March 2004

Album Cover: Flight of the Conchords

"She's so hot, she's making me sexist."
Flight of the Conchords / Boom

Firefox T-Shirt

March 30, 2004 7:46 PM

You might remember that I ordered a Mozilla t-shirt just about as soon as they were available, and now today, thanks to several additions to the Mozilla store, I was able to purchase a blue Firefox t-shirt. Now how cool is that!?

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Netscape Isn't Dead

March 30, 2004 10:40 AM

If what this Inquirer article reports is true, today is a very sad day for those of us who had once rejoiced that the Netscape browser had gone the way of the dinosaur.

Gemal's Psyched Blog led me to the Inquirer article today, which contains the following disheartening statement:

...last week, I almost fell off my chair when I received an official reply:

"I am writing you in response to your e-mail to [exec name here]. The next (Netscape Browser) version will be a "point" release based on the latest Mozilla code."

The message continued saying that this version "will be made available in the very early summer timeframe". For the record: this came straight from AOL's Corporate Communications department.

I don't care if the browser-to-be has AIM in the sidebar, or free access to Netscape Radio, or integration with Netscape Mail, or is built on a version of Gecko that normal Mozilla users are forbidden from seeing until 2006, or if it comes as a wrapper to Internet Explorer, or designs your web pages for you, or contains the answer to defeating spam; Netscape must die once and for all!

There are too many frightening memories like supporting Netscape 4, and the leap from version 4 to 6, and Netscape 6's refusal to start up, and so on, locked in this little brain of mine. I simply couldn't take it if Netscape somehow came back to haunt me. It should be left where it is now – dead – forever. I cannot possibly reiterate enough. I pray to the web browser gods that there is no Netscape resurrection. If I never heard the word Netscape again, it would be too soon.

Do I make myself clear?

Browsers | Post Comments | View Comments (4) | Permalink

Mozilla Adds Support for CSS3's Opacity

March 29, 2004 11:26 PM

While reading today's Mozilla Status Update, I noticed that Mozilla 1.7b now supports CSS3's opacity property. If I'm not mistaken, this support was added to the underlying Gecko engine, which means Firefox users can expect to see support added in Firefox 0.9 as well.

Granted, the Gecko engine has supported opacity for quite a long time before this, but it was always via the proprietary -moz-opacity property. If you've been using -moz-opacity in your stylesheets, once Mozilla 1.7 and Firefox 0.9 are released you should be safe converting those properties to opacity instead, all the while knowing that you are becoming standards compliant as you do so. The only drawback? Well, if you want the opacity to show up in IE variants as well, you'll still need to use the proprietary filter:alpha(opacity=n) rule (where n is a number between 0 and 100, inclusive), since Internet Explorer does not yet support CSS3's opacity property.

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Sleeping with the Octopii

March 29, 2004 8:02 PM

Turns out I'm not the only one thinking that The Sopranos' Adrianna's days may be numbered. In regards to Drea de Matteo's upcoming role on NBC's "Joey," Popcultablog says the following:

Would HBO allow themselves to be so soiled as to share with LeBlanc? I think not. If Drea's going to have that kind of free time, it probably means Tony and the gang are about to get wind of her FBI informing and she'll soon be whacked.

In a slightly more optimistic view, Gothamist says the following:

Our...hope is that David Chase's shooting schedule simply allows her to go to Hollywood to make a crappy sitcom. While it's safe to say she's the coolest thing to hit network TV in a while, Jesus, Gothamist doesn't know if that's career suicide in a punchline or a great way to make some Hollywood cash. Probably a little of both.

Only time will tell, but based on the final soundbyte of last night's teaser, it sounds like Adrianna and Tony may have a confrontation that could prove to be fatal for Christopher Moltisanti's better half.

Television | Post Comments | View Comments (0) | Permalink

MSN Bullet Bug in Firefox

March 29, 2004 2:19 PM

Over a year ago I wrote here about some of the problems MSN was causing for non-IE browsers. Since then, things have calmed down quite a bit, but today I ran into something quite peculiar that I have seen more than once in the past.

Sometimes (more like once in a blue moon) when I visit MSN in Firefox I've noticed that the bullets on the main content lists are displayed very awkwardly, showing up more like big black blobs than like the tiny list bullets they are meant to be rendered as. See the following screenshot for an example of what I mean:

MSN Bullet Bug in Firefox

The strange thing is, all it takes is a minimize and re-maximize of the browser to get the bullets looking how they should look...not a refresh (although a refresh will usually do the trick, too).

I haven't written this one up in Bugzilla simply because it is one of those very rare and random sort of bugs that takes forever and a day to try and reproduce. However, maybe if other people start to notice it and stumble upon this post, they'll add a comment and provide more information. It's a start, I suppose.

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Another Reason to Hate Duke

March 29, 2004 11:13 AM

There's an article over at CNNSI today titled Blue with envy that uncovers the main reason why so many people hate the Duke Blue Devils – jealousy. As big a Duke-hater as I am, I can agree with such an assessment. Not personally, of course, but on a wider level. The article points out how Duke has almost become synonymous with the New York Yankees. Now there's a team I really hate...but let's not get into that now.

The truth is, I hate Duke because they are the arch rivals of my all-time favorite college basketball team, the North Carolina Tarheels. I am not jealous of Duke...when they win it's because they deserve to win. I respect them as a team and I respect their coach, Mike Krzyzewski, almost as much as I respect Dean Smith (emphasis on almost). However, all that respect leaks away when the Blue Devils face off against UNC, and then returns when the game is over (this part always takes a little longer when my Tarheels come out on the losing end).

