Taking the good with the bad

July 24, 2005

As some of you know, one of my best friends got married on Saturday and because I was in the wedding I headed back to Florida last Thursday for the rehearsal and whatnot. The wedding and the weekend in general were wonderful. I had a great time, met a lot of really neat people, and got to catch up with some friends I hadn't seen in years. The wedding went off without a hitch and the rehearsal dinner and reception were a lot of fun.

So, overall, the trip was great, but getting to and from Florida was anything but.

On Thursday, the alarm on my mobile phone decided that it wanted to get me off on the right foot by refusing to sound. I missed my 6:40AM flight. I was livid, not only because I just missed my flight, but because I don't think I've ever missed anything in my life (of any import) or even been late for that matter. I called Expedia, through whom I booked my NorthWest flight, and they told me that everything to Orlando from San Jose was full (of course). I then had them look at flights out of San Francisco. They had one seat on a 12:30PM flight for a little more than $500, which was more than my initial round-trip ticket. It was my only option. I was at the airport by 8AM (friend had to be back in San Jose for work) and I waited there for 4+ hours until we started boarding. I had a layover in Minneapolis where we sat on the tarmac for over an hour because the beverage people were running behind. And what did we get for this delay? Perhaps a free alcoholic drink or a "snack box?" Nothing. Nothing but a "we're sorry about the delay, but now that the beverages have been loaded we can leave." Thank god, because without my half can of Mountain Dew I might have complained about arriving in Orlando on time. As it turned out, I didn''t get into Orlando until after midnight and by the time I rented a car and drove to my dad's house it was approaching 2AM.

Knowing that the fun couldn't possibly be over, I was all kinds of excited to see what the flight back had in store for me.

My flight was supposed to leave at 1:28PM. I got to the airport around noon after returning my rental car and shuttling to OIA. As I approached the automated ticket kiosk I was apprehended by a NorthWest agent and asked if I was on the flight that was to connect in Minneapolis. I said I was and she proceeded to tell me that the flight had been cancelled because "the plane just leaked 400 gallons of gas onto the tarmac." She then pointed me to the end of a line that practically reached California and said that I would be helped "soon." Two and a half hours later it was my turn to bitch about the situation and make it known that I could have walked to California aleady had I not been made to wait in the line. I handed the guy my ID and waited patiently while he pretended to type a novel at 200 words per minute. Almost a full five minutes later he said, "I'm sorry, but there is nothing available for San Jose today." I said "of course there's not" and then turned around and asked the remaining line if anyone was suprised that there were no other flights available to Silicon Valley today; while a rhetorical question I got quite a few "NOs" and a lot of negative head-shaking. I had the agent try San Francisco and Oakland as well. Nothing. The earliest he could get me back to San Jose was 7:30PM... the next day. It was my only option. After taking that flight, I shuttled back over to the car rental place, rented another car, and then drove the hour back to my dad's place.

Anyone want to bet that I don't actually get back to San Jose tomorrow?

I thought typing all of this out would help to squelch my anger and frustration, but I'm afraid it hasn't helped at all.

As you were.

Foggy harbor

July 17, 2005

Last Friday after work I headed up to Half Moon Bay (a small town on the northern coast of California just south of San Francisco) hoping to get some shots of the coast and the sunset. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that it was going to be foggy as all hell until I actually got there. Fortunately though, right as I was about to get off the Pacific Coast Highway, I noticed a small harbor packed with boats. The full harbor coupled with the heavy fog was a scene that I just couldn't pass up. Besides the pics below, there are a few more from this set in my stream. Enjoy.

Expect more photos

July 17, 2005

You may or may not have noticed that I've just resized the width of my content div to 500 pixels (from 400). So, the site is now 830 pixels wide, which, while a little wider than I would like, should still suit most monitors just fine. The impetus behind the greater width is that I plan to put pictures up on the weblog a bit more frequently than I have in the past (after all, I didn't sell my soul for nothing) and the larger the picture I can get away with the better.

