Feb 23, 2005

The Joys of Mozilla

I'll come right out and say it: Microsoft Internet Explorer is toast. In five years, no one will remember why they ever kept using it. It's one of thier buggiest programs, with the release of constant patches to cover security holes. Over time, the browser accumlates junk you can't control, advertisements, and toolbars you never use yet are impossible to get rid of. Not only that, but you don't even think about fixed you are on the one layout of buttons, and the general appearance. The concept of a skin didn't even strike me for an internet browser. Enter Mozilla Firefox. It was released in full form last year, completely free, and after extensive beta testing with users around the world. I'm still discovering new uses, but I'll be brief.

1) Total customization. Don't like the reload button? Boom! its gone. Want to put the button for your homepage on the far left of the screen, or an eighth left of the address window? Done. You can change colors, skins, move everything around, including address windows, toolbars, etc. It's easy, there are hundreds of skins online, and you dont even have to reboot your computer.

2) Power. I only add the toolbars I want to add, nothing sticks to the window and it comes with a built in pop-up manager, which shows you a small icon on the bottom when it blocks a pop-up, if you want to see it, stop all pop ups from that site, or allow all popups from that site. And It remembers. Included in the features is a search command which uses the bottom bar of the screen, instead of a large bulky window.

3) Add-ons. I added a module that displays current weather, todays forecast, and tomorrow's forecast. It occupies three tiny cells on the bottom of my screen in the bottom toolbar, showing icons for the weather. If I mouse over it, it gives me a tiny window which tells me full details about that weather. The other cool thing is that the search toolbar, which many people have for Google, is also totally customizeble. All you see is the icon for the search you have selected then you type your word in the text box. If you click on the icon, you can select a variety of search tools including Amazon.com, ebay, Google, dictionary.com, and others. I added Bartleby.com for my academics searches.

4) Security. Mozilla Firefox is rated as one of the most secure internet browsers. ASU's technology director sent out an email in the spate of viruses going around that we should switch to Mozilla for security.

I was a bit hesitant at first, but downloading and installation was a breeze. It even transfers over all your bookmarks. (you can actually open a new window to organize all your bookmarks, nice touch). Anyway, I guess I've gushed over it enough, but I just think that people who are using I.E. are really shortchanging themselves when alternatives like Mozilla are out there.

Well, today I went to Murf's lecture at 8:40 AM, then to listen to a lecture the forces at work within a beam in my structures class. In studio, I showed my work and the TA liked it. Said it needed a little work. Final project due next wednesday, so its going to be a busy weekend. Beautiful day today, if not a little cool. I may be going to a marker rendering workshop saturday. I bought some ad markers, which are colored markers used by interior people and industrial designers for coloring. They're quick and they look good, but I need practice. Jen's really good at them, and the workshop is only ten dollars. I've been listening to Franz Ferdinand which is really good. Great disc. What did I learn today? I learned a cha-cha routine in latin dance, a fair bit about forces in beams, and that radio signals coming to cell phones makes my speakers crackle.

Feb 22, 2005

Under Arizona Skies

Well, I've decided to start wearing a helmet when I ride to campus. This comes after two very near misses. Both times, I'm in the bike lane (the right one) and a car makes a sudden turn to the sidewalk. I slam on my brakes which do little good with the racing tires I've got, so I just skid and try to steer away. Arizona drivers are terrible, college drivers are terrible, and I generally bike fast anyway. It's a dangerous combination, so I've started wearing a helmet.

The weather here has been up and down. We've had a spell of rain and cold winds separated by gorgeous warm weather and sunshine. The upshot of all this rain is that its green everywhere. I've never seen "A" mountain so green before. The clouds on days like these are amazing. I climbed to the top of A mountain this afternoon and watched the sun set. Absolutely stunning. The scale of it all pales ASU, Tempe, and the Phoenix sprawl to nothing. There were other people up there too with cameras trying to capture some of the splendor. At any rate, we're supposed to be getting some thunderstorms tomorrow, which are great fun to ride in.

This morning I got up and went for a run. It has been awhile so I took it easy. I actually walked about a quarter. Total running time was maybe thirty minutes. It feels good to be doing something for my body. I should try to keep it up. It also makes the day seem longer.

