I've finally had the time to get to work on updating templates. You'll find that the daily and monthly archives are now in the new layout. There are still a few pages that use the old layout, but their number is dwindling, so hopefully you'll not see too many of those in the future.

Also, you may notice that I've removed the monthly archives from the sidebar. This does not mean that the archives have gone away - they haven't, and can still be accessed by "backing up" in your URL. For instance, say you are viewing The Angler Fish. The URL to this page contains 2003/07/21.

By deleting the end of the URL (for instance, removing the_angler_fish.html), that date is at the end of your URL, and you will see a page containing all the posts on that day. By further backing up through that URL, and removing the 21, you are taken instead to a monthly summary page. At some point in the future, you'll be able to get rid of the month and see a yearly summary as well, but that's still in progress, so your results may vary.

 http://.../2003/07/21/the_angler_fish.html
 http://.../2003/07/21/ (entries for July 21, 2003)
 http://.../2003/07/ (entries for July 2003)
 http://.../2003/  (entries for 2003)

I've also stopped generating the RSS feeds for individual months. My apologies if you subscribed to these, but I don't think that many people do, based on my review of the logs. I finally decided that these feeds just don't make a lot of sense. The purpose of the feeds is to provide a snapshot of recent activity, and maintaining static versions of months past didn't seem to fit that purpose.

Full-site and category feeds are still available.

You may also notice that I've been working on the online documentation for my Movable Type plugins. It's a painstaking process (and one at which I don't particularly excel), but I'm trying to get there. Please bear with me. One day soon they should all be finished.

First, a little art. Jason Griffey pointed the way to Mr. Picassohead, a flash implementation of monumental proportions. This thing is great. There is even a gallery where you can see the creations of others. And the best part? You might get to see a representation of me!

The last week has been a bit hectic. Naturally, a lot of that is because of the time of year. Trying to get everything to come together with the house, and make sure plans are straightened out with the visiting relatives, and make some attempt at keeping everyone healthy, it's not easy.

But last week, my grandmother (on my father's side) passed away. Since then, I've had a birthday dinner, one of our two children has been sick on and off with the flu, Denise's dad has also struggled with the flu, and I have flown out of town and back for the funeral. I'm sure there are other things, but it makes for a busy week.

In any case, to the point: Because I had to fly, it means I had to endure that most annoying of rituals, airport security. Until the last few months, I actually flew quite a bit, so this process isn't unfamiliar to me. What I fail to grasp is that every time I travel, it just gets more ridiculous.

While the security line has always been slow, now you have to take off your outer jacket, remove your shoes, your belt, anything in your pockets that might set off the detector (change and such), take your computer out of your bag, stand in the line, then put all this stuff back together on the other side.

Now to be fair, I understand that I don't have to do all of these things. Really I do. But by taking these actions, I generally make sure that I don't have to go through the even lengthier process of manual inspection while my belongings sit on the end of the conveyor, easy pickings for whoever might want them.

What really gets me is that I just don't feel any safer now than I did before. If anything, I feel less safe because the people now getting paid to do the job are doing it by a checklist. Does the bag contain a nail file? Is the person wearing heavy shoes that may conceal something dangerous? Is this the fifth person in line, who is enough different from the prior person we stopped so that we won't be accused of profiling?

This doesn't make me feel better. The fine folks at the TSA generally seem interested in doing their jobs. And they are often friendly in the process. But while they are busy removing every nail file and corkscrew from each passenger, hundreds and thousands of keys and pens and pencils pass through the checkpoint.

I'm not saying that those things should be removed - but I am saying that if someone wants to threaten someone on a plane, it doesn't matter how many things you take out of the bag. There will always be something else that can be used as a weapon. Even a spork could be a weapon if the person is determined enough.

People are funny. Recently, my blog had been receiving some unwanted attention. Normally I'd just delete the offending comments and move on, but these visitors were certainly persistent. Unfortunately, they made the mistake of leaving their IP address in the logs and in their comments. For those of you who don't know, Movable Type logs the IP address of commenters. Generally I don't even look at them. But when I get a number of comments that are written very much alike, but change only names and such, I tend to take a peek.

The second mistake made was that the comments in question weren't just disagreeing or derogatory - they contained language that's certainly not appropriate for the entry that they were left on (The Angler Fish). While much of the content of the site could handle a little risque language, that one most certainly cannot, as it attracts a number of family viewers. That just made me mad.

So I added the IP address to the MT block list. I used a reverse DNS service to look up the owners of the address. I checked out the web site, and found it it belongs to a Catholic school district. I called the school district and left information for the technical director-type person. I culled access information out of my access log, and I made sure to save the messages announcing the comments. Unfortunately, I never heard back. I guess they don't care what happens through their network.

It's simple, really. I put a lot of time into this site. Most of it is for myself, and it doesn't matter much what others think of it. But because I spend time, and because I also spend money to pursue this endeavor, it means I don't want people to come along and post whatever they like on the site. You have an opinion, and want to express that opinion rationally? You're welcome, even if the opinion doesn't agree with mine. But if all you want to do is spread garbage, I'll do everything in my power to stop you. Unless you'd like to pay the bills around here.

Because of some difficulties with the distribution package, I've updated the version of MT-Notifier to 1.3.0 to indicate a "clean" distribution. In order to minimize confusion, though I might actually create more, I've also noted version 1.3.0 as the version that adds support for the conversion of ScriptyGoddess subscriptions.

A few weeks ago, I noticed a recipe for Tator Tot Hotdish on Jason Kottke's blog. In desperate need of something to take to the annual Thanksgiving lunch spread at work, I whipped it up.

