I’m looking for a membership plugin that will do these things:

I’m looking for a free or relatively inexpensive WordPress plugin that will allow me to lock down certain categories of posts to specific registered users, on a per user basis, while leaving others unlocked and available to viewing by anyone who visits the site.

To help explain what I’m looking for, consider the following chart:

Figure 1

For the sake of simplicity, say I only have four catagories of posts declared in the backend, plus one category for general or “uncategorized” posts. (You might also say that, with the addition of the “uncategorized” category, I actually have five categories. You say tomato, I say tomato.)

Any posts that I have posted in the default, or uncategorized, category I’d apparently didn’t feel strongly enough to limit who may view and comment on, so in the chart above, you’ll notice it’s available for the general public, as well as all of my registered users whom are logged in when they visit.

I have a category for food, which includes my observations on restaurants I frequent, photos of meals I’ve had, recipes and anything gastronomic. The likelihood of offending anyone with my views and BBQ and beer are pretty unlikely, so again, anyone viewing the site may view those posts, even registered users whom are logged in.

Next, I have a category for my research in genealogy. Let’s say that the research I post in this category have information about family members who are still living, so I might include personal information that I want to limit whom I share these posts. Let’s say that Andrew, Cindy and David are family members, while Bob is a genealogist whom I collaborate. All four of these people would want to be able to view my posts in this category, as well as have the ability to view my posts on food and those uncategorized. Anyone who is not a registered user, as well as any registered user, such as Erica, who do not fall into this subset may not view these posts.

I also have a category for my political opinions. Because no one likes to be flamed, I’ve closed this category to any unregistered viewer, as well as any registered user I have not granted access. In this example, of the three family members who are registered users (Andrew, Cindy, and David) Andrew is a avowed socialist, and I’m tired of his rants about the one percenters and how Bernie Sanders is the only candidate he can vote for. Cindy & David, however, in addition to being family, are also closer to my views on politics, so I’ve allowed them to read my posts on the subject. Also, Erica, a friend from work who agrees with my politics, is also able to view these posts.

Finally, I have a category for the discussion of faith and religion. I’ve closed this category to the general public, and only Bob and David are allowed to read these posts.

Hopefully, this has demonstrated how I’d like the plugin to perform. If anyone knows of a good plugin that will accomplish these things, please leave a comment below with the plugin title.

My list of preferred Austin restaurants

A friend has family visiting Austin next month, and has asked me to provide a list of area restaurants that I prefer, so here goes!

I’ll try to include primarily locally owned restaurants, although a few are national or regional chains, albeit with local roots. I’ll also try to include only those restaurants where I’ve actually eaten, although there may be a couple that are still on my to-do list.

