Wednesday, December 30, 2015

From the Sidelines 2015 Review

Once again I wasn’t able to give the blog the attention it needs resulting is a steep drop off in traffic. In the collegiate world, it is said one needs to “publish or perish” and so it is also with blogs.

According to Google Analytics, there were 20,175 pageviews from 14,132 visitors from January 1st through December 29th. Statcounter disagrees and says the numbers were 15,048 and 10,033 respectively. Give AdBlocker and NoScript usage, I’ll guess that Google is more accurate and still missed some visits. People from all over the globe visited from more countries than I care to list with the U.S. only making up 47.43% of the traffic.

It amazes me that From the Sidelines has so many international visitors.

Looking at the ongoing web browser wars, Chrome was the dominant browser by far for 45.49% of the share. That was no surprise, however the second most used browser was. Safari was used for 22.61% of visits to the blog easily passing Firefox at 14.58%. This was rather stunning though I knew Firefox is in decline.

Some exotic browsers showed up at less than 1%, most of which I hadn’t heard of before: Iron, UC Browser, YaBrowser, Coc Coc, Maxthon, S40 Ovi Browser, MRCHROME, DoCoMo, JUC, Lunascape, NetFront, and YE. A few of those are state supplied browsers from countries where Internet access is highly monitored, so apparently I haven’t run afoul of their censors.

Aside from the home page, the following posts were the most visited in 2015:

  1. Children Who Chase Lost Voices Review
  2. The Invisible Boy Review
  3. India’s Bantam Weight Fighter: The LCA Tejas Displays 
  4. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind Review
  5. The Big Sleep 1946 and 1945 Review
  6. Pacific Rim Review
  7. Spirited Away Review
  8. Battle of Britain Review
  9. Dracula (1931) Review
  10. Whisper of the Heart Review

The continuing traffic to the LCA Tejas post has turned it into an evergreen thanks to the horrifically (and controversial) prolonged development of the aircraft. Showing how much I know, the post was expected to fade into obscurity when I wrote it. It is pleasing that Children Who Chase Lost Voices ended up at number one for it is a movie deserving of more attention than it has gotten.

2016 will see more posting, or so is the hope since no promises can be made. It will be interesting to see if that stops the decline.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Windows Live Writer Is Dead!

Long live Open Live Writer!!!

As of December 14, 2015, Google turned off the old authenticator code again permanently crippling Windows Live Writer for usage in posting to Blogger. Fortunately, the promised open source version of Live Writer went live earlier this month and the latest revision supports OAuth 2.

Download Open Live Writer here if you want to keep having the Live Writer experience with Blogger.

This is only my second post using it, so I haven’t had a chance to evaluate all the functions. It does import drafts from WLW, so that is a big plus. On the downside, it didn’t import my categories, so I’m having to type them from memory rather than using the convenient check box system that used to be in place.

A leftover review that didn’t get finished for Halloween may be the first to test how it handles pictures, though I may come up with a project before that just for the purpose.

It is terrific that the application will finally get modernized again and I look forward to more features being added over time.

Christmas Gifts

It has been too long since I last posted mainly due to health issues along with an early holiday trip to Indiana to visit my sister and her family. As a result, the materialistic side of the season has already been dealt with so there should be no stress for once during Christmas itself. For a more spiritual point of view, I suggest checking out the new Featured Post section in the right sidebar for something I wrote five years ago.

The best gift received this year wasn’t even given to me directly, rather it was witnessing the incredible achievement of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch on the 21st. Blasting off and launching multiple satellites while having the first stage successfully land is historical to say the least. A longer video from the launch to the landing can be found here. Kudos to Elon Musk and all the technicians, engineers, and workers involved in the endeavor.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

It has been a long and painful month of my father and I suffering from an upper respiratory virus. While still under its effects, there are things to be grateful for.

Take today for instance. Thanksgiving dinner with friends featuring great food, good company, and better conversation made for a memorable afternoon. Not even badly damaging a tire on the way back was able to take away any of the good spirit engendered.

Having a roof over my head along with heat during cold rain turning to ice is not to be sneezed at too. On a more trivial note, watching Mystery Science Theater 3000's Turkey Day marathon featuring silly satire is something I appreciate. Only in a free country can something like it be produced.

That is something not so trivial, on second thought.

Gratitude is an amazing thing for it brings to attention things we take for granted. It is far too easy to lose that which we take for granted, so feeling grateful can inoculate us against that if we  but pay attention.

