Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Joss Whedon's Political Views

I ran across this little gem yesterday and thought I'd share it with you all. Enjoy!


Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Bubble We Live In

Several years ago I was talking to my dad about technology and we got into a debate about some random, minor issue. In the end he made point that even though my experience would show X, X isn't necessarily true because my life experience isn't really that broad yet. I took this with a grain of salt, not really believing him. This because I'm a college student at a university with 40K students from all across the world; I have friends I've met online from different regions of the country. I'm pretty broad, right?

Well the problem is that over time as we amass friendships and connections, we tend without realizing it to connect with people similar to us. So yes, I've met people from across the US via the internet. But they are all the type of people who are okay with meeting friends via the internet. They tend to have a more technical perspective, be younger, and probably more liberal in views about social and technological issues. Yes I go to a school with 40K students from across the world. But I don't know hardly any of them. A few hundred tops, and more like 20-40 more closely. And nearly all of them I have met doing things I was interested in. Playing HvZ, taking civil engineering classes. Whenever you meet people while doing something you're interested in, those people are going to be similar to you in at least that way and probably more.

The fact is that we tend to live in a bubble of our own world view. Our perception is warped by the fact that most people around us tend to have similar beliefs; to find similar things interesting or funny. It's only when we step out of that and starting hanging out with people who are very different that you realize how unrealistic our worldview might be.

I was made more aware of this over the past few months by the romantic relationship I'm involved in. Over the summer I decided to try my luck with online dating. I met someone and it's worked and we've been together for almost three months now. It's great, but there have definitely been some unexpected differences between us. She is far outside my normal realm of people. She's not a geek or nerd, not a technie, not a political activist. But that's great, because it's shined a light on some of my own preconceptions and forced me to re-evaluate things I took for granted as universal.

Example, I find lolcats cute and funny. Every single person I know does as well. I eventually introduced my parents to them and even they found the concept amusing. So to me it seemed pretty universal. I didn't consider that despite the generational difference, my parents probably have similar worldviews in many ways given that I got a lot of my beliefs from them as I was raise. Fast forward to this fall;I introduced my girlfriend to lolcats and got ... a blank look. We showed them to several of her friends and got a similar reaction. She doesn't really find the concept of cats talking with bad grammar to be amusing, and when you actually describe lolcats that way, it kind of makes sense.

Love of lolcats isn't the only thing I took as universal that I've had to rethink. Take Star Wars. I figured that everyone has at least heard of it, and probably seen it. I'd never met a person who didn't recognize the phrase "these aren't the droids you're looking for", and I really couldn't imagine someone not recognizing it. Maybe in Africa, sure, but in America? Yet I was wrong about that as well. And Lord of the Rings. And quite a few others.

All of which are inconsequential for the most part, yet demonstrate my point. Just because you and everyone you know "know" something, doesn't really mean that it's true. Because even though it feels odd, the fact is that you and everyone you know is a rather smaller circle than one might think. Your challenge then, for the week, is to find some way to peek outside of your bubble. You might be surprised what you find.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Musical Connections

I love Hurts. Even though they don't have all that many songs out, the percentage of their music that I enjoy is extremely high (Something like 80%). So anytime I find music that is similar I'm interested.

I heard of Lana Del Rey over the summer, from her song Video Games. It was incredibly popular for about a month after which suddenly no one liked it. I personally wasn't really all that impressed even at the time. However, today I was surfing Youtube and ran across this.

Not only does it remind me of Hurts quite strongly, it also makes me thing of the James Bond movies, and it's rather enjoyable all around. Take a listen.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Dynamic CSS

So for a long while I've wanted to be able to dynamically update CSS. This is especially useful in creating a dynamic Wordpress theme framework. I've finally figured out a way to do so, and it's really simple. There are three steps.

Step 1:

First, rename your CSS file from '.css' to '.css.php'.



Step 2:

Next, (and this might be obvious), update the link in your HTML file from ...

... to ...

Step 3:

At the top of your CSS document, insert this:
    header("Content-type: text/css; charset: UTF-8");

And now you can put in whatever CSS you want statically, plus insert PHP variables the same as you'd do with HTML.

body {

body {
    background-color:<?php echo 'rgb(200,230,255)'; ?>;

body {
    background-color:<?php echo bg_color_light; ?>;

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Windows TP

I was reading an old thread about the first commercial internet browser and saw a very amusing post which had nothing at all to do with the topic. This is back from May of '94.


REDMOND, WA (JAN. 13) BUSINESS WIRE - Microsoft Corp. announced Thursday that a beta release of Windows TP, the telepathic operating system, was released to 1,500 test sites worldwide.

Developed using the soon-to-be released Microsoft C for Neurons, Windows TP bypasses awkward user interfaces by interacting directly with the user's brain. Using the Microsoft MindMouse, users can visualize images in their mind, and the application associated with that image (or "thought icon") is executed. Users can visualize pictures to create Windows Bitmap images, or think text directly into Windows applications. Windows TP is fully compatible with all previous versions of Windows.

Data stored under Windows TP can be copied into the user's short-term memory (the Windows TP Clipboard), or transferred directly into the user's long-term memory using Windows' new 32-bit Direct Neuron Access technology. Users can then plug into other Windows TP systems to transfer the data.

Microsoft also announced the first application developed exclusively for Windows TP. CyberMail is a mental mail system designed to transfer messages by thought. Users visualize the person or company logo they want to send a message to, followed by the message to send. Microsoft has had a beta version of the application in use for several months.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is the worldwide leader in software for personal computers. he company offers a wide range of products and services for business and personal use, each designed with the mission of making it easier and more enjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day.


NEW YORK, Apr 1, Reuter - Microsoft's new Windows TP has a long way to go before final release, say beta testers of the product. Testers report numerous problems with the thought icons included with the product.

"I can see a fish tail representing some useful things, but the Program Manager? It's just not intuitive," says Clyde Revlon, an MIS specialist with McBalmy, Crain, and Larch. "Whoever came up with these thought icons needs therapy. I'm sure the guy's Yorkshire terrier is wonderful, but as the File Manager? A golden retriever I could understand. And that sweater the terrier is wearing, it's just too loud. Let me control the sweater."

Testers also report dangerous corruption problems with the Direct Neuron Access technology. "Colors, I smell colors. Dog, good dog, go to the light mom," said Maggie Ferreaux, a consultant with Sharp, Trenchant, and Blunt Computer Services.

Other testers were less understanding. "I'm working on a presentation, and suddenly all I can think about is pages A through C of the Miami telephone directory. It took me three hours to get it out of my mind. That blows my productivity right out of the water," says Max Pirenich, a salesman for Carp Technology. "Just thinking about Excel scares the crap out of me."

Microsoft officials acknowledged the issues, citing that no beta release of a product is perfect, and vowed to provide testers with the services of the same Neurologist that helped Microsoft Quality Assurance recover from testing the product in its early stages. Many Microsoft QA engineers are expected to lead long, productive lives.

-- John Lamp, originating in Hobart, Tasmania

Even back in the early 90s we were making fun of Microsoft.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


I've learned quite a bit about confrontation from watching my dad as I grew up. Learned a little about what to do, and a lot about what not to do. I've come to two conclusions in the area of how to go about arguing.

1.) Do It In Private.

If you have to have a confrontation with someone, do it without being in front of other people, especially other people that you both know. Any time someone is proven wrong it's embarrassing, even if you take measures (see point 2) to mitigate that embarrassment. Doing this in front of people that know you both will just multiply this effect and cause the person to argue harder, not wishing to be proven wrong publicly.

2.) Give The Person an Out.

Whenever you argue, try to make it seem like the person's incorrect view is understandable, even common. As much as possible you want to remove the embarrassment and stigma of having an incorrect view. No one wants to look stupid or silly, and so if you make it seem like the person is such for having said view, then they'll defend it even harder. Don't make them feel bad, and things will go better.

Example: John tells me that glass is actually a super thick liquid. I think that no, it's a solid. Which of these two responses from me is the better one?

*eyebrow raise* Really, John? Seriously? Glass is a liquid? *sigh* Look, do you see how it stands there and doesn't move? It's a solid. And no matter what you say, the rest of us will continue understand the actual TRUTH, that it is a solid.

Hmm, I've heard that before actually, several times, so I understand why you might think it. Problem is, it's actually just a myth from the internet. Definitely one of the most wide-spread ones, since so many people believe it, but I checked once with one of my chemistry professors [or insert any authority figure] and confirmed that it's actually not true.

