Monthly Archives: February 2009

Neti Pot

Also, I used a Neti pot for the first time today.  It was every bit as weird and gross as I expected, but also strangely refreshing.  (And, really, that’s all I’m going to say about that.)  The jury is still out on effectiveness.  I think I’ve had a low grade upper sinus infection for a month or more.  Ugh.  But since I finally figured out that I have a sinus infection, I’m attacking with industrial strength decongestants and a Neti pot.  If I’m not significantly improved my Monday, then I think I might actually go to the doctor.

White House Blog Redux

In direct response to my complaint, I am sure, the White House Blog now seems to be putting their full posts into their RSS feed.  But, they still seem to be struggling with other aspects of the technology.  

First, a few days ago, they republished every story they have ever published to the RSS feed.  Whoops!  

Then, today, while “liveblogging” Obama’s trip to Canada (which seems dumb to me anyway), their liveblog post showed up in my feed reader (Google Reader) over and over and over again.  I suspect this means that every time they edited the post, their blogging software gave the post a new GUID.  (That’s a Globally Unique IDentifier.  It’s how your RSS reader software can tell whether or not a post is “new.”)  So, every time Google crawled their site today, they saw a new GUID and thought it was a new post.  I have noticed this with a few other posts showing up more than once (presumably when edited), but didn’t think much of it.  But this behavior is wrong, wrong, wrong.  Updated posts should maintain the same GUID.  Blog software should be smart enough to see that the post has changed and act accordingly, but (in my opinion) the post shouldn’t be marked as new.  And even if the reader does mark a changed post as “new” it certainly shouldn’t show the same post multiple times in the timeline.

They’ve also started posting more frequently and getting a little more starry eyed.  (There were five posts today — two about the First Lady, two about the Vice President, and one about the President’s Canadian adventure.)  As I said, my patience for such things is short.  And it’s quickly running out.

Update (20 Feb): So, not content with my speculation, I decided to take a look at their RSS feed.  It’s even worse than I thought!  The same story appears multiple times in the feed in multiple versions.  At this very moment, the feed contains 13 versions of the “Liveblog: The President in Canada” post, as well as two versions of many other posts.  This is complete madness.

(I’m posting today mostly to get going again.  I didn’t post last week, the first week I’ve missed in 2009, and I’ve had the crud all week this week, so I’m going to bed early again tonight.  Hence, nothing deep, just a minor annoyance.)

Starbucks Cup Quote

The job of choosing quotes for Starbucks cups is one that I would definitely enjoy.  Here’s one I got today.  I actually got it a few weeks ago, but forgot to note it.  I even went looking for it on the Starbucks website, but they only have a small collection of them on the website.  This is #76, which is too early for the Starbucks website.  I find this annoying, but anyway.  

I especially like the fact that this quote is from a random Starbucks customer rather than a “famous” person.

The quote deals with an issue I’ve been struggling with for a while.  You see, commitment is more about what you decide not to do than what you decide to do.  I have trouble deciding not to do things.

“The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating — in work, in play, in love.  The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation.  To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.”  – Anne Morriss, Starbucks customer from New York City.

25 Things

The popular Facebook meme “25 Random Things.”  Repeated here for your reading pleasure.

  1. I generally dislike memes. I like this one better than most, though, because it is open ended. I’ve really enjoyed learning lots of new things about the people that have done it. Plus, I always ask my students to tell me something about themselves that most people don’t know… This is like that, only 25 times.

  2. I cannot sleep at night unless I am covered by at least a sheet, and I really prefer a heavy comforter. This is true even if it is hot and I am sweating buckets. It makes no sense, but it is true. Strangely, this rule does not apply for naps.

  3. I really love to travel (and it is good for my career, too). It is hard on my family, though, so I have cut way back. I still get to visit lots of interesting places, though, even with a reduced travel schedule. In 2008, I visited Finland, Ireland, San Diego, Chicago, Washington DC, and New York City… And it was a lighter year than even my reduced schedule implies, due to the birth of my daughter.

  4. I made a conscious decision when I became a professor to stop wearing regular neckties and start wearing bow ties, mostly because it seemed like the sort of eccentric quirk that a professor ought to have. I still avoid wearing a tie altogether, though, most of the time.

  5. I am passionate about Mexican food and pork BBQ. This made it very difficult to live in Ithaca, New York (where I went to graduate school) because both were in short supply. I also believe that burritos are just about the perfect food (tasty, potentially nutritious, and conveniently packaged), but I don’t really consider most burritos to really be Mexican food.

  6. Intellectually, I would like to be a vegetarian. Practically, I don’t think that will ever happen due to my love of certain meats (including, especially, pork BBQ). Eating significantly less meat, though, is a long term goal of mine. Last year, I gave up eating mammals for Lent. (Ok. I cheated once, when I had the opportunity to eat reindeer in Finland, which was delicious. And I think I screwed up accidentally once or twice, but I mostly did very well.) I think that at some point I might give up eating mammals altogether, except for the aforementioned pork BBQ.

