A Surprisingly Good Year

Looking back at 2013 for me personally, I’m amazed at the improvements in my life, and I’d like to both acknowledge and give thanks.  Let’s take a look at the picture of where I was just a scant year ago:

  • Living with my mother after separating from my wife.
  • Didn’t have a steady job.
  • Saw my kids on weekends, if that.
  • Was barred from buying health insurance by the State of Massachusetts (a joy many in the US will come to know in the coming years).
  • Had massive IRS problems.

In general, the outlook was bleak, and people often asked me how I maintained such a positive outlook.  The answer is simple: when when you’re surrounded by problems, it’s easy to find success.  Just start solving the issues, and you’ll quickly start putting together a bunch of games in the win column.

As I sit here at years end:

  • I have a wonderful job working with great people like Slava Brodskiy and David Zakur at Lycos.
  • I have a nice house on a pond where life is wonderful.
  • Both of my daughters are living with me full time.
  • I released my book last May.
  • While I haven’t completely paid off the IRS yet, I have a deal with them and the contents of my checking account isn’t disappearing regularly anymore.
  • I finally got health insurance again in Sept., even if it does get cancelled again tonight via Obamacare.
  • After 15 years I finally own Reel-Time.com thanks to Kelly Conlin.
  • Re-kindled friendships with old friends like Graham Pettingill, Jay Groccia, Kevin Condon and so many others.
  • Reconnecting with relatives I haven’t seen in years thanks to my cousin Susan Haun.
  • Many wonderful memories of living with my Mom, and the knowledge that my daughters finally have gotten to spend time with her.
  • Finally got to meet Karl Susman face to face after years of friendship via the Interwebs.

There are so many other triumphs, I can’t name them all.  I am utterly thankful, especially to friends like Jim Spencer who helped get me interesting and good paying freelance work, Slava Brodskiy who hire me at Lycos when I needed an opportunity.

The key for me has always been having a network of good friends.  For all of you, I am truly grateful.

There was a post on Facebook “21 Habits of Happy People” and it’s worth all of us taking to heart for the New Year.  My old friend Bruce Wells sums it up wonderfully:

One of the nicest things I had said to me in 2013 was from a co-worker. She recently asked me, “How did I always stay so upbeat?” The question kind of surprised me. I am human, I have bad moments and days. I reflected on the question and answered, “It’s all about attitude. You can decide how you deal with any given moment in your life. I just decide (generally) to have a good day every day”. I thought about the question she asked as I read this article. The article definitely explains this better than I did with my brief answer. Take a few minutes to read this. Absorb what it is saying. Make a commitment to try to live each day by the concepts expressed here. It wont happen overnight. Just continue to work on it day to day and see the results. If we could all work on this the World would become a sooooooooooo much better place. Peace, Love and wishing you an amazing and fabulous 2014.

 

I couldn’t agree more. Decide to have a good day every day.

Cheers and Happy New Year.

4 Words Make a Major Difference

Just a year ago, I proclaimed my freedom from the Tyranny of the Commute in a post on this blog.  The chief culprit in the absurdly long commutes I’d suffered for over a decade was the incredulously Rube Goldberg style design of the the traffic pattern at the on ramp to Rt. 95/128 north coming from the Mass Pike.  Numerous merges and crossover created an automotive version of a battle royale; a free for all in which everyone lost…

This past July, as a test, Mass Highway made a minor adjustment to the traffic flow.

  1. They reserved the right lane of Rt. 128 for traffic merging on from the on ramp.
  2. The put up a programmable billboard with 2 clear messages, using 4 simple words:
    1. Keep Moving
    2. Merge Later
  3. They painted traffic lines on the on ramp to try to get drivers to merge into a single lane prior to hitting the final on ramp.

20130903_084405The results were astounding.  No traffic backups that I can remember for July or August.  Instead of my normal 1.5 hour commute, it has been taking me an hour, or less.

This morning was the big test.  School is back in session.  The normal backups along the Mass Pike occurred, just after Rt. 495, at the Reservoir, then again just after Rt. 30.  Prior to the change, this would be a clear indicator of at least a 30 minute backup at the tolls.  This morning, not a single car waiting, everyone sailed through.

Oh that this change had happened a decade ago!

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals tear it up at Tanglewood

There is hope for music after all, and it comes in the form of a hippy chick from Vermont

Rock isn’t dead; in fact it turned up at one of the least likely venues, Tanglewood in Lenox, summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra on Monday night and it came on the bus that brought Grace Potter and the Nocturnals to town.

From the minute they took the stage, the crowd was on their feet, and they remained that way the whole way through the band’s energetic 2 hour plus show.  From the start, with an up beat “Medicine” off the band’s eponymous 2010 album, Grace had a hold on the crowd.

You like the way she makes you feel
She got you spinning on her medicine wheel
She’s crossing me with magnetic sand
She hypnotize with her mojo hand

- Medicine

The early set was  laced with material off the latest album, “The Lion, The Beast and the Beat”, released in late 2012, with “Never Go Back”, “Timekeeper”, “Keepsake” all featured prominently.

From there, Grace launched into a request for “Treat Me Right”  a song off her first album, released in 2005 entitled “Nothing But the Water”.  Here their jam band roots shown, with a well matured, smoky, sultry version of the song, delivered down tempo.  A thoroughly different treatment than the album, or the earlier faster paced, heavier versions of the song.

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Migration from Drupal to WordPress

I’ve been working on migrating a fairly large site from Drupal to WordPress (actually WP is just a middle ground, it’s moving from there to another platform) and noticed a lack of decent information about Drupal to WP migration.  Since I had to put some time in cleaning up MySQL scripts, and working through the move, I thought it’d be a good idea to document the information for anyone who needs to make the migration in the future.

First off, the original Drupal site is at version 6.22 and I’m migrating into WP 3.4.2.

Initial steps:

  1. Get MySQL access to the Drupal site, either command line via SSH or PhpMyAdmin.
  2. Grab a full dump of the DB (yes, you may not need the whole thing, but this way you know you’ve got all the info you might need).  The Drupal db backup module in my case was incapable of backing up this db.
  3. Create a new database on the system you will use for migration and call it “drupal” – in my case I am working locally on my Xampp MySQL db.
  4. Import the db dump into your new database from the command line.  Don’t waste your time trying to use PhpMyAdmin if you’ve got a decent size backup (mine was over 3 gigs).  mysql -u username -p drupal < drupal.sql is the syntax (replace username with your mysql username and be prepared to be asked for the db password).  The import may take a few minutes for a large database. (*note: if you are having trouble getting the import to work, you likely have mysql buffer sizes set too low.  I found this to be the case with the XAMPP install of mysql, but I easily fixed it by editing my.ini via the XAMPP control panel.  I think the innodb_buffer_pool_size setting was the one that did it, but most of the buffers were upped substantially.  You can safely up innodb_buffer_pool_size to about 50% of your system memory.
  5. So now you’ve got your own import of the Drupal database.  Go ahead and create your new WP database if you haven’t already and do your WP install.

Now we’re ready to start migrating data.  First off, I import categories, but I need to warn you: WP requires unique category names, and apparently Drupal apparently does not.  You will most likely need to make sure that you don’t have Drupal Term_Data entries with names that are similar, ie, Immigration and immigration.  Change the names to something unique, like changing immigration to immigration issues and it will work.. Thus, you need to make sure that all the Category names are unique.

This script which I have slightly modified from the original from Lincoln Hawks at SocialCmsBuzz.com did the trick.  I have also added user import, which wasn’t in the original.  My WP database name is wptest and the drupal db is named as noted before “drupal”.

TRUNCATE TABLE wptest.wp_comments;
TRUNCATE TABLE wptest.wp_links;
TRUNCATE TABLE wptest.wp_postmeta;
TRUNCATE TABLE wptest.wp_posts;
TRUNCATE TABLE wptest.wp_term_relationships;
TRUNCATE TABLE wptest.wp_term_taxonomy;
TRUNCATE TABLE wptest.wp_terms;

INSERT INTO wptest.wp_terms (term_id, `name`, slug, term_group)
SELECT
d.tid, d.name, REPLACE(LOWER(d.name), ‘ ‘, ‘-’), 0
FROM drupal.term_data d
INNER JOIN drupal.term_hierarchy h
USING(tid)
;

INSERT INTO wptest.wp_term_taxonomy (term_id, taxonomy, description, parent)
SELECT
d.tid `term_id`,
‘category’ `taxonomy`,
d.description `description`,
h.parent `parent`
FROM drupal.term_data d
INNER JOIN drupal.term_hierarchy h
USING(tid)
;

