Archive for Blogorrhea

A view from the horizontal

The title of this new blog minces no words: “Paraplegia Sucks.”

Just the one post for now, but it’s scary enough.

Update: A second post has arrived.

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Blogging 102

Assuming you don’t want to take advice from assless AIs, here’s an actual blogging course being taught by an actual name-brand blogger:

Whether you’re a hobby blogger, corporate blogger, seasoned mommy blogger or someone just starting out, Blogging Bootcamp will teach you how to launch & maintain a successful blog. This course will highlight blogging platforms, branding your blog, current trends, how to integrate social networks, and useful writing tips & tricks.

The instructor’s credentials, incidentally, are as good as they come:

Jennifer James McCollum, APR, is an American mother and Oklahoma writer. She began blogging in 1999. Her blog, jenx67.com, has been featured in the Washington Post, MSNBC Entertainment, National Associated Press, The Oklahoman, Tulsa World, San Francisco Chronicle, and many more traditional media outlets. Jennifer serves as Executive Director of Oklahomans for the Arts, a nonprofit arts advocacy organization. An accredited public relations practitioner, Jennifer also provides part-time executive coaching and consulting in digital and public relations strategies.

This is a five-week Mini-Session at Oklahoma Contemporary, State Fair Park, easily worth your seventy simoleons. And besides:

Participants will receive original notes and presentations on all the topics presented, none of which are available online.

Shrewd, she is.

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You could walk a mile in her shoes

I am somewhat distressed to see Shoebunny, once the definitive resource for celebrity footwear, now reduced to a single “Hello world!” type post.

Now SB has taken time off before, but never have I seen her go back and wipe the archives. Her Twitter feed hasn’t been updated in a month. At least her Pinterest stuff seems to be intact.

The last two posts she made, in case you’re curious, concerned this pair of Jimmy Choos on Kate Beckinsale and these nicely insubstantial Manolos worn by Connie Britton.

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Sort of neat

I recently replaced the Live Comment Preview, which wasn’t working, with a Not-So-Live Preview, which requires you to push a button. I watched it work on one of my own comments, and noticed that it faked up a URL using comment number 55000. Great, thought I, but what happens when I get to actual comment number 55000, which is due Any Day Now?

I observed last night, and by gum, the plugin was now using 56000. So it’s checking the data before it commits itself. Would that all plugins had that much insight.

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Some dressing for your word salad?

I think she’s got far more nerve than I do:

I dare you to try it. Close your eyes like you’re preparing to meditate and just type whatever floats across your mind. No peeking! Ready? Okay. Now what? I can’t think of anything because I’m tryig to think of something. I think this is why I stopped blogging. No, actually I think I stopped because I started making more friends and then my family started reading and I started caring what people thought. I mean I’ve always sort of cared what people think about what I write, but I don’t get all weird about it because I typically try to offset my bitchiness with a litle humor and oh shit I think I just made a typo. OMG what if my fingers were on the wrong keys all along and this is a bunch of gibberish? Did I spell gibberish correctly?

Some of the things that go through my head, I don’t even want to mention, and I was that way long before I picked up NSA as a feed subscriber.

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Tweaking time

No, not that kind of tweaking. I’ve been hunting down bugs in the presentation here, and so far, the bugs are winning.

For no reason I can fathom — I’ve heard everything from “your theme is suffering from bit rot” to “your host handles PHP/FCGI funny” — the Live Comment Preview is no longer live. Checking the second premise — I installed it on a different site with a much-newer theme, and it didn’t work there either — I have switched to an actual preview button, which will display the results above the comment box. If you have any problems with this, let me know; WP-Super-Cache seems to look at it funny.

There are other issues, likely of no interest to the reader but which drive me up that proverbial wall.

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Meanwhile in the search logs

I seldom find something quite this weird in my own search logs:

More than a dozen people came to this blog in October looking for this phrase:

“like imaginary-geraldo, who lost one leg playing ‘the floor is made of lava’ and who likes to dress up your cats as movie stars when you’re not home.”