To all my fellow Americans I wish you a happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Is Coming Back!

I’ve already pledged my small amount to the effort and those of us who did in the first 24 hours pushed the Kickstarter over $1,000,000. So if you are a fan of the show, please help to bring it to a new generation.

Between this and the old episodes slowly rolling out at Rifftrax, a new era of MST3K has begun. Bad movies watch out, you will now have nowhere to hide!

Looks like I chose a good time to introduce the madness to children of my friends, now they can get in on the revival. You can too, please back the project so we can get as many episodes as possible.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Phantom of the Opera (1962) Review

When Hammer Films was on a roll remaking classic horror stories the idea of revisiting a masked man lurking in an opera house was inevitable. What they never imagined was that the surefire hit would be anything but. This film bombed so spectacularly that it nearly ended the director’s career. Uneven and draggy, the new Phantom failed to terrify audiences despite some redeeming qualities to the production.

Phantom of the Opera 01

Imagine having Cary Grant playing one of the most famous movie villains of all time. Imagine that the movie would be made by Hammer Films, a studio having massive success releasing color remakes of black and white classic horror flicks. Imagine the box office receipts!

That’s the thinking that started The Phantom of the Opera remake into fast development. What was finally unveiled to the public not only lacked the superstar actor, but also the frights of Gaston Leroux’s novel. There is some confusion as to whether Grant may have been set to star as either the titular villain or the heroic lead, however it really doesn’t matter since he wouldn’t have been able to save this rather bloodless movie.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

The Brides of Dracula (1960) Review

This sequel was the obligatory follow up to Hammer Films monster of a hit Horror of Dracula. Beset by production problems from the very beginning, what was put out certainly wasn’t what the public expected. Dripping more atmosphere than blood, the unusually warm and character driven story focused more on the heroic acts of Doctor Van Helsing than the villainy of the undead.

Brides of Dracula Title

Most people remember Hammer for their vampire films, especially those starring Christopher Lee as Dracula. He isn’t in this one due to personal fears of being typecast (supremely ironic given what happened later), however this movie is one of the better entries in the genre even if the title is false advertising. Yeah, the character Dracula isn’t in it either.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Into the Last Quarter

2015 has gotten away from me, I realized when seeing October arrive so quickly. Last year was difficult due to my father’s travails, but still, things got done. Not so this year and I find myself trying to play catch up while falling further behind.

My health hasn’t been catastrophically bad, however it has been bad by even my lowered expectations. Nothing I planned for the year has been accomplished or will be before 2016 rolls around. Simply there is no energy to go around with too many things needing doing.

Between that becoming glaringly obvious and the rather somber tone of General Conference this weekend, I’ve found myself less than motivated. Plowing on is the only plan with no real hope of progress in this desolate world filled with superficiality dominating the culture.

Ah well.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Super Bad Moon Rising

While the title sounds like the name of a pretentious rock band, the lunar eclipse that happened last night was truly a “super moon” as well as a “blood moon.” Heralded by some nitwits as a sign that the world was ending, it only brought about a final battle between photographers and the ever dimming lunar face.

Lunar Eclipse 07

Okay, make that just one photographer, me.

After a week of feeling fairly terrible, the rare combination of fair skies and a rare celestial event prompted me to get the telescope out last night. Once outside, the amazing amount of light pouring out of the sky into an only slightly hazy atmosphere led to the brilliant idea of trying to take some photographs. Brilliant idea or merely a touch of lunacy? That ended up becoming the question of the night.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Summer 2015 Capsule Movie Reviews

In the past I’ve written a few mini-reviews of films after seeing them in theater, but this year I’ve been too tired or busy to type my impressions. So better late than never here are three micro-reviews of films I’ve seen this summer at the nearby Spring Grove Cinema.

Jurassic World

First a disclaimer has to be made: I’ve never been a fan of the franchise despite being a kaiju and science fiction lover. The first flick was entertaining, if not very memorable, and what little I saw of the sequels they were pretty abysmal. This opinion puts me in a tiny minority, of course. So it was with low expectations I went into the darkened theater to watch dinosaurs once again run amok.

