Congrats to the people at Six Apart on today’s release of Movable Type 3.1 and the Developer’s Contest Plugin Pack. The former is a pretty big update to the weblog publishing tool I can’t live without; the latter is a demonstration of the cool things that independent developers can do to add functionality to Movable Type. (The Plugin Pack is also the only way that you can get a fully-supported version of MT-Blacklist that works with Movable Type 3.X.) The third piece of news is that Anil is heading up the new Six Apart Professional Network, which looks like it’s going to be devoted to connecting developers and users with the resources they need in order to use Movable Type, TypePad, and TypeKey in their own applications.

All very cool; now that there’s a version of MT-Blacklist for 3.X, I’ll probably upgrade tonight. I also joined SAPN, so we’ll see where that leads.

After getting more and more annoyed at the prevalence of comment spam, I went hunting around for a good way to automatically close comments on entries here after a certain number of days. What I stumbled upon was a few semi-manual ways, and after tweaking them a bit and adding an automation step, I have a system in place (and a publicly-available script) that will turn comments off after 60 days.

She said yes!

pretty ring on a beautiful girl

(And to preemptively answer the two questions that were the first out of everyone else’s mouths: we don’t know where, and we haven’t firmed up when. We’re just enjoying the moment for a little bit!)

Hmmm — I wonder what would happen if some random New Yorkers showed up on the grass in the backyard of 1 Sutton Place with beach chairs and books, and just soaked up the sun for an afternoon? I bet that a uniformed doorman-like functionary or two would come and try to escort them off the property, but if said group of people refused and demanded that the police come arbitrate, it seems that it’d be hard for 1 Sutton Place to make a compelling case. I’m just saying…

I’m right there with Chris and Al — every time I hear about the lawyers of Massachusetts refusing to take cases from indigent clients because of low pay, I have a small seizure. Medical caregivers (physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, etc.) are all required by law to provide emergency treatment to anyone who walks into their office, regardless of ability to pay. Why should the legal profession be any different?

I promised a few people that I’d summarize my experience with DropCash, and after the (astoundingly short) 13-hour duration of my campaign, I’ve grabbed the information from PayPal and done a few calculations. Here’s my rundown.

I’ve been playing with Andre and Jason’s new bauble, DropCash, and I’ve gotta say I think it’s the bee’s knees, for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s an awesome demonstration of how you can weave a bunch of different tools together into a seamless application — DropCash uses TypeKey for authentication and PayPal for the transactions, and hooks into both through their respective public APIs. Second, it layers an element of community atop the otherwise mundane task of requesting money, and since people generally would use services like this to ask for money from a community of their peers, I think it’s wicked cool to include community elements in the app itself. And third, DropCash itself is cleanly designed and quick to use, both of which are enviable in this era of overengineered and inscrutable web applications.

So, of course, what does a dork like me do when he starts playing with a new web application? Create a test case! I set up a campaign to raise enough money to buy a hardware firewall and VPN server for my home network; since I have a few big servers running here (including the one that hosts this very website, a moderate-volume mail server, a curriculum server for my old pediatrics residency, and the MetaFilter server), I figure that it’s a worthy goal to go for a dedicated, easy-to-use box to protect it all. And if I don’t raise enough, I can always put the money straight into the help-keep-MetaFilter-air-conditioned fund!

Lying on my bed trying to get the room to stop spinning and my stomach to stay in my lower abdomen, I came to the conclusion today that rollerblading isn’t much in the way of cardiovascular exercise.

I love the new popup killer that’s part of the Windows XP Service Pack 2 updates to Internet Explorer, but I have a question. Is there a way to tell IE that, for specific websites, you don’t want the Information Bar to appear and alert you that a popup has been blocked? For example, everyone knows that CNN went the way of the devil a long time ago, and that a popup will try to, well, pop up every single time you go to the home page. How can I tell IE to just silently block that attempt from, but still let me know about other websites’ efforts to annoy me?

Shannon and I maintain hours that are just inconvenient enough to totally conflict with our drycleaning needs, so about a month ago, we started hunting for a good company that did pickup and delivery. We were pretty excited (unreasonably so, I’ll admit) when we found Zoots, as they completely fit our bill — Brookline service, online scheduling of pickups, twice-weekly visits, automatic billing, and named as one of the Best of Boston. What we had no clue about is that, alas, Zoots completely sucks.

