Live Free Or Die in New Hampshire

I grew up on the border of Maine and New Hampshire and have always had a lot of respect for New Hampshire’s general philosophy on government. Their state motto is “Live Free or Die”, and they usually put their politics where their mouths are.

I believe in what I call the “Bubble Philosophy”. Everybody has their own bubble, in which they can do whatever they damn well please, as long as it doesn’t puncture anyone else’s bubble. What you do with your life is none of my concern…as long as you take the same attitude towards me.

I used to consider myself as somewhat of a socialist. But as I get older, the Bubble Philosophy, increasingly tilts me toward Libertarianism. An odd combo that leads me to calling myself a socialist-libertarian.

Anyway, back to New Hampshire, land of Libertarians. Those New Hampshire folk seem to also live by the Bubble Philosophy. They’ve recently passed a law to allow civil unions for gay couples. Regardless of anyone’s personal feelings about homosexuality, I can’t see any legitimate reason to say that this law harms anyone. It only affects gays.

New Hampshire also just rejected a law to make seat belts mandatory. This is one of those things that is just so silly. To be clear, I always wear my seat belt. I even wear a helmet when I ride my bike. If that was the law to do so (as I believe it is in Massachusetts where I live), it doesn’t really bother me. I’m not storming Beacon Hill to demand my right to be an idiot. But, on pure principle, I disagree with the idea of legislating such personal choices. Deciding not to wear a seat belt or helmet does no harm to anyone except the person who made that decision. The government shouldn’t be protecting people from themselves. Go New Hampshire.

Lastly, New Hampshire just passed a law to ban smoking in bars and restaurants. This is where the bubbles intersect. A person should have the right to smoke where they want. Unfortunately, in a closed public space, a person’s right to smoke where they want infringes on another person’s right not to inhale second-hand smoke. This is especially true for employees of said establishments. As a smoker, it kind of sucks to always have to go outside to smoke, but it’s really not that big of a deal. Honestly, at this point I’m so used to it that a few years ago when I went to a casino in Deadwood, I actually got laughed at by the doorman for putting out my cigarette before going inside.

So, I say give one more point to New Hampshire. Long live the Bubble Philosophy in the “Live Free or Die” state.

Many thanks goes to my Socialist-Libertarian New Hampshire politics informant elf. She keeps me updated.

Update

It occurs to me in retrospect that in regard to the rejection of a mandatory seat belt law, New Hampshire’s motto could be more appropriately stated as “Live Free and Die”. Just a thought.

Dirty Dancing Video Game

Dirty Dancing

Apparently Codemasters is working on a video game based on the 1987 camp classic Dirty Dancing. I find this incredibly hard to actually take seriously, but sure enough, it’s on the Codemasters website and slated for a Fall 2007 release.

I’m scared. Fortunately, Ben Kuchera from Opposable Thumbs has some great suggestions about what should be in the game.

On a side note, I was double checking the release date of Dirty Dancing on Wikipedia and I found myself incredibly interested in the entire back-story of the movie. Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze actually couldn’t stand each other. It was 40° out when they did that water scene. An oh yeah, there’s the real story of the tickling scene:

Another “chemistry” scene that was improvised was the one where Grey was to stand in front of Swayze with her back to him, and put her arm up behind his head while he trailed his fingers down her arm. Though it was written as a serious and tender moment, Grey was exhausted, found the move ticklish, and could not stop giggling each time Swayze tried it, no matter how many takes that Ardolino asked for. Swayze was impatient to finish the scene, and found Grey’s behavior annoying. But as it turned out, the scene worked and was put into the film as-is, complete with Grey’s giggling and Swayze’s annoyed expression, and it became one of the most famous scenes in the film. It turned out, as choreographer Kenny Ortega put it, “as one of the most delicate and honest moments in the film.”

Top 15 Google Street View Sightings

Here are 15 truly amazing sightings from Google’s Street View.

My favorite: The Void

A screenshot from Google's Street View called The Void

I can already tell that there are a world of possibilities here. At least the photos are about nine months old now.

Microsoft Surface and Jeff Han’s Multi-touch

The recent announcement of Microsoft’s new product Surface has got me thinking about touch screen innovations and the direction that computing is going in general. What is the best approach to the technology, and where will it actually be used in real life? This stuff is very cool, and I’m definitely excited about it.