  7. I love to sail. But the last time I did it was more than six years ago when we lived in Ithaca, New York. There aren’t many good places to sail near our current home, and I just haven’t had much time for it the last few years.

  8. I probably know more about Christian theology than any other subject other than those in which I have my degrees. This comes from a long standing general interest in the subject, as well as a difficult period between my late undergraduate and early graduate years of working out my own beliefs. I don’t think I have all the answers now, by any stretch, but I’m (finally) pretty comfortable in my religious skin.

  9. Part of that belief system is a strong (and growing) belief in nonviolence. Walter Wink’s book The Powers That Be influenced me heavily here. This belief influences my interest in vegetarianism, my parenting philosophy, and the way I interact with other people, among other things.

  10. I am a relatively slow and methodical reader. This is a serious professional hazard. It also caused me to nearly stop reading fiction altogether for a while, but I’ve made a conscious effort to start again over the last year or two.

  11. The last novel that I read was A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving, which I absolutely adored. My next fiction project is to read Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. This is an extremely ambitious goal for me.

  12. I started reading David Foster Wallace’s essays after he committed suicide last Summer. Several people that I read online commented on his suicide, their sadness upon hearing of it, and their respect for his work. A lot of his essays are available online, so I started there. I have really enjoyed them. A close friend of mine read Infinite Jest last Spring and has been pressuring me to read it. So, I plan to give it a serious attempt.

  13. I basically gave up television in August 2007. I barely miss it at all.

  14. I say “basically” because occasionally I still watch a sporting event or something with Becky or with a houseguest. Also, I still watch one show every week: This Old House. Yes, it’s weird.

  15. I have completed several significant home improvement projects since we bought our house in 2003, including a complete gut and remodel of a bizarre double bathroom in our house which we converted to two full baths. I did most of this work myself, in a process that took months and months and nearly drove Becky insane.

  16. My home improvement skills have improved so much, though, that when I look back on my early projects, I really want the chance to go back and “fix” them because I think that I could do significantly better now.

  17. Our first child, Charlie, was born in September 2006. Our second, Megan, was born in May 2008. I think they are wonderful; I absolutely adore them both in ways I wouldn’t have thought possible prior to their births. I got really tired of people telling me how much children would change my life when we were expecting our first, but the change has been dramatic. (I still don’t think it was useful to have a zillion people tell me, nonspecifically, that it would change my life. But anyway.) Parenting is the most gratifying and the most difficult thing that I have ever done. And it is teaching me patience. Slowly. Very slowly.

  18. I cannot abide raw tomatoes. I dislike cooked whole tomatoes, too. I can tolerate tomato sauce, even with chunks of tomato, however. (The smaller the chunks, the better.) I have tried many times to convince myself to like (or at least tolerate) them; those efforts have utterly failed.

  19. I don’t like cold weather and would be very happy to live somewhere either tropical or at least with mild weather year round. Becky thinks we need four seasons, though, and that winter ought to include snow.

  20. I have had a blog since October 2001. Thus, it has been around since before blogging went mainstream, but wasn’t among the first blogs, by any means. Sometimes it has been quite active; other times it has gone on long hiatuses. So far, I’ve managed at least one post per week this year. This will probably become my post for this week, though. It is at

  21. Mackenab was the username assigned to me when I was a freshman at Vanderbilt. My next door neighbor in my dorm freshman year turned it into a nickname. It is still my username on almost every website or computer system that I use. If you encounter a mackenab anywhere on the internet, then it is probably me. If it isn’t me, then it’s some jerk that stole my name. (I’m just sayin’.)

  22. Becky is one of the most kind and compassionate people that I know. What first attracted me to her, though, was the almost magical way that she has with children.

  23. My dad’s story is one of the strangest stories that you will likely ever hear — and not in a good way. The initial response of the last person I told was “Wow wow wow wow wow wow wow.” I am hoping to write a book about him one day. But I certainly won’t try to tell you about him in a silly internet meme.

  24. I don’t mind pedestrians that jaywalk. Neither do I mind pedestrians that step into crosswalks in front of cars. (I live in a college town, after all.) But pedestrians that jaywalk in front of cars make me so mad that I want to roll down the window and throw something at them. (I haven’t yet, though. I would yell at them, but that would reveal me for the crank that I am.) There are crosswalks every 20 yards on campus. Use them. Or at least wait until you can safely cross the street. Sheesh.

  25. I like almost everything about being a professor at a research university, except grading. But the workload is far greater than I imagined when I chose this career. I feel like there are never enough hours in the day to do everything I need to do. Yet somehow I found time for this silly meme.