The second one is the answer you want to give if you want to have the best chance of winning the argument, as well as maintaining your cordial relation with John. Lets look at why for a moment.

By saying, I understand why you think that, and that other people also have been fooled, you make it seem like it's no big deal that he was. You aren't looking down on him for being wrong, which removes the stigma attached to it. He'll be much more likely to admit it. This is a sharp contrast to the first in which you make the person feel bad for being wrong, in this case by being different from everyone else who believes correctly.

Note: This falls under point 2, but wasn't covered in the example. NEVER be condescending. It's just another way of making the person feel bad. Negativity in any form will never help you, so try to avoid it. Additionally, pay attention to the other person's argument. They might actually know something you don't, and end up being right.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Would a Smartphone be a Smart Investment?

I currently have a flipphone, unlimited text, limited talk, and no data. It suits my needs. However, as a tech aficionado, my wants are quite a different story. I, like many of you out there, salivate over each new iPhone, Lumia, or Droid release. Yet I don't actually own any of them.

The reason is simple. Namely, I'm a poor college student with limited funds. And of those funds, most are going to paying for graduation exams, and what little is left is spent on going out to eat with my wonderful girlfriend (yes, my POF attempt this summer worked out). So I don't really have hundreds of dollars in disposable cash laying around to buy a smart phone. Even if I did, I don't have the money that a data plan would cost. A data plan that gets me all of 2GB per month.

That said, I can still salivate. And nothing has me more excited than the Lumia 920. Granted it's not perfect. But it's still a large step up from the 900, and unlike the latter, runs WP8. It's a sleek and sexy piece of hardware if I've ever seen one, and I've seen a few. The iPhone 5 might rival it in design, (some would argue the SIII would as well, but I find the SIII to be too wide and round for my tastes), but it most certainly doesn't surpass it.

So the question is, when I graduate in December, what do I do with the money I've been saving for a new laptop. My need is getting pressing, given I'm running a machine that is approaching 5 years of age. Yet a smart phone would be wonderful. Such a first world problem ...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Catstache's First Website!

Catstache Design, LLC finished it's first website yesterday. While it would have taken all of a week or two had I been working full time, it ended up taking nearly a month. Productivity really takes a hit when 3/4s of one's time is suddenly involved in going to classes and working on homework.

Anyway it's a simple WordPress site, with custom home, contact, and portfolio page templates. I did have to fork a plugin that added a page widget, but overall it wasn't too complex. You can check it out at:

The most complex part was figuring out how to install WordPress on a Network Solutions hosting package. There were several tutorials, all of which were out of date. Didn't help that their control panel is pretty terribly designed. But in the end it got figured out.

We're starting on our next project already. The initial design work was completed over the summer but it got delayed. And someday I need to find time to actually build out own site. Someday ...

Monday, August 13, 2012

No I'm Not Dead

Yeah it's been almost three weeks, but don't worry, I'm still around. Life has just gotten really busy (Work, getting ready for school, a new g/f). But it's been fun. Catstache is on it's way, we're halfway through designing and building our first website. (Which I'll talk about more later).

The main topic of this post is about online presence. My own specifically. My full name is Andrew Z Mercer. So how do I go about starting a personal website about myself? I could choose That's a bit long.,, azmercer, So many to choose from. Plus, several are already taken.

The best bet is to wait until there's a good deal on cheap domain names, and then grab them all, and have 'em auto forward to the one I want to use primarily. So I'd pick Then if someone goes to, they land on my website at

The biggest problem is as mentioned above, the best ones are already taken. But hardly used well. for example is a single page in dedication to another Andy Mercer, who died in '08. is a blank white page. The latter especially, isn't really being used. The key then, is just grab what is available now, and then over the next few years be watchful and when something pops up, grab it too. URLs are pretty cheap to maintain.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Dark Kitten Rises


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Remove Query From URL Using PHP

I had some free time the past two days, so I've been working on finishing up the the CESAC members area. While I had the Add New Members functionality complete, adding the Edit Existing Member was more interesting.

Given that it's both A, an obscure small site, and B, already password protected, I'm not putting all that much effort into security. Mostly I'm trying to idiot proof it rather than prevent a determined hacker. As such, on pages that should only be accessed in pattern, I'm just grabbing the referrer and validating it against what the previous page should be.

This is fine, until you get start using a single edit page to edit any member. This involves using a query in the URL, the ?ID=somenumber. And this plays hells with my validation. So what is the best way to remove the query? I googled and found a few answers, but all of them use complex filtering, or splitting the URL into pieces and then rebuilding. And since it's rebuilding, the parts that you should include have to be defined. This limits what type of URL you can use without throwing an error.

Instead of building, I'd rather subtract. I'd rather remove the query and leave everything else the same. To this end, the code below solves the problem quite nicely.

$referer = $_SERVER['HTTP_REFERER'];

  $url = parse_url($referer);

  $referer = str_replace('?'.$url['query'],'',$referer);

First we grab the initial full URL. We then break it into an array. And finally, we replace the query with nothing, essentially subtracting it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Firefox 14 Changes Icons, Encrypts Search

Like clockwork, every 6 weeks we see Firefox getting a refresh. Today was no different, with Firefox prompting users to update to the next version, 14.0.1. Like previous incremental updates, this provides several small graphical changes along with some under the hood improvements.

The biggest change that people are talking about is in the way Firefox displays Favicons. Favicons, the little icon that nearly all websites have, are normally shown in your bookmarks list, beside the website’s address, and on the top of each tab...

Read my full article at

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Game of Thrones Review

Game of Thrones is an HBO produced show. That means you can be sure of two things. The production value is sky high, and so is the level of nudity/sex. Unfortunately the two can't be divorced it seems, so we live with it, and enjoy the show itself. And enjoy it I did.

I burned through both seasons in a single week once I finally started. I was hooked. It achieves a perfect level of grayness in which there are some definite protagonists I can root for the entire time, without going entirely black and white. Characters surprise me, do bad or good things unexpectedly, and are just generally enjoyable to watch.

It was of course depressing when Ned Stark died at the end of season 1, but we got past that as new heroes rose up to defend the north. Really the one big problem I had with the show was it's fuzziness on some of the topics. Religion was confusing because there are three main religions, an old, a new, and a newest. But some refer to the middle as the old religion, and some refer to it as the new. The show never really explains it well enough. I had to go to the wiki online to really figure it all out.

I don't hold it against them too much though, because there's SO much to cover. The world and backstory are massively in-depth. With only 10 episodes a season, it's difficult to cover everything.

Overall, I'd give the show an 8/10.

Friday, July 13, 2012


Getting healthy and into shape when you aren't already is an interesting concept. One problem is that it's unpleasant in many aspects. Running and pushups are harder than sitting and watching TV, and water doesn't taste as good as Pepsi. Another of course is that problem is that it takes a long time, results aren't instant. We can't do anything about the first part. Exercise is work, by definition. But as to the seeming lack of progress, we can do something.

There are two aspects to this. First, you set small goals. You aren't going to lose 20lbs in a month. Not healthily anyway. You can though, see noticable results in what you can do, if not how you look. Over the past 2 months I've been really pushing myself. When I started, I could jog for maybe 30 seconds. Today I ran a 10 minute mile. At the beginning, I could do 15 situps. Now I can do 40. I could do barely 3 pushups. Now I can do over 15.

You look at things that improve faster and focus on them, so that you show yourself that yes, you Are getting something for all this work. But that's not enough. The best way is not just to show yourself, but show others. Post your progress on Facebook or Google+; get your friends interested. As terrible as it sounds, humans do enjoy praise, so any time someone congratulates you on your progress, you'll be that much more likely to continue.

Better yet get them to start exercising themselves. Do it together and you'll all help each other. Make a game out of it, race each other, play soccer or basketball, games in which there's a lot of movement.

Myself, I haven't yet gotten my friends onto the exercise train yet, but I am progressing. The most important thing is to keep trying. Even slowly walking for a few minutes is better than nothing.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Misc Updates

Been nearly 2 weeks since I last touched this blog. You might notice a new name though. No longer do you have to type in .blogspot between the name and .com. 1and1 was having a weekend special, URLs for $0.99, so I picked up A small thing, but it makes me happy.

Catstache is finally fully official as well, we now have an operating agreement and a bank account, so we can finally start our first project. Additionally I've been picking up some work for TKOSEO, which has been nice. It'll be my first legit paycheck since December.