It may be true that there are many people out there who hate Duke just like they do the Yankees, but there are also those of us who respect them just as much as we hate them. You have to respect a team like that. Year in and year out they find themselves atop the rankings and deep in the tournament. However, being the Tarheel fan that I am, make no mistake about who I'll be rooting for this Saturday. UConn is my new favorite team...and judging by their recent play in comparison to Duke's, I'd say they'll be the favorite to win as well.

Sports | Post Comments | View Comments (8) | Permalink

Mark One Up for the Spammers

March 28, 2004 9:13 PM

Tonight, while appropriately rolling through my blogroll, I read Asa Dotzler's latest post and was quickly reminded of Jack Horkheimer's "Stargazer" show that I used to see on PBS all the time when I was a kid. I was fascinated by that show, I think moreso because of the theme song than anything else (PBS seems to have a knack for finding shows with good theme songs...think Red Dwarf), but the space facts often intrigued me as well. This reminiscing, in turn, led me to try and post the following comment on Asa's blog:

My only question is, were you wearing a Members Only jacket when you wrote this post?

Amusing, I thought. Since I didn't know if Asa's blog supported HTML links, I decided to preview my post before submitting. That's where a simple, funny comment went terribly wrong. After previewing my post and finding that the HTML links were allowed afterall, I hit the submit button. I was presented with the following message:

In an effort to curb malicious comment posting by abusive users, I've enabled a feature that requires a weblog commenter to wait a short amount of time before being able to post again. Please try to post your comment again in a short while. Thanks for your patience.

It didn't make any sense to me that simply previewing my post would count as anything that might exclude me from posting for a "short while" (which up to this point has proven to be more than 20 minutes...and counting). However, I quickly remembered that Asa has had trouble with commenting in the past (most often due to MozillaZine problems that he has no control over) and even more recently has had problems with comment spamming – so I don't blame Asa.

However, this is a perfect example of a case in which spammers have won. Because some troll went and digitally vandalized Asa's site, he in turn had to come up with some solution to keep it from happening, which then ended up keeping me, an innocent blog reader, from making an innocent comment. Even though my comment was nothing more than a joke, the problem is not a small one. When I decided I should contact Asa personally to let him know of the problem (i.e. counting a post preview as an actual post is erroneous), I quickly learned that my only method of contacting Asa – without scouring the web for another method, at least – was via comments. Why? Most likely due to the fact that the other, much older breed of spammers – those who prefer SMTP as opposed to HTTP – keep him from making any other form of communication available to his blog's visitors.

As small as this one case might seem, it is nonetheless another in which the spammers have won.

Miscellaneous | Post Comments | View Comments (6) | Permalink

Get Back to Where You Once Belonged

March 28, 2004 8:24 PM

Feech is heading back to prison, Carmela's at a crossroads, Anthony Jr. is turning out to be more and more like his father, and The Sopranos is right where we all expect it to be – at the top of its game.

With the exception of Two Tony's, the episodes this season have all, in their own way, left something to be desired. However, tonight's episode was a triumph on many different levels. Personally, I think any time we're given a heavy dose of Tony and Carmela we're in for something special, but the chemistry of all the characters tonight seemed to make every scene click.

After watching the preview for upcoming episodes and then hearing from a long-time friend that Drea de Matteo will be starring alongside Matt LeBlanc in NBC's upcoming spin-off of Friends, "Joey," I'm seriously beginning to wonder if this season may mark the end of Adrianna. I guess we can only wait and see...

Television | Post Comments | View Comments (0) | Permalink

A New Computer

March 27, 2004 6:16 PM

I made a monumental decision today and went ahead and ordered a new computer from Gateway. I've been putting off buying a new one for way too long now, sticking with my current Gateway G6-350 that I bought for college way back in 1998. Almost 6 years and roughly 4 operating systems later, the beast, which I have dubbed "Yoda," is still grinding along and performing surprisingly well all things considered. However, it's time for a successor, and the 510X looks to be more than worthy.

I haven't quite decided what to name the new one yet, but I'm leaning towards "Luke." It just seems to make sense that Luke would follow in the footsteps of wise old Yoda. I'm not totally set on that though. I do know the new computer will be named after one of the Star Wars characters, but other than that it is still up in the air. Maybe I should go with Ackbar? I've always liked the admiral.

I can't even begin to describe here how excited I am to be getting a new computer. Katie is excited too, but that's more because we took her iBook in to get repaired today than it is because I'm getting a new computer ;) But we're both happy, and that's all that matters!

Computers | Post Comments | View Comments (2) | Permalink

Tidying Up via PHP

March 25, 2004 6:04 PM

After writing about some cool up-and-coming features of PHP 5 involving Tidy yesterday, I got to thinking about the way I typically code my PHP pages. I am guessing I use the same technique as a lot of people, interspersing PHP code in my XHTML, like so:

<p>
 <b>User Comments:</b>
</p>
<p>
 <? print(nl2br($comments)); ?>
</p>

As any experienced PHP programmer knows, as the interspersed PHP code gets more complex (e.g. utilizing while and for loops and dynamic content) it becomes increasingly more difficult to ensure that the XHTML it generates will look pretty (i.e. well structured).

By using the tidy_parse_string() function, you can replace all of your print() calls with string concatenation calls (e.g. $output .= nl2br($comments);) and hold off on outputting any actual XHTML source until you are all done processing via PHP.

When you do this, you save the structuring of your XHTML until the very last step, when your $output variable contains all the data to be output to the browser. Then, when it comes time to print the output, you do something like the following (which is explained a bit on Zend's site):

<?
 $options = array(
  "indent" => true,
  "indent-spaces" => 1,
  "wrap" => 72
 );
 $output = tidy_parse_string($output, $options);
 print($output);
?>

Doing so will, hypothetically speaking, since I haven't had a chance to try this out yet, tidy up all of your XHTML so it looks just as pretty as if you had hand-coded it yourself and didn't require any dynamic processing from PHP.

