September 27, 2007 Header

November 2007 Eighteen posts

Uh oh, I am unwell

My nose is a-snifflin’. My head is a-stuffy.

This is not optimal.

I am wishin’ and hopin’ for health, and also mean to get into some fluids and whatnot. Also rest where possible.

But I feel so energetic!

Misc Never Knows

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!


I’m very impressed by DateJS — it provides functionality like PHP’s function strtotime() but in JavaScript. This is a tool I’ll be using. I found this via the excellent Ajaxian blog.

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.

Douglas Crockford wants to fix HTML. I think Crockford is the smartest programmer in JavaScript-land, but I think he’s late to that party. I do like some of his ideas though. Crockford also points out how crazy the expectations are on programming for the web, when talking about Unobtrusive JavaScript he says:

It also calls for Graceful Degradation, which means that a page should do something useful even if the JavaScript assets fail to run. This is bizarre. No other programming environment threatens to pull the rug out from under the programmer the way the web does. If you are writing applications in Java, you do not have to be prepared for having Java turned off. But because of the browser’s long and tragic history of security screwups, JavaScript does get turned off. It is ultimately the only security control given to users that works. So not only does the programmer have to be prepared for failure, the program is expected to fail gracefully.

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.

I’d like to see JavaScript Beautify added to either/both of Firebug and the Web Developer Toolbar.

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.

One of the funnier blogs about comics Again With The Comics, did a series called Thanksgiving Turkeys, featuring terrible supervillains from comics past that made me laugh.

Not funny, but aesthetically beautiful is the work of illustrator Julienne Hsu, on Spare, impressionistic, but a turns precise. I find it very inspiring. Her website is

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.”

Also from the John K. posse is Uncle Eddy, on Underlight.

Terminus is a short film that spans animation and culture. It’s a disturbing but perfectly executed short film about a man and a looming concrete figure. via jwz.


Ads from the past might have been demeaning to women.

The estimable ze frank has two Christmas songs out: Listen and Buy, if you want! I particularly like Santa Ain’t Fat.

This interview with the Coen Brothers on Charlie Rose makes me want to see No Country For Old Men more. Open Culture has a few more links.

Anil Dash points out what’s interesting about memes and net culture, and points out ROFLcon, which looks seriously fascinating, bizarre, and potentially educational and entertaining.

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.

Sixty Out of Ninety-One

60 Score

Sadly, they inserted a hidden link to some dumb dating site into the HTML they generate. Boo! … Quiz was fun though.

Leah in Fray

One of my earliest encounters with online storytelling was via Fray, I even saw a bit of a live “Fray Cafe” event at SXSW in 2001.

I’m quite happy to see Fray relaunching as a virtual and paper magazine, and incredibly PROUD to have my wife as a contribute to the first issue!

Fray Screenshot

Sheepies in the Vast Gray Field

Game with jQuery

As you may have seen previously, I’ve been experimenting with building a game with jQuery as the infrastructure over on 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.. πŸ™‚

My Remarkable Mom

A story about her in the Roanoke Times and World News… Go Mom!

A look at calendar changes her outlook

“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

Happy Thanksgiving

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!

Rock Band

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

There are photos! The Ferreteer took some. Let him show you them:

Prodigal Sorcerors' First Gig

Prodigal Sorcerors - Artlung on Vocals

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. πŸ™‚

This morning my voice is raw and tired.

William Gibson, Gravy, and a Video

William Gibson: The Rolling Stone 40th Anniversary Interview : Rolling Stone

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.

Playing with jQuery

One of my goals in the new year is to create some kind of simple online game in JavaScript. I’m almost at a point where I have free time, which is so awesome.

Also, I’m learning some of the libraries and frameworks for JavaScript — to that end I’m experimenting with some of the frameworks — this weekend it was jQuery — and I managed to rough a simple “the objects run away from your mouse” exercise.

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 there’s a simple little exercise. Everything is in the source for the page, only jQuery itself is in a separate file.

Comments, suggestions, ideas about making games in JavaScript, about jQuery, about thinking about game programming are welcome.

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