

One nit: this director needs to watch his final print in a theater, and then tell me whether he can tell any of his actors apart during any of the action scenes. Because if he can, he's a better man than I.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Princeton Protests Proposition 8

"Traditional sidewalk values". Priceless.

Still struggling to understand the whole protest-after-you-lose-the-vote thing, but I guess those are details.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Rebuilding the Republican Party

It may strike some as odd that my first post-election political post would be about the GOP, but there you go: I’m a maverick. (Is it OK to use that word again? Or will it forever conjure up images of Tina Fey hawking “Palin 2012” t-shirts on QVC?) I’ve been heartened in conversations with friends and family who are proud Republicans over the last two weeks to hear their resolve at taking a long, hard look at what went wrong. (And equally encouraged by their genuine eagerness to support Barack.)

I’ve made no secret of my Democratic party leanings – I’ve voted Democratic for every Presidential candidate I’ve been eligible to vote. Yet I grew up in a Republican household, spent many chilly fall days in Connecticut canvassing for Republican candidates (local and national). My Dad volunteered on George HW Bush’s 1980 presidential campaign. Gerald Ford once commented to my Dad at a state party meeting that my Mom was cute. (She is, by the way.) So I have mostly positive feelings about the GOP – the old GOP. And I know precisely - the actual day - when those feelings started eroding:

That’s Pat Buchanan delivering his address to the 1992 Republican Convention. He referred to the Democratic Convention as a “masquerade ball”, mocked its attendees as “radicals and liberals” – even blew the “cross-dresssing” dog whistle (get it? THEY’RE ALL GAY!). And then this:

My friends, this election is about much more than who gets what. It is about who we are. It is about what we believe. It is about what we stand for as Americans. There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself. And in that struggle for the soul of America, Clinton & Clinton are on the other side, and George Bush is on our side. And so, we have to come home, and stand beside him.

Much of the slash-and-burn tactics the GOP has deployed over the last 20 years trace, for me, to that speech. It’s possible they existed before – that religion was used as a wedge to scare voters into voting for the GOP – but I certainly didn’t see it. In President George HW Bush I saw a committed government servant, a modest man with a fearsome intellect who lost touch with his country. I voted for Bill Clinton, not against George Bush.

In 2000, I considered crossing party lines and supporting John McCain over George Bush in the California primary. I liked McCain, I didn’t like George W Bush, and I had originally supported Bill Bradley. (Family trivia: my first son was born on Super Tuesday that year. The political junkie thing runs strong in our family.)

And as President Bush betrayed his party’s ideals – on civil liberties, on government spending, on the separation of church and state, on scientific research, on diplomacy – I began to get angry. George W Bush did not represent the GOP I knew and grew up with: he led a religious coalition of social conservatives who sought to codify their beliefs through government intervention. When Howard Dean said “I want my country back!”, it resonated for me in a way that summed up much of what I felt was wrong. And when he followed it up by exclaiming that he was “tired of listening to the fundamentalist preachers!”, I remembered Pat Buchanan and his exhortations of a religious war.

Today’s GOP is coping with significant defeats across the board. I contend that this was a natural extension of Buchanan’s religious war: as Karl Rove (and Ashcroft, and Bush, and Palin, and countless others) played it to its logical conclusion, inevitably someone would show up and get us past it. But in those defeats, I’m encouraged – out of this will rise new thinking about what the party can (and should) do, most importantly from people whose voices must be heard in the party. Check out Rebuild the Party, or David Frum's announcement of the New Majority. Read Reihan Salam's posts over at The American Scene. Listen to former Congressman (and founding member of The Heritage Foundation) Mickey Edwards talk about the future of the conservative movement. They're not all in agreement - but they don't need to be. The key is that they're working hard to identify ways to reclaim the heart and soul of the Republican Party.

Many of my Democratic friends will no doubt scratch their heads, wondering why I would care: we won! But that's just it: I didn't support Barack Obama because I wanted to win. I supported Barack Obama because I believe in what Barack often spoke about: "disagreeing without being disagreeable". Politics for me is finding good solutions to hard problems, not demonizing the other guys because they don't agree with me.