  1. Franklin Barbeque – Without question my number one choice. And it’s “Franklin Barbeque”, not “Franklin’s Barbeque”. Listed by Bon Appétit Magazine as one of the world’s most important restaurants, it opens each day, except Mondays, at 11:00am, and by noon they’re sold out. Lines begin forming at about 8:30am, and can sometimes go around the block. Don’t worry, though, about an hour before they open, an employee begins walking back through the line and learns what you plan to order, (Hint: Say, “A little of everything”), and they can also bring out a cold beer or two to help bide the time. It’s not a bad idea to bring lawn chairs, though. Trust me, any standing around and waiting is well worth it!
  2. Frank – Again, just “Frank”, not “Frank’s”. (What is it with Austin and possessive nouns?!) Purveyors of artisan hot dogs and cold beer, with the occasional live music thrown in. Parking downtown is horrendous, though.
  3. Annie’s Café and Bar – I don’t know how trendy or historic this nice little restaurant downtown is, I only know I stumbled upon it one night waiting to enjoy jazz at the nearby Elephant Room. Very nice atmosphere and food.
  4. Threadgill’s – 24 hour Southern comfort food. Go to the original on Lamar Street… That’s the one where Janus Joplin used to perform, before she’d go on be famous.
  5. Matt’s El Rancho – Family owned for over 50 years in South Austin, Matt’s El Rancho is a must stop if you’re in Austin.
  6. Manuel’s – Definitely not TexMex! High cuisine Mexican food.
  7. Torchy’s Tacos – Austin has this thing about tacos, I’m not sure what it is, but this former food truck chef has gone on to open up at several locations, all of them damn good!
  8. French Quarter Grill – One of my personal favorites, a nice, little family owned restaurant specializing in étouffée, gumbo, and many more dishes you’d find in New Orleans’ French Quarter.
  9. Kerbey Lane Café – a 24-hour diner that started by catering mainly to UT students, you guessed it… on Kerbey Lane. I’m excited that they’re about to start construction on a new location a few blocks from my apartment, but for now, the one on Guadalupe Street is probably my favorite. Or, go to the original one on Kerbey Lane. For breakfast, have the migas and/or the pancakes… they’re awesome!
  10. P. Terry’s – P. Terry’s is a no-frills burger place, with high quality, mostly local ingredients. Think of it as an Austin In-n-Out, but arguably better, and with no lines around the block.
  11. Cajun Pizza Place – Offers pizzas with a distinctive Cajun flair, also fried shrimp po-boys, muffulettas, and authentic Cajun boudin. The owners are related to the owners of Pizza Village in Lafayette, Louisiana, the only pizza place I’ve been to where they frequently have waiting lists to be seated most nights. Ask for The Joe, which is pepperoni, Canadian bacon, sausage, hamburger, and shrimp at the Pizza Village. At the Cajun Pizza Place, that’s the same as The Crusher, except you substitute shrimp for the jalapenos.
  12. Chuy’s – Chuy’s is a national TexMex chain with headquarters in Austin. There are more tradition TexMex restaurants out there, but Chuy’s is a place I prefer, possibly because of the kitschy atmosphere.
  13. Freebirds – Started in California, Freebirds is a nice place to get a burrito, and in my opinion, better than Chipotle. Better tasting, better atmosphere, and slightly better politics.
  14. Chi’Lantro – Korean Mexican BBQ… let that sink in for a minute. Lines start forming when the truck rolls up.
  15. Café Java – This is a little bistro about a block away from where I live that I like to go to for the occasional breakfast, and I love their Cajun Grilled Chicken Sandwich.
  16. The Salt Lick – Before eating at Franklin, Salt Lick was my favorite BBQ.

Honorable mentions: Rudy’s, County Line, Bill Miller, Pok-e-Jo’s, and El Mercado. I understand Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew is also supposed to be very good, although I have not been there… yet!

I’m sure there are many more deserving to be on this list, some I’ve been to, some I haven’t, but consider this one man’s partial list of good places to eat while in Austin, Texas.

How to Get the Most Out of a Service Call

It happens to all of us: A product or service breaks down, a bill has an error, or something happens where a customer service and/or technical support person needs to get involved. Here are a few tips and tricks to get the most out of calling for help, the next time you need it, from someone who has been on the other end of the call. You can thank me later.

1. If it’s really urgent (as in your service is completely down), please call as soon as possible – Don’t wait until later to call, and then complain that your service has been down for an extended time.
2. Be where you can assist – If you’re having trouble with your service, don’t call from your cell phone on the opposite side of town.
3. Have something to write with – At the top, write down the date and time you begin the call, for your own records. When the agent calls, they should always identify themselves by name, or at least by some sort of unique ID… write that down! Over the course of the call, they may provide information that you might find useful… phone numbers, ticket numbers, etc. Write them down, as well.
4. Have your account information available – Specifically your account number.
5. Don’t begin the call with a deluge of information – At the onset, identify yourself by name, give them a brief description of the issue, when wait for them to prompt you for additional information.
6. Be sure they have a good callback number – A good representative will either verify the phone number you’re calling from or specifically ask for one, then if the call is dropped mid-conversation, they would be able to contact you again and continue.
7. Make certain you’re dealing with the right person – A Billing agent may not be able to troubleshoot your equipment like a Tech Support agent could. A Tech Support agent may not be able to help with a Sales issue. Be sure you’re talking to someone who can help with whatever the current issue is.
8. Don’t get upset – Harder to do than say, but raising your voice, belittling the agent or crying will not make the agent work any harder or magically be able to correct your issue. They will already be trying their best before any drama comes into play. In fact, becoming upset only makes the agent raise their emotional defenses and may actually work against you, because no one like to talk to another person who’s being belligerent and/or unreasonable.
9. Never use profanity – at best it’ll just make the agent start tuning you out, at worst they may be authorized to hang up on you after giving you a warning. The occasional slip of the tongue is usually overlooked, though.
10. Never threaten violence – Every call is recorded, and any and all caller information will be forwarded to the police in your area. You will be prosecuted.
11. Never threaten legal action – Once you threaten to sue the company, you’ll likely be immediately transferred to the legal office and the agent will, by policy, no longer be able to converse with you.