Pretty nifty, huh?

Web Development | Post Comments | View Comments (109) | Permalink

Looking Ahead to PHP 5

March 24, 2004 5:11 PM

Via Simon Willison's Weblog I found some great new articles from Zend today discussing some of the nifty features included in the yet-to-be-released PHP 5.

Zend's SQLite article is a great introduction to some of the features to be included for manipulation of SQLite databases. Their introduction to Tidy in PHP 5 looks very exciting – especially the information regarding beautifying documents. If you're looking for an easy way to clean up your (X)HTML, the tidy_parse_file() function may be your saving grace.

The most exciting article, in my opinion, however, is XML in PHP 5. XML support has always been sketchy at best in PHP, so it's good to read that they have completely overhauled their handling in version 5. The availability of the XPath handling alone is enough to have my imagination running wild.

Web Development | Post Comments | View Comments (0) | Permalink

Random Blog III

March 23, 2004 11:20 PM

Last night I wrote about the little people who blog, and tonight's random blog is a perfect example of one of those "little people" (and no, I'm not talking about midgets) in action.

Tonight, in an attempt to achieve maximum randomness, I did a Feedster search for samurai. This eventually led to me finding tonight's random blog, -FAIRIES.

-FAIRIES is a perfect example of what can happen when a bad blog template gets even worse through personalization. At first glance, you might think to yourself, "well maybe the content is good, even though I can't read it." You'd be wrong:

"COWS ARE HAVE THE MAD COW DISEASE... ITS SAD .. WHY DOES IT HAPPENS ON COWS.. COWS ARE LIKE . ..INNOCENT .. PSH.."

So in the end, maybe it's a good thing you can't really read the content. Content aside, though, I've noticed quite a few blogs lately that are hosted by tBLOG, and while you wouldn't guess it from their main page, unfriendly designs are fairly typical...and the templates tend to be very Firefox unfriendly.

Nevertheless, -FAIRIES is tonight's featured random blog, so give it a look. If nothing else, you'll be entertained by the use of the MARQUEE tag or the scary anime creatures.

Blogging | Post Comments | View Comments (0) | Permalink

Pirating CSS

March 22, 2004 11:39 PM

Dave Shea of Mezzoblue fame blogged recently about The Price of Fame. He points out not only how easy it is for the "bad guys" to steal your CSS work, but also why it's wrong to revoke your work to try and keep it from happening.

I definitely agree with what Dave has to say, and think that he is dead on concerning the "15 or 90 or 700" who don't steal yours CSS and often times learn from it or get inspired to do their own creative CSS design. While pointing out that all sites eventually get stolen (something that is obviously a generalization, but that holds true more often than you might think), he references Pirated Sites, a website that, to quote the site, is for "pointing and laughing" at pirated designs.

There have been many times in the past when I have spotted a design I really liked that I either filed away mentally or bookmarked so that I could reevaluate it the next time I started a design. In fact, my old portfolio of web design work was loosely based off of the color scheme at, ironically enough, Mezzoblue. However, typically when I see a site I like or a color scheme that catches my eye, I'll think of ways to combine those modular elements with elements from several other designs, so that I can use a collection of "good things" to make a "good design."

The way I see it, designing in CSS can either be like writing a cover song or creating an entirely new song from scratch. In the first case, your number one goal should always be to do it better than the original. No one wants to hear a cover song that doesn't at least live up to the strengths of the original (this is why I typically dislike Beatles covers so much). On the other hand, when you are designing from scratch, it's much like trying to create a song from scratch...whether you realize it or not you are letting the influences that other songs have had on you determine whether the new one is "good," for lack of a better word.

Good design is good design because it inspires people and, in the case of fellow developers, gives them ideas about how to define good design. If I design a site that uses a font you haven't seen before, that looks like it would work better in places where really small type is necessary than any other font you may have seen before, then I might just have played a part in how you define good design in small typeface situations. You'll be hard-pressed not to let that affect you the next time you need to design in a small typeface setting.

In addition, if I do something that you like, and you think you can do better, by all means build on top of what I've done and make it better. I assure you that I am trying to think of ways to make good design better all of the time – it's the very nature of a web designer who doesn't want to get stuck in a design time capsule. We have to constantly evolve and learn to survive because, if we don't, there will always be someone else out there who will out-design us without ever looking back.

Web Design | Post Comments | View Comments (0) | Permalink

Blogging Failure Rates

March 22, 2004 10:00 PM

Mark Pilgrim seems to think blogging failure rates are "extraordinarily high." I disagree.

Before going off on a semi-tangent about poor writing, Mark points to Why do people give up weblogs? and goes on to say (I'm slightly paraphrasing here):

"I think that the weblogging community is highly self-selective, consisting of people who have lots of free time, have excellent internet access (probably as part of their job), and who either write well, write poorly but don't know it, or write poorly but don't care."

While Why do people give up weblogs? brings up some interesting points, such as how abandoning a weblog can free up more time, I believe at least a few important points go overlooked. I also think that, regardless of how well they may or may not write, the blogging community is far from self-selective and Internet access really has nothing to do with it.

Half a year ago I might have fallen for the argument, but after realizing, via Feedster really, how many "little people" there are out there writing in blogs and sharing the trivial and personal details of their lives, I've come to realize that blogging has serious potential and has already begun to erupt as a mainstream method of communication. Maybe it's true that there are a handful of "power bloggers" who only consider you a part of the blogosphere if your daily posts get thrown around and debated from blog to blog, but as far as I'm concerned, some of the most meaningful blogs are those that are only getting hit 5 to 10 times a day. I think people are most honest when they really feel like they can spill their guts in their blog and say how they feel...and they don't have to think ahead of how Blogger Friend X might feel or how it might go against something Blogger Friend Y said earlier in the week.