INSERT INTO
wptest.wp_posts (id, post_date, post_content, post_title,
post_excerpt, post_name, post_modified)
SELECT DISTINCT
n.nid, FROM_UNIXTIME(created), body, n.title,
teaser,
REPLACE(REPLACE(REPLACE(REPLACE(LOWER(n.title),’ ‘, ‘-’),’.’, ‘-’),’,’, ‘-’),’+’, ‘-’),
FROM_UNIXTIME(changed)
FROM drupal.node n, drupal.node_revisions r
WHERE n.vid = r.vid

INSERT INTO wptest.wp_term_relationships (object_id, term_taxonomy_id)
SELECT nid, tid FROM drupal.term_node;
UPDATE wp_term_taxonomy tt
SET `count` = (
SELECT COUNT(tr.object_id)
FROM wp_term_relationships tr
WHERE tr.term_taxonomy_id = tt.term_taxonomy_id
);

INSERT INTO wptest.wp_comments (comment_post_ID, comment_date, comment_content, comment_parent, comment_author, comment_author_email, comment_author_url, comment_approved)

SELECT nid, FROM_UNIXTIME(timestamp), comment, thread, name, mail, homepage, status FROM drupal.comments;

UPDATE `wp_posts` SET `comment_count` = (SELECT COUNT(`comment_post_id`) FROM `wp_comments` WHERE `wp_posts`.`id` = `wp_comments`.`comment_post_id`);

UPDATE wptest.wp_posts SET post_content = REPLACE(post_content, ”, ”);

UPDATE wptest.wp_posts SET post_content = REPLACE(post_content, ‘”/sites/default/files/’, ‘”/wp-content/uploads/’);
INSERT IGNORE INTO wptest.wp_users SELECT NULL AS ID, NAME AS user_login, SUBSTRING(MD5(RAND()) FROM 1 FOR 30) AS user_pass, NAME AS user_nicename, mail AS user_email, ” AS user_url, FROM_UNIXTIME(created) AS user_registered, ” AS user_activation_key, 0 AS user_status, NAME AS display_name FROM drupal.users;

UPDATE wptest.wp_posts JOIN drupal.node ON title = post_title JOIN drupal.users ON drupal.users.uid = drupal.node.uid JOIN wptest.wp_users ON drupal.users.name = wptest.wp_users.user_nicename SET wptest.wp_posts.post_author = wptest.wp_users.ID

 

One note for you: I found the line where we updated our content image links didn’t really take care of what I needed.  My Drupal db was full of absolute links for image sources so I ended up having to change each by doing something like: UPDATE wptest.wp_posts SET post_content = REPLACE(post_content, ‘my.drupal.site/sites/default/files/’, ‘/wp-content/uploads/oldimages’); for each of the image urls.  I then mass imported the images via ftp into my wp-content/uploads/oldimages/ directory.  This meant they weren’t included in the WP media library as I would prefer, but at least the images were there.

Let me know if you’ve got improvements, especially if you write a script to import the images into the media library!

 

Death of Journalism – In the end, it was us all along

In the end, it wasn’t the Internet, or televsion or even bad management that killed journalism; we did it to ourselves.

When I was in college, we held up the Bob Woodwards of the world as our mentors.  The story mattered above all else.  No matter who it was, it was the journalists job to expose corruption.  We were to be that shining light in dark places.

This election cycle has shown us the lie in that.  We’ve got supposed journalists falling all over each other to produce dubious “fact checks” based on a pyramid of half truths and deceptions carefully spoon fed by the campaigns.  The keyword now in politics is “control the narrative” and that means finding ways to get their version of the story out.

To be clear, as a journalist, you cannot spin a story.  Propagandists spin stories, PR flacks spin stories, journalist report.  We are meant to be that sharp probe stuck into sensitive areas.  Not some dull mouthpiece regurgitating the party line.

It’s not that it’s one side or the other that is the problem, it is that it have become utterly apparent to everyone that media has a side.  The right, Fox, and in opposition MSNBC. Too many issues have been left alone.  Far too many.

For example, how is it we have an ambassador killed in Libya, yet none find fault with our government.  To be clear, their “it was the video” mantra was an obvious fabrication. The truth, that it was a coordinated attack by terrorists, and even worse, that we had repeatedly denied requests for more security, and in fact, removed 34 security personnel over the previous 6 months, was concealed and only now comes to light.