Kind of sweet, in a sick and twisted way.

(Sent my way via Jennifer.)

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Everything put together falls apart

A lot of things that are supposed to be working here, aren’t. I’ll get to them eventually. (I hope.)

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Further and future tweaks

I was working on the back end yesterday, so to speak, and started wondering if maybe I should move up beyond PHP 5.2.x, inasmuch as WordPress is now recommending 5.2.4 as the absolute minimum.

The host now sends new accounts by default to 5.3 and FastCGI, so that was the package for which I opted. It sped things along a bit, but they were also offering 5.4, so after a decent interval (about eight hours) I bumped up to the 5.4 level; with 5.4.11, I’ve cut my RAM usage by a third.

As it happens, 5.5 is out now, and 5.5.1, released last week, is the latest stable release. When that’s available to me, I’ll grab it.

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Mill demands more grist

Another reason why I still use this seven-year-old WordPress theme:

Readers sometimes “like” my posts by clicking a button that WordPress displays at the end of the post, and I appreciate that. In fact I very often like their posts too, but my security software (NoScript) goes off when I try to click “like.” Just to get to that point I must first temporarily allow a couple of urls to run javascript. Then NoScript warns me about a potential “clickjacking” attempt, and I haven’t been able to sort out exactly what that is and how to allow the link without allowing malicious links. Whatever clickjacking is, I bet it’s something I wouldn’t like.

Blogger and WordPress.com and, most blatantly, Tumblr have been trying to capture eyeballs by playing social-media games with “followers” and “likes” and whatnot, in an effort to make you think that you shouldn’t venture from their sandbox because those Other People can’t “like” you or “reblog” you. (There are actually only 19 original Tumblr posts and 487 million reblogs.)

Oh, and in case you were wondering:

A clickjacked page tricks a user into performing undesired actions by clicking on a concealed link. On a clickjacked page, the attackers load another page over it in a transparent layer. The users think that they are clicking visible buttons, while they are actually performing actions on the hidden page. The hidden page may be an authentic page; therefore, the attackers can trick users into performing actions which the users never intended. There is no way of tracing such actions to the attackers later, as the users would have been genuinely authenticated on the hidden page.

My readers may be reassured that even if I were evil enough to try crap like that, I wouldn’t have the tech smarts to implement it.

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Look on my words, ye mighty, and disdain

The first post of 2013 was titled “Worst titles of 2012″; I’ve been doing this yearly wrapup since ’07, and I’m surprised I didn’t think of doing it earlier, inasmuch as I’ve been slapping actual titles on these posts since 2002. (The Vents, of course, have had titles since 1996.) For some readers, the post titles may be the best thing here; they definitely draw attention to the place.

Which could be bad news, says Annetta Powell:

[B]log titles should be able to capture the attention of your target readers. This conclusion brings us to a rather startling fact that a good blog title also has the potential to negatively impact your blog reputation. This is because it is a mistake to create an extraordinary title to represent an average or maybe below average blog post. Simply put, a great title for a not-so-great content can seriously damage your blog reputation.

Is that a fact?

[A] good title for a blog post which is of little or no value to the reader basically defeats the purpose of having an attention-grabbing headline. You may increase your traffic generation but your target audience will find your Content Marketing to be disappointing. This is because your potential readers will get attracted to your blog title and click on it expecting to find content of similar caliber. But the opposite of this situation will leave them bitterly disappointed in your blog post.

Or, perhaps, bitterly disappointed in those other four posts I did that day. I get, I think, more than my share of what I think of as WTF traffic, people dropping in wondering, well, WTF; some of them will stick around, but more of them won’t. I’m not goofy enough to think that I’m going to hold on to every stray reader who wandered in here because of a quirky-looking tweet or a bizarre Google search. A few months back, I caught some linkage which temporarily boosted my feed subscribers from 300 or so to nearly 800. I’ve kept maybe 100 from that boomlet, which is probably more than I deserved.

