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Meta and Systems administration28 May 2013 at 15:25 by Jean-Marc Liotier

I fixed the comments form today – it had been inoperative for two months. Thanks to Loïc for reporting the malfunction – fixing a problem is usually not difficult as long as someone reports it… If you like the software you use, reporting problems is an easy and doubly self-gratifying way to give back : good bug reports are  not only valuable contributions for altruistic reasons, they are also  rewarded by improvements !

Anyway, this is yet another lesson in keeping WordPress plugins up to date – or maybe a hint that more WordPress plugins really should be packaged in my favorite distribution

Cooking and Health and Meta09 May 2011 at 13:03 by Jean-Marc Liotier

I used to be the worst local emitter of greenhouse gases. This was not just a matter of occasional mild annoyance for a few unlucky individuals in my immediate vicinity, it was a permanent Bhopal-scale industrial catastrophe unleashing wide-area soul-rotting pestilence on hapless populations… Who did not run away fast enough from the invisible abomination was left twitching on the ground, gasping for non-existent air. Needless to say, my apartment was a strictly non-smoking area.

I was also an expert at going on as if nothing happened while feigning to ignore the origin of the pollution, so credibly playing innocent that some of my co-workers suspected an actual problem with sewer piping in our high-tech office building – the Camorra’s illegal toxic waste disposal operators would be proud. But contrary to widespread rumors, none of my co-workers has ever been spotted bringing a canary along to his workplace.

Anyway, I’m relieved to come out with apologies and a hopeful announcement that those days are past… Afters years of unsuccessful experimentation with various remedies and diet alterations, I have finally found the cause…

Activated charcoal had no effect, anything else my physician prescribed had no effect, antibiotics given on occasion of some intestinal infection did help temporarily but there was the collateral damage of killing all intestinal flora – and antibiotics are not a long-term solution anyway. Contrary to most suspicions, the humongous volumes of vegetables I ingest daily were not the cause – nor was my high-fiber diet. My physician was short of hypothesis to test and even less of potential solutions.

Gone on a personal crusade against intestinal methane-producing bacteria, I ended up systematically eliminating food classes from my diet, each over a week-long period, and noting the incidence on my flatulence. The conclusion of my research : I have become lactose-intolerant.

Eliminating all dairy consumption from my diet reliably reduced flatulence to negligible levels – it took less than two days for the effect to become manifest. I have also long known that dried fruits such as apricot are notable contributors, but the effect if marginal compared to what lactose does to me. For a while I had put the blame on breakfast cereals, but that was the result of a mistake in my experimental protocol : eliminating the breakfast cereals reduced milk intake at the same time.

It feels a bit strange – I had become so used to the permanent bloating, intestinal rumblings and disturbed lower intestinal tract that I had forgotten how life is without them – especially as they had notably worsened in the last years. The feeling of relief is simply awesome and a big cause of the smile I have been harboring for the past few days. As a bonus, I suspect that lactose may have been a contributor to some of my mild knee pains.

Anyways – enjoy the good news and if you have a similar problem, be sure to check that you are not intolerant to lactose. And if you suffer from an ailment for which no one finds the cure, despair not – take the matter in your own hands and start experimenting… After all, no one knows you as well as yourself. So there, a message of hope – sometimes the solution has always been in front of you, waiting for you to see it if you make the effort of looking for it with even the slightest amount of scientific inquiry.

Meanwhile, I’m now enjoying the wonderful flavours of rice milk, almond milk, soy milk, horchata de chufas, spelt milk, quinoa milk and many other sorts of grain milks and vegetable milks – all different and all tasting great. I liked them before ending my cow milk consumption, but I was finding them a bit pricey… Now I have the perfect pretext to splurge on better quality food ! In addition, that fits nicely with my health policy of reducing consumption of animal proteins in favour of  proteins from vegetable sources. Did I mention I’m happy ?

Meta and Social networking and The Web12 May 2009 at 12:21 by Jean-Marc Liotier

One of the benefits of running blogs is the ability to gather traffic statistics and spot emerging trends. The popularity of an article is an interesting information, but my favorite is the key phrases in search engine referrer URL. The key phrases tell us what people were looking for when they ended up on the site.

This month, “Facebook application spam and how to block it” is the most viewed page on this blog, surpassing the apparently very useful mod_proxy tip, the always popular Openoffice outline mode and even the American craze for that French soldier in Afghanistan.

This month also, “block facebook quizzes” and all variations thereof account for an overwhelming majority of search engine referer key phrases on this blog.

