Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Friday, May 15, 2015 7:11 pm

The posting drought

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 7:11 pm
Tags: ,

A couple of times in this blog’s 13-year life, I have taken more-or-less planned hiati, a few weeks or months off to recharge and/or focus on other things that needed immediate attention. Lately, though, something different has been going on. In the past four weeks, including this post, I’ve posted just four times. Part of the reason is that I’ve been incredibly busy at both jobs. (April through Commencement is the busiest time of year for me at the college, by far.) But part of the reason is that when I’ve had the opportunity to blog, I’ve chosen to do other things.

Why? Any number of reasons. For one thing, I’ve been binge-watching “Mad Men” on Netflix, which I’m enjoying a lot because it’s a well-written show and I’m old enough to remember some of that culture while still seeing enough new to keep it interesting. Also, a new season of “Longmire” just dropped.

For another, we’ve had some of what will likely be the year’s best evenings for sitting on the porch. And when I’m out there, I may futz around on Facebook or Twitter, but I don’t do research and I don’t write at length. Just the wrong place: When I was in grad school, I associated inside with homework and the porch with not-homework.

For another, I’ve got my Kindle, plus two new actual physical paper books, to read.

But there’s something else going on, too.

God bless

I’m usually this guy, but not lately — at least, not enough to blog about it.

For the first time in a long time, stuff just doesn’t move me anymore. I still get entertained or intrigued or outraged by stuff I see/hear/read, but at the moment I no longer feel obliged to write about it. There’s no shortage of stuff to write about, from ISIS and the (dear God) 2016 presidential race to the Amtrak crash and the disintegrating Antarctic ice shelf, from the latest legislative outrage in Raleigh to our City Council’s absolute, bumbling inability to get anything like a coherent economic-development program going. Normally, I can’t not write about stuff. But not now.

In the past, this feeling has been attributable to my depression, but not now: By my standards, my mood actually has been pretty good.

And it’s not like I just need to put my butt in the chair and write; I’ve been doing that quite a lot in the day jobs.

So I’m guessing this will last however long it lasts. History suggests it won’t last forever, or even particularly long. But I figured I owe the regulars an explanation.



Sunday, June 29, 2014 10:26 am

Ready for my close-up, I guess.

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 10:26 am
Tags: , ,

One of Greensboro’s best blogs identifies this here establishment as one of Greensboro’s best blogs. Inasmuch as I do far less original reporting than some of the other folks on the list, and have devoted far less time to blogging in general lately, I’m humbled to be included. Thanks, Liv!

Sunday, April 13, 2014 10:54 am

Pulling the plug

Filed under: Geek-related issues,Housekeeping — Lex @ 10:54 am
Tags: , , , ,

A little more than 10 years ago, I got a Sony VGC-RA716GY desktop for Christmas. I called it a scream machine, a term used for the world’s fastest roller coasters. Turbocharged dual processor, a practically unheard-of gigabyte of RAM, top-of-the-line video card, hundreds of gigs of hard drive, 23-inch LCD monitor, plus speakers and a subwoofer loud enough to, literally, bother the neighbors. It ran on Windows XP Media Center Edition, meaning that I could, among other things, hook it up to a standard cable wire (as well as cable Internet) and use it as a TV — it even came with a remote for that.

It also came equipped with Adobe Premiere Elements for video editing, Photoshop Elements for image editing, SonicStage for audio editing/ mastering, Click 2 DVD for burning video into a standard-format DVD, slots for every variety of video card that exists, and audio-video input jacks and cables so that I could digitize my LP and VCR collections.

In the past decade I have used the machine for work and personal projects, business, education, and pleasure, from paying bills and doing taxes to watching digitized video of my then-3-year-old daughter’s first ballet recital. (That is, she was 3 when the video was shot; I watched on the computer after I got it a couple of years later.) Because I’m occasionally stupid but not that stupid, I backed up my stuff regularly, and when the original hard drive died five years ago, the reinstallation process for the OS, though lengthy, went without a hitch, and the restoration of settings and data from backup, though also lengthy, went likewise.

Nearly as I can tell, to date the machine has cost me a little more than 50 cents a day to own, and it has been worth every penny.  It could use more memory and a faster video card to keep up with some of the newer apps; with them, it would be as useful as the day I got it. But I don’t do a lot of gaming, and the motherboard won’t support them.

