Pagination Using Smarty

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m now using Smarty to provide pagination in my category archives. The code is inserted directly into the template, and (apparently) when it rebuilds the template it parses that code prior to rendering the page. It’s actually quite impressive. Thanks again to Brad, not only for giving me some sample code with which to play, but for showing me it is possible in the first place – I had no idea!

Continue reading “Pagination Using Smarty”

Social Security Reform

With all the recent talk about reforming Social Security, it is only natural that the plans of three Texas counties will come into the spotlight. I’ve talked about them before. Over a year ago. Guess that makes me a progressive thinker or something. Regardless, this article has some good points when looking at those plans as a model.

First and foremost, if you withdraw money, you will have less when you retire. Does anyone really need to be told this basic fact? One retiree on one of these plans currently receives far less from the local plan than she would have if she was in Social Security. But that’s because she took some money out of the plan while she was still working. Apparently the plan no longer allows withdrawals.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Social Security is designed as a safety net. It’s not designed to handle any and every bill you encounter as a retiree, and pay for you to continue life in the way to which you’ve grown accustomed. If you want to do that, try saving some money on your own to supplement Social Security.

The word is security, folks. That means that you can be secure that you’ll have something. It doesn’t say that you’ll be well off, or be able to pay the mortgage on your McMansion, but instead that you’ll have a lifeline from which to draw.

Frankly, I think the reform is looking in the wrong direction. Too many people have come to feel that Social Security is indeed a source of income for later years, and that couldn’t be more wrong. To change this perception, let the government build standard housing for seniors, where they can have their housing and food needs met, and where they can even receive medical care. Then drop Social Security entirely.

If people are unable to save for themselves, give them something. I’m all for that. I’m a giving person. But why give them everything?

Schiavo Showdown

Hmm. I don’t know that I’d really call it a showdown, but increasingly that seems to be what it is. Or at least what it is that the press would like us to think it is (accurately or not). I’m still trying to decide how I feel about it. I just don’t know.

On one hand, Terry Schiavo is a living being. Removing her feeding tube is roughly akin to neglecting to feed your children, who are unable to fend for themselves. Of course, the children could eat grass in the yard or drink toilet water or something, an option that Ms. Schiavo doesn’t have.

This woman has been brain-damaged for 15 years. I believe that the proper term is that she is in a persistent vegetative state. As I understand it, this means that her body functions – it sleeps, it wakes, it breathes, that sort of thing. But there are no higher brain functions. According to that link, someone can recover from such a state, but I have to believe that after 15 years, it’s increasingly unlikely that she will recover to anything resembling a normal life.

Which leads to the other hand. While I believe that there is a certain amount of mercy being shown, there is also a time when difficult decisions need to be made. Many people will only encounter this sort of experience with a dog or other pet, who simply isn’t enjoying a quality of life that they probably should. At that time, it becomes an issue of whether they should be put to sleep or not. And while comparing a pet to a person may not be the most apt comparison, it’s the most likely comparison that many of us will be able to recognize.

Personally, mostly because I have not been in such a situation, I cannot imagine having a family member in such a state for 15 years. I don’t know if I could handle it. But still, I think that life is sacred. So much so that sometimes the best thing to do may very well be to end it. To go back to my earlier, inaccurate, illustration – I have previously determined that a pet’s quality of life is no longer there and decided to end it. That was one of the hardest decisions that I’ve ever had to make.

When I made the decision, I did so only after I had seen for myself that the spark of life was no longer there. So without seeing that same thing for myself, I can’t say that it’s time to end Ms. Schiavo’s life. Equally, I can’t say that it isn’t time. Only someone exposed to her can do that. And rightly or wrongly, it seems to me that the person justified to do so (her husband) has made that decision. I think that someone has to make the call, and in our society, I believe he is the person entitled to do so.

Trying Scuttle for Bookmarks

After seeing this short-but-sweet post from Phil, I figured Scuttle sounds really interesting. I am frequently annoyed at how often del.icio.us is slow, barely responsive, or even down altogether. This isn’t to fault the service – it’s free and I have no place to complain. But it is annoying. So off I went.

I have now downloaded Scuttle 0.1.0 and managed to get it working. I say managed only because there was some tweaking involved to get it going on my system. It was actually functional pretty quickly (well, once I set the database and user information), but I found some other annoyances along the way that I fixed for presentation purposes.

First, import.php. The import process didn’t work for me. I suspect it doesn’t work for anyone, since the project page lists this as a bug. The problem appears to be the check for the cookie. Simple changing $_COOKIE[poke] to $_COOKIE[“scuttle”] did the trick on my system.

Next, I received messages about headers already being sent. This is because there are some echo statements in there that send output to the screen prior to sending a header, so PHP chokes a bit. I also didn’t like how the query information was sent to the screen. Personal choice, really – I just didn’t want it, even though it worked okay. So I commented the two echo statements. The import worked!

Finally, I don’t intend on opening this service up to everyone (though it may happen one day), so I removed references to registering in both about.php and toolbar.inc.php. I also removed register.php in case anyone decided to try to hit it manually.

The end result is nice. I like the interface way better than that of del.icio.us – it’s just prettier. Plus, being on my server, it seems to work most of the time, and when it doesn’t, I (theoretically) can do something about that, as well as back up the data when needed. I also like that you can mark bookmarks private, and that if I add a bookmark it takes me back to the Scuttle interface – not to the page I just entered. Thanks, Marcus!

It could use some (more) enhancements, but again since I’m in control, I can do that. Notably, I’d like to be able to search multiple tags, like with del.icio.us (that is, select a tag, then see all available sub-selections to further refine the search). That would be cool. A change password function would be nice, but is by no means necessary. I don’t have any other ideas at the moment, but I suspect I will. I’ll keep you posted.

One note – if you need to get your del.icio.us bookmarks, try this link to export them.

Update: Scuttle supports multiple tag display (for instance, tag1+tag2, as with del.icio.us). What it does not (appear to) do is to give you a list of available tags to add to the current selection. I think that would be a nice feature to have.

Update: I also updated index.php by moving the logout function above the HTML output. This prevents the error about headers already being sent when you logout (and actually allows you to logout).

Are Speed Monitors Useful?

It seems that nearly every time I drive these days, I see those monitors that provide you with the speed you are traveling, in conjunction with the speed limit for that area. As a bonus, when you’re above the speed limit, the displayed speed flashes. If you’re way above (5mph+?) it flashes rapidly, as if just flashing won’t tell you – it has to blink to let you know you’re going as fast as you are.

What I really don’t get is that these monitoring devices are invariably on a relatively busy, but not too busy, street. That means that, more than often, there is a stream of cars headed by the device. As a result, I have no idea which one I am – even though I try to match up my speedometer to the sign to see if it matches. Maybe they ought to use some sort of technology so only the current measurement would be visible to you – otherwise I have no clue if it’s me, or one of the boneheads in front of or behind me!