I had personal and anecdotal data about the flood of obnoxious simplistic Facebook personality tests, but now I have numbers to back it up.

I predict a bright future for the One-Click Quiz Blocker Facebook application : it is the easiest way to make the newsfeed clean and useful again. It does what it says – it just works and it takes just one click : a real pleasure compared to my former obsessive-compulsive habit of systematic manual blocking (about five hundreds in three years…).

Knowledge management and Meta26 Nov 2008 at 15:47 by Jean-Marc Liotier

I had explained the etymology of the title and where the seagazing ostriches come from, but that still left the mistery of how I chose the title. So here is an explanation.

In their 1997 article “Browsing is a collaborative process” Twidale, Nicols and Paice coined the term “serendipitous altruism” to describe a willingness among online database searchers to assist one another whether or not they were directly responsible for the search outcome or had a direct interest in each other’s performance. In each case, the users acted as information conduits and filters on behalf of their respective audiences.

This paper had a significant influence on me at that time when I was employed at France Telecom to research cooperation issues in collaborative systems. The meme did not spread very widely, so I appropriated it as a slightly obscure yet meaningful blog title !

Meta14 Jul 2007 at 22:59 by Jean-Marc Liotier

So long CIPDTF ! For three years I have offered the CIPDTF free anonymous hosting in the name of the freedom of speech. There have been fun moments and wild ones – it has been quite an experience working with such an unusual partner. I deplore that the CIPDTF has chronically adopted an attitude of prickly ignorance of many of the conditions we set for our collaboration. Compartimentalization of activities, operational security and demarcation of responsibilities have all remained appalling in spite of my insistent advice. Six weeks ago after many warnings I set a deadline for some improvements, and that deadline has consequently been arrogantly dismissed. Time is up, I am fed up and I believe it is time to move on. So good bye and good luck with another host (and good luck for finding one as patient as me). And to those who believe that the CIPDTF has been vindicated, think again : the CIPDTF really is as crazy as its prose suggests and I would be surprised if it did not resurface somewhere else.

Meta19 Jun 2007 at 18:08 by Jean-Marc Liotier

As you can read from My Pet Jawa, Howie’s Moisture Farm and The Dread Pundit Bluto, some stupid spammer has apparently taken upon himself to promote the increasingly dubious prose of the CIPDTF. As I am providing anonymous hosting services to the CIPDTF, I am as usually taking some heat for anything related to them. So once again I have some explaining to do. The few last times I had to do that chore the controversy involved mostly French speakers so I wrote my CIPDTF disclaimers in my French speaking blog. Now it seems that time has come to make things clear in English too…

It is really a pity that I have to add another categorical denial to the already thickening pile, but here it is… Once again I want to make clear that I have never participated directly or indirectly in the content of the CIPDTF nor in any action aimed at promoting it by any means, especially the obnoxious and illegal ones.

In the name of the freedom of speech that was under very strong pressure during the heights of the Ivorian civil war, I am providing free anonymous hosting services to an Ivorian collective. My contact with that collective goes through a person I know under the pseudonym “Jacques Koulibaly”. I handle hosting services and that is all – I have nothing whatsoever to do with contents, nor with the actions of the CIPDTF or its sympathisers.

With the Ivorian crisis settling down, maybe the time for the CIPDTF‘s radical, provocative and plain bizarre humor has passed. That is my opinion, but that is not my problem. The CIPDTF is becoming ever stranger, I believe that the quality of its publications has sharply declined and my problem is that I wish to make clear that I am not associated with the CIPDTF in any way.

As you may know I am an extremely patient person and I will remain faithful to my past commitment to provide hosting unless unethical content appears on the site. But I am quite fed up with issuing disclaimers. So as a first step in making the demarcation of responsibilities more clear I have asked the CIPDTF to register their own domain name.

In fact I asked them long ago, but I did not follow up. Lending a sub-domain to those impecuniary people was supposed to be a temporary measure but I let it go on way past its expiration date. So two weeks ago I gave them a deadline : register your own domain before the 14th July or I shall discontinue hosting your site. The recents events reported by the aforementioned blogs have only confirmed my determination on this matter.

I hope that my position is now clearer for everyone involved. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask them here so that the debate can enlighten everyone.

