All posts by tim

Some Facebook Quibbles

Image via CrunchBase

So I’m going to try to keep this non-technical. But I do want to explain why Facebook will be eclipsed by something else fairly soon. Their programming interface is keeping Facebook from being used for anything but MafiaWars style games.

I’m currently writing a theater ticketing and management website called BuyPlayTix. It has a lot of cool features, and so I decided to start working on Facebook integration. I tried to do a Facebook widget about a year ago (remember back when they had those?), and got frustrated and gave up. I’m glad I did since they basically removed that feature entirely.

I went ahead this time since I knew there was at least one feature that I could add that would be useful.

So now you can create an Facebook event automatically based on your event in BuyPlayTix. Which is nice. It saves you a little bit of duplicate effort. You set up your ticketing website, click a button and your event is on Facebook. Except you still have to go to their website to actually invite anyone to the event. Because their API doesn’t support that feature.

I have a page for my theater company – Loaded Gun Theory. I have hundreds of fans who want to be updated about Loaded Gun Theory’s new productions. They have manually clicked a button to make this happen. Yet I cannot automatically invite those fans to Loaded Gun Theory events via Facebook.

Which was ok, I guess. I still added a feature that saves about 5 minutes of typing.

Next up, our mailing lists. Email is becoming increasingly outdated, we lose about 5% of our contact list every time we send out an update. I figured it would be nice to be able to email updates to people who have opted in to our mailing list, or update them via Facebook. So I wrote a widget that would let you lookup a person on Facebook. Only downside there is you can only look them up by full name. The API has a first_name field. And a last_name field. But you can only search by full name. Which stinks if you happen to be looking up one of the many women who have their maiden and married name as their full facebook name. Or you’re looking up anyone who has a nickname, but uses their full name on facebook.

Then I figured it would be nice to have an automatic import feature. Where it would take only those exact matches and update them with their corresponding facebook id. Thanks to the previous problems this wouldn’t be a great solution, but it would save some time. Guess what? Can’t do that. Even though I have a list of fans subscribed to my facebook page, there is no way to get them out via the API. That’s right. I can’t get a list of all the people who are fans of Loaded Gun Theory. Which is pretty stinking useless.

So I’m already irritated at this point. I decide to go setup the mailing list capability where it will send an email if that’s configured, or a message via Facebook if you’ve (manually) entered the users facebook ID.

I go to look at what sort of messages you can send. Turns out:

a) You can’t send a message FROM your page. I can’t send a message from Loaded Gun Theory. It’s always going to look like it’s coming from Tim Thomas. Which is great if you know me, but we actually do have fans who don’t.

b) You can’t send a message that shows up in the Inbox. At all. Period.

c) You can’t send a private message to a user.

What can you send? You send send a status update (again as Tim Thomas, not Loaded Gun Theory). You can send a notification (which shows up in that tiny little box in the right hand corner that you don’t pay attention to). Or you can respond to a status update. Which doesn’t seem to be the best way to notify a fan about a new production.

So what do I have? I’m still sending out email and I’m sending those little notifications in the bottom right. I guess it’s better than nothing. But barely.

I understand they’re trying to prevent spam, but they’re also preventing every legitimate use. And I can still go into the application and spam people. It just takes longer for their page to load than mine.

I also added twitter support. That took 3 lines of code, and works exactly as you would expect.

Has anyone had success in communicating with Facebook users via the API? What did you do?

Trying Tofu

Mmm…. tofu

Last night was the first time I cooked tofu. It turned out well.

Julie is having to adjust to being a parent. Previously she would occasionally head off to the cupboard to make a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich if what I was making was unappetizing enough. Now she has to sell it. We’re in the food sales business here these days. So she may have wanted to hurt me physically when she saw tofu on the menu. But then we discussed how tofu was in miso soup, and that was good. Everyone was on board.