If anyone wants to see one place where web publishing has a huge, influential future, you can’t go wrong by taking a look at Jim Gilliam’s video analysis of the appearance of Bill O’Reilly and Paul Krugman on Tim Russert’s CNBC show. Gilliam, the producer of Outfoxed, took CNBC’s video clips and superimposed meaningful facts over top of O’Reilly’s outrageous claims, transforming what O’Reilly must have hoped would be a (boisterous, obnoxious) one-man message into an effective exposure of genuine doublespeak and deceit on the part of the Fox anchor. Over and over, O’Reilly tried to manipulate the conversation with volume, bombast, and lies, and Gilliam’s ability to publish an on-point rebuttal which (in part) uses O’Reilly’s own words as rebuttals is amazing. And as this latest generation of journalists and documentarians has grown up right alongside the web, this kind of thing is going to occur more and more.

If the registration data of online news sites is really trustworthy, then I guess the Washington Post has proof that I’m, variously, a four year-old female Vice President-level attorney in the agriculture sector, a 103 year-old male hourly social worker for the packaged goods sector, and a 42 year old unemployed female energy veterinarian. Seems trustworthy to me!

While I’ve installed XP Service Pack 2 on one machine and had not one whit of a problem with it, I understand why corporations are wary of rolling it out at this point, instead opting for the (reasonable, logical) step of testing it in-house to integrate it properly and make sure that it doesn’t break any business-critical applications. Apparently, so does Microsoft — on Tuesday, the company released a set of policies and scripts which will block the download of the Service Pack, from both the Windows Update site and the automatic update process. Smart move, and shows a fine awareness of the reality of computing in a corporate environment.

A patient of mine — an eleven year-old boy — came to our attention a few months ago when, after feeling more tired than normal, he was noted to have a markedly-elevated white blood cell count by his pediatrician. Soon thereafter, we diagnosed him with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and started him on therapy. Four weeks later, though, his leukemia hadn’t gone away, meaning that the therapy failed to induce a remission (a very rare event in pediatrics), and at that point, we let the family know that the only therapy which had any chance of curing him was a bone marrow transplant. The search for a suitable donor turned out to be quite difficult, though; finding a match involves finding someone with the exact same six antigens generated from part of the sixth chromosome, and the young man has a rare enough combination of antigens that the best we were able to find was five out of the six (with a mismatch at another, more minor, antigen location as well). Given the dismal prognosis without transplant, though, we were happy to have found the one donor, and when we found out that my patient was finally in remission two weeks ago, we made the official request to the National Marrow Donor Program to have the donor come in for the medical part of the pretransplant workup.

Today, we learned that the donor “deferred,” meaning that he or she decided not to participate in the donation process. That means that at this point, we are left with no suitable match for my patient. And therein lies the very reason that the marrow donation process is done with complete blinding between the institution caring for the potential recipient and the NMDP — it would be too easy for me to go completely nuts on the poor potential donor, screaming and yelling about how he or she is dooming my patient to a near certain fate, without having any clue about the potential donor’s reasons for not wanting to go through with the process. As disappointed as I am right now, that’s the mindset that I’m trying to maintain; for all I know, the person carries a lethal virus or condition but was pressured into participating in a marrow donor drive at work, or has some other such reasonable cause for deferring.

The one thread of hope that remains is a person who, at least crudely, has the potential to be a match, but who isn’t going to be worked up more precisely for another two weeks. In the mean time, we have to continue my patient on maintenance chemo with the hope that he remains in his fragile remission, hold tight to the chance that the new person will be a suitable molecular match, and pray that if that’s the case, he or she will be willing to go through with the donation posthaste.

If you’re hankering to understand the changes introduced by Windows XP Service Pack 2, you might want to take a look at the TechNet document dissecting the update, and also spend some time reading Tony Chor’s higher-level description. (Chor is the program manager for the Internet Explorer team, so his document is geared more towards the IE changes introduced in SP2.)

Madness is trying to debug a Windows ME laptop. Seriously, the past 24 hours of my life have been devoted to a machine that works beautifully when it’s sitting there all by its lonesome, but freezes solid when you plug a network cable into its built-in ethernet port. Luckily, the laptop’s owner is a dialup user (they still exist?!?), but it’d be nice to give the laptop back to her with everything working just ducky.

(Update: I’m giving Ask MetaFilter a whirl on this one, to see if there’s anything I haven’t thought of!)

Wow, there are so many things one could say about Bush’s denouncement of legacy consideration in the college admission process that I wouldn’t know where to begin. Would this man have achieved anything in his life if it weren’t for legacy considerations?

We’re 544th! We’re 544th! (See here for some background.)

