June 3, 2016

What would you do for a Klondike Bar?

Would you burn your house?

I’m sorry, what?

You heard me.

Would I burn? My house?


You’re going to have to back up and give me some context.

Would you burn your house for a Klondike Bar.

For a Klondike Bar?


…The entire house?

The entire house.

To the ground.

To the ground.

Uh, no. I would not burn my house to the ground for a Klondike Bar.

Suit yourself.

February 15, 2016


Written circa 1995.

I’m seeing commercials for a new headache medicine called Orudis.™
Wasn’t Orudis an Egyptian deity?

Yes. Orudis was the Egyptian god of pain relief.1

According to myth, Ra went to Orudis after Isis smote him (Ra) on the head (and we all know what it’s like to be smitten by Isis—as opposed to “smitten with Isis,” which may indeed be the case here, as an alternate version of the legend states that Anubis grabbed Isis by the ankles [as he was prone to do—no, I'm sorry, Isis was prone; that's why Anubis grabbed her ankles in the first place] and, swinging her bod[il]y, whacked Ra in the temple [well, where else?]—but I digress). Either that, or Ra created Orudis to handle the situation. The hieroglyphs are ambiguous. Ambiguous Hieroglyphs. My new band.

Orudis conjured two magic beads (12.5 milligrams each) and told Ra to swallow them. The myth is unclear at this point as to whether Ra did so and his headache went away (and dispersed into the world; the first headache remedy was also the genesis of all mortal headaches—there’s two sides to every coin, y’know?), or whether his whole head went away, or whether Ra gave Orudis that look—you know, that look—and whacked him in the temple (the temple of Orudis, that is) with the once-again ankularly-wielded Isis (this may be where the “ankh” comes from), making him feel better instantly (Ra, that is, not Orudis—or Anubis—and certainly not Isis). Or Isis whacked Anubis with Orudis and/or Osiris.2 I mean, when it comes down to it, who can keep track?

In any case, the headache of Ra was cast out of the picture and into the annals of medicinal theology. So, you see, the over-the-counter availability of Orudis recapitulates a millenia-old legend or, possibly, brings it to a close. I hope.

1. The god of non-steroidal analgesia, to be precise.
2. Rumor has it that Ptolemy had a frieze of the whole thing in his bathroom.

September 7, 2015

How to create an online portfolio

In 45 easy steps.

  1. Ponder setting up a portfolio using your own simple gallery code.
  2. Consider: The portfolio is for a job requiring WordPress expertise, so why not use WordPress?
  3. Search the web for portfolio gallery themes.
  4. Search the web for free portfolio gallery themes.
  5. Look over several dozen screenshots and descriptions. View five or six demo sites, some of which turn out not to be free.
  6. View the demo site for a theme called “Touchfolio” that is:
    1. minimalist and clean
    2. responsive
    3. touch-enabled
    4. and, yes, free.
  7. Use your web host’s Softaculous installer system to set up a fresh instance of WordPress 4.3 and a new database.
  8. Download Touchfolio.
  9. Watch the Touchfolio installation/configuration video, an annotated screencast of the complete setup procedure.
  10. Install Touchfolio, activate the theme, and start configuring the site.
  11. Set up your first project gallery. Save the gallery configuration. The gallery configuration doesn’t save.
  12. Try setting it up again. It still doesn’t save.
  13. Huh.
  14. Search the web for an answer. Find the Touchfolio support forum, which contains multiple posts stating that it doesn’t create galleries in Wordpress 4.3.
  15. Go back to the Touchfolio demo site, view source, and ascertain that the author runs it on WordPress 3.3.2.
  16. Delete the WordPress 4.3 installation and the database. (Some WordPress releases change the database structure, so an older release is likely to choke on a newer database.)
  17. Download the WordPress 3.3.2 package from the WordPress.org Release Archives.
  18. Manually install the files on the web server.
  19. Set up the database using your web host’s cPanel system and make note of the access details.
  20. Hit the site to initialize WordPress.
  21. Discover that it can’t create wp-config.php, probably due to file permissions.
  22. Create wp-config.php yourself and copy in the details that the installer interface helpfully provided.
  23. Finish initializing.
  24. Log into the WordPress admin interface.
  25. The left-column navigation is there, but the rest of the page is blank, no matter what you click.
  26. For crying out loud.
  27. Search the web to see if anyone else has ever seen this.
  28. Find this exact problem posted on Stack Overflow, complete with a screenshot and a handful of identical solutions, including the path, filename, line number, and object reference to change.
  29. Edit the PHP. It works! Okay, back in business.
  30. Install the Touchfolio theme. Activate it.
  31. Fatal PHP error. The theme is calling wp_get_theme(), which is undefined.
  32. Search the entire WordPress 3.3.2 codebase with Sublime Text. Indeed, wp_get_theme() isn’t there at all.
  33. Search the web for wp_get_theme(). The WordPress Codex says this function was first implemented in Wordpress 3.4.
  34. W—what the—how is the Touchfolio demo site even possibly working with WordPress 3.3.2? Maybe the author put the wp_get_theme() call in the downloadable package, but left the demo running an older version of the theme?
  35. Oh well, whatever, never mind. Delete the WordPress 3.3.2 files, download 3.4.2 from the Release Archives, and install. Desperately suppress the thought that you’ll be installing version after version until, if ever, you find one that works.
  36. Initialize. It kindly updates the 3.3.2 database, but again it can’t create the wp_config.php file. Fine—create a new one again.
  37. Install Touchfolio.
  38. Wait, no, now it says it can’t create the Touchfolio theme files due to permission problems.
  39. Check the theme directory on the server. Yup, nothing new got installed.
  40. chmod 777 the whole frickin’ installation, just to be sure.
    Note: We do not do this to mission-critical systems. This is an expedient fix to a hidden, short-use, ultra-low-traffic site that nobody else’s livelihood is depending on.
  41. Install Touchfolio again. It works.
  42. But…does it?
  43. Watch the configuration video again and follow the steps to create a gallery.
  44. It works.
  45. Make the portfolio.

