May 2007

RSS wish list

My new killer application would be TiVo for my RSS feed. Actually there's one part of TiVo that my RSS reader needs - ratings. There are a number of RSS feeds that contain both useful and not-so-useful information. Today it is an all or nothing proposition. The reader either gets all of the feed or none but can not easily say "more like this".

Actually the full ratings system would be great and would allow a newsreader to find "suggestions" ala TiVo. Long before that there could be a great application for RSS feeds of job postings. Suppose I want to see job postings in the Seattle area. I would subscribe to a feed for all jobs in the newspapers in the area. When it comes to postings for drivers or cooks which I lack the skills for simply mark the first few as "thumbs-down". As the system gets trained it learns that I don't want to see ads related to sales positions but sales engineers or sales support postings would be interesting.

This could be done on the reader side or on the server side. Even in middle ware could be developed to handle aggregating the feeds and then disseminating posts along with an added tag line for "thumbs up" and "thumbs down".

US News on Nevada Water Grab

By now few in the West are unfamiliar with Las Vegas' water grab plans. The efforts to defoliate the rest of Nevada in favor of unrestricted growth are the subject of an article in this week's US News and World Report. Nearly twice as much water is what Las Vegas water grabber Pat Mulroy tells the magazine when she is not explaining why long showers aren't wasteful. There is a number to think about. Twice as many people in the Las Vegas metro area. Take your lot and divide it in half. Double the number of cars on the road.

The Las Vegas marketing slogan says that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. If Mulroy continues unchecked it will literally be true as nobody will be able to go anywhere else. Residents won't have to worry about taking out their sod to support the over-the-top evaporation from Lake Las Vegas, rather they will just move into their cars and live on the roads. And of course the Governor has a plan for the roads too. Between Mulroy's pipe dreams about what population Las Vegas can support and the Governor's road-funding-without-taxation fantasy Vegas and the rest of Nevada have a long road ahead.

Going home

Last weekend we took a trip to Colorado. It was the first time I'd been back since we packed up the house and moved to my native Nevada over three years ago. Colorado is one addicting place. Walking along the Platte River and remembering what an REI flagship store is like were great reminders.

Monday Funny

We've had a long weekend but I saw a video tonight that warrants my first YouTube post. This video is just too funny for a life-long gardener.

One reason to blog

When I first heard the story of a fraud being perpetrated using a "horseback ride" I started blogging about it. I went in search of other sources online and found newspapers pointed to a previous scam that was similar to the current version. When I contacted those papers they stood by the stories they had written and didn't do anything about the evidence they'd been duped. It was then I thought that this scam should end now. It should never be repeated. It should not be possible for anybody to not know about the fraud or the scam artist behind it. A comment here this weekend suggests it has worked, at least once. A great day for blogging.

Sometimes the blogosphere is silly

Of course the blogosphere is silly. It is a reflection of our culture and others. There are uninformed and unthinking people everywhere. I read a bit today on an Review Journal article about the pet food contamination. In the article the importer responsible for importing the contaminated wheat gluten says "ChemNutra has sufficient insurance to pay for any judgments stemming from lawsuits filed by pet owners and others." A blogger commenting on this said they hoped the company didn't have enough insurance and would be forced out of business. Perhaps vengeance and the mob-mentality  make some feel  powerful and as though a wrong has been set right.  The comment, however, suggests that the pet owners who have already lost so much should now suffer the injustice of not even being compensated for their loss in any way.

Local food and the global supply chain

Waking up listening to Weekend Edition Sunday is one of the best parts of the weekend. There are the features like the weekly puzzle with Will Short and there are some of the best stories on radio. This Sunday was no exception. A story talked about the possibility of finding locally grown foods and one couple's year-long experiment of eating a local diet. It started, as so many things do, as a necessity to put together a good meal from the locally available resources and turned into an exploration of the follies of the global food supply chain.

Recent stories about the pet food recall have pointed out some of the problems with getting food from the lowest bidder. Free marketeers will boldly proclaim that if we just leave the market alone it will correct the problem. Ultimately they are correct. The question is are we willing to pay the price? When the market is left to correct this situation on its own it will be a brutal correction. There won't be a simple soft landing and awareness of the need to change. Rather there will be a catastrophic failure of the supply chain and there will be thousands of people starving when the market makes the folly known.

Signature Suit

We stopped in the Apple Store yesterday for another bad battery on a MacBook. While there we asked about whether they had a Signature Suit case from Case Mate. It turns out they did not but when they saw the one on my MacBook they asked if they could borrow it for a moment and when I said yes they quickly took it on a tour of the store. It was quite a hit and makes the computer look really sharp. Perhaps soon they'll be carrying them. And perhaps soon there will be a brown saddle-leather version as well.

Uncluttering with Google Analytics

[Google Analytics Image] When I started developing websites, blogs and online tools more than I decade ago the value of log files hit me right away. Because these could be useful someday they have followed me around for some time. Google recently made some changes that enhanced their already great Google Analytics product.

There are without a doubt alternatives but each of these involves running and managing additional programs on the server. Another advantage is the way Google Analytics works with Google AdSense (see affiliate link below) which helps keep this site's hosting bill paid for. Along with the realization that the log files from sites that have been inactive for years aren't ever really going to be very useful. The sites that were online in 1995 to compete with them are just a different lot and there's little hat can't be better judged by a couple of weeks of Google Analytics to look at the sites.

Show some text only to users who don't have a particular role

Over the past few weeks I've been working away on the Nevada Boys' State website. It is a pretty cool site if I do say so myself. The delegates log in and complete things like the pre-program survey and submit legislation. Of course it is a Drupal site. Using Taxonomy Access Control pages are created for parents, staff or delegates. However parents and staff can look at the delegate pages. This is fine but there is some customization done on the page that shows the current user's email and reports that it's the "Delegate's email account".

It is a simple problem to solve and a quick trip to the Drupal site gave me the pieces to put together the following code that shows a note for anyone who logs in and views a Delegate page but doesn't have the role of Delegate. (Delegate has been changed in this code to MyRole).