Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Happy June.

This will be the second straight year that I've continued to do page updates throughout the summer months, so hopefully I have enough cat pictures, stupid news stories, and rants to keep you interested in on a daily basis. As always happens on the first of the month, yesterday's news post has been moved to the news archive for the previous month, accessible on the left sidebar.

Anna and Ben get married in 17 days!

Monkey hired to prevent 'simian onslaught'
Jaywalking chick ducks bill
Cheetah Cub-Cam at the National Zoo

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Thursday, June 02, 2005

I'm glad this child abuse story had a reasonably happy ending. In my opinion, child abuse in any form is the most insidious but ignored root cause of society's problems, and the chance that offenders will reform is essentially nonexistant. Someone needs to discover a new island mass (or create one out of landfill waste) where child abusers can be ostracized and forgotten about -- the upside being the hope that it would normalize into a high-demand tourist getaway after two hundred years (see also, Australia).

Wear thicker clothing
Hundreds of U2 fans saved from concert
Robby Gordon complains about being a fatty

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Friday, June 03, 2005

By the time Friday rolls around, I always seem to have a plethora of leftover news stories.

Survey ranks states with dumbest drivers
Arnold is executive director of getthekidsout.org.
Police "accidentally" shoot suspect with Taser-like gun
Man sets fire to end party
Mom hires stripper for son, 16
Bush blames India for high oil price, because it couldn't be our fault

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Monday, June 06, 2005

Every so often, I'll contemplate writing a comprehensive timeline of my life, including where I've lived, what I did, who my friends and professors were, and other trivia. I'm already starting to forget the names of my junior high teachers, and I'm sure that ten years from now I'll remember nothing at all of the glory days. After I have these ambitious thoughts, I'll realize how much effort it would really take, and how much constant maintenance it would require to keep up to date. Then, I change my mind and make a little news update instead. I can be really good at keeping things alive (see this site, and Booty), but I can also lose interest fast (see the "comprehensive list of movies I've seen" in the Archive which lasted about a year).

Hormone Dose May Increase People's Trust in Strangers
Tiny ninjas minimize Shakespeare's Hamlet
This Snoop Dogg character fell and injured his thumb

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

These new mayo containers are great. The opening in the top is wide enough so that your knife can scrape every last bit of mayo out of the container, and there's a small lip designed to let you scrape the excess mayo back in when you're done lubing up your sandwich. Whoever invented this plastic goodness should get a raise.

Governor digs fixing potholes
Elderly women accidentally checked the "organ buyer" box instead of the "organ donor" box
"I am thinking, well, America has finally got to us," said one old woman, as she sat on the ground outside her house.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Traitor's Knot the book which has been delayed since last November finally began shipping last week, so I took a trip out to Border's "We play the worst new age piano music ever" Bookstore but didn't find any copies. I did come away with three new CDs though: Dave Matthews' Stand Up, Coldplay's X & Y, and Jem's Finally Woken. My initial impressions: Stand Up is more of the same, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's a fairly mellow Dave Matthews album with nothing as edgy as his original offerings from the late 90s. X & Y contains the infamous single, Speed of Sound which was to become the first song to open at #1 in the UK since the Beatles, but which was beat out at the last minute by a ringtone which is apparently driving Brits crazy . The orchestration is much thicker than on Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head which makes it slightly tedious, but the songs are upbeat and catchy. Apparently Chris Martin is not so moody and dark now that he's married to Gwyneth Paltrow and naming his kids after produce.

The final CD is one I picked up on a whim based on some singles I'd heard on XM. It's a very eclectic mix, and reminds me of Dido meets Butterfly Boucher meets Tali. Here's a couple samples, hosted by Amazon.com:

Just a Ride (WMV)
Come on Closer (WMV)

If I'm still listening to these CDs in a few weeks I'll post deeper reviews of them. Have comments of your own? Post them using the Comments link in the upper right corner!