In other news, I mentioned several weeks ago that I was going out. And while things haven't been perfect, she hasn't told me to jump in a lake yet, so that's good! I'm going to see the new Spiderman movie with her later this week; I'm looking forward to it.

I'm going to try to start posting some things about Wordpress here soon. The stuff I've been doing for TKOSEO has been theme building from scratch, which has involved a lot of backend work. I've learned more about Wordpress in the past two weeks than any time before combined, and my first theme has a custom backend menu page that can change all sorts of options.

Hopefully I'll have time to start writing up some of the basics here. There are many advanced tutorials on the internet. But very few basic ones; everyone assumes the reader is familiar with Wordpress development.

Anyway, hopefully we won't have any more 2 week gaps here. Depends on time, as does everything.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Good Day!

Back during my sophomore year at Purdue, my best friend and I dared each other to create accounts (POF being a free dating site). Almost immediately thereafter, we both forgot about them.

Last Christmas, I went on several dates with a girl I'd been friends with for a long while. It didn't work out unfortunately as I realized I couldn't get her past the friend stage in my mind, but it left me much more aware of the fact that I was single. It didn't bother me too much during the semester because I was busy, but since I've come home for the summer, it's been more lonely; especially after one of my good friends moved away permanently.

So, a few weeks ago I opened up the old POF account, completely rewrote and updated it, put in a bunch of pictures, and then waited to see what happened. A cool feature is that you can see who looks at your profile, and when I saw a lady pop up who was here in Indy for the summer, but would be going back to Purdue as well this fall, I decided to take a leap.

After messaging back several times, we met up for a lunch date today. I figured that since it was a constrained time (during her lunch break), she'd have an excuse to head back early, but if it went well, it would leave both of us ready to meet again.

I think it went really well, we met up at a Fazoli's somewhere near where she works, and talked and ate. No awkward pauses, no uncomfortable silences longer than a few seconds. We left cordially and I planned to call her this evening to ask if she would be interested in doing something over the weekend, but before I could, she texted me. I guess something went right, lol.

And so this coming weekend, at the very least I'll have an enjoyable afternoon/evening, and at the very best I might be starting something awesome. Such a good day!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Catstache is Oficial

Well as of two days ago, Catstache Design is an officially registered LLC with the Indiana Dept of State, and the IRS. We're still working on getting our Articles of Incorporation written, but it should be done shortly

In addition, both my partner and I are being hired as sub contractors by another company who needs some temp help, on an hourly basis with pretty good compensation. It won't be under the Catstache name, but it will certainly help my bank account for the rest of the summer.

Lastly, I want to point out that I'm very frustrated with the universe because there isn't a 6th season of The Big Bang Theory out yet. Bah!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Watching a Big Bang

I'd heard good things about The Big Bang Theory (the show) for a long time now, but a good friend had told me it was actually really terrible. I held off on watching it accordingly, but eventually the weight of other opinions has pushed me towards it. After catching a few episodes here and there, I finally decided to go all the way.

My parents have seasons 1-3 on DVD, so I've been marathoning it for the past 3 days while working on my current web project (gotta love duel screens). I'm glad I decided this, because it's great. I'm almost constantly laughing, though I'm finding myself hoping for some personal growth from several of the main characters.

The biggest problem now is that I'm halfway through season 2 already, and there are only 5 seasons! I'll be all out in a few days.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

E3 2012 – Core Blaze First Look

On the final day of E3, Gamania sent a shuttle to drive me from the convention center over to their headquarters in downtown LA to check out their upcoming title: Core Blaze. Given that the only previous showing of the game took place in Taipai, I was pretty excited.

Yes the game is an MMO, and yes the MMO market is utterly saturated. However, Core Blaze has some features that look to set it apart, including weather effects and it's usage of the Unreal Engine 3.

Read my full article at

Saturday, June 9, 2012

E3 Recap

As I was getting on the plane to head out to LA, I'll admit I was nervous. I'd wanted to go to E3 for almost as long as I can remember. If it turned out to be a let down, it would have really ruined a persistent dream.

I'm glad to report that not only was it not a let down, it was amazing. And this is a year that everyone says was a quiet year, so it would be even better during on years. Just stepping into the convention center really gets you the first time. The lobby is covered in huge banners .. and I mean huge, 10-15 ft tall and 40 ft wide. The bathrooms had plastic sticks on the mirrors of different video games, and the press lobby they provided for us was full of genuine La-Z Boy couches.

Then you actually go into the convention floor, and the size of it blows you away. It's 3 stories tall inside, a giant warehouse almost. Each company had their own area (areas too large to call booths), and in those areas they built things. Microsoft had multiple 2 story freestanding buildings which press were able to go up in. Sony had a whole second level platform itself. Nintendo boxed in lots of little rooms for interviews and game show offs; an entire complex. Everything had this aura of massiveness to it.

My first interaction was with Halo 4. They were running live gameplay demos, and so I wanted to get there before the line got long. I waited as the opened the floor the first day and rushed over, but even so was halfway back in line and had to wait over a half hour. It was worth it though, and the game looks awesome.

I proceeded to sit down for interviews about Neverwinter Nights, SiNG, Age of Wushu, Core Blaze, and Hitman Absolution over the next few days, but gaming wasn't all we did. One night we ended up driving over to Hollywood to take pictures of the sign and to walk down the boulevard of fame. One of the downsides of the trip came there .. everyone tries to hand you "free" stuff, and then wants tips. They're very forceful about it; we had one guy follow us for over a block, yelling about how we are "playa hatas", until my editor turned and said "you mad, bro?".

Additionally, there are so many homeless people in LA that there are strange differences you wouldn't expect. While we were there, we at one point tried to find a bathroom. Several places it turned out just didn't have public bathrooms. Finally we went to a CVS drugstore. They did have a bathroom, but it was locked and we had to have a manager unlock it for us. And everyone there thought the idea of a public store having open public bathrooms was crazy! It was still worthwhile going over to Hollywood once though, and we did get some good pictures.

Oh and a fun note, Felicia Day, Tobuscus, and Lindsey Stirling were all at E3 ... and I didn't see any of them. Serra, our photographer, did see Felicia Day, even took a picture, but for some reason didn't let me know until after. And Tobsucus was no where to be found when I walked by, despite getting up on the Wii dance stage and rocking out. Ahh well.

On to a happier subject .. swag. I didn't get really all that much, possibly because it was as people were saying a slow year. I did get some great stuff though. 3 lanyards, 5 t-shirts, two Halo mirror decals, severer flash drives, a glass mug, and from Core Blaze, a set of cast bronze miniature weapons, each just slightly smaller than my hand. I wasn't impressed with the game, but the bronze pieces are beautiful.

I think my best memory of the trip was when I embarrassed the girl who was taking pictures for Persona 4. I'd been standing in line for a t-shirt because a friend of mine loves Persona, and the shirts were very limited edition. Line took almost a half hour, and I could see ahead of me the whole time. I watched as each person got their shirt, put it on, and then got his/her picture taken standing between two models in skimpy costumes. The models were both tall, blond, beautiful, etc. The photographer was a short skinny girl who was easily as pretty as both of them, and I found myself annoyed that they were in picture after picture, and she wasn't in any.

So when I finally got my shirt and put it on, I said, "I've been standing in line watching for 20 minutes, and over and over you take the pictures ... lets switch it up, how about you get in the picture and they take it." (Possibly not verbatim but it's been three days) She seemed very embarrassed; smiling but protesting, and stammering about how she wasn't a model. I thought for a moment it wouldn't work, but the two models grinned and one walked over to the photographer, took the camera, and pushed her over to me, and so my picture from the Persona booth isn't between two models, but instead with a very cute photographer, who I hope doesn't hate me too much.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Nintendo Press Conference Live Blogging

Check out our live feed from the Nintendo All Access press conference.


Monday, June 4, 2012

E3 2012

After 5 hours of flying, I'm finally in Los Angeles. I got a lucky draw on the seatmate front my first flight, ending up sitting beside two very pretty ladies who looked around my age. After that it went downhill. Both of them went to sleep immediately, and we ran into turbulence ... for the ENTIRE FLIGHT.

The captain never took off the seat belt light, because we never stopped shaking. Motion sickness for the fail. Also it was an old plane, so there wasn't anything cool like TV or movies or food. Not even peanuts.