Writing is really a non-issue, as well. I mean, we now live in a world where LOL and LMAO mean things. Spelling isn't a huge deal anymore. Maybe it is to the old geezers who would still rather read the New York Times in their hands than fire up CNN.com on their computer, but if you remember seeing that email that was going around showing how humans can read words fine as long as the first and last letters are in the right place, you see that we are very good at deciphering what someone is trying to say. Isn't it good for us to use a little more brainpower anyway?

Internet access has nothing to do with it, because anyone with an old school modem can fire up their blog and post an entry. People like Robert Scoble scare me because it seems like they have a little too much Internet access. Maybe it would be better if we took all day to think up something really important and meaningful to blog about than to sit at our computer blogging every single thought that came to mind over the course of the day!

Why do people give up weblogs? suggests, in part, that blogs are primarily tools for seeking out attention or for networking. This may be true on some level...I admit that some of the blogging I do is geared toward the people who tend to come to this site (e.g. web developers or Firefox users) in hopes that they'll find me interesting enough to come back. However, I feel like we all have something to gain from blogging, whether or not anyone else reads what we write.

As Mark Pilgrim points out, by writing we become better writers, so that is one bonus. Another bonus is that we actually put something down in "ink" that only previously got bounced around in our head. We see something in front of us that came from inside, something that very possibly never existed before. It's never ever a bad thing to create...and blogging allows us to do that every day.

There are many, many, many people out there who are blogging. Each, I presume, has his or her own reasons for doing so. I find it hard to believe that the reasons for the successes or failures of blogs can be attributed to any one general categorization. To me, writing in a blog is a lot like riding a bike. When you're doing it, it's fun. However, you can give it up for years on end, and never really miss it. But then you can pick up right where you left off whenever you darn well please. Just because I haven't ridden my bike in years doesn't mean that I've failed as a bike-rider – I've simply found better or more important things to do with my time.

I think that blogging in general is thriving, and while there are many more people in the world who don't understand or don't care, the number of people who do care and who do post their thoughts and ideas to the web on a regular basis is significant. Failure seems a moot topic, given that for every blog that fails I'd guess there are twice as many being actualized. If failure truly were an issue, it would suggest that over time blogging will eventually fizzle out...and I honestly do not foresee that happening.

Blogging | Post Comments | View Comments (2) | Permalink

Weekend Recap

March 22, 2004 6:49 PM

I was floating on cloud nine last week when so many of my first round NCAA tournament picks had advanced, so it was a real blow to the ego this weekend when all of those picks basically went down the drain. After seeing my Tarheels fall to Texas, I decided it best to try and avoid anything and everything NCAA come Sunday, so it was a relief to get to watch some good movies and then get comfortable in front of the TV late last night to watch a new episode of The Sopranos.

The new episode, titled "Where's Johnny?" was a lot more interesting than last week's episode, but I still think it paled in comparison to the season opener. The crescendoing feud between Paulie and Feech should be interesting, and the "power sharing" conflict could certainly end up being the cause of many exciting effects. I also really liked how the episode ended, with Tony asking Uncle Junior "Don't you love me?" to no response. However, I was a little disappointed that Carmela didn't make an appearance at all and that Janice showed up in so many scenes. The teaser for upcoming episodes looked very promising, though, so as usual I'm anxiously awaiting next Sunday.

As if my Soprano addiction weren't enough, though, I found yet another Sunday-night HBO drama to keep my mind off of the fact that I'll be waking up early the next morning to fight the Seattle traffic once again. The very first episode of Deadwood immediately followed The Sopranos, and was so chock-full of intriguing characters that I couldn't help but get hooked. Wild Bill Hickok reminds me of many of the "fastest gun in the West" type characters that you find in movies like Tombstone, and it's already easy to see that he and Seth Bullock could easily become the new "law" of Deadwood. Then there's Al Swearengen, one of those cagey, evil characters that you just can't help but like. The only drawback of the show, in my opinion, is that often times the dialogue is too fast and the characters' accents are so different that it takes a bit of mind-straining just to keep up with what they're talking about. Again, though, I'm definitely looking forward to next Sunday to find out how the many great characters in this new show progress.

Television | Post Comments | View Comments (0) | Permalink

Keep My Arms so Breezy

March 21, 2004 3:54 PM

Even though people seem to be catching on to the Firefox hype these days, it's good to see that there are still themers out there keeping the product fresh with new looks for users to choose from. After all, everyone has their own unique tastes, right?

I know I've mentioned the Smoke theme here before, but for anyone who might have missed it, definitely give it a try. It's a great theming effort by Aaron Spuler, who has also worked on several other great themes.

Another theme I noticed recently is Le Breeze which is very original and sleek looking. More information on this particular theme is available at the creator's website.

And then there are some other exciting themes on the horizon, one of which I'm currently working on, that I'm sure will make the options available to Firefox users even that more abundant. To catch up on some of the theming work currently underway, I'd recommend taking a peek in the MozillaZine Themes forum.

Browsers | Post Comments | View Comments (4) | Permalink

Madness is Right

March 20, 2004 11:57 PM

To sum up the bracket nightmare that was today, Gonzaga got destroyed by 10th seed Nevada; one of my Final Four pics, Maryland, got shown up by Syracuse; Stanford fell to Alabama; and my annual pick to take the entire tournament, North Carolina, was defeated by Texas. Today will certainly be remembered, into the near future, at least, as "Black Saturday."