You may not believe it, but the vast majority of call center workers really do care and want to see your issues addressed to your satisfaction. There are a few that have either done it so long to or are so new that they haven’t gotten with the program, but those people will eventually self-terminate. Those of us who invest ourselves in providing a good service experience many times run the risk of having our feelings hurt because actually caring exposes us to the bad calls along with the good ones.

So, if I may add a #12 to the list, it’d be, “Remember the person on the other end of the call is human, too.”

wp_nav_menu does something I don’t care for

wp_nav_menu() is a function in WordPress that provides the code to display navigation menus on your blog. Being the OCD freak that I am, the function currently does something that drives me crazy.

Calling the function with a handful of links should yield code (in my opinion) that should look like this:

				<ul id="list_id" class="list_class" role="navigation">
					<li id="menu-item-id"><a href="http://wordpress.org/1/">Link 1</a></li>
					<li id="menu-item-id"><a href="http://wordpress.org/2/">Link 2</a></li>
					<li id="menu-item-id"><a href="http://wordpress.org/3/">Link 3</a></li>

Instead, it comes out looking like this:

				<ul id="list_id" class="list_class" role="navigation"><li id="menu-item-id"><a href="http://wordpress.org/1/">Link 1</a></li>
<li id="menu-item-id"><a href="http://wordpress.org/2/">Link 2</a></li>
<li id="menu-item-id"><a href="http://wordpress.org/3/">Link 3</a></li>

Notice that the first list item is immediately appended to the unordered list tag. Also, each subsequent line goes back to the first character of the new line, instead of being formatted in a manner consistent with readable code.

Now, I’d assume the function itself would have no way of knowing how many tabs or spaces precede it, so it wouldn’t be able to format it correctly, is that correct? I don’t know the answer, that’s why I’m asking the question. But at the very least, shouldn’t it insert a carriage return before the first line item?

Can you be a Christ-follower and a Republican at the same time?

A personal role-model, of sorts, of mine is Neil Peart, percussionist and writer of the progressive rock band, Rush. In a recent interview, he said:

“A realization I had lately: it is impossible to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and be a Republican. It’s philosophically absolutely opposed—if they could only think about what they were saying for a minute.” ~ Neil Peart on introverts, learning to improvise, and why people should be nicer to one another, Macleans, Monday, August 13, 2012

I disagree. Being a Christ-follower is how I choose to live my personal life… Being a Republican is how I choose to self-associate with like-minded others as we attempt to influence our government’s laws and policies.

Are there those in the GOP that aren’t as liberty-minded as I am? Of course there are! And if the party ever codifies it’s position papers to, say, make simply being a homosexual or living together illegal or seizing the assets of progressives, then I’m outta there! I’d like to see the party move in a more libertarian direction than it has been known to be, but I’m not going to start publicly castigating fellow party members when they start droning on and one when a candidate isn’t pro-life enough for them.

Ideally, I’d like to be part of the Libertarian Party, but that’s just not feasible at the moment. For one thing, many libertarians I know are incredulous at the dedication (or lack thereof) of other libertarians. It’s not a political party, in the traditional sense: Dedicated to getting candidates elected — it’s an idealogical movement: Where persons may be castigated if they are not ideologically pure enough. It becomes like herding cats — Each person taking individualism to the extreme.

Another reason is that they aren’t (at the moment) a large enough force to be reckoned with. Honestly, at the moment Libertarians (big L) are simply spoilers, ensuring that the party in the “two party system” whose ideas more closely match the Libertarian Party (which is the GOP) has votes siphoned off that would have otherwise gone to them, causing the other party (the Democrats) to win.