After 20 minutes in the connecting airport (Phoenix, Arizona), the second flight was slightly better. I sat beside two guys who both happened to be web guys. One was even a Wordpress developer! We had a pretty decent time chatting. And the flight was much shorter, only about an hour and a half in the air. Follow that with a half hour drive into LA, and now I'm at the hotel. The AC is broken and stuck on 64, but too cold is better than too hot, because we have blankets.

Tomorrow we'll be getting up at 5am to head to the Nintendo press conference, so I'll be posting updates here, in addition to writing articles about it for TekGoblin.

Friday, June 1, 2012

25 Improved Star Wars Quotes

25 quotes from the Star Wars movies, with cleverly placed words exchanged for the word underwear.

  1. I feel a tremor in the underwear. The last time I felt this was in the presence of my old master.
  2. You are unwise to lower your underwear.
  3. We've got to be able to get some reading on those underwear, up or down.
  4. She must have hidden the plans in her underwear. Send a detachment down to retrieve them. See to it personally Commander.
  5. These underwear may not look like much, kid, but they've got it where it counts.
  6. I find your lack of underwear disturbing.
  7. These underwear contain the ultimate power in the universe. I suggest we use it.
  8. Han will have those underwear down. We've got to give him more time!
  9. General Veers, prepare your underwear for a surface assault.
  10. I used to bulls-eye womp-rats in my underwear back home.
  11. TK-421. . . Why aren't you in your underwear?
  12. Lock the door. And hope they don't have underwear.
  13. Governor Tarkin. I should've recognized your foul underwear when I was brought on board.
  14. You look strong enough to pull the underwear off of a Gundark.
  15. Luke, help me take these underwear off.
  16. Great, Chewie, great. Always thinking with your underwear.
  17. That blast came from those underwear. That thing's operational!
  18. Don't worry. Chewie and I have gotten into a lot of underwear more heavily guarded than this.
  19. Maybe you'd like it back in your underwear, your highness.
  20. Your underwear betray you. Your feelings for them are strong.
  21. Jabba doesn't have time for smugglers who drop their underwear at the first sign of an Imperial Cruiser.
  22. Yeah, well short underwear is better than no underwear at all, Chewie.
  23. Attention. This is Lando Calrissean. The Empire has taken control of my underwear, I advise everyone to leave before more troops arrive.
  24. I cannot teach him. The boy has no underwear.
  25. You came in those underwear? You're braver than I thought.

Note: I saw someone post this recently, and they'd gotten it in a chain email, so I'm not sure where it originated from. If you know the author, please let me know and I'll put in a citation.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Installing Wordpress on WAMP

As I mentioned recently, I set up a server environment on my local computer using WAMP. Today I installed a fresh copy of Wordpress, so that I could play around with some realty listings plugins. Unfortunately I couldn't even get through the setup without something going wrong.

After Wordpress was installed, I created a test page, and then changed the URL linking over to use names. IE, the post's URL would be localhost/testpage/, instead of localhost/post=001. I clicked to view it, and I got a 404 error. Imagine my surprise, given that this is a pretty common change.

It took me a while to track down, but I finally found the answer and solution online. Turns out that WAMP's default Apache installation has a setting that prevents things I don't really understand from happening, which in turn prevents Wordpress from working correctly. A.N.M. Saiful over at Checkmate had the solution, which was to go into the Apache config file and mess with some settings.

Not being a server guy, I really have no idea what it means, but Wordpress now works on my localhost server, so I consider it to be a success.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Sound of Thunder

I woke this morning to the sound of thunder outside. We haven't had rain in 3 weeks, so the water will help. And the fact that it's arriving in the form of a thunderstorm instead of gentle rain is just a bonus.

The sole problem is that it's just barely after 6 am, and I'm totally awake. I do have some music to listen to though. I stumbled upon this last night before I went to bed.

On an entirely different note, I saw an article in the local paper talking about how gay marriage, politically, is a paradox. The idea being that national polls show the issue now commands over 50% support nation wide, yet each time it goes on the ballot it loses.

This isn't a paradox. It only broke 50% in the past few years, and we've only had a few state contests over the past few years. The most recent being South Carolina. What the paper doesn't seem to understand is that geography plays a roll in politics. South Carolina isn't going to see things the same way that the rest of the US does.

Plus the issue is up for a vote in Maryland this November, and the local polls show over 60% support gay marriage, so it's expected to win there. Ergo, this isn't paradox. It's just politics taking time to catch up with beliefs.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Web Development on Windows

As I've mentioned before, I've gotten spoiled as a Purdue student. Since we're provided with webspace on a root server that we can map to Windows as a networked drive, I can just edit files in a seemingly local folder. It makes for easy updating.

Since I'm no longer at Purdue, I have to use a VPN to gain access to this networked drive. This still works, but it's incredibly slow. Think 2KB/s speed. Slow to the point of being really unusable. Really the only way I've been able to do thinks is by creating mirrored folders locally, updating the local files, and then starting a sync and letting it run for a while, while I go do something else.

Additionally, my local machine isn't a web server, meaning that PHP files don't work. The browser will open them and display whatever HTML there is, but it will also display the PHP as the actual PHP code.

So today in the couple hours I have before heading out to a meeting, I've decided to set up a PHP web development environment. The other tech guy who was going to be working with me on KollegeKareer had mentioned it was easy if I found the right thing, and after looking around I think I've got what he was talking about. WAMP Server, standing for Windows/Apache/MySQL/PHP. I'm installing now, and we'll see if it works.

Well after cleaning two hurdles, I have gotten it all working. WAMP comes with no instructions unfortunately. And from Googling, it seems that a LOT of people had both problems I had. The first is that Windows machines come with a server that's already running, from Microsoft. You either have to disable it, or change it to a different port. I found a Youtube video that explained changing the ports so that both can run together. Then I started getting an 403 Access Denied error. Turns out that WAMP comes with an Apache installation that is locked down. You have to go in and find a config file to unlock it.

That said, it's working now! w00t.

Friday, May 25, 2012

First Private Spaceship Docks with ISS

I had an argument with my parents several years back when Obama for all practical purposes privatized NASA. Cancelling nearly all projects and throwing money instead at private companies, it was a very controversial policy move at the time.

My parents who'd grown up through the cold war were of course angered by the idea. I however, took the approach that if something can be done privately, then lets do it privately. I'd rather see space go the way that airflight has gone, and I believed that it could be done.

And so today, I feel rather vindicated. The first private spaceship, operated by SpaceX, has docked at the ISS (International Space Station). The launch was delayed several times, but ended up successfully occurring last Tuesday. Now it has docked and delivered supplies.

The trip was unmanned, but SpaceX is hoping to launch manned flights before the end of the year. Video of docking below!


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Murphy's Ridin' My Shoulder

What a summer this has been. Applied for 11 engineering internships. Interviewed for 2. Got 0. But also had a verbal offer from a guy wanting to start a big website, hiring me and another guy to build it.

Problem is that he's dragged it out for weeks now, delaying over and over. And today when he finally sent me final terms ... he cut the cash compensation by 60% from what we'd discussed. No explanation as to what had changed. Needless to say it's frustrating.

At the same time, yet another client for Catstache who initially contacted us is no longer responding to calls/emails. I'm starting to consider just stopping the web stuff altogether. I started it as a hobby, because it was enjoyable. But it's no longer enjoyable. We'll see how the next few days go. I'll make one more attempt to contact the client, and if I hear nothing will assume that she's no longer interested. As to the main full time web job I mentioned above, we'll see how things go over the next few days.

Suffice to say I'm right on the edge of going to Walmart and putting in an application.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Pokemon Cards Will Be Valuable! ... not

When I finally sold off all my pokemon cards, I saved one card. A special promo card, Mew. The special 151st pokemon; the 'last' pokemon .... until it got profitable enough to add another 100, then another, then more and more, and more games.

Still, it was supposed to be very rare because it was a promo card. However, after all these years, I checked on Amazon and it's selling for a grand total of ... wait for it ... 3 bucks!. Damn, did I make the right decision to keep it! I can sell it now and get all that money! That's HUNDREDS of pennies! Shopping spree!

Seriously though, it's somewhat disappointing. Only somewhat because I wasn't really expecting it to become valuable. One always hopes though, right?