To avoid ending on a sour note, though, Katie and I put the madness behind us tonight by taking advantage of our new Netflix membership and watching How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Bruce Almighty. The first I had seen already, the second I hadn't – neither disappointed. I may need to update my movie queue, though, because Katie was the last one to edit it, and I would prefer not to have only chick-flicks arriving in the mail for the next month.

Anyone who hasn't signed up to at least give Netflix a try definitely should. It's great to have that "opening up a surprise birthday present" feeling several times weekly. Oh, and anyone who happened to pick Nevada to go deep in the tourney, I salute you!

Miscellaneous | Post Comments | View Comments (1) | Permalink

Now I'm Nothing

March 18, 2004 1:47 AM

Here's something at least slightly inspiring. While looking up Pearl Jam on Feedster tonight, I stumbled upon some kind of meme where you pick a band and then answer the questions in a short survey using only song titles by that particular band. There are some pretty cool Pearl Jam examples out there, but I thought maybe I'd try something a little more challenging and go with Nine Inch Nails instead, using the same survey questions:

Are you female or male: Mr. Self Destruct
Describe yourself: Just Like You Imagined
How do some people feel about you: Somewhat Damaged
How do you feel about yourself: Complication
Describe you ex girlfriend/boyfriend: The Wretched
Describe your current girlfriend/boyfriend: The Perfect Drug
Describe where you want to be: A Warm Place
Describe what you want to be: Sanctified
Describe how you live: We're In This Together
Describe how you love: Underneath It All
Share a few words of wisdom: The Way Out Is Through

Miscellaneous | Post Comments | View Comments (0) | Permalink

Sneakers or Lack Thereof

March 18, 2004 12:45 AM

Okay, my inability to come up with anything interesting to blog about will be readily apparent tonight. I've been waiting for anything (and I mean anything) to inspire me to post, and the best I could come up with was a recent post at kottke.org about sneakers. On his blog today, Jason Kottke wrote:

Sneakers these days look either like Jackson Pollack paintings or classic cars (complete with shock absorbers), making it hard for me to find something I like.

I couldn't agree with him more, other than the fact that I have no idea who Jackson Pollack is. Sneakers, especially of the basketball variety, simply suck nowadays. I grew up in the glory days of the original Air Jordans, Reebok Pumps, etc., so maybe I was a tad bit spoiled in terms of good shoe availability, but still. When I walk into a Foot Locker (or Foot Action or whatever the store might be) I spend about half a minute looking for a good shoe on the wall. I usually narrow my options down to about one shoe very quickly, pick it up off of the display, and quickly put it back once I notice some shiny bicycle reflector attached to the inside arch. I don't care what anyone says – shiny plastic does not make for a good shoe!

On a note only semi-related to basketball shoes, tomorrow brings a whole slew of matchups that officially kick off the Big Dance. As long as Valpo, Liberty, Alabama State, the Air Force and UTEP have bad days tomorrow, I should be off to a good start with my bracket.

Blathery | Post Comments | View Comments (0) | Permalink

Just Blog It

March 15, 2004 9:01 PM

I haven't had much to say lately, which is why I haven't really blogged in a while. Just as a warning, I still don't really have anything to say so don't expect anything too exciting from this post.

My girl and I watched the premiere of I Want a Famous Face on MTV tonight. What a frightening show. I can't believe there are kids out there with thousands of dollars to blow on anything, and they choose to spend it on plastic surgery that leaves them looking like celebrity wannabes. The sad part is, even though they managed to get in about a minute's worth of commentary on the ill effects of the surgeries that go wrong, the show ended up almost glorifying the phenomenon, showing how the main subjects boosted their popularity and self esteem by going through with the procedure. I have a feeling the upcoming episodes are going to get even scarier (think butt implants).

I'm going to try and sit through a full episode of Las Vegas tonight, in hopes that I'll find another show to add to my Monday night repertoire. After that, I have a new season of Average Joe to look forward to...although I have a feeling it won't be as good as the first two. We'll see, though.

And for those who could care less about second-rate television shows, I thought I'd point out that Jake Dobkin has two posts over at his blog that contain some awesome pictures of some of the sights of Seattle. Even as a Seattlite, it's nice to see the city from such an artistic, fresh perspective!

Television | Post Comments | View Comments (0) | Permalink

A Night with Britney Spears

March 13, 2004 11:43 AM

Well, Britney Spears and I were in the same room last night. Granted, that "room" was Key Arena, but still. Katie and I went to see Britney and her Onyx Hotel Tour, and I have to say I was pretty impressed. I had heard quite a few people say how talentless she is and how she can't sing, but that kind of talk always goes in one ear and right out the other. I know that Britney is a self-proclaimed performer as opposed to a musician, and she performs very well. And with the right amount of help, she can sing too. I'm not a big fan of a majority of her albums, but In The Zone is the one exception. There are so many great tracks on that album.

To get back to the point, though, we had a really good time at the show. I think the thing that surprised us most was how small Britney is. She's tiny! To add to the fun, we sat behind two teenage girls who felt that at every given chance they should let out a piercing scream that challenged every single eardrum within a twenty foot radius. There is no question that a majority of the people in attendance were teenage girls, and based on some of the show's contents, I was surprised to see just how many moms are still bringing their 10-and-under daughters to Britney's concerts. I suppose I might allow my daughters (hypothetically speaking) to see a Britney show, but rest assured their eyes would be covered by my hand as she gyrated in a nude-colored suit in a see-through bathtub while pretending to pleasure herself! I'm surprised Katie didn't cover my eyes, now that I think about it ;)

Oddly enough, one of the most entertaining events of the night was watching all the Britney fans leaving the arena after the show had ended. We were in awe of some of the outfits and get-ups we saw girls wearing. I think every outfit Britney has ever worn was represented last night, including a purple "Slave 4 U" outfit (fake snake included) that took our prize for "most bizarre," hands down. I also don't think I have ever seen that many people wearing skirts in one place at one time in my entire history of living in Washington.

