The Phantom City

Notes from our travels across a mysterious world.

Category: About (page 3 of 6)

News From Afar suddenly empties

I’ve been a faithful Bloglines subscriber for years now, but I’m finally breaking down and trying out Google Reader to see if it clears up a problem I’ve been having with indexing new items. I hated the Reader interface before, but they’ve sped up the AJAX-y effects, which makes it a lot more tolerable. Anyway, the one thing I noticed immediately is that there doesn’t seem to be a way to share feeds like in Bloglines, just individual items. I’ll have to see whether I like that or not. In the meantime, maybe it’ll be like a linkblog for me. So, News From Afar, which used to require the reader to work to find interesting content, now changes over to me having to work to keep interesting content. 😐


This blog is largely just for me, and a few folks who stop by because they know me, or they’re searching for information on Jackie Manuel or the Google Teahouse Fox. So, I’m pretty used to low traffic numbers. However, I was floored when I suddenly received ten times the usual number of incoming visits over a couple of days, and was curious as to why.

Ah, Jeremy Zawodny’s linkblog. Wow, it’s amazing what can happen when you get linked off a popular site. I know I read it most days.

Anyway, things are back to normal now. But I’m still playing Desktop Tower Defense. I hate the new spawn creep bosses, and that Zwinky ad is a little weird. 🙂

The Revelation of Shane

You know, just recently it occurred to me that I’ve never used my full name on this blog. This seems like a good time to come out. (No, not like that.) 😉

Most folks who read this blog regularly know who I am, which is why I hadn’t really thought about the decision I made a few years ago to not link myself too publicly with this blog. I originally thought I would talk more about work, and I knew that might cause some distress due to the large number of people involved. However, looking back, I’ve normally thought of blogging as a break from thinking about work, so I didn’t write very much about it at all.

I’ve changed jobs recently, and while I’ll miss the folks at my previous job, working as a web applications developer and consultant is a good move for me. Also seems like a good time to say “Hi, I’m Shane Thacker.” There are a few of us, and currently I’m not the one who appears at the top of Google. I’m not the web designer, or the school board chairman, or living in Indonesia, or writing comments about Elton John’s wedding. I am the one who wrote several articles years ago for the Philanthropy News Network. There seem to be more links to those articles than evidence that the articles themselves still exist. 🙂

Anyway, that’s me: Shane Thacker. Hello, world.

Spam knows me a little too well

I was checking the comments flagged as spam by Akismet, and I found one authored by Shakira! Now, I’m not sure why she wanted me to know more about mortgages and insurance — by including 25 links — but I am so flattered she found my blog interesting. 😉

I should point out that Akismet is amazing. It’s picked up more than 4,000 spam comments since install, and I haven’t found a false positive yet.

Updated to WordPress 2.1

Well, I’ve just upgraded this blog to the “Ella” WordPress 2.1 release, named after Ella Fitzgerald. The process went fairly smoothly, although the upgrade instructions leave out the usual one-step database upgrade, so I was a little surprised to see my installation immediately break. However, when I logged into my admin, the first thing I was presented with was an opportunity to run the database upgrade.

I don’t see a huge difference on the admin side, even with a modified interface, but I do appreciate the autosave feature. Hopefully we won’t run into any bugs. If you do, let me know at admin (at)

Steam rising off a car

Just to start out, I should point out that I leave my car outside at home because we have what appears to be a 1.95-car garage. Since the sun comes up on that side of the house, I haven’t had to scrape my car in the morning after light frosts, because the ice has already melted.

Now, to get sappy. 🙂

When I went out to the car this morning, as usual the ice had melted and the water was rapidly steaming off the roof of the car. It’s always interesting to note, but I hadn’t really seen it until this morning. As I started to get into the car, I turned my head and saw sunlight filtering through wisps of steam rising off the car, diffuse threads intertwining and dancing to the increasingly chaotic motion of the molecules, only to disappear from my vision a few inches from the pool of mist and reflective water that created them.

I wanted to capture the image. A photograph — at least as taken by me — wouldn’t convey the dynamic nature of the sight. Video? Maybe, but I couldn’t imagine seeing it in two dimensions and ever feeling the way I did then.

Then it hit me, which is a pretty impressive feat while I’m dragging my way out to the car in the morning. While there were many ways to try to record the image, there was no way besides memory to capture what really made it special: That first rush, the stunning sensation of seeing something new and beautiful, and having your world focus on that instant, yet open up far beyond where you were just before.