June 3, 2014

The body autistic

I am often uncomfortable—physically ill-at-ease with my bodily position, my immediate environs, my sensory milieu, or with the motions I am performing. Sometimes I’m just walking down the hall or even sitting still in what should be a comfortable chair. I feel as if my senses are miscalibrated, like I’m perceiving wrongness where there shouldn’t be any. This has bothered me for as long as I can remember. I have always assumed there was something bad about me, some adaptation or discipline I have been remiss in acquiring. I assumed I wasn’t trying hard enough, no matter how hard I earnestly was trying to ignore the discomfort.

As I learn more about neurodiversity and the experience of being autistic, I am coming to understand that this discomfort is not my fault, not a failure of my will or determination: In truth, sometimes I simply do not fit where I am or what I am doing. Sometimes, the “normal” expectations I have been trained to impose on myself are fundamentally abnormal for the way my nervous system works. I am expecting myself to feel OK in a situation I am not designed to find comfortable.

I formally gave up requiring myself to be “normal” years ago—but there’s saying you’re quitting and then there’s actually quitting. Sometimes you don’t even realize you’ve fallen off the wagon until it’s rolled away over the horizon and, in a contemplative moment, you suddenly wonder why you’re not moving anymore.

May 24, 2014

Climate of the apes

In a Facebook discussion about climate change denial, a friend of a friend commented:

We must really think a lot of ourselves to think we can change this planet one way or another.

This is my response.

It’s not that we have an inflated impression of the power in our little meat-and-bones bodies. If it were just us hairless apes doing muscle-power things, we wouldn’t have this much of an impact on the biosphere.

The problem is that a few especially clever apes found some stuff in the ground which, when you burn it, releases a lot of energy, fast—much faster than our muscles—and they figured out how to use it to power machines that do more than we ever could do before. Once those clever apes had made the machines, some ambitious but not-so-clever others decided to use the machines as much as possible.

And nobody objected at first, because nobody had yet figured out that the energy-releasing stuff from the ground doesn’t just release energy when you burn it. It releases pollution into the air, pollution that changes the air. Not just soot or smog, which are easy to see (and which most of the apes are curiously willing to put up with as the cost of having all that machine power)—there’s other pollution you can’t see. The unseen pollution changes the air slowly, so you don’t notice it right away.

But we’ve been burning that stuff for a long time, and the clever apes have been studying that change. It turns out that the change is bigger than most apes might imagine.

It turns out that when you mess with enormous power that you don’t completely understand, that enormous power can change things you didn’t mean to change. Far more than you ever could have changed without that power. And the change happens even if you don’t intend it, even if you don’t want it, even if you don’t believe in it. Power is power. It really doesn’t care about you.

Pardon the Spider-Man quote, but it is perfectly appropriate: With great power comes great responsibility. Since we learned the side effects of burning all that stuff, our civilization has not been using the power responsibly.

Another quote: Power corrupts. When that power gives some apes the ability to do so much, and get so much profit from it, those apes (if they aren’t the most responsible apes) won’t want to stop using it. They’ll do everything they can to undermine and discredit the clever apes who try to stop them.

So, here we are.

April 4, 2014

I do not accept Autism Speaks

Since April is Autism Acceptance Month, I’d like to share a few items about myself, about the Autistic community—and about the community’s trouble with Autism Speaks, the largest autism-related nonprofit organization.

Autism Speaks has an image to maintain as the voice of autism, so they don’t want anyone talking about autism without giving them a piece of the action. It’s no use to them if a bunch of upstart autistics reject their “Autism Awareness” PR campaign and counter it with a grassroots Autism Acceptance movement. So Autism Speaks is trying to hijack the idea with their own “Autism Acceptance” page, right on their website.

