It’s been a long time

It’s been a long time (over a year) since I’ve posted on this blog, because I have (to put it mildly) been very busy with other responsibilities and passions that have taken me away from blogging. Also, I serve as a (low-level, volunteer-basis) officer in a political party, and as a result, I am sometimes reluctant to post my opinions in public, for fear that they might be taken (or portrayed) as official statements, despite my disclaimer (which, to be clear, says that everything written here is my personal opinion and does not reflect the position of my employer or any organization of which I am a member).

However, we are now facing a national emergency, and it is important for people to speak out. And I’ve decided that I distrust Twitter and Facebook as platforms for doing so (a topic on which I will elaborate later), leading to my desire to start writing again here. I certainly don’t have time for this, but I am going to try to make the time, hopefully posting here more frequently than once every two years.

I have also added https/SSL to this blog, using Let’s Encrypt. I took this step a few months ago, right as the national emergency began, and promptly could not log into the interface for this blog. Because I was (and continue to be) so busy, I put off fixing the problem, only to discover that the problem seems to have fixed itself. Go figure.

While I do plan on talking about politics on this blog, I also have other interests (mathematics, for example), and so I will be posting on these as well.

By the way, I don’t have time for comment moderation, so I don’t plan to enable comments on my posts.

Making a “Places I have been” map

US_Map_chris_visit20130713

For a while, I have maintained a list of places I’ve lived or visited as a note on Facebook. Recently, I decided to repatriate that content to this blog as a page. I also decided it would be nice to have a color-coded map of the states with the same information.

Here’s how I made the map:

I started with a blank SVG map of the states from the Wikimedia Commons, available under a Creative Commons license. (Here’s the actual version I used.) This map is very nice because you can edit it in a text editor. That makes it easy to change the colors of the state.

I wanted four colors for the states, showing the states in which I have lived, visited, had airport layovers, or never stepped foot in. In the original file, there was only one “style” of state, as shown in the CSS style sheet embedded in the file:

<style type="text/css">
.state {
	fill:#d3d3d3;
	stroke:#fff;
	stroke-width:0.75;
	stroke-opacity:1;
}
</style>

To this, I inserted three more styles. The resulting stylesheet is:

<style type="text/css">
.state {
	fill:#d3d3d3;
	stroke:#fff;
	stroke-width:0.75;
	stroke-opacity:1;
}

.statel {
	fill:#669966;
	stroke:#fff;
	stroke-width:0.75;
	stroke-opacity:1;
}

.statev {
	fill:#ff7f00;
	stroke:#fff;
	stroke-width:0.75;
	stroke-opacity:1;
}

.statea {
	fill:#ffcc33;
	stroke:#fff;
	stroke-width:0.75;
	stroke-opacity:1;
}
</style>

The colors are given by the fill attributes, and are specified as RGB hex triplets (e.g. #669966 is the green color used in the image).

Once I established the styles, it was straightforward to modify the states to assign the different styles. Each state is drawn in the SVG file with a path element; you just need to change the class attribute in the corresponding path element. For example, here is the original code to draw Colorado:


<path d="m 380.03242,320.96457 4.90324,-86.32496 -113.38856,-12.64396 -12.21382,87.93916 120.69914,11.02976 z" id="CO" class="state" />

And here is how I modified the code:


<path d="m 380.03242,320.96457 4.90324,-86.32496 -113.38856,-12.64396 -12.21382,87.93916 120.69914,11.02976 z" id="CO" class="statea" />

Note that the id attribute is used to identify the state.

Because browser support for SVG is imperfect at this point, I converted the SVG file to a PNG before uploading. Unfortunately, the version of the Imagemagick convert utility on my computer didn’t do the conversion correctly, so I used Inkscape instead.

Credit: Map of the US adapted from a file from the Wikimedia Commons that was originally created by Wikimedia Commons user Theshibboleth and modified by users Fibonacci, NuclearVacuum, and Wylve. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC-BY-SA 3.0) license. SVG source code of my modified version of the file. Both my modified SVG and derived PNGs are offered under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC-BY-SA 3.0) license.

Deluge of comment spam

This blog has received a deluge of attempted comment spam recently. Spammers attempted to post over 150 comments since the beginning of June. I say “attempted” because every comment made to this blog by a new user is sent to moderation; I have had to manually delete every spam comment made so far. I don’t know what the spammers are hoping to achieve, given I am not interested in illegally acquiring prescription pain medication, and nobody else has seen their missives on this topic they have tried to post here. But going forward, I guess I’m going to have to leave comments off.

How can this be for real?

Someone tried to leave this comment on my blog:

Aug 21st 2012 – Interior decoration is a matter of pleasure or stress, depending on how you look at it. This technology is brand new and has only been around for the past 6 months. The flight is scheduled according to the needs of the passenger at his or her own pace complete with any stops or side-trips that may be requested. How can this be for real? Something is going wrong. It is 2012, and this is the United States of America

Does that make any sense? Not really. I posted it because I found it particularly amusing. This was, indeed, the 167th spam comment I’ve received. (In the URL field was the address for some site selling cheap handbags.) Something is going wrong, at least for this commenter. It is 2012, this is the United States of America, and I moderate my comments, bozo!

blog name change

Administrative note: I’ve changed the name of this blog, reusing the name of my (now defunct and largely deleted) LiveJournal. I’m not sure I’m going to keep this name, either.

Update: Okay, I changed it again. I might tinker more later. (I’m sure this is the most interesting post ever.)

System Administrator Appreciation Day

I have learned (from BoingBoing, TeXblog, and a few other places) that today is System Administrator Appreciation Day.

I don’t know who the system administrators are for this site. I pay a company, NearlyFreeSpeech, to host this site, ChrisPhan.com, and PhanBudd.com. I have not had any communication with NearlyFreeSpeech, save a few automated emails reminding me to renew domains, et cetra, so I haven’t had an opportunity to get to know my sysadmins. But I will say this: in the four or so years since I started using NearlyFreeSpeech to host my stuff, I have not, to my knowledge, experienced a second of downtime. So, NearlyFreeSpeech sysadmins, even though I don’t know who you are, you all rock, and you are very much appreciated!

PhanBlog: now with blogroll!

I’ve added a blogroll, which you should see on the left of the main page of this blog. (Of course, some of these blogs regularly express opinions with which I disagree, so you shouldn’t construe inclusion on my blogroll as an endorsement of that author’s political views.)

First post

Welcome to PhanBlog!

I’ve created this blog to share my valuable insights with the rest of the world. I am planning to post about funny things found on the Intertubes, politics, mathematics, and perhaps West Wing episodes (because more online discussion of six-year-old TV shows can’t hurt). Anyway, in the mean time, here is a video of my parents’ cat: