Excuse the Dust

Screwing Things Up

Hi folks. As you may have noticed, I’ve been tinkering with the design of my site. I got tired of the fact that my blog had become dominated by links from my Delicious account and embedded videos, so I decided to revamp the structure of things around here. I also felt like freshening things up with a new theme choice. I hope you like it.

Some of the changes were more drastic than others. First off, I deleted all of the posts that were nothing but digests listing my Delicious activity. Although it was nice to have some of those links front-and-center, you can get the same effect by viewing my page on the Delicious website. I decided it was a bit redundant to continually post those links to the front page here. However, they are included in the sidebar in the Lifestream section, along with events from a number of other social websites.

As for the video posts, they’re still here, but I’ve decided to treat them more like a sideblog instead of the major source of content they had become. The most recent video I’ve come across will always be at the top of my sidebar, and any older posts are available on the Watching page.

Part of what this new version of my site means is that the front page may not be updated as often, but when it does get an update, I’m hoping that the posts will be more full of content instead of the shorter posts that have become the norm around here.

Internet Explorer: Bane of My Existence

I spent a few hours tonight working on a new site for the Smooth Few Films crew. GamerSushi is a blog focusing on gaming news and reviews, and Eddy wanted to make sure it was ready before he attends PAX this weekend.

Most of the site’s setup was fairly straightforward, but one piece of the design caused me no end of frustration. Apparently transparent PNG images, which look great with transparencies, don’t play nice with Internet Explorer 5.5 or 6.0 on Windows.

Considering how bad people are about updating their browsers, having a weird-looking PNG on your site will definitely be noticeable to a fair number of your visitors. Accordingly, I spent way too long messing with the site trying to figure out a fix or workaround to get things moving. This was especially frustrating since I don’t have easy access to, say, a Windows computer with Internet Explorer of any kind on it. Thank god for Browsershots, that’s for sure.

Anyways, to make a long story short, I tried every Javascript hack I could find in Google. None of them worked. Not a single blessed one. Maybe it’s just me, and I implemented the code wrong, but it’s kind of hard to tell when I’m not the one sitting in front of the computer with a broken image.

In the end, the solution was a bit crude. Apparently it is possible to comment out HTML code for specific browsers using conditional comments. Basically I put a few lines in the html that made it so a certain code snippet only displayed in Internet Explorer versions older than 7.0. I then did a bit of CSS trickery to hide the offending PNG and replace it with a shitty-looking GIF. It isn’t perfect, but it’s better than a giant grey box behind the PNG.

Here’s the code:

1. <!--[if lt IE 7]>
2. <style>
3. #sitename img { display: none; }
4. #sitename { background: url(<?php bloginfo('stylesheet_directory'); ?>/images/header_logo.gif) no-repeat; width: 360px; height: 95px; margin-left: 30px; margin-top: 30px; }
5. </style>
6. <![endif]-->

Lines 1 and 6 are the conditional comments. Line 3 hides the PNG image, and then line 4 sets the GIF as a background for the H1 tag and makes sure that it is properly sized and aligned. I did it this way because I didn’t want to mess around with Javascript, since I didn’t have any luck with the Javascript examples I had found on the web.

A Blog in Miniature

As you may have noticed, in the last week or so my blog has come back from near rigor-mortis to being chock full of super-short posts. To put it simply, I’ve been inspired by some web 2.0 goodness, and it feels great!

It all started when I signed up for a Twitter account. I discovered pretty quickly that the 140-character limit encourages regular off-the-cuff updates, much like a Facebook status feed, but with way more flexibility. I started posting cool links and random thoughts and it actually felt like updating a website regularly could be fun again.

It still didn’t quite feel like I was updating my blog, though – Twitter lived only in the sidebar of this site when I first started using it. After chatting with a few folks about really enjoying Twitter, Mark recommended that I check out Tumblr.

The interesting thing about Tumblr is that its seems more like a blogging mindset than anything tied down to a specific service or tool. I’ve never used the actual site itself, but I’ve taken what I perceive to be the Tumblring principles to heart.

Basically the impression I get is that a Tumblr blog, much like a Twitter, is all about short updates, but in a more multi-media fashion. Instead of status updates, you post that cool picture, video, song, quote, link, etc., that you stumbled across, mostly in the name of sharing, and generally with little or no commentary. The basic principle is the same, though – breaking free of the constraints of essay-style blog posts and just putting your thoughts and interests right out there.

I also came across a post where the author explained how he had configured del.icio.us to regularly update his site with daily digest posts full of his newest bookmarks. I’ve used del.icio.us intermittently for a few years now, but I’ve been thinking lately that I really need a good way of storing all the cool links and articles I get sent during the workday.

My problem with del.icio.us has always been that I tend to bookmark articles as “toread” and never come back to them. So far I’ve found that adding the links to my blog as a digest post helps me remember to watch the videos I save for later and read the ten-page articles I barely have time to skim at work.

Overall I’m pretty happy with my blog “makeover”, although I may continue tinkering. For anyone interested, here are the WordPress plugins and scripts I used to revamp my site:

Twitter Tools for regular Twitter digest posts and built-in posting from WP, and a mash-up of twitter.js and an existing Twitter Widget for my sidebar widget

QuickPost for the Tumblr-style posts, just because it automates a lot of the post creation and automatically sticks your entry into the appropriate category.

Postalicious for the del.icio.us digest posts. Highly customizable, and much better than the built-in options on del.icio.us (which I couldn’t get to work).

Goodbye, Weekend / Have Some Music Videos

I spent most of this weekend a) trying to keep theleetworld.com from melting after the site made it to the front page of digg (and a bunch of other huge sites) and b) looking at places to live.

For right now, the site seems to have stopped melting, and as for places to live, Tim and I came up with a good top 5 list. Roommate #3, Trey, hasn’t had a chance to look at the places yet, but if he doesn’t manage to do it tomorrow, he’s just going to have to trust us, because we need to get our applications in pronto.

Other than that, I’d like to share the following two music videos I just came across:

Goldfrapp – A&E

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – Dig, Lazarus, Dig!

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Making Web Design Fun Again

You know, back in the day, I thoroughly enjoyed web design and coding. But then along came a job that sucked all of the fun out of the whole process and ruined it completely for me. I don’t work for them anymore – it’s been more than two years now – but whenever I’ve been presented with possibilities of web design since then, whether on my own website or on someone else’s, I have never enjoyed the work, and in fact I’ve often had a hard time getting myself to do it, even when money was involved.

That’s all changed recently, though, thanks to our friend WordPress. For whatever reason, installing WordPress has made it fun again for me to tinker with my website, as you may have noticed if you’ve check this place regularly. This doesn’t change my stance on doing web design work, however… I like that this is fun, and I don’t want to change that, especially since I sit in front of a computer working all day. If I’m going to sit in front of a computer at home, it might as well be fun.

Along those lines, I decided to refresh the unsquare.com main page a little bit. The page has basically been a list of the websites I host for a long time, and it still serves that purpose, but I found a way to make it just a little bit more useful.

If you check there now, it’ll show you the first post of all of the blogs I currently host, which is a good way to check and see how recently everyone has updated their site. You could always download a newsreader, I suppose, but this works, too… I used a free PHP script called SimplePie to pull in the RSS data. It was dead simple to use, and that’s the way I like it.

I also added a few more random “styles” to the main page. This mostly involved digging around through the stock art available on the stock.xchng website. It’s a great website, and I didn’t even dig very deeply – I just browsed through the most downloaded stock pictures to find some interesting ones.

What I gleaned from this is that people like to download pictures of handshakes:

handshake

And pictures of people looking professional:

professional

Also good are images that exemplify some sort of abstract business concept about the shrinking world, globalization and connectivity:

Whole world in my hand… literally!

I’m not really going for the “business website” look, however, so I didn’t use any of those images on my frontpage. I’ll probably keep adding more and more styles to the frontpage, too… it’s kind of sad that it’s stayed basically unchanged for at least two years, if not longer.

A Blogging Software Revolution!

WordPress Button

My “constant readers” have probably noticed that I keep changing the look-and-feel of this blog about once every two weeks. It’s mostly because I get tired of looking at the same theme all the time, and there are plenty of free themes out there to choose from. A bigger change has happened this time, however, but it is (hopefully) fairly seamless and shouldn’t affect how people use this blog – basically I’ve changed blogging software again. I’ve used several different tools over the years – Blogger, Livejournal, Movable Type, and now WordPress. I had considered switching to WordPress before. Where Movable Type is closed-source and based on a payment model (if you want full support), WordPress is free and open source. I mostly didn’t switch for a long time because of inertia. Despite any issues I might have occasionally had with Movable Type, it was pretty stable, and got the job done. Changing things around would have been too much effort, especially since I had configured Movable Type the way I liked it – I wasn’t sure if I could recreate the same features in WordPress.

Then, about a month or so ago, the newest version of Movable Type starting behaving pretty strangely, throwing up weird errors and generally taking forever to build new entries. I also noticed from looking at Beau’s site that my copy of Movable Type was actually missing some of the features I was supposed to have, despite the fact that I had installed the same version on both of our sites. The biggest problem was that the “save post” button had stopped working, and it was driving me crazy.

I finally decided at that point to just do a complete clean install of Movable Type to see if that would fix my problems. I had to export all of my old entries and import them back into a new installation of MT. I also had to track down all of the helpful plugins I was using and re-install them. The whole effort took a good night’s work sitting in front of a computer, but when I was done, MT was running better than ever, and it looked like all of the kinks had been ironed out… except that it still took forever to “rebuild” posts, and every once in a while I’d get a weird server error and have to rebuild again and again. I dealt with it, though, because I had invested too much time into MT and didn’t want to make the change… until this week.

I recently set up a blog for my friend Tony. I installed WordPress on the site because I thought it’d be easier to set up and use for someone non-technical. Movable Type is great, but it’s got quite the learning curve. Part of setting the site up meant that I had to go into the WordPress dashboard and play around with the options, and as I spent more time in there trying to figure out how to configure the blog to Tony’s liking, I found more and more features that seemed really great/useful. The biggest draw is the WYSIWYG editor built into WordPress – on Movable Type, I had been working with a plugin based on Textile for a long time to make it so that I didn’t have to write complicated HTML just to post an image, but WordPress makes thing much easier right out of the box.