Expecting a popcorn based confection with no style or substance, I was very surprised to find a genuinely tasty plot blended perfectly with intelligent action along with surprising amounts of emotional moments. Likeable characters played by Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard carried the movie mainly due to a very cookie cutter villain played by Vince D’Onofrio (see Daredevil on Netflix to see what he’s really capable of) and a mixed effort by the supporting cast.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Great Video on CG in Modern Movies


I have been known to complain about poor computer generated special effects in movies and also films that seem to exist only to bombard the audience with artificial imagery, so this video was of great interest during my browsing the Net today. Particularly fascinating is the usage of CG for things we don't even notice -- watch the whole thing. It may change your viewpoint. The final analysis is something I agree with and bless Rocket Jump for including Ray Harryhausen's work at the end.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

July is Already Ending?!

It has been well over a month since my last post and time has not flown by, yet seems to have escaped me instead. Still haven’t even taken notes for my next movie review, though I did glance at the movie briefly while making sure the PC monitor is still calibrated. Being an early adopter of Windows 10 meant finessing the video settings on my Nvidia GTX 670, though I’m one of the lucky ones with no Nvidia Windows 10 problems (other than having to enable vertical sync in all games).

Eagle02

A lot has happened since the middle of June, including FFT (Forced Family Time) when my sister and her family visited the week before Independence Day. Starting with cleaning house before hand, I’ve been run into the ground this summer making life quite difficult.

So what does that have to do with bald eagles?

Monday, June 15, 2015

On Target

Since it has been a season of everything going wrong that could possibly go wrong at the Boonedocks, I thought I’d post a picture of something finally going right for a change. UPDATED July 24: Problems.

Initial Zero In

A new scope, the UTG 3-9x32 Compact CQB Bug Buster AO, is my first step into better optics for the 5.56mm/.223 Rem cartridge that I shoot the most. It may be my last step if it holds up over time given the above results.

Update: It didn’t hold up at all. Details after the break…

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Eddie and the Cruisers (1983) Review

The decade of the 1980s was the era of the cult movie and probably spawned more initially unsuccessful films that eventually became popular than any other period. A perfect example of the kind can be found in this moody little story about a rock band that hit it big in the early ‘60s then disintegrated under mysterious circumstances. While the mystery may not be all that clever, the characters, acting, and music make this a classic rock and roll flick.

Eddie and the Cruisers title

Movies about the inherent drama found within rock and roll bands are a dime a dozen, being a kind of low hanging fruit that writers and producers can’t resist. Easy to write, easy to shoehorn a music act into, and always teeming with conflict they are also relatively cheap to produce.

So what sets this low budget flick apart from the pack?

“On the Dark Side”.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Ragnar Vanished

It is hard to write this post. About 48 hours ago was the last time we saw Ragnar, the almost full grown kitten I rescued back in November. While an avid hunter who loved going outside, he always stayed near the house so he wouldn't miss anything we were doing. Odds are that he was torn apart by coyotes while hunting rabbits.

Rags was an exceptional cat, one of two brilliant little animals I've had the privilege of knowing over the span of nearly five decades. Fiercely loving, he had to be involved in everything we did. If we hiked up to the mailbox, he's accompany us. If there was any labor around the house, Rags would be there to either check it out or try to "help", if help meant playing with the tools involved.

I've lost more than a pet, Ragnar was a buddy, a friend. In the short amount of time, he brought such light and life to a beaten down household. With his death, my heart has died as well. One too many wounds to the soul in a very bad life had turned it into scar tissue. It truly is the last straw.

No more pets, I can't go through this again. Ironic, I was planning to take pictures of him this week and write about what an incredible cat he was. Now all I have is memories.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Randomness

Testing the android app for Blogger to see if it still works. Annoyed that it lost an entire post already.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Google Cuts Off Live Writer from Blogger

 UPDATE: As of June 2, everything is working again. That was an amazingly fast fix given how low priority Blogger has been to Google and Live Writer to Microsoft. Didn't see an update to Live Writer, so I suspect that this is Google's initial fix.

Original Post:

As of May 26, Google changed the login method for external software to access Blogger, cutting it off from all offline editors other than Blogger's default browser editor. Since many of us use Microsoft's Windows Live Writer 2012 to create our posts, this has been a disaster. If you are like me and use a lot of inline images, this is especially problematic since the default editor is terrible at handling images.

Google blames Microsoft:

7:51 AM

Nick - Google Guide said:


Hi everyone,

We appreciate you coming here and letting us know about this issue. It looks like this error is a result of an authentication problem between Google and Live Writer. A long time ago, we announced we were deprecating our old authentication system and we encouraged developers to move to the new one (OAuth 2.0). It seems that Live Writer is still using our old system, which is causing the issue. We are currently looking into it, but we suggest that users also reach out to Microsoft to report the issue.