But it has one other problem I can’t fix: On Tuesday, Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP — worldwide. No more updates, not even for security. And because of the security required for some of my data — both personal and for freelance projects — not to mention fending off the day-to-day viruses and other malware floating around, that meant that the machine had to be disconnected from the Internet. So, after migrating secure data to a different machine, I pulled the wireless card and unplugged the network cord.

So is the Sony now a $2,000 paperweight? No, it’s now a $2,000 Minesweeper game.

Kidding. For one thing, it still holds about 20 gigs’ worth of digital photos that I need migrate to another machine and close to 50 gigs’ worth of music, from EMDR recordings for my mental health to Coltrane to the Sex Pistols to the Gap Band to Bach, enough to provide uninterrupted, unrepeated music for weeks. And it doesn’t need Internet to rock the neighbors’ worlds.

And with teenagers in the house, I’m not getting rid of any otherwise functional computer just because they might have to get their school assignments onto and off it with a thumb drive. When I was their age, we didn’t even HAVE thumb drives. And I have games I can install for them that don’t require Internet, like Diner Dash. So the Sony will live on, although I’ll probably be in the market for a new desktop later this year. (And when I am, I’ll definitely be buying a machine with Windows 7 Professional*, NOT Windows 8, although that’s a story for another time.)

I will say this: It bugs the hell out of me that Microsoft is ending even security upgrades for XP. And it’s not just personal. I had no experience with XP Personal (no pun intended), but XP Professional (of which Media Center Edition is a subset) was the most rock-solid OS Microsoft had ever produced to that point. It. Just. Worked. It almost never crashed, which was a huge step up from any previous Microsoft OS; only Win2K had come close to XP’s stability. Particularly after what happened with Vista, a lot of people, including myself, vowed never to change from XP.

But more importantly, a lot of people, and institutions, can’t upgrade (and I use that term loosely) from XP, or at least couldn’t by April 8 of this year. The British and Dutch governments are paying Microsoft a lot of money to continue XP support just for them. And the lack of security upgrades has important implications here at home. Many, many medical facilities continue to use XP machines because the applications they use have not had Win7- or Win8-compatible upgrades approved yet by the FDA. On Tuesday, all those XP machines still in service became noncompliant with the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act, although, as the linked article shows, CIOs have a number of (not-inexpensive) options for dealing with it.

Oh, and this’ll make you feel good: 95% of ATMs currently in service use XP.

But enough about Microsoft and XP (if you have an XP machine and didn’t know about this, you definitely should Google the subject, though) and back to me.

I don’t normally get sentimental over things, particularly things that are of more practical than personal value. The only thing I’ve ever owned that comes close was my 1987 Volkswagen Golf. But I’ve loved this computer. I don’t love it so much that I would continue to use it without protection, obviously. But it has been inextricably combined with my work, graduate education and life, and the lives, schoolwork, Scouting work, and recreation of my children,  in the Web 2.0 era.

Someday, perhaps soon, something will happen to it that won’t be cost-effective to fix, and that’ll be that. When that day comes, the good people at HandyCapable Network will be getting a donation that will enrich the lives of the people they work with and serve. Until then, the Sony will still be doing plenty of useful things here in our house. It just won’t be doing them anywhere else.

*Suggestions welcome, but so far it looks as if I’ll have to be custom-ordering from Dell. Oh, well.

Friday, April 4, 2014 6:12 am

It was 40 years ago today/That I got injured and I couldn’t play

Filed under: Ew.,Housekeeping,That's gonna leave a mark — Lex @ 6:12 am

April 4, 1974, started off as a nice, ordinary early-spring day in Charlotte.

Actually, that’s not true at all. At Carmel Junior High School, where I was in eighth grade, that day was ’50s Day. Not only had we all been encouraged to come to school dressed in ’50s garb, there would be an actual sock hop after school.

Well, I was in homeroom before the day really began, and everyone was admiring everyone else’s getup. I never could get pegged jeans or boots. But I did score some honest-to-God butch wax with which to give myself a real DA hairstyle — and since my hair was almost to my shoulders at that point, my pompadour and DA were very well fleshed out. And, coolest of all, I’d scored a gen-u-wine leather biker jacket from a guy my mother was tutoring. (He went on to play football at Alabama.)