I’m not linking to their page. I won’t give them the traffic or the search relevance.

As of this writing, that page is the number one Google result for autism acceptance. But there are other websites with far more relevant information (e.g., the Autism Acceptance page itself), so it doesn’t make sense that it should come up as the most relevant result in a search—and it wasn’t #1 a few days ago—so I suspect Autism Speaks has been working with SEO professionals, artificially jacking up the Google ranking. They’ve certainly got the money to spend on that kind of publicity-jiggering.

The page itself contains 10 links to other pages within the Autism Speaks website. It begins:

We know that autism acceptance is something many in the autism community are also advocating for. Here are a list of links from our website that discuss issues related to autism acceptance.

Note: That’s “the autism community,” not the Autistic community. Autism Speaks refuses to recognize an Autistic community.

Autism Speaks, at its core, refuses to recognize autistic people. Their website never uses the word “autistic.” Never! It literally is not in their vocabulary. (If you can find it in any of their materials, let me know.) On the entire “Autism Acceptance” page, here are all the phrases that refer to autistic people:

Mother with Two Sons on the Autism Spectrum
one of her sons, Rubin, who is on the autism spectrum
her son Max who has autism
Youth with Autism
young adults with autism
individuals affected by autism
individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
children with autism
students with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
children with autism…children with autism [twice in same paragraph]

The unwavering message of Autism Speaks is that there is no such thing as an autistic person—that there are only normal children who have been diseased with autism. They reject the fact that autism is an integral part of autistic people’s existence, that autistic people are autistic.

November 16, 2013

What lies beneath

Unless you’ve been a maintenance engineer for some kind of complex system that’s been running for a sustained period—whether it’s mechanical, electrical, or, in my case, software—you probably don’t truly understand just how tenuously pretty much every such system on the planet is held together. And, for the sake of your happiness and your basic ability to sleep at night, you don’t want to understand. Our civilization has brought us a great many things that look solid and polished and reliable on the surface. For your own sanity, don’t open them up and look inside. Just don’t.

September 12, 2012

I remember

I remember
the phone call
my mother in an airport in New Orleans
Turn on the news
Airplanes have flown into the Twin Towers

and thinking: Airplanes?
More than one?
and knowing
it was no accident

I remember
I hope they put those fires out soon
it just keeps burning

I remember
Peter Jennings
his voice cracking, once,
as he said he’d called his children while the camera wasn’t on him
and you should, too

I remember
the crystal autumn sky
the black smear along the horizon
that used to be
the World Trade Center

I remember
the empty sky
the silent empty sky
I never saw or heard before
and never saw or heard again

I remember
no commercials
no shows
only people
trying to understand

I remember
Is your family OK?
Is your company OK?
Is everyone you know OK?
Are you OK?

I remember
the fragility
the stripped-naked truth that
it could have been any of us
it could have been all of us
it was all of us
we were all attacked
we were all the target
we all stood in the crosshairs together
what did our differences matter anymore?
How could we not be
one people
With such
how could we not become a better world?

I remember
the moral imperative of a five-year-old
when we wrote a card to the local Islamic Society
with a message of peace and support
and our son asked to write his own
and he wrote

We should all hold hands because our hearts are full of love.

August 3, 2012

Hello, Saudi Arabia

Yesterday, if I’d realized that my Twitter account would gain 2,000 followers from Saudi Arabia in the span of 24 hours, I’d have written a nice blog post for you to come here and read—maybe spruced up the graphics for Retina displays and such.

I hate to disappoint an audience—particularly an audience larger than I’ve ever had in my life—so I’ll write something worthwhile. Might take a few days before I really have the time. Meanwhile, I’ll still be on Twitter.

This is pretty amazing and fun.

July 20, 2012

Apparently, the letter is “u”

Subject: Hello! Can I ask you to read the letter?

I saw you during tour through resource and got my mouth water?

Wow, I didn’t think anyone saw me on my tour through resource. No, I didn’t get your mouth water. Did you send it to my office?

Yeah, it is absolutely truth that I felt in love with u from the first look.

Are you synesthetic? I know someone who attributes personalities to numbers, too.

Usually I am not writing or calling males first but some stuff happened to me when I saw u.

Sounds like some intense synesthesia. I’m jealous!

Oh, my name is Kristie.


Tell me about u.

I can tell you’re an enthusiast, but I’m really more fond of v. It’s more versatile. Which starts with v! See?

What’s about your free time?

I spend more of it parsing ambiguously-constructed sentences than you might expect.

What do you like?


Which food do you prefer?

I must have missed the options. I confess I was totally absorbed in resource. So sorry.

But wait—I just answered that a moment ago, didn’t I! Ha!

Would you write me next day?;)

If what? :/

I gonna be available at 9 pm tomorrow. Looking forward about our conversation!

I…guess you are!