Lego Lovely! - Monday, May 31, 2004

Courtesy of The Mini-Mizer I present my wife Robin in Lego form:

Toy with this! [3]


Redesigns - Monday, May 31, 2004

Next to drop shadows, having a major redesign seems to be all the rage of late. Quite why is beyond me. I have been thinking about one myself for some time. Why has it not happened? Because I am quite happy with the existing one. Most likely is that I might add an alternate style or two to these pages (then again I might not) but stick with this unless something really takes my fancy.
So what is it about this design that I like? It has now been used with 3 different pieces of software. I started using it with Greymatter, converted it to work with Movable Type and now have it in Textpattern. Most importantly, I am comfy with it. As I wander through the web, I see many pages that can be easily traced to their original inspiration. When I first came up with this one, I was www.thedatingdoctor.co.uk fairly new to blogging and after a quick look around, didn’t see much that I liked. I saw a small touch here and an effect there, so I just brought the various pieces together and had to teach them to behave with each other, et voila! As I look around all this time later, I am gratified to see that it compares well with much I see but still has a character of its Sex Cum own. It fails nicely under IE due to the fixed background and it always cheers me to see it that way and then show whoever it is how it should look. At low screen resolutions it can also rearrange itself a little which is something I am going to fix. The rollover links might get themselves a new image sometime but I’m in no hurry, they work. When checking through the log files recently, I found that this page is linked too on a list by Joe Clark that trys to show how different techniques are implemented in various ways. How he found his way here is beyond me but I must admit to be a little tickled by it!
Over St. Pat’s day I changed the background image from my tattoo to a shamrock. I am tinkering with a random image script in PHP and hope to get it so that it can change a pair of matched images along with their matching background colors. If I ever figure this out you’ll see new and varied backgrounds on each visit. Don’t hold your breath for this idea to come to fruition but I expect to crack it before I worry too much about a grand redesign. I do sex tonight not expect to ever get the attention that some manage to grab and am more than happy not to have that kind of pressure. This is a personal thing, a modern diary. I love it when folks stop by, hey next time bring a friend and some beer! Let’s have a party!

With apologies to Sinatra:

Designs, I’ve had a few;
But then again, to no attention.
I typed what I had to do
And saw it through without a mention.

I planned each article;
Each entry on the super-highway,
But more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

What say you? [1]


Rodeohead - Saturday, May 29, 2004

Many thanks to Jerremy Keith of Adactio for introducing me to Chris Hardwick. I have yet to check out most of his work but his Rodeohead compilation of Radiohead songs done Bluegrass style is wonderfull. I love Radiohead and fully expected to hate this piece but ended up with a big stupid grin on my face. It is a must for all Radiohead fans and makes more sense than some of their website!

Y'all thinkin?


Earlier times - Friday, May 28, 2004

I picked up a copy of ‘Atari – 80 classic games in one’ yesterday and have been transported back to earlier times. Robin, on hearing all the strange old sounds, has already started planning for a new answer phone message. At around 20 cents a game it was hard to resist and it sure is good to be playing Asteroids again, not one of the newer clones, the original one that I always liked best. I even found it strangely satisfying to beat the computer at a game of Pong!
Looking at the complexity of games these days, it is strange to think how we were all captivated by these more simplistic examples from only 25 years ago (or thereabouts). Has modern gaming taken a wrong turn? After all this time these old games are extremely playable. There is little to learn about them, no complicated keyboard shortcuts to learn, just a couple of buttons and a heap of loud beeps to eat up your time.
I’d write more but I have a little spaceship to save from some bloody great rocks and damn those small UFOs!

You play?


Some observations on my blogroll - Wednesday, May 26, 2004

I have been following the redesigns of several sites on my blogroll of late. Some of the content that ties in with these redesigns has been interesting too. I thought I would take a quick (or maybe not so quick) run through the present list with some comments about the sites, their owners and what I like about them.
This site, being a personal one, has a blogroll for my use first and foremost. I could make Firefox open all my regular reads in seperate tabs whenever I start it but find it easier to maintain this list to click through when I fancy. I check these all on a daily basis (except for Gavin’s at present). These are what I like to read and in every case, the design is not important, just the content.
None of the comments here are meant to criticise, they are just my thoughts etc. Feel free to criticize my efforts to your hearts content, thats what the comments are for.
Who am I to criticise others? A nobody! I have exactly the same qualifications as everyone looking at this page, whether well known, anonymous or somewhere between: a pair of eyes and my own taste and ideas about what works. History has shown one longstanding trait in me. I am not much of a fashion victim. At the end of April I said that I was working on a new look for this blog. This is still the case and I am pleased that some of the recent redesigns did not wait until after mine was done. How would they have ever lived with the accusations that they copied me?

Souper-blog Robin does her own thing here and as my closest family is beyond compare.