Sorry I haven't been posting much this month. It's been a mix of hectic and utterly boring. I still don't have a job, because KK owner has delayed another week. I've got my Ruby environment set up, and worked my way through several tutorials. It's definitely a different experience, working from the command line. But it works. We'll see if I get to use it.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Protect Your Children!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Ruby on Rails

For many years I've had HTML in my toolbox. Several years ago I added CSS. Last summer I tackled Javascript/jQuery, mySQL, and PHP. Over the past year I've been polishing up my knowledge of these tools and practicing with them. Now however, it's time to add more to the toolbox. More being, Ruby on Rails.

Ruby on Rails in a website framework, similar to PHP, but much more scalable, and so better for larger projects. It uses the Model/View/Controller programming ideal, which forces designers to separate elements of a web application (site) into different parts. When something goes wrong, it's easy to find the error because everything is in a specific place for it's functionality.

I've spent the past two days reading up on all this. There's a lot to take in, because it's not just Rails (Ruby on Rails), it's also Ruby itself, the programming languages that Rails is built with, plus Git, Github, re-learning the Command Prompt (or Terminal if one is on a Mac), etc. I found a nice long tutorial, so that's been helpful. It's as long as a book though, so it's taking time.

I spent many hours yesterday just trying to get a working development environment set up on my computer. Turns out most people who do this do it on a Linux/Unix machine or on a Mac. Only recently have people been trying to push to make it easier on Windows, and there's a nice installer package now, which is very recent.

I'm doing this of course, because Rails is what we're building KollegeKareer in, and it seems that that is what I'll be doing for the summer. Probably. If I ever get a contract to sign.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Okay people. Got some songs for you. First, watch this. It is in German, but it still sounds pretty good.

Okay, no, think how you feel watching it, what your impressions were, then watch this. It's the same song, in English. Watch the top one first.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

New Code View

I've been working for the past day on integrating jQuery and user defined javascript functions, and finally figured out what I was trying to finish. Coming here to show off the results, I realized that I'm quite tired of scripts/HTML/CSS looking terrible. So I've finally gotten around to adding a special view for code, using the open-source Syntax Highlighter. Great code, and very useful as you can see below.

So on to what I was showing off. In the members section of the CESAC website, I'm building up a set of tools that will allow future webmasters to edit the site without touching code. The current section I'm working on is the members database. One tool in that section is an Add New page. On that page, one item is an HTML textarea, for the member's description. Since the description field in the SQL database is limited to 1000 characters, I don't want people putting more than 1000 characters into the textbox. I also wanted to give them a live updating monitor of how many characters they have typed.

I gave the textarea a class of 'new_description', and the monitor 'new_description_monitor'. Below is my initial script.


  if      ($(".new_description").val().length < 1)    { $(".new_description_monitor").css("color","black"); }

  else if ($(".new_description").val().length < 1001) { $(".new_description_monitor").css("color","green"); }

  else                                  { $(".new_description_monitor").css("color","red"); }

  $(".new_description_monitor").text( $(".new_description").val().length + "/1000" );

  $(text).keypress(function(event) {


      if      ($(".new_description").val().length < 1)    { $(".new_description_monitor").css("color","black"); }

      else if ($(".new_description").val().length < 1001) { $(".new_description_monitor").css("color","green"); }

      else                                  { $(".new_description_monitor").css("color","red"); }

      $(".new_description_monitor").text( $(".new_description").val().length + "/1000" );

    }, 0);

It works perfectly. It annoyed me though, because I'm using the same code twice, once on pageload, and once each type a key is typed. I wanted to be able to type out the function once, then just reference it twice. So I dove into it, went through about 10 iterations, stopped by the jQuery forums for some help, and finally arrived at what you see below.
$(document).ready(function() {

  $("textarea").each(function(){ update_monitor('.' + $(this).attr('class')); });

  $("textarea").keypress(function(event) {

    var text = '.' + $(this).attr('class');

    window.setTimeout(function() { update_monitor(text);},0);



function update_monitor(text)
  var value = $(text).val().length;

  var colour = (value < 1 ? 'black' : (value < 1001 ? 'green' : 'red'));

  $(text + '_monitor').text(value + '/1000').css('color', colour);

The function is declared and separated entirely from the main code. Additionally, this script will handle infinite textarea/monitors on a single page, as long as the monitor has a classname that is the classname of the linked textarea plus '_monitor'.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

HTML Textbox Form - Character Limit

Last semester CESAC moved our registration system for the Career Fair to an online version run by Purdue Conferences. There were issues.

One big one was that the company description box said it was limited to 400 words. In reality, it was limited to 300 characters. Which is way too small. So we're working with Conferences to try and fix that.

Meanwhile I'm working on automating the member database for the Council so that the next webmaster has less code to touch. I've got the List page done, the quickedits working, and I'm almost finished building the New Member page. One feature of the page will be a text box for inputting a description for the member.

I decided, one thing that would be useful would be a live updating ticker on the side of the box, giving the user an up to date character number, so they know how much more can be added. Up to date to the point of every keystroke.

How to do this though, is the question. I googled to see if anyone else had built one, and couldn't find anything. So I just started working on my own from scratch. The first thing was how to grab the value of characters. The second would be how to update the page. And the third would be how to trigger those events on each keystroke.

First part was easy enough, it's just .val().length, added to the text box. The second part was also easy, I used .text, which replaces just the inside text of an element without having the replace the entire thing. The third was tricky though.

I considered using .keydown, but that triggers on any key, not just value keys, and if you press and hold down a key, it only triggers once, not each time the letter/number is added to the box. .keypress though, ended up being exactly what I was looking for. The final code was remarkably simple for what it does.


    $(".new_description").keypress(function(event) {

        window.setTimeout(function(){ $(".new_textlength").text( $(".new_description").val().length + "/1000" ); }, 1);



Note there is a setTimeout in there as well. I tried it without that, but the number updated before registering the changed value of characters, so it would be one off. The setTimeout fixed the problem.

Double Lives

Every time I go home to visit my parents, I seem to step into a different life. I fall into old routines like I never left; doing laundry, taking out the dog, mowing the lawn. Then I go back to Purdue, and take off like I never left. It almost feels like I'm flipping between two different lives.

This summer might be different in that I'll be home, but working full time with engineering (If I get the J&S internship), but it certainly doesn't feel different. Greenfield has this sense of constant-ness about it. Nothing ever seems to change.

I guess the main thing that ties everything together is my digital life. My computer, my web projects, this blog, they are everywhere; at home, at Purdue, on vacation. The thread that ties my life together is a collection of magnetically etched data on rotating metal disks spread in data centers across the world. Strange to think about.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

8 Done, 1 To Go

I took my last exam for the semester this morning, and am finally finished. Hoping for 4 As and a B this semester, but we'll see what happens. I'm taking the rest of the day off; might go see The Avengers tonight. Been packing for a while now, cleaning up my room and throwing away quite a bit of built up junk.

I still have no idea what I'm doing this summer. ODOT hasn't gotten back to me, and according to what they told me, that means I'm not being hired by them. J&S hasn't gotten back to me, but I was told that I'd be informed either way. I'm going to call again on Monday morning to get a hold of my contact personally, and if he still doesn't know, I might just take the other offer that I have, which is with a startup web company.

I've been sick for the past week, but yesterday I was finally on the upswing and last night I slept well for the first time since last weekend, so I think I'm mostly over it.

It's strange, knowing that if I wasn't taking extra semester, I'd be graduating college. I'm not sure I'm ready yet for that, so I'm glad that I've got one more. Goal now is to get through this summer, make some money to help pay for next semester, and then get done.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Great Video


Monday, April 30, 2012

8000 More And I can Bust Out a Meme

I remember a while back I was browsing the stats page provided by blogger, and I realized I had just over 2500 hits (page views) total, since I'd started this blog several years ago. I felt pretty satisfied with that because I started this blog as just a personal journal of sorts. One where I could get my ranting out, or post things I'd learned.

Since then, I've actually been posting pretty often, trying to average one every other day. And I guess you all are interested enough to read. My hit counter for April just broke 1000. I'd been happy with 2500 over several years ... now we're looking at over 1000 a month. So thank you, all you nameless faceless readers out there. You just made my day.

Yet none of you ever comment or give me feedback ... Ya just look and then leave. Say something once in a while! Speaking of which, a good topic to give me feedback on is the lock of my blog. I'm considering switching to a modern theme. I took this one up back a long while ago, and have since edited it to make it wider. It's not even offered anymore, and it's quite out of date. Yet I like it because of the simplicity. Any thoughts?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

SQL Insertion Update

In regards to my post on Friday about SQL Insertion, I've been playing around with it and found some interesting things. The reason I never noticed a need for the fix before is that some implementations of PHP auto correct it. They automatically add backslashes to any character that could break the input, such as apostrophes and quotations. Unfortunately, I still don't know how to figure out if that correction is in place except for manual testing.

