The nightmare that is Disqus export, and import into WordPress

Sorry for the relative quiet the past few days. I have taken it upon myself to try to help Jen McCreight port all her Disqus comments back into a format WordPress can work with, so that she can complete her migration and be one of our happy neighbors. The problem is relatively convoluted, though. First, it appears that my Disqus export file is not in any format that any existing WordPress plugins know how to deal with. Second, it appears that attempting to sync the Disqus database against a temporary WordPress install just caused Disqus to break, deciding to no longer show any comments on any existing threads.

The problem now involves mapping what Disqus thought each post name would be, with the actual post name on the WordPress database. I’ve gotten most of the problems sorted out, with a few exceptions that simply don’t appear anywhere on the database in any form. There’s a distinct possibility that when I start importing these comments, it’s going to rearrange some of them onto similarly named posts. I’m doing my best to avoid that sort of situation, but I only have so much foresight. At least I’m down to about 300 unidentified comments, which isn’t bad at all.

The next thing I have to do is figure out a way to map child comments to their parents and preserve threading. What… a… mess. Disqus has basically made sure that once you’re on their service, you’re not leaving. Fair warning.

So, my personal non-work time will be mostly spent ignoring the world and hacking away at this XML file until I can import it into WordPress and save the roughly 37,000 comments that have been saved only on Disqus and never to Jen’s Blogger database. And I’m mostly doing this because Disqus should have made this easy by using the generic WXR format, but they haven’t, they went with their own schema. I’m out to prove this kind of import can be done. It’s personal now.

Share your Disqus horror stories, or WordPress database-hacking stories here. Who knows? Maybe you’ll have a solution I haven’t thought of.

Linux Pirattitude!

Today be Interrrrnational Talk like a Pirate Day. Yaaarrrrr! As be th’ norm fer this blog, I must post a little nonsense t’ mark th’ occasion. If ye’re usin’ Linux, th’ easiest way t’ convert a chunk o’ text into somethin’ respectable be t’ use th’ pirate filter. On Ubuntu (and prrrrrobably other Debian-based distrrrros), do th’ followin’ or walk the plank:

sudo apt-get install filters

Open a terminal then run:


Paste a chunk o’ text into th’ terminal, and it will echo yer text as filtered through enough grog t’ waylay Blackbeard himself.

If you already have a chunk of text in a file, do the following:

cat textfile.txt | /usr/games/pirate > walktheplank.txt

Previous Talk like a Pirate posts:

Other FtB bloggers who won’t be made to walk the plank:

Get on it, me hearties! Post yer piratey entries now or we’ll chum the waters with yer entrails! Yarr!

To prove my blogging chops

Have been told today that I’m a good blogger by both Stephanie Zvan and Greta Christina. In defiance, I will now post Youtube videos of turtles.

Yes, the second one’s a tortoise. That’s the kind of attention to detail I’m talkin’ about!

Also, two anonymous shout-outs. To the girl working the drive-through at the Dairy Queen, keep smiling. Your smile makes me smile. And to the emo tween chickie that pulled up next to me, the correct orientation for sitting in the passenger seat of a car is not, in fact, facing the trunk cross-legged.

Which is a better political bludgeon: HPV vaccines, or cancer?

Via Greg Laden elsewhere on FtB:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Michelle Bachmann has fired the footgun in a big way while attempting to take aim at Rick Perry in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, by claiming that the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation. Knowing full well that the Human Papiloma Virus vaccine is a controversial issue amongst evangelical conservatives and others who feel that protecting people from STDs will encourage promiscuity, Bachmann was evidently hoping to score rhetorical points against Perry for having made this order by recounting an anecdote wherein a mother approached her after a rally telling her this story. The attempt has backfired spectacularly.

A bioethicist has offered Bachmann $10000 if she can show a single person having developed mental retardation after receiving the vaccine. Personally, I’d just like some proof that the mother Bachmann mentioned actually exists and actually told her this story, or if Bachmann’s misremembering some Jenny McCarthy nonsense about autism and framing it as though it happened first-hand.

