Website Updates

Various updates about the website:

PLANNED MAINTENANCE: My web host is planning to do some upgrades in the near future. These are scheduled to take place in the wee small hours of Eastern Standard Time. So if the site is unavailable, that’s most likely what’s going on. I’ll update this as my host updates me.

NEW FEATURE: When you visit a WordPress blog, the software defaults to loading the 10 most recent stories. When you get to the bottom of the page, you can click “Older Stories” to load the next 10 stories, and so on. The people who make WordPress also make a set of plug-ins called “JetPack”, and a recent update added an “infinite scroll” feature: when you get to the bottom of the page, the next 10 articles automatically load in the browser, and you can keep scrolling as far back as you wish. This is a feature of the Reddit Enhancement Suite, and I really like it. Unfortunately, you can’t use a footer with infinite scroll, so I moved the footer widgets to the sidebar.

NEW FEATURE (OF SORTS): One of the biggest complaints people had about Instagram is that it lacked “profile pages”. When you uploaded a picture to the site, Instagram would create an HTML page around the picture, which you could then send to friends as a link. But there was no “profile page” where people could look at your other pictures. Instagram has finally created profiles for users, and my account has been upgraded. You can see all my pictures here, or just use the Instagram icon in the sidebar (with the RSS, Facebook, Twitter and other icons).

THE PLUG-IN MERRY-GO-ROUND: For a long time I used a plug-in called WordBooker, which automatically added a Facebook post whenever I published a new article on this site. I also used another plug-in called Twitter Tools to do the same for Twitter. However, the author of WordBooker seemed to be locked in a constant battle with Facebook’s ever-changing API, so the plug-in broke early and often. Not too long ago, the folks behind Twitter Tools created a new plug-in called Social, which added the ability to post to Facebook as well as Twitter. But Social had one annoying bug: it would pull any random picture from the site and use that as the “featured picture” in the Facebook post (that’s why I temporarily disabled the Instagram widget in the sidebar). I found a plug-in which fixed that bug, but then noticed that JetPack has a similar feature called “Publicize”. I figure the “official” WordPress plug-in will be the most reliable and have the best support, so I’m gonna use that one… for now.

Top 10 Tunes

From the home office in London, here’s the Top 10 song chart for the week ending November 3, 2012:

1) Ambra Red – “Oh Boy”
2) Marsheaux – “Empire State Human”
3) My Mine – “Hypnotic Tango (Radio mix)”
4) Modern English – “Life in the Gladhouse”
5) Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – “Telegraph”
6) Gary Numan – “Films”
7) Ministry – “Revenge”
8) Book Of Love – “I Touch Roses (Long Stemmed version)”
9) Visage – “Fade To Grey (12″ Version)”
10) Kim Wilde – “Suburbs of Moscow”

Americans and College Sports

If you spend any time at all on places Reddit you’ve probably seen the same questions asked over and over again. One question I’ve seen posted over the years comes from people outside the United States who ask “What’s the deal with Americans and college sports?” or  “Why do Americans care which university is best at basketball?” or “How do you know which university to cheer for?”

I’ve seen the question answered many times, but the answers were, in my opinion, incomplete. Some answers would discuss college sports generally, while others would focus on the “which university to cheer for” issue. I hope, with this post, to answer the question fully. So if you have any European or Australian friends who ask about American college sports, in the future you can send them a link to this post!

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: For the duration of this article, I will use the term “football” to refer exclusively to American football and “soccer” to refer to the sport the rest of the non Anglosphere (except Britain) calls football. Yes, Americans get crap from the Brits for calling it “soccer”, but Canadians, Australians, Kiwis, South Africans, Belizeans and the Irish call it “soccer”, too. And much of Asia, including Japan, call it some variation of “soccer”, like “soka” or “saker”. But it’s just AMERICANS who are weird. On a lighter note, I will also follow the American custom of using the terms “university”, “college” and “school” interchangeably.]

*     *     *

First of all, when Americans talk about “college sports” chances are good that they’re actually talking about two sports: football and\or basketball. These are the predominant college sports in the United States, and the reason for this is historical: both sports initially became popular at the collegiate level, and it was their wild success as spectator sports that led people to risk creating professional leagues.