So, earlier this week I sat down one night and started looking into what it’d take to make the switch. I tracked down all of the plugins I’d need, I exported all of my entries, and I got cracking. You see the results before you now. There were a few hiccups along the way, and I am still finding the occasional entry that didn’t format correctly, but for the most part, things look pretty good. I’d recommend WordPress to others. It’s a much more elegant blogging system, and It’s much easier to change things around.

The plugins are great, but the best part is that when I needed to reconfigure a few things, I could just jump in and edit the PHP code, no problem – this is one of the biggest differences between WordPress and Movable Type. MT is written in a language that I have no familiarity with, and it’s much more difficult to dive in and start tinkering with the MT code. MT also uses proprietary tags to make the template files, where WordPress just uses PHP code and function calls.

As you can tell, I’m pretty happy with the switch so far, although I’m still working on changing around a few things.

i am internet hip now

I contributed to a “boingboing”:http://boingboing.net post! I feel validated by the internet. “Check it out”:http://www.boingboing.net/2005/09/28/harvey_dangers_new_a.html!

Remember that band Harvey Danger? They’ve released their new album in MP3 format, for free, on the internet, using BitTorrent, working on the principle that this is actually a good way to promote your album, especially if you’re a little indie band. I’ve only listened to one song so far, but it was pretty cool. We’ll see how the rest of the album turns out.

sharks patrol these waters

So I’ve been playing with the new “Stylecatcher plugin”:http://www.sixapart.com/pronet/docs/powertools that comes with MT 3.2 – the original 1.0 version didn’t work, but they’ve since released a bugfix version and it works just fine, although all of the themes seem to need a few CSS tweaks so that the content centers. Not exactly stellar, in my opinion, although this current theme is pretty nice, now that I’ve got it working. I’d still like to work on making my own theme, but for now, laziness is kicking in and this one works fine.

In other news, my Season 6 set sold as well, so now all I need to do is find someone willing to pay for Season 5. I’m still holding out hope that I can convince someone to pay a decent amount of money for it (say, more than $30), but if it takes too long to sell, I’m just going to have to bite the bullet and do whatever I can to get it off my hands. The longer it takes to sell, the more likely it is that I’ll get less and less money for it…

Also: what did you OC-watchers think of the Season Three premiere? I liked it, but was mildly disappointed at the same time – I really hope that all of the characters don’t spend too much of the season walking around looking sad. And… was it just me, or did it feel like not much actually happened in the episode? Maybe it’s just because I’m used to watching four episodes in a sitting, but it seemed like it was over before I knew it.

New is Good

I’ve found some excellent new music lately… in particular, i’ve been getting into My Morning Jacket.

Other recent additions include Death Cab For Cutie, Eagles of Death Metal, Kanye West, Kinski, Laura Veirs, Roxy Music, Sufjan Stevens (maaaan… _so_ good!), The Velvet Underground, and The Zombies.

I also just updated “Movable Type”:http://www.sixapart.com/movabletype/ to 3.2. It’s got some sexy new features, including this new default template that I’ve temporarily installed. My site needs a redesign (the “Iota Chapter”:http://www.iotachapter.org site needs it more…) and this is a stopgap for now.

After I got into the swing of “my new mouse”:http://www.apple.com/mightymouse/, I’ve started using “Dashboard”:http://www.apple.com/macosx/dashboard/ after all. It’s still a little persnickity, but seems to at least work better than it did before, and it’s cool to squeeze my mouse and have the Dashboard pop up.

Another nifty tool I’ve installed is “Growl”:http://growl.info, which is a system-wide notifications plugin. I mainly like it because it announces what song i’m listening to along with track art and other fun stuff.

Finally, in a bit of random coolness, as far as I can tell, Mr. Reed himself of “Reed’s Ginger Brew”:http://www.reedsgingerbrew.com found that “entry I made a few months back”:http://old.unsquare.com/dance/archives/2005/06/reeds_extra_gin.html when I tried their soda… and he left a comment thanking me for my mention. I feel so special!

from ace-host to dreamhost

so, unbeknownst to me, monday (6/20) was the one-year renewal of my account with “ace-host”:http://ace-host.net. i only found out about this because a charge for $167.40 suddenly showed up on my back statement without warning. luckily, i caught it the day it happened, so i was able to move quickly enough and fix the situation.

first off, i immediately started looking around for other hosting. i was not going to pay that much money for what i considered pretty atrocious hosting. accordingly, i was looking at “dreamhost”:http://www.dreamhost.com again, because it had received a lot of positive reviews around the net. i returned to “squarefree”:http://squarefree.com to read up a little bit more on his opinion of the site (his was one of the first sites i came across that recommended dreamhost.

