My Rental

Slushy Road
Orig­i­nal­ly uploaded by super_structure.

I took my truck in yes­ter­day to have some ser­vice done (minor recall crap). The deal­er­ship gave me a rental for the day, which turned out to be a Maz­da 3. Okay, it’s not Fer­rari or any­thing, but much nicer than the bro­ken down Ford Focus they gave me last time. Any­way, it’s a real­ly nice lit­tle car. Very sporty. It even has manu-mat­ic shift­ing (or what­ev­er Maz­da calls it) like my truck. Unlike my truck, it has red & black inte­ri­or with car­bon fiber trim. The dash is all sub­ma­rine-sytle red lights. Even thought it’s a small car, I thought it was very com­fort­able. It did feel like large bumps might make it take air pret­ty easy, though. Unset­tling for a guy who usu­al­ly dri­ves small sport util­i­ty vehich­le.

Speak­ing of which, they had to replace the trim-work on the A‑pillars of my vehi­cle. Come to find out they did­n’t pro­vide a whole lot of padding in an acci­dent. Of course, isn’t that what seat­belts are for? Any­way, the prob­lem is, on a Free­lander, the A pil­lars are already pret­ty mas­sive and this did­n’t real­ly help. They now have a sort of aero­foil shape to them, which is larg­er and far more dan­ger­ous look­ing than the ori­gion­al trim. I did­n’t think to ask the deal­er if I could keep the old plas­tic… Oh well.

Firefox Plug-ins And Searchable Markup

Today, I’m work­ing on a Flickr search engine for Fire­Fox. Why has­n’t some­one done that already? Well, for one, Flickr isn’t real­ly set up for exter­nal search­es.

Flickr

Today, I’m work­ing on a Flickr search engine for Fire­Fox. I was real­ly sur­prised that no one had thought to cre­ate one yet, give Flick­r’s huge pop­u­lar­i­ty. Okay, maybe I’m more of a fan that your aver­age Joe (or Jane), but it does seem to be pret­ty hip with the kids. Any­way, these lit­tle search plug-ins are real­ly pret­ty easy to write and they are extreme­ly handy.

That being said, when you look at the code from a search from Google, you’ll notice lit­tle remark tags before and after each search result item:

<!--m--><a href=https://www.jasoncoleman.net/>super_structure | <b>Jason</b> <b>Coleman</b></a><br><font size=-1><b>...</b> And The Coal Men — singer Dave <b>Coleman</b> and cohorts Dave Ray and <b>Jason</b> Hitchcock [yada, yada, yada]<!--n-->

As you can imag­ine, those lit­tle remarks con­tain­ing m & n make for very nice search strings. The set of search results for each page returned are also bound in sim­i­lar remarks, with a & z (get it? From “a” to “z”.). Yeah, any­way, most of your oth­er sites don’t con­tain such lux­u­ries (like, say, Yahoo). Flickr, sad­ly, has even less. The results from a tag search at Flickr, such as “cam­er­a­phone” don’t con­tain any delim­i­na­tors to speak of. Of course, the idea here is that you just use part of the mark-up as a text string in your search for where an item begins and ends, but that does­n’t work so well. Of course, the nat­ur­al markup would be <li> & </li> (Flickr uses <p>, which is the same for this argu­ment), but alas, that’s no good when you add a class, id, or style which con­tain ” ‘s (quo­ta­tion marks). The prob­lem is that those ” ‘s trun­cate your text string pre­ma­ture­ly. (Also, Fire­fox does­n’t seem to under­stand using &quot; in this con­text).

All this being said, I’ve sub­mit­ted my lit­tle code to the Mycroft peo­ple at Mozil­la, so maybe it’ll be up there soon. You can down­load the file right now from me, and just stick it in the \Mozil­la Firefox\searchplugins\ direc­to­ry and restart Fire­fox. You won’t have an icon just yet for Flickr. They like those to be down­loaded from their site, as opposed to just any old place.

