blogging miscellanea

Skulking toward normalcy

I suppose it’s about time for an update, as my frayed nerves are beginning to return to normal.  Sleep may knit up the raveled sleave of care, but don’t underestimate the healing power of a good lay-off.

Indeed, almost exactly two years after the last adventure, the hammer came ’round again, and in November I found my at liberty.  This time, however, I volunteered to step into harm’s way: the timing was serendipitious, as I was rapidly moving toward my Ph.D. candidacy exam.  On November 1st, I found myself at ends, out of the office but still officially on the books through the end of the year, on “gardening leave,” as they call it in the UK.

snowy bushesI barely noticed that I was no longer working, as the exigencies of research and writing pressed hard, and November passed quickly.  In mid-December, happily, I passed into the exalted status of Ph.D. candidate: classes complete, and now on to the dissertation.  (At my department, achieving candidacy also greatly reduces tuition, in another bit of cheerful timing.)

It was well into January, however, before my mind began to feel a bit less like suet.  It’s quite possible to pursue a Ph.D. while working, but I will observe that it’s extremely painful, much harder than working on a Master’s.  The relatively well-defined demands of classwork can be contained much better than the open-ended, all-consuming requirements of research.

I’m now starting to settle into the new rhythm of the days; the recent heavy snows that have been assaulting Philadelphia have not inconvenienced me at all, as I happily had chanced to refit my home office before finding out about my impending free agency.

With that in mind, I’ve begun to fire up again,  To those patient readers who have kept this site in their RSS readers: huzzah to you, friends.

blogging tools

Administrative: RSS/FeedBurner Problems

Here’s a bit of a technical aside, I’m afraid.

It looks like may have been experiencing a few problems with the RSS feed, related to the backend configuration changes required by Google for the FeedBurner service.  I’ve been using FeedBurner for feed hosting and management for quite a long time, since before they were acquired by Google in 2007.

Google finally got around to making some changes to the MyBrand feature, which lets you use your own domain name FeedBurner: convenient for preventing lock-in if you ever want to take your feeds somewhere else.  This requires having a CNAME set up in your DNS to point to the FeedBurner/Google servers.

I’ve had two such CNAMES set up: and, but something related to Google’s back-end changes caused the former (which was also the default configured in my WordPress FeedSmith plugin) to stop working: any requests for the feed URL were met with not-found errors (you may or may not have experienced this, depending on which URL your feedreader is using).

It seems that, under the current regime, FeedBurner does not like having two MyBrand entries for the same domain; if there’s something else going on, I haven’t been able to divine what it might be.  I have, however, found a workaround, setting the feed up to use a single canonical URL:

  1. My web host, Nearly Free Speech, makes it easy and cheap to create new sites.  I created a new website that would simply act as a redirect.  (This could also have been done using the main website, but since I’m actually maintaining a number of different websites, it seems to be convenient to host all the redirects in one place.)
  2. I changed the DNS CNAME for from the link to Google’s servers to point to this new site.
  3. I added an Apache .htaccess file to redirect requests for to with a 301 response:
    RewriteEngine On
    RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^( [NC]
    RewriteRule ^(.*)$$1 [R=301,L]
  4. I ensured that FeedBurner had just one MyBrand entry for (, and that the FeedBurner feed for was configured to point to the WordPress feed.
  5. I pointed the FeedSmith plugin (which I updated to 2.3.1), to the now-canonical MyBrand URL for the FeedBurner-hosted feed: ‘‘.

And that seems to have done it.  Hopefully any requests for the feed, whether at the default WordPress URL,, or will work seamlessly.  We now return you to our regularly scheduled miscellanea.

blogging computer science zenoli

This post is about meta-blogging

Having made the decision to pursue a doctorate, I’m boning up in preparation for the qualifying examinations. For the past several weeks I’ve been marinating my brain in computer science, tenderizing it by bashing it repeatedly with a large stack of textbooks. Three more weeks, pass or fail, and I’ll finally have a chance to emerge from this haze of NP-completeness and routing algorithms.

I strongly disapprove of excessive meta-blogging and the cringing, pathetic whinging that often accompanies a shift in a blogger’s posting schedule. A good blog should be about something besides itself. Nonetheless, I don’t think I’ve set expectations for my own schedule, which would seem to be a reasonable courtesy. (As a further courtesy, any further inclinations toward meta-blogging will be sternly quashed and allow to emerge only once a quarter.)

My general goal for Zenoli has been to make on average two to three posts per week, with a minimum of one and a maximum of four. I expect to continue with that schedule for the rest of 2007, though until late April the frequency will be at the low end of that range. I may toss up a few shorter bits that are more timely, and probably shouldn’t moulder in my queue.

Thus far, writing this blog has been quite a curious experiment. I’ve enjoy developing these small essays, and watching my own approach toward my writing change. Most significantly, thanks to this site I have corresponded a bit with some very interesting people; a sincere thank you to everyone who has written and commented. I’d also like to thank those whose exceptional examples of thoughtful blogging serve as both a moveable feast for the intellect and a spur toward the heights.

blogging writing

Blogging as Succedaneum

I admit it . . . I’ve been writing bits and pieces of fiction for years, mostly short stories and short-shorts. Once I started grad school, though, I determined that schoolwork would be my primary focus, and I would avoid such all-consuming distractions.

Lately, though, the desire to write has been growing. I’ve tried to postpone matters by starting this blog, as writing digestible chunks of non-fiction satisfies some of the same urges.

If you are looking for ways to avoid writing (or worse, attempting to get your work published), I recommend Michael Swanwick’s “Ask Unca Mike” column. He provides (or used to provide, as it hasn’t been updated in a year or so) a satisfying assortment of bad (and abusively amusing) advice in the hopes of discouraging the competition.