28 January 2009

25 Random Things About Me (a.k.a. "Oh no, not another one.")

This originally appeared on Facebook, but it occurred to me that this malnourished blog is long overdue for a new entry. Enjoy.

  1. My first acting role was as Jesus in a kindergarten skit about Lazarus. I improvised the majority of my lines, much to the audience’s delight … and the wrath of the nun who directed it.

  2. Around age five, I thought it would be fun to play postal carrier. I took my wheelbarrow to the neighboring apartment complex, then I collected and redistributed some of the mail. (Justice was swift: I was grounded upon returning to my apartment.)

  3. I am a unabashed fan of dark comedy, Terry Moore, Cowboy Bebop, Get Fuzzy, Conceptual Continuity, and free improv jamming.

  4. Sometimes I like dialing older touch-tone phones the hard way - by quickly tapping the hook and emulating rotary dialing. (I first tried this with friends while on-air at WCPR in Hoboken. We ordered a pizza.)

  5. In 1987, while rehearsing the role of Lloyd Dallas (the director) in “Noises Off”, I emulated our actual director’s mannerisms and clothing, down to the flannel plaid shirt and lack of a wristwatch. I have not worn a wristwatch since.

  6. I was the first to correctly identify all 41 guitar riffs quoted within Mike Keneally’s affectionate one minute and twenty-five second Yes tribute, “Faithful Axe” - and I did it within three tries. Mike awarded me a fresh batch of bagels for my efforts. They were delicious.

  7. Thanks to complications following LASIK surgery in my right eye, I helped identify a new contraindication. Thanks to my ever vigilant corneal surgeon, the eye healed. I had PRK in my left eye and ended up 20/15 across the board. (Notice my black-and-white profile headshot where my face is off center and half shadowed. That photo was taken during the recovery.)

  8. Favorite color: orange. Favorite vegetable: carrots. Coincidence?

  9. In college, some friends and I whistled, in harmony, the entire soundtrack to Chess (London Cast). There were witnesses.

  10. My wife Nancy and I barely escaped a lightning strike while cycling in a flash thunderstorm on Grand Bahama Island. (Don’t ask. Let’s just say we were fortunate that a telephone pole transformer was within twenty feet, and leave it at that.)

  11. As a child, I used to re-enact entire Bill Cosby routines at the dinner table during family gatherings.

  12. I enjoy playing songs in mixed and irregular meters. Well, irregular unless you’re from Bulgaria.

  13. Several years ago, I slipped down my carpeted staircase, then saved myself by grabbing the handrail with my left hand. Cost: A messed-up rotator cuff, which goes temporarily and painfully haywire for thirty seconds every two years.

  14. I once arrived for a performance of “A Grand Night for Singing” without my edited percussion score, and we were being videotaped for closed circuit broadcast. Plenty embarrassed, I kept it secret, steeled myself, and managed to improvise the entire show.

  15. I want to write and publish a niche market technical book by 2010, even if it means self-publishing.

  16. In March of 1994, I changed the pronunciation of my last name to match how my late paternal grandfather spoke it: dahn-DRAY-uh. Of course, this caught family and guests off guard at the wedding reception.

  17. I ran into Steve Vai changing his pants backstage at Irving Plaza. Not on purpose.

  18. I was an extra in the film “Street Justice” (1989). If you listen closely during the picketing scene outside the Hoboken PATH entrance, you can hear me shouting “Down with Chandler!” Extras received compensation of $20 each and breakfast at a nearby diner. It was delicious, but not as much as the bagels.

  19. My typing speed has been clocked around 100 wpm. At Bell Labs, I was known to transcribe conference calls in near-real time. (“My dear boy, why don’t you just try STENOGRAPHY?”)

  20. I used to dream in Technicolor, with prints by DeLuxe. Nowadays it’s closer to Fisher-Price PixelVision. This means I have to concentrate extra hard on the nighttime scenes so I don’t miss anything.

  21. Biggest live performance thrill: Drumming for Broadside Electric on the main stage of the Philadelphia Folk Festival - introduced by Gene Shay. (Bonus Trivia: There’s never enough room to fit your drum kit inside a radio station, no matter how little of it you decide to bring. Don’t be discouraged. Just play.)

