08.14.17

Needlessly Misquoted Tennyson

Posted in History, Life at 7:49 am by

Twice within the span of a few days, I’ve heard Tennyson’s famous lines from In Memoriam A.H.H. misquoted on TV, both times with the same error, the second infinitive split by “never.” One of the occasions specifically identified the quotation as Tennyson; surely if you know your character is supposed to be quoting Tennyson, you can make sure you put the correct wording of the quote into the script? It seems not. (Or perhaps the actor flubbed the line and the director didn’t catch it?)

For the record, the correct quotation of the lines from stanza 4 of Canto XXVII (infinitives not split) is:

’Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

08.06.17

SSL now available on ardisson.org

Posted in Software at 1:45 am by

As of July 8, you can now visit all of ardisson.org,1 including this blog, using an encrypted connection (commonly known as “SSL” or “https”). Hooray!

For the moment I’m not making any effort to force everyone to the https URLs, and some pages (including, sadly, for the moment, any page on this blog that includes a post from before 2017 with images) will throw mixed-content warnings and/or fail to load images in modern browsers because there are images on the page being loaded via plain-old-HTTP—there’s much cleanup still to be done. But I encourage you to update your bookmarks, your feed subscriptions, and whatnot to replace http:// with https:// in order to communicate with ardisson.org in an encrypted, more secure fashion.

Some history

I’ve wanted to do this for years, but it has always been more costly than I could justify. Even as basic SSL certificate prices started to fall (my hosting provider, Bluehost, offered certificates from major Certificate Authorities for a couple of dollars a year), Bluehost only supported SSL certificates on dedicated servers, which ran an additional $10/month or so on top of what I was already paying them for hosting ardisson.org. Bluehost could have supported SSL on shared hosting by implementing SNI on their servers, but for years the company seemed unwilling to do so—presumably because it would cut into their forced-upgrade-to-dedicated-server revenue stream. For a hobbyist website that practically no one ever visits, the costs of a dedicated server (roughly doubling my annual hosting bill) just to implement SSL weren’t worth it.

Finally, though, something moved Bluehost to change; perhaps the arrival and meteoric ascent of Let’s Encrypt,2 which offered free, automatically installed-and-updated SSL certificates (at least with compatible hosting providers), or maybe WordPress’s announcement last December that they were going to stop promoting hosting partners who didn’t offer SSL certificates as part of a default hosting account (Bluehost was, at one point, one of WordPress’s hosting partners; I don’t know if that is still the case). Sometime earlier this year, though—I don’t when know exactly; I never got any notification!—Bluehost announced the availability of free SSL certificates for WordPress sites it hosts, initially using Let’s Encrypt before switching to Comodo.

Some notes on the process at Bluehost

When I discovered that news on July 7, I began investigating what I needed to do (after all, I have WordPress installed and in use). Without having gotten any guidance (or notice of availibility), I logged in to my account and went looking for the SSL Certificates page. I initially arrived at that page via the “addons” header link in my account, and at that point the page wasn’t going to request the certificate because it claimed I wasn’t using Bluehost nameservers—which wasn’t true. But I hopped over to the Domain Manager, clicked “save nameserver settings” (what is it about all of these all-lowercase link and button names?) without changing anything there, and in the process was prompted to (re)validate my Whois email address, which I did. I then returned to the SSL Certificates page and tried again, and the certificate request went through. I didn’t time the process, but it seems like it took somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes after the request submission for the certificate to be generated and installed.

Simple—other than jumping through the hoops caused by spurious failures, but at least the failure message provided a clue as to what I should check—and quick (it took far more time for me to draft, and especially finish up, this post!), and thus reasonably painless, and now ardisson.org is, after nearly a decade, finally available in an encrypted fashion. Hooray!

