GeoCities, R.I.P.

Today was the day GeoCities was killed off, finally, by Yahoo. Some would call it a mercy killing; Yahoo closed it to new registrations some time ago, and a lot of what was on there looked like it was permanently stuck in 1998. Of course, in 1998, GeoCities seemed pretty impressive to a lot of people who were able for the first time to put up a web page of their very own. It's easy to forget that there was a time before GoDaddy, when domains cost a lot more than $7.99 a year, and Blogger and WordPress were still in the future. I was one of those who had a GeoCities page, around 1996 or so. Back then, GeoCities was organized around "neighborhoods" named after cities (hence the name) and each page was assigned a sort of street number. For example, mine was something like (the exact number eludes me). Editing the page was done in a text box, much like the one in Gmail in which I am writing this post, and because I was doing it not from a computer but from a WebTV box, I taught myself HTML and hand-coded all of it.

Eventually I moved on, first to GeoCities' competitor Angelfire, and much later to actual blogging platforms. My Angelfire site was shut down years ago, but is still visible here (at least the first page) thanks to the Internet Archive. Looking back, it's astonishing to think of how much work was involved in just trying to put together a simple web page back then. Whereas on GeoCities and Angelfire I was using stock images and laboriously hand-coding the HTML, today I'm taking photos on my cell phone and emailing them to Posterous, which knows what to do with them and makes everything look nice and neat. Amazing how ten years of technology can improve things.

And, of course, ten years from now Posterous and WordPress will look just as antiquated. Ah, progress…

A word about this blog

I've noticed from Google Analytics that I'm getting some visitors who are referred to this blog by a couple of Orthodox blogs at which I've left comments. I suspect that my total lack of blogging about Orthodoxy may come as a surprise to these folks, and so it seems appropriate to make a brief comment. I'm Orthodox, but I don't blog about Orthodoxy because I don't feel qualified to do so--and there are more than enough converts doing "Ortho-blogging" already. I know enough about the Orthodox Church to know that I'm really not very good at being Orthodox, and anything I say would be suspect. So I keep my mouth shut on that topic and let others, all of whom are more capable and qualified than I, take care of that part of the blogosphere.

If you really want some good Orthodox blog reading, go read Father Stephen Freeman (Glory to God for All Things), Father Joseph Huneycutt (Orthodixie), or Steven Robinson (the Our Life In Christ podcast and Pithless Thoughts ). They'd protest that they're no authorities either, but I respectfully disagree. They'll serve you well (and sometimes give you a good laugh along the way).

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming…

Technical background and current setup

I first learned about computers on a Radio ShackTRS-80 Model I. From there, I moved to a TRS-80 Model III with the astonishing memory capacity of 64K (no hard drive) and a green screen. I then forgot all about computers for a while…

Fast forward to 1998. I got back into computing with a PC running Windows 98 (oh my God, the pain), using a Cyrix chip, running at 233 MHz. I quickly learned that the more alternatives to Microsoft products I could use, the better off I was. Netscape Navigator, anyone?

When I got married my wife had just gotten rid of a Twentieth Anniversary Mac and purchased an iMac, Blue Dalmatian variety, with 64 MB of memory and a 20 GB hard drive, running OS 9. I quickly adapted to the Mac platform, and never looked back. I purchased a 12-inch iBook (late 2001) with a 30 GB hard drive and a G3 processor. Later, I partitioned the drive and set up a triple-boot system with OS 9, OS X, and Yellow Dog Linux 2.3. I wrote my senior thesis at UC Santa Barbara running Linux on it, writing in 1.0. Later we added to the family computer collection with a 14-inch G3 iBook, 40 GB drive, for my wife.

Currently, my primary computer at home is a 2008 MacBook Prorunning OS X Leopard with a 2.4-GHz Intel chip, 2 GB of RAM and a 200 GB hard drive. I have replaced the Finder for most purposes with Path Finder. I write using NeoOffice, a Mac port of the platform, and follow RSS feeds using Google Reader. My primary browser is Firefox, with numerous extensions; I also use Safari and Chrome. For several years, I ran my own-domain email using FastMail, but after a particularly egregious outage I switched to Tuffmail. Finally, I began switching my email over to Google Apps, and have achieved a measure of email nirvana.

My primary desktop computer is an Intel-based 20-inch iMac, 2.16-GHz Core 2 Duo chip, 250 GB hard drive and 2 GB of RAM, running the latest version of OS X Tiger (and soon to be upgraded to Snow Leopard). I use an Apple Wireless Keyboard, but I replaced the Apple Wireless Mighty Mouse with a Kensington Ci60 Optical Wireless Mouse (Apple makes great computers and lousy mice. Or mouses. Whatever.).

Other Devices I Use

iPod Mini, 2nd generation, blue, 6 GB version. Purchased refurbished from the Apple Store, and continues to work flawlessly.

