Archive for November, 2004

I Have Joined a Dodgeball League

I type this as the lactic acid is starting to set in. I have joined a dodgeball league, sponsored by a local YMCA here on the North Shore of Boston. Dodgeball? Yes, that game. I write this post to encourage others that may have similar leagues starting in their areas. It is extremely fun.

Having no idea what to expect, naturally the greatest worry is the equipment. Will it sting? But an official dodgeball is much like a small, Nerf (the leader in foam ball construction) ball that’s been dipped in thin, rubbery plastic. This means it can be thrown with incredible velocity, yet cannot inflict any pain. The lightness of the ball lends itself to be thrown in corkscrew or curve paths toward the opponent, making it difficult to either catch it, or duck out of the way. Strategies quickly emerge from elementary school memories buried deep. As one teammate said, it’s a mental game. Heh.

Surprisingly, this dodgeball league is nicely organized, with strict rules and fast game times. It’s non-stop running around, throwing and jumping. Great excercise — and something I need after sitting in front of a computer screen all day. What do you do to blow off steam?

Pixies

No sooner was the Thanksgiving turkey consumed than Kerry and I were packing to head up to freezing Montréal for the weekend. The cold weather and short trip made for not seeing all of the city that we probably should have, but we were there for one reason and one reason only: to see the Pixies play live.

The PixiesSecond on a list of “I didn’t think I’d get a chance to see that” (first being the Red Sox miracle of October 2004). Did that really happen? Did the Pixies reunite — and more importantly — did they sound great? Aside from the horrible acoustics of the venue (a hockey arena), the show was surreal — and only would be for a fan that never thought they’d be able to witness it. Heck, Joey Santiago was possibly the largest influence on me, in my old music playing days.

A highlight was seeing bassist Kim Deal play the entire set with a permanent smile. Evidence that the band enjoyed playing together again. And without saying a single word to the audience the whole way though, all four members took a good five minutes at the end to pace the front of the stage, waving and smiling to the crowd that was going berzerk.

Was it worth the six-hour drive? You bet. And I hope to catch another show here in Boston, where I’m told there’ll be many.

Transmitting

A few months ago, I wrote about my search for the perfect FTP client — and how I didn’t think it existed yet on OS X. I still don’t. But I’ve recently purchased Transmit from the fine folks at Panic Software and have been giving it a spin.

Transmit iconIt’s fast, responsive and has some nice configurable toolbar options (shortcuts, previewing files, etc.). I still think that the one feature it’s missing (and I’ve emailed a feature request to the company) is a “column view” for navigating server directories, much like that found in the OS X Finder. It’s become such a natural way to view hierarchy for me, and with that feature, Panic would be the best FTP client in the history of FTP clients. For now, it seems to be the best FTP client in the history of FTP clients currently available for OS X.

My main complaint with RBrowser, which I had been using exclusively for a long time, was it’s sluggishness — and inability to transfer large, deep directories without freezing. Transmit wins on the performance meter — hands down.

Also, the icon. It’s one of the better OS X icons I’ve seen. Why? It’s fat and chunky (easy to click) and looks cool when it’s bouncing up and down (if you like that sort of thing happening in your Dock).

Commenting Restored

Commenting is now restored. I ended up (reluctantly) upgrading to MT3.11, solely for the ability to bulk delete any future spam attacks with ease. But clicking around a bit, I’m noticing some other interesting features, and am now happy to be on the latest version.

A tip on upgrading. If you have a large site with a lot of entries and comments — I’d suggest making sure you’re using a SQL database. I was previously using Berkeley DB, and upgrading those large databases failed every time (timeouts). There are scripts (possibly already there) to transfer from Berkeley DB to SQL. Do this first. The rest of the upgrade process went very smooth, and MT in general looks to be running faster.

I’ll be continuing to add more spam-blocking features to the site now that I’m upgraded. Thanks to all those that have written in with offers to help. Very kind of you.

Mystery Photo Contest Thing

What’s in the photo, below? Every few days, I’ll be gradually increasing the resolution, making it a little easier to try and figure out just what it is.

The first person to correctly guess won’t win truckloads of cash, a new car, a new dining room set or a pair of jet skis. But they will win the following:

I’m a bit limited as to what I can give away around here, but this is all just for fun anyway. And here is the mystery photo…

what is it?

Good luck.

Update: Believe it or not, this photo was guessed in the first comment. Either tirin is a genius, or I clearly didn’t make this hard enough. Regardless, this concludes this (short) contest.

iTMS Success Story

I’ve just spent my first 99 cents at the iTunes Music Store. It’s taken me awhile, as I’m one of those people that likes to be able to hold the liner notes, etc. when they buy music. Anyhow, the process was so simple, seamless and instantaneous, that it could easily become a dangerous habit. Although I will try my best to avoid that.

The story behind my first purchased song is somewhat of an internet success story. Flash back 6 years ago, when my wife and I are sitting in a London pub (probably Old Speckled Hen on tap) and a fantastic song is being played. I remember only a partial lyric: “shake baby shake”, which at the time I remember hoping meant “baby” in a metaphorical sense. But based on the mood of the song (positive and poppy), I’m sure that I was right.

