April 2006

Album Cover: White Blood Cells

"Every breath that is in your lungs is a tiny little gift to me."
White Stripes / Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground

Satire and Balls

April 30, 2006 7:30 PM

I've never been a huge Stephen Colbert fan, probably because I jumped on the Daily Show bandwagon after he had departed to The Colbert Report, and the latter hasn't ever really floated my boat. That being said, I have to give major props to the guy for taking satire to a whole new level at this year's White House Correspondents Ball. He showed some real balls saying the things he said in front of that audience. If you haven't seen it yet, the CSPAN broadcast is available via BitTorrent. If you catch the full broadcast, the little bit the president did with his top impersonator was pretty funny, too.

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April 30, 2006 7:17 PM

One of the great things about web feeds is that your readers don't really notice when your site goes down for almost a week straight. Well, unless you post as much as someone like Robert Scoble does, but I'm not that crazy.

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Constants in CSS Revisited

April 24, 2006 8:42 PM

A couple years ago, I pondered the absence of constants in CSS. I also promised I'd post again if I ever found out why CSS does not support constants. Well, my friends, that day has come.

Earlier this month, Opera Watch began soliciting questions for Håkon Wium Lie, the father of CSS and the Acid2 test (and also the CTO of Opera). Thinking on my feet, I submitted the following:

Håkon, why doesn't CSS support constants? Being able to assign an RGB value to a constant, for instance, could make stylesheet maintenance a lot more manageable. Was it just an oversight?

I've raised this question at my blog but have yet to receive any kind of explanation.

Håkon's answers were posted today, and his answer to my question is as follows:

No, we thought about it. True, it would have saved some typing. However, there are also some downsides. First, the CSS syntax would have been more complex and more programming-like. Second, what would be the scope of the constant? The file? The document? Why? In the end we decided it wasn't worth it.

So there you have it. The real answer to why constants aren't supported in CSS. Guess you couldn't find out from a more authoritative source, right?

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April 24, 2006 7:30 PM

I made a rather tongue-in-cheek comment about guns over the weekend, but after reading about a foiled plot to kill 15 people at random today, I think it may be worth my time to say a bit more.

Bringing up guns here might be as crazy as venting political frustration, but it's my blog and I'll cry if I want to.

The article I read today was forwarded to me by my girlfriend because she recognized the high school in the story:

Pierce County Sheriff deputies arrested a 16-year-old boy over the weekend for allegedly plotting to kill students and staff at Rogers High School in Puyallup.

If you've ever read about me, you'll remember that I graduated from Rogers High School in 1998. The story really hit home because it could have resulted in the deaths of people I know, people I still think about, and people that in one way or another shaped who I am.

The worst part is, this little incident, if you can call it that, is only one piece in a puzzle of gun-related incidents that have had a direct connection to me. When I attended Pacific Lutheran University, my favorite professor, Dr. Holloway, a choir conductor who was inspirational on so many levels, was randomly shot and killed on campus.

I'm not really here to argue for or against guns. I've tried that in the past, albeit very weakly, and it hasn't changed a thing. Writing opinions on a blog can only get you so far. I can say, though, that guns have brought nothing positive to my life. I can already hear the rebuttals, but I will say it one more time...

Guns have brought nothing positive to my life.

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Infinite or Immortal?

April 23, 2006 6:19 PM

Back on New Year's Eve I wished for the Smashing Pumpkins to reunite this year. The official Smashing Pumpkins website says this today:

It's official, The Smashing Pumpkins are currently writing songs for their upcoming album, their first since 2000. No release date has yet been set, but the band plans to begin recording this summer.

And while I'm on the subject of comebacks, I've finally added some downloads over at my band's website after having had to take them down several months ago. Head on over to the Albums page for the full list, or just whet your appetite here:

Pleasure Unit - Father
Pleasure Unit - Immortal Sadness

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Seattle's Digital Pub

April 23, 2006 1:00 PM

John Chandler wrote in the other day to let me know about Seattle.BloggersPub, an aggregate blog consisting of posts written by Seattlites. He asked if I'd be willing to contribute, and I said yes. If you have some time and are interested in what Seattle bloggers have to say, definitely check it out. I know the Seattle area is rife with bloggers, so I'm sure it will only get better over time.

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From Hunter to Hunted

April 23, 2006 1:25 AM

I don't mean to be crass, but if you decide to play the "food chain game" with a rifle under your arm, I don't think it's all that unfair that the food chain reminds you where you belong on that chain.

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Adaptive Aggregators

April 22, 2006 12:56 PM

My head is so full of ideas right now that they are starting to spill out of my ears. The one I'm about to present here I know I won't have time to prototype or implement, so why not let it free?

