The Bee Gees/Kraftwerk connection… courtesy of Mattel

This is certainly old news, but it’s still news to me.

I’ve been on a big Kraftwerk kick lately, having recently purchased all of their old albums and featured them frequently on my Hall of Prog blog.

I noticed, in the video for “Pocket Calculator” (below), that Ralf is playing a humorously tiny keyboard instrument. But what I didn’t know until I was reading about the album on Wikipedia was the exact identity of the keyboard.

The keyboard is, in fact, a “Bee Gees” branded toy made by Mattel:

Mattel Bee Gees Rhythm Machine

Sweet. You can read more about it here. And, just in case you were doubting that it’s really the instrument used by Kraftwerk, here’s a video of someone playing the melody from “Pocket Calculator” on one. Any Kraftwerk fan will instantly recognize the sound.

Nu Shooz

Anyone who’s known me offline for any length of time is probably aware of my affinity for Converse All-Stars, better known as “Chuck Taylors” or simply “Chucks”.

I’ve worn them more than any other kind of shoe since I was in high school, and although I had briefly moved away from them in favor of Vans a couple of years ago, it wasn’t long before Chuck beckoned me back.

Lately I’ve been wearing a pair of chocolate brown lowtops, but tonight I was at DSW and discovered a new pair that I immediately fell in love with. I’ve generally stayed with the more “traditional” solid-color designs, avoiding the plaid, camouflage, double-layer and other styles that have more recently appeared. This pair is the first I’ve ever owned that display any deviation from the original style, but I just thought the bronze-ish eyelet rings and gold stitching were too cool, and looked great with the faded black canvas. So I bought them, even though Chucks are now obscenely overpriced. (I remember when they never sold for more than $20, and routinely went for $10, and back then they were made in the USA! Tonight I paid 50 bucks for this pair made in China.) I suppose if I were really true to my ideals I’d have gone for these, especially since they’re currently selling for half the price! Unfortunately they’re clearing these out, and the only ones they have left are also half my size… so, I guess not.

Oh, and just in case you thought I’d neglect to expound upon the reference in the title, think again! (Also, be sure to give a shout if you recognize the coffee cup in the photo…)

New WordPress plugin: RegisTrap

<em>Regis</em> Trap? Not quite.

Regis Trap? Not quite.

As I have trumpeted from the hilltops on many an occasion, I have happily been using WordPress to power this site going on two years now.

Mostly happily, anyway. There are a few things that don’t sit right with me, most prominently the persistence of spambot registrations, with little (good) help so far from the plugin development community.

What are spambot registrations, you ask? Well, blogs tend to have two doors that are open to spambots: comment forms and registration forms. Comment forms are certainly more common (since just about every blog accepts comments but most probably do not accept new user registrations), and much has been done to deal with the problem of comment spam. Most notably there is WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg’s own excellent comment spam blocking plugin, Akismet. But no comparable plugin exists for the WordPress registration form, and despite many requests from the community, Akismet has not yet been adapted for this purpose. Probably since registration spam is so far only a nuisance (albeit a potentially large one for the site administrator), it has not gotten the same kind of attention.

I did manage to find a few plugins to block registration spam, but most were half-baked, and the one I did end up using for a while, which clearly has been given a lot of attention by its developer, just seemed to be overkill to me. And while it did work to prevent spam registrations for the month or so that I used it, it also prevented my legitimate, registered users from logging in!

So a few days ago I turned it off, and within hours I was receiving spam registrations again. That’s when I decided to build my own spambot registration blocking plugin for WordPress: RegisTrap. The focus is on absolute simplicity: there are no visible changes to the registration form for users, and there’s no configuration for the site admin… just upload it, activate it, and you’re done.

I’ll admit mine is probably half-baked as well, but it’s only at version 0.3 so far. I may eventually need to add an administrative tool to allow the site owner to make changes if bots start to adapt to the default settings — I don’t really know how smart bots are. But I do know that I’ve had RegisTrap running on my own site for a couple of days now, definitely long enough to be able to determine whether or not it’s working, and since I installed it there has not been a single spambot registration on my site.

If you run a WordPress site, give RegisTrap a try!

Yet another redesign

Yes, it’s another in the long, unending series of new site redesigns. Now I’m going for a retro ’50s look, somewhat reminiscent of the Blue Note album covers of the late ’50s and early ’60s by graphic artist Reid Miles.

The layout still needs some tweaks… a few visual elements are a little wonky and/or bland, some images with transparent backgrounds need to be re-matted, a few stylesheet elements are still set up for the old layout, and a few pages aren’t filling the window like they should (still don’t know what that’s all about).

Anyway, a new look. Enjoy. Or not.