Meanwhile cervical cancer, caused in almost every case by HPV, is the twelfth most common type of cancer, and fifth most deadly in women. It affects 16 per 100,000 women per year, and kills 9 per 100,000 per year. The HPV vaccine is effective against two of the most prevalent strains of the virus, making up 70% of all cases. This would reduce mortality and morbidity to this disease significantly, and it costs almost nothing compared to treating women who have suffered from the disease.

That is not to mention the stunning talent this world loses every day to the disease. Talent like Stephanie Zvan, a co-blogger here at Freethought Blogs and close friend, without whose presence my life would be significantly poorer. She takes Bachmann to task for her emotional manipulation, providing herself as an example of a real person whose life might not have been in such jeopardy, who might not have had to endure such “helpful violence” as she was forced to endure, with the HPV vaccine.

To be quite frank, I hope this scuttles Mayor Crazy of Crazytown’s presidential bid.

Astrology’s “obstetrician strawman” is no strawman

So, one among the dozens of ridiculous claims made by Ed Kohout in this thread was that the claim famously posited by Carl Sagan in Demon Haunted World, that the obstetrician in the room imparts more gravitational force on a newborn baby than does Pluto, is a strawman. Edit: To clarify, he referred to gravitational and tidal forces as proof that the planets have an effect on human lives (which we, of course, understand and can measure!), and handwaved away the Sagan quote preemptively as though it was a strawman caricature of the actual astrological arguments about gravity (which he didn’t, by the way, expand on). This strikes me as a bit of a Courtier’s Reply, and the fact is, the argument about gravity actually knocks gravity out as a potential vehicle for whatever influences are claimed about the planets’ influences — especially given that these influences are purportedly equally strong/subtle for any of the planets. The Sagan quote about Pluto’s gravity being less than the obstetrician’s is a sound-bite form of a knockout argument for one of the four fundamental forces.

Well, Ed said Jupiter instead, but I’m willing to crunch some numbers to see how right he is. For these calculations, since I’m no math genius, I’m using this Newtonian gravity equation calculator. Yeah, yeah, Newtonian physics have been superceded by relativity, but I’m not about to try to calculate this out using relativity, that would be ridiculous. Newtonian physics hold in this case anyway.

I’ve expanded out all the numbers from scientific notation to straight digits. Average baby weight is 3.4kg, so let’s go with that. As some commenters helpfully point out, this assumes the force from the center of a spherical mass, so assume a spherical baby and a spherical obstetrician. Because gravitational calculations are wibbly with oddly-shaped objects.

Jupiter at closest approach to Earth, weight rounded up:

object 1 mass (m1) = 3.4 kilogram
object 2 mass (m2) = 1900000000000000000000000000 kilogram
distance between objects (r) = 628743036 kilometer

gravitational force (F) = 0.000001090388427237 newton

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The packaging and selling of doubt about scientific knowledge

DOUBT from The Climate Reality Project on Vimeo.

Once the folks peddling the products we discovered to be dangerous realized they didn’t need to actually DISPROVE the science, but to rather generate UNFOUNDED DOUBT about it, that’s when we started losing ground in defending reality against vested interests.

Pardon the pingback spam.

To mitigate the effects of all the pingbacks I’m generating as I go through my archives and update image links to the new host, I’ve implemented a widget on the sidebar to show the last 20 comments. The REAL comments were scrolling off the tabbed Recent Comments widget too quickly with all the pingbacks I was generating.

I’d turn off those pingbacks, but first, I’d never remember to do it every edit, and second, I figure this also has a utility function of advertising two of my older posts every time one is generated. That can’t be a bad thing, as far as I’m concerned. Now that I’ve got a whole new audience, I’m sure my older stuff is new to SOMEONE.

What is an ad hominem? What isn’t?