One of the most frustrating things about logging in to my Bloglines account after a long, busy day is to see the number of unread posts in the 400 to 500 range. You might be wondering, "why don't you just unsubscribe from some feeds, then?" Because these are feeds I care about. A majority of the time, the number gets really high because of feeds from Slashdot and Digg that have had a few days to build up. When the posts in those feeds get into the hundreds, clicking on them can be quite a commitment. For instance, when I click on the Digg feed, I know I've just put myself on the hook for a good fifteen minutes of reading (at least).

So how can this problem be solved and still allow me to stay subscribed to the feeds that are important to me? Through adaptation.

One of the coolest things about the popular email client, Mozilla Thunderbird, is that it adapts to the way you read your email and removes the clutter so you don't have to. Just because we're talking about spam in one realm and uninteresting content in another doesn't mean the same rules of adaptation can't apply.

Let's say Bloglines allowed me to give each post I read an optional "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" (similarly to how user comments are now handled over at Digg). That would teach my feed reader my reading habits over time. When these habits are better understood, it wouldn't be unreasonable to automatically hide posts from the feed that probably aren't of interest to me, or at least make them less visible so skimming through a long list of posts would become more manageable.

You might think this type of approach would only work for the types of feeds I've mentioned that get a lot of throughput. However, you have to remember that every new post is a potential item coming through your aggregator. In the grand scheme of things, even if your aggregator knows that a once-a-month kind of post isn't up your alley, it has saved you time in the long run. Granted, I know that all of you who subscribe to my feed are interested in everything I say, but I bet there are other feeds out there that aren't so amazingly interesting all the time ;)

I did a little research on adaptive aggregators before posting this idea, and I didn't really find anything. The closest thing I found was over at Geeking with Greg – an article that talks about an actual feed that is adaptive, as opposed to a feed reader. If anyone else knows of aggregators that currently do this (or plan to), I'd love to hear about it.

Adaptation: it isn't just for spam anymore.

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Downloading Songs Legally

April 21, 2006 11:04 PM

I think it's quite ironic (and quite humorous) that I show up on the first page of search results for downloading songs legally.

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Sons & Daughters

April 20, 2006 1:21 AM

My girlfriend and I are completely hooked on the TV show Sons & Daughters. When it didn't air last night after not airing last week, needless to say, we got a bit concerned. Especially after what happened to Arrested Development.

I did a Google News search and found an artile at The Mercury News stating that Sons & Daughters is among a whole slew of ABC comedies that are on the renewal bubble. I'm dumbfounded.

I learned tonight that Fred Goss, who plays the show's main character, is also the creator, a writer, the director, and a producer of the show. Thanks to a post over at Ramblings of a bald man, I also learned that Fred Goss is active online and that he even blogs.

At his blog, Fred points to a petition that anyone can sign online to try and keep the show on the air.

I'm personally amazed that it has even come to this. Sons & Daughters is in a league of its own in terms of reshaping sitcom comedy and intertwining it with genuine emotion that only someone encircled by a dysfunctional family (read: everyone) can appreciate. I'm anxiously awaiting episode 11 and hoping we don't see another great show go the way of the Bluths.

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

Pulling One's Hair Out

April 19, 2006 11:57 PM

Jonathan Snook shares some of his redesign pain with the rest of us in Failed Redesign. Web designers should take note. Most of us have been there.

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A Look at IRIs

April 15, 2006 9:27 PM

Last month I was reading up on PHP 6 when I came across a reference to IRI at Jero.net. I thought it was interesting to see IRI used in place of URI, so I left a comment. The next day, the site's author replied with the following:

@Bernie Zimmermann: IRI is the renewed standard of URI, as I described in my article IRIs, URIs and URLs.

Because my own entry, URI vs. URL, got so much attention, I figured why not point readers to this resource? So if you have the time and are interested in the distinction between URIs, URLs and IRIs, check out the article.

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The Backwoods of Montana

April 15, 2006 8:06 PM

Digg pointed me to an article titled Tips for Productivity and Happiness at Work that I'd recommend to anyone who is involved with professional software development. I couldn't help but laugh, though, when the author kicked his list of tips off with the following disclaimer:

Keep in mind that I grew up in the back woods of Montana with no electricity and I'm mostly Irish.


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Migrating from 30 Boxes to Google Calendar

April 13, 2006 1:05 AM

As predicted, now that Google Calendar is out (via Forever Geek), I'm making the switch from 30 Boxes. At first I wasn't sure how I was going to do it because I couldn't see anything about exporting my current calendar at 30 Boxes. However, after finding some websites that offered proof it is indeed possible, I wandered into the "Syndication" area of the "Your Settings" area and found the links to the .ical and .csv files. Initially I tried importing the .ical file into Google Calendar, but that didn't bring everything over for some reason. In fact, while it said it imported 18 items, I was only able to find one on my calendar after the import. I tried exporting to .csv from 30 Boxes next, though, and importing that into Google Calendar seemed to do the trick. I lost all the recurrence information, but that's not that big a deal. Luckily for me, I haven't been using 30 Boxes long enough to have enough old data to make the switch a pain. I'm now officially rolled over to Google Calendar and will doubtless be posting again once I get a better feel for it.

