WordPress migration, photo trouble

As part of the process of Blogger to WordPress migration, I really need a plugin that acts like the ‘Image Upload’ function in Blogger. It needs to be able to take a 1024×768 JPG file, upload it to my web server, create a thumbnail in one of a few sizes, and insert the thumbnail into my post as a link to the large version.

Does anyone know of such a plugin, or another easy way to do this?

Also, how can I configure WordPress to automatically mail new posts to an email account? I like having all my blog entries in my GMail account so that I can search them from within it.

Another strange and very annoying bug: on all posts that begin with photos immediately followed by a heading in bold, the WordPress version leaves an open [strong] tag that makes everything below it formatted in bold. I can fix them manually, but there are dozens and dozens.

Caffeinated jitters

Port Meadow

Happy Birthday Ashley Thorvaldson

Today was dominated by core seminar reading, catching up on The Economist, and playing around with WordPress. This term is odd in the sense that there are so few times during the week when members of the program are brought together for academic purposes. We have both the core seminar and the methods seminar on Tuesdays, with no seminars or labs taking place at other times. I do see some program members through the Strategic Studies Group, but that is on Tuesdays as well. I should find someone who is interested in once-weekly coffee and breakfast meetings to discuss academic matters.

Tuesday’s core seminar is on the topics “Compare and contrast the American, Soviet, and European conceptions of détente during the 1970s” and “What were the most important factors that led to the end of the Cold War?” I’ve done some reading already, and will devote a good fraction of tomorrow to immersion in the social sciences library. Because of how early in the research process my thesis presentation will be, it will probably me markedly less useful than it might have been later on. I suppose its value may lie in it being a spur forcing me to think about some of the important questions earlier than I might otherwise have done.

This blog is a-movin’

After another long outage yesterday, I burn with the desire to move beyond Blogger. My experience there have been a progressively more emancipated one, as I got my own domain and learned how to use it. The biggest limitation of all, of course, is that all the content management is still being done on the Blogger side. There are advantages to that – I can’t really break Blogger – and disadvantages – I can’t tweak or fix it either. Of course, moving again means the whole rigamarole of broken links and hopeless search engine results for another few months. It was a mistake to give Blogger control of the root directory of my webspace. It will make the process of relocating trickier than it would otherwise have been.

A draft version of the new sibilant intake of breath as managed through WordPress 2.0.2 is online. I obviously need to tweak the template, as well as deal with some internal changes. Once finished, it will probably replace the Blogger based blog as my primary avenue for posting. I expect that with some learning and tweaking, it will be much snazzier.

For the moment, I will carry on updating both. A facelift and database shift for elements of the cryptoblog may also be in the offing, in the longer term.

PS. Those who haven’t seen it yet should watch the video of Stephen Colbert addressing the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner should make a point of doing so. It’s an astonishing demonstration of someone using satire to speak truth (or truthiness) to power. It’s especially remarkable that the President and others were actually present for it. (Small Quicktime version)

Pondering content-management options

Increasingly, I feel the desire to be able to do more sophisticated things with this blog. For instance, I would appreciate being able to organize posts by category, as well as being able to send and receive trackbacks. I would also like to be able to host my own content management system, so I won’t be out in the cold whenever Blogger (frequently) goes down. Having the ability to establish user profiles with differing access levels also has some appeal, given the wide variety of people who read this blog, and the varied purposes for which they do. At this stage, I should probably have a blogroll, as well.

The most comprehensive (and expensive) option is to switch to MovableType, which would cost about $200 – the amount I pay for four years of hosting at sindark.com. TypePad – also from six apart – is about $50 a year. WordPress is an appealing free option, seemingly used by many of the better blogs I read. I like that it is licensed under the GPL.

The most important consideration is ease of continuity. I need to shift more than 1200 posts (not all of them obviously part of a sibilant intake of breath), along with hundreds of images. Also, any viable transfer will need to include the automatic alteration of internal links to reflect the new structure. Clearly, it’s not a project to be taken on during the middle of a term.

Has anyone made the transition from Blogger to WordPress or TypePad? If so, how difficult did you find it? Were you able to broadly transfer things automatically, or did it take a lot of manual tweaking? Also, what made you decide to switch and for what reasons are you either glad or regretful about doing so.

In the interests of fair and comprehensive reporting, I should disclose that special forces teams are already operating inside WordPress – reconnoitering and marking targets to be followed up upon later. The important thing to to have a really sound post-migration plan in place, reducing the possibility of some kind of data insurgency from posts or other components that prove resistant to being integrated into the new order.