And then there’s this business:

Bloggers also focus on making their blog title good enough for SEO purposes. This requires them to use primary keywords in the title as well as in the content. But today’s audience and readers are highly aware of most internet practices. If they get attracted to a good blog title for poor quality content, they will be under the impression that the writer’s focus was only on SEO and not on adding value for them. This negative reputation will then transfer to all your future blogging efforts as well.

And you already know what I think about SEO:

“Search engine optimization” is the 21st-century version of phrenology. Everybody and his brother-in-law has some scheme to game the system; every other month or so, Google, which owns half the search market, duly upsets the system and thus all the games. Blather, rinse, repeat. Were I more desperate for traffic, and had I money to lavish on this site, I would be better served by simply hiring a practitioner of vodou; at worst, I’d only have to clean the chicken blood out of the database once in a while.

I note for reference that I’ve tried several plugins, but there is, so far as I know, no WordPress code specifically intended to remove chicken blood.

So while I’m grateful for Ms Powell’s advice, I’m probably going to keep on doing what I’ve been doing for the past decade or so, and I figure that any of you who object to that sort of thing will never, ever see this because you quit reading me years ago.

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Just a Tad

For the last several years, Mad has been running a two-page feature written by Tim Carvell called “Planet TAD!!!!!” which purports to be the blog of a 14-year-old boy, and which, at least at first, looked like it had been designed 14 years before. It’s shown on a browser, of course, but you can’t go to a URL like “galaxyo’blogs.com”, can you? (“I can’t,” said ICANN.)

So I’m checking out the current issue (#522), and holy veeblefetzer, Tad’s gotten himself a domain name! Or has he? I duly pulled up PlanetTad.com, and found this:

My son and I are fans of Planet Tad and MAD magazine. Wanting even more TAD, we typed in “planettad.com” and were shocked to find the domain unregistered! I mean, the book is about a blog. A blog is a website. One can only assume that the domain name Tad would choose for his blog would be “planettad.com”. Hmmm. Was there a major rift in space-time or could it just be a significant oversight?

In other news, there’s a Planet Tad book.

Off Tad’s current front page, a post dated the 10th:

From all the ads, it looks pretty clear that The Lone Ranger is about two guys.

I feel like someone needs to have the word “lone” explained to them.

Not that I know anyone who writes like that.

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Minor site issues

Load times were creeping upward this weekend, then jumped into the stratosphere shortly thereafter. I have shuffled the plugins slightly and reworked the cache, which may have helped somewhat. Also, while perusing the logs, I discovered an anomaly: bots of some sort trying to leave spam on the old Movable Type blog, which hasn’t existed for nearly five years. About fifteen minutes later, I had what I think is a permanent solution for that, including a redirect to Sheol.

Please report any anomalies other than the usual ones.

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Incoming!

What happens when you’ve been tooling along for years with a hundred visitors a day, and then one day twenty thousand show up?

A few days back, Julie Neidlinger wrote a longish post about her wicked Diet Coke habit, which contained this statement I consider well worth repeating:

Let’s just be honest: people who point out the inadequacies in my eating and health regimen are merely quibbling over the bet they’re placing that I’ll die first. You’re telling me I’m killing myself and it’s my fault. You almost hint that I can take the blame for any physical ailment coming my way. I propose that cellular degeneration and the natural order of things might get some blame, and not just that Snickers I ate yesterday.

Upon reading that, I uncorked — okay, unscrewed — a fresh bottle of Dr Pepper. And not Diet Dr Pepper, either.

The word spread. Over six thousand shared the story on Facebook. It was tweeted more than a hundred times. The Google+ counter doesn’t say anything, but I know there was at least one.

And finally:

Today I was out visiting Fort Abraham Lincoln with friends, and my phone kept beeping and vibrating from tweets and email notifications of comments that awaited moderation as we walked through Gen. Custer’s house and the Mandan village. I finally turned off Twitter notifications, because I can’t even process having more than 100 followers, much less deal with comment moderation.

Comment moderation is a tricky business. You’re damned if you don’t (spammers! d-bags!) and damned if you do (you hate free speech! comment nazi!).

