Just because I'm going to BayCon in two days
... doesn't mean that I can't be dragged into distractions by co-workers with big artistic ambitions. And I do mean big:
In other news, I would just like to officially announce that CSS is utterly appalling. Or, more specifically, its consistency of implementation is. That is all.
Working out the site kinks
Two quick comments on the site fixes I've been beating my head against ...:
(1) The crappy browser compatibility issues. Namely, this page rendering like crap in IE, being too wide for the screen no matter how you resize it, etc. I think I've found a fix. I'll get some testing going over my (one-day) weekend, I hope I hope, and try to roll it out over the next few days, so nobody has to put up with the aggravating "won't fit in the window" crap any more. (As a side benefit, this should also allow me to fix the icon/colorbar spacing.)
(2) There seems to be a strange hiccup in Movable Type where some older entries aren't showing up on the main page any more. (They're still in the archives.) I'm looking into it, but ultimately it shouldn't have too significant of an effect on Tlands (as long as newer entries don't start disappearing too).
Today's moment of Zen
A cough drop the governor reputedly sucked on, then tossed half-finished into a trash can, was put up for auction on eBay, listed under the heading "Schwarzenegger's DNA."
... Unfortunately, before that could occur, John and Sarah Connor broke into AMF814's house and destroyed the artifact with plastic explosives, accompanied by a suspiciously buff robot sucking on a lozenge of unknown origin.
A little Iraq reading
If you now support, or at any time in the past have supported, the war in Iraq ... pray we don't kill Muqtada al-Sadr, the firebrand Shiite cleric who's been stirring up trouble for the U.S. occupation. Link goes to Middle East expert and history professor Juan Cole, who explains why.
Actually, whether you support or oppose the war, cross your fingers this doesn't happen. The worse the situation gets there, the more obvious Bush's incompetence as Commander in Chief becomes ... but it's not right that soldiers have to die for Americans to realize this, and every new death (47 so far this month) is nothing more or less than a horror, political calculus be damned.
O fickle Mood! O frustrated Muse!
One thing that I've learned about myself in my quarter-century here is that I have a very distinct productivity cycle.
I swing slowly, over the span of several weeks, back and forth between raring to go on new projects and wanting desperately nothing more than to play video games and kill time surfing the Web. It doesn't hit hard enough to cause me trouble meeting obligations, and it has nebulous effects on my desire to socialize (enjoy getting distracted more, but don't want to engage myself in relating to others, except in short, erratic bursts). But one thing which is significantly affected is my creativity -- and, equally, my openness.
Journal-writing is caught at that unfortunate intersection of both -- as well as technology; the translation from thoughts to website takes several intermediate steps that combine to create just enough of a barrier to entry to scare me off when my mood is in a down cycle. (One of the incentives for the journal switchover to Movable Type was to reduce these barriers. It's helping somewhat, because the MT system is a lot simpler and more user-friendly -- although as I type this I'm well aware of a list of style changes and code tinkering that I really need to get around to, so in the short term that cancels out. MT's ability to save unpublished posts as drafts is also helping -- I'm halfway through an introductory post I got stalled on; with my old system I'd have had to keep track of it and "interrupt" it to write up something else in the meantime, but here, I can just save my changes and come back to it with a mouse click.)
My mood cycles have been on my mind a great deal lately, because I was just settling into an up-cycle when I sat down to install Movable Type. (If I'm doing Ambitious Things to Tlands, you can bet that I'm up-cycling.) I anticipated that I'd use the momentum from that burst of activity and the instantaneous feedback of "It's really working!" to shake out all the little stylistic bugs, get the journal seeded with some fresh posts, set up the Livejournal feed tlands_dot_org for you LJ readers ... and then, within the span of perhaps 24 hours, I stalled. I shut down completely. The down cycle whacked me upside the head and I stumbled, sprawling onto the floor, suddenly scrambling to just catch my breath and stagger forward a step at a time.
I'm used to the down cycles by now, but I'm definitely not used to them coming on that quickly.
At least not without reason. More typical is a slow drift into apathy, an incremental ratcheting back of the pace. Sometimes, of course, if I get sufficiently traumatized, it can bring things to a screeching halt -- longtime readers may recall Glineth and Cobalt's deaths, which are still weighing on my desire to write as the one-year mark creeps up (and it's really getting old, believe me). But two weeks ago? Added deadline urgency at the office was dragging me down some, sure, but that's about the only thing that was going on in my life at the time -- and by itself shouldn't have been enough to send me tumbling so far.
