November, 2007: 18 posts.
Today is catch-up and do stuff day.
First, enjoy some Sinfest!
Also, know that the truly twisted (and rarely safe for work) online comic Perry Bible Fellowship has a book coming out soon, with the enigmatic title The Trial of Colonel Sweeto and Other Stories: A Collection of The Comic Strips of The Perry Bible Fellowship: Check it out.
Also in the realm of online comics: this Wondermark — #338 made me laugh.
MAS blogged about a book: The Most Dangerous Places in the World. It sounds pretty good.
Leah’s in Palm Desert and has soft feet and is funny and photographs duckies, not necessarily in that order.
Kicking it old school I say… ONWARD.
So I have a problem with focus sometimes. My mind drifts thither and yon. I have a lot of interests, and it can be hard to stay on-task, at home, at work, anywhere. My “Misc” posts are all about that. Whatever’s in front of my nose and on my mind. But they lack depth.
I’m writing this in a program called JDarkroom, whose premise is this: in eliminating the “multitasking” aspect of working on a computer, one can spend all one’s energies on the writing. This is not a bad idea. Typically what I end up doing to find focus is to get up and walk around, or maybe have some more caffeine. Or simply to shut everything else down. Email, twitter, RSS, IM. These are intrusive technologies by their nature. Shutting them off has done wonders for me.
For a whole four minutes I’ve been writing in JDarkroom. Did it work?
No idea. I’ll check my email now.
Actually, no, I think I’ve said what I wanted to say with this post. I’ll be interested to see if JDarkroom can help me do longer-form writing. That’s where I have a harder time.
I had a great time at BarCamp LA. I missed Saturday but I went Sunday, I brought 60 pounds of ice, I brought 7-up, I brought grape soda, I saw and participated in presentations, I met people (few new, some old), I took photos, I twittered, other people took photos, I ate pizza, I went to Royal Clayton’s, ate Shepherd’s Pie, and shook the hand of Richard Stallman.
Full day. Here’s what I looked like after pizza. One cheese, One pesto and artichoke. I was full:
I hope to post more detailed notes at another time.
Here’s what Laura says:
Just a short note to let you know Juliette Alexandra Ross joined us on October 22 at 2:23 Paris time. She was a long and lean 19.5 inches, 6.5 pounds, and she’s been an angel from the second she arrived. We’re at home now and everyone’s doing well. Julien (big brother) and Caesar (loyal dog) are enamored of the new addition, as are of course Mom and Dad!
Big brother looks pretty great too.
I’m pleased with how things are arranged right now. Usually being content means I am blogging much more. So much wonderful stuff to say!
I’ve been pleasantly busy. This pleasantness has manifested itself in steady work, side projects finishing finally, and things at my dayjob going relatively well.
Herein I will try and communicate some datapoints which evidence some of this good feeling. Perhaps in expiating these exhibits we’ll actually find that my good feeling is unjustified. That would be quite something! Suppose a person has a generalized good feeling about the world, but when the circumstances of their life are detailed things are not so rosy. Actually, as I think about it I bet that’s quite common. Everything feels hunky dory, but things are really on the cusp of doom. It’s heartening to think that if that’s true, then the inverse state of being can be true as well. One can feel nothing but dread but in reality things are just fine, better than fine even! I think, actually that this is the more common feeling for me. The word I heard from a therapist several years ago was “catastrophisizing” — the tendency to make any event the basis for the feeling that only the worst can happen.
So what are the datapoints in my mind these days?
Last weekend I attended BarCamp LA 4, and had a terrific time. I talked about that before of course.
Last week I went and saw Blade Runner with my friend Chris Greazel. Chris and I have been friends for over twenty years, and Blade Runner is a huge part of our friendship. I remember him borrowing a videocassette copy of Blade Runner from our favorite short story teacher in High School and both of us being not quite sure where we’d watch it. We had to go to my grandparent’s house to watch it because neither his nor my parents had a VHS machine.