Though I wouldn't go above 500 pixels anyway, two factors restrained me regardless. First, Flickr's "medium" file size is 500xYYY and you can't specify anything different (i.e., 400 isn't an option). Because, as of this post, I'm using Flickr as the "src" for the images on my weblog, I'm now constrained by its limitations. Second, I have to have the width of the paragraphs be the same as the width of the photos. It's an anal-retentive thing that isn't up for debate; I just don't like how the page flows (or not) when one is wider than the other. Furthermore, if I started making the paragraphs much wider than 500 pixels they would quickly become annoying to read. Nothing, and I mean nothing, makes me crazier when reading a web page than to have to scroll over to read the end of the sentence. Text should always be confined to narrow, easy-to-read columns; anything else is inefficient and annoying. [I'm now jumping off the soapbox]

Why not a photoblog?

I thought long and hard about maybe doing a separate "photoblog" kind of thing, but I finally got the good and bad halves of me to agree that that probably wasn't the best thing for me given all the other shit I have going on for the forseeable future (read: I don't mind sleeping less than 99% of the population, but at some point I have to pull back a little). I also gave serious consideration to simply splicing certain photos from Flickr into my RSS feed using FeedBurner (you can actually specify which photos should be included in the feed using Flickr tags). The problem with this approach is that while I've been on the RSS bandwagon for years, I'm well aware that a lot of the people that visit this site (read: family and real-life friends) don't have the faintest idea what it is (despite my best efforts to change their lives  :P) and that these people are more often than not those that I most want to see the pictures.

The transition

I spent the better part of yesterday morning resizing the pictures (sourced from Flickr) in my weblog and linking them to their respective Flickr pages, a process that can only be described as a horrible chore. This involved loading up my archive pages for each year, scrolling through them looking for pictures, finding each particular picture in iPhoto (not too hard because I have them all tagged with "weblog"), determining whether I've already uploaded them to Flickr, and if not, uploading them to Flickr, going to the "medium" download page on Flickr, pulling the HTML information that Flickr generates (very nice), adding some CSS values to the HTML, and finally inserting this into each post.

While a bit of work, I think the setup should serve me well for at least a few years. Unless they're subscribed to my photo feed, most people will only look at the pictures (or picture sets) I direct them to from this site, which are usually those that I think are the best. Also, a nice bonus to using Flickr for everything is that it allows people to comment on the photos (separate and apart from the weblog itself) and I think linking to the photos directly from the website will spawn a lot more comments; I'm generally anti-comments, but it hasn't yet been an issue with my photos. Indeed, I've quite enjoyed the interaction.

Not for nothing, but I've turned off Nice[r] Titles until I can get it working how I want with images. I'd like it to look the same as it does (did!) with my linked-list posts.

Smart Archives is doing pretty well

July 16, 2005

I was sifting through my web stats like I tend to do every so often and I just noticed that over 10,000 [unique] people have visited the Smart Archives project page. Wow, not too bad. That number seems to be commensurate with the volume of support e-mail I get.  :P

First shots with the dSLR

July 10, 2005

Below you'll find some of the first few shots I took with my new Canon EOS 20D and EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens. I didn't have too much time to devote to picture-taking this weekend and so I just walked around downtown San Jose for a while and shot whatever I found interesting. While looking at the pictures, I ask that you keep in mind that this was literally the first time I've shot with this camera, or any type of SLR for that matter — I've much to learn (and learn I will). As always, you can find the full-size pictures in my Flickr photostream (along with 800+ other photos, including some more from this "christening") .

The deed is done

July 04, 2005

I've just ordered the Canon EOS 20D and the EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens (it took me forever to decide on the lens after it took me forever to decide on the body). While the lens was well outside my price range (and I've now spent double what I initially planned for my first DSLR), I knew that I would get it eventually and so I went ahead and sprung for it now. I don't think this will come as a shock to most of my friends — if there is something I want I usually figure out a way to make it happen. Granted, that way might mean that I can't eat for a month, but at least I'll be able to get some great shots of my emaciated body.