While Britney's show didn't come close to providing the excitement and energy that I'd expect of, say, a Pearl Jam show, I still managed to have a good time, and the concert was more for Katie anyway. I'm sure we'll be going to see Britney the next time she rolls through town.

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History Repeating

March 11, 2004 6:37 PM

One thing that I've noticed as blogging has become more and more popular is that the World Wide Web is starting to look a lot like it did when I first started using it, back in 1994 and 1995. I remember around that time the Web's early adopters were putting up personal web pages just because they could (me included). This meant that doing a search on any random set of words (I think I was using Yahoo! at that time) would provide you with a number of "hyperlinks" (it was still cool to say it that way back then) pointing into the far corners of the web. However, back then a search for the phrase "avoiding corn" didn't return 112,000 results – trust me, I remember.

I now consider Feedster to be the new search engine of choice for finding websites and blogs by random people. You don't have to weed through pages of commercial links, and chances are after a page or two of results you've found someone truly random with something interesting to say. The only downside is, much like the mid-90s, all of these pages are starting to look the same. Back in '94 and '95 it was mostly because HTML was so weak, but nevertheless people were making tons of pages with gray backgrounds and rainbow-colored horizontal rows that were written entirely in Times New Roman. Nowadays the pages look better, for sure, but it isn't difficult to come across two blogs that look the exact same. Check out kisu and Fishing for Frod or Every Single Thing in the World and and they all lived happily ever after to see what I mean.

Now granted, this problem lies mostly in the fact that there are services like Blogger and LiveJournal out there providing a set of templates for their many users to use, and to be perfectly fair I am sure they have gone out of their way to provide users with quite a few to choose from, but when you have thousands and thousands of users choosing from a set of even 100 templates there are going to be instances of overlap no matter what.

Now you might be asking, "is the Web returning to what it looked like in the mid-90s such a bad thing?" I don't know. I'm sure there are some out there who wish all web pages looked the same, and certainly when you come across a template you've seen before you have a better chance of finding the content you're interested in much more efficiently. However, I am a huge fan of individuality and web pages that are awe inspiring. The mid-90s were interesting times without a doubt, and who knows if I ever would have pursued web design if the Web looked like it does today back when I first started using it, but I wouldn't mind if we never regressed to that state again.

Just as an aside, there is one trend I've noticed among the new blogs and websites that are popping up that I think is quite interesting. While designs may not necessarily be as unique across the board, it is virtually impossible to find two blogs or websites these days that have the same exact name. My first home page started out as "Bernie Zimmermann's Home Page" and eventually evolved to what it is today – nothing more than "Bernie Zimmermann." But then again, my name is pretty friggin' unique on its own. However, I rarely see "John Doe's Personal Web Page" anymore – instead it's The Realm of Arcanius or V.007 /:/-I'm g00d-/:/.

As the Web has grown, and we've been forced to learn how to think up strong passwords and super unique user names that would even work on AOL's service, I think everyone has found their own way to be unique and different. In that sense, the Web is still fresh and ever-evolving.

I may blog more on this later on. There are a lot of sides to this interesting phenomenon, and one of them (which I think could be the biggest and most relevant to the near future) involves the idea of syndicated content and content feeds. And then there's the idea of retrieving content without ever seeing it at all. The evolution has only just begun.

Blogging | Post Comments | View Comments (3) | Permalink

More on URIs vs. URLs

March 10, 2004 11:07 AM

Back in October I posted to my blog about the difference between a URI and a URL. While the information I shared was satisfactory, it didn't really provide a clear, clean-cut view of what the difference is. How do I know this? Because I still find myself wondering what the difference is, months after having allegedly cleared things up!

So, today I took another stab at finding the true difference between the two, and as a result, I ended up finding a clean-cut difference among URIs, URLs and URNs. For a very concise explanation of the subtle differences and some examples, check out Basic Internet Definitions.

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Talking to Your Computer

March 09, 2004 7:21 PM

Working for a company that specializes in voice recognition and its many applications, I often scour the web looking for articles, discussions or blog entries related to voice. I think it's funny how often I find posts from people who are just getting their feet wet with voice interaction and feel uncomfortable with the idea of speaking to their computer. Just tonight I ran across the website of a self-proclaimed Mac geek who, while playing around with Mac OS X 1.3's speech capabilities achieved "a new level of dorkdom."

I remember the first time I put on a headset and began speaking to my computer. I became so quickly aware of the fact that anyone within 20 feet of me could hear me talking, and that it wouldn't take much for them to deduce that I was speaking to my computer. However, luckily for me, I was surrounded by people who had already taken the plunge, so to speak, and understood that talking to your computer can actually be, dare I say it, cool.

Nowadays, talking to my computer makes just as much sense as laying my index fingers down on the F and J keys or clicking the buttons on my mouse, and it is a fun feeling to know that I'm already comfortable with something that will doubtless become a part of every computer user's routine in the very near future.

Imagine being able to keep up with the syndicated content (e.g. RSS or Atom feeds) you're interested in completely by voice, without having to skim through titles or content. All you ask is, "Have any of my feeds been updated?" and your computer speaks back something like this. This kind of interactivity is already possible – it just hasn't hit the mainstream yet. When it does, though, be prepared for the awkward but rewarding experience of speaking to your computer for the first time.

Computers | Post Comments | View Comments (0) | Permalink

Can't You See?

March 09, 2004 11:15 AM

Sometimes your words just hypnotize me.