Who the Libertarian Party might become to the Republicans what the Republicans were to the Whigs is a topic for another discussion. I suppose what I’m saying is, a case could be made for Christians being in nearly any political party. I’d imagine that there are actually even Democrats who consider themselves to be Christian, although I don’t understand how they’d align themselves with the party. In the end, who am I to judge, either way?

Also, Peart is Canadian! Why would I expect him to understand American politics?! ;P

14 Things About Austin I’ve Learned from Living Here

In March, I will have lived in North Austin for two years. If you’ve ever lived or visited Austin, Texas, then you’ll know what I mean when I tell you it’s decidedly different from other large cities, even within Texas itself.

Here are 12 things I’ve learned while living here:

  1. Austin isn’t as nearly politically liberal or progressive as you’d might think – If I’ve heard that “Austin is the Berkeley of the South” once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. And while the Austin City Council is extremely liberal, and the area around the University of Texas and South of the river tend to be a little… “out there”, the further North you move, the more libertarian and conservative you find people. So far, the most “progressive” lunacy I’ve been forced to endure are the Austin paper and plastic bag ban, and the frequent trolling for money downtown and in Barton Creek by President Obama (and the subsequent traffic jams from shutting down traffic).
  2. Traffic and parking is terrible, nearly anywhere you go – I’m fortunate to live less than 2 miles from where I work, and a little over 5 miles from where I worship. Fortunate because, when I have to travel anywhere else, I’m guaranteed to find heavy traffic and frequent gridlock. I avoid downtown like the plague. If you visit here, either allow a lot of time to get where you’re going and/or avoid the major highways.
  3. There are some serious foodies here! – Particularly BBQ. The Austin-area is home to Franklin BBQ, The Salt Lick, County Line, Pok-e-Jo’s, Bill Miller and Rudy’s. As well, the nearby town of Lockhart is known as the “BBQ Capital of Texas”, with four BBQ pit restaurants, each with their own fierce proponents: Black’s, Chisholm Trail, Kreuz Market (pronounced ‘Krites’), and Smittys Market. And that’s just BBQ! Austin has lots of excellent restaurants (and food trucks) that prepare every conceivable type of food imaginable. Other notable restaurants/local chains include Chuy’s, Freebirds, Frank (Not Frank’s… Frank!), Kerbey Road Cafe, just to name a few.
  4. This is a fantastic place for small business and entrepreneurs, particularly tech – I think it may have started when Michael Dell began making computer systems out of room 2713 of the Dobie Center residential building when he was a student at the University of Texas.
  5. Austinites pride themselves on being different – The catch phrase de rigueur in Austin has been “Keep Austin Weird” for years, and although every passing day it becomes more and more like other large cities like Dallas, San Antonio and Houston, most residents still like to think and behave in, let’s just say, novel ways.
  6. Californians are moving here in droves, and that is not necessarily a good thing – Austin is expected to double in size in the next decade, and although people are moving to Texas from every other state in the union, Californians fleeing the overly taxed, overly regulated, imploding economy that is California (and that their politics brought about) prefer Austin because it is to Texas what Berkeley is to California. So, Californians bring three things to Texas: Traffic, increased housing prices and liberal politics.
  7. It’s pronounced “Man-chack” – There is a small town Southwest of Austin named Manchaca, and there is a road leading there named, appropriately, Manchaca Road. One would naturally be inclined to pronounce it “Man-chock-a”, but they’d be wrong. It’s pronounced “Man-chack”. Say it the wrong way and you’ll quickly be revealed as a newcomer.
  8. Lots of celebrities call Austin home – Or at least one of their homes.Nicolas Cage, Billy Bob Thornton, Willie Nelson, Sandra Bullock, Ryan Gosling, Robert Plant, Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, Matthew McConaughey, Lance Armstrong, Dan Rather, Mike Judge, Kyle Chandler, and Connie Britton are just some of the celebrities that call Austin home. And if you ever see one say, in Whole Foods or somewhere, do not make a big deal out of it!
  9. There are 1.5+ million bats here – I haven’t seen them at dusk, when they wake up and go hunting for flies, mosquitoes and other insects, but I know they live underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge and elsewhere. Each night, they devour 10,000 to 20,000 pounds of insects, making it safe to go outside nearly anytime and not be eaten up by those pesky mosquitoes. Austin is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America and one of the most unusual tourist attractions in the world.
  10. There are fans of the University of Texas Longhorns everywhere – Everywhere you’ll see burnt orange cloths and the longhorn symbol. Whatever you do, do not go to Plucker’s or any sport bar when there’s a UT football game on unless you’re joining the masses to cheer the team on.
  11. Everything is on an incline – Well, almost everything, but being near the edge of the Texas Hill Country, there are a lot of hills and valleys nearly everywhere you go.
  12. Everywhere you’ll look you’ll see stone and concrete walls surrounding fields of grass – Those are called “retention ponds” and they’re there to catch runoff rain water to prevent flooding. They could’ve built a sewer system, but noooo! I think it’s something to do with the soil, preventing them from building lower-level parking garages and such.
  13. Get ready to deal with panhandlers – They’re everywhere! Many of them, when you give them anything other than cash (a sandwich, socks, etc.) will scowl at you, proving that they feel they’re feeling entitled to your continuing to subsidize their addiction to alcohol and drugs. Never… nevernever give panhandlers money!
  14. Everyone eats breakfast tacos – What I would call a breakfast burrito, Austinites call breakfast tacos, and you can find them everywhere.

