Website 24.0
Posted April 16, 2014, 12:20 a.m.
Grandpa Bradford

Grandpa Bradford

My grandfather, Leslie Bradford, passed away around 3:00 p.m. PT (6:00 p.m. ET) this Tuesday afternoon in Portland, Oregon.

He has been ill for some time, having fought through cancer and a number of other ailments over the last several years. He has been in hospice care at his home for about three months now, and has had regular visits and care from his children. We knew this was coming sooner or later, but it’s never easy.

Grandpa has always been there for us grandkids. He has traveled all across the country to be present for our weddings and graduations, and he never forgot to send cards and gifts at Christmas and on our birthdays.

For many years he produced custom annual calendars for the family, which included everybody’s birthdays and anniversaries—his kids and grandkids and other members of the extended family. He also produced a web site for the extended family, which he updated regularly with photos, stories, updates, and more from the disparate branches of the family tree.

He also loved taking pictures and videos. As we dig out our own photos of Grandpa to post on Facebook and elsewhere, we’re finding that he is holding a camera of some kind in almost every shot. He probably has an incredible archive of film and video from every imaginable family event over the years.

Goodbye, Grandpa. I love you, and I’ll miss you.

God of faithfulness,
In your wisdom you have called your servant Leslie out of this world;
Release him from the bonds of sin,
And welcome him into your presence,
So that he may enjoy eternal light and peace
And be raised up in glory with all your saints.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen

Posted in Life

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Posted April 11, 2014, 10:37 p.m.
Kathleen Sebelius (HHS Photo)

Kathleen Sebelius (HHS Photo)

Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (D) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced her resignation. President Barack Obama (D) praised Sebelius in a ceremony this morning, saying that she will “go down in history” for being the HHS secretary during the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health care law colloquially known as ObamaCare.

Much of the media coverage about Sebelius’s resignation has focused on the disastrous ObamaCare roll-out, including the well-known failures of the HealthCare.gov enrollment web site. I attempted to use the web site several times to see what enrollment options were available. I am covered by employer insurance, at least until the ObamaCare cancellation notices begin going out some time after the mid-term elections, so I didn’t actually intend to buy new coverage. But the site never allowed me to proceed past an ‘unexpected error’ warning, which continued to appear for me right up until the end of the open enrollment period. I never got to see a list of available coverage options and prices.

Though the roll-out debacle does deserve some attention, Sebelius ought to be remembered for a much bigger, much more troubling debacle. Under her leadership, HHS implemented an insurance coverage mandate that required businesses, organizations, and individuals to pay for drugs and procedures that many find morally objectionable, including contraception, sterilizations, and chemical abortions. The religious exemptions to this mandate are so narrow that, as many other commentators have pointed out, even Jesus Christ himself would not have qualified (because he ministered primarily to non-Christians). By imposing this mandate, Sebelius violated her oath of office, violated the Bill of Rights, and violated some of the most fundamental tenets of her own professed Catholic faith. Read More…

Posted April 5, 2014, 12:21 p.m.
NPR April Fools

NPR April Fools

I’m never quite sure what to think of National Public Radio (NPR). Their non-political news and feature coverage is top-notch, so they do find themselves in my rotation for that reason, but their political coverage has been some of the most slanted you can find. I’m told that this has improved somewhat in the last year or two, but it used to be so bad that I could hardly listen to or read their political news for five minutes without being overwhelmed by inaccuracies and opinions being presented as fact. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t mind reading or listening to left-wing political opinion. In fact I make a conscious effort to expose myself to opinions from across the spectrum. You might be surprised to find that my NewsBlur feed reader brings me articles from the Daily Kos and the Huffington Post, among many other other political opinion sites from the right, left, and center.

But the sources I like best are the ones that are honest about what they are giving me: opinions. I don’t like it when partisan political opinions are presented as if they are dry, unbiased news. For this reason, I tend to avoid the political coverage at NPR, MSNBC, Fox News, and a number of other media organizations that have proven themselves to be badly biased in one direction or the other. Every media outlet exhibits some degree of bias—it can’t be avoided—but these three and others like them are just beyond the pale. NPR is especially offensive in this respect because it is, in part, taxpayer funded. I don’t understand why our tax money should fund a domestic radio network in the first place, but I really don’t understand why it should fund one that tilts strongly in one political direction.