The server hosting the CESAC site doesn't use auto correction, while the servers hosting our Purdue ICS sites do. The question will be how to figure it out with a code check so that I only correct when it's needed. I'll update this post if I figure out how.


Got it. Turns out that when using the POST method for forms, a backslash is added to the three special characters: apostrophe, quotation mark, and backslash. This is because these three characters are used in the SQL insertion statement. They are then stripped when being added to the SQL. When an implementation of PHP has magic_quotes_gpc turned on, nothing happens to these backslashes. When magic_quotes_gpc is turned off, they are removed. The way then to test is a simple if statement, which returns a 1 for on and 0 for off.

if(get_magic_quotes_gpc(void)) { }

Additionally I found a better way to fix the problem if it needs fixing. I was using str_replace before, but that only works for apostrophes and backslashes, not quotations. I found a way to fix the problem specifically however. There is a function in PHP which does exactly what is needed. It adds back slashes to each of the three characters. The code ends up being:

if(get_magic_quotes_gpc(void)) {
    $title = $_POST["title"];
    $content = $_POST["content"];
else {
    $title = addslashes($_POST["title"]);
    $content = addslashes($_POST["content"]);


Friday, April 27, 2012

SQL Insertion

Earlier this Spring I build an online login section for the CESAC website, so that future webmasters wouldn't have to touch the code to just put in a quick announcement update.

It worked well, until yesterday I tried putting in an update, and nothing happened. I got no PHP error, instead the PHP went through the Insertion and then passed over to a success page, but didn't insert.

Given that yesterday evening I turned in my final project of the semester, this afternoon I had time to sit down and go through the code line by line (not as bad as it seemed, the submit page was only 20ish lines). It took me a good two hours, but I finally figured out the cause. Whenever a string that I was inputting contained an apostrophe, it would screw up the SQL insertion. It wouldn't cause a problem with the PHP, which is why I wasn't getting an error.

I was inserting using variables, and used apostrophes to contain each variable, ex: ... '$month', '$date' ... So whenever the string had an apostrophe, it ended the variable, or so it thought. And ended up really messing up the statement.

Turns out SQL has a quick fix for this. Placing a backslash ( "\" ) in front of an apostrophe tells the SQL to treat it as a character, instead of a limiter. So the solution was simple really. I had to use str_replace to replace all apostrophes with double apostrophes. $content = str_replace("'","\'",$content);


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Eureka Finally Tanks

Eureka got canceled by SyFy last fall, taking effect at the end of the season that started 2 weeks ago. The writers decided to protest by destroying the show and the universe in the cruelest ways they could think of. They started out by taking half the characters and placing them in a virtual reality box seemingly four years into the future.

Now besides a lot of platonic friendships, there are three significant relationships among the main characters that have been built up over the past four seasons. With two of these, one of the partners ends up in the virtual reality and one doesn't. And of course, the ones stuck inside get their hearts broken by the fake virtual partners. Just because the writers decided it would be fun to be cruel.

One of the relationships though, (Fargo and Dr Martin (Felicia Day)), was seemingly spared. Both went on the mission at the end of last season that got hijacked, and so both were stuck in the virtual reality together. So up to this point, I was willing to wait and see what happened.

Turns out that the writers were just delaying an episode to give us the taste of hope for a happy ending, in order to make it all that more painful when it was snatched away. In a giant ██████ to Fargo, they killed off Felicia Day in episode 2. So they managed in two episodes to destroy everything that took 4 years to build up.

So I want to write this to the writers of Eureka. You are the most cruel human beings I've ever interacted with. You are ██████ people, and the world would be a better place if you ████ a █████ ███ ███ ████ ███████. ██ ████ ██████████. I hope you ███, slowly and █████████.

After writing the above, I decided that posting it in public might not be the best idea. So I'm compromising and blacking out the choice words. But don't worry, writers of Eureka, I've sent you several emails in which I'm very specific on my thoughts to you.

Does ITaP Even Train LAs Anymore?

I had an interesting experience today while working trying to work on my final project for my surveying class. I'm using AutoCAD to create it, and it's a program which needs the mouse wheel for fine control zooming. I logged into a lab computer, and the mouse wheel was scrapped. You've probably seen similar mice, where you'll turn the wheel slowly and nothing will happen. A very quick turn will sometimes make contact, but it's very difficult to control.

I told the LA about it, because LAs can put in trouble reports and get new equipment sent out to labs. Her initial reaction was a laugh and say okay, when I told her. Seeing that I wasn't walking away, she sort of gave me a dirty look and said that she didn't have any, and would have to have someone else come bring it out, implying it would be a huge hassle. I didn't take the bait, and just nodded and say okay, and kept looking at her.

She grimaced, got up, and reluctantly followed me to the computer in question. I picked up the mouse, and slowly rolled it for a good 10 seconds. Nothing happened on the screen. She took it, and rolled it really quickly. Several times. Nothing happened. She rolled it again more quickly and harder, and it jerk zoomed in 2 or 3 levels. She then set it down and said, okay, anything else?

I'm like, not really, how long will it take a new one to get here? She says, nothing's wrong with it, it moved. I picked it up again and moved it for another 5 or 6 seconds with nothing happening. Finally she sighed and said okay and went and put in a trouble report.

Well to you anonymous lab assistant, ma'am, you need to get a new job because you don't know a thing computers, or customer service.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Catstache - Update 2

New iteration with a reworked button system. The buttons queue an animation that involves the top panel bouncing down, then sliding up under the header until it's fully hidden, and then sliding back out, with a switched panel. This is the last screenshot I'll be posting of this codebase, I'm going to be starting from scratch this afternoon on a new version, because there are several large changes that I want to do in how I'm coding it, things that have changed a little over and over and over so that they are coded very inefficiently.

What do you guys think of the background color? I like white personally, but my partner disagrees. And anything that isn't white or black has advantages in terms of making borders look 3D, so that's a nice little perk.

Thoughts? Better, worse?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

New Music Playlist

I previously posted a Pure Moods playlist that I'd assembled on Youtube, with the goal of finding music which was relaxing yet focusing ... music to chill out to, or do homework to.

This is the opposite. These songs won't relax you, but if you need to get pumped up, if you need to get excited, then these are for you.


Almost Done

Seems that hell week went well, I've gotten back grades for all but one exams, and so far I'm standing at 2 As and a B. Plus two 100%s on quizzes. That said, some of the more recent material for construction as well as soils has been difficult, so over the next week I'll probably be spending more time in office hours getting help.

Finally found a class buddy to work on soils homework with, and she's been a godsend. I most certainly wouldn't have done well on the last few homework assignments, or the exam, without having someone to bounce ideas off of. If you out there ever get a chance to study with a partner, jump on it! It's very useful.

Dead week and finals are all that's left of the semester, and I still don't know if I have an internship for this summer. My interview with Janssen and Spaans went really well, but they still haven't told me one way or the other. I've got a phone interview with the Oregon Dept of Transportation this week though, so hopefully I'll have a backup.

Catstache is moving. Slowly, but it's moving. Hope you all enjoyed the look at it, though since I posted the last update it's changed quite a bit. I'll post an update in the next few days. With the design nearly finalized, I'll be able to move it over to WordPress soon, and get it up and running. Then it'll be time to start finding clients. The first two we had lined up have both basically canceled, unfortunately.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Burst Angel - Review

I got into a show called Burst Angel a few days ago. It's pretty short, one season, about 12 hours total. It was entertaining enough that I powered through it in 3 days. Problem is, I just watched the ending.

To summarize, the show basically ends with all the main characters, all the secondary characters, and everyone in the entire city of Tokyo dying, with the sole exception of one of the two main characters who in the previous scene got her heart broken, and is in the end left crying and alone on a random beach.

No surprise happy ending. Just one broken-hearted character surrounded by a destroyed city. I'm a tad bit pissed off, to put it mildly. I wasted 12 hours, not to mention emotional connection with characters, only to have them all die. What was the point of any of the episodes previously, they should have just put the gun in their mouths on episode one and saved all the trouble.