Austin is different from any other place I’ve ever lived, and it has a distinctive character that I really love. These are really just a few of the ones I’ve been able to identify and articulate.

John Stricklin’s Will


John Stricklin's WIll

I John Stricklin of the County of Hardin and State of Tennessee, planter, do make and publish this my last will and testament, hereby revoking and making void all former wills by me at any time heretofore made. And first I direct my body to be decently entered in a manner suitable to my condition in life, and as to such worldly estate as it hath pleased God to entrust me with I dispose of the same as follows. First I direct that all my debts and all my funeral expenses be paid as soon after my decease as possible out of any money I may die possessed of as may first come in the hands of my executors from any portion of my estate real or personal. Secondly I give and bequeath to my beloved wife Martha during her life the following property to wit my land containing fifty acres be the same more or less lying on the big branch a fork of Horse Creek with its buts and bounds together with all the household and kitchen furniture and all the farming utensils belonging to said plantation also one wagon and yoke of steers seventeen head of hogs one rifle gun one scythe [sic] and cradle and one set of blacksmith tools to have and to hold for her use and benefit during her natural life and at her death what is left to be equally divided between my two sons William C. Stricklin and Jesse Stricklin after paying one dollar to each of the other heirs to wit Thomas Stricklin, Jack?, John Stricklin, William B. Stricklin, Elizabeth Lance?, Dicia Dulea?, Martha Akins, Sally McCarn, Nancy Mills, Mary Stricklin, and Agatha Stricklin. I do hereby make ordain and appoint my beloved son William C. Stricklin Executor of my last will and testament. In witness whereof I John Stricklin the said testator have to this my will written on one sheet of paper set my hand and seal this 17th day of July in the year of our lord one thousand eight hundred and forty eight.

Zombies 101

One of my favorite television shows these days is definitely AMC’s The Walking Dead, and I haven’t generally been a fan of the whole “zombie” genre, although I really liked Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later… and I am Legend. With The Walking Dead, though, I’m not really sure the writers adhere to a certain set of rules regarding how zombies behave. So, I thought I’d write a set of guidelines on the subject. Enjoy!

