When It’s Deadly Important For Nice People to Be Rude

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According to some folks–politely known as “psychopaths”–the above cartoon is a perfectly good excuse to commit murder. Hell, in their anally-inserted world view, committing murder over this is practically a moral commandment.

These people are barbarians. Savages. And yes, Islamists.

“Nice People” — a group to which I often deem myself to be a member — try to avoid irritating people unnecessarily. And we certainly try not to poke offense at other people’s religion. It’s rude. It seems classless. And frankly, who needs the grief?

So it is that when the so-called “Religion of Peace” ™ decided to wage bloody war on the West, we “Nice People” fell all over ourselves trying not to be confrontational. We very respectfully blew the hell out of countless wanna-be martyrs and jihadists, all the while pretending that this had little or nothing to do with the core doctrines of a whole religion. It was utter nonsense, but we all pretended to believe it, lest we cause offense to our Muslim friends and neighbors who weren’t psychotic nutjobs bent on murder. Like I said, we’re Nice People–and Nice People try not to cause offense.

But it turns out that being nice isn’t always the way to avoid conflict. If someone insists that something about the very way you are is offensive to them, you have a choice: either tell that person you’re terribly sorry, but he’ll just have to go fuck himself–or decide that you’re willing to live your life constrained by what the other fellow considers offensive.

Nice People, when confronted with this situation, typically decide that a little bit of self-censorship is a small price to pay for keeping the peace. And, within a broad spectrum of American societal norms, I don’t have a problem with this. After all, we can all agree that it’s rude to swear in public, talk about sex in front of children, or parade around naked on the street. At the same time, in a free America, we’ve had huge and earnest disagreements about whether or not people should be free to do exactly those things–and not always just on the Berkeley campus.

But now we find ourselves faced with a menace to exactly the sort of freewheeling give and take that makes life in the West meaningful. We have a huge number of people who’ve essentially said, “You’ll do things our way, our we’ll kill you.”

My friends,  my fellow Nice People, it’s time to stop being so damn Nice.

It bears mentioning that mere “niceness” isn’t the only reason we’ve let things get to the state where free-thinking Americans are afraid to call our these Islamist miscreants for the oppressive scum they are. A lot of us, quite frankly, are afraid.

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Sure, we’ll bravely mock Christians all day long with “artistic” pictures of the Virgin Mary in elephant dung, or crosses submerged in urine. We’ve also got a best-selling Broadway play, “The Book of Mormon” which takes the piss out those wacky (and ridiculously wholesome) Mormons in a  savage way. And for this, we applaud. We’re not so nice here. By sanctioning this sort of offense, we’re “edgy” and “brave”.

But point out the horrific problems with Islam–the repression, the treatment of women, and the sheer bloody trail of terror that follows it wherever it gains a majority, and suddenly we’re tripping all over ourselves to be the polite ones.

Let’s be honest for a moment. This isn’t about politeness. It’s about cowardice.

Because unlike those zany Mormons or those repressive and evil Christians, we all think that there’s a pretty good chance that someone who gets their 411 on what G-d wants from a Koran  will decide that he’s had quite enough of our B.S., and is going to try to kill us.

And make no mistake, the threat is real. As the obnoxious and brave staff of Charlie Hebdo found out so recently, as did any number of other Westerners who dared to be Western enough to think that they had actual freedom of speech. Stand up for it, and a nutcase may try to kill you. So decide if you think it’s worth it.

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I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve had it. I’m sick to death of cowtowing to the so-called”Religion of Peace” and its fanatical followers. I don’t actually get up in the morning and think, “how can I offend someone today by saying something inconsiderate”, but G-d damn it, I’m not willing to sit here and let the craziest person in the room dictate the terms of what can be said in the West.

If you’re reading this from America or a country in Western Europe, congratulations. We were born in freedom, and most of us have never actually had to fight for it. Thankfully we have people like the ridiculously courageous Pam Geller at the American Freedom Defense Initiative–who showed her mettle with her provocative–and clearly needed–Muhammad cartoon contest this past weekend. It was a contest meant to prove a point about the low state of free speech in America–and explosive punctuation to this was added by two would-be mass murderers who showed up to try to slaughter the infidels who dared draw a fucking cartoon.