So I wasn’t the most perfectly styled ’50s icon that morning, but I was definitely in the top quartile. I was looking pretty good and feeling pretty good about looking good. Trust me, as unusual as that feeling is for me today, it was way more unusual when I was 14. And I was reveling in it.

That’s when I heard an unfamiliar noise — loud, roaring. It was a motorcycle. More to the point, it was a motorcycle being ridden by the teacher in the next room. Our rooms were on ground level, and he, also in full ’50s regalia, had driven his bike right up to the window of his classroom before killing the engine and lowering the kickstand. Because each room had a window at each end of that wall that could be opened, the students in his homeroom opened the window and he hopped in to take over the classroom.

I was watching all this while leaning into the doorway of his classroom, which I was accomplishing by holding onto the door frame of my homeroom. Unfortunately, I later learned, someone in my homeroom had complained about the bike noise, and someone else — who remains a Facebook friend today, although I won’t name her because I know this was an accident — shut the door without checking to see whether the door frame was clear of all vulnerable objects like, you know, the first three fingers of my left hand.

The door was solid oak. The door frame was solid steel. They fit so closely I don’t know if you could have slipped a credit card between them.

And the ends of my fingers were in there.

And I couldn’t get them out.

So I did what anyone else in that situation would do: I screamed like a baby. I do not recall whether I screamed actual words, like, “Open the door!,” or issued a long string of cuss words, or whether I just ululated incoherently until somebody outside in the hall with me figured out what was going on and started pounding on the door, which was locked, to get someone to open it.

I don’t know how long it took to get the door open, and I don’t recall how long it seemed like it took. I don’t even recall the pain being that great. (That would come later.) But when the door opened, I saw two things: a godawful amount of blood running down the door frame to puddle on the floor, and a single, entire white fingernail sticking to some of the blood.

I don’t remember who took me upstairs to the office. I don’t remember who called my mom. But she took me to the ER, and eventually, a surgeon arrived. He put tight rubber bands around the bases of all three fingers, then injected them all with anesthetic (Novocaine, I think). And then, once the fingers were good and insensate,  he threaded a needle with black silk and set about stitching together the bleeding ends of the first three fingers on my left hand. Somewhere in all this, I remember a nurse remarking to a colleague on my getup, but I don’t recall now what she said.

Because the hand wasn’t hurting at all at that point (thanks, Novocaine!), I looked at him and observed three things. He appeared to be in his early 50s. He looked like he hadn’t slept in days. And he  had what appeared to be dried blood on his scrubs.

“Long day?” I asked.

“Well, before you, I had to take out a man’s stomach,” he said.

That was kind of a conversation-killer.

When the stitching was done, he dressed each finger, then wrapped the three of them together with gauze, then wrapped the gauze around my hand and wrist, thus instantly rendering me capable of flipping the world’s biggest bird. Then he x-rayed me. Sure enough, all three fingers were broken, but there was nothing more that he could do for them, so that was that. He gave me (well, Mom) a prescription for painkillers, told me to keep it the hand dry, scheduled a time for me to come to his office for a checkup and rebandaging, and sent us on our way.


Despite all that had happened, there were still a couple of hours before the sock hop started. I told Mom I wanted to go. She was dubious but said I could. And I did, and in my ninth-grade yearbook (the incident happened too late to make deadline for the eight-grade yearbook) there’s a picture of me at the sock hop with the bandaging on my left hand and my DA and my badass leather jacket. (I’m on the right. My friend Mark Asperheim is next to me.)

Toward the end of the sock hop, I didn’t feel so great. Later that night I was, to put it charitably, in a great deal of pain.

Recovery took weeks. And as bad as the pain from the injury was, it was nothing compared to the bandage change. They took the original dressings off my stitched, swollen, sensitive, nail-less fingers. The dressings, of course, were stuck on to the exposed nail beds with dried blood, and bathe those things in hydrogen peroxide as the doctor might, he could not get them off easily, gently, or painlessly.

I wasn’t just crying. I wasn’t just screaming. It hurt so badly that I literally wanted to die. If you had offered to shoot me at that moment, I would have taken you up on it without a moment’s hesitation if not snatched the weapon from your hand and pulled the trigger myself. Of that I had no doubt then and have no doubt now. And I also have no doubt that neither before nor since, in spite of numerous illnesses and injuries, have I ever wanted to die simply because of the pain the way I wanted to die in those few minutes in the doctor’s office. I’ve been sick a couple of times where I thought I was going to die, sure. But this was on a whole ‘nother level. If I hadn’t hit the bathroom just before coming into the doctor’s office, I’m sure I’d’ve soiled myself. Memo: It’s bad form to die with full pants.