…and, lo and behold, what do i see, but a promotional code that makes it so that i can get one year of hosting from them at 77 cents a month. needless to say, i immediately paid for hosting, even though i hadn’t yet canceled ace-host or gotten my money back. (dreamhost has a 90 days money back guarantee, so if i couldn’t get my money from ace-host back, i could have always just canceled dreamhost.)

after i put in my termination request to ace-host, i called wells fargo and asked them to stop payment on the charge, simply because i didn’t really trust ace-host, and i wanted to do what i could to avoid paying that ridiculous amount.

this morning, i woke up and there was a one-line response back from ace-host: “account terminated. full amount refunded.”

needless, to say, i was relieved.

so, accordingly, i’ve spent bits of the day here and there getting my site set back up. it’s still not all back to normal yet. theoretically i should have everybody back up tonight or tomorrow…

other than that, i’ve had heartburn all day (and a little yesterday and the day before). it fucking sucks. i’m starting to get worried that i’m somehow gotten acid-reflux. hopefully it’s just cause i’ve been sleeping so badly for about a week, and my body is telling me to quit it.

er, right…

so for some reason, somebody out there thought that my “entry on scientology”:http://old.unsquare.com/dance/archives/2005/01/stupid_scientologists.html was authoritative enough to link to from two separate “wikipedia”:http://en.wikipedia.org entries. i know this because i looked in my webstats and i received traffic from those pages. this just seems kind of silly to me, because my entry wasn’t particularly useful, and there are a whole lot of sources out there that are “better”:http://lermanet.com/beck and “more informative”:http://home.snafu.de/tilman/faq-you/celeb.txt. accordingly, i went in and edited those pages that linked to me. on “one of them”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marissa_Ribisi, i fleshed the entry out a bit and added better links. “on the other”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Scientologists, i just removed the link to my journal.

apparently anybody can seem like a good source if they’ve been on the internet long enough…

an interesting turn of events

so, as most of you may know, my website went down on sunday because a hard drive failed at my web hosting company. about 24 hours later, my site was back up, except some of the subdomains weren’t working, and my SQL databases were being all screwy (these databases have several purposes – for example, one holds all of my journal entries).

for some reason i had a difficult time getting a response back as to why my site was back but not correctly configured. maybe i wasn’t communicating clearly enough, maybe they’re lazy shits and wouldn’t know customer service if it bit them in the ass. it’s a moot point.

after some back and forth, it was finally made clear that while my html and so forth could be retrieved from an up-to-date backup, all of my configuration files, including my sql databases and so on, could only be return to the state they were in NOVEMBER OF 2004.

as in… six months ago.

luckily, i had a recent backup of my mt entries because of the upgrade, so it didn’t take much work to return all of my entries to the database. then i went about making sure everybody else was set up correctly again, which is loads of fun when you’ve got four different instances of mt to bring back up to speed. i’ve still got some work to do on that, but at least a solution is in sight.

i’d really like to find new hosting, but i don’t really have the money to spare at the moment, and if i just make regular manual updates and save them on my side, i’ve at least got everybody covered should (god forbid) something this ridiculous happen again.

a bunch of entries that weren’t in my backup

you know… thank god I upgraded to MT 3.15 recently and made a backup of my entries before i did so, because otherwise, i’d have to re-enter five months of entries manually. as it was, i still had to plug all of april’s entries back in, as well as a few from march. fucking ridiculous. i suppose at some point i’ll redo these so they’re back to individual entries, but it’s late right now.

——————————-

April 09, 2005

woody allen interview… where?

neil gaiman has helpfully pointed out the pretty nice little woody allen interview on suicide girls. of all the things… woody allen on a site full of underclothed goth girls.

April 07, 2005

one more time

well, i had an entry, but firefox slowed to a crawl because of too many tabs full of sites with useless flash animation, so i had to force-quit.

this was the important bit – listen to the french kicks – sorry, fixed the link.

Found another song on Epitonic: so many cakes

EDIT: Just so you guys know, because of the upgrade to MT 3.15, your comments will not immediately appear on the site. I get an email notifying me of the comment, and I approve or deny it accordingly. This helps prevents comment spam. Looks like it was a misconfiguration; I was getting the comments, but I’ve made it so that I don’t have to moderate every damn one now, and they will appear immediately.

Oh, and… personally, I like “Trial of the Century” better than “One Time Bells”. “Bells” just sounds a bit too much like Spoon, although it is still a good album; “Trial” shows the band actually moving forward and forging their own sound. And besides, i like the new wave-y style better, m’self.

April 05, 2005

hmm….

now that all of the archived entries have names instead of numbers, this entry about napoleon dynamite leapt swiftly to the top of my webstats. and i don’t even have anything particularly interesting to say in the entry! such is life.

eye in the sky

Google knows where my house is!

screenshot of google maps

(click on “satellite view” in the upper right-hand corner and zoom in to get the full effect.)

i’d have to get a lot of spam to fill that up

well, apparently google has decided to gift everybody with more space for their gmail accounts. even though i’m only using 41 megs of space, i now have a full 2 gigs to fill.

maybe i should start storing full-length movies on there or something.

April 04, 2005

the proverbial eureka moment

so i was taking a shower tonight, letting images and thoughts percolate through my head, as they are wont to do in moments of quiet contemplation, and suddenly, very much out of nowhere, an image that had been floating in my head for some time now turned itself into an idea. i was so happy i laughed out loud, loud enough for vincent to hear me through the wall and think i had gone a little bit crazy.

anyways, i had this image in my head of a man wearing dark glasses and a trench coat, and suddenly that turned into the following, i.e. the comedic play idea that i have been searching for:

“four blind men meet in a park to plan their takeover of the world. however, every man has a secret, and there is a spy in their midst.”