Blade Runner was stunning. The modifications to make this cut Ridley Scott’s “The Final Cut” were subtle and welcome. There’s still a bit with the Egyptian that feels wobbly, but the effects were beautiful as they ever were. Joanna Cassidy’s death scene is improved in a way that Chris scarcely noticed the changes. Sean Young is as beautiful as ever, and has terrific hairdos. I wonder if some of my appreciation for the photography in some of Bebe ads has to do with many of them having a neo-noir sensibility? The movie is dated in some ways of course, where are the cell phones, for example? Where is the internet? But Being made 25 years ago, how could it not be a product of its’ time?
A digression: cell phones in movies. A pet thing I’ve been noticing lately is in any older movie whose plot is based on information being known or unknown, or being able to alert authorities to get help — most of them simply fall over if one tries to consider their realism as contemporary movies. I think that the Bourne Movies handle cell phone ubiquity very well. Bourne Ultimatum featured text messages prominently at key plot points, for example.
A subdigression: I’ve ranted several times to people with whom I discuss movies lately that I think the Jason Bourne movies have taken over from James Bond movies in the realm of spy thrillers. I think James Bond, a cold war product if ever there was one, has become as quaintly baroque as tailfins on cars. He’s simply irrelevant. The truth of the matter is that a thriller set today is far too relentless, and the government agencies far too terrifying to take time out for the Required Sexy Scene With Bond Babe. Sure, the last Bond movie did a better job, but compared with the last Bourne movie, I think it was left wanting.
Next datapoint: on Saturday I bought an 80GB iPod. This was a $300 purchase (I also got a protective rubber housing and of course the State of California wants its’ sales tax). I’ve had it all of 3 days and it’s changed my aural life immensely. I’ve talked about my commute before; I’ve talked about my likings of music, audiobooks, and podcasts; but I’ve not talked about the technology involved.
I used to be a major mix-tape maker. Like, very major. My uncle taught me how to check the levels on an audio source and set counters and how to use the levels on a cassette deck to manipulate and simulate a crossfade a mix tape. So the arrangement of sound has mattered to me since I was about 13 years old.
Having nothing but a 1GB iPod required me to ruthlessly edit my music and Podcasts such that I would maximize the use of my iPod for both purposes. I would use the “Only Update Checked Items” feature of iPod synchronization to assure that I was using a balance of music I liked, and a good mix of music, plus the podcasts I had not yet listened to. I got into the habit of using iTunes’ “star” feature to set how much or little I liked songs, I assured that music had Genre set, and then I could use the very powerful “Smart Playlist” feature to get a mix of songs that were really good. I would vary the selection of music I added to my iPod sometimes based on different criteria. Sometimes I used “highly rated, least listened to;” and sometimes “highest rated, most recently added to library” and then other times by “highest rated, order by random.” I learned that how I set this up and how I rated things mattered a great deal. When I set all my Beck recordings and Devo recordings to all have at least one star, I ended up with much more Beck and Devo than I wanted. I love both artists, but there’s nothing worse in a mixtape than to have an artist be disproportionately represented. I can’t help but think of a playlist as a kind of mixtape.
Now, the iPod Classic I bought subverts this whole process entirely. I can have the whole damn library in my pocket now. I can listen to all my Zappa. I can have all my Talking Heads records, including the live recordings and obscura, in my ears in seconds. I don’t have 80 GB of music at this point, and it’s wonderful to have the freedom.
The funny thing I realized though, is I don’t want to put everything on it. In the past I think I’d gladly put every single thing in my iTunes library in it – spoken word, holiday songs, podcasts, videos, one off radio interviews. No, what I learned from my shuffle is that editing rocks. And so I am using criteria to assure that I have all the music I want, but I can leave the dross at home. I still have several weeks of music if I were to listen to it all, but I have a more representative mix of music I like.
