The end of the branch

Not without regret because of all the friends and connections here, I am nonetheless forced to declare this journal inactive. After nearly six years and 60,000 comments given and received, I have reached the end of my tolerance for the obnoxious antics of today's LiveJournal management. (AffiliateGate is the last straw.)

For the past year, I have been posting in parallel at DreamWidth.org. This morning I triggered the process that will copy all of my LJ posts from 2004 forward, and all of your comments as well, over to that site. It may take a day or so for the dust to settle, but I'm assured that it works.

You are welcome to follow my posts over there, should you choose to do so. The URL is http://altivo.dreamwidth.org, and you will find that you can log in there using OpenID and comment if you choose. The software is still the LJ you know, so there's little more you need to learn beyond the OpenID login. Or you can create a free account there if you prefer that. All of you have already been authorized as my friends there, and can comment via OpenID now.

I will no longer be double-posting here.

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To borrow a well-turned phrase from the late Douglas Adams, "So long, and thanks for all the fish." Really. Thanks. I hope I'll still be seeing you all.
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Shopping day

So I was sorta naughty and spent money. It's not that I can't do that, but I'm trying not to do it too much. This is a tight time of the year, equivalent to early fall when the tax payments, hay bills, and home owners insurance all fall due. Now it's the horse vet bills (paid a year in advance to get a discount,) auto insurance, and possibly income tax (since we haven't done that yet.)

I have some art items back ordered but they should be shipped this week, including a small sketch book and some markers. I found a good idea in one of Claudia Nice's books on how to make a compact and portable carrier for sketching supplies out of an old pair of jeans, taking advantage of the hip pockets. Looks too cool to pass up, and we have lots of ragged jeans stashed away. Some of her ideas on perspective and composition involve using a small transparent plastic ruler, and I wanted one of those as well as a mechanical pencil to include in the pack. Turns out Gary wanted some office supply stuff from Sam's Club so we went to Crystal Lake where I bought lunch to celebrate yesterday being pay day, then stopped at Sam's for his things, and finally at Hobby Lobby to look at art stuff.

It turned out they had a 30% off sale on all artist pencils, markers, pens, and pastels. That made it much harder to be selective and thrifty, but I got away for $20 after a lot of browsing. Pentel 0.7mm mechanical pencil and HB leads, some blending stumps, the desired plastic rule, a Pitt medium point India ink marker so I can compare it to the Prismacolors I got last week, a spray can of Krylon fixative for pencil and charcoal, and a bonus: a set of 12 soft pastels. I used to work in pastels as well as watercolor, and had found that I no longer have any. With the sale price, it was all a good deal.

I resisted high quality handmade paper ($10 a sheet, but I touched and admired it) and a nice ready-made carrying bag with a drawing clipboard and two sketchbooks inside ($29, not on sale.) I admired lots of bright colors (always my weakness) in markers and pencils and paints, and a couple of cute fold-up watercolor paint boxes with halfpans and collapsible brushes. I may yet break down and buy one of those, but I have a couple of the old cake style sets like school kids use that are sufficient for outdoor sketching right now.

I find I'm lusting after Rapidograph pens but at $20 apiece, I told myself "not now."

Sooo... time for projects. Little ones that get finished quickly and boost my self-confidence. I could do this once, I can do it again. I have a pack of postcard size pieces of 140 lb. watercolor paper. I think perhaps some people are about to get the proverbially infamous "gift art."

In other news, it's almost spring. Temperatures above 40F two days in a row have melted a heck of a lot of snow, leaving dirty slush piles and mud. Still freezes to ice on the surface, but the liquid water keeps running underneath all night, draining away to leave floating ice plates that crunch underfoot in the morning.

RikkiToo, our ex-barn cat who has taken over the house, has been gimping around on three legs since Thursday night. We couldn't find anything wrong, and he didn't fuss about letting us handle the paw and leg in question, but it looked swollen so he went to the vet this morning with Gary while I bought groceries. Diagnosis was an infection, probably from a bite. He has scratch marks elsewhere, and has always been prone to fighting other cats and sometimes larger critters like raccoons. Prescription is a course of antibiotics, so it was less expensive than if he'd needed a bone set at least. He's very tame and easy to handle, so giving him meds isn't too bad, thank goodness. This is liquid, squirt a dropper in the mouth stuff, which he has taken before without too much complaint.