It seems as though, in pretty much every argument I’ve ever had, at some point or another someone mistakes what an “ad hominem attack” or the “ad hominem fallacy” really is. It’s a pretty easy way to score rhetorical points, shouting about your opponents using ad hominems when really they’re just insulting you, usually in parallel to making an argument. It’s less easy to score said rhetorical points when someone else in the conversation actually knows the difference and is willing to point that difference out. This post is intended to be a go-to reference any time someone makes this mistake, so please, by all means, link it whenever necessary.
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Christian bookstore boycotts Action Comics because Superman said “gd”

Not “God Damn”. Not even “GD”, an abbreviation of “God Damn.” Supes got hit by a tank and made an onomatopoeic “gd” noise on this page from Grant Morrison’s Action Comics reboot. Action Comics, you’ll remember, is the catch-all DC series where Superman, a character created by a Canadian Jew and a Chicagoan Jew, was first debuted. Superman quickly became the icon for all that is good and Godly in America, proving that to be a good Christian American, you have to take orders from a Canadian Jew (amirite?).

A comics store in North Carolina called The Comic Conspiracy, run by an evidently dedicated Christian, opted to boycott not only the Action Comics line but any work by Grant Morrison as a result of this particular comic. When confronted on their Facebook page over this ridiculous but well-within-their-rights business decision, the proprietor decided to double down, and to avoid carrying any comic deemed to have “adult content”.
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The right to choose your end?

I’m still in the middle of something very much akin to a work hangover, having worked seven days in a row, the last five being twelve-plus-hours. Yesterday was to be a day off, but I ended up having to go in to deal with a server room cooling crisis. And today I have some corporate visitors to meet. So, my blogging has been less than timely, and I’ve had to husband my personal time carefully. It should come as no surprise that Ophelia Benson caught this editorial long before I did, and blogged about it before I could.

From the Globe and Mail:

Time and again, opinion polls show a large majority of Canadians support the idea that the terminally ill should be able to decide when and how they die. They believe that competent adults in unbearable pain, suffering from an illness that will never improve, have the right to die with dignity.

And yet the Canadian government is no closer to resolving how – or if – to reform the law against euthanasia; no politician is brave enough to champion such a contentious cause, or even to launch a national debate probing public opinion.

The issue remains divisive and morally fraught. Critics of euthanasia, including some Christian groups and advocates for the disabled, fear it could lead to “mercy” killings of the vulnerable and the elderly.

As baby boomers age, experts believe they will lobby for a change to the section of the Criminal Code that makes euthanasia illegal (and punishable by up to 14 years in prison), in the same way they advocated for the legalization of same-sex marriage, and for other momentous social changes.

With protections, as advocated in the editorial, winning the right to choose when to die is no more inhumane than signing a “do not resuscitate” order when you know your time is waning. As long as you’re medically competent, as long as the medical science can do nothing to staunch the pain you’ll endure through the remainder of your life, the calculus behind deciding whether to choose to end your life before having to endure such agony may well come out in favor of suicide. If there’s absolutely nothing a doctor can do outside of drugging you out of your head for the rest of your life, that may not be a dignified way to end your existence. And if that’s the case, you should have the right to a less painful and more dignified end, under controlled circumstances with a trained professional assisting you in ending your life as humanely as possible.

I would require a significant amount of proof that this termination was done at the patient’s request, mind you. And a full autopsy should be done to determine that the patient actually died of the cocktail of drugs administered to end their life, so as to keep various shady dealings from going on, e.g. accidental death being written off as a requested suicide to prevent malpractice or to commit some sort of murderous fraud. The Dutch law this proposal is modeled after has a six part test, of which “express request” is the first part. Another is a “lasting desire to die”, meaning this isn’t some flash-in-the-pan request made out of temporary anguish. It also requires counselling as to options and other hoops. This is an acceptable burden, to me, to win the right to choose when and how to die with medical assistance.

What are your thoughts on this? Are there any good (e.g. non-religious) reasons to keep euthanasia illegal here in Canada, one of the otherwise most progressive countries in the world? (Never mind Harper and his, among other things, climate denialism for the moment.)