Finally, someone with half a brain is going to college
Coldplay compares themselves to Mr. Fusion and the Flux Capacitor, and likens U2 to the Mount Everest of rock, all in the same interview
Airport security notices something fishy

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Thursday, June 09, 2005

There was an article in the Washington Post yesterday about students who truncate their high school years to get into college faster . In my day, the purpose of high school was to ogle at girls and refine my razor-scarred wit at the expense of poor teachers (notably a BSCS Biology teacher who was so lazy that she divided up the last 12 chapters off the book amongst the students and made them teach each other). Learning was minimal to nonexistant and there was nothing ever taught in high school that couldn't have easily been learned in self-study. However, the daily act of getting up and going to school, interacting with other equally bored and/or clueless rhubarbs, and just being awake minute to minute, was instrumental in molding us into halfway independent beings.

There should be a minimum age limit for college. Kids are not necessarily ready for college just because they've finished all the books in the library. School systems don't really help this situation since they tend to advance overachievers (and reward those with AP credit), rather than broaden the breadth of their education. Instead of pushing a student into Algebra XII because "there's nothing left to learn in Algebra XI", why not let them devote their time to other interests and hobbies, or go deeper into the subject matter they just finished? It's at this point that the ball is in the parents' court, since the school systems can barely teach Johnny to read. (This is exemplified by one New York school system which started an anti-drug campaign with pencils that said "Too Cool to Do Drugs". Enterprising students quickly realized that sharpening the pencil changed the message to "Cool to Do Drugs", and finally "Do Drugs".)

I suppose at a higher level, this whole phenomenon just reflects America's drive to have successful kids who go to Harvard at 11, sell Google stock at 28, and support their parents into retirement.

Nerds make better lovers
Because he looked harmless
The charge was "Gross Sexual Imposition" but I don't think he could help it

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Friday, June 10, 2005

Over a year after submitting the paperwork, I finally had my governmental security clearance interview today. The questions asked were mind-numbingly repetitive, to the point where I almost felt compelled to make up some stories about my shady deals (sometimes I play poker under an oak tree). At least in this interview, the interviewer was pleasant and actually capable of smiling, although I'm sure she was under strain from being observed by her supervisor while she interviewed me. Since there was nothing in my past beyond three moving violations, one of which the DMV does not seem to have record of anymore, the interview was painless if not quick.

Luckily, they and eating in albino El Salvador Operation: Fire Ant assassination. But honestly, no one would really care about that anyhow.

Taking a taxi to the U.S.
Texas Instruments had disabled the decimal-to-fraction key and left it blank.
When Marine recruiters go way beyond the call

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Monday, June 13, 2005

As a sequel to my "Do you remember what you were doing years ago" post, I was planning on picking a random day from high school and writing about it for each of this week's updates. As luck would have it, June 13, 1996 was the day I graduated from high school, aptly illustrated in the photo to the left (which includes the college-age sister too embarrassed to get any closer to the family, but does not include my dad who mistakenly stood on the wrong side of the camera too often to get into many pictures).

At T.C. Williams High School, a 4.0 is the numeric equivalent of a straight-A student, but taking Advanced Placement courses gave you a bonus 0.5 which could ostensibly push you higher than the maximum. Because of this zany take on mathematics, I was ranked #1 in my class of about five-hundred. There were about fifty of us in the #1 slot, which let us all look good on college applications. In actuality, I was about 21 of the 50, and probably several hundredths of a point away from the top, since taking dumb-people classes like Music Theory, Band, Jazz Band, and Art inevitably lowered your average. This tidbit has no real bearing on the day, except that I didn't have to give a ridiculous speech and I had to show up a half hour early so they could herd all the smart cattle to the front of the line.

While waiting for the processional to begin, my wild-eyed physics teacher, Dr. Patel, warned me that ceremonies were garbage, graduations didn't mean anything, and most of the surrounding chipmunks were not going to go far in the world.

We walked out onto the football field in our teacher-chaperoned "pairs of two", possibly a symbol of educational redundancy, and sat down. Underneath my gown I had a bottle of water, three rolls of Spree, and a deck of cards, but no Bingo scoresheets . These helped to pass the time through interminable speeches and families who insisted on cheering for their underachievers despite the principal's constant pleas to hold the applause until the end. The Air-Force-bound, meteorologic physicist genius, Ada Holland, (who retook the SATs to get from 1560 to 1600 or something) gave the Salutatorian speech about heroes and Superman. This was followed by the Valedictorian speech of Ruth whose GPA was statistically insignificantly higher (by taking fewer classes) and who I haven't heard from since (she may be out back smoking crack with Zulfan). Her speech mentioned Star Wars a lot, with a few random spewings of nonsensical magma about heroes. I guess the theme of the graduation was heroes.