I do as little comment moderation as I can get away with, not so much that I worry about being called a Nazi — believe me, there are creatures far worse than Nazis out there, and rather a lot of them are holed up even now in Mordor-on-the-Potomac — but because I am basically lazy and can expect the automated tools on hand to dispose of 90 percent of the stuff.

Still, twenty thousand visitors in a day, half again as many as I’ve ever gotten in 24 hours, will do things to your head:

And now I’m not sure how to write the next blog post because a bunch of people signed up for my email newsletter and it is inevitable that I’m going to write something someday that makes them unsubscribe or unfollow on Twitter and watching numbers on the wane again and losing hard-earned readers after a decade of blogging in what feels like perpetual obscurity makes it tempting to sort of water down my usual post style to stave off the inevitable.

And now you know why I have never had an email newsletter, though I have several hundred subscribers to the site feed. Besides, the one saving grace of perpetual obscurity is that it’s long-lasting; you never have to worry that you’re getting too big for your britches.

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Minor site anomaly

The latest update to the Live Comment Preview inserts the digit “1″ plus a space just about Gravatar-wide before your name in the preview. It does not do this on the saved comment.

I have known about this, to the extent that it affects this particular theme, for at least a year, and have delayed installing the update until this week, mostly because I wanted to see how just nasty WordPress might get about it. As it happens, WordPress did nothing more than put up the usual digit in a circle to tell me that an update was available.

I might dig down into the code to try to fix that — or I might not, depending on how fast I think the next update will be sliding down the chute.

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Walk duly being walked

One of the great mysteries of contemporary commerce is why Yahoo! peeled off a billion in small bills for blog site Tumblr.

This much we know: they moved the Yahoo! Answers blog to Tumblr. Now if they move Ball Don’t Lie over there, I’ll believe they’re serious (not to be confused with Yahoo Serious).

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From the Not Happening files

So last night, while I should have been heading for the sack, I found an interesting little plugin which would list every single tag used on this site. I’d planned to give it its own page and a link up top; you click on that and you get an index of sorts, whether you’re looking for something mentioned only once (rather a lot of these) or more than five hundred times (Thunder-related stuff). In fact, I installed it briefly, and the results were at least acceptable.

But there’s one minor problem: there are ten thousand tags. (The number has climbed as high as 10,001; recent paring has whittled it back to 9,990, and considering it was 9,800 in September, I can’t complain too much.) It’s not exactly like indexing an encyclopedia, but it’s tedious, and it takes a heck of a long time to load. So I disposed of that idea, and also killed off the Tag Cloud I’d had hidden elsewhere, as it was kind of silly, as those things almost always are.

I might have gone along with it had it been possible to limit the listings to, say, things that had at least two mentions, which would have cut down the size of the display by half. (Which tells you what kind of concentration level I must have, if there are 5000 topics here that have been mentioned only once.) There apparently is a hack for this, but I couldn’t get it to work, so I set the idea aside. For now, anyway.

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To everything, churn, churn, churn

Nicole pondered this matter earlier in the week:

Maybe I should migrate to Tumblr… All I do lately is reblog and post pictures and links.

Meanwhile, Pejman Yousefzadeh, one of the few Tumblr users on Ye Olde Link List, has migrated to Squarespace.

What does all this mean? I haven’t a clue.

Also this week, Yahoo!, which recently bought Tumblr for no discernible reason, has shaken up Flickr:

Yahoo unveiled some big changes to Flickr on Monday, both in terms of features and overall design. One of those changes is that free users are no longer limited to a certain number of photos; instead, everyone gets 1TB of space for their full-resolution photos.

With that change comes an end to what used to be the biggest difference between free Flickr accounts and Flickr Pro. As it turns out, that’s by design. In addition to lifting the previous upload and storage limits, Flickr is quietly discontinuing its Flickr Pro accounts (existing Pro users can continue to use Flickr Pro) and shifting to a different type of upgrade model.

The different type of upgrade model, incidentally, costs twice as much — or twenty times as much if somehow you have 2 TB of photos.