        

1 There are some random old Camino-testing-related subdomains running around; those are not SSL-enabled. Anything anyone would actually want to visit in 2017, however, is available over an encrypted connection. ↩︎
2 Old Camino users may recognize former developer Josh Aas as one of the people behind Let’s Encrypt and its parent, Internet Security Research Group. ↩︎

08.04.17

Friday links redux

Posted in History, Links at 6:36 pm by

  • The Loyal Engineers Steering NASA’s Voyager Probes Across the Universe [The New York Times]

    I found this piece incredibly moving: the dedication of these engineers—some now in their 80s!—to one of humankind’s greatest scientific endeavours, in the face of ever-shrinking resources, changing priorities, and the passage of time in which the knowledge and skills needed to keep the Voyagers working are becoming one more of humanity’s “lost arts.”

  • Dellinger Grist Mill

    The Times piece reminded me of another of humanity’s lost arts, which in this particular case also has a connection with our space program. In the mountains north of Asheville, North Carolina sits the Dellinger Grist Mill, the last small, water-powered stone mill left in North Carolina, dating from the turn of the last century (added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1998). Jack Dellinger, fourth-generation Dellinger miller, restored the mill and operates it today in retirement. In the 1950s, Dellinger left the family farm and mill, served in the Korean War, and then became a software engineer for IBM. There, he wrote control software in Huntsville, AL, under the direction of Wernher von Braun, for the Saturn V rockets used in the moon landing, before finally returning home in the late 1990s and putting generations-old, nearly-vanished milling techniques back into production.

    Jack Dellinger currently offers informative tours touching on rural life in NC, milling, historic restoration, and the space program, and grinds local corn into meal, grits, and polenta; if you’re going to be in the area, consult the calendar on the website or email him to see if the Mill is open. Highly recommended!

  • What It’s Like Growing Up as a Girl in the Gaza Strip [National Geographic]

    Switching gears, last weekend’s National Geographic photo-roundup email included this story about a photojournalist’s work documenting the lives of girls and young women in Gaza. There’s also a Kickstarter campaign to get a book of her project published (there’s currently about a week-and-a-half left in the campaign and the book is already almost three-quarters funded).

07.26.17

From the Garden

Posted in التصوير at 12:29 am by

Young praying mantis on cucumber vine
Young praying mantis on cucumber vine
Lawrenceville, GA, July 25, 2017

(This very tiny mantis was approximately one inch long.)

07.13.17

Recalled to Life

Posted in Life at 5:09 pm by

For almost as long as I can remember, I’ve started my day with a glass of apricot nectar. I have no idea how or when this started; it’s always been with me, just as the sun rises every day. Originally, back in the day, it was Libby’s in a glass bottle, and every time we visited my grandparents, or they visited us, they would have the 64 oz. cans (larger and less expensive, but for some reason not available near us) for me. Later, there were even 12 oz. (and 6 oz.) cans I could bring with me camping and on trips—I was the weirdo who came to breakfast with a juice can and didn’t drink the watered-down hotel orange juice). Wherever in the country I was, I had my Libby’s apricot nectar, and breakfast was good (even in Syria, two decades ago this summer, one of my favorite breakfast treats was when we had some sort of apricot jam or preserves in which to dip our bread…not Libby’s, or nectar, but still apricot, and delicious!).

At some point in the last decade-plus, Libby’s rebranded its juices as Kern’s (by then both brands were owned by Nestlé), but the bottles (by now plastic and smaller) continued, and all was well…until about January, when bottles and cans began disappearing from store shelves and were not being restocked. In fact, all Kern’s nectars, except the 12 oz. mango and guava cans, disappeared from the groceries, even though the company claimed still to be producing them. I tried Jumex apricot nectar, which was available in 12 oz. cans in certain stores, but it tasted too much liked spiked punch for me to drink, much less enjoy. So early in 2017, my long run of a glass of apricot nectar with breakfast sadly came to an end :-( Yes, it was only juice, but when it has been a part of your life, daily, for so many decades, it is still a loss that you mourn.

