Two decades of confusion

Today, August 7th 2021, Confusion is 20 years old. While the domain has been registered for a bit longer the oldest blog post is from August 7th []. That post, and several that follow are protected, you’ll need a password to access them.

As Confusion turns the big two-oh, it has :

  • 954 posts (not counting this one), a little less than 1 post a week, though to be honest the posting frequency was much higher at the beginning, was really low for a while over the past few years and is maybe more stable now days at about 1 a week.
  • 307 comments – never my strong point, last comment was in 2014, no one reads my blog, boo hoo. I predate the rise if micro-blogging and social media. Most people who might interact with me get their updates via social media not the wild west of personal hosted blogs.

I setup Confusion as a way to keep in touch with my college friends as I headed off to Europe to finish my studies and take my own grand tour []. In the beginning, the site, and each journal post was hand coded. But that didn’t even last a month before I changed to using LiveJournal [] in late August 2001 (post about it here []. Using LiveJournal allowed people to comment on posts. There was also a forum in the beginning where we discussed the news and school… but that faded quickly. Comments on posts lasted a little longer but eventually the void stopped screaming back.

I switched from writing on LiveJournal and pulling the posts into Confusion a year later, hosting my own installation of Moveable Type [] from October 2002 (post here []). Before finally, for now at least, moving to WordPress [] sometime in 2005 (no post about the migration).

There are also 172 broken links, a side effect of being on the web 20 years. Because while the Internet never forgets [], it’s violent seething abyss of change; sites come and go, sites re-organize there content and sites prune old content. Even many links that work actually go to dead ends, the content is gone but the site doesn’t even give a 404, just redirects to the home page, search results or something else. Broken links are the price of longevity on the Internet.

I have blogged through a lot in the past two decades, sometimes saying a lot, and sometimes not much more than a title…

  • September 11th [].
  • The subsequent march [] to war []. “America’s forever war” as it’s been called, which is also 20 years old, the news tells me Biden is going to bring to an imminent end to it but we’ve heard that before from others. I won’t hold my breath to see if my blog actually outlives that war.
  • My adventures [] in Europe, as well as some of my misadventures [] in Europe.
  • Finding [], and quickly leaving [] my first post-college job, to join one of my pre-Europe adventure co-workers at a startup [] the would lead me to Singapore.
  • The (second) American invasion in Iraq [confusion], and too many other times to link… I never had as much to say about Afghanistan, it was not the moral controversy that Iraq was. Or maybe, by the time it became a big a moral black hole I was too tired of it, I think most people were, and are. How much to we let bad things happen just because we are too tired or distracted to speak out? Maybe I’m just too old, protests are a young persons game.
  • The (second) Space Shuttle explosion [] and here [].
  • Relocation to Singapore [] – interesting aside, I mentioned Singapore in my post on Bush’s march to war linked above, never imagining I would end up here…
  • Marriage [].
  • Home ownership [].
  • The birth of my first child [].
  • The birth of my second child [].
  • And many other things besides…

I have no plans to stop blogging despite the lack of audience interaction, (or maybe just the lack of audience). The world has moved on but Confusion is still my tiny corner of the Internet and I will continue to fill it with dull personal commentary with a side order of self-importance [].


Thematic cleaning

It should be obvious to anyone familiar with the site giving it even a passing glance from today that the theme has been changed. I switched to the default WordPress “Twenty Twenty” theme. I added bunch of custom CSS to override the theme and make it look more like confusion has looked for the past 14 years or so…

Why? Well, I’ve been running on a home grown theme that grew as a hack of the original default theme, ether known as Michael Heilemann’s “Kubrick” theme. But it was a mess of legacy crap; HTML that predated XHTML, then was XHTML, then no one gave a shit about XHTML anymore so I stopped making sure changes validated, CSS that started with CSS1, passed right over CSS2 as far as I remember and had some CSS3, oh, JavaScript, early jquery libraries!

I was tinkering with it lately and just decided it needed a complete rewrite. I had about 500 lines of CSS and when I looked at the Twenty Twenty theme they have ten times that. Providing responsive layout and handling all the layout code generated by various Gutenberg blocks. Besides the CSS there are hundreds of lines of PHP and HTML in various template files, way more files than are in the old Confusion theme. It would be a lot of work to start from scratch, it might be fun, but it would also take me ages given the priority I assign to managing this site. So better off trying to use a ready made them.

But, I will miss the layout, the simplicity, of the old Confusion theme. I used the Custom CSS feature to skin the Twenty Twenty theme to resemble the old Confusion theme, but there is still a long way between the two. There are also a ton of things that must be broken. I hope I can work through those in the next few weeks. Ah, debugging in production! Wish me luck.

colophon technical

Achievement unlocked: Padlock

The COVID19 lockdown here in Singapore gave me some time to dig into an issue that has been bugging me about for a while. Since before browsers started indicating sites which don’t use HTTPS it’s been in my to-do list. I looked into it when I first moved the site to AWS but didn’t get it done. So the other day I sat down and figured it out. Wasn’t that hard. I originally thought I would put the SSL on a Elastic Load Balancer on AWS but given that you have to pay for the ELB and this site hardly justifies any infra based on visits… I decided not to worry about the fact that my first try didn’t work and I kept digging into ways to enable HTTPS on the site. In the end I found [] which is dedicated to helping sites move to HTTPS.

I stumbled again trying to follow their simple instructions because their automated tool, certbot [] from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, didn’t know what to do on a Amazon Linux 2 box. It told me I would need to install all the dependencies and such myself and directed me to documentation which was a dead link… (see here: [], nice 404). So… back to Google, or actually DuckDuckGo [] in my case. And after a few permutations of terms I found this tutorial on AWS: Configure SSL on Amazon Linux 2 []. And that worked like a charm.

But still, no padlock…

Screenshot of Chrome address bar showing with "Not Secure" indicator.
HTTPS but no padlock

Lucky Let’s Encrypt directs you to SSL labs‘ [] SSL Server Test page where you can check on your site. A few minutes later the problems were listed on the report page. A couple of hard failures where I was loading things from other sites over HTTP, font libraries from Google. and a bunch of soft failures related to old images what were linked with HTTP not HTTPS. A quick edit of the site header page fixed the Google font libraries link and a quick search and replace on old posts, using the Search Regex plugin (which I installed long ago to fix some other things) and viola! Achievement unlocked, site locked:

Screenshot of Chrome address bar showing with secure indicator icon - a locked padlock.
Shiny new padlock

License Update

I have updated the License for all the content on this site to the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported [] license. Have fun.


Confusion Icon

I don’t know if I like it, don’t know if I’ll keep it but I made a site icon. All the important and well read bloggers have one so I guess I should too. Even if no one in the world actually reads this blog on a regular basis. Since I started closing comments after 14 days I rarely ever get comments—seems it really was just the Nigerians and knock-off V1agr@ guys who gave love to my site. So sad. Anyway, if anyone does happen to read this while they can still comment let me know what you think of the icon!

P.S. I made the logo with a little help from the Web 2.0 style buttons [] tutorial over at IRIS Design.

2021.08.01: The “web 2.0 style buttons” links is dead. Redirects to a different site with no such content.