Elsewhere | Post Comments | View Comments (0) | Permalink

Hats Off to Feedster

March 08, 2004 10:12 PM

For those who don't know, Feedster is to syndicated blogs what Google is to web pages. I've only been using Feedster's RSS Search Engine service (it supports Atom too) for a little over a week now, but it is very quickly becoming one of my most frequently visited sites.

I became a little unnerved with the site today, though, as it consistently took too long to retrieve search results, and kept on returning 0 matches for searches on "Sopranos" and "The Sopranos." Knowing that there surely must be new blog postings all over the web today regarding the new season of The Sopranos, I decided to see if I could contact the site's maintainers. To my surprise, not only was their feedback form easy to use, but they actually have a screen name available on AIM so you can contact them with any pressing issues. Impressive!

What's even more impressive, though, is that only a few hours after contacting them regarding my problem, I got not one response – but two! Apparently they are aware of the issue and are working on upgrading their servers tonight to try and eradicate the issue. Here's a snippet of one of the responses:

Hi Bernie--My apologies, as you may have guessed we are having a problem with our server today. A search on sopranos should definitely give you results, and plenty of them.

We will be making repairs between midnight and 4 a.m. tonight, so I hope your search will work better tomorrow morning.

It's nice to know that people running a service that routinely updates over 470,000 syndicated feeds still has the time to send out emails to the "little people." My hat goes off to the folks running Feedster. If you haven't yet given their service a try, what are you waiting for?

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Come Back, Kid

March 08, 2004 1:17 PM

As I mentioned over half a year ago in Griffeyless in Seattle, I would absolutely love it if Ken Griffey Jr. would return to the Mariners. There was some talk at that time about how a return trip to the franchise he "grew up" with might be a saving grace for his career.

I don't really care if he performs at even 50 percent of the level he did when he was still in Seattle. Seattle is where the kid belongs, and it would be even more incentive for me to catch some games at Safeco Field this year. And on a day like today, when the temperature is rapidly approaching the record for this area, believe me, the idea of making a trip to Safeco Field is bouncing around in my head.

That said, seeing Reunion with Junior? in the paper today was a welcome surprise. The following bits of the article have me anxiously wondering how the whole thing may pan out:

Officials of the Seattle club are believed to have had a number of internal discussions on the matter, including here at training camp.

A source among Griffey's friends has said that he would be happy to return.

While Ichiro may be the new big guy in town, I have to say that no Seattle player since Griffey left has quite filled the void, in my mind. To see Junior back in a Seattle uniform and knocking balls out of Safeco Field would be at dream come true.

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Season 5 Begins!

March 07, 2004 7:42 PM

I was nervously excited all weekend as I awaited the premier of a brand new season of The Sopranos. Now that I'm finished watching the east coast airing, I'm anxiously awaiting the west coast one coming up at 9. It felt so good to be sitting in front of the TV watching a new episode of my favorite TV series. Amazingly enough, as excited as I was, the episode still managed to knock my socks off. If for some reason you still haven't seen the premier (or you're still trying to find a bittorrent of it, like so many of the visitors of my blog seem to be doing), don't read any further...spoilers follow.

Even though I can't wait to see Steve Buscemi's new character revealed on the show, I was pleasantly surprised that they decided to hold off on revealing him until a later episode. It was nice to see some fresh faces, though, and to know that each one has the potential to affect the ebb and flow of this season's storylines much like the Richies and Ralphies of seasons past.

I loved the way the episode began, with several shots in succession of the Soprano household...eerily quiet and cold. To hear Christopher and Paulie brag about their experience in the Pine Barrens was great too, and true to form, any time Tony and Carmela appeared in the same room I found myself in pure awe. There could be no "The Sopranos" without the on-screen tension that those two so readily provide.

With the exception of the little apologetic session between Chris and Paulie toward the end of the episode, which seemed a little too hard to believe coming from two guys who just threw a brick at the back of some waiter's head, I have to say this episode was all I hoped it would be. To top it all off, the teaser for next week's episode already has me salivating. It's nice to know that, this far from an NFL season, I can look forward to so many exciting Sundays!

Television | Post Comments | View Comments (0) | Permalink

Things to Look Forward to in Firefox 0.9

March 03, 2004 2:19 PM

The Burning Edge, an online log tracking the latest developments in Firefox nightly builds, has a new feature called The Bigger Picture which lists some of the more major developments in Firefox since the 0.8 (Royal Oak) release.

After only a quick glance at the list of new features and fixes, it looks like Firefox 0.9 (One Tree Hill) is going to be awesome. Here's a short list of some of the more exciting advancements, in my opinion:

  1. "Copy Image" on image context menus (Windows and Mac)
  2. The addition of the opacity CSS3 property
  3. String-related changes that make Firefox 3% faster

And as if that weren't enough, according to the Firefox Roadmap we still have default extension bundles and a SmartUpdate feature to look forward to.

I can't wait for the release, and luckily for me I won't have to for very long. Firefox 0.9 is expected to ship either this month or next.

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Standards Compliant Yet Again

March 03, 2004 11:50 AM

Somehow, very untrue to form, I let my website's standards compliance slide by the wayside. I've been so worried about making sure my new Atom feed validates that I lost all concern for the validity of the XHTML that holds my website together. As it turns out, the only things I needed to do to bring the compliance back were rather trivial and easy to fix, so I suppose I shouldn't complain.

For a while there, I think I accepted a non-valid layout because I thought I had no choice. I have been using the onClick method for some of the links in my sidebar that allow users to switch the style of the site. I really like this feature, so there was no way I was going to sacrifice it just to ensure my XHTML was valid. However, today I learned that the only problem with using onClick in XHTML is that XHTML expects its lowercase variant. So, changing onClick to onclick in my code quickly improved my validity. Then, I had to remove a border from my site's page counter (which was stupid...I should have seen that a long time ago). Those were the only main validity problems with the static portion of my blog.