I did laundry this afternoon. Took my stuff down to the coinless laundry. Four loads this time. I seem to generate four loads minimum by the time I run out of clean underwear, so its probably good I dont have more underwear. The only thing was that the water didn't drain from one of the machines, so I had to wring everything myself before throwing it in the dryer. It was especially a pain since I had a pair of bed sheets in there too. At least its cheap. 25 cents a load, and 35 cents for 15 minutes of drying, which gets your clothes about halfway dry. Here at the apartments, its a buck per machine.

My creative writing class is still interesting, but we have to read each other's stories. A few are really good, better than I could have written, but most are pretty mediocre. A few are terrible. The last one I read was a combination of the plot of Half-Life (a PC game) and Rambo. The first line of the story is "Call me Ronin. My real name is Jack, but no one calls me that anymore." It's crammed full of cliches from boot camp, war movies, zombies, the International Special Operations team, grunt speak like "Come on man, don't die on me!" and "You're in the last place you expect to be, but the first place you should be...welcome to ISO, Jack Starling. My name is General James Riken." cue hardened barracks scene. I kept humming action flim scores while reading it. Anyway, busy day tomorrow.

Feb 18, 2005

Books and Threads

Last weekend I forgot to mention going to the annual VNSA booksale. I brought Jen along, but there was apparently some stabling of animals there recently since her allergies were going haywire. I decided to make it a blitzkreig book run. I think I went through it in about thirty minutes. The spoils of war: The Power of Myth, Bill Moyers World of Ideas, Kon-Tiki, Maslow's The Further Reaches of Human Nature, a 1970's edition of AIA's Energy Planning for Buildings, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, a Bloom Country cartoon collection, a Doonesbury collection, and Bill Moyers discusses Genesis. Total price: $25. Not too shabby.
I recently got the sandals I ordered from Sierra Trading post online. They're pretty nice actually, with braided leather straps, leather top, and good thick bottoms. Sperry top siders. Only $15 on the clearance section. They feel great. The other bargain I found, I got today. After checking out Raising Arizona from the Tempe library, I biked to Goodwill where I found a 100% cashmere overcoat from Botany 500 for $7.50. It's a bit like this one: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=57988&item=3958168824&rd=1&ssPageName=WDVW
but the collar is smaller and simpler. Great condition, only a minor tear in the lining in the back. After a dry-cleaning, it will look like a hundred dollar coat.

Feb 16, 2005

Salsa Midterm

I worked until 4 am last night then got up at 8 for a full day of classes. Not too many of us had good models (including me) so the studio instructor was ripping into us. One of my models was nothing more than a peiece of colored cardboard, kind of sad, but I attempted to show elevation through color. I still need to make it. In architectural construction, we started learning about statics. The pace of this class is incredibly slow. All we got today was Newton's third law, and Hooke's law about the "springiness of buildings." I feel really bad for the professor since everyone comes directly from Smurf's lecture, usually after working all night in studio and generally exhausted.

An aside about Scott Murff (Smurf)- I shouldn't rip into him as much as I do. He's really very nice and willing to talk with you on an individual basis if you go up to his office. Other studio teachers and upper division students think highly of his abilities too. Another factor is that I'm rarely in a leinant mood at 8:40 AM. The class is good sicne it shows you who your real competition is- those guys and girls who make that commitment to get up and show up. Howerver, these people also tend to be really sticklers for programmatic details. It took me awhile to learn, but programs are designed to be deliberately vauge. We're encouraged to find and exploit loopholes, and follow only the letter of the law. Anything not specificially prohibited is fair game. The problem is you get a group of students (would-be honors college types) who aren't used to such freedom in program specificiations. They want to make sure everything is "okay."