The graduation was followed by a minor party at home with my uncle, grandfather, and the kids of our family babysitter twelve years earlier. This party was followed by two more, one at Hilda's which I momentarily loitered at, and one at Mike Buns' which I skipped altogether. The night was punctuated by the All-Night Grad Party, designed by the PTA to keep the newly graduated hooligans away from drugs and alcohol (omitting, for a moment, the fact that a good 94.3% of the population from G.W. Junior High, the feeder school for the rich yuppies of Alexandria, were deep into substance abuse before their junior year at T.C.) The only notable events of the night were a sumo-fat-suit booth, a bungee corridor where you tried to run as far as possible before slingshotting backwards, and a blackjack table where I won $10,000 in funny money. I subsequently traded the funny money for a clock-radio which got regifted several years later at a random party.

And when the party was over, it was no longer June 13, 1996.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

This week is still ancient history week.

Eleven years ago today was June 14, 1994. Like a peculiar suburban Tennessee Williams play, it was a hot and humid half-day at the end of my sophomore year, and it was the last day of "going to every class" before exams. The Alexandria City Public School System, like any good school system, felt that students would not benefit unless they went to every class but had an inability to divide the day into increments of five minutes at a time. As a result, we went to every class for approximately 19 minutes before the bell rang.

First period was English with Mrs. Riviere, who owned a bed and breakfast in Berryville and commuted about eighty miles to school everyday. Well on her way to retirement, she decided to have a sub on the half day, which surprised no one. Second period was French III with a teacher who was easily the meanest old lady in la monde. It was during this year and this class that I started work on Break-Out! for the TI-85 (which eventually culminated two years later with the complete Game-Calc by Uri! containing Break-Out, Connect Four, Battleship, and Whack-a-Rat, but had the downside of taking up the entire memory of the calculator).

Nothing happened in third period Algebra II With Trig. The With Trig means that they threw in an extra semester of trigonometry, so you wouldn't have to have a useless gap in the second half of your year. Fourth period was Biology BSCS -- I no longer know what the BSCS stands for but I know it wasn't bromothymal blue. For this particular class, Ben Seggerson and I were administering a makeup test for the chapter we were forced to teach while the rest of the class just sat around and talked. In the final week of this class, the teacher informed everyone that there would be a notebook check of every ditto, test, and handout she'd ever given, and that it would constitute 40% of our grade. She apparently had a checklist which she was going to grade our notebooks against, although no one really believed her. Since I had thrown away everything to do with this class weeks earlier, I turned in a carefully manicured notebook filled to the brim with old math assignments, doodles, and hundreds of copies of the one ditto I had left. This faux notebook was a work of art, since many of the pages were carefully stapled and taped together -- when you flipped through the notebook haphazardly, you only saw the particular pages that looked official. Another student later reported that she threw out all the notebooks immediately after the school year ended, so I would have gotten an A regardless.

Nothing else of note occurred in the remaining classes, Art I and Band, though I did go to lunch at Jack's since he lived close to school. We managed to have a soda before the nineteen minute deadline loomed and we had to rush back to campus. Incidentally, Jack is the one who got me my current job, and he got promoted to business area manager of my project last week (also managing to throw in a nice little engagement to his girlfriend a few days ago). Were this faux-blog to have any greater world significance, this would be the point where I connect Jack to a deeper thread in the weave of life. Since this faux-blog actually has no significance whatsoever, I'll just close with my standard news stories.

Killer cow arrested
Baby man

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Retro week will continue as soon as I've finished reading my new book from cover to cover. I've been waiting for its distribution since last November. Kiity has already read half of the book, but has promised not to post any spoilers in my forum.

