Two annoyances

I’ve been moving my blogs over to my new server, and it’s been a very time-consuming project.  Whether we like it or not, blogs are not easily portable – specially across blog software.  I knew that there was no real fix for the “broken url” problem – Movable Type, the blogging software I was using before, and WordPress, the one I use now, assign different types of urls to blog posts, so it’s impossible to keep old posts where they were.  My “solution” has been to have two copies of my blogs, one at the old URLs and a second one at the wordpress-provided URLs.  It’s not pretty, as that means there are duplicates of all my blog posts out there, but I couldn’t figure out another solution.

Setting up the new blogs has also been very time consuming. WordPress is pretty bare when you get it, to increase functionality you need to find, download and activate plug-ins, which may or may not work as advertised.  No sooner do I find one that does what I want, than I come across a significantly better one and then I have to change – I’ve exported four blogs so far, so it’s not trivial.  But all these are expected annoyances, so I’m not going to complain about them.  Instead I’m going to complain about the unexpected ones:

 

-My ISP: dreamhost.com.  I decided to change ISPs in the first place because my home server is too slow, specially when it was running MT.  One of my friends has been using dreamhost for years, and he highly recommended it.  And it’s dirt cheap: about $110 a year for unlimited disk storage/traffic/domains/mailboxes, with a significant discount for your first year (use code MARGADREAM for $50 off for your first year hosting).   But it’s been MUCH slower than I anticipated, pretty much as slow as my server at home.  Now, the problem may not be dreamhost, it may just be WordPress, one of my biggest problems is that this program occasionally hangs up.  In any case, it’s annoying.

-Greedy search engine bots.  I hadn’t realized this before, but over half my traffic is from very annoying search engine spiders.  The biggest culprit is Bing’s msnbot.  Yesterday alone it downloaded almost 1766 pages from my San Leandro Talk blog, which only has 32 postings.  I now disallowed it through the robots.txt file, and Bing has sent out its bingbot instead, but that one so far has been respectful.  Other bad bots are the one from Yandex, a russian search engine, and from Amazon – but nowhere nearly as bad as MSN.

On giving stuff away

Listia.com
It’s horrible, I’ve gone from ranting about Listia.com to starting to like it to literally become obsessed with it. I can’t tell you how many times in the last week I’ve logged in and search for free stuff. I thought this would stop when I got rid of all my credits (and I’m trying to), but as I keep losing auctions I still haven’t managed to do so, so far. Aaaack!

My main reason to list was to see if there was any interest in the (small) stuff I have. I’ve been throwing the caps from coke bottles forever, and I was surprised to see that people actually wanted the codes that come on them (go figure). As for the beads, these are the ones I have no use for (they came in packages of assorted beads I bought). I particularly hate the bumpy beads. I already had a bid on my bird beads, which was kind of surprising. Of course, I’ll have to pay the shipping to get rid of them.

And that continues to be the problem – it’s really not practical to have the “buyer” pay for shipping on low-weigh items (where the shipping charges are no more than $3), specially as paypal has such horrendous transaction fees. But then you are stuck not only giving something for free but having to pay for the privilege. Oh well, this is just a trial.

Freecycle

I continue to use the San Leandro Freecycle to give away most of my good stuff: things the kids have outgrown, stuff I no longer want, stuff my mother sends me (some specifically to put on freecycle), etc. Basically, freecycle is a mailing list where you post stuff you don’t want and people who want it e-mail you saying so. Generally you give the stuff to the first person who e-mails you about it. I’d say that I get responses to about 2/3rds of the stuff I post (people, for example, never want stuffed animals).
The problem with freecycle, however, is that people are very unreliable. I’d say that about half the time the person does not come to pick up the stuff they wanted. That means I have to keep it in my house for longer – which is exactly what I don’t want. I’m becoming more and more disillusioned with freecycle as time goes by (one of the reasons why I’m trying listia with small stuff – there are too few local users to make it viable for big stuff) – but there are few alternatives.