Anyway, I deposited all my checks, then went home and napped for two hours. Got up twenty minutes before salsa and drove there with Jen. We learned some new steps for the batada which is kind of like merengue. The second half of the class we did our midterm. The layout is that 5 couples dance through the whole routine and the teacher and TAs watch and look for mistakes. If you do it right, you pass and can leave. If not, you go back and try again later. She was actually pretty leaniant, I thought. Maybe a quarter of the class passed. We tried three times. The first time, Jen got one part of the arm movement wrong, and I messed up the footwork. The second time, I tripped up on "the maze" and just stopped dancing. I don't think they'd even noticed after I stopped and looked up. The third time, everything was perfect exceprt for my maze. The teacher asked me to do the maze for her, and I did so she passed us. Whew! We came back to my apartment and watched "The Last of the Mohicans" Jen didn't agree with my appraisal of it as a "Romance." Anyway, here I am, and glad my class tomorrow is at 12:15. Goodnight!

Feb 15, 2005

Let the Seller Beware

When we last left our intrepid hero....
The Mysterious Bicycle: Thursday- bike is boxed up and ready to ship. I they tell me about thier shipping plans and to save some time, I decide to pay them to ship it 3-day UPS at the behest of my buyer in Virginia. I'm told the bike will ship Friday morning. Friday- I call to get tracking numbers in afternoon. They say the bike is still there, to be shipped monday. The guy who handled my transaction? he'll be in monday. Nobody knows anything about it. Saturday- I leave a message for Brad who took my shipping order. Sunday- mostly mustang stuff. Monday- I get a call from Brad. Shipping number. I email it to my buyer who is most preturbed over the lack of info I can give him regarding the bike. Today- the buyer emails me back. The package was shipped by UPS ground. I go back to the bike place and talk to Brad. Apparently, he forgot to put "3-day shipping" on the reciept when he put it in the back. In order to get my refund with a minimum of screaming, I dont mention either the late ship date, nor the ineptitude. I take the refund and leave. Tomorrow I'll mail it to the buyer. The End....? Lets hope so.
The Wild Woman: Short story. I sold the mustang convertable to the woman after having it checked by pep boys and her mechanic friend. She gave me 8250. 8500 less 300 for maintenance stuff, and 50 more for the inspection at pep boys. Shes got the title, I've got my registraion, the plate, and the check. Everyone wins except I'm also down a convertable.
The Valentines Dinner: Saturday, I made waffles for breakfast and Jen made dinner. We had cold asperigus soup and costco flank steak with portobello mushrooms. Chocolate angelfood cake for dessert. Monday night I took Jen to RA sushi. They had a really good Crazy Monkey Roll, and a really spicy wasabai salmon, but it was all pretty good. Jen's never had sushi before so I had to teach her how to use chopsticks.
The Salsa Midterm: We also practiced our salsa routine for our midterm tomorrow.
The Random Kitsch Hanna-Barberra TV First Season DVDs Bought on Sale At Zias: Johhny Quest
The: End

Feb 11, 2005

Tango on Speed

I took Jen to Club Tropicana last night, part of our homework for Intro to Salsa. The place in south scottsdale was a dive. Pretty clean, but with pool tables and a tiny, tiny dance floor. The majority of what they played was Merengue, which has a simpler two-step basic. Merengue is fast, the music has a much stronger beat to it, and it looks like the tango on speed. I'm glad we're learning it. Stupidly, I'd worn a long sleeve Kennith Cole shirt to dance in and as it was polyester, I was shortly drenched in sweat. I need to remember to wear cooler clothes. It's odd but I'd never predicted that I'd dress up to go clubbing, then actually dance. We practiced a little salsa while we were there, but there was so little room on the dance floor we decided to head back to practice at the apartments. Our salsa teacher was there stamping the cards to show we'd been. She's this far-out woman of about fifty or so. Incredible dancer, but she drinks, smokes, and swears like a sailor. Anyway, we have our mid-term the next two classes. We have a routine that we do, about 20 steps. There's a lot to think about as one has to consider footwork, timing, following the music, hands, and turning. As Salsa is all about the man leading the woman, the man does 90% of the work.
Today, I went to Best Buy and picked up 50' of CAT5 cable. My wireless has been running at 1-5 Mbps, and I was sick of paying for high speed with top speeds of 11 Mbps with the wireless. I ran the cable from the modem in Ben's room to my laptop. I need to get some of those clips that nail into the wall to secure it off the floor, at least in Ben's room.
It's been sprinkling here non-stop since yesterday. It's really annoying.