Priates foiled when someone steals their getaway boat
Woman wins a million dollars twice in a row; declines offer of smart dot-com investment in urizone.net
Who had the worse job, the reattachers or the guys "we sent out to locate the missing bits"?
Preachers who give religion a bad name

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Thursday, June 16, 2005

I'm about 200 pages into Traitor's Knot so far. So far so good. For more thoughts on this series, see my news posts from 12/8/01, 1/29/02, and 2/13/04.

There will be no updates tomorrow because I'll be down in Colonial Beach for Anna's wedding. Updates will resume next Monday. Have a good weekend!

Runaway bride doesn't realize they already made that movie
Student throws up on teacher

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Monday, June 20, 2005

Anna and Ben are all married up, following a perfect ceremony and day in scenic Colonial Beach. As of this morning, they're on their way to Jamaica for a week, after which Anna will be moving in with Ben in their townhouse in Manassas. More and more people are getting engaged or married these days -- maybe I should look into getting me one o' those.

I finished my book over the weekend. The previous book was almost dragged down by the weight of its theme but in hindsight, it really was a necessary step in the evolution of the story. This one is much more tightly knit and really sets up well for the finale of the 3rd arc (Book 5 of 5 of Arc 3 of 5!). It's still disappointing to be four books into this story arc and not have a concrete conclusion, but you can immediately tell that all of the unresolved issues to date are swirling together for an excellent finish.

Finally for today's update, I'd like to point out that this is the worst bit of spin ever produced by the Bush administration . Of all the excuses they could invent to dismiss the continued non-capture of Bin Laden, "We know where he is but we respect other countries' borders too much" is easily the hand that should have folded on the flop. Why couldn't they come up with something that would at least support their current useless agenda, like "We knew exactly where he was but John Kerry leaked the information to the North Koreans and they airlifted him into Iran."?

From the "President almost chokes but is fine" important news bin
Mom's yearbook request expands the viewing audience from hundreds to millions

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A couple weeks back, Anna and I went to see the movie, Crash, an independent movie with quite a few well-known stars. The movie makes heavy use of coincidence to explore all the aspects of prejudice and racism and I liked it quite a bit. Ultimately it's not as deep as it intends to be, but it's definitely worth a watch. All the roles were well-filled (including Ludacris in his first movie role), although Brendan Fraser didn't really have a lot to do (and perhaps that was a good thing).

Happy Birthday Liz Benyo and Daniel Bethancourt!

$24,000 in Chinese food
Time bomb alert: That baby will EXPLODE.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Music scholars say that repetition is the key to Western music. Nowadays, repetition is the bane of popular music. Pop and rock songs get longer and longer, mainly because the artists or producers decided to repeat a chorus one too many times. The Stereophonic's Dakota is good, for the first three minutes. Edie Brickell doesn't need to be nattering on about what she is for five minutes, and Finger Eleven should have cut its One Thing song down to the core fifteen seconds. No one gave a rat's ass about what would've happened if he traded it all, so why would they care the ninth or tenth time they regurgitate the question?

It's not even that hard to disguise your repetition. Change a couple notes here and there. Pull an Avril Lavigne and turn a duple phrase into a triplet phrase in the last chorus. I think the reason I could never be a successful pop music composer is that I just can't see the sense in having an exact musical mimeograph played more than once or twice in a row.

UPOP on XM regularly touts their uncut version of U2's Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own, which runs over five minutes long, as a coup, since "the regular radio stations forced them to edit it down to three minutes". That's not artist oppression, that's just good editing. Unless you're writing an 80s rock overture for Kansas, Queen, or Guns n' Roses, all your pop music should be under the five minute mark. (Honestly though, U2 could have saved everyone some time and money by just not recording the song, and playing With or Without You and Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For in different keys instead. Would anyone really know the difference?)

Lions save girl
Oh no, someone said Mofo

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

The other day, I was listening to a Duke Ellington big band CD that I've owned for at least twelve years when I heard something I'd never heard before. Buried deep underneath a saxophone solo in one non-melodic "we wrote this so people could solo on the chords" arrangement was the complete melodic line from Cherokee played by trombones in closed position harmony. After verifying that I'd actually heard it, I decided to write a news story in which the protagonist (me) is amazed at the facets of music that continue to appear through listening, even twelve years later.