First off, check out the three videos on Microsoft’s website for Surface.

You can read a little bit more about it on Read/WriteWeb:

As usual, the marketing videos for Surface are pretty goofy. Some of the things shown are really cool, like the photos, integration with digital cameras, and paying tabs with credit cards. I can definitely see this type of thing at yuppie bar.

Some of the other things in the video though are just plain silly. Why on earth would I want a table that when I put my cell phone on it, all it’s features and price tag pop out? Or a table that asks me if I’m thirsty when I put a drink on it. Obviously, I just bought a drink. We’ll put these nit-picky details aside for a moment.

As many people have already pointed out, Microsoft’s Surface looks very similar to Jeff Han’s Multi-touch technology (no, they’re not related). Check out these two videos on multi-touch:

Unfortunately, I don’t really know very much about the underlying technology of Han’s multi-touch interface. However, Ars Technica has posted an article about the underlying technology of Microsoft’s Surface:

I found this really interesting. First of all, Surface isn’t really even a touch screen technology.

Surface features a touch interface, but it doesn’t use a touch screen. Instead, five separate cameras are used to record motion on the table’s surface. […] In order to get the table as low as it is, five cameras are used so that each one can have a small field of view. That translates into better resolution and speed (measured in pixels/second) than a single camera with an exceptionally wide-angle view of the table surface.

This seems to me to be a strange approach to the problem of creating a touch-sensitive device. Judging from the videos, it just seems like Han’s technology is much more intuitive and sensitive. I mean, is it just me, or is that guy with the map in the “The Possibilities” Surface video making really deliberate movements? All the people in the multi-touch videos seem to just be making these natural and effortless gestures.

One thing that does really impress me about Surface is the hardware that’s actually running the show. According to Ars Technica, it’s actually just some pretty standard consumer-level hardware:

Surface currently runs on a high-end PC but uses mainly conventional components. It’s powered by a Core 2 Duo chip and a “newish video card,” and the system runs on 2GB of RAM.

Those cameras must be really expensive, because for now it looks like one of those Surface tables will cost from $5,000-$10,000.

To me, Han’s ideas are more interesting (from what little I’ve seen of both products). It really feels like he’s thinking about how humans can and should interact with computers. He wants us to no longer be confined by certain limitations that we’ve become accustomed to (keyboards for instance).

Surface, on the other hand, comes off as much more gadgetry than anything else. For sure, the technology is interesting and there are some great ideas there. Unfortunately, a lot of it just seems like a novelty, that will quickly wear off. I’m already seeing floating advertisements on that bar table:

I see you’ve ordered a Dark and Stormy. Perhaps you’d like a snack to go with that? (A picture of a delicious looking chocolate cake floats across the table). Only $8.99…

Update

Here are some more links about Surface. Popular Mechanics has a good write up about the technology behind Surface:

Seatle PI also has a decent article:

Lastly, there is quite a different take on Surface vs. Han’s multi-touch over on CreativeUI. It’s worth reading:

Creating An Archives Page In WordPress

In my most recent blog design I’ve created a single page for all of my post archives. Previously, I had links to my monthly archive pages in the sidebar. After blogging for about 14 months, this list became a little bit unwieldy. My solution was to move the entire archives section out of the sidebar, and into its own page. The archives page is now more prominently linked from the main navigation bar.

Unfortunately, doing all of this in WordPress is not quite as straightforward as one might hope. Now that I have mine all set up, I figured I’d post a walkthrough of how to set up something like my archive index page.

Get A Plugin To Do the Dirty Work

Unless you’re interested in writing the PHP code and MYSQL queries to retrieve all of your archives in an organized fashion, a plugin is the way to go. After a quick Google search, I found the SRG Clean Archives plugin. This plugin is quite nice I’ve found. It’s realatively easy to implement and also (and importantly), it’s also very easy to modify to fit your site design.

The plugin will give you a list of all your post titles, organized by month. There is also the nice feature where the post titles begin with a post date. Check out the clean archives demo page for an example.

Simply install the plugin like any other normal plugin and then activate it.

