Behind the Scenes at super-structure

I know that it looks like almost nothing has been happening on this site for the past month. But, actually there have been some changes behind the scenes. Okay, I’ve also been kind of lazy and not posting as much as I’d meant to. But let’s focus on the positives.

Even since I moved my site’s content into WordPress about four (!) years ago, it had been hosted by my good friend Jason J. He had plenty of bandwidth, hosting space, WordPress knowledge, and — most importantly — was willing to share all of that. I’d been paying him a small amount monthly in exchange for this. However, if one were to add up all the time he spent via phone, e-mail, Skype chat, etc.; I was getting some really cheap tech support from a guy who isn’t known for having any free time.

Add to my sense of guilt the fact that the hosting account which all this was on was one that JJ wasn’t planning on keeping (he’s got some more advanced needs and found another hosting provider to better suit them). So, I needed to get my own hosting plan for our household full of domains. After looking around at various plans, I decided that staying with Dreamhost would be best. It basically came down to these:

  • Familiarity: Basically no learning curve as I’d been already using them for the past few years.
  • Green: Dreamhost offsets their carbon emissions.
  • Software: They have really great one-click installation for the server-side software (that is: WordPress & MediaWiki) that I use. Further, they keep their software current with new releases.
  • Price: The monthly price break down was reasonable. Further, they also don’t charge extra for making my domain who-is information private. They also allow me to have as many MySQL databases as I want (each WP or MediaWiki install needs its own).
  • Class: They don’t constantly barrage me with attempts to up-sell me on new services. Sometimes I need to do work instead of see a price list, you know?

So, after picking JJ’s brain some more on how to back up and restore MySQL databases last month, I began moving my files over to a new server at Dreamhost via my own account. This also gave me the opportunity to clean up some of the database organization. I’m also using the opportunity to clean out a lot of un-used files on the server as well, which should all making back-ups faster.

I finally got around to pulling the switch last night. It is very un-nerving clicking "delete" on almost five years worth of writing. It certainly brings out the procrastinator in me. Thus, there hasn’t been any action around here in the past month; so I wouldn’t have to constantly back-up and replace the database over and over. Once I did get around to doing so, though, the DNS TTL gods showed some sort of favor upon me. Despite having to delete the old sites entirely first and then re-instating the domain name to point to the new server, the sites were down for no more than for a couple of minutes each. I’m still scratching my head over how that happened (normally, this takes more like an hour or more).

In other behind-the-scenes news, the latest version of WordPress is a breeze to upgrade. It is literally as simple as clicking a link within the software. No more needing to log in via command line and using SVN commands. The plug-ins have had automatic upgrades for the past few updates, and this is very welcome to someone who maintains several WordPress installations.

So, all of this is (or at least should be) absolutely transparent to anyone who is just visiting this site. That being said, I do have some plans for changing the style and organization of this site in the next few months. I’ve been kicking around ideas for some time and hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later.

Nintendo Trinity on the Wii

Last month’s release of Super Mario Party saw the completion of the latest generation of Nintendo’s flagship titles for it’s newest console system: the Wii. Along with the release title of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and this August’s Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Mario, Link, and Samus are all present on the Wii and in three of the most amazing games. Ever.

To be honest, I’ve not gotten too far in any of the games, having had the time and energy to only put a few hours into each one1. I have gotten fairly far in each and have played them enough each to comment on just how amazing each is.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princesrated a 95 at Metacritic.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was, of course, a launch game (and, like Super Paper Mario, a Gamecube port). In an admission of my lack of commitment to gaming, I still haven’t finished the game. All the same, it remains to be a wonderfully fun game and probably one of the best of the Zelda series. The control scheme is possibly the least like senseless waggling of the Wiimote of any Wii game yet. The spatial motions seem to make sense, which is good because there are quite a lot of moves to master in the game. Like almost all of the modern Nintendo games, this one has a great and intense story. This really draws the player in, but doesn’t really allow for casual gaming. As much as I wanted friends to be able to jump in and play around to see how great it was, this just isn’t a game and story that allows for this sort of thing. This game is an epic novel that rewards attention, time, and dedication; much the opposite of many Wii games.

Metroid Prme 3: Corruption

Metroid Prme 3: Corruptionrated a 90 at Metacritic.

As for Metroid Prme 3: Corruption, I am not really a fan of — nor particularly good at — first person shooter games2. But I mean wow. This game is so much fun due to its perfect balance of shooting action, exploration, and puzzle solving. It isn’t particularly difficult to explore and complete most of the tasks but I can imagine that to be truly fast and efficient this game would require a lot more skill than I have. Efficiency is something that the Metroid series has traditionally rewarded and I suspect that MP3 has that aspect in it. Also, this game really captures a lot of the exploration and back-track elements of the old-school Metroid games. In spite of the lesser horsepower in the diminutive Wii when compared to other 5th generation consoles and PCs, this game has beautiful visuals and amazing detail. I believe that this represents the greatest first-person shooter ever created.