Meta03 Dec 2006 at 3:08 by Jean-Marc Liotier

Those among you who pay attention may have wondered about the meaning of “serendipity“. You shall soon wonder no more – here is an extract from the Journal of Investigative Dermatology explaining salient elements of the etymology of the term “Serendipity” :

The “Tale of the Three Princes of Serendip” is [a] literary framework of ancient Indo-Persian origin. [..] Renaissance brought this collection of Oriental legends of travels, riddles, sagacity in solving them, to the European stage. The Tramezzini of Venice, brother-editors, used a fictional author to offer it to the public in 1557. Horace Walpole (1717–1797), son of the famous British prime minister, sitting in his estate in Strawberry Hill in Twickenham, Middlesex, translated the sagacity of the three princes into a concept which he labeled “serendipity” in a letter to Horace Mann, British envoy at the Florentine Court, dated January 28, 1754. Literally, he wrote of the three princes: “they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of”. [..] Semantically, the referral points to the island of Sri Lanka (Ceylon of yesteryear). Serendipity (Serendip) is the historical Arabo-Persian- form of Sri Lanka, a word with Sanskrit (Pali) origin, naming the island of Singhalese Serendipity (Sinhala dvipa) and kept alive in folk tales and legends of this area.

How that relates with Investigative Dermatology is anybody’s guess but I would bet that the author has made a lame attempt at making it topical by putting it on account of serendipity. Anyway…

“The Three Princes of Serendip” by Richard Boyle explains the story in more details and the dissertation continues in “Serendipity: How the Vogue word became Vague“.

Now that I have delivered those extensive explanations, my problem now is that the term is no longer obscure enough to be fit for a trendy title… But maybe I’m old enough to stop caring about that…

Code and Meta and PHP and RSS and Systems08 Jun 2006 at 18:38 by Jean-Marc Liotier

Aggregated RSS feeds presented as HTML and Javascript by Lilina are very sweet. The more we used them, the more we missed having them served as RSS. After much research it seemed to us that there is no nice and easy PHP code capable of mixing RSS as RSS. There are plenty of feed mixers offered as a service but very few offered as a product.

On the fetching and parsing side, Lilina had everything I wanted. All I needed was to make it generate RSS instead of HTML.

I went foraging for RSS creation libraries. The first one I found was XML-RSS-Aggregate . I liked it because the example provided with XML-RSS-Aggregate is an RSS agregator that ouptuts RSS – exactly what I was looking for. But Shlomi Fish mentioned that “this module is unmaintained and no longer works very well. The author (and I) recommend that you use XML::Feed now“. So I took a look at XML-Feed and found it too complex for my meagre skills. And I’m not that hot with Perl anyway. So I went looking somewhere else.

I found my salvation in Feedcreator. Feedcreator creates valid feeds in various formats, features configurable caching, reasonnable documentation and readable code. I found it quite easy to use. All it needs is an array of RSS elements, and that is exactly what Lilina provides.

I took Lilina’s index.php, cleaned up the HTML generation, spliced in the example code from Feedcreator, mapped input to output and lo and behold I had a reasonably valid RSS output by Lilina. Very sweet !

Source code of the modified Lilina with Feedreactor hybridation is available here.

I even added a cute RSS icon to Lilina’s default layout…

Meta and PHP and RSS and Systems07 Jun 2006 at 22:04 by Jean-Marc Liotier

Looking for a way to fetch multiple RSS news feeds and present them as a single HTML page I found the wonderful Lilina.

Lilina is a simple but powerful news aggregator written in PHP. No database is needed, RSS/ATOM parsing is done by the excellent MagpieRSS library”.

That piece of advertisement is all true : Lilina is dead simple to set up, requires no special dependancies and produce very nice aggregated news feeds. This was love at the first sight !

I immediately set up a couple of aggregated news feeds :

Next will be a personal feed gathering all my favorite places that publish irregularily. That page will save me quite a lot of clicking around checking for updates.

Meta and Photography and Travels02 Jun 2006 at 18:17 by Jean-Marc Liotier

Since you asked… Yes I am the author of the ostrich picture featured on this page’s header. I shot it at Cape Point, South Africa in 2004. The whole picture of the two ostriches strolling on the beach is available here along with many others.

Meta23 Sep 2005 at 14:43 by Jean-Marc Liotier

Even with some CSS and some hand crafted PHP, maintaining heaps of static HTML was beginning to be a chore, especially with my increasingly busy schedules. Posting stuff into my favorite IRC channel was painless, but the audience was a bit narrow : I really wanted to share with the wider world, whatever I may have to share… So I finally took the plunge and set up a blog. As the tagline says : “highly random experience capitalization, just in case”. Yes – that is a decidedly fuzzy editorial line, but that is the whole point of the exercise : I intend this place as my personal random brain dump, a place where to publish whatever I have on my hands in the hope that some day some poor soul using a search engine will stumble upon it and find it somewhat useful… So there : serendipitous altruism !