December 27, 2005

Busticated blog

I've been having problems with the old blog. Still not sure what the problem is. Comments are disabled for the moment while I investigate and slog toward a solution.

In the mean time, be sure to click on the flickr pictures in the sidebar to see my new nephew!

Posted by jeffy at 11:47 PM | Comments (0)

August 24, 2005

New look

If you read this on the site, you'll notice there's a new look. If you're reading the feed, pop over and take a peek.

Since day one, Mad Times hasn't displayed properly in Internet Explorer. Every other browser I've ever tried has been able to display it as I intended, but IE wouldn't. I tried various CSS/HTML incantations to fix it a long time ago and none of it preserved the successful rendering in every other browser on the planet while fixing the problem with IE so I just left it alone. Then last week I took a look at Joel Spolsky's spec for his Project Aardvark where he said "We will use CSS for formatting but not positioning since CSS positioning is too buggy on modern browsers: we’ll just use tables for most positioning." And the scales fell from my eyes. Three lines of html (and half a dozen removed lines of CSS) later, the page renders identically on Firefox and IE.

Since I was tweaking the templates anyway I slapped in the new banner I'd been playing with and a few other little things. I decided not to go to the single-column format I'd tried out previously after some beta readers said they missed the sidebar and would be unlikely to look at another page for it.

Anyhoo, let me know what you think. And definitely let me know if you notice anything not working quite right.

BTW, the background image in the banner is a detail from a painting by Becky Brooks (my lovely and talented wife).

Posted by jeffy at 07:08 PM | Comments (0)

March 26, 2005


Nobody cares but me, but I did a little bit of category cleaning on the blog here today. It was just bugging me having categories with one or four entries so I absorbed all those tiny ones into the new "Personal Interest" which also includes the old "Trivialities" which wasn't very descriptive. If category assignement was less cumbersome in Moveable Type, I might let them proliferate wildly like my tags (246 and counting).

In other blog news, I'm going to shut down comments from Sunday night until 4/1. We'll be out of town and I'm seriously considering not taking any computers with us so I wouldn't be able to do my daily comment spam cleanup (134 last night alone).

Finally, I see that back in August I was threatening to install a new layout here at Mad Times, and clearly that hasn't happened. There's still a lot of polishing to do on the new templates. However the main index one is basically usable, and might be of interest to any of you using the dreaded Internet Explorer to view this site since it does fix the horizontal scrollbar bug that's been on this blog since day one. (IE renders the page so that the content portion is the width of the full window so when you add on the navigation pane at the left, part of the content is chopped off on the right and you have to scroll right to see everything. No other browser interprets my page this way.) Anyway, if you're interested, take a look at the new layout and let me know what you think by email or by commenting on this post.

Posted by jeffy at 01:40 PM | Comments (3)

November 21, 2004

MT-Blacklist is my friend

I installed MT-Blacklist on my Moveable Type system (the software that generates this blog) about a month ago. It's a plugin that checks new comments for hyperlinks that match undesirable patterns. If a hyperlink matches one of the patterns, the comment is refused. Not only that, when I get email that a comment has made it past the gates of MT-Blacklist, it provides a link which, if the comment looks like yet more new sneaky stinky spam, I can click to bring up a window that allows me to delete the comment, rebuild the affected pages, and add the links from the comment to the blacklist. To make it perform this action, I click a button labelled "Go forth now and do my bidding." After it's done doing my bidding it has a further link that will search all my comments for ones containing the newly added patterns. One more click and those are all gone too. That's four clicks to obliterate an entire comment spam attack. To deal with these without MT-Blacklist would take at least twice as many clicks for each individual comment.

Since I installed it less than 30 days ago, it has blocked over 1,300 spam comments.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go send some money to Jay Allen, the guy who not only wrote this brilliant countermeasure, but who gives it away to anyone who wants it, free.

Posted by jeffy at 08:50 PM | Comments (1)

October 01, 2004


I've never really liked the built-in bookmark facilities in any of the browsers I've used over the years. Hierarchies just aren't very good for classifying things.

I started using another Moveable Type blog as a bookmark system. I called it Mad Hammer since my abuse of the weblog tool as a bookmark tool reminded me of the adage "When all you have is a hammer everything starts looking like a nail" and since I liked the pun on Mad Hatter. I had planned to give it a title picture showing a hammer with a tag on it saying "In this style 10/6" to complete the reference. (which reminds me that Mad Hatter Day is coming up next week). It was convenient since the bookmarklet I already use to blog a site could be used to bookmark a site, and because the bookmarks entered into it were available from any computer anywhere (in particular the three different machines I use regularly). But the category support in MT was clumsy enough that I never got around to adding all the categories I really wanted, and the support for having multiple categories on a single entry is prohibitively complex.