Super Mario Galaxy

Super Mario Galaxy – rated a 97 at Metacritic.

The delayed Super Mario Galaxy was probably one of the most anticipated Wii games since the console’s release over a year ago. Having not had much desire to play many of the 3D Mario games, I found myself pleasantly surprised by this game. The controls and camera angles make playing the game very natural. Galaxy has some of the same nods to Mario games of the past that Super Paper Mario does, and even much of it’s humor (though with a few less cracks in the fourth wall).

These games represent the quintessential set on the Wii with respect to Nintendo’s heritage. Of course, you still have to consider Wii Sports as an important Wii game for its demonstration of the control mechanisms. However, the three games above, represent Nintendo’s advanced story-telling in combination with the innovative controls, as well as paying tribute to the characters that put Nintendo on the map.

  1. I had considered writing this article months ago, including Super Paper Mario as part of the big N Wii trinity; a game that I’ve come withing about ten minutes of beating (pathetic, huh?). However, SPM is kind of a platform/rpg hybrid and was seen as being outside of the true Mario legacy. That being said, it is an amazing game and loads of fun. Also, it could be argued that the Metroid Prime series of games aren’t really full-on Metroid games, either. Me, I’m just interested in some really great games, so I’ll not be too picky.
  2. Although, I must admit that Bioshock and Portal look great and Halo 3 almost makes me consider buying a 360 – (but not really). I still can’t think of any reason other than "cheap Blu-Ray player" to want a PS3

Footnotes Are As Real As The Writer

I happened across this short post on Daring Fireball today and quickly got swept down the ‘Jon Gruber’s Footnotes’ rabbit hole. I think semantic web pages are a noteworthy goal, just as I appreciate proper typography. However, I don’t get all hung up about it like these guys1 seem to. I use the WordPress plugin written by Simon Elvery with some tiny modifications. It works very well and, apparently like Gruber, was essentially the look and behavior I was after. It had been on my site to-do list for a long time and I was thrilled when I had found that Elvery had done 99% of the work for me (I love you, lazy web). Reading all this, I think it’s pretty clear that Elvery copied a lot of what Gruber had done, but I don’t know that.

Here is a short post I had written back in April but never got around to hitting publish on (apparently l care about this less than even I realized):

I have just been looking over the working draft of the HTML 5 standards and I’m really glad to see a lot of semantic tags for making sense of writing on the web. However, it really is apparent that this was written by design-oriented authors, not technical authors. No <footnote> or <reference> tags which would be so handy to people who write technical or research publications online (go open science, go!). Just a couple of things you could cobble together (like <aside> with the predefined note class). However, what’s the point of semantic meanings if you aren’t really using them for their meanings? What’s the difference between using a table for design layout versus using an aside as a footnote reference? They’re both incorrect as far as I can tell, and for the same reasons. I’ll continue to use my hacked together <footnote>‘s here at super-structure, although it’s not really a big deal for me. For people who really do want to publish researched journal articles online for review, it should be and they’re going to have to continue to hack together a ‘look’ just to get what they need.

Now, anyone is welcome to come and rip me on my lack of understanding of semantic web design. Here’s the bigger point: if lots of writers want to use footnotes, but the argument against them seems to be that they aren’t part of HTML, then why not add them? Do we want HTML and XHTML to be so general as to not include something as specific as "footnote?" That seems a bit odd to me, personally. More to the point, it seems like limitation of the coding language driving the way we write, which is a bad thing. As I understand semantic coding, it should be structured around what people write, not the other way around. Like others, I’m glad to see that footnotes are something that other people think about (and had the initiative to push "Publish" in the blog software). However, I think the notion of ‘how can we hack together current HTML to do this’ is the wrong approach2.

As for Gruber’s use of the down-and-back-the-left glyph, I use it, too. Mainly because it reminds me of the "return key" symbol on many older keyboards. That makes about as much sense as "straight up" the page does as far as I can tell, as there’s little reason a footnote has to be somewhere directly below the text it is a reference for. Gruber hardly invented footnotes, nor do I gather he makes remotely that claim. The link-back-to-where-you-were is kind of enshrined in the whole HTML idea, but it was a tidy implementation. My understanding of the history of blog footnotes indicates that Gruber deserves the credit for a good, if not earth-shattering idea.

  1. "These guys" being the web design community. Is it possible to be too passionate for your work, especially when said work isn’t life-critical?
  2. Such as using the <small> tag, which speaks to appearance but not the semantic meaning of a footnote, in my opinion. How (or where) it is displayed is not as important as the intrinsic nature of a footnote: this information is referenced or tangential to some other information. The <cite> element could be used to address the nature of references, but not tangential information or extended parenthetical thoughts, which is a common usage outside of the scientific or legal realm or writing.