It should be here by Friday, and assuming I haven't withered away by then I'd like to have some shots up by the weekend.

Overheard in San Jose

July 04, 2005

Taking a cue from Overheard in New York, I heard the following said at the San Jose America Festival tonight (which, by the way, had a great fireworks show) by a guy walking through the crowd hawking various shit-nacks.

Get your lighted stars! If you aren't wearing a lighted star you're a communist.

Relative Dates v1.01

June 29, 2005

The initial release of my Relative Dates plugin for WordPress failed to take into account the fact that web servers aren't always in the same timezone as the user's residence (i.e., where their weblog "lives"). While that particular situation doesn't affect me (ergo my oversight of it), it seems to have affected a lot of the people trying to use the plugin. Version 1.01 adds the necessary timezone logic and can be found on the project page along with updated installation instructions. Enjoy.

I met The Woz

June 27, 2005

Last night the firm took me to see the Wallflowers at the Mountain Winery (what an amazing venue) and I bumped into Steve Wozniak!!!

I was standing in line getting a beer and saw him waiting to speak with the opening act. I first noticed him because he was wearing the Adidas 1's ($250 running shoes with a built-in microprocessor), which I had never actually seen out and about. Anyways, when he turned around and I realized who it was, I just about dropped my beer. Though a little apprehensive, I ran over to him immediately and asked if I could get a picture.

He was incredibly personable and very willing to let me take the picture. We talked about my new phone for a bit, which he really seemed to like, and then the topic turned to his shoes. He went on to tell me how hard it is to get them through security checkpoints in Singaporian airports.

Unfortunately, I failed to mention the fact that the firm's San Jose office (where I work) is actually on Woz Way (a street named after him).

Needless to say, I was pretty blown away by the experience.

Introducing Relative Dates for WordPress

June 26, 2005

Inspired by something similar (though far less robust) I created for Movable Type a couple years back, I've built a plugin to provide for relative dates within WordPress. If interested, check out the Relative Dates project page for a description of what a "relative date" is, the source code, and installation instructions.

The response to my last WordPress plugin, Smart Archives, has been incredible, and while I'm flattered by the fact that so many people are using it, I sometimes feel smothered by the incessant wave of support e-mail it seems to generate. While I welcome questions from those needing help, I do ask that you please do some research before contacting me for assistance. At some point I'm going to have to start ignoring the "What's PHP?" e-mails.  :)

The Canon EOS 20D it is

June 25, 2005

After way too much trepidation and deliberation (still some might say not enough given the price of these damn things), I've decided to go with the Canon EOS 20D. It's clear from both the feedback I've received from this site and from research I've done on my own, that the 20D is a clear choice over the Nikon D70s (if you can afford it). Now I'm left to decide if I want the 18-55mm lens that comes with the kit or if I want to spring for something a little more "professional." While I'm likely to go with the kit lens, I'm open to suggestions (I'll probably end up finally buying this thing tomorrow night or Monday so get at me quick if you have an opinion on the matter); I have my eye on the EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 II USM (the most likely candidate if I don't get the kit), the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM, and the EF 17-40mm f/4L USM (this one is well outside my price range).

While on the topic of digital SLRs, and more specifically, the 20D, be sure to check out chromasia (who happens to use a 20D) for some of the best amateur shots I've ever seen (don't miss his thumbnail'd archives). If I can get my pics to look half as good as his, I'll be a happy camper and won't regret having spent so much on a camera.

Canon EOS 20D or Nikon D70s?

June 21, 2005

As mentioned a few days ago, I had been contemplating the purchase of either the Nikon D50 or Nikon D70s (after previously ruling out the Canon EOS Digital Rebel (300D)), but the contenders have changed yet again (and for the last time). I'm now considering either the Canon EOS 20D or the Nikon D70s (though if I were to go with the Nikon I'd probably just get the D70 and update the firmware).