I think that Google’s use of the remark tags as delim­i­na­tors is a pret­ty nice lit­tle fea­ture that 99.9% of users nev­er know about, but can ben­e­fit from because of fea­tures like the tool­bar search in Fire­fox. If you hap­pen to have installed the side­bar search, and have my Flickr search, then doing a search on a term in both Flickr & Google simul­ta­ne­ous­ly will show you the ben­e­fit. Google returns results just like the Google page. My Flickr plug-in only returns the thumb­nail (non-hyper­linked) and the cre­ator (also, non-hyper­linked). I had found a way to include the title of the pho­to, but then the link for the result went to the cre­ator’s “pho­to­stream” and not the indi­vid­ual pho­to. Is there a way around all this? I’m sure, but I’m not a good enough code writer to do it. Plus, I doubt most peo­ple even know about the side­bar search, let alone use it.

Up next, a search plug-in for Wired News!

Everything That Was Old Is New Again

I’ve got the site, well, look­ing exact­ly like it did a cou­ple of days ago.

Okay, well… I think I’ve tak­en the 20-lb sledge to most of the look of the site, if only to get exact­ly back to where I was two days ago (before I upgrad­ed to WP1.5). How­ev­er, there’s some more pow­er under the hood now, and hope­ful­ly I know a lit­tle more about what’s going on behind the scenes around here. I have to say, it took me for­ev­er to fig­ure out how to tweak the HTML code of the link cat­e­gories in the side­bar. Man, is that buried in here!

I have a long list of things to get to, and I’m look­ing for­ward to hear­ing from every­body as to what they think. That reminds me, you can can­not leave com­ments again (I’m so jeal­ous of peo­ple who have blogs that work, right now). Let me know if you find any­thing bro­ken. I hope to get the RSS feeds back again, soon as well. There’s always e‑mail, although that’s so 1998.

Did You Change Your Hair?

I’m in the process of upgrad­ing to Word­Press 1.5. Yes, I’m about a week late, but I’m no less excit­ed.

Things look dif­fer­ent about the same around here, and it’s not all for the best at the moment. You’ll see that the indi­vid­u­al­i­ty has been sucked right out of the look at super_structure. You may also find that a num­ber of links are dead around the site (hope­ful­ly not the posts… my pre­cious posts). Ah, who am I kid­ding, there were always dead links around here.

Any­way, I final­ly took the leap of the deep end of the blog­ging pool and decid­ed to upgrade to Word­Press 1.5. It’s got a cou­ple of real­ly cool fea­tures that I’m very excit­ed about using:

  1. Pages: Not every­thing in the world is a blog post. My old site had tons of cool pages that I’ve been search­ing for a way to inte­grate on here, and I’ve now got an answer. Best of all, it does­n’t involve me writ­ing so much damn markup!
  2. Themes: This goes along with the whole pages thing. Now, I can cre­ate a nice look and feel that is con­sis­tent among all the pages and posts with in the site. It even allows me to have 404 pages that look like the rest of the site. I best be get­ting right on that one, since you’ll be see­ing a lot of them for a while!

Well, I’ve got a lot of work to do, and it’s going to take a while. Check back often and please post com­ments here if you find some bro­ken links, errors, etc.

Update: Well, if you’ve tried to leave a com­ment, then you know that’s pret­ty tough to do. There is some­thing or oth­er wrong with the com­ment field such that you can’t fill in your name or e‑mail and of course you can’t com­ment with­out those! Well, I’ll work on get­ting that cor­rect­ed. You can always just e‑mail me at jason(at)jasoncoleman(dot)net

“Numb3rs” on CBS

Numb3rs has a lot of promise as a series. It can cer­tain­ly have some inter­est­ing cas­es due to the fact that pret­ty much every­thing can be tied in to math. How­ev­er, I do find the por­tray­al of the sci­en­tists as some­what trite, in that they’re all spacey and can’t remem­ber if they weren’t going in or out of the build­ing because they’re too deep in thought.