(As it turned out, the best illustration that day, as some wag put it,  was the chalk outline left around the two jihadis thanks to a sharpshooting cop providing security for the event.)

But if the rest of us wish to remain free people, we can’t afford to let the Pam Gellers and the Geert Wilders of the world do the work of defending liberty for us. We need to relearn the art of telling obnoxious prudes–especially the psychotic ones–to fuck the hell off.

At the very least, we should cut the “tut-tutting’ about being offensive when we discuss people like Geller and Wilders. Whether we would say what they say or not, their courage is what allows us the freedom in our own lives to express ourselves. Because if you think freedom of speech is only about the freedom to say socially approved things, you’re already a slave–and a moron.

Nice People of the World, it’s time to stop being so Fucking Nice.

Fixing Slow App Launches on an iPhone 5 with IOS 8

Recently, my iPhone 5 started bogging down in an epic way–it would take forever to launch apps, often stalling out entirely and requiring multiple tries to even get apps to launch. I tried restarting, shutting down other apps, etc. and nothing worked.

I started seriously wondering whether this was an evil plan that Apple had slipped into later versions of iOS 8 to punish folks who’d declined to drop a couple hundred bucks to upgrade to an iPhone 6.

As it turns out, the culprit was a newish setting under Settings > General called “Background App Refresh”. The purpose of this setting is to allow apps to pull down new content when you’re on a wi-fi network, and is no doubt a lovely thing on some level. But, between Dropbox, Chrome, FaceBook, Instagram, Mailbox, Messenger, and a dozen other apps, it was murdering my phone.

I turned it off, and my phone was instantly back to normal. You can control this setting on an individual app level, so perhaps later I’ll experiment with turning off various apps to figure out the biggest culprits. But for now, I’m just happy to have a reasonably working phone again.

Using Bootstrap Modal Dialogs with ASP.Net and Master Pages

This is a short blog about solving a nasty problem with using Bootstrap’s Modal Dialogs with ASP.NET and Master Pages.

Most examples for using Bootstrap’s very robust dialog support go something like this:

Page Code:

<!DOCTYPE html>

<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">
<head runat="server">
<title></title>
<link rel="stylesheet" 
  href="//maxcdn.bootstrapcdn.com/bootstrap/3.3.4/css/bootstrap.min.css" />
<link rel="stylesheet" 
  href="//maxcdn.bootstrapcdn.com/bootstrap/3.3.4/css/bootstrap-theme.min.css" />
<script type="text/javascript" src="/includes/js/jquery-min.js"></script>
<script src="//netdna.bootstrapcdn.com/bootstrap/3.3.4/js/bootstrap.min.js">
</script>
</head>

<body>
    <form id="form1" runat="server">
        <asp:Button ID="btnShowModal" runat="server" 
            Text="Show Modal" 
            CssClass="btn btn-primary btn-info" 
            data-target="#pnlModal"
            data-toggle="modal" 
            OnClientClick="javascript:return false;" />
        <asp:Panel ID="pnlModal" runat="server" role="dialog" 
           CssClass="modal fade">
            <div class="modal-dialog">
                <div class="modal-content" runat="server">
                    <div class="modal-header">
                        <button type="button" class="close" 
                            data-dismiss="modal">
                            <span aria-hidden="true">&times;</span>
                            <span class="sr-only">Close</span>
                        </button>
                        <h4 class="modal-title">
                          Bootstrap Modal Dialog in ASP.NET</h4>
                    </div>
                    <div class="modal-body">
                        <p>
                            This is the body text
                        </p>
                    </div>
                    <div class="modal-footer">
                        <button type="button" 
                         class="btn btn-default" 
                        data-dismiss="modal">Close</button>
                    </div>
                </div>
            </div>
        </asp:Panel>
    </form>
</body>
</html>

Pushing the button shows the dialog, and everything’s ducky. But try the same thing in an ASP.Net app with a master page and nothing happens.

Why? The answer comes down to the “data-target” attribute of the invoking button, which is meant to tell Bootstrap the panel to activate:

<asp:Button ID="btnShowModal" runat="server" Text="Show Modal"
 CssClass="btn btn-primary btn-info" data-target="#pnlModal"
 data-toggle="modal" OnClientClick="javascript:return false;" />

The problem is that in an application with master pages, the actual rendered name of the pnlModal div will likely become something like “ctl00_ContentPlaceHolder1_pnlModal” and Bootstrap won’t be able to associate it with the necessary JavaScript to show the dialog so the button does nothing.

