1. My life in a nutshell

    brian on 2005.11.01
    at 01:26 am

    Again, extreme apologies to our six readers. I’ve been an utter slacker and haven’t written in almost a month! How can I pick on Jess, if I don’t walk the walk?

    OK, actually, I’ve been very busy. Including hand-crafting some paper (the other white media) with Amanda that we’ll shortly shipping en masse from the US Postal Service.

    And trying to learn FileMaker Pro to create a database of our wedding info. And trying to make a wedding website. And trying to write an engagement announcement, and revive my Photoshop skills to edit the accompanying photo.

    And trying to update my own website. And trying to deal with random requests to build websites for unknown businesses from God-knows where (sorry!).

    And trying to start my 401k. And working 40 hours a week at the world’s coolest and never a dull moment company, despite having to ply my trade in an urban mall location.

    And trying to start up a couple little for-work projects in my own time, so I can get noticed and move up in the world (and hopefully out of the mall and off weekends)

    Did I mention I was trying to re-sharpen my CSS skills? (Jake has become our lone pro-level CSS ninja, as my kung-fu has weakened to dangerously low, merely-informed-hobbiest levels).

    Also I’ve batted around the idea of going back to school. A excellent candidate for an institution is walking distance from our home. Except I’d have to get my beloved company to pay for it because I have a mortgage, wedding and car to pay for. But at least I could walk to class.

    If I could go back to school, I would look to study how to use often-overlooked, simple education technology to further goals of learning. Specifically, simple, light-weight web technologies, which load fast on even remote, dial-up connections. Of course, they would have to be web-standards compliant, and platform independent. It would leverage as much free software and possible. Once that framework is in place, then I would address the great deficit of design in ed tech.

    So much great info, so little usable design. How can someone use a website to learn, if they first need to learn to use the website? What a waste!

    What would I do if I accomplished all of this? Well there is a wealth of weather data and weather webcams… and not a nice site in the mix. Nothing a little taste, CSS, and XML couldn’t address.

    Of course, we still don’t have curtains in our new home. And I have about 30 other things I should address in here. Need a new TV because this one’s on the fritz. We’ve been waiting to purchase our mountain bikes. My birthday is coming up. I also should be writing more on this blog. I should investigate local Medford politics so I can vote in a week. Or, is it tomorrow? Am I even registered here? Have I paid our electric bill? Why can’t I pay that online? When should I mount our snow tires? When will I get the car in for an oil change, and a new ignition cassette? Let’s not forget this next doctor’s appointment!

    Then of course, we’d finally redesign on our own weblog.

    But at least I got to take two days in the Adirondacks. I should post the pictures, they’re beautiful. If I can find the time…

    Posted in: Rant

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  2. Helloooooooo....?

    jake on 2005.10.26
    at 02:40 pm

    I just thought I should throw something up since we’re posting less and less. I’m not sure what Brian’s been up to exactly. ;) But I’ve just been busy with work. Normally I have a little breathing room during the day, but I can barely keep up with reading feeds let alone write anything down.

    Personally the quality isn’t very high in posts and I’d like to try and write things with a little more grammer in the future. Which usually prevents quick blurb posts because I don’t want to just repeat the current meme. It’s difficult to decide, write fast with cliches or take my time and think about what I’m writing.

    On the design front. We’ve been live for almost four years. And this place is really showing its age. Maybe last year I should have jumped on the bandwagon and used the same basic but applied the Wicked Worn Look.

    The actual date Re¢ently turns four is November 15^th^. Brian and I have been playing with some ideas on a new look. If we’re lucky we’ll at least start building by the birthday. If we somehow figure out how to slow time we’ll have it done by the birthday.

    Hopefully once we spiff the place up I’ll get to start playing with some of the backend features again and we’ll both start writing with more frequency.

    Here’s a geeky question for our eight regular readers. When we’re done cleaning do you think the version number should finally hit 1.0 or do you think we should jump all the way to 2 because it looks totally different?

    Posted in: Service Announcement

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  3. Manipulating Pumpkins for Halloween

    jake on 2005.10.26
    at 02:16 pm

    I’ve always been a big fan of Autumn and Halloween. Naturally a direct result of that is pumpkin love. And cider, oh and dipping apples in caramel… but of course that has nothing to do with pumpkins. Here are some links that include pumpkin love.

    Posted in: Art

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  4. Cell phone followup

    jake on 2005.10.18
    at 12:07 am

    Personal Experience with the LG VX8100

    Not everything has been perfect with my new phone and Verizon. Naturally with cell companies I expect this and I accept it.

    The first noticeable problem is the poor battery duration. A new battery and an upgrade to the firmware fixed that. My friend Jay confirmed this past weekend with his phone that it is most likely a firmware problem. He already tried replacing his battery with no success. New firmware is the way to go.

    Currently the latest firmware is version 04. Take your phone to a Verizon store and request for them to upgrade your firmware. It’s free and takes about 15 minutes.

    Some links on cell phone coverage.

    A short while after I got my phone I found a handful of links regarding cell coverage. Some of them are generic coverage maps from the carriers, others are cool tools from 3rd parties.

    Hopefully that’ll help anyone out there with making decisions on which carrier to pick.