That didn’t stop my mother and I from eyeing the spots where the Kern’s apricot nectar had been, hoping beyond hope it might return. And, suddenly, early this month it did reappear at the local Publix, in a new and larger 64 oz. bottle, with a slightly different (I would argue better, slightly more apricot-y) taste. I have no idea what caused the sudden return (perhaps a series of complaints by other weirdos like me? I can’t imagine there are that many of us), but I am thrilled—and all is well with breakfast, once again :-)

07.07.17

iOSify Bookmarklets and adding bookmarklets on iOS

Posted in Software at 7:14 pm by

I don’t do much web browsing on iOS (I just can’t handle the small screen), but I do visit a number of sites regularly, some of which do stupid things that make them annoying or hard to use, especially in Mobile Safari. On the desktop, it’s usually easy to “fix” these annoyances with a bit of JavaScript or CSS or a quick trip to the Document Inspector, but none of these are readily available on iOS. Fortunately, however, bookmarklets still work in Mobile Safari.

Unfortunately, though, adding bookmarklets to Mobile Safari is cumbersome at best. Unless you sync all of your bookmarks from the desktop, it’s almost impossible to add a bookmarklet to Mobile Safari unless the bookmarklet’s author has done some work for you. On the desktop, you’d typically just drag the in-page bookmarklet link to your bookmarks toolbar and be done, or control-/right-click on the in-page bookmarklet link and make a new bookmark using the context menu. One step, so simple a two-year-old could do it. The general process of adding a bookmarklet to Mobile Safari goes like this:

  1. Bookmark a page, any page, in order to add a bookmark
  2. Manually edit the aforementioned bookmark’s URL to make it a bookmarklet, i.e. by pasting the bookmarklet’s code
  3. Fun! :P

To make things slightly easier, Digital Inspiration has a collection of common bookmarklets that you can bookmark directly and then edit back into functioning bookmarklets.1 It’s still two steps, but step 2 becomes much simpler (probably a five-year-old could do it). This is great if Digital Inspiration has the bookmarklet you want (or if the bookmarklet’s author has included an “iOS-friendly” link on the page), but what if you want to add Alisdair McDiarmid’s Kill Sticky Headers bookmarklet?

To solve that problem, I wrote “iOSify Bookmarklets”—a quick-and-dirty sort-of “meta-bookmarklet” to turn any standard in-page bookmarklet link into a Mobile Safari-friendly bookmarkable link.

Once you add iOSify Bookmarklets to Mobile Safari (more on that below), you tap it in your bookmarks to covert the in-page bookmarklet link into a tapable link, tap the link to “load” it, bookmark the resulting page, and then edit the URL of the new bookmark to “unlock” the bookmarklet.

Say you’re visiting http://example.com/foo and it has a bookmarklet, bar, that you want to add to Mobile Safari.

  1. Open your Mobile Safari bookmarks and tap iOSify Bookmarklets. (The page appears unchanged afterwards, but iOSify Bookmarklets did some work for you.)
  2. Tap the in-page link to the bookmarklet (bar) you want to add to Mobile Safari. N.B. It may appear again that nothing happens, but if you tap the location bar and finger-scrub, you should see the page’s URL has been changed to include the code for the “bar” bookmarklet after a ?bookmarklet# string.
  3. Tap the Share icon in Mobile Safari’s bottom bar and add the current page as a bookmark; you can’t edit the URL at this point, so just choose Done.
  4. Tap the Bookmarks icon, then Edit, then the bookmark you just added. Edit the URL and delete everything before the javascript: in the bookmark’s URL. (Tap Done when finished, and Done again to exit editing mode.)

The “bar” bookmarklet is now ready for use on any page on the web.

Here’s an iOS-friendly bookmarkable version of iOSify Bookmarklets (tap this link, then start at step 3 above to add this to Mobile Safari): iOSify Bookmarklets

The code, for those who like that sort of thing:

I hope this is helpful to someone out there :-)

        

1 For the curious, Digital Inspiration uses query strings and fragments in the URL in order to include the bookmarklet code in the page URL you bookmark, and iOSify Bookmarklets borrows this method. ↩︎

07.04.17

Welcome, “The Month in WordPress”!