At the time, I was teaching myself guitar. I wasn’t going to be quitting my day job anytime soon, but I actually was getting sorta kinda good. Even after I recovered fully from the injury and my nails grew back (two out of three look normal; my ring-finger nail has a squared-off shape to it), my fingers didn’t have the flexibility they had had before. And they never would again. I was gonna be a power-chorder from there on out.

And so it came to pass, until I gave up the guitar for good around age 27 or so. I played at my next-door neighbor’s turkey fry last Thanksgiving Eve, and I sounded awful, but everyone else was drunk and/or tolerant, so no one said anything unkind.

So what’s the larger lesson here? I honestly don’t know. But I have thought about this event every year since it happened. I don’t have nightmares about it, let alone anything like PTSD, but I remember. That said, I’m under no illusion that the accident ended a budding music career.

But I did learn that there are things worse than death, or things that at least seem so.

And I have learned not to grip doorframes for support when leaning.

And I have learned that I don’t look bad in a leather jacket.

Thursday, August 22, 2013 12:17 pm

Friday Random 10, Recuperation Thursday edition

Filed under: Friday Random 10,Housekeeping — Lex @ 12:17 pm
Tags: ,

Guns N’ Roses – “You’re Crazy”

Motors – “Forget About You”

Tallest Man on Earth – “Thousand Ways”

Melissa Etheridge – “Talking to My Angel”

Drivin’ ‘n’ Cryin’ – “Ain’t It Strange”

Neil Young – “Vampire Blues”

Nirvana – “Stay Away”

2 Cellos – “With or Without You”

Bob Dylan – “Girl from the North Country”

Warren Zevon – “Heartache Spoken Here”

lagniappe: Vaselines – “Dum-Dum”

For them as has not heard, I unexpectedly had my gall bladder removed last Friday evening. It went uneventfully — a stone had blocked the duct, the organ was already somewhat inflamed, but we caught it early and now it’s dealt with, I went home from the hospital Sunday morning, and now, although my energy level isn’t great, I’m mostly pain-free. I’m planning to return to the office tomorrow. I’m banned from lifting much or physical exertion, although it’s OK for me to walk (and I’m doing so).

Word gets around, so I’ve already heard from a few of you. Thank you for your kind words of support.

Friday, March 15, 2013 7:24 am

Short and sweet. I mean sucky.

Google is killing Google Reader, its RSS blog aggregator upon which I have relied for years. I am revising my Google stock-price projections for class accordingly. In the meantime, here’s the inevitable Hitler clip; as always, subtitles are NSFW.

Saturday, July 7, 2012 3:41 pm

Our cat is missing; or, Come home, Tracy Lee Kelly, all is forgiven

Filed under: Housekeeping,Sad — Lex @ 3:41 pm
Tags: , ,

UPDATE, 11:25 p.m. 7/10: He just showed up, in good shape but very skinny and hungry. Now he’s fed, and we’re breaking a general rule tonight and letting him sleep with us. Ahhhhh …

UPDATE: I’ve made this post sticky for a bit. Newer content begins below.

Tracy, our 3-year-old, neutered male orange tabby, is missing.

He was last seen last Saturday evening, June 30, in our fenced back yard on South College Park Drive. He weighs about 10-11 pounds and has prominent stripes and a small, healed notch in his right ear. He’s sociable enough to walk right into your house, but at the time he had no collar on and could be mistaken for a stray. Anyone who sees him, please get in touch. We want him to come home! You can email me at lex dot alexander [at] gmail dot com.

UPDATE: I’ve made this post sticky for a bit. Newer content begins below.

Thursday, April 26, 2012 5:37 am

A decade of candles and fireworks

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 5:37 am
Tags: ,

Ten years ago today, Blog on the Run was born. You don’t know, and probably don’t care, why. That’s cool.

To mark the occasion, I’ve created a Greatest Hits page, stuff that I think has held up well and/or that I’m particularly proud of. It’s a short list, although I might add to it at some point.

Thanks to everyone who has stopped by and contributed to the conversation over the years, but most especially to my friend Fred Gregory, who has been practically a co-host. He and I see eye to eye politically on practically nothing, but in our respective ways we each honor God, country and family, and we honor that honor in one another.