Anyway, I finally saw enough people using that I went and tried it out, and I think I've found my bookmark solution at least for now. The bookmarklet lets you assign any number of tags to each entry just by listing the words. You can include a comment about the link. It's easy to edit stuff once it's in there, and search it too. It's web-based so it's visible from whatever computer I'm on. Plus you can see other people's bookmarks too, including easily seeing who else has bookmarked a particular site. It's really pretty spiffy. Best of all, nobody had snagged the handle "jeffy" yet. I've added a link to my area in the link section of my main index template if you want to check up on my bookmarking activity.

Posted by jeffy at 10:44 PM | Comments (0)

August 07, 2004

Not quite dead

I'm just putting a post here since everything else has expired off the front page.

I've got a backlog of 7 or 8 book reviews and at least a dozen movie reviews.

Plus I've been spending a little bit of time playing with the HTML and CSS of this page so look for a new look one of these days.

I've been distracted by a number of things including a series of family visits (Nieces everywhere!), work, and some political action.

And WEBoggle (now with 5x5 boards too!)

I've been reading a lot of blogs lately. I tried out a couple of aggregators (most notably the IMAP-based BlogStreet (thanks, Jeff!)), but enough of the places I really enjoy reading don't have RSS feeds that I still had to do some of the click-and-check browsing that I decided to just stick with ye old link list.

Posted by jeffy at 02:52 PM | Comments (0)

January 02, 2004

Catching up...

I've got almost all of my review backlog written and I'll be webifying them over the next couple days (or weeks, depending ;-) All this stuff was seen or read in 2003...

Posted by jeffy at 05:00 PM | Comments (0)

December 16, 2003


This is getting ridiculous.

My apologies to anyone who's been popping in here expecting some actual content! (probably just Dan and my mother ;-)

I have lots of excuses.

  1. I used to do a lot of blogging at work, but I've been trying to actually work at work, so there went 6-8 hours a day of blogging time (of course, I'm at work now...)
  2. I started taking piano lessons last month from my sister-in-law Rachel so I've lost another 30-60 minutes a day to practicing (I don't begrudge that time unlike #1)
  3. ...I can't think of any other excuses that don't sound lame.

I've read some good books and seen some good movies recently. I want to review them and I will. Real Soon Now.

Posted by jeffy at 05:46 PM | Comments (0)

November 20, 2003


I'm behind on my blogging.

I have 3 book reviews to write:

  • repeat reading of A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge
  • Illegal Alien by Robert Sawyer
  • Moonheart by Charles de Lint

I have 7 movie reviews to do.

  • Lost In Translation
  • Door To Door
  • Laurel Canyon
  • The Matrix: Revolutions
  • Love Actually
  • A Mighty Wind
  • What A Girl Wants

I have half a dozen low-rez pictures I'd like to get up (more flooding, rose hips, deer, autumn leaves)

I have a couple more substantive posts in progress.

This doesn't count my round-the-house todo list or my work todo list or my friends of the library todo list.

I'll try to catch up, but instead I may give up. At least with this post here you'll know what you're missing.

Posted by jeffy at 03:42 PM | Comments (3)

October 12, 2003

Back to normal programming

Well, that was the last of the notes from the trip. I'm working on a final summing-up post which will hopefully include a map of our ramblings, but it won't be back-dated like the rest have been.

It kind of boggles my mind that I wrote over 13,000 words about the trip. I have a hard time imagining that it could be very interesting reading to anyone but Beck and me and our closest friends. It was fun doing it, though, and it's helping me keep the trip straight in my head.

Anyway, stay tuned for the usual reviews, rants, and ramblings.

Posted by jeffy at 10:25 AM | Comments (0)

September 22, 2003

On the road

We're leaving tomorrow morning for a couple of weeks in New England. Flying into Pittsburgh and driving North and East from there. No solid must-see plans except for Lake Ontario and a scheduled stop in Portsmouth, NH.

If you have suggestions, fire an email or leave a comment. We'll be sticking mostly with the little roads and small towns.

I'll try to post an entry or two from the road.

Posted by jeffy at 01:50 PM | Comments (0)

August 20, 2003

Why blog?

A friend (Hi Mike!) asked me yesterday "What made you decide to start a blog of your own? That's a lot of work!"