Since then, it's become clear that, yes, this is definitely an early down cycle rather than some sort of fluke. Work pressure has been unrelenting (especially with one of our editors taking off to get married and the rest of us picking up the burden), leaving me little chance to recenter on that front. I had a wonderful hike last weekend, as well as a pleasant date-thing with Rene, but neither really carried over to my mood cycle (especially given the editor's continued absence and the continued stomping at work starting the very next night).
Things may be looking up again. I hope. There's some drama going on in the background, but the stormy part of it is over, and now I just need to see how things settle. Hopefully well, although I have little control at this point. (I've got a reasonable drama tolerance, but being mired in interpersonal issues does tend to have a magnified drag on my mood.) For the moment, I'm stuck in something of a holding pattern.
Truth be told, with some exceptions the theme of my entire life lately has been "holding pattern." It's not a place I'm comfortable being. I have long-term goals I want to pursue, though I'll leave it to a later post to enumerate them.
What keeps me persevering is the fact that in this holding pattern, I'm building up financial resources which will make it significantly more pleasant when I do start sprinting forward again. (I came down here from Seattle five digits in debt. I'm not leaving the Sierra without ensuring that won't happen again if I take some time off from work.) But the sprinting is still some time off ... and I just wish I could do more jogging -- or even walking -- in the meantime.
Right now I feel like I'm hobbling along at an erratic limp toward those distant goals, going through long periods of not moving at all. That stasis is scary. It's just too easy a pattern to fall into ... and it's not something I want.
Today's moment of Zen
I'm aware I've basically posted nothing of substance since the changeover. Blame work and politics, in that order. In the meantime, here's your weird news for the day, fresh off the wire ...:
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Actor Sylvester Stallone sued Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. and a production company, claiming they stymied his efforts to make a sequel and Broadway musical based on the "Rocky" film franchise.
... Wait, which -- the lawsuit, or "Rocky: The Musical"?
Today's moment of Zen
From a 1989 training manual. Amazing the things newspaper reporters can get their hands on.
Two ideas for geek niche marketers
Lacking the manufacturing resources, I'm just going to throw these ideas out into the public domain. If anyone wants to actually produce and sell these items, let me know, because I can guarantee you at least one buyer ...:
Fuzzy gamer dice. The ones that hang from car rear-view mirrors. Except that they need to be d4s, d8s, d10s, d12s, or d20s. Perhaps some combination thereof. The closest I've been able to find is the standard six-siders at any number of Web sites, and Warehouse 23's fuzzy plush dice sold individually, which are a little too large.
It occurs to me that if you use 2d10 for the set, you'll never suffer the ultimate embarrassment of not being able to make a percentile roll out on the open road. (This has actually hypothetically occurred, somewhere in the universe.)
Unix underwear. This is actually a request on behalf of Kady, but heck, I'd probably get a set too.
Bill Amend had Jason wearing a set of briefs labeled "chmod 0700" in his "Foxtrot" strip a few years ago, but that seems to be as far as the idea's been taken. Geek undergarments are a tremendously underserved market.
So, niche marketers: Go for it! Geek pride is a powerful force, and geeks tend to have lots of money to spend on things that amuse them thus.
Today's moment of Zen
Secretary of State Colin Powell winning hearts and minds in Bulgaria:
(photo via Associated Press)
Unless you're one of a small handful of people from whom I solicited input during the changeover this weekend, this post is very likely your first introduction to the New Tomorrowlands (tm). Same as the Old Tomorrowlands, but different and better! (*cough* assuming I got the CSS working right.)
As previously mentioned, I've switched content management systems from my old homebrew scripts over to Movable Type, which rocks on toast. It supports multiple posting categories, multiple archive schemes, a fully templateable design, multiple authors (with their own usernames and logins! woo!), on-the-fly image uploading, probably a dozen relevant features I'm not remembering offhand, and on top of all that has a very intuitive and well-documented back end. Go Movable Type!
The primary significance of this is that I used to have a journal and news section, kept rigorously separate so that a necessary site update wouldn't bury a pithy and witty journal entry in the archives, or vice versa. That often left a many-months-old post in the "news" section if I hadn't had anything of significance to report. Not any more! "Tomorrowlands News" has simply been brought into the journal in the "Announcements" category and will be shuffled in with the rest of my writing -- but clearly labeled as news, with a spiffy little icon to match; and since the main page holds an arbitrary number of entries, I know it won't scroll away from view before its time, nor will it prevent people from reading the other products of my fevered psyche.
Anyway: I ramble. (As usual. But then, isn't that part of my charm, o reader?) As part of the switch, I'm ditching the "splash page" and "home page" setup. Update your Tlands bookmark to http://www.tomorrowlands.org/index.html instead of home.html. Nothing else, however, should be moving or disappearing; there will still be a plenty large site beyond the journal -- as always.