As I cooked I had to pay tribute to Stella. She’ll try pretty much anything raw. She demands raw potatoes, ginger, and tofu. But once they’re cooked she often won’t eat them. And she detests anything green. I started giving her the curved parts of the red peppers to make my dices nicer, and now she demands them.

The dish last night was Spicy Tofu with Red Pepper stir-fry. Stella thought the tofu was better uncooked. So did I. But then she played one card too many. She said she liked the peanuts better uncooked. We notified her that the peanuts had been put on top of the fully cooked dish and were still raw. This led to perhaps two more bites.

There’s no logic with three year olds. I can’t really complain. Stella eats a lot of foods. And she’ll eat almost anything while I’m preparing dinner. She just doesn’t want it cooked.

Our pediatrician told us recently that we’re going to need to start Etta on solid foods. Probably this weekend. I get to try again with another child.

What is the weirdest thing your kid eats?

I’ve got tools

Not these kinds of tools.

So I’m testing some cool new tools to hopefully get me to blog more often. I’m playing with ScribeFire and Zemanta which will hopefully make things more dynamic.

I got inspired to write more after writing a 3 page monologue for the Vestige Group’s “Muses III” project. It still has some editing to go, but I figure I should write more blog posts. I often think of them while trying to fall asleep at night, then forget in the morning.

We took Etta in to get her fourth month shots yesterday. She handled them well. It’s hard talking to the doctor about her because she’s so agreeable most of the time. Nothing seems to bother her for long periods of time. She’s a very smiley kid, and I’m enjoying the fact that her hair is starting to spike out on top. Now we have to start feeding her solids. Because getting Stella fed every night wasn’t a big enough chore.

Speaking of Stella, things have gotten better. Julie, Etta, and she were sick last week and Stella was in a rebelous/whiney mood. The whole week was an ordeal. Then Julie’s mom came to stay with us for a few days and it was like a cloud had lifted. Stella is still not napping, which means she’s prone to extreme crankiness, but I’m no longer wanting to box her up and send her off to the circus.

So I’m going to put a notepad on my bedside table, and try to knock something out every day. Even if that is a long and boring post about how interesting CouchDB is. Keep me honest Internetz.

Franken is unimportant

There has been a lot of talk about Al Franken giving the Democrats a filibuster proof majority in the Senate. This will not allow Democrats to push through a liberal agenda. The reason is that the Democratic party is no longer even remotely liberal.

What we’ve seen happen over the past decade is the polarization of the Republican party. They keep moving right. They’ve thought they were moving the country right. But what they’ve actually been doing is leaving people behind with no party. I don’t think this is the same thing as the traditional “swing-voter”. These are people who might be anti-union and pro-business, but feel that a reasonable level of taxation is required to keep the government providing the sorts of infrastructure that business needs to run efficiently. They might be very traditionally conservative, but had a falling out with the party because they’ve had an abortion. Or a gay son or daughter.

So in effect the Republican party is made up of people who are either

  1. Batshit-insane
  2. Unable to quit the party. Probably because they are small-‘c’ conservative and change doesn’t come easily to them

So basically the Democrats may have a majority, but it’s just a majority made up of the non batshit-insane. Which means that we’ll continue to see these extremely moderate bills that one might expect to see when there’s a very balanced congress, rather than this one where one party has a clear majority.

I’d still love to see a truly liberal majority in Congress. But this isn’t it. And that’s probably ok. The center needs to get drug back a little closer to center, so we can start talking reasonably again.

The one thing that makes me optimistic is that the Democrats in Congress are doing a really good job of compromising. It’s really a reflection on the American public at large, that once you cut out the crazy right there’s a lot of good discussion and compromise going on about the role of organized labor, business taxes, and healthcare.

So let’s just ignore the crazies and they’ll go away (or get put in prison for blowing things up or shooting people). Eventually the Democrats will probably have to split into two parties, and that’s for the best.


Here’s a picture of Stella and I peeling oranges.

I eventually gave her a peeled orange and she was able to seperate the slices from the membranes with a children’s knife.