Posted in Open Source, Software at 1:59 am by

I stumbled into the افكار و احلام dashboard today to make a new post, and I noticed a new item in the “WordPress News” feed: a monthly roundup of what’s going on in the WordPress project. The WordPress Blog has, for as long as I can recall, limited itself to posting about releases (new versions, betas, etc.) and the occasional other high-profile news item, so if the blog was your main ongoing point-of-contact with WordPress (as I suspect it is for most users, more-often-than-not including me), you didn’t learn much about what was happening or where the software was headed until a release featuring those changes landed in your lap. So this is a welcome change, a quick overview of big items and pointers to other things that may be of interest, but on a monthly basis to still keep the WordPress Blog low-volume (and thus low-annoyance).

It reminds me of the weekly-ish Camino updates begun (I think) in 2005 by Samuel Sidler (with assistance from Wevah), first on Camino Update and then later on his own blog, and later taken over by me when Sam got busy with other things (and it would surprise me if Sam’s fingerprints weren’t on this new WordPress monthly roundup in some way). Over the years, those updates filled an important communication need in the Camino Project. It’s important to make it easy for people interested in your software to see what you’re doing (or that you are still doing something!), especially when those tentpole events like releases have a relatively long duration between them, but to do so without either requiring those interested people to dig in to the daily activity of the project or overwhelming them with such details or project jargon. I feel like “The Month in WordPress: June 2017” strikes the right balance and hits the mark for WordPress, and I’m excited to keep reading the feature in the months to come.

So welcome to the web, “The Month in WordPress”! :)

06.23.17

Friday links

Posted in Links at 11:38 pm by

Well, link (singular):

My friend Jill has said for years that I’m about 70 years old :P

06.22.17

Thoughts on the Names of the Clooney Twins

Posted in History, Life, السياسة at 2:21 am by

Apparently, the children of noted Lebanese-British international law and human rights barrister Amal Clooney (née Alamuddin) and her world-famous American actor and activist husband George arrived earlier this month. According to the Internet (aka a statement provided by the family to various media outlets), the twins, a girl and a boy, are named Ella and Alexander. (These are, I think, lovely names—in particular, my cousin and his wife named their daughter Ella earlier this year—and I never expected anything “strange”, like “Moonbeam” or “Apple”, from George Clooney.)

I learned of these things via a poignant and thought-provoking article from Duana, one of the writers at the Canadian celebrity gossip website LaineyGossip. The article is a great exploration of the naming (please, read the entire thing—it’s relatively short, and excellent), but the main point really resonated with me:

When all is said and done, this is what breaks my heart a little bit. The babies are half-Lebanese-British by birth and will be citizens of the world. Their names could have been anything, and people would have accepted them because George Clooney said so. […]

But the reason they’re worthy of comment, to me, is because I can’t shake the feeling that choosing such well-trodden ‘normal’ names sends an implicit message that Middle Eastern or Arabic names are not as desirable. That the name their mother has is not something to be emulated. […]

But in a time when we have such a massive lack of understanding of Middle Eastern and Arabic culture, I can’t help but wish there’d been a greater attempt to find the beauty in names from another culture.

[…]

It’s because representation matters. It’s because choosing Anglo names when one parent has a name that is “other” can be interpreted as feeling like there’s something to hide or be ashamed of. Names matter. And they continue to send a message long after the birth certificates have been signed.

(We do not know what, if any, middle names these children have; it’s certainly possible that they’re named “Ella Fairuz” and “Alexander Adil” or something along those lines, names that do mix their parents’ heritages. All we know at the moment is that the children have “normal”/“classic” English first names. Still, Duana’s point stands; the middle names, even if present and known, will not have the same prominence as the children’s first names.)

I will echo Duana from LaineyGossip in saying that it’s none of my business what the Clooneys choose to name their children, that these are lovely names, and that we have no idea what their thought-process might have been. But to someone who spent the bulk of his academic career focused on the Middle East, who is living in 2017, it does feel like a missed opportunity for two extremely high-profile, politically-aware and -active parents to make a quiet but lasting, positive statement about issues close to them.