Set Up the Archive Page In WordPress

The next step is to set up the actual archive page in WordPress. There is a tutorial in the WordPress codex about how to do this called Creating An Archive Index. I’m just going to briefly outline the steps here.

archives.php

Open your archives.php file. If you’re using a basic template, then this file probably already exists. If you’re using the default Kubric theme, your archives.php file will look like this:

<?php
/*
Template Name: Archives
*/
?>

<?php get_header(); ?>

<div id="content" class="widecolumn">

<?php include (TEMPLATEPATH . '/searchform.php'); ?>

<h2>Archives by Month:</h2>
    <ul>
        <?php wp_get_archives('type=monthly'); ?>
    </ul>

<h2>Archives by Subject:</h2>
    <ul>
         <?php wp_list_categories(); ?>
    </ul>

</div>

<?php get_footer(); ?>

As always, I would suggest making a backup of this file before changing anything. Now modify the archives.php file to look like this:

<?php
/*
Template Name: Archives
*/
?>

<?php get_header(); ?>

<div id="content" class="widecolumn">

</div>

<?php get_footer(); ?>

If you’re using your own template (like I am), then you may need to either update or create the archives.php file to make sure it is consistant with your blog design. A good starting place for this is to simply copy your single.php file to your archives.php. Now, delete the entire “loop”.

Note on Page Templates You can create any kind of page template you want. All you need to do is insert the following code at the very top of your PHP file.

<?php
/*
Template Name: template-name
*/
?>

Make sure your archives.php file starts with these lines, or else you’ll be banging you head against the monitor trying to figure out while ‘Archives’ isn’t listed as an option in the Page Template dropdown menu. Believe me, I speak from experience.

Create A Page In WordPress

Now have to set up a plain old page in WordPress.

  1. Login to the WordPress Admin area
  2. Go to Manage -> Pages
  3. Click Create a new page
  4. Enter an appropriate title. This will be the title of your archive index page.
  5. Leave the content area blank
  6. In the Page Template box, select Archives.
  7. In the Page Slug box. Type something suitable as this will be the permalink for your archives page (http://www.your-blog-name.com/page-slug/).
  8. Click Save.

Now obviously, you have to create a link to your new archives page. We already set it up, complete with the URL. Yours should be in the form of http://www.your-blog-name.com/page-slug/. Just make a link to it somewhere on your site.

Call the Plugin

As you’ll notice, our fancy Archive Index is empty. In order to get all of our archives in there, we have to use a simple PHP function to call the SRG Clean Archives plugin.

Open your archives.php file again. Find this section of the page:

<div id="content" class="widecolumn">

</div>

Now add the following PHP function to call the plugin:

<div id="content" class="widecolumn">
    <?php srg_clean_archives(); ?>
</div>

Save the archives.php file and refresh your browser. You should now see a nice list of all of your archives.

Customization

As I noted earlier, the SRG Clean Archives plugin is nice because it’s easy to modify if you want to. The Clean Archives website is well documented and the plugin contains a readme file explaining this as well.

The default style for SRG Clean Archives is to output the month and year, surrounded by <strong> tags. You might want something else, like a list or header tags.

To change this, open the srg_clean_archives.php file in your plugins folder and find the following line:

 echo get_archives_link($url, $text, '','<strong>','</strong>');

Modify the strong tags to suit your needs. For example, mine now looks like this:

 echo get_archives_link($url, $text, '','<h2 class="archivemonth">','</h2>');

You can find more information about this on the SRG Clean Archives plugin website.

SRG Clean Archives also provides you with class names so that you can style list however you want in your CSS. I’ve added the following styles to mine:

/* For Archive page */
h2.archivemonth {margin:30px 0 0 0;padding:0;}
    h2.archivemonth a:visited {color:#9db550;}
ul.archivelist {border-bottom:1px #ddd solid;list-style:none;margin:0;padding:0;}
    ul.archivelist li {border-top:1px #ddd solid;}
        ul.archivelist li a {display:block;padding:2px 0 0 20px;}
        ul.archivelist li a:link, ul.archivelist li a:visited, ul.archivelist li a:active {color:#000;}
        ul.archivelist li a:hover {background-color:#eee;color:#000;text-decoration:none;}

 

Note: I changed SRG’s default class name from ‘postpermonth’ to ‘archivelist’.

That’s All

Well, that’s pretty much it. I hope you guys find this useful. Feedback and corrections are always appreciated.

Update 2/25/09: This method was tested and works on SRG Clean Archives version 2.1. This version is old! Please check out all of the feature upgrades for the plugin from it’s home page. If you still want to proceed with my method, you can download the plugin here:



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