To solve this, you just need to set the data-target to pnlModal’s clientID (the rendered name). Since data-target isn’t a standard, supported HTML attribute, you can use the Attributes.Add method to set it via the Page_Load event of your code-behind as follows:

Code-behind Code (VB)

Protected Sub Page_Load(sender As Object, e As EventArgs) 
   Handles Me.Load
  If Not Page.IsPostBack Then
    Me.btnShowModal.Attributes.Add("data-target", "#" & pnlModal.ClientID)
  End If
End Sub

…and you’re good to go!


Credit: This post builds upon KHComputers’ excellent contribution about Bootstrap Modal Dialogs in ASP.NET at VBForums

You Can’t Say that on Google Shopping (ctd.)

As per my previous post, I’ve been devoting an inordinate amount of time to trying get Atomic Avenue‘s vast list of comic titles to be accepted for Google’s shopping listings. The chief impediment to this has been Google’s automated content filters, which ban outright any product containing certain words.

In the hopes of (a) helping anyone else who’s treading down this path and (b) embarrassing Google into revising, or at least not placing so much blind faith in their automated filters, I’m presenting this as an ongoing list of words that will apparently get your item banned from Google Shopping.

Note: The speculation as to cause is my own; Google will not disclose the reasons, although attempting to place individual keyword ads gives different error messages as to why they were rejected which offers some help in narrowing in the probably causes.

Animax (for us, a ThunderCats clone comic series, or the name of a Japanese animation company; for Google, apparently restricted because it’s the name of a pet medication).

Archer [& Armstrong] – Best guess: they don’t have an issue with the inoffensive Valiant title, but that the word “Archer” sounds like a weapon to them.

Antabuse  For us, an indie comic featuring, well, ants. For Google, apparently restricted as a medicine name.

Belladonna As in Brian Pulido’s Belladonna. Also the name of a deadly poison, which best guess is causing it to be banned as a medicine name.

Black – Unbelievable. For us, this bans innumerable comics, including Black Widow , Black Ops, The Black Knight, and even Batman: Blackgate. What Google has against the word “Black” is anyone’s guess.

Muse As in 10th Muse or any number of Liefeld-esque spin-offs. Apparently also the name of an ED treatment.

Pandora – For us, another bad-ass female with her own comic book. Not banned because it’s the name of a streaming music service, apparently, but because it’s the street name of some sort of herbal mixture that you can smoke as a “legal high” in Britain under the name, “Pandora’s Box”

Rage – As in Beneath the Valley of the Rage, or the onetime Avengers character.

Revenge – As in Revenge of the Sinister Six or Dracula’s Revenge

Sentinel – As in Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty. Best guess: because it’s also the name of a pet anti-tick collar.

Spawn (and any variants, including Curse of the Spawn). I’m lost on this one.

Sword(s) – Interestingly, there seems to be a strange line drawn here. Titles involving “Sword” are banned utterly; Titles with “Swords” are disapproved as well, but occasionally offer the option of requesting a manual review.

Annals of Bad Customer Relations: Comcast Edition

Try this one on for size: Slip a 3-year (!) contract into a single sentence in the middle of a business internet service install agreement. When customer tries to drop that service after 2-1/2 years, threaten them with massive penalties for cancelling early. Offer to waive those fees if the customer extends the service they’ve had for several years at the customer’s second location, by signing a new 3-year contract there.

But it turns out there’s one the final “gotcha” — the service extension has to be from the same business division (“Comcast Business Internet”) — not just the same company (Comcast). Oh, and did we mention that the business internet group’s starter plans cost twice as much money for a third of the speed as the plans offered by their residential division.

After weeks spent talking with their many tiers of customer support, including liaising with their special group set up by the “VP of Customer Satisfaction”, Comcast was apparently unable to work a deal by which a longtime customer of their business division–trying to become a longtime customer of their residential division–didn’t get punished in the process.

Got the bill today: $964.43. Right below:

“Thank you for being a valued Comcast customer!”

Selling Revolution? Not on Google!