April 03, 2005

am i an old man yet?

going back to campus for alumni weekend last night and the night before was definitely interesting. i guess i’m more used to being an alumni than i was before. i can still remember the first party that i came back for. it was like going back to my parents’ house after it had crossed over from being my home into something else altogether.

i also realized that part of the reason i haven’t been too bothered about girls is because i haven’t talked to or seen any in a long time. there’s only a handful of girls at work close to my age, and they’re not that interesting. other than work i don’t get out much, so i suppose it’s not surprising that it’s easy to be alright about not having any female contact.

but then last night i was actually able to talk to several girls, all but one of whom were freshman – they’re supposed to be too young for me, right? …and it reminded some part of me that it’s been a while now. this voice will increase in volume until i go fucking bonkers.

i, of course, tried to go into each situation knowing that i was just talking to somebody cool, not actually hitting on a girl. the only one that really seemed a shame was a girl who i am pretty sure is paul’s girlfriend. she was a nice anomaly… a talented but humble theatre major. they don’t make those often at southwestern.

some silly little part of me was like “you should hang out more at the sig house so you can meet girls…” but, no, no, i shouldn’t. i have no business lusting after girls younger than my younger brother. it’s one thing if they’ve gone through college; being four or five years older than someone at that point isn’t a big deal. for a while i always said that once you reach college, the separation of a few years isn’t as big a deal, but after having seen what freshman girls tend to behave like at southwestern, it is a big deal unless the girl you’re talking about is one in a million.

————-

well, it’s been ages since i wrote an “emo” post or one about girls, and now i’ve done both in the same week. i am an eternal broken record.

March 31, 2005

alright, this is just too terrible not to mention

from yahoo news:

If you expressed your support to Terri Schiavo and her parents’ fight to keep her alive, you may begin to receive a steady stream of solicitations, according to a Local 6 News report.

Terri Schiavo’s parents have agreed to sell their list of supporters to a direct-mailing firm, Local 6 News reported.

The company, “Response Unlimited” pays about $150 a month for 6,000 names and $500 a month for 6,000 e-mail addresses.

A spokesperson for the Schindlers confirmed that they had agreed to sell the information, but won’t say for how much.

do you ever get the feeling that there’s something hanging just out of view, whispering in your ear?

firstly, it’d be hard to explain why i got so choked up when i finished the last few episodes of farscape season three. it just sounds kind of silly. sure, it’s acceptable fact that if you watch, say “six feet under” or, well… “schindler’s list,” you’re going to get a little teary-eyed. it comes with the territory. but a show full of weird people in funny leather costumes spouting futuristic gibberish?

i can’t explain it (to my satisfaction), but let me say that it was an important feeling. important, you say? how so? well… maybe this realization that i’ve had was already there, just on the outside of my peripheral vision, but it didn’t become completely clear until i watched a special feature on the last disk giving a recap of the whole season.

what became clear is something that i talked about in my earlier entry: the quality of the writing. remember how i talked about the use of cliches and the way they broke them in astounding fashions? well, as i sat and watched the feature about the season, i heard them describing the exact bits that i had pulled out; the very plot devices that packed an emotional punch.

and then the season finale… where the end of season two was action-packed and absurd, this one was… all too human, and painful, and emotionally wrenching, and somewhere along the line those writers, those crazy writers, had made me care deeply about the fate of a bunch of puppets, cgi creatures, and people prancing around in leather. a lot. a heart-breaking amount. i’m still finding it hard to keep from tearing up, and it’s been a long time since i’ve felt that way.

but this is when i heard the little voice in my ear. the thing that has been patient, oh so patient, while i have been wittering my life away doing nothing, not living, not serving my purpose.

i was watching the special, and the producer/writer was talking about the last episode, an episode that he felt was so important that he did not want it to fail, but he just didn’t know how to get it right.

it was nagging at him, constantly, until one night, he woke up in bed, suddenly enough that he frightened his wife and dogs, and he knew how to write it. he knew what was important, and it was so important the he got up right then and started writing.

at four in the morning.

until i feel that feeling again… (and i have felt it. i have been in that moment where nothing else mattered but telling the story, just getting it out…)

until then, i’m not really living.

so, you might ask… why not write, right now.

write something!

i’m paralyzed.

i’m scared.

i have no ideas that i want to write.

i come home from work every night and i’m so tired, and i just want to disappear somwhere else for a few hours and get a good night’s sleep. i want to be gone.

and i have so many friends, so many good friends out there, who nag me, and tell me that i should write something new, and then i have so many friends who wish i would write something new, but who have given up on me long ago.

it’d be great if i could finish something, after all.

(but i have finished things! i’ve finished plays, good ones…)

but that was so long ago. i can’t feel it anymore. i can’t remember what that tastes like. those plays aren’t even mine anymore. now that they’ve escaped onto the page, they’re strangers ready for someone else’s touch.

the whisperer, i can hear her…

she says that i know what i have to do.

now i just have to remember how to do it.

…they say it’s like a bike.

another reason i want to be a writer full-time

it seems to fit my lifestyle:

…anyway, I was on a roll last night. So I just kept working. And somewhere around seven this morning I realised I’d actually finished it, so I sent it to Dave McKean and went to bed. Up around eleven this morning, with a message from Dave waiting letting me know that I’d given one section short shrift, and I looked it over, and he was right, I had, and it needed to be longer, so I simply made a cup of tea and turned it into a full chapter, and did a final tidy.

It went off to Dave, to HarperChildrens, and to Bloomsbury, about half an hour ago. And now I’m going to do all those things I’ve normally already done by five in the afternoon, like shower and make breakfast.