Take football, for example. The history of American football is a bit murky. It’s known that mob football, a medieval forerunner of modern soccer, was played in colonial-era America, possibly for the first time at Jamestown in the 1600s. However, organized games played by intramural university teams did not begin until the early 1800s. Mob football was a brutal sport; some sources say that “any means could be used to move the ball to a goal, as long as it did not lead to manslaughter or murder”!

By the 1860s, the game had been banned at most universities due to student number of injuries and destruction of school property. However, thanks to the introduction of manufactured balls of uniform size and shape – which made the ball bounce predictability for the first time, adding a new strategic element to the game – the sport continued to increase in popularity at prep schools. They came up with something called the Boston Game, a sport which combined the kicking aspect of soccer with the carrying aspect of rugby. The sport began to return to American colleges, and on November 6, 1869 a team from Rutgers University played Princeton University in what most historians consider the first true game of American football. This “new” sport quickly spread to other universities on the east coast of the United States, then went nation-wide once rules were standardized later in the 1870s.

By the 1910s, most large American universities had a college football team, and games were drawing as many as 80,000 spectators in some markets. There was an obvious market for a professional version of the sport, and several businessmen had a go at creating pro leagues. Unfortunately, most failed after a few years due to arguments between team owners. It wasn’t until 1920 that the American Professional Football Association was formed. The group changed its name to the National Football League two years later, and one day it would become the preeminent sports league in the United States.

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SIMON’S PICKS – WEEK 10

SimonHey, ya’ll! Simon here! Guess which kitty went 13-1 last week? THIS kitty! I’m 83-49 for the season, which I believe puts me ahead of the walking corpse that is Cris Collinsworth! But no time to brag now… week 10 is coming! Here are my picks for this week! Enjoy! 


Indianapolis at Jacksonville:
The Jax Kitties have 99 problems, and while a bitch ain’t one… they still have 99 problems. The play calling is terrible, the o-line can’t protect the QB, but even if they could what’s Blaine Gabbert gonna do? He doesn’t have anyone to throw to! Things aren’t any better on the other side of the ball, either. Their secondary stinks, and while the linebackers aren’t awful, the play calling here ain’t great, either. This team is in such disarray it’s time for Shahid Khan to fire Gene Smith… and everyone else connected to the organization. Just in time to move to Los Angeles! Simon says take the Colts to win this one easily, especially with that cute lil’ Andrew Luck coming on so well! Hey Randy Andy… Simon’s looking for yoooooouuu!

New York Giants at Cincinnati: Wow! So did the Steelers expose some weaknesses in the Giants or what? Lil’ Eli looked lost last week, and you hardly heard the sexy names “Hakeem Nicks” and “Victor Cruz” in the second half. Here’s hoping renowned doofus Marvin Lewis actually studies tape of that game, ‘cos it’s possible that Cincy could pull off an upset at home, even with that awful ginger as QB. However, I think Coughlin gets the team fired up this week, and the Giants win fairly easily on the road.

Tennessee at Miami: Speaking of 99 problems… it’s the Tennessee Titans! The team that upset the Steelers in week 6 has progressively gotten worse every week since, ending in last week’s humiliating 51-20 beatdown by the sexy mens from Chi-town. Like the Jags, the Titans have so many problems, and on so many levels, that it’s hard to even know where to begin fixing them. Even if the rumors about cute lil’ Jake Locker coming back this week are true… The Simon doesn’t think it’ll help much. The ‘Fins, on the other hand, are coming together (in a circle, hopefully, with Simon in the middle!). Sure, they lost last week (thanks for being the “1” in my “13-1” picks, guys!). But that handsome Ryan Tannehill will get a win for the Dolphins this week!

Minnesota at Detroit: Hmmmm… two teams from cold-ass places no one cares about. Ya’ll know Simon wants to pick the Dee-troit kitties ‘cos of the sexy duo of Stafford and Johnson (and girl, I wanna see his Johnson!). But they’ve just been so quiet lately. The Simon hasn’t see many Lions games this year, so he doesn’t know what the problem is. But he does know that his Bärchen Adrian Peterson will have a field day with the Lions. Run all over the Lions, Adrian… then come see this Carolina Kitty! The Lions might hang in there, but I’m picking the Vikings in this game!

Continue reading “SIMON’S PICKS – WEEK 10”

The Fad That Wasn’t

With Election Day upon us, I thought you guys might enjoy this short little story from the History Blog!