Thanks,

Blogger Suport Team

p.s. please disregard the previous official announcement.
Edited

However, all other blog editors are affected, such as Raven, Blogjet, and BlogFire. Until one or more of them change over access methods, posting to Blogger will be a great deal more difficult given the Microsoft ceased development of Live Writer in 2012.

In my case, it may prevent the movie review I finally finished writing today from ever being posted, since I can't get the images to work properly with the default editor. Short of learning to hand code HTML image sizing, it isn't happening for me.

So I have to wait for some kind of fix from somebody. If that doesn't happen, it will be time to explore Wordpress to see if it can replace Blogger for me.  Otherwise, I may stop blogging altogether.

This is more than annoying.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Another Infection

Back in February of 2013, I suffered from an e.coli infection that turned into an abscess. A recent bout of sinusitis has been brutal enough on its own and decided to morph into another abscess in the making in a peculiar turn of events. With my immune system abdicating all its responsibilities, the last few weeks have been miserable.

Currently on antibiotics for the throat closing sinus infection, so nothing new needs be proscribed. All that can be done is too apply hot compresses in the hopes of making the abscess form faster. Fun and games.

I still hope to post more often with actual content, yet life is not being very helpful toward that end.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

AdSense is Nonsense

As part of trying to understand how the Web works, I have experimented with enabling ads on the site to see how they affect its presence in search engines or if they do at all. Making things easy for Google I opted to use their AdSense program and in the latest experiment tried one ad on the right hand sidebar. That way everything involved, Blogger, Google Search, and AdSense, would all be Google products.

So after a year of no profit with the latest attempt (due to the fact it will take around a decade to hit the cash out threshold), they send me a nastygram informing I’m in violation of AdSense:

Hello,

This is a warning message to alert you that there is action required to bring your AdSense account into compliance with our AdSense program policies. We’ve provided additional details below, along with the actions to be taken on your part.

Affected website: from-the-sidelines.blogspot.com

Example page where violation occurred: http://from-the-sidelines.blogspot.com/2011/11/few-war-movies-are-as-rousing-and.html?m=1

Action required: Please make changes immediately to your site to follow AdSense program policies.

Current account status: Active

My immediate reaction was wondering what in the world they were talking about. After visiting the page and seeing it renders as a mobile version with multiple ads, I rolled my eyes since I had no control over where the ads are placed with Bloggers default mobile version. In fact, I was astounded to see two ads, one each placed at the top and bottom of the post instead of only one as set.

Why is this annoying?

Violation explanation


AD MISLABELING: Publishers may not implement Google ads in a manner that disguises the ads in any way. For instance, publishers may not place ads under misleading headers or titles as this may confuse users into thinking the ads are actually site links related to that header. To avoid this issue, we ask that publishers use only "sponsored links" or "advertisements" to label ads. More information about this policy can be found in our help center at https://support.google.com/adsense/answer/1346295?utm_source=crs&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=notification#Placing_ads_under_a_misleading_heading=en&answer=1346295#Placing_ads_under_a_misleading_heading

There was no header labeling of the ads they inserted on their own into the automatically generated conversion of the page to a mobile friendly format. It is sheer idiocy to trust Google’s services working properly with one another which reminds me of the bad old days of IBM where divisions would war with each other. It is one thing to have one hand not know what the other is doing, but neighboring fingers?

I’ve removed AdSense from the site and doubt I’ll experiment with it again. After removing the ad block on the side no ads render on the mobile version too. I pity anyone who tries to make money off of webpage ads these days if penalties are handed out so capriciously.

Somehow I don’t think the whopping $5 and odd cents theoretically earned by the site will be missed.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Spring Surprise

The surprise being that this post is actually going up.

Though the fact that I’m wearing a T-shirt today is surprising after last week’s snow storm that dumped more than eight inches on the property.

Last time I posted was nearly a month ago. How time flies when you aren’t having fun. While February was tough on my health, March pushed me to my limits with no spare energy for anything constructive. That, of course, includes writing.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Spring Is Coming…

…Or so the weather forecasters claim.

Temperatures are finally supposed to go above freezing for the highs this weekend and I desperately need them to. It has been a cold, harsh winter making my bones ache constantly. Thankfully, things have been rather busy the past month thereby causing time to fly and writing to fall by the wayside.