Guild newsletter needs to be edited and posted this weekend, and hasn't yet been started except for the monthly statistics sheet.
rocking horse

I smell spring

It's nice to leave work with the sun still up and arrive home while it's still light.

I hear cardinals singing, woodpeckers drumming, and chickadees calling. Geese are flying over in huge formations like cartoon bombers from World War II. Noisy too, though they don't sound like airplane prop engines. Gary spotted shoots coming up from the crocuses and daffodils today, and one of the horses is starting to shed.

The idiocy of daylight saving time returns in just a week. I really don't understand why they can't just leave it alone all year. Push it forward an hour if you insist, but quit hopping back and forth. Changing the starting and ending dates all the time only makes it worse.

Off to bed, I think. Still a bit early but it has been a long heavy week.
altivo blink

The secret is out and it's not pretty

Apparently LiveJournal has been using custom JavaScript code to modify some links on user pages dynamically when they are clicked. The action replaces the "affiliate ID" value in the link with another value. This doesn't affect all such links, but only those on a specific list of providers, including, apparently Amazon and EBay. The intent of this action isn't clear, though it seems likely that the purpose was to harvest any commissions that would otherwise have been paid by the linked site back to the provider of the link. Whether the collected fees were going to LiveJournal itself or to some other party is not clear at this time. The link alteration is done in a stealthy manner, so as to be almost invisible. Details and links to more discussion here.

There is a configuration command (undocumented, as often seems to be true with LJ) that will disable this operation for your own page and for any LJ links you click on. That is described in the additional documents linked to the Slashdot article above.

This is a pretty slimy act if in fact it is true. I haven't bothered to try confirming it myself, as the proof is complex and depends on a better understanding of JavaScript than what I have. However, many users have now confirmed that the changes really are taking place, and some who were Amazon partners say their link activity has suddenly dropped to zero according to Amazon.

If this wasn't a deliberate, policy based action by LJ management, then it seems likely to be a clever hack inserted by individuals in the coding team or someone with illicit access to the code base. Given that LJ has no policy statement forbidding such "partnership" links, a unilateral action to disable them seems questionable at best, and to my mind is a violation equal to the privacy violations Google committed a couple of weeks ago in their heated reach to grab market share away from Facebook and Twitter. (The Google Buzz cockup is now well and thoroughly dIscussed elsewhere.)
rocking horse


For the quad horsies, not for me. Farrier came this morning and trimmed up their feet. Everyone was nicely behaved, except that Tess and Archie each snatched a hoof away from him once. He says Tess is doing well for this time of year. She's been having dry contracted hooves in winter ever since I got her, but apparently between a feed supplement the vet suggested and regular applications of Hooflex she is finally near normal. She's also much more relaxed about having her feet handled and worked on. It used to be a challenge just for me to pick out the bottoms, and now she stands nicely for the farrier and lifts her feet when asked. She just doesn't always like having them held for too long.

I confess that I enjoy holding her head for this. She gets very affectionate and licks and slobbers all over me. ;D Probably sounds yucky to most of you but you're not horse mad the way I am.

So warm today that some of the mud in the driveway actually started to dry. Not from evaporation, I think, but from the ground thawing enough for the water to sink in rather than lying on top of a frozen layer of ice.

What with having skipped a couple of furry conventions and no plans to attend any more, I had thought about going to a hand spinner's gathering. SOAR, the Spin-Off Autumn Retreat is going to be in Delevan, Wisconsin this October. It sounded pretty cool until I saw some preliminary information on it. A room for three days would run $450 or more, and that's just the room. Then there's event registration plus individual fees for workshops, meals, and supplies. That's certainly not happening for me. Much too expensive. For that kind of money I could almost go to Feral (which I can't afford either.)
running clyde

Full moon but wintry economics

Makes it feel like Wednesday already. This morning before dawn the moon shone into my window through the trees and it was like a painted picture in a children's book maybe. Slate blue sky and big yellow moon setting behind the winter branches, it was almost surreal in the sharp edges and simple forms of the image.