(from Neil Gaiman’s Journal)

farscape, i wub you

i just watched six episodes of farscape on a work night, and the only thing keeping me from watching the remaining three right now is the fact that i need to go to sleep so i can make it to work at all.

i’m sure it’s a bit silly at this point for me to continue raving about this particular show, but it keeps getting better and better… and the writing is pretty incredible this season. they’ve taken some cliches of science fiction and tv in general and managed to turn them on their heads and make them new again.

it is, for example, one of the first times in a long time that an unrequited love story has not only worked for me but been both satisfying and heartbreaking instead of annoying. unrequited love is one of the most over-used tropes in television; i’d personally argue that one of the reasons that seinfeld was so great was because it’s the only sitcom you can point to that was on network tv without ever having some of the main characters fall in love but have a hard time making it work. i challenge anyone to name one other sitcom that has done that.

alias was another good example of unrequited love working well, until the unfortunate latter end of the third season, at which point i just got tired of hearing about it. the fourth season has managed to salvage this to a pretty good degree by making that particular plotline no longer relevant, which is probably the only choice they had. it is, unfortunate, however, that it stumbled at all.

another thing that Farscape has pulled off very well involves a major plot point this season; without going into detail, let’s just say that one of the clichés of earlier episodes of Farscape and sci-fi shows in general is that they will have something terrible and ridiculous happen to the characters that gets resolved by the end of the episode, or in the one after that.

about a third of the way into this season, there was one such episode, where some weird shit happened to a main character, and we assumed that the situation – extreme as it was – would get resolved soon without harm to anyone involved. except they took what could have been a one-shot and made it into a major story arc, and a heartbreaking one, too…

thing is, i just know… i can feel it… if the finale at the end of season two was fucked up, this one is only going to be worse, and i am most certainly going to have a much harder time getting my hands on season four…

anyways, a parting thought: who needs a life, when you’ve got sci-fi on dvd?

March 29, 2005

Updated and Upgraded

Today I decided on a whim that I wanted to upgrade my version of Movable Type to the newest, brand-spankin’-est one available, so I downloaded the goods and did all the standard upgrading.

However, I also decided that I no longer wanted to use the numeric archive links, which are lame and, shall we say, unfriendly to google. This, of course, was another case where i needed to use htaccess and mod_rewrite, but I was not sure exactly how to decipher the highly technical documentation, so I dug around until I found a site that explained in clearer terms.

It was easy to set up the monthly archives to redirect; what was difficult was making it so that anyone trying to access an old numbered entry would get the correct named entry.

I ended up having to do some fun things with htaccess and a cgi script that I found on scriptygoddess’ site. Once I fixed the dumb mistakes I was making, it started working like a charm…

So instead of Google thinking my whole journal has disappeared, it will instead discover everything has merely been updated. Huzzah!

can you say “finally”?

after much fiddling about and a general program of procrastination, i have put the final touches on “my portfolio”:http://portfolio.unsquare.com. also, if you notice, i’ve added a link to it on the upper right-hand side of this page, right below that picture of me. now that it’s “live”, it can be spidered all to hell by google so that the random web visitor has a chance of finding it.

i have a few other possible web design projects in the works:

(1) a redesign of the “iota chapter website”:http://www.iotachapter.org. sure, it’s nice enough, but i designed it when i was first getting the hang of css, and i think i can do it better now. i also want to make it so that the actives might actually be able to update it, since i haven’t been given any information to put on there unless i prod them into giving it to me.

(2) i’m a fan of those programs that keep track of your book collection. the best one i’ve found (and it’s free!) is just called “books”:http://books.aetherial.net/. i’m also a fan of “all consuming”:http://allconsuming.net, but it has a bad habit of being slow, or inaccurate, or down, or just plain difficult. i think i’d like to begin working on a php application that replicates the basic function of all consuming, plus some features from books (the reading list currently on my site is only functional at best). this would be the same idea as movable type versus blogger. part of the reason i switched to mt was because i was tired of relying on a site that might go down without warning.

alright, i’m going to go finish watching “farscape season one”:http://www.tvtome.com/Farscape/season1.html. wish me luck.

unsquare.com redesign

i appear to have accidentally made a valentines day-themed redesign of “unsquare.com”:http://old.unsquare.com. the appropriateness was unintentional, but i like it. i think i’ll make it rotate images or something. whatever. alls i know is that i’m finally tired and can now go to bed, which was mostly why i did the redesign in the first place. no sleepy. anyways.

*EDIT:* Okay, I’ve expanded the front page of this site so that instead of just the “dancers” theme, there are four others. Every time you go to “unsquare.com”:http://old.unsquare.com, you should get a different look. If you don’t, try reloading.

bleh

alright, so i totally just applied for a job at “UPS”:http://www.ups.com… things must be getting desperate here. (no shit)

honestly, i’d take anything right now, especially temporary things, if i could just feel good about possibly being able to pay my bills. that would be nice.

also, on a random whim, i re-installed the “page rank extension”:http://pagerankstatus.mozdev.org. i was kind of curious to see if anything had changed with the pagerank of my site or anyone i’ve been hosting. surprisingly enough, this journal has a page rank of 5, which was the holy grail of page ranks when i was working at “NACQ”:http://www.nacq.com.