So, I forget about the song for a long while, never knowing who it was. Now, going from that one line I remembered 6 years ago, to having the song on my iPod in about 2 minutes is what’s worth celebrating here. Search Google for the partial lyric to find out the song was “500 (Shake Baby Shake)” by the band Lush. A second query for “Lush” on iTMS pulled up the song, one click and it’s downloading directly to my iTunes library. I’m sure it’s why the system is so successful — that the downloading and automatic integration with your existing music libarary is so seamless.

Those that have been using the iTMS all along already know how convenient it is. I’m certainly late to the game. For full albums, I’ll most likely stick to buying the actual CD — but for instances like the Lush song, when I just really want to hear a particular song without investing too much, it couldn’t be any easier.

Down With Laces

I’m slowly, yet methodically, ridding myself of shoe laces. With each new footwear purchase, I am opting for models that simply “slip on”, rather than those that require lacing up. I’m also aware that my gradual switch only accelerates the fact that I am no longer “cool”. That aside, let’s take a look at the ways in which non-laced footwear is superior:

  • You don’t have to bend over.
  • Does not require the use of hands.
  • Faster.
  • Pants don’t get caught in lace bow.
  • And other reasons not listed here.

What’s fascinating to me is that it’s taken so long for slip-on shoes of all styles to catch on. I realize (intelligent) people have been wearing laceless shoes for perhaps centuries, but it seems that in recent years, the variety has increased, and shoes of all types now come without laces. They’re everywhere now, or at least I’ve just started noticing.

Couple this recent popularity with the fact that I never really properly learned how to tie my own shoes, and you have the recipe for a global wardrobe “about face”.

Now, the more important question to ask, is why (on a web site historically known for web design-ish topics) all the posts on slippers, shoes and breast pockets? Well, I’m told that variety is the spice of life. And if that means meaningless rants on uncool fashion trends, sprinkled in with actual engaging topics — then so be it.

Urgh! A Music War

I happened to catch a great documentary on INHD a few nights ago. Besides having a bizarre title, Urgh! A Music War captured some incredible live performances from the “it” bands of 1980.

The Police and the Go-Gos were well known at this point — but check out this lineup: The Police, Wall of Voodoo, Toyah Willcox, John Cooper Clarke, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Chelsea, Oingo Boingo, Echo and the Bunnymen, Jools Holland, XTC, Klaus Nomi, Athletico Spizz 80, The Go-Gos, Dead Kennedys, Steel Pulse, Gary Numan, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Surf Punks, Members, Au Pairs, The Cramps, Invisible Sex, Pere Ubu, Devo, The Alleycats, John Ottway, Gang of Four, 999, Fleshtones, X, Skafish, Splodgenessabounds, UB40.

I’m still having nightmares of Klaus Nomi (who I’d never heard of before seeing this), but seeing XTC, John Ottway, Echo and the Bunnymen and Devo live at a time when punk, new wave and techno were all converging was just amazing.

I’m not surprised it’s being played on television in 2004 as many of today’s bands sound similar — even 24 years later.

CSS Bug of the Day

You know those desk calendars where you tear off a page for each day of the year? Typically, each day comes with a little nugget of useless info to start your day. Someone should create one based on CSS bugs, where each day talks about a different bug and its workaround. Perhaps even more nerdy than the “365 Days of Dragons, Merlins and Magical Stones” that I’ve been meaning to covertly purchase.

Until then, perhaps I’ll start posting reminders here as I rediscover old favorites. While there are some bugs that we run into every day, immediately knowing their remedies, there are others that pop up here and there, only to be looked up again and again to be reminded of their workarounds. It never hurts to publicize these suckers now and again.

figureToday’s bug is the IE Doubled Float-Margin Bug: When floating a block-level element and adding a margin on the same side as the float direction, IE/Win can double the margin width that is specified. Luckily, there is a simple workaround offered (at Position is Everything, of course).

Are there enough CSS bugs to fill a 365-day calendar? Probably.

Trees

Each year, I mean to put together a comprehensive analysis of what it’s like to be in Salem during the month of October. Thousands make a pilgrimage to the city, touring the witch museums, buying fried dough and dressing up like it’s Halloween on the 30 other days of the month. That comprehensive analysis will have to wait till next year, but I did want to point out the best costume I have ever seen in my life.

Halloween night in Salem is relatively insane. The streets are closed down, and crowds of people come out, showing off their finest costumes. We’ve seen some pretty great ones — costumes that require a lot of time and thought. But there was one in particular this year that was hands down, the winner.

The sheer brilliance of this costume is that is requires no planning. Feel free to print out the following materials list for future reference:

  • 1 roll of duct tape

figureWe witnessed three guys walking through the crowd, each with 5 foot tall tree branches duct taped around their waist, covering their entire upper body (see figure). There were also slow, spooky (but soft) chants of “Treeeeees… treeeeees”, as they made their way by. As we watched the tops of the branches wade through the sea of people (clearly visable even at a distance), it looked something like an elementary school rendition of a scene from The Lord of the Rings.

So as long as you have a roll of duct tape handy, find a tree with long skinny branches and tape them to yourself. You just may have the best costume ever created. Works best in packs of three or four people.