Wadstock bartending


Bald, gaunt, in a black suit, black shirt, white tie and iPod: such was the dress of the suave Merton barman who was in command of our efforts at Wadstock tonight. The event was a music festival put on in the Wadham College back quad, with about twelve consecutive hours of bands accompanied by barbecues and drinks. I worked from 7:00 to 11:00pm and earned thirty quid: enough for three more strategic studies dinners this term. We were selling an array of sickly-sweet cocktails to undergraduates. Aside from brief glimpses of Nora and Bilyana, I didn’t see anyone I recognized – aside from the SU executive members with whom I was working.

Tomorrow, I am going to do reading for the core seminar, as well as work on the thesis plan presentation I need to give on Tuesday. While I obviously don’t have enough done for it to be comprehensive, I expect that my classmates and instructors will be sympathetic. It may even be very helpful, for plotting an initial course.

It should be noted that the customer service of The Economist in the UK is excellent. I called them the other day to explain that my April 22nd to 28th issue had not arrived. The call went directly to an operator: no ringing, no menus. I was astonished. After taking my name and address, they dispatched a new issue immediately. I got it the next day by express mail. After slogging away with customer service departments like Apple’s (which is by no means the worst), it’s incredibly welcome.

Race Against Time

Early this afternoon, I finished reading the compilation of the Massey Lectures delivered by Stephen Lewis in 2005, on HIV/AIDS in Africa. It’s overwhelming stuff – to be confronted with a problem on such a scale, where perfectly viable means of mitigation, treatment, and control exist, but where the overpowering lack of will on the part of those who possess such means keep appropriate and necessary actions from being taken.

There is nothing inevitable about the continuation of the AIDS pandemic. Through combined strategies of nutrition, education, and treatment we could squeeze it down to a tiny fraction of its present size. A 24-week course of nevirapine can cut the transmission rate from mother to child to under 2%. The viral loads of those already infected can be reduced through a combination of anti-retroviral therapies and improved overall health and nutrition, to the point where they are dramatically less infectious. The widespread use of condoms, the management of intravenous drug use, and the proper maintenance of hygiene in medical facilities could slash the vectors by which the infection spreads. Public education could make the avenues through which the disease travels known, as well as empower people to make choices that would protect them and their families.

Of course, there are lots of other factors that require examination: working out how to deal with millions of orphans, many of them now the heads of their families and responsible for younger siblings and, of course, the need to deal with conflict: the eternal spreader of disorder and disease. The danger exists of being overwhelmed by the toughest problems, or using them as an excuse for not taking the easiest and cheapest steps, as part of a progression towards improvement.

When the problem is presented as a cliff face, it seems impossible to climb. Much more accurately, the problem is like a difficult piece of terrain, but one in which we can maneuver if we marshall the skills, the equipment, and the will. As Lewis demonstrates eloquently, the potential benefits of doing so are as enormous as the moral obligation that should compel us to achieve them. Even without a cure or vaccine, it seems obvious that the toll of HIV/AIDS can be reduced enormously; all it would take is political will, backed with money, and the keeping of promises long-made but rarely honoured.

Lewis’ short book is an eloquent and worthwhile expansion upon the above ideas, complete with a huge number of stories and examples from his own experiences in Africa and the corridors of the multi-national institutions. HIV/AIDS is certainly an area in which he speaks with authority. His final chapter, entitled “A Gallery of Alternatives in Good Faith,” includes some excellent suggestions. I quite like the pique of suggesting that, if Japan gets the seat it seeks in the Security Council, it should be forced to live up to the promise it made – of doubling aid to Africa – in order to secure support for its campaign. Quite simply, Lewis suggests, they should forfeit the seat if they fail to live up to their promise. Other ideas, including giving the concerns of women an enormously more prominent place in the UN architecture through the creation of a powerful and permanent body with that mandate, are long overdue for implementation.

In short, I highly recommend the book. I am lending my copy to Emily now, but others in Oxford can borrow it subsequently. I also have Jeffrey Sachs’ The End of Poverty to lend.

Science, the environment, and development

Today’s seminar for the Global Economic Governance Program was really excellent, discussing the future of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. On the panel were Jon Cuncliffe, Paul Collier, and Ngaire Woods. Overall, I would say that they agreed more than they disagreed. They primarily identified and discussed two areas of interest: the global financial consequences of the emergence of China and India and the role the Bank and the Fund should play in assisting development within countries that are either stagnating, or finding themselves at the start of an awkward path to reasonable prosperity.

While there, I realized that development might be the missing factor for my thesis. Conversing with Peter Dauvergne by email, he has identified the incredible variety of work already being done in the field of science and environmental politics. I need more of a focus if I am to say something new. To focus on the scientific and environmental questions that exist within the two areas listed above might be a good way to move forward. It captures concerns like China’s growing need for energy and resources, as well as issues like the problems of desertification and lack of decent access to water in sub-Saharan Africa.