it still cracks me up that there are businesses out there essentially trying to simulate the popularity of personal journal websites. jesus. in fact, even mark’s website – which hasn’t been posted on in four months, has a page rank of 3. perhaps this system doesn’t actually mean a goddamn thing, hmm?

who knows? not me.

recently when rebuilding this site, i’ve noticed that it took for fucking ever for movable type to do its job, most likely because i added the left and right sidebars to every page, thus increasing the page size a good bit (also helps that i have over 500 entries in this journal).

i tried to fix this using php, but “MT 2”:http://www.movabletype.org is not well suiting to publishing php, mostly because it sets the permissions wrong and pisses off my server. i set up “MT 3.1”:http://www.movabletype.org so I could play with it some, but that’s even more complicated…

so, last night, i sat for a few hours and updated all of the pages to use server-side includes, which ended up being not too hard to pull off. i also tweaked the design some more, simply because that’s what i do now, apparently. the best improvement – in my opinion – is that comments are much easier to distinguish from the entries.

you know what else i noticed? i used to write all of my entries in lowercase for the longest time. thing is, when i was looking back at those entries i liked the way they looked a lot better. so… here i am. back in lowercase.

today is my last friday at work. i think tuesday will be my last day, simply because levi is leaving for thanksgiving on wednesday, and if i were to come in to work on wednesday i wouldn’t do anything. at all. and i’m bad enough about that as it is without having to be here all by my damn self but for larry and anne.

tommorow morning is another weekly trip to juan in a million – so far i’ve gone the last two weekends, and i’m trying to make it a tradition. this weekend it’s going to be me, doug, and justin heading over there at 11am tomorrow. i think anyone that reads this that lives in austin is already going, so that’s set.

last week beau and i went and saw “sideways”:http://www2.foxsearchlight.com/sideways/, which was really very good, fucking hilarious and well written. i strongly recommend it to anyone who has a chance to see it. i’ve been going to the dobie pretty much every week too, unless they don’t have anything interesting playing. i guess i’m trying to make up for all those years i had to drive half an hour to go the movies.

i haven’t made any progress with writing anything lately. i know you guys worry about me never finishing anything, but trust me, this is something that i’m working on, and pressuring me probably isn’t going to do anything but make me feel guilty. i’m going to try and keep myself from promising to write anything for anyone until i feel like i can actually follow through.

part of my joblessness is going to focus on this issue… for example, i bought a really great book called the “dramatists sourcebook”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1559362472/qid=1100880423/sr=2-1/ref=pd_ka_b_2_1/002-1927809-5432063, which is full of theatre companies looking for new plays and contests with nice cash prizes. i was also recently shown the “austin chronicle short story contest”:http://www.austinchronicle.com/shortstory/, which i still have enough time to write something for if i choose to. the opportunities are there, i just have to decide that i want to take them.

Whoops!

Somewhere along the line, comments got broken on this site and nobody pointed it out to me until now. I just figured all of you guys were too lazy to comment. Or you hated me. Something along those lines. Anyways, feel free to comment like madmen from now on. It’ll be amazing. Comment-a-riffic, even!

I Heart Dan Clowes

This is the funniest Apple Switch commercial ever, featuring “Dan Clowes”:http://www.errolmorris.com/commercials/apple_clowes.html. It was never actually aired, however.

Also:

bq. Clowes will write the film Backyard Resistance for producer Scott Rudin and Paramount Pictures. The film will center on a trio of youngsters who made a shot-by-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark called Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation. Earlier this year, Rudin secured the life rights to the Mississippi trio behind the film — Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb — after Vanity Fair published an article about them.

bq. The three began the project while on summer vacation in 1982, finishing it seven years later, shooting on a VHS camcorder and using backwoods Mississippi locales.

taken from “boingboing”:http://boingboing.net.

Foxytunes and Friends

I just added another Firefox plugin to my menagerie, which now consists of “Page Rank Status”:http://pagerankstatus.mozdev.org, “Web Developer”:http://www.chrispederick.com, “fireFTP”:http://fireftp.mozdev.org, and now “FoxyTunes”:http://www.iosart.com/foxytunes/firefox/.

FoxyTunes adds a bunch of stuff to your status bar that allows you to control your music player, which is a nice convenience because not only do i no longer have to open the itunes menu to skip a song it also shows the song title in the status bar, which (for me) is the really big draw. I’m going to install this as soon as I go back up to work, simply because, while OS X does allow you to click on the iTunes icon to control it, windows and its ilk has no such helpful feature.

As for the other ones, Page Rank Status is self explanatory – a necessary plugin for someone working at a web start-up very interested in its placement within the Google ranking. Web Developer is _the best_ plugin I have ever run across. It’s so incredibly helpful, and any web designer using Firefox needs to have it. FireFTP is the only one I haven’t used much. It’s an ftp program that uses the Firefox interface. So far it looks like it could be nice but it definitely needs some work.

I’ve also added some more MT plugins. This entry (and all others), for example, was parsed using a combination of “Textile 2”:http://bradchoate.com/mt-plugins/textile/ and “SmartyPants”:http://daringfireball.net/projects/smartypants/. Textile allows you to use simplified commands to write html code, and SmartyPants goes through your entries and makes all of your punctuation pretty, turning regular quotes in curly quotes, etc.