I went into the basement closet where all of my CD cases are hibernating to look up the name of the track, and found that it was an arrangement of... Cherokee. So, not only did I fail to discover anything new in the music -- I also failed to ever identify the harmonies of a song I've heard regularly for over a decade.

As you can see, I decided to write the news story anyhow.

Last August he nearly choked to death during his show while imitating oral sex with a U-shaped sausage that snapped in two in his mouth.
An innovative approach to parking tickets
The bill is flawed, since there is currently no line-item for cases where more than 100 representatives are just idiots

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Friday, June 24, 2005

Following America's obsession with obesity comes the "fat house in a skinny lot" syndrome. This occurs when homeowners can't quite afford to move out of their overinflated housing market so they renovate their existing houses to maximize indoor space at the expense of lawn and aesthetics. The homeowners with amenable houses add a new floor, preserving the balance between indoor and outdoor space, while those with houses that would collapse with added weight allow their homes to bulge at the seams like five pounds of cow manure in a three pound bag. You can see many examples of this ugliness throughout northern Virginia.

On Pegram Street in Alexandria is a ridiculous looking fathouse, dressed up in garish faux stone facing. As you drive up to it, don't be ashamed if you mistake it for a rock golem demanding a toll (apparently having lots of money to renovate does not equate to having any innate sense of design, style, balance, neighbourly concern, pattern recognition, fashion, or composition). There's another fathouse in the Brookfield development in Chantilly which doesn't have any grass left at all. Apparently, the owner broke his lawn mower and felt that this would be a wiser investment than buying a new one. The Arlington yuppies choose to go all out -- they buy two lots next to each other, tear out the old homes, and merge the lots to form one massive Autobot superhouse. Generally in these cases, the entire ground floor is taken by garages -- you often see them big enough for three and four cars.

Yesterday evening I was behind an SUV with the license plate, DOG LVER. I couldn't tell, though, if it was someone who really liked dogs or a Korean meat vendor (or maybe both).

Scottish emergency line doesn't pander to wusses
Statler and Waldorf to do movie reviews

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Monday, June 27, 2005

The world of blogging has a practice called "tagging", a chain letter pyramid scheme at its finest, designed to increase readership at your own blog and blogs people might never otherwise discover. Once you are tagged, you're supposed to answer the question and then tag a few more people so the insidious virus of linkbacks has new carriers in its world-dominating conquest of the web. Last week, I was tagged by mtymouse to list my top six songs of the moment. So here are my picks, with the first two being tried and true favourites (out of many more) and the rest being the Musique Du Jour (catchy today, could be annoying tomorrow). As an added bonus, you get MP3 excerpts of all the songs, since it's always fun to hear new songs you might have missed.

  1. Coldplay - Shiver (1.2MB MP3)
  2. Trashcan Sinatras - All The Dark Horses (922KB MP3)
  3. Manic Street Preachers - Empty Souls (997KB MP3)
  4. Green Day - Holiday (587KB MP3)
  5. Tony C and the Truth - Little Bit More (645KB MP3)
  6. Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc (702KB MP3)

Sadly, this little venture in tagging will expose just how far onto the fringe of blogging I am, as I don't read enough regularly-updated blogs to successfully pass the tag on. In the game of tagging, I'm like the last male child of a family name who inexplicably has all daughters and kills the family name for good, or like the boy named William Randall the Sixth who decides to name his son, Horace.

Since I can't find three willing souls to re-tag, I'll just tag Florida-Mike twice, since he's often out of material to write about (and fakes daily updates by posting Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday all on Monday). He can list his six top songs of the moment, and then (because he'll like doing this more, and with biting cynicism) his six hated songs of the moment as well.

Stay tuned tomorrow for exclusive BenAnna wedding pictures the media doesn't want you to see!