Are there still bright points: to be certain.  One has only to look at the work done by Univision on the Fast and Furious scandal.  Another story most media shied away from for over a year. (I link to ABC News – their English language partner)

To be fair, I could just as easily link to instances of press ignoring CIA lies about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction etc.

The death of journalism comes when journalists look the other way.  When journalists give up.  When they become propagandists.

We cannot allow journalism to die.

An End to the Tyranny of the Commute

My years at Namemedia ended last month and I’m no longer forced to commute to Waltham from Central MA anymore.  While I miss everyone I worked with at Namemedia, I certainly do not miss the commute.

Our workdays are long enough.  When you start adding an additional 1.5 hours each way, minimum, to your commute, it gets downright awful.  Then, add on top the fact that at least once a week you can expect a 2 hour or longer commute, usually in the morning with a tie up at the Rt. 128 Tolls.  In the end it leaves little time for anything else in your life.

So you compensate by trying to go into the office a little earlier to miss some of the traffic.  Or you stay later to miss the worst of the rush.  The next thing you know you’ve committed 14 hours of your day to the job. You simply aren’t left with much.

So you get home, and everyone wonders why you’re zombie-like; you just want to sit and relax for a little while, then off to bed so you can get up early and start it all over again.

In my many years of commuting on the Mass Pike, I learned a lot.  Here are a few tips:

  • Sneaky Alternate Routes Rule – No, I won’t publish mine here, but there are other ways.  When in doubt, avail yourself of the other options.
  • Aggressive Drivers Suck – newsflash: driving 90 weaving in and out when everyone else is doing 70 doesn’t get you there any faster.  I generally pass clowns like you at the tolls.  And no, that’s not a “you’re number one” signal everyone is giving you.
  • Easy Pass Costs You 30 Minutes Every Morning – On the morning commute, at Rt. 128 Tolls, the Easy Pass lanes back up for at least 1/4 mile.  However, if you pay cash, you can generally pass ALL that traffic and drive right up to the booth on the far left.
  • Boston Radio is Dead – we knew it was done when BCN shed it’s mortal coils.  There is no radio in Boston save talk radio and NPR.  I generally opt for podcasts through my smartphone.  Where for art thou, Dwayne Glasscock!
  • Car Are Tools – if you’re going to commute over 100 miles a day, your car is a tool and needs to be treated as such.  You need to get the maximum longevity out of it, and you need to be a slave to routine maintenance. Buy cars for durability, buy used, and make sure it’s comfortable, because you’re going to spend a good chunk of your life in there.
  • Auto Costs Add Up – if you commute 100 miles a day, 5 days a week that’s 500 miles – call it two tanks of gas a week for me, minimum.  At $3.80 a gallon, that’s around $100 a week. Add on tolls, maintenance, and the fact that you are now the grim reaper of motor vehicles, and you’ve got a solid 12-15k a year in costs.  Conservatively…

Thank God the Tyranny is over!

 

The Last of the Old Time Newsmen

We are all a little less today, for the loss of a great newsman, Mike Wallace, formerly of 60 Minutes.  He was a slave to the story; where it lead and who it lead to be damned.

But this isn’t a memorial for a man I didn’t know.  It’s a memorial for a profession and ethos that is gone.  I’d honestly love to hear what he’d have to say about today’s world of media bias.

There it is, media bias. For those of you on the left you’re thinking of the the folks at Fox News, whereas those on the right are thinking of the Trayvon Martin 911 tape selectively edited by NBC News.

I’m not sure I’d want to associate my name with an industry in which the only institution that had the guts to hop on the story of presidential candidate John Edward’s epic 2008 zipper problem was that bastion of journalistic integrity, The National Enquirer.

Put aside your predilection towards one side or the other, let’s think about that one.  The stories were whispered on the campaign trail in 2008, but no one would touch them. Some  would say because he conveniently siphoned votes off of the at that time nominee apparent, Hillary Clinton.  No matter, the fact is that a candidate for President of the United States went without media scrutiny throughout the 2008 primary season.  Would that have happened this time around, say if it was someone like Rick Perry?  Read more here.

The John Edwards extramarital affair refers to the extramarital affair admitted to in August 2008 by John Edwards, a former United States Senator from North Carolina and Democratic Party presidential candidate. The affair was initially reported by The National Enquirer, a US supermarket tabloid newspaper, but was given little or no coverage by many sources in the US mainstream media.[1][2][3] The Enquirer cited claims by an anonymous source that Edwards had engaged in the affair with Rielle Hunter, a filmmaker hired to work for his presidential campaign, and that the relationship had produced a child.