One of the monthly details of my work is maintaining the "new books" selection. As new titles are added to the collection, we mark them with blue stickers on the spine that just say "New" and put them on a special group of shelves near the entrance so library users can browse the latest additions. The blue label reminds everyone to return these books to the special display after they are checked out. Of course, at some point, they have to move into the regular collection. The blue label is peeled off, the location in the computerized catalog changed appropriately, and the book is shifted to the normal place for its subject matter. This happened rather haphazardly until I took over the process.

Now I generate a report from the catalog itself each month, listing the titles that have been on the "new books" shelf for six months or more, so I can pull those books and switch them over to the regular stacks. If a book on the list is checked out, I place a hold request for it so that it will be given to me when it is returned and I can process it then. This works more reliably, provided I remember to run the report at the first of the month. Sometimes things are busy and I let it slip. For a while last spring I was getting behind and the lists of books to pull got longer and longer. Our circulation manager even asked me when I was going to get around to it because the shelves were overflowing. Fortunately I was able to catch up.

Today's list seemed excessively short. Just two pages, in fact. Last month's list was similar. Then it dawned on me that we began to feel the budget pinch of the economic slowdown just about six to eight months ago. Fewer titles have been purchased, in part because the state has been very tardy in paying us our legislated percentage from state revenue. The check for 2008/09 didn't arrive until well after the end of the fiscal year. The number of new books purchased has been accordingly smaller. Because we have a private non-profit trust fund based on the original legacy of the founder, it has been somewhat easier for us than for the libraries in neighboring communities, though. We have had no staffing or hours reductions, for instance, and have continued to offer our regular education and entertainment programs. Other communities have not fared as well.

Another sign of the tight economy seems to be a boom in interlibrary loan requests. We are lending more books to other libraries, perhaps twice as many per month as we were before the meltdown. We are also borrowing more, as people come to us requesting books that they probably would have just purchased for themselves two years ago. In spite of the claims that the economy has "turned the corner" I don't see much evidence of it yet. The newspapers are still full of foreclosure notices, there are virtually no help wanted ads in those papers or anywhere else, and we continue to see large numbers of people in the library asking for help with resume writing, faxing applications, and using the internet to hunt for and apply for work. Ironically, I also note that bank executives have once again reaped massive (I'd call them obscene) financial bonuses for their work in clear-cutting the economy and sucking all the loose money into their own privileged pockets. And, in spite of all of that, people in this area continue to resist any shakeup in the familiar status quo of politics. Any suggestion that a reform is in order produces shrieks of "socialism, socialism" and in a frightening number of cases, mutterings about armed resistance. I'm not inclined to optimism about the intelligence or survivability of human society right now.

The very same users who come into the library to read a newspaper because they don't want to spend the money for it themselves, who use our internet connections and books that were purchased with community funding are "utterly opposed" to socialism. Yet what is a public library other than a socialist institution? Pooled resources are used to build and maintain a common facility for the benefit and use of everyone in the community. Don't try to point that out to them, though, unless you want a huge display of histrionics to ensue.

EDIT: As it turns out, this post is my 2000th. I have been posting to LJ for six years this month, and have received nearly 30000 comments. Thanks to everyone who has participated in the conversation, for your encouragement, enlightenments, and yes, your disagreements and criticisms as well.
altivo blink

National Pig Day

...or not, I had to go to work. Boo.

Gary has no classes on Monday and went to take his mom shopping. When I got home, I found that he'd had a good time shopping himself too. Fruits and veggies from the Greek produce store near his mom's house. Art supplies for me that now I get to argue with him over paying him back for.

Over the weekend he got an external antenna for his 3G modem (it had been back ordered for weeks) and it does seem to help reduce the random disconnects he was experiencing. So far, even with his assignments that require mucking around in the bandwidth-sucking Google Earth, he has been way below the monthly quota he gets. Consequently, I've started riding along on his connection part of the time. Not that anything I do requires great bandwidth, but web sites are so badly designed these days that it does save substantial time with some of them.

Almost got to 40F today, snow is slushing down and everything is gonna turn to mud (including our driveway, apparently, though that's not been a problem in the past.)