She probably only got about 2 wedges out of the entire orange, but I was still really proud of her.

You can blame the dealers

There are a lot of car dealerships that are very angry right now. A large number of Chrysler and GM dealerships are being cut loose. The general sentiment is “poor car dealership”, but I don’t buy it.

The dealers did it to themselves. GM didn’t build the cars that the American public wanted. They didn’t build the cars GM wanted. They built the cars GM dealers wanted.

I worked for 5 years, getting information out of dealer’s mainframes and onto websites. Something that a large number of dealers resisted. Mainly because they didn’t want to expose their prices. On the one hand they obviously wanted people to come into their dealership where they could play hardball. But they also didn’t want consumers to be able to compare prices.


So, I’ve been having a bit of an issue with Stella lately. She’s been getting awoken by Etta before 7am. I don’t wake up before 7am.

No let me correct that. I don’t wake up with children before 7am. They can hang out in their beds until 7am.

Stella realizes this and has an amazing 7am timer. If I tell her she has to go back to sleep, she’ll call for me again at exactly 7am. So that’s what I started doing. If she woke me up at 6:30am I told her it was the middle of the night and she had to go back to sleep.

This worked for a short period of time. Then she started calling me in at 7am and letting me know that she’d peed in her bed. Always after 7am. And she’d command that I change the sheets. I got wise to that and started refusing to change the sheets when she demanded. I’d get to them around 8am. But she kept doing it. If I made her go back to bed – she’d have an accident. Every single time. While wearing a pull-up.*

So this morning I figured it out. She started screaming for breakfast at 6:30. So I made her go to the bathroom and then told her she could have a banana (self-serve) if she was dying of hunger. She was quiet and dry until 7am.

Of course, Etta wasn’t, but that’s a battle for another day.

I swear these kids are far smarter than me already.

* which is somewhat baffling in and of itself.

2009 Sunstroke 5k #2

Obvious I haven’t been running much:

Town Lake – 27:09 (8:45/mile)

But I went back and took the jogging stroller from my mom once I’d finished. I got Stella out and she ran the last leg of the race. About 1/2 mile. Awesome little kid.

10 years

Today marks the first decade of Julie and my marriage. As much as I love Ms. Etta and Ms. Stella, I have to say there’s a part of me that can’t wait for them to grow up so I can go back to spending time with Julie. Uninterrupted.

I have goey stuff to tell her. But not on the Internet. Just wanted to record it.

10 years nerdz!

NRA – National Rube Association

So according to this CNN article, it’s getting very hard to buy gun ammunition:

“In the last two months it’s gotten very, very difficult to find ammunition,” says Richard Taylor, manager of The Firing Line, a gun shop and shooting range in the Denver, Colorado, suburbs.

“There are a lot of rumors floating around that the present government would like to increase taxes on ammunition. I think [there is] just a lot of panicked buying going on

Of course, the federal government has not floated any of these rumors. If you read the news agendas on the actual white house sites, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Obama administration hasn’t actually given gun controll or otherwise a second thought.

But on the NRA’s front page you can find quotes like this:

On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” when pressed about her goals for gun legislation, Pelosi said the following: “… the Supreme Court has ruled in a direction that gives more opportunity for people to have guns. We never denied that right. We don’t want to take their guns away. We want them registered … and we have to rid the debate of the misconceptions that people have about what gun safety means.”

Pelosi’s idea of “gun safety” is every gun ban, ammunition ban and licensing scheme that has come across her desk. She’s spent an entire congressional career voting to deny the rights of lawful gun owners.

So apparently it’s actually Nancy Pelosi who’s creating a run on ammunition. Republican lawmakers better watch out though, lest their campaign contributions dry up completely. Why would Winchester Ammunition give money to Republicans when keeping Democrats in power is much better business? This administration has been such a boon to talk radio advertisers that I can’t imagine they’ll give Republicans another cent.

Recession? What recession? Ammunition suppliers are working overtime to supply our nation’s need for ammunition. Thanks Democrats!