23 Aug

Suffering for Web Design; OR, It’s Hard Work to Be Cool These Days

Yesterday, I decided I was comfortable enough with beginners’ web coding to create a simple page that utilizes a javascript effect and some cascading style sheets guiding the layout. (Whoa! Geek alert.)

Here’s my final product: Spout. It’s really lame.

What’s sad is the fact that it took me about five hours to create such a lame final product. Cascading style sheets, called CSS by those in the know, frustrate me more than the phone company and the IRS combined. Their whole purpose is to allow for quick-loading web pages, and they definitely accomplish that, but I’m not sure how.

I understand their basic functioning, but when it comes to more advanced things, it’s a lot like my relationship with math — I could always do it (even calculus and whatnot), but I never truly understood it. What, for instance, is an integral? Limits? Imaginary numbers?

I’m the same way with most web coding and design issues. I can decipher, but I can’t really create. I simply copy parts of other sites I see and add my own content, like I did with that telescopictext thing (I made a new one, by the way). I also rely on people like “wolfcry911,” who helped me out on some CSS forum I posted to last night. After letting my inquiry sit for a while, I returned later to a solution given to me for free by someone I don’t know.

Forums for these sorts of things are really valuable since you try to keep CSS out of most conversations. You know what I’m saying? When Eileen got home last night, I was really cranky, pulling out my hair over my coding issues. She asked what was wrong, and I reluctantly confessed that I couldn’t get two divs to remain centered while also overlapping in my CSS.

For some reason, I don’t think she had much sympathy for me.
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22 Aug

Man! Bat Returns?

The other night, I woke up at 2:30 in the morning to what I thought was more bat chirping. You know how there’s a spectrum between asleep and awake (see figure 1.0) and how you accelerate rapidly along that spectrum once your brain registers real world trouble? (I have a theory that true adrenaline rushes don’t happen during sleep. But they can happen at even the slightest amount of awake-ness. And once they do, you travel the rest of that spectrum disturbingly fast. Hence the phrase “rude awakening.” See figure 1.1)

Figure 1.0
Figure 1.1

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19 Aug

The Olympics

You gotta see the video of Shelly-Ann Fraser’s interview after winning the 100-meter dash. Braces + big smile + Jamaican accent = very cute.

NBCOlympics.com - 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games | Free Online Videos, Olympic Event | Athlete Interviews | NBC Olympics
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

NBC is almost getting it right. Almost. You can watch videos of Olympics online, but only if you install some Microsoft product. You also have to sit through ads before any video you watch, and occasionally as interruptions of longer videos, but I can understand all that. What they’re finally doing successfully is they’re making it easier to see any and every sport you wish to see. The mainstream media has been very slow to catch on to effective use of the internet for events like the Olympics. The Tour de France has always flirted with online re-broadcasts, but they’ve never really done enough. I’m sure there’s some sort of economic reason — French TV probably negotiates with various networks around the world (like the sub-par Versus network which airs the Tour in the US), and they most likely don’t want their potential viewers stolen by the web.

But it makes a lot of sense to offer archives of sports since they have such a limited broadcast life. People don’t want to see re-runs of most competitions. You’re not going to watch the quarterfinals of last year’s March Madness multiple times, are you? But you might want to see re-broadcasts soon after the original one. In fact, the networks don’t have much to lose by posting videos on the internet 30-60 minutes after the original, do they? The initial TV broadcast is still optimal (since sports watchers need to know the results live, it seems), but a quickly-available internet archive of those events would be cheap and would only bring in more revenue if you do what NBC has been doing with the advertising.

This is really the first Olympics where I’ve been able to watch most of the sports I’d like to see. Swimming and gymnastics are fine, but if all that drama gets to be too overdone (what network hasn’t milked the Olympics for all the sap it can?), I can opt for rowing or equestrian or sabre. Or I can re-watch the men’s 4×100 meter relay (best finish ever).
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14 Aug

Just How Dumb Are We? An Investigation into the Idiocy and Vitriol of Web Comments

It’s a favorite past time of many Americans and, indeed, the world at large, to make fun of how dumb the citizens of this nation are. On any number of late night talk shows, you can see in interviews on the streets how many people don’t know who Hillary Clinton is or can’t tell you how many states are in the United States. Jay Leno does it with his “Jaywalking”segment, and you can bet there are plenty of these sorts of displays of Amercian stupidity abroad, like Australia’s “Chaser Non-stop News Network” (CNNNN), which came to American cities a few years back and seemed to edit out anyone with a high school education or higher. Of course, stupid people are funny; I’m not saying we shouldn’t laugh (“The children are right to laugh at you, Ralph.”). But are people really that dumb?

I admit to writing off the general public as pretty idiotic, citing evidence in the success of Reality TV and the fact that Dubya is our president, just to name a few things. And of course, the internet only furthers my theory. Specifically, those facets of the internet which contain lots of comments. Take one look at a popular YouTube video and you’ll see some top-rate idgets. A typical exchange involves calling someone gay; scolding that person with impassioned, misspelled words; critiquing previous posters’ spelling; some unsolicited preaching about the evils of the Chinese government; a follow-up berating how little Americans know about China and how they should STFU; and finally a mass write-off of all previous commenters as complete and total dumb-asses or maybe fags. All this might be in response to a video of Pokemon.

This cycle of stupidity is so ubiquitous that it provoked a series of skits by collegehumor.com about how ridiculous such a dialogue would be in real life: one, two, three.

What do real life debates have that the internet doesn’t? Moderation.

Two definitions of moderation apply, actually — the first being the avoidance of extremes and the second being an additional party that guides the contributions of those engaged in the debates.

In an organized debate, for instance, a moderator keeps the discussion focused and civil, makes sure that all parties involved have equal opportunity to voice their opinions, decides on and filters questions for the debaters, and can often see with clarity the stalemates that arise in a debate and decide when it’s best to move on to the next topic.
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11 Aug

Am I The Only One Who Has Reached His Limit of Hearing Morgan Freeman Narrate Things?

There’s the commercial where he talks about how Michael Phelps is not a fish, how he doesn’t have gills or a dorsal fin. And then there’s the one where that track star falls down and his dad helps him across the finish line. And I think there’s another one about past Olympians who didn’t medal but who are inspiring anyway. And there are some renewable energy ads that he also narrates. And maybe a GE ad, I’m not sure.

But I also seem to be hearing him in all sorts of other places. Like there was some documentary on PBS recently that was narrated by . . . Morgan Freeman. And while I was flipping through the channels, I must have passed by Shawshank Redemption or March of the Penguins or War of the Worlds or Million Dollar Baby or Cosmic Voyage or Driving Miss Daisy or Seven. One of those.

And I had a dream the other night narrated by Mr. Freeman where some penguins were escaping from a prison in the deep south and faced all sorts of hardship until, in a heartwarming conclusion, they finally made it out and ended up meeting in Mexico.

He’s freaking everywhere.

Of course, this happens to all of us, doesn’t it? You hear a new word or phrase like, say, “baba ghanoush,” and pretty soon, you’re hearing it all the time. Once, the word bougainvillea started stalking me. I saw it in The Poisonwood Bible and then I began to notice it in the lyrics of a Paul Simon song and in the lyrics of an Iron & Wine song.
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