Sunday, March 24, 2013

CAPTCHA off, then back on

I haven't been blogging here as much as I would like to be, or probably should be, but I am keeping up with other people's blogs. One of the blogs I read daily is "The REAL Blogger Status," written by a Blogger insider but full of helpful information and occasionally biting criticism regarding the Blogger platform.

A post yesterday advised blog authors to be cognizant of what they are putting potential commentors through when they are forced to solve CAPTCHAs, those annoying and occasionally unsolvable distorted word puzzles that can be set as a pre-requisite for anyone looking to leave a comment. CAPTCHAs, while viewed by some as a minor inconvenience and necessary evil to screen out robotically-posted spam comments, can also dramatically reduce the number of illegitimate comments being left on a blog. If you use moderation, the post suggests, it may be unnecessary to also use a CAPTCHA.

I use moderation, and have ever since a flood of racist and harassing comments were posted during the election of 2008. These comments were coming in during the day, when I was at work and unable to do anything about them for several hours; for those hours they were as much a part of my blog as anything I had written. After reading yesterday's post, I thought maybe it was time to back away from the CAPTCHA and loosen things up a little. Last night I turned that setting off to see what would happen.

About fifteen hours later I had fourteen new comments in moderation. Every one of them was spam.

Spam comments aren't merely annoying. A lot of blogs permit you to flag your comment to receive an email whenever someone comments after it. This is apparently part of the strategy for spam comments: the spammer also requests these follow-up emails so they can harvest email addresses - and possibly blog addresses - from anyone else who comments. This is explained in today's post on The REAL Blogger Status.

So: CAPTCHA back on. My apologies for the minor inconvenience.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

How to dry out wet books

I woke Saturday morning to a sound thundering through the house: the sound of water flowing through the pipes at full blast. I stepped out of bed and directly into half an inch of water.

We've had basement flooding over the years, but the water has never accumulated to the point that it was Saturday morning, not since I had begun reacting to incoming flooding with active pumping. I ran into the downstairs bathroom and realized that the water was coming from there - but where? There was water dripping from the ceiling, but the leak didn't seem to be from above. I quickly discovered that the water inlet hose to the toilet was detached and blasting water full-force all over the place.  It took just a few seconds to shut off the valve, but immediately the problem of what to do with the water needed to be dealt with. Fortunately I always know where the pumps are, and set them up immediately to begin pumping the standing water down the nearest drains. I threw towels on the floor to begin absorbing the water that wasn't getting pumped. Then I stepped back to assess the damage.

I have always said that you could get a pretty decent education from the books in my bathroom. Dozens of books, magazines, comic books, plus numerous catalogs, mailings, and other assorted things that probably should have been thrown away long ago.

Many of them were now soaking wet.

When the hose detached - disassembled, really; the threaded fitting that holds the hose captive and directs it into the tank broke apart - the water sprayed everywhere, including onto the ceiling, and onto the rack that held my books and magazines. As soon as the immediate issues had been dealt with I began to sort through the books. Those that were completely dry - and there were many of these - were put into a Rubbermaid tote to be dealt with later. Those that were wet and worth salvaging - all the books and comic books and some of the magazines - were piled up to be dealt with quickly. Those that could be discarded, old magazines with no historical value, were bagged for recycling.

I got some drying racks and spread as many of the magazines and comic books as could fit over them, taking them down as they dried and replacing them with others. I grabbed the soaked books - a paperback of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (one of my least favorite recent reads) and an Irish-bought hardcover compendium of the complete Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, among others, and...did something that probably damaged them worse than they already were. Something I would not have done if I had followed these links first:

University of Delaware Library - How to Dry a Wet Book

How to Salvage Wet Books - University of Michigan

How to Dry a Wet Book |

How To - How to Dry Wet Books in 7 Steps

How to Repair a Wet Book: 9 steps - wikiHow

There are other useful links out there, but they all have the same basic instructions, mostly. Essentially, what I should have done is stand the books upright on an absorbent base with absorbent papers tucked in the front and back covers and let gravity do the work. I'm hoping it's not too late to do that.

A side note: A lot of the water was absorbed by crap that I should have thrown away long ago. If I had, if it hadn't been there, then a lot more good books and magazines would have been damaged. As it is, I can just take my waterlogged seed catalogs from three years ago and Quality Paperback Book Club mailings from last year and toss them out.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

I've got a new blog (that you can't see!)

I've been involved with the Northeastern Pennsylvania Writers' Collective for over a year now. I've written numerous poems, short stories, and fragments for the group, and I have quite a bit of writing that was done before I met them. Most of these stories and poems are scattered in files throughout my hard drive and printouts here and there.

Two immediate concerns come to mind when it comes to writing: how do I make sure I can't lose it, and how can I find it when I need it? I've had an answer to both of these questions for a while, and I've been offering it as a suggestion to other people: Put all your stories and poems in a blog created just for your writing.  This way, even if you lose your home computer, laptop, or story discs, your writing is still safely stored in the cloud. (Well, not exactly safely, but we'll get to that shortly.) And you don't need to lug your writing anywhere as long as you can access your blog. Index it properly, and you'll be able to find your stories and poems quickly!

One problem comes to mind: What if you don't want to share your writing just yet? Or at all? What if these are stories you'd like to submit for publication someday, and don't want to see floating around the internet? That's easily fixed: lots of blogging platforms offer a wide array of privacy options, from a blog opened to invited readers only to a blog only accessible by the blog author. For now, that's the setting I have on my new blog.

Which presents another problem: backing up. Most blogging platforms have some mechanism built in to allow the blog author to back up the blog, and most blogs are automatically archived in one way or another. But not if the blog is set to private, with only the blog author able to see the posts, then the author must back up manually.

That's an inconvenience I'm willing to accept, for the moment. I'll gradually be posting all of my poems, stories, and fragments to this new blog, one which only I can see. In the future, I may add some readers.But for now, it will just be me!