Kind of like these guys …

… although which of us is which depends on the subject, the time of day and how much we’ve each had to drink.

Here’s to another 10 … and, in the wake of a grim decade for our country, to better days for all of us.

Thursday, March 1, 2012 1:06 am

Remedial education

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 1:06 am

Anyone pondering commenting here should read this first.

Don’t like it? You’ve got the whole rest of the Internet to play with.


Saturday, December 10, 2011 12:44 am

WordPress, I like my current theme just fine …

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 12:44 am
Tags: ,

… and I’m ready for the silly-ass message on my new-post screen suggesting that I try a new one to GO AWAY.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011 11:47 pm

A general reminder: If you don’t like this blog …

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 11:47 pm

… then read something else, leave a comment, email me or come express your opinion to my face.

Those would be the grownup options.

(Lithograph: Ben Shahn)

Saturday, May 21, 2011 1:29 pm

On my s*** list: XMarks

XMarks is a Firefox app purporting to allow one to sync bookmarks across multiple Firefox-equipped machines. An app like that is a dream come true for me because during a career spanning numerous occupations, all of which have required a lot of Web work and many of which have required various amounts of on-site and remote webmastering,  I’ve amassed thousands of bookmarks. These bookmarks have been assiduously organized into folders and subfolders on subjects ranging from sites relevant to covering aviation disasters to being able to log in and post inclement-weather notices on my current employer’s home page.

I stumbled across XMarks a few months ago and gave it a try. At first, it seemed to work exactly as advertised.

More recently, it has started making duplicate copies of bookmarks and folders. That’s annoying as all hell and wastes disk space and processor time, but it is not exactly a disaster.

Last weekend, however, XMarks dramatically upped the ante. Not only did it make multiple duplicates of most of the folders, it also appears to have dumped all the meticulously organized bookmarks out of their folders and into the “Unsorted bookmarks” folder.

To be sure, I do not have any reason at this point to think that any bookmarks were deleted. On the other hand, I may never know until I go looking for a bookmark on deadline that I seldom use and am unable to find it.

And whether any were deleted or not, this was a damned stupid thing to have happen, and the people who created XMarks need to get to work trying to figure this out because I’m certainly not the only person this has happened to.

Finally, if anyone can recommend a bookmark-syncing app or extension for Firefox that does what it’s supposed to do, no more and no less, give me a shout. Ditto Internet Explorer. (Chrome’s native syncing appears to work OK, but I need FF and IE for work for technical reasons too boring to go into here.)

Thanks all for any suggestions you can offer.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011 6:46 am

Once again, help me, Internetz!

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 6:46 am
Tags: , , ,

If you have successfully rooted an HTC Eris Android phone and would be willing to walk me through the process, please e-mail. (Addy under “About Lex” to your right.) I’ve found several online tutorials, but they certain require things, like installing programs that aren’t self-installing on the phone, with which I have no experience.

(Yes, I know rooting voids the warranty. My warranty was already voided. It’s OK.)


Saturday, March 26, 2011 3:50 pm

Browser makers: Open your eyes!

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 3:50 pm

As Jay Leno might say, what is it with browser makers lately?

First, Google Chrome went weird on me, and getting it uninstalled proved only slightly less difficult and unpleasant than flea-bombing a house.

Then I installed what was supposed to be a stable Firefox 4.0 release. (I used to be happy to beta-test browsers, but given the age of my OS and my previous problems therewith, I don’t mess with beta anymore). And approximately 3 minutes into a session, irrespective of whether I was watching video or reading e-mail or just browsing a news site, it would throw the entire machine into a hard freeze. No keyboard. No mouse. No screen activity. Hard-drive light dark. And then the screen would go into power-save mode, indicating it was receiving no input at all from the processor.

No such problem with IE. Firefox was clearly the culprit.

So I’ve uninstalled 4.0, gone back to 3.6.11, and if Mozilla wants me to come out of it again, they’re gonna need to send a posse and a really big gun. I’ve reinstalled Chrome at work and encountered no problems, but I’m gonna wait a little longer before reinstalling it at home.

So, browser makers: You need to keep in mind that your 19-year-old whiz kid’s idea of what constitutes a stable release might not be exactly congruent with my XP SP3 OS’s idea of what constitutes a stable release. And my OS trumps your whiz kid.