Only upside, it did have some really good music. Might try and find the soundtrack.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Catstache - Update

Yesterday I shared a first look at the website I'm currently working on, Catstache Design. I spent some time today working on it and polishing it up. I changed the colors somewhat, to move away from the green/teal look. Also added some shadows using the CSS3 Box-Shadow property. Which of course won't work on older versions of IE, so I'll have to create a work-around with images eventually.

IE is low on my priorities at the moment though, first I want to get the site design finalized. Granted, all this might change, because my partner has final say in how the site will look, given that she is the actual graphic designer. But for now, this is where we are at.

Thoughts? Better, worse?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Catstache Design - First Look

This week has been the busiest all semester. 4 midterm exams, 2 quizzes, and several homework assignments. Throw in a good 7 hours of driving and an interview, and it makes for very little free time. But I made it through, and classes got out at 2:30 today, so I had some free time to finally work more on the homepage to Catstache Design. Granted, my graphic designer partner is suppose to be doing said design, then handing it off to be to build, but she's been even busier than I have, and I was never one for patience *laugh*.

So, below is the first (4th, but first that it decent enough I'm willing to share) iteration of the widescreen version of the homepage.

I'm not really satisfied with bar that crosses the screen mid page; the coloring of it. It's basically a tab bar to change the box above to different panels, so we can hold more information. I'll hopefully be able to run it by the partner and get some suggestions. Any thoughts of your own? Let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ups and Downs

In the true form of Karma, last week and this are polar opposites. Last week was an easy cruise. Not a single homework assignment due the entire week, no exams, no quizzes. Nothing.

This week however, I have a grand total of: 2 quizzes, 4 midterm exams, and several homework assignments. So far I've taken one of the quizzes and two of the midterms, and I'm feeling pretty good about them. The first midterm was in psychology, and was pretty easy even without much studying. The second, which I just took, was in surveying. Not much more difficult, and it certainly took a lot less time. It was just several problems to solve, and we knew ahead of time what kinds of problems we'd be tested over, so it was easy to study for it.

I did have some pretty great news this week as well. Very last minute, I heard that Janssen and Spaans was looking for an intern for this summer, in their Indianapolis office. I sent my resume over last Friday, and they want me to come down tomorrow morning for an interview! Instead of leaving here at 6am, I'm just going to drive down to Indy this afternoon and spend the night with the parents, who live only 20 minutes away from the Janssen and Spaans office.

Additionally, the Oregon Dept of Transportation called me and asked if I was still interested in a traffic internship with them this summer, and we set up a phone interview for later this April. Two in just a week! I'm not sure which I'd really like best, because living at home would save a lot of money, but living in Oregon would be a cool experience; getting out of the midwest for the first time in my life. We'll see what the offers are, pay, hours, etc.

Later today I have a midterm in soils, which is going to be difficult. It really doesn't matter however, because it's one of two midterms, and the lowest is thrown out. I got a decent grade on the first exam, so even if I utterly fail this one, I still have a decent grade. I've studied for it, but I'm not freakin' out about it.

Then I've gotta call Enterprise around 3, after bowling gets out, and get my car for the day. Turns out they charge by the day, and a full size is only 10 bucks more than a compact. Might as well go full and drive down to Indy more comfortably. Then back here tomorrow afternoon, and another midterm exam on Friday, to finish up the week.

Two more weeks after, and finals, and this semester is done!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Kimbra/Gotye Explosion

Recently everywhere I look, someone is talking about Somebody I Used to Know. It's giving me very mixed feelings. On one hand, I'm happy for both artists that they are finally gaining exposure. On the other hand, it felt good supporting small artists that no one else knew about, and being able to introduce people to them.

Have you heard this song? Yes, yes I have ... a year ago.

Though I guess that's how all early fans of any artist that hits the big time feel. In the end, I think the satisfaction of seeing others enjoying the music trumps the bandwagon effect.

Still, in honor of all you long term fans, here some classic Kimbra (and Miami Horror!) beats, back from 2010.


Responsive Desgn - More Thoughts

As detailed in my post a few days ago, I'm planning out my sites on a 4 layout setup, (mobile, narrow, normal, wide). I'm not sure that's enough though, and I'm debating splitting mobile into two versions, mobile narrow and mobile wide. Or mobile landscape and mobile portrait.

I starting thinking about this when I had to change up the way my header looked at the high end of mobile down to the low end, and I ended up using a media query inside the mobile css sheet to do it. Which leads me to another point, how to apply media queries.

The first method is to apply them inside a css sheet. You'd link one css sheet to the webpage, then inside that sheet, you'd specify all the styling. Example (inside the css stylesheet):

#wrapper {width:1000px;}

@media (max-width:1050px) {

#wrapper {width:100%;}


The advantage of doing this lies in the fact that you can write less code. Styling which doesn't change can be written just once, only things that change have to be re-written.

However, this can get overly complicated. Trying to find the source of a problem can involve digging through the entire sheet, finding the styling on an element in multiple places.

The alternative to this is just creating entirely separate style sheets. Create multiple css files, name them mobile.css, wide.css, etc, and use media queries to link them in the web page. Example (inside the webpage file):

<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" media="(min-width:0px) and (max-width:660px)" href="css/mobile.css"/>

<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" media="(min-width:661px) and (max-width:1020px)" href="css/narrow.css"/>

<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" media="(min-width:1021px) and (max-width:1401px)" href="css/normal.css"/>

<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" media="(min-width:1401px)" href="css/wide.css"/>

Besides the opposites advantage and disadvantage of the first method, this method has another advantage which is loading speed. When a page loads, it'll only load the CSS sheets that it needs. If one is on a widescreen monitor, it will load only the wide.css. This takes less time than loading all the css, for every possible screen size.

This is the method that I'm using at the moment. There is one problem though, which is that the most common script for giving IE7-8 the functionality of media queries doesn't work with the second method. I'm trying to find a hack around it, and I'll post it here if I figure it out.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

First Client Meeting for Catstache? Or Not ...

I had a meeting with a potential client for Catstache yesterday, pretty excited about it because it was the first person who'd actually contacted us. And we haven't even started advertising yet.

Aside from the guy arriving over an hour late, the meeting went pretty well, except that it wasn't at all what I was expecting. Turns out, he just blind emailed everyone on listed on the ITaP SAC (student council) website, because he's not looking to hire a company to build him a site, he's looking to hire individual people to join his company, to build the site in-house.

Then there is the scale. Catstache builds personal sites, either statically or powered by WordPress. Anywhere from 1-10 pages normally, it's not really a complex task. This site is more on the level of Facebook, from the sounds of it. At least Facebook back when it started.

It did sound quite fun, and even though I can't talk about the content of the proposed site (had to sign an NDA), I can say it fill a niche that is unfilled, vaguely related to the concept I was working on last summer with the virtual career fair site, but on a whole different scale.

Unfortunately, there's no team in place, no direction really. The owner of the site isn't a tech person, and is really in the starting stages of gathering up a team. I told him he needs to find, before anything else, a web consultant, who's sole job is just, looking at the site, step by step, piece by piece, and figuring out who needs to be hired to complete it all. Once there is a list of necessary people, work can start on hiring them all, and there's no risk of individual web devs getting screwed because of lack of help.

It's not a Catstache project, that is for sure. But depending on if he can round up others, I might be joining over the summer. Updates to follow.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Math Humor

If you've ever taken higher calculus ...


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Imposing Values

"Lefty liberals only seek to IMPOSE their own moral views on other people, by fiat or social engineering."

I read this as a comment in an article about DOMA today.

Liberals only seek to impose. The problem is that it's opposite of the truth, because in terms of marriage, there are three positions. On one end of the spectrum, there is the position that, we allow heterosexuals to get married, and don't allow homosexuals. In the middle is, we allow both. On the other end is, we allow homosexuals to get married, and don't allow heterosexuals. Those are the three positions.

Personally, I don't like either one, or three, because they are both rather extreme. They involve forcing your own view (that either homo or hetero is bad) on other people, and controlling their actions (not allowing them to get married). The middle position, is that of live and let live. Yet somehow, it's that middle position, of not seeking to control ANYONE, not seeking to impose EITHER moral, that the commenter seemed to think was imposing. Not sure how that works.

It amazes me that the GOP, which prides itself on limited government and staying out of people's lives, tries to impose a specific religious morality on everyone. Or, I wish it amazed me.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Things are Moving!

Any reader of this blog knows that I love web design. HTML, CSS, PHP, jQuery. Recently I've gotten really into mobile, and I'm trying to push myself with the actual graphic design part, though I'm still quite terrible in that aspect. Yet, what is the point in all this, besides it being fun?

