Tracking the Great Blogwar

I mostly find silliness to be a distraction from the real business of blogging — which I vaguely remember as having something to do with actually writing stuff other people want to read. (Or was it posting nekkid pictures of yourself or, even better, of more attractive people? I always forget).
But hey, I enjoy a challenge, and I was bored. So for those of you who want to keep track of the great blogwar, here’s a scorecard for you.
It feeds directly from Ecosystem scans, and yes, it will update daily. To summarize, the Alliance can rightfully claim to have already surpassed Glenn in total inbound links (not surprising, given the link sluttage known to be common among that group). But in the far more significant metric of average daily visits, Instapundit reigns over all, as the graph to the right shows.
Now, admittedly, I’ve only got statistics from those Alliance weblogs that use public SiteMeter counters — but about half of them do, and so it appears that Frank‘s minions have quite a bit of work to do before Glenn needs to truly start worrying.
I’ll remain neutral in this particular conflict for now, pending suitable incentives from one side or another — simply consider me your humble war correspondent, observing from the sidelines…

Compromise Kills

Does the concept of compromise by definition deliver bad results for certain intractable problems?
Gun rights vs. gun control leaps to mind. Let’s leave aside, for the moment, the legitimate arguments on the gun rights side of the fence about the salutary effect gun ownership has on putting power in the hands of citizens (as opposed to the government) and focus solely on run-of-the-mill crime.
rightfully points out the following regarding a recent Chicago workplace shooting that can serve as an illustrative example:
Curiously, Tapia was undeterred by the City of Chicago’s strict anti-gun ordinance. Bizarrely, despite a prior record for unlawful use of weapons, domestic battery, and aggravated assault which should have made him ineligible to own a gun legally in Illinois, Tapia seems to have chosen to disobey the law and obtained a gun anyway.
All six of the victims obeyed the gun laws of the City and State and were unarmed at the time of their murders.

So taking this one incident as a case study, it seems that there were two ways it might have been prevented. First is the solution Spoons would favor: that more honest citizens have have legal access to and feel comfortable carrying their own firearms. Arguably, the first part of this (legal access) exists, although perhaps not to Spoons’ satisfaction, but most certainly the “comfort” factor is not there — our culture tolerates gun ownership, but only just barely, and under very limited circumstances (gun in a locked drawer at home is ok but raises eyebrows — gun carried with a concealed carry permit every day is guaranteed to get you labeled paranoid).
So: if one or more of the victims in this case carried their own firearm and were properly acquainted with its use, it is pretty easy to imagine that this episode would have turned out far differently, with far less loss of innocent life.
But these deaths could have been prevented with the complete opposite approach as well. I do believe it is possible to ban all firearms to a degree that would make it at least extremely difficult for criminals to obtain them. This would require gutting the 2nd Amendment, and basically shutting down handgun manufacturing in the U.S. and imports — yes, we’re serious, this is not tinkering — but it could be done, if the political consensus existed to do so. Would you ever achieve zero guns in the criminal world? No. But I’ll bet you could achieve it to the degree that a petty-level loser like Tapia couldn’t get one easily.
And again: those six people wouldn’t have died.
So it seems to me that, for this issue, we’ve engineered a compromise — guns are legally available, but under certain restrictions and not encouraged by society — which provides the worst of all possible worlds. Taking the “extreme” solution proposed by gun rights advocates — free and encouraged access to all — or by opponents — no guns for anyone, period — would both appear to provide a better solution than the one we have now.
Question for the peanut gallery: what other political issues in today’s arena do you see that fall into this categorization? Where else do you see the supposedly-beneficial idea of “compromise” actually producing results for society far worse than either side’s extreme would have?

Showcase: Game On!

OK folks, now that we’re back in business and Hosting Matters appears comfortable that the scripts aren’t causing any problems, it’s time to re-activate the Weblog Showcase.
We’ve been accumulating contestants for the past few weeks, so I’m going to take the simple way out: next Monday will be the end of this mega-contest, so anybody who has registered thus far is eligble, as well as anyone who meets the requirements and registers this week.
So get voting!