And thus continues my everlasting quest for an organized life.

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Remote References to XSL in Firefox

April 11, 2006 9:34 PM

After putting together an XSL stylesheet today to transform some XML files I was working with, I added a reference to one of the files, like so:

<?xml-stylesheet type="text/xsl" href="http://example.com/xsl/style.xsl"?>

While I was writing the stylesheet, I used a local, relative reference to the file, but when I was finished I wanted to host the file in a central location so that anyone could add a reference like the one above to their XML files to take advantage of it. A quick glance at the transformed file in Internet Explorer showed no problems. A quick glance in Firefox, though, was a different story.

When all I saw was bare text and no styling at all, my first hunch was that Firefox doesn't allow absolute references to stylesheets so that any security issues with remote files can be avoided. The only reason this was my first hunch was because of the number of run-ins I've had with Firefox and these types of security measures in other areas. A forum thread over at thescripts.com confirmed my hunch.

So if you want to apply an XSL transformation to an XML file and have it work in Firefox, be sure to only use local references. If the XML file is hosted somewhere, store the transformation on the same server. If you're dealing with local XML files that see their fair share of travel, make sure they always carry your transformation with them.

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

How Internet Explorer 6 Saved the Day

April 09, 2006 10:35 AM

For about a week now I've been anxiously awaiting the presale for Pearl Jam's show at The Gorge this coming July. It began at 10am Pacific this morning, and luckily enough for me I woke up on my own volition at about 9:15am. At around 9:45am I loaded up the band's website and logged in to my fan club account. The fact that I did so in Firefox should go without saying, but I'll mention it here just for the sake of the story.

As 10am approached, I started to refresh the list of presales in hopes that maybe the one for The Gorge would show up a little early. When 10am showed up with no change in the list of presales...then 10:01...10:02...10:03...I started to worry. Was Firefox displaying more of its naughty caching tendencies? I thought it was a long shot, but just in case I decided to surf to the page in Internet Explorer 6. Sure enough, once I was able to get there (pearljam.com had slowed down significantly at this point, presumably because of the sheer number of fan club members located in the Pacific Northwest), I saw an entry for The Gorge in the list of presales. I went back to Firefox just as a sanity check and the list still had not updated. I tried reloading the whole page, just the frame, nothing.

Long story short, I ended up buying my presale tickets in Internet Explorer 6. I'm ashamed, but not so ashamed as to miss out on an opportunity to see my favorite band up close at one of the best, if not the best, venues in the United States.

So let this be a lesson to all. It's not a bad thing to have a backup browser on hand. Even if it is Internet Explorer. I have a few, and if IE would have failed me, Opera would have been next in line.

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April 5th

April 05, 2006 12:36 AM

Time to get naked!

And while we're on the subject, "the perfect woman would be made of steam."

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Installing the Subversion Client with SSL Support on Linux

April 04, 2006 2:20 PM

Today I needed to take a Red Hat Linux box and get the Subversion client running on it so I could check out some source from a secure repository. Initially, building and installing Subversion was a snap using their latest tarball. However, all it took was an attempt to check out the source to see that my job was not quite done. After trying to run a command like the following:

svn co https://www.example.com/svn/trunk/source

I got the following error:

svn: SSL is not supported

Luckily it only took a quick Google search to find the source of my problem. I needed to compile Subversion against a version of neon that had SSL enabled.

So here's what I did. I downloaded the version of neon that is recommended by Subversion (since the latest version is apparently a little too recent to work with the latest version of Subversion). Then I did the typical ./configure, make, make install routine, with the following exception:

./configure --with-ssl

By adding the --with-ssl switch, I've ensured that neon will be compiled with SSL support turned on.

Then, I did a make clean on my previous Subversion compilation and reconfigured it to use the version of neon that I had just compiled, like so:

./configure --with-neon=/usr/local/

Note that I pointed to /usr/local/ because of another Subversion recommendation.

After reconfiguring, compiling and installing, I now have the Subversion client running on my Linux machine with SSL support enabled.

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Radio Paradise

April 03, 2006 6:08 PM

What do you do when you're Bernie Zimmermann and you don't have your iPod with you?

Put on Radio Paradise. It's basically the same thing.

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CSS Naked Day

April 02, 2006 5:24 PM

Usually I'm not big on geek humor, but this one made me laugh. Someone over at Digg posted something about CSS Naked Day, which is apparently a proposal for web designers to strip their sites of CSS for a day. Anyway, to that, someone named "uptown" said:

Someone make sure to let CraigsList know......


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