Then last month we find there is video that WGBH in Boston, a PBS station, had of then Law Professor Barack Obama supporting Derrick  Bell, PHD, an academic professing radical race theory. Again, if Rick Santorum had introduced similar fire brand, it would have been immediate news.  Read about it here…

“The bombshell is the revelation of the relationship between Obama and Derrick Bell,” Pollack said. “Derrick Bell is the Jeremiah Wright of academia. He passed away last year but during his lifetime he developed a theory called critical race theory, which holds that the Civil Rights movement was a sham and that White Supremacy is the order and it must be overthrown.”

It’s not just on the left.  Fox News is perennially accused of bias.  Again, citing Wikipedia…

Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Republican and conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg indicated his belief that Fox News was rightward-leaning: “Look, I think liberals have reasonable gripes with Fox News. It does lean to the right, primarily in its opinion programming but also in its story selection (which is fine by me) and elsewhere. But it’s worth remembering that Fox is less a bastion of ideological conservatism and more a populist, tabloid-like network.”[13]

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly has stated that “Fox does tilt right,” (although he states this in specific reference to the coverage of the Iraq war, not FNC’s coverage in general), but that the network does not “actively campaign or try to help Bush-Cheney.”[14][15]

So on to the thing we have lost: honest, unbiased journalism, the kind that Wallace did; follow the story where it leads and pull back every curtain.  Unfortunately our media now seems to have a hotline to the party they support.

Newsflash: NBC, NY Times, Fox – if you’re taking your directions from a political party, you’re not in news, you’re in public relations.  The people of the United States deserve better, and you should show a little pride.  Now go find a REAL story and stop carrying water!

Gone in 60 Seconds – Survival at Sea Edition

I saw the video on the news the other night of these guys who’s boat sank and one was able to film the entire episode with his helmet cam.  It was truly scary stuff for any boater, but for me, having been through the same ordeal, it was utterly terrifying.

Many of you may have heard the story, perhaps told glibly after a few too many beers.  The truth is, that’s generally the only way I can tell it.

YouTube Preview Image

On August 14, 2005 at 1:00 pm in the afternoon in 2-3 foot seas off Sakonnet Point in Rhode Island, while fishing for tuna in my boat, I turned to see a monster wave that had appeared out of no where.  The boat filled with water when the wave broke over the stern and in about 60 seconds, my companion Jacob Kasper and myself were in the water.  No distress call, and suddenly our safety gear, all of it was now under water.  You can read the full story, as well as  a long thread about the incident at Reel-Time.com .

What you don’t get from the video is the sense of dread right after the boat sinks, that feeling that happens when you realize this one, cold, hard fact: at this moment of time, no one knows you are in trouble and no one is coming to help.  You’re on your own.

In the coming weeks after the event, I realized how backwards most boaters are on safety gear.  Yes, perhaps they have it all, but can they really get it if they need it?  If you’ve got a 35′ sportfisherman, the last place you want to go is up to the anchor compartment to get your crash bag as the boat sinks.

Here are some tips that every boater should use to be prepared should things go horribly wrong:

  • Have the right safety gear, and have it accessible from the cockpit.
  • Remember that the number of flares you’re required is a minimum.  That number is low.  Carry more…both handhelds and rounds for your gun.
  • Before the boat leaves the dock, give everyone the airline safety speech:
    • The life jackets are here…
    • The flare kit is here…
    • The radio is here.  On top of it are written instructions about how to contact the Coast Guard…
    • Anything else someone might need to know about your boat in the case of emergency.
  • Carry a handheld, waterproof radio on your body, and attached by a lanyard.  This may be the single most important piece of gear besides your life preserver.
  • Make sure you have a life preserver close by.  I usually sit on a seat cushion type so I know right where mine is at all times.

My congratulations go out to both the boaters who were fished out, as well as the captain and crew of the Patience who rescued them.

A couple of other things to consider:

  • Have you taken a Power Squadron boating course?  If not, you ought to.  I consider it a requirement for stepping behind the helm, and have always encouraged my crew to take it.
  • Sobering thought: do you realize how few boaters actively monitor channel 16, the distress channel?  Do you?
  • How would you pull a disabled boater out of the water?  This is a huge problem, and many of us have never, ever considered it.  Especially on big boats…

Be safe out there…