A lean, mean, link-countin’ machine

So I spent much of today re-working the Ecosystem code so that it isn’t such a resource hog, and believe I have finally met with some success. There is a fresh run out there now, which I believe to be accurate.
To reduce the system load, I actually had to radically change the method I use for link-counting that sits at the heart of the Ecosystem — the goofball “host” concept that always confused everyone anyway. This was a bit of work, but was something I always wanted to get rid of, so good riddance to bad rubbish. It also has the benefit of streamlining the process for adding a weblog to the Ecosystem, which was a nice bonus.
However, this means that this wasn’t just a cosmetic tweak, but a rather substantial one. So: I would greatly appreciate feedback and assistance in validating the current results. If you see anything that doesn’t look right, please title=”N.Z. Bear”>drop me a line.
One casualty of the rework was the ‘Blogosphere Daily News’. To support that feature required a more inefficient method of scanning, and since nobody really seemed to care for it anyway, I’ve ditched it. Maybe someday I’ll bring it back in a different form; we’ll see.
I still do not know if Hosting Matters will grant me permission to resume daily execution of the scripts; I have just passed on that request to them with a report on the improved performance. Hopefully they will have no problem with the load now (and to be clear, I don’t blame them for being annoyed earlier: I really was pounding their box). Again: we shall see.
Anyway, thanks to everyone for their words of support while things have been in flux; they were much appreciated and certainly helped to motivate me to get things fixed.
More later…
Update: Hosting Matters has indicated they are OK with me trying the scripts, they’ll be keeping an eye on them. Should be no problem, then: I really did get the load way down…

No updates this week

The Ecosystem and all other TTLB functions will be down all week; Hosting Matters has notified me that the scripts are monopolizing resources to an unacceptable degree and they will not permit them to run. I’m still not clear if this is just the natural progression of load growing over time, or if something is still screwed up in the database.
But the bottom line is I’m out of business until I can figure something out, and that will be next weekend at the earliest.

All better now

…although I should know better than to say that, given how things have been going around here lately.
OK, this morning’s scans completed successfully, and things appear to be functioning normally. Here’s what happened, best as I can tell:
– Last week, I had a database corruption issue, which caused me to have to drop and re-add a key table of the Ecosystem. When I did that, I forgot to re-add the indexes on the table.
– This caused the Ecosystem routines to hammer the database, and the Hosting Matters server. Apparently, HM decided to put a job in place to kill my processes. They did not, however, decide to actually notify me of this.
– I’ve now fixed the indexing problem, which hopefully will resolve the resource-usage problem for HM. I’ve emphasized to HM that I do want to be a good citizen, and am perfectly willing to work with them to not put an unreasonable load on their systems.
So was this one my fault, or Hosting Matters fault? A little of both, would be my conclusion.
Anyway, that’s the story for now; hopefully this is the end of the troubles for a while….

And the culprit is…

…Hosting Matters. Again.
I just received confirmation that yes indeedy, Hosting Matters implemented a change a few weeks back that rendered part of my Ecosystem code inoperable.
Turns out that they have now made it illegal to execute ‘exec’ calls from php scripts, which is a crucial part of how the Ecosystem routines work. They did this change — in general terms — on their support forum, but I didn’t see it.
I’ve posted a request to the HM support forum asking for help from other HM users on how to fix the problem — as customer support has declined to offer an alternative. Suggestions from the peanut gallery here are of course most welcome as well.
I do apologize for the long delay in even attempting to fix this problem, but the demands of my non-blogging life have been high lately. It is frustrating to me as well, I assure you — I’ve put quite a bit of effort into ensuring that the Ecosystem code is reliable and keeps working as long as I don’t mess with it — beacuse I know that I don’t have time to be futzing around and fixing it every day. But it is difficult for me to react quickly to unexpected changes like this…
UPDATE: Annette from Hosting Matters has now replied to my issue, and has re-examined the problem. She’s found that ‘exec’ was not the issue, rather, the ‘jailshell’ which I believe HM defaults users to was causing the problem. It appears that I’ve now been reset to a normal, non-restricted shell.
In addition, Annette has pointed out that apparently some of my routines are not terminating properly, causing problems for HM’s server resources, and so they put a job in place to kill them for me. (I don’t blame them at all for doing so, although I’m puzzled why they didn’t contact me on the issue instead, and have indicated that in the future, I’d be happy to address this kind of problem if I’m told about it).
Anyway: I need to do some further investigation to clean up my own mess, and Annette has removed the restrictions while I do so, which seems fair. So with a little luck, I’ll have things cleaned up by the end of the weekend one way or another…