Gavin Morris Currently in as obscure a part of Nigeria as anyone could find, he has no access to the internet and has had strong critiques from me in the past – more about the underlying structure than the design (I hate frames!). A friend from my Falkland Island days and a friend still, I owe him a beer or two anyway!

Meyerweb Eric Meyer is a known expert on CSS and his books are amongst the best on the subject. I list it due to liking his writing style and the general high quality of the links provided. It is not just a design blog but more general with occasional snippets of tech interest. His CSS Edge was the inspration for me to learn CSS in the first place. I find the design is plain but effective but I have never liked the cluttered look of the right hand nav bar.

Hass Dot I came across Hass in the comments section of another site and found the ideas expressed to be similar to my own. His site is just the blog at present but it easy enough on the eye even though the orange color of his links doesn’t show well against the darker blue background, at least to these weary old eyes. Like me he uses Textpattern and I see he is very active in the forum and obviously has a greater understanding of the workings and usage of it.

Zeldman Like Meyer, almost a legend in the minds of many, and with some impressive books to his credit. I list his site because of the number of fascinating articles by other people. He doesn’t seem to write much himself but what he does add is usually interesting to me. As far as his site goes, I have never liked the layout or color schemes of any of its incarnations though I do prefer the present green to the orange before.

Mezzoblue Dave Shea started the CSS Zengarden and deserves much applause for this alone. On his personal page that I link to he writes some very interseting and well thought out pieces about design, typography, the web etc. His old design looked great and is still available as an optional style for the site. I must say that I like the new layout and I’m sure it will be tweaked over time. More interesting still is his experiment on highlighting comments. Though I think his choice of wording for it could have been better, I expect to see versions of this cropping up all over (never enough comments here to make it even worth trying!).

Design by fire A nice and easy to use layout featuring some very interesting design based writings. Run by Andrei Herasimchuk and Donna Driscoll and mostly about interface design, it can often make me chuckle.

Tantek Tantek Celik is well known for his contributions to the standards based design. Along with Meyer and others, he helped put together XFN. Every now and then he does a redesign based on someone elses website which can be interesting for a few minutes. Not so much a designer as a coding wizard. I generally follow links out of his stuff to find more thought provoking articles. He does not post very often but did invite me to join Orkut so I keep him on the list for that and also the odd usefull snippet of info’.

Pixul Alex Miller is in his early teens and has written some great pieces, even attacking the likes of Jacob Nielson amongst others. His stuff is well though out and well written. Recently switched over to Blogger, the design is still being worked on but I have no doubt that it will be clear and easy to use like all the previous versions. I think that young people like Alex should be encouraged as much as possible. They are the future of the web and my little link is a vote of confidence from me.

Textism Dean Allen put Textpattern together and once in a blue moon adds an entry to his blog. I found the site well before I ever knew about the software and liked its style. It has been much copied now, especially amongst Textpattern users, but remains an nice piece of original design. As a side note, Dean has just offered a great hosting deal which I would have jumped on had funds been available.

Forever Geek Scrivs of Whitespace re-nown posts tech based finds from around the web here. Design – clean and simple, in line with the content.

Asterisk D Keith Robinson’s personal pages. Lots of design stuff here but also music and more general stuff. Our musical tastes overlap in many areas. His articles are well thought out and the comments busy with alternate views and suggetions. I do not always agree with him but rarely find the need to add a comment because someone else always manages to say what I wan first. The design has an old kind of feel to it and works very well, feeling comfy like an old sweater. I hope that he doesn’t get the bug and destroy/redesign it for the shear hell of it.

Stopdesign Another site with content dealing with design matters. This one has also had a recent overhaul and now boasts a minimal look that suits the content well. Like Asterisk, the comments can be lively and educational. Some good links can be found here also.

Whitespace Scrivs has gone with a very minimalist design that makes reading the long posts easier. While not afraid to tackle the ‘big dogs,’ his thinking is generally sound and is matched by the many commenters. In all, a good place to get a feel for the trends in the web design arena.

I visit many other sites on a regular basis and only the first in the list is in any way a permanent fixture here. The overwhelming similarity between all of them is that the content brings me back time and again, not the layout/color scheme. Content is King! They are all the personal sites of their creators and as such should and can look however their owners like. The web is huge and has more than enough room for good and bad designs and I doubt that one could live without the other.

There you have it. An explanation of my blogroll. Do you think there are sites that I should add or remove? Let me know. Disagree with anything I’ve said? Ditto.

I have not used links, to the sites in question, in this post as that would only be of use for drawing attention which is not my wish. This piece was not written to generate new readers, just to explain the blogroll to both of the present ones!

Your 5 cents worth? [7]


The Express lane - Wednesday, May 19, 2004

I love grocery shopping!