Quite frankly, it’s been a while since I real­ly fol­lowed any­thing on CBS. That’s why I was intrigued that Rob Mor­row was going to be on a new series, and fur­ther, that it would be about a math­e­mati­cian help­ing the FBI to solve cas­es. I’ve been col­lect­ing some of the shows on the TiVo for the past month, but I’ve been wait­ing until after I had a chance to watch the fourth episode, “Struc­tur­al Cor­rup­tion,” to post some thoughts about the show. Yes, that was a week ago, but keep in mind I have a day job with long hours.

NUMB3RS - Pilot Episode

NUMB3RS — Pilot Episode — Image cour­tesy of www.numb3rs.org

Ok, the 2 sec­ond sound­bite review of the show: “A Beau­ti­ful Mind” meets “CSI.” Now, onto the meat. Rob Mor­row is actu­al­ly quite believ­able in the role of FBI Spe­cial Agent Don Eppes. I don’t find myself think­ing of way­laid doc­tors in Alas­ka at all. The oth­er cast mem­bers are all well done as well. This isn’t NYPD Blue heavy, where things are so grit­ty you need a show­er after the cred­its role and it isn’t a sound­stage sit­com, either. It’s a nice dra­ma, with as much on the per­son­al sto­ries of the char­ac­ters as the cas­es them­selves. It seems no show is will­ing to fol­low the orig­i­nal Law & Order for­mat, where the cas­es are the stars and the reoc­cur­ring actors just help to sup­port the sto­ry. That’s okay, see­ing where the char­ac­ters live is not bad for the greater sto­ry that spans episodes, either. I do find the por­tray­al of the sci­en­tists as some­what trite, in that they’re all spacey and can’t remem­ber if they weren’t going in or out of the build­ing because they’re too deep in thought. I’ve know many bril­liant sci­en­tists and math­e­mati­cians, and they most­ly thought about beer and sex just like the rest of us. They nev­er had a hard time walk­ing and chew­ing gum at the same time, so to speak. I will say, that for all the parts, the show’s pro­duc­ers seemed to both­er to try and find peo­ple who could pull of the part rather than just look while blankly going on about sta­tis­tics, for­mu­las, and num­ber the­o­ry.

NUMB3RS - Pilot Episode

NUMB3RS — Rob Mor­row as FBI Spe­cial Agent Don Eps & Sab­ri­na Lloyd as F
BI Spe­cial Agent Ter­ry Lake. Image cour­tesy of www.numb3rs.org

The direc­tion of the show is in the style of Fox’s 24, with hand­held cam­er­a’s film­ing from some­times incon­ve­nient angles, such as from out­side vehi­cles and through door­frames, etc. It’s well done here, and the style isn’t tired yet. The spe­cial effects are nice. Giv­en the shows run­ning theme of math­e­mat­ics (and it’s many dis­ci­plines, such as physics and engi­neer­ing), it’s like watch­ing those nice lit­tle ani­ma­tions on a Dis­cov­ery show like Myth­busters.

This brings me to the fourth episode. First of all, the premise of the show (that is, a stu­dent dis­cov­er­ing a struc­tur­al prob­lem with a already built, high pro­file build­ing) is based on the sto­ry of the Citi­corp build­ing in Man­hat­tan. A year after the land­mark build­ing was opened, struc­tur­al engi­neer William LeMes­suerier received a phone call from a stu­dent who claimed the columns were not in opti­mum loca­tions to resist load­ing from wind. It’s the very first sto­ry, chap­ter one, of my col­lege engi­neer­ing ethics text­book. Any­way, the sto­ry ends with LeMes­suri­er real­iz­ing that even though the way the build­ing was con­struct­ed (which was­n’t exact­ly the way he’d spec­i­fied) would like­ly fail cat­a­stroph­i­cal­ly in a 16-year wind, not a 50 or 100-year wind that the build­ing would have been designed for. LeMes­suri­er came up with reme­di­a­tion plans and Citi­corp imple­ment­ed them, sav­ing the build­ing, the church at the build­ings base, and any num­ber of peo­ple from harm or death. It’s con­sid­ered the sto­ry engi­neers tell their chil­dren to teach them how to respond to errors.