I just might let my Pro account quietly expire, though I haven’t made up my mind yet, and anyway it’s paid for through the end of this year. (I have, I’m guessing, somewhere around 0.02 TB of photos.)

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Ducking and covering

Ten and a half hours of being beaten upon is no way to live. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot that could have been done about it short of fleeing, and I don’t flee well:

Our admin team is continuing to roll out the fix and monitoring where needed. They are confident the source of the connectivity issues are due to large-scale brute force attacks to wp-login pages. These attacks are overloading affected servers and the fix being applied will limit the rate these attacks are hitting wp-login pages. In addition to the fix that’s being applied everywhere, we’re also mitigating the attack by blocking IP addresses all around our data centers.

While they didn’t get too specific, it was most likely something like this that brought us down, and there’s a practical limit to how much you can harden something like WordPress without killing its usability.

It’s still slow around here, but it’s not dead, and there’s a lot to be said for not being dead — though it was two hours before I was actually able to log in.

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Get clicking

WordPress, for some reason, prefers to create a new dynamic page when you click on the Comments link, though there’s still some code in the base that supports an actual pop-up window. (Now and then I’ve thought about implementing it, but so many browsers today have pop-up blockers enabled by default that I just couldn’t find it in my heart, which is cold and flinty anyway, to go through with it.)

Bill Quick used to have Daily Pundit set up to do comments inline — click the link and they’d appear under the post automagically — but no more:

The problem is that they are apparently a major security risk. I spent most of yesterday trying to figure out how to do comments inline — all of them automatically appearing beneath the post — but with the newer versions of WordPress, this becomes quite difficult, and is beyond my coding skills.

I hadn’t heard this, but I tend to be suspicious of Ajax stuff on general principle.

So, unless and until I can come up with something that will actually work and not expose my server to constant hack attempts, we’re going to have to do it the way just about everybody else does: If you want to leave a comment, or read them, you’ll have to click through to do it.

Life is like that sometimes.

Oddly, I had inline comments — in read mode, anyway — more than a decade ago, but that was when the whole site was hand-coded and there were fewer black-hatted types trying to weasel their way in.

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Dad, will you please get off the computer?

Once again, something I didn’t notice is noticed:

Funny observation popped up in discussion [on an irrelevant topic]: among man-bloggers who are fathers majority are those with daughters. Women-bloggers, as noted, do not exhibit this particular trait — they are mothers as often to boys as to girls.

Which prompts some speculation:

[U]nderlying connection between man’s ability to write coherent texts and raising a female? what could be genetic condition for this correlation? Etc, etc.

I’m not quite sure what, if anything, I can extrapolate from my own experience. When my daughter was born, I was a terrible writer; today, 35 years later, I am, um, less terrible. Does my son, 32 this year, affect this in any way? How about the grandchildren (four boys, two girls)?

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For your dubious edification

This, of course, is indisputable:

Blogging has gone from being the new, exciting method for sharing the significant events of one’s day with a circle of intimates, to a proven technology by which total nonentities can vent their spleen onto the World Wide Web for the dubious edification of others, and finally to a hoary old fetish for sexagenarians — get your mind out of the gutter; that means sixty-year-olds — who haven’t the agility to keep up with Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Surely once the sexagenarians become septuagenarians unable to find their glasses without their minders’ help, and presently deteriorate to octogenarians whose walkers prevent them from reaching the keyboard, blogging will cease to command an audience.

I was chuckling at the description, total nonentity that I am, when it occurred to me to Do The Math. Not the best idea I’d ever had.

Let’s say I can somehow keep this little dogless pony show going until my 80th birthday. And let us define T as the time elapsed between its beginning and that assumed end point. When do I reach the beginning of the downhill slope, the midpoint of this uncareer, the time of T/2?

Answer: February 2015. Twenty-one months from now.

Gad.

Disclosure: I make no attempt to keep up with Tumblr.

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It didn’t happen Today

I got a smidgen of traffic from the Today show, or at least their Web site, and the referring link didn’t explain what for, so I assumed it was to reproach me for mocking Kathie Lee and/or Hoda. Turned out that someone had wandered into their archives and found this two-year-old piece about World Naked Gardening Day, which quotes my eight-year-old post on the possible disadvantages thereof.