Some Inspiration For This Site

A remark by Jason Kottke on his site today in how he sees his site as being similar to a bar he enjoyed in New York: "Maybe I like this approach so much because it reminds me of the way in which I edit This isn’t a tech site or a design site or a pop culture site or a news site…I’ll put anything on as long as it’s interesting, topic be damned." That is a lot of what super-structure is to me; a collection of all the things I find interest or value in. I welcome anyone pop inside my head to read it or take part in the conversation, but I guess I’m the main audience I’m writing for.

New World in Adverstising

Well, a lot of you may read this site via an RSS feed so you might not have noticed that I now have advertisements in the sidebar. It’s just a Google Adsense panel, so nothing you haven’t seen before if you’ve been using the web in, oh, the past few years. Now, just in case you didn’t know how Adsense works, it basically matches keywords on this site to keywords Google’s advertising clients provide them with their ads. I have nothing to do with the content of these ads, for good or bad.

For those of you who have seen them, you may have noticed a few anti-science ads for free books or Rush Limbaugh (like the one that claims “Global Warming is a Lie”). I can have ads from those sites blacklisted on a site-by-site basis and will certainly do so, but it is inevitable that some ads will pop up that will seem to be out of place or against me or the spirit of what I write about. You are encouraged to let me know (e-mail is best; jason at this domain) as this happens. The corrections should take place in a matter of hours.

In addition to marginally interesting Google ads, you may have also missed the fact that I’m selling t-shirts1 over in the sidebar as well. The design is my own, if you’ll allow me the liberal use of the word design. It’s far from the crappiest t-shirt I’ve seen sold and it’s made by Spreadshirts, who do very nice work. Do check it out.

Lastly, in one final plea for you money and attention, I’ve got a link over there for our baby registry which is all set up on this site. If you are interested and have any questions, just let me know. You all know that you are not obligated to do anything for us, but if it is something you want to do, it’s a great place to get some ideas or do your shopping. We also welcome suggestions (which we promise not to scoff at and ignore immediately).

  1. I recently received my own shirt and I’ll model it as soon as I get around to doing so.

Aksimet Is Awesome

I know I’ve had a few short posts before about comment spam here before, and occasionally I still get some to come through. However, Akismet has done a remarkably good job of catching almost all of them, and with only a single false positive I’ve ever found (and that was because the commenter had placed two URL’s in the form field). I noticed this morning it had finally broke the 10,000 mark for comment spam. That’s some pretty smart filtering if you ask me. Spammers: why do you even bother anymore? Humans: if you ever do post something and it doesn’t show up immediately, e-mail me.

Newsvine Brought To This Site

Well, I’ve hacked together a method for integrating my Newsvine seeds onto this blog. I’m going to test it out for a week or two. I may find the formatting annoying and you all may find it annoying to have your RSS reader clogged up with a bunch of crap you didn’t want. Anyway, if it ends up being a lot more than you care for and don’t feel like having to click "Mark All As Read" so often, please let me know.

Also, if you think this is just the coolest thing in the world (or just totally ripping off Jason Kottke), then you can let me know that too.


I had a remarkable 241 comment spam items caught by Akismet this morning. So far, Akismet has missed only about two or three items and only had one false positive that I know of. Pretty remarkable since it has caught over 1,600 comment spam messeges since I first installed it. However, I don’t the patience to wade through 200+ messeges to search for false postives, so if you left a comment but it didn’t appear right away, just e-mail me and I’ll try and get it restored (or, just stop mentioned Viagra in your comments and always leave an e-mail and single web site url).

I Almost Forgot I Had A Blog

I feel like I owe my friends and family an apology for possibly scaring them into thinking I was missing and feared dead. I’m not going to go into some annoying post about how busy my life has been lately and I just haven’t had time to write. Partly because that’s not true at all and also becuase nobody really likes reading lame posts like that anyway.

I have been writing some travel logs of our trip out to California, although I’m far from being finished yet. You can get the slide-show version by checking out the Flickr group of just a few of my photos. I am, of course, hoping that Travis will post a few of his online as well, but I’ll leave that up to him (although he’s a pretty good photographer, so those of you interested in outdoor photos should say ‘please’). I experimented with panoramas a lot on this trip and a number of them came out with impressive results, if I may say so.

Mirror Lake

Otherwise, life has actually been pretty quiet here at home. Work has settled down substantially for me post-vacation1. Speaking of home, though, my pal, Johnny, and I went to purchase some lumber and hardware for rebuilding the basement stairwell this coming weekend. Stay tuned for loads of information on that and why you should probably never attempt this sort of thing yourself.

  1. Oh, work was insane for a while there; but you wouldn’t know about that since it left me no time to post about it.


Well, the keen reader may notice I’m playing around with the style of this site some. One little CSS tip that I can pass on, for those of you who care to know: different browsers handle the error of replacing { with ( very differently. Whereas Opera 8.0 and IE6 try their best to cope, Firefox just barfs up everything after the error as un-styled text, as it is trying to be Valid CSS.