The Numb3rs episode deals with this, as well as col­lege stu­dents’ high risk of sui­cide, shady con­trac­tors, and even finds time to bring up some romance. As a struc­tur­al engi­neer, some of the tech­ni­cal dis­cus­sions seemed a lit­tle child-like. How­ev­er, I’m sure that most of the stuff I can’t fol­low on ER my wife groks with­out thought. The fact that Char­lie (David Krumholtz) and his physi­cist men­tor, Lar­ry (Peter Mac­Ni­col), build a com­put­er mod­el of the build­ing to respond to seis­mic and wind forces in an after­noon is a lit­tle com­i­cal. I won’t go into it, but it’s not like­ly they would be able to do it in a month, let alone a few hours. They at least both­er to explain what’s going on. Any­way, Char­lie gets very wrapped in deter­min­ing what the young engi­neer­ing stu­dent was try­ing to dis­cov­er. The stu­dents death, judged to be a sui­cide, seems to deeply affect our hero. Odd­ly, it seems the engi­neer­ing stu­dent left noth­ing but lots of blue­prints of build­ings around and no notes or cal­cu­la­tions of any kind to indi­cate he may have been con­cerned about exces­sive deflec­tion under quar­ter­ing winds. Oh, well, some engi­neers do things in their heads, I sup­pose. With the help of the FBI strong-arm­ing some rot­ten con­trac­tors, the build­ing is soon to be saved with the help of our old friend: the tuned mass damp­en­er.

Numb3rs has a lot of promise as a series. It can cer­tain­ly have some inter­est­ing cas­es due to the fact that pret­ty much every­thing can be tied in to math. They do it already on cop, med­ical, and inves­ti­ga­tion dra­mas. No rea­son to think this could­n’t be just as suc­cess­ful. The show needs to try and find it’s own voice and feel ear­ly on, so as to not be any­thing more than “A Beau­ti­ful CSI — Los Ange­les.” For what it’s worth, it’s not got a sea­son pass on the TiVo. What show could ask for more?

Professional Amatuers

Blog­gers seem to be the sto­ry in the news late­ly. This all reminds me of Gomer Pyle shout­ing “Cit-i-zen’s Arrast, Cit-i-zen’s Arrast!”

After the cred­it for bring­ing down Sen. Trent Lott, Dan Rather, Eason Jor­dan, and Jeff Gan­non (aka J.D. Guck­ert), blog­gers seem to be the sto­ry in the news late­ly. By news, I mean the “main­stream media,” although blog­gers seem to be doing an awful lot of back-pat­ting of their own. It’s been said the medi­a’s favorite sub­ject is itself and it seems blog­gers are no dif­fer­ent in that regard. The sto­ry, it seems, is the ques­tion as to weblogs place in the media. Wired had a sto­ry yes­ter­day about the ques­tion of blog­gers hav­ing the same pro­tec­tion as main­stream jour­nal­ists. Polit­i­cal-mind­ed weblogs are argu­ing back and forth about which jour­nal­ists or media icon they brought down has the most polit­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance and who is respon­si­ble for their fall. I might ask here, has any­one read any­thing about a blog mak­ing some­one famous? I guess that’d just be dog-bit­ing-man stuff.

