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 kottke.org. This isn’t a tech site or a design site or a pop cul­ture site or a news site…I’ll put any­thing on kottke.org 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.

Spam-a-lot

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. []

CSS Tip

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.