When Louisiana was admitted to the Union in 1812, Congress passed a law giving her “all islands within three leagues of her coast”. However, when Mississippi was admitted to the Union five years later, Congress gave that state “all islands within six leagues of her shore”. There was some overlap, and both states claimed several islands just off the coast. But it wasn’t the islands themselves that were important: it was the oyster beds underneath the water that really caused the controversy: both states wanted the lucrative fishing grounds for themselves.

The matter wouldn’t be decided until 1906, when the Supreme Court ruled in Louisiana vs. Mississippi. However, a few years earlier, in November 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt came to the area to try and settle the matter personally without having to get the courts involved.

Roosevelt had been born a sickly, asthmatic child in an era when many people thought “effeminate society” caused such diseases, and not things like pathogens and genetic defects. Roosevelt was so sickly, in fact, that he was homeschooled, as his parents were afraid he wasn’t healthy enough to go to school. He was an excellent student, especially in geography, history and biology, and would become a fluent speaker of French and German. The young Roosevelt was always fascinated with animals, and even took up taxidermy after seeing the body of a seal at a local fish market.

Roosevelt eventually “grew out” of his disease, because he was able to become one of the manliest men of all time:

  • He became an avid boxer.
  • He rode and jumped horses, breaking his ribs several times.
  • When his wife and mother tragically died on the same day (for unrelated reasons), Roosevelt moved to North Dakota to become a cattle rancher. And, while there, a man named Mike Finnegan and two of his gang stole a boat Roosevelt had moored on the Little Missouri River. Roosevelt chased them through the icy Dakota Badlands for two weeks until he caught the gang and brought them to justice.
  • Roosevelt later formed his own cavalry regiment called the “Rough Riders”, and he led a horseless charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba during the Spanish-American War.
  • On a hunting trip in 1901, a cougar attacked Roosevelt’s beloved hunting dogs. Roosevelt fought the cougar with a knife and killed it.
  • On October 14, 1912, while campaigning for his third term as president for the newly-formed “Bull Moose” party, Roosevelt was shot by a crazed saloonkeeper named John Schrank, who claimed that the ghost of William McKinley had come to him in a dream with orders to shoot Roosevelt. The bullet, which hit Roosevelt in the gut, had been slowed by a steel eyeglass case and the copy of his campaign speech he kept in his pockets. Because of his knowledge of biology and taxidermy, Roosevelt knew that he wasn’t badly injured, so instead of going to the hospital he gave his entire 50-page, 90-minute speech as planned, blood seeping into his shirt the whole time.
  • But perhaps my favorite Roosevelt story is that, when he was president, cavalrymen recruits from the army wrote him, complaining about having to ride 25 miles a day on horseback as part of their training. Roosevelt, then 51 years-old, rode 100 miles on horseback in a single day, just to shut them up.

Yes, Theodore Roosevelt was a badass. So when, on that diplomatic trip to Mississippi, the governor of the state, Andrew H. Longino, invited him on brief hunting trip to town of Smedes, Roosevelt happily accepted.

Continue reading “The Fad That Wasn’t”

Win7: Return to Console After RDP

Way back in 2007, I wrote this post, which details how to get a Windows XP computer to return to the desktop (console) at the conclusion of an RDP session.

Microsoft’s client operating systems only support one session at a time, meaning that you can have a standard “desktop” session with your Windows PC, or you can connect via Remote Desktop for a remote session. But you can’t do both at once. And when you connect via Remote Desktop, the desktop (console) session is locked, and will remain locked after you log off, until the console user unlocks it via the keyboard.

Needless to say, this is a pain for remote support of Windows users. Normally, I’d have to log in via Remote Desktop, do what I had to do to fix it, then call the end user and tell them that I was done. They’d then unlock their computer and go about their business. But the article I posted in 2007 shows you how to create a shortcut that disconnects the remote user and unlocks the screen, so the end user knows that he or she can use their computer again.

Unfortunately, the batch file from the 2007 post doesn’t work with Windows 7. Microsoft apparently changed the way TSCON works, rendering the old batch file useless. But fear not: I’ve finally figured out how to make it work in Windows 7! Just copy and paste the text below into your favorite text editor (I prefer Notepad++) and save the file with the extension .BAT or .CMD:

tscon.exe 1 /dest:console
exit

Here’s the critical thing: when you’re connected remotely and want to return the user to the desktop session, right-click the batch file and choose “Run as Administrator”. A UAC prompt will appear; click “Yes” and your RDP session will end, and the console session will be unlocked on the remote computer.