I told him the reason that first came to mind, which was the fact that blogging saves me from having to email the interesting things I might run across to all the people who I think might be interested (and saves them from having to read my spam if they don't want to). They get to come see my useless links when and if they feel like it. This suits my inclination to never bug people if I can help it.

There are a couple of other reasons that weren't on the tip of my brain when Mike asked.

I'd be doing a lot of this writing anyway. I'd been writing book reviews for years before I switched to the blogging software for the purpose. Adding movies is really a pretty small extra effort since Becky and I always talk about the movies we watch and had often joked about taping and transcribing those conversations. In my reviews you get my side of the conversation plus all the insights of Becky's that I agreed with ;-)

A blog entry can be a bookmark on steroids. Like the digicam post just before this one. I don't hold any illusions that anybody but me will ever find that useful, but for me it's going to save me all kinds of time because the synthesis has been recorded. When I get it into my head to think about getting a camera in six months, I'll be able to start there and see what's new rather than having to relearn the lessons that I learned today.

Finally, the blog lets me vent my tendency to pedantic didacticism.

Posted by jeffy at 07:45 PM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2003


One of the disadvantages of my practice of trying to enter my book and movie reviews on the days that I finish the book or watch the movie is that I feel like I have to hold off anything that happens after any reviews I haven't gotten around to writing yet so that my readers won't miss anything if they go back until they see something they've seen before each time they visit. (reading that over, I realize that that is one messed up sentence, but I can't bring myself to rework it to actually make sense because I'm not sure that's possible.) The problem is that this forces me to get further and further behind, especially when I see or read something that I want to think about a bit before reviewing.

This evening I've been clearing out the backlog, and in the process noticed a couple of movies that fell through the cracks, so if you're a completist, you'll have to pop back in time and see the review I forgot to write until tonight of Moonlight Mile in addition to scanning back over the stuff that has appeared since the last time you were here.

Of course since I only have about 5 regular readers, this isn't quite the catastrophe I'm making out ;-)

Anyway, as of now I'm all caught up for the first time in a long while.

Posted by jeffy at 02:45 AM | Comments (2)

June 15, 2003


This is so embarassing! Our home pc, got infected with a virus. Actually it's a worm, but whatever. It's called W32.Bugbear.B@mm.

It seems to have forwarded an old email of mine to a bunch of places yesterday afternoon with itself attached. :-(

So if you got an email from me on Saturday with a subject of "sites to check out" and an attachment called "bfc_application_1.pdf.scr", don't open it! (This is the one I know about, but it's possible it had sent other stuff. I haven't sent anyone an email with an attachment intentionally, so check with me if you got a strange email. Same goes for mail from Becky.)

If it's already too late, the thing is easy to kill. There's a little application to remove it at Symantec's site here.

The symptoms we were seeing were that Norton Anti-virus would disappear when we ran it. It also kept our system from shutting down completely. It'd stop with just a blinking white cursor on a black screen.

This is the first time we've had a virus infection in all the years we've been messing about with computers. I know just how I got infected, and I'm not going to tell you because it's just too embarassingly stupid.

Posted by jeffy at 08:32 PM | Comments (0)

May 24, 2003

Catching Up

Whew! If you visited recently and wondered why there was nothing new, you'll probably do a double take today when I suddenly posted a bunch of stuff all the way back to a week ago. I got behind writing reviews.

Plus I wrote up a thing over in my homepage about a woodworking project I recently finished: an upholstered footstool for Becky.

Think I'll go read a book now!

Posted by jeffy at 07:26 PM | Comments (1)

April 13, 2003


I finally got around to writing book reviews for a couple of things I completed quite a while ago. I'm sticking with the practice of putting the review on the day I finished the book rather than when the review was written, so I'll stick a pointer in here when things happen far out of sequence for any of my readers who might just scan back until they see entries they've seen.

Akira by Katushiro Otomo

Feed by M. T. Anderson

Or just view All the book reviews

Posted by jeffy at 10:04 PM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2003

About my title

When I decided to start a web log, I sought about for a suitable name. I keep small quotations that appeal to me as memos in my Palm. One was from Wendell Berry's poem "The Mad Farmer Manifesto: First Amendment" and seemed to fit what I envisioned as the probable content of my blog:

To be sane in a mad time
is bad for the brain, worse
for the heart.

The full text of the poem doesn't seem to have found its way to the web yet. But the poem to which it is a sequel is. "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front" is a wonderful denunciation of the more dreadful aspects of modern life. It starts off:

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

Read the rest...
Posted by jeffy at 01:13 PM | Comments (0)