The next datapoint in the cavalcade of good feeling is financial certainty. Invoices from my dayjob have been paid with a better and increased regularity. Over the past months it’s varied a great deal. Sometimes a NET-30 invoice would be paid 2 weeks earlier than NET-30, sometimes it would be arrive exactly at NET-30. This made it really hard to budget things like, oh, rent and bills! And sadly, we ended up bouncing checks a few times in the past months. I’m glad of the compensation to me as a contractor, but this kind of uncertainty and unpredictability was rather stressful. “Can we pay that bill? Should we send off that payment? We’ll have the payment for that invoice by then” — then when the due date rolls around, no check, then BLAMMO! the bank gets to charge us for the overdraft, as well as charge us for having a negative balance. Leah and I have spent hundreds of dollars on stupid fees like this this year. Some we’ve gotten reversed, but it certainly falls into the realm of “stupid tax.” Mostly our stupidity. But who wants to tell their landlord that they’re gonna be late? And our current landlord is one of those faceless management companies that basically has no interest in our problems. Our prior landlord would work with us when we were a little late, but the current one, no way. We’re getting caught up with all our debts, piece by piece, and there’s really no other word for it than “blessing” as far as I’m concerned.
Lastly (for this post) I’ve been enjoying work very much. A few weeks ago we released some code that was a rather epic project for me, the FreeStyle Leaderboards. It’s a very nice AJAX application that allows players of the game to vew the top 10,000 players for all the ranked categories. It’s a rather nifty implementation of YUI, and it’s not the last of my AJAXery. I have many ideas bubbling around in my head and I am looking forward to working on at work and perhaps even in weekend projects and experiments in the new year.
Yesterday I managed to write a post that was not: a single photo with a caption; a list of links; a random snippet of lyrics; a few words begging you off until I could really blog. Today, I have some links, but there are very many, and I hope to provide some context for each.
First up, with my slightly increasing free time, I have more time for random seeking out of interesting links. Some of the best I’ve found have been via a subdomain off reddit.com — the site is http://programming.reddit.com. I’m not a reddit member that I can remember. I also don’t participate in digg. Why? Just time I suppose.
The first piece of news that’s worth knowing is that Andy Baio of Waxy.org will be pursuing his blog full-time in the new year. I’ve been reading Waxy for a long time, and I wish him well in his new Post-Yahoo! and Post-Upcoming.org years!
Next up I have a pile of news about web and mobile development:
The SDK for Android Google Handset is out. The Android platform is darned interesting to me. The more I read about mobile, that is, “cell phones;” the more I think that it’s inevitable that more of what I do will end up on cell phones. I look forward to learning more about this.
Speaking of Mobile, did you know that the free web browser for mobile devices (it fits on my M500 Samsung mobile phome) Opera Mini 4 came out of beta? Well, it did, and it feels slightly faster, though by default the “start page” of the browser no longer has the field that shoots searches directly to Wikipedia, it does have a configurable search box. Power to you Opera! You’re a good egg!
Speaking of AJAX: There’s a nifty Google API for their search products called AjaxSearch. I look forward to a chance to use it on something public!
Problems like this are the reason I have embraced libraries for functionality like this. Let someone else sweat out the details between the browser versions. I just want to write code.
Speaking of writing code, Google released an API for Gmail that exposes its’ functionalities to GreaseMonkey. This kind of extensibility is wonderful, but it has me vexed because I have no idea what I’d change about what I build now to make them ready for GreaseMonkey. I intend to learn though.
Enough tech! Now, here are some fun cutenesses:
ze frank sings! “and somehow I get over it”
John Scalzi went to the Creation Museum and all I got was this (excellent) post on his blog: note: colorful language and excellent reportage. No time to read? Check out his photo slideshow as well. Really funny stuff.
Jon Armstrong is married to a stubborn, stubborn woman. And that’s funny.
Want to read me talk voluminously about tortilla snack food options? Read this. I love a good tortilla.
What I don’t necessarily love are disturbing and tentacled Orangina ads: here and here. NOTE: Disturbing and tentacled Orangina Ads are contained there. Please view responsibly. Also, the Oranginas I can get at lunchtime have high fructose corn syrup. Sad.
Now? Video time! Paul Rand on Design:
Whoa, we just veered back on-topic. Best to stop that! Let’s learn how to dress for success.