Friday, December 17, 2010 8:37 pm

Blog OS weirdness; or, Dude, where’s my Twitter link?

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 8:37 pm
Tags: , ,

John Cole at Balloon Juice has a special tag, FYWP — if you know what that means and I think  you do — for problems caused at that blog by the WordPress blogging system, which is the same one I use. Now, Balloon Juice’s traffic is orders of magnitude higher than mine, so I would not be surprised if that traffic creates occasional problems, some bordering on existential.

I switched from Blogger to WP several years ago because Blogger had been having what I thought were way too many outages, even for a free service. There was one significant tradeoff: the ability, at no charge, to change the RSS in your blog. The payoff was far more reliable service — I think this was back in the days before Google had bought Blogger.

All of which is just me indulging a bit in what’s left of my memory and has nothing to do with my main point, which is: When you call up a post on this blog as its own page (if you’ve never done that, you do it by clicking on the title of a post), you see a bunch of “sharing” widgets at the bottom that allow you to do such things as tweet about the post, post it to your Facebook account, e-mail the link to someone and so forth. For the past couple of days, the Twitter widget has been disappearing and reappearing without obvious explanation. Any other WordPress users know what’s up with that?


Thursday, November 25, 2010 12:52 am

That sucked. But it could have sucked worse.

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 12:52 am

Been quiet around here lately, no?

Long story short: Serious computer problems, initially (and correctly, but incompletely) attributed to a failing video card, finally traced to an OS install grown so ragged that outside of safe mode the thing couldn’t even stay unfrozen more than two minutes.

Days (and nights, several nights) of work compressed into the following: I found freeware that will do a good backup even in Windows safe mode, backed up my data, wiped my drive, did a full reinstall from the original, 6-year-old recovery discs, downloaded two service packs and about 115 other patches, replaced the video card and got a driver upgrade for it.

Now? I’ve got a blinding headache from staring at the monitor while various things downloaded and installed. But I’ve also got a 6-year-old desktop that’s running like … well, not a brand-new Lamborghini, but maybe a gently used Mustang. I’ve got high-def video besides. I just need to copy my data back from the backup hard drive, reinstall a few pieces of freeware and I’m done.

(Yes, yes, I know, Macs don’t have these problems. Hey, if it were up to me, I’d go with Ubuntu. But it ain’t entirely up to me.)

Special shout-outs go to David and DivaGeek for their tech support via phone, e-mail and SMS.

Assuming I get into grad school, I’ll need to buy a new machine next summer anyway. But the key words there are “next summer.” I needed for this one to last until then. Now maybe it will.

For that and health and freedom and employment and all our other blessings, Lord, we give Thee thanks. Amen.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010 5:49 am

Epic litigation ahead

Filed under: Fun,Housekeeping — Lex @ 5:49 am

I attempted to do a little financial maintenance last night and ran into a perfect storm: display-driver problems, bank website problems AND Quicken problems. God, I finally had to conclude, did not want me paying bills.

Considering the case law, such as it is, I eagerly await the litigation between the Almighty and my creditors.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 7:39 pm

I apologize …

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 7:39 pm

… to the Minnesota Nurses Association. I do not know why WordPress automatically created a link from your blog — which, I gather, is a key communications element during a very tense time in labor negotiations for y’all — to my blog in general (I was a medical reporter once, but that was a while ago), let alone to a post about International Talk Like a Pirate Day, which is still a few months off. Maybe WordPress thinks one side or the other in your dispute is pirates.

Anyway, I thank all of you for your visits, and I hope that somewhere amid all the political screeds, snark, cute things my kids say and disturbing disquisitions on the dietary habits of reptiles, you’ve found some worthwhile content. And if not, well, I understand.

Saturday, June 12, 2010 4:42 pm

Droid test

Filed under: Geek-related issues,Housekeeping — Lex @ 4:42 pm

Testing the WordPress for Droid app. Looks like most of the functions I use regularly are present and accounted for. Because after a 200-post month, I need MORE reasons and means to blog.

Saturday, April 17, 2010 10:30 pm

Computers are great … when they work

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 10:30 pm
Tags: ,

I have been struggling off and on for four months to find the source of a significant discrepancy in my bank account. Today, I found the source — actually, sources, plural, for there were two.