Press Hat

This all reminds me of Gomer Pyle shout­ing “Cit-i-zen’s Arrast, Cit-i-zen’s Arrast!” While I don’t think that too many places have licensed jour­nal­ists (unlike say, doc­tors, phar­ma­cists, engi­neers, or hair-dressers), I think that we all under­stand the idea of being a “mem­ber of the press.” Remem­ber those goofy white cards stick­ing out of the guys’ hats in all the 50’s & 60’s shows that read PRESS? That does­n’t make sense unless we all have some under­stand­ing of the con­cept of what the press is. Like the free­dom of the press in the 1st Amend­ment. This is also why blog­gers go by the very pop­ulist title of “cit­i­zen jour­nal­ists.” It sounds all so folksy and grass-roots does­n’t it? Well, I for one think it’s about as folksy as a case of rabies. When you have no rules or under­stood eth­i­cal guide­lines, it is amaz­ing what you can get done. How­ev­er, those rules and ethics are what make the news news and not sim­ple gos­sip. I’m not naive and I’m ful­ly aware that this does­n’t always hap­pen. I remem­ber Stephen Glass and Jayson Blaire, too. How­ev­er, we had a sort of mar­ket guar­an­tee that the evening news or the morn­ing paper were going to try and get it right (yes, the facts) and not take the insane­ly stu­pid risk of report­ing some­thing that just was­n’t true or that no one was will­ing to go on the record as say­ing. It seems Blog­gers some­time rel­ish in the fact that they don’t have to play by any cer­tain rules, just because of the excep­tions in the Main­stream media that broke said rules. This is just the lat­est devel­op­ment in what I think is a wor­ri­some trend.

Some­where along the way, we got Fox News for con­ser­v­a­tives and I guess CNN is for the rest of us who just don’t think Fox News is worth a damn. Any­way, we got these news chan­nels that sud­den­ly had demo­graph­ic audi­ences they seemed hell bent on pleas­ing to keep. The news was cus­tom tai­lored to what the audi­ence thought the truth ought to be, rather than what it might actu­al­ly be. Now, with blogs, it goes a giant leap beyond. Now, peo­ple are report­ing what they think the news should be. No longer do we just sub­scribe to our own lit­tle news fil­ters, we fil­ter it with our own lens for oth­ers! They dic­tate what the spin is and seem to have lit­tle trou­ble in push­ing it relent­less­ly until the Main­stream Media picks up on it. In this brave new world, your on the record 24-hours-a-day, 7‑days-a-week.

I have a blog. I’m not try­ing to fool you. This is all an exer­cise in van­i­ty, just like every oth­er blog is. Let’s just keep in mind that quit­ting our day jobs to sit around in our paja­mas and spew dig­i­tal bile on those we hate isn’t going to make the world bet­ter for any­one except paja­ma man­u­fac­tur­ers. I’ll let Chuck Olsen & Jon Stew­art have the last word. Thank’s Chuck for post­ing this video. (We all know what a true friend of the Main­stream Media that Jon is.)

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Not much going on today, oth­er than tons of work and still under the sick spell. I did want to point out a very short, but glow­ing review of the The Coal Men on the Ten­nessean web site post­ed yes­ter­day. Just in case you’re too lazy to click:

You won’t find a short­age of skilled roots-rock bands slin­gin’ chords around on any giv­en night in Nashville, sure, but real­ly, real­ly good ones still stand out.
And The Coal Men — singer Dave Cole­man and cohorts Dave Ray and Jason Hitch­cock — are real­ly, real­ly good, bash­ing out a col­lec­tion of expert­ly craft­ed songs that have as much bite as they do twang. Cole­man’s got a heck of a bari­tone and Ray and Hitch­cock­’s rhythms are spot-on, but their sets are still loose enough to feel lived in.

That’s about typ­i­cal for the Ten­nessean’s reviews of the band. They love the local guys, and they real­ly love The Coal Men. Oh yeah, about locals: If you read (in the Ten­nessean or else­where) last week about the 27 year old female school teacher who was bust­ed for mul­ti­ple counts of rape of a 13 year old boy, then you may have read on to learn that she’s from my home coun­ty. It’s always great to see some­one from a small town strik­ing it big in the news. I did­n’t know the woman back then, although I’m sure I saw her play some bas­ket­ball and rec­og­nized her maid­en name: Pamela Rogers.

