RSS Feed pings from

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

There’s now an associated RSS feed with With this, aggregators could check the feed to know when to poll an individual weblog RSS feed. On the face, this sounds good: stop all that polling and all those hits to our RSS files. However, the problem with this approach is that it’s centralizing what is now a decentralized service.

Centralization means becoming dependent on one service for new information. If the service goes down, you would then need to make sure your aggregator reverts back to the old polling procedure.

There’s a second problem to centralization – control. If one organization controls the RSS feed, there’s nothing to stop that organization filtering weblogs – and the RSS feeds associated with the weblogs. The issue of being filtered has been discussed here before.

Finally, a third problem: As it is, I have to wait too long for the trackback and whatever pings to occur when I do an update to my weblog. Yet another ‘ping’ is just an annoyance. I’d rather just have well behaved aggregators that only check every hour.

Better, yet: I’d rather have you all click the blogroll entry with my name on it – it’s B-u-r-n-i-n-g-b-i-r-d in case you’ve forgotten – and wait with a smile of anticipation on your face as my page loads, rubbing your hands together in excitement. Kind of like a kid opening a present during the holidays. Think of this weblog wrapped in a bow if it helps.

And this approach can’t be spammed, hacked, or broken.


Changes to RSS Validator MT templates

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

If you’re a Movable Type user and are using the templates provided with the new RSS Validator, be aware of the following line:




This will include your entire post within the feed. I didn’t pay that much attention to the template or the generated output until this weekend when News is Free started pulling in photos from one of my stories. I don’t mind News is Free accessing the photos or reproducing the entire essay, but I imagine that it slowed their page loads, as well as added to my bandwidth use.

And I’ve never liked the concept of full posts showing up in aggregators. Never have. Never will. If people can’t do with just the excerpts then that’s just too bloody bad.

I’ve since removed this line from both templates. The generated results still validate. You might also remove the content namespace declaration too (though I wouldn’t worry about that unless you’re comfortable mucking around in RSS or RDF).

Update Two other discussions related to this issue in the Neighborhood: Shannon and Phil.

Just Shelley

How to drive in ice and snow

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Weather Underground has predicted that we could get snow this week. I haven’t driven in snow before, and since I didn’t learn how to drive at my Daddy or Mama’s knee, I had to figure out what do do when driving in winter conditions all on my own.

I’d thought I’d share my knowledge with you.


Burningbird’s Guide to Driving on Ice and Snow


I figured out the worst hazard facing you when driving on ice is that your tires will stick to the ice and your car will come to a complete and unexpected stop. So the trick is not to let your tires stick to the ice.

When driving on ice, go as fast as you can. Not only will this decrease the chances of your tires getting stuck to the road, the friction from your quickly rotating tires will help melt the ice underneath you. Now it may not look like this as you drive, but that’s just because the ice freezes up again once you’re past. However, you can follow other cars as closely as possible and benefit from their tire ice melt effect.

When you stop, stop suddenly. This allows your tires to build up heat in front of them and that’ll melt the ice, enabling you to come to a safe stop.

Same with going around corners — go as fast as you can, and try and jerk the wheel as hard as possible. Doing this will cause your tires to “bite” into the ice, and give you traction. If for some reason, though, you do find yourself slipping when you turn a corner, brake and yank the wheel, to get both a friction and a traction effect.

If you’re driving in snow and you get stuck going up a hill, step on the gas and spin the tires as hard as possible. This will build up a little hill of snow behind your tires and give you the push you need to get going — kind of like those things that runners brace against before a race.

If you come to a side street that hasn’t been plowed yet and looks to have considerable snow on it, don’t worry! Your car is big and you’ll be able to break through that snow without any problems. After all, it’s only frozen water.

I know that some people say that you shouldn’t drive at all in blizzard conditions, but that’s the best time of all to drive: no one else is on the road!

If you do find a motorist that’s ended up in the ditch, wrap a length of chain around your fender and theirs and pull them out with your little 4-cylinder engine. If for some reason this fails, tell the driver of the car to hold on to your bumper — you’ll tow them into a station (Note this doesn’t work if the driver is wearing heels.)

If you do live in a wintery clime, build yourself a winter survival kit — box of matches, can of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup, and a chocolate bar should do you.

There it is: Burningbird’s Guide to Driving on Ice and Snow. I hope you find this helpful.


Note: Burningbird will not held liable if you follow these rules and your car ends up looking like an accordian ran over by a volkswagon that’s being run over by a truck, being hit by a semi. After all, I’m Burningbird — what the hell do I know about driving in snow?


A new symbol for peace

When we protested the Vietnam war, our goals were simple, our vision united: stop the war, bring our boys home. Stop the war, bring our boys home. And in that time a simple symbol was all we needed.

Peace Sign buttons from

Today, though, our goals are muted, splintered, filtered through uncertainty, fear, frustration, and too many long standing and deep seated hatreds.

In the last few weeks, I watched a friend of mine as he agonized over the injuries and ultimate death of a close friend of his. My friend’s friend was killed because someone somewhere thought that his death was necessary, to make a point, to send a message. In their mind, they weighed my friend’s friend’s life and their cause and deemed their cause of more value. I cannot agree.

Over 150 people have died from gas used by Russian soldiers to free hostages from Chechen separatists. Some would call the Chechan’s terrorists, because they targeted innocent people. Other’s would call them freedom fighters because they moved their fight from their own homeland into the land of the oppressor. Regardless, the people are still dead.

Yesterday, another suicide bomb went off in Israel, the second in the same number of weeks. Issues of Israeli domination and suppression of the Palestine people, and Palestinian use of suicide bombers, all get a bit lost among the death of innocents.

And overlaying all of this is a very real possibility that the United States will invade Iraq.

Stanton Finley wrote several of us about finding a new symbol for peace, and providing a manifesto to accompany it. In response, David Weinberger provided the following:

All people are created equal. We all have an equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

All people are created different. There is value in that difference and we need to preserve it.

All people are connected. We are connected by geography and responsibility, and, if we would let it, by love

Simple and elegant, yet David and I both know that there really is no simple manifesto, or symbol, for peace today. We live in interesting times.

We can say, We all have an equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but too many people see happiness only at the death, or destruction, or displacement of others. How then to reconcile conflicting viewpoints of ‘happiness’?

Do we say that the assumption of “equal right” means that those who would advocate the loss of freedoms for others must suffer the penalty of the loss of those freedoms for themselves? Who then judges the actions of all? Who can we consider impartial enough to give this power to, the ability to say to one people, “You are suppressing others, and you must now lose your freedoms”?

Or do we say that people have the right to practice beliefs as they see fit as long as their beliefs cause no harm to others? This would certainly apply to the Islamic extremists, many of whom advocate the death of non-believers such as myself. But it could also apply to those religions that frown on birth control, who fight abortion, and who actively promote the birth of numerous children in a world that is badly overpopulated. After all, death from starvation is just as much an act of wanton cruelty as death from a bomb.

Years ago I would have said, “Give peace a chance. Love one another as brothers and sisters.” Today, I don’t care if my brothers and sisters love me or not, as long as they just let me live.

The era of simple symbols and slogans is gone. The days when we could look simply at an issue, even one as seemingly black and white as whether to invade Iraq or not, are over.

So, here is my proposed replacement for the peace symbol:


This is your brain…

This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs.

Any questions?