The first was that one transaction on my checking account with Very Large, Technically Insolvent National Bank inexplicably had failed to download. Seven or eight other transactions that took place the same day — to get technical, they all took place the same day and were all posted the next business day — downloaded with no problem.

The second was that an entirely unrelated transaction somehow failed to enter itself into the ledger when I hit the “Reconcile” function on Quicken. Not sure why; again, several other transactions taking place the same day that didn’t appear substantially different entered themselves just fine.

The solution in the first case was to manually enter into Quicken the transaction that, for whatever reason, had failed to download during an online banking session. The solution in the second case was to delete the existing transaction from Quicken, then manually re-enter the identical information.

Identifying and eliminating these problems took almost exactly twice as long as doing my federal and state taxes. And I got zero bills paid, so I’ve got to do that tomorrow AND laundry AND mow the lawn.

But on my way home from errand-running tonight, I bought a six-pack of Natty Green’s Buckshot Amber ale and a big bag of M&Ms. So I’m not feeling as bad about it as I was a couple of hours ago.

Saturday, April 3, 2010 2:11 pm

Life happens

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 2:11 pm

Not dead, just swamped, as I’ve known for months I would be around this time.

Fear not. I shall return.

Monday, March 15, 2010 6:22 am

What to do, what to do?

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 6:22 am
Tags: ,

If anyone out there is using Tumblr, could you tell me what you think of it?

As both my long-time readers know, I moved this blog from Blogger (hosted on my personal Web space) to WordPress (hosted on WordPress) a couple of years ago. I had two main reasons for the move: 1) Blogger’s frequent service outages were getting on my last nerve, and 2) I was bumping up against the 10-meg limit on free hosting at my personal space.

There were trade-offs. Two big ones were:

  1. I cannot, without paying for the privilege, tweak the CSS of my blog, which I did quite a bit of with Blogger. This blog remains just a hobby. I still have no plans for ads or any other means of generating revenue. So I can’t really justify spending money on it.
  2. WordPress doesn’t support javascript on blogs it hosts, which prevents me from doing some things I’d like to do. It’s particularly annoying in the area of site metrics — WordPress’s stats aren’t as good as those of Sitemeter, which I was using before, or Google Analytics, both of which run on javascript.

So I’m thinking about moving to Tumblr, which means the URL for this blog would change (although if you’re using, I would just change that to point to the Tumblr blog rather than the WordPress blog, so it would continue to take you to the right place automatically). That means people would have to update their links and RSS feeds, and some people find being asked to do this annoying.


Saturday, January 9, 2010 11:19 pm

Meta, solipsistic, self-involved, etc.

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 11:19 pm

“Lex,” you are no doubt thinking, “tell me about the search terms that bring people to Blog on the Run!”


On any given day, “shark” or some term involving sharks is likely to be the most used search term.

All-time, the leading search term has been “Harry Potter birthday cake” and variants thereof, followed by “I’m in ur computer” and variants thereof, followed by “on the run,” “blog on the run,” Abu Ghraib, my name, the biblical phrase “Raise a child up [in the way that he should go],” the term “math humor” and Grecian Formula.

The top-ranking real person (besides me)? David X. Li, the mathematician behind the obscure financial instruments that brought down the economy.

Not very titillating, huh?

Saturday, December 19, 2009 3:19 pm

Odds and ends for 12/19

The GOP’s 2010 narrative, courtesy of non-GOP Eli at Firedoglake: “Look, we were the ones who voted against giving Wall Street hundreds of billions of dollars, who voted against that tool at the Fed who doesn’t care about your job, who voted against forcing you to spend your hard-earned money on junk insurance you can’t afford to use.  Obama and the Democrats are screwing you over to funnel money to corporate fatcats, and we’re trying to stop them.” I bet it works, too.

Global-warming conspiracy theoristsat the Pentagon.

The health of the commercial banking industry, as summarized by Peterr: If you’re the FDIC putting your budget together for 2010, “you don’t double your receivership budget if you think bank failures are slowing down.” Fun fact: The figure being doubled was itself almost doubled in mid-year 2009 from what it was set at at the beginning of the year, because of the growth in bank failures.

Glenn Beck, cracked: When I was a kid, Cracked was the less nuanced competitor to Mad magazine. But in the Internet age, Cracked has found its footing. Consider this unpacking of the Glenn Beck phenomenon, which includes this gem: “The difference between a Glenn Beck conspiracy and the coronation scene in Carrie is Carrie didn’t overreact as hysterically.”