Lately we have been traveling to Gunderson Clinic quite a bit due to testing being performed on Dad to see if something can be done so he’ll be able to eat food again. So far we know that liquids pass through but not solids, so nothing has changed there except for the fluids transiting more easily than last year.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Sound of Spam

More referral spam from Russia and the Netherlands cluttered my Blogger stats in Fevruary. Adding to the mess is the loud blast of spam from http: // ranksonic . info / krawler . pho?refToken threatening to blow the doors down on my blog for the past month. Join me as I explore the links you should never click on…

Ranksonic Spam 01

Let’s start with spam from RanKSonic since it is clogging up Statcounter as well as Blogger’s stats. Of course, it is SEO spam claiming to be able to boost traffic to your website. Hey, if they were that good at it, would they be spamming blogs to get business? Of course not.

Ranksonic Spam 02

Scrolling down to the bottom of the page, I tried several links since there was no way I would sign up for the shady service. Terms of Service and Privacy Policy produced 404 errors like the one above, while About Us just took me back to the top of the home page.

Inspires great confidence in their understanding of webpage design, doesn’t it?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Definitions Matter: IOM Report on ME/CFS

Being a sufferer of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) means dealing with skeptical doctors, a lack of public awareness, and a very confusing diagnostic process. The last is a much bigger problem than even sufferers understand for it is the doctors being confused as well.

So I applaud the new diagnosis method proposed by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies here in the United States. While I haven’t read the full report yet, the outlines and video presentation depict a much more streamlined (and dare I say it, more accurate) list of symptoms for diagnosis.

Quoting from the Key Facts PDF:

There are five main symptoms of ME/CFS:

  1. Reduction or impairment in ability to carry out normal daily activities, accompanied by profound fatigue;
  2. Post-exertional malaise (worsening of symptoms after physical, cognitive, or emotional effort);
  3. Unrefreshing sleep;
  4. Cognitive impairment; and
  5. Orthostatic intolerance (symptoms that worsen when a person stands upright and improve when the person lies back down).

The first three are mandatory and one of the latter two is needed to fulfill the criteria for diagnosis.

I suffer harshly from the first four and haven’t been tested for orthostatic intolerance. Lately, number four has been particularly bad, hence my not posting much. The last few days have been especially challenging making coherent sentences a challenge even when speaking. Today is better, thankfully.

Also in the report is a proposal to rename the disease to Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease or SEID. Doesn’t roll off the tip of the tongue, does it? However, it is bang on what the illness is really about and, most importantly, replaces “syndrome” with “disease” which is important in the medical world.

Note that this report has nothing on treatment and is confined to diagnostics for doctors and researchers, so please don’t get your hopes up on a treatment being developed quickly or even at all. What this report does is add legitimacy to the illness which is vital for extensive research to be done like Stanford’s findings last year of physical abnormalities in CFS patients’ brains.

After over 25 years of having this miserable illness, I’d given up any hope of advancement in any way or form from the medical community. This may be more than a glimmer.

Monday, February 02, 2015

February Already?

Tiger Tabby

“Tempus fugit,” said the Romans and indeed that observation still applies two millennia later. January turned out to be a bear of a month to get through, so next to nothing got done other than what was required. Hopefully, things will get easier as the temperatures warm and winter weather slowly departs.

That may be awhile, as I was snowed in yesterday and didn’t make it to church. Great irony could be found in the fact that I had asked to be covered for my Sunday school lesson the week before due to a forecast of snow that didn’t arrive. So of course the boy that cried wolf (NOAA) wasn’t listened to this time and I awakened to heavy drifting across our steep drive.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The World Is Burning–So What?

The first post of the year 2015 is something I actually started awhile back and forgot about. Lately I’ve been pondering how people deal with life’s challenges along with how much behavior is influenced by external pressures. Stress fractures in society are increasing in size and quantity while people seem less equipped to deal with them. That’s the backdrop for what I began writing last year and updated for this post…

Russia slowly undermines and takes away chunks of Ukraine, China bullies its neighbors and lays claim to vast swathes of sea, Islamists are wreaking havoc in France and Africa, illegal alien minors including gang members are flooding over the border with Mexico, Iraq lost territory to terrorists and Iran sent troops in, and the United States has the most corrupt and incompetent leadership in its history. Yep, it is business as usual -- if you are a student of history. Unfortunately, most people are not.