Of course, the rest of the site sorely needs an overhaul to be brought in line with the redesign -- I'll take care of that as quickly as possible, but the back forty of Tomorrowlands may look somewhat patchwork in the meantime.
Old permalinks of the form "journal.cgi?date=foo" will continue working indefinitely -- but won't work for the new entries; use the permalinks listed below each post instead. "Direct" links to old entries -- "month.html#date" -- will probably break someday, especially if I import them into MT so the nifty search function will work on them too.
The Tomorrowlands Forums will continue operating. Comments on the journal, as usual, should go there.
And I'm saving the most exciting news for last: Movable Type has built-in RSS feed support! Okay, that's probably Greek to most of you, but what it means in practical terms is that I can also mirror Tlands on a Livejournal account with minimal setup and no extra effort! If you'd rather read my journal on your Friends list, give me a few days to get around to it, and it'll be available in all its glory there. (If, on the other hand, you already use a feed aggregator for your daily reading, you probably already know what to do to add Tlands to that list. The link's at the bottom of the main page sidebar.)
That's about it for now ... enjoy! And let me know what you think of the new look!
I took a five-minute break from my site redesign earlier today to check the web site of Nevada County's court system, and navigated through to the page where the status of jury summons is listed.
Group 200: "Dismissed."
Most people would tell me that I lucked out. I can't deny that I'm feeling that way myself -- I work swing shift and the summons time was 8:30 a.m., so to report would have meant a high probability of putting in a 16-hour day. But I really don't understand why it is that people treat jury duty, in the abstract, with such loathing.
I've heard good reasons to dislike it, sure. My workplace -- and most others, I'm sure -- allows time off for jury duty (as required by law) but won't pay for you to go serve; thus, even balancing the pittance the courts offer as compensation against losing a day's wages, it can be an expensive privilege.
But I spent my formative years in college -- where jury duty was a free pass out of classes for the day, arguably a net positive. And even college students recoiled at the prospect of a summons! When I actually reported instead of trying to find an excuse, I got strange looks. When I not only reported but served on a jury for a two-day civil trial, I got the sort of looks reserved for people who wander around on the street holding up signs about "murotunikel repercussions."
And you know what? It was a worthwhile experience anyway.
Granted, it wasn't fascinating or anything. You go to court; listen to witnesses, lawyers and experts bicker; talk with eleven other people; and try to come to a mutual decision about the facts. It's fairly dry work, but it's not the mental equivalent of a root canal that people treat it as.
There's some pressure, sure, but it's not like you're graded on your performance. It can be dreadfully boring at times, but at least it's different boring; considering that you're likely skipping work, school, or childcare to go do it, how is it any more dreary than the alternative? After all, it gets you out of the house(/apartment/dorm/office) for the day -- and they don't pay much, but it's enough to go order lunch downtown and have a nice meal out.
On top of that, maybe it's just my inner writer showing through, but jury duty is a great place to people-watch. It's an equal-opportunity obligation. Folks of all classes and races filter into the courtroom. Their interplay, if often subtle, is interesting. About the only thing they all have in common is that 95 percent of them want nothing more from jury duty than to get out of it as soon as possible.
I wish I understood why. Maybe it's the downfall of participatory democracy in action -- people have better things to do than deal with self-government. Maybe it's simply a persistent apathy. Maybe it's one of those things, like lawyer jokes, that's deeply enough embedded in our culture to be self-perpetuating despite the actual reality of the situation.
Whichever it is, I don't think it's doing us any favors. So next time you get a jury summons -- give it a try, hey? It really isn't as bad as they say.
S3cond p0st, actually. I'm just trying to seed the database a little so I can work out some of the style sheet kinks.
Welcome to Tomorrowlands' new look
Thanks to a switch from my old, home-brewed journal system to the joy that is Movable Type, Tomorrowlands is getting a serious overhaul and redesign.
Already I like what I see, and I've got a vision for the site that involves categorizing journal entries and labelling them accordingly. (You'll be able to browse the archives by category, as well.) "Tomorrowlands News" will become just another category of entry and be streamlined into the journal entries. The site front will also expand to hold a number of the most recent entries, instead of just the newest news and newest journal entry.
Permalinks to old journal entries will still work, although I may at some point be importing the old entries to MT (which includes search functions and better formatting options). You can still search the archives manually by going to www.tomorrowlands.org/journal.html.
Plenty more to come. Right now, I'm knee-deep in CSS. (Movable Type itself was a joy to set up; the site redesign, well ...)