Things zombies can do:

  1. Zombies can hear
  2. Zombies can smell
  3. Zombies can move… slowly
  4. Zombies can grab things using their hands (if they have hands)
  5. Zombies can bite (if Michonne hasn’t already removed their jaws)
  6. Zombies can growl
  7. Zombies can move their head and limbs normally

Things zombies cannot or do not do:

  1. Zombies don’t circulate blood
  2. Zombies don’t sleep
  3. Zombies don’t run
  4. Zombies don’t jump
  5. Zombies don’t swim
  6. Zombies don’t reason
  7. Zombies don’t get tired or rest
  8. Zombies don’t lay down or sit down
  9. Zombies can’t climb (stairs, slight inclines are okay)
  10. Zombies bodies don’t regenerate on a cellular level
  11. Zombies don’t communicate with each other
  12. Zombies don’t “play dead” or in any way misrepresent anything

Things I’m not sure if they can do or not:

  1. Can zombies see?
  2. Can zombies feel? (touch, not emotions)
  3. Do zombies salivate, chew and/or swallow?

All these observations lead me to these conclusions and questions:

  • There has to be some sort of low-level brain function, otherwise they could not move, smell, hear or know when to grab or bite.
  • If zombies can chew and swallow what they bite, then they must salivate and be able to digest their “food”. And if they’re able to digest food, then they would need to defecate and urinate. And since you don’t see stains on the fronts and backs or their clothes, I’d assume that they cannot salivate, chew, swallow or digest their food.
  • If they cannot do the most basic function of eating, they must simply be biting their victims and tearing their flesh and muscles, and then letting them fall away.
  • If they are able to swallow, but do not digest food, then their stomachs are becoming full. If that’s the case, would they still feed? What would happen if they did?
  • I maintain that the walker that bit Hershel violated rules 14, 15 and 19, so this is a case where the writers screwed up.
  • If their bodies don’t heal (rule 17), then eventually the flesh and muscles will decay, the ligaments holding the bones together will wear down and the body will fall apart. If that’s the case, their numbers will begin to dwindle after a few months (years?)
  • Rule 8 is critical. If zombies don’t circulate blood, how do they infect their victims? Also, when the body falls apart and the skull is simply laying there on the ground, will the brain continue to function, or will it shrivel up and die?
  • If everyone has the virus within them, does that mean that if Rick, say, simply died of non zombie-related causes, would he become a walker anyway? If that’s the case, why did it suddenly start happening now?

Other questions cross my mind when I’m watching The Walking Dead, like:

  • Even though it’s rural Georgia (presumably North of Atlanta), why doesn’t anyone think to go find a Walmart or a Sears somewhere? They’d have guns, ammo, clothes, medicine, tires and other car-repair equipment, building supplies and some non-perishable food.
  • If the group has been living in these conditions for months, wouldn’t the beards be longer? Wouldn’t the arm-pits and leg hair be longer? Wouldn’t they all be stinking? Presumably people’s teeth will be rotting out soon, because no one’s brushing their teeth.
  • What about women’s menstrual cycles? I know women survived for thousands of years without tampons and pads, but how would Maggie and the others deal with the problem?
  • If couples like Glenn and Maggie are having sex, are they considering what they’ll do if the woman becomes pregnant, or are they using condoms?
  • If the zombie apocalypse comes, and public utility workers either flee or turn, will the plumbing still work? I assume the electricity will not, but I’m not so sure about the water.
  • How did the group get inside the prison? Presumably the guards had the building locked down, wouldn’t you think?
  • Why don’t you hear more people praying or talking about God? This is Georgia, after all. Some people would be praying, others would be questioning why God would allow this to happen.
  • Where do people urinate and defecate? Especially inside the cell block? When the prisoners were in the kitchen they did their “business” in the refrigerator, but that may have been because there was no bathroom in the kitchen area. If the plumbing still works, then a bathroom would be preferable, but if it does, wouldn’t it have working sinks at least, allowing everyone to wash themselves?
  • I assume that, given the makeup of the groups, that no obese people, blind people, deaf people, mentally or physically-handicapped people or people with medical conditions that require medications (Type I Diabetes, asthmatics, people needing dialysis, etc.) haven’t survived. Neither have most children and teenagers.
  • Why doesn’t anyone listen to a radio? Surely there’s someone, somewhere, who’s trying to find out if there’s life elsewhere.
  • If you snapped a zombie’s neck, it wouldn’t “die”, but would it be able to walk?
  • Wouldn’t the second floor and above, or an island be the best places to be safe?

Yes, I know The Walking Dead is fictional and I’m supposed to suspend my disbelief, but stories should be cohesive and logical, to the best of their ability. That said, there aren’t a huge number of flaws in the show thus far.