Feb 10, 2005

More studio stuff

I'm finally set up here for my studio work. I have my drafting table, an extra board with my mayline, all the pens and pencils I need, and ad markers and prismacolors for rendering. Tuesday night, I worked until 4 AM on the cemetery design. Wednesday is my busiest day of the week. I have Smurf lecture at 8:40, architectural construction at 9:40 (a two hour class), studio at 1:40 (a three-hour class) and salsa at 7:30 (another 2.5 hours), which gets me back home around 10 PM. At least today is a thursday which means I have on 12:15 and nothing else. So today is my get stuff done day. Today I also need to pick up the packed bike from the bike shop, and we need to go salsa dancing tonight as part of our homework.

My studio teacher is starting to get on our nerves. I think the primary reason he's here teaching is because we're a captive audiance. Every class he'll launch into a triage about 1) how lousy American architecture programs are (he's Indian) 2) How much work he does and how busy he is, and 3) how we should be spending 24/7 on architecture, and how even that isn't enough time to get it all done. He's a good teacher, he knows what he's doing and he won't skimp on the criticism, which is what makes him good, but the unmitigated ego is a little wearing.

Architectural construction is going ok. It's pretty dry material, although Dan Hoffman is always excited to teach it, regardless of a third of the class nodding off. It doesn't help that its right after Smurf's lecture, or that he reviews what we did last class for half an hour first. Our first project is due monday, studying how heat intereact with walls, materials etc.

Feb 8, 2005

Experiments in Pizza

Ok so a night or two ago, boom! we have nothing in the kitchen that can be ready to eat in ten minutes. So we decide to order pizza. We've got a coupon for 3 medium pizzas with 3 toppings each for 15 bucks from Papa Johns so we sit down and pick toppings. W e did a veggie pizza with 'shrooms, pineapple, and green peppers, a meat pizza and then got stuck. I decided to go for the adventuresome route with Jalepeno peppers, sardines, and extra cheese. It was retched. It's still sitting in the fridge, missing one slice. I learn things every day.
I sold the bike for $1275, which was cool. Today I took it the bike shop to have it professionally packed for shipping. It cost $30, and tomorrow I'll price UPS shipping. Then I'll bill the buyer. He seems pretty anxious to get the bike. Might also be getting a guy to come out and look at the mustang. Studio is coming along ok. Our teacher keeps telling us that we dont have enough time. More interesting research on the Cemetery is that many of the city founders were Freemasons, and that there are 3000 bodies and only 650 markers.
Tonight I went out to dinner with Ben and his dad. We went to Pei Wei. Owned by same guy who did P.F. Changs, and who is not Chinese in any way or by any relation. He's just an American exploiting markets.
My studio instructor described the creative process of designing the site and wall as a kind of writing a story. He really emphasizes coming up with powerful descriptive words and site narratives to develop a textual construtuction. It's always interesting to me how almost every class can relate to architecture. The spanish steps in Rome are based on a dance that was popular at the time, or so I've been told.
Suki is getting fatter I think. She doesn't get enough excercise in this apartment. I've started cutting her food back to one tray a day. Too excessive? We'll see.

Feb 5, 2005

First Fridays Downtown

Well, we did make it downtown last night. Downtown phoenix has a kind of art walk on the first friday of each month. It's actually a combination of real galleries, homes which the first floor had been converted to an art gallery, bars, performance art, and local live bands. There's heavy drinking, and everyone wears black. It's a lot more beatnik than the Scottsdale Artwalk. The art ranges from something I could make to really impressive, although its mostly of the former. Most of it is all very weird and abaresque. The age of the people ranges from 50- early 20's, althogh most people look like they're in thier 20s. Lots of people. Jen described it as a frat party for adults.
Anyway, I slept in till 11 this morning then got back to work. The bike has 6 bids on it so far, although the current highest bid is by someone with a rating of -1. The comments people have left are that this person doesn't pay and uses false information. I'm consoled by the fact is that we're still at around $700 and there is time yet for bidders.
In the mail, I got a letter from the dean of the architecture college congratulating me for making the dean's list in the fall of 2004.