Speaking of success: History Channel. City Of The Future: Los Angeles 2106. It’s pretty darn cool. It feels rather more realistic than it would have in the past. I guess that’s normal for futuristic predictions.
That’s it for now! Onward!
Good Evening. I found your profile which you have posted in the Google. I got very good job offer for you. I am sending you the details. If you are interested to take this opportunity, kindly send your updated resume with contact details and two references so that I can submit you and put you on board. We deal directly with the client and this position is moving real fast.
Location : San Jose, CA.
Start date immediate
jQuery is really powerful. It also seems to be really heavy as a download, and I’ve not tweaked that, but the syntax is just “pretty” — I was IMing a bud about the syntax and he found it ugly as sin, but I think it’s really beautiful.
So at http://joecrawford.com/ there’s a simple little exercise. Everything is in the source for the page, only jQuery itself is in a separate file.
I find myself less pessimistic than I sometimes imagine I should be. When I started to write science fiction, the intelligent and informed position on humanity’s future was that it wasn’t going to have one at all. We’ve forgotten that a whole lot of smart people used to wake up every day thinking that that day could well be the day the world ended. So when I started writing what people saw as this grisly dystopian, punky science fiction, I actually felt that I was being wildly optimistic: “Hey, look — you do have a future. It’s kind of harsh, but here it is.” I wasn’t going the post-apocalyptic route, which, as a regular civilian walking around the world, was pretty much what I expected to happen myself.
It’s a rather nice surprise that I’ve not been consumed by nuclear fire, I’ll tell you that.
Well, we made it out of the cold war and into this one, and sometimes I feel like this line from Platoon:
All you got to do is make it out of here. It’s all gravy, everyday the rest of your life, gravy.
Bonus: we live in a world where we can pull up videos like this anytime — it’s, aptly, a peppy song about feeling sad:
I’m not sure aptly is a word, but I’m feeling thankful this week. I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving on Thursday.
Peace to you all.
One of the funner side effects of working for a game company is that new games tend to get bought on the date of release. To that end, yesterday there was a copy of Rock Band in the office. Because of my previous experience (documented by Leah here) playing SingStar and Karaoke Revolution I was not intimidated to sing, which I’m rather proud of. I did ok on songs on Medium difficulty, but I utterly failed on the Garbage song “I think I’m Paranoid” on Hard. I enjoyed singing Gimme Shelter — but I find myself mystified by how Mick Jagger goes between the falsetto and his gruffer voice. All told I tried my hand at these songs:
- “Blitzkrieg Bop” – Ramones
- “Creep” – Radiohead
- “Gimme Shelter” – The Rolling Stones
- “Here It Goes Again” – OK Go
- “I Think I’m Paranoid” – Garbage
- “In Bloom” – Nirvana
- “Learn to Fly” – Foo Fighters
- “Maps” – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
- “Paranoid” – Black Sabbath
- “Say It Ain’t So” – Weezer
- “Should I Stay or Should I Go” – The Clash
- “Wanted Dead or Alive” – Bon Jovi
- “Wave of Mutilation” – Pixies
- “Pleasure (Pleasure)” – Bang Camaro
I completely lost track of time playing the game. It wasn’t till Leah texted me until I really realized we’d spent 3 hours on the game! I had fun. This was on one of the Xbox 360s at work and on a big TV. It is a loud game though. You really need to hear the song to be able to play, or at least I do, and the drums are loud, and usually the singer is loud. Honestly, it made me think of the stepkids – I can see Dev on guitars, Tony too, Alex singing, and Ty on the drums (which were difficult! I need to try again but it felt like I had no rhythm at all). The feel of the guitars are a bit different from Guitar Hero I and II — but not unlearnably so. The singing interface looks just like Karaoke Revolution, and that made it familiar to me. I’d love to pick this up, but really it demands stuff not in the budget yet — a wider TV (we have a conventional tube TV still and I don’t see how the interface for four people would fit on the TV at a good size — it’s really designed for a wide aspect ration), an Xbox360 (Joe says that there were 150 Xbox360 copies at the Best Buy he went to , and only 10 PS3 copies), and the game itself. I believe that adds up to more than $1500. I can’t justify the cost at this point, but I look forward to a day when I can. 🙂
This morning my voice is raw and tired.