It’s good to have those moments. Memory may be ephemeral, but I know from it that seeing Saturn through a small telescope, looking down at squares of farmland from an airplane, watching a plastic bag in American Beauty, seeing my wife walking through the doors of the chapel the day of our wedding…those are the moments that I changed, and got to be a little bit better, even in just a small way.

Great, something to worry about…

The True Neurotic

You scored 63 anxiety, 64 awkwardness, and 72 neuroticism!

Congratulations, you are The True Neurotic, you nail-biting, conflict-avoiding worrier, you. You’re plagued by self-doubt and anxiety, which makes social activity hard–even though you may be well-liked, you feel under a storm of silent criticism. It doesn’t help that people give you funny looks for organizing all your pens by color or sharpening your gnawed pencils to a delicate point.

Your high anxiety score implies that you are unable to relax, worry about the future often, and probably are plagued by irrational fears and self-doubt.

Your high awkwardness score implies that you are socially inept, probably stick out from the crowd, and feel uncomfortable in large groups of people, such as at parties.

Your high neuroticism score implies that you exhibit neurotic behaviors–probably organization, fanatic obsessions (can you recite the entire first LOTR movie?), repetitive mantras, constant checking, or orderly rituals.

See the other results!


The Neat Freak

The Dork

The Geek



The Subtle Neurotic

The True Neurotic

You too can take The Neurotic Test.

Link courtesy of Too Many Topics, Too Little Time. Who’s a dork. 🙂

Five Things You Didn’t Know About Me

I got tagged, so I must comply. Herd mentality, you know.

These are five things you might not know about me, depending on who you are.

1. My favorite playlist in iTunes is an accidental (party shuffle) conglomeration of 25 great songs to listen to while working that I had to save permanently. It includes Toxic by Britney Spears, which is there for purely ironic reasons, and Crazy in Love by Beyoncé, which is not.

2. I’ve never thought I was as good at my job as my bosses seem to think.

3. I used to be an eclectic game-player, wandering between strategy and God games, RPGs, wargames, sports, and shooters. Now I just play Madden when I can. And I’m still not very good.

4. I’m really kind of elitist, but I have a feeling I wouldn’t measure up to my standards for being elite.

5. Short girls were my weakness before I met my wife. Now I have a very healthy appreciation for tall women. (I’m 5’6″ and she’s 6′.) I watched beach volleyball in the 2004 Olympics just to see 6’3″ Kerri Walsh. I’m pretty sure leaning down to kiss someone wouldn’t feel very natural to me now.

I’ll tag Chris Knight and Lorrie.

Conversations in my head

I was glad to see this blog post from Scott Adams, in which he describes thinking about topics in the form of hypothetical conversations with people he knows. I was glad to see it because it’s how I do a lot of my thinking, and it’s hard to describe to others. (Except in my head, I guess.)

The point where our experiences differ is that Adams concentrates on particular people in the role of hypothetical listener, while my listeners tend to either be particular people for the day, or people who make sense depending on what I’m thinking about. It is one of those things that’s hard to explain to others, though. Adams says it best:

I don’t tell a person he or she is my hypothetical listener because that conversation would turn awkward. “Hey, Bruce, I was imagining you for 18 hours yesterday, as I do every day.”

Usually my listener is my wife, so I can tell her I had an imaginary conversation with her because she already knows I’m weird. The biggest problem I have, aside from the possibility of creeping someone out by pointing out that you think about them a lot more than they think about you, is the fact that I sometimes have problems remembering which conversations I actually had with people vs. which ones were imaginary. Nothing works better in a conversation than when you start on a topic with the assumption that you’ve already discussed it. 🙂

I’m a geeky nerd

My score on The Nerd? Geek? or Dork? Test:

Modern, Cool Nerd
(86 % Nerd, 52% Geek, 47% Dork)

For The Record:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.

A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.

A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.

You scored better than half in Nerd and Geek, earning you the title of: Modern, Cool Nerd.

Nerds didn’t use to be cool, but in the 90’s that all changed. It used to be that, if you were a computer expert, you had to wear plaid or a pocket protector or suspenders or something that announced to the world that you couldn’t quite fit in. Not anymore. Now, the intelligent and geeky have eked out for themselves a modicum of respect at the very least, and “geek is chic.” The Modern, Cool Nerd is intelligent, knowledgable and always the person to call in a crisis (needing computer advice/an arcane bit of trivia knowledge). They are the one you want as your lifeline in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (or the one up there, winning the million bucks)!

Take the test.

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