Regardless, as I mentioned before, NPR does do some things very well. I have often enjoyed their in-depth coverage of new scientific achievements, their unique and enlightening feature stories, and their competent coverage of international news. Their coverage of non-political domestic news is also pretty good. Most notably, I have found that their breaking news coverage tends to be less prone to error . . . they are rarely the first to report on a big story, but they are often the first to report on it correctly and without a lot of baseless speculation.

And I have to admit that NPR’s ‘April Fools’ prank is one of the most clever ones to go around on the Internet last Tuesday. They posted an article titled ‘Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore?‘ The article, however, had nothing to do with the headline: “Congratulations, genuine readers, and happy April Fools’ Day! We sometimes get the sense that some people are commenting on NPR stories that they haven’t actually read. If you are reading this, please like this post and do not comment on it. Then let’s see what people have to say about this ‘story.’” You can imagine how it turned out. . . . There are a few gems in the comment area beneath the article itself, but most of the action is on their Facebook post.

Posted April 2, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

On April Fools Day 2014, Off on a Tangent was seized by the United States federal government . . . or so it seemed. Agencies in the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security do have a troubling habit of seizing web sites for dubious reasons, Fourth Amendment be damned, but I have not [yet] actually been a victim of their due process violations.

For extra authenticity, the seizure notice was based upon a real seizure notice graphic that was posted on a real seized web site. I modified it to refer to the correct U.S. District Court for my region and to have a more frightening national security warning (the original one was copyright-related).

Click to see how it looked!

The original seizure warning graphic was produced by the United States federal government, and is thus in the public domain per 17 U.S.C. § 101 and 105. The modified version is licensed under the standard Off on a Tangent content license.

The U.S. Department of Justice claims that their logos and insignia may not be reproduced without permission, but they have asserted no legal basis for that claim. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security makes an even more absurd claim that their logos and insignia are somehow protected under trademark laws. It might be news to these two agencies, but satire is protected speech, and so is criticism of the government. Even if there was a rational legal basis for these claims, the First Amendment trumps them.

To be clear, this was satire. The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have not endorsed or authenticated this work, and were not involved in its production.

Posted March 29, 2014, 5:31 p.m.

I’m proud to announce the launch of a new major revision to Off on a Tangent, bringing the site to version 24.0. The last major revision, 23.0, launched on December 2, 2011, and went on to become the longest-lived design in the site’s history. It lasted more than two years and needed only one minor revision along the way (to bring it to version 23.1). It has served me well, but a lot has changed in the last two years! Browsers have progressed, web markup and style standards have progressed, JavaScript libraries have progressed, and the WordPress content management system has progressed.

This new version is a top-to-bottom redo. I built much of the new site from-scratch, and the pieces of code that I did carry over from the last version have been carefully reviewed and re-factored (if needed). This means that the site is now very modern and up-to-date, code-wise, but it also means there is a high potential for bugs and problems in these early days. I’m continuing to support the most recent two versions of all major desktop, tablet, and mobile browsers, so if you see any issues please contact me.

What I’m getting at is that this is a really big update. I mentioned more than a year ago that I was working on it, and in the announcement for the 23.1 revision last April I mentioned that it was taking longer than expected so I ‘backported’ some of the styling to the old platform to serve as a stopgap. Granted, there were big breaks during the dev cycle, but this definitely has a lot of time and effort invested into it over the last year. I expect much of this code-base to stick around for a while.

Read on for a detailed list of what’s changed, what’s new, and what’s improved! Read More…

Scott Bradford has been building web sites and using them to say what he thinks since 1995, which tended to get him in trouble with power-tripping assistant principals at the time. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from George Mason University, but has spent most of his career (so far) working on public- and private-sector web sites. He is not a member of any political party, and brands himself an ‘independent constitutional conservative.’ In addition to holding down a day job and blogging about challenging subjects like politics, religion, and technology, Scott is also a devout Catholic, gun-owner, bike rider, and music lover with a wife, two cats, and a dog.