Different standards: Can you imagine the media hissy fit if Democrats were to try to filibuster an Iraq-Afghanistan spending bill just to delay some other legislation that was part of the GOP agenda? But when Republicans do it to try to delay health-care legislation, it’s perfectly OK, or at least unremarkable.

Blech: I started off my Christmas break with sinuses stuffy AND running AND hurting, and a lot of chest congestion. I’ve hit the Neilmed bottle twice, and it has helped a little but not as much as I had hoped.  Rather than playing in the snow with Hooper and Victoria, which is what I wanted to do, I’ve spent most of the day in bed. On the bright side, the streets appear navigable, so I should be able to run to the store tomorrow for the appropriate junk food to consume during Panthers/Vikings.

Speaking of which, I am probably deriving far more amusement than I should from the thought that the teams will be playing tomorrow night on the frozen tundra of Bank of America Stadium because the Vikes are now an indoor team. But I’m not under any illusions about who’s going to win, just as I hope John Fox is not under any illusions that Jerry Richardson is going to keep him on.

Sunday, October 18, 2009 12:43 pm

Double headlines; or, An answer to a question you might not have asked

Filed under: Fun,Housekeeping — Lex @ 12:43 pm
Tags: , ,

A couple of people have e-mailed to ask why I seem so fond of double headlines on my blog posts, such as the headline on this post.

The answer, as are so many answers in our complex world, is rooted in perhaps the Best Cartoon Evah, “Rocky & Bullwinkle,” and the accompanying Fractured Fairy Tales. At the end of each episode, the narrator, William Conrad, perhaps best known for his later role as TV’s portly detective “Cannon,” would say something on the order of, “Tune in next time for, ‘(First part of title, usually short),’ or, ‘(Second part of title, usually longer and often containing a pun.’)”

Here’s a whole pageful of YouTube snippets. Better for you than “Transformers,” for darned sure.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 6:23 pm

Blogging and the day job

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 6:23 pm

Q: What’s the first rule of blogging about the day job?

A: You do not blog about the day job.

Q: What’s the second rule of blogging about the day job?

A: You DO NOT blog about the day job.

Q: And this is relevant to you because … ?

A: …


Friday, September 4, 2009 9:22 am

A small mystery

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 9:22 am

Yesterday, this blog got the second-highest one-day total for page views in its 7 1/2-year history.

Usually when I have a big day, page-view-wise, the overwhelming majority of the views come from a single referrer. But yesterday’s surge appears to have been incredibly diffuse: The source accounting for the largest number of referrals sent only 15 people my way. That’s just a few percentage points’ worth of the hits. I guess the death-penalty post, which appears to have gotten the most views, went viral, in a small way. I’ve never really had that happen before. Interesting.

Sunday, July 26, 2009 12:17 pm


Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 12:17 pm

Good news: Have cleared out three boxes of old stuff in my study. Bad news: To paraphrase Chief Brody, I’m gonna need a bigger shredder.

Thursday, June 18, 2009 8:54 pm

A tip for comment spammers

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 8:54 pm
Tags: ,

If your comment comes from, even spam filters a lot less competent than mine will catch you. Just sayin’.

Monday, June 15, 2009 8:23 pm

An apology from Ed Whelan

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 8:23 pm
Tags: , , ,

National Review blogger Ed Whelan, who outed the Obsidian Wings blogger heretofore known pseudonymously as Publius, has apologized for doing so, and Publius has accepted the apology.

The merits of pseudonymous blogging are a legitimate question. I happen to think that discussion of issues frequently is enriched by pseudonymous contributors; certainly the blogosphere would be a poorer place without them. And having put my name on my words in front of the public professionally for a quarter-century, and for more than a decade on my own time on the Intertubez, I understand and appreciate the value of putting one’s real name behind one’s arguments.

But outing a pseudonymous blogger/commenter without his/her permission, while not breaking any law, is in general an incredibly rude, discourteous and immature thing to do, IMHO. You can never know for sure what a person’s motives are for blogging under a pseudonym, and you can’t know in advance whether you might cause real-life harm to the blogger — or, worse, a blogger’s relative or employer who had nothing to do with the whole thing — by outing him/her.

That said, Publius and Whelan are moving on, so I am, too.

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