I was approached by a good friend of mine a while back about starting a web design company, and turning my hobby into a part time job on the side. (A profitable one, since an average personal wordpress site goes for anywhere from $700 to $2000). Still, it's been slow going, weeks passing with really nothing happening. However, over the past week things have finally started moving.

The first surprisingly difficult hurdle was creating a name. Catchy, simple, and most importantly, not already taken. And if you think that there are lots of names out there not taken, try googling random stuff followed by the word design. We progressed through Blue Hat, to Blue Beard, to Cat Beard, and finally came up with out new name: CatStasche.

Picture, the face of a cat, with a prominent mustache.

That done, we registered the URL,, and I put up a coming soon page. Then work started on our actual site. It'll be powered by WordPress eventually, but right now we're working with static HTML and CSS just to get the layout working. One major aspect I'm putting a lot of effort into is responsive design, which is one of the few areas that I both A, understand well, and B, am getting in on the ground floor of.

I've decided on standardizing upon 4 widths, and making the design flexible within each of the four.

0px - 600px
Smartphones, tablets in portrait mode
600px - 1000px
Old monitors, and tablets in landscape mode
1000px - 1400px
Traditional 1024x768, and very common 1280x1024.
1400px - Infinity
Widescreen large monitors, normally 22" and above

Some sites have the region that I have as mobile split again, for phones in landscape vs portrait, but all my mobile designs are going to be 100% flexible, using no fixed-length values, so it'll scale, and make another split unnecessary. I've got the layout tentatively working for Wide and Normal, and will be working on the Narrow and Mobile versions over the next few days while my partner finishes the logo and starts working on the color scheme. Hopefully the site should be completely designed within the next week, so I can then spend the week after moving translating it to WordPress. And then we'll really be ready to rock.  

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Future of Education?

My brother is staying with me a couple days to get a feel for college life, and Purdue in general. He showed me this video this morning while we were waiting for one of his info sessions to start, and it's really interesting.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Microsoft Embracing Decent Marketing

Back when IE9 came out, from a tech perspective it looked like Microsoft was finally putting in effort for the first time since IE6. It actually has decent support for standards, and is decently snappy on opening. That said, it didn't do much to change people's perspectives outside of actual web designers who work with it day in and day out. General techies still hate IE on principle, and general non technies still think the little E icon on the screen in "The Internet".

Seems like Microsoft has finally decided to try and change perception along with reality. I've been seeing this commercial on TV for a week now, and I finally looked it up online. It's quite good. Catchy song, pretty graphics. It almost makes me want to go use IE.


WordPress Update

So I'm trying to start a web design business with a friend, using WordPress. Over the past couple days, I've finally had a bunch of free time, so I've been reading a lot on how WordPress actually works. Turns out, Thesis is just a theme, not a tool to edit other themes. The only difference is that it's very easy to edit using checkboxes and things, without touching code. That's really the only benefit, that one pays 80 bucks for. 80 bucks, for every website. Or 160 for a dev license plus 40 per site. I really don't think it's worth it.

In fact paying for any premium theme to edit and resell to a client doesn't seem to be worth it. The real money is in MAKING the themes from scratch. And that's what I've been trying to figure out how to do. I've had limited success already though, actually. I went through a from scratch tutorial, and managed to create a whole new theme. Looks terrible, it's some white boxes with black borders. But it works, and it pulls the info from WordPress. Posts and pages. Then last night I built a nav bar with dropdown menus and added it, and it grabs the entries from WordPress successfully as well.

If I can get good at this, it's something I might switch over to focusing on full time. A prebuilt WordPress site goes for $700. A custom built one can run up to $1000-$2000. For personal sites. And when I get good, it won't take much longer to build it using WordPress than it does using static HTML, which means a couple weeks. Could certainly pay for my last semester. Sadly though, the URL I want if I ever started a company myself, 79 Design Co, is taken. actually just got renewed, doesn't end until next march.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

What An Engineering Degree Gets You

Do you ever find yourself full after only eating half your meal, and want to be healthy and save the rest for later, but don't have clingy wrap? Well, the clever geniuses here in my head have found a solution! You will need:

Ziplock Baggy (x2):

Duct tape:


Food to save:

Step 1:
- Cut the bags down one side.

Step 2:
- Place one bag over one side of container.

Step 3:
- Place second bag over the other side.

Step 4:
- Wrap duct tape around to hold bags together

Step 5:
- Place covered container in refrigerator.

Now you can be healthy and eat less, and be more cost effective by making a can of chili last two meals. Success!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Will The Real Mitt Romney Please Stand Up

Saw this video today, and was amused, so I thought I'd share it with you all. Enjoy!


Monday, March 19, 2012

What Microsoft is Doing Wrong

Way back in August, I wrote an article discussing why Windows tablets have a chance. At the time, we’d seen images of the new Windows 8 operating system, and I predicted that Microsoft would offer transforming devices, which would use the new interface on tablets but move to full desktop Windows when plugged into a mouse and keyboard setup. I predicted that that extra capability to use full Windows would give Windows Tablets the ability to succeed where the iPad has failed, namely, enterprise.

Read my full article at

Saturday, March 17, 2012


When a friend came to me and wanted to start developing websites together, I was quite happy to oblige, because it gave me an excuse to hang out with said friend, and it would let me improve my mad web skillz. (Not to mention making a bit of money, which is never bad). Then she said we'd be using the software, and I was a wary. I'd never worked with it before, and I wasn't sure how it worked.

Most people know WordPress as a blog site, similar to Blogger (which powers this blog). However, that is is a different matter. Turns out that unlike Blogger, the underlying PHP for WordPress is open source, and offers it for free to people who want to host their own site.

According to above friend, we could use it, change the way it looks like a regular site, and sell it to the client. Unlike a site built with static HTML however, the client would then have a backend page to log into, where s/he could edit the content of each page.

Well damn, sounds great. So I download and install it on one of my sites, and then get it up. It looks nice under the default theme (themes let you change the look or the site), but I can't really figure out how to edit things. But that's okay, there's a program called Thesis that lets one edit themes more easily. So hopefully soon I shall be offering sites that allow easy editing. I'm a bit confused on what exactly it is, but we'll see as we go.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mobile Thumbnail Gallery

A new site I'm starting work on is a personal website with the primary purpose of showing off the owner's artwork. She didn't indicate a desire for the website to work on mobile devices, but given that mobile is what I'm focusing heavily on right now, I'm going to create and offer that functionality just in case.

The main design of the gallery page will consist of two pieces. The first is a full gallery. This will be squares, 3 across the most narrow dimension, height or width depending on orientation. The key will be making them square, which will require javascript, because despite my CSS height proposal, no changes are likely to occur in the near future.

So, javascript will be used to set the height of the square thumbnail links. What about the images though? Will all be square? Probably not. And do we want to resize ahead of time so that the images loaded are all small thumbnails? It will require extra steps beforehand, but it will pay off in page-load time. Loading the entire image and jut resizing will work, but it will load much more slowly.

Right now my squares are just black, I'm trying to find some images to use for the moment in place of the real ones we don't have yet. We'll see what happens though.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


A friend of mine wants to take me to a strip club because she thinks it would be amusing, given I've never been to one. I really have no desire to go to a strip club though, and I was trying to describe way to another friend, who didn't really buy it (what hot blooded male wouldn't want to go to a strip club?). The reason behind is it not that I disprove of strip clubs or think they are morally wrong. It's that I'm greedy. Here's what I came up with to describe them:

Strip Clubs - They're like a going to a candy store and looking at all the great candy, then being told, you can't have any of it.

My friend laughed, and I agreed that that was a pretty humorous way of saying it, so I posted that as my Facebook status. And no sooner did that happen than I got a comment about how I'm treating women like objects. I disagree.

My friend's mistake was misunderstanding what the analogy relates to. Mistaking what the stripper is selling for the person underneath. What she is selling is her physical appearance. She's selling it on purpose, and the appearance IS an object. And that is what the joke is refering to. The candy is analogous to the object that is being sold, which is the physical appearance. Another analogy would be to a musician. I pay for the singer's music, not for the person underneath. I don't interact with the person underneath, there's no contact. All I hear is the singing. Just like all I see is the body.

I objectify the singer's music, I buy it. But no one protests. Yet when a woman (or a man!) wants to see their physical appearance instead of their voice, people talk about how it's objectifying them. It's not.