Thrift Town

Thrift town is our local thrift shop (well, there is also a goodwill but they don’t have good stuff). They pretty much take anything you have (I’m sure they throw away the stuff that won’t sell) and I love it for finding clothing for the kids and a knick-nack (read tea cup) here and there. The problem with them is that they have limited drop-off hours and that we are not good about just taking stuff there. Plus I’m not thrilled that they are a for-profit corporation. On the other hand, it’s the easiest place to drop off unwanted stuff.

Swaptree.com

Swaptree is a great place to exchange books. The way it works is that you list the books you have and no longer want, and the wants you want to get – and when they make a match they e-mail you and ask you whether you want to accept the trade. It’s cool because they don’t just do one-to-one matches. If someone you want book A and have book B, and John has book A and wants book C, and Jane has book C and wants book B a match is made. You also get to look through the books that you can “get now” by trading one of the books you already have – that’s a great way to find new books that might interest you. They also give suggestions of books that you might like.
I’ve used swaptree intensively, in particular in the couple of months after I signed up. Then I ran out of popular books and for months I was unable to get any book I wanted. I just checked it out again, with a few new books I wanted to get, and was able to get two of them (A Smart Girl’s Guide to Friendship Troubles and Oops! The Manners Guide for Girls) both for Mika. Of course, I’m paying as much to ship the books I have to send in return, as I would to just buy the books – but it’s still cool. The big problem with swaptree is that I have to keep the books at home until someone wants them, which can take months.

So now that I only have unpopular books at home, I think I will take them off swaptree and just donate them to the library.

Friends of the Library – San Leandro

If you have extra books, you should really donate them to Friends of the Library. Pretty much every library has an attached group of supporters who fundraise for library services. And they do provide great services, not just new books, but, in San Leandro, at least, they fund most of the activities for little children. With budget cuts as they are, these would not be around without the Friends.

Donating books there is quite easy – you just take them to the library whenever it’s open and give them to the people in the front desk. They’ll even give you a receipt for them that you can use for your taxes.

The problem for us is that we always forget to take them. We never forget to go to the library sale, though 🙂
So this is it, if you know of another method of easily and cheaply getting rid of stuff, please let me know.

New scam: supposed cancer victim Mariam Badda

Here is a scam that I got today. A quick search online shows that the name Mariam Badda has been in other scam letters – I wonder why they don’t just come up with new names.


Dear friend,
My name is mariam badda and i am from the republic of mozambique based in london.i am a professional watercolour artist.i was diagnosed on the 15th of November 2008 with stage 111A breast cancer.on the 30th of November i had a lumpectomy and they had to take out nine of my lymph nodes, in which there were seven that were positive.the size of my tumor was 1.3cm and surgical margins were negative.i had the Her-2/neu protein,which is a varying aggressive cancer.after that i went through several series of radiation tests and did 3months of Adriamycin and cytoxan.My Doctor then advised to me to start recieving treatment at home.On the 10th of march this year my oncologist told me that after properly analysing my radiation test and treatment control reviews i had to do a chemo treatment.This treatment would be the last phase of medication to totally eliminate the cancer cells that are rapidly growing and dividing in my blood cells.I have spent all my hard earned money to ensure my survival.i have also had a lot of support from friends and relatives during my radiation tests and lumpectomy defect.
I solely appeal through this means to you out there to please support me in anyway you can so that i can go through this operation once and for all and return normal and healthy again because i have a very limited period of time to live.your generousity will be highly appreciated and honoured by me.i look forward to hear from you soon.thanks,
Mrs mariam badda

Florida injunction against religious song

A couple of weeks ago, a Florida federal judge issue an injunction against an elementary school who wanted to incorporate a religious song into their curriculum. You can read the decision accompanying that injunction
here
The school district then went and replaced the song with another one “Chatter with the Angels”. Its lyrics are less explicit and it was a song sang by slaves, but the same judged suggested that it would be just as unconstitutional to have the children sing it. He didn’t rule on the matter because the school had agreed to remove the song, but he said: “This court is also certain that defendants understand what may happen if they continue … introducing songs that are unconstitutionally religious in nature to public elementary school students”