I realize the difference in price is quite large (especially if I were to get the D70 and not the D70s), but that is no longer a huge concern of mine. Don't get me wrong, price disparity certainly comes into play on balance, but I've come to accept the fact that I'm going to have this camera for at least a few years (unless I hate it and sell it immediately, which I'm kind of known for doing) and so I want to get something I'll be happy with even if it ends up costing me a few hundred more dollars.

I received a lot of great feedback on the previous post and am again soliciting information about either of these cameras (the 20D or the D70s) that might affect my purchasing decision.

For what it's worth, I'm currently leaning toward the 20D.

Syncing the K750i with Mac OS X Tiger

June 18, 2005

I mentioned here that I would explain how I got my Sony Ericsson K750i to sync with Mac OS X Tiger, and so here it goes.

Apple doesn't yet support the K750i (it will) and so to get iSync to recognize it we have to add some information about it to a file inside the iSync package.

The first thing you're going to want to do is quit iSync if you have it open. Next, locate iSync.app inside your Applications folder and right-click on it; choose "Show Package Contents."

Once inside you're going to want to get to a Resources folder that is buried rather deep in the directory structure; the following is the full path (realize that it was split to fit on the page):


Once inside this directory, you're going to want to open the MetaClasses.plist file with your favorite text editor. You'll notice that the file is mostly made up of blocks of markup that look this:

        <string>Sony Ericsson+Sony Ericsson K750</string>

Somewhere in that file you'll want to paste the above markup (I put mine after the K700 entry). As you may or may not have noticed, I pointed the K750i icon to that used for the K700; the icon kind of looks like a K750i and until there is true support for this phone from Apple (at which time Apple will supply the icon), it's a good stand-in.

All that's left for you to do now is pair the phone with the computer. I initiated this from the computer, but the opposite way should work just as well. After the pairing is done (or during the process), iSync will open and you should be able to synchronize.

Nikon D70s or D50?

June 18, 2005

I was fully prepared to purchase a Nikon D70s digital SLR camera today, but I just couldn't get myself over the hump. While I made the decision to go with the D70s over the Canon EOS Digital Rebel (300D) a while ago, I'm now torn between the D70s and the to-be-released (next week) Nikon D50. From what I can gather, the D50 will not have the following features of the D70s (otherwise they are very similar):

  • Compositional grid option for the viewfinder
  • Depth-of-field preview button
  • Wireless flash attachment option
  • Clip-on screen protector
  • Maximum shutter speed is half as slow
  • LCD status window on top of camera is not illuminated (wtf?)
  • Burst mode does 2.5 f/s instead of 3

However, there are a few features that militate in favor of the D50:

  • Rubber eye piece is larger (and ostensibly more comfortable)
  • Uses SD cards instead of CF
  • Lighter
  • Slightly smaller form-factor
  • Can adjust ISO directly in full stops (not thirds)

The other thing I'm kind of taking into consideration is price. I've seen the D70s kit (with a Nikkor 18-70mm f3.5-4.5G lens) for as low as $1100 (and the D70 for as low as $882). The cheapest I've seen the D50 kit (with a Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G lens) is $830, but the thing hasn't even been released yet; I'm sure it will drop at least $100 not long after it's actually available and might also push down the price of the D70/s a little more.

If you have any information on either of these cameras that you think might push me toward one or the other, please e-mail me and let me know.

Notes on the Sony Ericsson K750i

June 12, 2005

While I certainly don't have the time (or energy) to write up a full review of my new Sony Ericsson K750i (like I did for the K700i), I did want to mention a few things that have really stood out in my mind since getting the phone a few weeks ago.


The only reason I didn't go with a "smartphone" this time around (read: this particular 3-month span before I get a new phone) is because the camera on the K750i is phenomenal. I really can't explain how good the pictures are and so I've picked out a few choice photos from my Flickr photostream:

I really could not be happier with the camera. It's available for taking pictures almost immediately after sliding back the cover and there's no significant delay between pressing the button and actually taking the picture.