Cowon iAudio X5L. An iPod alternative that doesn’t do Digital Rights Management (hurrah!), plays Ogg Vorbis files and is managed via a simple drag-and-drop interface. All this plus video capability, a built-in FM radio, and it’s usable as a USB mass storage device to boot. And then there’s the 35-hour battery life, which helps to make up for the fact that it looks like an East German MP3 player would have looked circa 1982, had such a thing existed then.:-)

LG Voyager (aka LG VX10000). Not really a smartphone, but a multimedia phone with external touch screen and full QWERTY keyboard when you open the flip (great for SMS and Twittering). At the time I bought it, this was as good as it got from Verizon without going to a BlackBerry and an expensive data plan.(This will likely change next month when Verizon releases the Motorola Droid with Android 2.0!) I'm currently using it as a conduit for Google Voice, a service about which I cannot say enough good things.

Amazon Kindle (Version 1). While it’s not perfect, I think the Kindle is the best e-book reader so far. Here’s why: unlimited free internet connectivity, paid for by Amazon . Once you’ve downloaded a book while sitting in an airport departure lounge, or read your Google Reader feeds on it, you’ll understand. Amazing.

Work computer: Dell Optiplex SX270, running Windows XP SP2, with 20-inch Dell LCD monitor, Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000, and Microsoft optical mouse. A functional little box that the company bought--and, thankfully, maintains and secures. I wouldn't want the headache.

Podcasts worth listening to

One of the nicer side effects of having a job that requires you to be in front of a computer for hours at a time is that it gives you time to listen to a variety of podcasts. The mainstays of my listening day are the podcasts that Leo Laporte puts out on the TWiT network, but they're not the only ones in regular rotation on my iPod. The morning show done by Bill Handel on KFIis another I enjoy immensely, but for an international perspective there are a few you might not have heard of that are definitely worth listening to.

Some of the best are put out by the ABC. That's ABC as in Australian Broadcasting Corporation, who "got it" fairly early and began to make numerous radio shows available for download as podcasts. One, Late Night Live , is a serious yet light-hearted interview show hosted by Phillip Adams, who has been described as an Australian national treasure, and for good reason. He's the ex-Communist son of a Protestant minister, who made a fortune in advertising and now lives on a working cattle property in New South Wales where he collects Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities. Back in the 1990s he was made an officer of the Order of Australia. If you don't find him and his program interesting, there's probably something wrong with you.

For equally fascinating conversation, I also like Conversations, hosted by the Australian comedian and broadcast personality Richard Fidler. Based in Brisbane, it's broadcast not on the ABC's national network but by ABC Local Radio, although for our purposes which terrestrial network it's carried by is irrelevant. Fidler is one of the best and most versatile interviewers I've ever listened to, and his program plays host to an incredibly diverse array of guests from all walks of life, Australian and otherwise. I can't recommend it highly enough; if American radio was anything like this, our country would be far better served (and vastly more entertained).

Finally, going from Australia to Europe, there's The Phileas Club, hosted by Frenchman Patrick Beja. The Phileas Club is a roundtable discussion conducted via Skype with participants from around the world, giving their perspective on the day's news and current affairs. There is occasionally a special episode devoted to a single topic; as of this writing, the current episode is devoted to the issue of healthcare, as discussed by guests from the U.S., Canada, Sweden, and Argentina. It's the kind of rational, polite and informative discussion that has largely disappeared from American airwaves, and Patrick does a great job of moderating the conversation and keeping it largely on track.

So there you have it--three shows, all intelligent, thoughtful and entertaining. If you're a Glenn Beck fan you probably won't like them, but for everyone else, I think you'll find them a breath of fresh air.

The Obama Vitality Rag

This is my favorite commemoration of the election of Barack Obama.

Now that's service

I was having a problem emailing photos from my phone to my Posterous
account, so I sent an email to the support guys. An hour later, I got
an email back from one of Posterous' founders saying he'd fixed it. On
a Sunday night, yet. Hard to argue with service like that…

Trying something new yet again

I've been fairly happy blogging with Tumblr for a while now. It's been nice having a platform that allows me to just, you know, blog without worrying too much about the details. I particularly like that it can handle anything I throw at it without much difficulty, whether that be text, photos, or audio. Nice. Lately, though, it's started to feel kind of fragmented. Tumblr was never designed for regular blogging, and some of its deficiencies are starting to show.

Comments, for example, aren't supported natively in Tumblr, but they make it easy to add Disqus commenting. All well and good, but it feels like the add-on that it is. Then there are the themes, none of which I am overly excited about. My recent re-theming improved some things (to my eye, anyway) but also left me feeling somewhat dissatisfied with others. I could put on my hip boots and wade into the HTML to tinker with it, but frankly I'm not that interested anymore in hand-coding something just to tweak it. Been there, done that.

Then I remembered I had a Posterous account not doing much.Andy Ihnatko wrote a nice review of the service a couple months back, and is continuing to use it as a conduit to his main blog. Others I respect, like Jason Calacanis and Leo Laporte, are also making use of it. If it's good enough for tech luminaries like them, it ought to be good enough for me, so I thought I'd give it a serious go.

