stAllio!'s way
Saturday, March 05, 2005 
while working on the bobby vomit redesign i finally solved a css layout puzzle that had stumped me for awhile.

this design uses two columns, a primary left column and a narrower right column. using "float", the only way i could get the right column to stay on the right side of the screen was by setting a width for the left column. but i didn't want to set a width: i wanted the left column to fill the rest of the screen (the size of which varies depending on the end user's screen resolution, browser window size, etc).

using html tables you could do this by setting the width to "*", but there is no css equivalent for that function. and setting the css width to "auto" tends to make it fill the screen. so far, i had been settling for setting the left column width to "67%", which was set so that the layout wouldn't break at 800x600 resolutions and would scale out reasonably well at other sizes. but that meant that at higher resolutions, there would be a bunch of empty space at the right side of the screen.

while tinkering with the bobby vomit redesign, which you really should check out (and if you already looked, check again; it might have changed since last you were there), i noticed that if i placed the markup for "rightcolumn" in front of "leftcolumn", i could set its width to 200px without breaking the layout... but this left a bunch of white space in the middle of the screen. still, i was inspired to keep tinkering and researching.

soon i discovered the problem: you can't do that with "float". but by using absolute positioning, settting the right column to {right:0px} and setting the left column to {right:200px;}, i finally got the result i had been dreaming of: a narrow, fixed-width right column with a left column that fills the rest of the width of the screen. and it doesn't matter which one i place first in the markup.

now it's time to implement those changes to my own design! it's always exciting when you track down a bug and something finally works the way you want it to...

the new colors of vomit
did some minor redesign on the bobby vomit blawg. mostly i just changed the colors around, but i also tweaked out the comments section: i think at least that part looks a lot better than it did.

check it out and leave feedback if you like.

Thursday, March 03, 2005 
car bomb!
i have to mention this simply because it's gotten the negativland song stuck in my head...

indiana house democrats walked out of the legislature yesterday, breaking quorum in protest over some of new-governor mitch daniel's bills. in response, bush-buddy daniels likened them to terrorists. here's a quote:

Indiana's drive for growth and reform was car-bombed yesterday by the Indiana House minority. Any pretense notwithstanding, it is clear that this cynical action was planned from the start of the session.

I have done all I could since arriving in office to work for change on a bipartisan basis. I have spent hours reaching out in meetings large and small. I have seen that bills the Democrats said they objected to were set aside. I have accepted a raft of changes in bills I proposed personally. Even through yesterday, I offered additional compromises, but every time, the goalpost was moved.

ah, the old "i'm trying to be bipartisan but f'n al qaeda over there pulled a 9/11 on me, suicide-bombing my economic platform and beheading indiana's chances for progress" routine. that old chestnut.

i'd expect that kind of invective from a bill o'reilly or an ann coulter, but from a sitting governor? and one who's only in his third month in office?

the walkout is a classic defense tactic used by minorities in legislatures when they want to make a stand: to say that they refuse to allow the majority party to simply railroad bills through the legislature without consulting anyone else. you might remember the story of the texas democrats who fled their home state in protest against an outrageous redistricting plan. in fact, just last year, when republicans were in the minority in the indiana house, they walked out when the democrats wouldn't let them vote on their precious gay marriage ban (never mind that gay marriage is already technically illegal here: they need an honest-to-god ban).

if likening the opposition to terrorists is what daniels calls "bipartisan", you have to wonder what he'd do if he weren't trying to work with the opposition.

the roof is caving in
naturally, the morning i finally decide to call in and get some rest is the morning when the roofers finally show up and start working on our house.

i did know in advance that they were coming, so i can't really complain. getting that damn leak fixed is more important than a few hours' sleep.

i don't really feel too bad today and might go in to work after all, going in around lunchtime for a half day. assuming i can get out the driveway.

since i'm here and being exposed to all the roofer noise anyway, i figured i should take advantage. so i got out my minidisc recorder and set it up to capture some field recordings. maybe i'll get some good pounding and scraping sounds. though they seem to be taking a break at this particular moment.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005 
so on friday i started coughing more than usual. i was more "flemish" than usual. the symptoms continued throughout the weekend, though i was always functional.

by tuesday morning it was pretty bad. i was sneezing or blowing my nose every 15 minutes. sneezing is unusual for me; i rarely sneeze even in the height of allergy season, so clearly i was infected with germs of some sort. i went to work, even though i wondered whether i should, and it just got worse. i would alternate between sweats and chills. the symptoms came in waves, and at the height of the waves my eyes would water so much that tears would stream down my face. but despite all this misery, i was still relatively functional.