Feb 4, 2005

Norweigan Forest Cat

I was just surfing the other day and I realized I had no idea what kind of cat suki was, or at least, what she was mostly. I went to a few sites and pegged her as a Norweigan Forest Cat. They are distinguished by longer back legs than front, which raises thier rear end more, extremely long hair which is very weatherproof, neck frills, rounded ears, very bushy tails and tufts of hair that stick out between thier paws. This described very well suki's physical attributes. However, the personality traits they discussed only marginally were like suki. For instance these are supposed to be very quiet cats, and suki is the noisiest cat I've ever seen. Anyway, the Norweigan Forest Cat.
Yesterday Molly and I drove to the old city cemetery. We had to get a key from the historic visitor center to check it out. It's really run down. The cacti and mesquite are either dying or mutated, the markers are in terrible shape and cracked, and everything is either hardpan or thin gravel. Not a great part of town either. Took some pictures and came back home.
This morning I took the car for emmissions testing per the ADOT registration form. Not as bad as I thought it would be. Got in and out within twenty minutes.
I posted dad's bike on ebay last night and now there are 17 people watching it, although no one had bid on it yet. I talked to one guy who wants it for 1,250 so I lowered the reserve price to that and changed the auction time to three days. In the meanwhile I need to figure out shipping costs and how much the bike shop wants to professionally pack it. Anyway, thats what today is for, getting work done.
Sally came by early this afternoon to take Jen to look at Condos for sale. She brought me ghiradelli brownies, really good with buttercream frosting. She dislocated her kneecap last week and went to the doctor today, so I gave her an asprin to help with the pain.
Jen and I were planning on going to see First Friday downtown, but the forecast is rain, so I dont know what we're going to do.

Feb 3, 2005

Indian Graveyards

Our architecture project has become more elaborated and complex in Phase II. We're redesigning part of a cemetery in downtown phoenix, adding the massive wall which instead of being 64 feet long will be 170 feet long. And the wall is going to be a mausoleum.
We're also going to be redesiging the parking lot, adding paths, and landscaping the site as it is currently bare hardpan with river rocks marking the paths among the gravestones. The site with the project parameters and pictures of the site is here. I went to the library arizona historical collections building to see what I could dig up about the cemeteries past, as I could sense a kind of ancientness and mystery from the pictures. In the AZ Reading Room (No Backpacks, No Cellphones) I asked the woman at the desk if they had anything on this cemetery and she gives me a twenty minute lesson on how to look things up on the computer. There is no one else in there, and I doubt if anyone has been in all day. Anyway, I find some old tourist pamphlets with some general info like who's buried there (the "lost dutchman" is one of them) and a lot of civil war soldiers, spanish-american war veterens, and founding pioneers. I go next door and instead of making me fill out a requisition slip, the grad student on duty just takes my notebook with the call numbers and brings me out a report on the archeology of the site. Then it gets more interesting.
First of all, the cemetery extends far beyond the boundaries of the fence, with numerous unmarked graves; the result of epidemics in the emerging city. The cemetery was used from 1880-1910, although some bodies were rebuired from an earlier cemetary nearby which has been completely paved over. Going further back in time, they discovered the graveyard is on a prehistoric Hohokam villiage. The place where I am to be desinging was home to a trashmound and to a a few houses. Many of these houses were apparently "catastophically" burned, which archeologically means they were burned with everything in them, probably after the occupant died. A Hohokam canal also ran through through the site. Dialog from Pet Sematery kept running through my mind.
My creative writing class is really fun, I'm glad I decided to keep it. Mom would really like it. Last class we discussed setting and how the lens of character can distort setting. To warm up he gave us a list of random words and then we had to describe a city using words related to one of the words we picked.
Last night at Latin dance class we learned a few more Merengue steps. Merengue is kind of like salsa, but faster on a two step count and mas caliente. We learned how to twirl the girl around, spin her away and back, and to end with a dip. Jen is not thrilled with all the bodies touching, but it's just technical for me.
Got a lot of work to do today. I want to list dad's bike on ebay, take Jen to get a new bike from Target, urban planning class, and visit the cemetery to take pictures this afternoon. Two more friends from Athena have dropped architecture.

Medium is the message

I moved the blog again. I deleted the Tumblr account and moved everything to Medium.com, a more writing-centric website. medium.com/@wende...