When I say I was in desperate need of something, that is the honest truth. I signed up for something, because I had no clue what I was going to take. Luckily, the hotdish covered most bases - soup, potatoes, vegetables and meat, all in one dish. Sweet.

The results? The hotdish received an excellent reception from all who tried it. Easy to make, easy to transport, easy to eat, and easy to clean. What a concept. I think I'll have to add this to my repertoire and look for more recipes on blogs...

Thanks to another fine entry from Mark Pilgrim, I now have a feed available based on the Atom 0.3 specification.

I made a few changes to the template supplied by Mark.

In Germany, a computer expert recently recruited, ate and killed someone he had found on the Internet. Once dead, Mr. Meiwes then ate some more. Apparently the "victim" in this story participated in the process by eating part of his own body. Prior to his death, naturally, and of course he didn't participate in any further self-consumption after that point.

I'm left wondering about this case, because I can't seem to see the crime. Now please don't get me wrong. I'm not particular interested in eating anyone, whether that person joins me or not. But if the "victim" in this case agreed, if they expressed their support by eating their own flesh, why is it that Mr. Meiwes would be guilty?

According to the article linked above, Mr. Meiwes will likely be tried under a "sexual satisfaction" law, as cannibalism isn't technically illegal. Were he in the United States, I'd suspect Mr. Meiwes would be guilty of some form of assisted euthanasia, and I don't understand why the government won't allow that either.

What is a "sexual satisfaction" law, anyway? Are you not allowed to get satisfaction from sex while in Germany? Or is it only illegal if the satisfaction comes from consuming another person's genitalia, so that if the two had dined on pinky fingers, it would have been okay? Perhaps it's only a problem if this happens in the process of the sex act, in which case I wonder again why the government of any country thinks that they should be able to dictate normalcy within a relationship between two consenting adults.

Even if one of them isn't around anymore because of the actions.

"Some local providers have run out of flu vaccine or have limited supplies. To receive a flu shot, call your doctor or local health department to see if they have vaccine remaining."

Where would you find this piece of wisdom? On the Internet, of course, in an article entitled Where to Go for Shot. Let's just say that I think I could have figured this one out myself.

I'm not talking about the ice cream. I'm talking about my site. I've been having difficulties with my current hosting provider, who shall remain nameless for the moment. It seems that they don't want to respond to me in any way, shape or form. In fact, on at least one occasion, they felt so strongly that they didn't want to talk to me, they hung up on me.

So I'm in the process of transferring my domain elsewhere, to see if I can correct some name server problems. Once I get that worked out, and have at least a modicum of control over my domain, I'll likely move the site to another host as well. During this time, there might be some outages where the site is unavailable. I'm going to do my best to minimize any downtime, but it's a bit out of my control, so you might see the site one minute and it may disappear the next.

Please have faith and keep trying - if the site goes down, I'll get it back up again - but it might take me a while until I straighten out this hosting mess that I'm in right now. I'll be sure and let you know the details so you can try to avoid just such a problem yourself. I just don't want to endanger whatever service I do have by drawing negative attention to the host.

The other day, Denise and I went to pick up a package that had some postage due. No worries, I figured we'd jump into the car, breeze through the line at the post office and be done in no time. No such luck.

First, we had to find the place. Apparently the package isn't saved at the regular post office (the one with the pretty interior and heat), but at the carrier annex. We found this by looking at the address as we neared the post office and realizing we were in the wrong place. After finally finding the annex, which is not advertised, and is hidden at the back of a truck rental building, we had to figure out how to get inside.

While there was a sign outside proclaiming "carrier annex", there was no clue how to get in. Simply a large overhead warehouse door that opened onto a cavernous garage for a number of delivery trucks. No "this way" or "over here" signs to be found. Little light. No heat. All in all, not a friendly place.

After poking around for a few minutes, we found the service desk in the middle of this facility, and also two other hapless souls like ourselves who were trying to figure out how to get their packages. You see, the little button for the ringer, noticeable because of two very large "ring button for service" signs hadn't done a thing - and they had been there for ten minutes or more.

So we start banging on the door, on the roll-up window barrier, everywhere. A few minutes later, someone comes to open the window and acts surprised - "Why didn't you let someone know you were here?" he asks. Geez.

We wait patiently for the people in front of us to finish their transactions, hand the clerk our piece of paper and wait. And wait. And wait. About five minutes after he first received the slip, he comes back with the package and tells us we owe postage. Yup. So I hand him a credit card, and he looks at it like it's from another world. Apparently they don't take credit cards. Would have been nice if someone mentioned that.

Once we get back from the ATM, we find the window sealed again, and quickly rap loudly on the roll-up door to get service. The same gentleman comes quickly this time, recognizes us, and proceeds to take another five minutes to get the package again. I hand him money, including some coins so that I don't end up with even more pocket change, and it takes him another five minutes to make change.

Then he gets back, tries to hand me a mess of $1 bills and some quarters, all the while I'm trying to take the two bills I need out of his hands and be done with it. For another three minutes he tries to get me to take this conglomeration of small change (which is incorrect, I might add) and I try valiantly to get the correct change. Finally I get the two bills I need, put up with more berating because I didn't take it the way he wanted, and get the heck out of there.

What the heck happened to customer service? I'm not talking kiss-your-feet, the-customer-is-always-right kind of service. I'm just talking about some common courtesy. Why is it so difficult to be a customer these days? It's like you're inconveniencing these people, and they're the ones who choose to work where they do.

I've just released an updated version of MT-Notifier. Most of the changes are behind-the-scenes, and you won't see much different about the operation. However, there are a couple of new features, notably an enhanced ability to specify the "from" address on your outgoing notifications.