i strongly debated whether i should go home sick. i figured that maybe i would go home around lunchtime, so i would only use up a half day. but when lunchtime came around, i figured, "well, i'm already here..." so i stuck around for the rest of the day.

i spoke to connie last night, and she insisted that not only should i have gone home, i should also call in sick this morning. but i wanted to wait until morning to see how i felt when i awoke.

i got up and felt noticeably better. not well, but better. so after sitting in my room debating for about 10 minutes, of course i got in the shower and headed into the office. connie would be so disappointed. but once i got there, i started feeling worse. i wasn't sneezing or nose-blowing as often as yesterday, but most of the symptoms were still there.

really i was just looking for some excuse to go home or call in sick. eventually i found one and prepared to leave work early.

i wanted to "ham it up" in a sense when telling my boss i was leaving: not invent symptoms or anything, but ideally it should be at the crux of a symptom wave so that tears were streaming down my face and snot pouring out my nose when i spoke to her. of course, when i wanted them, they wouldn't come. but it didn't matter: my bosses weren't in their offices anyway so i just sent them an email and left.

as you might have guessed (if you're as cynical as i), my symptoms hit me in full shortly after i got into the car and left my office. in my car, where i didn't have a lot of tissue.

i checked my office mail to see whether my bosses had replied, and while they hadn't exactly, my dept head (my boss's boss) did send out an email reminding all of us that "you should take a sick day when you're not feeling well. Our time off policies are in place to provide time for illness and it's really in your best interest as well as all the people around you to stay home when you're sick."

she also linked to this article about "presenteeism".
"Presenteeism" — going to work when you're sick — is as contagious as the flu. Millions of Americans are doing it. By one estimate, upwards of 75 percent head to work with the common cold or other problems.

Sure, sick employees keep the computer warm. But research shows that people sick with the common cold are not very productive. In fact, their lost productivity accounts for up to 60 percent of employer health costs — more than if they'd taken a sick day.

i have to admit that, while i don't know exactly how "sick" i am today, i have a critical case of presenteeism. i almost never call in sick: that time last month (right before my vacation) is the exception: i only call in sick if i'm vomiting profusely or shitting myself. i call in so rarely, in fact, that during a department meeting last year discussing time-off policies, they cited me as an example of someone who never takes sick time.

why am i wired to go to work every day even if i'm feeling ill? it's like going to work is my default mode and extreme circumstances are required before i'll consider taking an unscheduled day off. even when i was stranded in o'hare airport and didn't know if i would even reach indianapolis by morning, i was reluctant to ask for the whole day off. "maybe i'll come in this afternoon," i said to the dept head's voicemail as i sat on the floor of the airport terminal at 1am chicago time. granted, i didn't have any more vacation time left for the year, so taking that day off work involved either taking the day off unpaid or getting them to grant me a sick day when i wasn't technically sick. but then again, it was the week between xmas and new year's, and i probably hadn't taken a single sick day all year. when i finally awoke in my own bed many hours later, there was a message on my voicemail: "ben, you're so silly... don't come in this afternoon."

but here i am, officially home sick. will i be back at the office tomorrow? i wrote in the email to my bosses that i expect to be, though that's hardly binding. considering that i feel better today than yesterday, i'll likely be mostly recovered by tomorrow. in fact i probably won't feel too bad when i wake up, in which case i will definitely go as i always do. but maybe i shouldn't. i pretty much knew i shouldn't be at work yesterday, but i stuck around all day.

i think vomiting is the key: if i'm throwing up, i have no problem declaring that i'm ill and won't work. but because i have allergies, head/nasal symptoms don't seem like a big deal, even if they're severe and clearly not caused by allergens. vomiting is a good excuse. apparently having to get up from my desk every 15 minutes to drain the fluids from my head is not that good an excuse, despite drastically cutting down on my productivity and spreading germs to all my co-workers. i need to rework my priorities.