Post Crazy

Somehow I’ve become the most active poster in the “unsquare family”, but I guess it’s not that hard when it appears that most of you guys are just using your space as storage, which doesn’t really bother me – I have unlimited server space, after all (don’t ask me how… I don’t know). At least Daniel is using his site to show off his reel, which I haven’t even done with all my writing and photography… urgh.

God, my computer is depressingly old. My thought was…. well, if I was desperate enough, I could buy a dvd burner for really cheap, but… that’s silly, because if I spend any money on anything electronic it should be a new goddamn computer.

I am so tempted to just put myself in more debt to get one, but… I can’t pretend that I’ll have the money to do that. At least I finally paid off my Best Buy card, which was a nice feeling… except when I think about the fact that my computer is too slow to edit the video I’ve shot on my camcorder.

*sigh*

Bleeding Edge

The Firefox 1.0 Preview Release for OS X is pretty unstable, in my experience, so I decided to go into “uncharted” territories and downloaded two nightly builds: the latest trunk branch and the latest aviary brach. I recommend aviary, personally. It’s the build that will eventually become the real 1.0, and it’s got some pretty nice features already. Also, if you check out MozillaZine, they’ve got a FAQ that explains the different builds. Apparently you can get builds that are optimized for your processor…

Stupid Hackers

I really hate Windows PCs.

On Tuesday when I came into work, my boss showed me that the homepage of one of our websites had been hacked – most likely caused by various spyware/viruses/keystroke recorders that were floating around on any number of the computers we use for work – although most likely it was my boss’s computer; her daughter had apparently gotten on Kazaa and filled the computer with spyware.

And so now I don’t trust any of the computers at work. Even though I was making a point to run AdAware regularly, I get the impression that quite a lot of other things can lurk in the bowels of Windows, and I just don’t like it.

Accordingly, I’ve also just spent a bit of time and changed all of my important passwords… I don’t know if anything of mine was taken. Ugh. It just freaks me out. And makes me wish that I could work on my Mac all the time…

Finally!

Well, I finally got around to customizing the look of my blog. Although I didn’t really do anything amazingly spectacular, I did at least clean up the overall design so that it’s no longer the “out of box” look that came with MT.

I also installed a number of plugins/scripts to help me do some nifty things.

(1) Feedsplitter – This is a PHP script that takes an RSS feed, parses it, and turns it into a javascript include. The del.icio.us links on the left were generated from my personal RSS feed.

(2) MTAmazon and BookQueue – MTAmazon allows you to retrieve data from Amazon using specialized MT tags. BookQueue is a plugin that combines with MTAmazon to generate a “currently reading” list. I got tired of relying on All Consuming, which has a tendency of being down/timing out. However, this script will need some work to be as full-featured as all consuming.

del.icio.us

Man, I am completely obsessed with this thing: del.icio.us

I’ve found so many completely random things that enlightened me so much, particularly about CSS and other such arcane subjects. And it seems like a trustworthy system right now, because it’s small and relatively obscure… (as in, it hasn’t started becoming the victim of SEO-hungry psychopaths and their link-farms…)

Cleaning up Dirty URLs

So the firm that originally designed the website for my company used a neat trick to make all of their dynamic URLs change from things like “http://www.unsquare.com/index.php?all=sorts&of=variables&cluttering=up&things=86” to much more managable things like “http://www.unsquare.com/not/so/cluttered/”.

This seems like something worth implementing when I start making my new site, or really anyone’s new site. Here it is.

Fun with DNS

I’ve been fiddling around with a site that I found while I was trying to figure out what the fuck was wrong with my site, and I’ve found it pretty damn useful. It’s called DNS Stuff and it’s got pretty much every tool you could possibly want when managing your domain name.

I’ve been checking to see how my name-servers are performing, since unsquare.com and various subdomains will still occasionally claim that they cannot be found. The reason why is simple… one of the name servers that I was given to use by my hosting provider times out. Every single time. No matter what. Because of this, DNS Stuff gives my name server response an F most of the time.

Luckily, however, I remembered the username and password for my account at DNS Made Easy, and I just went in there and plugged in my ip address to their far more reliable name servers. I entered the info into my domain’s management system and hopefully it will propagate across the internet over the weekend, and my website will start being far more reliable. I removed the faulty nameserver from the listing, but because it takes a while for this information to get around, it still has the occasional issue.

It’s kind of nice, now that I think about it, that I can separate my domain name, my hosting, and my DNS all into separate entities. That way if any one of them has problems I can switch it. Right now my hosting provider is alright. None of us had anything on our sites that was unreplaceable, so it’s not a big deal that it all died.

In the future I will be backing things up more often. Although that future should probably be when I’ve finally created a full website for myself…

Whoops… Apocalypse!

Well, seeing as how it’s Friday the 13th today, perhaps it is not surprising that my hosting provider got hosed sometime this morning and then spent the day frantically rebuilding their system and all of their domain names…

Luckily, the domain is now back up (can you tell?) unluckily, i didn’t have a backup (per se) and neither did they. I’ve gotten the site back to a semblance of something-or-other, and at least the MySql databases weren’t affected, so Movable Type took about five minutes of reinstalling and it was good to go…

Anyhoo, I get the impression that nobody was too seriously affected, although Mark and Eddy currently have subdomains that don’t want to be found. I’m sure these issues will resolve themselves. In the meantime, have a good one!