Potentially, this is a way of bringing a lot of reading I’ve been doing that is somewhat peripheral to both the program and my thesis back into line. I don’t think it would be wise to extent the topic to consider health, which is also a fascinating intersection between science and development, but to use development to create a balanced triad between science and environmental politics might lend direction and balance, without going off topic.

Dr. Dauvergne also suggested that I read the last few years worth of issues of Environmental Politics: the journal from the MIT Press which he edits, as well as a thesis entitled Advocates, Experts or Collaborative Epistemic Communities by Lindsay Johnson, an MA student of his.

Comments would be especially appreciated on this, since I need to present my preliminary research plan on Tuesday at 11:00am.

Of news and time management

When corresponding with friends back in Canada, I am frequently reminded about how out-of-touch with national news I have become while in the UK. For me, the Harper government is a distant and largely hypothetical possibility, still in the stasis of post-electoral uncertainty. I remembering wandering around surprised on the night of the election, finding it difficult to comprehend how a party that had been in power for all the time I had been aware of politics could suddenly be outed. It is still that general sense that dominates my intuitive perspective on the present Canadian political situation. That and the fervent hope that we don’t descend into the insanity of social crusading and fiscal and strategic recklessness that have taken hold so ominously and harmfully in the United States.

I don’t think there is much I can plausibly do to keep in touch beyond skimming the Globe and Mail website and Google News Canada every day or so. Between reading for the core seminar and thesis reading, I already have a great deal to do. I am frequently frustrated by the impossibility of doing as well as can be managed in all possible areas. It makes you constantly guilty when you aren’t doing something classed as productive (course reading, scholarship applications) or semi-productive (cycling, reading The Economist). Also, it is the conversations you have with friends about current events that are the ultimate spur to be knowledgeable about them. Without debate tournaments or pub and living room arguments about Canadian politics, my lack of knowledge is rarely revealed. While Emily seems to be powerfully in touch with Canadian news – perhaps her time at Goldman Sachs taught her how to do so when busy and abroad – nobody else is likely to bring up current Canadian events as a topic of conversation.

The solution is to work towards squeezing out all activities that are not at least semi-productive, eliminating the gaps that make you feel as though you’re not doing as much as you should be. Once you are doing more-or-less all you can be, you can be forgiven for some oversights. Everything I do should be part of some plan or project.

That said, I am going to get back to reading about AIDS.

Zip, ziltch, nada – on the work front

Port Meadow sunset

Last night, I was up absurdly late. I remember hearing the clock tolling six as I covered my eyes with cloth in a late attempt to fall asleep. Understandably, my productivity today took a bit of a hit as the result of such sleeplessness.

After attempts at reading, and the completion of yet another scholarship application, I walked to the Port Meadow with Nora this evening – in time to see the sun set behind the western tree line.

Today was a good day, all told. I got to read the first few pages of Kelly’s novel about the Picts. I also got to have a conversation in French, do some cycling, correspond with a distant colleague about the thesis, and read.

Tomorrow afternoon, I am attending a seminar entitled: “Is there a future for the IMF and World Bank?” at Merton College.

I saw a Canon A700 at the pub tonight. There is definitely a lot more glass included in the lens, possibly making the 800 ISO setting viable. The LCD screen is also much larger. Does anyone have personal experience with one? 

The Colbert Report: Better Know a District: Georgia’s 11th District is brilliant

The Constant Gardener

I saw The Constant Gardener with the European Film Society tonight. I found the film to be very powerful, and thoroughly dispiriting. While the specific evils portrayed are obviously fictional, there is a grim plausibility that accompanies them. Humanity has a long way to go.

The pharmaceutical plot was actually the weakest part of the film. Not to spoil it for anyone, but you can’t license a drug in the rich world on the basis of unsupervised clinical trials in Africa. That said, the portrayal of machine-gun wielding horsemen terrorizing villagers in the Sudan is probably quite accurate. Hopefully, it induced at least a bit of reflection on the part of various audiences about the moral responsibilities people in the developed world bear towards those elsewhere facing genocide or other forms of large-scale violence. Likewise, some of the depictions of the horrific toll of AIDS formed part of the realistic backdrop for the film.

Appropriately enough, immediately before the film started, I began reading the copy of Race Against Time that my mother sent me, along with some extra illumination for my bike. Written by Stephen Lewis, it is a printed version of the Massey Lectures that were delivered across Canada, and it opens with the line: “I have spent the last four years watching people die.”

I will probably finish it tomorrow, then lend it to Emily. I feel as though I should say more, but I am thoroughly overwhelmed.