However, when you get into the dynamic portion, the problems become more frequent, and harder to alleviate. One thing I like to do from time to time is include links in my posts to Google searches. However, these can be very troublesome when you're trying to keep valid XHTML code. Google searches contain a lot of ampersands which, as anybody who knows anything about XML knows, lead to choking. Luckily, updating a few of my recent entries brought back the validity of my blog (at least the main index...who knows about all the archives), and allowed me to make the XHTML 1.1 button in the sidebar an actual link to the W3C's validator without any shame.

On a related note, I think I may work on a new extension for Firefox that allows you to right-click on a URI and copy it as an X(HT)ML-safe string. Not only would that give me more experience with creating extensions, but it would also save me a lot of stress when copying and pasting Google-like URIs into my blog links.

Web Development | Post Comments | View Comments (0) | Permalink

Miserable Failure

March 03, 2004 10:56 AM

Ever done a Google search for the term miserable failure? You should try it. It's funny.

Blathery | Post Comments | View Comments (2) | Permalink

Forward vs. Reverse Engineering

March 02, 2004 6:15 PM

Ask just about anyone involved with technology whether it is harder to engineer or reverse engineer something, and they'll almost always go with the latter. Why? Because when you reverse engineer something, you are starting with a finished product, most of the time without any knowledge of its underlying "guts," and trying to recreate it from scratch. So in essence, you have to take the time to fully understand the product, then design your own specification before implementing your own design. When you do what I'll refer to as "forward" engineering, you get to omit that first step and simply design your own specification and implement your design.

Today, while making my daily commute across Lake Washington, I experienced an example of when forward engineering is actually more difficult (and therefore more rewarding) than reverse engineering.

I was thinking, as I sometimes do, of interesting plays on words, more specifically with the words "blind" and "blonde." After several interesting word plays like "blonde as a bat" and "blonde melon," I arrived at a word play that had been made famous: "legally blonde." Now, anyone with half a brain (even if they are legally blonde) can take the phrase "legally blonde" and derive where the word play came from. This is a case where reverse engineering is inherently simple. Conversely, though, the process of arriving at the same conclusion via forward engineering was much more difficult. I had started from scratch, and it just so happened that I had the right ingredients (the words "blonde" and "blind") to arrive at the correct solution. So in this case, it had been more difficult to forward engineer a solution. Furthermore, because it had been more difficult to forward engineer in this case, it was a much more rewarding experience knowing that I had arrived at a clever play on words via my own devices.

Blathery | Post Comments | View Comments (53) | Permalink

Let the Madness Begin

March 01, 2004 11:46 PM

Fortunately for me, someone found my site in a Google search for "tarheel quotes duke sucks" tonight, thus prompting me to check the UNC men's basketball schedule and see that they play a big game against Duke in Durham this coming Saturday. Seeing how close the last game was, this one's sure to be another classic matchup. Nothing beats a good Tarheel/Blue Devil game (as long as my 'Heels win, of course).

In other good news, I may actually fall asleep before midnight tonight...something I don't think I've done in a few weeks.

Sports | Post Comments | View Comments (0) | Permalink

Computer Science All About the Benjamins?

March 01, 2004 7:45 PM

I think not. Robert Scoble of Microsoft fame posted a rebuttal of sorts to his weblog today in response to something Dave Winer wrote on his blog about why more students aren't pursuing Computer Science degrees these days.

Robert thinks that by naming off a few prosperous companies like Google and Tivo and the types of profits they are making, he is giving more than enough reason for potential Computer Science students to enter the field.

In my opinion, he couldn't be more wrong. I know that my personal decision to enter the field of Computer Science had very little to do with money. The main reason I decided to study Computer Science was that I enjoyed working with computers; they fascinated me. Luckily for me, they still do, and my decision was a prosperous one. While current students may not be entering for the same reason, I think the ones that are going through with it are doing it more for similar reasons than dissimilar ones.

I have to admit, the thought of getting rich off of a good software idea or a strong position in a up-and-coming company crossed my mind, just as it did for many of my peers, but even if the potential for finding a good job and making a lot of money looked the same in 1998 as it does now, I know I would have entered the field and pursued my passion for computers and web/software development regardless.

Do I think that the current economy (or at least the economy of the past few years) has played a part in deterring potential students from joining the Computer Science field? Sure. But anyone it deterred was in it for the wrong reasons, and they're probably better off pursuing whatever fields they opted for instead. It's no secret that I'd rather be working alongside someone who invests time in his or her job because of the enjoyment and pride it involves than someone who thinks he or she might make a quick buck off of his or her work.

Oh, and the more people who avoid the field because of the lack of potential for making money, the more money I stand to make, right? So yeah, that definitely doesn't hurt my situation.

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Black Holes

March 01, 2004 3:56 PM

While reading Slashdot today, I came across an article titled "Information Paradox Solved? If So, Black Holes Are 'Fuzzballs,'" which reveals some incredibly interesting information about black holes and how they are formed. The part of the article I most enjoyed is reproduced below:

In the classical model of how black holes form, a supermassive object, such as a giant star, collapses to form a very small point of infinite gravity, called a singularity. A special region in space surrounds the singularity, and any object that crosses the region's border, known as the event horizon, is pulled into the black hole, never to return.

In theory, not even light can escape from a black hole.

The diameter of the event horizon depends on the mass of the object that formed it. For instance, if the sun collapsed into a singularity, its event horizon would measure approximately 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) across. If Earth followed suit, its event horizon would only measure 1 centimeter (0.4 inches).

It's amazing to think that something as massive as the planet we live on would only make for a black hole slightly larger than a ladybug.

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