I’ve spent large portions of the past few weeks working with Google’s product feeds–the big data files which provide them with the various items that appear under Google Shopping.

(Fun Fact: Everything you see under both Google Shopping and Bing’s Product listings are paid ads–neither service will show items which don’t directly kick back money for the click to the search company in question. This is why the shopping results seem much more limited in their results than the corresponding web searches).

A less fun fact is that Google has extensive algorithms for blocking content that “violates their system policies”. Since I’ve been attempting to upload simple lists of all the comics for sale on Atomic Avenue, it’s been interesting to say the least to discover what title names qualify instantly for blocking (in most cases, apparently immune to any sort of human review–not that we haven’t spent numerous hours begging for just that. The repeated answer is always that we have no choice but to remove the “offensive” material”).

Google refuses to explicitly confirm their algorithms for filtering, but after hand-reconciling the banned items from the more than 1.6 million comics we are attempting to list, I can say with some confidence that these are some of the low-lights of their often ludicrously broad–I’d go so far as to say “utterly defective”) algorithm:

  • Ridiculously, Google treats as offensive any comic title containing the word “Black“. (E.g. “The Black Knight“, “Black Ops“, “Black Panther“, “Black Widow“, “Batman: Blackgate“, etc.)
  • Same story for a variety of miscellaneous “angry” nouns: “Rage“, “Malice“, etc. Several issues of The Avengers, for instance, have been rejected since they include appearances by a character named “Rage“.
  • Sword and sorcery titles may be huge, but they’ll apparently have to get by on the sorcery alone. Any title containing the word “Sword” (e.g. “Savage Sword of Conan“), “Dagger” (e.g. “Cloak & Dagger“) is denied. Same thing goes with “Gun” and “Rifle“–even “Mace” (Sorry Mace Windu!).
  • Google seems to have a fear of books or products which mention armed combat. “Revolution” is consistently banned, as is “Uprising“. (Goodbye Marvel crossover events, as well as science-fiction titles). “Frontline Combat“, the classic E.C. war series also can’t be posted.
  • Muse” and “Pandora“? They’re not just bitchin’ female comic characters–apparently they’re also now the names of prescription meds and are automatically banned from posting (although apparently you can file an appeal to have these reconsidered).
  • Mental issues seem to be a touchy subject: Bedlam is banned, as is all mention of the Watchmen character Rorshach.
  • And then there are the weird, and strangely ominous ones. for instance, “Sentinel” is an automatic disapproval, whether it refers to the Marvel robots, the English sci-fi mag, or Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty. All banned.

It’s too early to say whether Microsoft (Bing/Yahoo) shares this similar–and rather odd, to say the least–set of exclusionary rules. I’ll update the post once I know how I do going through their catalog process.

As a postscript, Google has recently floated the idea of changing search rankings of news sites based on their deemed “truthfulness”.

It’s worth noting that this proposal for filtering the world’s news sites comes from the same folks who are currently banning the word “Black” from product names.

Construction Time Again: System Upgrades for ComicBase and Atomic Avenue

We’re doing a huge set of behind-the-scenes changes to our networking here at ComicBase and Atomic Avenue central. The impetus for the changes is that AT&T fiber optic networking just became available in our building, which should allow us to more than double our network speeds, and even bring back onsite the servers that power the ComicBase.com and AtomicAvenue.com sites.

For us, it means that updates, pictures, and corrections should process more quickly. It should also spare us from an hour or two of thumb-twiddling time each week as we push the gigabytes of new data that are part of our recent updates down the wire to the production site.

If all goes well (fingers crossed), all it should mean for everyone else is that the sites work faster–with the potential to go even faster in the future due to the increased bandwidth that fiber offers us. As battle-scarred IT veterans, however, we should warn folks to expect the odd bit of downtime as we reconfigure firewalls, DNS servers, and about a million other fiddly bits in order to pull the move off.

In particular, there’s almost certain to be from a few minutes to a day of squirreliness as the internet’s  various name servers get used to the idea that we’ve changed the IP addresses of the mail, web, and database servers behind comicbase.com and AtomicAvenue.com. If so, please be patient, wait an hour, and try again. If you still have a problem, give us a call at 408-266-6883 and we’ll be all too glad to get it sorted.