With the included 64MB memory card (coupled with the 38MB of internal memory), you can store around 130 pictures at full resolution (1632x1224).

The auto-focus feature works incredibly well; it's very fast and makes taking pictures with the phone completely painless.

The one gripe I have with the camera is the fact that you can't turn off the camera 'alerts.' There is no option to mute the beep that sounds after auto-focus has found its mark or the shutter sound that escapes when you actually take the picture. I understand the public policy reason behind keeping the sounds on, but I should have some say in the matter. Speaking of which, I'm going to try to hack around this when I have some time.

Mac OS X

Though there's no syncing out-of-the-box with Mac OS X (there will be as soon as the phone is introduced to the US), I've been able to get the K750i to sync with Tiger and I'll talk about my method in a future post.


The phone comes with a much-needed USB data cable; I say much-needed because of the file size of the pictures it produces, which usually hover around 550KB — moving these to your machine over Bluetooth (or to Flickr over GPRS) would take forever. I was afraid that the USB cable wouldn't work under Mac OS X (the bundled software is MS only), but upon plugging it into my machine I was wonderfully reminded of why I love my Mac so much — it just worked! Image Capture sees the phone as a regular camera and moves pictures off the phone the same as it would any other camera.

But, of course, not everything came up roses — there's no way to remove the device without causing your machine to freeze. Not sure which side is crapping on itself, but one thing is for sure, it's causing me to go ape-shit every time it locks up.

If anyone has come up with a solution, I'd love to hear from you. I've tried every conceivable sequence of unmounting and unplugging, but nothing seems to work.

vs. K700i


Inevitably, a lot of you will be looking to compare the K750i with the K700i, and the biggest difference for me between the two (save the camera, obviously) is battery life; the horrid battery life of the K700i was the main reason I ditched it so soon after getting it. With the K750i I can routinely get two and three days of heavy use out of a charge (including significant camera use).


The K750i adds expandable memory in the form of a Memory Stick Duo slot (and can support up to 4GB). While the expandibility is certainly a virtue, the proprietary memory made me somewhat reluctant to buy the phone — I keep swearing off Sony's memory formats, but every couple of years a must-have device pulls me back in.


Another positive difference between the K750i and its predecessor is speed. Application response is snappy and I've yet to experience any discernable lag in any application.

Internal speaker volume

One thing that I'm disappointed with is the lack of improvement in the internal speaker volume of the handset. The speakerphone speaker is great and music sounds wonderful blasting from it, but the regular internal speaker is simply too low in some situations. I should be fair and mention that my previous phone, the i-mate SP3i, had the best speaker I've ever used on any device and so I became a little spoiled by its loudness, but that shouldn't excuse the fact that SE seems to have put internal speaker improvements on the back burner (surely they had a ton of complaints concerning the K700i's speaker?).


Perhaps I just got a sketcky K700i, but it always felt a little too "loose" in my hands. The back cover rocked quite a bit and I actually ended up creating a little buffer between it and the battery to mitigate the rocking. I see none of that in the K750i; the phone feels very solid and the sliding camera cover is fluid and tight.


The music player on the phone is actually fairly usable and had the phone come with a standard 3.5mm audio jack, I might be compelled to replace my iPod with a 2GB Memory Stick Duo, but alas, like every other phone on the market, the audio jacks are proprietary and either require a third-party converter or that you listen to music only through the provided headphones. As an aside, this little annoyance is going to go the way of the dodo as handset makers begin to realize that the iPod market is one they are going to want to take over (and can take over).

The new "Activity" menu/button is quite nice. The button resides above the joystick and when pressed takes you to a tabbed interface that contains new events (missed calls, SMSs, etc.), shortcuts (which you can add, delete, and sort how you want), and Internet bookmarks. The activity menu also pops up when a new event occurs; it's how the phone presents the event to you.

Give me more information!