Encouragingly, each of the links above demonstrate a positive, principled approach to defining what the Republican Party should be about. In none of those efforts do they spend any time figuring out clever ways to question my patriotism, my eagerness to destroy the family or my desire to wage war on people of faith. And that's a start. A very good one. Here's hoping they stay at it, and make progress.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Old WordPress posts are (mostly) redirecting

In moving 3,000 posts over from WordPress to Blogger, errors when users visit old links are inevitable. My implementation of WordPress published posts to URLs that looked like this:


I've converted to Blogger, and Blogger's permalinks are a tad different:


Specific differences: no /archives sub-directory, no /day in the path (just /year and /month), and the file extension is .html instead of .php. Ideally, I wanted a way to ensure that people visiting the first URL end up at the second.

For the most part, that's now happening. Using the WordPress Redirection plugin (I'll eventually move this out of WP itself and handle this in .htaccess), I'm using the following regex query:

And I'm redirecting those URLs to this string:

A few edge cases where this breaks: Blogger caps its permalinks at 5 words. So posts-with-lots-of-words-in-the-title.php become posts-with-lots-of-words.html, and my redirection won't work. Also, Blogger doesn't include the word "the" in permalinks, so the-day-is-here.php won't properly resolve to day-is-here.html.

Nevertheless, this is about a 98% effective solution, which I'm quite happy with. I'd love to have a custom 404 page so confused visitors could figure out what was going on - but on the balance, I've accomplished what I set out to do.

And so concludes this period of meta-blogging, in which I blog about the blogging engine that lets me blog. Even I'm a tad tired of it, so look for obsessive political blogging and the random nerd post to reappear any day now.

Feed readers, I'm sorry (but it's over now)

Yeah, I know I just basically spammed you through Google Reader (or whatever your favorite feed reader happens to be these days). But the worst is over: I've imported my entire blog and all posts are now live on the Blogger-managed blog here.

Last step in this migration is to use htaccess to rewrite incoming traffic from the WordPress URLs over to Blogger. May get to that in the next couple days, otherwise it'll be the weekend.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thanks to Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell, the mastermind behind Technosailor, is, as they say, Good People. I pinged him the other night after banging my head against a wall trying to get my WordPress blog exported properly. The issue was my reliance on Textile when drafting posts (this started in Movable Type, and I continued doing it once I converted to WordPress. And the default export script in WordPress doesn't trigger any plugins when it exports the text, so my 2800+ posts were mostly useless for a Blogger import.

Aaron whipped up a plugin that did exactly what I needed, and I now have my entire WordPress archive in a usable export format. A "thank you" seems hardly sufficient, but I'll start there: Aaron, thank you. :)

Some other lessons learned: my first few attempts at exporting from WordPress failed and it took a few tries to learn what was up: the default timeout setting for PHP is 30 seconds. My WordPress install lives on a shared server, and exporting 2800 posts and 9000 comments was taking longer than 30 seconds. This page was what I needed: editing the export.php file (in wp-admin/includes/) and adding set_time_limit(120); to the script did the trick: that gave the script plenty of time to execute and ensure I got the entire blog exported.

The conversion will continue - next step is to import the posts into Blogger, then figure out the most efficient way of rewriting inbound links so that links to the old site (in the form http://www.rklau.com/tins/archives/yyyy/mm/dd/post_title.php) are rewritten to the new site (which will be in the form http://tins.rklau.com/yyyy/mm/post_title.html). That should be relatively straightforward.

In the meantime, FeedBurner subscribers should be seeing these posts now as I've updated the source feed to point to the Blogger-maintained feed.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sunday, November 9, 2008

WordPress to Blogger conversion

Wow, is this painful. Starting with my transition to Movable Type, I started using Textile, a Movable Type plugin that let you use text-based shortcuts for doing HTML markup. In the days before a rich text editor, this was a great time-saver.

A couple years later I switched to WordPress, but found a WordPress plugin that allowed me to continue to use these shortcuts. Not only did that mean that my past entries with the shortcuts included would still work, but it meant I could continue to use the same shortcuts - which I continued to do, even though WordPress had a decent rich-text editor.

(Can you guess where this is headed?)

Now that I'm converting to Blogger, I have around 4 years of posts that are largely useless when it comes to hyperlinks: insead of this, I have "this":http://www.google.com. With plugins installed in WordPress, it converts the short-hand to the proper HTML... but Blogger doesn't have any corresponding plugin.

So I've spent the last 2 days meticulously finding each hyperlink and updating it to the proper format. Not fun. Necessary, but not fun. I'll be done soon enough...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Moving to Blogger

Seven years after my entree to blogging (courtesy of a pre-Google Blogger), I'm coming back to where it all began. Stay tuned - migration of the blog from here (WordPress) to here (Blogger) will wrap up by early next week.