WNGD this year, incidentally, is tomorrow.

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The content scraper of tomorrow

He’s here today:

Please guys help me i have a website and there is no content in it please where can i copy content an paste on?

Reminds me of an old mid-Eighties cartoon, with an obviously Clooless Noob carrying a humongous computer box, and before he gets to the exit, he says to the salesperson: “Oh, I’m also going to need some data. Do you have that?”

Now why does this character even have a Web site? There are, I suspect, exactly two possibilities:

  • Someone told him it would be cool;
  • Someone told him it could make money.

The reality check is in the email.

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By way of introduction

In case you’ve just arrived from NewsOK.com, thank you for coming, and please be advised that Ms Gibson went to an awful lot of trouble to make me look more interesting than I actually am.

For the statistically-minded: there are over 21,000 pages here, somewhere on the far side of five million words. No one person has read it all. I’m not even sure I have read it all.

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Non-matching Tumblrs

What do you do when two women for whom you hold high regard come to diametrically opposite positions? If you’re wise, you run like hell. Not being wise, I post their positions.

Nicole wants to know:

[W]hat the hell is Tumblr good for? Seriously, if you know, share because I don’t see the point. Is it like having a blog with no content other than things you reblog (not to say I’m not seriously guilty of that) where you don’t have to respond to any comments or interact with anyone?

Vi Hart, who just started a Tumblr, ponders:

My question, for now, is whether tumblr is a better place for me than a regular ol’ blog. It seems like it has all the functionality of a blog plus more, even if the bonus sharing/discussing functionality is severely crippled. Tumblr does seem to be designed for spreading photography (of people), photography (of animals), photography (of architecture), and photography (of sculpture), but like most successful internet tools it finds its success in the fact that people can repurpose it to serve their needs. No one cares what twitter or youtube are “for,” anymore, and as long as the creators don’t mess too much with what people do with their tool, it will keep being useful.

Tumblr “notes” can be construed as comments in the canonical sense, but the platform’s structure does allow for comments identified as such, as seen on a few blogs I read now and then. Still, I tend to see Tumblr more as a meme-propagation service than a blog platform.

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Some of his best friends, and so forth

A grabber of an opening paragraph:

I am not a misogynist, but… Of course, if I say that, immediately you think either the next words out of my keyboard will be, or that I am learning the proper obsequiescence of a Sensitive Nineties Man (SNM) too late for it to do any good for the nineties, but I am not a misogynist; I think women are one of the top two genders in the world.

One of the earliest posts by Brian J. Noggle, who hoisted his blog banner ten years ago this week.

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At seventeen

Surprisingly, this Web site is still not old enough to drink.

(This being a blogiversary of sorts, an Open Thread is proclaimed.)

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Guestbusters!

Ken at Popehat thwarts one of those “guest blogger” types in his own inimitable fashion.

Disclosure: Ponies are involved.

Further disclosure: No, not those ponies.

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It starts with a soapbox

Fausta didn’t mention it on her blog, but she did send out a tweet, so I’m assuming it’s okay to mention it here. The Patch story:

Three candidates — two incumbents and a newcomer — have filed papers announcing their intention to seek a seat on Princeton Council in January, 2014.

Jenny Crumiller and Patrick Simon, both Democrats currently serving one-year terms, are seeking reelection.

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz is a Republican newcomer to politics. A native speaker of both English and Spanish, she works as a freelance translator and blogs about Latin American issues.

“My campaign is about participating and integrating people from all parts of New Jersey, the U.S. and the world who come to live in our community and have their voices heard,” Wertz said.

All three candidates will appear on the November 2013 ballot. I’m guessing they’re seeking three-year terms, though things may have changed since January, when the Township and Borough of Princeton were consolidated into a single municipality. (They had separated in 1894 after a dispute over school taxes; three previous merger attempts had failed.) All the Council seats are at-large, so no redistricting is required.

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