    Posted in: Technology

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  5. Global Happiness Indicators

    brian on 2005.10.06
    at 02:57 pm

    The world looks to Bhutan for leadership when it comes to measuring and increasing the happiness of its citizenry.

    A New Measure of Well-Being From a Happy Little Kingdom [NYT page will sadly expire]

    Posted in: Politics

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  6. OpenCourseWare continues growth

    brian on 2005.10.06
    at 02:35 am

    I’ve been lax posting here for a while. Tonight, I’ll break that.

    I am a proponent of Open Content. I’m very interested in educational technology (truth be told I’ve thought about graduate study in this field about once a week since college). Certainly, there are cases and audiences for paid content. However, education is a basic human right, and whenever possible, that type of content should be available. Education benefits everyone. If your neighbor gets smarter, you benefit.

    On this topic, MIT bust on the scene a while back with the OpenCourseWare initiative. Others have come out to offer their courses, including my neighbor, Tufts. The downside of these, however, is that the majority of the courses are pretty high-end. Great if you’re already studying one of these topics in a doctoral program. Anyone up for Introduction to Applied Nuclear Physics? Not so great for the rest of us paying a mortgage with a 40-hr a week job.

    Today I discovered the Sofia Open Content program from Foothill and DeAnza Colleges. They have freshman-level courses. Two that have caught my eye are and Introduction to Programming Java, and Physical Geography. Outstanding.

    I’m interested in Introduction to Java Programming because I hear that java is a good programming language to learn first, both for its importance and ubiquity, and for it’s C-like-ness, and many other languages, like PHP are C-like. Versus say Ruby, which is supposedly easy to learn, but not terribly applicable to other languages… since many languages are C-like.

    Unfortunately, I am unlike Jake in that I just can’t find half-written tutorials on the web and be a zen-programming-master in two weeks. I need some structure to my learning.

    The intro to Physical Geography reads as such: Physical geography is the study of the earth’s dynamic systems – its air, water, weather climate, landforms, rocks, soils, plants, ecosystems and biomes – and how humans interact with the earth’s systems.

    Since I’m a weather geek, you don’t need me to tell you why this appeals to me.

    What could be better? A course to teach me to write a weather program that takes live data from a weather station, and do something cool with it, like archive to a database and show the observations live on the web.

    Anyhow, I’m glad to report that someone is making Open Courseware content for the rest of us.

    Posted in: Web

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  7. Serenity

    jake on 2005.10.03
    at 05:51 pm

    Serenity PosterJust yesterday I made “a bold move” and went out, by myself, to see Serenity. I had heard good things from the realm of geeks and figured I might like it. I was not dissapointed. With so many others typing their thoughts on it I figured I could just let mine slide. But it didn’t perform well this past weekend (from Digg), and I’d like to extend an invite for the masses to go check the movie out.

    Serenity pretty much exists because the tv show it was based on (Firefly) had a little misshap —Fox didn’t give any priority to the show against other programming and aired the series out of order—and was cancelled after 11 episodes.

    The first pang of interest came after Tom Coates post. Not only did he rave about the movie he also pointed out some interesting statistics where women, who you don’t usually associate with sci–fi programming, enjoyed it more than men. Shortly after that I noticed the Wired review. They pretty much summed up how I feel about the movie and convinced me I should go check Serenity out.

    Serenity’s verbal fireworks help compensate for its clumsy special effects. The chases, explosions and battles are choppy and confusing and look a bit cheap. Using Hollywood’s warped abacus, it’s pretty clear that $45 million—Serenity’s reported budget—isn’t enough money to create blockbuster visuals.

    Maybe that’s for the better. Rather than spending months working with the Orphanage or Industrial Light and Magic to blow up stuff in slow motion, Whedon invested energy in refining Serenity’s human elements.

    I didn’t care that there was a lack of amazing computer generated explosions. Although I did not see major fault in the quality of the action sequences, it wouldn’t have mattered, I was already enjoying the characters and the good dialogue.

    Serenity needs to be brought out of its slump. I’m hoping word of mouth will help it perform better in the coming weeks. With all the crap coming out of Hollywood lately Serenity shouldn’t be pushed out of the theaters without even making a divet.

    Endnotes: Check out the little quiz after you come home from the movie and see which charcter you’re most like. I’m 75% Capt. Mal Reynolds.

    And while you’re viewing the movie… Doesn’t Kaylee (Jewel Staite) remind you a bit of Punky Brewster (Soleil Moon Frye)

    Update: Michael Heilemann dicovered a review of Serenity done by Orson Scott Card. The writer of Ender’s Game has nothing but praise for the movie.

    Well, guess what.

    It’s great.

    I’m not going to say it’s the best science fiction movie, ever.

    Oh, wait. Yes I am…

    …So here’s what I have to say about Serenity:

    This is the kind of movie that I have always intended Ender’s Game to be (though the plots are not at all similar).

    And this is as good a movie as I always hoped Ender’s Game would be.

    His take on it is that no matter how much fluff you put into a science fiction movie the characters have to mean something too. If the audience doesn’t love/hate the characters, you have failed. This is one of the key components to Pixar’s success. It is not just about making a pretty sci-fi world. It is about creating a great story with great characters.

    Posted in: Movies

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