As of now, I've disabled all my various forwarding services like and Twitterfeed, and I've turned off most of the feeds being imported into my Friendfeed (a service that appears to be dying anyway). I took the code out of my main blog that activates the Disqus commenting, and the comments link in posts on will now take readers to the equivalent post on my Posterous blog. I'm thinking that if I like how everything works, I may move the domain over to Posterous and use it as my main blog. (Edit: Well, *that didn't take long…)*

I like that I can create a new post simply by emailing (this post is being written in Gmail), and that it also will serve as a conduit to whatever other services I specify, thus unifying my web presence more than has been the case. There's a small fly in the ointment as regards emailing photos from my phone (thanks for nothing, Verizon) but I'm awaiting an email from the Posterous support guys saying they've authorized my phone's email address, which will remove the only real problem I have with the service right now.(Edit: Fixed, while I was writing this post, by one of the Posterous founders. On a Sunday night, yet. Wow.) So anyway, that's what's going on with the blog. Let me know what you think.

A sad state of affairs

Although I've been following the health-care debate from a distance, I haven't been blogging much lately, mostly because what's going on in American politics is too depressing to contemplate. While I very often disagree with conservative columnist Rod Dreher, I'd like to pass along something he posted on his blog today:

I thought not long ago that I was fairly passionate about politics and public affairs, but now I find I'm less and less engaged, because so many of those who are engaged strike me as low and dishonest, and above all, too damn loud. I have heard, and hear almost every day, from folks on the right who seem to really believe that the Constitution and the Republic are hanging by a thread, and that these are not times for timid compromise, but to fight like berserkers until Obama is defeated — or we lose the nation. I think this is bizarre, untrue, and bad for the country. But it is what it is, and we are where we are. My liberal friend and I agreed that following politics is no fun these days, that neither of us could muster the kind of hate for the Other necessary to hold one's own in the public square today…

…I think this is why I get so wound up about Glenn Beck. Here we have the economy teetering on the brink of disaster, we have a losing war in Afghanistan, we have Iran doing its best to get nuclear weapons, but that jackass wants people to think the greatest threat to the Republic comes from minor officials in the Obama administration. And conservatives who ought to know better than to fall for this penny-ante crap go along with it because it works to make life difficult for the president, because they can… Do they not understand what they're doing here, what they're legitimating? Do they really think that the next Republican president is only going to be able to find saints to staff his administration? Do they really believe that the left is going to be discerning about its targets? What they're doing is making it impossible for normal people to serve in public office, or in a public appointment.

How sadly, horribly true. Read the whole thing.

And now, for something completely different

Oook ook oop OOK ook ook I'm starting to suspect that they only give us the bananas that don't pass quality-control for supermarket sale. ookookook Hey, cool…a tire on a heavy chain, suspended from a thick iron pipe, over a barren concrete floor. Just like I used to have back in the jungle, the place from which you stole me when I was an infant after you shot my mother. Thanks. Thanks ever so ****ING much. (Jerks.)…Man, I really, really want to try on the cowboy hat that fell into the enclosure. But if I put it on, the video is probably going to be all over the Internet and then the keepers will make me wear it all the time. Surrrre. Go ahead. Keep rapping on the glass and making stupid faces, mister. One day I'm going to smash out of here and ram this tire so far up your ass that every time you smile it'll say “Goodyear.” You know, if you'd started off by teaching me the sign language for “Shut up and leave me the hell alone” we could have ended this research project three years ago.

This is just a small part of the brilliantly warped Andy Ihnatko's blog post today.1 Don't just sit there, go read the whole thing (all the way to the end, where you'll find out what it's all about). And follow him on Twitter while you're at it. *If you don't know who Father Coughlin was, read all about him here.

  1. No longer available, sadly, due to Posterous being gone, but I'm leaving the post up anyway.

Father Coughlin lives

Rush Limbaugh on this morning's program:

Hey, look, folks, the white kid on that bus in Belleville, Illinois, he deserved to be beat up. You don't know about this story? Oh, there's video of this. The school bus filled with mostly black students beat up a white student a couple of times with all the black students cheering. Of course the white student on the bus deserved the beating. He was born a racist. That's what Newsweek magazine told us in its most recent cover. It's Obama's America, is it not? Obama's America, white kids getting beat up on school buses now. You put your kids on a school bus, you expect safety but in Obama's America the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering, “Yay, right on, right on, right on, right on,” and, of course, everybody says the white kid deserved it, he was born a racist, he's white.

I see two possibilities here:

  1. Rush does not realize what demons he's conjuring up, in which case he's an idiot;
  2. Rush does realize what he's doing, doesn't care, and is using it as fodder for ratings, in which case he's evil.

In neither case does he cover himself with glory.

*If you don't know who Father Coughlin was, read all about him here.