Broken Again

Yet another mysterious issue has cropped up which has broken the Ecosystem — now, my cron job is simply aborting part-way through the run.
This means no Showcase winner today — I’ll have to figure out something later in the week. Sorry.

Hitchens Opens Fire on Hope; Shoots Own Foot

When Hitchens is right, he’s brilliant. But when he misfires, he does it just as big. See his latest Slate piece, Hopeless, in which he both speaks ill of the dead, and makes an ass of himself — the former of which is forgiveable; the latter, lamentable.
Hitchens has made a name for himself by, among other things, attacking those personages who have become larger than life — whose behavior has come to be judged by their reputation, as opposed to their reputation flowing from their behavior. He has rightfully trashed the hypocrisy of Mother Theresa’s views on poverty and the poor, savaged Henry Kissinger’s amorality and the public media’s refusal to acknowledge it, and along the way also taken time out to deflate visions of Princess Diana’s good works — not to mention dismissing Bill Clinton as the common degenerate his behavior showed him to be.
But Hitchens veers wildly off his generally-steady rails when he applies his favorite hammer to the nail of Bob Hope’s celebrity. His critique is simple: that Hope just wasn’t funny.
Hope is “a truly unfunny man”, according to Hitchens, and “never even remotely a comedian”. This is fascinating stuff, and he bangs on about it for a whole column, educating us all about precisely how and why Bob Hope isn’t actually funny.
The one little problem here is that, unlike whether Mother Theresa actually helped the poor or not, and whether Henry Kissinger actually violated U.S. and international laws now and again, the question of whether Bob Hope is funny is not a question of fact. It is a question of opinion — more to the point, a matter of personal taste.
Hitchens was right to challenge the easy celebrity of his previous targets, first because they were operating under false pretenses. Mother Theresa was envisioned to be a friend of the poor, when it would be more accurate to describe her as a friend of poverty; Kissinger operated (and still operates) under a comfortable haze of respectability when any inspection of his behavior and history shows him to be anything but.
More importantly, the continued good reputation of these targets had consequences. People giving money to Mother Theresa might well send it somewhere more worthy if not for the whiff of sainthood that surrounds her. And American relations worldwide continue to be influenced — albeit indirectly — by Kissinger’s wide-reaching associations. Combatting these public perceptions arguably serves the greater good.
But what, exactly, is the purpose of even trying to deflate Bob Hope’s reputation as an entertainer; as simply a funny man? Does Hitchens truly think the world will be a better place; that moral justice will have been served in some sense if he can convince large groups of people that, in fact, the enjoyment they gained from seeing Hope perform was some kind of an error of judgment on their part?
The fact is, I’ve never found Hope to be particularly funny myself. But unlike Hitchens, I don’t consider my own personal taste to be the final arbiter of such matters. Millions of people worldwide seem to feel differently than I on this question. And while such a popular landslide against my chosen opinion will rarely make me reconsider a moral or ethical position, it will get me to acknowledge that if millions of people think that an individual was entertaining, well, then he probably was — even if I don’t find him to be to my own liking.
Hitchens has blazed an honorable path as a contrarian who is willing to challenge orthodoxy when it needs it, and he retains my respect as a man with fierce beliefs and an equally fierce intellect to drive them. But sometimes — particularly in matters of popular culture — the orthodoxy is right by definition, and will do just fine without any challenging, thank you very much.
PS – It serves Hitchens right that Slate’s editors ran his piece with the deeply lame headline “Hopeless” — which I refuse to believe he chose himself.