A tricky puzzle to waste a few hours of your day
Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, 10, 12 years. 7, 9, and 11 are just out of the question.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

I have uploaded an assload of wedding photos (photographic technical term) to the Photos section (for the new, click on Photos above, then click on URI! Pictures in the left menu that appears and scroll down to the bottom). These were taken straight from the source and culled from over 1200 actual snaps. Distilling a wedding like this is akin to distilling moonshine, except that you don't end up with tasty liquor at the end (unless you were savvy enough to go out and buy some in advance). There's also a few new pictures in the monthly calendar.

Speaking of pictures, there was a giant shot of a morbidly obese man on the front page above the fold in Sunday's Style section . It went well with the bagel & cream cheese I had for breakfast that day.

Scientifically proven hotness
CIA experts saw a secret code on Al-Jazeera that wasn't there
Day of the Living Dogs

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

With their new album, X & Y, Coldplay has chosen to stick with what works rather than be adventuresome, and for the most part, it succeeds. The CD has twelve tracks and a hidden one dedicated to their hero, Johnny Cash. To me, Coldplay has always been about the sound first, and then the lyrics second. They excel at creating a mood using just a wash of sound (a technique that most people who dislike their music find boring and repetitive) and use Chris Martin's vocals as a solid hook. A few of the songs on this CD have already started appearing on the radio, like Speed of Sound and Fix Me. Almost all of them are very strong alone, but they don't necessarily function well as an album. Because they all exist on a thick foam pad of harmonies, they tend to detract from the memorability of any one song when you listen to the whole album at once. However, there are no songs which I hate, and all of them have grown on me over the past couple weeks. If you liked any individual song from their previous two albums, I'd recommend getting this album (as noted a couple days ago, their old song, Shiver, easily ranks as one of my favourite contemporary songs). Apparently not all of you readers will, since I currently have two votes for "You have horrible taste in music" in my weekly poll.

Last weekend while stuck on I-95 South, I had the chance to listen to an exclusive XM interview of Coldplay on their "Artist Confidential" series and found the group to be surprisingly urbane and witty for a rock group. In the one-hour interview, the band talked about how they formed, the significance of the new album title, and why they don't take the U2-approach to writing about world issues. Scattered throughout the Q&A, they played acoustic versions of Clocks, Kingdom Come, and another song from Rush of Blood to the Head which I can't recall. To my pleasant surprise, they're as strong live as they are recorded, with Chris Martin effortlessly hitting notes on pitch (unlike Tom Chaplin of Keane).

Now if only they could keep Chris Martin from looking like an epileptic muppet when he's playing the keyboard on camera, they'd be all set to take over the world.

Happy Birthday Kathy!

Americal Idol contestant arrested for misdemeanor food fighting
Internet crashes in Pakistan. Early CIA reports indicate ICBM or WMD
Oprah Winfrey beats out Franklin Roosevelt in poll sponsored by AOL

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Thursday, June 30, 2005

I finally got off my ass and rewrote the PHP Comments script to show viewers how many comments are written for any given news update, something that Blogger and other blog software has had for years. Kathy and others have said that they never click on the link because they don't want to see an empty page, so hopefully this will inspire a new age of collective arguing. This is an upgrade I've been putting off since comments were introduced in April 2003, but it actually only took about an hour of coding in the end. I'm not a big fan of PHP but I guess it gets the job done.

I recently decided to shift the focus of these updates slightly. This site has been a "Dear Diary, this is what I did today" site since I first started daily updates upon my move to Florida in 2001, punctured by darts of rare insight when the spirit moved me. Now that I've been a working man for two years, "what I did today" is generally pretty boring, so I've resolved to spend more time on my thoughts & opinions. To this end, I have a notebook to jot down possible news ideas as they come to me. To date, this notebook has not been instrumental in the new style of my updates, because it spent the last four days sitting on my desk (it's too big to carry around anywhere). Currently, the only thing written in it is "Buy a smaller notebook".

This site will still remain angst-free however. Even when it feels good to be an angster, I will keep things light-hearted. There are plenty of other web logs in the world dedicated to hating life, writing bad angstful poetry, or driving the angstmobile down Interstate Angst, and they all do it better than I could, so I'll stick with my award-winning formula of flippancy (patent pending).

Rigged buoys taint contest
Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music
Dave Chapelle loves World of Warcraft

tagged as website | permalink | 2 comments


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