I could not possibly say it any better than Sassy did in his post: Turkey Time at Vista Seeker:
I am a big Thanksgiving fan. It’s a holiday with the sole purpose of getting together, eating, drinking, and being merry. There’s no religious overtones, no consumerism-tainted gift-guilting, and it’s a one-day thing – no endless parties and social events around it. Plus, it’s a 4-day weekend just when you think you’re about to go insane from not having a day off since Labor Day.
For me, a proper Thanksgiving is a must. No need for new traditions here. Just turkey, taters, gravy, wine. See you in the food coma, kiddies!
Amen! This morning Leah took care of the turkey (I woke up late!) and I did the stuffing. Yesterday she made gingerbread house stuff. Our niece Alison is playing the piano. TonySon is playing the newly purchased Portal and that’s a gas. Now Alex and Leah are doing a big ol’ Puzzle. Tyler is still asleep. Blessings and happiness to all!
A story about her in the Roanoke Times and World News… Go Mom!
“God is where the poor are”: Five years ago, Phyllis Crawford, 61, took a class that forced her to examine her life by looking at her calendar. She was told that “what you saw there would show where your love is.”
When she looked at her calendar, there were five tennis games and four afternoons of bridge on the schedule.
“Sometimes he [God] does call you to do fun things,” she said,
“But I thought I’d best do some volunteering.”
Crawford was no stranger to volunteer work. In the past, she had worked with her church, the Christian Women’s Club and the Child Health Investment Partnership.
“But it got so hectic,” she said. They were all worthy causes, but this time around, she needed something that spoke to her soul.
“When you serve the poor, you are serving God,” she said. “God is where the poor are.”
WORKING AT RAM: Crawford heard about Roanoke Area Ministries’ day shelter through her church, Our Lady of Nazareth.
Many of the people who pass through the shelter don’t have identification. Since homeland security measures have been implemented, the amount of documentation needed for an ID card is often all but impossible for RAM’s poor and homeless clientele to get. It can take two to four months to process an ID card.
“It’s time consuming” said Jo-Anne Woody, RAM’s administrative assistant. “But you can’t get a full- or part-time job with out it.”
Money from The Roanoke Times’ Good Neighbors Fund goes toward paying fees associated with getting the ID cards.
On her first day at the shelter, Crawford said she really wanted to cook, but RAM always has a need for people to check guests in at the front desk, and that’s where she found herself.
“The front desk was nice. I like working with people,” she said.
Crawford still tears up when she thinks about the stories she hears from the people who walk through RAM’s front doors.
IN THE KITCHEN: One day, when the cook didn’t show up, Crawford volunteered to go into the kitchen and whip up a chicken dinner for 150 people.
“Otherwise, it would have been peanut butter and jelly,” she said.
She’s been there since, volunteering by herself on Tuesdays, and with her church on Sundays.
COMMON GROUND: Crawford and her husband, Jim, an anesthesiologist, live in an upscale Roanoke County home with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.
But Phyllis Crawford is no stranger to the poverty she sees at RAM. As one of seven children of a truck driver in San Diego, “sometimes we didn’t have enough to eat.” She often went to school without breakfast. “But I didn’t know we were poor,” she said.
Her father “always had a second job,” and even though the family had very little, her mother didn’t hesitate to help others.
“Why do the poor always make sure that if someone needs something, they get it?” she said.
Jim Crawford became a physician the hard way — starting as a medic during the Vietnam War and becoming a registered nurse and a physician assistant along the way. While he was in medical school, the tiny trailer they lived in seemed luxurious, Phyllis Crawford said.
When Jim Crawford was offered a job in Roanoke, he took it.
“We loved it here,” Crawford said. “It was the homeyness of the people.”
A SUDDEN ILLNESS: On June 6, Crawford felt ill and was taken to the emergency room. There they discovered she had suffered a stroke, which paralyzed her left side. She amazed her doctors by recovering almost completely in four weeks.