As a foreigner in Wisconsin, I love to check out all the different products and try to compare them to those from my past.

One thing does drive me nuts. It is those individuals who think that they have a right to clog up the Express (not more than 10 items) checkout. I have been watching these idiots for a while and have no real objection to someone being over by one or two items. The ones that get my goat are pushing a cart laden with 20 items or more.

These retards always seem to do it when the checkout is manned by a young lady who is unlikely to stop them. 95% of them are older females with the look of a battle-hungry Orc about them. Tonight I watched one such Mountain Troll put double her quota through the express lane and then take forever to figure out her checkbook (it was probably for an account set up when doubloons were the currency of choice!). Behind her were 3 other shoppers who had not even bothered with baskets as they could hold their entire load in one hand. We were in a normal line and got through quicker than any of the poor souls stuck behind the Ogre in the flowered dress.

I don’t know when it will happen but I am certain that one day soon I’ll be tackling one of these troglodyte-harpies, demanding to know if they can read and count.

The clock is ticking….........Hags beware!

You got more than ten? [2]


Guestbook Spam - Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Moving to Textpattern has solved all the problems I was having with Comment Spam. I guess it was inevitable that I would have trouble with my guestbook. I would prefer not to even bother with a guestbook but it does seem to be popular among my visitors.
I hope that I have put a stop to the activities of these porn merchants, pill pushers and online casino promoters on this site. I took the simple step of renaming all the folders and script files of the guestbook to a nonsensical word. Then I had to quickly run through all the code and replace all occurances of the old name with the new. I know that this won’t stop anybody wanting to add spam by hand but I believe that this is a very rare scenario. The spam is mostly perpetrated by robots which look for known script names and then post their spam whenever they find one they know.
One interesting change in the spam of late has been that the robots have been using previous entries for their content rather than putting in their own. This is to make the entries look legitimate. Sneaky buggers eh?

You're selling?


Wordpress - Sunday, May 16, 2004

A while ago I made the move away from Movable Type to Textpattern. I did it because I had long been disattisfied with some of MTs features / lack of them. Yesterday Robin made a similar move, for similar reasons. She wanted to use software that was further on in its development so having looked around it was decided to try Wordpress.
I took a little time to read through the posts on their forums and then got to work. I must say that I am mightily impressed with the ease of installation. It did a terrific job of importing all her MT entries and was a breeze to adapt so that it looked right for her. The whole thing took no more than 1/2 hour once I started and we are both more than happy with the results.
Movable Type has now released a new version with a licencing scheme that has all sorts of restrictions attached and the general view is that many others will be making a switch like we both did. It must be said that the current free version will stay free but will not be updated (like IE?). If you are having thoughts of this kind I would like to recommend either of these systems as a replacement. If you are a long time MT user you should also take a look as I think you would be surprised at how much easier these programs can be to use in comparison.
The choice is yours. Both of them are free and are likely to stay that way. They are both in constant development and are getting even better with surprising speed.
Don’t despair, Mt users, you have alternatives!

Script this!


The House on the Rock - Wednesday, May 12, 2004

On Tuesday we took advantage of our free time and took the ‘Woody’ for a run down to visit The House on the Rock. It is one of the last great roadside attractions left in private hands in the country. My description of this amazing place would not do it justice so I advise you to take a look at Robin’s site, where in time there will be a multitude of photos.

Your own exhibition?


Weathering out Mothers Day - Wednesday, May 12, 2004

We went to the Inlaws place for Mothers Day thanks mainly to the likes of Hallmark. We had a good time and, as always, it was great to see the folks. Late afternoon/early evening found us sat around the fire pit down by the pond. With temps in the 70s, we were not overly worried about the forecast of possible thunder storms because we had been seeing the saim guesses from the meteorologists all week long.
The sun disappeared behind the clouds and we started to see lightning in the West. Then the lightning started to show in the South and North also. When we were completely surrounded by an electrical display of some magnitude we, at last, started to hear thunder. The breeze became a ‘Falklands breeze’ or in other words a gale. Down came the rain, slowly at first but increasing rapidly. The lightning made seeing very easy due to the large amount of it, so getting back to the house presented few problems.
The power was knocked out by the storm so we lit candles and fired up a battery powered radio to listen for alerts.
We lsiened as a calm voice told us that a band of storms had formed stretching right up to Phillips. The worst of these storms formed at a point about 11 miles to the East of Neilsville and 5 miles South of Chili. Roughly speaking, this was exactly where we had been enjoying our beers. Half inch sized hail was reported in places and winds of over 68 miles an hour.
We waited for a while, to let it die down, before we started our journey back to Wausau. The journey was uneventfull but very wet.
What I liked most was having the chance to be right in the center of a quickly developing storm. It was one of the most spectacular things I have seen for a while.

Cats and dogs?


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