April 27th, 2005

Semiformalishmaybe

Tilted Plains

Today on the way to work, the trees, clouds, and sun conspired to make a very pretty reminder of why I like Pittsburgh. There are some trees in Schenley Park that have intensely red flowers, and as the clouds moved across the sky, the patterns they made with the sun made the whole thing seem like paradise. Although I feel kind of guilty painting this on in retrospect, I have to comment that I wish I had brought my camera. Whenever there are no people around on the way to work, I tend to sing along with my Neuros.

I fixed the Wiki stylesheets so you should be able to read entries there now. You can follow the link to the wiki at the top of the page on my BLOG. Part of the problem is that I like black backgrounds, but that means that whenever I have text, I either need to put it inside a div that creates a light background for it to stand out against, or I need to give it a light colour. I forgot there. One of the things with moving to a div-central website design is that I see what might be an interesting next step for web design -- DIVs give a certain amount of control over presentation of a document, but they still provide structure. It may be interesting to abstract out structure into yet another layer, at least partly because DIV/CSS structure doesn't always match necessary document structure. If, for example, I have an icon that's associated with a box, but in some stylesheets I want it off to the side, outside the box, and for other stylesheets, I want it inside the box in a statusbar, I'm going to need to do some gymnastics to do that as is. I still have more to learn about CSS though, so perhaps this criticism is premature. There are some pretty serious downsides for abstracting structure out to another document -- one of the ideas of (X)HTML is that structure works seamlessly down throughout the entire document tree. Anything that makes it hard to embed more structure in an element takes away from some of the upsides of the design. It also may be ugly to nicely tag each content element so a structure tree could shape things as a whole.

I also found an old bug - apparently I was retrieving POST content incorrectly from Apache. get_client_block() must be called in a loop in order to get all of largeish POSTs, and I never noticed this before because I never was allowing comments or other POSTs that were large enough to go over the limit. That's fixed now. Next on the attack list is the parser, and then multiuser and web posting.

Oops! gtg -- fire alarm!

Semiformalishmaybe

Flying Behemoth

The city has towed my car again. There goes more money that should've gone to paying off my credit card. I am now very likely to sell the car, get rid of the insurance, and stop paying money to insure, repair, and refill a device that I hardly use. I really hate cars. I will learn the bus system.

I got a message from one of my friends reminding me about the changes the republicans are trying to make to the Senate, banning filibuster. I don't have a principled reason to go for or against the filibuster -- the most principled argument I could make would be that when candicates are unpopular enough that it's necessary, then perhaps they're not good candicates in the sense of having a broad appeal. In this case, I'm for keeping the filibuster rules because they stand between much-increased-conservativism and where we are now, which I see as not nearly liberal enough anyhow. The message suggested I call my senator, so I did. It dropped me into a mailbox, which was full and hung up on me, thus telling me that a lot of people got the message (or senator Specter's mailbox system is deficient).

In the most recent issue of Carnegie Mellon Today, a magazine for CMU Faculty/Technical Staff, there was an article about Michael Kobold, who makes watches. The article spoke highly of him, because he's a CMU graduate, and because the main point of the magazine is either how CMU is doing cool things or how CMU graduates are doing cool things. I read it because some of the stuff being done is genuinely cool, although mostly the magazine is full of fluff. In this case, however, it's nearly offensive. Kobold Watches, according to the article (similarly suggested by a brief visit to the website), cost between $1750 and $22500 (not a typo, folks, the Polar surveyor costs twenty-two thousand, five hundred dollars. If you're doing honest labour, you should not be buying this watch, you should be putting your kid through college, going through college yourself, or perhaps giving it to people you need it. Wearing one of these things is a testament to being an asshole -- it's for people so selfish that they would rather buy jewelry, and thus support the same amount of value from a $20 watch from Target being retrieved from something costing 1125 times as much. That amount of money can buy an inexpensive home in many parts of the country. That amount of money can feed a lot of poor people, or be a handsome contribution towards a local school. That amount of money can be used to better oneself in so many ways. To spend it on a timepiece, no matter how attractive (personally, if I'm going to be really shallow, I like the look of silver better than gold), is selfish and stupid.

I got a flier in the mail -- apparently, april is fair housing month, and it informs me that there's a law firm that's keen to help me sue the pants off of anyone who offers to rent property to me but says no kids are allowed or that the place isn't handicap accessible. That's stupid. There are many places where pets or children are not, and should not, be welcome -- not everyone wants to have a neighbour with screaming kids, and some people have allergies to pets. I don't think it's good for the public to mandate that everyone must deal with that. Also, and I know this may piss off crippled friends of mine, not all buildings are or should be cripple-friendly. I don't dislike cripples, but they need to realize that their special needs are just that -- special. Now when I was younger, I might've held similar opinions because I was thinking in terms of economic freedom of the landlords. I no longer give a damn about them, but am thinking in terms of how to make society flow most smoothly.

Oddly, when I got home, the cats were abuzz, scratching at the basement door. Normally, they're not interested in it because I keep it closed almost all the time, and they don't often see me go down there (so I don't think they have much of a concept of there being another side to that door). I was going to dismiss it, but I then heard noises almost like another cat from the other side of the door, and saw motion through the crack. I opened the door, and there was a bird in there. The cats were delighted to see the bird, and I literally had to kick them a few times (shouting didn't work) to get them to clear the area so I could assess the situation. I felt bad about it, but really when one has pets, one needs to do a lot of things one isn't normally inclined to do -- shouting, imposing discipline, etc. I imagine kids are the same way. I dropped the trapdoor, chased the cats into the bedroom, and used my kitchen gloves to carefully catch the bird (which took a long time and some cleverness). Once it was caught, all was easy -- I took it out the front door, and lifted it upwards as I opened my hand. The bird immediately took off, continuing my hand motion and flying upwards to perch on the telephone pole. It was beautiful.

It does make me wonder how the bird got in the basement -- once before, one of the cats managed to kill a bird and was playing with it when I came home. I presume it came in through the hole in one of the bathroom cabinets that leads into the basement. Considering how paniced the thing was when I first saw it, I imagine it had a pretty unhappy day of being trapped in the house.