The more I read about the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the more sad I become about how easy it is to manipulate facts in the minds of the American voter. Too many people actually believe what these people say, despite the incontrovertible fact that every single living boatmate of John Kerry has stood by his side and unquestionably supported his Vietnam record. Alas… I’m sure it’s more that people don’t necessarily believe them in an active sense, but rather, they passively allow the group’s message to support already-set political beliefs. It’s similar to hearing, on NPR this morning, a voter express how strongly he stood for George Bush and the Republican Party based on his belief in smaller government and less federal spending; I can’t imagine that there’s any amount of data one could feed to the guy about the reality of the Bush Administration on both counts that would cause him to change his mind. So what we’re left with is an election, for what is arguably the most politically important job on Earth, that has less to do with the actual people running against each other than it does the allegiance people feel towards the parties that support the two men. Sad.

I’m currently playing with webRemote, a little app that runs on your Mac and lets you control iTunes from any machine nearby on the network. It’s not revolutionary so much as it is incredibly useful, especially in my new office configuration.

I’m not quite sure yet what to make of this graph of Bush’s approval rating superimposed on a chart of the timing of terror alerts, but it certainly is interesting.

So damn funny. Two seemingly-naive web programmers decided to write an application that runs around visiting people’s websites, ostensibly in an effort to look for broken links and email the webmaster to let him know about the problems. As a prelude to their service, they sent their application along on a spidering trip, which they said was targeted toward gathering webmaster email addresses which they could then use for their service; as a little bonus, the application left behind a referrer entry pointing back to a thread on their discussion board which explained what they were doing. And when webmasters came calling — in droves — with objections to the referrer spam (and to the fact that the application ignored the robot exclusion files on websites it visited), the two clueless souls stood unrepentant, with the results you’d expect.

It appears that Darwin is alive and well on the Internet!

Seriously, this might be the week to avoid saws.

If anyone out there is thinking of trying out one of the “RAM optimizers” that are heavily advertised on a lot of the tech sites, you might want to read this excellent dissection of these scam-filled products by Mark Russinovich. Every last one of these applications can actually hurt your computer’s performance by forcing the operating system to move actively-used information from the machine’s very fast RAM to its very slow hard disk-based virtual memory file, and as a result, you take a big hit as your applications have to copy that information back into RAM once they need it again. Most importantly, the peddlers of these applications rely on people having a belief that there’s some intrinsic, universal benefit to having a huge chunk of empty RAM hanging around… but most programmers will tell you that this is an untenable generalization, especially when there are tasks that are running which could benefit from having access to that fast RAM. (For a good example, look at a memory usage map on most any Unix machine, and you’ll see that the physical memory is almost always in use to the tune of over 80%. That’s because the Unix operating system has always understood the value of using the much faster RAM as much as possible to complete tasks.) Sure, some gamers want access to every last bit of memory to run their super-complex shoot-em-ups, and maybe this is the class of user that needs these products… but you’d think that the game programmers would then just build the functionality into their games, no? Seems logical to me.

(And do you think these RAM-boosting scam artists told the folks over at that they stole their download icon?)

OK, I’m done being a total geek for now.

Over at Slate, Andy Bowers has made a great discovery: based on their weight, most SUVs are banned from a great deal of California roads. As you’d imagine, the laws that ban them aren’t enforced at all, but the logic behind them — that vehicles over 6,000 pounds cause more wear and tear on residential roads and are more dangerous to pedestrians — is solid. According to the article, law enforcement officers seem to draw a big distinction between commercial and personal vehicles, and ignore the Tahoes, Hummers, Escalades, and Land Cruisers as a result But why should people be allowed to buy these behemoths explicitly because they’re heavy enough to classify for a commercial vehicle tax writeoff, but then not have to adhere to the commercial vehicle laws in ther communities? It’s all a bit silly.

Well, it looks like I went to Nantucket a bit too early, since in as soon as a month, a startup is looking to blanket much of the island with wireless service. I love the name, too — ACKblast — which reflects the three-letter code for the Nantucket Airport.

The Apple Product Cycle. It’s funny because it’s true!

Once again, I’m certainly one of the last people to this party… but for those who straggle even further behind, you really should read Ron Reagan Jr.’s Esquire article on the Bush Presidency. Entitled “The Case Against George W. Bush,” it’s not too difficult to figure out where Ron Jr. stands on the merits of the 43rd President of the United States; the piece is very well-written, with Reagan pinning most of his arguments on a fundamental inability to trust Bush. I can only hope that the press starts to pick up on this a bit, and document much of the travesty that has been the past three years of governance in this country.