Monday, February 28, 2005 
the old switcheroo
tonight i opened up the new computer case & did three last things:
  1. replaced barry's video card with my new video card
  2. installed second hard drive (which i had just removed from old computer)
  3. flipped HDD LED connector on motherboard (since HDD LED wasn't working before)

and that's it! my new computer is completely assembled. then i cleaned out my computer work area here in the studio and set it all up: hooked the tv signal into my video card (using composite connections rather than the coax i was using before) and hooked the sound card into my rig and my stereo.

the case i picked is so handsome... sleek and black with cute little blue LEDs.

i still have a lot of software to install, so i'm not done just yet, but a major milestone has been reached and the rest is cake.

time capsules
i've been saving these on my hard drive for awhile until i felt like i had enough to post. well, i'll officially be taking that computer offline & replacing it as soon as tonight, so i figured i should post these: more capsule movie reviews! and just in time for oscar season.

i also have one more very special review coming up, whenever i find time to write it: a review of catman in boxer's blow (aka us catman 2: boxer blow). but first, here are some other reviews:

tape: it takes something special to pull off a film with just three actors and one set. but whatever that special something is, richard linklater has. but that's hardly a surprise for a director who can make a film like waking life one day, then make a hollywood vehicle (albeit an entertaining one) like school of rock. (imdb says his next film will be pk dick's a scanner darkly! that should be crazy... too bad it won't use the charlie kaufman script)

the killing: i recorded this due to a recommendation on exbe. i almost deleted it a few times, thinking "when am i going to get around to watching some movie from the '50s about a horse race?" then something would remind me it was directed by kubrick. needless to say it was excellent. dark, noirish, skipping back & forth in time. whenever i see sterling hayden i immediately think of general jack d. ripper: that will probably never change but he was good in this too.

the house of sand and fog: dark, depressing tale of how a bureaucratic mixup ruins the lives of a woman whose house is repo'd & the iranian immigrants who buy it after her. very nicely done. w/jennifer connelly, ben kingsley, & the woman who went on to play "mommy terrorist" on this year's 24 (actual character name: dina araz).

may: this was a rather unsettling film about a ridiculously shy girl who eventually goes crazy. i knew from the tivo description that she would eventually start killing, & i was actually relieved when she did because the stuff before that was more disturbing!

pirates of the caribbean: beautifully shot, fairly well acted, but ultimately silly. but what do you expect from a movie based on a theme park ride?

underworld: beautifully shot, not particularly well acted, needlessly long and complex, & ultimately silly and vapid.

cold mountain: well shot, well acted civil war epic. one of those films where you don't really mind that it's almost 3 hours.

mystic river: dark, suspenseful, brilliantly acted. excellent.

lemony's snicket's an unfortunate series of events: wonderfully executed dark children's tale. somewhat reminiscent of the princess bride if directed by tim burton, though probably not quite as good as princess bride. due to its unfortunately long title, everyone has taken to calling this film "lemony snicket", which is actually the name of the author of the original book. i find that amusing for some reason.

party monster: highly entertaining, stylized film about the dawning of the "new york club kids"... including a gruesome murder! after watching this, it's funny to think that "superstar dj keoki" actually got a record deal.

Sunday, February 27, 2005 
i love trashy mp3s
the new mp3 of the week is the mighty mighty benboy's turntable mutilation of the sesame street classic "i love trash"! specifically requested by bobby vomit! download it now.

the new computer is up and running! windows is installing on it as i type this.

as i suspected, the problem was that the motherboard was screwed directly to the case. i had to half-disassemble everything to properly mount it & get all those little "motherboard studs" underneath it properly.

if only the coolermaster instructions had actually stated that i needed to use the studs, instead of simply hoping i would properly decipher the tiny illustration.

and while i did solicit some assistance from barry, i basically did it all by myself... and while i did make a horrible newbie mistake, i was the one who researched it and figured out what the problem was. and i was the one who fixed the problem (though i had my sister hold up the motherboard while i installed some studs underneath it).

windows installation will take awhile, and the other software installation will also. but i now have a new notch in my geek belt: i have built my own computer from scratch.

i have managed to figure out one thing i did wrong: i screwed the motherboard directly to the motherboard base plate.

the coolermaster cavalier is a pretty nice case (though the little metal pieces you have to break off to add drives/cards are sort of flimsy), but the documentation that came with it was beyond awful. for screwing in the motherboard, all it said was "screw in the motherboard using appropriate screws"... i searched & searched & only found four screws thick enough to go into the holes in the case. sure, there were also these weird brass things; they were to screws what platforms are to shoes. but i had no idea what they were or what they were for, and the instructions didn't say, so i didn't use them.

those "motherboard studs" are used to seat the motherboard a few centimeters away from the case itself... i imagine that if the board touches the metal case in the wrong spot, that can reroute the current or even cause a short circuit. logically, this could be the cause of all my problems. (the power supply isn't as strong as i'd like it to be, but 350w should at least be enough for it to boot up!)

i guess tomorrow i get to unscrew and reseat my motherboard, then cross my fingers that it boots...

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