Matters of Classification

Perhaps you've noticed them: little links just below the title of the entry with cryptic titles: Afghanistan. War on Terror. Humor. Guns. Review. Technology. In theory, these items are there to help me better organize the site and help the reader find material that he or she is interested in reading. In practice, they're kind of a pain in the ass, largely because I really didn't know what I was doing two years ago when I set this up.

Drupal, which I started using at 4.6, is a really shiny setup. It has many powerful options for doing all sorts of wacky things, well beyond the combination personal rant site and news reader that SigSpace is (, tell yer friends!). Among other things, it has a fairly powerful taxonomy system, with items and subitems and related-to and blah blah blah--I don't even remember all of it. You could associate certain categories and terms with certain types of posts (blog entries, images, site announcements, that sort of thing) and not with others, have a weird hierarchy thing going on. Obviously, I am not using it to its full potential.

It was kind of overwhelming, particularly to someone who was just setting up a web site to test out the neat software. So I perhaps took a few shortcuts and made some decisions more out of curiosity and random clicking than would be appropriate for a site now approaching the dawn of a third year. In my defense, I never ever expected to use it for more than a few weeks.

So we're saddled with the legacy of a category/term system not at all appropriate to use as a personal web log. I have active four categories for my day-to-day entries: Meta, Military, Entertainment, and Current Events. A fifth, Photos, is associated only with image updates. Each category has anywhere from three to a dozen terms.

A few things become obvious if you look at the sitemap. First, some terms that I created have no or almost no posts for them. Others are overflowing. Second, not everything in my site fits neatly into those few categories. For example, I was going to write a post about going to the range with my new rifle yesterday--would that go under weapons (military), weapons (entertainment), or even family (in-laws)? Or maybe even Soviet history (military), since it's a 1938 combat rifle from the Soviet Union? [Astute readers will recognize that I received the rifle from my brother-in-law; other more casual readers may conclude that I am planning on using it on my in-laws. I am not commenting at this time, except to say that all options are on the table.]

And furthermore, does it matter? If this were a massive site, I could see using this system more fully, but I really don't need it. I could have had a "flat" category/term system--maybe just "blog entries," for example--and had everything that I write about appear therein. As it is, "Afghanistan" in the photo category will take you to a different collection of material than "Afghanistan" in the military category, and that's just confusing.

So I'm faced with some unpleasant options. I can rip out the categories entirely and put in the new simpler system--and recategorize every individual post on the system. (416 and counting). Or I can try to learn the SQL kung fu necessary to make some changes at the database level. Erm. Bad things tend to happen when I mess with powers beyond my comprehension.

Neither is going to happen until after the upgrade to newly released 5.0, which will take a number of hours to install, fix, test, tweak, and configure. Delightful, entertaining hours, to be sure, but hours I can't in good conscience spend right now.

I also hope to fix the annoying spambot comment trend--spambots that post gibberish and not even actual ads are severely irritating. If you're going to waste my bandwidth, at least try to sell me something.




I have no idea what most of that meant. I downloaded Drupal...and then opened it and thought, "Now what?" I have ZERO idea what it can do, or what I SHOULD do with it.

By the way, on the subject of photos...could you please repost that cool pic of the gun truck with all the attached helpful cues to what one is looking at on the pic? It came through so small, I could never read the print with all those doubtlessly hilarious snippets.

Now, about the's one of those horrific prices of being married, I'm sad to inform you. But the fact is, your wife is obviously crazy about you. They have to get over it. I used to sit at my ex- in laws and read magazines while I was at their time, the ex showed kindness and stopped insisting I accompany him there. My disinterest in interacting with his parents DID NOT lead to our divorce and I think sparing everyone the hypocracy of pretending even occasionally that you're one happy family is better for all...certainly more honest. And they get over your absence in time, too.


Drupal, turret gunning, et al

I actually started work on a Drupal installation guide a long time ago, but didn't get very far owing to time constraints; it's a project I'd like to update and revive once I've set up the new version.

For the turret gunner pic, you can go back to the original post which has a new link to the full-size image, or just click here.

I actually enjoy the company of my in-laws quite a bit, their clinical insanity notwithstanding. I would never consider violence against them, not the least because I would be severely outgunned.



I'm glad you recognize the outgunned part. However, that's only for now.

Turret Gunner

Thanks for making the pic larger for those of us who need the assist.

I know you probably mentioned this in a previous post, that a pic of you? Who knew you had an antennae affixed to the top of your helmet ala RKO Pictures (sorry, I love film noir)? It looks incredibly cool.


PS...Did the beer taste as good as you imagined it would when you got home?


That is me, taken by one of my team mates. Most of them took pictures of the landscape; most of my photos are of people. I can't take them of myself very well (not that it stops me), but I would occasionally have someone photograph me wherever I happened to be.

At the end of the tour, everyone wanted my photos because they had people. When you get down to it, a mountain is just a pile of rocks and not terribly interesting.

The beer has been good. In moderation, of course.


Tagging and Design

(On a side note, I've gotten so used to military-themed posts here that when I saw "classification" in the headline, I assumed it was about military ranks or some kind of rant about silly things that are classified as secrets.)

Regarding tags, I'm going through the same thing myself. When I started using WordPress and got categories, I created a very small number of broad-based categories (Work, Family, Hate, Entertainment, etc.) Since then, I've wanted to get better, or maybe switch to a tagging system, but I held off because I didn't want to recategorize all my existing posts.

Then I realized that no one cared but me, and I just started making new categories. I'm going to just do whatever I want for a few months, and see what floats to the top. If it's useful, it may get expanded on, and if it's not useful, I may kill the category. If I'm feeling ambitious, I may slog through my archives and retool them, but more likely, I'll just start using the new system as I move forward.

On a design note, I would like to request a few things when you get around to upgrading.

1) Please, give me a full-content RSS feed. I love reading your site, but I usually check my feeds at work, and often can't take the time to open new tabs to the source website, so if I can't read a post through my feedreader, it often goes unread for a few days.

2) Further, while I applaud your choice to use a dark background, you've made the usual mistake of putting pure white on pure black. This is an incredible headache-inducer if you have to read for more than a few minutes. I would suggest moderating the contrast a bit - At a bare minimum, try switching from black to #333 and from white to #ccc or #ddd. It will still look very dark, but the reduction in contrast makes everything more readable. It's counter-intuitive, I know, but trust me on this. :) For reference, I refer you to and

And yeah, I know you've got

And yeah, I know you've got a gray background on the post itself, but the comments are all on black - and the pure white text is the worst offender - taking it down a couple of notches will greatly reduce the glare.

Contrast and feeds

I can stare at it all day, but I also have horrible vision. I'm sure these are completely random and unrelated facts.

OK, the color adjustment I can do relatively quickly, even before the upgrade. One of the reasons I have the contrast cranked is to further separate it from the background, which I ought to have toned down instead. I had very limited tools to work with; now that I have a real computer, I should make this right.

The full feeds... Hmm. The only way to do full feeds--that I know of, because the new version might give me some flexibility--is to do full-text articles on the front page, rather than the teaser. I don't like doing that because you end up with a front page that is really really long, and some topics are just not that interesting to some people. Crazy, I know. I will see what I can do, though. If nothing else, I could submit a feature request.


Wow, I'm an idiot.

OK, so like, there's a clear option in the general settings to set the RSS feeds to do full feeds. It's really simple. You can't miss it.

Anyway, full feeds from now on. Hopefully. Enjoy.