Moving on, I have two additional thoughts to add to what Duana has already presented. The first is that when Amal Alamuddin married George Clooney, she took his surname. (In addition, she did not keep her birth surname as a post-marriage middle name, as is sometimes done in the Anglophone world.) Again, her choice and none of my business. But (not knowing her, or anything about her beyond what appears in standard short-form biographies of her), it still surprised me when it happened—I had, for no real reason, expected her to emulate 1990s-era Hillary Rodham Clinton and become “Amal Alamuddin Clooney” (as she was very briefly called in the media once her marriage became known but before it became known she was going by “Amal Clooney” instead). She had a reasonably high-profile and established career under her birth surname. Further, on occasion in the Middle East I’d been told that traditionally women did not take their husbands’ surnames on marriage, since the name represented his ancestry and one could not suddenly inherit that ancestry (how common this practice really is/was, I have no idea). It has been interesting—I’m not sure that is the right word—though definitely fruitless to wonder why she made that choice. It certainly was one of the things that popped into my mind, though, when I read the piece about the children’s names.

The second item is a story that my great-aunt Dorothy told during one of our family reunions years ago, about the thought and behavior patterns of immigrants (at least of her grandparents’ era). She said that the immigrants insisted that their children (her parents, in this case) were/be Americans; the immigrants did not teach their children (nor let them speak) Italian, and many things from the “old country” disappeared in favor of assimilation. Indeed, in our family, Stefano Serafino became “Steve S.” upon arrival in the United States, and his and Maria’s children were Katherine, Jennie, John, Clement, James, Marie, Adam, and Steve, “abandoning” family names like Domenica, Theresa, Giovanni, and Stefano. (Then, Aunt Dorothy continued, in the next generation, there was a reaction against that suppression of ancestry and culture; she and her siblings and cousins sought to learn about their heritage, where they were from, and so on, though by this time some things—including the ability to speak Italian [Piedmontese]—were lost altogether.)

The Alamuddin family were immigrants to the United Kingdom, fleeing the Lebanese Civil War when Amal was very young. I wonder if her immigrant experiences—whether like my great-great-grandparents’ or something unique to her time and place—came into play when thinking about naming the children? At the end of the day, all we can do is speculate—and waste our time writing about our thoughts and speculations—until one of the Clooneys one day (if ever) addresses the subject directly. Still, though, in today’s world, representation matters, and for billions of non-Anglo-European or part-Anglo-European adults and children (and the hundreds of millions of them living in traditionally-Anglo-European societies), the Shireens and Hishams and Laylas and Iskanders, it may feel like still “there’s no one on TV like me” when this month there easily could have been.

Thoughts on an 80th Class Reunion

Posted in History, Life at 1:47 am by

The Franklin Township High School Class of 1937 recently held their 80th class reunion; both of its surviving graduates were in attendance.

For those like me who are mathematically challenged, that means two 98-year-olds—presumably both women, though I don’t know; I heard about it via my mother, who’d heard it from my father, who’d heard it from one of his old friends/classmates, who’d read it in the paper. It boggles my mind to think that 80 years after graduation, there are still graduates alive and able to get together for a reunion. I don’t know how many graduates were in the Class of 1937 (which would have been my grandfather’s class had he not been so stubborn), but my grandmother (Class of 1938) had 72 in hers, which was more than any of us here had expected, although still quite small by what we had experienced. And still two remain; amazing.

It’s nice to hear that they continued having reunions as the years progressed and the number of surviving members dwindled, and I hope those two remaining members of the Class of 1937 had a wonderful time. I hope my grandmother’s class has an 80th reunion next year, too—I’ll volunteer to scan her copy of the graduation program for them, in case none of the surviving graduates have theirs handy.

(And maybe by the time it’s time for my 80th high school class reunion, I’ll finally be ready to attend one ;-) )