Like I said, there was never any intention for this to be a full-fledged review — I simply don't have the time to do the type of review that I'd like; anyone who knows what's going on with me this summer can appreciate my lack of free time. That said, I do welcome specific questions you might have about the phone and will make every effort to answer all of them.

Tiger PowerBook overheating

June 11, 2005

Ever since installing Tiger, my PowerBook has been scorchingly hot. I often run Marcel Bresink's Temperature Monitor to keep an eye on the internal temperature of my notebook and had never seen numbers so high as those I saw after installing Tiger (and by "high" I'm referring to temps north of 145° F). Consequently, my fan had never been on as much either, which was incredibly annoying.

That said, I seemed to have fixed the problem by resetting both my PRAM and NVRAM. If you're experiencing the same heat issues, you might want to read Apple's How to Reset PRAM and NVRAM and free yourself from the oven.

Coming soon

June 08, 2005

Since I started using relative dates on this site again (for examples of what I'm talking about see the dates under posts on the index page), I've received daily e-mails asking about my implementation and quite a few people have asked if I plan on releasing it as a WordPress plugin.

The fact is, my implementation is already in the form of a WordPress plugin and as soon as I have time to write up installation instructions and make a few more tweaks to the code, I'll release it here.

Back in California

June 05, 2005

I'm finally back in California after the Florida "vacation" and the weeklong Kenyon & Kenyon orientation in New York. For those of you who haven't heard from me on e-mail in a few days, your replies are forthcoming. I've been away from my apartment for about three weeks and I've a million things to take care of before tomorrow, not the least of which is catching up on about a week's worth of news (which amounts to sifting through roughly 5000 RSS headlines), but at some point today you should hear back from me (if I know you; random support/web-related e-mails might get pushed back another few days still).

1.5 days of crazy

May 30, 2005

This is just a very quick, random post about my last 1.5 days in NYC. I arrived yesterday evening from Florida and was in my hotel for about three minutes before some buddies of mine called (two of my best friends live in Brooklyn) to setup the night's activities. We ended up eating some great Indian food and went to a couple of bars in the East Village area of Manhattan where we met up with a bunch of people and saw a few shitty bands give it all they had.

Today we spent the entire day walking up and down Manhattan. Along the way we hit up the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where I got some neat pics that I'll put on Flickr when I can find the time (along with a lot more from the latest Florida trip).

The highlight of the day however was when we went to Union Square. There was an anti-Bush protest going on that covered everything from "Bush and his daddy are child rapists" to conspiracy theories attached to 9/11. The first guy to speak started foaming at the mouth (literally) as he belted through his megaphone, and just when we thought it couldn't get any weirder better, a seemingly random guy ran up to the "stage" and began shouting over the frothing guy (even though his views seemed to parallel those of the interrupted speaker). For reasons I'll never figure out, this guy began spouting the worst, most offensive obscenities I'd ever heard in public — everyone was like, "wow" (yes, even the New Yorkers).

This went on for over an hour; he'd just randomly taunt the audience (which usually involved grabbing his crotch and telling us that we didn't have balls) and then every once in a while he would kind of act like a "background" rapper for the current speaker, yelling things like "yah," "they don't understand," etc — basically echoing the speaker at times.

Finally, perhaps after tiring of getting no real response from the crowd, he threatened to take off his pants, and seriously, is there a better way to make known your opposition to the administration than showing the world that you aren't very well endowed? Yah, I couldn't come up with anything either.

So, he proceeded to take off his pants (I'd say it was a 2-3 minute process) and if you'd like to have a laugh, you can follow his progression here (photos might offend): one, two, three.

He wasn't through. After publicly humiliating himself (see pictures), he put his clothes back on and sat on a plastic crate near the speaker(s). Then, and for no apparent reason, he stood up quickly and kicked the crate with his heel. The crate went flying and hit one of the speakers (the main organizer I think) who quickly shattered his glass bottle on the ground and took off after the soccer star. They ran all over Union Square punching and kicking each other until they were finally out of sight. The protest continued.

I love New York.