She credits her recovery to the hundreds of people who heard about her condition and prayed for her. In her living room is a basket filled with the 200 cards and letters that she’s received so far.
“I even have the people at McDonald’s praying for me,” she said.
But when her doctors told her what had caused the stroke, the news was grim. They found tumors in her brain, her lungs and her kidneys. In June, she went through surgery to remove the bulk of the brain tumor, then followed up with a round of chemotherapy.
Despite her troubles, Crawford is not one to sit around and feel sorry for herself.
“I’m a go-getter,” she said. Within days of the operation, she went to a wedding, where she slow-danced with her husband.
She traveled to visit her family in San Diego, and she has battled the pain and nausea to take her place in RAM’s kitchen.
Since her illness, Crawford said she has been enjoying life more than ever.
“Everything is more intense. Before, I was giving 90 percent to God, now I’m giving 100 percent.”
In October, Crawford underwent an operation to remove one of her cancerous kidneys and is at home recovering from the surgery.
Previously Mom’s Magazine Article
As you may have seen previously, I’ve been experimenting with building a game with jQuery as the infrastructure over on joecrawford.com. This is a screenshot. The super-cute illustrations were created by Dug. The concept of a game with sheep was suggested by a few people, including MAS. Ping said cats and mice, but I quite like the sheep.
I’m just building this in stolen moments away from real work or real life, and this is a gas. I added scoring, though I have not been able to set clickability once I’ve clicked it. I created a recursive error by trying to assign $(this).click(null). I need to understand the object model better, and really, re-re-read the documentation, which is actually quite good.. 🙂
I’m up relatively early this morning. I can hear rain outside the window of the office. Leah acquired some of the lovely All Natural Cola by Whole Foods and I’m having one of those. I feel a tickle in my nose and I think I might be getting a cold. That’s not optimal.
I have a backlog of Misc and here it goes, helpfully organized by vague category!
The Amazon Kindle has been getting nothing but hate on the net, but it feels like a different class of product to me. These two reviews in particular make me wonder if this device might be something I’d use: Andy Ihnatko and Don MacAskill.
And he adds: Madness.
Speaking of madness, The Web Standards Project points to the Email Standards Project. I end up with responsibility to debug and test HTML mail sometimes and it’s a mess dealing with the various email clients. This a good development. As one of the original members of what would become the WSP, I am all for this. I’m glad to see momentum here.
Comics and Animation
This image of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toy posted by Slashfilm reminds me of two of my cousins. I got into (back) into comics at age 13 and while I didn’t get into TMNT, the art style was cool. This figure really seems to hit the aesthetic of those black and white indie comics well.
Not funny, but aesthetically beautiful is the work of illustrator Julienne Hsu, on startdrawing.org. Spare, impressionistic, but a turns precise. I find it very inspiring. Her website is www.juliennehsu.com
Marlo Meekins is a cartoonist from the John K. posse who has a way with markers I envy. She says of her work, anticipating the question, this about marker choice: “To answer a super common question about marker brand: I use most brands of markers and only a few select shades. But, all and even the best brands make gross colors and plenty of them. Never buy marker sets. It’s decisions about color combinations, line and application not brand.”
Ads from the past might have been demeaning to women.
Undercover Black Man points out some silliness by one Tay Zonday — a Dr. Pepper promotional song called Cherry Chocolate Rain. It’s fun, it’s silly, it’s a, well, I suppose it’s a parody of hip-hop videos, sort of, but it also uses the conventions of the genre, but funny. So fine, it’s cute, it’s funny — but this feels like a “forced” viral meme, and the production values are way too high to be homegrown. Then I zipped over to the young man’s YouTube Page and check out Internet Dream and I found myself inexplicably laughing. Well, maybe explicable. The dude is funny and talented. Sort of They Might Be Giants meet Biz Markie. Just watch Internet Dream:
And to complete this series of Misc items, I’ll make this a loop — this post on O’ Reilly Radar is about the confusion between Bill O’Reilly (right wing windbag) and O’Reilly (the publisher, mostly known for programming books).
And with that, I’ll start my day.