Archive for 2004

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.


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.

Comments Are Disabled

After waking up to over 200 comment spams this morning, I’ve had to disable comments on the site for now. For a while, I wasn’t getting any spams — but then about a week ago I started getting maybe 5 a day. Until last night, when someone just dropped on bomb over here. So commenting is broken for now, and (maybe) will be back soon. Clearly I need to take better measures in preventing this stuff. Thanks.

Update: Commenting is now restored. I’m hopeful that, along with MT-Blacklist which I’ve had installed for a long time, the following will help combat future spamming: renaming mt-comments.cgi and removing the “Post” button from the entry page (forcing a preview of your comment before posting). These tips and more, explained. It also appears that MT3.1 has a vastly improved editing interface for comments, hopefully easing the process of deleting 200 comments all at once. An upgrade may be in order.

Pigs Are Flying

Like every other New Englander, I’m in a state of shock this (early) morning. Disbelief. Did it really happen? Did it really take 86 years? 86 years. My god that really is a long time. After a partial night’s sleep, I guess it’ll start to sink in.
1918 - 2004Here’s to an amazing team, that pulled off the impossible. To those who never got to see it happen in their lifetime. And it’s more than just a baseball game we’re talking about here. The memories of buying cases of baseball cards with my brother, hoping that they were all filled with Wade Boggs, Jim Rice and yes… Bill Buckner. Going to Fenway with my family all those years, and continually going back to soak up the history. It didn’t matter that they never won it all — heck, it’s fun to root for the underdog. But this year, it all seemed like it was the right time for Boston to win. An unforgettable eight consecutive victories.
Now what do we do? First: sleep.

Author Highlighting in MT

I’ve finally implemented author highlighting for the comments here at SimpleBits. Any comment that I add myself gets a slightly different style treatment to set it apart from the rest. I first noticed Dave doing this quite awhile back. Many others followed — and I’ve found it pretty darn useful when I read other sites, being able to quickly scan for the site owner’s remarks.

How is it done? Depending on the system you’re using, there are approximately 34,760 ways to make this happen, and I came up empty when searching for a writeup on how people handle the swap. Here’s how I tackled it.

I started by downloading the Switch plugin for MT. This allows for conditional statements within Movable Type’s templates. I’m sure there are other methods — and feel free to leave your own tips in the comments.

Once the plugin was installed, I just needed a way to insert a class to the <dt> and <dd> elements that I use to structure the author and text for each comment. This class would only exist if the comment was authored by me.

Using the Switch plugin’s syntax I added this to the entry template:

<dt<MTSwitch value="[MTCommentAuthor]">
  <MTSwCase value="Dan Cederholm"> class="dan"</MTSwCase>

So here, I’m testing for when the author’s value is “Dan Cederholm”. If it is, then it’ll add whatever’s between the <MTSwCase> tags — in this case: class="dan". Notice the space before class — this is important, as for every other case but “Dan Cederholm”, we’ll just have a normal <dt> (or <dd>) element, without extra spaces.

With a class now inserted for my own comments, I could just add specific styles for dt.dan and dd.dan to make them unique.

While I’m using the value of MTCommentAuthor, the plugin will accept any MT tag to match against. You could use an email address, URL, etc. — or I suppose get even more fancy with IP address or other more secure methods. I do realize that, now that I’ve documented this, I’m making it easy for people to pretend to be Dan Cederholm (I’m not sure why one would want to do that), but simplicity is bliss.

The Importance of Slippers

It’s slipper season again. When it dips below 60° (F), it’s time to wear slippers around the house. And I’m here today to highly recommend the Acorn Moc. Hands down the most comfortable slipper you’ll ever wear.
The padded foam and rubber soles make these stand out, giving you the ability to take out the trash and grab the paper outside without having to put on normal shoes. Heck, you may even be daring enough to wear them out all day, in public. They will wear out faster doing this, and really only “The Dude” from The Big Lebowski could pull something like that off.
If you think it a bit odd that I’ve just posted about slippers, then you’re probably right.