Last­ly, on the sub­ject of famous peo­ple, be sure and read Wired’s arti­cle on celebri­ties that come into the Apple Store at The Grove Mall in Los Ange­les. Fun­ny stuff.

Twin Turkey Vultures

Twin Turkey Vul­tures
Orig­i­nal­ly uploaded bysuper_structure.

A cou­ple of turkey vul­tures land­ed out­side my office win­dow today dur­ing my lunch break. Appar­ent­ly, they come around every once in a while to prey on the dead geese and ducks around the small lakes in the imme­di­ate area. While quite pos­si­bly one of the ugli­est birds you can imag­ine, they’re actu­al­ly quite inter­est­ing to watch.

Any­way, I’m try­ing hard to ignore the sym­bol­ism of hav­ing a cou­ple of vul­tures hov­er­ing around just out­side my win­dow. I have a cou­ple of project dead­lines ear­ly next week and am strug­gling to stay on top of things. For­tu­nate­ly, I’m not alone in the office and on one’s going to leave my car­cass out for the birdies. Still, I think I’ll make sure they are no big birds of prey fly­ing around when I leave work today.


Coming Up For Air

My rea­son for not post­ing for the last week is that I’ve been very sick. Some sort of res­pi­ra­to­ry infec­tion. Noth­ing that would con­sti­tute an emer­gency, though.

I know I haven’t been post­ing any­thing for over a week now. Of course, if you’re not a per­son inter­est­ed in TiVo, then you prob­a­bly haven’t been read­ing my posts for longer than that. Sor­ry about that. What can I say, I got a new toy and I’ve been play­ing with it. Actu­al­ly, the rea­son for not post­ing for the last week is that I’ve been very sick. Some sort of res­pi­ra­to­ry infec­tion. Well, 3 OTC’s, 4 pre­scrip­tions, and 2 trips to the doc­tor’s office lat­er, and I’m begin­ning to feel a lit­tle bet­ter. I promise nev­er to make fun of Rich­mond’s Doc-In-A-Box again. I’m so glad there here and can help me on a Sun­day after­noon! Okay, I’m not going to make them into some­thing they’re not. How­ev­er, I’m not going to bust their chops either. They do good work over there. Not to men­tion, they keep a lot of peo­ple out of the emer­gency room. We can all be thank­ful for that.

Well, oth­er than a less-than-rous­ing State of the Union address, there’s not been too much goings on to write about. I won’t go into here, oth­er than to say that the “own­er­ship soci­ety” rhetoric is get­ting a lit­tle old for me. Have we all for­got­ten Enron & World­com? Who the hell wants this to be the future of Social Secu­ri­ty? For all the talk of social secu­ri­ty being bro­ken and in need of imme­di­ate repair, what we real­ly need is to under­stand that it’s not pro­ject­ed to run out of mon­ey until 2042, even by con­ser­v­a­tive esti­mates. That’s if it’s left alone right now. There is no emer­gency and we don’t need to go blow­ing tril­lions (yep, that’s a T) by pri­va­tiz­ing any of this. Not yet at least. Let the gov­ern­ment take some time and use some lever­age to get pri­vate com­pa­nies and invest­ment firms to go along with­out that mas­sive cost. That’s some­thing of an over-sim­pli­fi­ca­tion, but not unrea­son­able. I under­stand some impor­tant peo­ple won’t make as much mon­ey in the short term, but this is Social Secu­ri­ty and was nev­er about mak­ing any­body mon­ey. It was about ensu­ing we’ll all have some help after retire­ment… to ensure that Amer­i­cans could even con­sid­er retire­ment. I’m not Social Secu­ri­ty expert, and I’m cer­tain­ly not invest­ing Guru. How­ev­er, I can spot a bleed­ing emer­gency when I see one, and this folks, isn’t such a thing. Hav­ing the com­mon sense not to rush into fix­ing this pro­gram that is cur­rent­ly work­ing rea­son­ably well (I have fam­i­ly mem­bers that get their checks) is the same com­mon sense that kept me out of the emer­gency room for a bad cough.