  22. I strive to categorically avoid split infinitives. (Whoops.)

  23. I proposed to Nancy via an elaborate two-way conversation between myself (sitting next to her) and myself (on television). The carefully timed TV portion was videotaped, edited into three different Hitchcock movie rentals in their original VHS clamshells, and held at the local West Coast Video. Nancy chose “North by Northwest” - thus the twelve minute proposal sequence ended up interrupting Valerian falling off Mount Rushmore. Like him, she never saw it coming.

  24. I exhibit a Socratic communication style, reveling in and valuing details. Heh. Like you needed me to tell you that by now.

  25. I would like to play drums for a Broadway (or off-Broadway (or touring)) production someday. So there.

6 May 2008

Ampersands in Query Strings, Begone!

Why hello there! Yes, I was off the blog radar for a little over a year. We'll chat about it sometime. (I've been microblogging on Twitter though. 's fun.)

Speaking of Twitter, John Gruber just pointed out "W3C's long-ignored suggestion to use ';' instead of '&' as [an] argument separator in URLs (because '&' causes so many problems when not escaped)."

It brought back memories of my first year at AT&T Bell Labs in 1995, when I tried to promote usage of semicolons. It never took hold. Third party design agencies pretty much laughed that recommendation right off the stage.

(Y'know ... I think the last time I was laughed at that much was when I gave a fifth grade presentation on the metric system. Grade schoolers can be so very cruel, I know.)

Anyway, John, this one's for you and all those with the audacity to hope for semicolons in their query strings.

# Replace ampersands in QS with semicolons
# Add as first two rules in .htaccess or httpd.conf

RewriteEngine On

RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} ^([^\&]+)\&(.+)$
RewriteRule ^(.+)$ $1?%1;%2 [E=amp:y,N]
RewriteCond %{ENV:amp} y
RewriteRule ^(.+)$ /$1 [R=permanent,NE]

For the uninitiated, here's how it works. First, the RewriteEngine must be On, so that's a given. Then we have two Rewrite Condition/Rule pairs.

The first pair looks for an ampersand in the query string. If found, we rewrite using a semicolon. (%1 and %2 refer back to the query string portions found before/after the ampersand.) We also set a variable "amp" to mark that we've encountered an ampersand, and then we repeat rule processing from the start (N).

For the second pair, what we're aiming for is a single permanent redirect (since we're swapping out one ampersand at a time). That's where the "amp" variable comes in. If it's set, we must have cleared the first Cond/Rule pair, so we now permanently redirect. No encoding (NE), please. That's it!

Consider it a first pass. I realize there are some boundary conditions I'm not taking care of yet, like leading and trailing ampersands in the QS, not to mention catching & amp; outright. (Mmm-hmm, ever try cutting-and-pasting a malformed link?)

Also, yes I know this blog presently uses ampersands ... and what about the server side? Will it treat those semicolons properly? (Can yours truly be redeemed, or has he painted himself into a corner? Stay tuned!)

For now, the above seems to work quite nicely on my Apache 2.x installation. Feedback most welcome. Don't be shy now.

Lest I forget, my sincere thanks to @gruber for singlehandedly waking me up from my over one year-long blogger hibernation. Let's see if I stay awake this time.

Update: I just noticed my last blog post also concerned query strings! Wow, what are the odds?

25 March 2007

Query String Removal Helpful?

Those of you in Search Engine Optimization circles have no doubt read the article about a recent Search Engine Watch Case Study ... or perhaps you read the article about the case study ... or the Digg comments about the article about the case study.

The case study, titled "Remapping Dynamic URLs to Static URLs can Increase Traffic", describes what happened when PlumberSurplus.com rewrote all the links on their site, in particular the sitewide removal of the query string (the part after the question mark).

For instance, this Bathroom Faucets link (and others like it):

http://www.plumbersurplus.com/category.aspx?Cat=991

Was rewritten and permanently redirected to:

http://www.plumbersurplus.com/Cat/Bathroom-Faucets/991

What happened next? "Within two months, rankings began to improve, and the number of indexed pages began to increase." Who-hoo!

I'm somewhat hesitant, however, to jump to conclusions about the query string removal (the "remapping of dynamic to static URLs") being the cause celebre here. Consider:

Note that Plumber Surplus did undertake other SEO activities during this timeframe, so it's hard to credit all the search engine ranking and indexing improvements to this change alone.

In fact, one of those changes is staring us right in the face ... and I say it was this other change, not the query string removal, that had the greater effect.

Continue reading "Query String Removal Helpful?" »

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