As for the Pig, I didn't see hide nor bristle of him all day.
rocking horse

Another productive day

Amazingly enough. I had a brief spell of sleepies after lunch but got through it. Laundry done and put away, stalls cleaned, cared for Tess' feet, baked bread, made meat loaf in the crock pot, baked banana bread on a last minute whim, and got in some watercolor experimentation working on a couple of techniques for that fox picture I mentioned a week ago. Tried out the permanent black Prismacolor pens and they work well with watercolor, no smearing or bleeding, even though they don't seem quite as black as what I'm accustomed to using.

Chased the neighbors' dog out of our barn loft. I dunno what he was doing up there. It snowed this afternoon but the air temperature was 37F so no accumulation beyond what we already have, and that's turning slushy.

Gary has been working on an obnoxious pile of homework all day today and most of yesterday as well. It seems obvious to me that these teachers do not actually try doing their own assignments. The number of errors in the questions and instructions is astronomical. He ends up sort of "guessing" what they want because, of course, none of them answer e-mail or return phone calls.

Isn't it time for another holiday? I don't want to go to work tomorrow. ;p
running clyde

36 hour days

Did lots of stuff today, which kept me out of touch with news for a few hours. So, has the obligatory conservative religious loudmouth pronounced that the Chilean earthquake was God's judgement on the world yet? Have the right wingnuts tried to blame it on Obama like everything else?

For a change it's not terribly cold outside. In spite of a biting north wind all afternoon, right now it's just barely below freezing. And here I brought in a wheelbarrow full of firewood and stacked it in the garage so as to avoid a cold night. ;p

I think art is going to happen again. I got some paper ready using the proper sort of gummed kraft paper tape that I prefer, and two new sponges. A blue one for "has glue" on it and a green one that "is clean." See how small things can amuse me. One does have to avoid smoothing down damp paper with a glue-contaminated sponge though.

While we were out shopping this afternoon I hunted for Pitt or Copic artist's pens but found none. Guess I'll have to mail order them. I picked up a set of four black Prismacolor pens that will do for now, but they really aren't as black as I'd like. The ink is indeed waterproof and doesn't smear once it's dry, which is the big consideration. And they have nice points of varying widths and softnesses. Reading the label, I was amused to learn that Prismacolor is now owned by Sanford (who once upon a time made nice fountain pen ink and pens but now mostly make cheap office supply pens) who are in turn owned by Rubbermaid. Rubbermaid? Eeek.

Fed all the horses, cleaned up after them and the sheep, doctored Tess' dry hooves with Hooflex. Did not go out for lunch, but had weird ramen instead and then tonight Gary made Thai for dinner. That was good. Laundry is going, bread is rising, paper is drying, and I'm going to bed I think.


And a long day to end a long week at that.

I've mentioned already the fact that my boss, the library director, announced her retirement for sometime late this summer. Her position was posted last month and today was the closing date for applications. As of 5:30 this evening we had received 51 applications. This seems like a surprising number for a small town library with a small budget and staff. Even more surprising is the large number of resumes that came in from places on the coasts or nearly as far. There are a handful from people who seem pretty well qualified to me, and a couple for people who are vastly overqualified (doctoral degrees, past experience managing much larger places, etc.) and then there are a lot of applications from people with what amounts to no experience at all and even no educational qualifications. (No, I did not apply, for reasons I have stated before.)

Frankly, this is a bit scary. I'm afraid the board will favor underqualified local people who are personally known to them rather than seriously considering some of the better fitting applicants. There are one or two who applied that I know would be utterly incompatible with me, as well. No matter what, I have to stay through the end of at least August, as that's when my pension will be fully vested. After my last experience with a retiring director and the aftermath, I feel justifiably stressed over this.

The process is open to me, I've been invited repeatedly to look at the resumes and offer opinions or suggestions, but to tell the truth, I see no one among those applicants who seems to be a particularly good fit. I do personally know a couple of people who I believe would be very good in the job, but in spite of encouragement from me and others, they did not choose to file an application. So...

It's nice to still be able to see the sun when I leave work. It was above the horizon (just) as we locked up at 5:30. The sunspots are returning at long last, too. In the last month there has been only one day without any visible sunspots, where for most of 2009 the son was completely blank. Now if the weather would just warm up a bit, I might feel better about everything.